what it takes to look

this grief is profound.

the pace is so fast now – today i haven’t been able to catch up with either my life or the names and stories of black death.

no, it’s not that i couldn’t catch up, it’s that i am trying to avoid the news.

but i can feel the weight piling up against the door and i know i will open it soon with my always-soft bruised gut and let the new names pummel me.

(when should i do this?)

i stay off social media (because i believe in what i am doing and) if i open those blue apps i just see what those in blue have done and i never want to believe it, and i know that if i look towards them or i look away they will keep shooting.

but i can’t look away, but i can’t look yet.
(i’m having a good day. is that shameful? is that radical?)

but then i need to know and i want to hear it from people i trust and the door is curving towards me under the weight of black stories or just curving away from the weight of black bodies and any minute now i will know and anyways no minute is safe and these precious black bodies didn’t choose this minute ever.

on each phone call and in every space i enter i wear my #blackband but i have not whispered the newest names into its folds and i swear this wisp of cloth the color of the known universe still gets heavier on my skin.

i can hear it in black voices and see it on our faces – what if (what happens when) we can’t take anymore? what if (what happens when) i can’t take anymore? do we (can we) stagger this trauma and grief?

no.

we hold it, hold it off or hold it close or hold it in shaking hands like a defensive weapon or just hold it up saying why and what the fuck and where can we be and how do we sing our babies to sleep with this weight in our throats?

the door creaks and shudders as the full black lives bang bang bang against it and i sit here doing the shit out of my to-do list with my heart fluttering around trying to get my house in order for newborn ghosts who didn’t want to come, who only want to be home again.

i feel black grief permeate my dreams and thicken in my mouth before i even hear the news. some days even the sun is heavy, even the pale blue sky looks guilty.

when i open the door and look, it is not because i am brave. no one chooses this, no one is brave in this way. some days i run towards the sound at the door, some days i run away (away is a myth, away never lets me stay gone).

we are black bodies and the connection forged amongst us is profound – feeling each other as souls and stories, we are singular and collective grievers.

the way we survive is the only way i can open that door: unconditional love. immediately loving each new name beyond judgment, the way i know i will be loved when they swallow me up with bullets or sugar or grief or madness.

(your fucking anthems are not louder than this infinite grief, born of this infinite love.)

with a heart full of rage, i open the door. with a heart so full, i welcome terence crutcher, i welcome keith lamont scott. i welcome justin carr, killed while i was writing this. i welcome the masses, lost from us and found, become ancestors since last i looked.

i will carry the weight of you, and let it change me. we will carry the weight of all of you, and we will let it change us.

your life, your dearly beloved black life, is profound.

9:41am, 9/11

i was 6 days into being 23 when 4 planes crashed in 3 states and changed my world. it has been 15 years since that day, and the fact that it still feels recent and relevant, while also permanent and accepted, teaches me so much about the mystery of time.

i came up out of the subway and around the corner and the sky was full of smoke. no it wasn’t full, there was a line of smoke going up from the twin towers, straight down 6th avenue. a fire?

in my office there were no windows, someone had a small tv. i couldn’t grasp what was happening through the news words.

i called my father’s office thinking he would know something, he worked at the pentagon. someone picked up the phone, he said he didn’t know where my dad was, and then the phone disconnected. seconds, minutes later the news said the pentagon had been hit.

a friend called from out of country to ask if we were taking to the streets. i reached another who said this was not that shocking, this country created its own conditions.

i thought myself fairly radical, but in truth i was shocked. and where was my father? and would my crew still meet in the WTC for sushi next week in the restaurant where my friend hooked us up with sashimi for days while we made fun of the capitalists?

i lived up in washington heights, but i walked down the city, towards the smoke, into the dust. i walked to brooklyn, to my chosen family. we watched the news. people had jumped. another plane crashed in pennsylvania. no one’s phones worked.

i had been a vegetarian for years, but that night someone cooked kielbasa and i ate it. we sat eating in the dark at a picnic table and then a bright light came on and we realized the table was covered in a fine dust, and it had to be coming across the water, and we were horrified.

my father finally called, he was safe, and i cried like a child. a few months later we would have the most significant argument of our lives, the space between our perspectives of 9/11 yawning between us, full of triggers.

