A few writing samples from Julie’s collection are below.

A poetry/words compilation is in the works:

 
 

an august thanksgiving in ireland

Irish coast.jpg

the cows outside our window are camel-colored

with dirty tushies and low insistent moos

the grasses here are short, tall, wind-blown, still

the cliffs magnificent with waves crashing far below and endless sky above

“you must write a lot of poetry” I said to a local woman on the island of inishmore “during

those winter months that go on and on” - she’s one of 860 people on the island year

round and she threw back her head and laughed

“a lot of poetry” she said with a full throated red-cheeked guffaw - “a lot of it”

we’ve been pelted with rain and blessed by ferry storm waves

we’ve been visited by the sun and toasted with champagne

pete and I are getting hitched on thanksgiving and fitzy is the ring bearer

tony, our driver, popped a cork in drizzly doolin in our name with 7up for fitz and gigi so

they too could raise a glass

pops’ eyes welled up when the musicians at the hotel rauthbaun played “the fields of

athen rye” and “danny boy”

mom was singing away beside him her face contended - irish eyes smiling

amy and dave, laura and paul, mimi wale and angela - all 12 of us in cong and on the

grounds of kylemore abbey and then kilcrae

dad in search of his fitzpatrick forbears here in lisdoonvarna and

mom by the graves of the o’connells further south

peter mooney, a cab driver told dad to go to the local church and the sacristy there -

“they’ll have all the birth records” “or you could look at the headstones there and find the

fitzparicks, people do that”

both dad and mom eager to find traces of their histories in

this very town this very land

introducing us and learning surname after surname

we met a maria fitzpatrick and a kate callahan and sheehans, osullivans and murphys

we stayed where a belgian flag and an irish flag fly at slieve elva our first b&b not too far

from shannon

we ate and sipped beef stew and cups of tea, scones and honey, dark brown bread

lighter bread and lighter still slices, puddings and salty ham and thick seafood chowder,

ice cream and creamy cheeses, sauces and vinegar and mustard and jams

we heard “tanks a million” and “tatched roofs” and “feckin grand” all tossed off with flair

we’re off tomorrow to travel further south in the drizzle or the sun or most likely both

the land vast and rocky in the burren behind us

stone wall after stone wall

green plot and more green and still more deeper lighter richer green

all whispering don’t go yet, come back, stay here and breathe a while we aren’t going

anywhere with our peet and stones and craggy grassy raw fields, stay a while and let

your eyes and heart rates shift

the music is still playing in my head from last night

the kind of evening I wish we could freeze

love encircled our table with the pink and blue lights dancing on our faces while the beat

of the bodhran played and the soprano’s voice flew over the notes like grace itself

we’ve biked and bickered and eaten and slept

we’ve not slept and put anti seasickness drops under our tongues rocked by boat and

bus

we’ve zipped by other vehicles on winding skinny roads and looked out over the vast

atlantic ocean

how small we are

how tiny

how grateful

how unfathomable it all is

fitz wrote a letter to the band last night and put it in their tip jar

the singer’s face lit up as she opened it, read it, and then leaned into her mic

dewy and rosy from the passionate music they’d all been making

”we’ve just received the sweetest note from a fitz. thank you fitz. this song is for you”

his note read

“you were great and amazing. you were great.” signed “fitz”

so well said and so true

my love is sleeping beside me and fitz is downstairs having his first slumber party with

little gigi who lights up when the music plays 

the house is still

the cows outside the window quiet

the rain has stopped for now

thank you Ireland, ‘tanks a million, you were are great and amazing

mercy before mother’s day

by julie fitzpatrick

 

that was a great piece about you, kathy, i said to her quietly as we entered church on sunday

(i had spotted her color-streaked hair

that’s a trend in which i delight

pastels & fluorescents & vibrant hues

popping up on unexpected heads)

 

she was sitting in the last pew  

turned and smiled

when I had read the person of the week courier article about her i connected that she was the lady with the colorful locks and also an artist bringing other artists together in honor of peace and safety on may 11th for art demands action

 

the title stuck with me

art demands action

expression insists on doing

creating

canvases

tunes

pieces

to shake us and

wake us

 

and

then

 

we act

we do

 

we make

what?

