Austin poet

When you love yourself, and I mean really love yourself

Love Reflection

When you love yourself, and I mean really love yourself,
you cannot help but look at that person in the mirror and weep.
That person who lives in a body tailor-made to swell and shrink
with the tides of food; whose scars, curves, lines, and bumps
pattern the casing of an animal, a house of the entire emotional spectrum;
whose dreams churn the engines and heat the heart;
and whose laughter delights the stars and all ancestors before her.

Yes, I love you.
All of you, person that is Me.
Every inch. Every piece.
Finally.

© Amelia Isabel

Photo credit: Amelia Isabel, in Buenos Aires, Argentina

When Mustangs Reincarnate

Me and Jessie in Costa Rica

It is said that everyone you meet is a mirror of you — a reflection of some part of your unique majestic makeup. Some will show your flaws; others will show your beauty. And, if you’re lucky, a rare few may even show you your wild buckin’ heart.

In 2008, I left to study abroad in Costa Rica for three months, never imagining I’d end up finding a job and staying there for four more. It changed me at a molecular level. I went in one person and came out somebody totally different. Sure, living in the flora and fauna of present-day jurassic park had a lot to do with it, but in reality, it was the people. Especially, this woman.

Jess is the reincarnation of a wild mustang in human form. She was the first to show me that it was ok to wander away from the group. That it was ok to stop in the middle of the trail — night or day — and look up for hours. That it was ok to not know what you were doing, but to do it anyway. That it was ok to ask questions. That it was ok not to wear makeup or deodorant or high heels. That it was ok to fall, as long as you got back up, no matter how much time it took.

She was the first badass I met in my entire life.

She made riding a horse bare-back look easy (she had never even ridden a horse before Costa Rica!). She could walk for hours, never complaining, even leading the pack for a 10 mile hike through the rain, mud, and horse flies of the jungle. She adopted shoes she found on the road, and would say, “Oh, GREAT! I can use these!” often fixing them with duct tape and proudly wearing them way past their expiration date. She even learned to climb trees with a machete hanging from her belt, so she could bring back mangoes and avocados for us to share. She is my opposite in so many ways, but my twin in so many others.

Most of all, she taught me to laugh in the face of life, and to follow my dreams mercilessly. I know that when I look back at the narrative of my life, my heart will sing knowing it was her who first taught me to be wild.

Happy birthday, gemela.

Photo credit: Amelia Isabel

For My Sister

Sisters swinging on swingset in backyard
If I could turn back time
to that day on the swings
I would 

Summer clung to the air
jostling the canopy
of the Great Pecan Tree
He laughed with his whole heart
and so did we

Down and back
forwards and Up
Wild curls reeling
to catch the clouds

Faster, higher
sweeter, lighter
toes scraping the sky
The moment, our spaceship
suspended in delight

Before the kitchen door opens
Before the magic breaks
Two backyard pendulums
swing

© Amelia Isabel
Photo credit: Hannah Nicole

Belong

A silhouette of a woman sitting and watching the sunset
When feel like I have nowhere to belong to –
I must remember that I belong to myself.
These bones.
These feelings.
This soul.
They are a universe –
a land
uninhabited by any other creature.
Only the cells of dinosaurs
and distant galaxies have called me home.
But in this life
I rule them alone.
My life is my kingdom,
my body my planet.
My reign shall be long and golden,
as long as I look towards the light.
Even in darkness,
I will glow,
burning the borrowed embers
that breathe and live all on their own.
I am responsible for this soul.
This Being.
For as long as we both shall live.

© Amelia Isabel
Photo credit: Kevin Cole

Expansion: An Honor

Expansion sculpture by Paige Bradley featured here in Brooklyn.

A few weeks ago, I was struggling through a very dark internal war of searching for purpose in the world. A dear friend passed this image to me to help me cope with my darkness. Something stirred inside me, and a poem sifted itself out of my brokenness. I realized it was my LIGHT I was more afraid of, not my darkness. I decided to share it with Paige Bradley, the creator of the “Expansion” sculpture (featured here in Brooklyn), out of gratitude for giving me a guide post out of my despair.