my country began an endless war against everyone then, and i thought: how could you live through the experience of 9/11 and want to create this sort of tragedy for any other humans? we were covered in each other, we were lost from each other. isn’t this enough?

for 5 years i was reluctant to take the subway, to be underground at all. i made an island life in brooklyn, walked and took the bus places, began to only feel safe amongst black and brown people moving at a slower pace. i wanted to see the sky all the time. i finally left nyc – i never really got used to the new skyline. still when i visit i feel nostalgic, somber.

whatever the world seemed like to me before that day, afterwards it has always been war.

i go through periods of obsession about the day, the people who lived and died that day, the images and sounds and smells of the day. the scale of the tragedy swallows the scale of the choices that were made – to go up, to go down, to go out, to wait, to intervene, to communicate, to run, to help. i have never wanted to look away, i have always wanted to hear every story.

my politics have been shaped by the question: what would make someone hijack a plane and fly it into a building? as someone committed to justice, aware of vast inequality and racism in the world, what are the conditions people are living in that i cannot see, cannot imagine?

trying to answer this question has made me more and more committed to revolution. i have to know, what is my responsibility in creating and maintaining those conditions? how do i learn more about the ways oppression works at home and abroad, make the connections across all this pain and resilience, build towards a future with no enemies?

i write this in the window of my memory, down to the minute. i have written poetry some years, and i slowly see that this is my ritual, how i honor the dead, the changes, the complexity of the american moment, the global moment of 9/11.

i tell the story. perhaps we will always be telling this story.

that would be enough

i ended 37 writing, i began 38 writing. here’s some of what came forth.

where i have certainty at age 37:

– we are not meant to suffer.

– my creativity thrives in space – emotional, physical, ideological space. in a window seat on an airplane or in the ocean or under the sunset or on a day with unscheduled hours i feel the scale is right, to create requires imagining at such a scale. clouds were imagined, and dusk, and waves. what i really want is that vast. total, beyond words or description or even the assumption of common experience. something like inner and outer total love as a life default.

– the way i love is unique, (and just right for me). i didn’t learn this anywhere, i am using my ‘no’ as a scalpel to sliver it out of what currently exists, cutting through everything that weaves love tight with hurt, work, entrapment, dishonesty and limitation. i am using my ‘yes’ to practice and conjure and affirm the abundance of love i feel and have to offer.

as my nibbling máiréad once sang, dramatically: “we want to go up or down in our heart. we can do it in our heart.”

– i can trust my instincts and my heart, even/especially when they aren’t being logical. things are rarely what they appear to be, and almost always precisely what i feel they are. virgo: ruled by the gut.

– singing, alone or with others and especially for children, always takes me directly to god, and there’s simply no denying it.

– we are not alone, humans, in the realm of sentient and spiritual existence.


where i have doubts as i cross the threshold to 38:

– i may not figure out this sugar thing. and i may lose years to it. i love indulging it as much as i love giving it up, and that duel has no clear winner.

– perhaps it is more important to be in community, vulnerable and real and whole, than to be right, or to be winning.

– i am less and less convinced of the usefulness of haters. no and yes are a balance, and those who actively seek out in the world their NO, that which they hate, and then spend immense time and attention on enumerating and describing that hatred…from a surviving-the-apocalypse standpoint, what are y’all bringing to the table? (“ugh this bunker is wack. the children we saved are ugly and need different hair. i want to build a wall around my penis made of taco trucks.”) what if hateration is a waste of time? (the only real exception to this is The Read, which makes it an artform to hate the worst shit, with wicked humor)

– maybe i should write a book on the politics of pop culture. or a cook book. or a series of children’s books. or make a children’s album full of humorous lullabies. or an album of love songs to my body and pleasure. or a poetry collection. or do a high podcast.

points of surrender:

– what others want from me, i can not intuit, imagine or embody.

– i am fundamentally sensual! being me is a pleasure. (and i can also be safe and have good boundaries.)

– grief walks with me, i might as well make beauty with it.

– i love hamilton. and upgrades. and the obamas. and the knowles-carters, and rihanna. and massages and spa experiences of all kinds. admitting this to myself, and to others, each of these loves have taken surrender.

