The Cellar of My Mind

Slipping into the cellar of my mind,

Descending through musty recollections

Each step downward, another step further into the past

The ages roll backward, appearing as strata of a canyon wall.

The flash of neon proclaims the seam of my teenage years

Walls aglow with black light posters,

strobe light pulsing with stomach-turning frequency.

A moment frozen in time by artificial lightning flashes.

This teenage incubator, a coveted refuge free of worldly judgement,

Provided a medium for the seeds of independent to take root,

where questions of gender incongruity could be examined

with an eye toward what the future might hold.

Here in my garden, among the flowers that were nurtured

skepticism and cynicism took root as the invasive thistle

Each bloom of confidence choked out by weeds of doubt

In corners they grew in spite of the absence of light

How to reconcile the bits, pieces, the feelings

Strewn strategically about the room

A can holding a Woodstock puzzle, filled with cheap weed

Proclaiming peace and love in the age of Aquarius

The corner bulletin board meanwhile

Displays a map of Vietnam torn from a newspaper

Its broad sweeping arrows proclaiming how simple it is to win this war,

A new age of peace powered by napalm and agent orange.

Even fifty years later I can still feel the agony in my soul.

The endless stream of questions without answers

Hopelessness over so much suffering, so many contradictions,

The scars of a lifetime marking the struggle to finally discover who I am.




Thoughts on growth and changes

As I turned the key to that apartment for the very last time,
It brought to mind fresh starts and the changes they bring.
And as with all things, there must be balance
For each beginning there must also be an end, 
Our lives are thus marked by these endings and beginnings

Those apartment walls, now blank and barren,
enclosed not simply space but also a time as well.
They hold all the memories of the beginning years
he start in the everyday world as myself

It was a time of tremendous uncertainty, 
yet also a time alive with joy and excitement. 
Every experience a first time, 
Each first time ripe with life changing potential

From the minuscule to the monumental
Each one of a thousand triumphs over the fear
Each decision to continue in spite of failures 
All recorded as the growth of the person that is Rachel.

With the final physical culmination of a lifelong dream fulfilled, 
I moved unconsciously from thinking about being transgender 
To being aware only when I had intentionally made myself visible.
Finally arriving at a point where I simply live my life each day,

It’s been a long journey, spanning years from a dark and fearful place,
To standing erect and open in the sunlight sharing my truth.
And whether I’m speaking directly to a single heart or to a sea of faces
I’ve finally realized that by living openly I make a difference,

I’ve shared stories that have made some listeners cry 
They have in turn shared their own stories with me, 
With likewise tearful results.
I’ve met trans people, at all points on their journey
I’ve met the parents of trans children struggling to understand.
And the survivors of trans people that could no longer go on.

I’ve offered insight to some and given hope to others.
I’ve shared comfort, and tears when there’s nothing else left to say
Each of these unexpected connections welcomed as a sacred gift,
And proof that I never knew what I was capable of until I tried.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Where did those damn words go?
they were here just a minute ago.
Now a song from my youth has kidnapped my brain
Sent it down the rabbit hole,
To the accompaniment of “Are you going to San Francisco?”
I’m suddenly deep in the summer of ’67
My junior year of high school looming large
It was my time of turmoil, 
fear of the future swelling each day.
The war was a constant drumming in my ears
empathy tearing at my heart.
These memories remain even though
The person that created them no longer exists.
Each scene remembered, suggested other memories.
Growing exponentially this mass of recollections
has soon consumed all of my brains computing power
The words that were to last forever, words dragged across the threshold
From the mists of a dream into the waking world.
have slipped away, vanished before being committed to permanence
Now displaced by visions of fading photographs,
snippets of songs and a gnawing disquiet.
my mind relinquishes any semblance of control,
submerging itself wholeheartedly in a world of ghosts.
Remembered honestly, this was the most difficult time of my life
Yet unintended in this flood of remote memories,
Lies long hidden evidence of strength I didn’t know I possessed.
Strength that in the end allowed that terrified boy to survive.

Turn for the Better

Life has certainly taken a turn for the better lately but

My natural inclination is to

Wonder if this is the calm before

The storm.

Has this fear of success been hard wired into my brain,

By simple repetition of a lifetimes of bumps and bruises

Where has my propensity to identify

with Eeyore come from?

