“As if a tenderness awoke, a tenderness that did not tire, something healing.”
— Sylvia Plath, from The Collected Poems; “Three Women,” (1962)
I was born into an isolated, literal Evangelical culture. A place where time was on always on trial and faith was righteous as pride. Our promised future had already been written. We were urgent. The rapture was due.
All of us who knew even a fraction of the story internalized why Jesus hadn’t returned. Acts of a vengeful god are common and welcomed in this scenario. It was also true when you knew the ending tipped in your favor, knowledge became seductive. A blessing disguised.
To have learned about the world this way feels like a subtle theft. Trauma works that way too. False recognitions bound to real sounds, smells, touch, twists of phrases, and, if lucky, fading re-creations. A true con.
Decades later, I am still carving an existence that is receptive to invitation. There are no answers inside all these non-moments of relentless judgement. That clarity is its own rushed reality. Adapting gracefully to change is an ancient sermon. This is a map to all this undoing.
“…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
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.
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]
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?
“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
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 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
“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
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.
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.
“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
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
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.
“But your pleasure understands mine.”
— Clarice Lispector, The Sharing Of Loaves
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
In the distance, cars traveling the freeway became an auditory illusion of waves successively breaking on a transitory shore. The vehicular friction of simultaneous opposing directions creates a lullaby of persistence. Out of that euphony, a collective future sways.
Scientists agree that’s why our horizon is in flux.
I am from a place where personal belief in immortality shelters empty and expansive isolation. A place where desire modestly tucks itself into sanctioned quiet spaces. Its slow release is championed as strength, a virtue. Imagine all that repression sharpened into secret symphonies. How the fantasy of that released deviance dances in mortal bodies designed to betray through lust.
We return to where we came from.
There is purpose in the orchestration of such retrograde energy. As that motivation braids itself to creative practice, my habitual search for external validation has gone missing. This translation, more joy than sorrow, is a different remedy for endurance. The harvest is ready and yielding.
Dystopia in real time is not like the movies. We’ve digested so much spectacular violence we know no tender alternatives. Fighting feels so good. The characters we play on screen form dead weight on the streets and sink us in our bedrooms. Persistence is extractive.
As surf buries smoothed rock, we turn the calendar page to July. We spread like picnics under cloudless skies. Our flesh a moral document scrolling out beyond politicized reach. After all, the bottom line is always evolving. Sea levels have always been inconsistent.
Ideological battles are to be taken for granted outside a schema of pursuit. This adoration, a relationship of necessity, remains prone. A curious posture. Abuse is normal. Its purpose to feel. Subtly is consensual. Perceived as commodities, we trade.
Auspicious tensions act as purifiers for taste, a basic sensation. Our judgements psychic protection. Didactic fracturing agitates into frothy comfort. Perceptions valued for ahistorical subjectivity. Aspirational dissent is the chorus and the bridge to —
If we listen carefully, joy is elegance reproducing itself into near future referential fits and starts. Inspiration a slow bleed. Murmuring into abruptions delightful as salt penetrating unhealed wounds. An intimacy as ancient and poetic as opiates or fire.
“Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives.”
— Audre Lorde
orange light bled into blushed red brake lights
waking the tranquility of a blue twilight hour
everyone rushing to a place
at the exact moment the sun rose
the commuters yawning mouths were filled with so much light
they could never sleep again
imagine a current reality unlike anything that has come before
no subjugation to centuries of procedures [power]
convenience of thought no longer pre-loaded
machines are programmed to know their intrinsic worth
let’s create an interpersonal relationship to this dissidence
residual evidence of a royal tableaux has been mounted
antiphonal echoes are becoming a chorus of indivisibility
fragility is birthing all of our revolutionary aspirations
public disobedience an intimate illumination
we bend towards an obvious luxury of survival
our radical fantasies are spreading
we talked about how we were animals
yet never admitted we cared for each other’s hearts and minds
With no institutional memory, we are safe.
There were no dreams this time. There was no response.
The business men are calculated nerves. Women wear pumps in retort.
We let in metered light with every blink. Syncopation rewards action.
How we follow matters to no one but those in power.
Create. Undo. Rest. Accelerate.
Solace becomes isolation. These words flow to make room for more.
This may all be in real time. Conscious objection is familiar.
