I love watching the pretty young things. I remember when I was them and how real that all felt. All eyes on ya but you never felt it so you had to let the light flash out in strobes, blinding , stunning, slamming into the wall two inches above every head. All of the nuances of who I really was lost in the explosive need to be seen. If the edges were blurry and undefined, that was unknown and beyond the young lady me. As long as I was seen. And now with the edges set in place and the softness existing within it’s borders, safer and softer still, I get to watch you girls. And I love you for it. Your arching faces, bodies in impossible poses that will go on to give you arthritis and aches in every muscle but you are pretty now and that is all that should and could possibly matter. Truth is, the aches come regardless so go ahead. The pain comes regardless, so go ahead. Reach! It makes every one of our lives better to be near you when you do. Even if it isn’t my direction that you’re reaching for. It reminds me of what I was and how lovely it all had been. It reminds me that being young is mostly brutal, awkward, unrewarding and that you pay diamonds for dog shit day in and day out. But in youth the diamonds rise from the dog shit always, the jewels around our necks flash just enough to hide the dirt. It reminds me that I’ve earned my throne and because of the you that used to be me, I can truly sink in the cushion of my kingdom with no regret or debt owed. What you accrue now in interest you pay for in skin and bone regardless, there is no harm because there is no foul. And in the afternoon of your womanly life there is only gentle strides, no more herky-jerky stabbing of limbs in to the unknown brightness of bleached limelight. And if it’s scary for the pretty young thing, and you all are pretty young things, that is as it should be. It has to be, don’t you see? That is our hero’s journey. Because there is no literal leaving of the den to slaughter or be slaughtered for sake of meat and substance when you are a girl. We are born without stone set grace and spend the time it takes to get there doing what it takes to get there. The young me/you/her makes her way to grace by fighting herself in the dark, seeking the love of others to find the true love of self. A wolf to slay and a pelt to carry home to the village who waits. Every exposed angle of her body bleeding for the effort. And that is why I love watching the pretty young things.
Dear Black People,
I’ve written and re-written this letter many different times in many different ways. Every single iteration falling wildly short of the breadth of what needs to be said. Words fail, time passes with so much left unsaid, good intentions paving the road to hell and this letter stays unwritten. But today is the day Black People. If I miss the mark and this letter falls flat on it’s stupid face, so be it. Another innocent black human life was ended by another police bullet. And if I am bone tired of it, how you must feel is beyond my comprehension. So today has to be the day that I say with every fiber of my body, I am sorry. I know it’s not enough. I know it doesn’t bring anybody back or make your day any safer. I know that living in this greedy, myopic country that has built itself on your backs, on your soulfulness, on your immeasurable contributions, both given and taken, has driven everyone of you to desperation and needless heartbreak. And I am sorry.
Like so many white people, I feel helpless in the face of this insanity. But not nearly as helpless as you feel when a cop hits his lights, I reckon. So please understand that I am well aware of my blindness. A reality that you’ve been dealing with for a hundred years, this sick abuse of whiteness, this fucking disgusting flexing of police muscle, is the greatest embarrassment that this country will ever know. I need you to know that I see this. That I will do everything I can to make sure that everyone around me sees this. I want you to feel safe. You deserve to feel safe. You deserve to feel loved by your land. You deserve to stand tall in your shoes, knowing that this world is better because of your blackness, your humanness. And it is. And I am sorry that you have ever spent a single second in this backwards ass reality.
Yes, I wrote this to say that I am sorry. That I am ashamed of what has been done by the people that share my skin. And yes, I wrote this to tell you that I will keep fighting to make you feel safe, no matter how little I can truly grasp, I will continue to battle those that would see you held down. I know that it is a small comfort, a pathetic little. And though I may be late to the game, I will to play my heart out. I will be your warrior. Even if it’s a drop in a massive bucket. I am your ally.
As much as this is an apology, it is also a letter of appreciation. I need you to know that I see you. I know what you’ve contributed to this world. Your grace under fire, your resilience, your faith, your art, your music, your beauty. These things that you have brought to the table are nothing short of magic and I offer my deepest gratitude. Perhaps someday we will be worthy of it.
