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.
“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 past 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’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.
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)
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?
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
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 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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
“Because there’s 40 different shades of black…” Pavement Elevate Me Later
I promise to hold your gaze, even those that are unwanted.
Or the erotic retelling of my life as told through your eyes.
It is the specifics that matter when we confess. Some may believe that is enough. The confession is the means to the end. But what would happen if we thought of that release as the beginning?
Until that expositional moment, those words, thoughts, opinions are internalized truths that are ours alone to own and to hold. Now they are all of ours to absorb, to manage, to learn from, and to let go to make room for what we do not yet know.
Please forgive me. I did what I was told to do. I was bound to pick up bad habits after all those hours of witnessing evangelizing and attempts at redemption.
I was taught over and over again, no matter what I did, I was never going to be good enough. I was taught my body was not mine and out of my control. I am just now understanding how much obvious violence, subtle and insidious, is needed to give your soul away.
There is a primacy in this ritual of naming, recording, and distilling into something that only I understand. I won’t be so naive to think that a mirror’s only job is to reflect.
Geographies contain multipliers.
They are containers of dreams,
a space for visions.