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#Blog Sharing with you all my August 2017 VIA Times Poetry Column:

A Love Song For My Husband

He sleeps beside me:
my beloved. His chest
rises and falls to the music
of his breathing. The years
have given, and they have taken—
yet still, he lies beside me.

He is man and child,
all at once; friend and foe,
all at once; lover and stranger,
all at once. We dance
the dance of ages—he and I,
as men and women have,
since dawn of time.

The heat of his flesh
grafts my body to his.
Listening for his heart, I plead,
“Long and steady, beat!”

My fingers indulge in the silk
of his hair. Inhaling him, I lose myself
in the musk of his skin—drinking him
in, flooding my senses, locking
memories in my heart, preparing
my soul: Take courage! As though
he won’t be here tomorrow.

How fleeting is time,
how precious its graces!
How does one return
to living half a life?
I have loved completely
into sweet forgetting.

Poet’s Notes. I wrote this poem for my husband many years ago. Today, we celebrate almost a quarter of a century of marriage. It is fitting to choose to feature this poem during our anniversary month.

One of the most gratifying things about being a writer is when a reader tells you just how much she or he appreciates your work or how it made a positive difference in her/his life. I have the good fortune of having had just such a reader again tell me so, as regards above poem. At a time when I wasn’t feeling too inspired to write due to my increasing jadedness over the commercialization of the writing market that seems to mostly reward the fad of the moment—like some cheap novel about the sexual pleasure that could be had from either inflicting or suffering physical pain during what should be a loving act, or the latest work from a poet who happens to be the darling of some academic or ivory tower publication or of some big shot in the media—and in the midst of my frustration over an electorate that has turned our democratic processes into a personal vendetta machine instead of listening to reason and science to judge what’s sensible for the common good, a self-designated “fan of your poems” wrote to me saying just how much reading my poem above (that appears in my book, “Warrior Heart, Pilgrim Soul: An Immigrant’s Journey”, which she apparently bought sometime ago) enriched her and her husband’s recent celebration of their wedding anniversary, and how it has inspired her to write her own poem for him. This also reminded me of another time a few years ago, of how a college friend likewise read this poem of mine as her eulogy to her own husband. Boom! I felt the universe hit me on the head—again!—for being so foolish as to second-guess my life’s mission, which is to write.

I recall that as a high school student reading about the great men and women of history, I was inspired to attempt greatness myself when I grew up. Thus, I plowed through life thinking my life would be most meaningful if I could create a great legacy to leave to the world, just like those great men and women of history. However, I was discouraged many times through the years by the realization of how small and potentially meaningless my life is to the larger picture, and how ultimately inconsequential—that is, until another soul reached out to me and told me it wasn’t so for her or him because of my work or my presence in her/his life.

Here’s the thing about the ego: It judges itself by size. Yet who is to judge that the extent of greatness isn’t equally one that could fit in one grain of rice as much as it could occupy the whole world? Who’s to judge that to affect just one life in a positive way is not worth the weight of that single “bang” that led to the creation of the whole universe?

My husband and I celebrate our anniversary today, looking forward to our move to what we hope would be our ultimate retirement home on an island among the San Juan Islands in the Puget Sound. I come from a country with more than 7,000 islands. Thus, I think of this move as somehow returning to my roots, at the same time I’m now inspired to go back to the root of my writing, which I’m grateful a few caring readers reminded me of: I write not to achieve personal greatness for myself, but to affect, in a great way, one soul at a time. When I pass on from this life, I’d like my memorial to say, “She was, by her works, a thousand angels who dwelt in a grain of rice.”

(All rights reserved. Copyright © 2017 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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Happy Anniversary!

Happy anniversary. So moving , makes me miss you more. Take care and God bless both of you.

Happy 25 years atse

Happy anniversary! I loved the poem as well! It is so very relatable for all those who are deeply in love. Happy 25th!

Happy Anniversary to you and steve.

I guess the Carmel French Chateau will not be your retirement place after all?

Wishing you ❤️❤️❤️ and more on your anniversary!

Lovely poem! Glad to see you back, sis! Wishing you and Steve continued happiness and blessings! 💕

The best way to shake off the doldrums is to go into party animal mode. Happy anniversary lovey.

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#Blog A ROSE BLOOMING IN THE DESERT. Dear Readers, sharing with you my March 2017 VIA Times Poetry column:

Speck of Dust

I’m floating between what came
before me and what comes after me.
I’m but a speck of dust
whipped up by the wind,
occupying spaces between—
if there are still any.

I look for greatness in myself,
and find only ambition for it.
I am nothing,
yet I am everything.

When they finally hear my songs,
I will have long gone
and sought the comfort of the earth—
returned to it,
as dust is to dust.

My labors will shine their glory
on those who least deserve it,
and I shudder at my dreams’ mockery
by those whom I rebuked in this life.

Thus I pray to my Muse,
"O, Source of All Creation, grant
this humble mortal this one wish:
To create that masterpiece
of which you are inspiration.
Grant in my lifetime what few
are given: Blessed gift of witness
to love’s labors won."

Only silence replies—echoing and
slithering around me, driving me
deeper into the shadows
that smother the exiled lover.
And when my Muse speaks at last,
it is through a dream
veiling my vision of her.

