Bath of a Dirty Old Woman: Ingrid M. Calderón-Collins Comes Clean…


This will be my last Sunday column.
Mostly because I want to prioritize my time and how I plan on approaching my writing this coming year.
I am so lucky to have two books coming out, hopefully four, but that’s to be determined, and that’s exactly my point.
I want to prioritize.
I don’t want to feel an obligation to completing projects if they’re not done with my own nurturing in mind.

That being said, I admire anyone who can take on multiple things without falling apart, but that is simply not me. I need my down time, my time to recharge and sink deep into myself.
I play around with the idea of leaving social media only to return with more mundanity to fill an endless poet void.

I haven’t gone exploring.
I haven’t grown a garden to feed off of, and the more time I spend giving a fuck about what might or might not be being said about me, the more time I’m wasting being malnourished.

I haven’t felt the heavy pelts of gold and silver rain on my tongue.
I have allowed the powerless to infiltrate the most vigorous parts of me.
I have ran a fever of 104 degrees, the marrow of my bones shivering.
I have coughed up the last parts of me that gave a fuck about giving a fuck.

I have bathed in scalding salt baths trying to calm the purring in my chest and the ache of my enemies words.

I have enjoyed the tranquility of happy tears and the stress of trying to convince people I have integrity.
I don’t want this kind of life.

My memoir comes out late December with ‘Another New Calligraphy’, the truest writing I’ve ever written.
A small contribution to the human condition, and by no means any more important than you or you or you.

I am also getting interviewed by two awesome human beings, firstly by M. Scott Neuffer from trampset: a literary journal for tramps & by Sarah Crowder from ‘Gut Feelings Zine.’

I have decided that for now, if you have any desire to read me or see the kind of photography I enjoy snapping, you can do so by following my blog at or sneak a peek at my instagram accounts @brujapoetry & @bruja_photography.

Loving yourself and those you choose to, is a revolution.

rev·​o·​lu·​tion | \ ˌre-və-ˈlü-shən\

Definition of revolution
: completion of a course (as of years)
also : the period made by the regular succession of a measure of time or by a succession of similar events

Thank you Kristin for giving me this temporary space.
Forever grateful.

a poem.

expensive funerals

Now I know why I’m a poet,
sickness always leaves the mouth
sickness as in—a condition to expel
nausea that doesn’t want a home in me
it wants the world to see it
for what it has hidden/
hidden as in-kept secret
a sickness of secrets
a coughing
a sloughing
a trophy
for courage to spill it
regardless who tastes it/
courage as in a backbone
as in valor
a valuable
as in worthy,
an heirloom//
pain leaves the body
fizzes out
drinks of itself
delivers itself
to another host
who might possess
the strength to
drink of this sickness
as in,
a condition to expel/

love love love


This coming month will be two years that I’ve been running a monthly poetry show at Book Show in Highland Park, CA.

When I first started this, I had just met my now husband, was ending my then relationship, was still living with this said person and moving through nights of fights and the understanding that I had just broken someone’s heart much like my heart had been broken many times before. 

But this was new for me, this feeling. 

I had never ended a relationship let alone done it with such class and knowing. 

I needed to do it this way so that karma wouldn’t come get me.

That was my whole approach.

I wanted for once in my life to be honest about my actions and to go about them thoroughly and without indecision.

I was looking for someone who matched me. 

Someone who understood the language of the universe.

Someone who loved my wildness and did not tame it.

Someone who indulged in my childlike behaviors.

Someone who would make me look at my own sexuality and remind me that it was not my only asset, just one of them.

Someone who enjoyed me.

Someone who had boundaries.

Who understood mine.

Someone who taught me to be silent in the midst of chaos. 

Someone who didn’t want pets.

So he moves in, we understand that we don’t understand each other completely and really—never will, but we go through with this anyway and by May 9th of 2018 we decide to get married.

We don’t dabble.

We were ready.

We approached this in a very Capricornian way.

No bullshit.

All in.

Love was part of it, but not all of it.

All the while, I am hosting this monthly poetry show and hardly anyone is ever there, sometimes no one, just the three of us, Jen, John and myself—drinking wine, me featuring myself over and over, making me have to write new material each month, and the months went on until slowly, people started showing up. 

Strangers started snaking in. 

I began to make flyers and got better at announcing it on social media.

I was still learning.

Pretty soon, regulars began to come each month, and got brave enough to share their words with us. 





Personal journal entries.



Relationships gone bad.

Relationships gone good.


Odes to violence and sexual abuse.





Lack of.


Lack of.

Everything has been said in these four walls.

Friday nights became therapy.

They’re Just Words’ became a monthly ritual.

Friends told friends told friends told lovers told family.

