Category Archives: San Francisco

Dreams (revisited)

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.

July 2007

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

revolution

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

for heat

This is me

tina inbetweena

standing beside it’s too late and

it’s never too late

to follow your dreams

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Filed under dreams, Inspirations, poetry, San Francisco, spirituality

The Only Thing I Have to Slip Into

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
tornado
Roseanne
emergency room
roller derby
ratchet straps
motel sex
southern accents
Wyoming
Deerhunter
redwoods
gorge
king’s chambers
Gypsy
goodbye
reunion
french fries
turtles
elk
electric toothbrush
passenger seat
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.

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Filed under cross-country road trip, Homesickness, Landlocked in Indiana, long distance relationships, love, mid-west, poetry, prayer, San Francisco

On Becoming an Ex-Writer: A Personal Essay (part 1 & 2)

Blessed and honored to announce that Part 1 & 2 of my non-fiction essay “On Becoming an Ex-Writer” just went live at Doveglion Press! Many thanks to editors Barbara Jane Reyes and Oscar Bermeo for the shine. Shout out to coming out and coming of age in the golden early 90s in Frisco, writing on walls, bombing partners and falling in love with words, one at a time. Trying to connect the dots before they fade…
Check it out and let me know what you think.

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Filed under 90s hip-hop, blues, childhood memories, community organizing, friends, getting politicized, graffiti, Inspirations, literary universe, origins, poetry, San Francisco

here

My favorite poem right now is by my favorite poet. “Here” by Aracelis Girmay. Sometimes I feel like I have a lot of poems or little stories inside me that could also be called “Here.” There’s something conjuring and infinite about that word.

Here is where I look both ways before I cross. Here is every street. Here is Sesame Street with Big Bird holding a little girl’s hand inside Big Bird’s thick yellow-felt glove. Here I am after school with a steaming bowl of top ramen noodles in the middle of my lap, legs crossed, head bent over blowing into the bowl to cool it off before i slurp. Here is my brother coming from behind with an ice cube to plop into my bowl. Here I watch as the ice cracks and dissolves into the broth. Here I sit on the dark yellow carpet staring up at the television with a part down the middle of my head and a braid at either side. Here is 22nd Avenue if I look out the living room window, down three stories to watch Erin’s door across the street to see if she will come outside to play soon. Here is my mother leaving a quarter for me on the kitchen table in the morning so I can give it to Erin’s mother every morning before school starts to pay for the bowl of instant oatmeal, maple and brown sugar, that she will make for me. Here is the hall outside my mother’s bedroom quiet and dark while she sleeps after coming home from her night shift at the hospital. Here are her tired eyes closed as she leans on her side in the bed. Here I am tiptoeing through her room to get to mine because I forgot my notebook. Here my mom calls to me in her tired voice like the soft creak the back door makes when I open it to climb the ladder up to the roof even though I am not supposed to. Here is my mom wishing me a good day in her sleep. Here is the other side of the bed at night, the side that no one talks about anymore. Here is the side I climb into at night when she is at work. Here is where I teach myself not to kick and thrash around in the bed anymore while I sleep so she will not notice I slept there. Here is where I learn to lie still on my back and wake up in the same position.

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Filed under childhood memories, San Francisco, Writers & Poets

I miss my commie friends

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,

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Filed under Academia, Commies, Homesickness, la Mision, San Francisco