Tag Archive for 'Detroit'

living through the unveiling

things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. we must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.

people have been detained at our borders, people are being deported, people are being sent away from the US. we are making plans with the people we love about what to do in case they get stuck outside these borders or sucked out of these borders.

there are white supremacists, overt white nationalists, in office at the federal level, people who don’t hide their feelings of supremacy.

there are climate change deniers, people who seem to think what we do has no impact on the earth, being appointed to have oversight of our US relationship to the earth.

people with no experience or even apparent concern about the majority of human beings are being appointed to oversee how we are educated, how we are housed, everything about how we live.

it certainly feels like this is worse than what we have been experiencing from our federal government. i say feels like because, as a radical, i am not certain that that’s true. In fact, i’m pretty sure that it’s not true.

at no point in my adult life have I seen the government make the necessary decisions about climate, take real leadership to turn and face the changes we have to make in order to survive. everything has been woefully incremental. we have been facing climate apocalypse for some time now.

police, and military, are, and have been, armed racial profilers filling modern day slave cages, upholding imperialist lines of power. black people have been in the streets saying we are not paranoid and we are not criminals – there’s something rotten in this nation. indigenous water protectors have been telling us there’s something rotten in this nation. our comrades in the global south, in Muslim nations, all over Latin America have been telling us there’s something rotten in this nation.

our history is bloody with governments who have faced our interventions, whose borders have moved, whose people have died if we didn’t like how they looked, how they prayed, if they didn’t want to support our economic interests over their own.

our borders are littered with the bones of those who were not only not welcomed, but hunted down by militia, left with no water in the desert. in most cases, those people have come from the same places that our interventions destabilized.

and I live in Detroit, where we have lived under emergency management for years. in the corruption of the city we have seen overwhelming displacement and overwhelming denial of services to people who are just trying to live, raise children, be a part of this place.

so why, now, does it feel like this?

why can’t we sleep, why are we in extreme patterns of drinking, smoking and numbing? why are so many of us in pain as our bodies try to keep up with the news? why are so many of us in a panic all day every day (and those that aren’t sound like they are in denial or rocking unearned hubris)?

perhaps the number one privilege of being an American is our narrative. we have a story that covers all of our wretched behavior, that makes us exceptional regardless of what we do. we’ve gotten lost in that story. we have believed that the beautiful princess wanted us for our virility, the apple was a nutritious offer from a frenemy, Oz was a magical city and that we are a benevolent, caring nation that really loves all of our differences, our democracy, our global nature. that we were almost there, to that place where we can know we are better than this.

as a nation we have quietly turned away from any numbers that seemed to make a counter argument about what we were up to – the suicide rates of trans people, the number of bodies along our southern border, the increasing rate of C-sections, sterilization and fibroids amongst women of color and poor women, the length of the existing wall, the number of people killed by our drones, the percentage of black people in prisons, the pace at which people of color are murdered by the state, the rising heat and ocean levels during this golden age of global warming. and so much more.

those of us who have shouted these numbers out, who have taken action in order to raise the attention of this country, have been called uncouth, negative, hyperbolic.

and we have been working in silos, each of us digging deep down into our own particular issues, our own particular numbers and making a case for why there’s a crisis.

so, what feels new is the unveiling; the heaviness is the increasing weight of the truth becoming undeniable as more people believe it.

right now, more and more of the truth of this country at this time is visible, left naked, made obvious. not only are each of us right about the particular crisis we have been holding, but others coming up out of their silos are right too – and the intersecting crises are massive.

now that it is plain to see that we are up against white supremacists whose plan for survival seems to be eliminating the majority of us, we no longer have the luxury of pretending we can change their minds with logic, or survive the pendulum swing of universal survival issues made partisan.

we have to be willing to engage in radical resistance and radical futuring.

because people are looking at us like, well, you were right, now what do we do?

we must increase our collective tolerance for truth. this means we must learn how to hold the full breadth of emotions we feel upon hearing the truth, and to keep listening, changing, taking action, learning. we must be willing to look at what actually needs to happen to address the truth.

