Memoir, Musical Monologues

Restless Love

Poetry fragments
Flowing freely
Flickering flash flood

Fanciful Fae sent
Glimpsing the Unseely
Pages paid in blood

Word swords rent
Elven armored feelings
Missives mangling moods

Raging river torrents
Leave hearts reeling
Crying to the moon

For rose petaled scents
Wistful waxen sealing
Sacred scripted runes

Hinting love’s intent
Once and future revealing
Restless spirit swoons

Manderley Swain

Memoir, Musical Monologues


My skin remembers your touch

Tracing the path across my collar bone 

And down to my heart

My neck remembers your lips

And the whisper of your kiss

My lips remember playing tag with yours

Catching you with my teeth

My breath remembers catching

My heart in my throat

My eyes remember gazing out

At the gray green waves

Adrift in your own

January 27, 2020

Manderley Swain

“Blodeuwedd” watercolor by Manderley Swain
Memoir, Menagerie, Musical Monologues

Pale Flower

I once knew a pale flower
She flew away upon the wind
Spring storms her petals did rescind
Retreated she unto her bower

Another season lay she dormant
Hidden and warm beneath the grass
Unseen by all souls who pass’d
Counting days in reverent silence

I once knew a pale flower
She flew away upon the wind
On her return my heart doth mend
Our friendship lights my darkest hour

Manderley Swain
April 12, 2021

Memoir, Menagerie, Musical Monologues


Written February 16, 2018. This was the Valentine I wrote for my two partners and my meta that year. The originals feature paper cut designs of each person’s symbolic animals on black cardstock with color cardstock backings.

Zen and I had been dating only since October of 2017 and I wanted to express my love for partners and meta alike. I also wanted to express how I felt, and still feel, about this polyamory adventure we embarked on together. It took us all some time to find our way together, but here we are 4 years later, having added yet another partner to the polycule and still strong together, still finding our way. Still strong.

This year I would dedicate the poem to all of us, including Maurice. It still feels right and whole and beautiful.

Together we four
In love’s constellation dance
The stars rewritten
By courage and chance

Sharing dreams
The world cannot comprehend
Through our hearts’ prisms
Perception and starlight bend

The wave of a wand
Forms a magical polycule
An intrinsic bond
Elements in a molecule

Our love is no mystery
Only a glorious testament
to the curious alchemy
Of friendship’s sweet sacrament

Memoir, Musical Monologues, Uncategorized

The Author’s Kiss

Stories born
Upon his lips
Revealed and written
In his kiss
Sensations spiraling
From his fingertips
Dreams come true
In unbridled bliss
Paragraphs and pages
Distilled to this
She spent forever after
In his kiss

A poem for our anniversary. Every anniversary. In his arms. With our favorite stories. All told in his kiss.
April 29, 2020

Memoir, Miracle Max, Muse, Musical Monologues

Prom Season Alterations

In April of 2019, our sewing shop had a particularly stressful prom season. My two coworkers and I started this poem as a way to let off steam between dresses. I think we altered about 60 or more prom and wedding dresses in less than a month, and we created the custom gown (pictured above) AND my younger son’s prom suit and accessories! Added to that were all of our non-formal alterations!

The poem was fun and a great stress reliever for all of us to write. I didn’t include some of the more colorful language verses we scribbled down. As it is, it’s a little bittersweet now. Little did we realize that 2019 would be our final prom season together. 2020’s prom season brought us about 10 dresses, little income and all the proms and spring weddings were canceled.

None of us have any regrets–that part is absolutely true. We know that we made a difference in teen lives and in their self images, if only for one night of their high school year. We comped more than one gown to help students in need and donated occasional used gowns to the prom closets at local high schools, along with any needed alterations to make them fit.

I’m thankful for that part of my life. I lived out a dream of fashion on a small scale and we became the best in the area at what we did. We didn’t get rich financially, only in experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’m sad for the ending, but satisfied that I did my best and helped a few people along the way. It was truly worth every late night, weird sewing dream and heartache we incurred on the journey.

