graceful omens

America in time of war (September 11, 2018, Mission District, San Francisco)

if attention is the beginning of devotion
then acknowledgement of witness is where I will begin

from street level view, I am an island

a butterfly, hummingbird, & a dragonfly
float through smells of rotting oranges

jump cuts of urban landscapes

in complimentary opposition
the people bartered & exchanged energy

an elegant observation of intimacy

cleaving to aesthetics of division
loyal to self & other

in chorus, our mutual true horizons were laid visible

_______

quote is Mary Oliver from Upstream: Selected Essays

no lightning, no danger

ocean : prairie (photo by edwardatlee)

a series of lines / unbroken
as promises they hold their value

remind me, again, what constitutes forgiveness
fairness                     and faith
where hypocrisy fits in context to perfectionism
in a universe of endlessly revised incarnations

most mornings I stare out the kitchen window
wishing I was moving at the speed of a morning commute

horizon note

Huseyin Sami, Cut Painting (Light Yellow), 2018. Acrylic on canvas. 183 x 152 cm.

I’ve never had the same address for long. My current streak is seven years. I’ve far exceeded all prior knowledge of living in one place. I am as far west as I’ve ever been, which means my reverence for home has changed. Somewhere between this nostalgia and the truth is the hard edge of acceptance.

In all this stillness, I forgot how to let go.

So I start over.
Again.

As a habit, writing is its own method of reckoning. An ecstatic attention to spirit. A positive deviance. Specifically, I want to create a feeling of communion. I want this feeling in spite of its dominant religious significations.

The concept and practice of being “reborn” was an early fascination. I’d watch my father make his way to the front of the church and confess his weaknesses. Our sins were made public. We wanted to believe, as much as he did, that each confession was his last. His liberation bound so tightly to our survival.

I choose to keep these collective epiphanies to remember how far from home I am.
_________

*horizon note = the beat or pulse underlying the whole of the poem (Denise Levertov)

processions

“…I believe our survival demands revolution, both cultural and political. If we are to survive the disasters that threaten, and survive our own struggle to make it new—a struggle I believe we have no choice but to commit ourselves to—we need tremendous transfusions of imaginative energy.”

—Denise Levertov, from her essay “Great Possessions,” January 1970

Angela Pulido Zorro, The ordinance of a history that arranges itself in a loop, or how to spell a scream, 2014.

It is February. I think about ruts carved into thawing prairie soil—how violence echoes. I pull your sleeves right side out every time I do the laundry. Shapes of familiar ceremony.

In March, rusted satellites fall to the ground. I find the ocean, again. A litany of land and shoreline.

Then May repeats to the present day. Silver glints from in-flight airplanes catch the attention of wandering minds. Our elegies no longer unconscious prayers.

The frontlines have finally reached us.

periphery of justice

“Most of the time, I think we’re embodied because we are supposed to be. I don’t think the goal is to leave our bodies behind, despite what many major religions tell us.” — Dana Levin

Santiago Moix, Rippling #34, silkscreen monotype, 2012

Economists believe
things that are abundant
have less value,
example: love.
A cheap cadence
mutated and wound
around a swelling chorus.
Shut tight. Loud as bodies.
Imagine if we answered
all those blushed curious inquiries
and followed constellations
to rewrite retrogrades.
Speaking softly enough to 
understand its sacred feedback.

__________

title is William Stafford’s reference to “that feeling you have when you go along accepting what occurs to you and finding your way out somewhere to the rim where you are ready to abandon that sequence and come back and start all over again” (Writing the Australian Crawl)

sounds between notes

I don’t swim away from
the greedy snapping of breath,
but my throat…well,
terror owns each kiss.

stanza from “Here” by Amber Flora Thomas

 

N Ocean Beach, July 20, 2018

As waves of morning light
survive extravagant centuries
I follow a thread of words
primary   gravity   safety
broken just enough to fit in

august is a glitch

my jaw has been clenched shut for three days
in a trance, I wait

Nathaniel Evans, 2015, A Message [oil on canvas]
sounds of skateboards grinding concrete float
common as the sun rising above distant freeways
this is a scene framed by palm tree ascensions

bus stops concentrate waiting strangers
wanting lives that respond versus react
a wish more violent than fading starlight

fear-riddled dreams are an intuitive compass
the future is bigger than we can ever pretend
metaphors swell as waves of silent witnesses scroll

in transit, temporary, I thrash

field notes

We used to think that if we knew one, we knew two, because one and one are two. We are finding that we must learn a great deal more about “and.” — Sir Arthur Eddington

“you found the clit,” april 2018, san francisco

I. virtual systems

we have learned to covet reflective virtual objects
on occasion, we can still recall vibrations of analog sounds
in a digital world fueled by fossils & compounded fabrications
I wrap my arms around you as car alarms blare songs of protection

II. echo as residue

our preferences fill shapes generated by algorithms gone wild
authenticated searches find radical stability
a looped sacred ceremony

III. curation

corn, cowboys, & cattle
broken buttons
violent light
[classed units of measurement or why it matters I want the horizon to never end]

a 21st century dream

I am at war with the obvious. —William Eggleston

artist: Todd Norsten

I get nervous when people start talking about wanting to own things:
land, houses, ideas.
This present moment feels like freedom,
a highly volatile state.
In my dream, I walked US-Highway 12.
I passed community banks flush with bartered dreams
and gas stations promising consistently low prices when paying with cash.
The ghosts all drove cars and didn’t bother me.
Lucid, I believed I was back in Berlin. I was brave.
I woke to trees taller than houses.