 

peace

kindness

truth open up

perhaps?

 

i smiled back and our trio settled into our new-ish spot at church and absorbed a service full of earth day music and sexy song of solomon scripture and silence held for san diego

 

christi lit a candle

ginger led a prayer

 

another shooting

another religious attack

another life blown out – this time it was woman named lori – she was in the lobby of the synagogue and in the article I read it said she was there for a memorial for her mother

 

who would have thought she’d be seeing her so soon

mom?

 

lori’s husband and child were in another part of the building and survived

i am both relieved and sickened by that thought

how did they make it through the day?

mom?

 

i flashed on lori and wondered if she knew after having been shot but before dying that her loves were elsewhere in the building

i wanted to hold her head and tell her that

they’re safe, lori

they’re safe

 

immediately after giving birth, i hemorrhaged so I was given medication which was supposed to stop the bleeding

but

which caused an allergic reaction to shudder through my system

instead

 

i started to shake

my temperature dropped

i couldn’t speak

 

my mind was clear though

crystal

i knew that just moments before -

after the long labor -

my pipsqueak peanut sweet baby had been swept away to have his lungs vacuumed out in the NICU

 

i didn’t know what would happen to me

but

i knew he was in another part of the building

safe

 

so often we’re in different parts of the building right

i hold pete’s hand and comb my fingers through fitz’s thick black hair

i thinksay i’ll be in the lobby and you be anywhere else anywhere else in the building

 

would you read a poem kathy asked me in the hallway following the service

for art demands action on the 11th

oh yes i say surprised

yes yes sure i’d love to

one you’ve heard or a new one? i ask

if you have time for a new one, a new one she says

i have time i thought

time finds me for writing

 

i’ll call you tomorrow i say taking down her number in my phone and i’ll listen to you and then we’ll see what comes from my fingertips 

we talk on monday

well i type and she talks

this is not just about gun safety, she says

it’s about the community

making the community better

about communities connecting she says

all of our children are all of our children

everyone’s voice matters

this has been in my heart for a long time she says

when in washington we saw children were falling through the cracks and art turned out to be the soul of every subject

it was a blessing

but there are chasms now

polarizations

we are in our bubbles

we need bridges

art

art is a bridge taking us from fear to love

 

wonderful thank you I say

we end the call and I stare at my keyboard

gun safety

not just safety

but

gun safety i hear again

frustrated at myself

confused

why don’t i listen better?

how could i have read that article on her and missed the

gun safety

part

i only saw

safety

omitted the

gun

shoot

i go blank when i think of guns

taste metal in my mouth

feel cold

shiver

i’ve never held one

don’t want to

 

i don’t think of gun and safety as a couple

i think of them as enemies

cancelling one another out

i bristle at the thought of holding one not because I’m such a pacifist but because rage is on the other side of my compositional coin

i tend to be fairly nice and accommodating

kind whenever possible

but there are times when something is triggered in me and

strain and pain and heat course through

my body

my fingers

my limbs

they pulse with anger

tremble with it

i’m ready to fight

to lay siege

to roar

to destroy

 

what i need then is fresh air

time

maybe a pillow to punch

not a gun

 

that’s why I didn’t put gun and safety together

because I don’t believe they go to together or are safe

 

that we are safe

guns may be

but human beings

 

i think we can grow and evolve and work to balance our minds so that we are sane and live well and take care of one another and ourselves but i also know that there are moments where if my child or my loves were threatened i would not be the embodiment of miss peace and i don’t want a gun near me to test my limits


at those moments i need grace

not a gun

i need mercy

don’t we all

right now

over something

need mercy

for what makes us itch and twitch and yell

 

lord have mercy i hear in my head

it was a refrain so common in my pew as a child

lord have mercy christ have mercy lord have mercy

i used to lip synch to it and watch my mom at the altar of st george’s thinking that knowing all the words to the our father and the prayers of the priest was the epitome of cool

mom

 

Screen Shot 2019-05-14 at 1.50.52 PM.png

i think of mom and mercy and portia

who begs shylock in act 4 scene 1 of merchant of venice and reminds him

 

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The thronèd monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptered sway.
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute to God Himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. consider this:
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.

