monet’s waterlilies

Posted April 3rd, 2019 No Comments »

Today as the news from Selma and Saigon
poisons the air like fallout,
I come again to see
the serene, great picture that I love.

Here space and time exist in light
the eye like the eye of faith believes.
The seen, the known
dissolve in iridescence, become
illusive flesh of light
that was not, was, forever is.

O light beheld as through refracting tears.
Here is the aura of that world
each of us has lost.
Here is the shadow of its joy.

.robert hayden, 1970.

 

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let the river roll along

Posted September 9th, 2018 No Comments »

Daddy was a mover and a gold creek miner,
never had a dollar or a hard luck song.
Mama ran off and he’s never gonna find her,
went down the river, she’s a long time gone.

Daddy taught me everything he thought
we needed in the world just to get along.
Brew a little feelgood, cut a little cordwood,
sing a little tenor on a gospel song.

Can you see me? Daddy, where the river went wrong?
It ain’t easy, high and dry and the memory’s gone,
I’ll settle down and let the river roll along.

Misty midnight huntin’ by moonlight,
one-shot rifle and a one-eyed dog.
That was Sunday, looks like Monday,
Daddy kept a bible in a sycamore log.

Lonesome yearning, kids keep turning on
never saw a woman I could call my own.
What’s to give running on a river,
sleeping in the gravel like a rolling stone.

Can you see me? Daddy, where the river went wrong?
It ain’t easy, high and dry and the memory’s gone.
I’ll settle down and let the river roll along.

 

Daddy Was a Mover is track no. 9 on The Dillards’ 1973 album Tribute to the American Duck. It’s also track no. 9 immediately following Pinball Wizard on dad’s favorite (only?) mixtape, Otis’ Anthology of Greatest Hits of the 70s. This cassette consists mainly of CSNY, Poco, and Tommy,  I have heard it approximately 8 million times over the last 36 years, and I found myself playing it very loudly all last week. 

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home

Posted June 19th, 2018 No Comments »

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

.warsan shire.

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“stay angry, little Meg…you will need all your anger now.”

Posted January 7th, 2018 1 Comment »

The Latin complicare means to fold. I love the tactility inherent in folding: it requires some pressure, some movement, some shaping. I love that this tactility assumes a degree of control while still allowing for chance and surprise. Folds might be knife-edged and precise, or loose and haphazard. Folding might be a deliberate and premeditated action, or in sudden reaction to a losing hand.

Complicare also begets the English to complicate, which is a relationship I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. If folding is complicating, unfolding is…simplifying? No, not really. Paper must be smoothed, stitches must be unpicked, space in which to expand must be found. All these take time and effort. Some folds can’t be undone; some complications are permanent; some visible lines remain, no matter how faint, of whatever the initial fold once was.

I’ve been thinking about the permanence of complicated experiences we fold up into little pieces and wedge into interior corners. Are they pulled out and examined occasionally? Do they lie hidden, tucked away because the density of a folded object makes it at once easier to manage and more difficult to fully comprehend?

Here’s one: I was a manager and he was my boss. He convinced one of my staff members to text him surreptitiously-taken photos of me. He responded to these texts with suggestive remarks and opinions. Sometimes he requested specific photos.

This truth is frustratingly haunting just now, one I’ve been unfolding to try to see more clearly. Writing these sentences holds my memory to the light at different angles, as if perhaps there’s a pattern in the creases I haven’t yet discovered or didn’t know at the time.

I don’t know how many pictures passed between the two of them, or for how long. Weeks at least, months maybe, before I knew it was happening, and when I finally saw the text thread it was with a horrified non-comprehension. I still remind myself that it was real, that the texts and photos were there before my eyeballs.

My discovery happened the day before I was scheduled to go on vacation; I spent my time off weighing what to do and who to tell. I eventually went to HR, filed a report, and gave multiple statements to multiple people. One particular woman I’d considered a mentor asked me, with a hint of exasperation, why I’d given the photo-taking employee a promotion with a degree of responsibility a few weeks prior–how did I not see this coming?–conveniently forgetting she’d approved the promotion. 

I felt myself shrinking when HR called to tell me that both the boss and the photo-snapping employee had given notice so of course there was no real action the company could take. I compacted neatly under the implied pressure to let it go. I don’t remember what I said. I hung up the phone. I laid down my losing hand and never went back.

I was and am unsettled by the ease with which the entire situation just …evaporated. I wonder if I will ever like having my photo taken. I’m still, years later, dealing with the financial ramifications of leaving a job without a real plan B in place. I can count on one hand the number of men I trust to have my best interest at heart.

It’s there in my pocket, complicare. I unfold it occasionally so I don’t forget, so I remember that this was a thing that happened. I unfold it to remind myself that so many carry these things in some form all the time. I tuck it back in place to live adjacently to all the other complicares being female in the world provides, as we carry ourselves and our histories in manageable, portable form.

