Intermissions For Thought Police (Lockdown Journals I, II) –


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Invitation

I wrote most of this in May. It started as a personal journal or narrative type post I didn’t have the courage to publish, that morphed into a type of essay, and then a collage of perspectives of sorts. Centered around the same theme, in fivish parts. I decided the many reservations I had about tackling such a big and polarizing topic and sharing it specifically here, were beside the point. Writing isn’t for just giving all the answers, it’s for voicing questions and understanding them better. This includes challenging certain ideologies, as well as articulating their influence.

Writing is also not just for aesthetics, but for sorting through confusion to find some sense. I wanted clarity on the many ideas and feelings, and comfort on different aspects of the self reacting to a collective crisis. I also wanted a place to be sad and angry and not have to feel guilty about it. There was no better friend than the page at times. Though the page can never replace true love lost or a life grieved, it is such a kind place to land at first (– at least until it’s time to edit). A place to be understood, to be heard, in abstract or tangible ways. That’s what’s so beautiful about the writing process. The page hears you through phases of relative silence–or conversely through too much noise–and so do others in future who read and enjoy it. And in writing, you hear others too. You listen, to talk. Since we know that language doesn’t come out of a vacuum but out of a culture. We’re each another vessel for it, so only from there can we build or create, and if we do, we serve, we don’t just take. Even if that’s not the intention. It just happens. It feels important to start some kind of conversation in the world, even if hardly anyone reads it.

“Political” isn’t the right word for the places this topic goes. They are politically related, but I was thinking more philosophically in a way–although that’s not the right word either. Thinking civically, perhaps. What do we really value? How do we want to live? What do we want to pride ourselves on? What does it mean to be united? How connected or disconnected, are we? Why does it matter? And, in what ways exactly are we responsible for the welfare of others?

So I’ll say that this project is not political at its core, but civic. Even though it’s hard to escape that word political, since it’s surely unavoidable in engaging civic discourse. I’m disinclined to mix this topic in with other creative work. But I’m not sure where else to put this writing, other than a blog conceived to hold difficult ideas or forms, experiments and misfits from the start. And so I hold true to that. I don’t really like the idea, anyway, that art should somehow remain distinct and above political concerns to maintain its dignity and integrity, and its grace. On the other hand, I understand the problem with political discourse is the risk that it is alienating.

The goal is not to piss people off even more than they already are. If you don’t have the stomach for such discourse at all on an art blog and would rather be spared, you could skip Part III – Part V. Or even just only read Part II “Grandma,” and forget the rest. I wouldn’t blame you.

Why not? Cause there’s a lot more to life than what’s made the news, a lot more to life than what’s on current popular radar at any given time. I’d like to think that an artist’s primary objective is to remind us of that. Then again, that’s kind of why I wrote this. I was moved to stomach it — the more unpalatable aspects of the already terrible — in writing — in sharing — in no small part, to be able to just move on.

December 12 – December 27, 2020

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Part I

BAD THOUGHTS

Another person in the house just left.  I have the place to myself now.  It’s Friday night. Which has hardly any meaning now, but I wish it to. I want to at least pretend it does.

I scoop rice into a bowl, then pour a turkey chili into it I just made from scratch. To eat another dinner alone, another homemade meal alone.  I find roast dinners hardest to eat alone, although it didn’t always bother me so much.  I fantasize the day I will share these meals. I miss my boyfriend who works a million hours, while I complain to a blank white page and try to prevent from panicking.

Typically I would enjoy the silence and space of an empty house, not now.  I am not up for it.  I am thinking all the things you’re not supposed to say out loud. I am weary of isolation. I am weary of the house.  The whole #togetheralone concept does not pep me up or console me at all.  I am insulted.  I want them to stop trying to make this look good.  It doesn’t even need to be dressed up and sold to us in a fancy package.  It is what it is.  We’re doing this whether we like it or not anyway, and few even raised a fuss about it at first, at least not in public, since staying home was the right thing to do.  Though for how long, sparks a greater debate.