 

so mercy then is what i’m left with  

mercy meets safety

gun safety i suppose

which in my mind means they’re put away

far away

mercy for me is as

weapon free

rage free

violence free a life as I can muster

 

mercy for you may be a certain kind of safe storage

i don’t know

 

mercy in the broader sense, though, as portia says, 

is knowing we’re all gonna need it

mercy

in our lobbies

our pews

the words we choose

our births

our deaths

our regrets

our debts

our houses

our mirrors

 

i hear kathy again

art is a bridge between love and fear

yes I thinksay and mercy builds it

 

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finger & toe prints

by julie fitzpatrick

I. stagville
a woman burned down that house from rage, the tour guide said
well, she tried too – the house remained standing 
I bet the woman, however, continued to burn
the house didn’t catch
but she was still

burning
burning
burning

can you imagine the kindling in the pit of her

heart
soul
skin
 
enslaved
enslaved
enslaved
 
hard to wrap my heartsoulskin around
that word
that life
that fire

but as I look around stagville
absorb the atmosphere of it
its bleakness
its heaviness
its dry yet weeping trees
I wonder: is it just that the sky is gray and winter is upon us here in durham
is my heartsoulskin playing tricks on me?
or 
is even the soil here sad?
 
there is a hollowness to the land
broken hearts and spirits 
they are lingering in the rough grass and solemn wood
slave-made bricks capture finger prints and toe prints
god bless those hands and feet
I’m so sorry comes whispering from my belly
seems like such a weak insufficient whisper but it is what I have 

I am so sorry  
for how you were treated
how we enslave one another
control one another
tighten the grip on one another
on ourselves 

I can’t begin to imagine what the hands and feet connected to those prints
felt
touched
walked upon 
but I have a morsel of understanding about the unrelenting grasp of control
the need to manage
to force
to make happen
the mind that won’t relent
the slap of demands and commands
do this and do that 
both the master and the one saying yes ok yes ok

how is it possible that this place
exists?
existed? 

how is it possible that this hell
is?

oh that this land can heal
that we can heal
so that daffodils and fresh grass can grow and we can move on with business of
living
building
seeing one another 

God, help to quell the flames inside so that they burn down
to
cool
embers
 
II. jason
we sit around in a little theater
my favorite place to sit
white dangling lights
and
billowing canopy of sheer fabric sky above us
we listen to what life after jail is like
what’s incarceration? asks fitz
whisper please
what’s incarceration? whispers fitz
jail
he was in jail?
yes
what did he do?
I don’t know
I know - fitz says - maybe he parked in the wrong spot and he had to go to jail because maybe he couldn’t pay for it - the ticket do you go to jail for that, mama?

jason shares his story and the room nods
thank you for your non judgement he says
thank you we say
thank you for your ears
thank you for your story
there is grace
ginger has us pass around a round of thank yous

I watch them as they float and dance up through the sheer cloth and the twinkling bulbs and fly their way up into the samosas and the rice and the curried chicken and kenyan indian spicy mixtures we ate upstairs in the international palace restaurant where we drew our hand prints and were blessed by the lady chef who said welcome home and our bellies are full of global goodness and jason is free we are free too what does that word mean to me I wonder and do I let myself and others roam

free?
 