– i cannot change others. i no longer even want to. others, and the otherness between us, is the interesting part.


what i long for:

– liberation for all living beings, beginning deeper than the root of oppression, being “so absolutely free” that our existence is “an act of rebellion”.
– black joy, as much and as often as possible.
– right relationship with the earth.
– to meet more soulmates, and continue loving them all with curiosity and creativity.
– increasing compassion, patience and ferocity.
– to feel free and at peace in my skin, in my joints.
– to continue to tweak and rearrange my life over the next two years so that i am writing/creating 75% of my waking hours.
– to love my nibblings and as many other children as i can, to support their self realization, to earn their respect and improve their futures.
– to be my best at giving and receiving love.

10 times Hamilton lyrics perfectly described my mood

my book is due, so of course i feel prolific on all things pop culture (not exactly the subject of said book).

i finally heard hamilton and i think it is a work of Genius. so i went to genius and read all the lyrics because you can take the girl out of the theater but you can never take the theatah out of the gal!

tonight as i was listening to it and checking lyrics, i realized – this is my mood. but then another song came on which was also my mood. and it just kept happening. so here are the 10 moods of my life right now, as eloquently sung in Hamilton lyrics (nuance in parenthesis):

1.
There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your (or someone else’s) child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable

2.
I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory
When’s it gonna get me(/us)?
In my sleep? Seven feet ahead of me?
If I see it comin’, do I run or do I let it be?

3.
The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down

4.
I(/we) will never be satisfied

5.
Death(/life/love) doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners
And the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
We rise and we fall
And we break
And we make our mistakes

And if there’s a reason I’m still alive
When everyone (lots of people) who loves me (and who i love) has died
I’m willing to wait for it
I’m willing to wait for it

6.
Look around, look around the revolution’s happening
in the greatest cit(ies/places) in the world (STL/nyc/detroit/oakland/la/standing rock/puerto rico/palestine/and more)

Rise up!
When you’re living on your knees, you rise up
Tell your brother that he’s gotta rise up
Tell your sister that she’s gotta rise up

This is not a moment, it’s the movement

7.
I am the one thing in life I can control
I am inimitable
I am an original
I’m not falling behind or running late
I’m not standing still
I am lying in wait

8.
I’m looking for (more) mind(s) at work

9.
Work!

I put myself back in the narrative.

10.
Look around, look around at how
Lucky we are to be alive right now
*

* thoughts now sourced by lin-manuel miranda

+ title of next post is basically #11

happy birthday Beyoncé

i am supposed to be editing my book with this precious hour, but i had to take a moment to note that i am also out here celebrating the birth of my Chosen Queen.

Beyonce has measurably improved my life (and probably yours if you are reading this, because if you like this blog then you must know She is Core Soundtrack Bae) in more ways than i should even try to name, and in ways that i might never be able to name.

the relationship between a Chosen Queen and Her constituents is so strange in it’s intimacy. i feel She is mine, and knows my life; she taps me into my own beauty and ferocity, and the truth that no one else on this planet knows how to tell (and sing and make videos and movies of) my story but me. it’s not just ok to write our own narratives on our time – it is a survival strategy. She is a survivor of things i have survived, She invites the survivor in me to keep growing, to become more than i was before getting broken.

i also feel She is beyond me in a way that comforts me (overachievers anonymous confessions: we need topping, we love earned and authentic domination and/or being well met). She inspires reach. i don’t want to meet Her, i like our current arrangement – She continually surprises me, floors me with Her gifts. and i am rewarded for my loyalty. i don’t want to be Her, i just want to celebrate Her. i see how She celebrates Herself, and all women, and black women, and black people, and babies, and Her love, and Her family. i love how She keeps moving forward, whatever life sends Her.

i love Her not because She is perfect, but because She doesn’t stop learning and responding and creating, pursuing a mastery of Herself. (and yes, i know, i did scream “YOU ARE FUCKING PERFECT BEYONCÉ GISELLE KNOWLES-CARTER!!!” at Her during the formation tour. multiverse theory in the microspective.)

i am just grateful to be able to recognize Her brilliance and celebrate Her with no inhibitions.

love is always a gift. thank you Bey for being so generous with what and how you love.