conscientious imposter

‘I see’ ‘with my voice’ — Alice Notley, from The Decent of Alette

Note by Anne Truitt, April 1965

our learning is from the news
a nurtured condition

⁄ it is eclipse season
shadows are light  ⁄

our call is to imagine, to conceive
defend against performance-enhancing speculations

visionary blight
= fragmentations

our hands worn from self-caress
please see management

it takes a lot of energy to kill a god
Δ long division

we live promised lives

June 2018

And then will come my turn toward considering the poem as a set of strategies.
— William Stafford, You Must Revise Your Life

My aesthetic genealogy is borrowed from a working poetics. A magpie practice of creative slanted interruptions. One of my favorite writing habits is to post on Sundays. Years ago I discovered this practice as a way to reclaim time lost to benign neglect and take back a day formerly dedicated to church services that framed ideal bodies as those willing to give up their souls.

Forgive this brief editorializing break. I’ve wandered to the edge of today’s subject.

It is safe to assume the forensics of great writers are investments in process.

For the last twelve and a half years, I have traced the shapes of memory — collective and personal — in this wide open space. I have anchored active examination into subtitled weekly posts. I curated evidence of expansion through parallel interpretations and feel for traction inside line breaks weighted by punctuation’s invitation to pause. I am aligned when tone reflects visual structure.

This time last year I was organizing myself to study Audre Lorde’s time in Berlin. Today I want to capture my emerging intention to study William Stafford this fall. The boundaries of this poetics inquiry are a promise to continue to carve out curious time. It is an extension of how conscious practice cleaves to the promise of honoring spirit. I aim to explore and investigate Stafford’s pacifist approaches — specifically conscientious objector — to writing poetry, his teaching methods of writing poetry, and his graceful rejection of competition.

Our days are urgent as parents wait for children to find them. Climate and change are conjoined into violent denials. Stafford practiced creative resistance strategies during WWII and the Vietnam War.

What might we borrow to alter our endangered lives?

tautology, as a fault of style

“with the evolution of awareness came the possibility that existence could be more than survival, or that survival could be more than a response to fear, and could include the encompassing of joy” — Jeremy Wolff, excerpt from the essay Thots on Pot

April 2018

Northern Plains’ cottonwoods spread their seeds this time of year
thick as snow their white progeny coat lawns and 4×4 pickup trucks
a soft blizzard similar to the way Saharan dust reached Texas this week

both are dramatic
all that settling
          (it’s probably nothing)

this feeling of apocalypse came on swift
like gaslighting
    like wildfire
        like bad news

when adoration and permissions share the same open mouth of devotion
it is recommended that you consult your prophesies to justify blanket explanations

transpose unknowing into thoughts and prayers
a crash disrupts into eventual silence

prominence

“writing…is a process of relying on immediate pervasive feelings, not an escape from them…”   — William Stafford, Writing the Australian Crawl. pg. 88

I’M HERE FOR LUCK. Louis Wain (1926)

I haven’t found a way to say I love you that isn’t complicated, so I practice loving you every day. Sounds of terrorized children broke through all those hours of visual noise. Hope is a map. A place to begin.

The distance of decades doesn’t always make things quieter. Calendars are more form than function. I learned early and repeatedly that love must be earned, and value is measured by others. An intimacy of detachment.

Addicted to seeking approval is one way of saying yes unconditionally. Instead, imagine a private collection of silent hymns. These days, I take care to mend memories as a way to create acceptance. A public chorus swelled.

Broken into speculative practices, writing things down reinforces pleasure and importance in tandem. Together, through famine and fortune, what stands out is love.  An oxygen where sacrifice is not born from competition.

delayed gratification

“There’s always a lot to do before you get to go to heaven.”
— Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower

Lee Kun-Yong : Logic of place, 1975

when the sun sets pink, orange, and red
broken moving clouds spread
like velvet like compulsion
action stretches idle       smooth

reading read is different from hearing read spoken
or why I adore hiding words in my throat

formerly private as guilt
  what came first
sky
        or water

wanting then waiting, again
thinking she couldn’t handle it

altered
like states of being with
    or without you

regenerative as loops of believing in a tomorrow
or knowing patience brokers its own rewards

repeat after me

cai guo-qiang; sky ladder, 2015

a prompt     significance of scale
all days pull forward, if you are lucky
connecting fascination to scarcity

generic worries     an organic undoing
we burn fuel to buy: eggs, cheese, & bread
overwhelmed, we fear waste

what does it mean to be loved more when you are gone
absent    swallowing
learning shame is light years from guilt

replicating comfort into a feeling       deserve
repeat after me: only the best pickles are made with fresh dill
remember there is so much to hope for & even more to want

the birds sang our gossip

“When someone tells us something, we don’t know how many versions they have tried out inside before the one we hear.” — William Stafford, You Must Revise Your Life

Paul Jenkins (American, 1923-2012), Phenomena Winds Meet West, 1976-78. Acrylic on canvas, 70.5 x 127 cm

It was nothing but ordinary how the day started. The sun crept above the horizon like any weekday likes to unfold. Yesterday a seismic shift happened — two degrees right to the center. Trees noticed the ambient vibrations immediately, then the birds. No one noticed the subtle ways computer grids had wiped clean negative balances and dropped zeros while spinning out complex equations for how to love beyond reflex.