Prom Season

On caffeine and chocoate drips
Customer service quips
Thanks and compliments
Curling our lips

Around the mannequins
Pinning laps
Atmosphere intense
Missing naps

Visions of sequined seams
Hemming horsehair nightmares
Beads fall and fill my dreams
Yards and yards of mermaid flares

Glamorous dresses
One more Sherri Hill*
Filled with stresses
Our guts will spill

Glamour blurs to silhouette
Colors reduce to numbers
Annual erosion of debts
Until another year pulls us under

Loving our work
How long since we’ve slept
Dancing flowing skirts
Insecurities they forget
We’ve no regrets

(written by Manderley Swain, Zen Lane, Dawn Elwartowski –April 2019 and November 2021)

My younger son in his junior year prom suit. We created his vest, Jacket, tie and boutonniere. His senior prom was canceled so we never got to create that one.

*Sherri Hill is a designer prom dress brand–extremely popular, gorgeous gowns. Well made to a fault and often incredibly challenging to alter.

Madness, Memoir, Menagerie

What Polyamory Means to Me

(Originally started November 2020, completed November 8, 2021)

Why polyamory?

I can only answer for myself. There are as many ways to be polyamorous as there are people who are polyamorous. The following is a snapshot of my personal journey.

Polyamory reminds me every day that I am not alone. That no one is an island. We each bring different things to the poly family (polycule).

It’s been more than two years since I dropped a blog post in which I came out as Polyamorous and pansexual. For me, that was a big moment of liberation, in that I let go of any pretense at all of hiding who I am from those around me. Ironically, almost no one really read it. That’s ok. I’ve been coming out again and again ever since that moment. Each time I do, it’s affirming all over again.

As I share who I am, who I’ve always been, with each new or old friend or relative I am granted yet another opportunity to feel and express my joy and gratitude for all the gifts an authentic life can bring. And I get to take a moment to live into the love I feel for my partners as well as for my community in a deeper way than I would be keeping it all to myself.

As for most people, 2020 brought with it many tests, trials, changes, losses and gains, both to myself and to my polycule (polycule is a common term that polyamorous people often use to refer to our partners and their partners as a group). At the beginning of 2020, I dated someone new. It was beautiful, but it turned out I wasn’t ready to add anyone to our little cluster just yet. As the pandemic swept in and re-ignited old anxieties and triggers, I found I was ill equipped to handle my own emotions let alone the extra give and take that new relationship brings. So I ended it–and chose the long standing friendship we’d already built. I dug into self care, therapy, inner work. My polycule supported me as I fell into guilt and depression about it.

Then came one of the biggest, hardest rollercoasters I faced in that fateful year. I closed my 10 year old sewing business. I’d poured so much of myself into my work that I barely, rarely knew where I ended and it began. Closing it was like watching a beloved friend leave me forever. Again, our polycule carried me. Supported me. Loved me. Encouraged me, us, as Zen and I embarked on new paths to fulfill the call of creative work that we both love.

I grieved all summer, kept digging with therapy and more self care. Art. Zen. Polycule love and support.

Then, in November, Zen’s husband broke his wrist. Our polycule supported them. We fed them. We shared in driving and some help with expenses. We’re always catching each other–so no one falls completely now. We’re a family. We share pains as well as joys in each other.

I cooked all of Thanksgiving dinner for the polycule and for another friend we invited into our lives at that moment in time. Cooking for everyone was a gift to me in and of itself. It helped heal the longing I’d still been feeling from losing my Grandparents a few years ago.

Fall passed into winter as we continued to all care for one another, celebrating birthdays, joys and sorrows and the holidays. As the seasons turned, I fell in love again, with Maurice. He brought to life other facets of me that were in the background with other partners. Another benefit and joy of being poly. I bring different parts of myself to the forefront with each partner and together they love and bring out the whole me, in ways that enrich all of our lives.

Navigating the ups and downs of new relationship energy and reconciling new love with ongoing loves had and still has its challenges but again, the polycule carries me. We carry each other.

My husband was out of work from April 2021 until recently and we’ve all had challenges making ends meet, but we’ve continued to be here for each other and for friends along the way. I won’t recount all of them, but every week brings new questions, new difficulties and new opportunities to rediscover who we all are, individually and collectively in our polycule. At the end of the day, we all love each other. We share our troubles and our celebrations with each other. We are made stronger by that foundation of trust and communication and shared experience. It is, perhaps, Ohana in that truly no one is left behind or forgotten.

