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Emilie Murphy

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She is a Wild Crescent Moon

“Sometimes, living with a teenager feels like a tight corset I can’t breathe in. I want to cut a seam somewhere, let some air in, be loose and free. Sometimes, I’m unsure of how to parent her through these years.

She is changing so much these days, sequence and cycles taking over. She is a wild crescent moon having gravitational attractions, pulling at the tides inside of her. The dynamics between us need to change, for the growth of her, for the health of her. I am the rooted plant and she is flailing around wildly in the wind. I’ve begun the process of giving her room, space of her own, which she can own. She felt it. She didn’t like it. She said, “What’s wrong? You’re in a bad mood.” I told her that being quiet and serious doesn’t mean I’m in a bad mood or that something is wrong. The transition feels very solitary, for us both, until we can find our footing in this new season.

She began high school a few months ago and I find myself feeling far away from her at times. Other times, she’ll grab me tight in a hug and tell me how much she loves me. Her eyes light up beautifully. When she is happy, I am instantly soothed. There is something powerful about seeing happiness in the people I love. I am lifted, having a feeling of lightness in a life that can feel so heavy at times.

Years ago, I went to a camp where we worked with horses. The teacher told us that horses are like mirrors, they will mirror our energy, and they will also follow our lead if we emit a sense of direction. I imagine that with my daughter there will be times when she is feeling independent and there will be times when she wants to simply relax and be lead. These days, I’m seeing that I want to be in the space of the lead while giving her freedom to make her own choices. I give her freedom to explore her thoughts and ideas and when I see her going in a direction I’m not okay with, then I let her know. I guide her and I show her who is the lead. This is not a time for me to doubt myself, it’s a time for me to trust in my abilities. Just as she is growing, I am also. I am deepening in this rooted space I need to be for her, for myself, and for the relationship between us.”
Sarai Phegley

He Says His Brain is Broken

“Right now, I’m out back with a cigarette, on a garden chair, in a garden patio. He’s inside, asleep in my bed. His body, it’s light–skin & bones–so he’s mostly straight lines, but when he does curve with added helpings of flesh, he looks beautiful. His chest, his arms, and his back are covered in navy blue prison tattoos. He’s 41, and he’s been there twice, but it’s what I would expect from where he grew up, & because prison is our modern Jim Crow, & he is half black. Life in the United States in 2020. In any era to date.
It’s a cruel test of fate. I went years without fucking, & became a self-appointed nun. I shut down sexually after a drunken experience, a clear violation, that left me reeling. Fuck fucking. Fuck men. Fuck it all.
Only five years later, on sleepy hometown streets, he found me. I said yes to a date, then took him to a graveyard, where I fucked him in my car, against my car, against headstones–it was December. It was freezing. His cock…it is the perfect size, the perfect shape, & it’s only the second cock in 40 years to make me cum. But…
That cruel test of fate. That perfect cock, that amazing sex, that magnetic animal pull that my body feels toward his body–they are all pitted against the fact that he is, 100%, certifiable crazy. The tattoo on his back–God Son–is only part of what he believes. He is Schizo-typical. He knows he’s off. But he also thinks that God is going to come back, bring the reptilians to the surface of the earth, & let him rule over them. He creates Ouija boards, forgetting letters here & there, then talks to John the Baptist that way.
Sometimes, he says his brain is broken. Sometimes he is the devil, & sometimes he is God Son. He says I am a turtle, kind and weak, & he says that he loves me. And it’s probably wrong for me to still fuck him, knowing what I know, but for the first time in six years, I have the sex life I’ve always wanted. I have God Son. I have live pussy.”
– Amy Bartley

Surrender Wears Stilettos

“Surrender is a language, fluent with views and velvet blankets. Surrender wears stilettos. I feel creative joy, tears, passion and tender nudges to keep my efforts crystallizing. A lot is happening for me right now. I feel things coming together while some things are falling away. My breath carries new adventures to me as I exhale what doesn’t link me to the hot spot of fire in my center.

