lesson from snow

sometimes contemplating the incomprehensible helps me continue. there is a foot of snow covering every surface outside and still dropping from the sky, not just here but all over the region. and each individual snowflake of the gazillions covering the city is unique. i can’t really, fully grasp this.

and yet this is us – millions asserting a future that doesn’t seem possible now. winter is a concept, manifested by multitudes. liberation is a concept. we can transform the landscape with our multitudes too. by being different, yes, and moving in the same direction.

trust your actions now, not to be right or wrong, but to be passionate and honest. be utterly unique. be exacting. be uncompromising about your right to exist, right here.

sign everything.
make the phone calls.
engage in harder conversations.
be ungovernable.
make action and safety plans.
secure your communications.

and.

cultivate joy and generosity.
resist oppression, but keep your attention on each other.
love abundantly.

as octavia taught us:

Respect God (amb note: God is Change)
Pray working.
Pray learning,
planning,
doing.
Pray creating,
teaching,
reaching.
Pray working.
Pray to focus your thoughts,
still your fears,
strengthen your purpose.
Respect God.
Shape God.
Pray working.

one week of poems on love and terror

i was supposed to be working on a novel this month but it will keep. instead i have written thousands of other kinds of words – blog words, journal words, and with my clarion writers group, a daily poem. here is some of the poetry, which feels very much like the journal stuff, my terror/despair/love, clarified.

….

1. survival

the brittle tissue was layered and piled up
rung dry
stretched on a repurposed loom
until diaphanous
torn strips for the days to come

she rolled the flesh up
suffocating the thru line
doubling it, fat grease
thick in her fingerprint
placing gray life on her tongue

it was salt and steel
it was cold and still
it was the fat end of the day
and she was the only one hungry
the open mouth

in this way
she ate her own heart
before they came
to break it

….

2. moving forward

i wake up into clouds
and all day i reach in my hands
feel my way forward
i think forward
its hard to tell
sweeping the nothingness away
i gather the mist with my palms
ready, not ready
for the sharp tomorrow
to slice my fingers

….

3. reducing myself

i am accumulating crust and feathers
pinching and piercing my skin
and threading through me
and making a bloody mess

it gathers at the edge of eyes
too fast to wipe away
the salt-ring
soon i will decide: open? closed.

i used to love all the colors
i used to love all the titles i could gather
but i can let my skin cake up with dust
be a no one from here to there

at first i was so brave
and i had a framework, an answer, a flow
now, i just choose life over death, today,
today,
today

4. becoming brightness

im far away from myself
a distance between heart and skin grows
fills with brush fire
until inside i wheeze and my eyes tear up in public
am i a stray spark
am i of danger

if i keep an open mind it means maybe there are multiple interpretations of “lynch that nigger”
a humorous way to grab a stranger’s pussy
and logic by which descendants of immigrants can tell anyone ever to go home;
that my love is less than sacred

but i am the infinite accumulation
of millions of small sparks in the night
saying:
i am not your dream, i am my own

now i feel smoke in my mouth
now i begin to burn through those i touch
i begin to feel a hunger for anything that stands still
i begin to slip out of system

….

5. every time i choose

on one side of me is the terror
a shoreline with a violent water
sucking back teeth
lifting up to swallow
me and all of us
making all my distinctions silly
drowning my horses and
dashing my obsession with living

on the other side of me
she is holding my hand
she has already lost several nations
and all faith in men and politics
she loves me without ever saying it
watches me until i become goddess
saying its ok to grieve, to be terrified
let us feel as much as we can while we are living

every time i choose her
i feel the miracle of touching skin that isn’t mine
her life comes from a desert
and she laughs at how i am american
grandiose and self important
then she shows me something smaller
and more precise
than i ever dreamed

this time it is a tiny elephant named earl
she wants me to travel with him
before that, a soap from aleppo
to remind me that nothing is forever
and once it was a book of male genitalia
to help us laugh at those who care for power
now, with my sea of terror behind me
all i can gift her in return

is my life

….

