Monthly Archives: April 2011

whipping girl (thanks, Julia!)

cover of Julia Serano's Whipping GirlGood morning! There was a small crescent moon out my kitchen window when I went up to fill the tea kettle earlier today … waning, heading toward dark. Time for casting off old habits, no?

After wrangling with a specifically internalized-femme-phobic kind of shame yesterday (yes, and maybe it’s still trickling through me), I want to say that reading the essays in Julia Serano‘s Whipping Girl is an amazing antidote! I finally got my own copy at Charis Books in Atlanta (this was exactly the book I wanted to buy at a feminist collective) when we were there for a workshop and our final performance last weekend. Julia’s writing is just filling me up, reminding me of the solidarity, in particular, between/among transwomen and femme dykes. Julia takes on transmisogyny, hostility toward femininity as a powerful part of sexism (one that, unfortunately, much of mainstream feminism has bought into), and so so very much more. Check out the Introduction, then go get your copy.

More soon. I’m grateful for you.

femme shame

graffiti-esque image of a big girl in strapless top dancing, wrists blossoming with pink ribbons...

(Isn't this hot?! Click on the image for more of LibDescent's photostream!)

Being back from tour requires a kind of re-entry –it’s, yes, a bumpy ride. I can’t wait to tell you all about these last 10 days on the road in the Southeast with Body Heat!

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A gorgeous ERC last night! There was cuckolding & an orgy & the truth about strapping on in the stories that folks read, plus so much more. Hot hot stories, tender stories, revelations, wantings, loss, fear, ache, plaster. Honest. We meet every fourth Wednesday of the month at the Center for Sex and Culture for the Erotic Reading Circle, and I’d love to see you out sometime soon!

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I don’t have a lot of time to blog this morning because I’ve been notebooking (well, journaling into the computer, which has gotten easier over time, with practice, more like handwriting into my spiral-bound notebook) about shame. Femme shame, in particular. Internalized femme shame, somehow distinct from internalized misogyny, the stuff inside that calls me stupid, ridiculous, craven, painted, slutty (and more, and worse, though all that is really bad enough) for wanting to be a visible girl, a feminine woman, someone with curves, shape, adornment, someone desirable. Particularly desirable, in my case, to butches (and yes, babe, to  a particular butch), from whom I am so very different in presentation. Do you know what I mean? I mean the stuff that says, when my feet ache after 6 hours on a plane because I’m wearing tight tall peep-toe heels instead of flip flops or sneakers, What in the hell is the matter with you? You’re breaking yourself just because you want hir to find you sexy? Because my answer is yes. And because I want the girls to find me sexy, too.

At the end of my writing this morning, I thought, I need to spend more time with, create more time for, my femme friends at home. On tour, we get to admire one another 24-7, we get to make admiring comments about one another’s just about everything. And we get to talk honestly, ask honest questions about Do you really think this looks good? How can I make this piece of clothing work? What do you mean I can wear skinny jeans? We did that with each other this tour, got so honest with it, got to offer up to one another the particular cadences of our own places of shame (well, let me not name that for others — at least, I know this is true for me), and here these women who I so admire and can get jealous of for their confidence, their style, their power, they met these tender places with care, a kind of cradling,

And that’s one of the reasons I love Tour, and why I crash when it’s over. Yesterday I wore a short skirt, tall boots, flowy shirt, to work, and not one person exclaimed. Yes, that sounds ridiculous, but the fact is that, on tour, we get to be one another’s cheering sections, we get to be the people who go gaga for one another, we get to gush with a particularly (I’ll say it) femme desire, pushing one another up and up as we admire and adore one another. And when it’s over, I miss it — not from a vanity place, no, but from a connection place; it’s not a safe thing we’re doing in the world, being visible girls/feminine women, and it’s necessary to surround ourselves with the voices of those who adore us, and whom, too, we can adore right back, who tell us that yes, we are right to want to claim our beauty, our gorgeousness, our ferocity. So yes, I miss it when tour is over and I move back into silence, back onto the concrete streets where women are trained not to make eye contact with one another, where the butches slide their eyes away from me, where the eye contact I can make is with men who just want to offer something lewd — moving back from open roads, thick green encampments surrounding us, daring conversation, owning my own artistry to these silent grey carpeted cubes, the hum of fluorescent lights, the tick of keys beneath my fingers pus(h)ing out dry database requests instead of conversations about desire, something stickier, something wet.

