Dinner was always the same: ground beef — a portion
of my father’s six hundred dollar salary — tomato sauce,
and elbow macaroni. We ate after a quick prayer and when
he finished bellowing about the boss and weather’s
lack of mercy. That winter night, when he reached
for another helping, my mother noticed a thin red line
flowing from his thumb all the way to his armpit.
His stoic suffering visualized as blood poisoning.
The infection had inched forward in proportion to the pounds
of noodles, canned sauce, and slaughtered cattle that filled
our child-sized stomachs. Weeks before, my father had cut his thumb
skinning a dead lamb. During lambing season, orphans are draped
with the skins of the dead to deceive mothers. A forced rebirth
through the smell of the familiar. When they left for the emergency room,
we watched the trace of their brake lights in the empty darkness.
The orphan now bonded to new mother. We ate in committed silence.
the tail end of consequences is probably not the best way to start off but proportionally speaking, I suppose I am ok. it’s exchange rates I always have trouble with—their constant change and their false equivalencies derived from broken treaties. I learned last week remorse is an uncertain form of knowledge. I have to be ok with with this too. wanting can get costly.
that same day I learned a new approach to remorse, I saw a man deliver, under weighted wraps, a bunch of floating silver alphabet balloons. the balloons were claimed by a group who had walked in earlier and said oh good, the ropes are here. I’m wondering if I may have been over-influenced.
I have a junkie mentality when my class triggers flair. last night my dreams were so strong I woke up to the smell of wood fire heat. a connection to childhood when we’d spend Saturdays in the dead of winter trespassing and gathering wood pieces near frozen creeks, a wild and rare oasis on the Northern Plains landscape. my heart holds space for what could let this go.
it’s in these moments, between the waves, where future memories rise.
I almost never buy in bulk, although I appreciate the expression of commitment. My lack of bulk desire is rooted in one of those childhoods funneled through scarcity politics, of all kinds: spirit, body, voice, resources, access, stimulation. My earliest taste of cultural politics were synthetic extractions grounded in epic narratives of fatherly protection. A practice endured through sacrifice.
There was a seduction to all that nurturing, an attention and encouragement to focus on one’s most intimate self—the soul. If followed correctly, there would be saving.
In all that repetitive redemption, there was a sense of safety—false as it was. I ache for those early feelings of learning about abundance. When the simple was profound, like the sound of snow falling.
These days are starting to feel retrograde, astrologically speaking an illusion. My dreams are looping, again. I’m taking all these memories, the bulk of them, and feeling nothing but an offering to grieve for what was taken, withheld, starved. An invitation of acceptance, a different kind of suffering.
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
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
corn, cowboys, & cattle
[classed units of measurement or why it matters I want the horizon to never end]
just because they know your name doesn’t mean they know where you came – cat power
I rediscovered grace through curated understandings
some spoken, explicit, but most often held in breath
in glances and in rhythmic exchange of metaphors
a particularly classed communion
quiet clung to the lake’s edges
marred only by wandering hymns and mornings with thunder
I thought about all those places that made us
an acceptance of motion as hard-luck blessings and raptured devotion
this is the tenuous nature of belief
in effort, a maintenance of fallibility
oh holy day: in haste, but with love
in haste, but with love – Raymond Carver’s closing in an unpublished letter to Bob Adelman December 13, 1987
“We need, each of us, to begin the awesome, difficult work of love: loving ourselves so that we become able to love others without fear so that we can become able enough to enlarge the circle of our trust and our common striving for a safe, sunny afternoon near to flowering trees and under a very blue sky.” – June Jordan
I knew a long time ago.
I shouldn’t deny that I don’t practice conscious love. I do.
All those times when I said no.
All those times I said yes.
All those times worth was mine to know.
“Use the power of man. Use the word. Fuck. The word is love.” – Kim Gordon
Overhead, the backyards had pools and trampolines.
A land of only oxbow lakes.
A land where delayed gratification is a religion.
A land where there is no sympathy for the devil.
The voices most common to me end with the sound of a question.
It’s that curl at the end, a curiosity unspoken.
There’s a particular consciousness when I hear that familial cadence.
Prompts that possess risk and assumed uncertainty.
The sun was an escort that morning.
A morning with purpose and mummified mandarins.
This and other routines becoming orientations –
a private relationship with temporality.
In silence, I see violence.
In breath, I think sex.
In the pornography of my dreams,
you know you can’t fuck me like that
and then act like I’m fragile. That is
a subtlety best reserved for detachment.
His accusation that my hole was filled with everything
but god was profound, if only for its blind accuracy.
The contents of that enclave signifying nothing beyond
a persistence to reject his god that does not know love.
