Reclining Nudes

The collector is obsessed

with bathing women.

The painters and their students

observe their canvas backs

study their open mouths

arms up, fur exposed,

soft animals juxtaposed

against dark paintings of men

heaving in their clothes

bulky masses of coats

closed around a table.

The viewer is a man.

In dignified portraits, ladies

fix him with a start

always stern faced

under his microscope.

I wish to inspect the men.

We stare at women’s faces

like fruit we might buy

if it’s soft enough

and sweet.

Let us look openly at men.

How many girls did you paint?

Naked in their evidence —

There is no proof except

the buildings full of it

the walls bursting with it

the crowds paying for it

the man collecting it.

Where are the men undressing?

In what lush garden do they hide?

Where do they bathe and lounge

on soft grasses

skin damp with summer

caressed by blue skies

caught unaware

by the artistic eye

of whom?

Where do their coats hang

empty costumes on hooks

shed from soft bodies?

Where do they lay pink

in bed before the painter

young and fresh

and for sale?

Always we are peering in

to the private lives of women.

Interrupted at their studies

leaning to pour tea

affectionately

holding small hands

meeting on a shaded hill

gazing away at what does not gaze back —

The indifferent ocean,

A docile garden.

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Directing my energy toward creativity

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been pouring myself into creative outlets lately. It’s not as though I have a ton of spare time, but if a day goes by that I don’t engage in some kind of creative activity, I feel lost. For me, creative practice is part of my sadhana (spiritual practice) because it’s a way that I can look inward and not only be honest about what I see but also do something with it. I don’t tend to stay in one lane creatively, either. Some days I need to write a poem. Some days I need to sing a song or make art of other kinds.

One of the cool things I learned from roller derby was how much fun it is to start something you have no idea how to do, and then really see it through. It felt amazing to put on skates and learn to hit and play and really become strong in the unique way that derby makes people strong. Likewise, it feels awesome to pick up the ukulele and learn a new chord or compose a little song with one of my favorite meditation mantras. The process of learning is deeply satisfying in itself, but the reward of having learned something and getting to engage in the act of creation using what you’ve learned … it’s just stellar.

This is why I’ve been enjoying audio recording so much lately. I’ve been spending a good bit of time on  my Soundcloud experiments. A long time ago I recorded some poems for sharing, but more recently, I’ve been experimenting with music using Garage Band, my ukulele, and my voice. Admittedly, I’m not starting 100% from scratch on the music thing. I did have piano lessons, voice lessons, and a few years of choir to learn the basics, but I was not a strong student of music theory, so I’m kinda winging it on the composition front.

If you’re into meditation songs or ukulele punk, you’re invited to follow me on Soundcloud. For a taste of what I’m all about, here’s a meditation song I finished today.

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It’s Friday, and I’m having some feelings.

Hello, friends and strangers. I, your friendly correspondent, have some words today.

It occurred to me recently that the art of the blog may soon die. With the loss of net neutrality, the dominance of corporate media, and our increasing reliance on social media platforms for information, I find myself feeling that the average human is robbed of real voice. At one time, Twitter was the place for uprising, and lately it feels like a roiling cauldron of toxic rage with no productive outlet. And while I don’t think I’m going to change all that with my little blog, I do want to take a moment to remind you to resist. The regime is consolidating its control of our main mode of communication, but we must refuse to be silenced. Find a way. Write, my loves. Create art. Live your life as the ultimate creation of your truest self. Let your life be your statement. Don’t look to fashion magazines to find out who you ought to be. Don’t drink the poison of mass media and call it truth. Know your own heart and mind and act in accordance with your truth.

I don’t really think very many people read what I write these days. I’ve always had a modest readership of friends who kinda relate to what I’m saying, and I used to think that wasn’t good enough. I wanted to have mass appeal because I thought that’s what it meant to be a good writer. I tried really hard to mimic people who were successful in the way I thought I should be. That didn’t work because it wasn’t who I am. Now, when I write here, I am just writing for you and me because something has brought us together and that has value in itself. And I think what brought us together was that we have some shared values, some hope for the world, some desire to believe that we are basically good and everything is going to be ok. And what’s been really hard about the past couple years is that things don’t feel ok. In fact, things are not ok. So I’m writing for you and me because when things are not ok, we need each other.

