Category Archives: Prose

Liquid Angst ~ Jacqueline Cioffa #StolenMoments #Poetry

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From time to time you’ll see Stolen Moments show up on the blog. Words forgotten and misplaced, poetry, anticipatory memories, prose, joy and sorrow, pensive emotion, random and not so random thoughts scribbled in tattered notebooks. To not forget but remember the precious, fleeting stolen moments in time. I’m a writer trying recapture on paper how it feels to be alive.

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Liquid Angst By Jacqueline Cioffa

Jan. 2005

You are the one

Constant

My forever Miami man

My moon, my sun, my tsunami

Amongst devastating destruction you are the storm in my soul

My liquid angst

But at least I love you

To know that I really love you

Quietly with a certain steadfastness

20 years full and counting

That’s really something

…hold up, that ain’t right

the year is 2015 

the time is now

…and I’m tired of waiting

I’m not holding out for a hero

a waterlogged wilted jilted lover

I’m becoming and becoming

my very own heroine

whole and content under a crystal clear lit up funky blue midnight sky

possibility

starstuff dreams bursting inside

Waiting on Oprah: Never Quit Your Dreams

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Waiting on Oprah

I close my eyes and can almost see the perfect fairytale life I envisioned in my wildest dreams.

Dear Fantasy (Oprah), “I feel that I am a very fortunate person …”

I was fifteen. Fifteen, gawky, wickedly uncomfortable in my so called ‘model frame.’ Somehow fifteen was the perfect age to concoct wild fantasy adventures and the fastest way out of a stifled, small town. There was a kaleidoscope world waiting for me, exclusively.

Strangers, intoxicating places and new faces I ached to see.

I guess Oprah never received the letter or maybe it got shoved to the bottom pile. There were one billion other worthy dreamers, perhaps more worthy than me. Maybe it got filed away, who’s to say?

I barreled ahead out on my own and concocted the fantastical dream anyway.

I had my picture taken, a lot, wearing expensive, sequined designer gowns. I lived in far away lands. Swam naked in cerulean silk seas with infinite sparkling black diamond sandy beaches. I stood atop glaciers touching the clouds where the landscape was breathtaking white, and the earthly humans invisible below. It was lonely and cold, and I felt nothing but numbness. Decades and decades past, I was stuck bone cold.

I could no longer picture my paralyzed, frozen feet on solid ground. Be mindful, careful, and specific before dreaming.

I woke up. No longer a child, no longer a pretty pawn, no longer me, no longer an identity, just a jumble of misfiring neurons.

I had freedom, for a time. Airplanes, buses, pre-packed duffle bags ready, lavender mister, passport, baby pillow became the two ton heavy, overweight baggage. I could not lighten the load no matter how much stuff I discarded. The heavy barred down on my brain, burrowing deep under my skin.

Change is so excruciatingly difficult when you’re living the dream.

Oprah never told me dreams can shift, that there can be more than just the one.

Or maybe, I wasn’t listening too busy running scared. Maybe I had to live through the dream to get to the here and now. Maybe I grew up, a little. Maybe the dream plain wore out.

Shivering, dizzy from submersing my head in the clouds surrounded by foreign tongues I did not understand, the physical me grew bored and misplaced. I dined on spicy and sweet, savoring cuisines that were taste bud delicious yet soured the stomach.

I was grinding, squirming, picking, pinching awkward, drowning inside the fifteen-year-old expired notion of bliss. I think when one is asking for a dream, one must be specific.

I’m sure being kicked to the curb no longer the prettiest, youngest, skinniest ‘photo op’ of the day did nothing for my already damaged low self-esteem and defunct, busted aspirations.

My life has been filled with love. Looking back and forward, my life has been filled with love.

That must be the first thing I cling to while reminiscing. My life has been filled with heart swelling, shattering, terrifying, emotional, easy breezy, destructive, goose-bump alive love.

The heart is a muscle it cannot possibly feel yet it does. Bizarre but so blazing sun, crescent moon, silly stars, perpetual movement sea elements comforting.

I am loved; even on the days I forget how to love myself.

It has not been easy, my middle, it’s been split open, fractured; please God let me end the crucifying. That, and all that mess that is my life are for a different tale. Perhaps when we have a little more time.

I’m back home now. I’m not fifteen anymore. My dreams are simpler, quieter, not half the screaming loud as before. Home, that’s what I’d been missing all along. Not the physical dwelling perhaps, although that helps joggle the mind.

Sensory memory.

The giddy anticipation of my mother’s White Shoulder’s perfume, her lips brushing against my forehead, the charms on her bracelet jingling and dancing on her wrist. Giddy elation alive.

