This is my 300th post on this site. Ya'll know I've been blogging since May of 2004 over at the b-spot: hard to find but once you do you keep coming back. my first piece was on Gloria Anzaldua and her death. So we all know I've written a TON of posts that far exceeds 300, but there is something more public and more enjoyable about this space here. That I can reach people from all over, not be anonymous or just write for my friends, but can write for myself and for my community.
For my 300th post on this space I try to figure out what I want to share. In short: I'm exhausted! On a train ride home the other day I realized how stressful this summer has been. I've watched my baby sister marry the woman she loves; watch my father marry the woman he loves; watch my mother's memory deteriorate, educate 5 women on their bodies, their sexual rights, their sexual selves; attempt to communally heal after a good friend was broken on her wedding day; lost a contract to a job; called names because of the work I do in a public space; moved into a new space; forget parts of my past lovers faces; made new friends; won a prestigious award; doula-ed several abortion procedures; was broke; traveled; stayed broke; started drinking; made media; wrote letters; sent mail; and shifted my thoughts on parenting and monogamy.
I'm still exhausted!
In an attempt to quiet and still my mind and prepare for the fall semester and the upcoming events I have planned, I started reading poetry again. Poetry is very VERY difficult for me to read. It is a different type of testimonio, storytelling that does not come very easily to me. There is a level of fear I have in reading, that I won't appreciate all the author has created, that I can't engage with the text and words, that I won't "get it" and be instantly struck with feelings and thoughts of inadequacy and a lack of intelligence and brilliance that in true Leo form, I believe I have.
Poetry is intimidating.
But, it is art. And many of my closest and dearest friends are poets. And I know that art transforms. For this reason I always go back to reading poetry. It challenges me, makes me uncomfortable, and pushes me in ways I often resist or rarely get to be pushed in such ways.
I picked up Chris Abani's most recent book of poetry Sanctificum. If you don't know this about me, you will quickly learn, I adore Chris Abani. Absolutely ADORE him. I had him sign my books in Harlem several years ago, The Virgin Of Flames and Song For Night (Graceland was borrowed to a friend). He wrote in my books and called me a "beautiful soul." When I asked him if Masters Of The Board (his first novel) would ever be reprinted he looked at me and told me that I was maybe one of three people who have ever asked him about that book. In my other book he wrote "so well read."
It's rare when people notice things about me when it comes to my intelligence and then tell me that they notice. As a kid, a product of the public school system I'm rarely told or believe that I'm smart. I changed my major 3 times in undergrad and ended up creating my own major. I went to graduate school to study sex in NYC. I then went to a PhD program in women's studies that quickly kicked me out telling me my writing was not good enough to represent their program.
It is rare that I feel smart, intelligent, brilliant.
I know what it's like to be called stupid, dumb, ignorant and I don't ever say this to the youth I work with. It hurts too much and part of my healing is to allow each of the young people I work with know they are intellectuals even if the world around them does not affirm or recognize the brilliance they embody. We are all scholars. We are all theorists. We challenge and affirm one another and we can do this in a way that centers love and healing and that is revolutionary. We just are not all there yet.
So I'm reading Abani's book, first thing when I'm ready to get out of bed, but before I actually do, and last thing I do before I fall asleep. I read his poetry. Here are some of my favorite lines from his poems:
"there are stories that can kill you" elephants, part 4
"what words erase, texture resists." revenant part 6
"there is risk in this--Not in the words, but in the dreaded embodiment of light, a sacred song" sacrament part 2
"i am not afraid of love, or its consequences of light" sacrament part 3
This last quote really resonates with me so far. It reminds me of my first trip to Cuba where I asked for love and for love to guide me into love and to be able to understand and see the love that is around me and appreciate it and accept it without judgment or question. Sometimes not being afraid of love or the light it brings into your life is so much easier when I am near the ocean, where my fear is quickly put into context: here I am in a space with billions of grains of sand and vast amounts of water and I'm reminded I am but a iota of something so much larger than me and you. The ocean reminds me my problems are really nothing in comparison to the larger space I am a part of. The ocean puts me at peace.