6. my heart can break but not in two

i am not half of myself
my mother’s cells do not inhale in me
pulling themselves away
from the skin that terrifies
her neighbors

my mother grew up around
men on horses with rifles
told a lie about their hearts
(irrelevant)
and a lie about their destinies
(supreme)

my heart can break on a story
about a poor white person
who lost something beloved
person, place, thing
but show them my picture
ask if i can lead them…

so, my heart can break

i am not half of myself
my father’s cells do not terrify
the tender world in me
which whiteness inhales in infinite lines
feasting on its neighbors

my father grew up around
women who held kitchen courts
lost their teeth early
(truthful tongues are sharp)
lived almost forever
(raising everyone in sight)

my heart can break on a story
about a poor black person
who nurtured the deepest sweet
but stepped onto the pavement
and was swallowed up, whole

so, my heart can break

7. your safety and your pins

there is nothing wrong with safety pins
i imagine that where you are
it is brave
the world around you
held together by a gleaming oil-ish bubble
chartreuse and bulbous
inside like a snow globe
small and white and seeming to fall down
earth flat, that sort of thing
and you want a real life
you want to stop being shaken
and responding to a false chaos
where the only thing that changes is the
position of the sky
you want to feel dirt and
to find a heartbeat in your chest
so you prick inward and out
and with the sharp and rounded pin
you shout:
i will change

and there is nothing wrong with this
it is a morning action
and you still have sleep in your eyes

an emissary from the night might tell you
there is nothing wrong with safety pins
but you may find you need a sword
a shield, a baton, fireworks,
a megaphone and a rested voice
and to feel the ocean inside you
before you can step onto this line
between me and hatred

for the line is long and fatal
and the war so quiet
it could break you in two
like a confession

for the line is sharp
and the war so deep
it could swallow you whole
before you can say stop

pleasure in the age of [insert president elect]

if you are actively working on the election (knocking on doors, calling black voters in the south, talking to voters who feel confused, etc), thank you. remember to eat, shower and drink something other than coffee – at least twice a day. book a massage for november 9.

if you have voted already, or are waiting to vote in person, and know what your choice is (for example in Detroit you know why you are voting yes on Prop A and no on Prop B), and aren’t actively working in the election, but still find it impacting the pleasure potential of your days?

some options:

1a. if ranting and raving at people online makes you feel good, this is the week to indulge. helpful tip – when sharing any of the often terrifying and/or underwhelming news about the womEn running against candidate bump, make your recommendation for what you think people should do in the voting booth. it is more interesting to hear how people navigate the compromises than to pretend there are none.

afterwards we will all be out of the theoretical multiverse and back in some version of the same boat (an ethno-racialized hyper-gendered/abled/class segregated multiverse), so rage against whichever machine most enrages you.

1b. if ranting and raving (your own or others) makes you feel hopeless and miserable, take a social media break. write a book. read a book. i was accidentally offline most of last weekend and i felt my brain instantly nourished by the lack of incoming election-related crises.

1c. i have also curated who i follow right now – mostly checking for people who inspire and inform, with humor and fact checked sources. some favorites: alicia garza, kiese laymon, rebecca solnit, dallas goldtooth, jay smooth, taylor renee aldridge. yours?

2a. have at least one orgasm each and every day. minimum. to paraphrase mae west, an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away AND keeps everything in perspective – no matter what, right now you still have your miraculous body, made up of a complex system of pleasure sensors.

if you don’t have easy access to a lover each day, or if you do but still love the idea of buying new sex toys to use for political purposes, i recommend the womanizer (worth it), magic wand (dependable), wahl (also good for joint massages) or jimmy jane 2. use separately or all together. i’ve also heard positive reviews of the fleshlight, but can’t evangelize from experience…feel free to add your recommendations.

2b. more cuddles and more massages. hold, comfort and release each other.

3. stay hydrated and increase your exercise and mobility. polls show a 100% likelihood that some portion of us will move closer to apocalyptic conditions on nov 8, 2016. get ready!

4. focus on how incredible standing rock/#nodapl and the movement for black lives/#blacklivesmatter continue to be every day in the face of traumatizing and hard work. feel grateful to be alive at a time when you can give time, attention and money to such groundbreaking work.

5. in order to help yourself remember that whatever the outcome, y/our work continues, write a love note to your today-self from your 2020-self about the incredible work you and y/our community accomplish in the next four years.

this might include working on evolutions in the voting system like instant runoff voting so you don’t spend the next election in a fear vise about voting your values.

or not. your future self knows.

6. plan post election community healing spaces, places to notice how we are, knit ourselves back together if need be, hug on each other and focus on breath and laughter.

i will be hosting such events in oakland (11/16, 7pm solespace) and detroit (TBA) (will post events on my page)!