A White Person
What is tomorrow? Tomorrow is the day that I was going to call my dad. Tomorrow, a long, bright hallway stretching out in to forever. Tomorrow is the thing that happens after the facts, undone but unfolded no matter how much my feet drag. Eye to eye with the yellow light of tomorrow there is me, a fatherless daughter and there is him, a father still. But what kind of father is he now that it’s a day too late to make a phone call?
The big question is “where does one go when one dies?” Such an obtuse thing to think about, death. The dying part has been documented but death, a mystery. Someone who is dying can communicate still. Bright light, illuminated being in the corner, a beckoning gesture of the hand; carry on my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are done, lay your weary head to rest, don’t you cry no more. A walk, long enough for ample reflection, down a bright hallway and then…
I’m trapped in my body. Not figuratively, though the poetry of that tastes good in my mouth, but literally. A knee surgery, no driving, working or anything beyond the most simple of tasks, keeps me tethered to my bedroom. I keep reaching for the reactions that have served me before and they’re not there. Nothing is there but my bed, the window to outside, cream walls and my feet sticking out from under the blanket. So that’s it for me right now. A grown woman who never really had a dad to speak of is now unpacking not having a dad to speak to.
My first instinct is to talk about him, to keep it fresh in my mind. To tell you all of the things, even the things that I don’t remember right now but that come to me as I type this. Like the way that he spritzed his wild hair with water in the morning to get the sleep out of it and how much it looked like a jheri curl. A white dude jheri curl dripping onto the shoulders of his Hawaiian shirt in winter. If I keep writing then I’ll keep remembering and the last moments won’t be the last moments. They’ll just be things done out of sequence. A life can’t be over when there are still stories being told.
A psychic told me today that he is with me. Behind me and to the right. I went to her because I’ve been having dreams that he can’t cross over and it rattled me. He was such a restless human, narcissistic but scared of life. The great comfort of this sudden death was that there was peace for him, its residue settling on those who loved him and wanted more for his life. Until my dreams told me otherwise, I surprisingly felt good. Softly good and quietly good, but good. She told me that he was sorry, they always say that first I guess. We die sorry. Something I know about death now. He wanted to be a better father but didn’t know how, he thought I was better off without him so he left me alone. I told her/him that I wasn’t better off, that I loved him, that I forgave him. That I would always find him in old rock lyrics and in the memories that remain. He asked me if he could stick around to help out for a bit and be the dad now that he wasn’t before, if he could just join the council of spirits that are always with me. She told me that there is no purgatory, that if he stuck around there would be peace for him still. As long as I needed him, he could stay. I said yes. Please stay. I still need you.
So what is tomorrow and what is death? Tomorrow is the day after today, a place for all of the things you haven’t done yet but are destined to do. Tomorrow isn’t a indictment for what has not been done or an escape from what has. It is just a long, bright hallway to somewhere else. And death? That I don’t know. Let me ask my dad.
I was living in downtown Oakland California when Barack Obama won his first presidency. I was sitting at my computer hitting refresh on CNN every few minutes, waiting, waiting, waiting for the inconceivable to happen. Would a black man really sit in the most important of chairs? Would he put his coffee on the most hallowed of desks? Would a black hand hold the pen that had the power change the world with its ink?
I didn’t need to look at the computer screen to know when the results came in. I felt it. The vibration in the air built slowly in to a wild frenzy, the streets filled up with hooting and hollering, the town levitated. I have never in my life experienced the energy of an entire city in a state of joy. It was unbelievable. It was victory for a community that had never won, had never looked at a man of power and seen their own reflection in his determined but weary face. I will never forget what the streets of Oakland gave to me that night. The memory has and will continue to sustain me in times of confusion and loss. It held my head up in November when people voted with hatred and fear not heart, it moves my feet forward when the road ahead is so badly lit and it gives me precious hope today as my country does it’s damnedest to rip itself apart, limb from limb. I have seen how powerful we can be when united over love, I know what we are capable of when our arms are linked and our hearts are sure.
Over the past year I have culled a certain type of person from my life. I unfollowed, unfriended and divorced myself from the people that started showing signs of supporting Trump and those like him. Rather than engage in discourse (however heated) when they posted or said the frightening crap that is now commonplace, I just cut them out. In hindsight this was a terrible mistake. I stood on the tracks and refused to look in the direction of the coming trains, somehow thinking that kind hearted truth would prevail. What I didn’t know was that truth had become so fluid, murky and fleeting, like the smoke from a trash fire.
