when a predatory bird
or a jerkboy
invites you into its nest to have a good time
it surely doesn’t know itself and its true nature
and sooner or later
you’ll be ripped to shreds
as tempting as it may be
and as innocent as it may seem
listen here: if you shake it for too long
a disgusting sense of nation
a lurid blurry empty opening
inside you find
a disintegrating pearl
men like vinegar and boiling water
cheap scientific tricks for exhibiting the end
pulverized playgrounds where no questions are ever asked
an explicitly gruesome lean over the keys
and desperately honest word phrases that Shakespeare didn’t invent
that have heavy song syllable sounds and short vivid vowel spikes
because nobody looks out their blazing windows anymore
except to stare at the media dream across the street
don’t stand out
more than twice in less than one month, we shut everybody up
and they stayed put
hiding under glass bottles
you kissing me on the neck, at the kitchen sink, while doing dishes
cuddling on the couch, watching stupid shows, gasping, grabbing you when i was scared
us sitting on the porch, eating dinner or talking about the day, talking about our (horrible) life together
riding bicycles, to buy helmets, to lose breath, in the woods, on a lunchbreak, niagara falls
sunday mornings, just you and i, in (horrible) love again
saturday mornings, walking , to the bank, long motorcycle ass sore, bagels
friends in the guest room, mattresses on the floor in the livingroom, saturday afternoon surprises
(horrible) post show love, messy brushing teeth together
fish tank, our eel, you collecting rocks, laura
sunsets from the eye of the golden eagle, paths worn, (horrible) plans spoken
our (horrible) friendship and support of each other through life’s challenges, holding hands while driving
telling me your dreams in the (horrible) mornings sleepy together
making (horrible) horrible music together, bath tub readiness, shower singing
our bird feeder, jubilant visiting birdies, chickadee, the neighbor bird shit complaints
moes cabins, montreal, quebec city, (that horrible trip to) philly, (that especially last horrible time in) manhattan and brooklyn, toronto, (horrible horrible) NH, kansas city, kansas city
you bringing me chocolate, you buying me plants, you wrapping your (horrible) arms and legs around my (horrible) body
your horrible secrets, my horrible delusion that we were meant for (horrible) long-term evolving enjoyment
This post was first an email response to dance artist Alia Thabit’s Love Note of 4/28/2013 on How To Beat Resistance
“Resistance is the secret to joy!”- Alice Walker
At one point in my life, I was a scholarship student in the Jacob’s Pillow Choreography Lab/Leading Communities to Dance program. (After having been a scholarship student 6 years before in the Jazz Traditions program.) For this program though, I was contaced by the Education Director to take part in it. She thought it was a good fit for me and me for it.
So there I was in this dreamy program of dancemakers, not just dance phrasers, but people who work with multitudes of diverse communities with dancers and non-dancers making change in people’s lives through dance. We are choreographers who know the true and deep power of dance making beyond the stage. There we were. A motley crew from many backgrounds being brought into these new processes in our dance making….being asked to think about this and that and try that and this and challenge ourselves and know ourselves and our communities deeper.
And what was Stefanie doing?
Resisting. As usual.
I wasn’t aware of it yet, but was disturbed by this common force in me that I cannot seem to always control. And it was visible to others that I was resisting too. Or at least it felt like it was. And I didn’t care really, but it did isolate me a bit. A few more days in, I was in the studio alone with these new processes to work with, and I worked hard for hours to find what was happening. Literally bumping into myself over and over again. And there was the answer that was so obvious: I was resisting. Then I began to feel very badly about myself and doubted my place in the program. (I did that at the Pillow that last time I was there too. I wasn’t a good enough Jazz dancer, not “company” material, I didn’t agree with the teachers, I didn’t agree with some of the techniques, yadda yadda yadda. I even told one of the teaching artists that what he said was bullshit and sat down during his class. Still, they asked me to come back. I guess I belonged on the other side of the dance…the making side.) So, again here I was…fighting…but this time I was really fighting myself. And as a female artist and just plain old human, I find myself doing this a lot. I won’t go in to the psychological whys of it though there are many that make lots of sense.