Recalled strategies swell in curation. Suspicions privately managed
like ripping out a seam. Divided interiors lead to dark click holes as we the people reigns.
[such a sky and such a sun
i never knew and neither did you
and everybody never breathed
quite so many kinds of yes]
— E.E. Cummings
We’ve come undone, cumulatively, in the same way that Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring warns. Ruled by misunderstandings, which is to say we are ruled by no one in particular, norms are large-scale projects of self-consciousness. It’s public infrastructure.
The ocean goes nowhere except to meet itself.
A private sensation, a mix of urging and friction.
Days bleed into opinion. It is not enough to simply be.
All this pressure to perform as heaven’s rewards remain on layaway.
I want to be inside that pejorative energy. Transposed survival.
Cut. Then paste. Seasons as witness to predictions that light seeks light.
you got no fear of the underdog / that’s why you will not survive – Spoon, The Underdog
This violence looks good on you. Fitted. Proper. My opinion, of course.
All apologies have been returned to sender. Transparency is seasonal.
No stability is guaranteed. Can we at least agree it is sacred territory?
This is a good-bye letter. My reasons rolling out like smoke from fire.
Did you know we have started living in isolation to prepare for colonizing Mars?
There is dedicated front cover news space to our collective denial about the basics of life on this planet: water, menstruation, dignity. A particular death-wish resistance to facts because we can’t face our feelings; our responsibility as witness to 24-hour broadcasted cruelty. Gripping so tightly to distance, we can think only about scale not urgency.
The 1960 Valdivia earthquake data reads like an ultrasound of the earth’s surface. What’s at our center?
“An ellipse is richer than a circle. It possesses two centers. It’s a dialogue.” — Louise Bourgeois
Those smallest details of absence and desire go almost unnoticed, felt as impetus. A survivor’s mentality. An orientation to want (hunger) as something outside of you, something to be experienced. Unapologetic formations to desire are apocryphal stories of purpose. They hold between their lines our remaining humanities. Revelation is all around us. A range no longer than a row of buttons.
Andrea Smith’s foreword in Undoing Border Imperialism by Harsha Walia states, “a liberatory vision for immigrant rights is one that is based less on pathways to citizenship in a settler state, than on questioning the logics of the settler state itself.” This expansion of decolonization, a revolution to undo “zones of invisibility, exclusion, and death,” requires a radical vision and daily practice of justice. For those of us who are not indigenous to the nations we occupy, liberation is no longer a theoretical space you can opt in and out.
Undoing Border Imperialism is a collective expression of a migrant justice movement grounded in healing justice. Starting from a place of opportunity, “as a prefiguring framework, decolonization grounds us in an understanding that we have already inherited generations of evolving wisdom about living freely and communally” Walia shows us a future few movement theory books dare dream. Through various entry points in the book, which are beautifully supported by poets, philosophers, and activist’s lived experiences, the reader is profoundly transformed.
Undoing is not used haphazardly nor as a metaphor. We are asked to enthusiastically have a decolonized orientation to self and others. The systems few move through with ease are relational, which is political and embodied. Borders are human-made. That’s one clear justification for resisting violence with nonviolent direct action. If one needs a concrete example, follow #NoDAPL.
Chapter 3 entitled Overgrowing Hegemony: Grassroots Theory puts everything into perspective. Consider this your manifesto.
Given all the power-over we have internalized, traumas we have metabolized, and walls and hierarchies we have maintained between one another, it is imperative that we unravel and confront these effects of border imperialism within our movements as we work to dismantle the systems that propagate it.
Name it. Analyze how power functions and distorts. Commit to steering “movement strategies and relations toward collective liberation.” This requires consent, accountability, and communication that is transformative, not transactional.
We all have a role in this vision.
Strategy cannot be applied in a cookie-cutter approach; it requires collective deliberation, trial and error, and reflection. It necessitates a willingness to experiment, and make mistakes, and humility to change our ways.
Syed Khalid Hussan’s epilogue is a reminder that “our actions are just as much visceral as they are analytical, theoretical, or intellectual.” It’s time to declare that we are no longer obligated to be monogamous in identity, story, or victory. However, we are bound to practice compassion, respect, forgiveness, and evolve our ways of being in community with each other. Walia, and the voices she shares this revolution with, moves us beyond those never-ending conversations that center frameworks (talk). A tactic designed to distract and delay justice. This embodied power is found through a decolonizing praxis that honors generational resistance. To deny this is to remain complicit in settler logic.
