make my name

make my name a cracked seed
surrendering to wet soil
in a square of sun
such tiny hope
a child could sing me to life

make my name a thread of light
pulsing between two whitebark pine
that know themselves
to live as one
we hide no rivers, that’s our love

make my name a dream spell
whispered against your sleeping spine
arched, growing bright for you
an electric hush
life flooding through you

make my name a prayer
celestial, urgent, even selfish
a way to dream beyond this moment
a talisman of joy
a manifestation

make my name a portal
to deeper breath, belief, balance
fall backwards into the arms of a stranger
find roots already intertwined
every letter is still dirt

the secret cure

feet on the earth
i learn the secret cure
to every crisis i know
hear an answer to every question
a soothe for every heartache and wander
every loneliness
every despair

nothing is erased
skin of my body against the skin of the world
grass braiding into the soft hair of my shin
there is room for every breath of my life
that is the secret

i will never fix life
not as a whole arc
nor a system of parts
that is the secret

i can only dance to the drums spilling upward tectonic
i can only sing as the wind rushes through my throat
i can only love each miracle i am gifted
i can only learn what i hunger to know
the horizon a trick of the eye
my curiosity a cultivated landscape
i can only fight the wars i know to see
and only with the weapons i practice wielding
songs, roots, spells, dreams

i am absolutely insignificant
but also, everything

even god is made small in our mouths
everything holy remains unnamed, unseen and unspeakable
that is the gift

the days are numbered by mystery
real love will never waste my hours
the dirt knows more than i can grasp
the wisdom of bones and memory
and grief’s bitter residue

i am a being of waves and cycles
not destinations, not even achievements

if i cannot let go of betrayal
there will be no room in my life for blessings –
this is the wisdom of home, of my backyard
what the sugar maple there whispered against my back
when i stood barefoot and humbled
explaining my decisions to a tortoise
to the hummingbirds
to the geese landing on the winter pond

the soil beneath my feet
said to catch sunlight in my palms
shake off everything dead
root deeper, be naked, move towards light
be patient, be water
welcome feeling back into my life
touch hearts when solitude becomes sharp
touch earth when being human breaks me

now this small pond sings ocean to me:
even at the peak of the mountain
we leave you sea shells
we promise to barnacle everything you build
stop
running
from
time

seek a life that does not hunt you
that is the secret
carry the seed that leaves you full
that is the secret
grow the ease that makes you blush
that is the secret
receive the gifts that make you cry
that is the secret

i think i am diving deeper again
but instead i’ve crested the hill
singing the slowest song i know
wounded, of course, and still
vast as any whale on any ridge
beached, perhaps, but still breathing
there is room for every part of my life
that is the secret

offering bliss to chaos

i never know i need my heart broken
until the flesh begins to flake
falter crack and crumble
under the weight of what i knew as love
my soft volcano center
rumbling, inflamed with discontent

it took a whole year to say no
to the final pound
i wanted to meld it into my left thigh, you see
i wanted to make your pain mine
i thought, if anyone can carry it
it’s my ego

thank you goddess
for breaking me apart

i never know my flame needs tending
until i am ashen and coal
wrung of every drop
until a storm enters my front door
eyes of lightning
flashing across my surface

it took a whole year to say yes
to the hurricane within
i wanted to hold it in my throat
sing it into a soprano indulgence
i thought, if anyone can hold me
i’ll become a river

thank you goddess
for sending me devotees of joy

i never know my soul needs growth
until the future whispers against my spine
i have more for you to do
until the sunrise finds me sober
protagonists dancing around my bed
spells gathering in corners

it took a whole year to quiet down
my defenses, my desperate prayers
to realize the bind was loose
and i was a songbird on a new wind
i am learning to trust the solitude
and each of my angels

thank you goddess
for all your wisdom faces

what’s up

hi my loves – it’s been a minute since i posted here and i wanted to give some quick updates.

one, i am redesigning this website! meaning, my friends at andalsotoo are making something so beautiful and full of simple magic, and i am saying “i love it!” all the time. i think you’ll love it. i paused a bit on updating but forgot to tell you why!

