Back Cover Reveal: What We Do To Make Us Whole

There’s a back cover, too!

Katie Manning is the author of Tasty Other and editor for Whale Road Review, and one of the poems in What We Do To Make Us Whole first found a home in her journal.

M. J. Flood is the author of Where Are You?: Finding Myself in My Greatest Loss and directed the film Too Much Noise.


Thanks to both of these talented writers for blurbing my forthcoming poetry collection.

Available 12/31/21 … link to purchase is on the way
Launch by day 1/16/22 … https://www.facebook.com/events/428080612379704
Launch after dark TBA …

Cover Reveal: What We Do To Make Us Whole

I sent a slew of ideas to my editor. He said while they were all interesting, this one is the best fit. I didn’t take this picture thinking about this book, at least not consciously. Now here it is, exactly how it should be.

What We Do To Make Us Whole will be available from Alien Buddha Press 12/31/21.

Celebratory Book Launch By Day: 1/16/22

Celebratory Book Launch After Dark: TBA

Here’s a tiny bit of poetry from the collection:

Dead Reckoning
There’s good and then there’s me.
There’s good and then there’s you.
There’s good and then there’s us,
Together, making no sense, nonsense,
Making a mess, together,
Falling apart fast.

Outdoorsy-ness

I almost went camping.

I’ll let that settle in for a moment. I know, I know. It’s true. It’s an almost.

Over the past almost two years, I’ve been sharing all my outdoorsy adventures. Through various woods. On several beaches. Up into the mountains. Swarmed by insects. Delighted by skies. Scared of noises in the brush. I’ve stumbled through nature, learning to walk tall.

In early October, I went hiking. I didn’t share it. I kept it private because I’d met a man. He was hiking with me that day, and it felt special. We went to a park where he’d never been, and I actually took the lead, finding my way around for some of it. Most of it was wandering for me, though, as it always is. He clearly could find his way, said he loved being outside, and said he liked camping. He asked if I would be interested in going camping with him.

Y’all know my usual response would be a resounding Nope followed by much laughter at the thought. I surprised myself in that moment because I didn’t even answer immediately. I’d paused. There was not a no. There was a me saying I’d be willing to try it. He got excited, explaining the best times we’d be able to go before the weather turned. I explained that his excitement could dampen when he realized I would not be helpful in any way, and basically, he’d have to keep me alive. He said he didn’t care and that the most difficult part would be figuring out what I could eat (canned meat was not an option, clearly). Our hike lasted several hours that day, and after that day, we went on to enjoy more than outdoorsy things together.

We never went camping. We’d talked about it. We’d talked about a lot of future fun. There was so much to do and share with each other. None of that happened either. Sometimes things fall apart.

Here’s why I’m grateful. First, the brief recap: my grandmother died, my dad died, my husband disappeared, I started to crawl out of the pit of grief and depression, started kind of dating again, and then pandemic hit. During pandemic, the guy I was seeing on and off cut things off, and I fell back into the pit, realizing I’d never grieved my dad because I’d been grieving my other loss. I started to crawl out of the pit, but with no vaccine yet and my desire to live and not kill those compromised around me, rebounding and dating was not an option. So I worked. I delighted in friendships. I wrote. I meditated. I hiked. I walked. I practiced yoga. I worked out. I went to museums. I danced from room to room in my house. I did all the things I do that create my happiness. I got vaxxed. Then this past summer, I felt it. With the fear that this little body would not be able to take another loss, I still felt the desire to find a man who could share a life.

Manifestation is powerful. The men showed up in my life in strange and sundry ways. None of them were right for me, and that was fine. I didn’t expect to find someone right away.

And then I did. I found a man who was everything I’d been looking for.

And then it didn’t work out.

So again, why I’m grateful. Here’s another loss, and here I am, still standing. This little body is whole. This little body thrives. And when I say this little body, I mean all that is me (setting aside the Buddhist-self-doesn’t-exist-body-isn’t-me-philosophy for now). Resilience is exhausting. Being strong is exhausting. Still, I’m grateful I get to be exhausted because that means I’m living a life.

I haven’t written much about my personal life since I got divorced. That experience changed how I see public versus private content. Sharing publicly all the highs and hiding all the very lows seemed dishonest. I wasn’t into airing the lows of my marriage because I didn’t realize they were lows at the time, and now I can’t see the point in sharing half a story moving forwards. However, I can share what I learn and what I know.

