Culture Wars, Activism, Election Countdown, and Being Creative in a Critical World

It’s Friday (mercifully!) and in this week’s Episode 3 of our new podcast, which I host weekly with my insanely talented screenwriter comedian cousin Mark, we grab our drinks and get right into it.

The countdown to November 3rd is staring us dead in the face and we chat about what extremes are doing to our country. Extreme polarization, extreme voter suppression, voter intimidation, ridiculously long lines, new rules for voting by mail, and so much more.

Is there still hope? Will we get through it? There is and we will and we talk about that, too.

And since we try to dig into two topics in each episode, in the second half we dive into what frightens us as artists about the idea of being ‘canceled’ by people who are quick to judge and shame our work.

Creatives, activists, and artists – all humans, in fact – have to be able to make mistakes in order to grow. But how much free expression can we get away with in hyper-critical times like these?

No matter what happens, remember, we have each other and we have laughter and love and gin and we are gonna be okay. Promise.

Relax and join us on Spacetrash Podcast on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts!

 

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Photo by Nicole Geri

This Is How It Happens Here

On November 3rd we vote for a system of American government.

We choose between democracy or fascism. Republic or dictatorship.

A life of hope and freedom and possibility or a life of cruelty and imprisonment and injustice.

What continues to astound me is how many people do not see this.

And I wonder, do they see it but don’t believe it?

Do they think it could never happen here?

American exceptionalism is not a real thing, though we have been taught to believe in it.

We are not exceptions to the rules of humanity, we are not immune to the insidious takeover of authoritarianism.

Any society made ripe with fear and division, crime and deception and greed, will collapse into chaos.

Under the right conditions, any body will break.

All flesh will tear.

We are made of the same stuff as any other body, any other country.

Just as vulnerable.

This is how it happens.

Is happening.

We are in it.

And this election won’t heal the wound.

But at the very least

we have got to stop the bleeding.

Vote.

 

 

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Photo by Ewelina Karezona Karbowiak

You Can Feel the Seasons Click

The cool night air smells of a spicy stiffness, it licks its sharp tongue against the bare skin of my legs where my black tights don’t quite meet my beat up sneakers.

He hands me the flask as we make our way up a low hill which overlooks a graveyard. Turning to sit under a tree, I take a deep swig of the peanut butter whiskey we brought along for festive reasons, though they feel a little more stale against the apocalyptic background hellscape of just another day.

The whiskey is too sugary for him so I’m swallowing more than my share which seems to trouble neither of us, so I curl up inside the warmth of my jacket and observe the twinkling lights of the town below. He leans against the trunk of the tree, speaking something so low I can’t understand him, just observe the way the dim light outlines his profile in the empty air.

You can feel the seasons click underneath your skin. The moon hangs high in the vast midnight blue sky, half lit. I think about the empty promise of equality and the illusion of balance. The way day and night are of equal hours now for a while.

He holds onto daylight while I scratch my fingernails along the spine of the darkness, coaxing night. I want it all over me, the darkness, like rich soil buried beneath an endless field of pristine white snow. What is that saying about thinking you are burying a thing when really the thing was a seed and so it began to grow?

I do not fear the darkness or the coming of winter. There has always been fire enough in my bones.

Lighting up a cigarette, he sits down close to me and exhales a grayish plume of smoke into the increasingly frigid air. His fingers interlace with mine among the weeds. I think of Halloween and innocence, the child’s play of trick or treat.

Soon we will make our way back home and do the things we always do. But for just a few moments, we scan our eyes out across the tiny headstones like some kind of nocturnal animal headlights.

Nothing is forever.

Some things are destined to be carved in stone.

In the silence, I can hear our hearts beating in unison, feel the warmth of blood and whiskey in our veins.

You can smell the burning of days gone by, the offering, the sacrifice, the cyclical nature of all things. You can feel the seasons click underneath your skin.

