“The number of people here [New York City] who think they are alone, sing alone, and eat and talk alone in the streets in mind-boggling. And yet they don’t add up. Quite the reverse. The subtract from each other and their resemblance to one another is uncertain.
… It is the saddest sight in the world. Sadder than destitution, sadder than the beggar is the man who eats alone in public.” — Jean Baudrillard, America (trans. Chris Turner, 1991)
Nearly a year ago, I carried America by Jean Baudrillard around the Bay Area and all the way down to the most American of places, Los Angeles.
I wanted to capture Baudrillard’s idea that eating alone was the saddest sight in the world.
And of course nothing and everything can change in a year.
Contemporary America is at an epic and fevered hyperpitch with an advancing crisis of reality. What is refracted is what will be. Our ascetic online lives more fake than ever. Asepsis is an arousing and obsessive state in this quarantine simulacrum. Hygiene a cult. The habitual repetition of survival, an amplified fascination of being alive, its own seduction.
But one day soon—in the scheme of weeks or as quick as when you notice your neighborhood trees blaring their blooms—restaurants will open for sit-down meals and I will prove Baudrillard wrong.
Listen—this is a faint station
left alive in the vast universe.
I was left here to tell you a message
designed for your instruction or comfort,
but now that my world is gone I crave
expression pure as all the space
around me: I want to tell what is. …
— William Stafford, TUNED IN LATE ONE NIGHT, first stanza
We were told to get extra, but not hoard.
All professional sports, including NASCAR,
and mass entertainment cancelled.
Church and work shifts to virtual platforms.
Even the Pro Football Hall of Fame
shuts down for “at least two weeks.”
The bronze busts no longer speak
in stiff-lipped whispers.
Witness begins to require recalibration.
An Italian doctor corrected the British talk show host –
bomb metaphors are inadequate for this pandemic.
A bomb implies “one moment in time and space.”
The doctor begged viewers to grasp spacetime physics
as Florida’s spring break beaches swell.
I scrolled and
for good news
Freeway traffic flows in east/west lanes
like ants on a crumb score.
I’m waking up later each day,
blending home and work
into a double-stitched seam.
It is the first day of spring.
I beg you to prepare for the future you want.
Yet nothing has really happened
Place has even more significance
than we can consciously hold
now cracking open at its weakest points –
where we are isolated and approximate distance.
News moves relative to a wide margin of incompetence
and displays itself as curved lines.
I bless the bus drivers keeping their ghost routes.
New leaves spread wider each passing day.
I am hyperaware of my phantom wants:
a balcony and family. A dopamine loop fueled
by anticipation. The future now a fermata.
Yet listen well. Not to my words,
but to the tumult that rages in
your body when you listen to yourself.
If it is true we are floating through space
& each of us contain the stardust of a million galaxies
then the sun glittering receptive is our asylum.
Exuberant in this signification,
we propel beyond daydream nations.
Expressive attraction becomes its own tender gravity.
Change is accelerating
is feedback looping.
What do you believe in: violence or power?
It is our right as poets to be suggestive
to value a secure spirit & apply logic of affect.
We know why the grace of a curve invites.
“She peels an orange, separates it in perfect halves, and gives one of them to me. If I could wear it like a friendship bracelet, I would. Instead I swallow it section by section and tell myself it means even more this way. To chew and to swallow in silence with her. To taste the same thing in the same moment.” — Nina Lacour, We Are Okay
My dreams were unpleasant so I changed the subject.
Crooked clouds, galloping waves, open sky, rapid heart beats,
30-mph curves, a quiet moon. I feel invited to be in witness
differently. Superstitions abound this time of year.
Ebb, the movement of the tide out to sea, is a noun.
It is also a verb, to recede. A delicate pull to want
complexity in concrete form and a desire to contract,
its own learned impulse. This withdrawing is not quite grief
but something deeper—like prairie grass roots growing
fourteen feet into rich Northern Plains soil or inversely
the stretch of centuries found in straight-as-arrows Coastal Redwoods.
I want nothing but that kind of time to observe the unfolding
of our revised lives. How far will I let this instinctive incantation
take me and what existence can we carve out in the shadows of endless wars?
Maybe the answer is where our holy and mundane days adjust into
a darkness soft as our breath subsiding and just as gracefully rising.
“Walking on the land or digging in the fine soil I am intensely aware that time quivers slightly, changes occurring in imperceptible and minute ways, accumulating so subtly that they seem not to exist. Yet the tiny shifts in everything – cell replication, the rain of dust motes, lengthening hair, wind-pushed rocks – press inexorably on and on.” – Annie Proulx, Bird Cloud
I’ve learned enough to be dangerous. I’ve failed enough to feel successful.
