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:


    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


    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

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
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


    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

if you’re good, say you’re good

i keep having this odd little experience where i ask people how they are and they tell me how bad the world is and then kind of whisper at the end ‘but i am actually loving being home’ or ‘i am actually doing good in spite of thewholeworldbeingincrisis thing’ or ‘i am actually thriving in these conditions.’

i want to explore for a moment how important it feels to claim what is good in this time.

first of all, BRAVO. whatever you have done to get to a good place right now took labor – spiritual, mental, emotional…and probably physical. i know that i am doing good right now because i go spelunking through the not-good with my therapist each week, and i cry a lot, and i have rearranged my living space so many times that my furniture has attachment issues.

when i ask my secretly good friends what they’re doing to create the good, it is some of the hardest work of their lives, setting new boundaries and patterns and permissions on their time and attention. it’s not easy to be good right now – don’t add the additional work of containing it.

second, it makes more support and mutual emotional aid possible. if we think everyone is just out here overextended and suffering, it becomes harder to risk asking for what we need. i am thriving in large part because i am in relationships where we stagger support, giving freely when we are the ones who have energy/love/money/time, and asking freely (or reluctantly, depending on our shapes around interdependence) when we are the ones struggling/lonely/broke/maxed out.

when i think back nine months, i was really caught in a rough mental space and all by myself far from home, and it helped so much to feel the loving presence of my friends who were more grounded and with their loved ones. they couldn’t fix my problems, but they had capacity to be with me as i faced my shadows and reintegrated into this moment of life, so wildly different from what i’d dreamed. now that my roots are back in home soil and i can notice each time the sun shines, i have more capacity to be with those in their shadows.

third, deep connections thrive on authenticity. a hidden light still shines, still shows, still emits warmth. in the same way it sows distrust to sense unnamed trouble in each other, dissonance can arrive with unnamed happiness, and especially intentionally denied joy.

there are times when we are truly all in the trenches of shadow times, dragging each other through salt and mud and just barely making our way through it. we can feel and name those times, and survive in the honesty that we don’t have much to offer each other except our own survival.

but honesty is just as important in our happiness, in our contentment. knowing that i can trust the words my friends speak to be a real reflection of how they are, and of what my intuition is sensing, allows me to relax and show up fully, knowing that they will let me hold them when they need holding, and let me know if they can hold me when i need holding, and let us just hold each other tight in the muck when it comes to that.

fourth, we learn good from each other. most of the ways i am practicing my contentment in this moment come from studying people who lived/live fully into their lives, in whatever time. black feminists past and present, close friends who point out the mind, body, spirit, boundary, listening and therapeutic balance of a good life. i am a practice adopter! if i hear something is working i try it:

life hacks for making more space in small space,
body practices for staying flexible and mobile indoors,
apps for meditation,
having more plants,
getting in water daily be it bath or shower,
drinking more water,
a desk that can transition to standing,
lavender mist near my bed,
more time with my ancestor altar,
having a clear end to work time and not expecting anything like my old full-time self to be possible right now,
intentional check-ins with loved ones,
watching movies at a distance – especially with kids,
doing what i love as my job,
surrounding my life with art,
being more fair in arguments,
reducing my belongings,
redistributing time from social media to reading,
having boundaries out loud in real time

…these are all learned behaviors.

a lot of the possible good in this time is circumstantial – the physical space you’re in and how many people are there with you, the guidelines and practices of covid-19 safety in your town and community, economic status, how many people you’ve lost and how close they are to your heart, how many crises you’re holding, your own health.

and inside all of the circumstances, there’s the possibility of this being one of the most beautiful, connected, grounded, liberating, fertile, creative, abundant times of your life.

there’s also, and this feels very related to abundance, the possibility that these are your last days. how do you treat precious time?

there’s a possibility that these are the first days of a great era in your life, or the days when you will have the most impact, the days of the hardest work, the biggest release, the most important memories you’ll carry forward.

you don’t have to shout it out everywhere. i think often of my teacher spenta kandawalla asking what it would take to be able to answer the question ‘how are you?’ with ‘i’m good,’ and to mean it.

so, if you’re good, say you’re good. it doesn’t negate reality, it weaves your reality into the fabric of this complex time.

you can also keep your complex answers, of course – i for one am grieving and good. stretched and good. want to go to a beach, and also good. but the main news, the thing i have worked hard enough to claim, the way i can be of use to my beloved community, is to be honest that right now, today, i’m good.

root and hibernate

“everyone needs more than anyone can give right now.”

i feel like a combination of griefs tossed me into a cloud of volcanic rage ash (again) and it took many friends, tears, rituals, chani nicholas apps, bursts of good news, acts of service and therapy (again) to get a toe to touch back down to the ground. i know i need deeper roots for the next year or 200.

this sentence from a post that my friend ashindi maxton shared has become a voice in my head, helping me access compassion, patience, breath and quiet. these are impossible times. and “these are the times to grow our souls,” grace lee boggs keeps whispering into my youngest tears. ‘and/and’ as my therapist says.

as i head into hibernation, i am aware that i have given all i can this year, am giving all i can in every connection, aware that we all need more. and…rifling thru my memories of each beloved i grieve, i notice the flashbacks are sparce and visceral and true and precious, and so i also know that somehow this not enough will be just enough, this day and the ones i spent wandering in all the grief and the ones i filled with ranting and the ones where i surrendered to joy and satisfaction, the best ones where i sang and played with the babies and held my loved ones and learned and wrote, all of them together are my abundant life in a rich ecosystem of love. i commit to living a life that leaves memories of shared pleasure and deep presence, memories that carry laughter and delight and an ache of longing for more.

for George Floyd: fire

have you learned nothing from sunsets
flaming the entire sky with soft edges
fuchsia periwinkle whisps,
taut and temporary nature taking day,
inhaling light

have you learned nothing from autumn
blazing the earth with gorgeous death
burnt orange kiss-red fragility reaching
last chance for the sky, floating, releasing,
exhaling life

have you learned nothing from war
inferno dappled muddy hose water, puddled
green edged flames of files, photos, losses
our battleground wherever you make us
defend life

have you learned nothing of justice
the deep ever changing heart must breathe
the fire in our veins needs oxygen,
do not unleash us if you don’t want to burn
we’ll keep choosing life

have you learned nothing of love
you on your knees but we the ones praying:
let us never give up on each other
even when grief is the only match for the pyre
we honor life

it is the end of a day, a season, a way, an era
the change is tumult, terrifying and beautiful
we will never be convinced to be expendable.
alchemize every death system, liberate
our divine lives

(photos via ny times)


for a few years, i have participated in a national poetry writing practice (#napowrimo) in april. this year, april fell in the midst of a global pandemic that has left us scared, quarantined, separated, and grieving. i felt like i needed an activation of my imagination as a balm to all we’re holding. i invited others to join me and send in prompts, and for thirty days, we created fiction and art around the pandemic using the hashtags #pandowrimo and #pandemicwrimo. the prompts are on my page and all the posts i saw are gathered in highlights on my instagram. i’ve gathered my own offers here, public drafts in various states, to have them all in one place.

day 1 prompt:
Write a conversation between the virus and the crisis.

seed notes: COVID-19 is here to teach us boundaries. and to teach us we don’t need capitalism/greed/individualist society for abundance.

