Archive for category Poetry
There is reason why Miley and her
White Disney can imbrue the hearts
of young Asian girls and boys
and still sell their music.
Their eyes are shaped like almonds,
like slivers of the moon
or sideways rockets
or glitters of black diamonds.
Their young eyes are fully open
in Ways yours and mine never
will be again.
And the beat of racism sounds
like it has all the other days.
It drowns out anything else
that could be put to music
TweetIn response to a piece of writing that moved me.
* * *
For $3.70, I bought a bagel and the most luscious hot chocolate you can imagine, and sat down to read the walking series between Jess and BFP.
For $3.70, tax included, I sat in a warm room and read Jess’ thoughts while I allowed the flowers of an Everything bagel to bloom in my mouth and the sticky sweetness of the whip cream and chocolate syrup avalanche everything in my mouth with sugar.
It is the birthday of a friend. Jennifer, 32 today, an amazing mother and activist in the Philippines who fights a fight that would leave me scared shitless, but one that she levels with her eyes every morning in hot Manila. It is the day of her birth, entering the world so helplessly and, after a little over three decades, has exploded into a warrior for art, equality, understanding, and love in Quezon City, Philippines. I’ve known Jennifer for six months. I love and miss her dearly.
To celebrate, I read Jess’ work and envision her walks in Los Angeles. I hear her soft breath climbing the mountains of California and sense the spinning in her mind as she wonders what to write about on BFP’s site. I feel envious of their walks. No, that’s inaccurate. I feel envious of their partnership, the evidence that two people can agree to walk, think, offer… That’s more than what most people in this world will do in a lifetime.
I sneakily decide to walk with them. In my mind, I decide to stay a figurative block or two behind them so they can’t see me or worry I’m eavesdropping on them.
I get a library card from the local public library and rent Yoga videos for beginners. In the midst, I grab “The Namesake,” a movie I had already seen about the torrent of cultural identity and family.
To convince myself that I don’t care and it doesn’t matter if I can do the moves or not, I do the first video with regular clothes on and leave my hair disbanded. Everything’s loose.
I think about my quads. They feel stretched but not sore. Again, I put on un-Yogalike clothes and put a thin headband through my hair to keep it out of my face, but still lets it flow freely. I begin to fall in love with one move, the one where you pretend you’re flying. On one foot, I balance while I kick the other leg back. The upper body is surged forward, the back leg kicked straight out, the arms extended into wings. Hold the position. Breathe. My mind has wings.
I add an aerobic workout before yoga because I feel like sweating and wanting to build that fire again. My body feels differently. Like it’s been contorted, twisted, wrung. My blood feels thin and easy flowing. I try the relaxation pose and impatiently cut get up, hating it. I do not feel at peace.
I have a doctor’s appointment for a hysterosalpingogram. The feel of metal in my vagina brings waves of violent thoughts that do no belong to me. I think of the literal and figurative bayonets stabbed into the bodies of women in a thousand wars.
I shake my head, the thoughts spill away.
The test is horrible, but the results are good. Everything’s clear and functioning. He hands me a towel to clean myself up. I look up and begin to cry.
I put on Yoga clothes and pull my hair into a ponytail. The balance is not there anymore and I waver, uncertain.
I try the flying pose again.
Looking down, I search for my focus spot and my eyes well up. There is no balance, only sadness.
* * *
Out of nowhere a 40 degree wonder sweeps Cleveland. I am loosely bound with one sweatshirt and gloves and take a long walk in the snow.
I pass a house boarded up where three little girls died in a fire one year ago, before I lived in the neighborhood. The surviving parents are pregnant again and want to eventually live in the house again, the home their little girls loved so much. My head shakes from side to side. Everything flows in seasons, even life.
I notice that I have stepped away from the internet because I have had reoccurring thoughts about Andrea Dworkin and how she wrote her life into death by sitting, writing, and barely moving. To be that disconnected from the body scares me.
I walk further.
There is a man my age at the end of his driveway. A hoe is grasped in his hands as he hacks into the thick ice. Our eyes meet and I nod and smile a greeting. The snow of his teeth show brightly as he smiles in return. I need more of this.
I think about Jess’ thoughts of perfectionism, depression, and achievement. Her honesty whispers louder than the crunch of my boots and I wish I had someone to talk to about my writing, my journey and relationship with its power and the purity I’m desperately trying to hold onto.
* * *
I’d wanted to be a writer since I was seven or eight years old. In my attic, I have bins of crushes, confusion, suicide, sex, and drugs preserved in words. Or, at least, I have them preserved in the way I thought they were.