#sheisborn #sheismysundaycandy #virgo #virgoseason #4 #holduptheyallloveyoulikeiloveyouanditfeelsgreat #lemons #lemonade #bday #iamsashafierce #iaintsorry #? #? #godisgodandsheistoo #fuckmonarchiesbutstill #ijustloveher

revolution eyes/we are miracles [end of black august]

i am grateful for this month of practice, which has included writing these haikus, sending letters to people serving time, publicly taking space as someone who uses marijuana regularly – an action for which many people are unnecessarily serving time, and spending less time online and more time creating for longer term projects.

i have also continued wearing the black band, which comforts me. black every day all year. <3 we love our children but we do not leave them earth such a selfish love —- we love our children/ but we do not leave them earth/ such a selfish love/ . we love our comrades/ but we do not take up arms/ we just say their names/ . we love each other/ but we eat each other’s breath/ ask questions later/ . we love to transform/ but we give to it no time/ settling for some change/ . revolution eyes/ see gaping mouths, reform-ful/ all those empty guts •••••• we are miracles/ we begin made up of need / vulnerable light/ . we are miracles/ we reach up saying hold me/ we ask for loving/ . we are miracles/ we are tucked into nighttimes/ we are bright hot days/ . we are miracles/ the abundance of shadow/ we make the world whole/ ••••• i am not afraid/ of what i came here to do/ i’m made of stardust/ . we are not afraid/ of what we’re called now to do/ we’re all made of god

art worthy of our miraculous lives: frank ocean

i spent this weekend with frank ocean, intimate hours where i could not focus on food or sleep or anything but being with him.

he was out of my sight for a while, and all while i missed him i knew that when he came back he would be different, more of himself. and i lived that whole time, learning more feelings, finding more space inside me to fill with heart/ache.

i knew that he’d stepped onto a roller coaster with his last album/confession and gone into a cave and how he would return would be a mystery. and i believed in him like i believe in myself – i will grow. he will grow.

he grew.

i watched endless, then listened to it loop all night. it was an atmosphere i wanted to be in. i sat in the meditation of watching an artist work, do the things with time and space i would not do. that is the most thrilling thing to me about encounters with an artist i admire. if it is beyond my imagining until i witness it, and then i need it, i am satisfied, the artist has upheld our unspoken agreement.

frank is the one who can ‘walk like that cause he can back it up‘, though it doesn’t feel like ego with him – it feels like he can be slow and deliberate and fuck with my sense of pace because his pace, and what he does inside it, feels so good.

cause/and then blond/blonde came and it is a whole separate mood, it feels like moving from the private creation cocoon to the stage, the endless staircase brings us up into the bright light of frank’s full vocal gift.

my dad tells me of laying on his dorm floor with friends, mid-70s, listening to led zeppelin and feeling himself immersed in and changed by music. unable to do much else but give in to it.

that’s how good blond/blonde is. it’s an album that wants to be listened to deeply, repeatedly, undressing more with each pass. i did the genius pass and have different ideas on what the songs mean to me.

i have favorite songs, but to share which ones feels too vulnerable, the songs are that acute. over and over, frank’s songs go like a blade against the most complex emotions and transitions in life.

post genre, post gender, post form, post expectation.

i feel like frank shares a sense of life as precious and unpromised, and he knows inside that love and pleasure and heartache and memory and learning and creating are what matters. he makes art that raises the standard – the standard of what i should gift my attention to, yes. but even more than that – the standard of what any miraculous being should spend their limited time on.

this weekend: two albums, one visual, plus a video, a magazine, plus beyoncé background vocals and andre 3000 mic dropping, and so much more.

frank ocean was the reticent recluse man of a million delays on wednesday. he has a new story now. frank ocean is generous with genius.

being high with amb

i often speak of being a pleasure activist, and i even reference weed, but it’s rare that i actually write to y’all – or anyone else – while i am high.

well, i am high.

IMG_2532 [photo of shirt made for me as a birthday present, quoting marty from house of lies]

i quite enjoy myself when i’m high, and i have been contemplating these last few minutes as to whether i should blog an explicitly high post.

post an explicitly high blog.

write this.

in a serial way.

but the journey of a million high posts begins with one. this one.

being high is one of the primary ways i process this world. i work hard, and then i smoke weed to slow down enough to understand the scale and impact of my life, what is urgent and what really isn’t. i dive into less accessible layers of my own thinking and feeling and see what i have been carrying around. my body relaxes and lately i notice that i am often holding tight, contracted, when i am not aware of it.

this makes sense when i notice it. i am on defense, as a [inserts my whole self here], my body is in danger. my spirit is in danger. my brilliance is in danger.

my brilliance is a given, it’s a DNA level common trait, a brilliance of survival. you have it. yours is under a different danger probably, a different unique combination of dangers.

and yet there is so much pleasure to be had. pleasure of resistance against the wrongs we generate. pleasure of release into what is. the pleasure of the fight and the mystery. and then the erotic.