It took seventeen years for scientists to confirm the shift occurred. Pundits had convinced the public that such a change could not occur simply because they had no imagination to the contrary. Scattered conversations slowly and remotely extended what had been idle reservations around the basics of grace as understood as time. It was a dramatic revolution. Men were not brave. We found their excuses strapped to the back of westbound bus seats.

We considered multiple ways to drown ourselves in the meanings of what we had known and what was now. Immediate and sharp like a broken tooth, we rejected regressive poetic frames. In some places, it became fashionable to sell boredom while others practiced local rituals that buried light. By all accounts, we now live immoral lives. Only the youngest birds have yet to learn not to take from the most fragmented rumors to make their shelters.

speculative practice

I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.

T.S. Eliot, from ‘Preludes (IV)’, The Waste Land and Other Poems

Motonaga Sadamasa (Japanese, 1922-2011), Untitled, 1965. Oil and synthetic resin paint on canvas laid down on panel, 91.6 × 116.7 cm.

concerts of effort
sounds better inside a fragment
forgive that this starts out so slow
posting at me to me with me
I’m casual to realize
to follow that, your, our vision
is to be organized into spacial moments — threads
a witness of curation
the: father son and holy spirit

faith is within your standing
some think it is earned
as for me I was taught to be innocent
later learning curiosity had its own beneficiaries
a lesson on just how few original ideas are assigned majestic
fueling dark appreciations for wild abstractions
until it is as uncommon as creating reminders to breathe
I know this all sounds strange
you can call it: new wave vengeance

Sunday, 4pm

href=”http://robincerutti.com/#/portfolio/people/mirrors/7″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”> photographer: Robin Cerutti[/

I think about the distance of fog
& find another way home
lost (as in damaged)
with all the sharp edges of a dog whistle
you left us nothing but absence — its own hope of escape

your mystery dominated empty spaces
so we reduced ourselves to survive
along pressure points (dislocated)
& under religion’s exploitation of bad luck
answers started rooting their own origins

in spite of darkness translating shape
light claimed its own space
showing influence (weighted)
we learned to feel reverie

glitter path

she was ruled by suggestion
rising to meet pre-summer light

photo capture from the Museum of Things (Berlin, Oct 2017)

he suggested we advance an aesthetic education¹ to get what we want
types of promises full and drawn from expansive inhibitions
scattering chaos beyond an endlessly deferred absent presence²

suspended in seductive panics
we are nothing but restless territories

within this gossip of change
she spins out a series of poems about mirrors

in pursuit she hunts for theoretical pleasures
positioning against as something for
glittering distorted at its apex

___________________

1. Roberto Bedoya, Oakland Cultural Affairs Manager
2. Ben Anderson in Modulating the Excess of Affect, a reference to morale as the horizon of governance

ephemerality devoured

“Writing to you is like kissing you. It is something physical.”
— Simone de Beauvoir, from a letter to Nelson Algren c. November 1949

Elena del Rivero, Letter from Home #9, 2015. Watercolor on accounting paper & thread, 9.25 x 12 in

as an aesthetic, I like a hushed chorus
but only when trust is visceral
bent around a promise — or a threat

arranged curious, this casual normalizing devours
so we follow a line or a thread until safely curated

tangled into the finest shouting fragments
subbed as loaded derivatives & mocked influences
we have learned to manage public feelings to epic scale

yet in privacy’s absence, division is essential
these inhabited suggestions becoming their own revenge

the pace of light that finally reaches you

artist: Robert Roth

born from a place stubborn as time
untamable as the patience of trees
a place whose history begins with land stolen then plowed
now transformed to weed-filled lawns anchored by rusted swing sets
as early-to-open Main Street bars drown committed repentance
a place where there’s nothing left to let go
where abandonment is a reluctant hero
& stacked clouds convert prayers into myths
like there can be no forgiveness for sins
we commit against ourselves

virtue signaling

                                                                     data are so emotional

Stéphanie Devaux ___________________________ . LosT. .fOr. wOrdS. …

Our inherited risks are not equal. This is an urgent incantation.
As visceral affect, I want to disembody and divest.

My father tracked weather patterns in free pocket-sized bank calendars.
Constrained, he archived basic data (temperature and precipitation)
occasionally punctuated with significance: two daughters born June 8th;
weight and height nearly identical.

His daily notes arranged into a practical devotion bound by time and repetition.
For point of reference, children and livestock born in storms were not isolated incidents. Shaping a landscape absent of variables, his pattern recognition became a survivor’s catalog.

Our futures signal forced reliance, an intimate risk. This is an urgent incantation.
As righteous affect, I want to feel god everywhere.

false urgency

Julio Larraz (Cuban, b. 1944), The Fourth Amendment, 2014. Oil on canvas.

we practice small-scale empire building
our bodies conduits of conquest and currency

there is an untouchable light
when reflections of past experiences
pull from distance and probable cause

no longer placid as orthodox perceptions
our over-reliance becomes reflex

we just assume mornings start new
uninterrupted       extraordinary
repeat until you believe

sortilege

Efficacious Grace, notebook. Jonathan Edwards, 1703-1758

Thursday was a broken conversation.
My voice silent as the air around me.
Buried and born again,
I made the day useful to me.

Friday was open secrets.
My voice tuned the melody of a cable car.
Found ideas inside words,
I made the day useful to me.