On Saturday, I read the introduction of Audre Lorde’s biography by Alexis De Veaux. De Veaux writes that Audre never felt like she found a home. Never, even in her last days battling cancer, did Audre feel spiritually settled. Looking for what, no one knows for sure, but there was a mystical homelessness about her and I’d like to think that maybe I’m not alone in feeling the same way.
There is something restless about the creative spirit that yearns to be embraced, yet by its very definition cannot be comforted. And so the Spirit creates. It creates to survive because to be still, to stay in one place and consider the enormity of never feeling comfort is too real, too frightening. The possibility of what that eternal wandering could mean is too harsh to accept.
But Audre accepted it, eventually, writes De Veaux.
Thank God and too bad that I’m not Audre.
It is because of writing and this roaring for which there is no volume control, I am homeless.
* * *
I revisit Jess’ thoughts about achievement.
“I had no idea in that moment that not everyone defines human worth by work and work-related accomplishment.“
What does that mean for me? I grew up in either a private institution or a private family that worshiped the credentials that came with academic achievement. Credentials, academic accolades, degrees, awards, intellectual distinction was not about superiority. It was about survival. Education meant survival. As immigrants, education became the means to provide for your family. Licenses to practice, exams to study for mean providing for yourself in the United States and making life a little bit easier for someone back home or for whomever you sent your money. For every degree, ten more people could be fed or another person could go to school. That equation wasn’t exact, but there was a sense of responsibility I felt to do well, to do excellent and one of the ways sacrifice is repaid is through the success of children. There was never room for anything but medicine, law, or, at minimum graduate school.
I wanted to be a writer.
Perfectionism is most certainly not a culture-specific phenomenon. It transcends race and ethnicity and plays out differently according to context and quality of measuring stick. For the Philippines, a country colonized first by the Spaniards and then by the US Americans, education became a golden ticket out of poverty. It was a privilege to even have the opportunity to succeed and if the opportunity rested on your door, who are you to not answer?
Educational achievement became a sweet addiction, how I imagine a post dinner cigarette tastes to smokers. It melted in the form of intellectual stimulus and in watching the widening of pupils when I listed my degrees, schools, and ease of which they came. It came in the small upturn of my parents’ lips. These successes, somehow, meant everything and nothing all at the same time. Addiction is like that.
Admitting how important education is to me and my family means revealing a colonized mind that I was ashamed to admit. Of course my parents thought education was important. “This country is about one thing: credentials. Without your degree, you’re nothing.”
How could I deny something so true to their immigrated experience? Each hostility, each slap, each shove, every cold shoulder they experienced somehow related to the fact that they were foreigners in this land that both needed them and despised them. The only way to stand their ground was to hold onto whatever was stable: education. That saying about your degree – once you attain it, no one can take it from you – wasn’t just about achievement, it was about defense.
What does it mean to admit a part of your very success, the goals you had set for yourself were set forth by a colonized agenda, a strategy to keep a people oppressed, a way to ensure the submission of servants and maids, garbage diggers and farmers, the sick and the dying?
And what made matters worse: I wanted to be perfect in that system.
That elitism, that view from the top from the tower, meant everything. It was never explicity stated as such, but it didn’t need to be. Watching what happened to my mother, without a college degree, a woman who traded in her life in the Philippines for me and my siblings in this country was enough evidence. 29 years of watching the discrimination against her face, her accent, her words, her perspective, her existence in the Midwest was enough lesson for me to want to screw the system by succeeding in it and calling it out on its racist, elitist bullshit. No matter what I felt – in addiction or anger – my plans always included extraordinary measured achievement. I always turned to structured pathways of the academy to prove my worth, “justify my existence.”
Then I found feminism.
“…I was still looking through a really isolated-individual lens in a lot of ways, and so unaware of all the ways privilege would have played out had I continued along that path, breathlessly pursued that book deal in my twenties, etc., etc.“
How empowering to find feminism, I first thought. A human organized rallying for equality. And, look! You don’t have to have degrees, it embraces every individual, it both uses and questions theory and can be as personal as it political and as grand as a march or considering the farmer of your daily apple.
I found BFP’s blog when it was simply a gathering place for women of color. This was before I had any knowledge of the dynamics of internet organizing, media justice, or the trouble that could brew with one singular blog post.
To this day, I don’t know if I’m grateful for discovering the feminist blogosphere, something that I partition away from BFP’s blog, or I wish I had never found it. It was where I have laid many foundations of thoughts, but have witnessed more and more arbitrary and useless destruction – and it is competition among women by the way – for book deals, recognition, and speaking tours. It is cleverly covered with labels, “communities,” and learning curves. It has its good moments, but after so many years, the definition of “success” has morphed into a narrow and stubborn party of a few while the majority of women still suffer from sexism and violence. Blogging has the potential to teach and transform, but we’re not ready to accept that responsibility as organized bloggers and writers. That requires something more profound than vision. It takes listening.
