“It is always about creating your authentic path of power,” the angel advised.
She knew this was true.
My authentic path of power. The words jangled like music in the air.
On the morning of her birth, blue-black crows circled above the hospital as the girl’s mother pushed her singing spirit into this numinous world.
She was named “Bright Spirit,” and she lived up to her name. She learned to crawl and walk and speak early; she did not sit still. She was on the move, on the go, needing to make her maverick mark from the very day she first took breath. The stuffy laps of grown-ups were of no use to her. She was busy. She had things to do.
When she was two-years-old, she took a twenty block trek on her own. Daddy was supposed to be watching her, but he was busy shooting the breeze and drinking beer with Uncle Hart. She had her first adventure—scooting down “A” Street in Spokane, crossing a four lane residential street, walking past the five and dime, and her church. Then she headed up the hill to watch a softball game at a field she remembers was the color of wheat. Her mother found her there, in her light cotton dress, wearing a soggy diaper, no worse for the wear.
Her angels always guided her safely.
That walkabout day was no exception.
Because she could make herself invisible, she could witness much in the world. She dissected the detritus of so-called human relationships, clipped lilacs, mewled with striped cats, and dug in the dirt, looking for lost treasures. She fell into books and got lost in language. She sat in her tree swing and talked to God. Believing in dialing direct, she saw no need for intermediaries.
She watched her Nana’s life end—and then re-appear, in a new luminous, iridescent form—before her body even headed for the morgue.
Nana. The writer. The soft word that meant love.
The girl knew then that death was not real; Nana was not gone.
She grew up the only girl, the pickle in the middle in her family. She was acutely aware of the love seeping out of the marriage of her parents, of the anger rising in her mother like sap, of the deadness of her father’s eyes as they ran newsreels of the war.
She talked to herself, wrote poems, kept pen pals, and kissed her dog’s ears. She saw the spirits of trees and animals and people. She talked to angels and heard the voices of the dead.
These “gifts” often felt like curses, and as she grew up, she found herself sometimes reclining under piles of heavy, dark angels, unable to speak or move. She watched the rain and wondered what happened to all possible light. Angels hovered nearby.
They whispered in her ear: It will be okay. You’ll see. You’ll see.
The girl dreamed of music, so she moved to Gotham, threw her hat in the ring. She sent out demo tapes and collaborated with a gifted guitarist and a scary bass player who wore a black fright wig. She sang of love she lost, of all that dark water under the bridge, of everything that perplexed and haunted her.
She ran hard, again and again, into the doorway of the music biz.
Bruised and broken by her seeming failure, she lost heart for a very long time.
Not your path to power, a benevolent angel finally revealed.
Go to a door that is open.
She eventually listened and turned down a different road, a road that smelled of cut grass and orange blossoms.
At the far end, light. A portal.
She fell through the door toward words and writing and found herself at home for the first time.
Angels sighed around her, relieved as she turned the wheel over to them at last.
She became a teacher, a writer, a paper dreamer. She listened for the life she was meant to live.
And as she did so, others began to talk to her, tell her their stories. She deepened in intensity and color. Her hair grew long and red. Her arms became wild branches reaching up into a cathedral of sky. Grackles and sparrows followed her, circling in tight lines in the warm air. Her face glowed like morning dew.
She savored all kinds of words, stamped their letters onto her luminescent skin, wrote her stories on the back of her neck and at the base of each wrist.
She realized with sudden surprise, she loved her life.
Words were the vehicle.
She was the channel.
She opened the door and stepped through.
Shavawn M. Berry’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Huffington Post, elephant journal, Journey of the Heart: Women’s Spiritual Poetry, Olentangy Review, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Vagina – The Zine, Rebelle Society, The Cancer Poetry Project 2, Kinema Poetics, Kalliope, Poet Lore, Westview – A Journal of Western Oklahoma, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Concho River Review, North Atlantic Review, Synapse, Living Buddhism, Blue Mountain Arts/SPS, and Poetry Seattle. Her technique essay on the dramatic monologue/persona poem is featured in a poetry database published in 2013 by Ebsco Publishing. In 1998, she received her MPW in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles where she specialized in Creative Nonfiction and Memoir.
Ms. Berry teaches writing at Arizona State University where she just completed a 2013 Lincoln Ethics Teaching Fellowship. You can follow her on Facebook or read more of her work on her blog. A portfolio featuring a selection of her essays, blog postings, and prose is available at Shavawnberry.contently.com.