still i write (somewhere between mantra and ode)

i worked on a sci-fi story throughout the day today. it was incredible, fun feverish writing. i woke up with a new piece of a story i’ve been working all summer that wanted to be told, needed to be written down. it was a gift.

i was hanging with a sick niece who wanted to be in my lap even though the words were coming. at one point i was writing with one hand while feeding her yogurt. later i was writing on my phone while carrying her around for the pre-naptime bounce. i started hearing the maya angelou poem still i rise, but with the words ‘still i write’. it made me smile thinking about a remix of that poem, but about the persistence of writing. i’m playing with it, here’s what i have so far:

I may only write my history
colored with all my favorite lies,
I may scratch my name in rocks and dirt
Each day, in dust, I’ll write.

Does my persistence impress you
as you procrastinate in your room
while I write like I’ve got novels
shelving the red walls of my womb?

By the light of moons and suns,
to the sound of my own sighs,
With sparks of legend catching light,
Still I write.

Don’t I want this deadline met,
with sore fingers, tired eyes?
Not quelled by the whimpering toddler
In my lap with bambi eyes.

In the quiet hum of wifi free plane rides
I write
under covers in shared movement conference hotel rooms
I write
I’m a diva author, unsatisfied
gnashing and rending til my thoughts clarify
Leaving behind writer’s blocks of terror and fear
I write
if no one ever reads me, if no one hears
I write
sharing the gifts that my ancestors give,
Words are my air, to write is to live.
I write
I write
I write.

(thank you to ancestor Maya for the structure and rhythm)

home, love, vulnerability, life

I wake for words and feelings.
I release them like rescued animals into the wild.
The moon lights up many paths.
I turn back into the warm house of my dreams,
grateful for rituals
and visitations.

i recently heard a date (ish) by when i have to move out of my beautiful detroit apartment. for good reasons, reasons i understand. but it hurts! i love this particular set of rooms, combination of wood, the way the light pours into this wide open space, and how full it is of memories. dance, love, healing and ritual. the first time i saw it was a soulmate moment, i knew it was my home. this space has been my companion through these last five years of my transformation and learning.

i heard the date yesterday and thought, ok! then i woke up last night full of grief. i walked through my house in the sharp moonlight, and just felt feelings, which this house has earned from me, has offered me.

i will land in the right next place, there are many many options available. but first i have to kiss all the corners and gather up myself in here.

hide nothing, withhold nothing. the love you seek wants and needs all of you.

this year i am working with a commitment around authentic, wholistic intimacy. in my somatic study, we pick commitments which feel aspirational, which feel like what we want to embody with our whole lives.

i have a facilitative, coach-like manner. while i appreciate the ways i show up, it can be hard for me to drop out of that bird’s eye/root system view and land in the current moment, in my own feelings.

i’ve contained or controlled a lot of my feelings in the course of my work, tucking them away or transforming them into the energy a group needs. but it can be isolating, to always be holding and never be held. love is a wondrous practice ground for this stepping into the fray, the feelings.

love isn’t something to facilitate, manage, direct. i can’t leave any of myself at the door of love and expect the experiment of it to work. it is magnificent to confess and keep confessing – not for punishment, not to determine right and wrong, but simply because i need to tell my whole truth to survive, to learn who i am in this world at this time, to be part of humans growing.

i also feel this is the major lesson from the elders who are becoming ancestors in droves right now. i feel the changing of the guard. and i notice that i feel most moved by those elder-ancestors who lived with the least compromise. it thrills me to be reminded of maya angelou’s sex work, ruby dee’s experimentation and learning around open marriage.

the more whole our elders and ancestors are, the more whole we have permission to be.

vulnerability is the least obvious path to the life i want, and the most liberating. it transforms the unknown from terror to possibility, evolves my actions from control to complexity.

since sister warrior charity hicks went into the hospital i have been reflecting on her strengths, her magic, the kind of space she occupies. one thing i keep coming back to is the immense vulnerability she regularly shows, publicly. she speaks of ‘getting naked’, of feeling the pain of being in detroit with water shut offs, evictions, winter, gentrification, emergency management and all of it – to be inside of that whirlwind and not grow numb, to keep being a vulnerable human being as an act of strength.

i have been pulling that into my personal life with my beloved, with my friends. vulnerability feels like an understanding of change: i am vulnerable to the changes of life, i know i am not all powerful, i know i can be and am impacted, i can be and am fragile.

but the liberation too – i cannot control the happenings of this multi-layered world, but i can be complex, have history and future and just show up somewhere between the two. i can feel within and through the layers. i can grieve and release. i can and must live.

and another friend reminded me today, i can just BE and not have to DO anything – which is vulnerable. when i am doing, it gives me the false sense of having some control, even if it is only of my dishes and dust. but even in that doing, that myth of my important task, my urgent deadline, my well-laid basically perfect plans – everything could change.

waiting for the bus, everything can change.

i accept my vulnerability.
i accept that there is more unknown than known in my life.
utmost amongst the unknown things is how long i have to BE.

and in fact that is my respite from terror! yes to try and understand it all is terrorizing, we live in a moment of terror for humans and for our home. and yet we can cultivate the good, with our attention, by letting it flow through us and swell between us. without trying to control or change each other, we can be vulnerable to each other. and learn.

then it becomes another radical front – to feel your life, to be honest with your feelings, to offer to each other the truth of where we hurt and what we long for and what brings us joy.

and then the possibilities burst open. i realize at any moment it is possible to just be in the present, which can be beyond good or bad, which can be that tender fleeting extraordinarily precious thing: life.

resting in poetry, for maya angelou

I was thinking how people I hold as eternal keep dying – I don’t know I believe this till they pass – when the news came: you so constantly here are gone.

You were the first poet where I knew your name, your creviced smile, when I recited you. Phenomenal, phenomenal – you lived what it is to be a phenom, to claim it as radical truth amongst cowardice and conditioning.

You loved us word and flesh, edge and marrow, pleasure and secret, with your thunderous mouth and grandiose spirit and such elegance.

In the midst of battle you let us rest in poetry, in your arms, in your faith that Yes, we were precious.

You didn’t whisper, nor did you shout, but measured each word as an ode to our humanity. You were a movement, a poet, a black woman saying now is the time:
To be love
To be beauty
To be black
To be free

Where you have gone I cannot hear, what you have left I cannot measure. I thank you for living your beautiful truth all these short and transformational eighty six years.

(Written in tears in a bus through Kentucky)