all this absence, in the space of starting over, forms my backbone
i wish i could claim something useful here, like emotional resilience
or self-efficacy managed beyond the flutter of obscene distractions
structurally, skin has the capacity to absorb 1000 strikes soft as fur
before bruising, blue then purple then finally breaking open red
bold as light leaks found in the silenced literacy of family photos
this spread of truth tight and shallow in surrendering
She carries the sins of her ex-husband and her father
bearing the weight of her complicit silence and denial of violations
transferring her penance through strudels, kuchhen, usually prune, and dumplings, savory.
She assumed responsibility for our care, just as she had done for my father
sheltering all four of us in a one bedroom with galley kitchen
occupying our despondent abandonment with movie marathons, all rated restricted.
She predicted my mother was never coming back to us or to our father
revealing her own resentment at the possibility of having that kind of freedom
submitting to the sum total of stubborn experiences and lack of choices, obstructions.
The town where I was born has a museum that specializes in local history. The museum’s fame was ownership of a found prehistoric fossil. This piece of stone was remarkably well preserved, the spine of the evolved animal clearly intact. It turned out this grand jewel, this generational crowd pleaser, was actually a piece of broken feather from the statue of Sitting Bull, a Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux holy man.
Local assholes used to ram the monument with their pickup trucks knocking the bust of Sitting Bull’s head off its pedestal and they’d shoot into the Sacagawea monument for fun. We used to try to count all the bullet holes during those long summers we were lucky enough to visit my grandparents.
Grandma Nancy and Grandpa Pinky’s ranch was only a few miles from the monuments. Their house was a special and magical place. There were lamps that turned on by touching plant leaves and a dining table that was the go-to place to listen to the reporting of current events and visions of the future.
I remember summers where cousins divided themselves along the intractable wedge of Boy George’s sexuality while Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA blared from the back of pickup trucks that drove too fast down roads that were tire ruts imprinted on the rich prairie soil. We saw monsters rise from ponds and were oblivious to the violence around us.
I want to tell my dying grandfather that I will never forget that burned cowhide is the smell of money. I want to tell him that his house was a refuge, a site of culture and learning about a world larger than I could imagine. I want to ask him if he remembers the fossilized feather and if he heard any of those shootings.
justice will take us millions of intricate moves
– William Stafford
As each day tucks into the next, I add up the cumulative influence of how silence can be a weapon of intention. My head reminds me that this is the familiar effect of winter and the reappearance of those heavy memories that not-so-gently announce its arrival. My heart has been in hibernation for weeks.
There is nothing left for you; I promise.
Shall we think of junctions as felicitous opportunities to recast and reassess? If the rumors are true that the world is ending in less than a month, let us wake up each day with strategic purpose. This ritual is bigger than you or me.
When I imagined the future, I failed to envision a world that censors state lawmakers from saying the word “vagina,” more specifically because they referenced their own vagina when pleading to maintain the right to have an abortion. My future was based on an assumption that there would be some evolution and general social dignity.
Our politics are getting very personal. Can you handle this intimacy?
I am growing ever more annoyed by heterosexual men whose lips are mum than from the to-be-expected cliched responses of misogynists.
To quote Begin the Begin, “Silence means security.” A security maintained by restriction is ultimately vulnerable. If men who love women continue to be mute, their sexuality and their sexual agency will be as equally depressing.
Like rape, this political repression is about power not sex. Seductive patriarchal fantasy and prescriptive subjection create more than fifty shades of grey when it comes to how we all resist domination. Your silence is your implicit consent. Until I hear otherwise, I won’t know that you don’t agree with the assumed benefits you’ve been reaping all these millennia.
Each time we don’t say what we want to say we’re dying.
Make a list of how many times you died this week.
I lost one of my nine lives yesterday in what can best be described as a brutal failure in agency; a failure so epic that my sense of self shattered. According to my rough count, I only have three lives left. The number three has serious significance. This precious triad of lives leaves me clinging to mind, body, and spirit.
The pattern recognition of silencing myself and the weight of carrying around substantial baggage of continued failures has led me to an exploration of self. The structured process requires a public exhuming of formerly invisible somatic memories. This active participation has to mean something; I cannot afford to fail again.
Will my sense of self ever remain solid enough to capture the details I so desperately seek to express?
Yet this departure is different. I leave satisfied, (more) complete, and stronger.
Finding a way to translate these past five years is proving difficult. It’s a matter of who and what, and more importantly, how they fit together into some cohesive vision. The fracturing of my experiences was both thrilling and gut wrenching.
I carry with me a mosaic of memories that have become the foundation for my curiosity, exploration, and awakening. There were lessons that challenged assumptions, opportunities to find and use my voice, and the warm realization that autonomy requires an incredible support system.
There are crazy people in positions of power that are attempting to pull women’s rights into the dark ages. Last time I checked, abortion was legal in the United States. It certainly isn’t accessible but it is legal, as legal as getting a root canal or breast implants.
I used to escort women and their partners (boyfriend, baby daddy, mother, friend, etc.) into abortion clinics. (Note: There were many patients that were there to simply get birth control or take pregnancy tests.) The anti-choice protesters were relentless and incredibly cruel. Their weapons were fear, intimidation, and lies. It was brutal and wore on one’s soul.
Patients didn’t fully realize the extent of the situation until they heard the verbal assaults as they left the comfort of their cars. They had been informed when they made their appointments of the potential for confrontation but until you are witness to such absurdity, it sounds conspiratorial. As I slowly approached the patient’s cars, I was often assumed to be part of the threat. The bright yellow “pro-choice escort” vest was invisible on my body.
I shouldn’t have even been there; it was actually quite stupid when you gave it some thought. I volunteered my Saturday mornings to help people from their car, escorted them across a parking lot, and got them safely inside a licensed health care facility. If I was helping people (women) get their eyes checked, you could argue I wasted hours and suffered unnecessary sunburns and frostbite. But because these women were attempting to take agency over their own lives, their own bodies, I had to perform such a function.
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.
Louise Bourgeois has passed away at the age of 98. She was amazing, unique, and always inspiring. If you haven’t seen the documentary, Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, The Mistress, and The Tangerine, you should.
There are many reasons to adore Louise. Two of them being her fierce independence and unflinching honesty.
The first time I heard about Louise and saw her sculptures was the 2002 Spider exhibit in Cleveland, OH. I wish I had taken pictures and paid more attention to their installation. They were beautiful and haunting on the dead streets of downtown Cleveland. They stuck with me in more ways than I realized.
“To Bourgeois, the relationship of one person to another or others is all important, and life has little value without it. This relationship, which she calls the toi et moi – or the ‘you and me’ – is usually experienced as suffering, yet it is the only thing worth living for.” – Louise Bourgeois: Drawings & Observations