Is this a product of a childhood trauma perhaps?

Or a genetic disposition

Or simply a cruel joke

Of an unsympathetic universe.

To dwell in this dark cloud all the while ignoring

The silver lining is exhausting,

Caustic to hope, fatal to mental stability.

Killing the joy of hard won forward progress.

To stand still, to give in to doubt, is to perish.

To allow uncertainty to plant the seeds of paralysis

Is to guarantee a fresh wave of self-doubt

And an extended stay in the grip of depression.

So, it is that I endeavor to remain fixed in the present moment.

Turning a blind eye to the past and its burden of regrets.

Turning a deaf ear to the whispers of the future predicting failure.

Accepting this moment as a gift

Remembering that tomorrow is promised to no one.

Let It Go

I told a friend that in response to my “I got the job” declaration,
I was showered with 150 congratulations!
As well as a smattering of yays, way to goes, awesomes, yippies
And several I still haven’t figured out yet.
Yet amid this cloud of well wishes and happy thoughts
Not a word from my daughter.

You have to figure out a way to let it go, I was told
As many times as I have considered this advice
I still have no answer as to what that would look like
Does that simply mean not speaking aloud?
Of what is swirling about incessantly in my mind
Or ignoring the pain that throbs deep in my heart.

Can you ever really put behind you
The pain of what feels like rejection?
Whether it comes from a direct confrontation
Or a slowly descending veil of silence.
Transition provided for lifelong friends, the impetus 
to vanish silently into the shadows, never to be seen again.
Even having sworn to erase them,
having refused the whispered call of a shared memory.
Their ghosts continue to materialize unbidden,
Reinforcing the truth some memories and traumas are indelible.

But family is different isn’t it? Doesn’t blood and DNA matter
Seems like it would, wouldn’t it, seems like it should, shouldn’t it?
What’s all that blood thicker than water mean? does it matter at all?
Or is it simply a thin pencil line on a family tree

Reaching out into the world each day through my words
Visible and vocal my presence is obvious
What triumph or tragedy is currently playing out in my world
Can’t be missed by anyone that would choose to look.
What does it say when your child prefers not to know?
Does my genetic connection give me 
a special right to expect her to?
How do I judge if my expectations are unrealistic?

Or should I simply assume
parents’ expectations of children 
are always unrealistic?

Making the Connection

I listen to the poets as they pass

one by one across the stage

Sharing insights on their lives,

their hearts open to scrutiny.

Even with subjects personal and traumatic

They project outward positive thoughts

Dealing with the lingering effects

of shitty circumstances life had handed them.


I had arrived feeling devoid of inspiration,

looking simply for distraction.

That desire was certainly achieved

Yet more surprising,

Were the emotions wrapped in the words,

Both quiet and boisterous they spread.

Flowing out from the stage to blanket those below.

Subtle nods and barely audible ummm’s

Confirm the connection has been made.


Baring an Untold Story

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
                                            - Maya Angelou
The years of my youth,
long ago dissolved into history.
Only a vague awareness of their relentless passage remains
Undefined longing,
born of the story I lived each day, but never knew
Left ghosts of uncertainty woven into the fabric of my existence.

Ever present and seemingly unchanged across the years,
These longings linger
like the smell of wood smoke from last night’s fire
Clinging to my skin,
wrapping themselves about each stand of hair,
I could feel them, gripping my heart,
whispering in my dreams.

I see their shadowy form in my reflection,
even though others could not.
Part of my soul, they are my story,
one never spoken aloud.
A lifetime of grappling with their shadows
has brought understanding,
the why of their existence,
a final acceptance of their truth.

That I was to live my life as a transgender woman
was no longer deniable
Yet I remained cloaked in invisibility,
unable to summon the courage
to face the inevitable consequences
certain be unleashed
Yet my words, as an animal in a cage,
long to break free of confinement, run free in the world

Fear calls upon every argument,
no matter how thinly disguised
To strangle my voice,
to preserve the status quo of silence.
Hope rises in resistance, growing stronger bit by bit.
Until the resistance finally crumbles
and the words pour forth.

In defiance of fear,
swaddled in the words of my story
A lifetimes labor comes to fruition,
truth in physical form.
With this realization came courage, came visibility.
And the woman that is Rachel was born into this world.