Imperfect Letters as Perfect Artform

I recently started working on a typewriter. It’s more than old, more than a pleasure. It is an exercise in deliberation and reading with imperfect aesthetics—a perfect medium.

The way my fingers fatigue from pressing down so hard, the way I don’t know how to use the ancient typeface waters my drought as I have become more restless with summer’s press. I’ll post the prose here.

Free writing into these gorgeous miscalculations of font and working on a machine that doesn’t have a functioning backspace or precise spacebar breaks hard habits of sanitation, of uniformity.(Praise God for typewriters.)

Becoming a Map for Survival: An Interview with Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Miss Leah is one of my favorite people on the planet. Their brilliance and overall badass existence spills into the literary and activist worlds in all shades: poetry, performance, art, writing.  At the heart, always, is community. I had the opportunity to interview them for Guernica Magazine, talking their latest book CARE WORK: DREAMING DISABILITY JUSTICE.  Check it out!

My Interview with Soledad O’Brien

Recently ascended on my calendar, spring reminds me that the sun is returning. And speaking of sun, the digital distribution of my interview with Soledad O’Brien is available!

It was a life dream to sit with her and meet the embodiment of journalism’s genius.

All girls of color deserve to see themselves reflected in the media they consume. Someday, I hope to be as generous and gracious to another writer in their early career as Soledad was with me.

Lost Sleep and 13 Reasons Why

The bedroom was too warm and I had drank a full bottle of tea in the late afternoon, but those weren’t the reasons I couldn’t sleep. The skin covering my heart did little to protect the fast beat, my right arm shook slightly from lying in one position too long, waiting for tiredness to envelope my brain. I wish I hadn’t binge watched it. Inwardly, slight embarrassment peppered my thoughts that I experienced such a strong reaction.

It’s fiction. Get a grip.

I wanted to believe that Hannah Baker, a made-up teen character conjured from the imagination of a male author, was not going to be raped before she decided to end her life. The entire premise of 13 Reasons Why is untangling how and why the events and relationships surrounding a teenager led to a decision that dragging a razor across her skin in a bathtub was better than finishing high school and enduring the shit years of young adulthood.

But rape. Rape is one of the reasons why Hannah Baker commits suicide.

I closed my eyes during the rape scene in the last episode, once I knew the scene was coming.  I didn’t need one more visual of sexual violence embedded in my memory. Not because I was raped, but because both in my work and in my personal life enough people have been raped that I sometimes I had come to believe that

Rape is inevitable.

But it’s not. It just feels that way. Like knowing an entire premise of a popular Netflix show is based on a girl’s suicide and then watching an actress ascend a long driveway toward a party— it feels inevitable how the narrative will go before the razor blades.

There’s no way to look at my 7 year old son and 2 year old daughter and do anything but worry the years away and hold fast to the truth there is nothing I can do except be there every step of the way so whatever shit the world tries to put inside them, I make myself available—an empty sanctuary for them. A place to be loved, for them to confess without judgement, and bathe in compassion.

Is that all I have? Is that enough?

Hannah Baker is not a real person, but the story is as much in the world as my children. The co-existence of those truths kept me up past 3am last night. I laid there thinking of their futures and tried to unsee the moment where I thought the scene was over and opened my eyes prematurely and saw the last seconds of Hannah Baker’s rape: her face turned to the screen, dead eyes, violated.

As I write this, my toddler has awoken from sleep, crying out for someone to hold her.

I go. Practice.

 

 

“What Movie Has Deeply Impacted You?” On Ghost, Age, and Taking It With You

I’m taking on the challenge of writing one essay a week in 2017.  My essays will be formulated to answer a question or prompt.  My weekly essays, regardless of topic, will be exploring the boundless nature of essays and what this particular form makes possible.

What Movie has Deeply Impacted You? Essay 2

Back in the day, circa 1990, when Demi Moore’s acting – not her personal life – made headlines, she played Molly Jenson, the love interest of the tragically-murdered-in-a-NYC-alley-after-watching-MacBeth, Sam Wheat played by the flawless Patrick Swayze.

Ghost came out when I was in the 5th grade and became an instant favorite. The plot is that Sam Wheat, though dead, cannot move out of the limbo between life and death, not until he helps solve the mystery of his murder and protect Molly from a similar fate.

