How good it felt: to want something and
pretend you don’t, and to get it anyway.
—last two lines of Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz’s “July”
Trust your gut. I don’t want you to get lost in the details. This is a map, a blueprint, a ledger of interactions, process or form or whatever you’ve been taught to see.
Guests of former selves clamor. There are fires and no water. Heat domes and variants. Return-to-work and shelter-in-place. Critical race theory and Big Lies™. Long division and 4th of July car sales. Blueberries are rotting on the bush and border theatre sells out. The routine of keeping it together. Line by line, word by word, click by click. 21st century prefabrications.
How can I hurl myself deeper
into this life
—Ellen Bass, “The Long Recovery”
I’m a maximalist by virtue. I want more than an average understanding. I’m the oldest daughter of an amateur bull rider. Surface-level commonality is temporary as an ocean wave. I want to be like the tides, consistently influential to the point of unforgettable. Inverting the fates, nothing unimportant.
Hope was my greatest sin. —Clarice Lispector, from “The Disasters of Sofia”
Your and my immunity are fated these dragged, hot days.
In a burning world, my dreams saturate. Mostly trees,
thick, green, with moss thick as absence. Caution—
only longing and sunny winters ahead. Toward is a feeling.
Away a noun. What luck has found us both still breathing?
Our futures have become increasingly jealous of the past.
Portents of death a spammed life—forgettable.
Self as a frequency. Do you know how to want less?
The pattern is there is no pattern. Only thrills split from the inside of nightly dreams. Fireworks imploded. In the background of Jaws, the captured sound of the ocean insistent. Tumbleweeds untitled. Lives carefully leashed. Forgiveness now sold at cost. It’s cheaper than a full-bodied excavation or postponing uninsured vacations. Those flag waving contests, sacred competitions, enunciate the ascendant feelings. Clear and bright. Rising suspicions, surges of delusion, all of it natural as dredged wetlands or pipelines exploding to spectacular affect. The variants are just following the rules of long division. A simple prayer; please. Insert more coins to keep living. The transactions of ordinary time. Freedom to fill an empty page. Phantom whisper networks now interstellar contextual markers. Parabolic welcome wagons. There is no pattern, only recognition.
“How innocently life ate the days.” —John Updike, Couples
All day long, she sits behind windows
watching swollen ancient clouds
echo along abraded front lines.
She traces their carved patterns
and records distorted stillness.
Parting seductive, the bruised grey sky
swarms off to her west and opens wide.
Some might say she’s damned
but that’s a different parable
for a different time. Today,
she’s thinking about sanctity of attention.
Relationally vast in its deviant transience,
she listens to sovereign urgent voices
like well-fingered coins tossed into wishing wells.
This form of anticipation reclusive and incessant,
unyielding as the agency of water.
An observant song now broadcast as western light.
“What happens when you reposition agency away from power?” —Ocean Vuong, episode 227 of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso
I’m writing this down
as proof of memory.
The sky is almost always
a solid backlit blue
unless it isn’t.
A specificity shared
by anyone who lives beneath it.
Not unlike knowing poppies don’t unfold
until midmorning and being aware, now,
how summer here blooms—
if you’re paying attention.
Gradients of time punctuate
while light cascades unnoticed.
In other words, there’s devotion
and there’s feral experience.
Time is visual—
the sun an arc,
we are the curve.
On the cusp of a new year
time has been absorbed;
last year not yet finished.
Unless otherwise stated,
no one is coming to save me.
Time now swarmed with qualifiers,
its own forgotten circumstance.
Lead me gently back to place.
My tense present perfect—
Clouds stretch fluff
over million-dollar hills.
That clock stopped years ago.
The plants grow taller.
Evacuations have started,
master prompts. This land of fault lines
under a sky so blue, suspended in hope.
Responsive is the desire, a memory.
as the jet stream moves
torrid seasons west to east.
The Arctic Circle holds tropical.
We start to make summer plans—
then actually book them.
“Space to breathe” or “create
new memories” congregate
fragmented within threaded comments
like when Roland Barthes says
in A Lover’s Discourse,
“this is the paradisiac realm
of subtle and clandestine signs:
a kind of festival not of senses
but of meaning”. Maybe this summer
will feel more like a communion—
public intimacy sanctioned.
