Dreams Which Sit on the Chin

by Lyn Patterson

                                                                                              In another life, I’ve been...

A witch

with long dark hair and pink lips

who walks around in sable cotton capes

on Sundays,

scaring the pure on the street

threatening in my presence

refusing to stop practicing my magic

standing firm in my beliefs.

Who worships the darkness

with such conviction,

it makes preachers jealous

and ushers contemplate conversion.

A woman who is surrounded by

concrete developments

but only feels fulfilled by

natural elements;

a fleshly yearning

that burns her at the stake.

 

                                                                                              In another life, I’ve been...

 

An opera singer

with long dark hair and pink lips

who walks around in emerald silk gowns

on Wednesdays,

to lounge around the house

refusing to talk to people

to not compromise my voice.

Who sings with such emotion,

it makes grown men cry

and tired women stand

for ovations.

A woman who is surrounded by

fanatics and lovers

but filled with loneliness;

a sensual longing

that keeps all coming back.  



 

                                                                                              In another life, I’ve been...

 

A housewife

with long dark hair and pink lips

who walks around in rose chiffon blouses

on Saturdays,

to clean the house

refusing to ask for help

for only I can truly get it right.

Who runs the household with such grace,

it makes the children beam with adoration

and the husband bask in all her efficiency

though they show no appreciation.

A woman who is surrounded by

fake smiles and half-truths

but finds a way to be resilient;

with gentle apathy

that keeps them all in check.  

 

                                                                                                  I long to be

                                                                                                  all the dreams

                                                                                                  that sat on their chin…

In conversation with Lyn Patterson pertaining to The Women That Raise Us:

 

"...We must move against not only those forces which dehumanize us from the outside, but also against those oppressive values which we have been forced to take into ourselves.” - Audre Lorde. Through experience, this concept has seemed to flow into our relationships with ourselves and our relationships with others, potentially, creating barriers and preventing us from building, supporting, and lifting one another. how can we transcend this construct?

 

This question is very loaded and multi-faceted! The first thing that comes to mind is my relationships with women in my family. My mother, sister, grandmother, aunts and cousins. One thing I’ve learned is that most of the values that we take in are not from what people say but what they do. From watching the women in my own family move and operate I’ve taken in a set of values. Now sometimes those values perfectly align with how I move and operate in the world and sometimes they are in direct conflict. As I’ve come into myself, one way I try my best to transcend, deconstruct, or even hone in on those values is to be self-reflective and introspective. I write, read, meditate and clarify my intentions thus that I am able to align my actions. After I know my actions, I can be intentional in thinking about the values that I have watched women in my family use and decide whether they will help or hinder me in my pursuits.

"As I’ve come into myself, one way I try my best to transcend, deconstruct, or even hone in on those values is to be self-reflective and introspective. "

The Women that Raise Us aims to exemplify the variations of women that raise and influence us, directly and indirectly, acknowledging every connection, whether ancestral or distant. Who are the women that have shaped you or raised you? Who are the women that continue to do so?​

One of the most influential women in my life was my grandmother, Claire. Grandmothers are such sacred family figures in most countries and cultures. My grandmother was so special to me because when I was young, I was boisterous, brazen, bad mouthed and at times angry. I got into a lot of trouble. No matter how much trouble I got into my grandmother would always tell me “You’re as sweet as pie.” She just had this unwavering belief in the good in me, where most adults wrote me off. Even now that she’s no longer here, I still embrace this duality in myself (the liking of mischief and the internal good). As a teacher now, I try to approach every child with this mindset. Assuming the good in them and always telling them I see it because sometimes we don’t always see these things in ourselves.

 

Beyond my grandmother, I will always say that Lauryn Hill raised me. I grew up listening to the Fugees and learning words like “reciprocity” when I was in third grade. Lauryn Hill has this brilliant way of making social commentaries in the most truthful but loving way. One thing I try to bring into my poetry is “truth over harmony.” You’ve got to love yourself and others enough to always sit in truth even when if it causes conflict because that’s how we improve social bonds and societies.

 

Do you consider "negative" and "positive" relationships and experiences with women as a contribution to your growth? Do you consider friends, inspirations, fallen relationships or even the everyday encounters as a contribution to your current self?

 

I’ve had generally, positive experiences with other women because many of the women in my life were very honest about their imperfections. I also honestly think that we can learn more from negative experiences than the more positive ones. I find that I don’t consider any woman (or person) a friend until we have encountered some sort of conflict, big or small. I think there can be a lot of inauthentic relationships that are built all to avoid conflict. But if we can disagree about something or even overcome a breach in trust, then I can really rock with you. It’s in these times that we can see the best and worst of ourselves and others if we can overcome these things, both people come out as a better version of themselves.

 

How can we lift each other, while we still climb as individuals? How can this become an ongoing practice?

 

One, I think this is a very unfortunate reality. When I think of the women of color I’ve encountered through my life the words; resilient, excellent, and powerful immediately come to mind. I’m learning that much of my resilience and perfectionism is deeply connected to my trauma. So I’m actually trying to unlearn these two values and redefine myself to ensure that I am building a person that is not constantly responding to trauma. The trauma of being invisible is a trauma that is hard to codify in words…and thus even more difficult to overcome.

 

Second, I think as any of us reach success, sit at the table, or create a table to sit at, it is an honor to create more visibility for other women of color. Whether that’s connecting women to platforms in your industry or giving them a shout out in public when you have the opportunity, these actions create more authentic visibility for us. As my voice rises there are other women whose voices should rise alongside me. That goes for ancestors too, one of the reasons I wrote the poem “Dreams Which Sit On the Chin,” is because as I dig deeper into my ancestry I’ve realized that there are these amazing women in my family whose stories have never been told. The more I can share their stories the more visibility it creates for women of color across generations and time periods.

"The more I can share their stories the more visibility it creates for women of color across generations and time periods."

Lyn Patterson is a poet and flash fiction writer originally from Seattle, Washington. She has lived all over the east coast and currently travels while teaching online courses to aspiring reading teachers. She is inspired by poetry and flash fiction because of the creativity, healing, and reflection it provides both author and reader. Themes she explores are intersectionality, feminism, identity, non-western religious beliefs, and relationships in the digital age. She is currently working on her debut manuscript while salsa dancing every chance she gets.

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