“I read once that the ancient Egyptians had fifty words for sand & the Eskimos had a hundred words for snow. I wish I had a thousand words for love, but all that comes to mind is the way you move against me while you sleep & there are no words for that.”—Brian Andreas, Story People
“I hope you never
pew yourself into a faith
that might make scripture of
settling for me
just so there’s another plate
at the table,
and local sets of hands
trained in your praise.”—Fragment Two 3.3.14
One of the rarest sights in America is a black person who doesn’t suffer from post-racial traumatic stress disorder (PRTSD). Our whip, and hose, and rope, and bite-mark-scars have grown over. Black don’t crack, and we believe in Shea butter. Our memories have not re-built so cleanly. A cultural topography covered in fault-lines and abandoned homes. We are refugees in our own country. We are a walking messy-bundles of nerves. A ticking time-bomb.
We have seen terrible things, and done terrible things, and been treated like terrible things, and learned to call ourselves terrible things just to try to somehow make terrible things something that we could find love in inside of our homes.
We have become so used to gunfire. But no one quite knows how to react. They tell us, every day, that the bullets aren’t real. But everybody has watched someone fall dead after one hit them in the stomach. We’ve held people as they bled out. How do you combat an enemy who claims not to be fighting you?
1) coil, strike — v. a refusal to cower in the face of incessant danger of stray-and-well-aimed bullets, often characterized by bullet proof vests, disregard for authorities we did not appoint, and a high murder rate. celebrate those risen before their time. A response marked by a quick reaction time. Sometimes inappropriately forceful. High-risk of mistaking falling plates, and books, and doors slamming, and balloons popping at celebrations for gun-shots and reacting instinctively. Stray bullets are likely.
2) cover, pray — v. hide in the bathtub. teach your children to do the same. wait until the bullets stop flying. cry for the dead. cry again that your tears didn’t bring your brother back. your son back. your daughter back. Reconsider option 1, where at least you didn’t die with your eyes closed.
everybody loves the sunshine. we just all have different ways of ensuring that we get to dance again.
There’s a Schrödinger’s Cat/Box joke here (chuckkkkkles). I’m not gonna make it. Or maybe I just did. Idk.
This is a tough question. If I met the woman I wanted to marry today, and she wanted to go to my bed, or hers, or yours tonight — would I say no? I don’t know. I might.
But I believe in right now, and I believe in doing things because you can’t not do them. So sometimes you sleep with someone because you can’t accept the idea of not being closer to them than you are right now.
At the same time, I’ve never been good at not connecting to someone for a little bit of forever during sex. It doesn’t make sense, to me, honestly, to have that proximity and intimacy without any sort of communion. That isn’t to say that everything is a long-term-everything, but it is to say that it’s forever if it’s only one night.
Is it still a one-night stand if for hours at a time during that night, it never ended?
When he stood in line for so many hours that they counted into days; taking one step (writing one word, every two minutes like clockwork) towards a destination unknown and in a direction that no one returned from; west — toward sunsets, and his-or-maybe-just-every lonely face reflecting in the moon at night:
When the head-or-tail of the line (I can never remember which is which) opened to a set of parallel and disparate cliff faces and fanned out along it forming a delta, fertile with a belly full of hopes and fears and panting and stomach grumbling, “shores” lined by squinting eyes, dry and desperate:
When he couldn’t hear the questions (“what would happen if they saw the person they came here to find on the opposite cliff?”) and when he never joined us in questioning a God (“who would lead us to a place triangle-wedged between a return journey, a fall, and a hunger we might not have sole enough to walk, or wing enough to fly, or faith enough to stave off?”):
When he stood so close to cliff-edge he teetered back and forth — the only thing holding him upright the tension from being wedged-snug-shoulder-to-shoulder with the other dreamers, each of them looking across a faulted crust (cracked deep enough that they could still hear echoes of heartbreaks they weren’t here or maybe even alive to witness), each seeking a smile worth trying to become a miracle for:
When he locked eyes with her cross-fault: and they each, without thinking or speaking or looking back to let us know how it felt, smiled (if her’s was any indication) one of those unburdened smiles at each other — the kind that we all got in line and chased sunsets and moon risings, and strafed cliff-edges for — before they stepped out into nothing, and never broke eye contact on their way down:
When he was gone, I knew that he loved her, because I wanted to follow him, and taste whatever freedom was on his tongue before he swallowed and became insatiable. I almost chased him over the edge to ask him, but I looked up and saw your face across forever.