Stay longer in me, take roots. — Vera Pavlova, “If There Is Something To Desire”
In this kingdom, we intend to be recognized
as permanent guests and move around like trees.
Semblance is our currency. We become fixed
points on a map, a place arranged
by analogous topography and revelatory grief.
In this kingdom, endlessly contextually forsaken,
such transfigurations build our shelters
and show up in our mentions. We augment trust
by automating our needs to the indentured bidder.
Occasionally, we find survival inside failures.
In this kingdom, probable threat is enough to act.
Near future, present pasts, all of it exchanged
under systems of calculated instinct. We whisper
feelings and their cousins opinion and belief
as our syntax preserves its subversive hiss.
Having the equilibrium of a poet, I kept falling in love. — Frank Stanford,
“With the Approach of the Oak the Axeman Quakes”
And everyone’s competing
For a love they won’t receive
‘Cause what this palace needs is release
— Lorde, “Team”
The neighbor’s laundry hung drying in the wind generated from our conversations below. It listened like well-placed ears as your observations unraveled my patterns: cold penetrates while the sun strokes. You said in order for this to work, we must agree to be happy but your gaze was hard, questionable. My tone grew suspicious. Wandering fragmented and feral as virtual imagination, I drifted. Our poetics of pleasure and devotion now kindred mysteries. Illusions of prophesy, or was it property, told us we could own each other with infinite monthly payments—no money down—an absolute steal! A flashing sign said Don’t Eat, Touch Only. Absorption may reduce your wing span and there’s not an airport within hundreds of miles from here. Yes, of course this is a competition and you’ve been eliminated before knowing all the rules. Love, now a cathedral built from simulation, was defined for us. The laundry, dried hard as bones, was pulled back inside.
Beneath a gray sky, backlit bright,
the persimmon tree is full of leaves
as if it hadn’t just been naked for months.
If you find an orange
on the sidewalk,
one solitary orange,
what kind of luck is that?
In Olivia Laing’s opening essay in Funny Weather, “You Look at the Sun”, she references Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s concept of a paranoid reader. “A paranoid reader is concerned with gathering information, tracing links and making the hidden visible. They anticipate and are perennially defended against disaster, catastrophe, disappointment. They are always on the lookout for danger, about which they can never, ever know enough.”
Distilled: “to prove what we already feared we knew”.
I fingered the begging-for-it jade trees.
As the flowers slept,
still curled tight,
the sun floated above me
already round and bright.
Abstract as repentance or glory—a transitory representation—is the distinct learning from unknowing, an experience of active living. A day of rituals, smooth from habit, bloom into conscious discipline. Nothing less than a lived response will do in these warped times.
Another week soft as cat paws sneaks past me. The sounds of the radiator and freeway now so familiar, I consider the silence around the noise. Maybe this form, an oblivious infinite loop, finds function waiting like the persimmons? Or maybe this release continues to demand merging threads fleeting as sunlight passing through morning clouds. It’s just as possible all that happens is that I learn to love myself a little more.
this whole time
I’ve been writing my future?
Loving feels lovely in a violent world,
—first line in “Community”, Marge Piercy
I relished pleasures of the mind and the flesh equally.
—Marge Piercy, Sleeping with Cats
mind that gap
somebody must know
the biochemical difference
between fear and excitement
trees with new leaves
look fresh next to those
who keep their looks all year round
same view, thoughts recycled
40 more hours squeezed
into future dollars
performing “ordinary life”
(overheard on morning NPR)
all of this so-called-living
to be cherished
“I find it easy to admire in trees what depresses me in people.”
— Marge Piercy, last two lines of “The Doughty Oaks” from The Moon Is Always Female
Spring finds us haunted. A seasonal feeling after witnessing winter’s passing, but it’s acute this year. Blue skies expanding. Nests of birds explode in sound. Time is the fulcrum. I love you fills the past, present, future. Now weightless, light cracks through early morning clouds. I thought about the scam of resurrection. Some never fully accept death as loss, permanence unchanged. They believe death can be cheated. The obvious irony is you’ll suffer from wanting what is not possible. Time is the fulcrum. Flexing, palming, sucking off temporal attention.
