la cucaracha

“sometimes the beauty of my people is so thick and intricate. i spend days trying to undo my eyes so i can sleep.” ― Nayyirah Waheed

Who is my God, that He maintains intimacy when I do not want to hear from Him?

I asked Her two days ago: Mother, why do you weep when I ask you to listen to my prayers?
She asked me why I was ashamed. If I could have looked her in the eyes, my fist would have flattened her nose. I was looking down at my prayers- stuck to the sides of my fingers- they didn’t know how to fall to the ground.

So I turned away and walked to my Brother, because we understood shame. We predicted it, we talked to it, we listened to it. The space between our fingers were threatened by our prayers; in fists we cursed each other. We tell each other that you cannot know Their love if you are…

Father, my Brother cut my hand off, I cannot show my face to you-
Why? he asks me,
I tell Him that it is because I cut both his hands off in his sleep- Father, what do you feel when I am ashamed of another person? My Brother loved me thinking my prayers were better on the ground than in my fists and I only saw what I wanted- the power in his hands. Is there love without shame? The prayers in my hands cursed my Brother, and now I cannot even hold him. How do you pray when I was only given the language to curse?

Mother, what is your ailment for shame? I am an ashamed people. When I do not want to hear from you- I want to hear from you. Is there a touch for the ashamed, a song that will heal the earth and the fists that it eats, the eyes that cannot look, and my Brother’s hands?

Who is my God that He weeps in response to me?

Fourteen years ago, we were living in North Carolina, and it was a very hot summer afternoon. We had not turned the air conditioning on for some time and my sister was the only one that was amiable with the flies. I was probably hangry , and very annoyed at the buzzing and the heat, so I got angry at my mother. I must have made her upset (I don’t exactly remember what happened between being hot and angry and my father pulling me aside). I followed my father to my bedroom and we sat on the very edge- maybe we were hoping that being closer to the edge would increase the chances of catching a breeze. I was also scared he would be upset and I would have to slide off the bed to go cry in the bathroom. But he had pulled me aside to share with me the story of why parents had come to the United States; of my mother’s passion and commitment to my life, and her desire to be a part of every moment and milestone that I would stumble upon. When I began to grow with and within her, he told me, she was afraid only because she realized dreams could be held. And she chose to hold me with him, and put [insert ivy league school here] on hold.

That evening is not very different from today. It is very hot, and I am hangry. There is nobody to be amiable with the flies, however.The days are troubling times. Time overwhelmed with adversity and injustice- and we are marked by chaos. I’ve just gotten up from having my face pressed on my fan, laughing at the robotic voice my words took as John Denver and I sang together. Today is also my mother’s first day of classes.

A few months ago, as we were in the transition of deciding where our family should be/go, my mother turned and looked at me: … I cannot expect either of you three to fly and pursue your dreams, if I don’t also fly. I think I am going to go back to school.

So she is sitting in a classroom right now, very overwhelmed about all the technical information she’s been memorizing (she probably has the whole student handbook memorized by now…) and full of the anxiety (she would never confess to this) one experiences when we are reminded that dreaming continues, and it is tangible.

In honor of her courage and leadership, I share this with you.

I am not a “Child of Divorce”

I walk into a room and my pocket,
my vagina, and my heart are given
“hello my name is” stickers with:
abandoned by father scribbled in the blank space.

If I chose to have sex,
I will be known for the girl-who-seeks-father.
The petals on my flower sprinkled
across boy-becoming-man.

And when I become a teacher with a
lowly income, I will be showered by
mouths that drool pity on our hello and handshake.
“She had so much potential in her,
maybe if her father had stuck around she would have made it farther”.
As if the manufacturing of my dreams depended on the empowerment from man.

My heart likes vegetating on rom coms,
dancing to Latin American serenades,
and passionately desiring to share anything with everyone:
love, pain, passion, hope…
“Maybe if the father hadn’t left her, her heart wouldn’t hand out love to anyone;
the bar would have been set higher,”
I feel that instead, I am told that there’s someone
that doesn’t deserve to be known or loved.

I am a daughter;
borne from my God and the freedom to live my destiny to the fullest.
My father asked me to forgive him every night
since the moment we met:
and that is the gift I carry with me from him.
The rest, is my decision.


