Love and its Recent Journeys

In it




Love makes me a hotbed of tears

I am a prayer turned inside out

A god with fire

A holy crown swallowed

I am here




the most constant and stable of flames

-July 2016

 

I journaled this summer: “How lucky can a person be to love deeply, take risks, and follow their hearts. One of my greatest fears in life is to not be able to follow my heart, to not be true to who I am. 2016 has already provided countless, unexpected opportunities to do what’s right for myself, break my own heart, fall in love, and follow my feelings in scary and challenging ways. Tears come to my eyes to think about what a lucky human being I am. I am so grateful to be in community with people who support my big, heaving heart. What did I do to deserve so much goodness?”

This year has included ending a relationship that truthfully had been unhealthy. Not in some big way, but unhealthy in the small, repetitive ways we lower expectations and accept a love not big enough for our whole selves. I accepted less time. I accepted waiting. I postponed my own happiness. Somehow I reached the hump in the hill, and on the other side I was strong enough to say no more. He agreed.

Months later, suddenly in a new relationship and yet in another country investigating my feelings for someone else, my new love wrote me that he trusted me. Essentially, be safe and do what you need. I trust you, he said. I cried so hard. How could I possibly be hurting someone and their response be that they love me, that they believe I will be who I need to be, that they accept me. Even now, I cannot write this without tears in my eyes.

This old friend whom I was visiting was the subject of strong, unspoken dreams and feelings that had lasted 6 or 7 years– concentrated by the force of distance, time, and mystery. You can only imagine how haunting these feelings are to a romantic like myself. Unrequited and silenced love is unacceptable, so I made this journey over countries and seas. And yet, dare I be bold to say, I knew my feelings quickly. I knew who’s loving I was going to choose. This didn’t make my trip easy, of course. I needed a chance to feel the dimensions of this relationship. My friend and I struggled over how to spend time together. There was laughter, silent looks, and our usual good conversation. There was a reconciling of my understanding of who he was with who he is. And ultimately we left it at “I’ll miss you” and once again those unspoken words, which I could understand now. Upon leaving, I cried so hard and in a way so involved that I missed multiple announcements about my flight and almost missed it altogether even though I sat at the gate.

All this had happened, testing and building my strength and courage, reminding myself I could tear apart– even in my own hands– and still be whole again. Now back home, in conversations with me and my many feelings, my man tells me it’s okay. When I judge myself, he is still there. With this radical acceptance, I try to hold my heart gently. Again, it has not been easy and has already been the work of my almost-29 years. Yet, his consistent presence and strength makes it simple enough. I try hard to accept this love and to love him even better and harder. I know it is changing me.

So I write this now for myself, to mark my feelings. And maybe I even write this for the heartache of others. I do not make any promises or offer advice. I just intend to celebrate my hardiness and to do for you what I want for myself– to hold you gently and love you fiercely.

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For Racial Justice– towards an honest, internal look

What a week. I am listening to Beyonce’s Lemonade album all the way through for the umpteenth time, feeling in-love, excited, melancholic, and nostalgic. And that’s just on a personal level, not even considering our current, painful political climate. Of course I have been thinking and feeling, as most if us have about the murders of Black people and people of color in our country. These concerns have been intensified by international attacks in France to Turkey to Baghdad and the ongoingU.S. violence abroad. It has been a rough two weeks to be an empathetic human being in general, and even more so if one is black, queer/trans, woman, working-class, migrant, and other oppressed identities. As I hurl into my future and think about my various roles, I think of my parents’ adage– look at yourself first. Look internally, they would say. To diagnose the problem and think of solutions, we need to look internally. Even on the national level, we do not have to go too far to consider what we need to do for healing and justice. At least a part of what this means is to look at ourselves honestly as a country. Will the people (particularly officials) be upfront about the racist policies we have created, carried out, and continue enabling?

A few days ago, I returned to Michelle Alexander’s amazing book The New Jim Crow, after needing an emotional and intellectual break from it. Her research and the narrative she weaves is horrifying, illuminating, and so necessary. And I ask again, are we all ready to be honest and brave enough to acknowledge it? Only then can we dismantle these systems of injustice and create something different.

Will we acknowledge that the War on Drugs was stimulated to attack communities of color? Alexander writes, many studies have found that during the War on Drugs, law enforcement and media used a “predictable ‘us against them’ frame[…], with ‘us’ being white, suburban America, and ‘them’ being black Americans and a few corrupted whites” (Alexander, 105).