I know that polyamory isn’t for everyone. It requires hard work, communication, trust, honesty and perseverance–just like monogamy. We make mistakes, we work through them together and we forgive and move forward–just like monogamy.

I don’t know what the future holds. I only know that I am grateful for the love and support of my polycule and of my community of friends and family who have taken the time and done the work to learn about our family and have accepted us. It is good to feel seen. Going back in the closet is not an option. So we live our lives out loud now, advocating and educating whenever and however we can.

Invite me for a cup of tea, as I said in my earlier post. I’ll answer most any question and maybe we’ll know each other better after. Be well and be safe my loves.

Madness, Memoir

Mask Drop

(originally written April 23, 2019) **note the pre-covid date** I am an avid mask wearer in terms of covid. Please read the post to get the title’s context. Be safe, get vaccinated and wash your hands my loves!

Doing some thinking lately about who I am. Where I stand. What matters most to me. I’m turning 49 this week. The ‘9’s have always been my years for growing pains and self reflection. This one, the midpoint ‘9’ is even more so.

I’ve always been clear, internally, about exactly who I am and what matters. Being an introvert and a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault, I tend to keep much of myself to myself. I tend to avoid conflict as much as possible–it’s too stressful and exhausting. Since I’m using so much of my energy just trying to get through the day, I don’t have energy left over to fight big fights. I don’t have energy left over to hear why someone hates what I’m feeling, thinking, or not saying.

As it turns out, I’m hearing and fighting those battles anyway, internally. And that takes just as much energy as hearing and fighting out loud. I’m exhausted AND I’m not standing up and saying who I am or how I feel. That’s much worse. I’m also not leading by example, which is important to me. How will those who need my support and my compassion even know I’m here if I don’t tell them, if I don’t keep light on for them and for myself, too?

I’ve spent too many years trying to be the girl everyone else wanted me to be. I didn’t start out this way. In high school I was known for being fully true to myself. I loved myself unconditionally. I refused to compromise my personal vision or conform to the herd mentality. But before I could begin to truly explore the adult I was becoming, a boy swooped in. He started tearing me down by degrees in incremental bits. By the time I realized the destruction , I was so broken and pliable that anyone could waltz in and begin sculpting me into yet another form, another vision.

It has taken 30 years or more for me to fully realize how pliable I’ve been, how many masks I’ve worn to suit the people around me. I’ve been a chameleon, changing to match whatever or whomever happened to be surrounding me in the moment. All because I somehow believed it was necessary for simple survival. I’ve fought too hard to reclaim my life, repair my broken parts to allow that to continue.

My dreams and my capacity to love have always been much bigger than simple survival. Even recently I’ve caught myself hiding who I am in order to protect things that no longer need protecting. Friendships, other people’s feelings about me, my sewing business. I’m a costumer with mad skills and a pretty good following. I’m an artist. I am a magical being. An eclectic pagan girl following a multifaceted spiritual path. It really shouldn’t be a shocker for me to live as though there is no box whatsoever to try to cram myself into.

My husband has never asked me to hide anything about myself. He’s just there, loving me unconditionally. So, too, my lover, Zen–Yes, I am polyamorous. I am pansexual–no big surprise there either. Most people knew that one before I did. My kids love and support me as I love and support them. I breastfed them and practiced attachment parenting. I don’t bully them into being good people–they simply are. They are probably my biggest fans as well as my loudest cheerleaders. My friends? No one who is really my friend would ask me to be less than I am either. Why is it that I am the last person to become aware of these facts on a deeper level?

This is and is not a coming out thing. Those closest to me already know everything about me. Those who would judge me will fall away, if they haven’t already. Those who need the light of my glowing, glittery, firework self will see it whether I speak out or not, I imagine. They always have. It was only myself who existed in darkness and denial.

So here I am –loving, sharing, shining. If you want to judge or criticize who I am, please do so privately. If you want to ask real questions and have thoughtful conversation around the answers, I’m an open book. Let’s have tea together. I prefer unsweet iced tea and dark, bittersweet chocolate. Blessed be.