It’s feeling more beautiful these days to be me. There was a day earlier this week that stood out to me. The tension I usually feel in myself was gone, and resistance had been replaced by trust. Experiencing a fullness of trust was new to me, and it allowed me to be receptive to the moment. I was receiving all that surrounded me through my senses. I was in harmony—giving myself to the moment, giving my personality, my mind, my emotion, my expression. To be present as myself is one of the most generous things I can do.”
Sarai Phegley

The Presence of Pain

“I’ve been doing EMDR for four months now. The acronym EDMR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and it’s a form of therapy for people who have experienced trauma. At the beginning of the session, my therapist brings out the EMDR equipment and places it in front of me. Dr. Hoss asks me to recall a memory from the past, while watching the green lights move from side to side on the horizontal bar that sits at eye level. After a minute, he’ll stop the lights from moving and ask me how I’m feeling. Something usually surfaces and he’ll ask me to sit with the feelings while watching the green lights move from side to side again. We do this a few times, moving through layers of pain. I like this process because most of the guidance happens within myself, intuitively, while Dr. Hoss guides the session in a healing direction. I sit with the hurt each step of the way, allowing the presence of pain to be felt and the dialogue of pain to have a voice.

Last week something happened at the end of our session that I don’t fully feel comfortable with. While watching the red lights moving from side to side, I suddenly got a rush of tears and I couldn’t stop crying. Dr. Hoss stopped the lights in the center of the machine and asked me what I was feeling. I couldn’t speak at first, I was covering my face and crying hard. I could feel tears filling my whole body with adrenaline. After a minute, I said, “I’m crying because I don’t love my mother. When you love someone, you always want to carry that person with you. She hurt me for so many years and I don’t know why I’ve been carrying her around all this time.”

The closest I ever felt to my mom was when she was in a coma the week before she died. I finally felt comfortable and safe in her presence. I read her pages from her favorite books. I put lotion on her cracking skin and massaged her feet. I wrote her poetry and played the music she loved. Within the week, she died of lung cancer that had metastasized to the brain.

I remember holding my mother’s hand during that last week and holding my baby at the same time. Leah was six months old. Fresh life in one hand and dying life in the other. So close.

I am seeing how my relationship with my mother has affected the relationship I have with myself as a woman. I can also see how it’s affected my interactions with women throughout my life. Life is telling me I can trust this ocean of the feminine now. I can interact in a new way, a way I choose, not one that is colored by my past. We can support each other and share the creative ways in which we live our lives and experience ourselves. We can lift each other by being present to what we’ve been through and to all we wish to build. We can give and receive understanding, laughs and vision. I want to be a better friend to myself and to the women in my life.”
Sarai Phegley

While Drawing Blood on Prisoners, I Learned to Free Myself to Believe in Myself

“A Yard, B Yard, C Yard, D Yard, E Yard are the yards the prisoners are assigned to, depending on what crime they committed. 

I was waiting to draw someone’s blood when I overheard a conversation between employees at the prison.

“A Yard stands for Agony and B Yard stands for Beast,” Karen said. 

“C Yard stands for Crazy and Committed” Darryl added.

“D yard stands for Demons,” Karen continued.

D Yard was where I was drawing blood from prisoners that day. The veins were more difficult to work with because there are more drug users at this yard than at the other yards.

“I don’t know what E yard stands for. What does E stand for?” Karen asked.

Darryl gave a half-smile, “E stands for Experienced.” 

I thought E Yard would be where the lifers were, but they were at C Yard. When I began doing phlebotomy, my hands shook while practicing on classmates. They visibly shook. I finally got a steady hand in class, but the shakiness returned here at the prison. It returned when I was at C Yard. It was my turn to draw blood when I heard Garett say that the next draw was HIV positive. I needed to get five tubes from him. I stuck the needle in and changed the first tube. The shakiness began during the second tube. I focused on my breathing and tried to keep my hand still. I couldn’t stop shaking.

The man I was drawing blood from said, “Could you stop shaking? It’s making me nervous.” 

Garett said, “Yeah, you can’t shake like that here. It could be dangerous. We’re dealing with needles.” 

I was trying to pull myself together. “I know, I know,” I said. 

On the way back to the lab Garett said, “Those last two draws you were shaking a lot. What happened?” 

I told him that once I overheard him and Lisa talking about the man having HIV, my anxiety came in, which feels like a herd of hungry hyena ravaging for my nervous system, causing me to shake. 