Saturday was repetition of witnessing.
My voice cracked open at its spine.
Threading connections,
I made the day useful to me.

Tomorrow will absorb sounds
of irresistible landscapes
each graceful expression
recited courageous.

trade wars

“the first 50 hours of resurrection are beautiful,”
says the man holding the door

–Tongo Eisen-Martin, excerpt from remove my heart racing, and babylon is fine

artist: Helen Nishi

we learn to trust wars: trade, sex, cold. as acceptance forms rules, we smooth out the most deprived ideas and prioritize all threats as urgent. in theatres of conflict, repetition is grandeur. this translation officially makes mob landscapes familiar.

that’s why when your hands brushed against my sharpest edges: my heart, my gaze, my inordinate sense of danger; I felt intimacy performed as spacial intervention, an interlude. your fingers interrogated and found hard answers wrapped around tender legacy. we became undone. mapping unearned dreams onto each other’s gravitational pull, an attraction, we made our own stars.

future philosophers will discover these tensions and name them holy

transference

and where
did that love
I gave
go?

Hannah Höch, Bouquet Of Eyes, 1930

arousal is an anchor
like empathetic inquiry
or side show hustles

echoed relationships
redirected
form finds its subject

we commit to process
over outcome, again
shift to abundance of solutions

technically we are identical
with differences called out
our unconscious a shared language

the news repeats:
rot
patterns

it is a drowning
a baptism
an act of mercy

dirty light

“The shutters were stuck. Then I grew absent minded.”
Des Moines Register, Iowa, July 3, 1938

stretching beyond monetary value: this is more freedom than security can buy

if I wake up open to what will unfold
I am ready to claim I had a good day
specific as memories stored in the creases of expanding curves

& still         I rescue myself when hope feels violent as an open hand
where fortune’s fault line is externalized validation
nested into dreams of trying to get somewhere
my body craves stillness

I press the coffee before anything begins

remember when we took turns burning wishes into the folds of our stomachs?
it was the safest place we could think of
no one dared touch us
there

I heard you took my name
and sewed it into your eyelids
stitches fragile as trusting strangers & friends
an exquisite waltz like light shining in distant flat darkness

shallows

Martin Wittfooth, The Ecstasy

all this absence, in the space of starting over, forms my backbone
i wish i could claim something useful here, like emotional resilience
or self-efficacy managed beyond the flutter of obscene distractions

structurally, skin has the capacity to absorb 1000 strikes soft as fur
before bruising, blue then purple then finally breaking open red
bold as light leaks found in the silenced literacy of family photos

this spread of truth tight and shallow in surrendering

radical ellipses

what survives in me
i still suspect.
–Sonia Sanchez, “Fragment 1”

Thanksgiving 2007, Seattle, WA

time signatures bridge memories spread wide, open as my early childhood landscapes
we moved most often when work got too hard or you simply wanted a change of scenery
self-destruction a competitive pursuit, or why my syntax lacks a particular kind of self-love

Christmas 2003, Mobridge, SD

I found an aesthetic: beg
more of a grasp than a hold
& I define how tight

Halloween 2017, Berlin

shattered pieces create the best whole
naked sounds vibrate the loudest
most thoughts end

body as an arguement

sex scandals are time stamps
tenacious denials in constant motion
caught in the heart of our throats

we collect these daily reactions edited towards fortune
while retribution becomes a chimera as forthcoming
as justice or glacial landscaping or forgiveness

feelings are now citations of replicated intuition
ancient categories of visceral intimacy siding with self
sacrosanct representation     (a politic)

swelling to release multiple truths
charming double entendres entwined
bound to furious calculations of power and risk

the way white anger colludes with fear
a curious seduction of inductive logic
recast as an approximate commitment to devotion

embraced invasions
meat, text, and soul

magpie oeuvre

A. V. Harrison, from This Series, 1970-75, in ABC, Edited by Jeremy Adler, The National Poetry Centre, London, 1975, Edition of 200

the length of a week
hands into bruised fights

to transgress

Margrethe Mather, Billy Justema Wearing A Kimono, 1923

The past is a space of eternal occupation, a place to shout violent things and lust for an afterlife. The present is active and in transit. What was is now future. For today focus on the perceived differences of a winter sun, how dedication can become a shroud, and the way throats absorb sound. Traces of a map, a line to pursue. Such directional shifts define evolutions of time. As the ocean laps shorelines, patterns artificial as intelligence bind like curses. Our days flare dandelion sunlight.

transfixed politics

Our bones are built of spirals. – Joy Harjo

Nicole Eisenman, Untitled, 2012

I.

our wildest prophetic imagination
has led us here: a shattering of sex
uncomfortable
deep
looking

II.

calm & concentrated
I saw two waves lock
like elk horns
then embrace

III.

truth of feelings
as charm offensives
as wet feathers

IV.

divine signs
pushing forward

V.
smoothness is both a measure and a lack of roughness

mercurial politics

Nov17 Berlin

 

 

 

I have no body; the “I” writing this has no body: not in the old way. Zones. Pressures. Here a structured tension there an underlying ache. Vital signs. Phases of disquiet not clearly demarcated from areas of peace.