we must deepen our connections to each other. there is no way the majority of us will survive this time if we continue working in isolation or in competition. we must meet at the intersections and lovingly figure out how to be in right relationship. we need the largest, and most authentic, collaborative efforts for justice and liberation that have ever been witnessed on this planet.

we must take the risk of leading. we must be willing to assert the solutions we believe in, to experiment with alternative ways of being human on this planet at this time. we must be willing to try out post-normative paths, we must be willing to say unpopular things.

we must divest. i am still trying to figure out what this looks like in real time. i know part of it is boycotts and buycotts and I am excited to see the lists of places we can stop putting our money and where to redirect it already moving around the internet. i know part of it is really being willing to stop financially supporting all of these things we so viscerally disagree with (#alternativetaxes).

i also think we need to learn to divest our attention from the circus in DC. i do not mean to ignore it or to escape it, but it’s not going to work to continue to spend the majority of our hours saying what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck to what’s coming out of DC.

i am grateful for those who have focused on tracking our resistance and our victories, that is really helpful. we must figure out how to get the information we need from the dying, antiquated present-day systems, and use it to continue doing the most radical work possible. we must put the majority of our attention where it can grow the next world.

not only are we the ones we have been waiting for, but this is the exact moment we have been shaped for. and even though it came so quickly, it has actually taken forever. but here we are, in this moment, the present moment, naked and messy and visible right down to our roots.

the veil never hid us from others, it only ever hid us from ourselves. now that more of us can see who we truly are, we must begin/continue to move towards who we truly want and need to be in order to sustain human life on this planet.

liberation is no small task – it is appropriately daunting for miraculous beings. it is a gift, to be given such undeniable purpose, such immense odds. hold each other tight, and let’s do this work.

Protection Spell

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The following spell was commissioned and produced by Tunde Olaniran as a prologue to his headlining performance on New Year’s Eve at El Club in Southwest Detroit.

Listen to the Protection Spell

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to manage the grief
we tie our roots together
trading sorrows

to speak when there is danger
we learn to hear heartbeats
as drums

to speak of what no one has seen
we create a whisper
of hurricanes

to make a world that can hold us
we teach each other
every small imperfect part of love*

we will protect you
we will hold you
we will be protector
we will be protected

i will protect the skin you were born in
i will protect your right to love
i will protect your right to pray
i will protect your right to choose
i will protect your however-body
and i will protect your total
and radical
liberation

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images of the incredible night (courtesy of the star himself, Tunde Olaniran) include an altar built by edgeslayer (new orleans dj who spun at the party), natasha beste and kevin eckert of gold house media, an ice sculpture (tunde said “i’m not kidding someone randomly reached out and asked if they could create an ice sculpture for the party”), and a crowd going buckwild <3 IMG_3302

the * means: a portion of this spell will be printed in Walk Towards It, an anthology of urgent writing, lists to remember, & love letters to carry with you. Released on inauguration day January 20th, 2017 <3

pleasure activism is contagious

yesterday i got to be a part of Arts in a Changing America – ReMap: Detroit. the effort of this work is to address the changing demographics of the US and understand the role art has in shifting narrative and opening justice-based futures.

the day started off with six workshops to immerse people in innovative artistic practices for social justice. i offered a workshop called Writing the Future where i had folks do future memoir entries about art they had been a part of that shifted the course of human history.

in another room folks were writing poetry with tawana, another group was foraging in the wilds of Detroit with shane and mama myrtle, and another group was processing grief with sounds and song with rebecca and ron.

after the workshops we all gathered together for a call and response. the speakers were dream hampton and favianna rodriguez, talking about this moment for Detroit, for Oakland, for artists and activists.

favi showed some of her more recent work, which is focused on challenging the phobias that make us feel shame around our desires and bodies, pussy power, claiming the human right of pleasure. dream spoke about the patterns of mass incarceration and drug sales, advocating for the right of black people to use and sell weed without being criminalized.

i, of course, was the loudest member of the amen chorus in the audience.

to close out the session, both women spoke about the role that masturbation has in their self-care, creative and work processes. i was whooping and hollering with joy!