I don’t. That’s part of why I’m not writing, probably. That and the fact that I’ve laid out a pretty difficult (for me) challenge to myself for 2014. In place of a “muse,” I have wants and hopes and dreams and wishes and I could-love-you-if-you-could-love-me-backs and all kinds of lonely, but none of them speak to me the way I usually feel spoken to by the muses I’ve been blessed with in my life.
What's a good way to become well spoken such as yourself?
Read everything. Read it aloud. Read the newspaper. Read fiction. Read poetry. Find rhythm in the words. Dance with your voice. Find the author’s tone and cadence in it (you’ll be wrong, but imagine that you aren’t). Then write out loud. Then read it back out loud. You’ll hate it. It won’t sound like the paper and book and poem did. Do it anyway. Again. Again.
Rinse and repeat until you realize somewhere inside of you (don’t force this part) that you don’t need to sound like any of then as long as you sound like you.
War will not prepare you for this. Nothing readies you for a person holding a gun in their right hand, to be carrying your heart in the left; clutched like a prayer that disappears when you stop whispering it. Clutched like they never stopped loving you.
A clenched fist around their holdings, and even as an index-finger-hug swaddles a cold trigger, you can’t help but feeling like you might not see heaven if they stop speaking you soft; your body simply does not comprehend this battle.
You still cannot think of a safer place for your organs — not even in the now-empty holes; homes inside of you, where they used to live — than with the gunmen.
We walked past a large canvas in the living room that I’ve spent years covering and priming and recovering and re-priming, releaving, reliving, re-again-ing.
The surface of it is thick, at this point, with years of layers spread across it like farm-hand callouses. Covered in my failed attempts at self-potraits and self-love and self-proclamation and self-determination; painted-by-the-numbers of times I’ve failed before this moment. I pointed out all of the missed brush strokes and shaky lines and indecision and all of the places the palette slant-blended two colors that didn’t match.
She stepped back and smiled and turned her head sideways as if the angle might help her decipher me. She walked up, close enough to hug it, and couldn’t figure out how to, because it was so much more than was fair to expect her to hold, and then she turned to face me, and for a moment compared my face to its and hers and every other one she had seen before asking what it was called, like she thought I was some kind of new art.
I looked down across my chest at her. Couldn’t tell how long we were there, because I failed trying to count time watching the frequency with which she blinked. Smirked for all of the times she had feigned anger at me because my eyelashes were longer than hers.
I watched her trace whatever cut or contour she could find south of my collarbones. Thought about how lucky I was that she wasn’t the type who needed me to be in shape. Maybe she thought a fat guy would be easier to chase.
I watched her drown out the noise we always tried to fill the room with; watched her press her right ear against my left lung like Martin was inside of it preaching about his dreams, or maybe Stevie was singing about ribbons or bad math affirmations. I watched her try to learn new rhythm, like she only knew how to translate love into a movement or a song. She struggled trying to hear my life for melodies that had bounced enough off of soft things that they were little more than heavy air.
I wondered if she thought less of me when all she could hear was the aftermath of a rally, my insides home to little more than tumbleweed blowing across the feet of the Lincoln Memorial — when I was more clean-up crew than concert.
But she stayed, listened to my heartbeats strike and kick-drum through my ribs — echoing like her high heels in long empty hallways. I watched her try to calm them silently, like she could hear ventricular wings growing, like she hear from flutter that I’d fly away soon.
Humans are built for fellowship. So much so that loneliness is painful. So much so that we will cause someone else’s pain for nothing more than the fear of being lonely in our own.
Failed protests against our own solitude; festering wounds, and while we’re bleeding it feels like we might halve the hurt by sharing it.
Some times it’s desperation, but sometimes desperate is all we have to hold on to, and so we burn and hate and scorn and scold and scald and scratch and kick. So much so that revenge looks a viable option, because it brings someone else into the narrative of our hurts, and keeps us from dying a monologue. Even if our ceiling becomes a broken and off-key duet.