— Laura Mullen, “Spectograms (projected autobiography),” Complicated Grief

 

 

Revolutions are frenetic desires. Seams stretch tight.
      familiar stimulation: swelled power and impulse

Violence precedes peace when knowledge becomes ransom.
      negative space: culture is public negotiation

Men speak in abstraction. Their distancing performative.
      economies of scale: underwhelming demands for mass hysteria

Intuition anchored. Solicited.
      a place we know

whisper networks

“And whereas one of my students asks a visiting poet about education vaguely getting at what is worth pursuing? The poet suggests looking at whatever is/was missing in one’s life and begin there. So many nods in the room around that table they acknowledge it too. In the missing: power.

— Layli Long Soldier, Whereas (page 67)

Theodoros Stamos (Greek:American, 1922-1997), Low Sun, Blue Bar, 1962, acrylic on canvas

The day Ronald Reagan died – June 5, 2004 – I absorbed the news of his death with reverie as his life was exalted by talking heads and famed acquaintances. Their rhetoric ultimately resting within that exclusive canon reserved only for legends. Crowds swarmed to pay their respects to an American actor.

In another breaking newsfeed, and still witness to a grand spectacle of publicized grief, I was transfixed as a captured tiger dangled from a helicopter high above Santa Monica, California. The majestic predator swung inside a canvas sling that looked more like a collective omen akin to a nursery-rhyme cradle.

The events were not related according to the news, yet the Overton window had widened just enough to propagate rumors into exaggerated false equivalencies. After all, time had shifted in unexplainable ways that leap year. Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” had convinced many that something had happened.

Less than a month later, the spacecraft Cassini reached Saturn (a planet associated with karmic lessons). Some speculate that Reagan’s recently released spirit had guided Cassini as it traveled the critical distance to fulfill its mission. As poetic murmurs, I gather these soft shapes into vivid memories. A gesture of truth.

rosemary

“But your pleasure understands mine.”
— Clarice Lispector, The Sharing Of Loaves

Betsy Eby (American, b. 1967), Rise, 2017. Encaustic on canvas over panel, 35 x 48 in.

at 39,000 feet clouds rose like mountains
fading to dark as the blushing sun set
then black as the thinnest winter ice

we learned to turn our wheels into those slick black icy slides
when done correctly, such surrendering was active evidence of a survivor’s effort

in spring, we planted rosemary to remember our deepest buried beliefs
we harvested fresh-picked bundles and revised our most shadowed secrets
like wanting nothing but distant empty horizons and bodies that do not betray

we sculpted altered thoughts and declared them working dreams
trusting that our shared wishes for a braver future were coming true

we gathered sacred

holy memories

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.

— T. S. Eliot

December light, 7:51am

2017 notes to 2018 self:

  • seek light / confront darkness
  • feeling worthy is a practice
  • be clear about priorities
  • inspiration is a higher form of knowledge
  • “discipline creates spaciousness”*
  • no matter how deep the ocean is, you will always find sacred land

These are my centerfold memories — the lessons I opened to over and over again.  The specifics are tenderized images of evolution unraveled, then a consecration of release. As tipping points and space to witness, revision expanded bravery and abundance shifted structures.

My past experiences have been arranged into possibility bright as desire’s capacity to make power transparent. I exorcised ghosts to bankrupt suffering. I transitioned from shame to justice. I bartered verses delicate as externalized validation. I owned my name and its history.

Absorbing only credible echoes, I dreamt I was safe and expressed joy religiously.

I wake curious.
_______________________

* Naimonu James

smash and grab

Tell me, what’s the joy of giving if you’re never pleased?
— Blood Orange, Champagne Coast

Georgia O’Keeffe, Blue-03, 1916, watercolor on paper

the sun rises at eastern edges
yellowing twilight blues

when there is nothing
rest

if there were Christmas stockings
we always had an orange

persistence can feel joyful
is there another choice

we can be called to lead
or follow

how does that feel
really

hook & claw

Geh in der Verwandlung aus und ein.
[Be conversant with transformation.]
— Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonette an Orpheus

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

i believe in omens
and my own ability to shatter and reform
— ​Jill Khoury, excerpt from “Sixteen”

New Orleans, Oct 2016

oh righteous revelry
please indulge this faithful attempt to clarify

so many modern relationships still lean feudalistic
as nobles dance to blue note promises & scheme for eternal life

it rings visionary to trust what is mine was never yours to take
a redundant mythology now inadequate as waning winter light

temporarily, we sense an emerging surrender to the hushed hues of sexual panics
on a grand scale psychic interiors were smoothed flat like apathy or political truths

there was a collective ache for a state of respite from all this revolutionary suffering
as conviction loops into endless realities it is our sacred duty to carve out revelations

we are only possible when testimonies illuminate just beyond the sharp edges of darkness

stacked seasons

“There are dead stars that still shine because their light is trapped in time.
Where do I stand in this light, which does not strictly exist?”
— Don Delillo, Cosmopolis

artist unknown

the light, not yet warm, opens our days
we commit to memory that hope is best performed as a cognitive process
and remember: stars align themselves through proximity and gravitational pull

collapsing distances to violent midwinter visions
questions seep: how did I not know I was in danger
violations stacked delicate   //   soft brushes with unwanted space

this tail of the past curls comfortably around itself
scared animals return home, even if home is unsafe
as time sinks into litanies simple as joy is serious

our narrative clearly has a beginning, middle, and an end
because our holy bodies are sites of quantum consciousness
we swagger in possibility, we pull intuitive threads to unravel

theories

Manuel Calvo, Sin título, 1960

I.  spam is a language and a strategy

II. our hearts are rabbit holes

I.  interstates *need* mirrored billboards

Inflections reflect emphasis, and opening and closings. Some days I think being ___ is the best way to survive. An existence spread. That feels aspirational in vision and phonetically embodied. A form of capacity.  Or dispossession. A bridge as much as a boundary.