abby dobson came up and sang while a video of women assaulted and killed by the state played, uplifting the #sayhername campaign to make clear that black women, cis and trans, are being targeted and killed by the state. i must say it was a shocking transition – the work, her voice, were so powerful. i have chosen not to watch most of the footage that comes out, i know we are under attack. to see it with others, with a sacred sound around all of us, was deeply moving.

afterwards a group of us sat, immobilized with grief. slowly, laughter, sweetness, hugs and pleasure helped us to acknowledge that a constant truth of our lives right now is grief, but we are complex, we have so much resilience.

we have the right to each other.

we went out and got “sun all over” our skins, as richard pryor taught us.

later in the evening many conference attendees gathered around dream’s table overlooking the city, and the pleasure principle was the center of our conversation.

i mostly want to talk about pleasure these days. for a long time i have been unknowingly quoting mae west: “an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away,” because pleasure was my health care plan for years before i knew how to talk about it.

at the table we shared survival strategies of pleasure and asked each other questions, to repeat things. we wrote notes, book titles, names. we were learning together, this was sensual scholarship.

we talked about sexual, reproductive, mental and emotional health, favorite toys, increasing the practice of pleasure, decolonizing desire, getting into real practices of consent, asking for what we need, putting action behind our radical sexual theory, how oppressed people cultivating their own pleasure can be an act of resistance, and how ridiculous it is that sex and the pleasures possible in the body are still such taboo topics.

the next book i will be working on is all about pleasure activism and it feels right on time. this day made me feel…titillated to get to work.

myth of safety (rant/love from istanbul)

hello from istanbul.

yesterday as i spent the day falling in love with this city, it was bombed, and people i love around the world were reaching out to me to find out if i was safe. i posted a message that i was safe, but it felt like a lie, so i want to say something more honest.

i am in a country that was bombed yesterday, 4 people killed, over 30 injured. it was a group of tourists killed and injured, apparently not the intended target, but the lives available for taking when the police started noticing the bomber. the bartender at my hotel is from east turkey, he said ‘isis’ with a shrug in his shoulders, a mournful and familiar shake of his head. since it happened i can’t access most social media directly.

i was doing the same thing yesterday as those who died, walking around taking pictures, in crowds, looking up in awe amongst strangers. the bomber just chose a different tourist center in the city. or perhaps it’s because i am kept very local due to my healing but still compromised knee, so i chose the places near my hotel.

so i am not safe, i am just randomly still alive.

and i can’t feel too much of a way about it because i actually stopped believing in safety a long time ago. i was in college when amadou diallo was killed walking distance from my dorm room. i was stopped by a group of undercover burly police, surrounded, guilty of walking while drunk, and i ran home shaking. i was in the subway under the twin towers moments before the first one was hit, i walked home through the ashes of other people and still see ghosts.

i live in a city where water and heat are not guaranteed to individuals, only corporations. i live in a country where we need a movement for black lives because the rate of police/state murder is so high that we don’t want to speak the numbers to our children. where children of immigrants are building a wall to keep out immigrants.

i live in a country where people are so economically desperate that they are uplifting a presidential candidate running on hate speech.

i live in a world where friends die because they take their own lives, exhausted by oppression. and friends die because people are texting and driving, and friends die because they are fighting for mother earth and get assassinated.

i live in a country whose tax dollars continually move towards disrupting stability and sovereignty all over the world, a nation of never-full consumption of the world’s resources, a nation outsourcing growth and greed as our worldviews.

so…i am not safe. we are not safe. if we think we are safe, it is because we are not awake to the intersecting crises of economy, environment, privilege and militarism. none of us are safe, and, as adults, i am not sure i even think we deserve that.

how can we be safe while also complicit in conditions of constant unsafety for others? even the ones who walk away from omelas had somewhere else to go – our planet is so small. it’s reductionist, yes…but all of us or none. safety is an interconnected magic, it only comes from holding each other, whole.

so. what i am instead, what helps me to sleep at night and to laugh with my whole body and to love as many people as i can, is on purpose. i am doing everything i can to focus the offering of my life towards the best that humanity has within us, to be an ultralight beam nourishing what is dignified and healing and collective and miraculous in us.

my soul is intact, thank you nina.
i feel deliberate and afraid of nothing, thank you audre.
i know that god is change, thank you octavia.