She says,
"If you seek only the glory
of mortals, then you shall live
their hell. But if you can find heaven in
every word you write, then you need not
the glory you seek; it has
already been given you."

The few words come at last—
tentative, shy.
They are coaxed, one by one,
and arrive—wary,
but not before
I empty my self
of myself,
drop by drop,
freeing space
for the Beloved
to inhabit.

Poet’s Notes. We celebrated the Oscars a week ago. I was happy for Viola Davis when she won Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Fences". But that part of her acceptance speech that passionately declared, “We’re the only artists who know how to celebrate a life!” gave me pause. “But how about writers?” I protested telepathically. “Without writers, actors have nothing to perform.”

Surely this marvelously talented actress simply misspoke. I suppose her exuberance for many Black actors and filmmakers winning many awards this year in stark contrast to last year’s “Oscar’s So White” surely led to this misspeak. But I wonder. For compared to all other art forms, the art of writing is the least visible to the public. A case of out of sight, out of mind? I must admit when I watch a particularly moving film, I sometimes question why I do what I do: exiling myself to the lonesome confines of a world that could only be seen on the page—that is, if someone else would even go through the effort of actually buying my book and reading it!

It’s easy to be seduced by the power of fame and celebrity and hype. And I am occasionally taunted by it. When those times come, as when Viola extolled actors’ great, loud, violent power to emote the truth and beauty we writers quietly write on the page, I ask myself: “If no one ever read what you wrote, would you still write?” And the answer that screams itself from deep within me unequivocally cries out a resounding, “Yes!”

That’s how I know I am—like Viola, surely—living my life’s purpose. And that, even though the whole world might be completely indifferent or oblivious to what I create. And that, even if the truth and beauty embedded in what I do were seen by no one else but me.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a beautiful rose bloomed and died in the desert un-witnessed by anyone, was it still beautiful, and did it even live?

(All rights reserved. Copyright © 2017 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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9 months ago

Author Victoria G. Smith

#Blog It's one o'clock in the morning, and as usual, I'm wide awake. As a night owl, I'm cut out for a writer's life. It's when others are sleeping that I feel most alive. I harbor delight for a secret conviction that night time reveals its magic only to the one who stays awake long enough to perceive it--insights that are the source of my writing inspiration: the night's reward for my loyal company.

In the past few months, I've been dogged by another conviction: I'm undergoing another phase of change in my life, and I'm beleaguered by an amorphous yet undeniable anxiety. Having lived long enough to recognize and accept that change is the only constant in life, one would think I'd know better than to allow myself to be anxious, but anxious I am. Our mind's natural tendency is to reject uncertainty. It's always looking for answers, fixes, stability, clarity. It basks in the crisp blacks and whites in light of day; suspicious of the grey shadows of night.

But tonight, there's a glowing almost full moon that shines through the skylights of my bedroom ceiling like a car's headlight on full beam. It calls to me like a petulant, precocious child that demands my attention to her brilliance. To her, a lack of witness means wasted glory. And so I get up from bed to peer up at the sky that's conquered by this braggart's show. And I remember parts of Rumi's ghazals:

"Because I cannot sleep
I make music at night.
...."

"...
Life's waters flow from darkness.
Search the darkness, don't run from it.

...
The moon appears for night travelers,
be watchful when the moon is full."
("The Pocket Rumi", edited by Kabir Helminski, Shambala, 2008)

Tonight, my full watch begins.

(Copyright 2017 by Victoria G. Smith. All rights reserved.)
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#Blog At this, the culmination of my life, I breathe and live, not just realize the truth that each life is given to us as a gift to experience love, and that we're each called to do good for a cause larger than ourselves--that "good" qualified by whether it was done out of love, and if we're lucky, our good acts survive us, immortalized in ripples of love stretching into eternity. (Copyright 2017 by Victoria G. Smith. All rights reserved.) ... See MoreSee Less

#Blog THE GRINCH WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS. Dear readers, forgive these less than joyful reflections on a Christmas Eve. And please remember not to shoot the messenger. With the impending renewal of a nuclear arms race with Russia under a Trump presidency and other likely scenarios in the next four years, I cannot help but pause for some sobering contemplations during this otherwise so-called season of "hope" in our "Realpolitik". Despite this, I do wish all of you all the blessings of hope, peace, and joy this holiday season! Meantime, I share my December 2016 VIA Times Magazine poetry column as a way to prepare for the new year:

Reconstruction of Lost Things

I don’t know what triggered it:
Karen Carpenter singing Silver Bells
on the radio, or the vintage colored
light bulbs framing a display window.

I pull over and stop the car
till I could see the road again.
I want to see, touch, smell, taste, hear
Christmas again! But where to begin?

First: a galaxy of white lights around
the house, the tree trimmed with treasures
of Christmases past, nativity scene
where, they say, lies the reason for
the season, mistletoe prompting
kisses, wreath on the front door.

In the kitchen: steaming hot cocoa and
apple cider, muffins and cookies
rising in the oven, a flickering
cinnamon-scented candle,
a blazing fire, a serenade of carols.

But still, I cannot feel it—that magic
embracing the innocent,
anticipating what’s possible,
listening for hooves on the roof.