 

Ever since the separation of my parents began, I quickly became acquainted with the justifications available for children of divorced or separated parents. I became very familiar with the accommodating and convincing arguments that justified any failure or socially “bad” decision that I could make about my future regarding relationships, career, and jobs. If I had sex, because I am a “child of divorce”, I was acting out my need for a father figure. Not only am I offered justification for my own decision, but this justification tells me that I do not actually have the freedom (as well as ability?) to make my own decisions. And that I am not capable of owning up to my decisions, because I am a child of divorce. Because I am a “child of divorce” if I did not excel in school it was because I had suddenly manufactured intrinsically low expectations for my future. Therefore, it was only natural to expect that I was not going to make career choices that set me up for a “successful” future (aka earning lots of money [doing something I probably didn’t love]). The list goes on. Especially when you are not only a child of divorce, but a child of a single parent. Most recently, I ran into an article that seemed to have statistic evidence that children of single mothers did not achieve as high or as much as a children coming from a household with a mother and a father.

I have lived an insignificant amount of time and the only thing I know is that whatever I say represents me. I am not entitled to representing another’s life or experience.

But in my experience, when I am justified, I become a prisoner to a limited destiny. In extreme terms, that my case is marked by the absence of hope (aka hopeless). That my future and decisions are determined- even dependent, on the decisions made by other people. These statistics, these justifications, these reasons, this “children of divorce”, makes me feel safe and protected and comfortable. Except they forgot to mention that they steal the opportunity away from you to know that every individual has hope, has gorgeous destiny (we can talk about what that means more in depth, later– over coffee maybe?)– all this, out of the freedom we all have to make our own decisions for our own lives. It means that if I have sex, it is my decision and we can talk about what that means to me later. And if I don’t have sex, it is my decision and we can also talk about what that means to me later. It means that if I choose to be a writer, or work at a grocery store, or become an entrepreneur, or a diplomat, or work at McDonald’s, or make art for a living…. it is my choice. That because I am not actually a child of divorce, but a child of God, I am adopted into a family where I inherit dignity, honor, purity, love, and freedom of being that is intrinsically linked to who I am and my destiny. These things, absolutely independent from my parents’ story. Let’s allow for the freedom to explore our own story. Let’s release each other into the freedom of our destiny and true inheritance as children of nothing else but love.

It is my personal opinion that we are not children of divorce, but children of a beautiful marriage between love and freedom; it is my personal opinion that that is the lens that we should look at the world with. Whenever I try it out, I respect and honor and love you a lot better. And whenever I try it out, I somehow understand what God said to Abraham (when He told Abraham to look at the stars- that his inheritance was going to be more vast than the stars in the sky) a little better; our destiny is more vast than the eternity of the universe.

And it is up to us: children of love.

 

still racking my brains trying to figure out why weight loss is worship-worthy and weight gain isn’t? did i miss something or

or, why we talk about weather and weight: as if we could [dilute something that’s more beautiful when included by us rather than excluded into an abyss of judgment and shame…] or tame something that was never in our control.

if I am created to “proclaim resurrection”, then why does my body persecute the beauty of gaining weight? (why do I persecute our bodies for gaining weight?)

Why don’t we tell each other that “It is better to be skinny” so that we can realize how absent that statement is to reality (that I instead teach myself this phrase by praising you for “looking great” and “your gym membership has really paid off!” and “that small sweater looks so great on you [now]”). So that reality became years of closing my eyes, and imagining that a knife would cut off the sides of my body that I hated, instead of being the echoes of pain in my hungry stomach. In this reality, I taught myself that hating any space I occupied was a gift to be nurtured and passed on.

So I never taught myself to grieve. Because that would allow my body the space it was created to not only fill, but push and push and push. And somehow, the greatest pleasures in life (joy, peace, fellowship, etc) aren’t really empowered to grow within without knowing how to grieve, how to miss. I never missed the inches and inches of my skin that I flushed down the toilet, that I put in the mouths that said “you look great [now]”, “you’ve really been working out a lot, haven’t you?”, “you’ve blossomed since the last time I saw you!”- to feed them so I could tithe their/my comments to the honor of losing weight.

So I never doubted that it is unnatural to miss yourself.
And I never knew it was possible to miss yourself, to grieve continually, and find absolute joy in whatever weather.

I am learning that [our reality and] the nature of resurrection is to remind [our] space that its destiny is to grow.

I.

We ask men their theology of sex.
They say that it’s on a case to case basis; they will lay with a woman if she’s exceptional to them.