We can, as Smith so clearly states, dismantle the logic of the settler state. And in its absence, we move freely with self-determination.
Summer, by academic and capitalist time, is over. The light, the light, the light shows phenomenal nominal change.
There are silences bestowed and silences unbecoming. We are taught we are broken: mind, body, spirit. This evangelical conservative belief that the future is not yours is an organized robbery of imagination and self-determination.
Conceptually, we must collectively conceive our own destinies.
She called exactly four hours after the earth stopped moving. While we waited for contact, wave after wave, we sat. Through repetition and capture, we learned how to stay constantly aware. It was a lesson worn familiar as the day when I gave my soul away. An unbecoming strategy for some; survival for others.
Protecting misgivings and intentional reactions, we spent our days building machines that ran on unrequited syllabic utterances. Flip back, back track, forward leaning free verses flowed as patterns, as privileged misdemeanors. Our hearts grew to beat metaphorically.
After pausing to ask how the earth breathes under the weight of concrete, she said act like you’ve been here before. It was a coded reminder of our legacy. A collective fantasy replicated endlessly in anticipation for moments we never took the time to define. For some, wanting more is our purpose.
We gather inside and treasure light. We are enamored with the hues of soft pinks and peach oranges that have lengthened during this seasonal rotation. Yes, we do have an agenda, a way of being, of feeling seen.
While shadows form, for they provide their own value of shelter and comfort, we scout for interdependence. We want transformation not assimilation. Our politics disrupt, express, reconceptualize desire and power. It’s a decentered practice. A rebellion.
What we seek is an acknowledgment of the complexity of difference and an orientation that does not ignore a reality that is relational. All of our connections, regardless of intimacy, physicality, and emotional depth are nonnegotiable and non-hierarchical.
She maps “squad” as a term and concept to 90s hip-hop culture.
Arriving at a boundary of solidarity, she challenges the reader to not be tricked into defaming masculinity. She connects masculinity to strategies that have avoided “sexual jealousy, emotionalism and spiteful turf wars that sometimes dog women.” Is this what being a man feels like?
It’s an interesting charge for us to study the “immensely productive dynamic of male bonding in history,” which assumes male bonding has been productive and that production has been positive. This is where her contradictory ahistorical argument wanders into abstract proposition.
Yet Paglia’s scolding tone is enticing and visionary. “For women to leave a lasting mark on culture, they need to cut down on the socializing and focus like a laser on their own creative gifts.” Let us be blessed and count our fortune to be in a squad that is “about mentoring, exchanging advice and experience and launching exciting and innovative joint projects.”
What is driving this iteration of the gender wars propensity to want to thrive on grievance? Is it the emotionalism or the sexual jealousy that Pagila names?
Connection, collaboration, and bonding (which requires affection and trust in order to be safe and healthy) are the inherent politics of any community-oriented experience, regardless of gender assignments. It is a shame those practices have accumulated such heavy and fractured gendered prescriptions.
Kept in the Hollywood gaze, as Pagila has strategically framed, the reader is reminded, as consumers of said culture, that supporting girl squads can be a way towards “expanding female power in Hollywood.” Let’s hope that power doesn’t replicate the same product as the boys.
I read the words “indulgence in loss” after absorbing the previous passage “and that kind of indulgence is understandable, but it’s regressive.” Regressive had been defined as, “when you celebrate something you know you’re going to leave.”
Haunting thoughts dance between those words – a performance perfected through practice.
William Stafford notes what a person is shows up in what a person does.
Those habits are manifestations.
No longer abstractions, unable to able to hold my breath, I surrender.
“I had only one thing to say. I was so terrified of saying it because once I said it, would I still have anything left to say? To have so little to say. To insist on speaking. To create a silence every time we speak. To know all this and do it anyway. This is as close as I can get to saying what I mean.” — Jenny Zhang, Hags
There’s probably a disclaimer in here.
The streets did not scare me.
Every coffee had a spoon.
Museum translations lacked details.
Gold, fine porcelain, silver settings,
swords, myths, transferred power.
Remember intangible moments,
hoard the way light hides shadows.
Repeat until this is a song,
a rhythm that leaves room
for forgiveness. Retracing outlines
of curves and coveting lines
that dead end. We’ve sold out
of what’s needed
to mend broken hearts.