The neighbors lost their daughter in a plane
crash last summer—she was my daughter’s age;
around the world, still, children are starving,
women are raped, men kill and get killed.

All these broken lives—how
does one recover joy?

Not too soon, my son scurries down
the stairs as my daughter arrives
from college, and my husband’s feet
make a sound like thunder as they
shake snow clumps off his boots.

Deep from the well of my gut, I hear
a rumbling not unlike Old Faithful
makes before it unleashes its gift.

Poet’s Notes. Above poem was last published in the December 2015 issue of Elite Critiques Magazine. This is also not the first time I’ve shared this poem in this column. However, with the election of an unapologetically anti-immigrant U.S. president, it seems only fitting to republish it—for this certainly appears a time of loss, of prospective other losses not only for immigrants and refugees but for all Americans, if one is to believe Donald Trump would pursue his staunch anti-immigrant campaign promises and unabashedly racist, misogynist, and nationalistic protectionist stances. On the morning after the election, I posted on Facebook, “I feel like someone died, like I'm missing somebody I can't even remember. As though a part of me was excised but I don't know which because I feel a void where something used to exist. Oh, I know! I just remembered: I was under the illusion that America was the land of the free and the home of the brave, and of the just, and of mainly decent, kind, and compassionate human beings. Now I've awoken in the land of the Manchurian candidate, free of my illusion yet missing it like a phantom organ, where my spleen used to be.”

Now, we’ve darned done it. The grim results I anticipated in my column last month are coming to pass. Truth is, everyone lost something in the recent elections and everybody will lose a lot more in ways many have likely underestimated—especially those who voted for Trump. I’m not a doom and gloom soothsayer; I’m merely stating a rational projection. There are studies and statistics that support the prediction that if Trump’s economic and political policies were to be implemented, they would cost the U.S. economy much more than the gains they promised, and in fact, spiral the whole economy down into trillions more dollars in debt. And who would pay for this? All Americans—including the predominantly white working class citizen who would carry much of the burden of Trump’s pro-rich tax cuts and policies geared toward protectionist foreign and international trade policies (that—for those who went to college might remember, and for the benefit of those who did not—the basic college Econ 101 class teaches was the singular cause of the Great Depression of the 1920’s). As usual, the rich will only get richer; the poor poorer. Nothing will really change—except for the worse, especially for the marginalized sectors of society. Trump’s transition team is also notably filled with Washington lobbyists and Wall Street icons, contrary to his promise to “drain the swamp” and declare his administration’s independence from big corporate America and the finance industry giants’ interests. His candidates particularly for health and environmental protection heads, national security director, and defense and treasury secretaries all look like the fox that was assigned to guard the chicken coop.

But enough of pointing fingers and playing the blame game—question is: What are we going to do about it? In the face of all these prospective gloom and doom, what is there to look forward to in the new year? In this season of hope, is there really hope for the hopeless?

For good reason, I am averse to echo the customary mantra in times like this that hope is eternal and such similar fatuousness. Truth—another one, a grounding one—is that hope resides in action, not some airy Pollyanna fantasy, but in action informed by experience, wisdom, and a bold streak of selflessness, an antidote to the brazen act of misguided self-interest demonstrated by the typical Trump supporter who voted for Trump out of a mistaken belief that Trump would save their obsolete jobs and make them rich—again, which was what was truly behind their election campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again!” As it appears, they were only after their own myopic self-interests—in the vain hope of stemming the great tide of history and economics.

Already the taxpayers of Indiana are realizing the burden imposed on them by Trump’s Carrier deal, for example. They would end up picking the tab to artificially keep Carrier within their State and allow a mere less than half of Carrier workers (800 out of the original 1,800 who were going to lose the jobs to Mexico) to keep their jobs in the meantime, but clearly, not for long. For the numbers don’t add up enough to keep U.S. manufacturing companies like Carrier in the U.S. long-term. Federal and state tax incentives save companies like Carrier only about two per cent (2%) of their cost structure. The overwhelming portion of their real costs is in their labor costs, which amount to about ninety-eight per cent (98%). And labor rates in Mexico are still much lower than in the U.S. In the meantime, Indiana would be denying itself about seven million dollars in tax revenue over ten years, subsidizing each of the eight hundred workers who get to keep their jobs in the meantime at about $875 each yearly. (www.forbes.com/sites/eriksherman/2016/12/04/trumps-carrier-deal-means-nothing-for-future-jobs/#17...) Imagine and consider cloning such a deal across the nation over several states!

For once, I agree with Sarah Palin. She called the deal “an example of government intervention that could lead to ‘crony capitalism.’” One can’t arbitrarily stem the tide of the market economy without creating worse problems. Palin additionally pointed out, “Republicans oppose this, remember? Instead, we support competition on a level playing field, remember? Because we know special interest crony capitalism is one big fail." (www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/sarah-palin-calls-out-trump-s-carrier-deal-warns-against-n691426) And this was exactly where the great mistake of the white working class Trump supporter glaringly lay: They had the asinine expectation that they could hang onto to their obsolete jobs without creating bigger problems for the whole country. And this is also where their inane selfishness could be clearly seen. For a segment of the population that had unilaterally appropriated what true American patriotism means, they are looking very unpatriotic indeed. They ranted against immigrants getting a free ride on their jobs, their taxes, and their country, and yet here they are—exposing themselves to the whole world as just another wanton group wanting a free ride themselves on the backs of all of us taxpayers—tax-paying immigrants, included.

