the only way is through

the only way is through

during the war
they celebrated the genocide
they made it bright
so we might forget
pretty it up
you could be proud of it
you could feel awe
-full -ful or fool
there’s no escaping that boom

and during the war
some young boys went to war
against those star spangled people
only in the streets
to honor the war
that made this precious land
into a self-loathing nation
birth is a bloody process
you’ll know that someday

the birth of war
comes through a body
that’s the only way into the world
barreling through flesh
never before so opened
there is often a moment
when the body says no
please, not me, i want
to go home

the birth of a nation
comes through a body
standing together in some
circle that feels like home
no matter who is at the door
a nation is a porous body
it can bleed out
be riddled with cancer
say no, please,
i am only a child
and still be punished

each punishment is a war
every single time
there is a victory
a moral high ground
“we would never”
is outdone by the smallest mind
loneliness is dangerous
for evolution
if you want to destroy something
it’s the American way

but something is stirring within me
so massive
i’m not sure i’ll survive it
it bruises against my ribcage
makes me nauseous with longing
has a billion heartbeats
that murmurate in a chorus
you have made it inevitable
as you have made every breath
into war

you have left us only our hearts
with which to craft a survival
you think birth is a war
you think life is a war
and death is a power
you have never understood
it is only life and death
if we don’t learn how we all survive it
some of us can get you through
feet first or fist in the air

birth is a portal
stop fighting to live
forever in the breathless womb
of a mother in danger
let go
push through
feel the terror of expulsion
from the myth of safety
and the fairy tale of forever

rage into this world
we are ready for you
we welcome you into the light
from any cave
where you have hidden
and as long as you have breath
you will never be too late
to claim your place
in this fight

we are earthseed
we are ancestors
we are dreams
we are poets
we are naked
we are changing
we are many
we are love

we are godseed
we are future
we are bleeding
we are dancing
we are gorgeous
we are changed
we are many
we are one

* earthseed, Octavia E Butler
* godseed, Octavia and Alexis Pauline Gumbs
* we are one, the whales via Michaela Harrison

what is unveiled? the founding wound. (poem/directive)

a body is always a body
individual or collective
(whole or in many pieces)
alive or, later, dead
a body is aways vulnerable

a wound is always a wound
singular and deep
or many cuts, slowly, blood everywhere
left untreated, unstaunched, denied
a wound will always fester

the first wound happens within
the violence of birth
the expulsion from the illusion of safety
from the idea that someone (else)
will do all the labor

and some of us keep looking everywhere
for placenta, for mothering
for acceptance of our worst choices
to be told we are so special
to be named a favorite child

some of us learn to work
we are given tools, lectures, practices
we are given the blessing of knowing
that work to nourish the collective
is a sacred path for our lives

some are only taught to eat
given the title to land that isn’t ours
judged for the speck of dirt under our nails
set to race against even our own kin
for the neverending victory of more

some of us are black
still nauseous from the boat’s hold
still catching our breath from snapped ropes
still oiling our calloused field hands
and still wounded

some of us are white
still synonymous with impossible purity
still given no songs from the earth
still taught to master nothing but superiority
and still, wounded

some of us are red, yellow, brown
still made to feel tertiary to the plot
still dismissed for all we remember
still claiming we are human, not terrorist
and, still wounded

some of us are never surprised
never apoplectic when the stench hits us
what rots at the core is known, documented
it is tangible, moral, American, spiritual
it is the founding wound

gray only at the surface
brittle black where the injury began
a rainbow of bruising everywhere
green mold making life in dying flesh
but the pus, the pus bursts white

we are well past the age of turning inwards
of seeing the open wounds on our souls
of stepping into our shadows with truth light
of seeing we were shaped, and can change
of believing the wound is who we are

we know the smell of decay on breath
we see the swollen cracking flesh of infection
it is not rude to acknowledge the stink
to wonder if it is viral, venom, survivable
to look for the laceration(s)

things are not getting worse
they are getting uncovered
we must hold each other tight
and continue to pull back the veil
see: we, the body, we are the wounded place

we live on a resilient earth
where change is the only constant
in bodies whose only true whiteness
is the blood cell that fights infection
and the bone that holds the marrow

remove the shrapnel, clean the wound
relinquish inflammation, let the chaos calm
the body knows how to scab like lava stone
eventually leaving the smooth marring scars
of lessons learned:

denial will not disappear a wound

the wound is not the body

a body cannot be divided into multiple living entities (what us will go on breathing?)

the founder’s wound is the myth of supremacy

this is not the first wound, or the last

we are a species before we are a nation, and after

warriors, organizers, storytellers, dreamers – all of us are healers

the healing path is humility, laughter, truth, awareness and choice

a scab is a boundary on territory, between what is within and what is without, when the line has been breached

stop picking at the scab, it slows the healing

until we are dead, and even when we are exhausted and faithless, we fight for life

we are our only relevant hope
we are our only possible medicine

a body is always a body
wounded, festering, healing, healed
we choose each day what body we will shape
with the miraculous material we’re gifted
let us, finally, attend to the wound
let us, finally, name the violence
let us, finally, break the cycle of supremacy
let us, finally, choose ourselves whole
let us, finally, love ourselves

on Charlottesville and the ACLU and stuff

Saturday: just seeing the news from VA, tears in my eyes.

we know history repeats itself. right now, multiple phases of our very worst history as a species are repeating and colliding with each other – civil war, nazis, slavery, nuclear attacks, witch trials, all of it.

we must face what is right now.

believe these hate filled people telling us who they are and acting on it – our surprise and shock won’t protect us. there are no rules right now.

we have to grieve and feel and strategize while in motion.

we are being hunted. we must protect each other and move together. keep our hands locked together, cover each other’s backs, and let go of any beef that isn’t at this scale of life and death.

love y’all, each and every one of y’all.