I was not the only one that allowed the election results take me by surprise. I sat smugly in the echo chamber of my curated life, so sure that ignorance wouldn’t win. And I was wrong. Not just concerning what was about to come but that those who facilitated it were purposely ignorant or nasty. Yes, the loud and hateful few that pushed the alt-right agenda and it’s yucky counterparts are comfortably ignorant, that is a fact. And damn nasty to boot. But the rest of those people did what they did because they could see no other way. Just like the people of 2008 Oakland, the states filled with our disenfranchised, poverty stricken Americans, felt so removed from the shiny prosperity that everyone but them seems to enjoy. Is it really that surprising that a reality tv star would seem so appealing to so many? He speaks their language, plays on their fears, offers that quick, unbelievable fix that so many crave. The demographic that supports Trump is largely poor and undereducated, two things that when put together equal desperation.
It is a twisted and strange thing to me, this elevating of such a crass and obvious liar, but when all the cards are laid out, I understand how it happened. When quicksand is slowly swallowing ones life, it is hard to blame the person who takes a hand from the devil. Choices that are made in desperation tend to be ill informed. Albert Einstein said, “An empty stomach is not a good political adviser.” There are many ways to go hungry in America.
As Trump continues to populate his White House with crooks, morons and oddities, each one more rank than the last, we the people hold our breath. Even his staunch supporters look on with confused expressions, refusing to make eye contact, that cocksure posture beginning to slump. America has become the most watched reality tv show ever, all of us waiting to see who gets voted off the island. We’ve been punked. We’ve been slimed. We are a laughing stock. What on Gods green earth do we do now? The only thing that America has ever had in spades in foolish pride. So let us use it now. Let us take pride in our land, the vast stretching glory of northern America proper. There are immediate battles that can be fought by us here and now. Some have watched and some participated in the stand off against the DAPL. Most recently 500 veterans were called to create a human barrier between police and water protector, 2,000 showed up and within a day the POTUS handed down what I think of as a stay after months of peaceful resistance. Information continues to surface concerning the ETP’s plan on ignoring the ruling but in the mean time, victory. How sad it is that we have to fight so hard to wrest American soil from a such bloody, greedy hands? But we did and we will. Together. Standing Rock is proof positive that united we achieve the impossible. There is power in small groups with pride, however foolish, in our country.
Whether we like it or not, our eyes are open now. We see how our flyover states have been ignored, how we have stopped truly seeing the people around us, the needy, the uneducated. If for some reason you don’t understand how we got here then I suggest taking the time and figuring it out. We owe each other that much. It is our great privilege to be citizens in a country that baked the pursuit of happiness in to our constitution. A part of that right is responsibility to the country as a whole, not just the prosperous parts. And we’ve failed at that. But we are not beyond saving. I look around me and I see the peaceful protests at Standing Rock. I see woman protecting other women from harassment and ribald assault. I see good men doing their part in this battle as well. I see the hard war on black lives coming under the spotlight. And for the first time in so very long, I see people not looking the other way.
It’s not perfect, it still needs so much work but we the people can drop the foolish part and feel the pride alone. The kind of pride that comes from participating, from helping, from understanding and most importantly, from forging unity where there was none. I felt so frustrated, so lost in all of this until I forced myself in to action. There are so many things that we can do when we work together. Be it locally, globally or somewhere in between. We are so powerful when we unite. Let’s take comfort in that. Let’s get to work. Let’s fill the streets with the energy of love and the pride of a people together as one.
Excerpt from my journey to Big Sur.
It’s a story that comes for me and I promise to remember, but don’t. I tend to forget when I most need to remember. Tip of the tongue stuff, it is in there somewhere stuff. Flotsam, jetsam, win some, lose some stuff.
Slow down and try to find the story, but like wind and smoke, grasping at it disseminates the sentences until they are just letters. So I sit here and wait in the space where sometimes words from before come back.
Stranded between wanting to get lost and being lost, one leg on each side. Split simply up the middle. And I can feel it coming, the story that I am trying to remember. Swimming into vision, corner eyed and colored.