All reason, logic, and math tell us that Trump can’t keep making artificial deals like this without causing more serious and grim consequences for the whole country, and that one can expect more companies to demand similar tax incentives to extort their way into suspending the relocation of their manufacturing facilities elsewhere in the world, where, by the way, lest it be forgotten, there will always be lower labor costs than in the U.S. “Suspending” is the key word here: They are merely delaying what is inevitable. Which squarely suggests that the solution lies elsewhere, as in working, perhaps, with—not against—the natural workings of the global economy, technology trends, and the needs for preserving and harnessing the energies of the natural environment in which all our resources are rooted. Trouble is, many white working class Americans frankly project themselves as clearly incapable or unwilling to reinvent themselves and their skills in order to adapt themselves to the new realities and needs of the U.S. and global economies, and seem to prefer to cast the burden of their inability to evolve with the rest of us—upon the rest of us, unlike most immigrants and refugees who had to reinvent themselves one way or another in order not only to survive but also thrive in the U.S. after being uprooted from their native countries. Talk about who’s lazy now or being a free rider! What political brownie points Trump earns in the meantime through the goodwill he builds with the relatively few workers whose jobs are temporarily saved will soon enough be erased when the greater majority of U.S. taxpayers start to feel the pinch from the significant costs and subsidies they have to carry to keep up this pretense.

Thus, back to my question: Is there hope for the hopeless in this season of hope? I bury my head in Pollyanna sands, desperately digging for a reply that could even make an iota of sense, hoping against hope. Oh, Santa—where are you when we need you? Or the Tooth Fairy? Or the Easter Bunny? Or Superman? Or Captain America? Anyone of you mythical yet otherwise great heroes—please? Cross my heart, Santa Baby—I’ve been a good girl this year.

(All rights reserved. Copyright © 2016 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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1 years ago

Author Victoria G. Smith

#Blog Due to its immediate relevance to ongoing socio-political discussions in the aftermath of the recent U.S. presidential elections, I'm herein posting my November 2016 poetry column in advance of both the printed and on-line publications thereof, with apologies to VIA Times Magazine.

"Turning A Corner

Let’s lick our lips and kiss each other’s wounds;
let’s not speak of fear or transgression,
but scent of orange blossoms in the spring.
I want to push the hyacinths to break the ice;
I want to smell the roses sleeping in the bud.

This winter has gone on too long—it’s tearing
the skin of my longing apart. What’s left is
form of being—slave to the past, jester of hope.
I am not this being. I am not the sum of my parts.

I want to hear the music of children playing
in the streets, but the fat, juicy notes of their
laughter were swallowed by crows preying
from wires burning with groans of dragons
and dungeons in little Pandora’s boxes.

My mouth is a cocoon of winged words that can’t fly,
stitched shut by silken threads of political correctness.
Are we to be tied down by fear of offending
or bound by common passion, righteous anger?

Look: The wolves have gone wild with the hunt!
There lies the scattered carcass of a nation.
But America is not the sum of its parts!

Call forth the spirit of those turning in their graves,
the souls of those to whom we owe tomorrow.
To the first, say: Remind us of our beginnings.
To the second: Show us a corner on which
to turn, together.

Poet’s Notes. By the time this article is published, Americans would have elected their new president, but the aftershocks of the current election cycle will be felt long after the elections are over. I wrote above poem during the 2008 presidential contest between then Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It was a sharp rivalry, but neither that campaign nor anything in all other previous presidential campaigns could have prepared us for the acrimony and deliberate resort to shameless falsehoods that can be witnessed in the current competition between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. This is partly due to the unprecedented type of virulence of their respective passionate supporters, particularly on the part of Trump supporters. This is not a simple matter of ideological differences—it evinces the extent to which a large segment of Trump followers are willing to go to force their agenda. Their acts of violence against Trump protesters during their rallies, their threats of staging a “revolution” from which a possible civil war may arise in case their candidate does not win, fueled by their candidate’s absolutely unsubstantiated and, therefore, irresponsible allegations of a rigged election and his bold and brash statements of intent to reject a result in which he is deemed the loser definitely promise continued vitriolic conflict after the elections, as it all undermines the very foundations of American democracy.

My poem above expressed concern about the unintended consequences of extreme political correctness that restricted freedom of speech. One can say that one of those extreme consequences is the other extreme—manifested by the current unfettered mordancy of Trump supporters who appear to have completely abandoned political correctness altogether, and along with it, basic civility, decency, respect for human rights, and adherence to logical and truthful premise that underlie the principle. One might also say that the current socio-political milieu is merely in self-correction and balancing mode. But I doubt this is all there is to this.

No matter how many times it’s been said before, it can’t be overstated this election is truly the fight for the soul of this nation. It also seems to be symptomatic of a larger struggle for humanity everywhere else in the world, as though signaling a turning point in the evolution of humankind itself. It could go one way or the other, determining accordingly, the very survival or demise of none other than our own species and planet. This, to me, proves once again how short human memory is, how impervious to lessons of history it is. I’ve said it before and I say it again—echoing the philosopher George Santayana in his work, Life of Reason: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Deceptive fascist-like thinking and sentiments marked by extreme and irrational suspicion and scapegoating of minorities, immigrants, refugees, and anyone perceived to be an outsider have never before more greatly influenced our global socio-political dynamics since Nazi Germany.