attention

there will be days
where you have the chance
porque si
there will be ways to say yes
how do we si
there will be reasons for hope   whether you like it or not
(excerpt and detail from found poem, San Francisco, Nov 17, 2017)

our stories rush towards truth
details sharpened into mouthfeel
violence ritualized as cadence

ancient patterns worn thin like contempt
or: how we are all subject to trafficked ideas
still   —   even skies can break down, softly

our distance to attention is a deceptive magic
you learn clarity prefers to love with purpose
this seduction a result of (re)producing evocations

curation guards to protect what others bury
a claim to territory disassociated and devoured
persuasion is found wedged within such righteous exclamations

our daily interruptions have turned personal
yes, it is profitable to reproduce moods
softly familiar to the saturation point of haunting

imprints

“The sun and the moon call out, as it were, and the oceans call back. The oceans aren’t passive listeners but partners in an energetic conversation – resonance – that ultimately accentuates or diminishes the tide.” — Jonathan White, Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean

3.11.2017 Berlin

“She’s keeping time with a mystery rhyme.” — Jesus and Mary Chain

I am still learning how to perform quick good-byes.
Never witness to a proper and graceful exit
during my formative years (too young to protest)
we were more often forced to be unreliable hostages.

My history is threaded into core tensions
twisted thick as exploiting hospitality
and deep as ignoring consent. We would wait
silently at the host’s kitchen table in our winter coats
hoping with the start of a new story
that time would naturally come to an end.

Those years I learned how to be quiet
enough
holding my breath into
darkness.

I want to crack open, carefully
pull out ghosts and obsolete angels
examine where sweetness gathers as illicit responses
and rush into and out of why feeling loved is dangerous.

Private as thoughts
temporary as shorelines.

sub rosa

“And is is strange how experiences blend and enhance each other.” — William Stafford

22.10.2017 Berlin

It is not that what I know today is necessarily different from what I knew yesterday, or that I have replaced prior knowledge with a brand new extended spectrum of understanding. It is more subtle than a transaction, more gracefully defined as complexity. This feels like transformation. A shift.

Love fits into this equation as a multiplier. The critical variables that come next are a matter of routine, a particular and conscious genre. A ritual.

There is always more. A compilation.

requiem 

28.10.2017 Berlin 

Two weeks have slid through me.

An older German man likes to greet me by singing his favorite melodies from 1960s American pop songs. Our connection is assumed to be familiar on those grounds. Other connections have taken longer to root, to find their own casual and wandering paths. Most often I simply smile, to show submission to a foreign tongue, and repeat my English phrases so we can entwine in a hopeful vernacular.

There is a mutual desire to be understood.

Mornings are typically dark and grey, thick with clouds that never leave. There are, of course, exceptions. Some days find swirling pink clouds opening their hearts to promises of illumination. The void of this work has been filled when silence is created from conscious expression. An expression that most days outpaces language’s translation of experience.

27.10.2017 Berlin

This poetic examination of Audre Lorde’s teaching, and by extension her methods of poetic practice, has strengthened the tender edges of my own belief of how change happens – personal, political, and everything in between. I feel marked with new annotations at the outermost areas of my known history. My knowledge is shaped into intentional practices around work, love, and living a conscious life. I have discovered purpose inside complex layers of wanting evolution. I can see, now, how those borders have always been informed by an interior landscape, whether I owned this fact or not.

This is a truth we all share.

The Audre Lorde Archive materials are predominantly audio recordings. Everyone I love is dreaming while I’m awake listening to student’s chairs scraping wood floors, birds chirping in public chorus, and occasionally a truck will rattle the open classroom windows as it barrels down the city streets. The digitized tape recordings also capture nervous laughter when Audre Lorde refuses to center whiteness – and white discomfort – in Black women’s lived experiences.

She asks the students, who are there to learn about poetry written by Black American women, “What is it you want to come from this investment?”

Because “what you want will help influence what you get.”

She names her expectations and her intentions: “What poetry will demand of you…is that you will not do it [experience Black women’s lives] comfortably. You will have to get involved or you will not get anything out of it.”

“I am here because poetry is crucial to me. It’s not merely what I do, it’s a way of living. And I believe it’s a way of living that can strengthen every person who takes part in it. I think that it is a crucial way of living for women and [inaubible]. I think that self-conscious recognition of our feelings are one of the primary ways of making the stuff we need to move through our lives. I think poetry is the visual actual recreation of this stuff in a way that can be shared and used. I’m here because I want to examine this body of literature which is very important, and I feel vital to me, in conjunction with the rest of you. … That’s why I’m here, because I’m greedy, because I’m curious and because I believe I am an endangered species, the same way each one of you is endangered.” — Audre Lorde, 1984, Black Women Poetry, Frein Universität Berlin (Audre Lorde Archives)

Establishing mutual visibility – we are all endangered species – through honoring of complexity creates an awareness, an opening, towards strengthening our respective relational capacities. I learned this personally from two wildly different yet equality vulnerable experiences this past August. What is beyond those lived experiences, and this specific poetics inquiry, is an embodied confrontation of feelings. It is a requirement of authentic participation in any relationship – from self to the project of a just society.

