Archive | Essays

Painting at Audre’s: Part II

This is the second and final installment of an essay that I began earlier this spring. It is a window into my book, to which I’ve been slowly returning as the world is too rapidly opening back up.
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NYC has opened back up, and the smell of fresh paint suffuses every block, a top note to the concentration of garbage piling up on sidewalks, weed clouding every corner. For every person fleeing their Covid cave for fresher air and wider horizons, another is claiming a new base for big-city dreams, 16 months delayed.

It all involves an awful lot of fresh paint.

Some associate this scent with toxicity—chemicals, ill health, colonization. For me, it’s a gateway to an autumn four decades ago, when Audre resurfaced and the world first opened up.

Really, it was simple. One day Audre called up, and the following Friday, without disclosing any of the long-awaited details of their conversation, my mother whisked Jennie and me into Cambridge, where Audre had rented a long apartment on a tree-lined block between Central and Inman Square. It didn’t occur to any of us to bring my father because he never strayed from his Friday routine: popcorn, tea, computer manuals, sports radio, and bed at 8:30. Of course now substitute poetry for manuals and 70s film for sports radio and my routine is not that far off, but back then his diurnal rhythms seemed the ultimate in passive domination.

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The Fourth Day of This Month Called July

For many of us, July 4th doesn’t feel like cause for celebration so much as cause for revolution. The “independence” this holiday commemorates was originally intended only for the appallingly small percentage of us deemed fully human by the Founding Fathers. More and more, we’re dealing with the fallout of this rotten foundation. 2021’s Uranus Square Saturn —AKA that conflict between progress and calcified regimes—is forcing the hand of white supremacist patriarchy. I like this disruptive energy only for the beautiful change it can invoke—if we do the necessary shadow work. So today I’m not BBQing nor flag-waving. I’m tuning into the heavens on behalf of progress and anyone serving it.

Image: “Free America,” Kerry James Marshall

Solstice Visitation: Space Crone Transcends

Last night was summer solstice and I stood in the darkness by the river, weeping without entirely knowing why. It had been a beautiful day but lonely. After sessions I had mourned my solitude even as I’d appreciated its authenticity.

Its charge.

I woke thinking of my grandmother’s funeral and knew she had come through again. She doesn’t return often–only when I really need her. She rarely shows up in a big glorious visitation because that’s not how my intuition works and that’s not how she works. She arrives in an essay, a wrinkle in time, a shining, shared solitude.

She died a few days before my 18th birthday; the funeral happened a few days after it. I was so conscious that no one could ever again legally lay claim upon either of our bodies.

We were free, and it was terrible.

I had loved my grandmother and not felt sure of her. That’s the best way to phrase it. It’s not that she didn’t talk. She spoke when she had something to say. She just wasn’t the type to hold forth. More, she was was the type who listened and to whom others paid court.

By default and by virtue of her quiet self-possession, she was the matriarch of our large, wild family. There was no patriarch. My grandfather had died when he was not much older than I am now, and I’m not sure he ever reigned easily. I never met him –he died months before my parents married–but heard tell of fights, fugues. Futwahs.

My grandmother reigned easily. Everyone confided in her—speedily, anxiously—and she listened with the lids of her large blue eyes lowered at half-mast. You could never tell if she was rapt or bored. That question lived at the center of every exchange she ever had, I think. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy