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My body lies over the ocean

My body lies over the sea

My body lies over the ocean

So bring back my body to me

When I was small, I thought these were the lyrics and I never questioned their coexistence with the laws of physics. Whatever “I” was was here, on this western shore, and my body? My body was elsewhere.

So bring back my body to me

****

Absolution. The sinning of the sea slug. Ablutions. The worship of water. Absolutism. Able-bodied as a sea animal.

How do we not experience ourselves as liquid? How is it that we believe we are so very solid? When there is water in every square microscopic unit of our skin? When original sin was committed for the juice? When the heart & the honey are flowing through you constantly, cyclically, revolutions around your body which is not just clay & mud, it is not just dust to dust, but sea to radiant, illuminated, numinous, shining sea. Everything inside of us is an ocean. How can I explain, when my tongue is liquid, when my words are water, when my mouth is the open cave covering an underground lake…I can’t. Just let it all flow over you. (more…)

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“The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims in delight.” -Joseph Campbell

sadness is often some kind of feeling lost in an ocean. in my own rowboat, oars offered up to the turbulence. just holding onto the edges, my knuckles ivory under the full moon light, every thrust a terror, praying:

please god, please god, please help me to be the mystic who can swim through your grace, please don’t let me drown & sink down to where the aquatic animals will pull & peck at my flesh & nibble me right to my bones, where my foundations will meet the floorbeds & i will be lost forever in reveries, lost from the world, lost from human history, only to be reborn, only to be reborn, not out of ash nor dust but out of the liquid love of union, of merging, of bliss, of the sweet finality of the divine.

“The joy of the drop is to die in the river.” – Rumi

the hope of the heart is to beat forever. even when the body has ceased breathing, even when everyone who ever held your heart in their hands, whether gently or carelessly, has melted back into the earth again as well, the tissue of this simple organ has but one desire: to beat. beat. beat. the waves crash to its rhythm. the sun pulses solar flares to its rhythm. the tides retreat & advance, sometimes timid, sometimes bold military maneuvering, to its rhythm. the cat who places just one paw upon your heart as an invitation, an asking, & when she receives an affirmation, she wraps herself around your midsection & she just won’t let go to the rhythm of the heart.

“I’m tired of all this candy on the dry land.” – DNCE

the small death is a dryness. it is my skin both the color & composition of mud, cracking like the bottom of a dry lake bed. its wetness eradicated by white lotuses, sucking more & more until all the molecules of my body of water were deflated and went to dust.

“For where is your treasure, there your heart will be also.” -The Gospels of Matthew 6:21

water. it drips in your heart & slowly wears away the scar tissue that has built up over years of loss & fuckery, the aches & the ecstasies, the grace & the tragedies. it drips & it drips until there is a small hole scooped out of the soft fertile earth of your heart & you can place your treasure there, however small & inconsequential it is to the rest of the cosmos, & carefully cover it with the compost gleaned from the carcass of your lost loves… to grow new life there.

i prayed for my heart to be as big as the ocean. dreamed of it. ached for it to be boundless & bold. to move with the simple tug of the moon. i received everything i asked for & more. because the small plain stone that was me & my ego container was dropped in the middle of this body of water & barely made a noticeable noise. no ripples worthy of mention in all the fierce kinetic energy. & it sank sank sank even though i thought the water would save me from gravity, i thought the ocean would cradle me, my brain thought that the buoyancy of my brave heart would carry me across the horizon. into a new land with new new ground & new laws of physics but really i was asking for another universe. one parallel to us, where we find living & loving all the ones we miss, where loss is never incidental. where rabbits & hearts are kin: they bounce & they multiply & they only scream at the moment of true death which is really to say at the moment they achieve oneness with the ocean.

“We belong to the Divine, and to the Divine we shall return.” -Muslim Prayer for the Dead

so i climbed so heroically into my tiny boat & i rowed until my palms were bloody & my arms illuminated from a fire starting deep in my bones, below my biceps, & i rowed & i rowed & i wrote & i wrote & i rode & i rode & i did this. i did this until i lost my proud little paddles & lost everything that had once made me my Self. & then i put my faith in the universe to constellate my way, for the pull of Pluto & Polaris to guide me, for the Perseid meteor shower to light the sky in a rain of fire & grant all my wishes & i kept going. i kept. i kept. i kept.

i kept going, i kept at it, i kept my hopes in a waterproof pocket over my heart. i asked for my soul to have pockets so i could carry some thing of this life with me into the next world where burdens promise to be less unbearable.

“Turn away the watchman! My Beloved has come Home.” -Bulleh Shah

 

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I did not know my own heart.