i am going to spend another day in this city, more alert than yesterday, and even more focused on the beauty of the people i meet here, the rocks and hard places they are in, the preciousness of all our lives.

on being with what is

i often write when i am learning about something. for some time i have been learning to get present, and be with what is in the current moment. it is much much harder than i thought it would be. it has meant noticing the ways i numb, regress, resist, ignore and deny the present moment, and asking myself why.

this being with what IS, enhanced by meditation and somatics and tarot and my woes and my family and most recently my time away from the u.s. and facebook, is such a powerful learning. i am closer and closer to living in the present moment – i am closing the gap between anticipating/observing my life and actually living it.

i wanted to share with y’all some of my practice ground of late, which has included, but not been limited to, the following:

– sometimes it rains for a week in mexico. the week i was planning to beach and scuba dive was rainy and cold. but i found that there was no feeling of anger or ‘why me, why now’ that would change the weather. so i bought tea and read books and watched ants and listened to the rain pounding on the little skylight and did rituals and booked cheap massages. and i think it ended up being much more restful than my plans would have been.

– David Bowie died, and he was only 69, which seems so very young. he influenced me more than i can pinpoint, his existence was one invitation into the creative weird life that i am carving out for myself, loving earth and space and flesh and magic and colors and travel and art and music. but he is dead. and Grace is dead. and both of them gave me a gift: turning and facing death. listening to the album Bowie released on his birthday, days before his death, is almost a trans-life/death experience. he took the truth that he was going to die and created from it something ethereal, stunning.

Grace, similarly, faced her death and said yes, let me go/come, i am ready.

i have been so scared of death, and so angry with it for showing up all the time. i have seen so much unexpected death, where i didn’t have a sense that my lost ones were ready for the change that came. this intimate/stranger modeling is such a lesson.

i also read a book by carlos casteneda that i will review in my next post – the central figure of the book is an elder named don juan who teaches carlos that death is always with us, to the left, at arm’s reach. to accept and live with that is a fundamental part of a liberation process.

when i finished the first draft of the emergent strategy book earlier this month, i journaled that i felt a new kind of satisfaction. not a desire to die, i adore life. adore it.

but i also felt this sense of having done something that made my existence worthwhile, completed some cycle of expression that i have been playing at for years. there’s editing, but the raw yawp is out.

maybe the world needs this book as much as i do, maybe it doesn’t. but i came here to do a few things…as far as i can tell so far, that includes being good at love, seeding octavia’s brood, and this emergent strategy book. i feel satisfied.

– i landed from mexico into minnesota on the coldest night of the year. as the cold touched me all over my sunkissed skin i kept saying to myself, you really love, you really love, you really love – it was my youngest nibbling Mairead’s 3rd birthday, and i haven’t been with her on that day since her birth, where i got to be her doula. the babies were all super snuggly with me and i really needed that. Mairead and i spent most of her birthday curled up on the couch, watching dora the explorer (such a deeply repetitive show – one madlib style script really….) and the little mermaid. it was so perfect.

i only got two days there, which nibbling Siobhan let me know was not really adequate to her (because she wanted to read me more books – she is basically teaching herself to read because she is brilliant), and i agreed.

but the thing i want to bring up for practice here is that my oldest nibbling, Finn, asked me on my last night there (before a seven am departure) if he could sleep in bed with my mom and i.

as usual when we visit, we’re sharing a futon that is tight for the two of us. but i can’t say no to Finn! so i say: if you wake up early in the morning, you can come down.

to which he says, ‘is that in thirty minutes?’, which should have been a clue about his intentions.

i said no, like, five hours?

he’s like bet.

so around two am he is standing by the bed tapping my shoulder. i scoot over and make room, and then move him between us. and i would say my mom and i didn’t really sleep after that, just adjusted ourselves in various uncomfortable positions with Finn in the middle.

Finn is. and i am not his parent, this won’t happen a ton in our short lives. so, i watched him sleep, i wrapped him up in the covers, i contorted around his long limbs. and then i lay there in the dark, feeling so much love for him, and for my family, and for these kids who know how to be so openly loving.