Somewhere I found myself writing more and more but feeling less and less grounded, the opposite of my usual catharsis. I began writing about important issues because that’s what I thought mattered to the world, not realizing the world would be much better off if I write about what matters most to me.
In this ridiculous and unbelievably fast internet world, I have come to disengage with the feminist blogosphere as I dig more into my own feminism. The earth of my life, the soil which needs human hands, not my keyboard fingers, needs kneading. I’ve spent so much time confessing my faults that my line of creativity has bounced from productive to masochistic depression, measuring my worth with white, mainstream feminism which I don’t even like or agree with. And it’s not about blame. It’s just more of the same.
The longer I read blogs and the regurgitation of news that consistently licks the ethnocentric boot of US women, the more I am convinced I am on the right path of disengaging, ceasing my own internal battle to publish, publish, publish, and write a book, write a book, write a book.
I want to offer the world a compiled story of my experiences, of my life, not a reaction to my experience with feminism. All of this I now realize, 24 days before my 30th birthday.
The goals I had etched for my 30th were more about finding audiences, not my writer’s voice and building rails for my walking so that I walked straight, head up.
I walk. I walk in circles, with my head roaming the sky, behind my shoulder to see my boot prints in the snow, and sniffling from the cold, Ohio air.
bell hooks puts the geography of her writing into her writing. She asks and centers what it means to write from Kentucky. What does it mean that BFP writes from Michigan, or that Jess writes from LA? Or that most feminist mainstream bloggers write from New York, Brooklyn, or San Francisco? It matters. Our walks, where they lead us, matters.
What does it mean that I long to write from any place but where I am? How have come to be so ashamed of my Ohio place of writing that I feel un-credentialed, as if I have no authority over my own life? How have I come to deny myself in accordance to a colonized agenda as I read about colonization?
By measuring writing with a published book stick, the epiphanies that used to come to me like dreams and orgasms slowed to a dulling halt. No more reactions, no more opinions. Everything I wrote was first sanctified by my excitement and then nullified by a voice that whispered, “What do you know? You’re just another another.”
Dreamer. Philosopher. Warrior. Poet. Yearning for truth with dripping insecurities.
That’s what made it even worse. I am a woman of color with intensely rare privileges.
How trite. How boring.
I’m tired of writing disclaimers of my privilege. I’m tired of apologizing. Even as I write that, I’m sure it reads RESISTANCE to acknowledging my privilege. But it’s like, no matter what I write about, no matter how much I paint the elephant a traffic cone orange color and acknowledge it, point at it, sit next to it, and then I write my thoughts – someone, somewhere (usually “anonymous”) comes in and reminds me, “don’t forget – you’re a privileged person of color. You don’t have that much experience in oppression.” Here’s the thing: I don’t know how to acknowledge it any more than I already have. And if I stop acknowledging it, I’m sure someone will call me a “leftoid cunt” again. I don’t want to spend my life writing about privilege. That would be a sardonic tragedy all on its own.
* * *
There is storm in its full state
- throbbing red -
birthing another and another
so I have a womb full of wind.
Its carnage bleeds out white women,
my husband, books, and screams,
but I never grow pale.
I have an endless supply of
angry blood, I suppose.
I’m waiting for it to stop.
Waitin’ for the sky to part,
for the rain not to be wet anymore.
I wonder if this is my Call.
To no longer seek the world
and its problems
and Write in observation of war,
to sift through my own debris
with my entire mind
that it is good and I am whole.
And the debris
- the ugly wreckage of life –
* * *
The relationship between health (mental and physical), writing, and practice of both are cyclic in relationship. The only thing that keeps my own destruction – my storm of depression, self-paralysis – in check is movement. That alone may sound unoriginal, but consider the trends of technology and season. The other day, I reached for the door knob before braving the winter, and paused. I could barely sense the skin on my stomach. I didn’t know if I was breathing in or out because it was buried in a bra, camisole, shirt, sweater, scarf, gloves, hat, and enormous parka. The weight and expansive coverage of cloth on my body prohibited movement. And that was just to my car where I would sit again.
My body couldn’t feel itself.
* * *
I waited for the groundhog to say good news.
* * *
Instead of waiting for external sunshine, I wrote this instead.
TweetTales from the bedroom are considered sacred, but tales from the corners of marriage are even more forbidden. Why is that?
