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.
Protesters take part in an anti-Mubarak protest at Tahrir square in Cairo, February 1, 2011. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
*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.
today for a freewrite i told my students to write about the rain.
What the hell is gonna make it worth being here while the world hurricanes and quakes? While Frisco twists off a cliff one more thick root left. While my godmother’s rage cannot leave the bed or her body and she misses my cooking? While my mom’s eyes sparkle in retirement and she no longer holds her tongue. What the hell is gonna make it worth it if the stories are not coming?
Maybe the tears need to flow before the words do. Maybe each of my words is someone I love trapped in a house spinning inside a gang of hurricanes and I have to walk right through the front door and save them. Maybe I ain’t really shit and most definitely not a heroine and my words don’t need a saving. Maybe I’m here because I chose them and they chose me, we asked each other to the dance at the same time so I show up and my words are late as payback for all those times I flaked. And this dance lasts three years anyway so stop my crying.
Maybe I can finally let all the voices in my head come out and introduce themselves as the separate and divine guides they are, pressed butterflies flat between pages for so long. I’m sorry I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry that candles and water and prayers were not nearly enough for you. I’m sorry for all the times I took your breath away, I lowered the sky until it became a low ceiling and you tall proud ones had to bend half your size. I’m sorry I mistook the harshness in your voice for punishment when you were really only an older smoker version of me speaking the wisdom of god. I’m so sorry that I broke my own heart when my heart was the only pair of rollerskates I owned as a little girl. What can I do now to show you that it’s safe and sound?
I will let the words spill out the morning sleep from my eyes.
I will cry to the sweetest music I can conjure up. I will play it for eight hours straight and leave all my doors and windows open so each song sails through as it pleases.
I will not leave you alone even when it feels like I’m the one who’s by myself.
I will make this a place of worship for you, but please be patient I’m still learning how to be humble like that.
The rains here are good and intense. A downpouring tropical rain that washes off the mild-manners of the mid-west. A rain that is close cousins with the ocean. A rain that makes me stay home on a late Friday afternoon and cry folding laundry. I lift my head to catch the sky broken open into many silvers. Steadying me just enough.