Because I’ve decided that I’m not moving from my house any time soon (I bought air conditioners, y’all—it’s an investment), I’ve been tidying up and clearing out trinkets. I found a box in my living room that felt empty, but when I looked inside, I startled. I didn’t remember I’d saved it. I found the parking receipt for the park from the hike where we’d talked about camping. When I found it, I remembered the moment clearly—I’d taken it from my hiking bag and went to throw it out. Then I’d stopped myself, feeling that feeling of this could be something, and put it in a new box. It was a memory of new beginnings, something I’d thought was going to be more than simply a passing by but a long term reality.

The reality is that it was a passing by after all. My heart is catching up to what my head already knows, and it’s difficult; getting through it is. Getting through it is also exhilarating.

This week, I went on a hike. The leaves are at peak autumn colors. I climbed up steep slopes, got caught up in thorny brush, kept to the trails, and found my way. Yes, that’s a metaphor, too.

Last week, my panel about creators getting through grief with gratitude came to be a realization. The next day, I talked on a panel about being in the creative field. It felt right, like I’d found the crossroads of all I’m meant to do. I don’t know if I’ll keep writing here. Because it’s not a revelation that I go outside anymore, the outdoorsy series pretty much ends here. Maybe if there’s a trip in the future to share or a really fun exhibit, I’ll come on back. To write about heartache is difficult, and as I said before, that line between public and private remains tricky for me.

Also, I’m a writer. This is who I am. Now more than ever I realize why I write. I write to connect, to let people know they are not alone, to share suffering along with joy. And I thank you always for listening.

And I’ve said this before many times, and I’ll keep saying it–to all y’all who help hold me up when I need it most and also celebrate all the wins in kind, you have my heart.

Microblogging (Bringing It Back For All The Feels)

Unauthorized Recap of Unauthorized Banksy

The one story that sticks out to me about Banksy was the auction-house piece that shredded itself. That’s fun. I can appreciate graffiti; I’ve been on several do-it-yourself-graffiti-walking-tours in both the U. S. and Canada (I love Canada!). Interestingly, an indoor exhibit can take graffiti from the outside and hang it in a way that it glows from within. It was pretty neat.

You get one guess as to what happened when B and I first got to the exhibit. Like, aside from here’s my ID and vax card. If you guessed that I had to find a bathroom, you are correct. Bathrooms—not just for hiking. This meant careening through two floors of the exhibit, trying not to look at anything so that I would later be surprised by what I saw when I came through the second time to actually see it.

Back to the beginning! There was art. There were very long explanations in teeny tiny writing that we took pictures of to later read. Those pictures are still lingering on my to-read list. In addition to reading, there was watching. Like the Van Gogh exhibit, there was a room of animation. This room was small (a little too small to see what was going on the whole time) and it came with warnings about flashing lights. It was pretty cool, though, because it was as if we were in a subway car and got to travel throughout the world and fast forward through time. The rooms afterwards each had a theme and many included art with a quirky slant. My favorite collection is all about Disney called Dismaland. As a former cast member, I thoroughly approve of every single idea that comes across in Dismaland. Y’all don’t know the half of it.

Phone booths are fun.

Also, a lot of the work tugs at humanity’s collective conscience. War is bad. How people treat other people is bad. People are awful. And also, there’s hope. That’s the gist of the messages. On top of that, there was a small section about CCTV. We turned a corner and, oh, hello, we were on screen. I wish I could say this is the first time I was caught off-guard in an exhibit by realizing we’re being watched and recorded all the time, but it was not. (Let’s remember the Whitney).

After the exhibit, B and I walked aimlessly, winding up really far downtown. She suggested heading to Washington Square Park. That park was alive! Every fourth table was selling some sort of marijuana. In between were artists and musicians. There was a poet offering to write a poem or sell you a penis-shaped candle. (This could be my new endeavor depending on how lucrative this kind of waxing poetic is, and someone should really revoke my writing privileges after that pun).

Then out on the sidewalks, more graffiti, the uplifting kind. I love this city.

Bourgeois, Freud, and Many Menorahs

My affinity for Louise Bourgeois began fifteen or sixteen years ago when I saw some pieces at a museum. I can’t remember which museum or which pieces but I they inspired me to write a poem that appears in For The Girls, I called “Femme Maison.” Actually, now that I think of it, that was probably the name of the exhibit or the piece. Here’s the poem:

Femme Maison
-For Louise Bourgeios

The woman is a house with real glass, real eaves wood for burning when she breaks down and is condemned, useful after death long after destruction, beautiful dastardly distraction.