It’s time to wake up, unite, and join in the fight against this monstrous Hydra that has begun to rear its many ugly heads again. Let’s turn the corner together in this critical turning point in human history.

(All rights reserved. Copyright © 2016 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)"
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#Blog OF NOSTALGIA, DREAMS, HEARTACHES, AND THE HEALING POWER OF MEMORY.

It’s summertime in the United States—time when many expatriate Filipinos return home to the Philippines for vacation. I have enjoyed this a few times myself. But this summer, I have to content myself with memories. I'm working on quite a few new writing projects: another poetry collection, a novella, and a novel.

The window before me is open; the view—of the hazy horizon, tainted by the smoke of the wildfires burning elsewhere, but near. On a clear day, I can see Monterey Bay and the Salinas Valley in a majestic symphony of sea, land, and sky. Like the ocean, islands, and sunny skies of my native Philippines. Today, I only have memory of it all.

A scent wafts in—the smoke from the Big Sur fires, undoubtedly. But today, it is mostly the memory of a distinctive, otherworldly, smoldering sweet-sour scent that tugs at my olfactory sense—the perfume of incense during the six-o-clock oración at the beautiful Holy Rosary Parish Church in my Philippine hometown where I'd spent many youthful years whispering my dreams and heartaches to the Mother of Perpetual Help.

At middle age, I have achieved many of those dreams, and since healed from many heartaches. Yet I still have some dreams left in me. And as one engages in the stuff of life, as one increasingly becomes impatient with the pettiness of this world, the shallowness and inauthenticity of friends, the vanity of almost everything and everyone—including myself, I know heartaches are not yet done with me either.

I am amazed at my resilience, and so I feel one with this land that is resilient to its twin demons of earthquakes and wildfires, whose beauty persists despite its challenges, today merely reflected in a different way in this different light of the smoke-kissed air—the light of gold-stained glass, like the stained glass windows of the church of my childhood.

The other day, I became nostalgic for another scent, too—the scent of the Dama de Noche flower in my native country. I remember it as the strong and seductive scent of expensive French perfume. How I'd love to inhale the perfume of this mysterious flower again--so mysterious it only blooms at night, reminding me that there are certain blossoms that especially thrive in the shadows. Like me. The Lady of the Night.

Elsewhere, in Washington D.C., people flocked to the botanical gardens to catch a glimpse and whiff of the Corpse Flower—a blossom that rarely blooms, so-called because of its own distinctive scent that a friend described as evocative of a dead rat. A scent of things to come in this presidential election year in the United States? I certainly hope not.

Shadows of smoke and fire, cleanse me. Shadows of memory, renew me. Shadows of my haunting dreams, wake me.
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#Blog OF NOSTALGIA, DREAMS,  HEARTACHES, AND THE HEALING POWER OF MEMORY. 

It’s summertime in the United States—time when many expatriate Filipinos return home to the Philippines for vacation. I have enjoyed this a few times myself. But this summer, I have to content myself with memories. Im working on quite a few new writing projects: another poetry collection, a novella, and a novel. 

The window before me is open; the view—of the hazy horizon, tainted by the smoke of the wildfires burning elsewhere, but near. On a clear day, I can see Monterey Bay and the Salinas Valley in a majestic symphony of sea, land, and sky. Like the ocean, islands, and sunny skies of my native Philippines. Today, I only have memory of it all. 

A scent wafts in—the smoke from the Big Sur fires, undoubtedly. But today, it is mostly the memory of a distinctive, otherworldly, smoldering sweet-sour scent that tugs at my olfactory sense—the perfume of incense during the six-o-clock oración at the beautiful Holy Rosary Parish Church in my Philippine hometown where Id spent many youthful years whispering my dreams and heartaches to the Mother of Perpetual Help.

At middle age, I have achieved many of those dreams, and since healed from many heartaches. Yet I still have some dreams left in me. And as one engages in the stuff of life, as one increasingly becomes impatient with the pettiness of this world, the shallowness and inauthenticity of friends, the vanity of almost everything and everyone—including myself, I know heartaches are not yet done with me either. 

I am amazed at my resilience, and so I feel one with this land that is resilient to its twin demons of earthquakes and wildfires, whose beauty persists despite its challenges, today merely reflected in a different way in this different light of the smoke-kissed air—the light of gold-stained glass, like the stained glass windows of the church of my childhood.

The other day, I became nostalgic for another scent, too—the scent of the Dama de Noche flower in my native country. I remember it as the strong and seductive scent of expensive French perfume. How Id love to inhale the perfume of this mysterious flower again--so mysterious it only blooms at night, reminding me that there are certain blossoms that especially thrive in the shadows. Like me. The Lady of the Night.

Elsewhere, in Washington D.C., people flocked to the botanical gardens to catch a glimpse and whiff of the Corpse Flower—a blossom that rarely blooms, so-called because of its own distinctive scent that a friend described as evocative of a dead rat. A scent of things to come in this presidential election year in the United States? I certainly hope not.

Shadows of smoke and fire, cleanse me. Shadows of memory, renew me. Shadows of my haunting dreams, wake me.

 

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Hi, Marivic. This is beautiful! God bless.

Re "the shallowness and inauthenticity of friends" - Once, I was shedding some tears over this same thing. Someone saw this and said, "You don't need many friends in your life. It is enough to have only a few who are good and true!"

#Blog WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN AMERICAN PATRIOT. On this July 4th, let's reflect on what American patriotism means. To do this, we must necessarily think about what it means to be an "American" and what "America" are. To me--as a naturalized American citizen who began as an immigrant--these mean loving and fighting for an "America" that is not necessarily about a way of life (for keeping slaves, for instance, was certainly a way of life in the pre-civil war South), nor about the dominance of a race (for what is America if not a nation of immigrants of various races), nor even one tied to a religion (thus, to be "American" does not mean to be Christian, as the constitutional provision on freedom of religion necessarily means freedom to belong AND not to belong to any religion).

In my essay, “Gatekeepers and Gatecrashers in Contemporary American Poetry: Reflections of a Filipino Immigrant Poet in the United States” (2015, Black Lawrence Press), I proposed that "America" is "...a conceptual ideal—a rogue nation formed by immigrants that dared rebel against a king and declared itself a government of the people, by the people, and for the people committed to principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” From this perspective, being an American patriot means actively and bravely participating in the constant work of realizing what this "ideal" means for our times. In this, we must pay homage not only to our roots as a nation, but also to our common vision of our future.
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#Blog WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN AMERICAN PATRIOT. On this July 4th, lets reflect on what American patriotism means. To do this, we must necessarily think about what it means to be an American and what America are. To me--as a naturalized American citizen who began as an immigrant--these mean loving and fighting for an America that is not necessarily about a way of life (for keeping slaves, for instance, was certainly a way of life in the pre-civil war South), nor about the dominance of a race (for what is America if not a nation of immigrants of various races), nor even one tied to a religion (thus, to be American does not mean to be Christian, as the constitutional provision on freedom of religion necessarily means freedom to belong AND not to belong to any religion). 

In my essay, “Gatekeepers and Gatecrashers in Contemporary American Poetry: Reflections of a Filipino Immigrant Poet in the United States” (2015, Black Lawrence Press), I proposed that America is ...a conceptual ideal—a rogue nation formed by immigrants that dared rebel against a king and declared itself a government of the people, by the people, and for the people committed to principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” From this perspective, being an American patriot means actively and bravely participating in the constant work of realizing what this ideal means for our times. In this, we must pay homage not only to our roots as a nation, but also to our common vision of our future.

1 years ago

Author Victoria G. Smith

#Blog A friend of mine asked if I could send him pictures and an accompanying poem for his birthday, coming up next week. He spoke of a growing sentimentality and inexplicable yearning of one who, like most of us who have reached a certain age, has lived a life through its various twists and turns, of a determination to move on and let go of the unessential things, of looking forward to what's ahead.

Many years ago, due to my incessant fidgeting with the decor in my home, I did myself in by dropping and breaking a precious Delft style ceramic rabbit as I kept carrying it around (heavy as it was!) to possible various display spots, locating and relocating it in several places in our home (a lesson against being too much of a perfectionist!). One of its ears broke into smithereens. We didn't have as many resources then, and I loved that rabbit! I was heartbroken--with my heart feeling as rent as those multitude of big and tiny pieces broken off of that beloved object. Moreover, I was mad at myself for my own foolishness and carelessness. After crying like a baby, determined to make things aright, I picked myself up from my despair and went to work: I worked way past midnight patiently glueing each and every broken piece of that objet d'amour, using my fingers, chopsticks, and even a pair of tweezers to handle the many almost microscopic pieces! The result of all that hard work is what you see in these pictures. You can't almost see where the piece was broken, visible only if you examine it closely. lt's as if you need a microscope to even see where it was repaired!

What does this mean? I suppose, for me, it's about life not being about perfection. We do what we can, making the most of what life, and we, ourselves, throw at us. And then in the end, it's about the journey, about picking ourselves up where we fall, and starting over again, re-creating a beautiful life out of its broken pieces, kind of what my poem, "A Love Letter To My Students" is trying to say:

"This precious time, this sacred
moment, this passing piece of
eternity slows down enough for
me to see you and find perfection
in your ignorance: Innocence
teetering between cynicism and
hope--where have all your
dreams gone?

Shall I pick at the scabs of your
wounds,
trace the lines of your scars,
till you break...

....

For it is in broken hearts, Dearest,
that we find lost pieces of
our dreams.

Here, let my blood be the glue
to paste yours back together again."

(All rights reserved. Copyright 2010 by Victoria G. Smith; first published in 2010 Lyrical Iowa)
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#Blog A WRITER IS A LONE, NOT A LONELY BEING. It is a strange experience--success. People invariably react in two opposite ways: First, the one you'd rightly expect: the congratulations and expressions of pride, the well-wishes for continued success; and the second--the one you'd least expect, especially from some of the people supposedly closest to you: the telling silence, if not the tepid comments, the "prophet is never welcome in her own village" phenomenon that makes some family and childhood friends incredulous of the success of one who somehow rose from among their ranks. But there's a third way--the most treacherous one that could come from almost anyone: the lavish outpouring of expressions of support and fawning admiration that sadly come with a price--your very freedom to be yourself, as if they've branded their names on you, marking their claim on you, as though they've justifiably bought your eternal, constant attention and blind loyalty. This is the kind of patronage that insecure celebrities and monarchs unwittingly crave, and the wise recognize and dismiss as pure vanity. All is vanity, after all. It is the fool that fails to see this.