7. if all else fails, google michelle obama speeches (just fast forward through the ‘greatest nation’ parts, because as a reader of this blog i assume your goals for humanity are global survival, abundance and pleasure, not permanent dominance and competition) and revel in black woman magic.

let your pleasure be an act of resistance in this time of terror and distraction. as always, we are almost in the future, and this moment is almost in the past.

election exhale

i spent the past weekend at a gathering called with/out ¿borders? hosted by the arcus center for social justice at kalamazoo college.

it was a well structured gathering, four plenary conversations over two days, each one with a set of related breakout sessions afterwards. there was an ‘unconference’ as well, emergent sessions and film screenings that bubbled up from a brilliant participant body.

i got to speak on the first plenary and the election came up. as i was speaking i realized that i have been feeling unexpectedly calm about this election lately.

but how is this possible!

i was returning from a hot springs off-grid moment after a six day facilitation extravaganza, so i’m not sure how coherent i was.

but here is some exploration of the feeling, and the context.

to begin with, i feel like all the people i most respect and admire are playing their positions well – in movement, in life, and in relation to history.

the vision for black lives platform is brilliant, complex and clear. it really helps as a guideline to any and all who would hope to lead in or shape the future of this country.

in each place/movement i get to facilitate, i see people moving towards complexity and alignment with each other in ways that support being able to advance the leadership of grassroots and directly impacted communities.

these organizers i look up to are aware of the election, and doing work around it that makes sense. none of them are dropping everything and doing reactionary electoral organizing – their work is much longer term. most are not endorsing any candidate, because our standards are high.

and! we are not ignoring the election, primarily because many of the people we care about are looking through the election lens right now, and we dance between the attentions of the people and our visions for justice.

rosa clemente and others are reminding us that in spite of all the fear drums, there are other legitimate and politically aligned options, especially in blue states, and no individual has to bear the brunt of a broken system – everyone should have the right to vote their values.

the conversations i’ve been in are nuanced, and this, more than any particular individual or formation, gives me hope.

mostly we recognize that candidate pump as a hilarious and offensive attention-suck is not himself the problem, it is the ideologies he is playing with, the animus he is stoking to get attention – that’s the problem. still, he is doing us the favor of showing how vast and solid white supremacy and economic fear are in the u.s. right now. mapping the opposition. and white house or not, white supremacists are turnt way up right now.

and…that is what we expected, and should expect, in response to this moment of nonlinear black political, economic, athletic and entertainment flexing.

the death throes of white supremacy are vile to witness. it never stops shocking or hurting us to witness and be prey to white supremacist vitriol. but i am focusing on how many white people are standing up, stepping back from the table, and finding ways to learn self-love that don’t require dominance, looting, destroying.

i am also impressed with the radical compassion of leaders who can see through the fragile surface of white supremacy, see through to the pain, all the way to economic alignment, and are reaching through to speak about shared oppressions and shared possibilities.

regarding clinton, mostly we recognize that while having a woman president will be a move forward, we won’t be tricked into ecstacy over symbolic gains again. constructs such as race and gender expose themselves most when they are fully indulged. the mind and values of each woman are different, are not to be assumed. yes she is a woman, and familiar, and ridiculously competent, and a survivor, and a human being. and a hawk, and a zionist, and so on.

clinton is not the first woman to run for president, but she does seem to be the most experienced human to ever run for this office. still, she doesn’t align with or advance many of our values (“Who do you trust to be the president? The Republican, or Donald Trump?“), particularly in the ways she has used the tool of war.

we have under our belts two or three shared experiences (at minimum) of overattending to the office of the president. one is the panic of george w bush’s presidency, the terror that was drummed up, the heartache of watching critical funds move away from what we cared about and towards war and destruction. the stolen elections upheld by the supreme court, which shaped eight years of history, left us cynical, and in a mounting racial and climate catastrophe.

two is the thrill of obama’s election to the presidency, followed by years of seeing the limitations and compromises that defined his position, guaranteed his second term, constricted his legacy.

he is perhaps the best president we will experience, the most feminist and facilitative. but in a capitalist imperialist nation it’s hard to measure or celebrate such a thing.

an example of the contradictions needed to consider the obama presidency: i pray for him and michelle’s black love and safety daily, but i don’t trust him to free mumia and peltier.

i trust the savvy organizers who are using this election frenzy to move important stuff down ticket – sheriffs and school boards and policies matter so much more than presidents in our daily lives.

in detroit we are organizing people to vote on prop A, which will allow communities to hold corporations accountable for what they do in our city.

and during this time the exciting news is not happening in the media-election frenzy, but on the front lines of the Standing Rock struggle to stop pipelines that were prophecied to destroy the land and water from being built across North Dakota, as black people continue to live and die at state whim and to learn to love and protect each other in real time. and Flint and Detroit fight for basic water rights, and learn to love and protect each other in real time.

