How to Stay Informed

first published by great weather for MEDIA

 

Forget the headlines, translate the ink left weeping on your fingertips. It can be difficult to turn the page. They title it war as though it is different this time. You locate a run-on sentence on page nine, so you hitch a ride on one of its commas. They misspelled DEMOCRACY. Whose news is this, anyway? Afterwards, you search for an antonym for FREEDOM and all you see is red, white, blue. Just stop reading. Instead, walk outside and photograph everything that doesn’t move. You still need to stay informed, so you skip to the end and scoop out the middle. You ask the stranger beside you to read it to you. Coffee spills over the paragraphs and in the blur, you feel free again. But when it dries, your brain paralyzes from another re-run of violence.

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almost as if nothing had happened

“nobody can say you’re not free.”   –ai weiwei

dear ai weiwei,

I traveled toward your photographs in search of the key, which must have fallen out of my pocket years ago, in order to unlock the gates guarding my body. This fortress of solitude is invisible and yet, echoes darkly and loudly against the ones in search of a way in. I spent one morning last week, trying to get to know my body again, using only my fingers. Do you know what it’s like to taste the culture of cloud dust. A swarm of stratocumulus rolled their low grey mist over me one day and I wondered how you might approach the magic of air soot. In silence, you tell me to pray. Hand me an image of you and Ginsberg at a bar somewhere in a village in New York City. Your beards matched, though his claimed grey (much like these clouds) and yours dedicated itself to black. I am having a difficult time committing to my body. You give away your nude in order to challenge the boundaries of governmental restrictions. I have given away my nude, but got locked out somehow. Can you offer me a way back in to my self.

 

“today I talk myself into staying”

This freedom is ugly. It is blistered, having walked for centuries; there is no remedy for this ugliness. How to survive in a world where pigment is a devastation, forcing other hues back into the soil or behind bars.

Poets gather to memorialize another from their tribe, while on the other side of this city, Humans gather to stomp out the reek of atrocity. What is the scaffold of race. How sturdy is its wreckage. Carve us out of these bodies and our bones are of the same dimension. Why must skin create such a need for weaponry?

Up north, another young one dies because its body grew magnetic as breaths grew lured by drugs. In moments right before death, we may contemplate our past path. There are bathtubs and trees and sharps, but weapons go beyond the ones we point and click…..

I almost died once. And then again that other time and the one before that. And then there was that most recent trip. But I remain because I am employed to this body. It is my boss, my co-worker, the chief executive operator, the secretary and treasurer, the president. There is no paycheck beyond the currency of laughter, health, deep-rooted learning, love and lust, sight, taste and smell and and and.

Sometimes there is a moment when we feel the need to search for exit signs. Or, we see another who does not look the way we look and it confuses us. We are biased against one another; we are biased against ourselves. We loot and rummage and there is so much destruction that we often forget to notice the moments of beauty: swirling of skin that may be different than our own but still tastes the same and still speaks in music notes and poetry.

I am saddened by the thinness of freedom in this country on this continent in this world. Bodies are bloated and yet liberty is starved. I want to weep for the ones who are serving time for crimes they did not commit; I want to weep for the ones who are not held captive but need to be; I want to weep for the ones we vigil for.

Today, I am trying to talk myself into staying. 

how to feel.

I could never forget your birthday, since it shares the same numerals as mine. And our hair color is the same except yours is from genetics and mine is a mixture purchased monthly. You were an artist once. A painter. Your smile opened windows.

***

For several months, I had a pen pal in prison. He found me through the magic of technology and I accepted his request to write back. At first, I didn’t want to know what he did. I thought it would affect my words; however, I was extremely guarded in my language to him–asking more than telling. When he’d move beyond what I was comfortable with, I did something I rarely did in real life: I told him to stop; I said NO; I spoke up.

Then one day I looked. Nowadays, it is difficult to hide. Some want to be seen and some hope their secrets can be camouflaged in corners. When I learned of his crime, I started to imagine things. I grew angry and didn’t know if I could ever write to him again. My pen pal wrote about why he was in prison and often denied it. His long explanations of what really happened shook my skin. I felt haunted by his stories and his (sometimes) sexual grunting. Sometimes he would ask me about poetry. He wanted to know what I was writing about.

It’s severed now…stopped as suddenly as when it started. But I am thinking of bars again.

I have had bars on my windows in not-so-nice apartments. I have made some extremely dangerous choices. Yet, here I am with a mailbox and closets and a chain on my front door to keep the animals out and I have bills I can afford to pay and I’ve let go of all my addictions minus coffee and poetry and I have freedom and I have freedom.

Somewhere in a state where a federal prison lays, there is a woman who shared my birthday and hair color and didn’t she go to my birthday party several years in a row and didn’t I have a crush on her and wasn’t she like a firefly–glowing and magnificently unbelievable.

Some might say that all crimes are unforgivable. Oddly, I tend to forgive the wrong ones and hold judgement towards those I need to show more love toward. I don’t seem to know how to ration my hatred correctly.

This woman admittedly committed a crime that I cannot forgive. And yet….I think about writing to her. Why did I choose to commit different crimes?

Perhaps it is in this moment where I just do not know how to feel. What is the proper way to mourn someone’s freedom being taken away knowing she took someone else’s away.

In the movies, it’s easy to just find out where someone is serving their sentence, get searched and then suddenly find yourself across from the prisoner. Maybe you share a sandwich or sit in silence.

If I were to write to her, what would I say? Maybe I’d just want to bring her a tear drop saved from the many drips of salt that plunge from me. And I’d ask her to look inside it. Eat it. I’d say. This is what pain feels like and sadness and love and wonder and hatred and kindness. This is human. Are you human still? I’d ask. Am I?

how approachable are pigeons

dear oscar,

I thought of you this early morning as feet pushed me forward from fort greene toward crown heights. I walked toward the farmer’s market and noticed a man walking slowly, holding a glue trap with a tiny mouse stuck toward the end of it. This man was carrying a ledge, and I wondered where he was headed. I watched, as he tilted the mouse toward Brooklyn gravel.

This must be a metaphor for my Saturday, as I find myself tiptoeing over cracks on streets. I purchase a bag of apples for $2. I sing a song out loud, though quiet enough for only pigeons and I to overhear. One of them hops toward me and sneaks a bone between its beak. I think about taking this bird home with me. How might my life change if I slid my body over its feathered back, as we flew toward my apartment.

Last night, a woman said:
sometimes I think about drop-kicking a pigeon.

Pigeons are my favorite birds, I announced. They are curious and disheveled and independent adventurers. I think about approaching pigeons as they feed on baker’s crumbs and pizza crust left to curbsides. They are food-oriented like me. But. Are they lonely too?

oscar,
you fell in love so freely and doused yourself in the aroma of longing. I do this too. I long to follow that mouse and watch it wake against the alarm of freedom. I long for a woman who lives far from eastern standard time. I long for xray analysis to serve me up an explanation for the hurricane in this body. I long for kisses to paper towel away the stains. I long for letters. Mail. Postage stamps.

oscar,
I would have followed you into that field. I would have handed over all my blood. All my skin to cover your bruises like heavy quilts. I would have asked you out. Watched a movie with you. We could have shared a grilled cheese sandwich and ginger ale. You could have read all your stories to me. I’d have waited. I’d have remained.