For weeks I was envious of those who lived alone as I negotiated space with multiple roommates; then became grateful for the company; now find myself envious of those who live with just a partner.  Things make sense one minute then fall apart the next.  Deeper things too that need to change bubble up to the surface amidst an inventory of life as it was.  How odd that so many who are still working seem to be working harder than ever, while the rest of us don’t work at all; as such there seems to be a rift in understanding.  Like everyone else in my shoes I sit at home with unstructured time, and a list of projects I struggle to pursue in the face of anxiety.  I am occupied, I am lucky, I am very privileged to have this time, I do not deny that I have benefited in some ways, yet I feel unsafe.

This is quite different for those who kept their jobs versus those who didn’t.  It is just a whole different reality.  I’m not sure there is much sympathy for those who give it all up for an unknown or indefinite period of time, suppressing incomes and livelihoods to just hope that our jobs come back later.  Or like, recognition that we even did and do so.  Because we give up more than just money.  It is not all about money, actually, as temporary government action helps to fill in the financial gaps.  We give up our security, our stability, the future we’ve built for ourselves and have been counting on, we put it all at risk.  If you dare complain about the situation, people call you selfish.  They dismiss you and your feelings.  Or write you off as a “Trump supporter” which is a completely irrational leap in logic.  But it is just as selfish to expect a generation and a half to endure a second financial crisis in a lifetime, and not feel upset about it.  It is just as selfish in this situation to demand other people reflect one’s own ideas, beliefs, values or agendas unquestioned or else we disrespect their intelligence and their humanity.  In the name of carrying out whatever we personally feel is the greater good for the greatest amount of people, we’ve become rather aggressive and inhumane toward any sort of debate that doesn’t serve our own ideology.

As certain leaders, journalists, experts, professors, and other professionals dismiss the effects of the shut down as a mere inconvenience to be endured, some in a shaming tone no less, they fail to read their insult and comprehend that for so many, this is way beyond a temporary lifestyle disruption.  A livelihood is not a “convenience”; surely we can understand it is far more than a convenience – but perhaps it takes someone who still has their job to make such a statement.  On that note, it is in fact convenient indeed for one who has, to insist that another have not.

I might use a word as modest as “inconvenienced” in certain cases, yes, perhaps for those who keep their jobs (excepting health care workers), or who are able to work from home, or who are retired, and can not access or enjoy the usual amenities or the company of others.  But for those who lose their job and perhaps risk it for good, who may risk severe income or benefit reductions over a number of years, who prepare to potentially change their whole life path and start over in a new direction, who may watch buying power shift evermore to the top 10% of earners, who risk never quite catching up at the ultimate expense of their own health and wellness, I hear things among us like “our lives are forever changed.”  I hope that’s not true.  But for many of us right now this may not be so temporary, as many presume.  Even if we are lucky enough to return to work as we left it, this is a game-changer of our entire perspectives.  Anything could happen, especially in the next two years.  Anything.  Many of us are not going to forget that so easily.

I hope it’s not true.  I really hope it’s just a fear.

May 16, 2020

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Part II

GRANDMA

Friends can be like family, but it is also not quite the same thing.  I find myself thinking about my mother, and other people’s mothers.  I know the multitude of reasons why I didn’t have a family of my own, which is why I have this lifestyle now.  To begin with, my childhood family story is a bit of a riot.  I still turned out ok, but there are consequences to such a story that take a long time to escape.

I have two wonderful grandmothers who are still alive today so I’m very lucky in that way.  When I was a teenager I think, a younger teenager, I remember visiting one of my  grandmothers.  I walked in to the big kitchen and felt nervous being there.  She said, “Would you like a tuna sandwich, honey?” Her voice so calm and tone so sweet but I didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t know if I was hungry.  I probably was but couldn’t be sure.  I didn’t want to disappoint her.  I didn’t want to make her make me the sandwich, but maybe she wanted me to eat it.  I didn’t know.

“Ok.”  I agreed to the sandwich.  So I sat down on the long polished wood bench at the gigantic kitchen table made of the same polished wood and I stared at the colorful woven oval placemats and felt awkward.  The dining room table was even larger and it had its very own room.  The silverware solid, heavy, shiny.  When she set down the clear plastic plate with the swirly designs popping from its surface in front of me, something about the experience felt alien.  I think I was supposed to feel comforted.  The sandwich looked cute on the plate.  Fluffy.   Carefully centered.  Placed so as to avoid crushing the bread or patting down the mini peaks and valleys of tuna salad, so that the whole thing puffed up and out a little.  Grandma knew how to make it special.  How to make something so simple look like it had a personality.  I stared at it, and I didn’t understand something but I wasn’t sure what.  I ate it amid a mixture of odd and uncomfortable feelings.  I ate it; even though I am not so wild about lots of mayonnaise, tuna was still a favorite.