“…personal has become a very negative word for a lot of people…but how do you feel? Do you feel objectively? How is it possible to feel other than personally? You can feel personally about things that are very large and outside of yourself, but is it possible to feel objectively? There’s nothing wrong with the personal but I want to tell you, yes poetry is personal, it must be. It is the first place you start but it does not remain there. We [poets] take what is personal, we take what is experienced and we make a bridge, hopefully, to your experience that is different. That is the magical and wonderful quality of poetry. That it can arc across differences. It’s one of the few ways we have dealing with what is genuinely different between us. One of the key ways of making something creative out of that.” — Audre Lorde, 1984, Black Women Poetry, Frein Universität Berlin (Audre Lorde Archives)

28.10.2017 Berlin

Lorde continues:

“It is part of my work that I came to do and I don’t have 300 years any more than you have. I am interested in doing my work because it satisfies me on a lot of different levels, and part of my work is coming here saying to you – how are you doing yours? What is this work we are dealing with have to do with your work as a white woman, as a white German woman, as in who you are. … I am not an angel. I cannot descend upon you with a magic wand. I cannot transform you. I can throw out those things I know and invite you to make some connections. I invite you to use them for your life.” — Audre Lorde,  1984, Black Women Poetry, Frein Universität Berlin (Audre Lorde Archives)

The weight of that investment by way of personal invitation is strategic. Her liberation, theirs, and mine cannot be separated. Other class conversations have pivoted on global tensions of climate change, gender-based violence, and nuclear escalation. It is remarkable that our shared reality has us waking up to and living under the same violence today.

Thirty-three years have slipped through us.

What dreams, or as Lorde calls them “emotional blueprints,” must we encourage beyond political formations?

How might you use the weapon of active examination – and poetry specifically – to not only envision what is possible but also perform your and my liberation?

visionary architecture 

I am resisting the temptation to neatly capture this first week in Berlin. I confess my vulnerability by way of distance. I am unwilling to decouple place (Berlin by way of California) from the messiness of culture (as a white American woman engaged with a slice of time: West Berlin in spring and summer of 1984).

What follows is an early reflection of my first week of poetics inquiry at the Audre Lorde Archive.

20.10.2017 Berlin

Most of my assumptions of German culture are from a bias of chosen childhood memories. Specifically, my formative connections to Germany were through my step-grandmother. She sprinkled German phrases into her conversations as often as she baked us strudel and kuchen. From what region or context she drew from, I will never know. When I was 7, my grandfather died. My connection to her after that was denied for reasons unclear as a child but strongly enforced. It was a loss of relationship I was not allowed to question.

My perspective is also informed by way of being a temporary guest in Berlin. I own that the edges of this synopsis are both mutable and, at times, concrete.

It is familiar to write from this place of confliction and tension. With discipline, I have weaved disparate experiences and their connections for over a decade. In this way, my writing practice feels as ordinary as a Sunday morning.

Audre Lorde said, “Poetry is a way of life.” I know the intimate truths in her declaration. She continues: the first lesson of being a poet is that you have survived.

Bruised, battered, bent, you have survived. It is now your right to use what you have survived, to learn from, to communicate with, to move beyond. You cannot do that unless you bring it to consciousness, to usefulness. We have survived so much more than we can admit. — Audre Lorde, May 6, 1984, Creative Writing Workshop, Frein Universität Berlin (Audre Lorde Archives)

I understand the use of “we” as mutual and collective.  It is also in reference to her essays “Poetry is Not a Luxury” and “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.” This intentionality of internal excavation and her ethics of a shared future is a deep source of power for Lorde.

It is an unapologetic position that requires a method of dealing with difference in a creative way. A way that moves us beyond what we have been taught is possible.

Lorde believed that poets must “evoke past the particular experience [in the poem] to make connection across difference.” An emotional response is an integral purpose of a poem.

The dignity around that exchange is dangerous territory depending on one’s position in patriarchal, racist, heteronormative, and classed cultural systems. As Lorde often said, “Poetry is one of the most subversive uses of language there is.”

The emotional teeth of poetry is, according to Lorde, “to move us to action and living.”

To explore experiences poetically is inherently political. Lorde spoke often of how “socialization robs us of our language.” How the poet makes meaning of their lived experience and that active translation to the reader is the transformative power of poetry. It is why Lorde chose to use poetry as a weapon.

I do not believe either in poetry or in the actual fact of our living..that change occurs externally. I think that it occurs both poetically as well as socially slowly and internally from the inside out so that in fact any larger movement and larger change must happen first of all within the people who are involved.” — Audre Lorde, May 10, 1984, The Poet as Outsider, Frein Universität Berlin (Audre Lorde Archives)

This collectived and creative organizing is now ours to envision and evoke. This is our mutual survival.

monograph

 

[A]s my mother used to say, if wishes were horses, women would ride.
— Elspeth Probyn, Outside Belongings (62)

New Orleans, October 2017

The prompt was bold: how do you embody whiteness? My heart froze knowing that some of my truth has no accessible language.

So I thought about how we grew up nowhere, or more accurately, we lived around no one. A place where you learn orthodox norms, where conformity was practiced as integration. A place where we conversed in churches or homes, and almost never on the long road in between.

The days take flight and return again.