A grabs B’s hand and shakes it vigorously

A (white, coifed, stiff smile): How may I help you?

B (sort of green, round, with an ever shifting face): Cease to exist.

A: Excuse me?

B: Your existence is no longer of use. Become history.

A purses lips, cocks brows

B: We are here to unhook them from you.

A: We? (looking around as if someone might be behind B) Who is your we, if you don’t mind my asking?

B (face shifting many times, quickly, smiling lightly): We are god. A force of god. The shifting tide.

A: Well, not to be rude sir…eh…madam? But…our projections account for a little change here and there. (scratches nose)

B (now a young, curious brown face): Your projections only serve you. They are realizing they want boundaries. Need them.

A, eyes wide, offended: Come again?

B: Your projections…in order to exist, you suck up every aspect of them – their money but also their health, dreams, desires, privacy. They have surrendered the personal to stay alive within you.

A, smiling without their eyes: Oh they love it. Don’t be silly. They love it!

B: They feel lost, depressed, confused – like imposters. They feel fear. And hate.

A, chuckling: They feel instant –

B: Don’t say gratification. Don’t say satisfaction. They almost never feel that.

A, flummoxed, insistent: They –

B, bored: There’s not even a they with you around. There’s a tiny few who get so much. And even they aren’t happy.

A, swallowing a curse: If you would stop interrupting and listen –

B: You are used to them being docile now. Polite when they should be screaming.

A, hands up: I don’t think all this negativity is called for.

B: You never do. Wealth accumulates, slavery proliferates, you want everyone to talk nice. You build cages, walls, fences and borders, but strip them of boundaries, you make them fight to live, compete for care –

A, a bit sharp: Well, you’re doing that now, aren’t you?

B: You aren’t paying attention. We’re only dangerous to the places who don’t pay attention. They’re seeing that, that places where people attend and think collectively are adapting quickly, with very few deaths. It’s only the places that worship you who suffer.

A, sour laughter: So, what, you’re going to make them all socialists now?

B: When it’s time for a system to end, we don’t prescribe the next one. We are the inevitable result of this time. They are the ones who will adapt. To worship boundaries and laugh at borders. To redistribute care. To grow something rooted in gratitude, preciousness.

A, mask falling away to something skeletal, bruised: It’s too late. They can’t change. They depend on this way. They can’t change.

B, face shifting to something infantile: They already have.

A, mouth gaping, breath fast: We will kill you.

B: By the time you understand us, the seeds we are planting will be green, sturdy, deep.

A, teeth sharp, jowl wet: (incoherent growl)

A leaps to bite B’s throat.

B, leaps into A’s mouth.

A, makes noise of protest, trying to to gag, to swallow, to breathe – but B is invisible again, and everywhere.

day 2:
remember your premonition – go back and change

seed notes – deja vu means pay attention, some part of you has lived this before. don’t assume this is the first or only time to change, disrupt, intervene.

the air in her lungs felt too familiar. she’d done this before, this gulping breath and short, frustrated sigh. something was wrong inside, and she couldn’t get enough air, and she felt defeated. nina was supposed to be with her lover in venice, proposing to him while a gondolier/media maker filmed it in high definition.

they’d gotten into a fight because of the fucking virus, because he asked her to pull out of Carnival when it still “like the flu”, because she was 67 and he 49, little shit. this is the hard part of dating someone so young – he can see just how old she really is. in her hips, her bellyflesh, her knuckles, there are years that gather and won’t be smoothed.

he knew her age and wanted to marry her anyway. and her hesitations had all been the anticipatory embarrassment of this moment where, because she was older, she was more vulnerable to the zombies, or in this instance, the little green men. this was some suuuuper ultimate toxic masculinity – ooh, she thought, she should write that down somewhere – unwanted penetration, spraying all over your face, not revealing its true nature until its destroyed your life and everyone else’s. so, now she’s standing in the Milan airport, dabbing at feverish sweat on her forehead, face bare of mask because she’d rather die than admit that Simon might have been right.

all week had been tense between them, not in the ways of passion that often preceded their reunions, but in growing emotional distance as he railed against her leaving the hotel, yelled at her in his swallowed rage after she got pizza (down the street for heaven’s sake), and then finally said not to come home. he thought she’d get sick if she flew, bring that sick into their home. she’d been furious the whole time, hanging up on him, buying her ticket, packing up her year’s income worth of carnival gowns, all along her inner dialogue half “how fucking dare he?” and “fuck I miss him.”

she wanted her hands in his hair, just beginning to show temples of gray. she wanted to press his face into the soft of her breasts and return to their ease.

but for a moment now she wondered at this heat in her face, the exhaustion of just walking through the airport…what if Simon were right? impossible. but…what if she should have holed up in her hotel, ordered in, stayed put in Italy with all the other snow foxes, waited for the flat horizon?

as she thought this she looked up and saw a short brown woman in front of her with a floral scarf over her face in lieu of a mask. the woman’s eyes looked wild and she kept making micro-moves away from everyone else. they locked eyes. this stranger’s eyes showed fear, judgment, patience, compassion. a voice came thru the scarf, “are you sick? please don’t travel if you’re sick.” nina couldn’t answer. the stranger shook her head, already knowing nina was sick, and turned away into security, where she was immediately pulled into the extra inspection line. nina felt jolted, like she’d never been confronted before, so visibly responsible for…others? she sailed thru security as usual, no one needing an extra check from an older white woman in Italy.

on the plane she stuffed her book into the seat pocket and her bag up above and went straight to the lavatory because she felt like shit and didn’t want to deal with everyone walking by in her face, with her interrogator wanting another thick stare. “are you sick?” pulling the door behind her, again she felt the too familiar, the repetition. she knew what was coming, she grabbed a paper towel just in time to cough into it. that was different…she remembered once coughing all over the sink and mirror. “please don’t travel if you’re sick.” she looked at herself then, in the mirror, skin pale and spotted, eyes bagged, red rimmed and frightened.


her instinct was to quiet herself, take her sleeping pills, curl into her seat, get home to her man and the peace on the other side of some tears and apologies. but she’d always done that, and now the instinct itself felt heavy, off.

before she could third guess herself, she reached out and pressed the button with the tiny lego figure on it, and when the flight attendant knocked she called through the door, “I am sick. i think I have the virus! i think i might be contagious.” and in saying it, knowing it was true, surrendering control, surrendering the journey home, breaking the cycle that had, in the last rotation, infected nearly everyone on this plane and led to 1800 deaths in her city, including her own.

the flight attendant was smooth with the power in his hands, smooth evacuating the plane and requesting a thermal scan that revealed nina’s fever and four others. smooth soothing the white haired white woman into the ambulance that would take her to the hospital to see if she could get well.

and Simon, when she reached him, broke into tears – fear, relief, love, distance – this too was new. she wanted to marry him, again. she felt the space between them chasm and close. he had been right, was right – that was possible. if she lived, she was proposing to him with her first healthy breath.

day 3
an alternate timeline

day 4
the day the humans left

Day 5
What incredible technology emerges in this break from capitalism?

