Tag Archive for 'poetry'

boundaries and borders

i have been thinking a lot about borders and boundaries. borders are unnatural lines imposed by humans on lands, in bodies of water that taste like tears, between each other, used to justify all manner of destruction. for borders, you will let grandmothers and babies die.

but boundaries? to survive the onslaught of horrible news i am weeping daily, i am feeling my despair and continuing to write and work and be radical and advance radical ideas with everyone i love, everyone i meet. and i know i must have boundaries around my time and attention as i learn to live in this reality and keep adapting and moving towards liberation.

how do you survive the future when it comes without air, frantic, wrong headed?

learn the difference between boundaries and borders.

like so:

boundary 1.
we need a universe between you and life

you harm us
you say our miracle
is less than yours

i know you do not believe it
you are obsessed with our magic
and you cannot contain us

border 1.
there is no separation
between in breath and out
in tide and out
sun coming up and then giving in to night

but you want to build a wall

border 2.
you exploded my life

but when i brought my babies to your door
you would not answer
because i call god by another name

this shows me
you cannot comprehend god

boundary 2.
i need to turn off the flood
but i do not know how
when i look away it doesn’t stop
when i face it
i can’t breathe for raging
i need lung flesh, a brand new liver and snake skin
i need, every day, dry land

boundary 3.
you want to take everything
and be safe
you only think of now
we cannot have you here
while we speak of tomorrow

border 3.
we think we are free
that is why we let you build walls around us

boundary 4.
we are supposed to be ready for this moment
prepared by our ancestors
but they learned to live in the living
and so will we

testing the abundant nature of love
we pull the edges of our hearts so thin
trying to cover the world
from you

border 4.
this is a lie
it isn’t in the soil
it isn’t in the river
it isn’t in our blood
this is unnatural

border 5.
i am made of words
but if paper is how you police us
i say burn it all

boundary 5.
we are made of spirit
we are made of light
when you pummel us, we heal everyone
when you tear us open,
we show everyone
the way to freedom

how do we remember we are miracle?

we have to become more worthy
of our own skins
we have lost the miraculous gaze
we only give it to the newborn
but everyone is utterly unique
amongst the entire galaxy

what does it do to my analysis
to look beyond conjecture and costume
and know this flesh as one that
shivers and bristles and yearns
and the bravado is learned behavior
and the words are hand-me-down

and the sharp theory is a weapon
for moving through the day
propelling ourselves into the unknown
others use sports, statistics on breath,
or aggregation of labor and land,
or escape to a crowded beach one week of the year

how do we shape the future without planning it
learn to feel the present without rejecting
the divergent landscapes of a day
that breaks our hearts and tapes them back together
promising us that the heart can heal, if, if…
but how do we remember we are miracle?

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

blue moon in sagittarius

i am not glowing for love
i am being loved, love and lover
at all times

i don’t mimic the sun
don’t fold into me anyone else’s heat
my scar tissue is my own

while you sleep i get older
hurry
i have to fill in all my bones and flesh with delight

orbit is not belonging
i feel currents move from and around me
i belong to all this motion

the in and the out breath
the wave suckling the shore
and pulling away, mouth full

behind the shadows i am calm
reflecting a wild fire,
wreaking a havoc that becomes system and salt

something is so lovely now
i have to tell you about it:
infinite me, inside me

the fecund and shimmering landscape of the magical world
ripe ripe fruit, above and below
everywhere

so i need for nothing
but aliveness – aliveness
to be a bearer of all this light

mama (contradictory thoughts on mother’s day)

i am not a mama
i was never a mama
(i was with child
i was a brief and clueless mother)
i am a potential mama
a realm of all possibilities mama
(but actually,
an impossible mama)

when i see the bright new of a child
i morph into mama
they mamas give me love
(or side eye
it depends, it’s fine
the children love me)

some babies call me mama
mommy-daddy auntie adjin
tia and other things
that affirm my mothering gifts:
stamina, sweetness, babyfat soft
and a love of play

people say i should become a mama
(they don’t know)
they don’t ask
(i don’t tell them)

i celebrate the sacred gift of motherhood

(but did you lose your mama
did you lose your child
was your mama cruel
was your child a tragedy
is mama a word of grief

i am so sorry
so sorry

and i am not your child
and i can’t be your mama
but that don’t mean you don’t need one)

i love to hold firm the feet
of humans full of miracles
at that precise moment of opening
gasp and life/death groan
the light bursting through them
when they become
mama

and i really love my mama
(she wanted me so much)
she wants me in her life every day
she gives with no conditions
so we keep getting freer together

and my sisters are the kind of mamas
(who have boundaries in their voices)
whose children seek them out
who know how (and teach me) to love

