What does it mean to live on Ohlone land? That is the writing I am doing. I am finishing up a good chunk for a reading here: BAM/PFA - Art Exhibitions - The Reading Room Thanks to Sara Larsen, who invited me to read and it is such an honor! Reading there is the equivalent of performing at the Grammys, in my world.
At home. The light barely makes it though plastic window shades I have never understood, but it is glowing. I take a picture in this light and think I don't really need another photo of myself here, in the webs, but then I do it. When DF is out of town I don't eat. I don't have time, I think, or that's the excuse, but I write. I spread out inside these walls and come right up against them, like the sun outside, barging in through the spaces. I cast myself widely.
I will eat something and keep writing. My last manuscript was written without my eating a morsel. This was the point; an experiment in going without, pangs. Not today, today there is a generosity of sun and words and language and thinking. I think I'll go spend 3 hours' worth of wages on a hamburger at Broadway and W. Grand.
Last weekend I dragged my poor boyfriend to the Bay Area Book Arts Jam, he came along mostly because there was no way I would be able to get to Palo Alto without a car. So he resisted no more and gave me a ride there. Man after my own heart! Once there, he warmed up to it and admitted that he would be just as enthusiastic as I was about the event, if it had been a small press fair. He bolted through the exhibits and was already pointing out the best displays in the first 15 minutes. At some point I begged him to let me roam around at my own pace. Pacing is very important, as I cannot be rushed through viewing, approaching and caressing paper and ink. Or driftwood, fabric, glitter, ceramic, leaves, lace, etc. These folks use any kind of thing to make books. I was grateful to be left alone to weave through the crowd, to strike up conversation with creative, yet somewhat nutty strangers, some of them. I finally joined D in "the best part of the whole thing" there he actually encouraged me to take up an offer from a printer to print using his table top press. Yes, without his cheerleading, I would have bashfully declined the offer, so as to not impose. Yes, I have a Catholic background, if you must know and not directly related to that, I was glad I brought him along. It was interesting to see handmade books, one after the other, to gather a general impression of the variety that this thing called “book arts” can offer. I am admittedly fascinated by, annoyed with and interested in this thing, which I have only begun to investigate: book arts. I also brought with me a camera. Whatever, I have absolutely no business taking pictures, because aside from never having succeeded in photography class, I am also a total Luddite. For example, I could not get that devil's box to focus in order to photograph tiny details, the result is that I don't have a single decent close-up of this magical land of imagination: book arts. Still, there are some beautiful books in this set.
Vintage thread and remnant fabric from East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse
To think of a project as a tangible, an item de arte plastica, or a work built from writing, not thought. Thoughts and language, maybe images, accidents occurring in language. Neptunian accidents. Envisioning. Your words forming in my mouth, your cadence sneaking in. Fish, trapped in the net I cast to catch the day’s writing. Can I write the “you” that lives, that thinks? The “I” that does the same?
I think of mine and DF’s friend, Ryan Gallagher and his daughter, our small friend, Olivia. She is about seven years old will tell you she doesn’t make mistakes when she makes art. I don’t know if Olivia was simply born with this wisdom, as naturally hers as is having brown eyes. I drift toward the thought, though, that perhaps we all had this coming into the world, a premise that our creations can never be mistakes. To have so much respect for what our hands make and do. Maybe that was true of all of us, only this little girl, has been able to hang onto it because it was never disputed or negated. Wherever the words came from, they are her words now. Thank you, little Sister.
Fearlessness. Fear. I guess that’s why it is easier sometimes for me to sew a little bag for carrying my yarn or to make a collage, instead of writing poems: because I am less afraid to make mistakes as a knitter, a seamstress, as a collage artist. It must be because I view them as less important also. How long have the things women do with our hands been named crafts and not art? Certainly this post has evolved into some sort of feminist Buddhist musing, but it is true isn't it, we make art when we are published and simple crafts when people can wear it? There is this strange tension there for me. Why should making scarves and not poems feel like self-sabotage? Yet, I know I am deliberately distracting myself from crafting poems: the end-all, be-all of my creative outlet, supposedly? Some strange oppression at work inside me, no doubt.