I wasn’t feeling that great though.  I think I was supposed to feel at home.  But I didn’t.  I felt bad.  The adult word for that feeling is guilty.  Grandma was doing all this, for me.  Grandma works so hard all the time, for everyone.  But I didn’t know that I deserved to be cared for.  I actually did not know.

She’d have to do the dishes, I thought, so maybe I should do them instead.  But there are a lot of dishes over there, from some other meal.  Should I do all of those?  I do not know what to do as I sit eating my sandwich.  I want to be a good kid.  But I am tired, so tired.  So tired.

Grandma’s beds so poofy like white and beige clouds I don’t know what will happen if I try to sleep in one, would I sink in too much and feel weird.  Anyway, nobody should be sleeping right now.  I shouldn’t fall asleep on the couch.  I shouldn’t be rude.

There is a concept of what family is “supposed to be” like, in a general sense of at least meeting and maintaining a certain standard.   If your concept of family is warped by tragedy, your concept of love may also be warped for a while.  For a while, but not necessarily forever.   Old wounds can heal.  Other people teach us things beyond the scope of the original family.

Ideas start changing, shifting, and feelings also.  Occasionally in leaps.  You might’ve managed essentially alone for a very long time, in the same way you’d always done because you did not know any different.  Until you do not want it to be that way anymore.  And know that it doesn’t have to be, and it won’t be.  Change might be too scary to welcome without a fight, but it finds you anyway because that is what is supposed to happen.  Especially if that’s exactly what you aim for.

I do not blame my mother, with whom I grew up, for the flaws she found impossible to overcome.  The alcohol, the violence, the homelessness, the intermittent chaos.  While she is accountable for certain things, I do not blame her for anything I could not do now, either, as the present is what I am accountable for.  I was the oldest child and things were harder to hide from me.  I do not know what it is like to be my mother.  Despite everything, she did give me gifts for which I am grateful, many of them unintended gifts.  Just because someone does not know how to love properly, or “normally,” does not necessarily mean that they don’t love.  Just because we do not get what we want from someone, does not mean that we should look down on them, nail them to the cross.  Even when it feels needed, it’s probably not even worth it.

Writing and reflecting about Grandma, her house, her homemaking, I realize I feel a different emotion than the way this whole situation has made me feel, even a different emotion than the way I used to feel during some of our visits.  Comforted. 

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Everyone is dealing with this crisis in their own way.  Some people want to be alone.  But we have to keep in mind that others need us too.

We must keep in mind that it is one thing to say to someone that you are there, but it is another thing to actually be there.

It is also another thing to genuinely want to be there, but truly not be able to.  And this is really felt, or not felt.

Who is present?

Who is listening to us?

Who is holding us dear, in a crisis?

And who are we holding dear?  I recall some wise words Dad had shared.  He said, “Somebody told me once.  You know what, man?  If you want a friend, BE a friend.”

Connection is probably more important than ever, and we probably ought to insist on it above and beyond all else in whatever way we can accomplish it.  Even as I too struggle to live up to my own ideals.

May 16 – May 17, 2020

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(To Be Continued)

Night Water

 

–Thoughts from October.  I dig up this saved draft I’d hesitated to share but now it’s wrapping its arms around a sleepless night and my travel bug, that escapist impulse to jump in a car, on a plane, a train, a boat, anything–

All that really needs to escape is that toxic tendency toward self-censorship.

Writing is still elusive.  Writing is hard, unforgiving in a way at times.  Writing involves so much organization, I often can’t even handle it without also making visual art.  Words have felt like pressure cookers, images like rivers.  Images like relief.

It’s said that words, language, are limited and inadequate – but which mode of expression isn’t?

