Now in the second week of my spiritual sabbatical I am doing a lot of work to think about who I am, who I’ve been and who I am trying to be. Specifically, re-thinking this notion that I have internalized that I am what I do and accomplish. As I take steps back from organizing and trying to publish my art and writings, two things that I [used to] use to measure my self worth, am starting to re-think how I should conceive of my self and my contributions to the world.
I want[ed?] to be published in a journal or magazine so that I can be validated as a writer by a system that I do not respect and do not esteem enough to trust its judgement but have internalized its authority over my work. I have internalized a dual desire to own my work and be validated as an individual of great worth and genius. That is at odds with a deeply embedded, powerful subconscious desire to share and remix and collaborate with a community of artist, loved ones, lovers and friends.
I know that worship of the written word is a part of white middle class dominate culture and as a written artist [separate but related to being a writer] of color I struggle with this. Thanks to my dear friend and comrade and spiritual teacher Erika Totten I came across this talk by an amazing artist, dreamer, feminist freedom fighter and academic Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs. She ties together so many things that I have been thinking about. Teasing out strains of thoughts that have been unraveling in my mind and connecting them, beautifully, to deeply held and unprocessed feelings of belief [or things I feel to be true on a subconscious level.]
Please find the time to listen to Dr. Gumbs talk! It will change your life.
There is a part of me that hates when people publish things I have been thinking about before I do. It makes me feel less original and less unique. Which it should. Yet, being less unique makes me feel less valuable, which is a capitalist internalization if I’ve ever heard one!
So, I want to thank Alexis Pauline Gumbs for giving me the language to say, I have so many things to unlearn! There is no need to be a snow flake! Think of what we could accomplish as indispensable but interchangeable cogs of a glorious communal machine of change!
I have such powerful dreams and imaginings. I have things that exist in the beautiful intersections of my intellectual genius, my fantastical imaginings of other possible worlds and my deeply held feelings of belief. Over time I have realized how internalized lies of capitalism and cis hetero white supremacist patriarchy have kept me from pulling gems out of those intersections.
The dreams of a Black man are not often worth much on the open market. Men are not supposed to feel as deeply and uncontrollably as I naturally feel. In order for such things to be of any use, they must we fully written out in perfect grammar, vetted by editors and etched in the stone of publication. And above all, the thoughts must be complete. They must be full and brought out to a compelling conclusion.
Yet, my ideas are never complete. My essays and articles and podcasts are not either. I merely force myself to keep them to myself for as long as possible, fixing and writing with fresh eyes until I can no longer contain them and send them out into the universe edited but with grammar mistakes galore.
Instead of feeling bad about this or holding it in longer, I have decided to merely continue to add on, remix, mash together and rewrite my works. I am going to let my works be works in progress. I am going to be more comfortable with myself being a work in progress. If only because it will let me forgive myself more easily and unlearn more of what I need to unlearn.
So, below is a poem that I remixed this morning after hearing Dr. Gubman’s keynote. It reminds me of something a dear friend told me recently: “You are from the future. You are so far ahead of this world.” It is, probably, the best compliment I have ever heard and great testament the internal work I have committed myself to since my last birthday that I was able to [half] belief it.
There is an intellectual story of how we got here, a myth of how we got here and truth of where we are going. This poem is an on going reflection of that, of the three parts of me [intellect, dreams and spiritual feelings] and trips I take, have taken and dream of taking.
“We are prophets from a future not our own.”
The Cyclical Triduum of the Undiscovered Prophetic Artists
Or If History from the Bottom Had a Greek Chorus
Know thou that God is a Black Woman.
She is a river goddess
Fluid and running and powerful
Old and dark and reflective of your truest beauty
She is terrifying when you are first immersed in her
Unlearned of ways in which our bodies can move in her majesty
We fear her because she wants subsume us
We fear she wants to drown us
To fill our lungs with her essence
We fear her because we cannot process her brilliance
We fear her because we never want to leave her
Yet but cannot breathe her in
We want to own her
We want to incorporate her into us
But have forgotten how to drink
Perennial Last Supper [47th Street,Yonkers]
Street acolytes paint the oxidized steel bridges a bright green,
neon spray painted codex
that guide the observant travelers
down rust gilded train tracks–
a Middle Path along the Hudson—
that ends in art galleries beneath underpasses,
temples to their mantra that another world is possible,
where they sing that art is short
but these tracks,
stretch for miles.