 

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Photo by Tania Medina

Undercurrent

There are smoke stains on the ceiling from the candles and the cigarettes. Twinkle lights and green houseplant vines intermingle, climbing and drifting against the walls as a gentle breeze sighs in through the window. I tell you stories I may or may not have told you already, forgive me, the days are running into and away from each other. I chat with a friend, roam around the house in socks and a tee shirt, grind more coffee, sift through the fridge for the cream. I have it easy, I have it lucky, I have it all very privileged. I want to move forward and never go back. Electrified talking heads on a television screen the size of half a living room wall, a neighbor watches some news broadcast or other all day long. Lines for food, lines for jobs, flat lines, side lines, borderlines, every boundary seems destined now to be crossed. Invaded. Life lines. Intruded upon. Vulnerability is a strange feeling when you are at the same time isolated. Turned inside out for no one, sensitive. Raw. Exposed. I pull a tarot card covered in roses and coins. I believe in letting things burn. I believe in letting things go. Every night this week I have dreamt of a different party I’m not allowed to attend. Or if I do get in, I can’t figure out where I belong. I observe but do not exist. There are white linen table cloths and women with their bare breasts on beautiful display. Elegant couples with the prettiest teeth, kissing underneath a red glowing light. High heels and spilled drinks and arguments, as I wake thirsty, dizzy, in a foggy haze. We go for another walk, you pause patiently as I snap a dozen pictures on my phone. I’m a sucker for the pink flowering trees, something about their fragrant blushing underneath a bright blue sky makes me feel like somewhere deep inside, I am the most myself. The feminine and masculine, the light and the dark, the giver and the receiver, each sensually intertwined. Maybe we will make it through only to wish we could go back. Maybe one day we will touch each other again, yearn for the freedom on the other side of heartache. Remember the taste of the body of this time, the softness and the cruelty of the wild.

Please Don’t Go (audio)

As the rain comes down angry and hard against my window, I curl deeper into my cocoon of warm blankets and pillows while attempting to thread through the million thoughts gripping my insides at once. In between the rooftops scattered with pigeons shuffling for space among their dirty huddle, the sharp point of a church steeple pierces a dark low hanging cloud, as if probing it to unload its heaviness onto the sleepy streets below. Behind the weather, morning creeps, slowly turning the driving rain into a thinning drizzle, the crystal droplets intermingling with the wafting white smoke coming from multiple chimneys across the way. The sky is charcoal gray, back lit with an eerie yellow light which makes the atmosphere feel unpredictable, unfriendly. Full of voices struggling to be heard. They are as sinister as they are honest. In every swaying branch there twists a ghost come alive from my haunted past, still shallow breathing, still waiting to take my hand, to grip my throat. Last I saw you I had been impossible and knew it. Sometimes I can’t help the way I shut down like a vault, trapping all of my feelings inside. For someone so blindly obsessed with words, my tight lipped demeanor doesn’t make any sense to you. You are pissed, certain I’m withholding on purpose, locking you on the outside while I am conniving on the inside, but your anger only fuels my refusal and the air between us becomes a fuse. Love is a ticking time bomb, love is a train gone off its slippery rails. When it all feels helpless, useless, desperate, there are no guidelines, no rule books, no referees. And if there is one thing a human being is good at it’s being stubborn, I’m no different and neither are you. As I sit in clipped silence, my mind flashes back to that night in your apartment, as you poured our drinks I sat comfortably in a bra and leggings on the edge of your couch near the mirror, lining my eyes in onyx liquid ink. As I traced my blue eyes until they were black as midnight I sipped on gin and tonic while imagining us naked, our bodies entwined in positions I’d only heard about but had yet to explore. Back then everything was so loud. The drinking, the music, the anger, the passion, the sex that shook the walls and split us both in two over and over again. I wonder when you look at me can you see it in my eyes. That freedom is just as hard for me as captivity, and in some ways just as sweet. That all my life I’ve been hunted. That even on a cold wet morning which threatens a snowfall that will have us stuck inside for days, my heart still burns with the fire of a young girl who knew what she wanted as soon as she saw it and took it without asking a single soul for permission. I hold on and I hold back. I want to be consecrated and I want to be shattered into a million pieces, thrown out into a wild winter sky. Lost and found and missed and deserted. Words can heal, words can obliterate. Please be patient. Please don’t go. I am a chapel as much as I am a cave, and what I explore in the darkness is the only light I ever learned to trust.