i am surrounded by mamas
i am mothering
i am a mama
(i was always a mama)

the children (solstice poem)

the children run up the stairs
and i realize how old i have become
one choice at a time
in the places i come together
and where i am forever apart

the children climb me
i offer branches and answers
to their years
i have to be so solid
so much stronger than i am

the children are full
i am humbled by the life in them
they laugh with nothing held back
they demand everything of my attention
they bring me here, now

my child face a mirror on the wall
smiles toothless, echoing us
before all the lessons
we know everything
life is learning to forget

the children resist even sleep
they know how precious
all this living is
they dream with open eyes
and surrender mid-vision

the children gift me
the miracle of letting go
the wonder of and in time
the wilderness of right now
the possibility of dawn

I know enough

I know enough
About the night sky
To sometimes say
There is Cassiopeia
There are the Pleiades
There is Orion’s long sword
So
I am home

Only
As I get old
Do I feel safe in the darkness
In the wild
Under that incomprehensible sky
Full of nothing and every single thing
Past present future
And all that I am
And all I’ll ever be
Only with time
Do I exhale

Stars burn gorgeous
And then burn out
But I still see the beauty
Across time

Rocks fall brightly
Through the pores of earth’s skin
Breathtaking moments
Utterly destructive
But I can’t look away

This is where I come from
This complex world
These are my contradictions

I am nothing
And everything
I am here
And gone
I am so insignificant
But I feel so much

And I know enough
And I know nothing
And then
I look up

– stars over Wisconsin

everywhere so full (for Jake Brewer, rip)

everywhere was so full of people
remembering what they’d been told to forget
dying with regrets
too soon or too late
but never on time

you were a man unafraid of the moon
leaning into the small and tender beautiful
of an incomprehensible world
if you were the president
i’d still think you were good

let’s banish the tar from our dreams
in your name
plant trees in shells of the old world of steel
swell against the places wounded with borders

there is this world and then
which one have you gone to
how is it there is no portal
you would have opened one easily
i want you to just explain it is all

in shock i put it aside
lived a day with the story peeking through every window
feeling the no in me forever as a bell
till i could look at your face
and know you
as your children will know you:
in memory

when are we / #whoisburningblackchurches

If 7 white churches had burned down in 14 days, after 9 white people were killed by a person of any other race in a house of worship, can you imagine what would be happening right now?

Imagination muscles flex…right now we’re calling for media coverage of the horror of it, yes. But that’s not all, not hardly.

Imagine further – National Guard, militia, local police and folks flocking to the region to support armed guard shifts of those churches still standing.

Millions raised to rebuild and never forget.

Terms like terrorism and war thrown about.

And, accurate or not, we’d have been had a clear answer to #whoisburningblackchurches as well.

So that’s why #blacklivesmatter can’t be all lives matter. The racism and hatred black people are up against is so devastating that most days all we ask for is folks to look at the fire.

But it’s not enough – fire spreads…that’s the law of nature. We have to pinpoint who is playing these death games with fire.

We have to be an ocean.

Again.

==================

When are we
I feel I, we, all mine
Are lost in time

They raised the battle flag
In Avon Minnesota today
To show the borderlessness
But we already knew
Everywhere is war

But when

And why
Do we hear bugles
Do we smell smoke
When we hug black bodies?

Oh, the church is on fire
No another one
No another one
No another one
No another one
No another one
No…another one

It’s those ghosts again
Their children’s children are
Non-linear haunts

But
Isn’t this the future

How are a million eyes open
But no one will look…
When can we run go hide

When are we

These days of ashes
We wake up wary

Which illusion is killing us
Which construct
Is it our flesh hunted
Or our time

Each moment fills up with smoke
We are catching fire
Again

We feel the rocking of ships
The grief of the sea
We stumble
We moon walk in chains
We dance free

But when could we
Just be

an aubade from aya (6/30)

write an aubade (a song from a door or window to a sleeping woman, a morning love song).

the land is quiet between us

for months we face this sun
growing impossibly hot indoors

she magics a canopy between our fields
demands we drag out the bed

i say the illogical rain will catch us
but she’s right
the wind is all night warm and soothing
we wake on this small and glittering earth
find ourselves shimmering skin

now i watch her from the station
dawn shift, in our conjured time

her thighs spread heavy on white,
my ink plume,
grav belt her only cover
wide and silver at her hips

there is no one so beautiful to me
in all the galaxies
though she won’t hear it

just last day
her warrior eyes on the horizon
she told me not to tell them we found this,
‘they are ruin’ she whispered

so. she thinks i am miraculous.

for me, here, she smiles
and even now, in her sleep,
with the loud sun between us
that sort of moonlight
brings me home