Video by Hiro Murai
some dreams i wear everyday. on good days, i inhale them like a fragrant corsage on a lapel. on others, i suffer them like an expensive favorite pair of ill-fitting shoes. some are guarded by angels who pour me whiskey and roll out red carpet at the back door. some are muscle turned fat. some are a ship that just left the dock i stand on and don’t care about my neatly packed suitcase.
this is a throwback blog i just stumbled upon. i actually got to spend time this past week with the inspiration of this post, adia, and meet her sweet baby girl. it had been almost two years since we saw each other last. adia is still all that she is and more. her dreams and her pursuit of them never fail to look me in the eye.
I filmed my girl Adia’s dance rehearsal tonite. She’s one a them beautiful crazy genius people that has to turn her dreams into dance routines or else she would lose her mind. Her dances, the lyrics to her songs are like collages, each word carrying the weight of her ancestors and the pregnant future. Pieced together across continents and landscapes—South Carolina to South Africa to San Francisco.
My girl Adia moved to New York seven years ago to pursue her career as a dancer. She went to Alvin Ailey Dance School, studied her roots, started her own dance company, Ase Dance Theater Collective, and is now getting gigs internationally to dance and choreograph. She would sometimes use her grocery money for dance costumes and studio rental fees. She has gone hungry for her dance. She has given herself to it completely, paid incredible dues and tonite I keep my eyes open for her lesson. She’s becoming a master.
I am realizing that I have had a hard time letting my loved ones go for their dreams in the past. I get jealous. I think, who do they think they are? The chance of success is so slim…
When Adia left for New York seven years ago we were running an organization we had founded together. A dream we shared. She left to become a dancer and I felt abandoned. How could she leave me behind? A piece of me held on to that feeling because it already fit in the space in my heart. That five year old little girl in me who got left. Like a rubber band ball in my heart, I add a new band each time I find evidence of abandonment. So it grows bigger and casts a shadow over my dreams.
As I watched her choreograph tonite, I saw her doing the work that I struggle to arrive at. Her dance is a resistance story, a family secret on blast, an unborn child come alive in a dream, a plantation field of sugar cane on fire, a tongue that grew back without a scar, a gyration that winds back to the woods and spills onto the floor of a grimy dancehall, the speed of a hummingbird and the strain of a throat that has not swallowed honey,
inbetween going home and never ever coming back. Roadmaps and blueprints and star navigation line each movement with a destination. Resilience.
She’s doin that sacred, odds-stacked-against-us, delicate, hardcore work of preserving and pushing forward her culture at the same time. Tonite I got to document this work as evidence that it can be done.
I tell you, some of my deepest lessons can only be seen from behind the camera.
I am realizing that it’s getting easier for me to witness my loved ones go for their dreams because I have grown a space in my own heart for faith. A spider web visible only when the light hits a strand from a certain angle. As I watched Adia and her dancers move, it glistened and reflected rainbows from all the light cast upon it.
My dreams? I have so many it overwhelms me. To write them here, to write them anywhere is dangerous. But I need a push like a shy girl needs when she can’t ask her crush to dance and the song has already made its way to the chorus.
I dream of writing books
that don’t come easy
and living near a warm ocean that speaks
when I enter her
I dream of making movies
so audiences cry in the dark
to let go of their pain
and ache for the possibility of love and
I dream of taking photos
that make it hard to look away
I dream of passing down
more language, more recipes, more tools, more maps
to my children than were ever handed down to me by my parents
I dream of sewing myself together whole
with the needle and thread of my legacy’s best mistakes and tiniest victories
I dream of creating
in the company of geniuses
who carry both a push and an embrace in their arms
and show up on time to catch the sunrise
even when the fog rolls in
poetry gets frozen in me sometimes
I’m slow to warm up
mostly using outside sources
not the fire inside me
This is me
standing beside it’s too late and
it’s never too late
to follow your dreams
as i stand
amongst the trees
after the storm
i can’t help
but notice how
we all reach
give thanks for
this walk uphill
the pause at the peak
the descent towards home
give thanks for night
warm enough to bare
my skin before
give thanks for the stars
that have left
my heart to finish
dying in the sky
give thanks for you
moon, when I ask
where are you
and you answer me
hello fire escape
you are the newest room
in my apartment
the coldest room
but still a room
the only one
with a sky of clouds
by Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai
0: It can make you walk away from death.
1: If you don’t look up, you will die in these pages.
2: I spend more time not writing, than writing.
3: Quality can’t be measured by waste. Quality is quality. Waste is waste.
4: Not writing leads back to writing.
5: Once I allowed myself what I loved, it all came less painfully.
6: Writing leads back to not writing.
7: If I knew other languages, I would know other things.
8: It’s not mysterious, but wonders reveal themselves when paid attention.
9: Leaves, skin, how the ocean cleanses itself. Make your own metaphor of this work.
yes. yes. and yes again. assignment to self: write ten statements about poetry. write a poem that is not tragic or longing.
It’s been a time for living, some days I could even venture to say I’ve been living poetry. A good excuse for not keeping up my writing practice, which is not to say that the impression of these days should not be written down. A list poem, at least, which might include the words
ten and two
Biting on the gritty dust kicked up by hundreds of lightning bolts striking a purple sky.
Filling up the gas tank one more damn time.
In the past two weeks I have left, I have arrived, I have finished, I have started, I have reunited, I have jumped in, I have come home, I have returned, I have rarely been alone.
I am just catching up with the part that writes, that reflects, that tries to make meaning out of putting words together. I’m in no hurry. I don’t hurry very well.
The first thing I wrote after I returned, in front of the ocean, was a prayer.
Right before I left, when I was landlocked, before my love arrived, when I was often alone, I also wrote prayers. This was one.
Give thanks for prayer
when it’s the only thing
I have to slip into
the cracks of my cold,
tight heart. Give thanks
for clichés, though they
are the very things I warn
my students against using.
Clichés may be dead language
but we say these things over
and over for a reason, don’t we?
Sometimes things just need
to be said without a care
if it’s been said before.
The dead still need remembering.
Give thanks for warm nights
that let me stand out on my deck
in tsinelas and stare at the stars
Give thanks for the waxing moon
that is not yet half way full
because when I have nothing
to hold I imagine my own hands
hanging on to the bright edges,
dipping my fingertips into the dark
parts though I know the moon is always
round and full. It’s just a matter
of waiting for the light to shine.
Give thanks for all forms of transportation
the planes that carry my loved ones in the sky
and the car that will carry me away from this place.
Give thanks for the ability to take care of myself
even when it looks like having one more drink
even when it looks like smoke in my lungs.
Give thanks for the ability to run
and feel my muscles moving
even if my main motivation
to move is to release
my body from longing.