Kalief Browder (poem) – C.Way

  January 24th, 2017

 
 
 

KALIEF BROWDER


Unscrew the bolts anchoring your A/C to the wall
           
          I stand behind
          Words rise up & crowd my throat
                    like a clump of blind baby piglets 
                    smelling the teat
          All swallowed back down

Work the air conditioner, deliver it
    to the bed of pillows you've prepared on the floor

          1,000 days

          I picture you in your box
                    unfed, filthy, dreaming of a loaf's end-pieces
          your hand through the slot, waving your completed worksheet
                    asking for someone to grade it
                    "Miss! I got work for you!"

Squat down, peer through the new hole
    Noonday sunlight slides in
    Watch a green bottle fly
          swoop in, swirl, leave

          Summer nights with the heat vents baking
                    your 12 x 7 oven
                    Kevin next door with the disintegrating laugh
                              slamming his forehead into the wall

          Thirty times told: No trial, Soon, Soon
          Half of your mother's words over the phone
                    blotted out by sobs 
          And your hand still holding the slot, 
                    waving, waving, always waving 

Stick your arm out, checking clearance
    Feeling drips from an A/C above

          Over and over, you work on bedsheet nooses
                    using your teeth to make strips
          getting a little better each time
                    And when they cut you down they beat you
                              because a hang-up means more paperwork
          And when they don't cut you down
                    they say "Jump, Go ahead and jump" 


Gather your yellow braided sheet cord
     from its cache in the closet

          You're out
          but no 3.5 GPA or donated MacBook Air or Haldol
          can stop you from waking
                    at 4 AM, sweating through your clothes 
          punching holes in your wall
          trashing your TV because it's watching you

                    Because your hand never got out
                              of that slot 
                    Waving, waving, always waving

Take the sheet-cord, start to gauge its length

          Biking home from school last summer
          Beats in your ear, crisp loving night
          Sweet hour when the black wave 
                    was ebbed
          When the white swarm 
                    was quiet
                    a hive of cold bees 
	
Wind it, cinch and pull, blood starts to swell your cheeks

          Kalief
          I am hungry, hungry, always hungry
          I don't know what to do with this hunger
          But talk to you
          And say that it is not justice I ache after
          I burn for us all 
          To stop choosing fear & shame 
          Over love

          I am behind you
          The words become unstuck

          I am so proud of you 
                    for not taking the deal 
          For sharing what happened
          You did not get to learn what you should have 
          But I have learned 
                    integrity and courage from you 
          You fought 
          You are good


Crabwalk up the opening
    launch yourself feet first
    get stuck, scrape your back, shimmy through
    drop, hear yourself gasp like it's someone else

Other sounds

Plane way overhead rumbling through the sky

Your sneaker heels skittering the brick

Rosa's pink-dyed poodle
          barking at nothing in the hall

That new kid
    Playing video games next door
    Throwing his controller against the wall again
    Screaming


                                          Chris Way, Nov 2016


[Posted by C Way on January 24, 2017]

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[file under: OTHER WRITING ]







Hiatus & Words That Might Help

  December 5th, 2016

 

 
Hi everyone,

     This is my last post for awhile. I no longer have time to regularly (or even erratically) post. I hope to be back soon. I will leave you with a handful of things to think about, inspired by Trump’s election, the ugly build-up to it, and its aftermath. These events have caused me (and legions more of course) to reflect on human nature broadly speaking, and my own soul in specific.
 

***

     Choose love over fear. Choose love over shame. Whenever you feel yourself getting angry, pause, just for a half-second, and choose love. Decide to do this. Behind every outburst or action or policy we come to regret in ourselves or others is a subconscious decision to allow fear, shame or anger (the latter being typically a facade for the former two) to drown out the voice of love. Let this counsel speak to you as a parent, lover, liberal, conservative, Trump-supporter, Trump-despiser, human being. Let this decision, this sacred choice always guide you in your relations to others.
 

 
      You are not your past. You are your present. You are now. Don’t ever let anyone — including yourself — try to fix you to your past, lock you in place like a statue. We are all growing, living, flawed beings who make mistakes, suffer, and learn, and change.
 

 
      Stop allowing fear and anxiety to rule your decisions and policies. You cannot foam-cushion every playground. You cannot helicopter over every child. Let kids (and people!) take risks. Risks lead to strength, growth and authenticity. Let children fall. Let children get bruised. Let children get sick. If you raise children in an atmosphere of fear and in a psychological bubble, one spawned directly from your own neuroses, they will grow to be weak, enervated creatures unfit to challenge the dark times to come. On a related note, parents, please, look inward. Understand your own traumas and behavioral issues before you have children, or as soon as you can after you do so. We all come to be parents as imperfect beings, true. But the least we can do is put in heavy effort as early as possible to put ourselves in a position to separate your own baggage from the child.
 

