A Tiny, Mean Room — Maya Angelou

“I keep a hotel room in which I do my work – a tiny, mean room with just a bed, and sometimes, if I can find it, a face basin. I keep a dictionary, a bible, a deck of cards and a bottle of sherry in the room. I try to get there around seven, and work until around two in the afternoon … Maybe after dinner I’ll read to [my husband, Paul du Feu] what I have written that day. He doesn’t comment. I don’t invite comments from anybody but my editor, but hearing it aloud is good. Sometimes I hear the dissonance; then I try to straighten it out in the morning.”

— Maya Angelou.

There Is Only One Single Way — Rainer Maria Rilke

“Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write.

This above all — ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.

[…]

A work of art is good if it has sprung from necessity. In this nature of its origin lies the judgment of it: there is no other.”

— Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, circa 1905.

 

// The Truth of Who We Are //

We mistake so many monstrous things for strength and this to me is very dangerous. To label something strong and powerful for the wrong reasons. To call anything less than love and humility “strong” is to call weakness strength. It is to put our trust in what is false, unreal, incompetent and incapable of providing protection, inspiration, life.

With all that is happening in my country, the turmoil, manipulation and shame that has infiltrated the very fabric of our existence as a free nation, what I am most afraid of is our collectively losing our grasp on the truth. The truth of who we are, what we stand for, what we desire to become.

In these radical times what is threatened most is our own minds, our ability to think for ourselves, to break away from the hype. Where can we turn to trust anyone or anything?

We must become the most fundamental of truths.

We must search ourselves to uncover the love in the light and the darkness and we must hold tight to what we know. If it is not humble it is not strong. This we know. This one simple truth unblinds us, this simple truth would bring the world to its knees in praise of gentleness and compassion if we would only practice what we know to be true.

Only as much as we can trust ourselves and one another can we build anything at all.

Now is the time for art and writing and creativity which cuts to the very bones of the truth.

This is our work.

It matters.

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// Here Is the Flood //

Here is the flood. Here is everything in me I cannot name, I cannot hold on to any longer, I cannot identify and you will not recognize as me. Here are the ways my mind is deficient. Here are the things I worry about and all the things I wish were different about me but they never will be. Here is the pain, the colour of amber glowing fireflies underneath pines, here is my fear of death, it is written in Braille although I can read. Here is my fear of speaking and not speaking the colour of the faces of those who are holding back the same things I am, and this is the way it feels to judge, the colour of chains. This is how it feels to be judged.

Here is my mouth covered with black tape, here is my mouth wet with hunger, anger, love, greed, hope. Here is the way I pray, it is the colour of midnight, it is the sounding of a word of a God they do not want me to know about, because I am made of it, the colour of love matches exactly the colour of rejection. Reflection and deflection mix, we are without lenses, we use the wrong colour eyes. This is the body, my prayer comes alive when we touch in dreams. Here is worship, it tastes like the rain coming down and filling small and large puddles, lakes inside of stones in my mouth, in my shoes, here is all the poetry I’ve read. It is so much better than what I have done that it liberates and punishes me in equal measure.

Here is the struggle I struggle with, wanting like mad to touch the sky. Wishing like a child when I’m no longer allowed. Crawling like a wounded animal. Chanting like a witch or a monk or a hollow bird. Prisoners. Keys. Book shelving and brittle lace sleeves.

Here are the things about me I do not yet understand. Here are the ways I hide. Here are the ways I want to love you enough that you will never have to die, but I need to learn to love you enough that you can. Here are all the things I’ve learned. Here are all the things I’ve not learned and I should have. By now. Here is the yellowing of my anguish. Here are the tear stains, I’ll trade you anything, but it is too late. Here is the silence of the passing of time.  Let’s take a drink.

Here are the ways I am not enough. Here are the ways I’ll let you forget everything for a while. Here are the things I’d like you never to know. I think somehow it is better you do know, I hope that’s okay. Am I a burden? Am I a siren? Am I your muse and will you always think I deserve to be? I hate that this matters to me, but I also think it’s sweet. Tragedy and comedy, any given day of the week.

This shouldn’t be so long, I shouldn’t have kept you but sometimes your kindness is so endless I forget who is keeping who around. I love you for that.  I hope our changing doesn’t change us but how can anything about the truth be helped. We can tie the hands but not ever stop giving. This should not be so . . . I should not ask this of you. To look at me. To be seen. To be still. But here is the truth I keep in a small locket underneath my tongue, and I’m sorry before you even come close to it because I don’t know who I am, I don’t know the colour of this thing. Please understand: I’m showing you things I’ve not yet seen. It is not fair. If I were to kneel in front of you, bow my head down at your feet, would you know exactly who you are. Would you recognize this as strength and would you be strong enough to lead a leader, to comfort a comforter, to protect the protector, to mother and father the mother and father.

Would we understand eachother if there were no sound. What is God but the pain between us understood. Where is this coming from, I don’t know. I have only just now noticed my insides, life is becoming an x-ray, a screen, a transfer, though it seems I’m falling into my own hands, these words could be everything, they could be nothing, they could be mindgames, they could be spiritual text to last for all time as soon as they disappear, I would love to fall apart next to you, finally, completely, and have you bear witness, and have you collect me piece by piece by piece.