There’s more to say about all this, but I need to get ready for work. Still, here’s a call to my local femme friends: let’s get together soon, ok? I need you.

And yes, a write, a possible write: what’s the name of the shame you or your character are wrangling with right now? Want to take a few minutes, 10 or 15, and let yourself find some words for its shape? Do you see it connected to other shames, or as the flipside to some other feeling/desire?

Your words are so important, and I’m so grateful for them, for you, for you, for you.

Hello from the road!

Just a quick hello to everyone! I’m out on the road with the Body Heat tour, and it’s strange not to have a computer or other way to regularly check email and/or update this blog — we’re having fun in the South, though, soaking up hot sun and thickening into the thunderstorms, loving the deep green and meeting wonderful folks. We’re in Nashville now, heading out to Planet Ida (also in Tenn. — we’ll be caming!), and tomorrow we’re going to rock Asheville! Love these women — I’m so grateful to get to be here.

Follow us on Facebook to get more updates: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/BodyHeatTour

(And just so you know, I thank you for the way you are present to all the green things around you, and always for your words.)

sharing our ink

the Dirty Ink logo, a woman lying on a pen, weilding a whip of words

the fabulous Dorian Katz's gorgeous logo for Dirty Ink! Click on the image to check out more of Dorian's work...

In just a day or so, I’ll be on tour with the Body Heat: Queer Femme Porn tour. This is the fifth iteration of this tour, and the fourth one I’ve participated in.

It’s strange for me, to have this be a normal thing to say: “Yeah, I won’t be here for that event, I’ll be on tour.” On tour? Me? How did that happen?

What I love about being a performing writer/artist is coming to understand, over the last six years or so (since the inception of Dirty Ink, a fierce-and-fabulous dyke erotica collective, and then, after that, with Body Heat), that performances and shows happen because an artist/performer decides they want them to happen. I mean, we didn’t have to wait for someone to say they wanted to see us stand up and read dirty queer stories that were inflected with a history and experience of trauma — we decided we wanted to do this, to share these pieces with the world, and so we figured out how to do it: we found a venue/show to collaborate with or booked a space on our own, we sent out press releases and info to papers and online calendars and we told all our friends and sent out announcements to mailing lists and we wrote and rewrote and practiced and then we stood up in front of a room full of people and shared our work. What a wonderful way to publish!

The first time we accomplished this, I was moved beyond words — this experience of being a writer-artist collaborating with other writer-artists, first of all, meant that I was part of something much bigger than me, meant that I’d found kindred spirits. Then, too, there was the fact that people came out to hear our work. Strangers and friends wanted to sit on hard chairs on a Friday night, they parted with well-earned money, they gave us their hours, and we got to give them back our words. This exchange is delicious, it’s dangerous, it’s an extraordinary gift that cycles around and through audience and performer.

When Body Heat takes off from Atlanta on Monday and heads to Huntsville (and then to Nashville, the Planet Ida, then Asheville, then Durham, then back around to the ATL!), we’ll find community there, strangers who want connection, and with whom we want connection as well. We’ll find that same generosity that I’ve experienced every time I’ve performed my work, which has nothing in particular to do with my work and has more to do with the seeking out of shared experience, the desire to come together with others and share in a performance, the making live of art that otherwise one consumes alone and maybe in isolation. An open mic, a reading, a spoken word event: these are incarnations of the old old way of sharing and passing on information, when the bards came through town. It’s a tremendous thing, to get to join the circle of bards. And the other thing? People will share their beds and food with us, they will want us safe and comfortable. This continues to amaze me, and puts gratitude in parts of my body that I didn’t know needed un-wall-ing, and I walk around after tour always quite a bit softer and more exposed.

