Femme se Ouvrit: Girl Unfurled – Voyage to Paris and the Island

Photo 57

Girl Unfurled Story – pdf

Girl Unfurled
Femme se Ouvrit

Quatorze Cantos: Paris to the Island

Shiloh Sophia McCloud

June 21, 2013

Cantos Zéro: Sea Salted Self

The names

I have worked to own

have flung themselves

from my tongue.

My previous identifications

are dangling on tenuous gossamer

strings flung way out to sea

with no permission from me.

I can pull them back to me

at any moment, I know this.

But I resist.

This return call

to known self

is held at bay

through hoping to catch

a freckled sea salted self revelation.

Did you know I was

addicted to revelation? I am.

I engage in conversation with

cerulean, majorelle and teinte blu manganese sea

seeking ceaselessly for insights.

The kind of insights that my kind

have spent their

only wages to find, to court,

to bend, to tend, to coax

onto white canvas or white page.

We creatives

will stop at nothing

to court epiphanies.

I revel and roll in the reckoning,

the hopefulness and discomfort

of not knowing

who I am supposed to be

or want to be


I just don’t. Ah. Relief.

Salt to my eyes. Ah, I see.

Of course, the vin rouge served

in the afternoons here helps to blur the edges.

And soften the brightness of the hours.

I have never seen so much daylight.

Cantos Un: White Sheet Therapy


Here’s the almost truth

I knew before I came here:


Who I thought I might be

and what my life would reflect,

is not who I ended up to be.


A different identity sits in me.

Is it an archetype gone terribly wrong

that plagues me? Perhaps.

This life is just different than I thought.

You know what I mean, right? Or do you?

Did your life unfurl as you hoped or

like me did you just get good at change

and learn to call it a great adventure?

An identity not altogether me

has taken residence in me

since my journey to Paris this Spring

The stranger that is myself

is even more restless. Hungry.

New shapes and flavors are called for.

New words formed with tongue

and teeth. Hips and clicks

The metro at midnight

thick with ripe bodies underground.

I hold your waist and you hold mine.

Yes, even with all of this I am restless.

A gypsy soul. Do I dare admit

I don’t miss my home or bed?

Do I dare admit I miss the smell of

a Paris patisserie more in the morning

than I do our own coffee and kitchen?

I have no language or sound

for what I seek anymore. I used to.

It’s gone. This should disturb me but doesn’t.

This is why white sheet therapy

is my method of healing right now.

And white page therapy will do

wonders for the wandering.

What was that you said my love.

Leave a message at the waves

Cantos Deux: Eccentrics Dinner Parties

How will I choose to spend my days?

Your closeness is so tender I do not fear

that my choices will be an affront to you.

This give breath to my belly.

I do not know what we shall do my love.

Who we shall end up being?

I pine for eccentricities, salons, poetry

and the invitations of strangers to strange

dinner parties where being an artist it not

so uncommon and poets carry worn sheaths

of paper folded into ready pockets.

I seek the company of those asking the

same kind of dogged questions that I ask.

Do you know where we will end up?

I have a few hints.

I like to lay where it is warm each day.

Is that enough of a map?

Perhaps it is this that I seek.

This is the space

between spaces I sought

by coming here,

with you

to this Island in the middle

of the Mediterranean sea

in between Paris and Tuscany

I have the time to ask the questions.

To love the questions, like

Rilke taught me when just a girl.

My mother had his quote

over the sink of every place

we ever lived. She would never move

somewhere without a window

over the kitchen sink

these words looked back at us:

Be patient towards

all that is unsolved in your heart,

and try to love the questions themselves.

I am not even sure of the question.

How’s this one?

When is the next Eccentrics Dinner Party?


Cantos Trois: Corsica in Me

What am I here for?

I come for the salt of self.

For a possible girl


Is that on the menu

of possibility?

Darling, will you order it

for me, merci beaucoup?

Si Vous Plais with a lime

in a tall glass, merci.

Here is what I know.

I am weary of my own

knowings and familiarities.

This kind of restless spirit

has led others like me

to madness and so I watch

it carefully as one might a

a wild thing that might strike. Strike.

