babayagaSmall

it all stays (es bleibt alles)

Poster on a stick, pink background behind a line drawing of a house; inside the house are the words Good morning, good morning. Upstairs, the bread dough is resting on the breadboard. I wake up to a room smelling of wild yeast, dough rising. I think a house should always smell like freshly baked bread, or about-to-be-baked-bread, don’t you?

Sometimes you make a decision and you feel something land in you, a place of possibility opens, a thing of yes hollows out all the no you’ve swallowed, and makes itself at home. You become a place where yes can live. Where future can live. Where tomorrow can live. Where hope can live. Some days you are all outshine and coffee grounds, you are the flicker of the flame and you are the flame, you are the waft of steam rising from the green tea and the hum of the wing of the hummingbird hovering over the blossom’s throat, you are the feet finding a new path, you are the fingers welcoming an old stone. You are the gist of a sentence, you are the stamen’s statement, you are the ripening peach, you are the lengthening glisten on a growing beach, you are the bean. Some days you are more than yesterday’s ache, yesterdays no, yesterday’s grief and loss, you are more than garbage, you are more than what was thrown out or ignored, you are more than the book left on the shelf for years, unread, unheralded, unblessed. Some days you are the cool chill on the neck of a sleeping deer, nestled in a place safe beneath a copse of trees, some days you are the copse of trees, you are the safety, some days you, even you, are the safe place. Your body is the safe place, your hands are the safe place, your mouth is the safe place, and your heart, as you know your heart, has always been the safe place.

Some days you are echo and dance, you are willpower and dive, you are forget and forgive, you are revenge, you are remember, you are never forget, you are anger and you are yes and you are power. You are the child curled up on the couch and the youth hiding in the closet and the young man walking down the street with a strut he thinks he doesn’t deserve but doesn’t know how to live without. You are the without. You are the strut. You are the do until die, you are the fake it until you make it, you know how to make it because you have made it here. Some days you are more than the account balance, you are more than the hours of life traded for money, you are more than the receipt, more than the transcript, more than the record, the data, the bits of information floating around in the world about you, you are their aggregation, and then you are more. You are the flicker of the squirrel tail, you are the faint hoot of the owl in the woods, you are the place of promise, you are the finger of regret and then you are the finger that scrapes through cake frosting and brings sweet to your mouth.

Some days you are learn and some days you are unlearn, you are forget, you are unwanting. You are the eyes looking across the water at distant islands, you are the eyes examining the feet of a newborn child, you are the hands that can safely hold a newborn child. Some days you are more than the loss, even though you might also still be the loss. You are the cup that holds the tea, you are the nurturance, you are the truth-telling, you are the sharpened pencil, you are the dance of pollen.

Sometimes you are more than electronic motes across a virtual dust screen, you are not the butterfly caught on the car grille, you are not the emptied rubbish can, you are not the messily erased chalkboard. Some days you are yawn and whisper and you rise from your bed like you deserve to be living. Some days the words come to you in the middle of the night and you meet them, on the page or in dreams. Some days you are the art that lives you. Some days you are the twist of the plot. Some days you are what hopes for escape and you are escape. Some days you are more than what begs in you to die, what begs in you to stop and please can’t we just stop and rest, some days you stop and rest. Some days you welcome the flow of your life, the rises and falls, the swells and thins, the ebbs and purls, the rhythms of you, the rhythms you are, the blood that follows the moon, the shallow dance, the circles, the spirals, the contours, the glisten, the blossom. You are the seed in the ground and the fingers that cover it with dirt with soil and the water that drenches and feeds.

Some days you cannot stop to think about the right word, you are the right word at the right time. Some days you know that you have always been the right word at the right time, even if someone couldn’t hear it, even if you were ignored or silenced, even if you couldn’t say the word out loud, you have always been the right word at the right time. Some days you are more than what enough holds in your belly. Some days you want what lives inside enough, the rest there, the nest, the promise, the comfort, the cradle in lap, the safe place, the knowing that you don’t have to hustle at the center of you, that you have earned the right to love yourself, that you have always been the love you deserve. That you are so far beyond ok that you can’t even see ok in your rear view mirror anymore, that you are the wind through your hair on the highway, convertible top down, sun shining on everything like a wish, you are the breeze through fingers stuck out of car windows and the ears of dogs flapping in joy. You are that joy. You are the small wishes, the littles delights that are the best ones, the bag of candy, the silly laughter, the eyes watching a dog sleep in a safe bed.