Later Saturday: this moment in aclu choices is a great way to highlight the difference between theory and praxis. in theory the first amendment exists to protect free speech, but praxis (how we embody and apply that amendment) matters. aclu is choosing {not for the first time, by far} to use money they earned from people who actually want to protect freedom of speech (for all people) to protect people whose every speech, assembly, and action is intended to return the majority of the country to slavery and incite the violent elimination of free speech.

nuance and long term thinking is crucial for our survival right now.

aclu won’t be getting another dime from me.

in response to that post on the ACLU, a few white men came into my comments to explain how the constitution works and why it just has to be this way.

I have two responses.

One is from Malkia Cyril, who I look to for leadership around all things communication and free speech related:

“I wish white progressives would stop talking about the ‘right’ of White Supremacists to speak. This has never been about free speech.

As if speech and the constitution were flat in a flat world, devoid of power relations.

As if those power relations don’t explicitly and systematically criminalize the dissenting speech of people of color and other oppressed groups on a daily basis.

As if those power relations would remotely allow a protest of Black, migrant or Muslim/Arab bodies to march with riot shields, torches, mace and assault rifles.

As if there has been high profile litigation supporting the rights of the thousands of Black protesters arrested.

As if property destruction hasn’t been responded to with the fullest extent of the law, while bodily harm by white supremacists and police officers was flat out encouraged.

Hate speech is one thing, violence is another. The context of power means when it comes to white supremacy – even I as a free speech advocate knows one is a powerful predictor and driver of the other.

Bottom line: if you litigate on behalf of White Supremacists, our contact will be limited at best. Dollars? Never.

my second response poured out of me late last night. I felt myself shaking, and realized my love for my people and those who we need as our allies includes sharing these thoughts.

so here they are:

when I lived in Oakland I was directly across a courtyard from a physically violent domestic abuse situation. what I and my neighbors heard, often, was an escalation from yelling to beating.

I never wanted to call the cops on the abuser – because he was a black man, because the cops shoot first and make alibis later, because I believed they would make the situation worse.

my neighbors and I tried other things – calling out to her, banging on the door, trying to talk to the woman. eventually, when the sounds were too terrifying, the cops were called. she sometimes let them in, sometimes sent them away.

eventually she broke up with him and got a restraining order.

a short while later, he kidnapped and killed her, left her by the side of the road.

he hated her, and no law was going to stop him. each incident of hateful speech and behavior had been leading up to this. it was in his voice, in the veins popping out his neck when he opened the door to tell us to mind our fucking business.

these memories haunt me often. what could I have done? the reality of the situation was more complex than the options I felt I had, we the neighbors were liberal-to-radical people who wanted to do the right thing when there wasn’t a right thing. it felt like the laws weren’t actually designed to protect this black woman living right at the poverty line. the mix of police racism, toxic masculinity, violence and this woman’s privacy and agency – it was so complex.

but what I keep returning to is that his intentions were always clear. there was always death on his breath. over the long term I have thought that only community could have intervened. community willing to be bodies that upheld the restraining order, might, maybe, have helped.

the increasing white supremacist violence in this country has me feeling echoes of this trauma. especially as the Charlottesville story unfolds and the perpetrators of violence and murder have histories of domestic violence in their backgrounds.

people who yell that they want to kill me and everyone who looks remotely like me, that we are slaves, niggers, children of Satan, whores, sluts, abominations, thieves of their land/power/jobs/power/women/power – and then follow that up by hurting and killing members of my community every chance they get, using whatever weapon is available…whatever laws protect those folks cannot actually also protect me.

this is why I identify as a visionary American revolutionary and a post-nationalist.

the country of my birth must experience a fundamental change to be worthy of the miracle of my life, our lives. we should never have to argue that we matter, whether we are black, trans, women, immigrants, or anything else.

borders are constructed to make clear what is within and what is without. what is within u.s. borders right now is toxic and viral, rooted in an ancient hatred, an ancient contorted destiny, and invited, encouraged from the highest office in this country at this moment.

and as long as I look around and don’t see a majority of people committed to fundamental self-examination and growth, I must remain committed to people, not borders.

I would rather “start all over, make a new beginning”*, where we are not catering to the potential of those so broken that the only action they know to take is to break others.

I am openly building a society of justice in the crumbling shell of an America rooted in hate.

I will not sit quietly on my bed, listening to the destruction across the way, hoping it doesn’t come knocking at my door.

I will not pretend the playing ground is equal, and that everyone should have a right to practice their violence in words, to incite race war on the internet, not checked until they have successfully built up their arsenal and come for me and my loved ones.

I will not pretend killers ever arm themselves with torches and assault rifles and sign poles and white hoods and then peacefully assemble just to talk.

my love is deep, my faith is deep, my willingness to work with a lot of people working in a lot of different ways is deep. I rarely draw lines in the sand, I rarely close a door.

so I say this with all the love and all the respect I can muster: if you think you’re on the right side of history, and you are not one of the people they are hunting, then you better go stand between those armed Confederates/nazis/racist police and me. stand before me and mine, stand there and receive that free speech from those armed bodies several times before you open your mouth or fix your fingers to tell me about the constitution.

*Tracy Chapman, New Beginning