 
      You may come to think of your life as you behind a wheel, not sure how you got on the road, making sure to swerve away from this rockslide, that pothole, always dodging and going away from something, always fleeing something. Stop. Park by the side of the road. Take out your map. Recall where it was you had to go. Must go. Where you need to be to fulfill yourself. Be the you you are meant to be, that you know deep down you have strayed from. Get back on the road and drive there, directly. Reclaim agency. Stop reacting and going away from, start deciding to go towards.
 

 
      Never try to evacuate uncomfortable feelings from your mind. Never uproot fear, shame, guilt. It won’t work. You only empower them, you only inflame them by doing this. And they come back stronger. They come back with panic attacks, they come back with backpain, headaches; they come back to take over. There is only one way to engage with difficult emotions. Sit with them. Acknowledge and name them without judgment or haste or need to get rid of them. Accept them. Invite them back whenever they want. You will watch your neuroses slowly diminish in their hold over you. In their power over you. In the act of giving them voice, letting them hold office hours with you, not trying to annihilate the, you will have won. You will have broken down the partitions and compartments you’ve been erecting for years — no longer will you have musty basements, attics and trapdoors hiding the secrets of feelings you’ve been avoiding for so long. You will have regained integrity with your spirit and, with that, some measure of peace.
 

 
          Slow breath in: the longing to remove someone else’s pain, grief, suffering (could be an animal, could be a family member, could be someone you read about on the news). Slow breath out: your specific wish of comfort and happiness to the very same people, animals or nations you’ve chosen. This is Tonglen meditation, and I paraphrase it from Pema Chodron: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwqlurCvXuM — and I ask you to try this. Add it to your daily meditation. Or do it whenever your own feelings overwhelm you. One antidote for difficult emotional pain is shifting to healing someone else’s.
 

 
          A thought experiment. Pretend you are God. Pretend that all humans are your children. Pretend you have arisen to the din of their fighting. Pretend you come out to witness all we have seen in recent months. Demagogues stoking hatred and espousing the abuse of women just to get elected. Ad agencies disseminating inflammatory fake news right before an election just to generate ad-revenue. Candidates for office of leader of the free world failing to talk about actual issues — the environment, women’s rights, gun control — and reverting to identity politics and zingers. Your children spying on each other. Denouncing each other. Blaming outside forces and countries. Too separated and afraid of people different from each other to talk or relate, hungry instead to deepen the divide and stoke the fires of their own bias and rancor. What do you do? You’ve awoken to a house in such disarray, overwhelmed with such clamor, such brutality. What do you do? You grieve. You are enraged. You ask everyone to stop. And then you ask everyone to listen to each other. Just listen. Because they are all your children. They all deserve to live. They all are cut from the same cloth. The pain of one is the pain of them all. The joy of one is the joy of them all. And none of them will live in harmony — the peace and harmony you dearly wish for them — until they learn this. And, in turn, they will never learn this until they slow down. Become quiet. And just listen.
 

 
      Before you die, do one thing to make the world a more beautiful place.
 

 
      When we do things we don’t like, or have feelings that scare us, we put them in a box or basement. We run away from them. When people do things that scare us, that are awful, we do the same thing. We call the rage-shooter a monster, fit to be executed, and drop them from our minds. Every awful feeling we have deserves the disinfectant of sunlight, of exposure, deserves to be understood and accepted — that’s how we heal. And every person who does something awful *must* be studied and understood for us to heal as a community. There will always be weak-minded people too afraid to do this. Ignore them. Study those who act out in awful ways, their upbringing, their environmental context, their writings, their pain, what makes them human and *not* a simplistic horrorshow villain, it’s the only way for us to grow as a race and heal our collective psychological wounds.
 

 
      Live a life less shameful than yesterday. I think I’m cribbing that from Mary Karr; at any rate, it isn’t mine.
 

 
Survive and serve.
 

