family, Memories, Poetry, Transgender artist

My Sister Thinks I’m a Freak

my sister thinks I’m a freak

since childhood

her coldness has wafted about

hung in the air

stench blank and distant stare

steeled  defiance

like the sharp pointed tip of a knife

her judging disapproval

stabs at the walls with a loud

screeching silence

fool-hearted and on the brink of

some kind of manufactured insanity

spewing and churning out

a patented righteousness

a seal that blights my world

with hopes to unfurl

that freakiness she finds so disarming

 

she leaves me wondering…

after all these years, how did we relate?

speechless words

grating gratuities

our bloodlines deflated, flattened

in fact

yearning for some elusive return

of a closeness never had

never shared

never spoken

yet, always wanted.

©Jay Mora-Shihadeh

 

 

 

 

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family, Memories, Poetry, Transgender artist

Poetry about my beloved grandmother, Tateh.

Poetry reblog from 2012 about my grandmother

The Artist From The Inside Out

Tateh and CeDe ( my grandfather) circa 1937

Our Storyteller

Upon the landscape of your face

tumbling from the folds of your laughing brow

and between the creases of your weathered jowl

I see the history of Palestine.

I see children playing under olive trees, and goats

grazing on grass. Your eyes sparkle and sing, as though

you were still a child running through the dusty

rock strewn roads of Ramallah.

You are laughing with your little sister, escaping

from the neighborhood boys you were teasing; taunting.

Perhaps one of them a young Hanna Shihadeh, our grandfather;

at least these are the stories you told us.

I delighted, relished every word you spoke

of your life. I saw magic in your eyes

when you enchanted our hearts

with your stories of Palestine.

You – solid, sturdy and present.

You – soft, strong and pliant.

You –…

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Memories, Poetry, writer

Here I Stand On Torrid Land

 

Torrid land

Photo by FAICAL Zaramod from Pexel

here i stand on torrid land

my spirit wandering the dusty sand

of fig trees, khubz (bread) and floured hands

i stand just

foot driven deep

in the earth’s crust

sure-footed grip of rocks and mortar

my soul ripped in two

by grief’s torture

small hands grasped lightly

by the remembrance of her

soft dough-baked grip of salt, of land

ancient yet present her cherub eyes danced

table-side love she spoon-fed her clan

with grape leaves and olives

and (not so dainty) meat pastries

prepared from the vines toiled by cede’s hand

his backyard bounty, his dreams — their dreams

of their homeland and my dreams of

hot cement days and barefooted children

pretending the dawali (stuffed grape leaves) are stacks of cigars

stuffed, rolled, stacked high on big plates

the dawali grows high

creating bigger heaps of make-believe

fun time with cousins

longing for the smells of dusty left behind relics

that bespeak of them, their belongings

the hookah, the 8 track tapes belting out loud arabic music

the robe and headscarf my grandfather wore

in ramallah, the curious one that later became a halloween costume

worn by a childhood friend

and that old oriental rug beaten by history

splayed across the living-room floor, adding an air of the exotic

to their mundane – colonial – suburban sofa

the lamb and garlic stained air smelt early at daybreak

seemed always there lingering about

oiled hot pots full brimming with tomato broth baths

and grown ups lamenting the evening news, the war, the fight

for the return of their land, usurped by foreign man

those that had suffered atrocities of their own

have turned ugly heaping nails, spitting bulldozers

claiming god has promised this to them

easily they slipped between tongues

english and arabic at once

they were here/there simultaneously

they had created a new language, one easily understood by us

and me, absorbing all this with my round brown eyes

unaware of my future task

silently inhaling the smoke of my

family’s lingering rage, the kind of rage

that clings to the walls, to the curtains, to the furniture, to me

to my stuffed pink panther

the one i loved so much for its unique shape and color

the color of bubble gum and pink lemonade — but the rage!  

the rage had to be scrubbed off the walls, scrubbed off the furniture

scrubbed off my clothes, scrubbed, scrubbed, scrubbed!

and i –  inherited this task unknowingly.

© [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [thepainterspalate.wordpress.com], [2012]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, artwork, or photo’s without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [thepainterspalate.wordpress.com] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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gender, Memories, Psychology, Transgender artist

I Cracked the Outer Shell and Touched the Inside of my Soul

selfieA vision struck me one day, that little bubble that appears in newspaper comics popped inside my head: “The Artist From The Inside Out”. In that moment, clarity washed over me. I said – “What a great premise for my blog”. Lay everything out, bare naked and in the open. Being an artist who is going through transition is simultaneously exciting and exposing; sometimes leaving me in a raw emotional state. After all, I didn’t plan on being transgender, nevertheless this is who I am. I spent my life hiding inside a shell. In mere seconds, I cracked that outer shell and touched the inside of my soul for the first time. A shell created to protect me from our society’s hate, ignorance and judgement. This coping mechanism – I honed –  from the outside in.