They jaunt through imaginal spaces
of post-industrial cities,
like 19th century frontiers,
whose souls were marched-
pushed by pharonic prospectors
and urban homestead acts.
Economically castrated by redlining
and forcibly sterilized by urban renewal.
Here in this forgotten levant
where Hughes and Ginsberg pondered their mothers’ infinity
on illuminated Black Mecca roof tops
Poets and Vagabond Philosophers
made homeless by forced false choices
feast on visions of a divine counter culture
and discuss the aesthetics of 21 century wanderlust
to the melodic beat of train engines.
A Last Supper set to an industrial rhyme
whose beats and breaks
bring the stockbrokers to work every day.
Tomorrow’s Heroes are marginalized immigrants of the status quo
who destroy the logic of hegemony with the visceral illogic of being.
They are the dread-locked and conscious prodigal children
cast out of Eden by Adam for refusing to eat the fruit
and questioning why g-d placed the tree there in the first place.
We will immortalize them in song only after they are martyred.
Their holy lands are the street corners of yesteryear,
Where the burning buses are headphones
Emanating the sacred beats of Blackened God.
Later they will lay themselves down on the crossroads
bedding down on iron tracks
for a nightly die-in
and sleep on deferred dreams of resurrection.
Praying, out of habit, to a god they no longer believe in
to be awoken in wake of the next train.
They have no designs of death
but feel that art works in mysterious ways
and are creatures of creative habit.
Like their fathers they’ll ritualize their identity crisis
and pass off their PTSD as sacred tradition.
In the morning,
these listless apostles will follow Her
re-claiming and renaming spaces.
under the guise of supersession
in order emerge from the Bum Fuck Egypt Upstate
and re-create modernity.
Her Maat is simple:
I am love.
Love and be loved by me.
My love will surround you and hold you.
My love will transform you into who you need to be.
My love is change.
All Wisdom is through me.
Sleep and be transformed.
Be awoken by the eternal truth:
through me you are divine.
Dream yourself fully into this world.
The Art Work On Calgary
Its Easter Sunday and every American’s an artist.
A forsaken poet scribbles Her name
On every surface
naming and claiming greedily
conquering the urban Oasis
like a barbarian On holiday
in half desperate, fully human creative attempts at agency.
She writes the name Her mother gave Her.
Overgrown Oval letters proclaim Her existence to the world
like birth certificates reissued whenever One doubts their Object permanence.
Doubts that creep into Her mind like the fog that licks the steel of the Hudson line at dawn.
only to dissipate as She reissues Her edicts of existence ever higher and brighter
like the sun.
Brushes become the broken bits
of national ideology weaponized that
underpaid janitors use to pierce her sides,
the paint that bleaches
this metropolitan palimpsest daily,
washes away enough of our sins
to call the gentry in.
Washes away our pasts
leaving just enough history-
like exposed brick-
to make condos out of artist plagued tenements.
Neighborhoods thoroughly white washed in blood,
until all that is left is an after image
burned on the inner eyelids
of the consumer hive-mind.
Every three days She resurrects herself
re-writes Her name on Her city-canvass.
Her revelations are progressive,
Like the art of Her aunts before Her.
Torn between a desire to know and be known
educated between a crack rock
and the Iron Shod Chico’s of a modern Empire
Her followers mistake Her articulations of cognitive dissonance
as the second sight through the veil.
Behold your prophets laid bare!
Your Messiah is a creatively maladjusted
Steam-Punk who rocked Chucks and Sun-Ra
And cultural anachronisms before their time!
She is no missed place time traveler,
Born of a world which knew her power.
Her futurisms are lessons you have forgotten!
