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.
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.
an alternate timeline
the day the humans left
What incredible technology emerges in this break from capitalism?
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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.
a world where disability justice proliferates
we thought fast was who we were,
loud, legs wide, open mouth,
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
find your particular way
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
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
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
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,
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
being with shadow
did I ever tell you
how everything about humanity makes me
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
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?
intimacy at a distance
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
the bitter scent split from the
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
getting back in alignment with original instructions
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.
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