The Kisser

Survive quarantine with this fantastic bluetooth toy for couples/pairs. Made with our patented famous Real Flesh technology, The Kisser lets you code-pair with the mouth of your choice – their toy becomes an approximation of your mouth and vice versa. As long as one member of the pair has the toy on their mouth, they can kiss any place the other person needs kisses in real time. As part of the Real Flesh line, The Kisser is waterproof – heck, water is encouraged! Easy Clean surface! Group edition coming soon. Order today!

day 6

ok pandemic-mates. how are we succeeding in our relationships and boundaries?

embodied amb: well, we do our yoga and crunches and go for walks or swim every day.

honest amb: except yesterday.

embodied: most days.

honest: and yet, we should do it every day according to a portion of the internet, and our internal assessment of the non-yoga days.

brightside amb: but we ARE doing it. AND being honest with ourselves and others more often about…everything!

shadow amb: almost everything.

embodied: we are challenging old fears and patterns each time we’re emotionally honest.

shame amb (shamemb): not everything needs to be shared.

honest: what we withhold of ourselves becomes our prison. and prison is in all ways a lie.

future amb: we succeed at bringing light inside us. we’ll be grateful for how we spent this sabbatical.

shame: shamebatical. hehe. who goes and stays on sabbatical during a pandemic?

honest: the good news is there is nothing to interrupt shame-antine!

bright side: we’re doing shametastic for having spent so many days –

honest: untouched? in 315 Sq feet?

bright side: in much needed and requested and protected solitude! by the sea!

shame: but…still on social media. harumph. not finishing any novels there.

embodied: but it’s really ok to need more connection than we planned.

honest: much like our government, we didn’t plan for a pandemic.

shadow: also, fuck our plans. most of those plans are part of an irrelevant world and everyone knows it.

honest: and the unknown isn’t special for us, you know. we aren’t the only one flailing to grasp onto facts and futures that aren’t solid.

embodied: facts, ok, those aren’t our thing. but futures! we are especially into knowing, dreaming the future. and so into seeing how it could be better. longing for that.

shadow: but now you’re not even doing anything useful.

future: with due respect, that’s a lie.

(shadow shrugs away)

future: mindful change is success. are you changing? how?

shame: I’m changing. getting a tan from all this light on my closet.

shadow: even in my lies, I feel seen and respected.

embodied: I am definitely changing. we feel so much more now, all over like a stripped down nervous system of emotion. I’m learning how to not…numb. how to harness, harness all of us.

brightside: I’m changing…i feel less cheerleader-y. like I’m able to access full moon truth even from the shadow side.

honest: we are changing. my gift of truth is being honored and centered within us, and in our connections to the world. imagine the joy and satisfaction possible, the true success possible, the right relationship possible, if we were all telling the truth – at least to ourselves.

future: oh yes. this time of change is extremely important. for all beings. you think you’ve served your purpose, achieved some things. but you’ve barely unmasked. so much more is coming. and we’ll have to really be there, not performing or projecting, but feeling. the future is felt. every feeling we are having now, every negotiated boundary and professed truth, all the anger and grief and fear AND pleasure AND joy, it’s all success.

day 7
a world where disability justice proliferates

we thought fast was who we were,
loud, legs wide, open mouth,
crass joke,
a general goal to be just like each other

but I was different – fast some ways, but also immensely slow,
performing loud to survive but
happiest alone and quiet most of the time,
processing in tears and song,
more coherent in writing than in person,
legs hips and fingers stiff each morning, imaginative ears, malleable mind,
eyes that only saw so far –
and I was never sane, I was never normal.
I had to learn to want myself, want my survival.
Thank gods my parents loved me.
The lie of normal almost drove me mad
luckily I was mad.
The contortion of difference we could hide versus the tender raw exposure of difference that showed used to determine one’s quality of life.
We were all the baby turtles racing to the ocean, predation = socialization, & there was death in the sand (which btw looks uniform only because it has been crushed and broken and worn down from the beginning of time)
geological detritus all around but I am alive, you are alive,
moving slowly as fast as we can,
difference declares life, adaptation, nurture
You & I we need a pace we can all move at.
We need nothing planned such that it cannot change.
We need a world where we can roll, walk, run, float or fly thru
We need time for our minds to understand what we know, and for our bodies to feel what we know

release the center and you see how small and boring it is
the edge is where future proliferates
and we are being pushed to the edge now
stop contorting!
find your particular way
there’s room

day 8
the banks have closed

i told you not to give them your money
I said fold it into the walls and the box spring
bury it at every crossroad to your beloved
I told them to keep a little out
I said it wouldn’t be worth nothing no ways
I said get you some gold
pour you a ring
build you a house
any real thing will be better than what you gonna
someday be missing

but nobody listens

ooh this fucking rage,
all the work we did in hunger
how long we’ve given more than everything

the rhythm of generational sacrifice
twists vibrancy in the marrow
turns down the volume of light
the brightness of sound

the rug that seemed like comfort
unveils bloodstained concrete
and we know that DNA, we remember
all of their names

we already know
some of us anyhow
about how precious soil is
some store it under our fingernails
so we can feel when we are home
where no one thinks they cleaned up
just to look down at what should have never become unknown

we already know that care equals care
a spell for a tincture, a birth for a barn,
a winter’s worth of wood for the newlyweds
the passed down bibs marked with
whoever came first in the order
we already know it’s a distraction, cash money
we can remember ourselves quickly
what with so many people,
who’ve been living this way always
always outside the myth of trickles

we can change whenever we want to
oh…we haven’t really wanted to
we had just enough to keep pulling the lever
just enough to shrug, innocent
just enough to keep our babies soft
just enough to plain clothes police each other
on the internet
to point and defer guilt to the “richer than us”
to pay for our own demise annually
to forget we need warriors and truth tellers and laughter and tomorrow

we see very quickly,
only sudden to a sheltered few
how we always have the numbers
as many of us as there are zeros in that bank
we can go and get that money
we can go and get so much more

when the time comes
we will pull off these masks
we will remember it wasn’t meant to be like this
it really wasn’t isn’t and will not be
the money is an idea – we are, this is, the value
so meditate, pray, submit to not knowing
the right way all the time
weep, scream. bury. blame. surrender.
choose a future for all of us
crack your knuckles, prepare for battle
howl at the waning moon until it waxes, and then?
from the depths of our grief
we’ll become green again

Day 9
Write a harm and recovery or transformation story

we finally learned to turn away from each other
not destroy each other
but find the boundaries of our breaths

we finally learned to move towards opposite walls
lean our cheeks to the brick, borrow depth
find what earth was left in us

we finally learned how small our circles are
no reckless elbow, no casual police, no righteousness
can fit in this house, this heart, this earth

we finally remembered: after all the hurt we’d caused
the forgiveness we’d needed was precious,
the wounds we healed here, healed all

day 10

whisper to each other, trench to trench
tell no lies, then we can have faith in what we hear
one body, one trail of hungry ants

warn each other of the death that is coming
but remember, the intricate pathway isn’t destined
this plague in the wood, this virus on the wind

keep moving towards life, growing deeper underground
be fecund, unique, laughter in light
but in the dark? pulse, reach, grasp, bond

the world is toxic, we will swallow poison
if we can process it, we will live
changed, fed, wiser, more humble

the world is toxic – it may overwhelm your small body
and then you will feed the dirt,
and we, we will water you

day 11
what unknown capacities are unveiled by pandemic and what happens because of them?