Here’s the sometime else I’ve learned — there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to this stuff, the creating of shows and events, the sharing of your art and wisdom with others. Is there a show that you want to see? You can make that happen — you can book time or space at a gallery or cafe for an open mic, you can find people willing to open their living rooms for a house party. There are people who need what you envision, what you have to share. If you can imagine it, you’re not the only one who wants it — just hold that possibility for awhile.

(Thank you for your envisioning, the connections you want to create, how you shape that into reality with your creativity — thank you always for your words.)

http://www.facebook.com/BodyHeatTour#!/event.php?eid=196589357038514

books and dreams

graffit of a person's half-smiling face, next to the words ""graffiti of a person's half-smiling face, next to the words "nimm deine träume für wirklichkeit", all of which is surrounded by small birds

"take your dreams for reality"

in my dream I was trying to describe the book Special Topics in Calamity Physics to someone, but I couldn’t remember the title, and I turned into something very long, that ended in, “the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” Someone was trying to remember along with me, someone else, and we said that second title at the same time, delighted that we’d been able to remember — then I said, but it isn’t that book, the Oscar Wao, it’s a different story.

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I just finished putting together the chapbook for this year’s Body Heat tour, which begins Saturday in Atlanta! This one is entitled “what they didn’t teach us.” I’ll check the proof at the printers today and then pick up the books later today or tomorrow. This is the third chapbook I’ve self-produced, and the tone of the pieces in this one is different from the earlier chapbooks, more essay-ish, and maybe more serious. Not that the other ones weren’t serious, but there’s more creative nonfiction than fiction this time around. I pulled several of the pieces from the blog, actually, and so I want to thank you for that, for being out there, for reading, for responding. I haven’t been writing a lot of erotic fiction, and so when the time came to gather up material for my chapbook, I was afraid that I wouldn’t have anything, that I’d have to recycle old stuff, or put in pieces that I’d rejected in earlier years. Then I went back through the blog, and found “what they didn’t teach us” and “pretty” and “under a genderqueering microscope” and realized/rememebred that I had been working with material here. Often, after workshops, if there’s a piece that especially resonated for me, I know that one way I can bring it out of the notebook and into the world is here on the blog, and so thank you.

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Let me tell you more about this: Special Topics in Calamity Physics is an amazing book, the kind you sink your teeth and body into. It’s multi-genre (part mystery, part straight literary fiction, part encyclopedia, part textbook, part college course), which  I always appreciate, it has a girl at the center and fully embodies that time, high school, for a very smart girl who’s trying to understand herself, her family and her life. There are visual aids, a difficult relationship with a father, stunningly dense prose that emerges from the mouth of a young woman; it’s a dense book, over 500 pages, and one I could hardly stop reading.

