I seem to have forgotten – stuck here like I am in the hardly bearable heat of these walls and the “go nowhere” doors from sun up to moon down. I tell myself that I am not going to faint or lose heart, that I am going to subdue this beast one hour at a time, one day at a time, by the Grace of God…
but I really want flight, I yearn for air… I want wings and I want wind to ride. I been looking for signs of movement, looking for a great big wind to come skip-to-my-lou all through this mess, dislodge some rivers for baptisms, root up healing herbs and toss some around for everybody to have.
I want to relax, I want to float like a leaf and land picturesquely on the grass showing off the beautiful colors of my whole self. I don’t want to apologize for nothing not for floating, landing or seeking air. If I push myself, I bet I can land far enough away from here so I can breathe new/fresh pockets of wind…bet I can land somewhere east of here, near appalachia, up where lavender lilies bloom, where rose of sharon sings…
I can’t breathe here no more in this heavy porous atmosphere, it’s dropped down way too low, to the little grassy piece of earth I live on and I just can’t breathe. I thought I was imagining it but it’s real – the air is thick; thick and sticky like a glob of peanut butter caught in the throat daring you to drink water, threatening to thicken regardless…
I need air and space and
God cracking the skies…
Oh, God, blow on us, shower us with rain and the latter rain, deliver us, heal this land…
Heal the land, Father… we humble ourselves and pray
We dream of riding the night winds again, of sleeping well and waking rested
send Your wind, help us fly
lift us up high enough to catch hold
let us mount up with wings as eagles — send the wind, Lord, send the Wind…
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
I’m not sure how it came about, but the folks at my high school decided that they wanted to have a cultural celebration of sorts. All 45 seniors and 20, or so, underclassmen at our little magnet high school were expected to participate in some capacity. While I was part of a Mexican folkloric dance group at that time, I had no intention of dancing in front of my entire school. As I’d mentioned in a previous post, there was very little fun I took from that endeavor. Additionally, I was still traumatized by the demands of peddling the “joy and skills you too can acquire” of accordion playing to my middle school classmates that I just wasn’t going to put myself out there like that anymore. Still, I was expected to participate.
Unsure of what to do, and with a day to go, my Spanish teacher (who was coordinating this whole ordeal) suggested that I read an excerpt of short story written by a Latin@ author. I hate to admit it but at the time I can’t say that I knew the work of very many Latin@ authors—call it a lack of awareness/exposure, ignorance, what have you, I was drawing blanks. So my Spanish teacher handed me a few books from his desk and encouraged me to check them out, and from those few, I was immediately drawn to Michele Serros’ Chicana Falsa and Other Stories of Death, Identity, and Oxnard.
Chicana Falsa was a compact offering of non-fiction and poetry detailing Serros’ complex, comical grappling of her own identity. It was genuine, often times heartbreaking, and funny as hell. It was one of the first pieces of literature that I deeply connected to and made me feel seen.
For our school celebration, I ended up selecting the story “Attention Shoppers”. It was a satirical piece that shows Serros being made aware of the notion that, even within supermarket aisles, discrimination was alive and well. This was proven to her by way of packaging styles for Malibu Style Vegetables vs. Latino Style Vegetables and the connotations each evokes.
“…. look at this, the Latino Style Vegetables are all spilling out of this wicker basket, all overflowing, messy like. Insinuating that we are overflowing, overcrowding what they think is their land. And what’s with this wicker basket?”
Back in January I had the pleasure of visiting an exhibit at University Hall (Cal State University Chanel Islands) in honor of her life’s work.
I cried when I saw the exhibit.
Most everything that she’d been inspired by and written about was there— the desk her mother gifted her, journals, framed t-shirts, concert tickets, her skateboard… it was overwhelming. Michele Serros’ work has meant so much to me for a very long time. I often think of her, her writing and the impact her artistic voice has had on me. She’s the writer whose work I most often go back and re-read. I love the familiarity. It feels like home.
I meant to post these photos a while back but it didn’t feel right then. I was writing about loss and it’s not what I wanted to do, especially in a week that already felt so sorrowful. I decided then that I would give it some time and wait until my next go-round on the blog to post them because surely the world would be in a different place from where it was at the time.
And we are, now, in a very different place.
But it feels right to remember the people, places and voices that bring us joy.
I make my way back to earth borne tragedies, dimly lit pathways, and houses full of clutter
I would run but my knees ache and I am tired of the
I would rest but pine needles are sparse in this part of the forest
The Wind says something’s coming
The cold is like ice on my bones, joints crackling louder
than whatever that is that’s following me
I would be afraid but I have an urgent need to draw blood
The years have changed me and I can no longer hide the warrior
side of me
Let it come
I will be as Simeon and Levi against Shechem
I will roar like Judah
My yell will topple the trees for I am, indeed, Judah’s daughter
A double portion I was given and I shall draw blood
Let it come, quickly in this thick solitude that blankets the night
Let it wake the birds and startle the muffled river for I am full of righteous indignation
I need to fight, I’m not running anymore
Shall the uncircumcised overtake me? Shall they make sport of me?