Will we acknowledge and critique that the Supreme Court has essentially legalized implicit bias? In the case of McCleskey v. Kemp, clear and well-researched evidence of discriminatory sentencing  in Georgia was not enough for the Supreme Court to consider the state’s practices unlawful. Alexander explains, “The court accepted the statistical evidence as valid but insisted that evidence of conscious, racial bias in McCleskey’s individual case was necessary to prove unlawful discrimination” (110). In other words, even if the prosecutors applied the death penalties in clearly racist patterns, it cannot be used as evidence of racism unless someone explicitly used race as part of the reasoning. And in today’s U.S. society, who is going to sentence someone and– for example– include a racial slur? What’s more, the McCleskey case evidence was so strong, it questioned the validity of the entire criminal justice system, to the point that the Supreme Court wrote, “Taken to its logical conclusion, [Warren McCleskey’s claim] throws into serious question the principles that underlie our criminal justice system… [I]f we accepted McCleskey’s claim that racial bias has impermissibly tainted the capital sentencing decision, we could soon be faced with similar claims as to other types of penalty” (Alexander, 111). The Court openly worries about claims of bias would weaken the criminal justice system. Their ruling that implicit bias could not be used as evidence of racism then could be read as an example of the corrupted system trying to save itself.

Finally, will we acknowledge and critique that the Supreme Court has essentially legalized the use of race-based discrimination? The “Supreme Court has indicated that in policing, race can be used as a factor in discretionary decision making. In United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, the Court concluded it was permissible under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment for the police to use race as a factor in making decisions about which motorists to stop and search” (Alexander, 131).

These disgusting facts keep coming in The New Jim Crow, and I deeply hope these points are brought up more often in the national conversation. While recent events are about the murders of individual men, it is well-researched that racist policies enable and exacerbate these interpersonal encounters with police. Sometimes in our hashtags and comments, we do not raise just exactly how deeply rotten is our criminal justice system (and government). When the President invites people for meetings about police brutality, are government officials able to admit to this level of wrong-doing? I believe we need these conversations, and I hope some emotional vulnerability and rigorous analysis is happening from all parties.

That said, we are emotional beings and need to bring our honest and vulnerable selves  to see and to be seen by others. We need support to to do so, in personal ways and in systemic ways. I believe we must engage as a country in a truth and reconciliation process to begin to heal wounds and have space to continue systemic changes. National discussions would lead to a washing of deep wounds and hopefully bring us to some shared understandings. Without heart and historical clarity, any progress made in one generation will be maimed and contorted by the following. I hope we can move towards this as part of the work to end police brutality and the larger efforts for true justice.

There is a deep need to look at ourselves. We need cold, hard objective facts. We need warm, tender, difficult feelings. We need to look at ourselves honestly to create a healthy and just society and planet for ourselves and our loved ones. Finally, because we need uplifting and spirit and the intangible, I want to end by sharing this an amazing video from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater doing their thing with Beyonce and Kendrick as a soundtrack: Alvin Ailey “Freedom” Chereography.

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Filed under blacks, essays, race, violence

Poetic offerings

 

"...
you just turned eleven
i don't know what the years coming look like
soon you enter a storm
i see the rumblings on you
black child in Los Angeles
endangered species
i would call all my people to stand
n make a circle around you
until you grown
i would carry you
if you behaved
but all i can do
is give you these words
soft as the morning when no one else notice



this is to tell you i see you..."

from "Aye Nay," by Ruth Forman

 

I see you. How powerful are those words? I wish heard them growing up. I wish I knew my people made a circle around me. I wish I was given these words, “soft as the morning.”

There is a lot of fear and pain in the world today as well as this year, building upon previous centuries of it so it should be no surprise to us now. In thinking and feeling my way around what it means to be alive and principled during these times, I return to writing. And though I haven’t written many blog posts this year and few poems this week, I am working on a more long-term endeavor to dedicate time and resources to writing. As I envision the intertwining of writing and creativity in my future and feel uncertainty and excitement, I know for sure that writing (and therefore reading) has always helped me heal. Has always helped me see others. Has broken me apart to reveal our core. A core which is so shaken, so bruised. I hope we all stay in a place of softness in a time of such strident, common needs. I will share a few more poem excerpts that keep me tender and teary-eyed.

 

"Do you understand the song you've sent walking through my 
catacombs of marrow? Black parasol notes hum, dirge of the 
removed lung. I now know the promise of a body scooped 
hollow, tea lights in the the torso's cave. You've come 
inside from another country and I have so much to give."

From "Beheaded Kingdom" (part iii.), by Saeed Jones

 

"...it is the sense
that something that was alive
for a very long time
is still alive.  Not yet beaten into
submission
or oblivion
by those who kill everything
they touch
with money."

from "Loving Oakland," by Alice Walker

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Filed under biblio-file, inspiration, journal, love, Uncategorized, writing/writers

For the Women

There has been so much going on at work lately. So much, that I can only say, “I cannot even tell you. It’s confidential.”