We ask exceptional women their theology of sex. They don’t listen to our questions because they are busy looking for their value between their legs; busy looking for their father; busy looking for their husband; busy looking for a man to tell her that she can receive rest, and lie down.

The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

II.

Mother of all living.

Mother, of all living.

Mother of all, living.

She was the mother of all living

III.

“And The-Dusty-Man (also called Adam) saw Woman and he was able to see the destiny that God had spoken into her, on the eighth day.”

IV.

‘Mothers of all living’,

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called daughters of God

V.

Your existence births life, woman.
And Man saw the peace within you; blessed are you for being daughter.
For daughters inherit the Kingdom of God: you are pure.

VI.

We ask God his theology of sex,

I think he chuckled.

In all seriousness he says-

I love my Body.

He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.

I often cry
because I miss Him.
I just really miss Him.


 

So,

Sometimes I imagine that we were there when Father God began to pull the strings of the world together, and he put our favorite colors into the fabric of our universe.
He held our hands.
And we made him laugh.
And it was that laugh that made the world ice over for ages
so we could ice skate,
When we shivered, he called out the fire

From the heat between our hands,
the lava flowed and covered the surfaces.
We walked together: he taught us about shade.
Told us to breathe in and out
and trees grew around us.
Where he told us stories of how gloriously mangoes tasted.

And even then,
we sort of knew how they tasted
because we trusted him, we could taste
on the tips of our tongues.

Sister,      brother…           We forgot.

We forgot how to breathe. And we saw death in our dreams.
We slept next to demons. Loneliness.
Our necks forgot what it was like to move with the sun.

[I fed death with the sides of my body
I kept it napping in my heart by sacrificing hunger to it
I let it scratch the walls of my thoughts,
I bowed down to it every time my knees hit the bathroom floor, and I
sacrificed the meal my mother had made as an offering]
because we believed it wouldn’t inhale our memory.

In the shade, we said
Jesus.
I think we whispered it, actually. We saw his chest. And it was open.
The loneliness in our ears dissipating into the vacuum of his heart.

He never told us that he missed us.
He spoke in a tense nobody knows how to speak in. Eternal.
We did tell him that we missed him-

I think it tickles his belly that our humanity is adamant in believing that his presence comes when our hearts are prepared.
He sits in the shade,
and he tells us he loves our humanity. As he continues to pray over us in the eternal tense
And he loves us in the eternal tense,

So he hands us a peeled mango,
and we eat together

in the shade.

 

Poems, Prayers, and Promises

Today was a celebration because we talked about the weather and forgot to mention how cold it’s been. And because we were asked if we were crazy for walking barefoot in the snowy sand and jumping into the puddles made by the ocean. Our feet remembered of the days they had been used to walking around hot pavements on summer days when we walked across the parking lot today: the burning from the cold cement an adumbration to the return of elongated days and sunshine on our knees.

When you wait for spring, you begin your prayers by crying, because it was a painful winter this year. But those memories melt into your friend’s laughter because- remember that time you drank soda for the first time in half a decade and we couldn’t stop burping and choking on each other’s shrieking and cackling? 3 am and we picnicked in the hall with McDonald’s because we decided calories and time didn’t scare us anymore. And that time we watched Brokeback Mountain without our parents’ permission- no, the time we played spoons to try and make friends and just got overwhelmed? We learned to come home when we looked into each other’s eyes, celebrate the Sabbath by holding hands and [too often] eating chocolate croissants late at night. And when you wait for spring, your prayers end in thanksgiving because the heart is poor, the mind is desperate, and your friend’s smile reminds you of sunshine. So you drive with one foot on the pedal and the other out of the window, eyes closed: worship. 

It’s 30 degrees outside, friends. So we go get ice cream, and we are allowed three of our eleven expired coupons. And I remember learning about that one monk [though I’ve forgotten his name] that went into the desert to pick up his cross and follow Jesus. But in his solitude, his hands were too full fighting demons to hold anything else. And he heard Jesus tell him to go back to the community. And as his hands were filled with others’, there was no more room for the demons. 

Today was a celebration, because we were told to leave the desert, and when your hands filled mine there was no more room but for Resurrection. 