two, my collection of short fiction and poetry came out last week, Fables and Spells! i love this book, it’s full of some of the wondrous creatures and species of my imagination along with a whole bunch of conjuring work, and some of my doodles. please order it from AK directly at the link above or from a local bookstore! i will be releasing an album by the same name and theme, and this month, every monday, i am reading stories on instagram at 3pm est.

next year i will be doing a witch focused season of How to Survive the End of the World, so feel free to share your favorite witches with me when you see this.

three, i am building a musical ritual, a gospel of emergent strategy and embodiment, with Troy Anthony. over the next year it will be in iterative development, with the goal that communities will be able to use it as a healing and awakening event with their voices and bodies. through Dec 5 the choir community singing this project is gathering at The Shed in NYC on Monday evenings, and its incredible to feel what happens when people breathe together in this way.

four, book two of the Detroit trilogy, Maroons, is being released Jan 17, and i’m working on book three. so far it is the hardest to write, because i want to linger with the characters. i’ll get there.

and finally, last week i got to commune with a horse, feed gorgeous goats, meet a sleek puppy. and remembered how my love of earth is resounding, even as the humans vote against survival. these pockets of practice give me so much hope.

full moon in aquarius

fall in love with the face in the mirror / watch it do new things, lose the mirror / fall in love with the feeling of a new feeling on your face, call it a small freedom / claim a moment unperformed / meet your own eyes in another’s face grasp control and relinquish it / a new story is taking over you and all of us at the same moment / maybe you are the letter r in a sentence that wants to incite a revolution but desperately needs respite and you can do both / everything in between is a different letter to conjure the breath through mouthflesh / a different way of being in the world, a different miracle / now catch your eye again and relinquish solitude / feel how many bacteria and cells and memories and ideas are collaborating for this exhale, this (insert your name) / write a story of satisfaction and swoon and delight and abundance / and when you grieve let it only be for the hours spent lost from yourself / but don’t give up the lessons you could have only learned in that wilderness / like when you see the moon this full, howl.

Samhita Mukhopadhyay on Abortion

Today I did an ig live with Samhita on abortion!

You can find the conversation here on my instagram feed, or under the “lunch with amb” IGTV series.

This is the list of links Samhita wanted to share related to our conversation:

Convo with @ReneebraceySherman on @themeteor about what to do and what’s next: https://wearethemeteor.com/people-are-trying-to-get-abortions-today/

Jia Tolentino on the criminalization of pregnancy: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/07/04/we-are-not-going-back-to-the-time-before-roe-we-are-going-somewhere-worse

Jessica Valenti: on pro-life women , “your complicity will not protect you,” https://jessica.substack.com/p/your-complicity-will-not-protect

Groups to support:
We Testify: https://www.wetestify.org/
National Network of Abortion funds: https://abortionfunds.org/
#VoteProChoice: https://www.voteprochoice.us/

the only way is through

the only way is through

during the war
they celebrated the genocide
they made it bright
so we might forget
pretty it up
you could be proud of it
you could feel awe
-full -ful or fool
there’s no escaping that boom

and during the war
some young boys went to war
against those star spangled people
only in the streets
to honor the war
that made this precious land
into a self-loathing nation
birth is a bloody process
you’ll know that someday

the birth of war
comes through a body
that’s the only way into the world
barreling through flesh
never before so opened
there is often a moment
when the body says no
please, not me, i want
to go home

the birth of a nation
comes through a body
standing together in some
circle that feels like home
no matter who is at the door
a nation is a porous body
it can bleed out
be riddled with cancer
say no, please,
i am only a child
and still be punished

each punishment is a war
every single time
there is a victory
a moral high ground
“we would never”
is outdone by the smallest mind
loneliness is dangerous
for evolution
if you want to destroy something
it’s the American way

but something is stirring within me
so massive
i’m not sure i’ll survive it
it bruises against my ribcage
makes me nauseous with longing
has a billion heartbeats
that murmurate in a chorus
inevitable
you have made it inevitable
as you have made every breath
into war

you have left us only our hearts
with which to craft a survival
you think birth is a war
you think life is a war
and death is a power
you have never understood
it is only life and death
if we don’t learn how we all survive it
some of us can get you through
feet first or fist in the air