I can tell you, however, it’s been tough. In all this, I reflect on the people I have leaned on. So this entry is all about the women. The ones who have made this slice of hell not only bearable, but a place for me to walk through the fire with my head held high, principles clutched tight.

I think of my friend who made the time to talk on the phone. Who asked questions to prepare me for the ones I would be asked. Who clearly said, you are doing the right thing.

Another friend who said the students will thank you, eventually they will understand what a big thing it is for someone to stand up. And I smile to think of her tough-as-nails attitude, when she said, if you need lawyers, give me a holler.

Yesterday, I went out with another friend, and we reflected on our positions as Asian-American women. She began to reflect on her experiences as a middle school student in a private school and her experiences with teachers and parents there. It brought us closer to think about how migration, language, and other forms of social capital have shaped us. And when my friend saw the chamomile flowers a student picked, she reminded me, one day that student will look back and remember you.

(Also, we both got to dress up, and there is nothing better than feeling good one’s own skin. Oh, to be in a body.)

I even think back to the professor whose class involved blogging, which led to my current WordPress account. I thank her for pushing the boundaries and offering classes that no one else could think of nor facilitate the way she did. I remember our shy tongues when we saw how she graced the classroom. I imagine the fires she’s walked through to arrive at her magnificence. I think about my 6th grade math teacher and her tough love. But always, we knew it was love. I picked flowers for her on my way to school and cradled corn snakes in her class. I think about how important it is to know that you are cared for because others work for you.

Oh yes. There are great men in my life too. Thank you to my colleague who has been a solid rock at work. Whose politics and morals extend into every fiber of his actions and words. To my friend this morning, who I drove to the airport, finally taking a long-awaited and much-deserved trip into the future of his dreams and fight for food justice. This friend’s gentleness reminds me to be there for myself, and when I am ready, the work will be there. As he handed the keys to the car to me, he handed me my own trust that I can always get myself back home.

Thank you and peace.

Peace.

 

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Filed under education, gender, love, non-fiction, prose, race

Book Line-up Winter 2015-16

Here is what I’ve been reading at the end of 2015:

Finish poetry books not yet finish:

7) The Fact of a Doorframe by Adrienne Rich

15) How to be Drawn by Terrance Hayes

21) Home Course in Religion by Gary Soto

 

Finish or start these novels/collections:

22) Toughest Indian in the World by Sherman Alexie

23) Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work by Edwidge Danticat

26) Son by Lois Lowry

27) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

28) Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

 

How I hope to start 2016:

1) Playing in the dark by Toni Morrison

2) Renaissance by Ruth Forman

3) Revolutionary Petunias by Alice Walker

4) My House by Nikki Giovanni

5) My father was a Toltec by Ana Castillo

6) How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

7) Bloodchild by Octavia Butler

I’m happy to end 2015 with hopefully 28 books under my belt. I do have to say that it is increasingly hard for me to focus my mind on reading because of the growth of tech in my life. I’m not against technology, per se. However, it is good to be aware of its impact on my focus.

I will be traveling to Mexico with Harper Lee’s books tucked in my backpack, hoping I will finish both amidst exploring and relaxing. And as 2016 rolls around, I have a lot of poetry on my list. As always, am wondering about the Asian American voices I should also find to read. I am also slowly mulling over Feminist Without Borders like it is medicine. It has been years since I started this academic, non-fiction book, so it doesn’t belong on any one list.

On this new moon I also set intentions on sending out my poetry collection in February, a grad school application timeline, and a commitment to use public/shared modes of transportation. The new moon was a week after someone hit my parked car. It was celestial timing, I suppose. It feels right.

What are you reading? How are you reflecting and ending or beginning this winter?

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Thin Rope

The sun rises and lays its long, lean fingers across the city. It strokes the tops of trees. It ruffles pigeon feathers. It does not smooth the hair of the early-morning worker, the folks up to work for you on a weekend. It does not glint like gold off their knit caps or their thick beards. It does not penetrate their wool jackets. Little light reaches them. These light fingers do not caress their lips as they wake, as they cart boxes of potatoes into restaurants, as they walk backwards down truck planks, hammer hard to finish your new condo, in your new playground.

The cars keep moving. The workers wait for a break in morning traffic to cross with their loads. Little notices them. The world does not stop, though without them, it might.

I woke today to the words, “Life is nothing. It is held by a thin rope.” What is thinner, I ponder, the will of workers or the light from a finite sun.

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Brynn Saito

Inspiration from Brynn Saito’s poetry. The Palace of Contemplating Departure, published on the Drunken Boat.

Once this poem was read aloud, I understood the craft and beauty in it. I especially like the outrageous, almost magical, imagery. Awesome. And the ending. Oomph. Just the way a poem should hit you. Push you into a pool of questions.

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