Garett said, “Once HIV hits the oxygen in the air, it dies, so even if you get poked with a needle by someone who has HIV, you probably won’t get it.” 

“I didn’t know that,” I said.

He continued, “The thing you have to worry about here is Hepatitis C.” 

Every time I go to the prison to draw blood from the prisoners, I feel as if the part of me that protects myself has no strength, no validity, like the act of protecting myself is an illusion. What is the difference between the barbed wires and walls of this prison and this protective shield I walk around with in the world? What purpose do they serve? To not let the Beast take over, the Demon rage, the Crazy get loose, to not let Agony have a voice? Each needs air, or it will combust, start a fire, hurt itself or someone else. It’s when the energy of these is uncontrollable that they inflict harm, a pain that has become bigger than the person, that’s become bigger than the heart, than the mind, than the individual. Healing ourselves is one of the most courageous acts—it is how the demon, the beast, the crazy, and the agony all find freedom. 

A few days ago, I was working with Luna and Ted. 

“When are we going to the yard where we wear protective vests?” Luna asked. 

“Right now,” Ted said. 

Luna was surprised since we’d already been to five different locations in B Yard, and none of them asked us to put vests on. The three of us continued to walk, Ted pushing the cart of phlebotomy supplies and Luna and I followed him. We came to a building with a mint-green gate, which was slowly opening to the side, allowing us passage through. 

I didn’t know what to expect.

The first sound I heard was a loud pounding noise, a repetitive banging with about a second between each strike. It sounded like a man was hitting the door of his cell. The first sight I had wasn’t what I expected—I saw a naked man, muscular, standing strong with his legs wide apart and his posture erect. 

Life is full of surprises—I hadn’t a clue I’d enjoy the first image as much as I did. He was in the shower, a one-man shower with no privacy. There were bars, but they were very thin, and he seemed to be waiting for a guard to come and take him back to his cell. 

Ted walked over to the left, and Luna and I followed. There were a lot of guards at this building. It was more active than the others. The men in their cells were restless, more vocal and more active. I scanned my eyes across the upper level. At almost every cell there was a man’s face looking out of the small window in the middle of their door. Ted handed us the stab-proof vests. They were army-green colored, heavy and long, and there were numbers on each. I got number eight. 

We walked over to where Ted set up the phlebotomy chair. I noticed the arms of the chair weren’t positioned to securely anchor an arm. This was because the prisoners at this building wore handcuffs, ankle cuffs also. I got the first draw. The man said hello. He was sincere. I asked for his CDC number and his name and then told him why his doctor ordered the tests. I began to palpate his arm for his vein and found two of them I could go for. I decided on one. Because of the angle of his dangling arm and the limitation of being in handcuffs, he was unable to extend his arm. I didn’t secure the vein in place and missed it.

The prisoner said, “It’s okay. You know what you’re doing, you just need to be more confident next time.” 

I smiled. Here at the prison, it becomes clearer to me how important it is for me to free myself to believe in myself. Some of the prisoners are supportive of my learning, while others are scared. I find this interesting because I’m scared too. I have a fear of the possible violence that got them there. They are afraid of me because I have a needle and they’re not sure if I know how to use it or not.

Sometimes I ease the anxieties of the prisoners. When they get uncomfortable, I tell them, “You’re going to be alright.” I choose to connect in a human way. This simplifies the experience and replaces fear with humanity.”
Sarai Phegley

Enter The Moment

“Sensuality with Steven was like a pair of glasses—I saw clearly. I loved feeling my movement in tune with his movement and feeling him slide his hands along my body. I shook when he entered me.

A man once told me, “Sex with you is different each time.” I think this is because my sensuality changes shape and design with the textures of my emotion, with the intensities or lightness of my feelings, with the wings of my mind or with the weight on my mind.

My vulnerability caught fire that night with Steven. I’m discovering that vulnerability is a space which feels both naked and inviting, a mirage appearing to stand alone, heat waves rising from burnt fears. When I get closer, I see there is never a place to get to, there is simply a choice to enter the moment, to be absorbed, to surrender to, to trust in.”
-Sarai Phegley