we live promised lives

June 2018

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?

prominence

“writing…is a process of relying on immediate pervasive feelings, not an escape from them…”   — William Stafford, Writing the Australian Crawl. pg. 88

I’M HERE FOR LUCK. Louis Wain (1926)

I haven’t found a way to say I love you that isn’t complicated, so I practice loving you every day. Sounds of terrorized children broke through all those hours of visual noise. Hope is a map. A place to begin.

The distance of decades doesn’t always make things quieter. Calendars are more form than function. I learned early and repeatedly that love must be earned, and value is measured by others. An intimacy of detachment.

Addicted to seeking approval is one way of saying yes unconditionally. Instead, imagine a private collection of silent hymns. These days, I take care to mend memories as a way to create acceptance. A public chorus swelled.

Broken into speculative practices, writing things down reinforces pleasure and importance in tandem. Together, through famine and fortune, what stands out is love.  An oxygen where sacrifice is not born from competition.

false urgency

Julio Larraz (Cuban, b. 1944), The Fourth Amendment, 2014. Oil on canvas.

we practice small-scale empire building
our bodies conduits of conquest and currency

there is an untouchable light
when reflections of past experiences
pull from distance and probable cause

no longer placid as orthodox perceptions
our over-reliance becomes reflex

we just assume mornings start new
uninterrupted       extraordinary
repeat until you believe

monograph

 

[A]s my mother used to say, if wishes were horses, women would ride.
— Elspeth Probyn, Outside Belongings (62)

New Orleans, October 2017

The prompt was bold: how do you embody whiteness? My heart froze knowing that some of my truth has no accessible language.

So I thought about how we grew up nowhere, or more accurately, we lived around no one. A place where you learn orthodox norms, where conformity was practiced as integration. A place where we conversed in churches or homes, and almost never on the long road in between.

The days take flight and return again.

My writing practice captures moments, and contain all kinds of shadowed referents, insurrections, and commitments. There’s a way this claiming expands space to repurpose perfection. A response to how surviving trauma from decades past seeps into what I believe is real and how I frame what is just. I’m not afraid to tell you why my fears are justified. I have a story to let you know why this is true.

I am left wanting. I know dissonance can also be harmonic despite its agreed upon definition. There’s room in that idea to breathe. To release orchestrations that dance around forgone conclusions.

Weeks ago, I wrote: don’t let me forget where I came from and the day before that: resistance to belong a furious understanding. I read these reminders, now, as culturally weighted influences.  Next week, I will be in Berlin. A city that embodies trauma and healing’s relentless journey. A city where Audre Lorde taught, organized, and loved. A place of intentional inquiry.

cache culture is a collectivized monograph of intentional inquiry. A place to find my way in contemporary American culture. A place to expose how my gendered body has historically been named as white. I post curated moments that reflect culture and place because that’s where belonging takes root. My roots grew deepest in South Dakota, Ohio, Washington, and now California.

Berlin’s calling and its collective response is another cache.

I will be carrying William Stafford’s advice with me, but one of many influential guides on this poetics inquiry.

“We all share, in art. And to be worthy artists we must be ready to look around, give credit where we feel it belongs, help each other maintain that sense of community that will maximize whatever vision we are able to find and share.”

no false modesty

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.

***   ***   ***

Oscar Bluemner, Sunset of the St. Lawrence

***   ***   ***

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.

front lines

Eskimo Polycrhome Wood Maskette, Alaska, c. 1880

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.

incantations

The best training is to read and write, no matter what. Don’t lie with a lover or roommate who doesn’t respect your work. Don’t lie, buy time, borrow to buy time. Write what will stop your breath if you don’t write. — Grace Paley

August 1, 2017 4:37pm
the distance between desire and longing
is roughly equidistant from rest to action
an example of survival often mistaken for apathy

she sewed buttons into her hair
a dramatic effect predicated on a mastery
of threading security into her technique

as we battle for restoration
peered juries declare in tandem
forcing over-reliance on pardons

such concealment illuminates justice
that eclipse is yours to influence
subtle benedictions common as moon rises

catharsis

“Pale with the secret war of feeling.” — Charlotte Brönte

Times Square, Steven Siegel

If there is something you need to say
say it now. We all have a way of moving
ever so gradually to our respective corners.

Misfortune finds the deserving; a symbiotic betrayal.
Extractive in nature, asking for what you want exceeds
loyalty. Linear in scope, this practice is my liberation.

Lips seek softness.
Teeth form defense.
What are the standard deviations of love?