There are uncertain times ahead of us. I have every hope that the Democrats will flip Congress and impeach Trump, but I can’t honestly predict if it will happen or not. And scary things could happen either way. If 45 completes a full term, what further damage might he do? Will our next presidential election be as much of a farce as Russia’s? And if he doesn’t complete a term, will we end up with a president who wants to impose Biblical law? Vote, my friends. You. Must. Vote. If you do nothing else, fucking vote. But also, keep exercising your voice, and practice regular maintenance of your mind and heart. Step away from the internet. Re-evaluate relationships and pass times that aren’t supporting your wellness. And meditate. You don’t have to be good at it, but find a way to empty your mind. If you have trouble sitting still, go for a meditative walk. Shut off the constant stream of information and give your mind a few quiet minutes at least. Remember that you are human. Reconnect with your body. Sweat. Cry. Scream if you have to. We’ve been living in an intense emotional stew for the past 18 months, and I often feel numbed out. I can’t keep taking it in. I can’t keep feeling it. And yet, if we stay numb, we lose our humanity. So remember to be human and feel it, but also let yourself scream. Let it not be ok. Cry about it. Yell about it. Protest about it. Write about it. Create art about it.

We must do what is within our power, and we must strive to uphold our own values because that’s what it means to be the Resistance. Today, what is within my power is to get up, get dressed and go do my damn job, and to write to you with love and encouragement for the day ahead of you.

So, let’s go do our best today.

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I can’t draw a straight line to save my life.

“I can’t draw a straight line to save my life.”
In my mind, this is my sister’s voice
or some woman down the street or every
woman I ever met except those
annoyingly confident girls I was too
scared to emulate.

My sister is an artist, and so am I, though
I didn’t know it for a very long time and
I immediately feel the need to justify
why I can’t draw a straight line to save my life.

The boys used to draw pictures in school.
Dustin liked to draw shoes.
He thought high tops were cool, and deer
hunting, too, but he wasn’t so good at people
till he started drawing our teacher, and soon
we weren’t allowed to draw in class anymore.
But I can’t draw a straight line to save my life.

What do you do in the middle of a piece
when you know it’s going to be a shitty first draft?
Keep writing.
But I can’t draw a straight line to save my life.

Somewhere in here is a metaphor for queerness
but also for how fucking confused I am because
this is not a phase but being bisexual is actually
confusing because everyone else thinks
they know what you are, and you can’t draw
a straight line to save your life.

And you live in a world where a third of the people
want you dead (or don’t mind if the president does)
and a third don’t care and a third are running
dangerously low on fucks to give and you’re trying
not to see enemies everywhere,
to have compassion and reason and to discern between
causes and effects, but you’re constantly bombarded with
more bad news and you can’t draw a straight line
to save your life.

So I sit with pen in hand gazing out the
window and imagine the day ahead — how
I’ll get from here to night, and I
can’t draw a straight line to save my life.

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An Ex Catholic Goes to Confession

 

This poem may still be in the midst of the editorial process. I don’t really know for sure. I like this version, and I think it’s fun to read out loud. I’ve been struggling a little bit lately because I feel that poetry is really best shared out loud more than on a page, or at least that there needs to be some greater dimension of interaction between the writer, the material, and the reader. So, I’ve been using social media such as Instagram and Snapchat to share. The trouble this time is that those platforms are designed for shorter messages than this. Hmm… always experimenting. Always learning.

In case you’d rather read the poem yourself, here’s the full text.

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. 
I haven't been to confession since
the fifth grade. 
I came here to confess that I have
left behind every scrap 
of faith I ever had
and I wish to account for it. 
I want you to know that I prayed to your god
and I told him what I was going to do
and he did not stop me.
I knelt twice a week at the feet of that poor man
and sculpted his ribs with my eyes
and untied in my mind
the shred of cloth at his hips. 
I had his blood on my lips
and he did not ask me to stay. 
Sweet child of a man, he rolled his eyes
to God and prayed himself away
so you could take his name in vain -- but
he did not ask me to stay. 
I want you to know that I don’t miss
the Sunday morning fashion show or your
admonitions or the hypnotic repetition
of unthinking prayers in our
monotone drone -- worker bees stoned 
on incense and wine, 
keeping an empty ritual just to fill the time
repeating the spell of our own binding
I believe I believe I believe
we loved our endless litany
of saints and sins all taken in 
the legato of suburban life. 
I want you to know that in the desert outside your home
where you said I’d be alone, I found
an ocean of love like you’ve never known
and I dove right the fuck in and it was good. 
And out here, none of us are who you said we were. 
We are so much more. 
I want you to know I’m going away, 
and I’m not coming back. 

I probably will do a bit of editing, and I’ll maybe change the first line since it doesn’t create quite the tone I want to start with. I don’t actually seek forgiveness, as the poet or as the speaker of this poem, so I find that line misleading and a little cliched. The reason I’ve kept it this way so far is that I don’t know exactly what I want to change it to and that I was trained with great emphasis as a child that all confessions were supposed to start that way. I’ll let it rest for now and see what comes up with a little time.

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