Parallels between us

“I know the answer lies somewhere around wherever love resides”. By Amina, our daughter.

amina's anti-pigeonhole

Over the past few weeks of our lives in lockdown, we’ve had the pleasure of interacting with a small family of cats in our building. A mommy cat, who we saw through her pregnancy and her extreme neediness and shrill meow, and her three identical ginger kittens. We spent one fun evening with them in the entrance corridor of our house, feeding their hungry stomachs constantly for about 45 minutes, playing with them, and creepily watching them sleep (the last bit was just me). Despite the kittens being identical, I learned to differentiate them quickly based on their personalities. The biggest of the lot was the most playful, always chasing after the string I’d entice his little self with. The second one was the most timid yet curious; he’d always seem to want to play with his brother but greater fear of this human made him run back off to…

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urchin ways

when the urchin boy
  girl go out to sea   I
ask them of that old song the one
  their parents’parents’parents’ knew by heart the one about
  water   & salt –

when the urchin boy
  girl go out to sea   I
ask them of that old song the
  one about fire & salt & fire & naught and how loud
  how loud it was –

People ask about the Cold Mountain way:
plain roads don’t get through to Cold Mountain.
Middle of the summer, and the ice still hasn’t melted.
Sunrise, and the mist would blind a hidden dragon.
So, how could a man like me get here?
My heart is not the same as yours, dear sir . . .
If your heart were like mine,
you’d be here already.

– Han Shan, “Cold Mountain Poems” (translated by Jerome Seaton)

two sides in want of a third

When rain falls with conviction
  I ask the woman,
  “would you like to buy the sky?”

“No need as dying is near impossible.”
  makes sense as death is a triangle
  two sides in want of the third –

When there is no rain or when
  when conviction fails, the
  woman is silent, sky is up

For sale & death has no neighbor knocking
  on its door asking, “is there a
  song we can borrow for the night?”

Within each one of us there is some piece of humanness that knows we are not being served by the machine which orchestrates crisis after crisis and is grinding all our futures into dust…In what way do I contribute to the subjugation of any part of those who I define as my people? Insight must illuminate the particulars of our lives: who labors to make the bread we waste, or the energy it takes to make nuclear poisons which will not biodegrade for one thousand years; or who goes blind assembling the microtransistors in our inexpensive calculators?

– Audre Lorde, “Learning from the 60s”.

a nongreen wage

there is nothing tragic in the
  the logic of being moss
  perhaps the mouth goes dry
  maybe your vocabulary

slips, but
  the green is no longer just a color
  your mouth is no longer dry and you spout words as if
  your dictionary is on fire –

what is tragic is the logic of
  the nongreen wage, the math of
  the unfed mouth – what goes
  dry is the unsaid word,

the less than word, the feet that
  knew no ground no wall but wail
  this unfed mouth is word now
  that soots your green with rage –

These historic changes – that peaked in the 19th century with the creation of the full-time housewife – redefined women’s position in society and in relation to men. The sexual division of labor that emerged from it not only fixed women to reproductive work, but increased their dependence on men, enabling the state and employers to use the male wage as a means to command women’s labor. In this way, the separation of commodity production from the reproduction of labor-power also made possible the development of a specifically capitalist use of the wage and of the markets as means for the accumulation of unpaid labor.

– Silvia Federici, “Caliban and the Witch”

so you respond

I shamed my soul, lost heaven’s place,
when I fawned upon the oppressor’s flabby hand.

– Lance Jeffers (from his poem, “And God got down before the fool”)

so you respond
as the poet has to, as the poem
can (should?)      so you despond

as the times
will have you, as this cess is
wont to      so you sit, quiet

arm in bloodied
ink, eye in sullen slight      fire
brewing on the potted page –

an eye sees what the pen holds out as premise
     the field of X      an algebra of
     beginnings

an eye begins what the pen hollows out as seed
     tyranny of X      an unknown of
     fsetting the known

an eye opens what the pen stamps out as possible
     imaginary X      an amalgam of
     steel & need

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”

Dispossession

A fear of place, of
breeding to

Haunt the place, of
want and if

Of place, the trove
giving love

Of place, the trove
matching it

And mess of place -

If it is possible to have in language – popular or literary – hooks that thrive on an awe of the hallowed; words, poems, books that convey the sense that the key to this fascinating ineffable lies in somehow giving up your voice in favor of the few who have crossed on to the other side, the side that looks down only to be relieved; does that not goad us in forgetting genocide every took place, and even if it did, what’s the big deal?

This tree will not sound out
Beginnings; it will not prepare
A crowd to tumble the heart’s

Mend to a clearing; more acid
Is the earth’s bile dream believing
Catacombs to be phoenixes, armor

To be insufficient and the roots
Of earth as linking the ends: here
Where it starts and the outmost in

most there.

Reblog: Degrees of freedom

Here is one I posted five years ago. Munira was reminded by Facebook; she reminded me,  and I met myself once again with a “glad to meet you” and decided to repost. She asked me to dedicate it to Qandeel Baloch, so I do. One of my recent posts is Silence and Freedom which is relevant to both this post and Baloch in two ways: i) the external form and ii) Audre Lorde’s words: when Lorde speaks of oppression, the resonance is deep enough to touch all its fangs: race, gender, class, age, and every which way in which humans otherize the other.

Degrees of Freedom

Tagore/Kabir V – Maya as oppression

This is the third post in the Tagore/Kabir series.

I
An oppressive taunt is Maya’s
Brother in law; the

Cusp of a lesser heaven; the
Beerbelly is contingent

Upon remembering how much seep
Was ingested and

How it came about that you wept
So soundly.

II
A fellow blogger/poet, ThotPurge, interpreted the original thus:

I killed my shadow
Blocking the afternoon sun
Now clouds distract me

And this is how Tagore originally appropriated Kabir

I. 63. avadhû, mâyâ tajî na jây

  Tell me, Brother, how can I renounce Maya?
  When I gave up the tying of ribbons, still I tied my garment
    about me:
  When I gave up tying my garment, still I covered my body in its
    folds.
  So, when I give up passion, I see that anger remains;
  And when I renounce anger, greed is with me still;
  And when greed is vanquished, pride and vainglory remain;
  When the mind is detached and casts Maya away, still it clings to
    the letter.
  Kabîr says, "Listen to me, dear Sadhu! the true path is rarely
    found."

Silence and freedom

The quotes prefacing my poems below are taken from a 1977 paper delivered by Audre Lorde titled, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”.

“What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?”
the bureaucracy of joy
Operationally exigent, the
Skill of my day-to-day is
Contingent, held by the
Noosed nylon that will swing

You to the other side; the door
Is procedure, sentiment; cross that
Tee and knot that eye with thatched
Thistle carving up the parchment

Into friendly spaces, cells and columns,
Political economy of verbs & nouns,
Forms content with fill, ink’s dissent
With fill of space, the dotted eye.

“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.”
rules of communion
Commit to the arbitrary whim
That seeks plenitude but knows

Not how, and then organize those
Whims, the exigencies of action.

Figure out the ancestry of the
Why of what you have to do, and

Write it down: to commit is to
Want to breathe, sink and greet.

“The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.”
freedom is inherently dangerous

freedom is inherently dangerous; it can
unfetter the slovenly pink and discolor
the unfelt solder, the axed appropriate
mandate, the breaking of swords, triads

of affiliation, tinpots of manged hate;
freedom is thus danger; and why not? it
reeks of past, it seeks the past, flits
of memory crawl out of nowhere nothings