Speaking, though, of National Poetry Month and National Sexual Assault and Prevention Month, do you know Sapphire’s American Dreams? You’ve heard of PUSH, by now, I’m sure, whether you’ve read it or now (which you should) — that’s the one that the movie Precious was based on. Before PUSH, she published American Dreams, a collection of poetry and prose that was absolutely stunning for me as a reader. She writes vividly about sexual violence, she writes persona pieces that get into the heads of both victims and perpetrators (there are pieces about the Central Park jogger who, it had been widely reported, had been gang raped by a group of young boys, and a piece about Tawana Brawley), she writes intensely about race and violence as an interconnected thing, and then there are the pieces about sex, about desire and difficulty, and what I felt when I read this book was that there was a place for that kind of writing — what I so appreciate about American Dreams (which is a painful read, and powerful at the same time) is the room she makes for complexity, for naming all the layers of an experience: the love for father, for instance, and understanding of the brutality he suffers in the world while also clearly describing, naming, his violence and sexual assault. toward his children.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is another book that I want to be able to tell you about — I read it, I think, one year after tour, when we ended in LA and I went to stay with my sister, who had the book on her bookshelf. It’s written in a series of letters, like The Color Purple, only these letters, instead of being written to god, are written to someone the character knows only a little bit, a friend of a friend, someone they maybe met once, so there’s some thread of real-life connection between the people, but not enough to inhibit the character/letter-writer out of saying what they need to say. It’s a slim book (I read it in nearly one sitting) about a young teenage boy wrangling for connection and self-understanding, who has stories to tell and no one to tell them to, who has secrets, there are things revealed that I didn’t expect and that made a kind of sense of his isolation but then also hadn’t defined it, and for that I was so grateful. He has friends and connections, though his best friend recently committed suicide — there’s something really heart-wrenching for me, and familiar, about a character who does have some people to talk to, but needs this other venue to really spill his heart out in, a different sort of interlocutor, someone who won’t cut him off or judge. It’s a beautiful exploration of depression, written for a young adult audience — and it was that latter fact that opened me to the book. How many books out there (maybe more than I know!) deal so matter-of-factly with the issues tackled in this book: sexuality, drugs, relationships, suicide, sexual assault — at least when I was a teenager, I didn’t find books like this, and I wish that I could have. I’m grateful for it now.

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What are the books, the stories, the poems,  that have stayed with you, that have been as necessary for you (or for your character) as meals? Could you write about one of those books for 10 or 15 minutes today, tell me about that relationship?

Thank you for your healing, for your reaching out, even imperceptibly, thank you for the writing you do that effects change even if it never comes out of your notebook or computer. Thank you for your words.

the poetry of your body

graffiti poem:

(click on the image to check out Jo Bell's other photos)

It’s the middle of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and National Poetry Month. How are you marking this time?

Today I got up and did my morning pages, and now I’m going to go do some stretches and yoga before I have to get ready to catch the bus.

Check out this poem — I love those first lines: Like a flower, your beauty / is wild and untamed.

I’m grateful to this poet for sharing their work, grateful to the photographer for putting this image up online. So many , many ways to publish our work these days!

Here’s the prompt: What is the poetry of your body today? Take 10 minutes, “This is the poetry of my (his, her, your) body…” and write. (If you find yourself getting stuck, begin again with the phrase, or change it to “this _isn’t_ the poetry…” or grab a line or word or phrase from the poem in the image.)

(Thank you for your poetries, your creativities, your words!)

what stays with us

Good morning! I can’t believe that tour starts in just 4 days.  I spent some time yesterday finishing up the chapbook for this year’s tour. It’s going to be entitled, “what they didn’t teach us.”

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Several recent interactions with writers have me thinking about the way I want to talk with folks at the beginning of a workshop. In the workshops, we write together for 10 or 15 or 20 minutes in response to a prompt. Then folks read aloud what they’ve written, if they want to, and the rest of the group gives them feedback about what they liked about the piece, what was strong, what stays with us.

Everyone comes to the workshop feeling inadequate, or most of us do. We feel like we want to write, but our writing isn’t very good. Many people worry about this, that everyone else is a better writer and/or can say more or better or more interesting things about people’s writing. But every piece of feedback is useful for a writer. You might feel like it’s not very helpful to tell the writer, I loved that piece. Or, I really felt moved, I feel sad and happy listening to that, I liked that line about the dog. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve read a piece in the workshop and felt like a particular section was meaningful to me but kind of bad writing and then folks in the workshop say something about that section in particular that struck them, and I get to see that section through different eyes.

Someone in my first workshop talked about how useful it was to have many different people’s eyes/thoughts on a piece of writing, they felt like they got a comprehensive view of their writing through other people’s points of view.

Here’s what I want to say to a new writer/workshop participant: your writing is powerful and affecting, and your feedback is thoughtful and generous. this is true for every writer I’ve had in my workshops, and every writer I’ve been with in other AWA workshops I wasn’t facilitating. It’s an amazing thing that we’re given space to do for each other, within the structure of this method. We get to generate something, a new piece of writing, that is fresh and has its heart still beating, and we put it back in our mouths and share it with this group of people, some or all of whom may be strangers, and then these people open their wings and hold this gorgeous, tender thing that we have just released into the world. I know that sounds corny, and it’s true. The writer’s bravery and desire is a strength, and we each get to give one another the gift of a hearing: This is what I heard you share.

