Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Where I've Been

In the last 2 years or so I haven't written much to post. Scribbles, mostly, in half a dozen composition notebooks, stuffed with scribbles on the backs of envelopes and shelved.

I've always written, I remember writing stories in the third grade, poetry in the 4th. Didn't matter if it was good or not, it let me say my piece and stay sane, stay alive. When I was old enough, I wrote love poems for my lovers and break up poems when it was over. I learned to edit, to keep the poem relevant years after it was written and to never ever use a proper name.

So the last few years. Mostly heartbreak and mourning has come out. When Sandy died in 2011, we were weeks away from moving in together. The horrendous shock of her death by accident, and then the treatment by her family pretty much erased a year or so there. I did keep the scribbles, managed to form them into a non fiction piece that was published and released in an anthology of local poets and writers. Once again I was writing to preserve my sanity, and there is an entire chapbook length pile of poems for her, called Vodka and Rose Petals. It doesn't matter to me if I ever publish it, and the grief is still so raw I'd be a difficult author to edit. I submit writing only to those editors I trust to reject me with kindness if they reject me at all.

The whole time I was dragging a giant elephant around with me wherever I went. And really for years before that. The giant elephant was an abusive relationship with a man who had started as a dear friend, became a lover, and then moved it.

Hindsight is 20/20. But domestic violence creeps in as slowly as molasses in winter. Stealth is it's primary means of insertion. All his friends knew of his domestic violence arrests. All of us knew he got off because his wife was "crazy." He was everyone's reliable friend. I keep saying I should have known, I should have not let him back after the first time, I should've, could've, would've. But I didn't. I loved him and somehow held onto the belief he would stop.

He did not. Which resulted in his removal from my home by court order, a restraining order, a violation that lead to a year of court appearances and one and a half years after his arrest, his release from probation. It only took 2 months for the stalking to start, and now I'm finding holes in the blocks I set against him and closing them one at a time, screen shotting every email, every social media follow before I block it, every bit of evidence of his continued obsession with me. Into the folder with all the other evidence.

The really telling part I only noticed after he was removed. I never wrote him love poems. I never even wrote him a break up poem. Everything I wrote was steeped in fear. Even the notes I kept, dated, radiate fear.

I am not publishing his name YET, or the case numbers. Maybe I'm stupid but I do keep hoping he will go away and leave me alone. Which in reality, will not happen and it will be me who gets to move away, once again, and change phones and change friends and live in hiding for the rest of my life. The difference is now, I understand the judicial system, which is stacked against the victim.

So I'll try to write again, I will stay in hiding, I will keep the brick dust on my doorways, and the mirrors facing the windows and dimming spell in place.

Oh, and the troll I thought I had, it's him in an alt.

A Spell of Remembrance

The veil of alcohol is lifted, and you will remember.
You will remember.
You will remember how much I loved you.
You will remember how I took care of you.
You will remember your tantrums.
You will remember your hours long tirades.
You will remember kicking my dog so hard she limped for days.
You will remember begging my forgiveness.
You will remember me forgiving you over and over.
You will remember how much I loved you.
You will remember starting the cycle all over again.
You will remember not letting me sleep.
You will remember your threats.
You will remember mentally torturing me.
You will remember the purposeful pain you inflicted on me.
You will remember using that which would hurt me most.
You will remember pinning me to the floor and beating me with your elbow.
You will remember the fear on my face.
You will remember the voicemails when I ran.
You will remember the emails from your delusions.
You will remember it all.

It will haunt you.
It will haunt your dreams.
It will haunt your waking.
It will follow you, whispering every detail
you tried to erase.

You will remember.
You will not be able to lie anymore,
to yourself or anyone else.
You will admit you did it all.
You will be wracked with guilt.
You will be wracked with shame.
You will be haunted by your words and actions.
You will be haunted by loss.

You will know you caused me unhealable
harm, scars upon my soul.
You will remember every detail.
It will not leave you.
It will not let you rest.

A elfyntodd dwyr sinddyn duw
cerrig yr fferlluric nwyn
os syriaeth ech saffaer tu
fewr echlyn mor, necrombor llun

So mote it be.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

One Eighth

One Eighth

Most of my people came here to escape 
starvation and oppression, some 
even shipped without their consent, 
their names respelled to suit 
the culture and education of the person 
logging them in at the point of arrival.

My people came here and scattered 
like dandelion seed, seeking their 
own but considering the new start 
a better option to starvation. 
Didn’t matter that their wages 
cost less than keeping slaves. 