The place filled up and during summer it was excruciating, because Los Angeles knows how to kill you with her heat, but during winter the warmth was welcomed. 

Incense cleared the space and the wine cleared the doubts.

We’d go home each night full of excitement and inspiration.

Still newlyweds, still strangers with each other, hard times fell—divorce was spoken about only a month into marriage—

I wrote poems about it.

Read them the following month.

He wrote poems about it.

Read them the following month.

Other people did the same.

They came in with their pasts and their hurts and their tears, and we all wept and laughed together.

We celebrated birthdays and some of us got sober during these times. 

These nights became essential to the healing that being sober brings. 

We encouraged each other in our writings but never in a way that prohibited the way we grew. 

So we heal, the marriage heals, and we love each other, only this time with a wider understanding, and all the writing that those doubtful months brought becomes two books. 

One that he wrote.

One that I wrote.

So we have a book launch, and we read love poems to each other in this beautiful bookstore with these beautiful people in front of us.





Nervous hands and mouths fumbling over love words. 

So many memories live in these 707 days.

So many people are carved into my heart and only a few discarded.

I didn’t think I could do it.

I didn’t know what I was doing when I started this. 

I didn’t know how to be a wife or how to run a poetry night or how to love myself.

These days have been some of the most redefining moments of my life.

I have simultaneously healed wounds while opening up new ones. 

I have fallen in and out of love more times than I care to admit.

Mostly, I have started the long journey of stripping away the parts that live in me that aren’t mine, and slowly recognizing the parts that are. 

I will miss the ritual of these nights when Book Show closes down on December 31st.

Unfortunately, the growing problem of gentrification and the dramatic rent increases has forced Jen and Book Show to relocate. 

But only temporarily.

We have a few shows set up in 2020 to keep the vein pumping and as far as my marriage is concerned, you should come experience it and the poetry in the flesh when this sanctuary reopens. 


I sit here, in my kitchen, drunk and annoyed.

Mostly, at myself for breaking my own rule. 

For preaching freedom and feeling constricted inside my own convictions.

I often wonder if our lack of empathy and our embedded identity crisis comes from the complete annihilation of our rites of passage?

Meaning—we are thrown into our lives empty-handed from birth, and our comprehension of our humanness often resembles the school systems that fed us. 

It’s a vicious cycle.

We get zero weaponry and yet, we are expected to heal from ghastly wounds without the proper antiseptics. 

There are no transitions from one stage to another. 

We inhabit a country that imbibes heavily of vanity and self-care because who else is gonna love us better than us, right? 

Look—I know that pleasure is what we all seek, but that’s a poor substitute for calm. 

Our journeys from adolescence to adulthood are tragic. 

They are grim and usually involve the art of lying, the art of heavy drinking and drugs and the art of searching for love through sex with people who don’t love us and whom we don’t love in return. 

We never get the opportunity to spend quality time with ourselves, so when we reach adulthood, when our insides crave another, we hibernate and call it self-care. 

When really, it’s selfishness and apathy, and not the good kind.

We are licking our own wounds created by a system that doesn’t understand itself or the people inside it. 

We are lost. 

We have forgotten who we are and why we are. 

This is the disconnect. 

This is why we live in such perpetual loneliness. 

Because we’ve never come back to ourselves. 

All this being said, it is important to remember to ask ourselves, what rules need breaking?

What can we let go of that we have identified with because of these thwarted rituals we bestowed on ourselves?

After all the muck is gone, you are left pining for answers, for touch and mostly for a change of mind. 

Practice that art of self-love and apathy and allow yourself to be, allow yourself to fail, to love, to conquer and to fail again, until failing and conquering and loving are just one of the many things you’ve gathered weaponry for. 

For me personally, it’s hard to nourish the parts of myself that are gasping.

It’s hard to enjoy the aftermath of my hard work when the homelessness problem of Los Angeles has finally, literally reached my front door.

It’s hard to digest.

My existence and my life are hard to fucking digest when I feel so blessed. 

Waking up and watching them outside my window as I smell coffee brewing each morning makes guilt vibrate. 

I cannot enjoy the coffee or the day when I know so many are not enjoying it too.

Then, maybe—perhaps, and hear me out here–maybe they have the greater understanding of what it means to cover distance, to follow roads, to be guided. 

Perhaps the rites of passage we seek with our vices and our gluttony are theirs inherently, like any other thing, and all they want is a cup of coffee. 


My brother died at 30 years, 23 years ago today.
I am 39.
My sister is 57.
My father is 83.
My mother, 78.

The Earth is 4.5 billion years old.
The average time it takes to smoke a cigarette is 7 minutes.
It took me 4 minutes to fall in love with my husband, and approximately 158 days to marry him from the day I fell in love with him.