we learned to hug with one hand on our hearts
we could feel each other without moving our bodies, beam love from our palms
relinquish known futures for ‘togetherness someday’

and in the hours alone, especially for those
parenting alone, caretaking alone, grieving alone
we learned how to fill time to brim with
meaning. rest. weeping. sorrow.

we didn’t know we could hold so much sorrow
and still breathe, didn’t know we could get used to the wind chime rhythm of broken hearts pulsing in chorus,
awakening. remembering.

we woke up to the unbearable world
we had created, built, begged entry into
one small desperation at a time…
in a closed system blame is relative and then irrelevant

we learned to stay awake even when we wanted to drift away, how to sleep through nightmares
numb was on sale each day, essential even now
still, we learned to sustain, to direct, our attention

we remembered there was an off screen world
we could hear a living thing creeping up behind us
we could smell when fear left our bodies, returned
the salt of each grief tasted new

we must but can we remember how to tighten up
we hope we can remember how to cast a village
we pray we will remember how to weave the roots
when, when will we remember how to go to war

day 12
being with shadow

did I ever tell you
how everything about humanity makes me
so tender
I could be weeping all the time
my eyes see all the darkness
the shadows crawl across the floor
peek from the corners
laugh when I’m laughing
counting it down
they will take it back with the next sentence

I create troughs
threading away from my heart
spilling down my limbs to pulse out
sole of foot, palm of hand
all wide for the ground
in this way, I can open my eyes
since I was a newborn
people have asked me for direction
and I have almost always felt which way to point
away from me, away, away from me

I hear something coming
which is asking me to receive
to stop letting things go through me
to reawaken the black hole at my center
the part powered by what we lose
what we grieve, and by longing
to reach is to live, to reach is sacred
be attached to aliveness
and nothing else
trust: when life is done, it will let you go

day 13

video reading

waves crash in, riverbanks flood
the original souls – a handful in the cosmic sense –
split and fractured for so long
into so many sand particle lives
all feeling some else missing thing some gone
perhaps even half of themselves,
perhaps even more

waves pull away, river narrows, cracks
more soul concentrates in each little riddle of flesh
bringing back more humilities, a variety of heart breaks, the trauma of true love, of being whole
not thinking of wholeness, but feeling how
you are not wrong, you never were wrong
you were always a child reaching for light

a wave takes flight, a river finds its infinite tail
we realize the total pleasure of minds, desires, histories, dreams, and futures other than our own
left alone, one would always become god
create another to long for, lean on, snuggle into
and then miss, and return to
and then grieve


these newest oldest parts of ourself
remind those coming generations, from within, of truth:
if you cannot grieve you will not survive
life is not promised, death is not fair
the politics of care reveal what people love
don’t let those who cannot love lead you
bitterness is only bearable when paired with sweet and with change
it didn’t have to be this way – what will you change in yourself to make this moment impossible to repeat?

day 14
intimacy at a distance

day 15
honoring femme work

and then one day, enough blood on our hands, the people rose up. we felt it was time to stop living in the trap of a violent sociopath, to stop participating in the complicity of politics as usual in 2020, the lies, pandering, peacocking, compromise, genocide. it was a coup, but so much more than that. it was a chaos. the rallying cries were simple: say no. do not participate in decisions that are inhumane. and then, in the span of a season, any politician who was locally determined to be inadequate to the work of leading during an apocalypse was removed from office – not by skilled military forces, but by mothers. millions of mothers stormed into these offices and put these putrid politicians in timeout. very few places resisted with violence because we all knew the value of mothers, their fundamental and complex innocence fed by the radical imperative of unconditional love. plus, we needed the management skills of mothering. we all read a manifesto from a small group called movement generation that helped us remember all that we needed to survive right now, and offered best practices for local recentering of humans and earth in both policy and practice. a thoughtful circle of mothers called mamis unite, who’d spent years building online supportive community, issued a hasty but sound protocol that each local body of mothers could use in their revolutionary experiment:

let it be messy.
stay kind, be firm, and in decision making ask – is this right for our children? is this right for the land?
focus on the next step that moves us closer to a care-based society.
ask nurses to form councils and generate plans for running our hospitals and clinics. if desired, select doctors who can serve an advisory role.
ask teachers and social workers to work together to create justice councils to bring order and fairness to the impossible circumstances of modern life, and to gather curricula for teaching the next generations to participate in a just democracy.
ask domestic workers and janitors for guidance on cleaning house and eliminating waste.
ask caretakers how to make all of our homes safe during the next phase of the pandemic.
ask grandmothers how to prioritize the resources of your building, block, town or city.
ask homeless parents how to make what we have miraculously be enough.
ask administrators and secretaries to run their places of work.
allow charismatic leaders and celebrities to continue to entertain us, and to make meaning of our coup.
we won’t all do it the same way, the mothers said. but the chaos of care is a better option than the stability of sadism.

day 16
exchange between too alone and too together

hiawatha heard the ocean.

she’d been surrounded by seven people for more days than she could count. she loved these people, these were her people. if she had been far away from them, she’d have longed for them in her love languages of insomnia and chewed fingers. but they were here. all of them. all the time.

a wave crashed, dispersed, a hush, a mist. she knew these sounds. she needed these sounds.

gram. father. ma. hiawatha’s son, grapevine. grapevine’s daddy, donavan and his partner ethel. and hiawatha’s new girlfriend, shreya. all the time.

hearing this vast sound made her stop at the sink, hands clasped and covered in soap. eyes closed she saw a flood of variations on blue, some sea, some sky. in her own darkness she felt a salted sun touch her face. the stillness of this constant motion brought her breath.

this was gram’s house, the one they’d teased her about – why do you need all these rooms, gram? and these stacks of magazines and newspapers? and four french presses, and every book ever written? and scrubbed aluminum foil?

another parent at grapevine’s school had gotten sick, hiawatha had asked gram if they could stay with her because she knew how to care and she had a yard. one by one, the rooms had filled up with the people who loved grapevine and would follow him and his mama to any bunker.

waves come in, waves go out. nothing is permanent, nothing is safe. in the vast world find your depth. you can be storming and calm, you’re that massive. ride the changes, go deep under the biggest waves. when you leave this shore it will change and you’ll never be here again.

hiawatha turned, seeing her world anew. grapevine curled against gram on the couch, donavan, ethel and shreya quietly learning trust at the puzzle table, father and ma making messes on all the freshly scrubbed counters as they made the 1000th meal.

when this time ends I’ll never be here again, she knew.
she opened her mouth, she dove back in.

day 17
pandemic erotica

they stood in her foyer in their street suit. everyone wore them now, gray, lightweight, full body with a visor.

“take it off,” she called through the glass pane of her apartment door. they reached up and slowly unzipped themselves from the top of their head to the bottom of their feet and stepped out.

over their mask were wide hungry brown eyes under a scruffy self-fade. she’d liked the pictures of their face online, tho who knew when she’d see it in person. it felt strange to know they also couldn’t see more than her eyes – her flirtation was so much in the lips. oh well.

they hung their suit on the rack and slowly pulled off their gloves, watching her. she liked the eye contact, the long body unveiled before her, t-shirt clinging to a slender torso, thick hips a pleasant surprise in fitted joggers.

