Saturday, December 23, 2017

Lighter than a feather, pass through the gate

I try to talk about this often but I cannot get the words right, I cannot make you know like you where there.

When I was 25 years old I stood alone in front of an early painting by Vladimir Tretchikoff in the South African National Gallery and wept.

The painting was a tribute to the religion of ancient Egypt, and featured the scales of justice at the opening to the underworld. Here, Anubis would weigh the heart of the dead person against an ostrich feather. A pure heart would be lighter and the person would pass through the gate. A heavy, impure heart would be heavier, and Anubis would devour the soul.

I knew then that my heart was heavy. I was disappointed in people for lying and misleading, for being derailed by despair and fear and addiction. I was furious at the society I found myself in, for solidifying segregation and poverty. For breaking humans utterly. For breaking me.

In Cape Town I got hurt in ways that I thought could never heal. Maybe I'm not fully healed, but I also accept that I can't go back to a time before I gave up everything to live there. But O! In that museum my heart was heavy with disillusionment and frustration and violence and falsehoods and hunger and bureaucracy and wasted, wasted potential.

I thought I was too young to be so bitter. I thought I'd seen too much to ever feel a feather again.

It's been six years. That's not a tremendous amount of time. It isn't a lifetime. But it's enough to shed some of the heaviness in ways you may not even notice.

But I did notice, when I smelled creosote and watched red Sedona rocks baking in the sun. I noticed the absence of so much pain and disillusionment. I noticed that I can still laugh and, Underworld Take Me!, I can still love.

How fitting that I spent so much time admiring ancient petroglyphs. And in a city named after a phoenix.

During a week in the American West, my skin cleared up and my lungs dried out. I stood at the highest altitude my feet have ever known. Higher than Table Mountain. It made my sinus cavity SCREAM and I had to be patient with my breathing, with my own limitations.

I took an alternative route back from a hike along the Superstitions and encountered so many cactus needles that my jeans turned to lace. I threw them out. It's OK to let things go when they have served their purpose.

I won't cling to battle scars.

What I Read in 2017

My resolution for 2017 was to read as much nonfiction as fiction, to get more facts in my life and more credible information about how the world works. ...And I did it!

Well, are poems nonfiction? Are graphic novels fiction? I DON'T KNOW.

With a week to go left in the year, I am reading my 64th book. Here's the breakdown:

Favorites of 2017
  • The Mothers - Brit Bennett
  • The Hired Man - Aminatta Forna
  • SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome - Mary Beard
  • The Underground Railroad - Colson Whitehead
  • Sword Art Online: Aincrad - Art by Tamao Nakamura, original story by Reki Kawahara
  • The Long Loneliness - Dorothy Day
  • Berlin Calling: A Story of Anarchy, Music, the Wall, and the Birth of the New Berlin - Paul Hockenos
  • Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body - Roxane Gay
  • Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse and the Race to Electrify the World - Jill Jonnes
  • Displacement: Poems - Leslie Harrison
**** Read during the last week of 2017, I am adding: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika. L. Sanchez.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

When life is uncertain

What do you do when things are changing but most of the details are still uncertain?

And you're getting a year older, I mean you're always getting older but this time there's a milestone marker in your week?

And the parts of your day or identity that you took for granted are shifting, and you're trying to remember who you are at the core of you, without the externalizes, and it's weird and uncomfortable but necessary?

You could panic. You could despair.

Or, you could relish your neighborhood and sip a coffee in a courtyard.

You could walk. Yeah, you should walk.

You could read on the beach.

You could visit friends and family. Maybe get some sun and float in the water.

You could hold a beautiful, perfect, brand-new sleepy baby.

You could read poetry.

You could go to open-to-the-public collaborative poetry events at the library. Yeah, that's a much better option.

You could write. And dream. And hope. And wait.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

We Need to Talk About the South.

Look, I know I just posted about being back in Jersey and dressing up in lingerie and throwing toilet paper at a movie screen, but I do need to backtrack. There are some photos and thoughts I've been sitting on, and would probably like to sit on forever.

My trip South was largely relaxing, and I found the things that attract me... anywhere on earth. All I need in this life are cheap burritos, craft supplies, second-hand books, and a $2 beer now and again. For goodness's sake, I found cafes and book shops and thrift stores and poetry readings in Cape Town, South Africa. That city lends its unique flavor to every happening on its cobblestone streets, and yet, there it was: gritty youth hipster culture, or whatever you want to call it.

During the week I spent in the South, I could have disappeared into the coffee shops and dive bars and second-hand shops. It seemed to me that the folks who live in hip neighborhoods are all transplants--they barely had accents I could detect.

But I got out a little, and took a trip to Stone Mountain Park.

Nature walks, over-priced concessions stands, information about wild life, a preserved grist mill... and trails and halls with monuments to the Confederate states in the American Civil War.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The thing about nomads

The thing about nomads is: They can be hard to track down.

You go on the road, find them, reconnect, and it's like no time has passed when you're together again. All it took was a little daring, a little adventure, to become a nomad once more.

Questions have kept you moving throughout this life, and it's nice to have someone to ask: Do your feet ache when you grow restless? Do you view a new city as a challenge--a place to conquer and suck the marrow out of? Do complacent people perplex you? Does your own curiosity keep you awake at night?

It's nice to hear their answer: YES.