diosa mio

here today

swollen in your wet grip

at the limits of poetry

begging for another chance at grace

with this bag of grit

i once called heart

&these lips numb from your name

i sink

ever deeper

into your holy world.

James Baldwin on the roles we construct

“The roles that we construct are constructed because we feel that they will help us to survive and also, of course, because the fulfill something in our personalities; & one does not, therefore, cease playing a role simply because one has begun to understand it.  All roles are dangerous.  The world tends to trap and immobilize you in the role you play; and it is not always easy- in fact, it is always extremely hard– to maintain a kind of watchful mocking distance between oneself as one appears to be and oneself as one actually is.”

from “the black boy looks at the white boy”

i found an old to-do list

i found an old to-do list, from the year i was made of the hole cut through my ribs with the loss of you.  breath whistled through me then, and i counted the miles i ran on wet streets and muddy trails.  movement became my mantra.  one foot then another.

i will reproduce it here, in the hopes that it will help you too:

 

-pray to yr holy

-use yr tools

-stay slow & feel

-practice devotion

-cultivate neuroplasticity

-use trust as bhakti in this frightened world

– remember how resilient you are

identity

the world is not friendly to your quest for self-identity.

the wheels of the world keep turning and the persona is a mask you are seeking to sell to a public that will buy anything, literally anything, you present.

the self is temporary.  this is it’s beauty and it’s pain.  it’s the reason they’re so difficult to build if you’re self aware and they’re so easy to mass produce when you’re rootless.

just remember, when they ask you to define yourself they are asking you to build your own prison so they can lock you in it.

this is a game of the world and you do not have to play.

both/and

the struggle to define ourselves in a way that the people we care about understand can drive us mad.  we want to get it right.  say the right words.  know our points so we can defend them.

beloved, i will never question you when you tell me who you are.

i believe you.   in your fluid and in your solid, i believe you.

form is just the shape that holds the spirit

the spirit is the only part that’s real.

 

 

the death throes of a dying culture

“Beginnings are important, endings are inevitable and change is constant in a universe of ceaseless transformation.”  -Raghavan Iyer, The Golden Thread

 

a teacher once told me, when i was angry about a political situation, not to get “caught up in the death throes of a dying culture.”

i was young when i heard this, in many ways i was just being born, and it has been hard to come of age in a time when nothing is certain and change happens quickly.

my generation came of age with the internet.  connectivity, net, web, link, world wide.  these words are part of the fabric of our lives.

& the methods of control rely on isolation.  the dominant paradigm is based on alienation.

they know they are on their way out and they are scared.  scared of the young, scared of the queer, scared of the non-white, scared of the polytheists, scared of the non-theists, scared of the future.

this maddening political moment is part of a worldwide shudder of fear as these powers die off.  they gasp and they turn violent, in a last attempt to hold on to the place at the top that they’ve come to believe is theirs.

but there is something we know that they do not.

there is a future beyond the grasp of capitalism and white supremacy.  there is a future beyond the lies of borders and sects and consolidation.  there is a future beyond the exploitation and destruction that fuels the financial world.  there is a future beyond isolation, alienation, and incarceration.

we get to build that future.  link by link. using the greatest tool we have — the ancient knowledge that science is slowly validating — the knowledge that we are part of something wider and deeper than ourselves.

the time to start dreaming is now.  do not get caught up in the death throes of this dying culture. put your skills to the task at hand. we are with you.

 

 

 

we do not live in a post-truth world

the truth belongs to all of us.  no one entity holds monopoly on reality.  that means no one person, no one religion, no one movement, no one belief-system, gets to dictate the truth.

& if you’ve bought into something that gives the power to define truth over to some false authority– stop— look around — use your phone to find yourself a library or a bookstore.

you’ll find bound volumes there of truth seekers who have pitched in to buy you out.

i am deliberately lifting language here from the work of Saul Williams who i believe is among the greatest living poets.

“what have you bought into/how much will it cost to buy you out?/ what have you bought into/how much will it cost to buy you out?”

i found his work when i was a young teenager & deeply unsatisfied with the educational system.  i was hungry for truth.  & so i used all the tools i had to find it.  i had already been exposed to the muslim mystic poet rumi, & the american queerness of walt whitman’s leaves of grass, so i knew poetry was a good place to look for unfiltered access to eloquent truths.

& fuck, Saul Williams speaks some big truths.

2003.  i had just turned 14.  i bought a copy of ,said the shotgun to the head. read it straight through.  crying.  it was as if i’d been waiting for permission to see what i felt & thought as truth for much longer than just those 14 years.  & that book gave me permission to feel & to think differently.  it shook me.  it shaped me. (i biked to the bookstore & special ordered his book s√he, but was never able to track down a copy of the seventh octave.)

after each re-read i would stare at the photo in the back of the book of the dark  man who wrote those truths in the form of a poem & thank him.