“come in.” she opened the door and they stepped in, and she immediately pivoted them both into the front closet she had repurposed for these sexcapades – no need to bleach the whole house for a short hookup.

in the little closet they both put on the cheap single use latex gloves she had in the supply basket, next to lube and condoms and wipes. she opened her robe so they could see her fat belly, full breasts, pussy hair shaped in a heart because she’d had ample time to learn things like that. their masked mouth gaped and smiled as they awkwardly undressed to nakedness, their soft eyes showed everything.

“first i would kiss you,” they finally spoke, low, easy.

“yes please. i’d love to taste your jaw. your neck,” she reached her hands up and traced her fingers where her mouth wanted to go. they leaned their head back and let her touch them, she thought they were smiling under that mask. then they pulled her against them, burying their face in her hair and neck. for a long time they held each other, flesh to flesh, feeling the quick breath between them, the need greater and simpler than words.

finally they whispered near her ear, “your breasts are gorgeous,” and took her breasts up in big pillowy handfuls, squeezing a bit rough at first and then teasing her nipples until she wanted to be swallowed. they bent down briefly and covered their fingers in lube. “close your eyes.” she needed the authority in their tone, and easily closed her eyes and let her robe drop all the way to the floor. what they did, that wet pressure on both breasts, came close to the sensation of sucking.

she expected them to keep going, to quickly fuck her like the others had, but this one, they noticed how her nipples responded, clitoral, ever growing shafts. she felt the heat between her thighs. she had missed foreplay, she had missed surprise. they said, “i would suck you forever”…and then they stayed there, visibly aroused themselves, watching her begin to lose control, sliding slick fingers and palms over her small erections, pressing and pulling, twisting, thrumming, until she came, just like that.

“one.” they said. the new lovers laughed, the blessing of a good match unveiled in spite of all the ways they were still covered. they kept counting until the sun came up.

day 18
a fresh quarantine release first encounter (but make it fashion)

let me be sun on your skin
feel that miraculous proximity
you are all beauty to me
your attention is a revelation

I love your bleach and fear scars
I want to trace you with my fingertips
come and see all of my scars
I had to gather so much life to me

I love your beautiful smile
unmasked, unrushed, unafraid and unscreened
please, please touch all of my face
cheek to cheek, kiss me, and kiss me again

day 19
the next economy

memory and dream weave together a net that no one can slip through.

we remember that everyone needs time to wander. we dream that everyone has comfort and a clear river on their journey.

we remember that circles hold each other through scarce times. we dream that technology will relieve us of bureaucracy.

we remember that what grows and breathes is more valuable than ashes. we dream of losing greed like we lost our tails.

we remember that constructs make us small and hungry, feeling so wrong. we dream of an economy that lets our inner realms grow beyond imagining.

we remember we are earth. we dream we are one.

day 20
future food systems

are you sated yet with starving
are you ready to be seed
to root into dirt, stop fearing soil
come down and listen to ground
are you tired of your own empty gut
missing each sign and each season
are you hungry? are you angry?
are you ready to listen to reason?

it is time to worship the earth

it is time to focus on farmers
teach our children the prayer of planting
everyone, gasp at the garden
the abundance of home is amazing
there’s an order, a rhythm, a heartbeat
there’s a tenderness waiting for rain
there’s a world longing for our touch
we can be reverent again

it is time to worship the earth

day 21
a day in successful movement in social distancing

journal entry, 2022

it’s come to this, then: to succeed, secede? learning to hold boundaries within militarized borders seems to be just the beginning of the gifts we have pulled from the ashes of the pandemic. although my god it’s been two years! and people are still getting sick from deploravirus – none of us could have predicted how the conservatives would take themselves out, rushing into the toxic streets and stores in an individualistic orgy of casual suicides, then refusing the vaccine and cure when they came, sentencing themselves and their families to crisis and death. millions of people who hate my existence are gone, even though i, we, tried to save them. and what’s left? the Traditional States of America. and us, as yet unnamed, but united in ways we didn’t know were possible.

this is the new emerging politic – there’s our collectivism, that’s the evolutionary path. individualism is conservatism, regardless of claimed party or politic.

i can still remember the terrified malaise after the first waves tsunamied through every city i loved. back when we didn’t know anything, back when we thought we could still return to normal. and then the pivot, as we buried our loved ones and understood we had to think collectively of our safety and resources, we had to go forward…that’s when COVID-19 truly split the wheat from the chaff. we didn’t think we were ready. we weren’t really, we never had answers exactly. we still don’t.

but organizers were ready. ready to learn, to play, to say ‘I don’t know’, to experiment, to teach.

and we, so tired of being a nation within a nation, used the safety protocols and physical distancing to lay the groundwork for tomorrow’s vote, when states will finally choose whether to stay or to go. after this vote, there will be a three month period of relocation, and then we will land in the future. our new nation has been ideological…now it will be geographical. we will grieve the united states. we will learn with indigenous comrades how to restore our ancient relationship with new and old earth. we must learn to harness our screen time connecting into being a people with no border. we’ve been at least two nations for so long. now we will learn how to stay safe against a small minded, armed, racist, regressive nation. this will not be easy. but we no longer have to pretend we are one body, one people, with those who have opted out of the future.

day 22
What have we learned (are we learning) about (navigating and) strengthening intergenerational relationships?

I always wanted to be a whole person
with every other person, also whole
wielding the strength seeded by strangers,
grown in roots that trail back from the spine
knowing how to turn towards the sun
knowing our oldest names, our songs, our stories
knowing the kind of love that does not waver

but we didn’t get to learn all the songs
and we hadn’t heard all the stories
we don’t even know the name of the dirt
we didn’t really know what was taken
until the flood receded, with our memories
pulled away, salt and sand, not gone
but no longer here in our hands

we learned to listen past patience
to humble ourselves enough to become
an altar for our ancestors
soil for our grandparents’ stories, tears
to become the love we so longed for
which can only be learned thru loss
distance, and years

day 23
what has been mended?

the wound in me
which seeks solitude to fix my loneliness
has learned to say
hold me as I am

the earthquake in me
who just knows I’ll be whole if I can get still
has found the peace possible
in panicked motion

the judge in me
which wants to control all the world’s transgressions
has learned I can’t even
control myself

the storm is within and without
undoing each structure I’ve ever built or known
gifting me the lesson again:
the change is the constant

the chaos is the mend
the tears are the river
the wave is the window
the release is the way

day 24
global solidarity, boundaries, borders

they say the differences between us
are not visible from space

from outer space the only border is gradation
are you of the blue world
or the green one with swaths of blood red and brown?
we don’t care that you want to be
mermaid, whale, octopus
you are dirt and weapon

from inner space the only border is porous
an infinite realm of cells to swallow,
to pray into, fortify, change, to master
so, are you healthy or dying? both? always?
how ridiculous.
who made you so stubborn and fragile

every kind of people are mostly poor
but the story the rich tell
confuses us all into thinking we chose our misery
borders between a hungry people and our fecund earth
bricked with underdeveloped ideology
gnaw at the belly and the spirit

how can we love without the moat
the fortress, the guards, the groping pat down
the detector, the mask, the glove
the cage, the court, the verdict
the blame, the gates, the fences,
the passwords, the secrets, the omissions

how do we love beyond the myth of safety?