Also, a quote from this poem appears on my homepage. I guess it’s one of those poems by me that I enjoy. If you also enjoy this poem, you can buy the chapbook from dancing girl press. Support your independent presses, y’all.

I haven’t been to the Jewish Museum since seeing the exhibit that was partially about The Twilight Zone. I went on a Saturday and used the sabbath elevator. I can’t remember artists, but I remember elevators. They had a Bourgeois exhibit called Freud’s Daughter. I didn’t know about the connection, which sounded interesting, but more importantly, I wanted to go to a museum and see a artist I knew I’d enjoy. When BMc asked about museum going, I was like, the only museum I’m going to right now is the Jewish Museum if you want to come with, so he came with.

And by come with, I mean, he got to the museum by driving and parking nearby and I got there by train and subway. I rode the subway by myself for the first time since 2019, and I didn’t get murdered, so my subway days are back! I also walked up a very large hill, and it felt good to walk up that large hill. I even used my mnemonic device to figure out which way to go—1, 2, 3 Little Piggies Make 5.

Sidenote: During the days of Shecky’s, Rooftops, and other drunken endeavors, D taught us this mantra so we could remember 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Lexington, Park, Madison, 5th. It works when you remember the saying. The first time I tried it out, I couldn’t remember the whole thing, and I simply shouted Pigs! Something about pigs! on the street corner in Manhattan. No one flinched. It was most likely not the strangest thing they’d seen that day.

So I got to the museum to find BMc waiting outside. The rules were pretty clear. Get there on time. If you miss the time slot, you’ve gotta wait for the next time slot if it’s open. Bring your vax proof. Bring your ID. Show your tix. I don’t know why the rules were so strict since when we got there, no one was staggered. Everyone was in a line and in the same place. It was the first time I used my Excelsior Pass, so the download wasn’t a waste. Ironically, there were signs everywhere about keeping your distance. I’m not saying it was unsafe. I didn’t feel like it was crowded at all. I just think that the rigidity of the rules wasn’t as rigid as, let’s say, November 2020 Trader Joe’s six foot apart outdoor in the snow line to go grocery shopping.

The first thing I learned at the exhibit was that Bourgeois wrote a lot. This was a side of her I hadn’t known. Some things she wrote in English, some in French, and some drifted between the two. Some of it was coherent. Some of it was iffy. The next thing I learned was about her mental anguish. Her use of language, and her distrust of language, made more sense considering her afflictions. The writing fascinated me, thrilled me, made me want to write then and there.

The visual pieces ranged between large and small, 2D and 3D, expected and wtf. Room after room, walls and floors filled with sculptures, paintings, drawings, and transcriptions of her words along with actual handwritten pieces. My favorite artwork is her metalwork, kind of because it seems to be an undertaking that requires physical strength, though I’m sure a lot of artwork does.

Then there was the cell. A room had a cage that had alcoves where you could walk into and kind of be in the art. Inside the cages were chairs and mirrors. It was eerie and not okay and also pretty neat.

After getting our brains bent by Bourgeois (by the way, I have not spelled her name correctly on the first try at all yet), we saw the exhibits on the other floors. One floor was Afterlives, an exhibit that showed looted artwork. The story behind some of the pieces dives into heroics in history and how people put their lives on the line to save culture. Of course, it was also really sobering—how many innocent people killed because of their beliefs. That all gave me a shudder.

Then there was the permanent collection. A sculpture that reads OY, but also reads YO. Rooms and rooms of menorahs. Like, a lot of menorahs. Different metals. Different textures. One make of tiny chairs. Another made to hold more candles than you would think to put in a menorah. It made me want to own a menorah, but since I’m not into cultural appropriation for the sake of hijinks, I got over wanting to own a fun menorah. There were also some portraits by Andy Warhol and Alex Katz that were in my wheelhouse of enjoyment. Another wall of portraits by Abshalom Jac Lahav were also pretty neat. Basically, if you haven’t been to the Jewish Museum, these are the kinds of things you’ll see there no matter when you go because they’re part of the collection.

While dining is closed in the basement, that’s where bathrooms are, so, you know, that’s where we headed. And that’s where I found my new wallpaper. I want my entire house covered in it.

After museum-ing, we hit the park across the street. We were right across from the reservoir, so we walked around it while other people ran and others ambled very slowly. We saw ducks. The view from the far side of the reservoir is an interesting take on the skyline since mostly I see the view from the near side because it’s the same way the roof of The Met faces.

