Writing With Comrades

I want to extend my deepest gratitude to the founders of Veteran Women Writers.  The one-day retreats and three-day weekends offer such a welcoming sense of community where being a female, combat veteran is simply accepted.  I appreciate that the groups are facilitated by women veterans and civilian helpers.  This allows me to feel connected with a unique sense of “Sisterhood” safety.  The writing prompts have helped me to reconnect with events and emotions in ways that help me to see the challenges that I have faced with courage and resolve.  Because this group allows for a somewhat fluid schedule and is not a writing “therapy” or “critique group, I feel more inclined to risk emotional vulnerability.  Being with other women veterans to share in the activities provided by Veteran Women Voices has me feeling confident to write my memoir and longing for this opportunity to gather on a monthly basis.

In Gratitude,

Major Reneé Marie, USA Retired, 2017
OEF ‘10 Combat Command Veteran
Sacramento, CA



Emotional Aperture ~ Wide, I Write (v.1)

Emotional Aperture Heart.Eye

(This 750 word essay was written 3/14/17 with the prompt, “Why I Write”.  I was then challenged by a writing coach to focus on the 1st sentence and rewrite it from that awareness.  You can read v.2  and tell me what you think).

I was born hungry! Living in my fifth decade now, I still chew on curiosities, wrestle with chaos and swallow courage until I fall swollen with exhaustion! Wide open, I see beautiful and tragic poetry everywhere. The Human Spring is gushing high, demanding to break free of noise and nonsense, war and worry. My awareness turns to spurts of journaling in an effort to understand our resistance our painfully slow conscious evolution. Without writing, I am lost in anxious thought! My “idea box” consists of filing cabinets full of journals, songs in yellowing notebooks, poems typed on linen paper, sketches and transparencies ready for mural paintings.  My Mother often said “you were born to write, just write”.

I was the third child in a field of five, born during a howling, winter storm just before Christmas, in Connecticut, 1960. Our parents were just kids themselves. My first decade taught me to listen deeply, ask for nothing and when nothing made sense, just run away.  In the forth grade I ran away while everyone was still asleep.  I gathered peanut butter, bread, warmed my cozy sweatshirt in the dryer and headed straight for my beloved Teacher’s house (as if I knew where she lived) through the grey, wet woods.  At one point, I became terrified of a distant barking dog and decided to go back up to the street.  Either way, I knew I was vulnerable but I was free!  Strangers stopped and asked if I needed a ride home or to school.  At some point the old woman said “I know your Father”.  I remember how strange that sounded to me but I didn’t press for any clarity.  I was respecting my elders.  I did get into that car and they did get me back to the house.  I felt like a fugitive when I walked in.  My Mother didn’t speak to me.  My Father seemed strangely relieved but I could not understand why.  Just a few days earlier, he beat my older Brother with a ripped out lamp chord, punched a mirror on the basement wall and threw my older Sister onto the shards that fell onto the bed covers!  I always froze when he became violent.  Why didn’t I have the courage to stand up to him?  I stored all of this in the journal of remembering.

In my second decade I craved connection with anyone who would listen. I found it with words that flowed without apology. Whenever we went to “church”, it was on a Sunday morning at a Church of Christ held in a little school on North Main Street. I wrote my own baptism promise, My Child My Friend, at age 11. At 13 years old, I wrote, Lose and Gain, taped it to my headboard and ran away to the McConnell’s house, up the hill, closer to the lake. They seemed “normal”. I called home around 6pm. It was dark. I didn’t want anyone to think I was kidnapped or worse. My Mother’s Italian bully, alcoholic, live-in boyfriend retrieved me after about three hours. He let me drive home! My Mother never asked me why I left or showed any compassion for the concerns in my poem or the constant anxieties so evident in any of her five children.

I felt safe writing and drawing in my room or in the scraggy woods behind the projects. I learned that writing could write itself and that kind of writing felt like a beautiful gift with a power that I could honor. I ran away to a small Church of Christ College in the summer of my 16th year. I only had a few poems, drawings and paintings to share during my interview but I was accepted for Early Admissions under their Talent Search Campaign. I remember the journey; my tattered, pink suitcase, my stiff grasp, and taxi ride to the Greyhound station, downtown Waterbury, CT. I pressed my forehead against the window, processing the humanity, block-by-block, and a poem, City Kid, was born in me. I felt fierce walking through the Port Authority bus station in New York! I marched my way to the transfer bus headed to King of Prussia, PA. Northeastern Christian Junior College was glorious for a run-away; an inspiring campus in Villanova, PA. I wrote to feel “present” and My Playground, was published in Pegasus, National Poetry Press, 1978. I graduated with an A.A. Degree,1979. Ten years later I was a devout agnostic, living wide-open, still, and so I write.