There’s sometimes, I think, more pressure to give the right kind of feedback after someone reads their writing than there is to have the writing be ‘right.’ Feedback can hearken back to the classroom, when the teacher read 13 ways of looking at a blackbird or The Red Wheelbarrow and asked, Ok class, now what did the poet mean in that poem? And you were frozen. I remember, I was frozen; I wanted to have the right answer. It wasn’t enough to say, I liked that image of the rain-wet wheelbarrow, the color and shine of it stays with me and kind of lights me up inside, and then there’s the white chickens next to that red, and I am really there. It wasn’t enough for the boy next to me, who was always looking down my English teacher’s shirt, to say while looking down at his hands, That one section, the last one, where he said it was evening all afternoon. I don’t know what that means, but I really like it.

Those were our honest thoughts about these poems we were meeting, but the teacher didn’t want those thoughts. Those wouldn’t help us on the test she was going to hand out later that week. She wanted meaning, metaphor, line breaks, line scansion, feet & slant rhyme. We could have gotten to those things through how we talked about what we liked, I think: There’s this rhythm about those lines, I want to say them again and again, and then the teacher could have pointed out what that rhythm was, rather than demanding that we name and categorize that rhythm before we even speak our appreciation.

We want to have the right answer, of course we do. And so what I talk about in the workshop is that what we like is the right answer.

This is what I want you to know. You don’t have to know the right thing to say. There is no right answer; or, rather, your feedback about what you liked, what sticks with you after the piece is read aloud, that will be right. But don’t let it sounds like I’m dismissing this concern, this desire. Even as facilitator, I still sometimes want to have the right answer; that’s how ingrained this stuff is! I’ll wish I noticed something someone else noticed — but it doesn’t matter that I didn’t say it, didn’t comment on it, because that someone else did, which means that the person got the feedback, and I can say, me, too.

I want you to be easy with yourself when you’re listening to someone’s writing, and when you’re responding to it. There’s no pressure to be correct, to see the hidden stuff. What you like is right, it’s right on.  And I’m so grateful for what you see.

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Thank you for your words today, for  your gentleness with yourself and with the folks you’ll meet in your day. See you here tomorrow.

Writing the Flood on May 21! A monthly writing workshop open to all

Writing the Flood
Open the gates and let your writing voice flow

Third Saturday of every month!
Our next workshop meets May 21, 1-4:30pm
Come write with us!
Follow up with that resolution to return to your words! Writing The Flood is a writing group for anyone looking to prime the writing pump: using the Amherst Writers and Artists method, we will write together in response to exercises designed to get those pens moving, and get onto the page the stories, poems, essays, images and voices that have been stuck inside for too long. This is a time to work on a larger project, get started on new work, play on the page, or write yourself through a block and back into your writing voice.

Unless otherwise noted, this workshop meets on the third Saturday of the month. $50 (sliding scale available). Spaces limited to 12 writers.

No previous writing experience necessary! Workshops held in Berkeley or San Francisco in an accessible space, close to BART and MUNI lines. Pre-registration is required — please write to the address above with questions or to register.

Can’t make it this month? Mark your calendars: The June Writing the Flood will meet on 6/18.

About your facilitator: Jen Cross is a widely published freelance writer. She’s a certified AWA workshop facilitator, has led writing workshops since 2002, and writes with folks about trauma, sexuality, and so much more. More info at writingourselveswhole.org.

who taught him how to walk in high heels

graffiti of legs wearing tall heels, with the words, "if you wear 5" heels, you shouldn't have to pay for your meals!"

(click on the image to see more of Maya Shimizu's photos!)

I would like to still be asleep this morning. Some mornings are like that.