78 years is the average life span here in the United States.
I will be 40 in 37 days.
That leaves me with an average of 38 years left to enjoy this husband, and this life.


But mostly, I don’t want to live a life where I am my own poison.

I have lived in the shadow of my own lies since I first caught glimpse of how easy it was to convince others of them.

How betrayed I feel writing that.

When you survive trauma, you become an expert at pretending.
At lying.
When you survive trauma, you have trouble differentiating your own behaviors.
Admitting them.

I remember during my visit to my third therapist, a woman who was determined to hospitalize me and make me a vegetarian, I was asked if I had molested anyone?

I was shocked.

How DARE she ask me such a thing, I thought.

But the more I sat with that question, the more it made sense to me.

We mimic.

We are born mimickers.

I often catch myself being exactly like my mother.
I catch her face in mine.
Her hands.
Her angry voice.
Her coldness.

So why wouldn’t I mimic my abuser?
How did I manage to not engage in the sick shit he did to me?

I did, but it was different.

I became a liar.
I became a manipulator.
I became a victim for the sake of easier manipulation.
I told everyone my story.
I was the embodiment of my trauma.
I became the bratty, angry little girl who was not allowed to be angry for what had happened to her.

So I took it out on everyone.

My friends.
My lovers.
My thighs.
My wrists.
My body.
But mostly my lovers.

They got to see the horror left over from my abuser.

The years went on, and I was still that angry little girl at 18, 27, 35—

Then finally, by 36, I had had enough.

Meaning, I knew I was in a toxic relationship where I was stuck in that same pattern.

Expecting this man to fix me, and to endure all of my shit.
To listen and not be heard.
To be my crutch.

Look, I understand that trauma is different with everyone.

I am not gonna label myself here today.
I am not here to disregard or claim.

I am here to say that, I am a grown-ass adult woman trying to take responsibility for her actions.
I am a grown-ass adult woman trying to discard, in the healthiest way possible, the shit that was handed to her.


Please know this.
Please understand this.
Please swallow this.
Please digest this.


I am just showing you my process.
The way my responsibility looks and feels.

I just want to spend the next 13,870 days that I may have left, in the comfort and knowing that I did not let my trauma win.

Now, usually around 1:11 a.m., while my husband an I are listless from love-making, our mouths parched and laughing, we joke that he’s my reward for my hard work, for my constant healing.

“The universe is always watching and listening,” he says.

“It told me to treat you right.”





Summer has arrived in Los Angeles. 

We had a cold & semi-rainy June-August, and now, we are paying for it. 

On October 25th, the highest temperature inside my car was 99 degrees.

It fits my usual 99.9 body temperature. 

My air-conditioning is broken, so I sit inside a sauna and meditate as I drive to VONS while listening to my ratchet music on blast.

The week before last, I came back from the desert, my husband and I went on a mini vacation since he’s been working two jobs while I’ve been unemployed. 

But I rise—I am once again part of the system. 

This time, as a freelance contractor with a bookstore. 

I am blessed.

I didn’t even know I was qualified for this type of work.

As an uneducated poet, with only “some college” under her belt, I tend to feel this way more often than not. 

I’ve been on the verge of tears and on the verge of a breakthrough all week.

Something is dilating.

I have stopped that constant chatter of self-doubt and embraced the faulty insides that I can usually taste in my mouth. 

“Rubber dipped in ammonia.”

Self-doubt is pungent, don’t you ever forget it. 

There are wildfires in the desert, by the 14 freeway, where the Joshua Trees are scattered like small trinkets from some long ago pilgrimage. 

I am wheezing.

I am coughing.

I am fragile.

Always reminded of my precious life.

When we live alongside nature, we must endure whatever truths it throws at us.

It feels impossible lately, to not feel guilt about the food I eat and the privilege of having the time and space to question and treat my mental health while the streets of Los Angeles are infested with homelessness. 

The forgotten flowers.

On a walk by my work, I watched a homeless man eat from a trash can while only feet away, a family enjoyed a three course meal.

My husband works at a food catering company, and he comes home with atrocious stories about the wastefulness of each and every job. He also sometimes brings home the flower arrangements that were on the tables. Everything has its place, even the wilted flowers at expensive catered events for Reagan supporters. 

The rent needs to be paid and food needs to be bought.

We must survive in this, yes, I’m privileged but I am also burdened. 

I come from a third world country but live inside a beautiful mansion of 400 square feet where the hallway smells heavy of urine in this heat.

I am blessed.

I drink water without giving it much thought.

I eat and pay for it with a plastic card that has money in it because I work and my husband works.

I pray that one day I’ll be able to change shape, come back as the possibility of another chance for the masses. 

In the meantime, I have poetry.