Some days you can trust that you are where you need to be, even if you know that you can’t stay there, even if there’s something in you that has to change or get out. And some days there is nothing in you that wants to escape your life anymore. Some days you have found a place where love is a blossom you can believe in, where kindness lives like breath, where your voice is a song written on the walls, written on the inside of every wrist and thigh, where your body is a delight of strength and comfort, where yours can be the body that someone wants to live in, some days that someone – can you believe it? – is you.

I woke up early, before the alarm, to lines of poemish things flowing in my head and I repeated the lines to myself like I do, thinking that I will remember even though I think I’ve never once remembered lines that came to me in the middle of the night that I don’t write down. but I woke up remembering anyway, not the lines themselves but the fact of them, the possibility of meeting the page this morning with imagination and flow, with something hopeful — San Francisco may not care but still I meet her at the corner and buy a batch of fresh Thai chilis at the farmer’s market, and the man with the light eyes didn’t remember my name, which made me happy for reasons I can’t quite explain. The man with the long hair and the question mark body was not around on Mission Street yesterday.

Something is growing inside me, something that wants answering.

I was thinking yesterday about how I used to memorize poems in German, back when I was in high school — excerpts from Goethe’s Faust — for competitions. (These were my earliest poetry recitals.) Sometimes I try to think of a way to say something, to communicate a thought, and the phrase pops up in German — unbidden, as the saying goes, like all that learning is still in me somewhere, the language, the vocabulary, the words, like they belong here, this language I loved all through junior high and high school, into college. I thought for sure I’d visit Germany, spend time there, maybe study. But then life took a different turn.

Maybe the trajectory we thought we’d take got bent and twisted into other directions. We grieve where we thought we’d get to, and by when; we grieve all that we thought we were supposed to be and do — but if I step back and look at what life has unfurled around me, there are days that I can take pleasure in what was and is. The anchor of me is still floating somewhere, not tethered, still free. There is still time to do so much of what the younger me wanted.

Some days there’s peace to be had in releasing the old dreams, even if we grieve as we let them fall from our hands — and some days we can pick them back up again, dust them off, look at them from a different angle. Yes, this fragment of life can still be mine. It’s not too late and you are not too old, Rilke said (in German it’s “Noch bist du nicht kalt, und es ist nicht zu spät”). It’s true — I want a lot (du seihst, ich will viel) — perhaps I want everything.

Some days we get to want everything, with the ache that longing brings, and the joy.

Du siehst, ich will viel
Rainer Maria Rilke

Du siehst, ich will viel.
Vielleicht will ich Alles:
das Dunkel jedes unendlichen Falles
und jedes Steigens lichtzitterndes Spiel.

Es leben so viele und wollen nichts,
und sind durch ihres leichten Gerichts
glatte Gefühle gefürstet.

Aber du freust dich jedes Gesichts,
das dient und dürstet.

Du freust dich Aller, die dich gebrauchen
wie ein Gerät.

Noch bist du nicht kalt, und es ist nicht zu spät,
in deine werdenden Tiefen zu tauchen,
wo sich das Leben ruhig verrät.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

You see, I want a lot.
Perhaps I want everything:
the darkness that comes with every infinite fall
and the shivering blaze of every step up.

So many live on and want nothing,
and are raised to the rank of prince
by the slippery ease of their light judgments.

But what you love to see are faces
that do work and feel thirst.

You love most of all those who need you
as they need a crowbar or a hoe.

You have not grown old, and it is not too late
to dive into your increasing depths
where life calmly gives out its own secret.

from The Book of the Hours
(translated by Robert Bly)

Thanks for all you’ve carried forward into today, all the wanting, all the hope, all the dreams. Thanks for allowing yourself to set some of it down. And thanks for picking some of it back up, giving yourself bits and swells of something you always wanted. Thanks for your words today. I mean it.

babayagaSmall

let the body do its work

graffiti of a hand facing out toward the viewer, one finger touching a small skateboard; flowers drawn, tattoos?, at the wristGood morning — wow, is it a Monday. How’s yours going so far?

Here’s a story: Yesterday, I spent a bit of time helping my friend, Alex, get ready to move. I don’t like this part of the story, because I don’t want her to move. She’s giving away a bunch of stuff, and I snagged a small bookshelf, a mug, a bag of things from the fridge, a couple of pet carriers, a cast iron cauldron. Everything fit into the car–snug, but still–and we got it all home. I gave Alex a long hug and said See you later (not Goodbye).