– i am getting to a next level of my grief for Grace, for which i am grateful. i feel her in me, in us. i landed in Detroit and within two hours was in and facilitating a meeting, then went to another meeting, a circle of local healers who are going to be offering our work to a fellowship of low-income students this semester. and i feel her all in us. part of ‘what is’ is that she is with us all now, in us, lesson/essence. and when i look up from looking back to find her in my memories, she’s right here.

– i gave to a white homeless person for the first time ever. i always resist it on some principle i haven’t even articulated to myself: no, you’re white. i am not a fan of this form of charity anyway. and this is black Detroit, and you are gentrifying even the begging corners? no.

but…last night my thoughts shifted. who am i to limit my compassion according to some system i didn’t create, that is so much more complex than black/white? or hold this moral or political high ground, when i can see this human being’s face, and he can see mine?

what is? right now?

it’s so cold outside. cold enough that no one would be outside if they had an inside.
and i have a car full of food and a life full of met needs and abundance.
and his skin privilege has not kept him from this corner.
and maybe he doesn’t agree with charity either. who knows.

he said he was grateful, and he blessed me, and i said the same.

– i over-scheduled my return. i knew it as i was doing it, but i wanted as much writing/retreat time as possible, and then i wanted to be fully present with family. a lot of people were waiting for me to return and do things.

so. i landed, dropped my suitcase and went straight to work. as i write this, i have not unpacked. that’s major for me.

but the whole time i kept/keep thinking, this is so good! this is my good full strange life. i planned this, i got all the time i needed, i got to be so present, and now here i am. and retreat or no retreat, i am aware that i am a relatively slow person in a fast world, and i am still making it happen.

as a result of all this Being with what Is, this week – which has also held the beginning of my year of no added sugar, and my moon, and mercury in retrograde – i am often moved to tears by the love, the rightness, of my life. not the rightness of the universe, not yet. but the rightness of surrendering to and growing the good in my life, inside of what actually is, right here, right now.

100 Years of Grace

Today was the memorial of Grace Lee Boggs, my mentor and friend. There was an extensive program. Danny Glover came to honor Grace. There were indigenous grandmothers, family members, musicians, poets including Tawana Petty and Will Copeland (who Grace called the next CLR James), scholars, and so many babies, all vocalizing from the audience.

Grace Lee, director of American Revolutionary, spoke after a lovely memorial film.

Julia Putnam and the children of the Boggs School sang their school song and it was a cuteness overload.

Nobuko and her son offered a song that landed like a meditation.

Scott Kurashige made us laugh with words from Grace (on how his ass was high like a black man’s), wearing a gorgeous white outfit originally gifted to Grace’s husband Jimmy from Kwame Nkrumah.

Angela Jones gave an immensely moving and poetic tribute that left us all weeping.

Emily Lawson and her daughter Tula led the Detroit Asian Youth Project in a collective piece of lessons from #graceleetaughtus.

Invincible shared audio from a conversation they had with Grace this year where she was still demanding better of all of us. Then they brought up Jenny Lee and Kristian Davis Bailey and they all shared core questions that Grace left them with.

There was so so so much, it was moving and loving.

I was asked to sing A Change Gonna Come, a song Grace loved, a song Jimmy loved. I sang it for her many times over the 9 years she was in my life.

I have been coughing for 3 weeks and when I tried to practice, no sound came out. But the spirit in the room was powerful, using all of us to love and release Grace. When it was time to sing, sound came, and for that I am grateful.

Here are the words I shared before I sang, bullet points from Grace:

– philosophy can be a root for a nomadic soul
– there are new ways to listen to my parents and elders…I must love them and hold them accountable
– use Hendricks for a proper gin and tonic
– conversation is a revolutionary activity
– creating science fiction is a revolutionary activity
– emergence is a revolutionary science
– being a good aunt and daughter is revolutionary
– not having kids might reduce the stress in my life
– apocalypse is an opportunity for a greater humanity
– transform myself to transform the world

A pastor at the end said two things I loved – first that Grace had lived so long because god was scared of that conversation. And second, that even though Grace was not a religious person, she embodied god more than most people in church on Sunday.