Nay; it will go another way this day
If I make the clearing before the attack
I will wade into the river and draw it in after me where my
hands shall drag it beneath to the water’s bed and I will break it like a stick
If I must fight in this forest
I will stand here, in the middle, like Shammah, son of Agee
the Hararite when the Philistines came and he stood in the middle of the lentil
field and fought victoriously, he took his stand and defended the field and
struck them down
I too shall defend and strike down —
This thing that follows me, hunts me like prey, taunts my life ,
Will do so no more for I shall be a terror to it this day…
Which way? It’s almost midnight And I just lost my shovel There is zero visibility in this fog And it’s rolling rolling in like gangbusters with diarrhea
liquefying in this heat, sticking like honey on skin soaking my clothes and hair Taking up all the air Congested, I can’t breath anyway except through my mouth Open to flying particles of fecal matter landing on my tongue and tonsils I won’t be eating nothing till I can scrub the Hell out of my mouth
It’s above ground if you didn’t know; it ain’t underground no more It ain’t an imaginary place
I need the shovel. Give me a shovel please
He said he was sorry He should have begged me to forgive him but it wouldn’t have mattered I still wanted him gone Poof…splat..splam…. Gone – like dead gone
If I got to carry this body till the limbs fall off, he got to be dead And I ain’t doing no backtracking to pick up litter either Limbs be damned Rapists need to lose something too
They need to get first class tickets to the fiery pit That big unknown called Hell And they need to go covered in hot shit mixed with gasoline
I have not remembered…. I have held my peace and kept time by the PTSD manager on my phone Been holding it all inside the holes in my teeth Losing them one by two by three
If silence is the enemy then you are the monster under the bed Grabbing at my hands, waking me up So I can never sleep through the night
I refused to remember… I have pushed that dunghill many a day to the fourth corner of the earth And left it there with the full and ugly memory of you and your touch Nearly comatose for decades by the weight of it all, by weight of you Hardly breathing Hardly living, hardly able to think Above the maddening secret That Flashbacks never leave you They mutate like sketchy thoughts after a head injury Leave you sinking in mire The sill clinging to your knees and thighs
I have sat in the troubled waters Broken from the top down Soaking my big toes and the place between my thighs scarred like burnt skin And lost dreams The smell unearthingly foul yet familiar Bone tired and nodding like an addict mid-fix Hoping to Forget-it-all Slowly embracing the lull and hum of stagnation
Then Byron died and the flood came and the chickens Well they came home, flatfooted and tough from age They came home like they belonged to me 3 months later, they are roosting
When I was in France in September for an impromptu trip, I had about two days to spend in Paris. I’d never been there before, I didn’t speak the language, I had a lot of work I knew I’d be flying home to. I was happy and grateful but stressed.
But there was one thing that I felt drawn to, the thing that I couldn’t leave Paris without doing: visiting the grave of Oscar Wilde in Père Lachaise Cemetery.
It felt like a pilgrimage. I’m not a religious person. I probably couldn’t truly articulate what I believe. Energies, maybe. Ghosts. I don’t know. I’m not even a hard-core Oscar Wilde fan. But I needed to go there.
I didn’t bring the right shoes for the amount of walking I’d been doing all week. My feet and legs ached. I got turned around a dozen times just finding the entrance of the cemetery. Once inside, I wandered for a long time, searching for the exact location of the grave. Père Lachaise is well organized but its long winding paths can play tricks on you. I could feel every cobble stone under my shoes. It was cold and I was hungry and I felt like I’d never find him.
Obviously people make this trek all the time. I am not unique. Roses and gifts littered his grave. Lipstick marks covered the protective glass installed around the huge grave stone to combat graffiti from adoring fans. Tourists from England and Sweden and Germany paraded by in the half hour or so I spent there, sitting on the curb across the path from the grave. I felt almost embarrassed that I didn’t have a flower to offer. He probably hated that.
Instead, I sat there and asked him questions.
How did you do it? How did you have the confidence?
I thought about the tragic way his life was cut short. And felt silly for asking him anything, since anything I had experienced is nothing compared to his life. But still, I admitted to him, that while I don’t deserve it, I’d sure like this advice.
Can I do this? This writer thing?
I feel silly saying I did this. But it was a pilgrimage to connect to something deeper, some sort of literary history, to figure out if I’m crazy for doing what I’m doing, for wanting what I think I want.
I think it is important to find stillness and ask these questions. To a god, to a literary giant, to someone you’ve lost, to yourself. You’ll get an answer if you ask the question. It may not come in the form of words and a life plan, but in the form of a warmness, a feeling in the pit of your stomach, a sudden lightness in your breathe, in your step.
I made my way out of the cemetery, but it wasn’t easy. I was pretty convinced the ghosts wanted to try to keep me there, confusing me, sending me down more painful cobblestone paths to drain me. But then I found the opening.
I spent the rest of the night wandering more streets, eating cheese, reading, and drinking hot chocolate. And felt like myself. And at peace with that feeling.
We’re getting close to the new year. I’m watching friends and family achieve things, get married, have babies, buy houses. Lovely choices and happiness in so many forms. Seeing others’ choice can sometimes make you question your own. So make your own pilgrimage. Maybe not to Oscar Wilde’s grave (if you do, bring shoes that can deal with those cobblestones) but to a place with the energy that will help you focus and ask that question that’s burning in your mind.
I have been wanting to talk to Mommy, forgetting she is gone. Such an odd thing to have a thought, “I need to talk to mother about that” then remember as soon as the thought hits space, that I can’t because she is gone. That whole week between the date of death, her birthday, and the date of burial, I longed for her, could not get out of bed the day before and day of her birthday. I have a blanket of hers that I have begun to wrap up in, lay my head on, carry in the back of my car – just to be near something of hers.
Trying not to lose myself, I took a seminar in poetry – not sure if it worked.
This shaking off of depression is hard. One year later and I still can’t believe you are gone. Thanks for coming to see me on your birthday. I know I can’t stay here. Seems counter-intuitive – I know you are in a better place. I just did not know how much I loved you and that the hole would be so large.
I did not know you were like air and heartbeat
And blood and bone to me
That the touch of your skin was home to me
(the child who was not breastfed because you had an infection – that used to bother me but mothers must always do the best for their children or at least try. it did not make you love me any less – the old wives tale that breastfed children are closer to their mothers – just not true…)
I am needing to crawl up beside you and kiss the north, south, east and west of your face