Images aren’t enough either, as enamored as we are of them.  There’s things that pictures just can’t do, can’t show the same way.  Pictures can not take the place of words.  So then it’s the writing that happens by surprise in the midst of creating art.  Writing is the relief.  Out of a sudden desperation, exasperation that  can’t be expressed immediately enough without switching mediums, turning to words.

Images and words have never been separate to me.  Two sides of the same coin.

There’s the times none of it seems to satisfy – images, words, whatever.  The moment’s raw and the only thing to do is keep going.  With the current project, with any project.  Whatever’s in front of you.  The medium hardly makes much of a difference.  It might make you feel better, or just more like crap but you don’t stop.  I feel strangely serene now in the face of intensity when it’s there.  Its presence doesn’t scare me as it once did.  As if my brain partitioned into two coexisting sides of reality, dark and peaceful.

When the inspiration gets intense, weird, dark, I imagine some of the reactions and opinions those pieces could incite.  Ah well.

Mixing beige paint in my room and laying it over black I contemplate my favorite person to be with.  Wanting this man is futile.  Will you leave once again and call me months from now, and what will I say then?  No more?  I love you?

Even the worst of you could not make me cold for long.  An inescapable fact, love.  I want out of here, too, restless.  It’s the middle of the night.

I toss this whole situation into question.  My job, my expensive life here in Oakland.  What am I doing?  This art.  These photographs.  This writing.  How much could I sacrifice to be able to do this all the time, nothing but this for as long as it takes?  Almost everything, I’m thinking.

What if I just said, everything?  What would everything look like?

 

 

 

 

Turn To the Quiet

 

It’s one of those mornings when I’m on the road again in my head.  Packing sleeping bags in the cold mountain air.  Blowing steam off my coffee in a circle of other travelers.  Packing up to leave, pulling on heavy boots.  Twelve thousand feet above sea level.  Hungry but exhilarated.

It’s easy to forget the struggle: what it takes to choose the adventure over the safe.  To get to those places and exist in them longer-term is mostly a matter of willingness to abandon fear, to detach from whatever status or position achieved, and then there’s the objects of our affections to be suspended or let go of.  An apartment, a car, a job, a semester, a social circle, a mentality, an ideology, a lover, a life dependent upon the comforts of the known.  Easier done when you have less to lose, but even then most will naturally balk.

For me, all this was nothing compared to what it took to return.  To reintegrate back into a culture built on and fascinated by the concept of freedom, yet embracing a type of freedom warped by comparison to the freedom you’ve just experienced on the road.  A freedom that almost looks like imprisonment – a rat race.  Yet this is the same rat race that gave you the road, the resources and privilege to earn it by struggle.  You yourself, you realize, love the rat race too.  Each day suppressing true feeling, true significance in order to keep up.  From time to time you wholly accept its superficial qualifications and you strive to reflect them, become them.  You get off on it, at least one small part of you feels this is natural.  Until the day that you just can’t take it anymore.  And then you turn to the few people whom you’ve ever really loved, in your mind.  You turn to the waves, the trees, the birds.  Sand, rivers, the clouds.  Tiny lights flickering in the shadows.

 

 

Let These Words Be Unimportant

 

Let me whisper.  Let me bring these words to you, let them turn yellow then purple like light diffusing through polluted air.  In a sound of voice I long to hear and embrace floats near me.  Connect these words in us through this space, not by chains of past offenses identity crises and grievances.   Let them feel comforting and welcomed, not as wounds, feel like birds at dawn singing through cold air or a bell tower carillon drop notes over chaotic streets on the way home from work in the evening.  Let these words mean nothing, let them be nothing, let them exist for no indisputable purpose or explicit reason, yet not be treated as meaningless.   Let them not be crowded out with opinions, nor create such crowds.  What makes such opinions more meaningful?

What if I have no history anymore.  What if I claim nothing.  These words have tongue in them, lips, lungs, I want for them to not be pushed to sting.  Let me kiss with them.  Let me exist with you as if there were nobody else before us, and nobody to jump down our throats after.  I have slept with these words when hungry, when lonely, now let these words take company.  Let these words be a place to land, not just a springboard to and from troubles, not as an opiate either but a place to be fearlessly awake together.  Let these words be a world that’s not too smart for romance.  Enough views crowd us one after another, it’s blinding.   If we come from nowhere beyond this moment, if only by sound we could touch these screens delicate as paper, what if.