Through the eyes of a non-believer, the sharpened edge of dilution, I miss you.
My stride is for life, a far place. —William Stafford, Run Before Dawn
The first thing to know is everyone but you, and a few precious others, will move on. Push that reactionary and perceived disrespect to a corner in your heart you’ve saved for petty grievances. Forgive them, eventually, for they simply did not know your joy. You’ll be better served, in these early days, to center your scattered energy by paying attention to the way your days and weeks advance as you begin to revise your life. This or that part of your previous life is no longer applicable but you’ll still find yourself performing the phantom shapes of a visceral routine. The memories you form in this emerging now will feel like new bones growing, indescribable aches. When you notice you’re no longer performing for the past, breathe. In that space of awareness, allow laughter and evocations of pleasure to strengthen you. Remember, most of all, to praise the mutual life you were able to create together.
The next number of infinite steps is to continue gathering the integrity of love.
When translated to English, zugunruhe (German) literally means “migration anxiety”.
In accordance with their inherited calendars, birds get an urge to move.
—William Fiennes, The Snow Geese
It is restlessness with a specific depth—you can feel it. I know because its anticipation first pools sweetly and intimately inside my dreams thickly layered into a time-bound mix of memory and myth. We can call it instinct. I didn’t chose these fragile liminal structures but I listen to them for the survivor messages they inevitably surface.
Those messages, that calling, is from a place where threshold holds both its meanings; what must be exceeded for a reaction to occur and an entry. It is rudimentary—basic at this point—that I must relearn anticipation is also a kind of hope.
I imagine myself arriving new, and again in return.
On Wednesday, I learned trees are biologically immortal.
The sun-warmed puffed clouds stray. Daffodils bloom
in trickle-down light bent abstract buttercream, back swallow,
just breath and heart beat. We configure ourselves
to fetishize normality as told-you-so’s make history
then serve up alignments so remote multiverses constellate.
Skies of baby blue, that texture, now future tense.
It’s ok if this revision won’t translate just yet.
I am not writing a history of these times or of past times or of any future times and not even the history of these visions which are with me all day and all of the night.
— Anne Boyer, “Not Writing“
You asked me if I had responded to the response.
I thought about those high school boys from Tennessee
bragging about their football conquests in the Mariott hot tub.
They were beautiful, hard like toy guns
full of manufactured bravado.
Again, you asked me if I had responded.
I remember witnessing a new moon’s illumination.
A simple and ordinary texture of perceptual darkness
worn resilient and smooth as a natural pearl.
You asked me when I will respond.
I answered with a question wound around reactive
need, a homegrown suspicion. Where, in my body,
won’t I respond based on all this surveillance?
People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.
Anton Chekhov, The Three Sisters
The new year feels rushed, already flush with grievances.
Obscurant clouds glide smooth as lies repeat
until slick with intent. The news claims
we are living through revolutionary times.
Remember, there is no trophy for second place.
Record the collapse as memories as silence
fills the jagged edges. I wait to receive
repressed strategies from punk lyrics.
I close my eyes and rotate my plants toward the light.
The sun is eager to begin. Birds have started to sing.
Are your feelings loud enough to be heard?
Will they last long enough to remember
these stretched thin and cheated days?
How should I trust the slant of this sound —
as a temporary glance, as weather, or as
a debatable response? Is this everyday
violence dystopia or social change?
As if the media makers and media takers
are building the same empire. As if they
fantasize to the same thrills.
Explain where god can be found in this.
Rectify the impossibility of knowing.
Show me the value of undivided attention.
Where faith’s enforcement tends to
get stuck is wanting results. Shame on me.
… read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life,
re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book,
and dismiss whatever insults your own soul…
— Walt Whitman
This just-past year was a hard and impatient year to live through. All the ways that living had been previously measured—flesh on flesh, breathing in blue sky, talking with your eyes in crowded noisy rooms, curating analog conversations—were inverted. In my sheltered place, I watched as the pace and geographic scale of global suffering became buried in disembodied aggregates. Paradox ruptured.
“Everyone remains aware of the arbitrariness, the artificial character of time and history.”