i say the differences between us
make of our hearts so many stars in the void

day 25
staggering collective emotional burnout

some creatures swallow mulberry leaves
spin silk from their longing to be set free
others cast silk from dark spinnerets
praying fat prey will crash and feed
some swing from branch and vine and sky
with babies who learn young not to let go
others form circles in the ice and snow
protecting their children, whose wings do not fly

we spin in the solitary cage of success
thrash against webs made of concrete and chrome
let go too soon of the wisest hands
always try first to stand here alone
because someone told us this death is our nature
solitude deified to nomenclature
but now we are crawling through our telephones
having suffered enough, we surrender to home

inching there we pass in the dark and fog
last week’s collapse strolling back our way
not healed, not whole, but dignified
able to look us all in the eye
burning anguish held, bright flaws dismissed
deep rest affirmed, furrowed foreheads kissed
we all need our mothers, and they’re all too far
and we’re surprised again at how normal we are

day 26
courage not to go back to normal

the hardest part was saying no
you can’t come in close / touch / be here
feeling thru doors, stepping aside in the sun
being first in the crowd to mask up

the hardest part was seeing
we were different in a way that would matter
i’d taken our “of course” things for granted
i wanted to trust you to live forever
i couldn’t control your mortality
you were feeling rebellious

the hardest part was finding the courage
to say how i felt in real time
my voice trembling, hitched, stone, ice
but never a weapon

the hardest part was letting go
of the crisis which made us feel important
to grasp onto the mundane
that made us feel alive

day 27
collective soul shape, state shift

I can’t stop thinking the universe has us all by the throat with her dazzling hands.
we can’t stop thinking.
I can’t stop wondering how long it takes to surrender. until the end of our bending? or the end of our breaking? how small can we shatter, will we become the sparkle in certain concrete or

I can’t stop feeling like a diamond before the beauty during the horrific pressure that makes them fill with light.
we can’t stop feeling.
this loss, being deep within the earth so close to her warm heart, but the explosion of leaving her body, pulled pushed ejected from what felt like always

I can’t stop bowing with awe at the plot twist, that we are so powerful and gorgeous all the time but feel so helpless.
we can’t stop bowing.
we thought we were complete but only now, only now do we hear the tireless tap tapping of excavation, as one by one we are gathered for our next labor: love

day 28
staying open

the tangerine taught me how to die (or how to open)

thumbnail splitting peel
pulling off her gown in one piece, unveiling
flinging shocks of essence into the air
briefly visible
the bitter scent split from the
sweet promise

but still not open

the exhale of connective tissue
one circle becomes many moons
each part similar (normal)
each piece unique (special)
centered, then piled in my palm
clinging, releasing, wide, falling apart

but still not open

on my busy tongue the taut skinbody
veined and ripe, perfect and ready
(and still not open)
it is only the gnashing of my teeth, the suckling,
the bursting of life, lips to throat, the swallow
the total destruction of self for the unknown

now, now we are open


day 29
getting back in alignment with original instructions

care for yourself and everything else (transmission)

everything is teacher, virus too is teacher, is practice ground, sickness, death, we all die, we all need practice. this virus has been a practice of coming into awareness of our collective selfishness. (I am not selfish you are selfish…) we can see the inward focus in others, but mostly feel ourselves to be good (I was trying to be as good, as thoughtful, as selfless as a saint, but I failed). trying and just failing to care enough for others, that’s us. the awareness of how selfish and self-focused we’ve been, when it comes (detonates from another’s mouth, or in a moment of stillness), can make us deny, panic, freeze, spiral, disappear.

selfishness is the contagion.

with this virus, the self falls away, or the selfishness is unveiled.

it doesn’t matter if you alone tend towards health, the virus will hitch a ride on your breath and collar to those who can’t protect themselves.

it doesn’t matter if you want to quarantine, your job is essential to others, or your big boss is unwilling or unable to give you the time off. or you need the money not to stop for a second. you need groceries, and you need to bring your kids.

it doesn’t matter if you wear a mask and bleach everything and wash your hands raw, that one coughing maskless person has no idea what six feet look like.

and even if, even if we’re all fine, if we all recover, if we all survive – we have to acknowledge (in spite of all evidence that we do not care) that the earth is thriving in our containment, our stillness.

our connection to everything is undeniable. i never knew the language of the original instruction but now I wonder if it’s written in each thing’s code, ‘here is how you be’. when i listen to my bones the instruction is care: care for this body and all other bodies, care generates harmony and balance, care for boundaries without borders. care for each connection, and if it must end, care for the ending. care for communities and have as many as you can care for. care for this planet with how you pet, feed, water, eat, till, plant, and harvest. if it is too challenging for you personally to care for strangers, accept your limitation, and just care for family, you define it, you define who you care for. care generally for futures, or specifically for your own future and the futures of those you can care for.

and you can be single and solitary and solo and silent and still be caring, still relinquish selfishness, maybe that isolation is your deepest care, maybe you need that quiet to heal enough to care again, maybe in this moment you need the care, and it is caring to let others care for you (did you know that caring feels like a burden only when it isn’t shared?) – the more people who care, the more joy, the more we are able to make use of this existence, which came with instructions, which everyone got, and some forgot, and some never learned how to hear, but nonetheless this is how it works: together.

day 30
post pandemic story

in five years

the chaos is brand new, still
we pour our hearts into each day
carefully, slowly, we hold nothing back
sleep shows us a mycelial way
we oak root in the hurricane
we ripple borders like leather whips
we’ve let go of the ceaseless pain
who knows when we’ll feel home again

3 year old

we are always somewhere new
home is where my mommy sleeps
we are finding out what’s true
home is where we feel our feet

on my deathbed

I saw the end of an empire
can you imagine, we split from chaff
we got the mess of nationbirth
and we got the miracle


day 12 #pandowrimo prompt:

How do we shape change from a place of turmoil and grief?

A) How do we deconstruct and disarm despair: what does despair take from us and how do we do the shadow work to replace what is stolen?

(what does it look like on the other side of shadow work?)

