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 that, 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.
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.
experts have named our environment “rape culture”
fueled by an economy that exports & imports incertitude
funny how even the state’s gospel won’t accept no
even with a sovereign request
another way fringed borders bleed reciprocity
thick as oil as war as water
desire can transform anything
corporeal physics as vim and vigor
like soft kisses melting hard intentions
it’s why embodiment alludes enlightenment
& landscapes matter when our eyes close
horizons become their own grounding binary
pressure is a gilded warning signal
jouissance its own casual experience
how deeply our metaphors inform us
as angels, as deviants, as complicit
love is in here somewhere, or should be
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.
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.
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.
The body speaks. A language born of vigilance.
An effort that does not deviate. In the same way
cyclical is about more than repetition and less
becomes obvious. Those times when scarcity
is a luxury of desire (thought) or when home
is opposite of feeling (being) love. Seasons nested
between gaps of wants, things you don’t need,
taking without realizing its cost.
What is left behind in this wake?
A free fall. A slow fade. A disclosure.
What is it that makes us different?
Tracing boundaries of shared recognition.
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.
This week the morning sky met the Bay by gently laying on top of itself. Low-hanging clouds smelled of cheap cologne, saturated with the kind of hope that only comes from peer pressure or digital capitalism or the start of a new year. The price of oil is less than $50/barrel which means the Financial District’s transactions have had less swagger. Instead calculated bets are placed on commodities like complex sugars, protest, Taylor Swift, and war. Pipelines born from speculative fiction landscapes are on pace to divide community from livelihood.
What if what I’ve been wanting is to find love in that space found between deep breaths? A capacity just beyond the quiet terror of behaving. A boundary traced around dangerous desires.
In a book that has nothing to do (at least not in an obvious way) with Nietzsche, I learn that he believed “philosophers tend to write their memoirs in their theories.” That feels like a well-known secret, an existential tenet.
That’s probably why I write about light so much. The sharpness of every one of those mornings when I realized I survived. I was alive. My breath my own. And rhythms. The way give and take should be an invitation. And the different shades within sadness. Understanding how much we had to absorb to get to the point of saturation. And the violence around silence.
There’s so much to tell you which is another way to say: vulnerability. Have you thought about how the intimate architecture of being out of body serves a purpose and the faith it takes to manifest this into pleasure? Why failures can quickly become ways to feel safe? I want to ask questions that lead to answers, or at the very least have a chance to form structure to a conversation.
In the end, this is simply a way to theorize this week’s memories into something concrete, into something I want to remember. I want nothing left but the details of how deliberately the sun slipped behind the ocean horizon and how the blue darkness now holds all my wishes.
“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.
Think about how many details we leave out when we tell stories about ourselves. Those intimate moments where spectacle meets nuance. All those ways we understand dimensions as coordinates – maps of contested margins. I don’t assume you read any of this, which is why I can be so matter-of-fact.
In fact every Sunday, until I found an alternative, I learned about the consequences of taking things literally, from a biblical perspective. It was my orientation to the world. Now, I find myself drawn to phrases like loving witness and learned that the prescribed strategy for getting out of disasters is to help yourself.
We are racing to the airport. I am anxious. She tells me her depression is incurable. So deep that strapping electrodes to her brain won’t help, or if it did, it would only be temporary relief. So deep that she can’t wash knives in the kitchen sink when the bottomless darkness sets in. She can see herself slashing herself to death, making the motions, trading hands to make the gestures of listening to those urges, one hand always on the steering wheel. She tells me she is no longer afraid to die and that is how she has been able to survive.
It’s not enough to believe.
How do we prove?
fleeting as tasting my faith on your lips
evidence born from revelation:
bending, passing, and breaking
to fit inside what I know.
Speaking with a tongue of transgression
while learning to repress secrets,
a performance of submission,
tactics a result of hearing that
suffering yields eternal reward.
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.
Last week, I took Saturn to get to work. I was transported through early morning light filtered between fast-moving fog. Patches of light illuminated an awakening city and a groggy thought: having money is relative, class is not.