As I sit on a tender marriage of almost four years, a love ignited for ten years, I often wonder how isolated and crippling that silence can be. Why are married people so quiet? What’s with the secretive nature of disclosing details about the primary relationship of one’s life? Is it, hold your armrests, it might come to pass that marriage goes through volatile stages of frustration, silence, asexual eras, and betrayal?
Well, we certainly don’t want to let THAT cat out of the bag.
Psst…sometimes marriage tastes champagne and sometimes it tastes like rotten arugula.
Well, now that we have shrugged of those nuclei of fear, we can proceed forward.
One of the biggest misconceptions about marriage is one of the biggest misconceptions about primary and committed relationships: it consistently and unfailingly feeds and meets our personal needs of fulfillment.
We all realize that one person cannot meet our every desire, conscious and subconscious, and yet, when we marry, we often fall into a capricious state of allowing community to slip away once we have transitioned into a partnered identity. As children and young single adults, we flourish in groups and find a sense of belonging and purpose. While we grow and develop our sense of self and our yearning for intimacy and partnership root themselves, the communities we once were once active become things of the past, dust on our floors.
Read: Common Mistake #1
As feminists, it is common that we seek out fellow activists, artists, and writers who possess a cosmic understanding of our drive for justice, our commitment to vision. And yet, when it comes to our personal relationships, they often falter because we assume that a 1:1 relationship, especially marriage, is and should fruitfully build on its own accord, heal on its own gifts, and reap harvest from its own soil. That is, you know, how you define a healthy marriage. You don’t need ANYONE else.
As a married feminist, I find it ironic that I can clearly understand my need for community when it comes to my career. Writers must write alone in their room, but that room must be heated by the same pipe that warms the entire house, other rooms occupied by thinkers and philosophers. However, when it comes to a growth bump in my marriage, I decide to ride the bridle alone, convinced my balance will come with experience, temporary panic attacks, and large amounts of wine.
Before the village helps raise the child, the village needs to rebuild itself to recognize the needs of radical marriage. One that is built safely on the precipice of equality. Marriage will guarantee times of roaring fire and dying amber. You need to know how to tend and control both. The point is not to avoid getting burned, the point is to learn how to build the fire.
And the fire does not represent the love, the fire represents the soul.
In this harsh winter and cold recession, intimacy between partners can be strained for a whole slew of reasons. But a radical manifesta is not a guide for putting together a broken marriage, a radical manifesta is for piecing together a radical love of self and the other that feeds the often neglected part of our deepest hunger: authentic identity. Something that is often lost in the compromising of life partnerships.
And to build that authenticity in the space of marriage, to create a sustainable and passionate bridge, let’s first begin by agreeing to dish the silence. That’s not a call to irreverence or ranting about domestic burdens. It’s a call to speak into the quiet loneliness of a working companionship that the marrieds often fight alone. The manifesta stands to speak into the radical joys and struggles of authentic identity, evolving love, and awareness that grow in marriage.
Break the silence. You can be in love and outraged at the same time.
And to practice what I preach, this is a poem I wrote yesterday about marriage. A day scattered with temper, short answers, and angry blanket hogging.
I love you
as surely as I swiftly walk in the winter
and toss my shirts into a bloated floor heap
I love you
as neatly as the cable wires behind my tellie
as conveniently as city parking
and as comforting as a broken compass
I’m yours so long as you continue to lay there
snoring your peace into my side
and my knee kept warm by your palm
without my porch knowing death’s arrival date
or the bloom of children
Our chances increase every night
We’ll make it
says the meatloaf
and even pillowcases that need changing
We’ll make it
thinks the leaning garage and scrappy drive
I hope so
prays our mantel
You are mine like the songs said you’d be
and you fit right beside my cheek
Like how the dandelions flutter
and the dog pulls right of the leash
With the yellow sun filling the sky
on an art paper saved by my mom
All things are as they should be.
I love you.
TweetI wrote this poem after being told a friend had been brutally raped by two men. Heavy-hearted, I wrote this for her, and for my dear friends who are also Survivors of sexual assault.
I’m thinking about my friend.
My friend who was raped last night.
I’m thinking about how I can now lose count of how many have been raped. Their wrists held down. Their mouths silenced. The judgment of so many.
Why’d you drink so much?
Why did you ask him to drive you home?
What did you think would happen?
Who else was there to witness?
How did you let this happen?
I can’t create anymore tshirts for the Clothesline Project. I can’t stand up anymore at Take Back the Night rallies. I can’t read anymore from Incite! newsletters. I can’t advocate the system anymore or read Trauma and Recovery one more time. Because as much as I want to say I’m not, I’m weak and wilting from this battle.
Another rape. Another.