In the program, I began to become deeply troubled and obsessed by my resistance. How was I going to stay in this program? As a scholarship student especially?! I couldn’t go along with everything without a fight first and I couldn’t pretend? Then the Alice Walker quote appeared to me. By mistake. I don’t even remember how it came up. It was just there.
“Resistance is the secret to joy!”
And so, now I had something to work with.
I began with that quote, and those became the words that made the next series of dance phrases in my labs. When I announced it in our next group session, the artist leading our program smiled hugely. She literally beamed. It seemed like all along she knew. And here I had found my own way. It was momentous. I was provided a time and space with an experienced mentor to discover some aspect of myself that would become invaluable to my life as an artist.
It was what is called a breakthrough.
I found out something about my process in those weeks. And it hasn’t ever let me down. I resist. And my resistance is my process. It is my power. My choice. Sometimes, it is all that I have to start with. All that I have to hold onto. Sometimes it is the only thing that keeps me going especially when in a society that so devalues and misunderstands the rank that dance and movement deserves.
I won’t ever give it up.
Thank you Alia for reminding me of it’s value.
And thank you to those that support the precious time and space needed for us to find these pearls within ourselves. These are the pearls we can share with the world when it is in need and which allows us to make our dances from a place of struggle that can speak truth to power.
and not long after
she squeezed that thing out
she cleaned up all her edges really nice
tied a shiny satin ribbon around her neck
and found herself a new piece of metalman to roll around town on
she put her before and after name on all the right lists with all the best tags
drank just enough of this and smoked just enough of that
widened her square
and loosened her definition of a pair
and wouldn’t you know it
that cocky jawbone heart ripper slid in
yes, with a neck bone stuck out from his jaw when he danced
and a glass wine bottle crutch holding up his flaw
she never had a chance
but there is honor among thieves
a mixing of hypothesis and prophecy
where people like her and him corrupt the once pure process of being
where it is agreed
that all digital
is enough of
in a black lit room of a dickhead mind
white piping outlining where her curves end
and where her pride begins
in this man she can show herself off to in 4 beats or less
this man who is learning to sleep
and drown out
listen here: Stalling out, Taking off
i think about all those times we would ride
my pubic bone pressed to your sacrum
the electricity of my hands on your wings
i wanted you to fly
but you’d rather limp
forensics did a better job at closure than you
they found DNA from your ancestors’ ancestors
that revealed more reasons for why you are the way you are: lame
again, science did the job for you
pointed out all your weaknesses and the whys
you didn’t have to be accountable for your actions
all you had to say was that you have the right
the freedom to choose to shut off someone else’s freedom to speak
it’s empirical data on your side, fighting for your limitations
mutations, permeations, and fluctuations in personality misorder
it’s all there
then they draw the line off my chest
and add up the number of times
given, gave, received, deceived, conceived
and there you have it
the answer is quite clear
Everyday this month, I was going to write and publish a post. I had something to say, something that needed to come out of me. I wasn’t always sure what it was going to be. But I knew it had to happen. Everyday.
Then something happened. Again. A storm. A tornado. I felt it coming. I knew I was entering into some kind of territory that is dangerous and a set-up for it to occur. And yet, I walked on.
I have walked through storms before. There is a smell. There is a thickness to air. There is a push against the wall of the stomach that makes you want to stick your head out the window and spit. You can feel the lift in the sky, the drop in the ground. Or is it the drop in the sky and the life in the ground? There is something pushing the up and down either further apart or closer together. It’s hard to say which but if you have any tendency within at all towards sensing barometery you’d know what I mean. The pressure is pulling and pushing the tissue holding your bones. Are you flexible, movable? Are you compressing, closing in? The blood drip shoots through your little tunnels with a marked squeeze to it. If you hold your ear to it, it sounds like one tiny high note consistently escaping through a fluid ballon held under immense depths of water. And the oxygen is not absorbed quite the same through your sifting parts. It builds. And every time it’s hard to say what will really happen. It could be light, it just be a passing mist, or it could be a downpour, a strong release and then relief to the clouds and your head. It could be something worse, it could always be something worse. It could blow things down and apart and across towns.