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Body Heat begins this Saturday in Atlanta! People, this show is going to be gorgeous — with a line-up like this, how could it be anything but amazing: kathleen delaney, the Lady Ms. Vagina Jenkins, Gigi Frost & Alex Cafarelli — these are high femme powerhouses!  I’m so honored to get to join them. Every year, I learn more and more about what’s possible for me as a queer femme dyke when I join up with the women on tour, and I come home a bit more open, a bit more solid in my skin and self, walking a bit taller, feeling that much more complicated, and thus more comfortable, in this queer femininity.

I’ve told you what Body Heat is, right? “Body Heat is a national touring collective of fierce Queer Femme porn/erotic authors, performers, poets, and dancers who offer a sizzling two hour performance, as well as a variety of workshops on sex and gender and erotic writing.” That is, Body Heat is a tour that showcases queer femme desire — what’s not revolutionary about that?

Here’s where to find the Heat this time around: We’ll be in ATL on Saturday, 4/16 at The Eyedrum – held @ The Goat Farm (with special guests Phoenicia Phoenixyz Battle & Margaret Cho!!), and then we move on out on Monday, 4/18, to Huntsville, AL — come find us at the Flying Monkey Art Theater. On the 19th we get to visit the Little Hamilton Collective (1318 Little Hamilton Street) in Nashville, TN, and on Wednesday the 20th we go to Planet Ida in Dowelltown, TN. Next, we’ll be at the Get Down in Asheville, NC, on Thursday, 4/21, and then on Friday we hit the Pinhook in Durham! After all that traveling around, we’ll head back to Atlanta for a Saturday afternoon workshop and show at Charis Books (and we’ll be joined again by special guest Phoenicia Phoenixyz Battle) — then there’s rumored to be a special house party somewhere on Saturday night!

Watch the Body Heat FB page for all the details, and please come out and say hello!

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I haven’t shared a workshop write in awhile! Here’s a prompt and a write from Saturday’s Writing the Flood workshop.

Here’s the prompt: write down seven things that you or your character have forgotten. Then choose one (or let one choose you) and write.

And this is my response to that prompt:

Who taught him how to walk in high heels? His mother certainly never expected to have to put a line of tape down on the hard wood floor of their dusty living room and present her boy with that information: Put high heel pumps on this way, hold the sole in your one hand and press the show onto the opposite foot, or with platforms, if they have buckle, press your legs together and lean your knees to one side, swishing your skirt or the bell bottoms of your jeans out of the way so you can see to do up the strap. Then stand tall, see, shift your center of gravity some, lean back onto them — like that — good! And now its one foot in front of the other, directly in front, honey, and let your hips go — good, just let your hips go.

He wonders if even girls got that kind of instruction — it was the 70s, after all, and his mother was more after cork-soled comfort than platform boots by the time he started marveling through her closet after school, the days he got home so far before her, the days his name was latch key. He doesn’t remember how he learned this precious thing, this thing that separates the men from the boys, this thing that sail-sells his faggot flag high and free. He had no Queens to teach him and he doesn’t remember especially examining how the rich, trashy ladies on Dallas shifted their bodies when their feet were pitched forward in stilettos. Somehow, the knowledge got in, like somehow he got himself inside a fine leather bustier and a short denum skirt, like he got himself inside words like Darlin and Mary, like he got himself inside another boy’s drawers.

He knows not all the fairyu boyes, the girly men, like to put their weight inside sequins and feminiity, but he does — and he doesn’t remember when it landed clear as a furled fake eyelash that this made him no less of a man, but he carries that knowing in his bones like he carries the knowing how to let his hip, his hips, his hips shift easy like balls of butter in their sockets when he’s wielding a pair of high heels through a room full of wringing wet men, and this knowing his momma doesn’t know she gave him is what will save his life.

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Thank you for all the things you learned that no one thought to teach you, and how you share that with others in so many different ways. Thank you for that wisdom and generosity. Thank you, today, yesterday, tomorrow, for your words.

stubborn and curious and brave

stencil graffiti of a person next to a huge balloon bubble that says, You Are Beautiful!