“Go to sleep, sweet child of mine.”

I’d pretend sleep, twisting and squirming awaiting her return. Back from a well deserved evening out way past midnight to stroke my hair in the dark. I was sugary five not smart mouth saccharine EMO fifteen, not biting sarcastic know it all twenty, not disillusioned complacent crazed thirty, not even bitter shattered fragmented forty.

I was five.

I was living the dream.

Dear Oprah, “it’s okay.”

I think I’d like to give this living thing a shot, keep the next dream nestled close.

Readily accessible in my front not back pocket.

Dreams change.

And me, I am transitioning.

I’m not waiting on Oprah, not this time.

This dream is waiting on me.

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Gypsies and Pixie Dust

92_1Gypsies and Pixie Dust By Jacqueline Cioffa

I exist therefore I am, mistakes and imperfections one and all. I don’t want to be considered an artist. I want to be thought of as a student of art. I want to ingest the human condition, live and breathe it. I want to eradicate all traces of ego and relate. I want to roam the globe and hear the stories, while not missing out on the neighbor hood tales right next door. I am a traveler and connoisseur of fortune and mishap. I am a believer in fate and love and a hopeless romantic at heart. I have fallen in love many times over; sometimes reciprocated while others not. I am a gypsy leaping joyously headfirst into the new and unknown forever anxious for a fresh start.

So much of our lives are spent in the world of what if, instead of the place that is right now. I am present, I am now and I am looking up towards the sky and watching as the pixie dust falls. For today I will repeat that statement over and over, every time my mind starts to wander to a different road. I am present, I am now and I am looking up to the sky. Watch for it, you might miss it if you’re not looking up towards the heavens as the pixie dust falls.

I miss my friend. She was 90 years young and taught me many life lessons. I started visiting her out of duty and obligation and continued out of delight. She once said to me, “I wish I had known you when I was younger, we would’ve been great friends.” And I replied, “You know me now.” I only realized the weight and validity of that statement by her passing and what it truly meant. To spend time with another being and listen to their choices, the many paths and winding roads. 

I love all kinds of travels, roads carved out by dirt and gravel, uphill wood and branch covered trails, 6 lane freeways that go nowhere in particular, route 66 and the generation beat and all that trip meant.  I adore white finite sandy beaches with no end in sight, and enjoy the lazy comfort of a trip taken in old woman’s living room filled with black and white pictures and endless stories of a life well spent. 

There were many days when I didn’t want to get on the train and make the hour-long commute to her tiny modest east village apartment.  She’d tell me about her life in Italy, the seven brothers and sisters and the father who worked for the rail.  How much she loved them and how there was always food on their table and laughter in that house in spite of war.  She told me how scared and sad she was when she left home and made the trip to America with this new husband towards a fresh start.  She’d remember with remorse how she’d stay with an abusive Italian old school man who came back from America to Italy to fetch her offering dreams of a promised land.  She sighed as she remembered his gambling and the cancer that would ravage him and caring for him and the mess she endured out of duty for 50 years long. 

She’d ask me every week, “why didn’t I have a boyfriend for I was such a pretty tall girl?” Then she’d smile and shake her head saying it was better and smart.  She’d tell me to wait for someone who had dignity and honor and settle for no less. And I listened and nodded my head, a smile on my face. I believed her when she spoke to me, for I could see the pixie dust and the angels flying all around.

She could hardly speak without a tear as she showed me a picture of her dead son and the pain would creep up as if she was discovering this story for the first time.  I’d watch her face, the lines sketched deeply over time and listen to her travels and I’d love her all over again. I knew the journey downtown was worth it. And our voyages were forever melded and meshed and she was no longer a little old lady that was alone. She was a storyteller who was deeply loved and admired and respected and an old woman who had 9o years, but was forever young in my heart. When I would leave her apartment she would give me a hug and say, “Get home safe.” And I felt giddy and well and loved. I was a journeyman who’s life had a purpose. She made me miss my mother who is still here, but far away enough.

You don’t really have to go anywhere to be a traveler if you stay alert. Sometimes others make the journey for you. I remember curling up under a crocheted blanket with my mother on our cozy couch in wintertime. I was five and we would magically cover our heads and end up in Ireland.  The land of County Cork and the Blarney stone and dumb Irish luck. The land where her father left the only home he knew at eight and crossed the seas towards a new beginning. He would live stoically and walk tall throughout life.  He would make a family that would prosper and procreate and live on. His would be a life filled with honor and purpose and the quiet elegance of simplicity in a rural American town.  It would be a small village, a no place in particular, but his journey would be filled with substance galore.