That is what could have happened. That could be how I left my words in my body and moved them out instead through my foot. Kicked at the air. Or through my neck, rolling my head to meet the swinging wind. Through my shoulders and my ribs. Isolating gently at first and then wildly. My body could have been a small obstacle in the storm. Trying to knock me over or sneak past. For bodies like mine, it isn’t that easy. Something in me is left fighting to survive the storm, let is pass through me. Experience it. Live to tell.
And It could have been the eye of the storm that was in my belly while we were at dinner in that wretched town the other night, so calmly our small group convened. Drank little, ate even less. We must conserve. Even digesting takes too much energy sometimes. Because a little later the storm would be on it’s way out. And we know that is when the real damage occurs. It’s always harder to get out than in. Ask any thief.
But there is another possibility. Overexposure. Like iron metal to oxygen. In a way the metal is merely letting you know what’s coming. Like a freshwater mussel to PCBs. Like that canary in that coal mine. Or the presence of tubificid worms showing up only in places where the sewage has seeped out. They let us know what kind of shit is possibly on it’s way into our systems.
And then there is The Lynx. What happened to the lynx? The heavily debated lynx. The once abundant and necessary predatory mammal has become the indicator species of the forest by its increasingly low sitings. Where there are lynx there is clean water and a healthy population of native boreal forest inhabitants.
True or False: In the habitats where a lynx is thriving, there is an indication that its environment is healthy, balanced and supported.
In order to be a thriving lynx, the surrounding environment must be just the right fit. Otherwise the animal suffers. It over competes. It is forced to cross borders.
It’s not ALL about the lynx though being provided for. The lynx also provides. Though it cannot ‘peacefully’ maintain balance -and no animal can- when it is forced outside of its natural habitat by the introduction of invasive others whether those strangers be animal, vegetable, mineral or chemical. This introduction often becomes aggressive in its exposure if the porridge is just right for the visitor. Some may argue that it’s survival of the fittest at work here. But I think we can come up with a more intelligent investigation. And anyways, in this case of habitats polluted by humans, it doesn’t make the same kind of sense. Otherwise humans are all that will be left and soon after, they won’t be either. Because we don’t live independently. None of us is self-made. There is always an interdependence engine motoring away in the background . Existence as IS only appears in the presence of OTHER. We all depend on one another not only in order to maintain health and balance…but merely to exist. It works the same the other way too: causing pain to one is causing pain to many. Sometimes it really is avoidable.
When a creature is overloaded with the overexposure of a contaminant in its sensitive environment (and truly all environments of nature are sensitive as a whole) then not only does that creature suffer, all creatures do.
I am obviously talking about compassion here, not the food chain. And the contaminant here is ignorance, abuse, addiction, neglect, avoidance, and greed. In the presence of many of these contaminants, many will suffer often un-needlessly. None of this is new or exciting information.
Remember: sometimes the contaminant is the abuser. That abuser could be you.
And compassion is that form of love that human creatures are wired to give and receive, unless they don’t know how. In which case they must learn. Unless they choose not to. And as we can see, many do.
(By they way, science has found many other living creatures wired for it as well. Compassion. But that is another topic.)
What kind of creature are you?
Maybe it was not just a storm passing through. Maybe I was also over exposed to an invasive toxic element in my environment on Saturday night because when I awoke on Sunday morning, I couldn’t breathe very well at all. The congestion had started almost immediately after the exposure but I was numbed by it all and didn’t notice. Now 3 days later, the congestion moves from my head to my lungs and closer to my heart. With it erupts deep rotting sorrow, memories of loss, abuse and abandonment, awareness of mistakes made, self-hatred, existential fears, righteous and painful rage, and a general disinterest in going on in life. See, the exposure is not only physical in the symptoms it brings forth, it is emotional and mental too. A complete infection of the system.
