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the humanity in you

“it would probably
sound weird saying this
to just about anyone else,
but … i think we were
profoundly lucky
to have the mom
and childhood
we did”

i told my sister
this last month,
and she agreed

but how,
with all that trauma,
could we be lucky?

i understood it,
but not in a way
words could touch

on saturday,
i read a passage
in a book that made me
go, “oh. oh.”

i got closer
to finding words

on sunday,
i joined two friends
(and others) for their
birthday brunch; as
brunch ended,
bill friday brought
tears to my eyes
with what he
said in farewell,
and how he
said it

and then
my brother-in-law
emailed me his draft
residency application
essay, and it was full of
both recognition of
the traumas of
poverty he
witnessed
with my–
no, OUR–
family,
and of
love

with his
just-the-right-words,
i was closer still
to unearthing
my own

and then,
back home,
my husband
and i talked
about our long beach
family, and i was
THIS close to
getting it where
words can reach

on monday,
a friend presented
on a book she’d read
and i finally, deeply
got the ways my siblings
and i are rich in ways
others probably wish
they were, or
would if they
understood
such riches
are even
possible

so now, i
get it. i have
the words for this born-from-pain
kind of blessedness …
and i may someday
share them here,
when i have a
bunch of hours
to spare

but for now,
i just want to say
sorry
for being so focused
on one kind of suffering
i know intimately,
and which i know so many people
endure today,
that i stopped
seeing other sufferings
and all the things
all this suffering has
in common

i see the
humanity in you,
including the love
and the suffering,
and i wish you
so very
much
peace

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Categories: Family, Friends, Love Tags: , , , ,

The meth apartment

A meth lab burned down near my sister’s house a couple of days ago. Two people died and dozens more were displaced.

Many terrible things have happened in my sister’s neighborhood, so that she’s understandably distraught. Her friends are urging her to move, which she very much wants to.

I’m sad for her, and I’m sad beyond her.

About a year ago, I came to the shocking conclusion that history is actually important. I saw that my failure to follow history or politics had left me with a lot of illusions–delusions?–about what my country has been, is, and is en route to be.

I’ve gone through four of the five stages of grief: Read more…

Knowledge is a quest

When I began striving to speak Politics late last year, I had the notion that “politics” was a separate subject distinct from all others. The first few months, then, it was very easy to practice; everything I read was new to me and fairly easily summarized, and so I wrote almost daily.

After a few months, I started feeling like politics wasn’t really separate or distinct from anything else. Rather, it was a part of everything, and everything was a part of it. The “politics” books on my bookshelf weren’t on separate, discrete topics, but on different aspects of an interconnected everything I could only barely fathom and definitely could not articulate. The books’ covers only created an illusion of disconnectedness between the books themselves, as well as everything they attempted to represent.

2016-11-22-19.12.50.jpg.jpg

The beginning

I found it much harder to write about politics once I discerned politics wasn’t an isolated body of knowledge. Before, I’d thought politics was one thread running through a quilt. After I saw that politics was made of many subjects, moments, feelings, and experiences, I despaired of distinguishing what was related and what wasn’t, because each thread within the quilt contained elements of different subjects.

Where would I start, and where would I leave off? I had no idea, but that didn’t seem like a good reason to stop. If I persevered, I might get better at seeing which threads ran closest together, and someday expressing those connections with any clarity.

Several times recently, I’ve written about former NYU professor Neil Postman. Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death was required reading for three of my husband’s American Studies courses at Yale. As I began my quest for understanding, Anthony told me I’d really appreciate the book. Read more…

Discovering Haymarket Books

Soon after I finished reading #FROM BLACKLIVESMATTER TO BLACK LIBERATION, its publisher tweeted an Arundhati Roy quote. It read, “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless.’ There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”

All right, then, I told myself after sharing the tweet with my sister and husband. I need to be reading Arundhati Roy.

Unless I absolutely can’t get a product from not-Amazon, I’ll buy that product from not-Amazon. In this case, I figured I could probably buy Roy books directly from the publisher, Haymarket Books. I visited the site, both confirming my ordering suspicion and deciding I want to read everything they’ve ever published.

I prefer reading bound books. I’ll read ebooks in a pinch, but I’m anchored by the happy weight of hard books.

Four of the five books I ordered came with ebook copies. Given that the bound books were going to take more than a week to reach me, I peeked at the first: Angela Davis’s Freedom Is A Constant Struggle. Having peeked, I had to read the whole damn thing, even in ebook form. Davis spoke eloquently to something I’ve recently discovered: emphasizing the individual tends to displace the totality in people’s hearts and minds. Freedom, Davis explains with the eloquence of one who’s spoken these things for decades, is earned by collective struggle, not granted when charismatic individuals ask politely.

I decided to peek at another of the ebooks, Arundhati Roy and John Cusack’s Things That Can and Cannot Be Said. I breezed through the short book, an accounting of the authors’ meeting with Edward Snowden. Its parting words chilled me. Per Daniel Ellsberg, U.S. calculations of damage from nuclear attack have only included blast and radiation. They’ve excluded fire and smoke, because “we can’t calculate fire … It’s fire that kills most people–but they left that out of their calculations.”

