"you are terrifying and strange and beautiful something not everyone knows how to love."

For women who are “difficult” to love.

For women who are “difficult” to love.
by Warsan Shire

you are a horse running alone
and he tries to tame you
compares you to an impossible highway
to a burning house
says you are blinding him
that he could never leave you
forget you
want anything but you
you dizzy him, you are unbearable
every woman before or after you
is doused in your name
you fill his mouth
his teeth ache with memory of taste
his body just a long shadow seeking yours
but you are always too intense
frightening in the way you want him
unashamed and sacrificial
he tells you that no man can live up to the one who
lives in your head
and you tried to change didn’t you?
closed your mouth more
tried to be softer
prettier
less volatile, less awake
but even when sleeping you could feel
him travelling away from you in his dreams
so what did you want to do, love
split his head open?
you can’t make homes out of human beings
someone should have already told you that
and if he wants to leave
then let him leave
you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.

adrienne maree brown

some of us are never surprised

Wow, I have so much to say about this tragically historic moment in time that we are living through, starting with we fucking told you so.

But while I try to get my head together to write something more articulate than that, here is a new poem from the brilliant visionary adrienne maree brown.

what is unveiled? the founding wound. (poem/directive)

January 7, 2021

a body is always a body
individual or collective
(whole or in many pieces)
alive or, later, dead
a body is always vulnerable

a wound is always a wound
singular and deep
or many cuts, slowly, blood everywhere
left untreated, unstaunched, denied
a wound will always fester

the first wound happens within
the violence of birth
the expulsion from the illusion of safety
from the idea that someone (else)
will do all the labor

and some of us keep looking everywhere
for placenta, for mothering
for acceptance of our worst choices
to be told we are so special
to be named a favorite child

some of us learn to work
we are given tools, lectures, practices
we are given the blessing of knowing
that work to nourish the collective
is a sacred path for our lives

some are only taught to eat
given the title to land that isn’t ours
judged for the speck of dirt under our nails
set to race against even our own kin
for the neverending victory of more

some of us are black
still nauseous from the boat’s hold
still catching our breath from snapped ropes
still oiling our calloused field hands
and still wounded

some of us are white
still synonymous with impossible purity
still given no songs from the earth
still taught to master nothing but superiority
and still, wounded

some of us are red, yellow, brown
still made to feel tertiary to the plot
still dismissed for all we remember
still claiming we are human, not terrorist
and, still wounded

some of us are never surprised
never apoplectic when the stench hits us
what rots at the core is known, documented
it is tangible, moral, American, spiritual
it is the founding wound

gray only at the surface
brittle black where the injury began
a rainbow of bruising everywhere
green mold making life in dying flesh
but the pus, the pus bursts white

we are well past the age of turning inwards
of seeing the open wounds on our souls
of stepping into our shadows with truth light
of seeing we were shaped, and can change
of believing the wound is who we are

we know the smell of decay on breath
we see the swollen cracking flesh of infection
it is not rude to acknowledge the stink
to wonder if it is viral, venom, survivable
to look for the laceration(s)

things are not getting worse
they are getting uncovered
we must hold each other tight
and continue to pull back the veil
see: we, the body, we are the wounded place

we live on a resilient earth
where change is the only constant
in bodies whose only true whiteness
is the blood cell that fights infection
and the bone that holds the marrow

remove the shrapnel, clean the wound
relinquish inflammation, let the chaos calm
the body knows how to scab like lava stone
eventually leaving the smooth marring scars
of lessons learned:

denial will not disappear a wound

the wound is not the body

a body cannot be divided into multiple living entities (what us will go on breathing?)

the founder’s wound is the myth of supremacy

this is not the first wound, or the last

we are a species before we are a nation, and after

warriors, organizers, storytellers, dreamers – all of us are healers

the healing path is humility, laughter, truth, awareness and choice

a scab is a boundary on territory, between what is within and what is without, when the line has been breached

stop picking at the scab, it slows the healing

until we are dead, and even when we are exhausted and faithless, we fight for life

we are our only relevant hope
we are our only possible medicine

a body is always a body
wounded, festering, healing, healed
we choose each day what body we will shape
with the miraculous material we’re gifted
let us, finally, attend to the wound
let us, finally, name the violence
let us, finally, break the cycle of supremacy
let us, finally, choose ourselves whole
let us, finally, love ourselves
whole.

http://adriennemareebrown.net/2021/01/07/what-is-unveiled-the-founding-wound-poem-directive/

The organic shape of a city with splotchy watercolor spots overlaid

Ongoing Pandemic

Ongoing Pandemic
by elin o’Hara slavick
August 2020

This is not the time for poetry.
Words deny me.
I deny words.
The world does not need fragments.
It is screaming to be whole.