Revenge is low hanging, and worm-infested fruit. Climb higher if your goal is addressing your hunger.
“Calculating blackness feels like a failed exercise of forceful coercion. One side condemning people to the perceptions and projections they attach to the box they feel safe to keep us in; “we,” on the other coin-face renaming the box, and applying our own rules and definitions for cotton club admission. Everyone ignoring the distinct and dissonant nature of our individual voices. Black is a made up thing, that we are shackled to and left to wrestle with… But how do we wrestle a monster with no legs? How do you attack the foundation of a baseless assertion?”—NMH, Random Thoughts 12.27.13
cradled all things she revolver gentle —
the kindle and bellow and above and below and scratches and bites and exhale-from-the-bottom-of-your-loves…
all of the ways I wanted to tell her
crawling over each other,
scratching and fighting for alpha like
crab-bullets in gun barrels
wanting to be the first one to
jump chamber and priority air mail
itself to her, addressed to center mass
and carve our names
in the bark.
I was never great at drawing hearts
That looked loveable
So I circled us in a target.
I think some people know every day that they are growing up that they are going to be what they are growing into. Some have the luxury of really just walking down the road to the market and coming back with milk. Most days I pity them… Until it’s one of those specific days when I feel extra spun around and don’t know which way is up or down, and don’t know what direction to write in let alone what to write about, or that I should be writing more my name and the date on the top of a blank page I don’t know why I stole, or how to spell my name, or what the date is…. Then I really envy people who are doing what they always knew they’d be doing.
All I ever really knew was that it wasn’t going to be me — writing. And then I woke up one day and I was 16, in a creative writing class during my junior year in high school, and the poetry section started. My teacher, Robin Moten, showed us “Slam Nation” and I got to watch Saul Williams and Beau Sia and Jessica Care Moore and muMs da Schemer represent the Nuyorican Cafe / NYC at the National Poetry Slam. Taylor Mali and is “Like Lily, Like Wilson’ poem. Saul’s Pickininey Children and Aunt Jemimah and Uncle Ben shooting at them. I was hooked. It was like a light switch got turned on. Mostly on Saul, and most of my early writing really reflects that point of inspiration. Young writing (still problematic), and more attempts at wordplay than attempts at meaning, some times (and still).
But I knew that I was saying something. I knew that it was important — if only for me.
I won the poetry contest/slam we had in that class. And the one the next class had (they invited me back). A few slams and some wins here and there, and a lot of stages and mics have helped me grow into who I am. As did a long break from mics and stages, which happened after I decided that I was winning or doing well in slams because I was a better performer than a writer (the opposite is now true, and performing isn’t as fun as it used to be — but I’m trying to get back).
I spent the next decade or so often living, sometimes writing about it, and trying to figure out how to write more and more and more for _me_ while not being more and more and more open to the world. It’s been exhausting, and incredible, and hopefully I’m just getting started.
I worked security for an anime and cosplay convention in downtown Detroit a few weeks ago. It was a wild ass experience for me. I think I saw 5-7 Ash Ketchum’s and fiddylevum Missy’s. There were Pikachu costumes people had purchased prefab, and homegrown costume versions of many other PokeDex entries.
It made me wonder a lot about whether or not people who do this are dressing up or dressing down… These people were having more fun than I can remember ever having (which might be a indicator of my own pathology and personal hurdles and stuff), but for most of the convention I couldn’t tell *exactly how* these con-goers were enjoying themselves in this weird-real-world-alternate-reality. That is to say, I couldn’t tell if putting their costumes on gave them the separation, or it was that this was actually them, and after however many months or years since their last opportunity to do this, they were finally taking their costumes _off_.
From a security place, it was a nightmare… A bunch of people dressed up like characters that I either 1) can’t readily describe to my colleagues in the case of an incident, or 2) who have the same exact outfit as seven other people in your general area. [_Try telling someone on the other side of a convention center to be on the look out for one of the Lara Croft’s — the one who ISN’T pulling the costume off…_ See how good you feel about yourself, or how well they understand you…]
Anyway. These aren’t the answers you were looking for.