2006.  when the dead emcee scolls was released, i bought it in the first week. i was 16.  always hungry for truth. & Saul delivered.

i return to his published & recorded works again & again, knowing that i only grasp a portion of it’s full meaning. i return to his work to listen, to learn, to be reminded that i am not alone.  truth seekers are part of a bigger tribe.  & i felt myself in the call, the foot stomp, the embrace of outsider status, the return, the desire for a better world.

in my well worn, dog-eared copy of the dead emcee scrolls there is only one page that has my marks added to it.  it’s the portion of coded language where he lists the names.  i love that list.  there are names that i’ve underlined in black pen, those are the names i knew at 16.  but see, i used that list.   i took it to the library.  i searched the internet.  every time i was exposed to a new artist or writer or thinker, i would run their name–mentally–through the list.  check back.  see if they had truth for me.  the names underlined in pencil are the ones i had learned about in the time between 16 and 23.  when i first read James Baldwin’s essay “Letter from a Region in my Mind” a spark went up– aha!  so this was Baldwin, of the list!

we do not live in a post-truth world.

i know this because the precarious stacks of books in my room did not vanish overnight.

if you have ever sought truth from the mouths of those in power (or those wanting power from you) you have been looking for bread at the hardware store & you gotta cut that shit out or you will starve.

the lies are loud.

& they’re constant.

& i’m terrified by the growing roar this wall of lies is building between us, around us, through us.

but, the truth will always be available to those willing to seek it. & know that when you are a seeker on a quest for truth you are part of a larger tribe than your nation or your race or your religion because we are larger than all those human-made categories.

so when you find that truth, be brave.  hold it up to the light so we can all see it’s facets and flaws and filaments.

make that list of names of those who have taught you, those who have inspired you, those who have lifted you up. share them.  say their names.  speak your thanks.

 

let those of us who follow carry their names with us into that future we’re building together.

 

for gathering our truth & our strength

I woke up this morning & struggled to get out of bed.

So, i made myself a small playlist for gathering (our) truth & (our) strength, and after listening to these four songs through a few times i was able to get up & face another day in this twisted cultural moment.

First– a post-rock wail of hope & grief

“when the world is sick can no one all be well?  but i dreamt we was all beautiful & strong.”

every breath-like movement of this song is so honest & raw & expertly crafted that fear is left very little space when the voices of other strong feelings rise up to join.  it’s a long song, but stick through the movements, because the choral end part is a rare form of human perfection: the merging of hope & grief.

 

next up— a modern r&b declaration of exhaustion

“my joy takes nothing from you”

because her voice is hauntingly beautiful & there’s a deep satisfaction in being able to declare DONE with such eloquence & grace.

next up, an a capella psalm

“we remember”

because we all already have the tools we need to start.  the tools are simple.  the tools are within us.  we have shaped them.  they have shaped us.  we will reshape this fractured world.  we remember.  we weep. we rise like water.

 

& finally, our poet/philosopher & one of our great living teachers

“we won’t be silenced, no”

because the fact that we need a global movement affirming that BLACK LIVES MATTER says so much about  the type of crisis we face collectively.  we wont be silenced, no, the noise came from here.  bare feet– all our most human vulnerabilities— against the harsh streets where authority wrongly stole a young life.  powerful video to a beautiful song.

 

hope this helps you reader, wherever whenever whoever you are.  we’ve got more days ahead of us where it’s going to be tough to get out & face a world that seems hostile to our existence & seems hellbent on crushing our resistence. do you have any songs you’d like to add to the playlist for gathering our truth & our strength?

Fear Blue Eyes

Looking, I see the

crafted scab buttons you fasten and press

in the unforgiven sun of our salt baked road.

& again, no peace, in this landscape of devouring green

no gods without faces to call you back.

Even the trees have needles here.

Still as the sun,

I have given up on licking your wounds.

Hammered down,

I have given up on buying your pretense with my prayers.

Strangers congratulate me for keeping you alive so long,

I am stopped on the streets

I am hailed savior – just some vehicle for your survival

some girl-child you chose to choose when choice was small.

These homeless crows obey me

& beg me give back their feathers I burned for you

You are not here, I have asked for too much.

It burns to think of you.  Burns to mourn you while you move.

Your smoke is in my eyes.

& the guardians of bitter boys circle

my mistakes in their mouths

scared to lose you

scared you are forgetting to breathe

Will you sing for them?  They want you to sing.  Sing for them.  Be their broken bird.

Later I will ask,

who is this?

In this photograph, in this lake; this bathtub; this mirror

Reflecting me back

to this when where who leaves?

Still I fear blue eyes.  Again I look away.  & you survive.