There’s a scene in Ghost early in the movie when Molly and Sam are sitting in bed, when Molly asks Sam if anything is wrong, suspecting (erroneously) that he is rethinking their decision to move in together. After initial resistance to talk, he finally gives a brief but emotional confession of what is bothering him, “I don’t know.  It’s a lot of things.  I just don’t want the bubble to burst.  It just seems like every time something good in my life happens, I’m just afraid I’m going to lose it.”

As a kid who was entranced by the film effects, Demi Moore’s new bob cut, the iconic pottery scene, and Patrick Swayze’s…well, just Patrick Swayze, I didn’t understand that part very well.  Why worry about something ending?  Why worry about a potential burst and not just enjoy the bubble?

Watching movies that formed my childhood as an adult brings strange pleasure; a mixed bag of offering and reminders of age.  Watching Ghost again reminds me how that at one time, not that long ago, really, I didn’t know how to worry.  It dawned on me that the developmental bypass of certain cinematic themes- sadness, listlessness, communication barriers, fearful anticipation of the unknown – has passed and, now, my acute understanding of these themes means I am no longer a child.  It means that the thin layers of resilience I once enjoyed in my younger years have transitioned into a radar of perceptions.  I worry now, so much more than I ever did before…marriage, children, Sallie Mae, digital footprints, gravity, social perception across fiber optic glass.  The anxiety is ephemeral in topic.  My children, my partner, my health…my family, my friends, their health.  Other people’s lives have always held a grip on my conscience, but as the years parade, its grip has strengthened.

Living well doesn’t seem as important as living justly.  And when you prioritize justice, people think that that pronouncement means you know what that means and the prescription for living as such came sewn on your skin.  I don’t have any instructions.  Living well, I’ve begun to learn, means living synonymously with trying to live justly in the painfully unjust world.  I worry I’m not, though, and wonder if trying is enough.  I worry that I am in a bubble, positioning me to be both grateful and resentful.

And, of bubbles: I’m afraid of the bubble bursting, too.  With my family’s recent move to calmer, more deeply peaceful times, with the clarity that has bounded into my periphery, with the prolonged and sustained love between my life partner and myself.  With my parents cracking jokes and my nieces and nephews miracle bones growing with every soccer kick and pool lap.  With every finished meal that ends with two kisses from my healthy children.  With age, with age.  I feel how sweet it all is.

I worry about the bubble bursting, too.  Because I have never been happier and I won’t want to think that the moment I am living is a price to pay for something coming over the hill.

Enter abundance and prayer.  Enter hope and remembering community.  Enter, enter, enter.

I remind myself that there was a line in the movie that crossed generational lines and I profoundly understood it as both a child and as an adult.  It’s a promise:

“It’s amazing, Molly.  The love inside.  You take it with you.”

Thank you, Patrick.

You take it with you.

 

Letters from Ohio

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I’ve moved to Ohio four times in my life.

Age 8, from New Jersey

Age 26, from Boston

Age 29, from Boston

Age 37, from New York

Each move was grounded in home-building: My father found a better job. Nick and I wanted to get married.  Nick and I wanted to have kids.  Nick and I had two kids and needed more room.

My pattern is to leave for school or career and come home for family.  The movement normalized after a while.  I’ve learned to never say never.

But now, with two children, and clear vision of my writing, I have doubts that I will move again in the way I moved before.  Travels will never cease; writing takes me places.  But my children, as most children do, I think, sleep best in beds they are familiar with, pushed into the same corners of the same room they have grown used to and juggling parenting and writing has been easier in Ohio than at any other time before.

There are no surprises in Ohio, there are promises kept, and predictable four seasons.  An earthy texture to life that once made me flee, and now helps me rest.  It’s been reliable, like how I never question my parents house being an open door to me and smelling Adobo spices when I walk in the door, my father keying the piano with his latest melody.  That used to make me want to flee, but now it helps me rest.

I live here now.  And updates on this site will be about that transition; the ongoing work of mothering and writing, exploring the deep pleasure of simplicity, art, critical thought, and feminism.

Be like the new me: Stay.

The Felt House that Moves Us: A Conversation with Saretta Morgan

I am doing a slow read of this interview with Saretta Morgan and it is full of wonderful quotes, like this:

“When I make things, it’s less about communicating interiority to others than it is about translating what I believe myself to understand into physical material, and watching that process happen. For me, this means that I don’t publish a lot. And right now that’s okay.”

Check it out here at Apogee.