—Jean Baudrillard, The Illusion of the End
pleasure | obsession | distraction | instinct
This list contains references from a calendar year that borrowed time to push its own way through. It began as it ended, incomplete.
40 hours online is not affectively equivalent to an embodied 40 hours
consciously inviting imagination and reducing perceived need of others’ assumed expectations cultivates fascination, which is an antidote to manufactured boredom
making assumptions wastes time, and more importantly, energy
change is unquantifiable malleable entropy
morning walks adjust the perceived stillness
step into the slant
It has been enough to record the honest and the irreverent interruptions. There are whole days, months, ideas, and precious witnesses missing. An almost unbearable time-lag of consciousness is now felt experience. To survive what? An optics of promise, a future?
distance + force = gravity
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
—William Stafford, “A Ritual to Read to Each Other”
What I continually draw from this poem’s well is not hope but alert perspective and prophetic predictability. I anchor on should — indicating both obligation and possibility — as the holding ground. A Ritual to Read to Each Other is a solicitation, or a prayer, to listen to your clearest signals — yes or no, or maybe — and bravely claim them.
Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out.
Let it all pass. Let it go.
— May Sarton, from Volume One: Journal of a Solitude (Norton, 1977)
As evening’s frantic pink light slips into a lavender twilight hour,
gravity continues to hold us in place like constellations.
We string and loop lights around the apartment to project
hope’s fractal reflections everywhere. Yes, we really do
have to keep going and salvage tomorrow’s fragile glittering promises.
Predictions of our survival will be found in the how of our doing.
When oranges begin to ripe on the West Coast, that’s the signal
to gather for the next new beginning. Heed tradition’s clairvoyance
and pull on the shiniest threads to prepare for a better future. Pop! Fizz!
Incite! Even in the expanding darkness, prophetic renewals
of mutual liberation trend as lack rages on. Hope brings so much to want,
manufactured and genuine, next year no longer waits.
Is there a way to be gone and still
belong? Travel that takes you home?
Is that life? – to stand by a river and go.
—last two stanzas of “Quo Vadis” by William Stafford
They come hard, and fast, and have worn themselves into a series with anchored images: rainbow sweater, double queen room, a noisy air conditioner full blast in December. Then sensations follow: a specific kind of scratchy found only from the machine stitching of cheap hotel blanket covers, the coldest setting on the air conditioner running full blast in December, recede. I want you to distract me. Corrupt this circuit. Find a way. This is phoenix as purpose, not process. There is no ending, yet, only restarting, again and again.
Large-scale logistics require brutality to properly function. It’s a consistent low-grade hum, not quite elevated to cadence, buried between the lines of the system’s dramatic rhetoric. Have not. Listen to the outgoing empire’s heroes—the obedient civil servants, the priests, and the keepers of fluctuating interest rates—as they transition their esoteric power. In this tenuous state, it feels risky to outright deny dehumanization is holding together our mutual cultural identities. Shut your mouth, withdraw. Are your dreams an onslaught of forbidden touch too? Historically, politics of a republic abandon specific kinds of astonishment. Buried seeds of exaltation. This year’s plans were just that, plans. Revision requires experience, which can only be earned through the passage of kairological time. Our collective scripts of possibility are now hardwired into the evaporating streams of multiple realities. We are conducted citizens. The death of illusions can be a gift with the right slant. I think philosophers of imagination make the best poets. Please love me as much as a skeptic’s devotion. Help me feel for the traces of memory around our capacity to forget. That’s grace. The last time it snowed in Los Angeles? 2019. If you want, you can call that feeling of recognition emotional regulation. Are you a canary? Am I? Were they?
“But I wanted never to adjust my explorations to the anticipated expectations of others. Writing was enjoyable for the reverberation I got out of it, and the reverberation had to be discovered, not planned. — William Stafford, You Must Revise Your Life
Were you raised in redemption?
You’ll likely recognize its siren
as a concept—a never-ending story—
a seductive and subjectively
generous way to live one’s life.
Were you born with a shy body?
There’s love there,
you just have to be patient.