Lately my days have been consumed with centering my sense of self in a world that does not hear my voice, no matter how loud or assimilated. I seek expressions that are creative, diverse, and evolved – not conditional.
When my mind wanders, it finds you. These willful transactions have underscored learning, consent, and discovery through exploration. I trust this voice; its cadence is drawn from failure.
If I tell you my identity, will you tell me what to buy?
Ask me questions. I want answers.
This time of year brings out a different kind of angst in understanding who I am. From pressures to BUY SOMEBODY SOMETHING to calibrating the dangers of assimilation (of all kinds), I appreciate everyone who has added to my voice and sense of agency.
I’m tempted to make promises that I can’t keep.
Oscillating between choice and denial has sparked new, and powerful, imaginary yearnings. I want that feeling of checking your assumptions; a feeling of being heard. Let’s practice justice everyday so that these memories are in our muscles, so that we are conscious when we fail.
Can you feel the rush for the end?
We report back different memories. Like when we visited her in the mental hospital and learned how tradition is precarious security. She sadly handed each one of us a painted gold angel made of plaster, which I still carry with me as evidence. It was the only thing she could provide to us, a product of her extreme sadness. You said we baked chocolate chip cookies in the industrial kitchen and have no memory of her angelic presentation. We both agreed that she was never coming home again.
I am trying to accept anxiety as a strategic friend, trust in my capacity to create my own joy, and loudly maintain routines of comfort. I hold these current active desires like the traces of an embrace, gently and with intent.
Light’s influence is what I most like about living here. This newly discovered perception acts as a solipsistic aperture. This writing space, especially lately, has become a catalog of such impressions. Every week I try to encapsulate the mundane pieces of myself in hopes of illuminating and also distilling my meditations; a brave attempt to honor grandeur of thought.
Writing is a numinous process
similar to those seconds between lightning
and then thunder.
I’ve been marinating in the honesty of Dorothy Allison’s Talking About Sex, Class & Literature. Allison’s penetrating words have triggered this post: “Traditional feminist theory has had a limited understanding of class differences and of how sexuality and self are shaped by both desire and denial.” This statement so acutely supports my obsession with desire – for others, for choices, for pleasure – that my mind shut down with the impact of this truth.
Allison eloquently and systematically breaks it down, “It has taken me most of my life to understand that [running away or closing up inside yourself], to see how and why those of us who are born poor and different are so driven to give ourselves away or lose ourselves, but most of all, simply to disappear as the people we really are.”
Writing forces me to not run away. Today I write to remind myself of this verity.
Your thoughts beat deep inside my heart. They have inspired new rhythms of intentionality.
Meter is to frequency as desire is to action. I will tell you exactly what I want.
Joy has left a bruise on my soul.
I suggest we explore each other’s allusive referents and leave innuendo behind. Do not carry more than you can hold.
We are not taught to use metaphors when we resist. How many ways have we submitted to a point of view that does not reflect our reality?
To me, the ocean represents both jouissance and intransigence. The ineffable feelings of wanting to yield to pleasure but remaining in control is signified as each wave crashes upon itself. Resistance produces pleasure.
I want to do dangerous things; it is summer.
Exhaling sounds requires breath. Make me conscious of each exclamation.
I have existed within this latitude and longitude (37.8044° N, 122.2697° W) for almost a year now. It’s time to unpack and pull the threads of the past into this chapter of our odyssey.
The gravity of this settlement persuades me to acknowledge this tension. I surrender to this subtlety.
In Keeping Things Whole by Mark Strand, he writes:
“We all have reasons
to keep things whole.”
I answer obligatory questions and watch my referents evaporate into confusion. The whiplash from my assumptions generates a spark every time. Those moments are when I am reminded of my capacity to render myself authentically.
This era of blank wave feminism has produced a cacophony of ideologies. From lipstick to victim, we continue to separate ourselves inside self-identified categories. These categories codify and they assist in commodification. I think this evolution is natural – application of theory assumes reification.
I walk Antonia’s Line.
Active desire: I’m going to have an Olympic summer.