Stories have been the essence of my life. Since I was old enough to recall I’ve been asking my mom about her stories so I could get the tales right. I would travel back in time with her to her youth and the trip made sense. That’s how I’d grow into the gypsy with a love for words and new undiscovered lands in her heart.  

I’d travel the globe.  I’d walk the Champs Elysee in Paris savoring a chocolate crepe.  I’d smell the age of the earth rise up from her streets and admire the Seine by its yellow lights and the dark. I’d fall in love with Chagall and the Pompidou and grow to appreciate Brie and Sunday afternoons and La Tour Eiffel from the park. I’d scour flea markets in search of the perfect vintage leather coat.  I’d fall out of love with a man and cry real tears and learn to hate the person lying next to me. I’d wish I was anywhere but Paris with this lover who had outstayed his welcome and squashed my zest for adventure with every beat of his soured heart. The days would become long and the streets would appear dirty and food would lose all flavor as I lost my appetite. Summer would feel like an old maid and I would silently pray for wintertime when he would pack his bags and leave me for good.

A finality that would lead to a different kind of voyage, a much needed repose from an outdated life.

Spring in Paris would magically reappear much like the Easter bunny and I’d fall head over heels in love with a different kind of man. He’d make music in the rain and Paris would come to life again. His would be a short visit, but long enough to renew my broken heart.  Paris would appear pretty again and she was soft like talc and every bridge oozed new found sex appeal.  Sometimes love appears for a mere mille- second, yet your journey is changed forever and your lives are intertwined. You remain not together, no. However bittersweet the visit, the gleam of admiration in his eye and his presence in your world is felt. His trip makes your trip valid and you feel the sparkles and except the magic and gladly move on.

Steadfastly, you recognize your good fortune and tuck it away in your hope chest and you walk straight and tall. There are many beaches to visit and stars to count and fish and sea turtles to swim with. There are wooden bridges to be crossed and mountains to trek. There are fears to be faced head on. There are dreams to be realized and cards to be dealt and bags to be packed and unpacked.

My good fortune has always been the ability to see myself through others. The voyages I have taken would lead to life changing lessons, affirmations, a needed hug, an unexpected caress, and a knowing nod.  There would be trips made out of duty, filled with sorrow and grief.  Perhaps those were the hardest kind. Yet, they were definitely the most rewarding. They showed me the kind of stuff I was made of.  I was able to face death and sorrow and not be ripped apart. I would find the strength to continue on the trek.

I’ve loved all sorts of travel. Trips to exotic lands in first class, the ripped leather seat of a beat up bus on my way back home, a road traveled so frequently I know every sign, every rest stop along the way.  I love the endless possibility of a new road, but as I grow older I learn that I am a deep lover of the familiar journey and all the comfort she holds.

A shared look, a glimmer of hope, pixie dust and perpetual movement. I exist now. I am present doing nothing in particular. I am ok with that. I am full. I am a traveler, a student of art, and a lover of the human condition. I want to be pliable; I want to bend like the next road I find myself upon. I want to savor the journey; I need to remind myself to look up. Remember to keep looking up.  It’s there, the pixie dust. I know it is, I’ve seen it. It’s the infinite possibility that a battered old duffle bag holds hanging in my closet whispering my name.

Originally published via Frame Lines the magazine 

Gypsies and Pixie Dust by Jacqueline Cioffa

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White Boots and Freckle Faces #StolenMoments #TuesdayShares #Poetry

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From time to time you’ll see Stolen Moments show up on the blog. Words forgotten and misplaced, poetry, anticipatory memories, prose, joy and sorrow, pensive emotion, random and not so random thoughts scribbled in tattered notebooks. To not forget but remember the precious, fleeting stolen moments in time. I’m a writer trying recapture on paper how it feels to be alive.

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White Boots and Freckled Faces

Jacqueline Cioffa 1998

Where is the child?

Where has she gone?

Did she get bruised and beaten down?

Oh she’s there

Over there

There she is

Dancing and laughing

And spinning

Wide open

She still believes in a better place

And a better time

And sees the good in mankind

Muddled behind the murky water

And she cries a real tear

One teardrop

For all that is gone

And counts

And she gets it

And sometimes she wants to die

So swollen with emotion

Not afraid to cry

Not afraid to be touched

She doesn’t cringe at the thought of physical intimacy

And she’s full of trust

And she’s let go of the void

She’s the voyeur

The mighty, the strong

She’s her mother and father and brothers

All rolled into this neat package

That’s the best of all of them.