Her shouts had become whispers until I developed a heart murmur. I was so very skilled at argumentation that I had everyone convinced, including myself, that my feet were not walking to a different drumbeat than the one that my heart pounded.

Slowly, my light began to go out. I guess my heart couldn’t bear to see all the jarring features of this wrong path- the bracken, the exposed roots in muddy ground, dark birds whose eyes gleamed of Hades and hopelessness- so she slowly ceased shining.

All was darkness. Still, I pretended that what was dark was light. I told boldfaced lies into other peoples’ faces because my early home training indicated that one had no self outside of the dutiful daughter self.

Then, one day that we should all be blessed to encounter, my heart dropped down the cavern of my body and fell out of womb to the ground. People were careless, they stepped on it and even pointed and whispered, wondering what it was, but I was careful. Finally. I dropped to the ground after it. I ignored the others. I took a glass cover and placed it over my heart, so in danger of drying up on the surface of the cold winter earth.

I whispered to her. I brought her drink and food and scent and song. I cajoled her back to health. And when she was strong again, she climbed into my chest, happily swinging around the monkey bars of my rib cage. She thumped and I sang.  She pirouetted and I swam around in her oceans for the very first time. I kept all these juices for myself, to drink deeply and be drunk on my own essences.

This is how I came home to myself.

Your Grief is not a muddy puddle. You cannot jump over it.

Your Grief is not a riptide. It will not pull you under.

Your Grief is not a stepchild; you may not forget her. Your Grief is not a challenge or a quest or even a compass. Your Grief is the layer of leaves coating the forest floor; constantly underfoot, cracking with the pressure exerted by your soles, wanting to become one with the earth again.

Your Grief has a life cycle. It is incubated, it is born, it grows and learns to speak and seems to have a mind belonging only to it. It doesn’t care whether you are tired or meeting a deadline or falling in love. When it is hungry, you must feed it.

What does Your Grief like to eat? It craves remembrance. Take Your Grief to the last body of water you sat by with your dead Beloved and cry cry cry. Repeat her name, repeatedly. Chant it to the rhythm of your own heartbeat, drop the pitch so low and speed up the rate so much until her name is the buzzing of a hundred hives of angry bees despairing at the death of the mortal world.

Your Grief loves to eat dance, too. The dance of words in a poem. The dance of emotional striptease, slowly, with aching desire, peeling a glove of concealment or a feather boa of misdirection from the very plain, very honest animal body of the soul. And of course the dance of the body itself, when it is cloaked only in Your Grief and lies on the honey wood floor of the dance studio, weeping, and yet still moving, still rolling and arching and feeling the varied threads of the music holding you together.

Your Grief is a crying baby. A starving child. When it is not fed, the world cannot roll along easily in its orbit. You can try to ignore it. Try to turn the volume up on the dance hits that advocate for forgetting. Try to kiss pale eyes goodnight and close them to seeing. But your Grief wants you to collect those leaves from the forest floor, wants you to daily turn the compost bin with a pitchfork, mixed with watermelon rinds and tea bags and coffee grounds, wants you to know what season in your life it is so that you don’t get fed up trying to grow wildflowers in an impoverished earth.

As I rise up out of sleep and as I fall back into it- this is when I write my best poetry. I make uncapped ballpoint pens my bedmates. They leave blots on the sheets as a testament to our relationship: indigo, midnight, vermillion stains. Occasionally emerald.

 

The Doppler radar scan of Hurricane Patricia looks just like one of these stains.

 

It’s Puerto Vallarta in T minus three days when Cedar texts and then calls me- a blur of numbers and obscure jargon follows. 200 MPH. Class 5. Central pressure. The superlatives grow every hour. Largest hurricane on record in modern Mexican history. North American. Western HEMISPHEREAN.

 

My days become a game of “Should I stay or should I go now?”

 

A year ago, I vowed to not get on another plane until I knew my feet could still reach the ground from 32,000 feet. Until I had added an olive tree with gnarled roots to the raven and planets soaring across my right bicep. I promised to pack up my passport and focus instead on developing an intimate relationship with my wild home.

 

Cabo? Cedar asks. No, I say. San Diego? No. We settle for a road trip, to the far off, as yet uncharted by me, state of Oregon.
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I’ve spent the last year developing a curriculum for my upcoming workshop Dancing on the Page: Moving into Embodied Writing, but I find that the class description doesn’t demystify the process enough for some people. This blog post describes my own personal journey into embodied writing and is meant to give a sense of what one might experience during the workshop.

