The Picture of Success

Month: May, 2012

Lessons in Public Speaking

Hello from the wilderness!

I know, I know, if “I have access to internet” than apparently “I don’t want it!” Such impassioned terms! So many promises! Well, I have been writing like crazy, and I couldn’t keep it in anymore. Also, if I make the promise, I can change the promise. So here we are. In the wilderness! And connected to the internet.

Holden Village is exactly as fantastic as I had hoped it would be. It’s also very different then I had expected. I’m writing some weird material….and it makes me a little nervous. But I press on, and hope for the best. I have many stories for you, but those aren’t for right now. The internet that I do have, I only have a short amount of time. Time is of the essence!

The poem I have today isn’t about this place, exactly. But its subject matter has been on my mind and I had to write about it. That’s all. I come home in about two and a half weeks, and I couldn’t be more excited. If you’re in Bellingham, you can come see me June 7th (TONIGHT!). I will hosting the inaugural Grown Ass Poets’ Society show (special thanks to Robert Lashley for coming up with the name). It is going to be at the Green Frog and it will be featuring…..drum roll……Buddy Wakefield! And Jack McCarthy! This is going to be a show to end all shows, you don’t want to miss it. So, to review:

Grown Ass Poets’ Society!
Featuring Buddy Wakefield and Jack McCarthy
June 7th, at 7 pm at the Green Frog on State Street

I will be hosting! Get there! I will hold you, and tell you about my adventures. Hell, I might even buy you a drink.
Home can’t come soon enough. Now, to lead us into the poem, here’s one of my new favorite quotes.

“God instructs the heart, not by ideas but by pains and contradictions.”
-De Caussade

When you Decide to tell your Church Group about Domestic Violence

you’ll stumble, at best
at worst, you’ll cry
Not in the classy way –
how they show it in movies –
A stern professor approaches the microphone
delivers an impassioned plea for justice,
a message that demands the best of his colleagues
He’s almost made it through the entire thing
when suddenly the music swells
and he’s caught,
our stone man now transparent
One tear running from retina to jaw line
a more honest hero than we’ve ever known.

when you do it,
you won’t make it through the first stanza.
The poem you picked
because of its subtleties,
turns out to reveal your weakness
more quickly than a politician’s intern
You are crying in earnest now
soggy and pathetic
Your voice, a pitiful sliver of what it once was
Worse yet, they’ll listen to you
Cock their heads to the side
and start nodding
bring you tissues
and say,
keep going.

Once, in this very sanctuary,
you watched a man
trying to light the candles for the service
The altar was a dreadful thing,
too small for his thick frame to maneuver around
He lumbered back and forth,
the flames paper thin
his body, his weight,
so earnest to do the Lord’s work

You felt embarrassed for him
Couldn’t believe he would
put himself on display like that
And look at where you are today,
wailing, publicly,
with no dramatic music
to soften the blow

Best to go as quickly as you can
No use pretending
to gather yourself
Sob through the whole
goddamn thing –
you have to get
the candles lit,


Later, in Wenatchee

“Write like hell.”
-Amanda Bettis

Here we are, at the Amtrak station in Everett, WA.
The word of the day is trust. Yesterday, the word of the day was bourbon. Perhaps, if we’re honest, the word of last week was bourbon. Yes, let’s be honest. Best to start things right.

In one hour, we’ll be boarding a train for Wenatchee. Tomorrow, we’ll get on a ferry for some unknown port, Lucerne. Why not finish it off with another bus ride? Into the mountains. We’ll get off the bus at Holden Village. These bags are heavy. Maybe the community will smile, knowing that you packed too much. We are going to turn off our phones, our computers, our anxieties. We are going to learn to trust.

You might be asking yourself, has Jessica lost it? Has all of the last minute packing caused her to remain stuck in this awkward third person writing tense? It is possible. I am sleep deprived. But this style choice is intentional. I am trying to use grammar to express this feeling of gratitude. I am about to enter into one of my greatest adventures. I would be remiss if I did not thank all of those individuals who got me here.

Do you know what a hard sadness is? It is impossible to describe without sounding trite, dated. It inhabits its own cliche because when you experience it, it is all you experience. For a long time. I have not found any new language for it. I only write what I observe, what I feel, what I know, what I want to know. I know that this strain of melancholy takes root in my chest. Wraps arms around lungs. An unwanted house guest. But I don’t want it to leave, not really. It becomes familiar. December, nearly two years ago, I was introducing it to all my friends. My friend Jon grew to know it well. Amanda, Anna, and Jessica. Hanna, with her gentle suggestion to politely ask it to leave. Not a chance. All the space he had once taken up, the three years of inside jokes, the muscle memory, our vernacular, I gave it to this selfish guest, this hungry, angry, blind thing. They say time heals. Fuck time. Time during despair is your condescending minister, suggesting you give it all to God. You say, God doesn’t fucking want it.

Measure progress, instead. The first fifteen minutes in the morning, when you didn’t think about it first thing. Choosing this salad. Choosing to eat. One less drink. A brisk walk that reminds you of running. Remembering to call back a friend, finally. You are starting to go places.

I am going places. I am living my life’s dream for thirty days. Do you think I got here because of my obnoxiously fantastic breasts and humble nature? I got here because of you. This morning, on a bus, I asked this irritating house guest to leave. I don’t even like this metaphor anymore, but we are going to stick with it, for consistency’s sake. I told that motherfucker to get out. That it’s time for me to participate again, to have some purpose. To probably pray and maybe fall in love. To promise to exercise and only do it some of the time. To moisturize. To stop biting my nails. To call my mom back. To follow this ambition somewhere, anywhere. To appreciate the city I live in. To start a band. To at least continue to talk about starting a band. To forgive all individuals involved in the end of things, we all only do the best we can.

This is my last blog post for a month. I don’t think I will have internet access where I’m going, and if I do I don’t want it. I promise to tell you all about everything when I get back. I can’t promise to not be irritating with all of my new, off the grid, faith based tendencies. I do promise to come home. To keep my filthy mouth. To pour you a drink at my bar, ask you how you’ve been. If you want to hear more about my adventures in writing land, come to my show on June 14th. It will be at the Honeymoon again, at 8pm. I am going to be performing with Sarah Goodin. It’s called Forty Days in the Wilderness. Sure, I’m only going for thirty, but I like to keep the Jesus image intact.

This train I’m on, with all of its easy poetry about coming out of the woods, whole and fulfilled on the other side. Let’s let it write its own poem. Today, it is taking me where I need to go.
Thank you for taking me where I need to go.

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