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!!

black august 2016 week 1 poems

you like me quiet
you like me caged or buried
you like submission
.
you like me waiting
you like me demanding more
you like ownership
.
you like me dancing
you like me begging, pleading
you like all my need
.
i promise one thing
the time is coming, is here
when you won’t like me

i see the future
centered and noncompliant
we can walk through walls

i see the future
we are not above our fear
we weaponize it

i see the future
the babies are sassy, wild
freedom protected

i see the future
in each of your black faces
whispering our dreams

i see the future
all of us in our wholeness
irresistible

home is a love song
spun between bodies and breath
catching only good

dragon’s blood burning
sweat in the dark of our dance
we get down to heal

gratitude moves us
into the ocean of yes
that loosens our bones

we, now, are enough
to open portals and touch
the divine, the whole

notice who grows you
who will not settle for less
than your everything

follow her slinking
follow him grinding and popping
harriet and preacher

follow her moonwards
follow him out past your skin
tubman and prophet

taste our resilience
the salt on our cheeks unhushed
we deserve grief time
.
armed And protected
our backs sourcing our advance
we spread over earth
.
secrets in kitchens
blueprints and freedom dances
‘i love being black’
.
sangin and smokin
we make up new rituals
beyond the moonlight

mike brown, our lost child
we met you as a body
we would grow to love
.
down here in the dirt
you left us changed by our grief
precious and lost child
.
in ancestral realms
we nourish with attention
put life on your name
.
down here in the dirt
we learning black love, learning
resistance magic

i just want to say
black august is nourishing
lets sing all the time


image
image

image

image

image

image

image

image

come on home to me

come on home to me
black warriors, hard edges
learn soft from my thighs

there’s no drama here
you can leave it at my door
i will wait for you

i kiss your forehead
eye eye nose lips ears and throat
blessing your senses

i’ll wipe down the blood
i’ll whisper your name all night
you’ll wake up yourself

come on home to me
we are two shades of healer
it’s my turn to fight

– #blackaugust #blackaugust575

image

the news pile

each day is a pile
sliver sliver stacked against
diminishing time to know anything at all

even while we celebrate what we want
buried in the sound of our dreaming
are two deaths, or forty nine
#names we will learn later

when i hear the news beginning
i turn towards it
and then i turn away

ah but it finds me.

i double over inside
i go numb with details
maybe i gather some angry words
burn leaves to the black moon

often i go quiet against the
reading and reading
and finding no comfort rhythm
of the pile

we come together and don’t know what to say
we notice the unspeakable
we bristle, we pause
and then mostly we are kind with each other,
opening brief portals of joy
or production

no one wants to know this alone
so we speak around it, acting brave
to be the ones who look,
better than the ones who can’t look away

but we know worse than that
someone still wants this to happen
it’s too comprehensive to be accidental
across so much time

we feel the gathering weight

our mouths are full of sweet things
and then empty again
we cry until even our tears are sugar
and our faces hardly move

but grieving is not enough
we must also be warriors
whose weapon is our heart
expanding, billowing out
to hold it all

another pound
another pound of #tragic
and there’s nothing to say
and no air to speak it
under the pile
the fucking pile

– #korryngaines #skyemockabee #joycequaweay #blacklivesmatter #blacktranslivesmatter

black august is here!

for several years now, Black August has become a month of Black freedom fighter poetry, cultivated by Spirit House in NC, by BOLD and others.

and before that Black August has long been a time to be in solidarity with political prisoners, to be aware of the costs and sacrifices made on the long journey of waking up the world out of the nightmare of white supremacy, guided by Malcolm X Grassroots leaders.

i have come to anticipate this month of creative blackness, and this year it got the upgrade because The Movement for Black Lives dropped a policy platform yesterday and it’s like an incredible fractal flower that just opens and opens with uncompromising black life! i signed on to breathe it into being based on the top level of demands, and part of how i will spend this Black August is reading every word of it.

i am also in the final month of a 90-day commitment around added sugars and emotional eating that i began in solidarity with freedom fighter Jasmine Richards. the commitment has grown and pushed me to understand my rigor and my weaknesses – this work feels transformative for my black life and black body.

so, my practices – i am wearing my black band and continuing to resist bread, alcohol, grains and added sugars. also committing to a haiku or few a day.

here’s today’s black august offering:

wake up black poets
all your liberation dreams
are fleshed and walking

now go on ahead
sing out loud as you need to
black cacophony

trust in each other
messy lessons grow us up
become together

wake up black poets
carve words as meditation
blueprints, freedom songs

– #blackaugust575 #blackaugust #BOLDblackaugust

from the freedom side

when the wheat is separated from the chaff, i wonder if there is terror. if the wheat thinks it is god when actually it is food. if the chaff thinks it is the future, part of a wholeness, when actually it is a husk.