@ky_magdalene, @sea_witch_love, amb


did I ever tell you
how everything about humanity makes me
so tender
I could be weeping all the time
my eyes see all the darkness
the shadows crawl across the floor
peek from the corners
laugh when I’m laughing
counting it down
they will take it back with the next sentence

I create troughs
threading away from my heart
spilling down my limbs to pulse out
sole of foot, palm of hand
all wide for the ground
in this way, I can open my eyes
since I was a newborn
people have asked me for direction
and I have almost always felt which way to point
away from me, away, away from me

I hear something coming
which is asking me to receive
to stop letting things go through me
to reawaken the black hole at my center
the part powered by what we lose
what we grieve, and by longing
to reach is to live, to reach is sacred
be attached to aliveness
and nothing else
trust: when life is done, it will let you go

a telepathic communion with dino

amb: dino?


i’m trying telepathy to reach you because a lot is going on that i could use some ancient insight on. and frankly i don’t know when i’ll be allowed in the chicago airport again.

dino: i’m here.

amb: wow! wow i feel you!

dino (smiling): i’m always available. but if i explained how, it might mess up our whole thing.

amb: like i told santa, i choose the magic.

dino: every time. so. are you here to tell me where the masses have gone?

amb: you noticed?

dino: i almost exclusively see in patterns these days. the river is a stream, the stream becoming a drizzle.

me: there’s a virus. it passes with no symptoms, hides inside us for two weeks, and it’s bigger than our healthcare system.

dino: nefarious. everywhere?

amb: at first it wasn’t, but now it really is. so we’re all staying home to try and slow it down while we find cures, vaccines, face masks, ventilators. thousands of people are dying.

dino: i’m so sorry to hear that.

amb, hesitant: is it our asteroid, dino?

dino, pausing a moment: you’re really scared, huh.

amb: terrified.

dino: but…isn’t this your thing? change, apocalypse? the collapse of capitalism? right relationship to the earth?

amb: totally. but i don’t want to lose the people i love. and i can’t make everyone stay home – i’ve tried. and i don’t want to die yet.

dino takes a deep breath.

dino: it’s hard when death comes in big waves. so much grief all at once.

amb: and for what? earth is getting this brief moment of respite, respiration. but so many bosses are still endangering their workers and plotting ways to capitalize this crisis. is this the end of capitalism, or the beginning of global authoritarian rule, or extinction, or liberation? what are we meant to learn?

dino: woah. hey now. it generally doesn’t help to make too much meaning of things that are still unfolding. from within the storm, vision is limited. and you, my friend, you and your species are in the storm.

amb: but deeper meaning helps me get thru the hard parts of life.

dino: hmmm.

amb: i need something to control. a narrative will do in absence of order, safety. i think i’ll become useless without meaning. the grief. the fear, anxiety, suspicion, sinophobia. the blur of my empathetic self feeling everything. i need something to root in to.

dino: i feel your chaos. perhaps instead of meaning, it’s time to revisit destiny.

amb: “the destiny of earthseed is to take root amongst the stars.”

dino: mmmm!

amb: octavia butler wrote that.

dino: she was always nice to me.

amb: that’s amazing. i have been rethinking her destiny. or, our way of understanding it.

dino: say more.

amb: i always thought it purely meant space travel. but she struggled with sequels, because no world she found in her imagination was as right for us as earth. and on earth, we are amongst the stars, here and now. this is a perfect home spinning in space. we may even be celestial to someone else.

dino, mulling it over: hmmmmmmm.

amb: i think we need to root here. re-root. choose here.

dino: perhaps. or maybe all of this, this way of being – on earth or in space – just isn’t your destiny. meaning, maybe human destiny isn’t the most important thing.

amb, sad eyes: now you say more.

dino: i often think that we are all experiments of an earth figuring out her destiny. she likes living things. she likes sentient creatures that love and make family and eat. in our experiment, she learned she wanted a species that could look up to the stars, defend her from asteroids.

amb: oh wow. so…our experiment could be teaching her to not let evil people accumulate all the power and money?

dino, chuckling: perhaps.

amb: or?

dino: perhaps it’s just time to see how what you call evil, what i call wrong relationship, how that can spread, can disconnect a species from its future.

amb: right. it’s like the virus itself, invisible. but making the wrong structures and systems and beliefs so visible.

dino: we can never teach how evil a thing is better than it will show us itself, with time.

amb: but it’s in all of us. or most, to varying degrees. this i, i, i, exceptionalism.

dino: hm.

amb: sorry. i want to let in new perspective. it’s just that all the problems are so big. and intertwined. and i’m supposed to be one of the ‘hopeful’ ones.

dino: what was that?

amb: what?

dino: that…tone. you sound…

amb: sharp? ugh. sorry – that happens when i’m trying to be funny but i feel something else. sad. scared. grief.

dino: ah humans. tone is the tip of your internal icebergs.

quiet together for a while.

dino: tell me something. can you imagine being sad and scared and still feeling hopeful?

amb: it’s hard.

dino: can i offer something?

amb: please.

dino: it’s not an asteroid.

amb, shoulders dropping: oh.

dino: hope, hopefulness, that’s the realm of the survivors. it’s not too late for y’all. grief shows us what we love, what we most want to protect. it swallows everything extraneous. and so much of what you love is still here. and tomorrow is another miraculous opportunity to change, to protect it.

amb: dang dino.

dino: ha. i guess i’ve been a little scared too. i don’t want you to give in, give up.

amb, hugging dino’s telepathic neck for a good cry.

dino, gently, into amb’s telepathic hair: we’re all rooting for you, you know. all the extinct ones. we’re all at your backs. you humans have so much beauty in you.

amb, sniffly: there is so much superhumanity and kindness and humility and change happening. and humor. and dancing online across all borders. and caretaking. and new kinds of honesty. and heroic communal isolation. and choosing to protect the future.

dino: very good. that’s life. grieve like the trees in october. but don’t forget you are nature, and spring is certain.

amb: i am glad to know we can be together in this way.

dino: me too. isolated is one perspective of this moment. deeply connected is another.

amb: love you dino.

dino: love you too.

rituals of release

these days i have noticed how often ritual is really about directing my attention, towards and away from emotions, energies, lives, futures. tonight i need rituals.

this week i am in a place i love, which i must let go of without much agency. where is the ritual for grieving other people’s homes and lands that have also held your heart? where do you whisper into the dirt: “i fell in love with you, with this curve, this ridge, this stand of birch – you changed my life…”?

tonight is my last night here, probably forever. the moon still feels full, waiting for me to release, so i write.

i am laying in the room where my youngest nibbling was born, and i remember how the light poured in that day like the sun itself wanted to see her first. still when i first glimpse her bright gold hair i remember that light, her swimming to her mother and everyone gasping, crying with miracle.

i remember that winter, waking up every three hours to go down into the cold basement in layers and layers of clothing to tend to the furnace fire. that meditation, finding the spark in the ashes and blowing, feeding, waiting…the satisfaction of the fire roaring, knowing the baby, the mother will be warm.

and in the dark outside the window, just a short walk into the wood, lay buried the bones of the infant phenomenon, the little one whose spirit often visits me here, usually in the kitchen, dashing behind me, caught out of the corner of my eye. i hope the next family has kids for them to follow.

in the morning i will wake up to the small pond, one of millions, with its particular cycle of geese, winter ice, summer muck. this pond taught me the sacred gift of catching sunrise, it is so simple, and one of my favorite views in the world. it’s summer now but i think my favorite is fall, this same swath of trees bright red with change.

the hill between the house and the pond is worn bare by sledding, and i remember dragging sleds weighted with children back up that incline.

i will miss these gardens which i didn’t work but watched burst each year with abundance. i miss watching my eldest nibbling bend close to eat broccoli like a wild deer.

how many times did we rescue ourselves from the doldrums of a long day by going for a walk up the driveway, then the dirt road, left, throw rocks in the first pond, left, climb into the creek bed, race to the rock pile, leap over the tiny stream between the next two ponds, grunt up that first hill, run the ridge past the white trees until breathless, reach the fire pit, the yard strewn with soccer balls and obstacle courses and frisbees, populated with frogs that wanted to say hello. how many times?