© Reneé Marie

Emotional Aperture, Why I Write

I was born hungry! By the time I was 9 months old, Mother would brag, I turned crying into words and occasionally a short sentence with clear intention like “more (s)paghetti” and “I want up”. I must have sensed that language was power and to participate in the banquet of discourse allowed me to be, however fleeting, a little more considered. As a youngster, I started dishing-out verbal pearls connected as little poems and songs without concern for rules. In my high school years, I wrote to challenge sadness and anxiety, gifted by my genetic pool, force-fed through the traumas I swallowed whole! I saved my poems of sorrow, rage, and running away between drawings in a sketchpad an art teacher had given to me. I had to write. It was the clearest path to making sense of chaos.

In the summer of my 16th year my tattered poems and drawings joined me in an interview with the admissions counselor traveling to Connecticut from a private junior college in Pennsylvania. I was chosen! It was the school’s first Early Admissions Talent Search Campaign, summer, 1977. I would never have graduated high school if I remained in Lakewood Projects. I earned an “A” for my first two college English courses and felt destined to become a professional writer. I continued to write poetry and prose to sort through deeply digested Family shame and a persistent sense of guilt for escaping while leaving behind four siblings with a Mother who was more inclined toward self-medicating than being a compassionate single parent.

In college, I wrote to quiet the shock waves in my soul. I wrote to scream at the God I couldn’t find! I was born the third child in a field of five, just before Christmas, 1960. Our parents were throwaway kids themselves. I have long since forgiven them, mostly. We floundered in a very unpredictable and violent home. I wrote to beg to be heard. I wrote to scream at society for not noticing or ever offering to help. I wrote to see, on paper, all that I could never say. Putting a recollection on paper still allows me to leave my self THERE, to dissociate from feeling flawed or fraudulent, like “damaged goods”. In looking back at journal entries I often graze upon those raw observations as an exquisite appetizer awakening an appetite for finally writing the whole story, the main course, the memoire! I continue to write through hunger pains that cannot be silenced. I write to rid my mind of portioning out blame, absolutes, and paralyzing self-criticism. I write to invite the family of ideas starving on indifference, choking potential. I write to clear the push, the pull and the pain of injustice while keeping my emotional lens wide-open and brave. Occasionally, I thaw and reheat a leftover and season it with fresh alliteration or rhyme or current cleverness. Here’s an assignment poem (from a writing class in 1982) that I reworked and published nearly ten years later.


She’s got rhythm in her soul

Talents swell

Ambition spirals in her blood, a

Chorus belle. She will

Conjure-up new melodies

Animate swift hands

Tabulate instinctual staccatos

Orchestrate the harmony of lands.

This little poem, born with urgency, remains in its raw form. I memorized it as it was written because of its musicality. It continues to satisfy my ear. I love it when writing delivers simplicity while freeing a palate of emotional struggle. Writing is my delicacy.

Nothing is Every Thing

Ripples River

racing mind.

Divers deeper

darkness find.

Thinker’s thought

thrown away.

Sorry sunshine

sometimes rain.

Angels alone

in anxious pain.

Can you really make much sense of it;

is there some grand design?

I have no answers to cast to feed the starving swine.

     Sometimes I write to find the leanest, most organic answer to that lingering birthday hunger – to be loved, to feel heard, to be included. As I reached those rebellious teen years, I wrote with an urgency to inspire some collective agreement, a recipe for peace. I think that’s it; I gobbled-up language with hope and I still settle into writing hungry for a taste of peace. It is not for me alone, to feel satiated on writing’s ability to hypothesize answers to our most troubling concerns; I feel called to help set a table of ideas that invites the World Family to sup together. We remain hungry, the world of writing is a banquet of possibilities I crave to share.  

© Reneé Marie 3/27/17Emotional Aperture Heart.Eye


BeBoldForChange, 2017

My #BeBoldForChange http://www.internationalwomensday.com promise 2017 is to increase civilian awareness of the Army’s I. A.M. Strong Campaign, launched by the Secretary of the Army at the Sexual Assault Prevention Summit, September 2008 “to promote a change in organizational culture and command climate by empowering soldiers to intervene, act and motivate to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault.”. (please check out http://www.sexualassault.army.mil/template-Ismstrong.cfm?page=iam_mission.cfm )

In addition, I am seeking assistance with writing a Bill titled “Conduct and Character Review of Presidential Candidates” which would need congressional sponsorship. (In Ref. To DOD 5500.7R Feb 3, 1993).

My vision is that the conduct and character review would be completed by a broad range of non-partisan Department of Defense and military personnel to include Junior Enlisted and Company Grade Officers in all branches of service.

