Category Archives: spirituality

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


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

Prayer for Darkness

give thanks for
this night

this walk uphill
towards darkness

the pause at the peak
the descent towards home

give thanks for night
warm enough to bare

my skin before
winter arrives

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


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Filed under blues, love, poetry, prayer, solitude, spirituality

Grieving in Cameo (Can the Living Haunt the Dead?)

for Don Cornelius Belton

I’ve become an extra in the background
of your afterlife. Who thought it possible?
I knew you would choose the city.

Last week I stared at you through the
window as I separated darks from lights
at the laundromat across the street.

You strode forward to meet the wind
grinning with a ghost at each side.
Did you know that I was there?

I hope to land a speaking role next time
but that may be against the rules.
I’m sure it’s not up to you to decide.

Did you mind when I showed up
at your afterlife night spot
and told you to fix your hair?

Your hair was a shoulder-length
curtain of white beads, Rick James style.
You looked dapper, except for the little tuft.

You passed by me at the bar
on your way to the disco
down the dark staircase with a turn.

I grabbed you gently by the arm,
you paused but did not stop
when I pointed to the unruly bit.

I was only trying to earn my keep.
I wanted you to look flawless
underneath the revolving lights.

You were happy to see me, I think.
You looked me in the eye this time
before continuing your descent.

I heard the needle drop
on the record a drum
like my own heart
beat at your arrival.

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Filed under poetry, spirituality, teaching, the dead, Writers & Poets

the science of nature

i just finished watching Pan’s Labyrinth after coming home to an empty apartment after a long long day at work. Losing my voice and got a mean headache. Poor Ophelia. She got a raw deal. Stuck in Franco’s Spain surrounded by murder murder murder kill kill kill. So she escaped into fairy world and magic. Got lost in the woods where the guerrillas were hiding. And in the end she died but her last thoughts were of the fantasy world and so that is where her spirit went on to.

I don’t have any elaborate belief of the things beyond this world. The science of nature feels like magic to me often enough to think that there’s no need to believe in gods. No need to personify the moon, the sun, the ocean, the sky, the earth. They are powerful and relatable as they are and I feel their forces everyday.

But then again, I pray. Most times to God. I pray just about everyday in some form or another. When I imagine my prayers, they float upwards like dandelion seeds. They travel anywhere in an instant though when I picture them they are slow and drifting. When I pray for someone in particular I imagine they find their way directly to their hearts and land there like miniature astronauts on the moon, bouncing up and down on the surface of his or her chest. Something like that. The point is, it physically reaches them. Maybe my prayers go straight to God first in a little red drawstring pouch and God blesses them. Maybe then God opens the pouch by its string and turns it upside down into the world like emptying lint from a pocket. i think of my prayers like little tiny pieces, flecks of love without shine or grace. Just a drifting thing that wants to make itself useful. A way for my heart to mingle with the science of nature without getting in the way.

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the rains

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.

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Filed under Academia, Homesickness, Inspirations, mid-west, spirituality, Uncategorized