Cassandra Calls

© My Vows To Me

This is my commitment to the fullness of my life and loyalty to myself under the divine guidance of God. Great is the one who created me and great are the plans made for me. Now is my time to realize this truth.

These are my vows:
In the presence of God and these my friends, I take thee Cassandra to be my life partner, promising with thy divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful companion so long as I shall live.

Each day that I am alive Lord you reveal to me new reasons to want to be. Today, this day, new life was breathed into my value of love. This day I felt compassion for myself and love radiated from me and wrapped around me.

To Myself:
I am with you
when the crust of ground
beneath you crumbles
I will be the tuft of cool green moss
you come to rest on
When words come at you backwards
I will be the wordless silence
that holds your mind in tact
You may cling to me
and I will not tire of you
You may cry in my hands
and I will wipe your eyes
I will not judge you
I forgive you for
yesterday, today, and tomorrow
I live you, I love you

Cassandra M. Dougherty

© Street Cred

Back then I thought that I was smart… thought that I had the right to reference Franz Kafka in my “works”. You see, I was qualified. Professor Jack De Bellis told me that I was a poet. I mean, a professor of English at a university told me. So he should know if I was worthy of that title… “Poet”!

With that title I had the right to peer into the souls of all of the great poets and immediately understand them, understand their life experiences, and yes, understand their poetry. Of course this also gave me editorial license.

Many years have passed and I have come to view my place among poets differently. While not at the base of the bottom tier, it is clear to me that I have much to learn and I approach the works of other poets with reserve. As much as possible, my goal is to be a blank slate, a student. In my youth, I believed that I respected the great crafts people but, I did not realize how presumptuous, even arrogant my interpretations were.

At one point, clearly a turning point, I was asked to read the works of the poet Ai. I pictured myself in front of an audience of my “peers” and realized that my delivery of “The Killing Floor” would have to convey the authors intended message. After reading and rereading the poem many times, I finally surrendered to the author. I stopped rehearsing, shut my eyes and asked Ai to speak through me and to touch each listener as she intended. This reading proved to be my most successful reading of the works of another poet. Based upon responses, my assumption is that poet Ai was successful through me. Humbled by this experience, I did not read the work of another poet publicly for many years.

It is challenge enough to access my own inner life and translate experiences and perspective into words that are accurate and hopefully useful to my small circle of family and friends. For me, which is the only vantage that I can speak from with credibility, the process of writing requires a shameless, almost detached, unabridged chronicling of that internal voice. Then, if necessary, craft can take over, shaping a villanelle or whatever format fits the content. The essence, though, must come first and pure. Only then should attempts to give form be considered. Listen, write it, record it. Quicker than the hand the mind shuts again.

Cassandra M. Dougherty

© Every Blow

Every blow to my head and heart brings me closer. The pull cannot be resisted and the certainty of greater pain makes the alternative far more appealing. The promise of peace from the impact of irrevocable past actions (real and otherwise) hastens me toward it.

My retirement goals are fading into obscurity, knowing that at any moment I will be beaten down again and the feeling of validated worthlessness and failure will overtake me again. Drained of vision, fearful of the pain of recollection, I stare through everyone, knowing that they see only the worst part of me. I do not explain nor defend. I am tired and my “game face” is spent. Sure, I have done good and with great intention but, that is not the topic. The topic is my failures and they are as bountiful as my good deeds, or greater. At any rate they cancel the good and I am tired.

If I fade into irrelevance perhaps there will be a time of quiet, of peace before my departure. If I do nothing, I accomplish nothing, fail at nothing, have no opinions (pro or con), perhaps I can obtain invisibility, obscurity, irrelevance. Then I can think, ponder, divine privately and give no outward clue that I have ideas. If I call a friend or family member, they will say “Oh, how good to hear from you. Listen, I am right in the middle of blah-blah, can I call you later?”. I will reassure that I am fine and that there is no need to call back. This is what irrelevance will look like… To my relief, they are busy… No call back later but, all can say that they have heard from me. I am tired.

Cassandra M. Dougherty


It’s getting easier to let people down Easier to say no I’m comfortable Not rushing willy-nilly Pivoting on a pin head to meet everyone’s “If only you could just …” “Can you please …” “It won’t cost much …” “It won’t take much time …”

It’s getting easier to remember myself

Easier to see that without intention or even a moment’s thought of my well being I’m requested to meet the needs of others

Give money that could be applied to my future

Requested to give that precious unrecoverable commodity time

Give of myself in a multitude of ways to matters of the most fleeting importance Matters irrelevant to the big picture The picture of my life plan

Who asks what my life plan is as it slips away?

It’s getting easier to help others define what they are responsible for Easier to ask them to explain to me why? Why I should want to make their dreams come true instead of my own?

It’s getting easier to live and love myself again

Cassandra M. Dougherty

© Listening To Billy Collins

(At NJPAC Dodge Poetry Festival – 10/24/2014)

Listening to Billy Collins poem recounting a drunken father’s rage and the brutality leveled against the boy himself, his sister, and mother, my head moves to the right, then to the left as I am punched in slow motion by images of my past, of my children’s painful past.  At the conclusion of the reading, I rush to buy Billy’s book to read this poem again.

Hastening through many tables laden with non-alphabetic row upon row of the works of writers, I see his name, I see the book. My heart rushes and I am stricken…cannot move as if I fainted without falling. As my lids fluttered, regaining consciousness, I understood that I need no reminder of my past, the sounds, the feelings, the pain, the guilt, the shame. I need no reminder of the irrevocable damage that I caused to my children. A visit with my son at Nisky Hill cemetery or a conversation with my daughter positively crushes my soul with remorse beyond words.

Respectfully, gently I closed Billy’s book, placed it on the stack of fine works and walked away with my burden intact.

Cassandra M. Dougherty

© Back When I Wanted To Die…

A reflection on the early loss years referred to in my mind as ‘the years after Paul’.

When I heard thunder, saw lightening, I ran under trees and waited to be stricken.

I hydroplaned on the turnpike doing 80 with sheets of water on my windshield. When my car did a 360 on ice I shrieked “Is that all you got?”.

I stared down thugs and they seemed to know I would take them with me when I go, just to quench my rage.

Not wanting it to be said that I intentionally leaped to my death, my objective was to be in the right place at the right time and my obit would read of my ‘accidental’ death resulting from being in the wrong place at the wrong time: Tree Struck By Lightening; Lost Control On Wet Road; Slid Out Of Control On Ice; Courageous Effort To Fight Off Thugs

This deception would shield loved ones while freeing me from all consuming rage, grief, regret, and sadness.

Cassandra M. Dougherty


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