No one owns the true writer; only truth does. For this, a writer must bear with, and embrace aloneness, as distinguished from loneliness. Her integrity requires it. It is the price of her freedom, her occupational hazard. Her consolation? With her satisfying work and an imagination that transcends the finite current moment and company, she is never lonely.

As my biggest author events in this first half of the year wind down, I welcome returning to my hermitage--the sanctuary to my unhampered artistic creation. I am happiest and my truest self in this mode and space because here, I am beholden and accountable to no one and nothing but my conscience.

Thus, I republish this poem that first appeared in the October 2015 Issue of Westward Quarterly:

Writer’s Retreat

In the humble solitude
of my writing space,
I contemplate the problems
of the world—the human soul,
and in this place
I reign supreme,
a monarch wise
as Solomon.

(All rights reserved. Copyright 2015-2016 by Victoria G. Smith.)
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#Blog A WRITER IS A LONE, NOT A LONELY BEING. It is a strange experience--success. People invariably react in two opposite ways: First, the one youd rightly expect: the congratulations and expressions of pride, the well-wishes for continued success; and the second--the one youd least expect, especially from some of the people supposedly closest to you: the telling silence, if not the tepid comments, the prophet is never welcome in her own village phenomenon that makes some family and childhood friends incredulous of the success of one who somehow rose from among their ranks. But theres a third way--the most treacherous one that could come from almost anyone: the lavish outpouring of expressions of support and fawning admiration that sadly come with a price--your very freedom to be yourself, as if theyve branded their names on you, marking their claim on you, as though theyve justifiably bought your eternal, constant attention and blind loyalty. This is the kind of patronage that insecure celebrities and monarchs unwittingly crave, and the wise recognize and dismiss as pure vanity. All is vanity, after all. It is the fool that fails to see this.

No one owns the true writer; only truth does. For this, a writer must bear with, and embrace aloneness, as distinguished from loneliness. Her integrity requires it. It is the price of her freedom, her occupational hazard. Her consolation? With her satisfying work and an imagination that transcends the finite current moment and company, she is never lonely.

As my biggest author events in this first half of the year wind down, I welcome returning to my hermitage--the  sanctuary to my unhampered artistic creation. I am happiest and my truest self in this mode and space because here, I am beholden and accountable to no one and nothing but my conscience. 

Thus, I republish this poem that first appeared in the October 2015 Issue of Westward Quarterly:

Writer’s Retreat

In the humble solitude 
of my writing space, 
I contemplate the problems 
of the world—the human soul, 
and in this place 
I reign supreme, 
a monarch wise 
as Solomon.

(All rights reserved. Copyright 2015-2016 by Victoria G. Smith.)

#Blog THE PAIN-BODY POLITIC & the US & PHILIPPINE ELECTIONS: With apologies to ViaTimes News Magazine, I am posting my May 2016 poetry column in advance of its publication in said news magazine later this month, in consideration of its crucial relevance to the imminent May 9 Philippine presidential elections.

"Messenger

Messenger, thou art damned.
You have betrayed
my Word’s trust. You have
wedged yourself between
my Beloved and me. It is you
who is the false prophet.

How long shall I have to wait
for the faithful one?
How long until night clothes me
with stars? Until day anoints me
with dusk, blessing me
with the sunset of my years?

I am a voice crying in the wilderness—
no one hears me. I am a desert rose—
no one sees me. Except the scorpion
passing me by—snickering,
telling me that dust is my fate.

Messenger, your false notes sting
the air with hapless tunes.
You have robbed the hungry
of their ears—so now they can’t feed
their souls with my songs.

Woe to you—for you have brought
the wrath of your destiny upon yourself.
You are cursed like many others before
you—setting yourself to be flung down
your mountain, begging for the life
you’ve squandered on your vanity.

Better to be a rose blooming under
the desert sun, where rabbits feast
on its nectar, delivering it up
to the hawks to kiss the sky.

Yet woe to the flame that blinds
all who see it; that burns
all who touch it.

Poet’s Notes: Above poem was inspired by my reflections some years ago on the destructive in-fighting so promiscuously prevalent to this day among the so-called leaders of many Fil-Am immigrant communities not only in Des Moines, Iowa but in other United States cities and states, as well. Many of these leaders sadly have nothing much to their credit beyond their lust for power and resume-building (their greed for collecting official titles and positions of authority), and their corrupt and corrupting skills that enable them to tenaciously hang onto to such positions of power in their local communities like their counterpart leeches in Philippine national politics. And that is why I had proposed, albeit unsuccessfully, that it were these false leaders, like the false messenger in above poem, who needed leadership training. Naturally, I failed to convince such pretentious leaders that they needed leadership training because their lack of leadership skills and complete absence of self-awareness made them deny they needed any, in the first place. Now we witness yet again the same manifestations of lack of true leadership among some of the candidates for the presidential elections in both the Philippines and United States.