The intent is to avoid a similar situation which occurred in the 2016 election where a self-boasting sexual predator became the Commander-In-Chief. This result is inconsistent with the Joint Ethics Regulation and Military Standards of Conduct having an incalculable, negative impact on military readiness, morale, discipline, cohesion and trust. © Major © Reneé Marie, USAR, Medical Service Corps, Sacramento, CA 3/7/17 (916) 969-8957

Writing 201: Poetry (Day 10: Pleasure, Sonnet, Apostrophe)


Four Hands

When I was just a thought in Someone’s mind;
did you, “Someone” know just what that meant?
Perhaps you joined for pleasure you might find;
They join, disjoin, That Seed so hasty sent!

Then I arrived all wet and softly crying.
You introduce Me to this World forever s t r e t c h i n g . . .
Four-Hands then pass Me, still denying;
their Two-Mouths never usher out a blessing!

It’s “okay now” and let my “Strong Bones” B R E A K;
let me rise and fall to know those “deeper smiles”.
Sure, lovingly and all “for learnings sake”,
send Me out to walk cold roads for m i l e s . . .

I learned where Fire-Burns and I will not go.
Four-Hands will not reap from Me what they did sow!

© Reneé Marie 15 OCT 2015

Writing 201: Poetry (Day 9: Cold, Concrete Poem, Anaphora/Epistrophe)


Our Cold, Exclamation Point!

My face slid across your slap

like a glass hydroplaning on

the counter and slung me

straight-on in a frozen glare

that would never be softened.

We broke that day.

My face slid across memories

of how we met; revisiting the joy

of dancing off-duty.  You were

the best White Boy I ever saw

do the “Snake”!

We loved those days in

Wurzburg, Germany.

My face slid across the cracks

in your ice, which followed me

like warnings under skates that

the thin-skin I was on and in

could not hold this weight.

But wait, we promised!

My face slid across our timeline,

backward, forward, to infinity and

beyond, and I imagined you

remembering to come back

to say “I’m sorry”.

I truly hoped for that.

My ears landed on Tracy Chapman’s

song, Humming like a cool omen;

“Sorry, is all that you can’t say,

but you can say Baby…”

I knew that day

that the blue-gray ice finally

cracked and we are ALL frigid still –

yes, frozen shards of ancient

hunters and gatherers




© Reneé Marie, October 14, 2015

Writing 201: Poetry (Day 8 – Flavor, Elegy, Enumeratio)


Living Proof in a Dead Tea

The oblong basket with brittle bands of veneer
in shades of sandy brown,
perched atop her antique refrigerator,
looked like the bottom of Noah’s Ark; our long, long ago love affair.

It cradled, warm conversations yet to be and her herbal tea,
nearly two-by-two and so many more that any space left,
on the fridge, or in the mind’s eye lies more
un-opened chats and cellophane-sealed boxes
for a connoisseur’s careful rotations.

When she takes the basket down
it’s a perfect orchestration;
“I’ll fix us some tea”. Or, “would you like a cup of me, honey?”
Then, I wanted to be the honey-dipped spoon.

I remember stirring in her warm, vowel-consonant songs,
slipping on her teasing tongue.
Her oblong eyes still swim in soothing shades of brown.
Her lips still perfectly arched like the basket weaver’s tale.

She too was: Tension Tamer, Joint Comfort, Delicate, Sweet, Spicy,
Fragrant, Earthy, Smooth, Organic, Egyptian, Green,
Black, Gray, Vanilla, Mango, Hibiscus, Eucalyptus,
Mint, Echinacea, Chamomile, Detox,
Honey Comfort, Caffeine Free and
“yes, I’ll have a cup of Breathe Easy”;
living proof, you took my breath away
like every good sip had, it doesn’t stay on the tongue.

Photo and Poem, © Reneé Marie, 14 OCT 2015

Yogi Tea

(Yogi Tea message; “Your soul is your highest self”

Writing 201: Poetry (Day 7 – neighborhood, ballad, assonance)


First World Problem

With Overwhelm, we’ve overstayed the feast.
Side-by-side we gorge until we’re sick!
They, starving still for crumbs; we feed our beast.

Who spread those soiled linens and silverware;
yet claim that all is fresh and fair this time?
Lured-in by promises we won’t pretend to care.

  There’s nothing short of Heaven for you here;
     pull up a chair and order all you want!
     Wanting more of nothing – is nothing now to fear!

As peasants span the Globe with squalors’ rage;
the sellers pander more of nothing, cheap!
And those who reek of Overload claim “safety’s cage”

insist that all along choice is our noble feast;
we slave along to feed our one, collective beast!

Fancy Feast

(The Feast)

Photo and Poem © Reneé Marie, Oct 12, 2015