Monday, October 31, 2016

Pouring Imagination: On White Supremacy and Reading

I've been reading a book of essays that has me thinking about aspects of fiction that I've never thought about. In one of the essays, the author (Neil Gaiman) talks about how fiction builds the capacity for empathy.  That when one is watching television or a film, they are watching things happen to people. While in fiction, on the other hand, one is seeing things first hand through the eyes of another: A person, a place, an environment and a world that the reader has created in their own mind though the words of the author. He asserts that there is something fundamentally different about this experience, and that it aids in building empathy.

It makes sense to me. I'll have to think on this more.

It gets complicated when one thinks of imagination and what informs it. (White supremacy, capitalism, etc.) Even with books that quite clearly describe a character, a person will imagine them how they choose. (Here, I'm thinking of all of that backlash against the first Hunger Games film when a character described as having dark skin was portrayed by a black actress. So many of the white readers were hellbent on erasure. They acted surprised and/or mad and/or disappointed that this character was portrayed by a black actress.) And so, if reading builds the capacity for empathy, does it still only build capacity for empathy with the limits of what and who a person can or will imagine? 

What is it that white readers, in particular, can do to develop an empathy that is not white centered? 

Who is taught and who one chooses to read is never an innocent thing.  It is the reason I stopped reading cis, heterosexual, U.S.-born, middle and upper class white men when I was in high school.  There are times I stick my toes into their stories, but even with these men I choose men who write literature that has been stigmatized at times. (Here I'm thinking of the four Stephen King books I have ever read.)  I can't bring myself to read the bullshit parade of cis, straight, white U.S. dudes (who are usually alcoholics and BORRR-RINNNNG as they recount their adventures) because I feel like it's rotting my brain.  Their stories are the stories imposed on fucking everyone. If you're choking and saying things like "But some of them are really good writers!", I say, "Who fucking cares? I'm tired of hearing them."

I made a decision a long time ago in my reading that corresponds to everything else:  That the closer you get to listening to, hearing, reading, believing and supporting poor, non-U.S. born, non-English-as-a-first-language, disabled, transwomen of color, the closer you are going to get to understanding what the fuck is going on in this country and in this world. And this has a direct impact on imagination, on empathy, and following, on the world itself.

It may be a soapbox that I'm on. I don't care.  Rather, it's precisely because I do care:  The next time you reach for the book of a cis, straight, temporarily able bodied U.S. born white guy, do yourself, your imagination, your brain and the world a favor and pick something else.


[Take a three minutes to read this bad ass and enjoyable bit having to do with art and artists by Teresita Fernandez,  here. ]

(image from Street Etiquette's mood board)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Cloak and Dagger Vacations

Tonight I am
black cherry and chocolate
out of town and
en route to
the forest.

Make no mistake

There will be no
falling tents and wet hair

We will be
fireplaces and cabins
tarot cards and the


of struck matches


(image: Rosalind Russell via Amortentia tumblr )

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Seven of Cups, Tonight

Early this year, you came to visit me. We had a small number of hours before you would be on a plane heading to my hometown. You would walk on the same ground in the same museum I went to as a child on a field trip. You would go there and let the art absorb you. You would go there with a friend I had sent you to whom I've known since I was 16. You in the state I grew up in.  You who would be loved and taken care of by the people who love me.


I took a picture of our shoes next to each other that night before you left: My gold foil kitten heels and your tan hide cowboy boots. 

Unknown to me, before you left in the morning, you stuffed a bundle of three sweaters into my closet.  Later that day, from more than half way across the nation you would text me and say that you couldn't fit them in your suitcase so you were leaving them with me for safe keeping.

I kept them for you.

In a tidy stack in my bedroom closet that was, otherwise, a mess.


The night that I found out that you were dead I came home, took one of the sweaters out of my closet, wrapped it around myself and cried myself to sleep.

There are so many things to tell you.

Like how that night a few weeks ago, within the window of when you died, I was dreaming.  And how, while I was dreaming, I could feel you behind me. You, and another person, although I wasn't sure who it was. You were behind me and I was looking at a rural highway with a field of straw-like grass behind it. There were cops everywhere, but barely any street lamps.  Just the dark illuminated by the headlights of cop cars and multiple spinning red and blue. I didn't know what I was looking at, then. I kept staring and straining my eyes to see what it was that I was looking at, because I was standing too far away.  What was it that had happened?  Why there were so many police cars, and why was it so dark?  I turned my head gentle but reluctant to my shoulder.  I wondered why it was  that I could feel you behind me, but had not seen you yet.

I didn't know then what it was that I was looking at in my dream.  What was happening, or what would happen, a handful of states away.

I wouldn't know for another two days when Z called me from Prague and we tried to piece together why you were missing.


I haven't been able to write here since I found out.

This is a medium that we shared.

I won't be able to look at the letters you've sent me, or the trinkets you've mailed me, or think- too hard or too much- on anything having to do with you too directly quite yet.

But I know you are around.

I listened to your last voicemail the other day.  The one from a few days before you died.

You announced who you were calling and who you were (as we both always did; as if we wouldn't know) and then said:

"I'm calling to sing you a song. It goes like this:

Do you believe in magic? That's all of the song I remember. I'll talk to you soon."


(photo: A photo of the actual scene. It is identical from the vantage point, details and distance of what I was watching while I slept the night that you left this world in the form you were in. I awoke from this dream just before 2am that night. It was just before 4am where you were. The call to the police would come in at 4:30am.)

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Don't Hunt Me While I'm Waiting: A Gentleman's Guide to Slowing Your Roll

Putting two and two and four together.

In my dreams, I have been adding 18 and 15 together to get 33.

That number of trinities.

It's ridiculous that my mind can do that while I'm sleeping.

Math is not my strong suit.

I have 120 days to press my tongue upon the backs of my teeth.

"Don't forget about me!" you said.

I responded by saying

"That's ridiculous."


People come on strong these days.

Hurried and expectant.

They sense a gap in my attention, and they flock to it not as birds, but as fruit flies.


Just because I have a pause in my time spent does not mean it is an invitation.

Surely you must know by now that I am a gentleman with a mission.

I may meet you one night for a drink

to show you my leather gloves

or to gather some information that you have

but I will keep my jacket buttoned

until I want to take it off

and I will snap your neck

if you pressure me.

be well; be loved,


(image: Christian Louboutin for Bibhu Mohapatra Fall 2016)
(last two lines are inspired by/a variation of a line written by lecoledesfemmes on instagram)