I come from a long line of madwomen and of this, I am proud.

Strong women with determined resiliency,

open minds, and hands that knew no idleness.

A great grandmother who became accustomed

to the whiskey-colored breath of strangers

in order that her children be fed.


A grandmother who captured and killed

the white chickens of neighbors

for the same reason.

And a mother who tried and failed

and tried and failed and tried and failed

and tried and failed to understand the reasoning

behind the lies of men who said they were her lovers.


I come from a long line of madwomen and of this, I am proud.

There is a difference in madness and craziness:

Craziness causes one to twirl and twirl until a great breath
sucks her spirit home leaving her mind and body to laugh on their own.


Madness allows the mind and body to function

while the spirit dances to the heartbeat of the stars.

I come from a long line of madwomen and of this, I am proud.

Women who folded their shame

into the gathers of their pride

wrapped them both around their ankles

and continued to dance, letting everyone know

they were not afraid to dance backward if it meant survival.


I come from a long line of madwomen and of this, I am proud


©2005 from Confessions of a Madwoman




And I heard a voice

a silvery voice wrapped

in secrets of red and purple


telling me to go deep, deep inside myself

deep to the deepest part where the light lay

in the center of the darkness


that it would be here

I would find the celebration

of who I am, why I exist,

where I come from and where I am going


and in this celebration I would find

the explanation that requires no explaining

the knowledge that requires no knowing

the answer that requires no questioning


and then I would understand

and then I would not understand

and then it would not matter.


©1997 from Spirit Voices of Bones



"Purple Butterfly"

"Abstract for Nana"

Emma Kate Jaynes
Age 4
© 2009

Everyone Needs Someone

My granddaddy was Cherokee

with eyes and hair black as tar

and shiny as a crow's back.

My Irish grandmother said

I looked like him.

I hoped so because I liked him

I liked the way his voice sounded

like soft running water over smooth pebbles

whenever he would tell me to ignore

the poor black children living down the road

 whenever they would laugh, point at us and demand,

"Talk some Mexican!"


 he would tell me,

touching my crying eyes with a copper-colored hand,

"it's better not to claim you're Indian

in these parts of Tennessee.

Everyone needs someone to look down on.


But Granddaddy died long before I learned

the truths behind stockade forts made of greed

thousands of tears trailing in the snow

unwanted lands reserved

the ridiculous act of termination

and the never-ending stings of discrimination.

Long before he finished telling me the stories

of how our family had to hide out in the caves

of western North Carolina.

Long before the Cherokee blood in my veins

began to truly overflow the Irish.           

 And when he died

his eyes no longer shone, his hair was dirty, matted,

and the smooth stones in his voice were muddied gravel.

Granddaddy died drunk and alone

speaking his language to the stars.











He likes sounds

like trees whispering to each other

like rains gathering to make music

like bells tinkling to remind him how

she likes profound silence

like when the whole world takes a deep breath

and holds it.

©2005 from Confessions of a Madwoman