It is the first word.

But “no” never came to me,

In Bradshaw’s book, or at mother’s knee where I sat like a marionette on puppet strings,
Nodding yes.

Not as a test,
Of my person.
Not as an activist,
Standing firm for my rights,
With my hands on my hips,
Or my fist clenched,
In solidarity with nothing,

It’s one of the first tentative steps of the “S”elf, the individuation of an independent entity, a sign of selfhood.

Not in my pajamas at the closing of the day,
When my feet pattered over the hardwood floor and I sent my nighttime prayers,
Into the stars.

I never pointed my finger at my plastic baby and said to her,
As I’ve seen the little children do,
or made the dog to sit and stay,


It never quaked or quivered from my lips,
In hesitation.

I never knew it.

When I learned to say, “No,” it was after time had worn thin all the possibilities.

After faith had faltered,
And trust had turned,
And the lesson books had been shut hard,
Against hope.

It was after the used car salesman,
And after the missionary’s knock on the door,
And after Philosophy and too much coffee.

It was after the promised visit,
And after the suicide,
And after the death,
And after the piercing sound of a gun,
And long after the smell of blood,
In Spring.

It was the other foot falling,
In smashes,
Of mud,
Trudging to safety,
On solid ground,
In balance,
With fist pointing up toward the mountain,
In triumph.


After abandonment,
After abduction,
After divorce,
And after noon,

After a million deaths,
All denied,
And “no” welled up like a water fall.

It was when everyone else’s possibilities had been tried and found unworthy,
And yes was weary and dull,
And all my pores spit with it.

The umbilical cord, first cut in blood,
with the finality of the word,


Is cut again in Spirit.

“No circumstance can take away what we were born with, unless we agree to surrender,” said Inette Miller.

But when it came to me,

After white hair and wrinkles, and a fondness for feathers,
And after meteor showers.

I said it through the fear,
Of rejection,
And at impromptu times,
And in awkwardness,
And often,
From the guts of my instinct, at the behest of my intuition, in
Reverence for all the “I’s” in every word and every being,
And in darkness,
When necessary.

No, I do not like liver.
I’m sorry but I just don’t agree.
I’d rather not.
No, but thank you for asking.

Then I knew.

It’s the yang word in the great sentence that tells the life story of Abraxas, and with it comes the possible in impossibility, in softness, in yin.

No, I will not!
I said, “No!”
It screamed forth,
After death.

From nothing, IAM.

But first I had to learn how to say no.

Like Tommy, struck deaf, blind and mute for a very long time, at a very young age.

“I do not agree with it,” I said, “I will not do it!”

My answer is “No!” to any path without a heart.



I Smell Life

Feather in a jar.

In the great hall of despair,
I hear singing.

Antler on a shelf.

Filling my hollow bones,
With tongues of fire.
A candle.

Creaking forth,
The Bone Dancer.

Born into
the blood of many,
Into the imagination
Of man.

Parchment paper.

Singing me awake,
With notes.

Nag Champa in a vase. Smoke on the mountain.

Letters to write.

A leaf settles,
In a hush. Ringing bell.

I smell life.

My Soul returns
To Me.

In a rattle.

Shhhhh. Feather in the sky. A winged thing.

– Tanya