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.
Wedding rings hang outside car windows left open to let in the warm winter breeze. Expositions of racism flare, burn, and spread. Secrets, held between breaths, were left behind in paid rooms. Stories about love and risk and reward are threads. As William Stafford ends The Way It Is, “You don’t ever let go of the thread.”
Sloping power lines dance above me as the train emerges from the tunnel. I follow them. We race across the flat industrial landscape that ebbs and flows according to the cheap demands of consumers. Wires bend and sway to impress passengers whose eyes adjust to the glare of the setting sun, a palette of light stretching from peachy pinks, transparent blues, and burnt oranges. I listen for that moment when we all take a breath, a collective reminder of where we just came from. Our cadence influenced by a retrograde perspective, a point of view that manipulates distance. Even the trees, with their fading leaves and tender roots, know this isn’t enough.
There must be more. Surely we can look for opportunities to eat cake with our coffee; search for an afternoon to visit the ocean and stay until the last light disappears; discover different angles to reveal new patterns; listen for rhythms that break hearts so we can be rendered tough enough; restore a belief in a future that can both afford to make mistakes and is strong enough to allow for change. These delicate moments of revelation, quiet and embodied, should be stored in bulk and kept tucked behind corners waiting to be shared, especially when the light feels heavy.
When so much is in front of you, the only way out is up.
Burst of orange bombs shatter the tranquil skyline
was the only thing I could think of last week
to describe the sunrise over the Financial District
after traveling three years across the East Bay Bridge
a witness to its new construction and now its destruction. I wish I knew how to say good-bye to you was a way
to compartmentalize desire after watching a worker
steal bites of their lunch for breakfast. Always realizing,
or is it remembering, that these feelings are not new.
Wedged between these thoughts, the radio told me the Swiss
had bought the leading producer of the heartland’s chocolate
in between stories of Syria, Iraq, and economic forecasts.
A confession of a shocked customer revealing they weren’t
going to stop their daily routine no matter who owned production.
These truths are a way to understand how gravity influences
our daily lives, a routine showing progress and distance.
I don’t want to alarm you.
The house is empty and without running water.
An escape tunnel is being built,
a series of connection points.
We will live underground again.
The shawl looked forlorn;
socks draped over the freeway fence.
Morning commuters wove patterns
inside lanes designed to maximize tension
lulling casual passengers to the hum
of wheels hitting mile markers.
He said, “You need to put your breath behind it”
as she told a story about a place in New Mexico that contains light
found between the spikes of cacti and rotations of tumbleweeds
hues of yellow, orange, and blue if you knew how to look for it.
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
It is cold enough to see breath.
Predictions of an epic winter storm never materialized.
I should have known better; California you are a master of hype and fantasy.
The visual meditative state of witnessing exhalation suspends guilt
and reflects action.
Traditionally, this form of indulgence is transitory
for this purpose it feels good to think that transgressions can be forgiven.
In a darkness that only winter can afford, I took a new bus route home.
A route born from too many walks home alone
knowing $2.10 was the price to suspend the need to control, a different kind of letting go.
Transported past houses with illuminated front rooms
I internalized why deserve is a word that triggers so many strong memories.
These desperate opportunities of wanting more are not a crime
yet I hold them like a criminal.
Is the tipping point when the perfume on the back of your neck smells familiar to me?
Muscle memory contains the same difference between perceiving versus seeing.
The pornographer demands uncompromising attention to detail;
we should all be so aspirational.
“But we can not move theory into action unless we can find it in the eccentric and wandering ways of our daily life.” – Minnie Bruce Pratt from S/He
I like how this quote has settled in my mind. I interpret the words wandering, action and daily life to my own understanding of who I am. I linger on the accuracy of eccentric to describe an intent of searching beyond the center and the active practice of valuing differences in order to evolve.
These days, long distance doesn’t have the same meaning. Information travels faster than ever before, even heavy news from home moves nimbly.
It is important to find ways to routinely calibrate where the center lies; I need to be reminded of how far I’ve wandered. Control is no longer a theoretical exercise lost in mindless wrong turns.
We can’t afford to forget how much we give away. Establishing this habit is how we’ll remember the way home.
The blood drops formed a heart on the park bench. It was a sign to take risks.
We recorded a 4-track EP in the just vacated bedroom
a sweltering Ohio afternoon where rhythm and breath
became an archive of calculated structures –
bridges that spanned across bruised childhoods
finding similarity that escalated our emerging independence
Years later as the electric bus hummed
then quietly accelerated
its fading noise triggered new ways to say the same thing:
foggy windows a result of leaving warm beds
spread legs transitioning from suffering to kindness
These quiet disambiguations of faith
and its partner optimism
underscore an intimacy that needs a chorus
and a choir of communion
“I’m never sure if I have gender dysphoria or species dysphoria.”
– Pat Califia, “Identity Sedition and Pornography” Pomosexuals: Challenging Assumptions about Gender and Sexuality
She asked me if you needed to be a member of this club. The underground room, painted a menacing lavender color, swelled with embellished somatic complaints and measured breathing. I said ” we can make our own” as she looked past me and walked away. On the way home I wrote: it’s subversive to write down your thoughts; they rob god of his agency.
This is a fire sale. Everything must go.
I thought of an intro that went something like this: I wanted their hand inside me. This was before I heard that they asked you what you like to do on Sundays. This story has no gendered subject which makes some literally nervous, like hushed admissions or overemphasizing for dramatic emphasis.
I want to ask you to imagine what it feels like when every choice you make is conscious.
We joke about taking it all the way as the planets revolve around us. Facing one another, like borders, we exchange memories as cash and carry each others extremes to calibrate our balances.
In What Is Found There, Adrienne Rich notes that the core of metaphors are “resemblance in difference.” And Gloria Anzaldua said, “The resistance to change in a person is in direct proportion to the number of dead metaphors that person carries.” There is much to explore within these spaces of similarity and syncretistic juxtapositions. Metaphors are essential ingredients, catalysts really, that shape how we will tell others what we see.
Navigating aspects of a culture, one that feels more about reading and performing than being, only partially explains my reoccurring dreams of stairs. Traveling east to the prairie to fulfill a mission that will close a chapter of home that has few memories that aren’t seeped in melancholic filters may be another immediate interpretation. It’s equally likely, and as obvious, this vision is based on that lost time in Chicago. The recalled memory is only violent sound: bones on concrete.