At the time of this writing, the Philippine presidential elections are just a few days away, in fact, only five days away. And at the time of this column’s publication, a new Philippine President and Vice-President will have already been elected. I can only hope that the evil above poem speaks of will not have come to pass in my beloved native country at such time.

Opinion polls allege that the leading contenders for the presidential and vice-presidential positions are Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte, Jr. and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.. These personalities are famous or rather, infamous for certain reputations—Digong, for his notoriety as the vigilante Mayor of Davao City who brags about killing suspected criminals as his primary peace and order strategy, and who uttered those shocking and vulgar remarks stating his regret, being the Mayor of the town where the crime took place, of not having been the first to have sexually enjoyed the beautiful Australian missionary rape victim whose dead, naked body was brought before him; and Bongbong, as the heir to the supremely corrupt and tyrannical Marcos political dynasty, whose mother, Imelda (yes—that equally if not more infamous widow of the dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, and former First Lady world-renowned for her thousand pairs of Italian shoes that are keenly symbolic of her scandalous high living at the expense of, and despite her people’s poverty), urged Filipinos to vote for her son so he “…could continue his father’s legacy…,” conveniently failing to state that such legacy was defined by Martial Law, death, destruction, torture, and plunder of the Philippines’ natural resources and national wealth.

A parallel situation exists in the United States where the Republican Party presidential candidate is now clearly the anti-immigrant Donald Trump—a personality not unlike the arrogant, vulgar, and politically irreverent and incorrect Duterte, minus the latter’s brandished record of vigilante killings of alleged criminals.

No amount of rhyme or reason can make sense of these similar developments in my native and adopted countries’ political landscapes. They cease to be surprising, however, when one realizes that none of these movements are moved by logic or reason. They are, rather, caused by pure ignorance and the accompanying raw emotions of fear and hatred. Most humans fear what they don’t understand, and hate what they fear. On this, it bears reiterating what I said in my March column, to wit:

“I believe we could be witnessing the clearest manifestation in contemporary political history of what some of the Founding Fathers feared: the threat of a mobocracy in a democracy. Mobocracy, also known as ochlocracy, is government or rule by the mob. This mob could be seen as the destructive faction described and detested by James Madison in his essay, Federalist Paper No. 10, that is, a group of citizens, whether a minority or majority, that is primarily, if not exclusively motivated by self-interests that are contrary to the individual rights of other citizens and the interests of the community as a whole. The faction’s interests clash with community interests when such faction does not see how pursuance of its perceived (and misperceived) self-interests is ultimately destructive to the whole body politic, thus eventually resulting in its own demise. It is reasonable to assume that such a faction is not likely to foresee or understand this if it is uninformed, misinformed, or poorly educated. It isn’t surprising therefore why candidate Donald Trump declares his great love for the poorly educated voter. There are echoes here of Thomas Jefferson’s admonition that an insufficiently educated electorate is a grave danger to democracy and liberty.”

That said, we cannot discount the fact that there are likewise highly educated people among the supporters of Trump in the United States, and Duterte and Marcos in the Philippines. I know, for I personally know some of the latter—they were my colleagues and compatriots in the university. So what of this? Does this debunk the otherwise valid argument on the need for education among the electorate? Not necessarily. It only points to a further requisite for true democracy, to wit: the need for self-awareness and enlightenment. Education may provide information; not necessarily wisdom. To attain the latter, much more than information is needed. The big additional requisite? Compassion—that is, a compassion that goes beyond one’s individual self-interests and includes a compassionate understanding of and consideration for the “common good”, of human society’s overall welfare and interests—not losing sight of the forest for the trees, so to speak. This kind of compassion obviously requires an in-depth study of historical and current events. Here, reflecting upon the history of human societies and political movements provides valuable insights. The philosopher George Santayana said, “If we do not remember the past, then we are condemned to repeat its mistakes.” Thus, the process of becoming a good citizen and electorate requires a thoughtful reflection upon the lessons of our personal experiences and of human history, in general.

The problem with the supporters of Trump, Duterte, and Marcos is that they are blinded by their pain. Yes, pain—sentimental pain for their own individual frustrations and personal tragedies brought upon by either solely or a combination of their self-made problems and the policy and program failures of their political leaders. Thus, one can say that the bodies politic of both the United States and the Philippines, including all conflict-ridden nations are none other than one big pain-body smarting from a sense of irretrievable loss and hopelessness. Thus, they cling to anything and anyone that guarantees bold and swift change. Like a desperate man about to drown, they cling even to the blade that promises salvation, unwilling to consider that the blade is a double-edged sword that will later likely cut them off or stab them in the back. Appealing to their reason will not matter, for reason here does not matter anymore. Appealing to their sense of the common good likewise will not work, for they define the "common good” according to what is only good for them. They are purely on survival mode, blind to, and not realizing the fact that their survival also depends on the survival of the whole nation or society. Under such circumstances, what is to be done?

Alas, being the pithy poet that I am, I can offer nothing better than poetry. On this, I quote Dylan Thomas:

“Do not go gentle into that … night,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” "

(All rights reserved. Copyright © 2016 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)"

#neveragain #notodictators
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