birth is a portal
stop fighting to live
forever in the breathless womb
of a mother in danger
let go
push through
feel the terror of expulsion
from the myth of safety
and the fairy tale of forever

rage into this world
we are ready for you
we welcome you into the light
from any cave
where you have hidden
and as long as you have breath
you will never be too late
to claim your place
in this fight

we are earthseed
we are ancestors
we are dreams
we are poets
we are naked
we are changing
we are many
we are love

we are godseed
we are future
we are bleeding
we are dancing
we are gorgeous
we are changed
we are many
we are one

* earthseed, Octavia E Butler
* godseed, Octavia and Alexis Pauline Gumbs
* we are one, the whales via Michaela Harrison

don’t think of that elephant

i can’t stop thinking about that elephant. in the story pieced together thru video and rumor and spirit, the elephant’s babies were poached, and there was a woman who threw stones at the elephant mother to keep her from saving her children. so the elephant waited and found this woman at a watering hole, trampled her to death, rolled with a crew to her funeral and swung her corpse out of the casket to trample her again, and then they went and destroyed her house.

i went researching because the story is so tender to me. those who check facts say that so far it could be true, though no one is clear on how to verify that it was the same elephant, that it was specific targeting.

elephants and humans have a tension in india, rooted in competing needs over the land that has been the elephants’ territory.

the story is working like a prism in my mind, i tilt it gently and see so much humanity in it, so many parents broken hearted at losing their babies to violence, so many people enraged at their ongoing displacement, so many people ready to say ‘no more.’

but then i spin this prism and see the whole earth trying to communicate to us, the humans, that we are not the only ones who feel and think and deserve to live and love our babies and strategize for survival.

if the story is true, it connects to the parts of us that protect those we love and flood with vengeance when they are harmed – we can touch an anthropomorphic empathy.

if its not true that this woman and this elephant had history, what remains true is that humans are encroaching on a shared world as if our needs are always the priority. it makes every kind of sense to me that, if we don’t swiftly adapt to be co-occupants of this generous planet, we will not only face the challenges of increasing climate catastrophe, already dire…we will also invite the wrath of everything else that can feel.

any sentient heart, broken repeatedly, can become a sharp edge.

i also keep thinking of this story as an epic tale of spiritual battle. the elephant is a goddess of the entire nonhuman earth, protecting its future. the woman is a complicit player in acts of egregious and selfish violence, not the leader, just someone who throws rocks because thats what humans do. she represents the majority of humans, going along with human-centric behavior that has devastating effects. the elephant is her death and our warning.

is the elephant/spirit wise enough to understand that it has to be dramatic and documented, to be viral, to be heard?

are we able to receive the warning at the level of spirit – that there is nothing funny here, only grief and rage and power and message?

or am i projecting all my own climate grief and rage onto this wild creature, whose motives are actually mysterious to me? am i again trying to spread human life into every space, even that of empathy and imagination and the motivations of elephants?

i don’t know.

but i know that the elephant story in this moment, in the wake of uvalde, in the emotional waters preceding juneteenth, during pride, in the hot and cold flash climate catastrophe season we are still calling summer, it feels important. it feels like we should all think about it.

are we the woman? the elephant? the earth beneath, receiving her blood and her force? the funeral guests running away in panic? could we be the force trying to stop the constant harm in every direction? or is there no us here, simply an obsessed observer, projecting her heart out, 8,500 miles away?

juneteenth spell 2022

we somebody’s worst nightmare
and best memory
that free

even in our blood we still feel
that quelling force saying
be less

with each breath, we heal wild wounds
we cut both binding rope
and bound

telling only the truth now
we show each other the freedom
we know

two years, six months, nineteen days
but centuries late, really
right now

with each breath, we heal wild wounds
we cut both binding rope
and bound

bitter history fills the throat with tears
even the songs twist, winded
haunting

grief spills through our hands until
we only see the other’s beauty
feel found

with each breath, we heal wild wounds
we cut both binding rope
and bound

– inspired by experiencing The Revival: It Is Our Duty and A Strange Loop this Juneteenth weekend

an emergent strategy response to mass shootings

A few years ago I said ‘things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. We must continue to hold each other tight and pull back the veil.’ I have to revise that. Things are getting worse for most of us, between mass shootings, climate catastrophe, regressive sociopolitical battles and an ongoing global pandemic. It’s an overwhelming, terrifying and grief-stricken time.