Have you learned
fucks with stasis? See also:
acceptance, risk, glory, grief,
and madness. Winter light
breaks through in layers,
kernels of stimulation.
Atonement becomes a paradigm;
it is a grind to keep believing.
Maybe it’s time to examine
your one dramatic life
when inertia is salvation
in an authoritarian state.
Are you ready to receive?
The stimulus of showing up, here, is a fevered habit. Prompt: insert your abject wandering into a space consumed by right-leaning ideas of lack fortified by institutional memory. You may be thinking insufficient curiosities flourish in dank places or perceived stimuli explodes into slow release, but if you’re not thinking about death, or its cousin grief, are you even alive right now? Pull from intermittent signals so faint they remind you of the softness of privilege, an edge of feeling safe. Remember that feeling, you’ll need it today and every day that follows you into the future. I agree, this practice has earned the boredom of recognition. Say transformative like you really mean it. I want to glimpse that specificity, again. It may be entirely possible the change we seek is not propaganda, or won’t be recognizable in the way we’ve been told. Repeat until fully integrated, until expansion is assumed. What if we understood our respective divergence like the quest of a glacier crawling unnoticed across outwash plains? In other words, your finish line will not be the same as mine. It’s the lived experience between habit and ritual—an autobiography of coercive fragments—that reminds me, it’s time to re-read You Must Revise Your Life by William Stafford. “But I make the lines be the way they are by welcoming opportunities that come to me, not by having a pattern in mind.” Miracles demand that kind of attention. Come, gather with me.
“All of our reasoning ends in surrender to feeling.” ― Blaise Pascal
I was told salvation is coming. It could be any day now. My earliest memories integrated this knowing as a worried occupation, equal parts faith in and fear of the odds. Much later, I learned trees share similar survival stories—expressed urgently as generosity with occasional pause to report danger—through elaborate, networked underground comms systems. This year, they’ll wait for a response not aware their friends and family didn’t survive wildfire season. We all wait in this sense of unknowing as predictions of unimaginable loss dampen relentless holiday sales pitches. Our cumulative temperament is tuned towards intermittent reinforcement, an addiction to hope.
Lately, as a ritual of escape, I wander between landscapes of turning Japanese maples and persimmon trees, flickering reds and faded orange, as palms stay evergreen while limes and lemons transform sour. Take this lust and ride its crest. I want to believe this could be a new beginning as waves of survivor’s guilt swell, then spread.
Poetic principles like allowing for improvisations and diligence of testimony guide my guarded thinking these vanishing days. I create deliberately, in curious inquiry of being in a state of suspended exile. Forgive me as I loop.
Birds commute along shoreline drafts as surfers gather before waves build. Calm blue sky pulls from water’s light moving along corduroy swell lines. Sun burns through fog. Temporary, temporary, temporary. We’ve begun to thread what was held together—memory and a different future.
“the war that matters is the war against the imagination all other wars are subsumed in it” —Diane di Prima
I’ve heard the future is worth fighting for.
Some ask, why now? Because of mob rules.
Declare your victory early so it counts
but I’ll decide how I respond from here.
Flattened into identity, winter light
reveals new shadows. Call it a gut feeling.
Only pre-show sportscasters and polling pundits
are wrong more than contemporary weather forecasts.
Handsome margins sell like gospel. Premeditated
as a salt lick, a new frontline is mass produced.
I’ve heard this before. This fear. This opportunity.
This emergence and its process of revelation.
As these days plow forward, I promise
to peel a thousand oranges for you.
They’re quiet, the choir, their voices go higher
The choir, the choir, their voices go higher
— Palace Music, “Brute Choir”
The future is a con. A dream remembered in excerpts: enjoying cigarettes, frayed rope ladders, cubicles. My cat’s heavy metal heart beat when she lays pressed against my head is aggressive. I like my information distilled, fermented, and expansive in perspective. Accumulation drags. Fragments fascinate. What was before and what can I imagine after? Learning language and understanding her partner, grammar, I realized early that words strung properly don’t always hold their power—not nearly as long as when you have to stumble, pause, or outright stop to notice the tender edges of the fragment’s extraction. Disclosure. Do you want me to continue? Broken, then mended. There isn’t a stable subject or am I paranoid? Out of context trends. Passive tense is monetized. You are welcome to take all of this, make what you want, and build from these haunted tensions.