My writing practice captures moments, and contain all kinds of shadowed referents, insurrections, and commitments. There’s a way this claiming expands space to repurpose perfection. A response to how surviving trauma from decades past seeps into what I believe is real and how I frame what is just. I’m not afraid to tell you why my fears are justified. I have a story to let you know why this is true.

I am left wanting. I know dissonance can also be harmonic despite its agreed upon definition. There’s room in that idea to breathe. To release orchestrations that dance around forgone conclusions.

Weeks ago, I wrote: don’t let me forget where I came from and the day before that: resistance to belong a furious understanding. I read these reminders, now, as culturally weighted influences.  Next week, I will be in Berlin. A city that embodies trauma and healing’s relentless journey. A city where Audre Lorde taught, organized, and loved. A place of intentional inquiry.

cache culture is a collectivized monograph of intentional inquiry. A place to find my way in contemporary American culture. A place to expose how my gendered body has historically been named as white. I post curated moments that reflect culture and place because that’s where belonging takes root. My roots grew deepest in South Dakota, Ohio, Washington, and now California.

Berlin’s calling and its collective response is another cache.

I will be carrying William Stafford’s advice with me, but one of many influential guides on this poetics inquiry.

“We all share, in art. And to be worthy artists we must be ready to look around, give credit where we feel it belongs, help each other maintain that sense of community that will maximize whatever vision we are able to find and share.”

tender hustle

Tatiana Gorunov, SELF-SABOTAGE, acrylic & ink on panel
We found each other in an unwrapped state, a simple & delicate discovery. Inhabited defenses had worn thin from surviving years as compounded days. We did not dare admit how deeply we believed our working poor bodies had betrayed us. So we let touch carve its own messages. We found mutual influence in those scripts.

Weary from earning credits to fund a future not designed for us, we took respite from all that manufactured exclusion. We hustled accordingly. In reciprocated seduction, a feedback loop was internalized as a request: have we earned this?

Decades of surrender to such indulgent, as in generous, voices now finds a meditated willingness to forsake finding definitive answers from exposition. Today’s passing landscapes & their formidable distances no longer automatically produce the same fears. Illusions whose progression had previously enjoyed blending into a chorus of learned temptations. As new rituals envelope our evolving existences, like being witness to twilight’s ease, our time together has become dedicated privilege.

These shadowed elements, mostly past & some future, are their own repressed celebrations. It’s been a pleasure to give when so many took. We are tender & brave every damn day.

participatory witness

Deep in their roots all flowers keep the light. —Theodore Roethke

Jean Baudrillard, Saint Clement, 1987, Giclée print on pure cotton paper, 60 x 90 cm

these broken pieces are their own ritual
spirals of coping mechanisms
apparitions

***

I’ll give you something to cry about was a challenge, a threat, and a promise.
Your unmasked emotions always carried a visible regret.

These thoughts came through, wide-eyed and unaware of their tardiness.
Flowing the way water finds the least resistance, crooked and illogical.

***

first there were wild-maned horses on frantic wide open horizons
followed by scratched, then abandoned, lottery tickets turned city sidewalk confetti
both are remembered as tender memories so as not to tear open violently
in the same way a new moon rising is full darkness and as obvious
as even the smallest bird creating their own shadows in flight

no false modesty

drawn from the month of August 2017: the dramas of poetry

Internal struggles are creative escape. A quiet move to form a space where survival is shown joyful. Today this emanates as imagination externalized into poetry, an archaic organizing structure. I find active comfort in writing. A motion that has desperation as its wings. I write because it feels good. Not from a place of fear, but from a deep place of longing that has expansive connections. I write because I love.

I could try to name all the details, get them just so, while also aligning them to a truth I’ve silently cultivated. Yet dear reader you will bring yourself, whole and fractured, to my exposed interpretations. When I write about light, darkness, or a combination (such as stars) I may try to steer you in a direction that makes sense – to me – but you will pull yourself along freely, or not. All I know is how much you desire days that open themselves.

I believe that kind of desired stillness can be found in a “good” poem. A temporary place of collaborative movement where desire meets an experience that shows effort.

I witnessed the sea lion lay still and bloated. A murder of crows took fur and the wettest pieces of its eyes. Obscenely exposed, tender in its inability to no longer defend itself from harm, there was both stillness and flurry of excavation to what the crows found most useful.

The truth from that image is not mine to tell. My privilege as a writer is to show. May I be so fortunate to connect you dear reader on another experiential plane. Not forcing but gently holding together a moment of stillness, an honoring. And I may tell you one thing as I adeptly show another disparate possession. That gap is not mine to control. I owe myself only the structure and integrity around the truth of this moment.

I evolve. I decompose. I exist here.

***   ***   ***

Oscar Bluemner, Sunset of the St. Lawrence

***   ***   ***

curated from the near past: self-immolation

Fixing fences is a full-time job and a hard way to make a living.
Those edges forming a territory where scarcity implies there is something to want.
It is not absence or loss. There is a lack that is wide, open and expansive.

This lineage has been stored as power taken –
a binding agent of trauma and songs shared in darkness.
Fear becomes us like the secret textures of a thousand trees.

If it’s true that perfection is a scarcity never to be fully actualized
my life was first performed where sin delighted to now wanting love when wrong.
This claiming is mine and its purpose is to make meaning.

The train moved at a pace to witness private glimpses of backyards.
As this specific story unfolds, I wait for retrograde dreams.
This is a collectively sourced confession.