Not a client, or one of my students, nor a hotline caller, but a friend. A person I laugh with, drink with, both casually and deeply love. She has been raped.
I’m dying with you. Inside.
I can explain
I can offer
Who’ll believe you?
Only a few.
This is all I have for you
More stories so you know that you are not alone. A place of comfort and horror is knowing you are not the only one. And I’m sorry, but I can take you there. A place where so many find haven, a cemetary where you can bury the person who died that night. A place where you can remember the terror, the agony; how it went on and on; how no one heard you; how he…they…never stopped. You may not know this, but you’ll spend much of your time preparing for this place.
You may resist. You not want to go right now. And I will never make you go there until you’re ready.
But at some point, you will. Everyone does, no matter how you try to escape it. No matter how tight you sqeeze your eyes shut or the blankets in your hand. Rape is the poison, but the aftermath…that’s when it begins to flow into your body, life.
It’s not that he…they… were that strong,
but the memory
the memories will not be released.
At this cemetary, you will carve out a place in the ground and lay her in the tomb. Everything will tremble. You’ll say good-bye to that beautiful, lovely person who you so want to be again, but cannot return to. You will scratch stones to commemorate her strengths and will. You’ll cry fast, lonely tears that consecrate the covering soil.
You’ll see the other grave stones and eventually your eyes will adjust to see the millions of others who are buried there.
Some are slowly digging, their hands dirty.
Others are still consecrating, weeping on their knees.
Some silent. Others wailing.
There’s an eyeful view of the Others,
all the Others
beyond your sight
that lay underneath
You can stay for however long you need. You’re allowed to come back and visit her, but I don’t think you’ll want to. Once you walk away, you’ll want to keep moving, out of the fog and into the wind.
I’m sorry, but there is nothing else I have but the path, this way, this knowledge of the cemetary. I will take you when you are ready. Tomorrow may be too soon. Tomorrow may not be soon enough. It may take months, maybe years. I’ll wait for you.
not the memory
not the pain
but the power of the past.
You will replace it
with the power of today,
And you will be a Survivor, not a raped womyn, not a case report number, not a witness. A Survivor.
A person, a human, who refused to die. Who fought and endured and embodies the things that we all aspire to someday possess.
Readiness. Truthfulness. Faith.
I will wait for you, my friend.
Until you’re ready.
I will walk you there,
but you won’t need me coming back.
When I said I do
I didn’t know what it meant
I thought I did
I thought it meant
I do love you
I do want you
I do believe in this
I didn’t know it meant endless days of trying
And not knowing what we were trying for
Or how to choose a future together that may
Not agree with either of our past dreams
I didn’t know who would later come into my life
And make me wonder so soon
I didn’t know I do means
I do know I will doubt myself, and you
I do fight with myself more than I fight with you
I didn’t know it would mean spiritual mountains
And verbal misses
And monthly visits on domestic responsibilities
I didn’t know it would mean more crossroads than
More unknowing than ever
Did you know what you meant when you said I do
Did either of us realize the humbling task of loving
The call to let go of ourselves for the sake of the other
Does anyone truly understand that I do means you do agree
To not only love, but pain and jealousy and doubt
To not only faithfulness, but the mindfulness that comes with truthfulness
To live not in harmony, but in effort to constantly strive
I promised I’d be these things, and more
I swore before all, and even before G*d
That I would live beyond myself, learn to love beyond June
And all the things that brought us to that day
With that ring, I wed an entire symphony of mystery
I didn’t know who I would be, who I’d grow into
And whether I’d even like her, but I swore
I pushed a circle onto your hand and my voice
Cracked with heaviness, the weight of the moment
Perhaps my voice could glimpse what was to come
But I didn’t know, I only hoped
There is so much unknown in a promise
That it’s a wonder they are ever made
Maybe that’s why they’re so easily broken
There is nothing stopping me from leaving,
Except this promise I made years ago
Years before June
Years before that kiss, the wide smile
Not to you
But to myself
Not to G*d
But to me
The promise that I would do this
And do it beautiful
I promised myself I was worth this
Worth the struggle
Worth giving a damn and I was worth
Not knowing, not figuring it out all at once
My life mattered more than grabbing easy answers
And holding onto scribbled notes that don’t reveal much
I promised long before you came, long before you arrived in my life
I knew the kind of love I wanted for myself,
the kind of fire I would build in my existence
The kind of freedom I needed
The kind of freedom
The promise I made is not binding, the promise is a reminder
A reminder that I saw something rare, something I knew I wanted
And I promised to live and grow and fall and agonize to become that
A force stronger than pain and more consuming than confusion
I promised myself first
And then to you.