I’d like to report that while I did accept a ride back to the island in lieu of the train, I remembered I’d taken the train to get to the city, so I did not have to call my mom to take me to the train station to get my forgotten car. I? Am a grown up now.

Outdoorsy Part XXV: What Water Is This?

You’d think by now I could easily catch on to what nature is where, but the winding roads of the North Shore clearly don’t want me to. I’m pretty sure they were designed to keep out non-inhabitants. Counting on my GPS, I curved along the backroads until I saw a figure in the distance. There on Boney Lane was the captain, waving me into the David Weld Sanctuary as if he were on a tarmac guiding in a plane for landing. It was helpful because as soon as I’d made the turn onto the road, my GPS proudly yelled, Arrived! and I had not arrived anywhere except on a road somewhere.

When I parked, the captain was like, You put in the wrong address so I was waiting for you. I was like, No, I clicked the link you texted me and that’s what the map did. Apparently, Boney Lane and Short Beach Road are the same but also different according to my phone. As if I could possibly put in a different address on my own. Like, 345 Curvy Lane, BackRoads, Long Island.

There was much need for sunscreen and bug spray. I doused myself in both as I also tried to not let bugs get into my car. One did but I’m pretty sure it’s now flown out. A wasp almost got in, and thankfully it didn’t because then I’d have to abandon my car at 345 Curvy Lane and hitchhike back to civilization.

Into the preserve we went. It was really green. Not very buggy, thankfully. This was the first hike for my new hiking boots, and grassy woodsy-ness was a good way to break them in. We went down a few paths and then suddenly, we were on a bluff overlooking the water. He was like, Want to go down to the beach? I was like, Is that really a question?

Through the woods we found the beach. What water was this? I didn’t know. It was the Sound. I looked out in the distance. To the left stood smokestacks. I pointed: Northport? He was like, Yup. I was like, That’s your response?!—I know geography for once and all I get is a Yup?! He was subtly impressed.

We walked the beach. Another good way to break in my new boots with soft land underfoot. Also a good way to break a sweat. We’d gotten off to a later start than usual because I’d taught yoga in the morning, so by now the sun was blazing. Super pretty and also super hot. I’d opted for shorts since I knew we’d be mostly on the beach and he’d said the trails were pretty wide. Except for a few places in the path where I passed through as if I were in Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks to avoid ticks, it felt tick-less most of the way.

This was Short Beach, but it was pretty long for a short beach. We passed by what looked like cabanas. Lined up with them out on the water was a floating platform. On that platform, batbirds perched, all batty and birdy. I walked a bit more quickly to pass them. Then we got to where sunbathers sprawled out. We passed them and got to a point where the beach curved around and we could see the other side. I was like, I know where that is! On the other side is the place we’ve hiked before attached to the Greenbelt Trail where Sunken Meadow and Nissequogue meet up (I think. I mean, I knew where I was but that doesn’t mean I know names of things). This was the second time I knew geography. However—what water is this? Is this the river or is this the sound or is this something else? It was the river.

Basically, all the water is the water, and we just call it different things whenever we want. It’s all connected. {However, this morning, an inanimate object DMd me to tell me I don’t know what a beach is, so ya know, don’t go by me).

We hiked more along the river side of the beach and then cut across and around some more until we found a place where the captain said was good for swimming. I was like, Sure, go ahead and I’ll stay alive on the shore. I had on half a bathing suit, and if he’d swam longer, I would’ve gotten into the full thing, but for a ten-minute swim with bugs attacking me, I didn’t do the production of switching my bottoms under a dress I’d brought. The taking off of the boots and socks was a production in and of itself.

Then there was the production of getting it all back on. Then there was the debate of reapplying sunscreen. It was not possible for me. I was slick with sweat. My sunscreen is on the expensive side. There was no point in wasting it; it wasn’t going to stay on my skin with all the moisture pouring off me. I know—this is so attractive. I could go on about what I possibly smelled like at this point, but I’ll leave that to your imagination.

As we started to head back, a swarm of bugs kept biting me. Only me. We stopped on the beach—I think on the sound side not the river side—and I switched from the natural bug spray to the intense chemical stuff. It worked. I’m okay with chemicals if I’m not being eaten alive by no-see-ums.