I keep busy
pulling up weeds – each clump the hair of a dictator,
floating in the pool of privilege – wanting everyone to have a pool,
doing laundry over and over again,
cooking for the family so we stay healthy
for the genocide,
walking the dog because it the only time she smiles
and races like a cartoon character down the hall to go out,
her paws circling the slippery floor,
feeding the cat
with her genetically pendulous belly,
observing the fallen white petals on the wet dark pavement,
the broken trees leaning perfectly
up against a tall tree trunk,
the fairytale modernist houses
tucked behind spiky bushes
that almost convince you
that our world is solid.

It has never been good
for the many.
All of this keeps me from the task at hand –
preparing to teach young adults
that art makes a difference
but I am not convinced.
I can cut all the paper in the towering boxes
on my desk for surreal collages,
prescribe antidotes to every disease,
paint masks on all the faces in photographic portraits
but there will always be more paper and nightmares,
pandemics and the need for catharses,
the maskless deniers carrying guns.

I rise early this morning
to move my body with others
on a little screen,
stamp a letter to my mother,
hoping the post office stays open long enough it to get there.
Everything good under threat,
you want to go back in time or forward,
imagining it was or could be better
but here we are –
hurricanes, droughts, floods, cages,
criminals at the helm of this sinking vessel
we all know as capitalism.
Why is the end of the world easier to imagine
than the end of capitalism?
I have stopped trying to understand
because reality defies logic,
gives into the worst.
If there is one thing I have learned
it is that we can not predict the future
but we pretend to change it.


Image: Painting from elin o’Hara slavick’s collection Bomb After Bomb

Excerpt of "Home" by Warsan Shire

Home

Home by Warsan Shire, 2011

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

I am the history of the terrorized incarceration of myself

I haven’t posted a poem in a while, and this one keeps coming back to me, most recently via Mona Eltahawy’s wonderful essay about the restoring the righteous rage of women and girls.

Poem about My Rights

Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clear
my head about this poem about why I can’t
go out without changing my clothes my shoes
my body posture my gender identity my age
my status as a woman alone in the evening/
alone on the streets/alone not being the point/
the point being that I can’t do what I want
to do with my own body because I am the wrong
sex the wrong age the wrong skin and
suppose it was not here in the city but down on the beach/
or far into the woods and I wanted to go
there by myself thinking about God/or thinking
about children or thinking about the world/all of it
disclosed by the stars and the silence:
I could not go and I could not think and I could not
stay there
alone
as I need to be
alone because I can’t do what I want to do with my own
body and
who in the hell set things up
like this
and in France they say if the guy penetrates
but does not ejaculate then he did not rape me
and if after stabbing him if after screams if
after begging the bastard and if even after smashing
a hammer to his head if even after that if he
and his buddies fuck me after that
then I consented and there was
no rape because finally you understand finally
they fucked me over because I was wrong I was
wrong again to be me being me where I was/wrong
to be who I am
which is exactly like South Africa
penetrating into Namibia penetrating into
Angola and does that mean I mean how do you know if
Pretoria ejaculates what will the evidence look like the
proof of the monster jackboot ejaculation on Blackland
and if
after Namibia and if after Angola and if after Zimbabwe
and if after all of my kinsmen and women resist even to
self-immolation of the villages and if after that
we lose nevertheless what will the big boys say will they
claim my consent:
Do You Follow Me: We are the wrong people of
the wrong skin on the wrong continent and what
in the hell is everybody being reasonable about
and according to the Times this week
back in 1966 the C.I.A. decided that they had this problem
and the problem was a man named Nkrumah so they
killed him and before that it was Patrice Lumumba
and before that it was my father on the campus
of my Ivy League school and my father afraid
to walk into the cafeteria because he said he
was wrong the wrong age the wrong skin the wrong
gender identity and he was paying my tuition and
before that
it was my father saying I was wrong saying that
I should have been a boy because he wanted one/a
boy and that I should have been lighter skinned and
that I should have had straighter hair and that
I should not be so boy crazy but instead I should
just be one/a boy and before that
it was my mother pleading plastic surgery for
my nose and braces for my teeth and telling me
to let the books loose to let them loose in other
words
I am very familiar with the problems of the C.I.A.
and the problems of South Africa and the problems
of Exxon Corporation and the problems of white
America in general and the problems of the teachers
and the preachers and the F.B.I. and the social
workers and my particular Mom and Dad/I am very
familiar with the problems because the problems
turn out to be
me
I am the history of rape
I am the history of the rejection of who I am
I am the history of the terrorized incarceration of
myself
I am the history of battery assault and limitless
armies against whatever I want to do with my mind
and my body and my soul and
whether it’s about walking out at night
or whether it’s about the love that I feel or
whether it’s about the sanctity of my vagina or
the sanctity of my national boundaries
or the sanctity of my leaders or the sanctity
of each and every desire
that I know from my personal and idiosyncratic
and indisputably single and singular heart
I have been raped
be-
cause I have been wrong the wrong sex the wrong age
the wrong skin the wrong nose the wrong hair the
wrong need the wrong dream the wrong geographic
the wrong sartorial I
I have been the meaning of rape
I have been the problem everyone seeks to
eliminate by forced
penetration with or without the evidence of slime and/
but let this be unmistakable this poem
is not consent I do not consent
to my mother to my father to the teachers to
the F.B.I. to South Africa to Bedford-Stuy
to Park Avenue to American Airlines to the hardon
idlers on the corners to the sneaky creeps in
cars
I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name
My name is my own my own my own
and I can’t tell you who the hell set things up like this
but I can tell you that from now on my resistance
my simple and daily and nightly self-determination
may very well cost you your life
– https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48762/poem-about-my-rights