We ended things with a second line, dancing in the rain.

And there it is – Grace is everywhere. And Grace is gone.

Closing Remarks to Environmental Grantmakers Association

These are my notes (roughly what I said) for framing the closing plenary of the EGA.

Apocalypse is not in the future. It is a current condition. In places like Detroit, where I live, or New Orleans, where I just was for the ten year anniversary of Katrina…or hearing the news from Syria, or the Marshall Islands where my family lived for a while, the apocalypse is all around us. It is happening now.

Apocalypse is not linear, with an end point. I was raised with a Christian concept of apocalypse….four horses, and scene. But there are places that are post-apocalyptic, people beginning again in toxic soil, surviving after what was an end to the economy or environment as we knew it.

Apocalypse and temporary utopia co-exist. We are all interconnected, which means we are all, right now, living in an apocalyptic time. When I go to California I take three minute showers and don’t flush anything, then I leave and I go back to “normal”, instead of holding that the water crisis is interconnected.

The reality now is that there is no science that can account for our future. According to Movement Generation, we are living in the effects of our technology and pollution from 40 years ago, it takes that long for the impacts to fully show up. In 40 years we will feel our impact now! There is no science, no math, nothing to account for the survival of places like New Orleans. Now is a time for imagination and magic that can move us beyond what we think is politically possible now, which is simply not enough.

This is why I write science fiction (after spending so long in social justice work). To cultivate radical imagination. I believe, Octavia’s Brood proposes, that all organizing is science fiction, all efforts to bend the arc of the future towards justice, is science fictional behavior.

How we do that work really matters.

Emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of relatively simple interactions (give examples). We are all interconnected. Denying that, we die. Surrendering to that, we live.

Relationship is key! Relationship, quality relationship, may in fact be everything. To create a shift, we have to learn to be in authentic relationship with, to listen to, voices that are ‘on the ground’.

What does that mean for you? Do you just go up to an organizer and write a check? Perhaps. But aligned with the Jemez principles, ground up happens at every level. In your foundations, it means putting more power in the hands of program officers, who are forming relationships with the field. In organizations it means really listening to the organizers in the field for strategy. And so on.

Who do you know how to listen to?

37 gratitudes

1. My life.

2. My mother, carrying me, loving every iteration of me.

3. My father, at my back, thinking always of my safety.

4. My sisters. Warrior rock comrades and best friends. So glad you chose this family, with me in it, and have grown it/us with true love.

5. The gift of writing, the place I know myself.

6. My loves, my woes, my partners, each of you have grown up my heart – you orient me all the time towards my highest self.

7. Finn, 8. Siobhan, 9. Mairead and 10. Summer. 11 & 12. The Unnamed.

13. Emergence – surrendering to, and falling in love with, change.

14. Octavia’s Brood. When the time comes, I’ll die satisfied.

15. Facilitation. Giving me, over and over, hope for humanity and earth.

16. Somatics. Teaching me I’m more than my trauma, and letting me experience so much aliveness.

17. Black lives matter. This work, in my lifetime? Thank you all.

18. Dreaming, for the wisdom and wonder. I can’t believe so much of my waking life is spent dreaming and making dreams come true.

19. The places where sky meets water. The sound of summer. The first snow. The wild and calm ocean. The forever stars. Heart beats. This particular planet, this particular universe.

20. Grief – carving me out over and over, making me so spacious inside.

21. Tarot, pendant, horoscope, guides, witchiness and intuition…it helps so much to not know anything, but with some sense of patterns. I love being magical.

22. Sugar. You’ve gotten me to here. No hard feelings. I needed you.

23. Adela, Lisa, Mia, Anna and other healers who have made my body more whole.

24. Weed. Whiskey too. And moderation.

25. Pleasure, in every iteration.
Being a body of nerves in a sensual world and saying yes. (And, I’m learning, no.) Being prolific and alone, laughing with others, complete release, anticipation, joy. Yes.

26. Reading. Reading voraciously. Grateful for the physical and emotional places I’ve been through pages. Playing scrabble (and bananagrams) for the love of words.