This is an excellent example why every single USG-offered statistic must be explored in depth, and viewed with some skepticism. (Asking “cui bono?” benefits these analyses.)

With almost a week until my other Haymarket books reached me, I began reading Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark. I began reading it while sitting in a doctor’s waiting room last Friday; those around me might have mistaken my tears as originating with pain, rather than the beauty of connection … and hope affirmed even while looking genuine horror in the face. But, no: I was moved from almost its very first word, both the new preface and the older text.

Solnit sings praises of the activists whose works have changed understandings of what’s normal and right. She calls out for hope based both on the merits of hope, and the ample evidence of how–and where–activism has worked, though the public forgets the before and during, misremembering that we’ve always believed what we now acknowledge as true and right.

In 1900, the idea that women should have the vote was revolutionary; now, the idea that we should not have it would seem cracked. But no one went back to apologize to the suffragists who chained themselves to the gates of power, smashed all the windows on Bond Street, spent long months in jail, suffered forced feedings and demonization in the press.

Since I paused reading Hope in the Dark to finish a couple of other books, I’m not yet halfway through it. I don’t want to read it too quickly. It’s food for my soul, and as I’m always telling my sons, it’s important to savor good food.

It is, of course, also easier said than done.

This 2/28/17 post transferred from L2SP 5/26/17

 

Prescribing Joy: Reading Dreams

Rachael (The Ramblings of a Would-Be Writer) is my sister, my most enduring friend, my Silver Star … and actually a writer.

prescribing joy

Reading Dreams

It’s the night time ritual
That blissful chaos
Of tugging jammies
Changing diapers
Potty breaks galore
And just one more water, pretty please
And then just one more… more.

Then reading time’s begun
That joyous time of lap-time cuddles
Silly voices, sing-song rhymes
With heads bowed in
Wriggly bodies writhing
As the chaos
Slowly
Slowly
Settles

To the rhythm of the books
To the sweetness of the rhymes
To the sadness of a monkey
Learning it’s okay to cry
To the swooping of a dragon
Dreaming in the skies
To the cats in hats
The Hortons and the Whos
To all the dreamers dreaming
And all the You Know Whos.

And as I’m reading –
As my voice lilts up and down
To be whomever it needs to be –
As I’m reading I’m feeling
These little bodies next to me.
I feel their joy, I feel their laughter,
At that silly dancing giraffe;
I feel their sadness at the bully
Or when someone’s mean;
I feel their wonder, I feel their bliss,
At the magic crayon and the wishing trees –
I feel it all, and hold it tight,
Finding it easy, somehow right
To give in to the, pretty please
Just one book more,
And then one more…more…

Sometimes, though,
the bodies keep writhing
And the little hands,
No matter the reaching,
can’t find the right books
For the feelings that they’re feeling
So we let them feel the feelings
All the hurt/sad/mad feelings
Until we lay together in a heap
And I find the book that needs reading
To help with all these tangled things
And I pour my soul
Into teaching
Into showing
These sweet little beings
How to find their own road
And their own paths to peace.

And when I sing the last song
And kiss the last kiss
I feel the tired joy,
(No matter how the night’s been)
The aching joy,
Of reading dreams
– And sharing dreams –
From a mother to her child.

last : Loving Joy | TBA : next

To life! To learning! To love!

My last Freshly Pressed post was a letter to my deceased mother: abused, abuser, and so much more than either of those two words could ever tell you. In that post, I wrote to my mom:

You loved [Little Golden Books] more than any of the countless others you brought home in my childhood, telling me and my siblings that knowledge would bring us freedom. It would be our key out of poverty.

I bawl every time I read that post. In a thousand words, it’s what I always thought it would take me hundreds of thousands of words to tell her.

But why am I thinking of that post today? Why, indeed! Read more…

Maybe someday

I wrote an autobiography in 2004.

(There are three sentences worth reading in the whole thing.)

I was still broke and without internet after finishing that, so I wrote a trilogy. I published the first book, The Monster’s Daughter, in 2011.

I intended to publish the other two, but then I read them.

No. Just no.

I don’t have enough lifetime to waste editing them.

(Seriously, I’d need a thousand years apiece. I’d do better rewriting them!)

I’ve written a fifth book since. That novel’s first draft is better than The Monster’s Daughter‘s final draft. Despite that, I’m not editing it. I’m not interested.

Maybe someday.

Another half-dozen books whirl around my brain these days. Despite their insistence, I’m not writing them. I’m not interested.

Maybe someday.

For now, I’m content to blog and know I’ve fulfilled the writing maybe-someday that once mattered most to me: I wrote a book.

The rest is gravy.

NOTE

For anyone who ever asked what happened to Joey, highlight below to see the short version:

He’d become a vampire. Ginny, not actually dead, killed his not-so-friendly vampire incarnation. Then, for added giggles, Wendy became a vampire and Ginny had to kill her, too, for I am a cruel bastard.

Don’t like these outcomes? Awesome. I welcome you to imagine your own, which I fully endorse as authentic. The real ending for me–the one in my heart–is much kinder than the one I wrote earlier with my hands.

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