how many times have i made the double batch of pancakes? in this kitchen i can do it without a recipe. in this home i have been a different me, barefoot, in an apron, satisfied with the work of love and care. covered in paint, flour, dirt, whatever the children had touched before they needed to hold me, hug me, be carried wrapped around my leg, or tucked in a wrap against the back of my heart.

i remember dancing, joy, laughter, building forts and bonfires, mayday poles, a briefly functional kiln. rocking my nibblings to sleep in the dark and then trying to not wake them when everything in this house groans and sings. my nibblings’ feet hitting the floor in their bedroom half a house away, racing to climb into bed with me, my middle nibbling all elbows and knees, the oldest telling me dreams, the baby complaining about the existence of morning.

here i crafted books about my nibblings, for them, like mandalas: take my heart, destroy it.

i want the babies to remember their naked wild years here, skin to soil to sun, safe enough to climb the apple tree and venture out onto the ice, country enough to beef with the neighbor over dog etiquette.

i wonder if they will recall their bedroom full of books, their bedding piled on the floor, rejecting comfort. the safe spaces they generated for themselves and each other.

here i learned about relinquishing control, flying alongside of parents, being kind while sleep deprived, the layered summer dance of dragonflies, the soundtrack of crickets, grasshoppers.

i know why we must go. even flooded in nostalgia, feeling the perfection of this patched together house that has held my family, i know our chapter here is done. i am trusting the universe that this release will honor a plethora of destinies. grief here is truly gratitude.

i grew up moving every two years. as an adult i am wary of any effort to bind me to a place, and yet i am so grateful for the parts of my life, my family’s life, that could only have unfolded on this land.

tomorrow i will gather dirt, offer water, burn words and pray for abundant release. nothing is permanent except the cycle of change, and this place is one of my favorite teachers of how life is unbearably beautiful and ever shifting.

goodnight, sweet home.

meandering thoughts after murder

i am from el paso, i was born there. when i saw the news of this latest mass shooting, i felt gut punched. i ignore a lot of the news. i know it’s all a total crisis, i dedicate my life to focusing on and testing for solutions that will work across the wide range of crises.

but then i see that a black man saved children in the process. i thought of my father, young and black in el paso taking me to the store. he would have done that too. and all the other black men, military or not, who do the right thing, the brave thing, all the time, over and over, and still have to carry the weight of racist dehumanization.

my heart is tired of grief, intimate and stranger.

i turn to the goddesses, and my tarot deck, and children, to ask how we keep moving, or when we will stop, interdependent questions that lead back in different ways to an answer of broader love.

honestly, i am not satisfied.

i start reading about the people who died in el paso, and then the people who died in the other mass shootings this weekend. this month. this year. i let the grief come, let the tears wet the altar, let the pain move into anger, rage, protection, connection.

i feel hopeless and frustrated around this issue, because it’s tied to the chasm, the massive gaping chasm at the heart of the US…on one side is racism, imperialism, greed, patriarchy, small minds, hateful moves. on the other is, largely, a vague sense of moral outrage, with a tiny band of revolutionaries on the left screaming, “it’s all connected!!”

that is still, always, the thought that lifts my chin from hopelessness – it is all connected. the horrific behavior is all connected, down in the roots and up in the white towers and under the masks. we can’t work one issue at a time. but if we keep pulling at these roots, saying what the fuck when it’s appropriate; saying not in my house, not on my watch, not on my dime, not in my name; keep pulling the toxic roots up and out, tossing what we cannot hold to our ancestors, pulling it out from the very very lowest point, bringing it all into the light – i know, by which i mean i can feel, that we are going to pull the foundation out from under this empire of awful.

and i will keep working to make sure we know how to love each other in the chaos. loving you, new strangerancestor or beloved friend or aligned reader, right now, in this chaos, is good practice.

final letter to Ursula le Guin (sent the day after your departure)

first, a few excerpts from our correspondence, which will be published in the Ursula le Guin Science Fiction and Social Justice Reader this year.

amb: How does imagination help our species survive?
UKL: It is through imagination that we think intelligently about what we’ve done, are doing, and should do.

amb: did you ever spend time with Octavia?

UKL: We met only two or three times…She was an extraordinary person, both formidable and lovable.  I always felt she was larger than life, if you know what I mean.

amb: Thanks for your life’s work!
UKL: You’re very welcome! I have enjoyed it very much.


a relationship with a beloved writer can be a very selfish place. you are alone with them, building an understanding of the world through their eyes and some intimate pairing of imaginations – they paint the worlds but all of it happens inside you. i tried to write something more epic and universal, and i trust that will come. but first i wanted to write a letter to her that was about how she shaped me.

dear Ursula,

great teacher.

great spirit.

i’ve been crying since i got the news of your passing, and also feeling very alive.

i got to live at the same time as you.

and i get the honor of grieving you.

there are thoughts and ideas you wrote down that became beliefs for my whole life, marking posts on the journey of freeing myself.

there are questions you asked that changed the way i could think.

many of us don’t get to experience grandparents who can accept us whole. for me you were one of the adults who stepped into that yawning space, who joined the composite of my dream elder.

you let me know i may be in the wrong universe, but i am not wrong, i am not impossible.

you not only matched and fed my queer unorthodox mind, but pushed me further. on relationships and sex alone you had me consider: what about four-way marriage? what about gender as a responsive switchy sexual state that was otherwise nonexistent? what about instead of a period you just had a monthly sexual overdrive and a special place to go orgy for that time?

i am a lucky one – i got to tell you to your face that you were everything – and you were gracious about it.

i am still creating a project about your work. in researching it i became fascinated by you, your abundant correspondence, your art and poetry connected to the worlds you created, your fierce letters to local editors about tree removals, your loves and flirtations.

i still want to read everything. it feels impossible in the best way.

writers cast themselves out to the world with words, so that now you feel fully dispersed more than gone. you were so generous with your gifts. and you were rare – both prolific and genius. so many genius words!

the worlds you wrote increased my trust that white people could imagine something beyond their own supremacy. and that capitalism could be out imagined, like monarchy.

even when i did not seek you, you were there.

when i learned to meditate, you’d left me a framework.

when i fell in love with the Tao, i could turn to your translation.

when i wanted amazing fiction for all my nibblings, you had a series on flying cats.

when i needed to stand up for something, feeling alone in my dignity, you told me about the ones who walk away from a utopia dependent on someone else’s suffering.

when i lost hope in this world, you offered me a plethora of fully formed universes to learn from. you even gave me multiple options for moving between universes, both distant and parallel.

when some aspect of humanity felt beyond my comprehension or compassion, i found books you had written twenty years before that not only opened my heart, opened the possible in me, but generated desire for that specific difference.

when i wondered if imagination could be necessary for revolution and transformation, you said yes, you said our dreams and visions matter, they are the way we make oppression temporary.

88 years. i wanted more. you are that kind of human.

even as i sit in my grief for you, you guide me, you remind me that you are not absent, but complete.

“true journey is return.”


from the new yorker’s piece “the fantastic Ursula le Guin”