Your voice alone is wonderful to me.  Carillon notes blending and separating over rivers inside sending little messages barely heard, grow more resonant.  I long to hear beauty instead of these arguments.  Then these words will not chase you down, will not hunt you.  For truly I long for you and for no opinion.  I long to hear words exist less for the purpose of proofs, divisions, violence, information.  Thus let their intelligence here stake no claim.  Let these words be unimportant yet significant.  Be available and abundant.  Let them be valuable.

 

 

Come With Me

 

Yes I admit searching for your face in crowds afraid of what I’d see.  You came in closed the door leaned your bike against the armoire put your keys and wallet down on the dresser and stay

ed.  We listened to the same musical refrain over and over after the film credits stop

ed since you made it last

even long

er than needed that evening, years

your presence melts resentments and smile fades priorities then there’s only innocence in us.  I’ve felt long

ing and awe and dread since childhood toward everything in life and everyone I’ve loved.  This is why poetry picked me without asking.  I’d eventually tell the truth, sometimes incredibly pained and sometimes without flinching in a way that served an art.  I was less than eight when I knew I was alone.  I see her walking slow

ly

in memory, eyes locked down at the ground watching feet move mechanically, but once she stop

es to stare at a glow.  Strange.  A mesmerizing purple hue around a shadow, circling the contour of the dark form in the sidewalk – was this some prophecy for today?  Six brothers and sisters new lives pop in and out of dreams like a vague connective tissue.  Purple orchids sit in the windowsill wait

ing for water don’t need too much attention, bookshelves crammed with ideas and lyrics and pictures don’t make this old, maybe ancient ache better when it visits, or easier the exceptional courageousness it takes to care.  Beyond the selfish, superficial, convenient or practical no bar, text box, or website brought us together.  You said you noticed I always look at the poem during critique instead of up at the group, you stay

ed long enough to get to know me a little but not very deep.  My most entitled and arrogant phase featured this loss although I couldn’t explain how much loneliness this arose from and alienation.  I still can’t keep up with demands in all directions by myself but who really can or how long

can we pretend.  Later on we leave after a short time.  Except in rare circumstances when we see differently those places in them that we fear.  And those elements in us embracing those who just don’t want to know, and those who do, and we take all of that.  All of it.  A fantasy is not a knowing.  A knowing says, this does not have to be so exciting.  A languishing calls in all of us.  Saying stop

by, hang out we are just talking.  It is not about being so impressed, it is beyond bodies, and we are not rushing out of here either.  We are not on our way home because there’s nowhere really to be, nowhere like here at least because why not with you, why not here making something, building something beyond our outfit and our face and our credentials?  I am dreaming now.  But this is the future of our yearnings.  Why not the freedom in doing nothing also, to stretch out in the grass for hours or lounge on the patio quietly, why not cooking and talking late into the night, where are these people?

Those who don’t mind the time?

This does not have to be so exciting it just has to be true.  I want to go find them and set down my keys on the table, turn off the internet and TV, to tell me their stories or notice the majestic shape of a tree reach in every direction for the sun to form such pleasing angles, am I crazy?  I am angry because there’s no antidote to the recklessness of others.  To the tyranny of business, being busy and making things happen.  There’s no pathology in craving more significance to our company — is it so dangerous to desire this today, feigning instead to resist real feeling as a means of self-improvement?  I have feel

ings.  That need not be cute or palatable.  Take no hallucination of ideals, that aesthetic is so tired.  The end is coming soon, dears.  Come by my love because fifty thousand options, fifty million options are not you, because fifty billion other options are still not who you are and because it does not matter about tomorrow, even now doesn’t matter because there’s nothing to do.  In truth, there is real

ly nothing.