Light’s capacity is to fill darkness.
Protect me from what I have learned.
May all justice be transformative.

At the end of the day
desire always wins.
Tender hooks of undulation.

credo

The day starts with blessings, with sacred reminders of what I know and why.

I’m grateful for the person who tagged “gender fucked” on the border of east and west bay.

This form of witness bears repeating.

Port Angeles, WA 2007
Port Angeles, WA 2007

I start packs on Sunday, bleed on Tuesday, and plan for French Fridays.

There are four core love asteroids: Amor, Eros, Psyche, and Juno, also the queen of Heaven.

Florence, Italy 2008
Florence, Italy 2008

There’s a desire to write from a place of softness, from sentimentality.

To record; to repair.

Make visible; resolve.

April16
April16

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself,
beloved on the earth.

–Raymond Carver, Late Fragment

op-eds

just because they know your name doesn’t mean they know where you came – cat power

august 13, 2016 7:48pm
august 13, 2016 7:48pm

I rediscovered grace through curated understandings
some spoken, explicit, but most often held in breath
in glances and in rhythmic exchange of metaphors
a particularly classed communion

quiet clung to the lake’s edges
marred only by wandering hymns and mornings with thunder
I thought about all those places that made us
an acceptance of motion as hard-luck blessings and raptured devotion

this is the tenuous nature of belief
in effort, a maintenance of fallibility
oh holy day: in haste, but with love

__________________________________________

in haste, but with love – Raymond Carver’s closing in an unpublished letter to Bob Adelman December 13, 1987

visceral

“Art has to be disturbing.” Marina Abramović

He wrapped his hands around her throat and told her she was good.

This was their mutual understanding.
A feeling of being surrounded in pleasure, an abstraction.

A chorus bleeding into verse, chorus, and back to verse.
Then, and now, a reminder that metaphors are not to be taken literally.

My mouth went numb from atrophy.
When prompted, not quite coerced,
revelations of agency were produced.

Or maybe this could all be about the light or a phrase turned into image –
brilliance unspoken.

satori

“So (re)invent us, still weeping the solutions we came from, imagining ‘things’ would be fine if only a single interpretation could be shared, meaning enforced.”
Laura Mullen, Complicated Grief

Golden fur and morning light warms calmly.
Energies, swirling, occasionally oppressive
as unconscious as the way we sell love.

The mural reflected a range of fruits found in this region,
geographic signifiers, orbs of light and juice. Positive
transformations expressed through practice, ritualized execution.

Repeat, forcing action. Asking for it, suppressing.
The real economics of what we dream, imagine, and desire
divided, found between centuries of exclusion, forced space.

Think about how resistance is holding what remains.

politics of expression

Sex! It’s a provocative subject that has been analyzed for centuries and often reflects more about the author’s tastes, deviance, and experience than any scandalous title may suggest. The subjectivity inherent in this undertaking creates a scene where perversity and contradiction thrive. This quest to distill ourselves – how we come to understand our sexual identities and how we perform those norms (which can result in panics) – has coupled sexuality with body politics for as long as flawed history books have been written.

The what you want and all those sticky enshrouded and repressed reasons why you want are complicated. It’s biological and it isn’t. It’s fixed and it’s dynamic. You could focus on visibility, accessibility, the mechanics, or anything from economics (think about all those ways we feel pleasure from consuming) to culture and still not completely satisfy your curiosities. And we aren’t even covering the erotic. A lush landscape that could lead you to play with the tension of what can be imagined to the exploitation of deeply held desires.

There’s something about all the ways we talk about sex that attracts the most attention. Sexual testimonies that have been passed down, a legacy we measure ourselves against, as the origins of our understanding about sex and sexuality – yours, mine, our neighbors. These narratives are situated in specific cultural, racial, historical, gendered rituals of age, geographical locations, and within very real systems of power. It’s the dominant stories, the ones that are replicated to the point where they are assumed to be truth, that get mythologized. Our destiny is to then decide to perform or reject.

This metaphysical project of measuring perceived reality in proportion to these mythologies, is what The Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and Reality attempts to unravel.” And it is this link between sex and self that sits at the root of how sex is regulated in our culture, more than any individual rule or whim of cultural fashion.” A contemporary ritual of self-worth we must all fulfill.

The interviews that thread The Sex Myth chapters are specific histories woven around a frame that is supported by a strong economic influence. “To be sexually ‘free’ is not just a question of doing as you please but a public display of self: an identity that is contemporary, cultured, and financially secure.” This is all within what Hills calls an “attention economy” – any form of recognition is a form of validation. The Sex Myth also pulls apart performance from judgement and normalized expectations.