Or rather in this case, a reinfection.
There is always the option to consider…as someone said to me…that maybe I just don’t want to thrive. For those who live their life according to nothing but the driving need to scratch every itch in their sleepy selfish subconscious, then the option to believe that would be an accurate one to choose. Because unlike them, I don’t have any interest in being well-adjusted to a sick society. Nor do I have any interest in perpetuating that sickness.
So for now, I’ll just buy another box of tissues, keep blowing my nose and swallowing my bitter herbs until my immune system is strong enough again to make it through to the next fight. And I’ll do my best to keep wringing it out, writing it out. Everyday.
next time we’re in the same room
you better close your eyes
i didn’t give you permission to look at me
and this is not a free world
listen here: same room
Sometimes it is Life squeezing the life out of us.
My friend formed herself into the seat as she freely spoke. Her words were like notes I heard played in a Mingus solo. Wailing gently on herself. I winced at the familiarity of those notes. Sliding like quarter tones in and out of a chromatic scale, not knowing how she fits into Life. Yes, Life with a capital L. This is the way it is accented often to those of us who sometimes have no idea what we are doing in it from those who don’t really care what the details of it are as long as they can shout their oversimplified quotations to the world and make millions off it. “Life is good!”
Her words were limited but the spaces between were not. A pause in speech allowed for a sigh and a necessary shift in positioning for our anatomy on the distortion-inducing right-angled chairs that we stuffed ourselves into the corners of…along with the walls.
Lately she has lost interest. All that is apparent to her is that life continues and so do the same repetitions of it. At least that is what I heard. I probably heard that because I related to it. The same struggles for the same bullshit, the same rules, expectations and misunderstandings. Life as habitual is the thought visiting my friend, waking her up in the morning and repeating it’s perpetuating riddle within a miserable schedules of have-to’s in her mind.
She stops and apologizes for complaining. I pull my right leg up onto the chair and towards my chest. Getting more comfortable sitting next to her fire. It’s hard to hear her turn on herself and yet the words move smoothly into my ears. Then they glide into my heart like a homerun almost batted out of the ballpark.
I get it.
My friend Leena* used to say that to me a lot. “I get it.” And I believed her. She knew pain. She knew suffering. And so she knew joy and life. But those were two things she just couldn’t quite hold onto. Joy and life. Especially Life. She chose to end hers. I guess it was her choice to leave life but she did seem to be choking on it and from it. She supported it so well for others though. She didn’t eat meat and she had a bevy of pets living with her. Some were fostered and some were her family. Mostly fish and birds. We came to knowing each other because we shared many connections; mutual friends and a history of sexual trauma and auto-immune disease.
Survivors are sometimes like vinyl music albums. Formed by grooves. Cut deep. But not so much that they cannot keep playing along. For a long while…even after they’ve been scratched. Then they sometimes start to skip. start to skip. start to skip. start to skip. All the way to the end of the record. Then I guess they are not called survivors anymore are they?
Now imagine a virtual map of this vast living and fertile universe. Virtually complete? Dots are moving along over parts of it. Millions upon billions upon trillions. Big dots, little dots, tiny dots and so on. Let’s pretend that the smallest visible dots represent humans. They move all over the surface in every direction on one quite large dot; Earth. In some areas there are many more dots than others moving very swiftly. In other areas the dots don’t move much at all. And then imagine the dots that form clusters. Go deeper into those clusters and find more groupings and more . Moving along. Go deeper in. And closer and closer. Closer to where you know. Closer to where you move like a dot. Closer to where you sit. And do you see it? Those two dots that just connected and became one? That’s you and me.
It happens all the time. We connect like moving dots and then we move away and in and towards and sometimes we fit perfectly for a moment and everyone sees. Sometimes we fit perfectly for a moment and barely anyone sees including the other dot involved. Sometimes we cast shadows and make the other unseen and unknown. Sometimes we are the ones hidden.
There are times when we meet and POW!
Our little dot bursts. SPLAT!
