Monthly Archive for September, 2016

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