// Rise //

I had been given too many hands, brought up with ravens nesting in my throat. Love is screaming down the hall, love is darkness tearing cracks in a house which cannot fall. I learned the secret as it was threaded, woman into woman into woman into me. My wrists rush full of your veins (you at the ankles of my budding devotion, you the ascending lotus flower, you the sinew of the mouth of lineage).

My name is a language, my name is a generation, my name is earth, my name is seven letters penned in the dirt.

My name is the name of the truth.

I made it split my tongue, this opalescent rain which fills my lungs. Wet this room at the center of my neglect, concave, dim; the white eyes of this dying celestial.

Fracture this calculated light where I hunger and crawl and thirst for the rivers, watch as my numbness scales every mountain if only to peel back the sky, death is but a kiss along the seabed of a dying moon. Teacher, read for me. If my words disturb you, feed your breath to the cells of my body until I speak again of gentleness, speak the name, all of the names within my name, embryos falling through my hands.

And we will turn our cold minds to emptiness; we will coax a taste for morning, begin to raise our faces from the dust.

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// Darkness Falls //

I didn’t want it to be like this
you hanging by your teeth from my breast
and my not wanting to kiss you.
How the being of neglect walks alone through the hills
black cloaks and woodland creatures falling all around
my feet

the birds have come to nest
the birds have come to die

for lack of air in my lungs.
I could watch you spinning for as long as it takes
to stand the earth still
and freeze the clouds overhead in place,

write to me of the darkness you see. I want
to read the words you choose.

I bathe in cool darkness,
shower and dress and tug at my
neck
in darkness

line my lips and my eyes and stain my cheeks
with the smut and the ink

of the darkness in which
we dare not between us
speak.

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// untitled //

are you okay
it seems like the corners of your eyes
have fallen
it seems like the way you hold onto my hand is
flowers dying on the cherry wooden table
next to a beautiful vase
by the window left
like curtains alone with the breeze.

up against the wall i thought i heard the sounds of time
footsteps coming down the hall
are you okay
when i’m in here they don’t tell me anything

the carpets are greensea and the dust
chokes the daylight.
i’m turning in my sleep
footsteps leaving down the back stairs.
screen your calls, you have no more to say but
i am waiting and the calls cannot get through
i’ve disconnected all the lines
not knowing is not better
(are you okay?)

but i’m afraid there will be no answer
so i keep the questions folded in small creases
inside my paperfoil heart.
i’m okay i’m okay i’m okay.

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// Beg //

You unlock your mouth in dreams
undone by my adoration,
my heart continues
to divide.

What may I offer you to feast upon?
This body is sacred, this body is sick.

I drip as you beg
at the plastic edges of my sweet disturbance,

cry for the softmilk of my blood.

The pallid grasp of chemical hands
drowning the streets in her venomous drink,
sing for the weakness of thy flesh,
how charming the scent of dark, ripe seed.

In the place where love has never lived,
the mourning of love grows here:
spread wide and sodden atop the fading gravestone hills,
a cold nightwind gives birth

to a dying winter sky

our pleasured anguish writhing
beautifully beneath her.

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// I Looked Up //

I looked up and I saw
you coming.
I saw the way you
have entered my life in footprints

I had mistaken for music.
The sky began spinning
golden spheres of watercolour globes
melting teardrops upon thick stems.

Life will be water. Life will bleed.

These were the endlessness of
fields wet with gray which unfolds forever.
I saw you raining up from the ocean
from clouds full of darkness.

I pulled your broken bones
from my throat
and we went again hungry.
They were affixing my lashes with feathers:

my eyes became heavy
my eyes became soft.

I saw you coming
and I saw you leave.

I wait for you
counting hymns in silence.
I watch the way sunlight
burns through the trees.

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For Andy