Training Wheels and Little Blond Curls #StolenMoments

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From time to time you’ll see Stolen Moments show up on the blog. Words forgotten and misplaced, poetry, anticipatory memories, prose, joy and sorrow, pensive emotion, random and not so random thoughts scribbled in tattered notebooks. To not forget but remember the precious, fleeting stolen moments in time. I’m a writer trying recapture on paper how it feels to be alive.

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Training Wheels and Little Blond Curls

Jacqueline Cioffa 1998

Oh little girl

Stop for a minute

Let me enjoy your youth

Your radiance

The sheer innocence of fearlessness

Can I ride with you just one more time?

On your bike with training wheels

Let me float free on your back

As you learn to glide without safety wings

Don’t fret and don’t be afraid

Your youth will never leave you

She’ll grow on with you

As you and I both grow up

“This first Friday in June, all I know is I am doing my best. My very damnedest. And it looks like this…”

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I felt like this today.

You don’t need to hear about the numbness, excruciating pain, overwhelming anxiety, residual anxiety, paranoia, dizziness  or that I prayed to whomever was listening to just end it. Fucking end the ridiculous, relentless, ad nauseam, non-sensical hours that consume my days. Frankly it’s wearing me down, ripping me to shreds and fucking exhausting fighting invisible monsters.

Yes, I know I’m sick. Yes, I understand tapering off benzos is worse than hell it’s maggot filled shit. Yes, my empathetic, cool therapist talks it out. Reassuring me I am indeed strong enough.

Resilient enough. Tough enough. However. Makes me wonder.

Where in the hell am I going to replenish precious missing elements when the planet is currently fluctuating between earthquakes, tornadoes and drought? In a constant state of chaos, flux. How to replenish when I can’t remember pieces of yesterday. Blurred and hazed memories clog and pollute the brain.

Where? How? Why? Great questions. With zero answers.

I said NO anyway. For shits and giggles, ya’ know.

I don’t feel like shit, I feel eradicated, violated and obliterated.

I go to the hairdresser’s armed with my peppermint and lavender doused washcloth unsure I can make it through the hour-long dye process without flipping the fuck out.

Home. I want, need, have a deep desire to be home.

Grey roots and I have a larger more burning desire to feel pretty, alive, and validated.

Breathe, just breathe. You are safe. You are fine. You’ve been through this before. You are safe, breathe.

Your stylist is your dear friend who knows and loves you well she will take you home if necessary.

FUCK YOU anxiety, fuck off, go fuck up someone else’s day/ existence.

It’s sitting there threatening strangling my neck, throat, cramped shoulders, tingling extremities and limbs. Sitting patient, greedily waiting to pounce.

I apply eyeliner (Armani #02 pencil my fav.) and concealer to brighten my shiteous, difficult existence and in spite.

Tomorrow will come with or without me, isn’t that the cliché? What they say? Whoever the hell they are, Martians maybe. Fuck if I know, can’t be sure.

This first Friday in June, all I know is I am doing my best.

My very damnedest.

And it looks like this… on the outside

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“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – Harper Lee

“I am somebody’s child, you know. I am somebody’s child, same as you.” Jacqueline Cioffa #home #mentalillness  #family

I never cared much about looking back when I was young.

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I could not wait to leave this house, this town get out and experience stuff. You know the obstinate dreamer looking for bold adventure. It worked. I ran. I ran fast and far, and kept running. That’s the funny thing about developing a serious illness, you are forced to re-prioritize. Becoming insane in the middle of Manhattan did not bode well for me or the strangers that crossed my path. The fancy friends eventually grew tired and gave up on listening to the paranoia, illusions of grandeur or understanding the enticement of pretty pink and shiny purple horses or the flickering lights of the carousel. Ones you can’t dismount or runaway from or dismiss, like the mania and depression you can’t out run. Round and round you go, in perpetuity. There are worse things than glaring evil stares when dancing alone in a Radio Shack in Harlem. There are even worse things than sitting on the floor in the middle of Rite Aid, Gatorade in hand, sobbing because you don’t know where you are, why the room is spinning or if you’re going to hurl from the strobe light storm happening inside your brain. There are even worse, more horrific things than why you’re all alone sitting on the cold, dirty floor. You are sure there are. You watch the news, bad shit happens. This bad to you, you’re not so sure.

Mortifying, that’s what mental illness is. Ruthless, ugly, hide your face in shame from the judgmental, fearful stares. The noise level in NYC is just too high. You can’t stand when passerbys brush against you, the subway screeches to a halt, or the taxis whizzing past. The bright yellow hurts your eyes. You can’t see. You can’t hear. You cannot process the incessant, relentless buzz, hums and whirring noise.