I have complicated, contained what I now know is a deep and steadily-pulsing anger that took a clearer, sharper form the moment ‘grab them by the pussy’ became part of the national lexicon. I’m not sure what to do with this anger, not yet. I have smoothed open these folded moments repeatedly over the last year in the hope that putting something down in words might help. It feels futile, even amid my ferocious joy at monstrous men falling like dominoes, because of one particular man still out there, maybe preying on another unsuspecting woman. It feels futile because of so many still in situations where they cannot speak out, where livelihoods are at the mercy of men who may never be held accountable for their actions. 

Postscript

Wise, beloved friends have the gift of special perception, and a few weeks ago one sent me a simple thinking of you text that included a snapshot of a page from Rupi Kaur’s book of poems.

i fold the good days up and place them in my back pocket for safekeeping. draw the match. cremate the unnecessary. the light of the fire warms my toes. i pour myself a glass of warm water to cleanse myself for january. here i go. stronger and wiser into the new.

I can fold up the good and carry that as well. Burn the unnecessary. Stay angry. In A Wrinkle in Time, Meg’s anger fuels and solidifies the power of her love. May my anger do the same. 

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pilgrim souls

Posted December 9th, 2017 No Comments »

how many loved your moments of glad grace.

is a particular alliteration that is one of my favorites in all the literature I’ve ever read.

Glad grace.

Grace is a concept central to Christianity, of course, but I probably-quite-consciously avoid faith-tinged definitions in both my reading and use of grace as a concept. I prefer it literal–this glad grace–as a learned, cultivated quality of consideration for others, of awareness of what is beyond oneself.

The transitive verb form is nice as well: to confer dignity.

And in both senses to be glad: to be willing. To be willing to look outward and extend to someone else a thought, a care, a consideration.

And perhaps all we can aspire to are moments. Glad grace as a perpetual state of being sounds exhausting. But a moment? Doable. I’m looking at my arm as I think through this one, which reminds me of Wallace, which reminds me about caring for others in petty, unsexy ways day in and day out. Glad grace.

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w/r/t

Posted August 9th, 2017 No Comments »

But the real mystery and magic lies in those quasi-mystical moments, portraits of extreme focus and total relinquishment. We might feel more comfortable calling this “meditation,” but I believe the right word is in fact prayer. […] unmoored, without its usual object, God, but it is still focused, self-forgetful, and moving in an outward direction toward the unfathomable (which the mystic will argue is God). It is the L word, at work in the world […] for the secular among us, art has become our last best hope of undergoing this experience.  

.zadie smith.

A few days ago I found the old journal I kept back in Glasgow, during what was to date my most cognitively dissonant stretch of time. It was jarring to see how thoroughly a desperate and ongoing conversation with the god I was terrified to not believe in was woven throughout those months.

And much of that pain and confusion and devastation was due to such wonder and beauty and gorgeous challenge all around me that felt so expansive and true, and struggling with the conviction that my too-deep-for-tears responses were somehow wrong. I could not reconcile the two, I still cannot.

Posted in Read, Uncategorized

sources

Posted March 8th, 2017 No Comments »

XV

It’s an old-fashioned, an outrageous thing
To believe one has a “destiny”

a thought often peculiar to those
who possess privilege –

but there is something else: the faith
of those despised and endangered

that they are not merely the sum
of damages done to them:

have kept beyond violence the knowledge
arranged in patterns like kente-cloth

unexpected as in batik
recurrent as bitter herbs and unleavened bread

of being a connective link
in a long, continuous way

of ordering hunger, weather, death, desire
and the nearness of chaos.

XX

The faithful, drudging child
the child at the oak desk whose penmanship
hard work, style will win her prizes
becomes the woman with a mission, not to win prizes
but to change the laws of history.
How she gets this mission
is not clear, how the boundaries of perfection
explode, leaving her cheekbone grey with smoke
a piece of her hair singed off, her shirt
spattered with earth . . . Say that she grew up in a house
with talk of books, ideal societies–
she is gripped by a blue, a foreign air,
a desert absolute:    dragged by the roots of her own will
into another scene of choices.

XXIII

I have wished I could rest among the beautiful and common
weeds I can name, both here and in other tracts of the
globe.   But there is no finite knowing, no such rest.   Innocent
birds, deserts, morning-glories, point to choices.  leading away
from the familiar.    When I speak of an end to suffering I don’t
mean anesthesia.   I mean knowing the world, and my place in
it, not in order to stare with bitterness or detachment, but as a
powerful and womanly series of choices:   and here I write the
words, in their fullness:
powerful;   womanly.

August 1981-
August 1982

 

.adrienne rich. 

Posted in Read, Uncategorized

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.*

Posted January 19th, 2017 2 Comments »

…but I’m definitely cursing. I don’t know how to begin.

To begin anything. What’s the way forward? For a few more too-brief hours the Commander-in-Chief is a brilliant, qualified, thoughtful, ethical, moral man. And then.

The firehose that’s been spraying us with shit for the last nine weeks is probably certainly about to ratchet up to a new intensity.