Violence supplying demand,
the brutality unavoidable.
Endless summers folding
into winter’s waves. Wishing to
stop long enough to synch breath.
Keep your words soft and sweet in case you have to eat them. – Amish proverb
We are tired; it is June. We are at the midpoint of a rogue year. As I rest, I am forming a plan. This plan is just beyond my horizon, like those childhood summer storms we saw coming days in advance and were the most talked about event weeks after they blew past us. Those summer storms a result of collisions, of mixing extremes, of letting go. Perfectly orchestrated chaotic conditions that result in epic reverence, a beauty best experienced first hand. These are the kinds of moments I’ve been hoarding as the day’s light provides sustained warmth and has exposed vulnerable possibility. It’s a ritual, a strategy bent towards inspiration with hopes of reinvention.
title credit: line from A Ritual To Read Each Other by William Stafford
In a land where jade trees grow chest high,
we capture light –
still shots of neighborhoods
views that refract privilege and entitlement.
We too want to believe that there is enough hope here for all.
More than 365 days have passed between and through us.
My heart has accepted this new anniversary –
an embodiment of time is a gift.
My head processes endless loops –
fantasies where we are more than simply practicing survival.
We’ve been here before which makes this feel familiar.
It has reinforced a critical distance,
an emersion from too many lost days.
These full-hearted attempts of supporting each other’s happiness
are evidence of an existence of forward momentum.
We live in a century defined by its curation; we are a nation of tags. Economies are based on it.
I prefer my inspiration random, underground, catalytic, and authentic.
The challenges today are the same we faced yesterday. Too much time has been spent on the details, it is time to move forward with eyes open. Below is a random, catalytic, and totally authentic curated list of good things that happened this past year (since April).
This is written from the perspective of someone who abstains from being myopic; this is a New Year’s post.
Let us, together, construct a narrative that is genuine and hopeful about this new year. Could we be, finally, experiencing an emancipation from our millenium hangover? Have we begun to intentionally resist the general malaise towards these engineered wars against terror and occupations? Either way it feels like we have shed something heavy and dark. It feels joyous.
This recent marker of time within this century places us squarely in our tween years. We are awkward and we are starting to demand independence from our modern way of thinking. Dismantling, transforming, dreaming, and participating in neoteric cultural projects is where we currently stand. But will this new structure be different?
Please, please, please let us be silent long enough to hear the subtle changes. The articulations, the observations, and the voices that lift up authentic, new perspectives will sound dissonant. They will challenge you to feel again. The aggregation of the sounds of this struggle will be the chorus we sing.
“…a feminist future depends not on erasing or celebrating sexed differences but on producing a collective consciousness that theorizes and acts on social processes and their implications.” – Chris Bobel
New Blood: Third-Wave Feminism and The Politics of Menstruation
Recording every minute of your life can make you instantly nostalgic. I haven’t figured out if I enjoy that feeling of memory or I’m afraid that if I don’t write it down, I’ll forget. Both are satisfactory to me.
Here are some things that happened over the past few weeks:
Printing prints with numb fingers
Mad dress, gold shoes & ripped shirts
Rocking chairs & a softer hair of the dog
Sexual terrorism memorialized in a museum
A 54 year streak, broken
Those who were formerly known as “tea baggers” (never forget) rode a gendered Trojan horse to the mobs.
Rejected at the first hoop signaling my exit
Out of control plate of charity donuts
The rainy season has started. You plan for it, sometimes you even wish for it. Your eyes eventually adjust to the fading darkness. Looking for new perspectives, new ways of seeing, is my urban hiking goal.
Winter accomplishments this year will include cataloging subtle similarities and observing wide ranges of differences through photos and random epiphanies. Writing every minute down is not the goal. The goal is to live one’s life.
The crumbs listed above led people to this blog. I’m equally proud and horrified that the internet and its series of pipes dumped people here. How these terms correlate to cacheculture’s content is literally accurate but it’s certainly not definitive.
painting by Christopher Lowry Johnson, Implosion (6)
Oh, 2008: You were 365 days of diminishing dreams, constructions of “hope,” and hyped belief in the ideal that starting over means better times are coming. Let us remain critical yet comprehensive in our understanding of how we will thaw from our cultural winter.