Not unlike the Corsican tribespeople

since the beginning of the beginning

invaded over and over

until their blood runs rebel bold, even today.

Fresh graffiti committed while

we drove the road one day

showed us the fire beneath

this beautiful sea. Signs with

French words crossed out.

Resistance makes my Muse happy.

Not the circumstance which

gives rise to resistance,

but that we do indeed risk

and resist is a thread of hope.

It relieves me. I lend my heart

to your cause and allow your spirit

to infuse me here, Corsica.

Not Corse, named by the French

who purchased this paradise from

Genoa. How could a people be purchased

who have their own language?

The indigenous flesh and spirit here,

so common a story everywhere,

of a take over land and people

and plunder and pave paradise.

I feel Corsica in me.

Cantos Quatre: Black and Black

Trouble in paradise

gives an edge of revolution

I recognize and cherish

in humans, an unwillingness

to be crushed even though

we be crushed. We rise.

When people ask me why we

came here I do not tell them

it is because I knew that

rebels and wild black pigs were here

and because their flag and coat of arms

is a black man an unblindfolded Moor

with a white bandana of liberation and sight.

Black. Yes. Very black.

Last week we found her eventually

though the task was not easy.

I am relieved that she existed at all.

She of course was shrouded in mystery

and her google-able-ness was no help.

Websites down. Hours missing.

Address veiled.  Some sacred sites are between veils.

Here I was at her feet. Finally. Really?

Yes really. Like seeing VanGogh’s

sunflowers for the first time.

I almost didn’t believe my eyes.

Her red and blue gown
and here piercing eyes seeing

everything. The little stout Nun that let

me stay and paint under her

trees wanted to know if we were

Orthodox, seeing from across

the chapel with raven black eyes

the crossing of East to West instead of
West to East.

She saw my easel and took pity.

Locked the courtyard

and let us stay inside the gates.

We laid our luggage, baggage and burdens

in the nave of the white

Chapel in the white courtyard of Virge Noire de Paris

where the Blackest Black Madonna

has held court for hundreds of years.

Cantos Cinq: Bonne Deliverance

We were on the way to the airport

and asked cab driver to drop us off there with her.

Not knowing if we could or would

be granted access. We prayed to her.

We found song there –

a choir of school boys

filled her chambers and ours

with haunting songs of praise.

We entered in. With you beside me

I risked allowing the

sorrow and hope to rise.

With a great heave

I surrendered

the deepest desires of my heart.

Heave Ho. Heave Ho.

That which I had wanted

more than the world I released.

I laid the crushed flower of it

there at the foot of the

Black Madonna of Paris,

Notre Dame de Bonne Delivrance.

She took the stories from me

and warned me as a mother might:

this giving up of these kinds

of deep desires

wouldn’t come easy.

She wanted to know if I was up

to the task of survival beyond

these stories. I said:

I have no idea what I am up for

or what I can survive.

She said my job now

was just to believe.

To believe no matter what

happened next. To keep giving it

to her and her Son, and so I am.

Each day, tidy packets of grief

and longing and lostness delivered

there where they belong.

A ritual in surrendering. Deliverance.

Cantos Six: Making Emptiness

Why is it so hard for us

to keep surrendering?

Is it easier to keep holding on?

We, so stubborn causing

suffering by wanting something

to be different than it is

instead of praising

just what is. As it is.

Our longing for it to be different

is half the battle, is it not?

She told me in no uncertain terms

to unfurl the girl I was,

to make the emptiness

where I am now.

This place of no place

so that she could show  me

something I could not see

with all the stories where

I had so carefully placed them

for further review.

This inquiry isn’t new.

You know that.

I have told you all this already.

I have been a rebel

to my known self

since my poet mother

insisted I learn to think

over the tasks baking or sewing.

She handed me T.S. Eliot

and told me to go to my drawing board.

How rare a gift is that Mommie? (Thank you.)

This is why my French easel

is not far from my hand

and my journal goes

everywhere in that bright hot

orange purse with rhinestones

in the shape of the hand of Fatima

that you bought me on the Siene

for my birthday which matching sandles.

