happy new year, dear ones!
It has not been simple for black people living in this country to know love. Defining love in The Road Less Traveled as “the willingness to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s personal growth,” M. Scott Peck shares the prophetic insight that love is both “an intention and an action.” Using this definition of love, and applying it to black experience, it is easy to see how many black folks historically could only experience themselves as frustrated lovers, since the conditions of slavery and racial apartheid made it extremely difficult to nurture one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. Notice, that I say, difficult, not impossible. Yet, it does need to be acknowledged that oppression and exploitation pervert, distort, and impede our ability to love.
—bell hooks, “Living To Love” (1993)
smile too much
smile too insistently
smile a knee-jerk over and over
and you risk unraveling your own mouth
unspooling all your teeth and gums and tongue to the ground.
set the fifty-dollar wayfarers of anger permanently over your eyes
shielding yourself from the stupid glare
of sundry disappointments
let the garish old world turn gray
see how quickly you warm to the new gray world
bright gray mornings, thyme supple and fragrant in the garden
soft gray evenings, cozy in a thick blanket, carefully reading Lenin or Fanon
all is well
until one day a kissable somebody asks you, puzzled,
why are you wearing your sunglasses to bed?
(or maybe they never ask.)
Wouldn’t it be great if your computer could double as one of those full-spectrum SAD gadgets?
Someone, please invent.
It’s all fun and games until somebody starts squirting.
where is the body roll in our politics?
the funky precision
the rigor and relaxation
but so strong and steady
sweeping brightness, gentle unrelenting buoyancy.
erykah could make a career off of like 5 notes.
with that vibrato,
to get it,
you have to ease up
and you have to work your ass off.
i would like a funky precision
a rigor and relaxation
a body roll in my politics.
oke up from stress dreams yesterday feeling lost and frazzled. At some point I was in a dark hallway, middle of the night, with my mom, and once we parted ways I had to tiptoe back to my tiny dorm room without alerting any ominous security guards. But just as I had reached safety and crawled into bed, I heard a crew of men approaching my door (which consisted of a blanket hanging over a space in the wall). The men were delivering packages from a source I vaguely understood to be a relative. They started pushing boxes under my blanket-door: laundry baskets full of my high-school clothes, crates of old books — more and more boxes, until my itty-bitty room was filled to the brim. I sat rigid in bed, staring, anxiety mounting. The last box they pushed in, at 3 in the morning or so, contained a fancy TV that you’re supposed to screw into a wall.
For some reason the TV was just too much for me. Pitching a small fit, I decided I needed to immediately return it, and the rest of the boxes, to the well-intentioned person who had sent them. I jumped in my car and set out on the highway, sun rising alongside. But two or three exits down the road, I realized I had forgotten to bring the TV and all the other crap! Damnit! So I got off the freeway, crossed an overpass, and tried to turn around and go back.
Unfortunately, the opposite onramp was missing. Instead, there was a pop-up restaurant festival: a labyrinth of noodle joints, flax-oil-greasy-spoon diners, aquariums, and succulent plant displays. I parked the car and tried to find my way out of the lunch-maze. But I just kept getting more and more turned around. Finally, I asked one of the cooks (at a caramelize-your-own-sushi station: I remember this vividly), and he began to give me directions.
Then I woke up.
Now, typically stress dreams stress me out (surprise!), and as I said, this one was no exception, at first. It’s not hard to tell from this dream that I am feeling somewhat overwhelmed with expectations, a bit lost and directionless, and uncomfortable in new environments — maybe with a certain class confusion thrown in there, too. Dreaming about problems amplified my worries about those problems in real life.
But all of a sudden, I thought about the inflammatory TV in relation to a dhamma story from Goenkaji. I wrote about it here, back in the summer of 2009: it’s the story of how to stop accepting presents that we don’t want.
And just like that, I relaxed. The stress dream became a reminder of a helpful lesson, rather than a compounder of fretting and reactivity. Whatever my dream-life and waking-life throw at me, I actually have choices in how to respond (internally and externally). Even the pop-up-restaurant labyrinth, in retrospect, seemed neutral, or even interesting, rather than frightful.
history books, history crooks
without slaves, how would this history look?
let me bring yo mind to attention
take away the builders, the building is nonexistent
two times for the man with the white fist
who’s quite pissed
who knew that racism existed in america
but now that the color is green
ask the poor white man how he like this
big cities with nice ****
i’d like to thank y’all for stoppin by
but these problems have existed in the hood
now that they’re in your homes
you decide to occupy