She leaves Her calling card on old abandoned buildings
deserted shipping containers
and atop water towers
like a young, viral Quixote
schooled in the art of war.
Challenging spring into being
with visual encryption
spray painting Her territory with a vision of a thousand exploding suns.
Her cypher melts away the last bits of snow
washing the feet of the sleeper cars
soothing the anxieties of the unknowing weary and constant travelers.
Her Passion flows like the river
And the devil himself couldn’t tempt Her to stop.
When she spoke she said:
You will know me by my daughters.
You will know my daughters by their magic.
You will know their magic by what it calls you to be.
Your nightmares are merely the dreams you are not ready for yet.
When my daughters break their silence, listen, learn, heal and be transformed.
All across the valley, Khaki’ed hipsters and Afro-ed Punks
ride ragged commuter rails
With trolleys labeled working class hero.
As the rolling hills and steep gray cliffs inspire their minds to wander,
She is the canary bird of democracy,
Her prosaic poems draw their psyche back to the moment
And seeing Her name they are reminded of their own needs to be seen
To be acknowledged
To be known
To be loved
To have truly been.
Resurrection Isn’t Always Rebirth
Its Easter Sunday and the dead are rising.
Its Easter Sunday and Lazarus is giving speeches to
workers in the Montana coal mines.
Its Easter Sunday and the Ticonderoga jets from Philipse Manor to Grand Central
as fry cooks fight for 15
and the fog creeps into our minds
forcing us to forget who we once wanted to be
by the time the sun burns away the sins of who we once were.
Its Easter and the creative spirit of every tourist
with a smart phone rises like Lazarus.
We all collectively create.
We all collectively consume.
We all creatively destroy one another
with likes and smiles.
and with the same gloved hands
we shake off the last bits of winter
-memories of a darker, colder time-
like dandruff off our shoulders.
Its Easter and the dead are rising and every American is an artist.
Suburban tourists video The B-Boys
no longer from Brooklyn
pulsating on the ground
like corpses being struck by lightening
gasping quietly as their bodies come alive
and the neighborhood watch grooves to the beat.
Rejoice as your former slaves delight you!
Sleep well as the Visigoths learn your language
And dance outside your door!
Laugh as your daughter falls for the boy you redlined out of your community!
Its Easter Sunday and the dead are rising.
Everything is reborn at its own pace.
The fog returns every morning,
covering our narrative landscape
with the bitter-sweet vapors of yesterday.
Even with this haze obscuring our history
everything is derivative
and every culture is appropriated.
We are the lambs of a deaf god,
following ancient blind mystics
who are merely futurist and malcontents,
while the philosopher kings spray paint tomorrow
on the brownstoned masonry of the cave.
Where is your G-d when the ocean rise?
Where is your God when the civilization that created him crumbles?
Rome is burning all around us
And Nero’s bankers plan mansions on the ashen remains of our culture!
Don’t wait for the apostles of a future more livable to be torn apart,
limb from limb, in a coliseum market place
before you let yourself believe.
You deserve more than bread and circuses in lieu of democracy.
We deserve more than our father’s share cropped
copping mechanism turned institutions.
Moments only seem pregnant in hindsight
and it doesn’t feel like a revolution until your friends have brought the drums.
It is time to join the egalitarian euphony articulating the future!
The era of prophecy has ended.
The time for tomorrow is now!
Her daughters are here to teach you what you have forgotten.
Do not fear who they are demanding you to become.
Know that they love you because you deserve to be loved.
Know that because they love you, they make you conscious of what you are not yet aware.
This consciousness is my gift to you.
It will allow you dream even as you walk through the waking world.
It will allow to dream and stay woke.
The Future Is Unwritten:
2 thoughts on “Feminist Reflections on My Spiritual Sabbatical pt2”
Glad you enjoyed the dream keynote 🙂 Sound like this is going to be a very fruitful sabbatical. Blessings and keep in touch!
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Thank you! Your work truly and consistently inspires me and expands my understanding! I’m geeking out a bit that you read this!