She featured it on her blog this morning, as the very first poem to be written about the infamous piece. What an honor!

Life is much brighter today, and it feels all too easy to forget dark times exist when you’re basking in the morning glow. Those dark places are truly the most fertile grounds for hope and expansion. After all, not a darker place exists than the moment right before the sun begins to rise.

Love on this day and every day,
Amelia

Photo credit: Paige Bradley

A Visit from Maya Angelou

Christmas lights strung across a room

Once upon a time, the Greeks believed in invisible fairy creatures called “dæmons” or “geniuses” that served as spirit guides and the ultimate connection to one’s divine creativity. They helped us to transcend, become one with our calling, and step closer to understanding what life is all about.

What if invisible fairies weren’t the only ones helping us in our creative acts?

Last week, I had a unique opportunity to intimately bear witness to my own creative process as a new poem burbled up inside me like a cork floating up to the surface in a pool of champagne. A classmate of mine shared the following lines in our poetry course:

It’s the strangest sensation to be happily lonely
to keep the thoughts of a universe, safe inside a humbled heart
It’s a whimsical place, to feel luckily bound in a body 
that won’t misuse its wisdom

With my genius at my side, we wrote this piece:

Sanctuary within a Temple
A Reflection on the Universe within the Body

My heart space
Is a child’s bedroom
A warm womb where I am tucked away
Beneath a rolling sea of linen and down
Looking up through soft sheer canopy curtains
At the twinkling lights of the universe
Strung across the ceiling
Gently swaying
To the pulse of my chamber walls
Rocking me into the safest slumber

And ultimately, the following story. I didn’t realize it right away, but as the last line came out, I gradually noticed something different about my poetic genius. The familiar sensation of a whimsical story began banging around inside my ribs, commanding to be heard. And I obliged.

Dr. Angelou, this one’s for you.

Screenshot of my youtube video, A Visit from Maya Angelou

“Lights” photo credit: Chris Jones

Canopy Curtain Call

Respledent Quetzal captured by Frank Vassen in Mirador de Quetzales, Costa Rica

[Photo captured by Frank Vassen in Mirador de los Quetzales, Costa Rica] 

Crystal-like whistles
Airy chirps and yawny sighs
Resonate from tree to tree
The orchestra awakens

The Sun opens a curtain as
The East Wind pushes through
And hushes the choir

Ringing through Monteverde
Like drops of water
With a festival twist
The opening number begins

Snow white coattails
Blood red vest
Long machete plumes of green and blue

Mesoamerica’s beloved ave
Cuts through the canopy

Like an electric strobe light

© Amelia Isabel

Me in 2008 birthing the poem in the middle of the cloud forest.

#ThrowbackThursday to a poem I birthed in 2008 on a bridge in the middle of the Costa Rican cloud forest. This is my most cherished work of poetry I have ever written. (Look at all that HAIR! And that concentration! That’s Czikszentmihalyi’s “flow” right there!) Photo credit: Sarah Boncal

The Dam Cannot Hold

"Expansion" sculpture in New York by Paige Bradley.

Poem inspired by Paige Bradley’s “Expansion” sculpture featured here in New York City and from my own fears of embracing my inner Light. (Photo credit: Paige Bradley)

Here I sit
broken in the sunlight
My scars illumined
from the inside out
Cracked

Bandages once invisible
hold together
fragile skin, bones, and breath

My light is showing

A bumble bee bumbles overhead
Scanning me
zzzzz
My scars shiver
revealing where they are hidden
Can he sense my shadows
quivering deep beneath
my ragged walls?

I crumple

liquid fear
seeping out
warmed by the sun

The bumbling bloke
bounces into the window
sending shockwaves skipping
across the glass trampoline
Disoriented
or giddy in his own delight
he shoots off
and I remain
Quaking

Light pools beneath my aching fractures
enflaming the cracks
searing the transparent tape
This dry dam cannot hold

What happens when the light breaks free?
Where will all my pieces go?
zzzzzz

© Amelia Isabel

The Creative Process of Legos


Solitary lego

How often do we find ourselves guilty of focusing too much on the product of our work and banging our head against the wall every step of the way through the beautiful but odious creative process?