Why do I want such things?

Cantos Sept: Reckless Generosity

New selves send the Muses to shop

for different things than usual to

remind you the work is at hand.

Girls of modern ritual use

shopping as a part of marking

their transformation. A cutting of hair.

A piercing of skin. A hot orange purse.

Is that such a surprise?

So now I sit right here

in pink and orange silk draped

dress and my journal.

The sea is beckoning me into

aqua blue across the balcony.

Here comes a revelation,

a tiny but fierce one to stir me.

I have come to identify

the whole of me

inside of that which

I give to others.

I call it: reckless generosity

It has become my greatest

joy and for it as my ritual,

my gratitude knows no end.

The swiftest healing comes in the

generosity of spirit

for them and for me.

My mantra:

give your gifts

of information freely.

I don’t mean free as in

you pay nothing.

I mean free as in I give

what has come to me

freely. I know the truth.

Anything truly true does not

belong to me, but everybody.

True gifts are meant to be given.

This is what Christ asks us for

when he tells us to

Love One Another. I do try.

Cantos Huit: Grasshopper Speaks


On the tip of my brush

I choose every color of

aqua blue and bone black

and place them as

offerings onto the altar

of expression which is

the only way I really truly know

how to know what I truly know.

Even in that familiar territory of canvas

I keep losing my place.

Now where was I?  How does this go?

I find my joy by the side of the road.

A grasshopper so teensy

legs of fragile translucent green threads

lands on my hand

while sitting at another

shrine of Norte Dame,

our Lady by the side of the Road.

I squeal with delight as if

visited by God in this

small green gesture.

And you caught it

on film. As I watch

myself proclaim its

tiny gorgeousness I

find out something new about me.

Grasshopper speaks to me.

And I truly listen.

I remember as a child

catching them and loving

the feeling as they bumped

against my cupped hands

with vitality,

and then the pleasure

of setting them free.

The feel of the leap

on my palm has always

been healing to me.

Healing happening in

tiny magical green and blue moments.

Cantos Neuf: Megaliths

When you do not know

which way to go

try leaning into stones

8,000 years old

carved by ancient

peoples of this island. Filatosa.

I pray. I praise. I wonder.

I stand in their prehistoric torre

and connect with

their story of living inside

of stones. I take one

small stone for my teacher.

You suggested it and

this made me feel happy

and seen by you.

While not lounging at

steetside cafes or ancient

holy places or private white

beaches I give my Muse ideas

to occupy her

while I dismantle my

concepts of self.  All the while

she tries to affirm my

identity. I feed her chocolate

croissants and red wine

and tell her, don’t worry,

I’ll be back soon. I have

work to do that doesn’t

have to do with my own

wisdom and musings.

I struggle with too much self control

monitoring the challenges,

the trip, the fall, guessing, second guessing

checking and checking again, in case.

In case my mistakes are exposed

and I lose the privacy of seeming in control.

Is my skirt caught in my panties?

Is there lipstick on my teeth?

Do I look too old, to young, for this?

I ask the megaliths to tell me

and I lean in, listening to stone.

Finding new homes.

Wedding stones speak to me too.

Cantos Dix: Tyranny of Authenticity

Will they see me sometime and think

that I am not who I say I am?

Make sure make sure

you are who you say you are.

Not sometimes, all the time.

AH! The tyranny of authenticity

of getting it right.

I remember back at the Café in Paris,

getting it right,

being authentic by effort seems dull.

No one cares.

Their smoke drifts across

tables of poetry and carelessness

and talking loudly with hands

and clinking drinks and seeming

all together gay even on a Tuesday

night close to midnight friends

call to each other across from

the endless cafes and love songs.

San Francisco and I are jealous of this

absolute lacking of laptop computers

and i-pads and smart and dumb phones in our cafes.

The gaze is not directed

into boxes of code, instead

at gazes of lovers and yes,

they are making out in the streets here.

And yes, we join them in the public embrace.

And yes, all of this is Praise

for the goodness of it all.

Thank you…Thank you…

We all seem to be

saying to that full moon over

Montmarte at the foot of

the Sacre Couer, thank you

for giving us life so that

we might, live it.