Why do the people of the spiritual, mental, whatever improvement world seem so cartoonish to me? I am probably afraid to be like them, I know that I want to be like them. When you are sorting out the parts of yourself there is surely a time of masquerade. Trying on the faces of the bodies that are enlightened and evolved or appear to be. I want to look and sound like them, maybe be them.
And I get distracted from the story again. I take pictures, think about emails and texts and tomorrows list of to-do’s and life’s list of to-do’s. Anything else until there is nothing else to think about but not do.
Here is the now: Pacific Ocean din ceaselessly rhythmatic, a hush sound that builds and crashes, drawing in like a shallow breath and out again, over and over. The damp, a sheen on me a sheen on everything. Fecund earth rotting and growing, dying and rotting. Even the dead bits sprout life. Pine needle earth stamped flat by sandal footed contemplative pacing. The stone bench under by back making it stiff and ache. I shift around for comfort knowing full well that I will still struggle to stand up. So I put it off, the standing up.
I know there is honesty in places like this. Like me it’s part real, part try, part tall tale. I keep thinking that if I keep writing dribble that the story will sneak out of my hands without me noticing and I come to having bled all over the place. Words like a massacre on the paper. But what is there for real are just the ordinary, neighborly, non-criminal words of a girl who knows so little about her own self that she still uses a thesaurus to paint and a dump truck to move a pebble.
That is the story.
I’ve been dreaming of you
And the taste of your love, so sweet
Honest, it’s true
And the dark, heavy rain
Where the gravedigger’s song is sung
You’ve been torturing me
Tout est blanc
Je t’aime, mon amour
Comme j’aime la nuit
Is the crow flying eight miles high
Over wire and wood?
With a head heavy pain
The magnolia blooms so sweet
And it fades just the same
To the sea
To the wheels, my love
‘Til they roll all over me
With razor white teeth, so sharp
Honest, it’s true
And the dark heavy rain
The magnolia blooms so sweet
Only torturing me
To the sea
To the wheels, my love
‘Til they roll all over me
*All images are via tumblr, not mine, if you see an image that belongs to you please contact me and I will site you or remove it.
The second person that I remember loving was my dad. I knew what it was long before I had the words to describe it. His long, curly hair, bell bottomed legs, too small t-shirt. He was cool and handsome. He was always angry and mostly drunk. And I loved him more than anything. I wanted to marry him. I wanted to carry his six packs and collect his baseball bat the second it swung from his hands wildly with a crack. The only men that have ever owned me are just like him, bluster and emotion. Glass castle kings, court jesters.
There were as many holes punched in the walls of my childhood home as there were beautiful moments of rock and roll in the big old Chevy. He is the person that taught me to hold up the facade by any means necessary. He is the man who built a wall of anger around my life. But I love him. Because of him I know how to see past the facade and beyond the anger. I know that was never his intention, the sending of me in the exact opposite direction. But I reckon that a lesson learned is a still a lesson learned regardless of how you get it.
My father is a reckless mix of heart and fear, his every cell is laced with unmet desires and blurry visions of former greatness. My grandest dream is to rise fully and completely from that legacy. Knowing in my chest that he did what he could with what little he was taught and forgiving him for not aiming higher. Knowing that as damaged as he was, there was always a roof over my head and food on my plate. There will always be countless kids who have had it worse. There will be kids who have it better and still see nothing but struggle. This is my life and I worship every stinking second that builds these years. The good ones, the bad ones, the whole lovely mess of it all.
Father’s day, for me, as it is for many, is a day to see how far I have come. I am who I am because of and despite the earth that grew me. I will never be able to go back and have the childhood that I think I deserved. But it is certainly far from over. I get to be the adult my universe deserves. And if I don’t, that ones on me.
I do not understand the casually savage lottery of death. I cannot craft even a sentence that eases the pain or navigates the logic of life extinguished. Words sound wrong. They all seem hollow and contrived. I find no tools to build anything that will protect you or comfort. The one skill that I possess does nothing here. Sadly, it seems that there is no poetry in dying. There are no balms, no ladders to serenity, no roads back. If I could only decipher this, maybe then would there be the right words there, the ones that heal. I cannot. There is no wisdom in this. Though I try to find some. For now, there is none.
What I have for you is this. I can tell you what I know.
When we met I knew that our love would live. It would not be something of stone and history, it would be lush, forever growing, alive. A redwood, a city of light, something undilutable by time or water. You are one of those people that offer up such perfect kindness in the presence of dark, a whisper that quiets all of the constant yelling. You are like an antique, well made, ageless, your manners harkening back to a gentler time. I would always feel a loving tinge of jealousy when you spoke of your Berenstein Bear family and the tender factory of love that grew you. The wonder of that life, your life, holds me now. I can feel it running up and down my spine, gratitude and joy for having met this father of yours. This most caring and smart man who taught you to be a humane creature in a strange and cruel world. I feel supremely blessed to have had a few moments to bring to life all of the lovely things you have shared about him.
You told me once that I am your pit bull, that I fight when you won’t. And I will. I will always rally to protect the kindness in you. I will clear out the dance floor so that you will have room to do the jitter bug (or whatever old folk dance you do). But right now, you have to fight. You have to stand up tall, put up your fists, and fight. Fight to remember all of the things, good, gooder, and best. Fight to keep the dark at your back. Fight the undefinable insanity of death. Even when taking a breath seems impossible. Even if every second burns your skin and blinds your eyes. There are no words and there never will be. And that means that in order to survive you need your heart and the quiet strength of the people who made you. They are inside of you, they are outside of you, and they will be the might behind your every movement, forever.
If I could take this from you, I would. I could find a way to fill all of the cracks in your heart with gold, you would be exploding with light. But I cannot. What I can do is close my eyes, hold your grace in my body, and spend every moment in the kind, warm place that you have shown me. And for this I am grateful.
This last turn about the sun….what a ride. What a strange walk in a stranger land, following the trail of the darkest, most dangerous version of love. I can’t see the future, I am not even sure that it’s there. I don’t know if I am broken or whole. I am old and salty, naive and busted wide. I guess I wasn’t specific enough about what I wanted. Strong, wise, heat, bows and arrows, skin and sweat, balls, guts, truth. I should have been vividly more specific. I should have used those words. And since I didn’t then, I will now. You will not find me next year buried under casual carelessness, at the mercy of a broken wild thing. Please consider this me, going on record.
I want bravery. In myself, in him. We will look at each other and never turn away. No matter the ugly, no matter the fear. We do this and are rewarded with all of the beauty that the eye and heart can hold. We do this and broom the dirt of sadness right out the fucking door. We fight together and laugh at our enemies because no one thing can defeat our army of two.
There is no need for you to love hip hop or know every word to every D’angelo song. I only need you to love me like a G, a warrior. To know every scar, every mole, every curve on my body and be able to sing it. To know my heart, know my mind, and roam it’s peaks and valleys with the spirit of a pioneer. I don’t care if you can field dress a deer, just as long as you can feed me. I don’t care if you can build me a house, just as long as you promise to always keep me warm. I don’t need a man who acts like a gangster, I need one that is a gangster. Quiet, strong, like wood, like stone.
I need him to care enough about me to care enough about himself. The body, a temple. The mind, an ever expanding landscape that we travel together, that he is brave enough to wander alone. I want books on his shelf, food in his cupboard. Clean sheets on our bed, blankets soft and warm. Seven pillows. Age will change us but our bodies and minds will remain strong. I want a fella that is tough enough to fight beside me, for as long as we both shall live.
Push me, force me, dangle me off a cliff. I want to be uncomfortable. When you do this it shows me that you think I can be more and do better. I never want to grow soft or bored. In return, I will do this for you. I will twist you up and spin you until up is down. And if you crash, I will dust you off and tell you how lovely you are. And then help you try again. Because together we are unbreakable.
Fuck me. Make love to me. I want to know every part of you. And you will know everything. I will keep no secret.
Don’t ever leave me. If I give you my heart, I promise that there will be no greater love. There is nothing else out there better. I will grow and change, you will have a thousand dimensions all in one. And if I fail you, there will still be no greater love. Do not turn your back on me. I will break. No real man ever wants to see a woman break. If I give you my heart, you are it’s keeper. It will be your job to protect me, even if it’s from you. If I trust you, do not break that pact. For me to love, for me to trust, is my deepest battle. And if I win that battle and give myself to you, then you must stay. And if you don’t want to stay then leave me where you found me. Leave my heart whole. There is someone out there that wants me whole, so let me be.
And this, I swear.