what i am saying is, our priorities are in order, we are aware of the paths of fear and limitation, and we are choosing to organize, collaborate and grow what we long for.

so no matter what happens? we gon be aight.

standing with: an election call from my body

as i tune in to this election, i feel the bristling dynamism of my internal complexities and contradictions in my body. i felt moved to write this piece, which is basically a call for love to all my straight and/or male bodied comrades who may be considering not voting in this election, or voting third party. i write this to lovingly check your privilege.

i am a post-nationalist american revolutionary. yeah. so i have to stretch to still see anything good as far as options for engaging, and yet i am learning to ‘love this country enough to change it’ as jimmy boggs called us to do.

so from that love, and because of what this election could mean for my body, i write.

first of all, my context is that this is a capitalist nation, in which we only have two parties that get engaged in the debate and race for president, both of whom are encouraged to compete to be the most…competitive, most aggressive and imperial. that’s literally the only kind of person right now who could win (thoughts on third parties at end of piece).

we live in a nation sick with fear, one of the primary generators for consumerism. fear is used as an election tactic at the federal level, and at the local level around policies, ballot initiatives, politicians.

within this nation where i was born, where my ancestors are buried, where my loved ones work and live, where the babies in my life are growing, i don’t want to be manipilated by capitalism, nor by fear.

and yet there are parts of myself which are female, queer, don’t know all the places my family migrated to the u.s. from, parts which are auntie to nearly three children and godmama/auntie to dozens more, parts educated and traveled, the parts of myself rooting in the soil in detroit…these parts have been feeling feelings.

most of all when i come in contact with republican thought:

when i watch the republican party speak of my body, any woman’s body, as a place over which the government should have jurisdiction, imply that there is something my body is supposed to know how to do to stop rape, to stop pregnancies from rape…to hear them say that god would give gifts in this way?…i feel myself simplify. i feel myself separate from republicans, deride them, speak of evil and ignorance, close my heart down. i read the handmaid’s tale recently, and recommend it to all people. in its imaginative dystopia i was reminded of how quickly conditions of freedom can change for the female body.

and when i hear republicans speak of gayness as something that a city might be punished for with a hurricane, gay rights as something that is given and taken by whomever is president – like a dog’s bone, to chew on for a while, empty, retrievable by master at any point…i feel myself grow defensive.

even though i don’t want to get married! i remember being hospitalized a few years ago, and scared, and how grateful i was when the nurse whispered permission for my same-sex partner at the time to stay with me til we knew what was wrong. who could be hurt by such a tenderness, such a care? surely only evil patriarchs lost in barren wastelands devoid of love…see the negativity grow in my heart?

i know there is still desperation to control women, to maintain something familiar for those who have benefited in a patriarchal and heteronormal world. it comes from a capitalist perspective that you should have to compete to have quality of life.

but that desperation, that desire to control everything that we fear or that makes us uncomfortable, works against human evolution. it works against the divine and miraculous in each of us.

i believe, as many believe, that there is a happiness, an evolutionary joy beyond materialism. i have felt it, been held by it, cultivated it in my life and family and community. from that belief and experience, i can feel past my triggers to reach compassion for whatever sadness and isolation occurs in peoples’ lives to hold them in that survival pattern of fear and desperation, judgment and inhumanity.

so really the question is not can i love and have compassion for republicans who hate and fear bodies like mine – i have a family full of them, i know i love them and as they learn and grow, they love me, even with such vast difference and misunderstanding between us. we have seen each other change through grief and love, over time, by continuing to return to the familial space.

and when i see us building the divisiveness in this country, constantly identifying and analyzing who our enemies are, cultivating and playing into a culture of enemies, forgetting that in the majority of things – needing air, water, healthy food, good education, abundance for our families, to feel safe secure and happy – we are the same, and interdependent…i just think we have forgotten who we are.

because we have to understand who ‘they’ are. these people who walk with racism, who desire to control women’s bodies, who devise policy from greed and fear – they are not aliens who landed on our nation. they are the part in each of us that is terrified, that internalizes oppression, that operates from scarcity, that feels love is limited and happiness is out of reach.

rather than reaching a fever pitch of division and hatred this season, how can there be dignity and respect? humane radical engagement in this election that isn’t just a ‘let’s all vote’ invitation, and it isn’t an ‘i’m too busy with the revolution to vote’ dismissal – but accountable authentic political dialogue towards transformation.