When I was taking the bookshelf out of the backseat, I got a serious splinter deep in the third finger of my right hand. Upstairs, in the house, I fussed over the splinter for a long while — I squeezed at it, got out the tweezers and tried to dig out the wood; the Mr. went and got a needle and tried to pull it out, but that didn’t work either. I soaked it in warm water, then tried everything again, but it was just in too deep. So I went to bed, still with splinter, invader, in my hand. I thought about letting the body do its work.

This morning, when I woke up, the area around the splinter was red and aching; I washed it and cleaned it, then started to do my morning writing. After a bit, I squeezed the splinter, and the wood pushed–easy, slick– out of the wound. My body had already started the process of expelling this foreign object, this invasion, this unwelcome thing. I barely had to do anything, but got the tweezers anyway, and took out the wood.

This feels like a metaphor, in and around the matter-of-facts. I’m thinking about old ways of thinking, behaviors, even trigger responses that are manifestations of this exact physiological response: my body doing what it’s built to do, without any real intervention from me. What happens when I step back, let the body do her work? Trust the body to do her work?

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ETA: Katrina, in her comment to this post, shared the following fantastic quote from Ranier Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet:

“If there is anything morbid in your processes, just remember that sickness is the means by which an organism frees itself of foreign matter; so one must just help it to be sick, to have its whole sickness and break out with it, for that is its progress. In you, dear mr. kappus, so much is now happening; you must be patient as a sick man and confident as a convalescent; for perhaps you are both. and more: you are the doctor, too, who has to watch over himself. but there are in every illness many days when the doctor can do nothing by wait. and this it is that you, insofar as you are your own doctor, must now above all do.”

Yes yes yes.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

Want to use it as a prompt? What invasions have your body, your psyche, encircled in a coating that protects you from them, and prepared to expel? What happens when you or your characters trust your/their bodies?

Take this wherever you want to; follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thank you thank you, on this Monday morning. Thank you for your youness, your words.

babayagaSmall

“all those things not yet said”

graffiti: mandala in NYCGood Monday morning! I am sleepy today — this morning, it’s hard to stay with the writing; I have to keep typing (like I would write it out in the notebook) that once I’m done here, I can go back to sleep if I really want to. Sometimes, that’s what being easy with myself means: giving in, on paper, at least, and in real life sometimes, too.

When I say, be easy with you, I mean, don’t beat yourself up in your heart. I mean, be patient with yourself and your process. I mean, send yourself a little love when you are feeling very hard and sad. I mean, trust the difficult places, the triggers, the shit that comes up. I mean, trust your own process: it’s nobody’s business but yours.

Yes, sometimes, you won’t do everything the way you thought you were supposed to be able to (this looks like my everyday, btw): Be easy with you means, That’s all right. That’s human.

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This coming Saturday, April 9, we’ll gather again for Writing the Flood! Want to join us? This time around, we should be meeting in San Francisco (getting that settled up today or tomorrow) — there are a few spaces still available!

We meet early this month because the following week I’m headed down South for the latest incarnation of the Body Heat Queer Femme Porn Tour! I get to join up with Kathleen Delaney, Alex Cafarelli, Gigi Frost, and the Lady Ms. Vagina Jenkins for their amazing performances around queer femme sexuality, identity and desire. Can’t wait!

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April is both National Poetry Month and National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month. This morning, I thought, That sounds like writing ourselves whole month.

We here reading and writing, we know that these things go together — the power and necessity of poetry to teach, to explain, to give voice to that which has not yet been spoken or listened to. We know how poetry and other forms of creative writing can heal what we didn’t even know was wounded in us, can teach lessons that don’t get learned any other way, can express what we believed there were no words to express. The delicious joy of listening to/witnessing/reading someone else’s indelible words.

Writing poetry or otherwise creatively can be, simultaneously, a tremendous form of self care and a liberatory social change practice.

And writing can be a way of knowing, a way of engaging with what we might know, or could know — and that can be especially useful for trauma survivors, for whom memory can be like a half-rotted film strip, with much of the imagery lost or fragmented, but here and there, a clear sharp sound, that bright flash that means everything.

I found this on twitter this morning: Plato said, “Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” What about that?

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I have these two (other) delightful quotes this morning, from a handout that John Fox gave out at the Healing Art of Writing conference last summer:

“When we are not sure, we are alive.” — Graham Greene

and

“I have faith in all those things that are not yet said.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

I wonder about letting those be a writing prompt this morning — just be with each of these statements, and notice what begins to bubble up around them in your writer’s brain. Take out your notebook or open a new document on the screen and let yourself write for 10 minutes: what do these mean for you and/or your characters? (If you find yourself stuck, you might write about what you have faith in, or when you know you’re alive, or what happens when you’re not sure, or what hasn’t yet been said… )

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.