When we arrived at the bathrooms at Short Beach, I was like, Can we go in the shade? We walked towards the covered picnic tables, and I sat and took in the not being in the sun for a while. There was a breeze! That’s when we remembered the captain wanted to take a picture of what was in my backpack. He was like, Did you take less stuff this time? I was like, I actually have more than last time because of beach options. The one thing I didn’t have was my solar powered charger/flashlight/compass because it adds another few pounds and I simply couldn’t add more, and on a shorter excursion, I banked on not needing it.

After that, we headed back to the beach, back up into the woods, back up to the bluff, and then back through the preserve to find the tiny buggy parking lot. It holds six cars. Six. That’s probably enough considering it’s almost impossible to find if you’re not familiar with Curvy Lane in BackRoads, LI.

Here We Van Gogh Again

Upon finding out that there are two Van Gogh exhibits, I was like, Yep, I can go to the other one to compare. Upon finding out that the Van Gogh exhibit at the pier offers yoga classes, I was like, Hey BR, we’re going, and she was like, Yes, of course we are.

And so, a 6:15 AM train got me to Penn at 6:47 AM, which got me a taxi that arrived at Pier 36 a bit after 7 AM. My yoga friend was already there, and the night security guard had let her in to hang out at the front. He was super nice, explaining he gets excited when he sees people, and also we saw how the large portrait of Van Gogh could be stunning but also creepy if it were the only eyes on you in the wee hours in the dark.

Because we got there so early, we were first in line and first let into the rooms. We walked through the first two rooms and got into the bigger room where the animations of Van Gogh’s art goes across the floor as well as on all the walls. We set up, sat down, and basically stared. We were inside a painting.

The instructor, Dasha from Sputnik Yoga, started talking about what her yoga studio offers and how she teamed up with Lifeway for this sponsorship. Right away, we looooooved her—her energy was perfect. As people started piling in and lining up (we were all masked and the room was large), she found that a lot were new to yoga completely. She asked if any instructors in the room would demo. I didn’t even think. My hand was up. Well, look at that. She came over and I was like, I don’t do inversions. She laughed and was like, You don’t need to worry about that.

Then the magic unfolded. The music started up. The animations ran around the room. We moved through a yoga sequence in rhythm with both. Magic. Magic. Magic. I demoed each pose without knowing what was coming next, so it was a little clumsy at times, but also, sometimes it was clear where we were going though not at all static or dull. All those years of practice have paid off! When we got to balance, it was a little shaky because the walls were basically moving, but no one fell, so that’s a plus for everyone in the room. The most advanced pose was a half moon, which I rarely do, so it was an adventure. Savasana was the best savasana because, again, magical.

When we were done, B and I got to see all the photos from the session as the instructor airdropped them to me. Whoa. Basically, you’ve gotta do it for yourself because I can’t explain the energy. I could live on that energy. The exhibit played the entire animation again, and we all had free reign to go through all three rooms to watch from wherever we wished and to do more yoga if we wanted. We then headed into the absinthe lounge and had hot beverages, where I told B that was all I ever want to do—yoga and romping around the city. We romped around the gift shop for a while, and we found a tree that had a way for you to write a letter to Vincent and have him write you back (again, hard to explain, so do it for yourself).

Speaking of romping, she was like, do you want to go to the Met? I was like, yes, let’s do it. We headed outside where I acted like I’d never seen a bridge before because the view was simply striking. We grabbed a cab outside and headed all the way up. We found a place for food because I almost keeled over from malnutrition and ate beside the fountains outside. Then we had to reserve a time to go inside to then get tickets. We got tickets inside because we were paying by donation, and then we went off without a map. Careening around the museum without a map and without a plan was fun and a workout.

The only plan I had was to see the rooftop and to find a bathroom. We found the bathroom first, and then we got sidetracked by every pretty thing we could find. At one point B was like, This is kind of like going to Epcot. So true! We were in Greece and Rome and Egypt and other places across history and the globe.

Mostly I enjoyed the modern floor, especially the abstract stuff (that’s a technical art term) and the photography exhibit with a focus on women. The rooftop offers artwork as well as the best views from above. We took it all in, thankful for a semi-overcast day that allowed for gorgeous sunshine without that extreme sticky heat. As we headed out of the museum, I was like, You know, I didn’t take a picture of a statue butt (which is something I always do at museums because I’m 12). B was like, well there’s one right over there. I appreciated the support.

For days that start with art and yoga and end with art and sky and all throughout offer fun friend times, I am always grateful.