III. hallelujah 
prayer is the key and faith unlocks the door
let us go to God in prayer, says the woman at the pulpit 
amen
amen
popcorn of amens
bursting open all over Union Baptist Church
welcome they sing
welcome they say
welcome they shake our hands
trombone saxophone trumpets blaring out praises to a mighty God
keyboardist shaking
vibrating
nodding with spirit
about to lift off, soaring in his sound
organ
drums
cymbals
Amen 
gospel choir dressed to the 9s
we are on our feet
we are clapping
we are swaying
fitz is writing little name notes to each of us gathered  
pete and I squeeze hands, catch eyes, smile big and wide
this church is quite a ride 
the woman behind us whispers
thank you lord thank you jesus thank you God
like the words are water in her desert dry mouth 
words she needs
words that soothe
words that rock her spirit in peace 
we have found ourselves at a holy pep rally and we hear of a man
mailed in a box
nailed in a box
upside down for 27 hours until he made it to PA
made it to freedom
made it
we are clay the reverend says
clay
there is a velocity a pace a power to
the speech the sermon the flood of faith
that pours from reverend prince rivers
stick to God’s plan he says 
don’t let what’s outside get in the way of what’s inside
God’s plan
believe in that plan and you will triumph
amen
hands raised 
again we are on our feet
swept up in the awe of 
union baptist church and the energy of the space 
I exhale and look for a hushed private spot inside myself 
my prayers are quieter then this but still valid I know
I know that for God they all are
even for my friend’s little girl who doesn’t pray
who said to me yesterday as we walked out of the hotel bathroom
we don’t believe in God
whose father hung himself several years ago and who likes science and books and finding sweets she can eat despite her new braces 
we don’t believe in God she said her blue eyes unblinking and determined
but 
God is in all of that I think and almost say but don’t why don’t I?
God is in all of that, honey
your braces and your books and your sky blue eyes
your science and your not-too-chewy so perfect-for-you hershey’s bar
the loud gorgeous praises of union baptists and the quiet tremors of a kid who just shakes her head no 
we all believe in something don’t we?
I believe in a new day
in trying to be better
in getting over my own selfish self and helping someone out seeing someone else breaking from my own obsessions and hearing someone else’s story carrying someone else’s bags for a block or two - why not, right?
I believe that’s healing that’s faith that’s God
 
IV. woolworth's
keep out
not here
this coca-cola is not for you
this water fountain is not for you
this section of the bus is not for you
this stool at the woolworths is not- 
may I please be served I have the receipt says the smartly dressed man in greensboro nc 1960
no you can take-away
take-away
take yourself and your food away
over there
take-away is over there
no more take-away his body says
instead
it sits
he sits
down
he sits down
she sits down
many sit down
blessedly they sit and sit and sit until
finally
finally
finally
it is a given
that they all
that we all
sit and sip and stay in
no more take away
no more take away
 
what were they afraid of asks the docent
what was their real fear she whisper/asks/tests us
silence
they were afraid of intermarriage
they were afraid of love she says

love

now I ask you she whisper/asks/tests us again
how can love
sow so much hate?
how can love
sow so much hate? 
 
I lower my head whisper/pray may we all sit down with

love



shin guards

by julie fitzpatrick

Shin Guards.JPG

samara sent out a note to mommys about gathering some

mommy pieces

mommy stories

mommy memories

we all have so many no doubt

so many that they start to blur and mix and we suddenly feel as though we have nothing to say

what could we say

we are tired

we are teary

we are touched

we are teaching someone to tie their shoes

but on my mommy brain is my child

my cuddly, feisty, messy, warm, cold, hungry, not-hungry, particular, challenging, easy-as-pie, serious, smart, vacant, deep, giddy-when-saying-the-word “tushy” child who is many thousands of miles below me

hopefully sleeping

while I fly back to him on this late delta flight with white noise around me and a fan that won’t quit above me

in my blown and chilly state I think about fitz

how his voice just now on the phone sounded clearer than it did on wednesday when I left

did he learn something new in 1st grade about articulation so that now he can speak with more clarity?

what about his limbs - are they longer?

his teeth – are they more pronounced?

what else has changed?

what have I missed?

what will tomorrow bring?