Life (with a capital L) sometimes really is a Strangling Tree. The pressure to Live Life To The Fullest can squeeze the life right out of us. You know about this: Do it all. Have it all. Be happy. Find the perfect love. Cure yourself. Never grow old. Be connected. Be a free spirit. Catch the fucking wave. Get the perfect job. Make more money. Make more friends. Be a cool robot. Get out of debt. Get online. Get married. Get divorced. Have kids. Have fun. Find your tribe. Find your bliss. Find yourself.
Find your fucking head up your ass.
Or how about this?
Disconnect. Don’t get too close. Stop being a victim. Create your own reality. Move on. Grow up. Get over it. Find someone else. And then find someone else. New relationship energy. Find someone else. Live drama free. Loosen up. Lighten up. Cut the cord.
Cut the shit please.
A lot of people in the world suffer. And it’s really not all their fault.
Because if you connect the dots, you see that we are all connected. And we are. As cliche as it sounds.
Just because we humans are the ones responsible for such profound total life altering innovations in technology such as fire, the wheel, the automobile and the world wide web. And Condoms and IUDs and all sorts of miracle pills. And surgical methods and particle smashers and fancy secretive things to smoke your weed out of. This doesn’t mean we have the right to be narcissistic assholes and treat other people like trash.
Some plants are toxic. If you eat them you’ll die. If you rub up again them, you’ll get a bad rash. This Strangling Tree is exactly that kind…it grows it’s virtual toxic trunk up under and around us and leaves us with no memory of what makes humans truly unique. Our ability to be conscious. I didn’t say positive. I didn’t say lucky. I didn’t say happy. I didn’t say rich. I said conscious.
The most radical form of being human these days is seen in our abilities to accept our emotions and the emotions of those we live on this planet with…all of them. But specifically I am speaking of the ugly ones. Emotional violence and murder is now seen as a common and acceptable part of the human condition. Don’t be jealous. Don’t be angry. Don’t overreact.
Don’t feel hurt. Don’t feel.
And people also say that having your heart broken is natural to being human. I really don’t agree with that. It is another symptom of our sick society as deluded humans who think we are entitled to something we are not: perfection. Humans are not merely disposable things that we can get rid of when we are done with them and then go find shiny new ones that are just like us. Broken hearts are for assholes, Zappa said. I think because assholes break hearts. Oh and…in case you didn’t know broken hearts do actually cause death. The willingness for conflict resolving communication doesn’t.
I am going back to these basics.
struggle. work hard. include others. stick around. show up. be present. talk it out. be accountable. sleep in. weed the garden. accept where I am. make amends. go for a walk. don’t talk to “strangers”.
and I am going to try on a new motto for myself:
Any friend of _______ is no friend of mine.
(Put whoever in that blank that tried to convince or charm you into thinking that being an asshole is okay.)
Not all trees have the right to grow in every forest. Some of them take over and change the forest so dramatically that native species are choked out and made extinct. Leena was a beautiful and rare flower. And how she no longer exists. I don’t think the process of extinction is evil, I think it is a result of us wanting the easy way out of situations that are not easy with people that may be different than us. I don’t think Leena took the easy way out, I think all her abusers did and left her mangled in the mind because of it. I think we must be good stewards in the forest of our hearts. For ourselves AND each other. We must not allow ourselves to treat ourselves and others like toys and objects. We have to stand up for that somehow. I have no problem with consensual anything but the time for fighting for that has passed, it won’t matter. In order to continue to exist on this planet with any chance at all for peace we must learn to strive for justice in our personal lives. Being intimate is peace-making. Rejecting that which is truly toxic is justice. And I don’t think the negative is toxic…I think the unwilling escapist selfish asshole is. And I must put the effort in everyday to not get sucked in one way or the other. Towards becoming the Strangling Tree asshole or towards being swallowed up by it. Some trees need to be uprooted or burned as fuel. It’s really just about sustainability. What do you want the forest in your heart to look like?
I am going out to get my axe. This Strangling Tree must come down.
*not her real name