trump and those who scream his name with their hands just seconds away from a heil hitler, they think they are the wheat of this country, of this moment.

we who believe in freedom, liberation, being in right relationship with justice and with land – we are looking to see what this country is, if it can heal from its bloody roots. can we nourish each other or should we fly away on the wind?

we are taking and supporting direct actions and interventions of all sizes to assert a future with dignity for all of us on this soil.

this moment is a ‘which side are you on’ moment, not to be divisive about it. on one side we learn to heal and transform our base human nature, become worthy of the miracle of our existence, and we inhabit our freedom. on the other side is neverending war and terror. passivity, politeness, noncommitment, that will place you squarely in the latter future.

there is no such thing as neutral ground. there never has been.

#blackband: how to, a reflection

#blackband: how to, a reflection

i am just over a week into the practice of wearing a black band on my left arm as a statement of grief, and as a statement against white supremacy in all it’s manifestations.

it’s been a beautiful, simple practice so far. people either already know why i am doing it or, when they hear my reason, vigorously agree with my rationale.

i have had people ask me questions about how to participate in #blackband, so here are some answers (with the caveat that i am learning the practice as i go):

1. where do i get a #blackband?

i made mine from old leggings. other friends have made bands from t-shirts and bandanas, or taken black ribbon or hair bands or bracelets and created their bands. my friend sabrina, a detroit artist, drew hers on with permanent marker. my friend adela showed me the black band of one of her sacred tattoos that inspired me to consider that for my next step.

i love the DIY nature of this so far. it was a deeply personal commitment for me to don a black band, and making/finding my band, imbuing it with intention, feels like part of the strength and magic in it.

2. where do i wear it?

left side of body, closest to your heart. i have been wearing mine around my left arm just above or just below my elbow.

you can wear it right on skin or over clothes – visibility is important.

if you don’t have a left arm or wearing it on your arm isn’t possible, wear it on your left leg. if you don’t have a left leg or wearing it on your leg isn’t possible, pin a black circle to your left side, near the heart.

wear it to all of your life, in transit, at work, in sacred spaces. let your resistance be constant.

3. i have my band on. now what?

once i had my band on, i invited conversation around it. i let my friends, family and y’all know what i was doing and why. now i answer strangers who ask about it, pointing them to resources for more information based on their entry point – black folks i point towards ongoing movement for black lives work, non-black people I point towards amazing solidarity work. i invite them to join me if they are tired/devastated by white supremacy and constant grief.

it’s been interesting to hear the responses – a few black folks have said their skin is their black band, and others have said it feels important as a black person in a professional environment to wear the black band to counter the way white supremacy wants to normalize the trauma.

some of my friends indulge me in what they see as my practice, others take it on. i am not pushing it on people, i am inviting us to make visible our resistance in a world that wants to silence us with fear.

i do notice that each time i see someone take it on i feel a bit safer. audre lorde taught us “your silence will not protect you.” the black band feels like a vocalization and harmony.

3. so…can non-black people wear a blackband? can white people wear it?

absolutely!

i wasn’t really thinking about this part when i committed to wearing the black band, but lots of non-black people have been asking me about it and rocking the black band and it feels really important and comforting to see non-black people visibly making a statement against white supremacy and anti-blackness.

it’s an emergent win.

for non-black #blackband-ers i would ask a few things:

– that you pair the wearing of the band with a monthly/sustainer donation to BOLD, blacklivesmatter, byp100, or other groups affiliated with the movement for black lives. support local work led by black people. (donations of any size count – $5 a month from a million nonblack people would really increase what our movements can do and i believe there are more than a million nonblack people who are against white supremacy in this country)

– for white people especially: be ready to be transformed. look to the thorough analytical work of catalyst or the action network of surj for other practices to be in to unlearn white supremacy.

– and if you haven’t yet, bring it up to friends and family explicitly. have the conversations i can’t have with your parents and grandparents, with your kids.

4. how long are you wearing the black band?

i don’t know yet. it may be the rest of my life. i need to see explicit and significant advances of justice and liberation for my people. a lot of people have to wake all the way up to make those advances real. i see the black band as a small daily direct action that helps to turn up the volume on that ‘white supremacy is over’ alarm. i suspect when it is no longer needed, we will all know.

below are images of three people wearing the band – taylor renee aldridge, aurora levins morales, erin ní chonaill, paury flowers, chelsea cleveland, and leah lakshmi piepzna-samarasinha (in black lace!!):

image

image

image

image

image

image