I have always been a writer. Since I was old enough to could string together written sentences, I have kept a journal. But I have not always been particularly embodied. About ten years ago, after experiencing a significant trauma, I was the most removed from this fleshy temple that I have ever been. I felt as if the part of me that was really me was a tiny marble, rattling around in the burnt clay shell of my body. Usually, this “I” was hiding out in my big right toe, where its density was least likely to shatter my fragile container. That year, life played pinball with this marble me with no time, space or support to feel into the emotions I could not or did not want to feel: the fear in my nauseated gut, swirling as an electric mixer does; the anger in my heart, pounding a battle drum; the heavy sadness in my head, keeping my floating body from drifting off as I slept by anchoring it to my pillows.

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Amazingly, when I wrote this post about the freedom I have experienced in my conversion from political person to poet and ended with a Neruda poem I had not known about Pablo’s  The Book of Questions. Completed just a few months before his death, Neruda embodies the celebrated role of the poet, to ask questions only, and not engage in a pretense of having answers. From the translator’s introduction:

 These poems remind us that living in a state of visionary surrender to the elemental questions, free of the quiet desperation of clinging too tightly to answers, may be our greatest act of faith.

I have been contemplating quietly what faith is, or rather, in which direction and at what object I am supposed to blast my laser beam of faith. But perhaps faith doesn’t need an object. Maybe it just means chilling the fuck out. (more…)

I recently moved to small town granola Pacific Northwest America. This is a move that some of my urban chauvinist friends of color have found a bit shocking. Spending time walking the trails, conscious dancing, drinking yerba mate and eating quinoa, allowing the sea to buoy my heart in its hand, singing world music in the community choir, wrapping myself in the bone-gray North Face fleece of the cloudy sky… all of this is healing my battered old soul housed in a body that looks far younger than its 30 years.

I have received a warm welcome here. After years of my radical poc hating on “hippie shit”, it’s a relief to embrace the woo. What no one says is that people wear loose hemp and bamboo-fiber knits and drawstring pants because that shit is comfortable, they dance with their arms floating like tree branches because it feels fucking good and sometimes literally hugging a tree is the only thing that can ease my chronic anxiety; a disease inherited from the familial heartache of Partition and the bald shock of  immigration and the yearning of village people turned to city dwellers in two generations.

I expect that people will not always know how to acknowledge my browness in a comfortable way. I see their fear that I might enter their long standing, hard won communities and start clamoring for more sensitivity to my angry woman of colorness. I am not interesting in bearing the cross of guide to cultural competency- I’m a believer in choosing my battles. If there’s a fight against racial profiling by the cops, I am there, but otherwise, I won’t bother. So when someone starts listing all the Indian names they know or tells me they don’t “have a position” on my being from a Muslim family, I shrug my shoulders. I try to be polite when I’m confused for the one other Indian woman in town, partricularly since we work in the same store.  I hope that by overlooking these faux pas, they will someday forgive me for not recognizing them when I meet them on the street, out of context from where I know them. At least I know to be ashamed that all white haired hippies look the same to me.

I had a moment, though, this morning. I walked into the lovely coffee shop with a beautiful view of the Salish Sea just as the barista was speaking loudly in a caricatured Indian accent. It was the second time in 24 hours I had heard someone use a terrible Apu-style accent and I feared being pushed to my edge, having woken up tired and worn out this morning. At least this time the accent was topical; the barista had made an extra chai and was offering it to the public. He offered it to me. Without an accent this time. Of course. If the hilarious happenstance of an Indian person walking into his lily white coffee shop and catching him being re- handedly offensive caused him any shock, it did not register on his face.

Here I faced a dilemma. I wanted the chai. I really wanted the chai. But. I could. not. take. the chai. My misplaced duty to blow up stereotypes got in the way.

I said “NO” in a tenor voice and ordered an Americano. I had to. When the barista asked my name, I said “Rose”. Even though I don’t want to be known by that Anglicization of my name in this small town, it has long been my policy to give baristas the second syllable only. Why?

Because if someone calls me “AAAH-froze” like the Black Power hairstyle before I have my morning coffee, I will cut a bitch.

I used to call myself a “political person”, a phrase that I now experience clearly as a contradiction in terms. People are, by nature, far more than political, which is a reduction of our limitless ways of being in the world. Anyhow, I called myself a militant, a revolutionary, a third world feminist, a queer woman of color, a comrade. I performed very publicly all my very intimate experiences of oppression, on the stage at the week’s demonstration, facilitating the daily meetings, in the blog posts.

What we unspokenly absolutely required from ourselves was conviction, certainty and a sense that to question or doubt the political perspectives or organization was to show weakness. We were far from being the most dogmatic tendency on the revolutionary left… and yet. With the arrogance of youth and a sneaking suspicion that no one would follow me into battle if I showed vulnerability or confusion, I played the part well. I allowed someone else to be the moral authority, the author, even as I acted the part of the “strong woman.”   (more…)