I love graffiti like this

Good morning! Up late last night means I slept in today — Two hours for one means a little less sleep than I’ve been getting recently, and so this blog feels a little sleepy.

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Did you hear about the hail-snow in Northern CA yesterday? It looked and acted like snow — some folks were able to make smallish ‘hailmen’ that looked remarkably like snowmen. A couple we saw on the news last night described the sky before the snow started to fall, that it was all blue to one side of their house, and to the other side, the sky was heavy and cloudy and dark. I thought, That sounds like tornado skies. Where am I living? Didn’t I leave tornado country?

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I’m looking forward to Writing the Flood tomorrow — right now, since leaving the steady workshop space in downtown SF, we’re moving the workshops around somewhat, trying out different spaces and feels. This weekend, we’re going to be meeting in a Buddhist Center in SF! I’m looking forward to that energy.

Also: if you’re in the greater Bay Area, go see Sins Invalid. Their fifth annual performance begins tonight in San Francisco and continues through Sunday. Sins “celebrates the power of embodiment & sexuality, stripping taboos off sexuality and disability to offer a vision of beauty that includes all bodies and communities.” It’s paradigm changing, life-changing, mind-blowing, devastating, gorgeous, deeply powerful, necessary — you can get tickets here.

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My father is visiting right now, and this morning, I’m thinking about time and change, about the ways that I’ve been able to mark my own healing and transformation. Looking back from now, one of the places I could track the shifts and openings in my psyche was my dreams.

It’s hard to remember back to the early 90s, when every sleep was devastation, when I could barely breathe in my sleep, when I couldn’t run, when I couldn’t get away or walk or move. And I thought it would be forever like that, I thought my stepfather would always be chasing me there, I thought I’d always fall to my feet, my knees, the ground, and have to pull at the grass or the banister to be able to move. I thought there would always be knives and that terror. I thought I would never be free of it.

And slowly it shifted, and I may have written about it, but right now, it’s lost to me, just when that opening happened, the first time I could, in my dream, walk up a flight of stairs without having to physically pull against the thick weight of dream gravity. When did it happen that my dreams changed, when I could run or walk freely, when I stopped having him there to kill me, when I started to act back? Most recently, in my dream, we were on a beach and I shoved his face in sand til he couldn’t breathe, and he ran away because he was afraid of hurting me. I was afraid of repercussions, too, and went someplace to hide, sort of (a public bathroom with open stalls – not a lot of hiding there), but he didn’t come for me.

It takes so much time, this recovery, this life. This life is a recovery, isn’t it? ‘Time heals all things’ is a wicked cliche, and has felt utterly unhelpful to me when I’m in pain and see no light at the end of any tunnel, am not even aware of being on a train anymore. And I don’t know that it’s true, that time is what’s doing the healing, but time is a measure and a manifestation of the breaths we’ve taken, the space we allowed for ourselves to change — and in that space, in breathing into and through the terror, the rage, the sorrow, the loss, the excitements the joys the possibility, our bodies got to keep moving, got to take in new oxygen, our cells got to recreate themselves, our bodies became new, over and over. And yes, like the soil at spring time, suddenly there was new growth in us where before there’d just been something frozen. And maybe it took several seasons for us to notice and maybe we forgot when it started, the greening of our barrenest places, but the greening happened just the same. Because we kept breathing. Because we are stubborn and curious and brave.

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What’s on your plate to write about today? Are you doing the 30 poems in 30 days challenge for National Poetry Month? Take the pen and the notebook, give yourself just a little time, think about those greening places in you, in your characters, places you maybe thought would never grow/feel/heal again, but are. You can begin with the phrase, I used to be ___ but now___ (or he/she/we/you/they used to be…)

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Thank you for your curiosities, your stubbornnesses, your braveries, all these resiliencies that have lived (in) you. Thank you for breathing into what hurts the most. Thank you, always thank you, for your words.