The chapters on masculinity challenged me for personal reasons and so did the one dedicated to femininity (narrowly constructed around “learning heterosexuality”). I saw my angsty former self expressed in the confessions that got to the root of religion’s control over your autonomy and self-worth. I’m still learning how to undo that damage.

I learned just how extensive the heterosexual agenda is for all of us.

“The primary account of heterosexuality in these films [G-rated] is one of heteroromantic love and its exceptional, magical, transformative power,” the researchers wrote – Martin, Karin, and Emily Kazyak. “Hetero-romantic love and heterosexiness in children’s G-rated films.” Gender & Society 23 (June 2009), 315-36.

I was reminded of just how far beyond those prescriptive expectations I have wandered.

In the end, The Sex Myth is a tale centered on the “tension between control and freedom,” and the price we pay in that constantly fluctuating exchange rate. I appreciated the implicit action to destroy the instinct to question the body first and the system that defines us second. “The Sex Myth is palpable not only in the what we cannot do without fear of stigma or harm, but in what we feel we must do in order to avoid feelings of shame and inadequacy.” It’s critical to deconstruct our feelings about sex and their potential connection to how we embody shame and inadequacy.

My hope is that the conversations started in The Sex Myth agitate and provoke its audience into questioning their own stories and assumptions about what is normal or “true.” Another hope is that we destroy the myth that sexuality is a determined process bound by binary thinking. That’s one way to bridge this gap between our fantasies for more – more freedom, more pleasure, less repression – and envision a reality where our politics and how we express ourselves is ours to tell.

rückkehrunruhe

point reyes june15
Point Reyes June15

Peaches says living is more important than making sure you write every day. My mom told me the prairie is the ocean. Both are true.

__

rückkehrunruhe n. the feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness, which makes you wish you could smoothly cross-dissolve back into everyday life, or just hold the shutter open indefinitely and let one scene become superimposed on the next, so all your days would run together and you’d never have to call cut.

future tense

I read the words “indulgence in loss” after absorbing the previous passage “and that kind of indulgence is understandable, but it’s regressive.” Regressive had been defined as, “when you celebrate something you know you’re going to leave.”

west coast
west coast sunset

Haunting thoughts dance between those words – a performance perfected through practice.

comfort kills
comfort kills

William Stafford notes what a person is shows up in what a person does.
Those habits are manifestations.

studio 45 March15
studio 54 March15

No longer abstractions, unable to able to hold my breath, I surrender.

memoir

Sioux Falls, SD Dec11
Sioux Falls, SD Dec11

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.

Sept 26, 2104 6:55pm
Sept 26, 2104 6:55pm

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.

carpool

Divining Gloves by Ako Castuera
Divining Gloves by Ako Castuera

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.

a retrospective: this should be sung

Our secrets are exposed as nervous laughs and sighs of hope.

Hope is the energy that fuels this story of how we got here, or maybe this story is really about how we have changed in the process of wanting more. If hope is the energy, then gratitude has been the structure from which we are able to draw breath on our own.  I have finally accepted that this light, with its various hues of apricot, and if fortunate, shades of ripe grapefruit, warms by promising new beginnings.

This was a year of submitting, writing and then revising; asking for it because I wanted; and taking breaths so deep my lungs collapsed. There were days I woke up broken, days I did not know how to sustain vulnerability, and many more days I woke to an acute feeling of being alive, a feeling deeper than bruised bone. I was witness to fog so grey it pulled the blues from the Bay.

These dances, this rhythmic gradation of give and take, have transformed old fault lines.

Below are ten things I’ve learned during this cycle around the Sun:

  • the best decisions are the ones that fade the quickest
  • immolation through the act of pressing pen to paper is my valued haptic practice
  • the knowledge I have embodied was shaped by intimate failures
  • crosswalks can be catwalks with the right song in your ears
  • bravery manifested has exponential rewards and consequential risks
  • justice is a habit I can’t break
  • inability to forgive yourself is a cardinal sin
  • it is true that the world continues to revolve with or without you
  • how we see matters
  • I really enjoyed eating a blueberry muffin naked in front of you

This post is dedicated to nearly nine years of maintaining this space of inquiry and intentional deconstruction. I wrote to survive, to have a voice. Each sentence is an act of breath, a release of internalized tension and anxiety. This call and response has been my baptism by epiphany.

holy impressions

photo by Atlee

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.