Category Archives: Academia
*Credit to Marty Aranaydo for getting the title of this blog into my head like a song chorus.
Current location (body): Kitchen table in my apartment, Bloomington, IN watching frozen raindrops grow longer as this ice storm hits.
Current location (mind, spirit): With the millions of people taking over the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez in Egypt as they demand U.S. backed dictator, Hosni Mubarak, step down from his thirty-year rule.
I’ve been watching Al Jazeera English on live stream non-stop since the uprising started and it’s hard to feel like anything else is really as important as this people’s revolution unfurling its banner right in front of our eyes (despite the Egyptian government’s shut down of the internet). I get goosebumps and tears wet my eyes when I see photos of women kissing stoic riot police on the cheek, video footage of thousands of protesters forcing the police to retreat while they take over a bridge that crosses the Nile. Then reports of students, army and other civilians forming a human chain around the National Museum to prevent it from further looting.
This is a revolution being led by young people who have never known anything but dictatorship and by the looks of it, they have everything to teach us about maintaining unity across sectors, holding their ground in the face of concessions and major uncertainty and the ability to practice selfless love as lives are lost and people are injured in the process.
My eyes are almost drunk off scenes of such beautiful movement. It’s hard to reconcile that feeling with the cold, dull and uninspiring environment that surrounds me here in the mid-west. I keep sending prayers to Egypt and posting articles or updates on Facebook for friends who may not know or care so much about what is going on. I came to the mid-west to write, to cop another degree. I hope my writing moves my readers in some way. But for the most part I know this time has been an extravagant gift of solitude, learning and creativity for myself. I don’t have any lofty goals of being the next Jessica Hagedorn or Gloria Anzaldua. I have no doubt my writing will contribute to the long and steady tradition of politically conscious writers. But it will never be sufficient enough in terms of making a contribution towards revolution.
So many things that come to us in this world are signposts and maps to help show us where our own hearts and callings lie in between all those mundane importances like stability and security. The revolution in Egypt shows me in vivid colors how much energy I have to support people’s movements, how much my idea of time best spent is being caught up in a crowd of millions making demands and using my voice. Collective action is the stuff of dreams when it is done right. (I won’t bother talking about the nightmare it can be, too.)
I know that Mubarak is on his way out. I know that it will be because people showed up, took the streets and did not leave until he did. I know that the hard part will only just begin after he has left, but that there will be a whole generation of people forever changed in their understanding of what is possible and their role in it. Just to feel a vibration of that change, a visceral echo of it, out here in the middle of this ice storm is a precious gift.
On Monday i start teaching my first English Composition class. Whoa. I vacillate between excited, scared and overwhelmed. It’s a class almost entirely of white kids from Indiana. I’m going through teacher training this week, learning all the methods to teach analytical writing. We have a textbook that I was happy to see contain essays by Baldwin, Dubois, hooks, Paula Gun Allen and Foucault. There’s also a lot of other essays in there that sound like they’re gonna be really interesting but end up promoting concepts like ‘pull yourself up from your bootstraps’ and ‘suburbs are the closest thing to an American paradise we’ll ever have’ so it’s a little tricky. Of course I have my own agenda of trying to do my best to politicize some of the students, but I have no idea what makes this student population tick. I welcome any advice or insight into the minds of mid-west youth.
I’m getting a little taste of what transplant teachers in the Bay must feel like, I guess.
Losing my love for words up in here. Hard to trust it. Is this just a phase before I split open even a deeper blossom? A revelation that I needed a rest not an MFA? Or a hardening inside of those liquid notes I used to play without even knowing the names of the keys?
Good morning thoughts. Good morning cold. It is my very best when I write to you. Sometimes I forget the shape of my heart and the way of my words. Maybe I don’t forget. Maybe they change their shape and their ways and I have not been keeping up. But there is a whipping in that thought so I take it back. No more whippings. It does not make the words come out and play because they sit inside rubbing their bums from the sting.
So I was getting self-righteous in class yesterday talking about teaching as a political act and had to hold myself back. Missed my commie friends and their clarity. Missed the choir if I can assume the preacher role for just a hot minute. I felt like even though we were discussing the reading we were really talking about whether or not we, young privileged intellectuals, have faith in the people. I’m in the room with an Of-course-we-have-faith-in-ourselves-it’s-the-others we-don’t-know-about type of mindset and in my own mind I pick them up like statues with their arms folded smug across their chests and slamdunk them into elitism’s gold carat trashcan. Do you understand?
Yes. I don’t know how much more I need to say about it, but I miss my commie friends. I miss doorknocking tenant organizers and la gente de la Mision so ready so ready. I miss la gente that isn’t so ready, too, except to yell fuck you where’s my money? across the street. I miss seeing early pregnant mothers sprawled face down at Dolores Park to get their little ones inside acquainted with the earth in these parts and the ones that are buried there. I miss Walid ringing me up at the L&M Produce with his runny nose telling me that I look tired. I miss his chubby twelve-year old nephew out on the sidewalk standing on a crate cutting watermelon and calling out how sweet and cheap it is to the passersby I miss being late for work and cutting down Hoff Alley past Kid Power Park seeing fathers push their daughters in the swing, way too early for sucking on lollipops with blue bubblegum inside.
I miss these things and more. These were just the ones that came out easy on the tip of my tongue this cold morning,
Words, language and music surround me all day long. and these, in turn, fill my big heart with good aching. like this–
A parrot knifes
through the sky’s bright skin,
a sting of green.
It takes so little
to make the mind bleed
into another country,
a past that you agreed
to leave behind.
-Imtiaz Dharkar, “Exile”
The starting point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is and is “knowing thyself” as a product of the historical process to date, which has deposited in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory.
-Antonio Gramsci, “Prison Notebooks”
Yes, it’s time to make my mind bleed into other countries. Time to start taking inventory of that infinity of traces in me. I think that will make the ancestors happy, too.
An incomplete list…
I live next door to a boy who drinks red stripe and writes haiku.
My professor closes his eyes and smiles like i do on the dancefloor.
I am reading a book called the Karma of Brown Folk.
I got two beautiful handwritten letters in the mail from SF on the same day.
Bloomington knows how to do Korean BBQ and lemon custard ice cream.
My love is coming to visit in ten days.
I can give my new friends rides home at night.
I can cry when I need to and it keeps my heart open.
I just sold one of my short films to a college library.
I go to a school with running creeks and gingko trees on campus.
I am almost 33.
I can still imagine the ocean in my mind.