“Imagine for a moment having hands on the levers of this world.”

You yourself with the steady brown hands
by Kriti Sharma, February 13th, 2017

Imagine for a moment having hands on the levers of this world. Imagine not having to go through extraordinary and psychically costly effort to lovingly and very very carefully persuade someone to put down the gun. Imagine, in a swift and compassionate motion, simply taking the gun, unloading the bullets, hurling the pistol into the sea, harmless, a new home for clams.

Imagine not having to beg this tender, human male – tangle of ordinary need, knotted and luminous and deep – imagine not having to have diligently studied the blueprints of his inner labyrinth just to acquire a bite to eat. Years of careful scholarship, to know when you’ve edged too close to the closed and stubborn core, to know precisely what and how and how much you can reveal of your true person before some inner siren begins to wail in him and he is shutting down, shutting you out, and shutting the padlock on the refrigerator door.

Imagine patiently sawing open the padlock. Imagine opening the refrigerator door yourself. You – yes you, you yourself with the steady brown hands – imagine being able to open the refrigerator door, and to take what you need.

Imagine the direct path – as direct as may be possible – between here and some livable future. Imagine untwisting the line so it is a little cleaner and clearer. “Cut out the middleman,” as they say. Less energy lost to detours, more power left to be a cause in the world.

Imagine taking power. Imagine being able to do it, to be able to empty the guns and fill the refrigerators, and leave them unlocked and available to sustain everyday life. Imagine yourself the hands of the bodhisattva, skillful and steady, steering by the stars of wisdom and compassion. Imagine making mistakes, and trying again, and never giving up on your own good heart, on your bravehearted people, or on the generous earth. Imagine the enslaved ending slavery mid-sea, steering the ship as liberated beings towards a livable home.

“Mother of Exiles”

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_Colossus

Photo: First Lady Nancy Reagan waves from the Statue of Liberty after she re opened the structure on its 100th birthday, 1986.

Putting our hearts and bodies where our mouths are

Best wishes to everyone putting your hearts and bodies on the line at women’s marches and other demonstrations in your towns, states, and country because we believe a better America is still possible.

 

Blessing for the Women’s March

By Erika A. Hewitt (Unitarian Universalist minister)

May you be safe.
May you be free from all harm.

As the road or skies carry you toward your fellow pilgrims,
may you sense the presence of those who travel with you in spirit,
whose hopes and hearts are tucked into your pockets,
who name your journey’s purpose as sacred.

May you encounter strangers-as-kindred,
and may that recognition of kinship bring joy to your journey.

Whether the faces in the crowd number in the dozens, hundreds, or thousands,
may you not only recognize yourself,
but may you also witness a dazzling tapestry of colors, languages, genders, ages, and bodies:
proud testament to and humbling display of our human family.

May the crowds be gentle, friendly, and patient.
If not, may the Spirit of Playfulness appoint you its momentary agent.
May you offer quiet praise for gestures of kindness.

May all bodies — vessels of spirit and soul — be treated as the gift that they are.
May the sturdiest of marchers make space for those who need more time,
more help, or a different means of moving.

May those bearing snacks share generously with others.
May you fuel yourself wisely, and hydrate.
In your hour of need, may you easily find a restroom,
and may it accommodate your body’s gender, size, and abilities.
May the line for the restroom be short.
If not, may you delight in the impulse to connect in ways mundane and profound.

Amid the heady flurry of selfies and hashtags,
may you remember the commitment that led you there,
and what will be required for the road ahead.

Gather it all up, blessed one; let it feed you.
Allow the crowds’ electric thrum to seep into you,
knitting itself into courage;
into holy boldness;
into fuel for the journey back, and for the journey forward.

http://www.uua.org/worship/words/blessing/blessing-womens-march