Over those nine weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to engage with the internet, in particular, going forward. How to choose what enters my brain, how to avoid being sucked into the morass of anger and fear and hate and likes and clicks and rageface emojis.

It’s mostly social media I’m talking about, and facebook, specifically. There are a bunch of things I love about being able to connect with people I rarely get to see, but those are becoming increasingly outweighed by all the things above and especially sensational(ly bad) headlines from ridiculous sources. It’s too much, most of the time, and I often just nope my way on out.

The purpose of one of the tattoos on my arm is to remind me that I have to choose where my attention goes. I believe I have certain obligations to my fellow humans, of course, and as an inhabitant of the earth, but I get to ultimately decide where my eyeballs and ears and brain cells turn.

How do we choose in an era of increasing distractions and noise?

Step one: I’m going to be more specific about why I’m choosing what I’m choosing.  I’m starting here and on facebook with one of the causes that is most important to me. It also happens to be at risk right now: journalism. Good journalism. Investigative reporting. Long-form writing in struggling publications. Yeah, that hard to read stuff that makes you think. I’m not expecting my enthusiasm for crime novels and thrillers to wane at all, but I do want to be a little more mindful of the balance I’m striking in my written-word consumption.

So here’s my pledge, on this night before the apocalypse. I’m pledging now to myself to focus my online attention on good journalism. On writers digging deep and doing the work. I’m going to share the things I want others to share with me–work that is important, is human, is making this world a more just, equitable, kind place. I’m subscribing to as many publications doing this work as I can afford. And writing more myself, as my little candle of light to push some of the darkness away.

Once more unto the breach, friends.

 

*said Eleanor Roosevelt, who feels appropriate to channel right now. 

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Old things, diffuse, unnamed, lie strong across my heart.

Posted November 9th, 2016 No Comments »

I voted for her because she’s the most qualified. Because representation is essential. Because I have little nephews I hope grow up believing that girls are badasses with whom they need to reckon. Because I want the fact that Hillary has shown up and done the work day in and day out for a lifetime to matter. Because with this precedent the work other women do will matter. The women I have learned from and been mentored by will matter. The women who are girls today will grow up knowing they matter. I will matter.

I voted for Hillary because she embodies what women can be: complex, multi-faceted, difficult, wicked smart, driven, powerful. I voted for Hillary because she has lived all those things together consistently, in the face of heinous sexism and misogyny, her entire life. And I find that really fucking inspiring.

And now, the most intelligent, accomplished, driven woman I have seen in my lifetime lost the job to a man who …where to even start? The list is long and horrific. So I am currently feeling the kind of devastation I’ve felt maybe twice before in my life.

As a woman, among the lessons I take from yesterday are these: half the country is fine with sexual assault, and half the country thinks that skin color, sexual orientation, physical abilities, gender, and religion are things that should automatically disqualify one from being seen and treated as fully human.

This is not new, of course. Just newly stark, in a relief it was privileged to hope wasn’t possible.

And the glass ceiling is still intact. Not one woman has succeeded in breaking it and the odds are so against us since women comprise a mere 1% of our government throughout history. There were small, encouraging gains yesterday, yes, especially for women of color (!). But how far will they get? When the overwhelming message is that no matter how hard we work, how much energy we put in, how much time it takes, or how smart we work to become it just won’t matter because someone else (white, male) will still tell us how far we are allowed to go? It will be much less far, now, for those who aren’t 10s, or white, or who can’t control their gag reflex at the smell of tic tacs.

I want, as Hillary said so beautifully today with every ounce of the composure that has made her such a formidable woman, to “never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams,” but I am fully doubting. We have not seen it, it has not happened, not yet.

There come now well-meaning men saying things like “it was about the system, not the candidate” and “sure, sexism played a part, but…” If you are one of these men, please stop talking for a moment. Consider that perhaps, yes, deeply entrenched sexism is at the root of so much of what is wrong right now and work to recognize it. Look to the women around you who are devastated, acknowledge our heartbreak and give us space to mourn what might have been.

Listen when we tell you what it is like to be a woman in the world. To be professional. To be single. To be a wife. To be a mother. To be childless. To be all the things women can be, but mostly what it is to not be a man. How particularly cruel and unfair and heavy it feels at this moment in time.

It’s exhausting to unlearn the misogyny we internalize from girlhood. It’s exhausting to catalogue all the conversations where eyes can’t seem to focus on your face, all the ‘no offense, but’ comments involving gender, all the conversations that happen around instead of including you, to always wonder if you’re being paid, treated, acknowledged the way a man would be were he in your position. It’s exhausting to live with vivid recall of all the instances you’ve thrown up a practiced half-smile-deflector-shield and tried to let all the above go. It’s exhausting to do all this over and over in so many different ways, and tonight that exhaustion is bone-deep, soul-deep. Tonight I grieve.

Tomorrow, I know it is incumbent upon me, as one who has been given much, to give much in return and to fight for those who cannot.

I can. I will.

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This in the land of the free, the home of the brave.

Posted July 7th, 2016 No Comments »

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