Realizing that I had defaulted to my shortcomings and created a suitable safe existence, became shocking to me. This idea of “The Artist From The Inside Out” reversed that dialogue with myself. Critical that I live unrestricted, free from hate and judgement, my quest is to get re-acquainted with the boy I abandoned years ago. Reclaiming ones’ self-identity is vital to transition. Being transgender, and an artist, means visiting the places I forgot, the uncharted experiences of my life that I desperately desired.

When I was a child, I assumed I was a boy, however, society rejected this and rendered me female – that was devastating. Life became hard when that reality sank in. As people challenged my identity, seething anger replaced innocence. The outer shell of self-protection began to form, but with consequences. My life became sad, depressing and scary. Confusion twisted my little soul in two, and I split my world to somehow fit this “new reality”. To become whole as a man, and as an artist, is my end goal. That’s happening with ease now, but with moments of grief. Normal human behavior is to look back and mourn the years we lost. However, grief purges the soul and opens your heart.

“The Artist From The Inside Out” was the light switch moment; the flipping of my life story. As an artist, authenticity is my mantra – what I strive to live by. Living by this code is what I need to feel connected. That authenticity is unraveling for me everyday as I learn something profound (or not) in becoming connected again to my true self. Funny, but the experiences I find profound are the simple memories of a carefree boyhood and joys of unfettered play. The simple love of my Matchbox and Hot Wheels , my purple Nerf football and my reckless tree climbing were true bliss.

However, as a small child I had awareness that I was different. My mother shared the other day a memory of me, at five years old, punching the little boy next door for calling me a girl! I consider myself a Robin Hood type, but a bully – no! My nature is to come to the rescue of the victim, the underdog. I suppose I was the victim of that little boy – and the five-year old me – didn’t accept this! Mom verified to myself (and to herself) that even at five years old, I understood I was a boy.

I strive to express love, passion and the human spirit as an artist. I want to express this crazy need I have to say something in my life. Art is a reminder of the inner light us humans hold. The brighter the light the bigger the impact. Self-expression is one of the biggest needs humans have, but at times forgotten. What higher form of democratic-expression is there but the human right to self-expression, self-determination. Therefore, my self-discovery of being transgender and going through this transition has been the ultimate in self-expression.

A critical and larger part of a healthy democracy is all equal parts are thriving. Artists are here to remind us of the commonality we all experience, because art by nature allows for human connection. As an introvert – as an artist – albeit late in life; my shell cracked open and the man within – exposed from the inside out.

© [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [thepainterspalate.wordpress.com], [2018]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, artwork, or photo’s without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [thepainterspalate.wordpress.com] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Artist, Memories, Poetry

Poetry about my beloved grandmother, Tateh.

 

Tateh and CeDe ( my grandfather) circa 1937

Our Storyteller

Upon the landscape of your face

tumbling from the folds of your laughing brow

and between the creases of your weathered jowl

I see the history of Palestine.

I see children playing under olive trees, and goats

grazing on grass. Your eyes sparkle and sing, as though

you were still a child running through the dusty

rock strewn roads of Ramallah.

You are laughing with your little sister, escaping

from the neighborhood boys you were teasing; taunting.

Perhaps one of them a young Hanna Shihadeh, our grandfather;

at least these are the stories you told us.

I delighted, relished every word you spoke

of your life. I saw magic in your eyes

when you enchanted our hearts

with your stories of Palestine.

You – solid, sturdy and present.

You – soft, strong and pliant.

You – heart, song and pleasant.

 You – Tateh, our beloved link to our history, our culture, our people.

 

You were our land, our fig tree, our grapevine, our seed.

You were our small patch of fertile earth. You fed our souls

and minds with the world, with “otherworldliness”.

You fed our spirits with story, with beauty, and with freedom.

Your solid girth seemed rooted

deep in humanity, reminding us of

the vastness of love, when we became lost;

disconnected from it.

Storyteller of our bloodlines,

of our rich hearts

and our sad people,

tell me another story.

Give me a bone,

an olive branch, or perhaps

one of your two – eyed winks

to remind my soul you were real.

And that I am part of history; of an ancient great Palestine

that seems so distant, so foreign from me now.

Tell me again how you came to be locked in the landscape

of memory, of story, of history. Tell me again.

Niemeh Grace Shihadeh

Yum Food!! Yum Art!!

 

 

© [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [thepainterspalate.wordpress.com], [2012]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, artwork, or photo’s without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Jay Mora-Shihadeh] and [thepainterspalate.wordpress.com] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Artist, Memories, Poetry

” That day “

 

when the light of the day sits

pensive and dull

you begin to mourn

the flowers

that yesterday sang

brilliant hues of red and violet

and the spray of ocean

waters burned salt into

your eyes, and you cried

not because you

mourned the day

but because the sky was

seamless blue and the day

held you suspended

in warm light.

 

 
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