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Sharon Valerio Sep 2016
"The trees have already begun to senesce"
my professor says, as she indicates
the oak whose leaves have been colored to dirt.
And a chord is struck in me,
for without her definition
I know what it is to senesce.
This is what it is to shed my leaves,
to watch their fingers wither and release
my autumn comes crisp
and crunches under rubber soles,
it feels like a barren womb.
All I give birth to is empty spaces
between fingers of dusk and
silhouettes of dark against light.
Crookedness is my legacy, and exposure is my blight.
And yet if I am like those dying branches
then I too must come awake again.
To senesce is to die, yet only for a time
spring is ahead, and she is waiting.
And I will follow,
follow that thought like deer prints in the snow,
like the sparrow's straining song,
like green blades lifting their arms,
like the smell of the earth swallowing the rain,
like there is a time when death will not call my name so sweetly
that I choose the dream over waking.
That I too will shed my ice
and become heavy with the weight
of fragrant flowers.
The hope of Spring--it has come for me.
  Apr 2016 Sharon Valerio
Mike Essig
Over the course of 64 years (and still), I have encountered so many women (including my still lovely ex-wife) in person and in writing who struggle with their looks. It seems to be an eternal theme that crosses generations. So, I decided to write this humble piece in reply.
There are some who would say I can’t write about women’s feelings because I am a man. A patronizing old, white man. I note their objecions, but I disagree. I believe humanity always trumps gender.
We live in an artificial culture created and controlled by advertisers. Not only do they sell us stuff, they convince us that we need it. Women are perfect targets for them.
So they have created impossible standards for women to live up to. You must always look like you are 25, young and thin. They tell you this is the key to being desired, even loved. As it’s impossible to be young and thin forever, they just happen to have the products that will “help” you. They want your minds so they can profit by manipulating them. They do a great job of it.
So the key to loving your bodies and yourselves is to take back your minds. This is difficult. You are bombarded with a barrage of words and images that say you are not good enough. If only you were younger, thinner, shaped like Barbie, not greying, had longer legs, bigger *******, wore a size 2, you would be happy, and — of course — men would desire you. You would never be traded in for a younger, sleeker model. So many insecurities to exploit.
But consider the difference between beauty and Beauty. Beauty is human, individual and eternal; beauty is abstract, mass and reliant on current tastes.
I have known many women of all shapes, sizes and ages who were Beautiful. That Beauty was expressed from their hearts through their faces and eyes. They radiated it. It was not dependent on my or any other man’s approval. It just was. So I know this can be done.
Fashion changes so there will always be new things to sell. To the current ad masters, the Gibson girls of the late 19th century would now be called fat. Sell them a diet plan and gym membership. The angular loveliness of the Venus de Milo too cold and boyish. Sell her cosmetics and plastic surgery. Mona Lisa, a dumpy Italian girl. So many things to sell her.
And then there is that intense desire to please men that begins with daddy. I often hear its echo even in the strident voices of the most ardent feminists. The advertisers trade on that. That’s deep. That’s very hard to overcome. That’s both an individual and a cultural problem.
But many women never seem to consider that a great many men aren’t dumb enough to buy the 25 and thin forever image and don’t really demand to be constantly pleased. They might actually be looking for intelligence, heart, affection and respect instead of a perfect ***. Not all, often not the young, but many.
At some point, you have to say no and mean it. You are not your age, dress size, cup size or waist size. Those are just outward manifestations of the true you. If someone rejects you on the basis of such ephemeralities, you are better off without them. You have to take control of your soul. No one can give you that except yourself. You have to live with yourself just as men have to live with themselves. Again, humanity trumps gender.
I unabashedly love women. They have been one of the great delights of my life. I love the difficulties and the differences. What a woefully dreary world it would be if men and women were they same. So, it pains me to see so many women in so much pain.
You are, first of all, a person and that is worth insisting upon. Insist. Demand. Escape, if necessary. Be the only you you can ever truly be. Then you will feel pretty. And you will be as pretty as you feel.

  Apr 2016 Sharon Valerio
Mike Essig
How I long
to unbutton you,
Lady, to slowly
peel off the layers
of your being
and feel you,
body and soul,
naked and true,
beneath my
exploring hands,
touching the core
of who you
really are,
there where
you are hidden
beneath it all.

I think, Lady,
you have
been buttoned
against the world
too, too long.

Open the inside
to the outside.

Take a chance.

A world at bay
is no world at all.

Nothing of value
can be learned
at a distance.

Direct my fingers;
they are willing
if you are.

Bare hands,
bare hearts,
bare bodies:

to open,
always better
than to close.
Sharon Valerio Apr 2016
Throwing stones at the prickling green
of cacti staring at our dangling toes,
we enter and touch on a tender spot,
and for once forget the irritating sharpness
of our last dance together.
        Focusing attention to our aim,
we allow the delicate swords of our targets to captivate
our eyes away from stinging cheeks,
and permit the abrupt arching of our arms to lessen
the biting rawness of the swelling sun.
       Tired winter plays hide and seek,
and we take our time to count
each and every c l i n g i n g  drop of water and light.
I stop short--as I refuse to disturb
                                                                       a single pebble,
teetering against the slightest part of a thorn,
and against every odd;
gravity embraces it to stay.
Sharon Valerio Apr 2016
Nothing's ever stayed
until it comes to you
Turn my eyes away
from things that surely fade
Turn my eyes to you
Sharon Valerio Apr 2016
Every sky I see, pulls my heart.
It's a perfect poem, with all of it's stray marks.
It's all these little details, make me ache,
as in a dream I never want to wake.
Causes me to wish I could lay down,
watch the clouds as they dance in tune with sound.
Every movement causes such a beautiful mess;
nothing I'd ever add could make it more or less.
Sometimes I test the souls that are nearby,
Look, a small invitation to see the sky.
Usually confusion says, Okay?
I don't see anything extraordinary today.
No birds, no planes, no faraway storms,
the only thing I see, is clouds for sure.

I never say words, because I know it's true,
I could never make them Love it like I do.
Sharon Valerio Apr 2016
I don't remember how it felt to be unaware,
to dive into emotion and action without even considering my own limbs.
That flying grace of abandon,
that untainted rapture of a child,
the universal understanding that the world can be fixed with a kiss.
I don't remember what it felt like to keep running,
to be blind to how I was affecting the world.
So soon did they make it clear how I didn't fit,
with broad gait I tripped over the boxes they intended for me.
Conscientious, I cowered and made myself small so I could squeeze in,
accommodating to their disapproval.
How could I have forsaken my youth so swiftly?
I cherish it in the eyes of the little one I know.
That rushing movement of joy,
I want her to keep running and leave me behind.
So that maybe, when she looks back, as I am now,
she'll grasp that moment, throw her head back, and laugh.
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