Oh yes, living it

is what I am talking about.

What should be a small handful

of well crafted poems

becomes this ramble here, this unplugged

unedited edition of my journey to Europe

and the questions of the voyager.

Cantos Onze: Movable Feast

With you. Beside me

I am free to risk. Close

enough to hold me in any second,

but you won’t leave my side

but you are far enough away

to let me do my work. This is magic.

This work of re-arranging

the contents of my universe takes time.

You don’t mind do you?

You said Hemingway’s Movable Feast

should do the trick and that

Rilke book we purchased

at Shakespeare and Company

will show us the way.

Boulevard Saint Germaine

where the greats wrote

spurred by cheap

rum and beautiful girls

and we dine on Bollinger Rose

and foie gras gratitude.

The day we visited

Sennelier – the art store

where the Master’s found

or created their pigments.

Cezanne, Picasso, Van Gogh and Gaugin

used the paint of Gustave Sennelier.

Rouge de Venise, Noir d’Ivoire, Jaune Citron

Vert de Cobalt clair, Bleu de Prusse, Violet d’Outremer

I cried at these colors

at the sight of brushes.

The aloof man in the white coat in

the upstairs brush department

became suddenly

interested once he perceived

my open enthusiasm

as I presented each brush

to you as if it was a rare decadence.

He spoke to me excitedly in French

and handed me brushes for my basket.

Each day though we don’t know the way.

We rise to the call of café

and find the way and it helps that you can speak

enough French to read me poems, menus and

graffiti and songs sung live in the Metro.

Cantos Douze: Mermaid Callings

Meanwhile back at the Island.

Even as I lay down 43 years

of having and having not.

Urged by a desire deeper than my own.

to help. Just to help.

To help us heal. To recover.

To stop us from

the ways we harm

ourselves for who

we have been being

or not being.

And I remind myself:

When you get home honey

you can help all you want.

For now, empty the

words from your

mouth like those hot white

stones you picked up

on the beach from your pockets.

For now. Be empty of helping, of knowing.

Put this message into that purple

glass bottle from the little

lobster stand on the beach from yesterday

and set it to the waves for rocking.

There is help for the weary.

Run to those waves now.

The mermaids T.S. Eliot

told you about when you just a girl,

they do call to you. Hear them now?

It is because they call to you

that you want to tell

everyone about their

siren song and the show them

the way her green tail

shimmers in the light

when you look, just right

into the coming night.

The sea is calling the only name I have.

Do you hear what the mermaids are saying?

That you are beautiful

and they want to feed you

oysters and dress you in pearls.

Cantos Treize: True Blonde

From this great sun my hair has finally

returned to the color

of blonde childhood

that I seek in the salons.

I tell them – I know

my hair is dark now

but I grew up a blonde

can you make me

remember that sun-

kissed Summer when

I swam naked in the

Eel river with the boys

I had crushes on?

Crushes are clues. Follow them.

I have a crush on content.

Here’s a clue to finding

yourself and what matters.

To finding your content:

Start with writing down

the ten things you know

even if you don’t think

it is interesting or you think

you everyone else knows it.
Notice everything.

All else will be revealed.

I tell myself

when all of that fails

kiss him. Just kiss.

He dances with you

in the middle of the

street when dance

me to the end of love

croons everyone to kissing.

Kiss me coming

and kiss me going.

While this story my love

is more about me than you,

it is you who makes

possible this inquiry

so I thank you now and kiss you.

Cantos Quatorze: Paris Belongs to Us

Release the known.

Enter the mystery

of unknown soul ,

spaces between spaces.

The girl beneath the girl

waits for me

the color of Summer

on this eve of Solstice.


You just stopped me

to read Hemingway:

 You belong to me

and all Paris belongs to me

and I belong to this notebook

and this pencil.

My only reply is also a kind of vow:

I am the right girl for you.

And for now.

For now,

let’s just

unfurl the girl.

Unfurl this girl.

Penned on the eve of

Summer Solstice

the day after my birthday.

Shiloh Sophia

France (for now)