27. Happy style: the celebration of my gorgeous body through clothing and adornment.

28. The privilege of traveling freely in this beautiful world. Feeling home in so many places, with so little.

29. Song – singing just for me, singing to heal, singing with others. Song/poems that measure moments in my life (both sides now, all is full of love, purple rain and adore, man in the mirror, a song for you, 22nd century, misty blue, strangefruit, cheek to cheek, home and so on)

30. My ghosts and ancestors, so thick with me these days.

31. Dancing.

32. ‘Never a mistake, always a lesson.’

33. The writers who shaped me, and left room for me.

34. Beyonce. The women artists, mothers, athletes, activists, and academics who keep me looking up and ahead.

35. The unknown. Ok, keep surprising me.

36. Complexity. I know nothing, I know everything. I am nothing, I am everything.

37. Self love. This shit is exquisite.

something rotten

i came home from a summer of writing on the west coast feeling like a late blooming novelist, centered in what i am here to do. i opened a cabinet in my kitchen that i immediately had to close again. there was something terrifying and alive and putrid in the cabinet, something that had been growing in my absence. i didn’t want to ever look again, to know what was inside, to smell it….no. no no no.

but i live alone and there isn’t really a service to do this kind of thing for you. so an hour later i had on rubber gloves, a face mask, and half a tube of clorox bleach wipes to scrape the bag of rotten and transformed potatoes and maggots and flies out of the cabinet and out of my home.

i did it. i neither fainted nor threw up. and i can’t stop thinking about it.

it feels exactly like the emotional work i have been up to for some time. going past what the world sees, opening up all these doors down deep in my psyche, in my memory, in my choices, in my heart. finding the places that i want to slam shut and run away from, and instead reaching my hand, my attention, in.

it what i feel when i walk around my neighborhood now in Detroit. there are fences and strangers everywhere, people smiling as they get their cars valet parked, patrols every other block. there is so much rot under these new developments. i miss the place i moved to. but when i open the cabinet, i have to really think a lot about being a gentrifier, dipping in and out of this place as it’s face changes – how am i perpetuating this? how do i divest from the erasure and displacement of Detroit?

‘you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land’
warsan shire

rotten is how it feels looking at the picture of aylan, the syrian baby that washed up on turkey’s shore. i could imagine how he felt in his parents’ arms. i sat with the picture of him and wept, overwhelmed. in this case, opening the cabinet and reaching into the rotten place doesn’t just mean pointing at europe…it’s sitting with my role in this – how long have i been skimming over news from syria? why did it take this image to make me pay more attention? what can i do? i signed the petitions, but what else?

there is so much that is rotten in this world right now, so much we don’t turn and face. i mostly focus on the miraculous, beautiful, evolutionary…but it’s not for lack of seeing. it’s out of desperation, out of a need to grow something good in this violent and unfair world.

and then as always i wonder: what can we do to manage all of this simultaneous crisis and trauma?

i don’t know. to a humbling and quieting degree, i don’t know. i am learning to heal, learning to write the rotten honestly, learning to see myself in the dark.

but also, i have only just gotten the cabinet open, i am only just looking inside.

from earth to obsidian (28/30)

prompt: write a poem about bridges. A bridge is a powerful metaphor, and when you start looking for bridges in poems, you find them everywhere. Your poem could be about a real bridge or an imaginary or ideal bridge. It could be one you cross every day, or one that simply seems to stand for something larger – for the idea of connection or distance, for the idea of movement and travel and new horizons.

queens aya and e— tell why

we walked this sky
because we were not wanted
because we were always targets
of extermination

we left in twos
like all sacred beasts
spinning a path
towards another time

where we cannot be hunted
skinned, broken
lynched, choked of fair breath
expected to look away
from our genocide

where our love is no one’s
path to hell
(that look in the eye
confuses even righteous desire,
or the spark of forever)

we bet on the
miracle of our beautiful
black and queer
and liberated
bodies

we called our ship
Harriet’s Escape
her of rocket science and
witchcraft, dream fuel
and tomorrow
as our only direction

we came here for a future
in which our flesh is precious
in which our children are divine
in which our lives matter

we spun the bridge from
death to life
from supremacy to love
from earth
to obsidian