Open water

do we in our moving
move toward life or death

do we in turn sell, burn & prosper   do we raze our haven   as death?

Stroke by stroke drawing us
Out there?   Father of rhythms,
deep wave, mother,
There is no out there.
All is open.
Open Water.   Open I.

Open hearth   Open stone       crucible of love     crux of I

Women, ships, lost voices.
Whatever has dissolved into our waves.
I a lost voice
moving, calling you
on the edge of the moment that is now the center.
From the open sea.

Whatever has dissolved in our bones
as rust
recalls –
we recall the tender
the edges recall, the stone, the work of the sea as the breaking out of open water.


Lines in bold are from Muriel Rukeyser’s “The Outer Banks”

Poet as difference

Poet as difference
the smellsweet
    wrungtooth, it keeps us in guess
    in

deference to differ
the snuckroot
    earthsweat, as blade wishes blood
    in

rain – the differed
the nailred
    skyrust, as air as parch as wet as pain

that deep inner place where we have been taught to fear all difference—to kill it or ignore it

Audre Lorde

Tao as Lorde

When I speak of the Tao, I know not
but vaguely I

speak of Lorde       the fruit of my wis-
dom is twenty

                  inches too far from soul, twenty
                  years too large, twenty
                  something, perhaps more maybe
                  much less
When I speak of the Tao, I speak of Lorde

for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are — until the poem — nameless and formless, about to be birthed, but already felt

— Audre Lorde, “Poetry is not a luxury”

An unhandsome toil


Here are poetic tangents – mine with Lorde’s and Rukeyser’s – to a podcast I heard last night: a tribute paid to Eqbal Ahmad by his friend, Edward Said. Said contrasted his personal ‘filiation’ with his ‘affiliation’ in relation to Ahmad and the world of idea(l)s, Ahmad’s unceasing commitment to the creative versus mere politics, his fiery exhortations rooted in peace, and the sacrifice one has to make in pursuit of love (justice by any other name).


To engage what is true with what is most
true

It's the moor to an unhandsome
toil
     the imperfect
     the stone
it's the moor to loveless anchor   blanched in
      yellow   in-&
      out of tune

It’s compensation for kin with what is most
akin

"I say across the waves of the air
to you:
     today once more 
     I will try to be 
non-violent one more day this morning, waking the world
     away in the 
     violent day"1

To once more blur imagination with what is most
inconvenient

"Disrobed need shrieks through the nearby
streets...
     a brown sloe-eyed 
     boy picks blotches 
from his face, eyes my purse shivering 
     white dust a holy 
     fire in his blood"2

1. from “Waking This Morning” – Muriel Rukeyser
2. from “The Politics of Addiction” – Audre Lorde
I have taken the liberty of changing the line breaks in the two excerpts above.

Poems, Justice and Data Visualization

I have long been entertaining the possibility of somehow tying together the three areas: poems, social justice and data visualization. It has been tricky, but here is my first attempt.

The 10 poems by Audre Lorde and Muriel Rukeyser (wellsprings of poetic sensibility) are intended to provide context for the accompanying data visualization on gender (using data from genderstats.un.org). This is intended in a tangential and somewhat disruptive way. Data for indicators in the development world is mostly presented in a cut and dried way. Add to that their lumping together in neat categories and the bobbing up and down of pretty graphs and charts, and you end up euphemizing the underlying reality. The technical brilliance on display then serves as spectacle. That of course does not take away from the fact that the underlying numbers have been painstakingly collected and systematically organized. And these numbers are pretty much the only authoritative ones that map the reality that social activists use to change the world.

Hence the poems as corrective.

the ten thousand things

Resistance, the flowering fire of memory – Rukeyser, Muriel

As we mark the thinness of the
ten thousand things, as we go

past the halt, the hark of memory,
can we shirk off the rock of

my mountain’s mountain? as we
claim the fire of childspeak,

childstone, where will the song
of my deadwood ash its spike,

its noose? to resist is to burn
with remembrance, with the thing-

ness of the ten thousand things

mornglazed

mornglazed eyes
tiptoed dreams and their whys: they

are nearer to us to you to me these
lovetangled ephemera sub-

conscioned into day, brought up
to an interactive tea-pretation


The above is another possible response to Rukeyser’s Song, in a mood quite unlike the earlier one:

The world is full of loss; bring, wind, my love,
         my home is where we make our meeting-place,
         and love whatever I shall touch and read
         within that face.

Lift, wind, my exile from my eyes;
         peace to look, life to listen and confess,
         freedom to find to find to find
         that nakedness.

The moon remembers

Returning in her blood, the
moon remembers which

near star is no more, and
it sinks its shade again,

builds up the root of the
mountain as it climbs out

of yet another shadow.


Here is Muriel Rukeyser’s poem:
Martin Luther King,
Malcolm X

Bleeding of the mountains
the noon bleeding
he is shot through the voice
all things being broken

The moon returning in her blood
looks down   grows white
loses color
and blazes

…and the near star gone—

voices of cities
drumming in the moon

bleeding of my right hand
my black voice bleeding

this need & dare

“This first bright day has broken
the back of winter” (1)

As you will it, as you make day beckon its
wince, its sense of pay

“it does not pay to cherish symbols
when the substance
lies so close at hand” (2)

at hand is metal
it is shunned by pieces of,
remnants of burnt life

“my shoulders are dead leaves
waiting to be burned
to life” (3)

leaves welled up as tears are
torn again with the grind of
spade    another morning, an
other funnel of seedless faith

“I do not know when
we shall laugh again
but next week
we will spade up another plot
for this spring’s seeding.” (4)

And I know not when your
sun will drown this
piece of land, this need &
dare    yours, mine.

1-4: from Audre Lorde’s poem, “Walking our Boundaries”

Speak!

speak! as the soul wins
over the tranformative
mixups, the brazen fouls,
the unanticipations; speak!

when the round etches wilt
each hymn around the bell
of winter, when the curbs &
bevels mix unintended; speak!

“Because the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak. We can sit in our corners mute forever while our sisters and our selves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned; we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid.

Each of us is here now because in one way or another we share a commitment to language and to the power of language, and to the reclaiming of that language which has been made to work against us. In the transformation of silence into language and action, it is vitally necessary for each one of us to establish or examine her function in that transformation and to recognize her role as vital within that transformation.”

And I remind myself all the time now that if I were to have been born mute, or had maintained an oath of silence my whole life long for safety, I would still have suffered, and I would still die. It is very good for establishing perspective.”

We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.

for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.”

– Audre Lorde, “The transformation of silence into language and action”