Drink tea with me, no pool, no bar, no fancy food, no nice clothes, no entertainment.  I’m up the mountain pass now sipping the tea, bundled in wool, iron and wood and smoke billowing from fires in the freezing cold, there is no service here, and everything is free.  I long for you here but will find somebody to come with me, somebody along the way who wonders what it would be like to set their keys down anywhere, anywhere, and love those you find.  I create no words, no art to sell truly, I make piece after piece for those I hold and a place for us to exist in is all the same affair I work for, beyond the obvious yet not beyond those held in the middle of the darkness because the only thing we have that’s free in this world is each other and we know it.  This is why poetry is not endangered.  Is this not the belief anymore, here – what happened?  Nothing is just only ours.  Everything is for each other.  This is one truth of mine among many.  I wish it weren’t so sometimes.  I’d like to need no one, but this contemporary promise is a false idol of sorts.  I unpeel bananas

in the kitchen for breakfast, oranges

in the afternoon and adore them in solitude.  I don’t really adore french fries, though they taste good —  body is treated like this too.  It matters how you see

things, when we unpeel and also when we don’t.  I’m still being with them, still in love irresponsibly on paper and on screens and whatever and it’s great.  For us cyc

ling colors through bay windows, stay

ing up all night.  I come here to write for tears of long

ing to watch icy blue rivers in us melt

from ancient glaciers — they need a job.  In this moment as with most that matter nobody knows this about me and it’s okay.  I am the same as everyone.  You who recognize this thing.

You, taking heart

 

 

 

If You Lie To Yourself Let It Be to Good Purpose

I wake up to recognize my room, my bed, myself.  The ceiling, the highboy with drawers still open, piles of stuff everywhere for lack of time and energy per high season at work.  Nobody to judge me for this mess, I’ll let it wait for a day off.  My body feels good moving and stretching from biking and lifting two days ago.

Something inside me wants to cry, terribly, but I don’t even feel like going there.  I’d better get to the cafe early, not worry about how I look, what I’m wearing.  Just get a cup of coffee.  When I get there I’ll feel.  I know I need to write.  To put the feeling into action.

I lie in bed a bit longer not wanting to get up and face the day.  I miss you, I miss you.  Do I?  I don’t know.  I want you.  Do I?  I’m so lonely.  I think about my brothers who seem to have each other.  My other siblings too, who also share both their same parents.

I probably think of you almost every day, but don’t call because why would I do that to myself.  When was the last time I saw my friends?

I think about my job and everything I’ve been putting into it, get a text message and lately it’s like I can’t do anything right there.

I want to get on the bike later but accept that my body’s maxed out today.

I get up and walk to the bathroom.  In the mirror my eyes look tired from the six nights a week racing around work.  Yet still bright from all the exercise and the sun during the days.  I’m hungry, starving yet can’t imagine what I’d be willing to stomach this morning.

I could handle holding you in bed, I could even imagine sitting in your lap and kissing you, but then I might have to be somebody for you, somebody you want.

I think about my writing and how much I want it.  I think about how afraid I am to do it.  I think about the pictures I want to make this winter.  The photographs and the mosaics and the painted collages.  The clothes I want to learn to sew for myself sometime, done with feeling frustrated at my own shape instead of at average sizing.

I think about the seagulls I want to watch at the beach.

The languages I want to study.

Of all the things I’ve hoped for myself, I rarely think anymore about actually putting in effort to seek a partner.  What I’ve got left in me to give, I don’t want anything to ruin it.  Not another judgment, not another comparison, no disappointments.

I will no longer need to be anybody else’s dream.  Nobody will need me to be larger than they feel in order for them to love me.  Nobody will expect me to walk on their stage either.  Nobody will fit me in or drop me at their convenience.

Today I will just be a random woman at the cafe drinking coffee.  I am small and I like it.  I want to want myself more than I want anybody else to, anyway.  I lie to myself but this lie is like medicine.

It’s okay for me to have some tears under my sunglasses feeling lonely, missing you, and others who came and went.  I choose it.  I choose this.

It’s really been this way since childhood; I just never believed it was all that significant.  I didn’t want to include it, didn’t even want to know.  I didn’t have to.  I was in my twenties and I got all the love I wanted.  Love was desire.

All the love I believed I wanted. My mind wanders into its broken second language that I can write but barely speak which sometimes feels like a safer, more comforting place to be.  Chaque nuit je rêve seule, chaque matin je me lève seule. Sans personne, je me sens presque comme une étrangère tous les jours.

Le désir, il vaux mieux l’éviter.  Il m’a faite sentir si invisible.

I lie to myself but this lie is like medicine.