During the war, we felt the silence in the policy of the governments of English-speaking countries. That policy was to win the war first, and work out the meanings afterward. The result was, of course, that the meanings were lost. —Muriel Rukeyser
I consumed so much “information” throughout this very long weekmonth that this post is what it is. I know that too much intake isn’t good for me and yet I binge as if satisfaction could be found in declaration. Refreshing will tell me something new, smooth these edges of unknowing, and fill all the holes. At saturation, it physically hurts. Early symptoms are a tight chest and shortness of breath. Today the sky is a perfect California blue absent clouds and smoke. Fact: you can believe it but that doesn’t make it true. The barrel of the camera can cause dramatic harm. This is a threat. Surely witness reifies reality. I know some will say angles and their slants are beholden to the power that frames and seduction laps those edges but there’s more. There’s always more. Urgent thinking and wanting immediacy always take us away from the subject who doesn’t want to, ironically, be seen. The next spectacle must definitely be worth it? Any similarity to a person living or dead is entirely coincidental.
If the water should cut my mind, set me free — Cat Power cover of Bathysphere
This waste has a frequency. Fragmentation, ritual undulations.
Football snaps. Trees release their green grip as shadows lengthen.
Gritty details of fire and death dominate our collective vision.
Language is spoken as advice. Gather paper: cash, proof of identity, maps.
Consider packing the most precious of your valuables, nothing more.
Poets obsess over lyrical scale, enormity of loss and perspective.
I crave open space in the way a true horizon shows separation—land from sky.
If we believe these times are unlived, restricted and dangerous,
how will we evolve within the inevitable next adaptation?
Urgent expectations transition this chaos. Short-term addictions.
Thunderstorms from a ghost hurricane came through last night.
Focus on a feeling of ascension as our emotional worlds
and their borders dislocate from distracted penetrations.
You say deprivation. I claim radical self-interest.
And always I wanted the “I.” Many of the poems are “I did this. I did this. I saw this.” I wanted the “I” to be the possible reader, rather than about myself. It was about an experience that happened to be mine but could well have been anybody else’s. That was my feeling about the “I.” I have been criticized by one editor who felt that “I” would be felt as ego. And I thought, no, well, I’m going to risk it and see. And I think it worked. It enjoined the reader into the experience of the poem. (emphasis mine)
and later stated “there is no nothingness” I found an edge of where I had been wandering disassociated these tangled smoky days.
I, too, posted a flurry of orangered sky photos on Wednesday, a sky Australia experienced during their “Black Summer” the final months of last year. I did not want to believe what was in front of me—what was real and happening.
I am, now, acutely conscious of feeling triggered by the mere recognition, now a pattern, of that very specific hue of red and orange mixed with smoke and sunlight. When that extraordinary color and any adjacent approximation catches my scrolling eye and peripheral sense of self, I am physically reminded how saturated a lived experience can be.
During World War II, we bought sealed plastic packets of white, uncolored margarine, with a tiny, intense pellet of yellow coloring perched like a topaz just inside the clear skin of the bag. We would leave the margarine out for a while to soften, and then we would pinch the little pellet to break it inside the bag, releasing the rich yellowness into the soft pale mass of margarine. Then taking it carefully between our fingers, we would knead it gently back and forth, over and over, until the color had spread throughout the whole pound bag of margarine, thoroughly coloring it.
As these days surge on sensory overload, I am suspicious of receiving and having to interpret new information like “unhealthy” versus “very unhealthy” air. I understand how conspiracies comfort the masses by creating gaps in perception. I surrender thoroughly (to borrow from Lorde), when I realize all of this—this living, this breathing, this give and take—is a radical synopsis of cognition, dear possible reader.
“Instead of becoming preoccupied by the extraordinary things the deluded individual believes, we should turn our attention instead to the ordinary things they no longer believe, the absence of which have allowed the bizarre to flourish.” — Huw Green, “Deluded, with reason”
I was born on the east side of the Missouri River. U.S. Route 12 segregated town into north and south. If you drove west, time moved backward one hour from Central to Mountain. A sign on the bridge let you know you were crossing the threshold when you reached the middle of the river. Everyone west, within a certain driving distance of town, set their clocks to Central. Awareness of time in this way, coupled with growing up immersed in seductive Evangelical promises of attaining an afterlife, shaped absolutely how I perceive time and place.