Lessons learned, in the order they showed up:
Expectations are different than boundaries.
Shame is a form of self-abuse.
Distinguish the difference between meaningful work and paid work.
The stories I tell myself matter the most.
Maintaining a conscious awareness of abundance is the work of being open to inspiration — being fascinated feels good. Acceptance is eternal work.
Establishing new routines takes time.
Trust in self is a sacred commitment.
Patience is its own desire and trust in myself is sacred energy. Learning stimulates: both focus and curiosity are required.
Creating poetics inquiries deepened my capacity for patient discovery.
Breathe through the urge to have answers.
Staying present and having curious inquiry is the process of accelerating joy.
It matters how you show up.
2020 is one of those future-forward years, like 1999 and 2000. Every year has its own biography of echoes. The list above are some of my loudest.
The hills are thick with creamy fog these late-August mornings, then fade into brilliant blue. My dreams have been performed in airports and church vans. I rode a mechanical bull pleading to get to where I thought I wanted to go.
a different summer morning
you joked that Red Delicious
was put there by a witch
I’m disciplined to distraction
the peek of a thigh
roses at the edge of on-ramps
yielding to pressure
what survives in me
i still suspect.
–Sonia Sanchez, “Fragment 1”
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
I found an aesthetic: beg
more of a grasp than a hold
& I define how tight
shattered pieces create the best whole
naked sounds vibrate the loudest
most thoughts end
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.
*** *** ***
*** *** ***
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.
We ignore the narrator by only focusing on the frame.
The city moves, bends, and swallows.
An act of congress, a coming together.
He presented himself to me. I kissed, gently,
his upper thigh. Curated outfits, a collection of pants
and blouses, roll past me. Lunches bounce inside bags.
I keep writing to feel around the noise. Reinvested
memories, commitments, and occasional flashes of violence.
Internalized scandals are my own reputation to manage.
The train was crowded. No one could complain
about unwanted touching. I imagined her hand
moving slowly, without detection, up and between
my legs. Her fingers, warm and steady, found
their destination. Leaving behind permanent
invisible notes, secrets scrawled on the inside.
Messages shared as rumors as indisputable
associations like light shining through solid objects.
the mountains found solitude
spooning each other to hold their gaze
while hills white from not-yet-risen clouds
were in contrast to the Bay warming blue
grateful for forgiveness and forgetting
time as construct, a gravitational force
wrapped around desire, momentum, abundance
absence has pulled your energy elsewhere
away from me
every day we show our stories by waking
under cloudless skies as nests of nests
of birds clamor and inspire the cat,
a product of us: neglect and minimal care
unencumbered with material fancies
all this and things undiscovered
guide our personal rhythms (fulcrums/hips)
like how our body’s most graceful state is to be at ease
unlike that first summer we drove across country
with every possession we assumed we would need
This time of year the radiator sings at night. The gray mornings are carbon copies of Cleveland’s skies. Those years full of bravado that only darkness holds or youth demands. To the east, the pastel light spins out into easter yellows, baby blues, and softened ripe peaches.
I watched him dip his boots into the fountain, one at a time, muddied from the urban forest he was paid to curate.
When we talk about the work be explicit.
Do you care
We all have somewhere to be
someone to hold (ourselves mostly)
accountable for what happens today.
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.
It was the way you disappeared. There was a strategy to it.
I’d tile this chapter: collapsing just short of understanding. Every day forged into an act of hope, not to be confused with faith. The mountains, when revealed, were tucked into each other and clouds pale like bone. These people we’ve become feel unconsciously different. We are borderline confident.
We waited together inside the bus stop. She told me teenage boys filmed her instead of letting her know her car was on fire. This is after we both agreed Jaguars were the coolest because of their hood ornaments.
When she walked off the bus, she said: be careful with who you bring into your house and watch who they invite in.
Anniversaries happen every day.
Be careful or they will accumulate and sneak up on you.
There is a seriousness in being misunderstood. Last week, the public radio station reported on our “confidence crisis.” Nobody trusts the government or banks anymore. I think we were supposed to be alarmed. Another story attempted to convince us that moving tar sands oil is “safer” through pipelines than by railways, while acknowledging all the recent catastrophic train accidents in one breath. This was propaganda, an advertisement.
The heart quickens when analogies are spun out into oblivion. As true as as a bitter cold wind can freeze lungs, the time spent open, prone, authentic is time spent joyously. Believing in miracles once in awhile, mapping out the pace between moments, followed by memories, and finally settling into a pattern is a good life to live.
Yet we are taught when there is space to take up, do, and where there is profit to be made, make.
Those in power demanded dark blue tile with a million gold specks; 14k gold stolen from the Sierra Nevada goldfields.