It’s also an inevitable time of crisis, given the political and cultural choices we are living through, and the leaders we have elected.

Emergent strategists are often drawn to this liberatory path because our hearts keep breaking – when we hear of the shootings, we love each elder, each baby – we look at their faces, we learn their stories, we say their names, we add them and their families to our altars and light candles. We do the same for those killed by police, those who die because they can’t access an abortion, those dying from COVID-19, those dying from mental illness, those dying because of capitalism and white sociopathy and patriarchy and other delusions of scarcity and superiority.

This palpable, active, ongoing grief is a non-negotiable part of this period of immense change. Grief is one of the most beautiful and difficult ways we love. As we grieve we feel our humanity and connection to each other.

Building the path from this heartbreaking present to a future where we center our collective existence in love and care is where we come in.

We are the ones shining light on the lies and inconsistencies in our current reality, and we are the ones dreaming up, remembering and practicing mutual ways of being in community with each other.

We are learning how to grieve without disappearing, and we are refusing to normalize this terror.

We are scholars of belonging and accountability, releasing ourselves from the reductive protocols of punitive culture.

We are protesting injustice wherever we find it, while forging the pathways to a justice we cocreate.

We are releasing either/or thinking, and we are outgrowing every construct meant to divide and disempower us.

We understand that this is an extinction point, and we are not just interested in survival – we want a just world for future generations and for the earth. Each day, we are the ones creating more possibilities.

We at ESII see how this community is showing up to hold each other, to grieve, to care for each other, to practice the future together. We love you, we trust you, we grieve with you, and we change with you.

amb, Sage, Mia, Aliana, Tyler

i also wanted to share a few poems pushing through in this time, trying to hold the hardest pieces:

1.

    each one as precious

all of the children
are worth all of our love
worth our intentions
our policies and practices
worth our protection
worth our last breaths
each one a divine gift
from the eternal tree
ripe with potential
and so full of god

knowing this
we have one mission:
treat each one as precious
as a promise unfurling

failing that
let us go extinct

2.

    little one

beautiful child
i want to offer you
all the brightness of the world
and show you how you shine

but first
i must teach you to disappear
melt into the structure that holds you
be unseeable, hush to silence
even play dead

little one
i want to show you
how we always help people
rescue those in danger
show up
be the angel

but first i must teach you
to keep the door closed
on someone
a stranger, a friend, a sibling
screaming
begging

i must teach you
that not everyone can be saved

i have to tell you the truth:
that you will live
and others will die
and you might die
while others live

there’s no sense to it
there’s no logic
even if you ask why
a million times
even if i answer

little darling child
i want you to know
that no one is disposable
each life precious
miraculous
each person someone’s child
in need of love
in need of holding

but first i need you to know
that there are monsters
they look just like humans
they have been eaten up from within
and now they are the hungry ones

little one
i want to show you
this stunning, abundant world

but instead
i have to tell you
how we are
and let that break your heart
so that you can change

i’m sorry for the burden
i’m sorry for the truth
i’m sorry for the pale pale time
that we live in

i want you to dream so big
but first
i have to wake you up

3.

    the white men

the white men
have stopped having sex
it is their protest
they play first person shooter games
with everyone they meet
everywhere they go
they call it defense

the white men are so jealous of
our creative power
our birth right
that they try to control it
or at least make it misery

the white men get lost
and murder everyone in sight

the white men will only pray
if we make god a mirror for them

the white men don’t know
they are the shadow of the species
the part we must navigate
integrate or be swallowed by
our holy gauntlet
achilles and devil and crisis

the white men are lucky
we not an eye for an eye people
not even a vengeful people

what i mean is we a full of God people
not that punitive imposter, no
we a god-is-change people

we building a future
where even the white men
can recover themselves