Are you still glad you came? Are you still because you can see me and it’s beautiful or because you are steadying yourself to run. I’ve lost my instinct, I’ve lost my ability to collect and interpret the signs, intuition (it turns out) is just free fall, I’ve given up all the ground I thought I’d won but now I see it was never really there to begin with. How is it that we make terrain out of pride, arrogance, cruelty, and then stake a claim. Smoke made of walls. How is it that people can live their whole lives and never know their own names. What is your favorite colour and by that I mean what do you see when you are in full orgasm. What do you crave, what turns your mouth to fire, your belly to claws, what about the way I move makes you want to cry.

This is the flood, I carry it in constant. I am swallowing it over and over and over hoping to spare the world from drowning in a disastrous sea of whatever this is I’m made of, the flood of the human things I would rather you couldn’t see.

What will kill us all is held inside, held back, forced down, it churns with the force of a thousand tidal waves, crashing, crashing, crashing upon the inner shores, only to recycle itself and return again. We walk around afraid of the flood. Pointing out there, out there, out there I see it coming in the red clouds, in the blackgray sky, in the thunder as it rolls up the ground like carpet, in the faces of the ones I cannot understand. In the other. But the other is the flood in me. All the human things you cannot see, one day this will end in paradise. One day you will see them all in me.

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// These Are the Lines We Crossed //

Hairpins in the gaps between

my teeth,

developing nightfog turns my

hunger pains translucent and you

bite everything out of me which is clean,

let the dust collect upon the palms

upturned. These are the lines we

crossed.

And will you not be coming around any longer,

and will it be that even as my bones fade in and out of

shadow and light,

your fingers still curl around the bloodstains

in my feverthoughts

of the little things we killed

and left broken of flesh

dangling from the ache in our mouths

laid down at one another’s feet.

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// At the Center of the Blood //

You are dying

in the palms of my hands,

they clutch the throat while

singing.

 

And as I hold you there I am

dying in the center of your heart.

At the center of the blood

of this collective single heart a whisper:

what is coming has gone,

what is born is undone,

what you reach for reaches

beyond.

 

This life is feeding itself to death,

death into life.

What hurts us is the feeding,

what hurts most

is the way the heart

keeps beating.

 

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// Behind the Sky //

Then there were all the ways

we never found what we were looking for.

We did not know its color or

how to recognize its sound.

The way the lights descended from the heavens

and filled us so bright until the dark

felt like home again.

The home to light is darkness,

they belong inside of one

another and become

a single swaying being

no one knows how to speak about.

And so the silence, on one specific invisible day

and not one day before,

begins gathering twigs and little bones of

things deceased,

assembling her nest inside the

blinding noise.

And this is how we burn our lives away

waiting for daybreak

hiding behind the sky.

Expansion.

Detachment.

Release.

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// artistry //

“I was born with an enormous need for affection,

and a terrible need to give it.”

~ Audrey Hepburn

I have never melted into the folds of a truth so deeply as I did when I first heard this quote. It is so strong in its vulnerability. We are only as rich as we are willing to own these things about ourselves, our need for intimacy, our need to find little flecks of our own souls in other people.

Our need for togetherness, for kindness, for seeing one another.

These are very tumultuous times we are living in, they can feel vicious, dark, lonely, desperate. But if I could beg of you just one thing, it would be that you do not abandon your sacred craving to give and receive affection from other human creatures.

Affection, affection, affection. Compassion, compassion, compassion.

This is who we are. This is true artistry.

This is where we belong, in the gentle hands of one another.

Love.

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spine of the soul

Hours
like little red threads
of freedom
had been stolen from me,
pulled, taken, slid out subtly, slowly
from underneath my skin.
I let them.
I believed them because
I did not yet understand what I had, the patterns,
the texture of the wisdom born inside of me,
generations of the rough and the mild,
the way they must press against each other,
dissimilar grains of similar sand.
I did not yet understand that to write is to grow
the spine of the soul
as it was meant to grow
in all directions
upward, like an ever widening intricate tree,
the wild, tangled reach of expression,
toward the sky
with countless
arms, branches, throats.
To write is to discover the peace and brutality, the light and
darkness of who we are,
to begin to weave those little threads into what might have been;
into what may be yet to come.
Stitching: word into word, self into self, we to ourselves,
we
to each other,
lush impossible patterns.
Writing recovers those stolen hours.
The pen hands the freedom
back to me.

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// luna //

Flocks of wings fell from a covetous sky as I was dancing barefoot along the edge of
sickle blades beheld in your eyes,
razors cut straight into
an alabaster wind and all I have in this cruel world is a
blood wine offering to my ungodly thirst
for you:
flawless
standing once removed
at a mirror gazing into
the first orgasmic pulse of the universe.
To crave you is adoption of strange distortion, black flames wet with resplendent poison;
I am fertile, the depths of my shadows have
grown again
young.
Temptress, goddess, luna, luna, luna Diana,
deliverance, solar bodies locked in iron chairs
bending back against blue celestial walls.
You are the ancient guiding light when the galaxies are riotous clouds in my
disconnected
hands.
What of the promise which swallows the tears of dying stars
this bone cold ocean of downturned faces
as the earth cries out for her own rebirth
a river
snakes around my infectious words;
ghost lovers in soft willow frames, ecstatic oblivious rotation,
lost minds spinning on axis upon a thimble
dressing and undressing us in rose water and sage.
The crystal globes inside you are melting time beneath my fevered skin
as I insert you, blessed dark heaven between my fingers and my thighs,
tragedy and faith forever bound;
our secrets have become
corruptions
of an unrelenting
tide.

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