They buried us where we fell;
the mine, the levy, the battlefield.
I come from these people, who were white,
and became american. Who had all 
the babies, half of whom lived. I come from people
who say Jaysus, Mary, and Joseph, and it’s not blasphemy.

Except for that one eighth.
The one eight that would make me 
african or asian or native. The one eighth 
granted land by Cromwell, or George III
to come here, bringing civilization.
Bringing genocide.

Those who owned people, their own relatives,
brothers, sisters cousins. Those who kept
the white code and the pedigree 
because that is what the descendants will see. 
Those who edited the stories so it all 
looked idyllic for us who came after.

That one eighth would make me black,
regardless of fair skin and good hair.
That one eighth makes me one of those
who can own humans. This is the part
white people forget about the one eighth rule.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Three Roses

He brings me three roses
in a small yellow vase
and he says, I hear women forgive 
a lot if you bring them flowers.
He says

You are a unique,
you challenge me, and
I’m so glad I found you.
He says I want to spend
the rest of my life with you

and I want to hear that from you
before I invest anymore into this.
I look him in the eye
and the last 5 years fast forward
on the screen between us.

I remember more than he does.
His gaze moves off and 
he says Obviously I'm not going 
to like what you have to say.
I am silent, rubbing my nose

with the unscented longstems.
His alcohol droopy eyes
attempt another focus, his balance 
shift tilts a little too far and 
I try to remember where I left my keys.

I really do not want to do this now, 
I really do not and thankfully, this time, 
he believes my praise of the roses, is hungry
enough to be distracted by dinner, 
and after, passes out in his chair.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


She leans forward in her chair by the window,
studies my face and asks, Who are you?
I remind her, again, I am my mother's daughter.
She just shakes her head, But you are so... old.
I nod. Here in this tiny old house where she was born 
I am forever 8 with crooked teeth and scabby knees.
She looks out the window at her neighborhood,
now just the hood, watching what used to be
spin passed the place that has always been hers. 
I watch it with her until she asks again.

Published 2014 in La Palabra: The Word Is Woman

Thursday, December 18, 2014


She takes her broom to the front door and starts to the left
sweeping every crease, every corner widdershins, out 
with the bad, out out out, all the way ‘round the house till
she arrives back at the front door, willing the stalker Catatonia
out out out with the debris she sweeps to the street. 

She pulls the secateurs from her back pocket, cuts rosemary from
the side the dogs don’t pee on, counting in nines, over and 
over and over till there is an armful. Shakes out the loose and
the lizards before carrying the bundle to the table in the shade of the porch. 
Before going back out to crumble a cigarette under the perennial. 

She she fills the dog water bowl, sets out her sharpened athame (thinks 
bullshit they were not weapons), lights the candle, and from it 
the mountain sage smudge offering the smoke to the seven directions.
Breathe in breathe out breathe in breathe out breathe in breathe out.
Set down the roots. Ancestors and guides hear me, it’s been a while. 

She gathers nine rosemary stems, trims the cut ends even and starts
the red cord wrap with a clinch knot one two three tightened down 
hard, wind nine to the left diagonal, quick one two three at the skinny end,
start back down deosil one two three four five six seven eight nine
and the last doesn’t reach it will need ten so she unwinds and starts over. 

Breathe in breathe out breathe in breathe out breathe in breath out
One two three four five six seven eight nine, tight wrap one two three.
Clinch knot with the tail one two three, wrap from the spool one two three
wrap from the tail one two three and a square knot. So mote it be. She
sets that first aside, begins again. Breathe in breathe out one two three…

Sunday, November 30, 2014


I am certain my daughter and my niece
never worry they will be shot dead
in the face if they have car trouble
and knock on a door for help.

I am certain my daughter and my niece
never worry that their sons will be shot dead 
by police on their way to the check out with a
BB gun they picked up in the WalMart toy department.

I am certain my daughter and my niece
never worry that their sons will be shot dead
by police if they take that BB gun to the park,
even if they plink a few squirrels.

I am certain my daughter and my niece
never worry their sons, armed with Arizona Tea
and Skittles, will be shot dead by a white man
on a rainy night in a gated community.

I am certain my daughter and my niece
never worry their sons will be shot dead
by police for walking down the street in their 
own neighborhood, and left there 4 1/2 hours.

I do not know how to end this
but I am certain it isn’t over
by a long shot.


My name is Cyn McCollum, and I am a white poet who refuses to stay silent while this country murders people who look like Renisha McBride, John Crawford III, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown, and my brown skinned friend. I refuse to remain silent. I have right to be angry.