This year alone? More times than I’m going to admit.

So, in an attempt to stimulate my creative juices, I attended the JustThis: Zen Writing meetup at the Austin Zen Center earlier this week. The group begins with a short meditation followed by a prompt, then 30 minutes of writing whatever comes up. Finally, we go around the room, sharing whatever we’ve written, and the rest of the group can offer feedback.

The prompt was a short piece entitled Finding the Lego by Maryann Corbett of St. Paul, Minnesota, about turning up one small object loaded with meaning.

Nothing really resonated with me in the piece other than the idea of the lego. This was also my first time attending the meetup, and I was late, so I identified with the missing lego piece, feeling like the outsider who tries to fit in at the last minute.

The 30-minute session began, and I had no clue what to write. I was already allowing myself to feel uncomfortable because of my tardiness (I arrived right in the middle of meditation portion. Awkward.). With a smile from the organizer, I assured myself that it was OK that I was there, and that I was welcome. So, I focused on the lego:

I am the lego
I am the lego who shows up late
asking for its chance to connect with the others.

Aren’t we all legos?

Lego represents the building blocks of matter
But even Lego has legos
Lego atoms
Specially designed to make it into a lego

How far can we go?

How far can we go
‘til we are no longer lego
and more of something else?

Then, my mind veered off into all kinds of directions. Stream of Consciousness. Danny Kaye. Lego doodles. If lego spoke Spanish: Soy el lego que llego tarde… then, finally writing the words “I don’t even know what I am writing anymore.”

I was about to give up and just sit there for the remaining 5 minutes, just staring at my skirt… when one small gem popped out:

Legos in my dress
Legos in my chest
I am a kingdom of legos

Building nations of dreams
Creation it seems
is but a thing of legos

Huh. Process does work.

I’ll be hosting my own poetry meetup tonight at Friends & Neighbors on E. Cesar Chavez at 6:00, and we’ll be honoring process. Event info here: Eastside Poetry & Coffee.

Photo credit: Paul Hudson

Gratitude! Gratitude! Gratituuuuuude!

The support and feedback from my talk on beauty has been nothing short of amazing. My soul is overflowing with so much gratitude from truly phenomenal people. On top of the audience feedback I got from my first Open Mic last week, here are some more comments that truly touched me:

From a beautiful and brave family member who has battled breast cancer:

Thank you for sharing this wisdom Amelia. You’ve shown me that I don’t have to be afraid of the way I’m changing physically due to having a mastectomy, or due to my age, or due to my particular feelings that day that tell me that I can’t go out of the house and see people. Your experience of coming to know that your true beauty is all parts of you has helped me to not be sad today as I realize there is more to me than my face, hair and clothes. I will accept who I am as a whole. Thank you for sharing your beautiful self!

From a dear friend who recently had a baby:

I listened to your open mic and it got me thinking about how after having [my baby] I’ve been avoiding pictures because of how I feel about my after body. Thanks lovely for the reflection.

From an inspiring new friend after having too much bourbon last night (paraphrasing):

Your talk was really inspiring. It made me realize just how much I’ve been picking at my flaws recently and how it’s been getting me down. I’ve always thought about how my hair part goes the other way, because I can see it in photos, so I’m conscious of it. You helped me to step back and see myself for who I really am. I really want to experience the True Mirror, too.

I was also recently spotlighted as a “Bald Beauty” by The Bald Movement, an organization that empowers women who are bald either by circumstance or by choice.

Spotlighted on The Bald Movement Instagram

AND if that wasn’t amazing enough, Daniel, the facilitator of Austin Java Open Mic wrote up a FANTASTIC review on my performance, saying, “It was really easy to take in all the emotion of what she was getting across and I felt like Amelia and I had a lived a lifelong friendship together by the time she was done.” Aww, shucks. 🙂 Read the entire review here.

My next Open Mic will be at BookWoman on North Lamar at 7:15 tonight! Come and share your own poems and stories!