When I was a little bit younger I loved without restraint. There was never a thought that I should tread carefully, that I should study the subject of my adoration, there was never an orchestration, a manipulation. It was a love that was completely entitled and selfish. Entirely for me. Loving now is far trickier. There are nuances, dangerous ravines on either side, other people’s feelings to pretend to acknowledge. One of these two ways of proceeding with Eros, bears it all, the other brandishes a weapon as it goes. I write holding a dagger, fearfully and I don’t know if this can be changed.
Dear Trungpa Rinpoche, ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ .
I lay on the floor today. The hardwood floor of a stage and let my weight seep through the wood toward the center of the Earth. There, an asana, a gesture of body. Letting the ground hold all of it, hoping to send along a prayer, an offering. In the Ifa tradition, the biggest offerings you can present to the divine are commitments to changing that which holds you back from rising toward your highest self. Yemaya is the ocean, the mother, Neptune’s Queen Consort. Come little fish, be words in my mouth, scaly, slippery words of self, of other, come swarming into this body or that. The planet looks blue from outer space.
It was for years that we spoke of Gertrude Stein in this way. She hung in the air like the exhalations of a corner smoker, distinct, inoffensive, located just there. I didn't know that was happiness then, out on the porch, two women with bowls of coffee and an ache in them for a lover. Gertrude Stein had all the makings of a literary saint to them then and now I find myself in her hometown. No there, there. Unlike DF I don't redact this as the remark of an absence that resulted in hurt. That is to say I don't think her family being gone was the there.
I live on Alice Street, almost Downtown, almost Chinatown, near a lake I have never been drawn to. Being here, I wonder what it means to create one a place for the self, to place-make? I am haunted by responsibilities resulting from an understanding that I am gentrifying. There is Puerto Rican flag awaiting a good ironing in this apartment, somewhere. Our sun-brewed iced tea was ganked from the window ledge and this was almost innocent. It was lemon ginseng tea. In Rio Piedras people steal your things to sell them to others. It's part of the community economy. I know I will buy something hot, something stolen, in the future. This is reassuring. I fear for my rosemary and my sage out on the window ledge, but you can't recycle terra cotta.
In the meantime I look across my street, from a window that was filmed in a Chaplin film called, "A Night Out" and enviously gaze at the sidewalk gardens of Alice Street. I think of the idyllic Mills College campus. In October, the gardens still have roses in them. Gentrification, petty theft, flowers. The there is here, Stein, sorry to disagree. This is home.
Self-portrait with Bonneville Salt Flats
I prefer David Buuck's "I can't wait to do ___________ with my body" to the "I remember". All I know is that it is difficult work to write fiction. Most people don't do it well at all. David Buuck does and Bhanu Kapil does. This morning I woke up, gave a kiss and said a few words to DF and quietly made my way to the kitchen to brew a pot of tea.
"I have two cups of tea and I write..." I remember her saying, but maybe I imagined it.
"I remember" is such a silly exercise. There is this picture of me as a toddler taken by a professional photographer. In the portrait I am smiling, curly black hair crowns me and I am displaying my small baby teeth, but that’s not how it happened.
I remember going to the city to get my picture taken- the horribly itchy fabric of the dress I wore, the Nicaraguan summer heat. My first sip from a Coca-cola bottle all on my own (a rite of passage) and the careful coaching that would last a lifetime, “Don’t cover it with your whole mouth, that’s not the way,” though I hardly drink from glass bottles anymore…
Inside the studio, I remember the heat coming from the photographer’s lamps adding to the equatorial density of the climate. The thought of air conditioning never passed their revolutionary minds. It was the 80's in Nicaragua, don't you remember? The glare from the lamps stinging my eyes. The threatening, “Don’t move, alright?” Does it happen this way anymore, or is it antiquated? Must children be tortured to be photographed?
I’ve lived with portraits of my relatives most of my life. Stiff, beautiful smiles, in soft black and white. No, in grays, mostly. I prefer drawings to photographs, nowadays. If there are photographs of me, I only really like them when they are self-portraits, but given my history with portraits, that's hardly a surprise.