I think about his determination

his default setting of needing to win

he can be as sweet as hot chocolate

but fiercely loves a triumph and strategizes the heck out of even a game of uno

I’d just as soon be beat and watch his face open up, his fists pump the air woo hoo woo hoo he sings to the universe

I assume good sportsmanship will come in time but I’m not sure it did with me honestly – I played tug of war in 5th grade with so much fire that when my team lost I booed the winners at full blast and was disqualified by mrs. p as an example of ruthless inappropriate participation booooooo.

ah well. I think I’ve mellowed a bit – keep my boos mostly to myself mostly now

go with the flow, ride the ups and downs, I like to think I’m fairly flexible but maybe I’m fooling myself I’m not sure

my father is beside me, and I look at him as though to ask him and see his head is leaning into the tiny window beside him cushioned by a bunched up sweater pillow - he’s trying to soften the plane’s cold surface

I take in his kind face, his eyes are closed but his body is unable to deeply sleep I know because he is shifting

knees this way

knees that way

a little exhale here

a little exhale there

trying to find a middle quiet place between awake and dreaming

“you need to be able to dance in the gray”

he said earlier today during our layover with my godmother, jan, in detroit airport’s westin hotel restaurant appropriately named “reflections”

he was answering a question about one of his sons – rick - who’s far away in namibia with his family after having left abruptly from tanzania for another teaching job farther south

before that they were in mozambique before that they were in germany and

before that

before that

before that

“he has a certain rigidity,” dad says to jan’s open face that’s 75 years old now – how could that be? jan who never misses a birthday who takes her godmother duties so seriously - cards and gifts and michigan weather updates arrive with remarkable regularity

as a result, pops says, he gets “kicked in the shins a fair amount”

such a good way of putting it, I think listening – they’ve known one another for 20 30 40 maybe 50 years I watch them, absorb them

I flash on soccer practice tomorrow morning, 5 states away

my little guy’s second practice and scrimmage

I picture his fluorescent green shin guards which he is so proud to velcro

God, how I wish I could keep every kick at bay

slow time and fly in - perhaps with a flowing cape behind me and a shiny silver mask over my eyes rendering me invisible - nice soundtrack underscoring my flight – hip hop I think steady irresistible beat propelling me across the ball field

I’d deflect each cleat toe

swat back every vicious heel

roar at the approaching head-butted spheres

ensuring that Fitz remains unscathed

in the blink of an eye I’d be back at the sidelines “that’s it, bunny” “nicely done” all nonchalant as though I wasn’t saving him from every single offense

keeping him

upright

unharmed

unbruised

I think of my own shins

veiny and discolored in places the results of lupus long-dormant

strange patterns on my shinbones that have faded over time but in my incessant vanity I am sure everyone clocks them

what happened to her

ugly legs

ugly ways

ugly

we aren’t issued shin guards for life are we

we don’t get the protection that I so want to give to Fitz

shield him from

the onslaughts

the insults

the taunts

we all get kicked

in the shins, the belly, the face, the heart

in my mind’s eye I see him reading, doing math, studying maps, devouring waffles, oozing candor and curiosity behind his red glasses when he looks up at the clouds “they aren’t sun glasses,” he says to a compliment giver “they just turn into them when the sun shines on them,” his voice sings up and down as he launches into the benefits of living in an imaginary house in the sky with a slide that could you bring you down and a lift to lift you up up up

on my mommy brain now with ears popping and plane descending is how little power I actually have

over this now shaking plane, over this remarkable man beside me who bore with mom 4 sons and 2 daughters and so many kicks they could write a guidebook on how to get up again - somehow they managed and manage to keep playing, to keep flying

how little power I have over how Fitz does tomorrow in soccer, next year at a new school, or in the next ten with the myriad of shinkicks which he

we

will all receive

what is the trick then to momming knowing what I know

what we know

what were we thinking?

how do I let him endure the tears the marks the aches

how

why

how

why

meet him on the field I guess

let him know I’m there

no cape no mask or hip hop

just cheering and windblown and veiny

tomorrow is sure to be a better game, sweetpea

let’s go give some high fives to that winning team

and plop down on the grass and look for our house in the sky

the one in the clouds

first one to spot it

wins.