 

I need your help.
I need your help to discern what to do with this heaviness that has attached itself to the side of my thoughts, my reactions, my stillness, and my decisions. I need your help because I am often barricaded between my fear of inflicting more pain and how beautifully limited I am. 
Tell me,
How is it that you see pain? 
And, why is it that when I see pain, I want to fix it? When someone inflicts a wrong, why do I first run to the victimized? Why do I continue to persecute those that inflict (including the persecution of my own self- even before I’ve even inflicted pain); and why is there a divide between the giver and the receiver? 

There has to be a way, a system where we are no longer paralyzed by fear and pain- less, to be driven by it- and all the evil-doers (you and me and they) are empowered into a life of righteousness because-
Or… where the victimized (you and me and they) encounter healing within the seemingly unreachable parts of our hearts-
A system where rest is found in the assurance that justice is no longer the persecution of the heart, but the dwelling place of redemption. 

The hollowed-out definition of “grace” is heavier and heavier on me. I move out of the understanding that whatever I do will inflict pain, and love will be withdrawn, and the purpose of my life will be shifted- even destroyed if I make one “bad”/”evil”/”undesirable”/”unworthy” decision. But, what if every decision I am ever capable of making is evil? But if I’m invested in what seems “good”, does that earn me redemption? Or does that continue to barricade me within the limits of my being and the crippling fear of inflicting more pain? 

So,
Why do we persecute each other? Why do we persecute ourselves? 
If we are driven and thirsty for change to the point of sacrificing my/yours/their heart, then there must be a system that satisfies that thirst. That takes from within us the great responsibility of change: that understands that we are both inflictors of pain and victims, but delivers us into an understanding within the same depths that hold our pain, mercy also lies (dormant). There must be a system that empowers life-long healing: that allows our feet to kiss the earth, and anchors us to the heights of the universe. 

In that case, would it be possible to enter into the pain-inflicted and victimized concept of grace that we have misused and allow for the barricade between mine/yours/their heart to be resurrected there? Resurrected by a partnership where my hands reach into your heart and your hands reach into mine: and we look at our pain, but we ask for the name of our hearts. And maybe the lord of our hearts would no longer be us, but the fellowship with the Nature from whom all these flow.

I think there’s more, so
I need your help.

Would it be safe to say that
the dreams that we hold are nothing but
little raindrops.
Raindrops that can’t even be held
by the fabric of our skin, and maybe that’s okay.
Because maybe
we weren’t created to follow a dream,
simply for the mere pleasure
of conserving the ability to see rainbows out of the corner of our eyes.

What if to live meant a little less of holding our own breath,
and a lot more of thanking the shoe laces that reminded
our lungs what it is to run out of breaths.

To meet the necessity of laughter with giving:
and giving a window for dreams to make their escape.
Where beauty grows in the land of abandonment
and friendship becomes the sigh after the storming of cynicism.

To hold dreams within open hands
and open our eyes before the nothing we can do
And watch the children smile.

Beauty XXV

Today, the mound of homework is pretty heavy, and my productivity level is a little less than what it should be. Khalil Gibran has been distracting me since this morning. So I thought maybe I could let him take a couple minutes of your time, as well. 

And a poet said, “Speak to us of Beauty.” 

Where shall you seek beauty, and how shall you find her unless she herself be your way and your guide? 

And how shall you speak of her except she be the weaver of your speech? 

The aggrieved and the injured say, “Beauty is kind and gentle. 

Like a young mother half-shy of her own glory she walks among us.” 

And the passionate say, “Nay, beauty is a thing of might and dread. 

Like the tempest she shakes the earth beneath us and the sky above us.” 

The tired and the weary say, “beauty is of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit. 

Her voice yields to our silences like a faint light that quivers in fear of the shadow.” 

But the restless say, “We have heard her shouting among the mountains, 

And with her cries came the sound of hoofs, and the beating of wings and the roaring of lions.” 

At night the watchmen of the city say, “Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the east.” 

And at noontide the toilers and the wayfarers say, “we have seen her leaning over the earth from the windows of the sunset.” 

In winter say the snow-bound, “She shall come with the spring leaping upon the hills.” 

And in the summer heat the reapers say, “We have seen her dancing with the autumn leaves, and we saw a drift of snow in her hair.” 

All these things have you said of beauty. 

Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied, 

And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy. 

It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth, 

But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted. 

It is not the image you would see nor the song you would hear, 

But rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears. 

It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw, 

But rather a garden forever in bloom and a flock of angels for ever in flight. 

People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face. 

But you are life and you are the veil. 

Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror. 

But you are eternity and you are the mirror.

– Khalil Gibran