Madness, Memoir, Menagerie, Uncategorized

RPGs and PTSD or How Gaming Turned into Therapy

(originally written April, 2020)

I have a long and complex personal history with RPG’s (role playing games). I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in high school with a boyfriend. During the time I was dating him, he used elements of gaming as one of several methods of manipulation and psychological abuse. Further in, the abuse turned physical. I came out of that time with very few memories of actual game play. I remembered the characters I created and minimal mechanics of how to play. I also came out of the experience with understandably mixed feelings about gaming, role playing of any kind along with so much other baggage that mixed together in a crazy anxiety stew.

I’ve always loved all of the elements that led to the creation of Dungeons & Dragons and other RPG’s. I’ve been a Tolkien fan practically since birth. Fairy tales, Fantasy and Science Fiction have been my go to reading since before I could read at all. I was ever the child who believed in fairies. As an adult I still do. My childhood was filled with all of the games of pretend and imagination. Role play was already second nature long before I knew D&D existed in its own right. I love character creation, storybuilding, fantasy art–I was built hard-wired for RPG’s. But that was corrupted in the blink of an eye for me.
Many of my friends have always been gamers. They’re my tribe. So in my 20’s, when I still could not feel safe participating in game play, I sat in on sessions with my friends–watching, listening to the stories grow through the games they played, and sketching. I enjoyed the atmosphere even though it felt too scary to join in. The visions they conjured as they played fed my imagination and my art. I felt certain I would never play again, though I’ve held onto my original set of dice to this day. They’re colorful, sparkly and they still felt good to hold and to look at the light shining through them. And I guess some part of me refused to fully admit defeat. I had a tiny spark of hope that I might someday use them again.

A few years ago, I saw light shining into my self inflicted darkness. ( here I should point out that I am fully aware that the trauma was never my fault, but continuing to hide from something I knew I’d probably enjoy was entirely a self made prison.) The timing might finally be right, after more than 25 years since I left the boyfriend and his abuse behind.

I’d known from before we started dating that Zen and his husband were gamers. I tuned out his stories of gaming because I couldn’t face this thing I wanted to do but felt I couldn’t do. My husband also enjoyed gaming when we first married. I sat in on their games too, but life had taken us away from that experience so he had not done any gaming himself for maybe 10 years or more.

I felt scared and intimidated by trying to learn a new thing while fighting off panic and anxiety that I had always felt around gaming and adding up the numbers quickly and under perceived pressure. When I feel anxious or triggered my brain can’t do any of the things that should come easily. That kind of compounds any other fears or anxieties already present.

One day Zen told me how much his husband, Paul, loved sharing his love of gaming with newbie. He loves teaching new people how to play. He has infinite patience with the often clumsy newbie. I tentatively reached out and asked if we could try it to see if I could do this.

Paul chose a game system that only uses d10’s (10 sided dice). That simplified everything. That reduced the pressure and anxiety by half at least for me. The game was Vampire: the Masquerade.

At first, it was just the four of us with Paul as the storyteller, or game master. (GM). Keeping the group very small gave me a sense of safety as I learned. Once I began to feel more secure in my role and in my skills, we added a few more friends to our group. Then we started exploring other systems using d20’s and all the other dice too. I still get anxious and stressed at the beginning of a gaming session, but I can feel even that easing up little by little with every new session.

We’ve been playing for about three years together now, and I look forward to gaming no matter what system we’re playing. I know that if I begin to fall, my group will catch me and show me the way back to where I need to be, with patience and love and lots of fun. Gaming has provided a creative outlet, therapeutic benefits, new ways to apply my own creativity, new friends, new ways to interact with friends and strangers alike and more opportunities for growth with every session.

And an ongoing obsession with shiny, sparkly, colorful dice! I still use my original dice too. Only now I have several other sets, despite some guy at a local gaming store questioning my choices in dice purchasing. Sad customer service aside, I’m certain one can never have too many dice sets…

And now, with social distancing in place, I’ve been battling my difficulties with technology. We’re using Discord for gaming. I find technology challenging, daunting and stressful. But I’m not letting that stop me. Tomorrow, I’ll participate in a third gaming session using Discord chat and digital dice apps. Soon, even that won’t phase me much.

It may not seem like such a big thing to most people. Gaming is even regarded as ridiculous and frivolous to some. But to have reclaimed that piece of myself in this way has been profoundly empowering. To have friends and lovers who cared enough to help me reach this point makes me feel wealthy beyond measure. My gratitude for this gift is limitless.