S.T.O.P.

I am somebody’s child, you know.

I am somebody’s child, same as you.

I used to love the Carousel screaming and running towards it, arms flailing like the happy carefree girl I once was.

What I can’t figure out is what the hell I’m supposed to do? Now. With this.

Some people are addicted to the mania jonesing for the next high, the visions, euphoria.

No, no, no.

Not me. I’ll take the black hole depression and blasé every single time. It’s quieter and peaceful alone in the dark. Except for being skinny, that part of the mania I’ll keep.

There’s only one thought to trust, one way to save yourself.

Maybe, maybe if you go back you might find your way.

Safe passage awaits.

Home.

Maybe I’ll breathe easier there.

Maybe the familiar, childhood home might save me.

Probably not. It’s my best shot.

You see, I don’t care if I live or if I die. I know that sounds harsh, exaggerated, self-indulgent but it’s not.

I only care how I live and where I’ll die.

I’ve been asking my mom about her mother as far back as I can remember, cataloging the information in a deep, pooling reservoir of serenity where I could reach in calling on the stories to be soothed.

I have tidal waves of memories, and ripple effects of love stored in my brain.

My grandmother, May, died in her sleep before we could meet. Fifty-three is too young to leave, she was barely getting started I bet.

I know some things about her. She liked to fish and the solitude of being on the water. We have that in common.

She drank a Manhattan every night after work. She was a baker’s daughter, my mom still makes her molasses cookie recipe at Christmastime. She loved her husband who’d get sick, (like me) and then better but never quite the same.

“Don’t bother your father,” the phrase handed down to her own daughter.

May worked in a plumbing shop with him, raising her children to be responsible, gentile and hardworking.

It was a simple, honest life.

She liked to dance, but didn’t go out often.

She loved gardening, planting roses and peony  bushes.

Did you know it takes peonies a full year to bloom? 

Maybe May knew while planting the seed, her heart full of family.

An invisible string from the heavens touching mine, her orb a sweet- scented blushing pink.

Maybe she knew, probably not.

She’d adored diamonds like me, wore an outrageous sparkling solitaire with facets that shimmer and catch the light on my finger. I only wear the precious heirloom on special occasions or when I’m morosely blue. It makes me feel pretty inside, close to her.

“You never told me I looked like her,” drilling my mother with yet another ten-thousandth question.

She nodded, “it makes me sad and happy at the same time.”

Home, a place one doesn’t fully outgrow and never truly leaves behind.

But home, this home however much I am the failure for needing to return is where I would like to live and how I would hope to die.

Not necessarily the physical dwelling, but the contentment feeling and serenity of a happy place inside.

Surrounded by love. Less alone.

Unencumbered by the weight of heavy living.

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“Legacy can feel heavy, sad or even sweet-smelling at times. I am the gatekeeper of this home, but not the original keeper of the key.”

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“The chaos comes with you,” simply stated my friend. -The Red Bench excerpt by Jacqueline Cioffa

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“As an artist do I need constant flux to create? How will I find words in the woods surrounded by trees and rotten cornfields? How will I find anything besides dying, wet leaves?

I cannot escape the volume in my head, the constant churning. The Jesus fucking Christ, turn it down chatter. I have been told to be patient. Wait for the drugs, the quieting veil, and the lavender calm to smooth out the ringing. My mind is full of death and black spots I’m sure, much like a stroke patient after a spell.

   “The chaos comes with you,” simply stated my friend. He was right. I am here, here am I. Sick and tired, tired and bullshit sick.

The blank paper waits and my hands navigate the keys and the thoughts go where they may.”

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-excerpt from “The Red Bench” by Jacqueline Cioffa

Horseshoe Happy

i remember this place. a traditional Italian family lived here. the smell of meatballs and homemade sauce overpowered your senses inviting you in. lace doilies adorned the kitchen table. plastic pride covered the furniture. linens hung on the clothesline signaling sweet smells of Spring. the barn was once a Soda Pop warehouse, Liberty Beverage. the family is gone now, mom and dad died packing up their stories for a different journey. kids moved out and away. the bank took the house many years ago, leaving it to rot and decay. once there was a neighborhood street, a welcoming family who were proud to call this forgotten dwelling a home. the horseshoe placed upwards over the barn door to hold in all the power it brings and good luck. i remember a happy home and her inviting smells. the cracks of neglect and decay, worn paint can’t take the horseshoe memories away.