i am not an utter idealist anymore, i am not even trying too hard to change republicans. but my body is demanding that i make a legitimate attempt to awaken people in any party who espouse solidarity with me, or love for me, and then in action and word act against that.

this includes those who may vote republican, but even more so, those who might support a republican presidency coming to pass by not voting, or by voting for a third party candidate in this close election.

seriously, how can there be vision for, and action towards, revolution in the face of this comprehensive de-evolutionary system, revolution that doesn’t look like or feel like hate, compromise, or disengagement?

i find that in every instance the answer is love.

because my body requires ongoing movement towards love – in the culture of this country and the policies, as well as on any revolutionary visions we cultivate.

i know that grounding my work in love, always asking what the loving action is in any moment where i can choose my action, builds my personal dignity, fills the source from which i draw energy and inspiration for my work.

i also know that my chances of impacting others with my loving action increases with both physical and political proximity, so recently i have been concentrating on what is my loving action, in this election, towards those who say they are my comrades?

i have seen these comrades, mostly straight, many of them male, in social media spaces, in articles, saying the candidates are basically the same, both war mongering imperialist capitalists. they say fuck this system, this faux democracy, don’t vote, or vote for a third party.

with love, from my queer female body, i ask you to stand with me.

i stand with you in the analysis around our imperialist nation and the candidates within it. i stand with you in concerns around obama’s foreign policy, his border policies, i share your critique.

i also believe we are creating the conditions for post-imperialist foreign policy by building deeper authentic international movements where our work can be standing and acting with and as oppressed people. this being of and with is the next radical step, rather than generating charity and petitions and empty policies for people we are told to pity across a somewhat mythical first world/third world gap.

i believe that looking at poverty, prisons, climate, so many issues, there are no borders around the third world, it is all around us and within us. realizing that will liberate us from the savior-complex that still permeates our international solidarity work, keeps us focusing on eradicating poverty and violence abroad when we haven’t evolved beyond those same conditions at home, and when our nation is still at the forefront of creating those conditions elsewhere.

on the domestic side of things, however, we do have policy in place to ensure women’s decision making power over our bodies, we’ve been building the space for equality in the work place, building towards love being acknowledged regardless of the sex of the loved ones, equality in who gets to fight wars for us (a privilege i don’t long for for anyone, but folks fought for it nonetheless).

and these are reforms, many of them compromises to hold space while the culture actually shifts to see women and queer folk as fully human, works to experience in our collective american body a justice deeper than sex or sexuality (or skin color, ability, ethnicity or class).

but what i need to say is – don’t tell me my body doesn’t count, that the difference in what these candidates think as it relates to my body isn’t enough.

obama would uphold my right to make reproductive choices over my body, believes my body can love whoever i desire. romney will actively work to take away my right to make decisions about my body. romney rolls with people who believe queer people should be put to death and that rape is just another delivery method for babies, a cruel stork.

that should be enough, if you are truly radical, or revolutionary, or even progressive…or even liberal. that should be enough.

more precisely, i want that to be enough, that from your place of straight privilege, and/or masculine privilege, that you can sit down for a second and say the violence a romney presidency would bring down on the bodies of my female and queer comrades is enough to make me show up to this election and vote for obama.

obviously even if women and queer people’s bodies don’t generate solidarity in you, then it can be noted that on every other issue, romney chooses corporate over human growth – climate, federal emergencies, healthcare, etc.

angela davis, in a speech last week in detroit, noted that on every issue that matters to us, obama is the candidate we are most likely to be able to leverage. so we can elect him and continue our work.

but for the record, because my body is screaming it out, standing with me as a woman, and as a queer person, should actually be enough to stop you from super simplistic social media ranting about how obama isn’t che guevara. and it should give you serious pause about advancing third parties which don’t have a base large enough to win nationally, only large enough to take enough progressive votes to ensure obama loses.

i heard years ago a friend quote from a course in miracles, that ‘every act is an act of love or a call for love.’ i hope this writing is seen as a call for love, as the stories of republican hate of women and queer folks fill mainstream media, a call for love as we enter a close election which could vastly change conditions for all women and queer people, a call for love to my comrades who i need to stand with me, this time.


on third parties: i believe in building viable third parties at the local level, towards a time when they have built a local base and can be considered at the national level. i share a lot of their views. i also believe we should have instant runoff voting so a third party vote is not a loss. without that local base or IRV i feel they serve the dual role at the national level of deepening the conversation, while simultaneously weakening radical/progressive impact.