I was a Generation I pokemon player, and don’t know anything beyond about 150, in any honesty. I gravitated toward Psychic or Ice because they felt so unreasonably strong.
It feels like the years have
collected like rocks at the bottom of a lake along
the bottom of my stomach, and
along the soles of my feet;
I no longer float in the water,
dirty dishes in a kitchen, sinking;
I can walk, along the bottom of your pool
Time has passed since
a past named she smiled sly
and walked out of my room,
and down the stairs,
and out the door
white-toothed rapids passing under bridges should have
seasoned and sealed me watertight,
but I look at my hands and wonder whether weather’s worn more away
from my palms than was there to begin with…
Doppler radar map pictures of storms named
after women disappointed in how delicate their moniker’s made
are tattooed along my brow ridge —
homages to homes swept away.
I’m still here on my knees
asking God to direct salve through meta carpal tunnels
and into these tasks, goals that pool and puddle
keep dripping through the holes
well-intended tornadoes and torrential rains have
landslid right through me.
She says she wants to be caught;
that she’s tired of running faster than
the men chasing her with nets and rings.
I asked, what have you been training for?
Why have you spent your entire life
photosynthesizing and blossoming and
uprooting yourself into such beautiful freedom,
if getting caught and plowed and
planted was your end game all along
because to see her running — to see her in bloom
is to learn why we should never thumb our noses at roses or
toward heaven, and why we should scream and cry the sky for joy
that we were given legs
and not wings.
and yet i’ve never been her even for a day of my life;
I’ve never been a Monarch,
so I can’t tell her that she should not reminisce over cocoon
faith drip down cheeks,
watched tears grow shoulders
and learn how to carry
along with their sadness
trace amounts of make-up
that spread across the surface
of the pool she was filling.
Couldn’t tell if my voice helped,
or just sounded like my father,
but just kept the count
and promised myself I would find
a way to put each drop back behind her eyes
where my soul belonged.
I poured myself thirsty —
missed every glass on the table…
the promises and to-do-betters
I’d piggybanked into my mirror;
watched all of the me I had
been saving up tumble grace across the table’s face
and stain it’s silhouette on the floor
like it already knew it was a memory,
like a moat around a castle with a strong bluff
in place of a defensive strategy
like the tears than turn track star at cheekbone starting lines
when they hear footstep starter pistols ring out and be okay, be okay someone’s coming around the corner
and it’s time to act like yesterday can’t be tomorrowed
because you can’t afford to lose another afternoon
explaining that you’re fine
without admitting the only way you know how to name better.
… this was going to by my year…
i looked into those eyes
the ones that couldn’t
see me and asked
how much I would need
for a refill.
I’ve chased you for years;
blood hounding back and forth:
barking memories down the throats
of bottles who just wanted
to be my friend.
I’ve written books of confessions and revelations,
drunk and sloppy as me,
on dive bar napkins
iron-tied them to my torso like my chest was a billboard
and they were prison tattoos or
underground railroad directions,
a vandal’s shackled attempts at a dream
that might escape me back to alive
scribbled fast as my hands and
fingers could run
margin to margin
with pens I borrowed and
didn’t return to the
waitresses I asked “how do you spell that?”
but didn’t ever call
on the nights that I wouldn’t
have even remembered
were it not for the ink stains on my jeans
from pens that exploded when I washed them in high tide,
and the staple marks
on my chest that I
claim as amateur suture scars
while trying to convince my
company to move away from the mirror
so I don’t have to see you
every time I look at myself
looking at her.
She loved me enough to fill
three hours of a day
in a life full of sunsets
moments we lost track of while
we were too busy making tally marks
on each other’s backs, naming the fire-brush strokes
that painted the bottom of our sky;
we were forever,
if only for five minutes;
counting the smiles running out of us
pit bulls after mailmen and we never
latched our front yard gates —
she made it exciting to feel tongues and
hot breath chasing the backs of teeth,
the gates of our mouths
if only for that five minute forever were
we marvelled at
the world above us
wondering things like: “what
if we caught fire ourselves,” and
all of the other else that we only
ever learned to remember
when we parse our pasts, binary
into boxes of:
or not (0).