(the song should i stay or should i go came on and i thought – that should be what consent workshops are made of)

the erotic: of, relating to, or tending to arouse sexual desire or excitement. synonyms: sexy, sexually arousing, sexually stimulating, titillating, suggestive;

being high i become available to the world of my skin, my fantasies, my feeling self.

i know this will be suspect but i do need to pause here because i am watching stranger things and it’s getting really good!

*

oh well one more thing is that the erotic feels deeply related to this subtle and constant contraction. it is a way of pulling in me, making me smaller so i can be safer in the world. but there is no safer. there is only smaller.

but small can be so good. when i orgasm, the dance between contracting and bursting open is where the pleasure happens. the pleasure emerges from a very small place to be everywhere.

when i think of how change happens, it is mostly like an orgasm. out of a lack, or an intense pressure, a problem begins, a need arises, and it draws in all the attention until, all in one place, there is pleasure of togetherness and connectedness and it changes everything.

this show (stranger things) is pretty amazing so far, i feel fully drawn in.

although part of me wants to listen to frank ocean endless on repeat some more. i watched the video once but i tricked my phone into letting the music loop all last night. the music is lovely.

well i am done writing. should i press send now or wait until i am not longer high. which is more honest?

[i chose to wait]

*

ok i came back to say i think i created a term, but it feels so obvious that someone needed to have said this before. we all do it. the word is: highlaxing. people do many things when they get high, but not all of them are highlaxing. this requires snacks, good entertainment, a clear schedule. nice things emerge like face and hair masks, magazine or book reading. dancing in the rain. writing children’s books.

i just wrote four poems and a children’s book based on an incident involving my niece and a frog (the frog did not survive, but may always be remembered).

*

STRANGER THINGS IS AMAZING

*

frank ocean (endless) man this is intriguing and meditative and the music is atmospheric. i am for it, i like how you…how he is experimenting and working up to his release in a variety of ways and claiming his renaissance nature.

AND i want an album where i can play the ‘at your best you are love’ song (which i think of as an aaliyah cover, all facts to the contrary) on repeat.

*

FRANK OCEAN BLOND/BLONDE IS AMAZING
IVY! white ferrari, solo, godspeed – i
wait no i can’t even. i can’t say more now.

——

what do you think of this experiment? enjoyable? repeat? not so much?
<3

the weight i carry

the weight i carry
(shame in the blood, grief fragments)
is feathered with love
.
the shame i carry
(weight as a mask, living guilt)
is never lonely
.
the grief i carry
(guilt like a knife, my love tithe)
is worth my whole heart

finn is 8

some snapshots of this child i LOVE.

1.
siobhán: i wish we could have a family reunion.
finn: you mean like with the whole family?
siobhán: yeah!
finn: since the beginning of time?
siobhán: yes!!
finn: then that includes our dinosaur ancestors!!

.

grandmama: happy birthday finn!
finn: it’s not just the anniversary of my birth.
grandmama: no?
finn: it’s also the day i brought the carnivores to the green trench.

(and later)

finn: none of my classmates believe me, but i was adopted by dinosaurs long long ago.

(for the record, i believe this is as true as it can be)

.

finn, at dinner: since the last time you visited me i discovered i’m nonbinary.

me (practicing non attachment, acting cool): awesome. so what should i say – he, she, they?

finn: he. and she. but i can’t use the girls’ bathroom at school cause they have gender segregation. so silly.

(none of the adults around finn remember this phrase being used before)

.

finn, upon opening the ninjago temple of airjitsu lego set:

oh my god i ALWAYS wanted this since i first heard about it!!!

(maybe two months ago?)

.

finn recently returned from an epic road trip out west. at his birthday party, he announced: the lego set says ages 14+, but i won’t be here when i am 14 because we are moving to california.

the adults all looked at each other in surprise at this unveiled new future.

.

i love this child who speaks in declarations, who obsesses over games, who deeply loves her sisters and is in touch with his inner dinosaur.

happy birthday finn!!