 



[Posted by C Way on December 5, 2016]

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[file under: ART OF THE DAY ]







Art of the Week – ‘Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle’ (2003)

  November 23rd, 2016

 
 
 
 
       (click for zoom-in)
Thornton Dial 
 
      Thornton Dial (American)
       Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle (detail) (2003)
       Plastic soda bottles, doll, clothing, bedding, wire, found metal, rubber glove, turtle shell, artificial flowers, Splash Zone        compound, enamel, and spray paint on canvas on wood

 
 
 
 
Thornton Dial 
 
      Thornton Dial (American)
       Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle (2003)
       

 
 
 
 
      Above is “Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle” a work by Thornton Dial (1928-2016), a self-taught U.S. artist who created assemblages on a large scale.
      “Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle” (detail of which is shown first): a tremendous, fearsome work. A scaffolding of intertwined, twisted, knotted bedsheets (?) create a criss-crossed webbing through and around which emerge flowers, prints of flowers, plastic pop bottles that resemble flowers, and other floral elements, with the whole of the work dripping mustard & crimson. The title, in conjunction with the visceral nature of the colors and textures, and the frayed edges and slices in the fabric, suggest birth, violence and death. A ghostly infant hovers in the top left quadrant; her patina, posture and draped body seeming to confer an air of classicism and modesty. Close observation of the work’s details amply repay the viewer with an endless fund of visual interest.
      What an achievement, simultaneously chaotic and controlled, capturing the conflation of violence, the birthing process, and nature’s fecundity — and also suggesting a kind of organizing principle or geist observing and animating it all.

 
 
 
 
 

MORE INFO:

For more of Thornton Dial’s works, please check out his profile at www.soulsgrowndeep.org/artist/thornton-dial.



[Posted by C Way on November 23, 2016]

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[file under: paintings/drawings ||| sculpture ||| Visual Arts ]







‘Thank you, Kathleen Hanna’ – by Jess Barnett

  November 20th, 2016

 
 
 
(Following is an excerpt from a great piece on Hanna by artist Jess Barnett, please click-through to her site to read the rest!)
 
 
 
I woke up the other day thinking about Kathleen Hanna, who, for those not in the know, was/is the main force behind Bikini Kill, Julie Ruin, and Le Tigre, in that order (although since 2010 she’s been working on her project The Julie Ruin). Having not yet seen The Punk Singer, I don’t proclaim to know the intimate details of her life — in fact, most of what I know outside of her music comes from Wikipedia and articles I’ve read about her (she grew up with a strict father but loving mother who supported and even joined forces in her interest in feminism at any early age; she has Lyme disease; she’s married to Ad Rock; she had an abortion at age 15 and obtained the money for it through working at McDonald’s; she was a stripper for a while years back; oh, and she might as well be Superwoman, as far as I’m concerned).
 
 
kh 
                                         Vintage Kathleen; image courtesy of Austin Chronicle
 
 
But as any rock fan knows in their hearts, all of these facts are moot points when it comes to the passion such a person can generate thanks to their music. Here are a couple of background facts about me: When I entered my sophomore year of high school, I was having an identity crisis. I didn’t want to be the cute, shy, somewhat dorky blond girl I’d been known as up until then; I didn’t want to be just “pretty” (hell, I no longer wanted to be pretty at all); I didn’t even — at least at certain points — want to be female. (To be clear: I did not harbor thoughts that I should never have been female — I just didn’t want all the baggage that came with being as such.) I surrounded myself with friends who shared similar confusions, mostly girls but with the occasional confused dude thrown into the mix. We snuck out of our houses at night (well, I did) to drink alcohol and cough syrup and listen to moody music such as Underworld’s “Dirty Epic,” Depeche Mode, and, of course, Bikini Kill. 
 
 
(Read the rest of Jess’ piece here.)



[Posted by C Way on November 20, 2016]

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[file under: Music ||| Non-fiction & Essays ]







“Mar dos barcos” by Allison Carvalho & Cristina Nascimento (2016)

  October 20th, 2016

 
 
 

     I’d like to share with you Brazilian duo Allison Carvalho and Cristina Nascimento playing the song “Mar dos barcos” by Cristina Nascimento:
 
 

 
       Allison Carvalho & Cristina Nascimento, “Mar dos barcos”, 2016

 
 
     I have a hard time counting all the ways this song enchants me. I also have a hard time parsing out its many merits — but only because its virtues all cohere and intermingle so gracefully in this composition and its presentation, become an unparsable unity: the effortless fusion of the vocals, the inter-braiding guitar harmonies, the way in which the supple instrumental passages flow into and out of the sung sections, the breathy close and its trickling, uncertain trail-out guitar figure. Four minutes of such sweet repose. Four minutes that feel like they could go on without rest, without shore, track of time happily lost.
     Perhaps I love this song most of all for how it mixes mourning and gentle sorrow with that sway of waves befitting its title (“Mar dos barcos” = “Sea, two boats”). I am so enamored of this mixture of emotions characteristic of certain Brazilian music — especially Bossa Nova. I’ve always found in this a great spiritual-emotional reconciliation. 
 
 
 

MORE INFO:

For more music by Carvalho and Nascimento, please check out Carvalho’s youtube channel here.



[Posted by C Way on October 20, 2016]

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[file under: ABOUT ART ||| Music ]