Wet ice formed on frosted car windows that late night I prayed
for him to save me. We were finally on our way home from somewhere
staying longer than they had wanted. Leaving behind one tension,
that kind of politeness, for drunken silence, his version, not ours.
Barbed wire fences reminders of distance from road to ditch.
The body speaks. A language born of vigilance.
An effort that does not deviate. In the same way
cyclical is about more than repetition and less
becomes obvious. Those times when scarcity
is a luxury of desire (thought) or when home
is opposite of feeling (being) love. Seasons nested
between gaps of wants, things you don’t need,
taking without realizing its cost.
What is left behind in this wake?
A free fall. A slow fade. A disclosure.
What is it that makes us different?
Tracing boundaries of shared recognition.
Three years ago today, it was a nearly nude fashion show, and four years ago doing my own thing found itself on a “good things” list.
Do you know if the richest cities face west? What if we found settlement in a such a place?
Weeks form around us. Patterned reconciliations, memories of bus rides in other cities, different exchange rates. Those were my hard gained needs.
From your perspective, I cannot exist. Shifting your vengeance, a cruel blindness, that’s the type of aggression I inherited now abandoned for gentle privileges, useless hardwired knowledge, plotted along sensitive geographies. Navigating scripts, a dialect of claimed silences, lulling like waves like violence like survival. We have always carried this resistance, this method of rapture.
that feeling when you are rendered invisible
that process when you have no ability to move forward
that entrenchment when you know everyone is battling each other’s evils
that line around and that territory where power thrives
movie star faces
We dream of different reasons
to perform the same routines.
Money is not enough of a lure.
We have been poor before.
Status is not an option.
We have been poor before.
In order to believe in tomorrow,
we occupy contrasting spaces.
That is what we are trained to do.
We have been poor before.
It’s not enough to believe.
How do we prove?
fleeting as tasting my faith on your lips
evidence born from revelation:
bending, passing, and breaking
to fit inside what I know.
Speaking with a tongue of transgression
while learning to repress secrets,
a performance of submission,
tactics a result of hearing that
suffering yields eternal reward.
It was the sound of rushing, the way the ocean pulls into itself.
Falling and rising, gravity is an indicator measuring distance.
In Proofs & Theories: Essays on Poetry, Louise Glück admits, “I liked scale, but I liked it invisible.” Starting from a place of invisibility, a sense of safety, yet maintaining perspective resonates deep within me as winter slowly transitions into spring.
Water in West Virginia is deadly and smells like licorice for hundreds of thousands. In fact, over 300,000 people have been forced to drink only bottled water; the chemical spill’s impact contained within a complete and conveniently round number. Bodies, specifically women and girls’ of color bodies in comas, are illusions for a culture that still claims to value human life. National discussions center the paradoxical, for those in power, concept of growing gaps. Shrinking safety nets catch only the most tenuous of “opportunities” for those who have learned how to survive within the thinnest of margins. Pop stars and Fox news package feminist rhetoric in digestible byte size narratives that keep gender politics profitable.
It feels endless, this parade of brazen hypocrisy. There should be no surprise that we opt out behind private screens, devise elaborate rituals of denial, and post selfies to curate what we wish to be. It’s within this scale of manufactured hopes and inside the disposable commodities of dreams that we strive to find community, love, value, and joy.
The room had been painted a soft pink, the color of the inside of your mouth. A mouth that holds all the words you never release for fear of getting what you deserve; a sensitive fear that is a result of not knowing what you are worth.
We told each other only what needed to be said. I should have asked how you make happiness last and when you knew you wanted more than what is in front of you and when you let go after believing you’d never get it.
In the same way light forms around bridges, we move around our own barriers gracefully and with purpose.
This is, and always will be, the art of surviving.
She takes a loaf of bread, the shape and size of a toddler’s skull. Holding it vertically, she carves a slice two-fingers thick with a plastic butter knife. She stops mid-slice to answer her ringing phone. It was a friend whose name she had forgotten. There was no hello or how are you, just the beginning of a story about watching a man on the airplane lick the inside of a Ziplock bag clean. An erotic retelling of licking the insides over and over in an attempt to taste the way hot plastic feels when it melts from sitting in direct sunlight, an unconscious exhibition of witnessing solid shifting to liquid. She took the moment when breath makes silence to hang up and finished slicing her bread.
In the silence of consciousness I asked myself:
why did I reject my life? And I answer Die Erde überwältigt mich:
the earth defeats me.
I have tried to be accurate in this description
in case someone else should follow me. I can verify
that when the sun sets in winter it is
incomparably beautiful and the memory of it
lasts a long time. I think this means
there was no night.
The night was in my head.
Louise Glück | from “Landscape”
I want to lay to rest what I saw and felt when I went home almost a month ago. A home that was a desperate sanctuary during those teenage years of economic struggle, maternal abandonment, and good old fashioned repressions of thought, body, and spirit. I feel compelled to honor those sharp memories of family, community, and those intimate transgressions between loyalty and independence.