Living in a community that so willfully defied authority (whoever put that arbitrary line of what time was) and persistently yielded to a prophesy that believed you were doomed unless saved, was ordinary—normal—to me. Technically, every day was urgent and distorted.
What was delusion and what was habitual enough to thrive in that unique cultural echo?
Learning so young to measure time as both borrowed and flexible expanded my ability to conceptualize reality, an immense landscape of what I knew and what I saw. It also helped to construct a very specific concept of suspension of disbelief. I recognize and am familiar with waiting as an anchor of suffering and its twin—earned anticipation of endurance.
As the contemporary drags hot and dangerous, I wonder if these times, right now, are worse than other times of war, protest, fire. To pull an image from the last line in William Stafford’s A Ritual to Read to Each Other…the darkness around us is deep.
What revelations lay at this undulating edge?
I don’t know. For now, I’ll keep translating evocations into poems and finding pleasure in trying to answer unanswerable questions. Where I come from, we call that feeling for miracles.
“Some days in late August at home are like this,
the air thin and eager like this, with something in it sad and nostalgic and familiar…”
— William Faulkner from The Sound and the Fury
Its salience starts inside you —
an intersection, a portal, a punch.
Greed is an expression of fear,
that kind of penetration measured
by depth, loss contextualized.
A landscape of insatiable memories
bordered by anodyne forgiveness
and tectonic imperfections.
Take comfort in knowing
plants turn light into sugar.
Tell me what you notice, and why.
I want to cross reference
my slanted smoky sunlight
with your details to create
time stamps, a rescue map
dispersed into winks of blue.
—June Jordan, excerpt from “Intifada Incantation: Poem #8 for b.b.L”
Maybe what we really want is hero stories
that also reflect happiness, where joy is
contextualized during epic and courageous
suffering. This desire, a creative impulse,
a strategy to have complementary thinking
break binaries. A knowing that innocence
can be misremembered. Behind the fog, bright light.
Remember when obsessive attachment became slack
from devotion? Of course we resisted our differences,
as much as we could, starting over —
again and each time evidence repurposed itself
to the contrary. A reciprocity of loss or maybe
more simply the effect of a parallax.
From a certain distance, we are all drifting along.
Idle in mood and expansive in perpetual conflict.
Every day since March 13th, I have written something. Some days only a string of words, bursts of breath, or an image find their way through and out. It is my commitment to pay attention.
On March 22nd I wrote that almost 400 people had died from COVID-19, and started to track the pace of American death on April 2nd (over 5,100). I stopped consistently tracking on May 31st (105,000 dead), an arbitrary deadline because the notebook I started on March 13th ended there. I was also experiencing cognitive dissonance between my values around attention as action and my writing practice which centers curiosity. I could only integrate this morbid number on a jagged graph as an abstracted affect of weight, like the moon’s gravitational pull on Earth or the resonance of unmasked grief. I had been lying to myself that I was curious about death, in this quantified way.
Yesterday my source [google: “covid 19 us deaths”] told me 142,000+ were gone.
Risk assessments are strategic investments: four walls and one door to escape. Subtext is its own elegy. Sometimes only metaphors can help me decipher a world where death is sold as the inevitable cost of doing business, which has been conflated to mean the only way to have a life. Metaphors are a clever method to take up space and complicate our mutual knowing. How might I displace our assumed common language and still connect to you?
If I’m feeling lucky, I might be able to translate my curiosities to you beyond the distance of pencil to paper. I recognize energy lost in between contact eventually fades like a bruise found but not remembering its source. William Stafford might name this felt experience.
Long ago, I replaced god with something bigger — an awareness there’s no precision in the prescriptive phrase “let go of the past.” For now, I reclaim there’s pleasure and possibility in waking up to an anticipatory life. Otherwise, a paranoid reading would lead us to believe that depravation is the norm or something far worse, complacency as impulse.