For all the survivors I know

For those I don't

For Professor Anita Hill

For Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

and for myself.

 

**

 

Survival

survival

is a newness

 

I'm done with survival

 

survival

is a liar

 

survival is a split word

of spit and truth

 

survival is a longing

and a death wish

and a knife

 

I cannot survive : I already have.

 

Survival lives in daily practice

could I open the survival,

render its splitting,

make it whole?

 

Transformation

survival means

to live beyond

 

a searing liberation

in the freedom it ascribes

and that sear of liberation

is the mark of success

 

We know we’ve survived

when we become survivors

 

something burns and leaves

 

this word of transformation

 

nothing quite like it

 

Weight

survival means

to be in the body

to sit in the chair

and absorb the weight

I attend to the physical laws

taking shape in my belly

 

it is a marvel to be this heavy

 

fat girl’s discomfort as resistant emanation

a routine pulse of mundane warning

lights that flag:  go back, go forward

 

There's constant dislocation:  my back

moves and I don't feel the muscle

my body is not so much walking

as negotiating movement

It walks, it places its  flesh not mine

 

Dislocation

“their migration is a fight for life” (Winged Migration)

 

Sometimes survival crowds in when I'm in a meeting and my head is split to some other

where.  

 

I'm rendered to another location, anonymous, misplaced.  What is that location? When I split myself to see something different than the trauma I am instructed to Direct today?  I daily come back from a distance, bumpy landing. With “I couldn't--” “sorry I missed” “Oh I had to” “Yikes, I apologize”--

 

--and who do I take from while I'm away?  

 

When survival's at stake, all distance is theft

 

in the center of my back, behind the heart,

where my lover's palm rests, is the center of a tension

or a wound I created

when I moved to something different;

my mind migrated.

 

Shadow

so, this, too:

less sympathy

survival as a form

as denial and a salary

 

They dance around it, the cunt:  

let's say this but

not so often that

it can't be unspoken

 

They shake the silence

to test the symptom of patriarchy

So I render a split between thought

and word, a disjoined communion

of safety, not satiety, but

in seeking protection

I escalate violence.

 

What I'm saying is I'm insincere.

I haven't survived.

My words are hiding.

My whiteness glows.

I render this split

between word and fact

That's what I'm doing—survival displayed

as a truth of some Thing for the sake of the Whole.

 

Unpacking the depth

means the split gets stitched

together at last, together again

so that the split is a loop, one thread seen as two

do I dangle it to a single length

or wind them in upon each other?

word and fact, self and body

ready to be bound together

we are already,

but if I show my whole,

I may not survive.

I already have.

 

Depth

In truth

my whole body rests inside my vagina

the pool of my spine guttered inside

it extends on dimensions, by force of my thoughts

and moves on its own

like a guest or an anger

in the depth of my cunt

the world whispering back

a betrayer and saint

all the same in my cunt

 

There are also split larvae

stress hatches in my neck

wiggling out from the cracks in my ethics

with unleavened distress,

they pop out behind speech,

they draft a thought that could be wrapped

around the throat in diction/protection.

 

I cannot survive.

I have survived.

 

I cannot survive : I already have.

At the beginning of April, I committed to writing or revising a poem a day.  After Week 1 I posted lines that made me happy.  I continued writing for most of the month, though I didn't quite get to every day. 

(This is a blog thread about writing, but y'all also know that I am interested in healing, habits, practices, and justice.  So I am working on a related post about perfectionism and self commitment.) 

As I kept writing, the poems got more personal, intense, and dense--coming from a place that feels important to protect from this more public setting.  The line between poem-writing and journaling became much, much less defined.  I started expressing in a way that was more visceral, less coherent.  More expression, less revision and reconstruction.

It did feel like I was constructing, however--like I was constructing a self, in the way that people express onto the page a version of themselves to see.  Not a persona, though, but fragments of myself that I wasn't sure I could get out to be visible without the more terse and difficult words of these poems. 

At some point these might be--will be--deeper songs or poems that I'll share.  But for now, that's the update.   

 

 

I'm writing or revising at least one poem a day for National Poetry MonthThis is the Day 2 experiment.

 

April 2

Scope of Practice

Do I have to narrow, stretch, or just deliver?
Does it expand with the dawn?

It shutters when the light goes
My scope of practice
When it's overcast

When I stunt my sleep
I obscure the scope

It's like a scar: here’s where I am marked

by everything I’ve learned. Here’s where you could grow your own scars
If you stay with me

Stay with me, now
 
If I practice what I deliver
Won’t it be seamless-- 
I won’t need to scope it out first?

What is, what is, what is it?
A song
A kiss
A full moon mist
A laugh as art

Focus artfully
(at least just practice)

It’s too stunted
Too deep
Too shallow
Just right
So practice, princess

Practice

Let your scope find
you.

First of all:  I did it!  So often I struggle after Day 4 of any declaration, especially a commitment that turns inward.  Whether it's attachment/insecurity, extroversion, Sagittarian nature, white supremacy, exhaustion, Mercury retrograde or self-sabotage:  the behavior is that I pledge to open up to my creative energy and I diffuse it instead.  This week has been a really great expression of easy commitment to creative practice.  That's big, big, significant, deep.  In.

 

It's also been really good to practice what it feels like to write poetry with commitment again.  Every style of writing is different, yeah?  And I spend a lot of time on academic writing, nonprofitese, scrawled and typed journals, and freewriting.  The line between freewriting and poetry often feels abstract to me.  But I am keeping my commitment to write from the energy that is creative and expressive.  None of these distinctions really make sense (I know that).  None of these boundaries are probably even necessary (I know that).  But they are essential, for me, right now, to show myself and birth longer projects I've borne in my belly for way too long.

 

Limiting myself to two meta reflections! Here are some favorite lines from this week:

 

April 1

I bless that spirit of striving and denial.

I barter with myself.  And I let that shit go.

 my sluicing heart

 

April 2

Does it expand with the dawn?

It’s National Poetry Writing Month!

 

I’ve set myself a challenge of revising one poem per day, OR writing a new poem.  One or the other. Normally I’d be all on myself to write a new poem every day. But my amazing poet and labor organizer friend Dawn Tefft recently shared some wisdom about revisions:

 

It just goes to show the importance of gaining distance from older pieces so that you're no longer attached to them and are willing to make the changes you previously couldn't see. This also echoes how I approach organizing: after every organizing conversation, meeting, action, or campaign, I always conduct a sort of internal audit of what I thought my/our strengths and weaknesses were and ask myself if there are approaches I/we could have taken that would've worked better. But I think it's harder to do this with writing, because what you put on the page remains there, which is why the distance that time creates is so necessary. I very much advocate going back to your old work to see if there are things worth revisiting and reshaping and letting go enough to make those changes.

 

And I thought:  I have so many poems I have held very closely--submitted to one journal at a time, or not submitted at all, or shipped around to friends, or read and re-read on my own.  What if I took my own writing seriously, if I took Dawn’s advice and started collecting and working with my own words, all month long?

 

So, this month, all month, I challenge myself to work on at least one poem a day--whether it’s older to me or freshly scored.  This is something I’m doing for myself, and scared and weary as it makes me, it’s also so thrilling: there is such a thing as a tesseract, and it’s belief in my own writing.  I may not post the poems every day, but will definitely post occasional updates and share poems when it feels right.  Thank you for reading.