I’m old enough to know better that I should not force this process of internalization and still I desperately want to name these experiences. I don’t know how to own them.
The endless landscape connected by bridges and resistance shaped my core sense of self. I returned with an embodied joy in knowing conscious disobedience yields revolutionary results. I may have adorned myself with fancy theory and identities that I have fought to name in my own words but the class I was born into, that binding agent of perspective, is unescapable.
For now, I distilled these details:
my grandpa did buy a car with only silver dollars (two cars in fact!)
my value was defined by others who did not exist (husband and child)
survival is predicated on silent obedience of unquestioned rules
broken sidewalks paved a geography of constrained despair
if you look up and out, the clouds will guide you
I’ve always been this way
the consequences of choice matter and language continues to fail me
I am trying to accept anxiety as a strategic friend, trust in my capacity to create my own joy, and loudly maintain routines of comfort. I hold these current active desires like the traces of an embrace, gently and with intent.
Light’s influence is what I most like about living here. This newly discovered perception acts as a solipsistic aperture. This writing space, especially lately, has become a catalog of such impressions. Every week I try to encapsulate the mundane pieces of myself in hopes of illuminating and also distilling my meditations; a brave attempt to honor grandeur of thought.
Writing is a numinous process
similar to those seconds between lightning
and then thunder.
I’ve been marinating in the honesty of Dorothy Allison’s Talking About Sex, Class & Literature. Allison’s penetrating words have triggered this post: “Traditional feminist theory has had a limited understanding of class differences and of how sexuality and self are shaped by both desire and denial.” This statement so acutely supports my obsession with desire – for others, for choices, for pleasure – that my mind shut down with the impact of this truth.
Allison eloquently and systematically breaks it down, “It has taken me most of my life to understand that [running away or closing up inside yourself], to see how and why those of us who are born poor and different are so driven to give ourselves away or lose ourselves, but most of all, simply to disappear as the people we really are.”
Writing forces me to not run away. Today I write to remind myself of this verity.
I’m straddling multiple milieux and not sure where I stand, or where I want to stand. I observe the rich who have crunched numbers and have boldly disclosed their inflated aggregate. You assume you are worth $(x) yet the system has created arbitrary values built on exaggerations that maintain the system you now want to stand against. It’s not about this magical number that puts you within a false dichotomy, it’s about the choices you’ve had access to and the consequences of those (non)decisions on others. It can be seductive to join the chorus and perform survival. Are you prepared for how personal these politics will hopefully become?
The digital divide is wielding an analog medium. The poster and marker are the tools that are dismantling the master’s house. I want to feel the weight of the paper in my hands and experience the conscious deliberation of choosing the right words for such a finite space. What message will I display that identifies, defines, and separates me?
Audre Lorde states, “For the erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing. … In touch with the erotic, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.”
I’m feeling the tension of transparency. Talking points are not on a spectrum of disclosure.
Sometimes I wish I had the luxury of ignorance but that sounds incredibly pretentious.
I fear the (inevitable) numbness of privilege that’s associated with moving up a class. There are doubts tangled around every conversation and the heavy dread of diminishing self-confidence is illogical but still it lingers.
Assumptions of belonging are dangerous.
Watching those with privilege and wealth access opportunity and exercise their option of choices while ignoring the reality of the majority is a melancholy pursuit. Do you spy what I spy?
Did you feel your heart sink when the rich white man uprocked the evening designed to honor women? The crowd cheered; some even had tears. The injustice was ignored because of the $100k donation and the women danced on the sacrifices of those who had come before them.
Perhaps what I’m really feeling is the tension of working within a broken system where hope is a commodified ideology. Or it could be the looming holiday season of forced consumption. Or it’s the slow realization of not fitting into a place that was never designed to accommodate you in the first place. There are many hypotheses to consider for the sadness of consciousness.
Can one self-diagnose narcissism? And does that diagnosis have any validity?
I’m currently reading Women Without Class: Girls, Race, and Identity by Julie Bettie. It’s heady in its theory and grounded in its politics. Read Chapter 2 for some seriously sexy theoretical breakdowns on class, gender, and race.
Women Without Class influenced me to bring up class as a reason why my work environment doesn’t allow for diverse thoughts or voices at a team dinner. It was a loaded leading question, a set-up, and I bravely walked into the weeds. My opinion was met with an awkward silence which was to be expected, which is why I said it. When you ask questions, you should to be prepared for any answer if you assume people are telling you the truth.
Deflecting constructed status and coercing self-reflections sometimes feels like a narcissistic project of intense proportions. When does such navel gazing result in momentum?