Leaving Stones

This is not a history lesson.

Inscribed on the walls of the temple in Prague are the names of families erased. I cannot fill my pockets with enough stones to leave on the graves of lost generations.

Second generation holocaust memories haunt me. I wasn’t there, have only stories and absence of stories. Second generation holocaust blood memories.

Driving down the highway outside of Prague on the way to Theresien, or on the bus outside of Berlin on the way to Sachsenhausen, I could not breathe from the weight of the spirits of family who took this same route to their death, could only cry and gasp and touch the wooden bedframes, the rough wood of tables in barracks, feel my great-grandfather’s hand touch mine across the years. Bruno. Second generation holocaust body memories.

Yad Vashem outside Jerusalem, the calling of names. The temple in Prague, the calling of names. The museum in DC, the calling of names. They call my name, my people, my family, my dead.

Stitched into panels of fabric of the Quilt are the names of people erased. I cannot fill my pockets with enough stones to leave on the graves of lost generations.

Second generation genocide memories haunt me. As I was discovering my queer identity, my brethren were dying, leaving their stories, their absence of stories. Second generation genocide spirit memories.

Walking around the panels, I could not breathe from the weight of the spirits. Eric was the first of my friends to escape to the promised land of San Francisco, the first to fall to the virus. I grew up with Ryan White, with Rock Hudson, with Magic Johnson and Greg Louganis, grew up watching the generation of men above me lose the generation above them. Second generation genocide soul memories.

The memorial grove in San Francisco, the calling of names. The Quilt, the calling of names. The candlelight vigils, the calling of names. They call my name, my people, my family, my dead.

How did these become my horrors? There are too many dead for me to comprehend the weight of spirits, the chorus of stories.

I was born with generations of ancestors lost to holocaust and genocide. I was born with fear in my blood, with diasporas and pograms and disease. I was born with the fever of burning synagogues, the fever of burning viral nightsweats. I was born with my blood flowing with the tears of grief of lost generations.

No wonder there are days when all I can say is, I’m tired, days when I can’t breathe, can’t see the ripples of acts of kindness, can’t feel the love, can’t hear the stories through the deafening sound of absent generations, can’t see past the fear of being swept up, targeted and slaughtered.

I cannot fill my pockets with enough stones to leave on the graves of lost generations. There are too many dead. I carry in my pocket one stone. One stone for survival. One stone to remember lost generations. One stone to mark my body as a memorial to them and their stories. One stone for hope that we will no longer have to be afraid.

This is not a history lesson. This is a survival lesson.

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Liner Notes – 4/7/11

Liner Notes Second Edition: A Tribute to Stevie Wonder with poetry inspired by Songs From the Key of Life

http://www.facebook.com/LinerNotesSeattle

Thursday, April 7, 6-9 pm, Electric Tea Garden, 1402 E Pike

The Garden

We walk through this life

Bent and broken from the start

Taught to

Hide our bodies

Reject their pleasures

Disconnect the physical from the mental.

We walk through this life

Confused and torn from the start

Taught to

Deny our selves

Reject our curves and angles

Disconnect.

 

The old stories tell us that we’ve

Left the garden of paradise,

Not left but forced out,

Rejected,

And so from the start we are removed,

Distanced from that which makes us whole.

It’s not the garden of paradise we seek,

It’s the garden of our selves

Which is to say,

We are paradise.

 

After mother’s womb and first breath

And the start of singular heartbeats,

How many compressions of that muscle

Does it take until

Shame replaces discovery,

Until fear courses through the bloodstream

On vessels of oxygen?

 

We barely find ourselves,

Barely discover our own existence

And we are beaten down,

Exiled from the garden of our selves,

The return path overgrown and concealed

With adolescence,

With myth and media

With puritanical zeal

To douse pleasure with suffering.

We are doused.

We are exiled in our own skins.

Our skin is not our own.

 

How is it that fear has become so

Deeply rooted in our cells

That we can call it shame

But not fear?

We carry the sins of bodies

That aren’t are own

Sins that aren’t really sins at all

Which is to say,

The weight of sins is an illusion

So real it’s nigh on impossible

To crawl out from underneath

To experience paradise.

 

How quickly we are taught to

Cover ourselves,

Deny ourselves,

Hate ourselves.

The breath of innocence barely escapes our lips

Before it is transformed into fear,

Our innocence wrought into

Intricate fortifications.

We are not fortresses.

We are not meant to be battlements

Not meant to have moats separating us.

 

This body of mine,

This body of yours,

This body of ours

We are the ocean,

Tidal,

Our movements beckoning the goddesses

If only we could see.

This body of ours,

It is love under siege.

We should not lay siege to each other

After all that has been done

To our innocence.

Which is to say,

The shame,

The fear,

It is not our inheritance,

Not our own.

Though it has been handed to us

Over and over,

It does not belong to us.

 

The most revolutionary act

Is to learn to love our queer selves

In their entirety.

Start a revolution.

 

Learn to love each other

Let our love for each other be the fortress,

Let our tidal movement be zealous,

Let us reclaim our right to innocent,

Let us face our shame,

Call it fear,

Douse it,

Birth a new garden

And claim our skin.

It is our own.

 

 

Word Church – 3/27/11

Delivering the sermon at Word Church: a non-religious, highly spiritual, queer-led gathering in the (un)holiest name of all that is wordy & nerdy. Sunday, March 27, 1-3:30

 

Artist Trust 2011 Edge Graduation – 3/26/11

http://www.elliottbaybook.com/node/http://www.elliottbaybook.com/node/events/mar11/artisttrust/mar11/artisttrust

Artist Trust presents the graduating writers and their final presentations for the 2011 EDGE Professional Development Program for Writers, generously funded by Amazon.com. Join arts enthusiasts, Artist Trust supporters, family, and friends for a showcase of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Free and open to all.

The 2011 EDGE Writers’ Final Presentations will take place at The Elliot Bay Book Company, 1521 Tenth Avenue, Seattle on Saturday, March 26 from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. Many thanks to Elliott Bay for hosting the event!

Where I Am From

I am from hot air balloons and pop-top camping trailers, from Mervyn’s and discount grocery stores, from libraries and book dust.

 

I am from eggshelled linoleum dripping with Scotch on the rocks and conservative politics, from a class war with fronts in the living room and kitchen and bedrooms.

 

I am from the wind scoured valley sandwiched between dullest desert and emerald mountain waters, from Old West and gambling destination, from where no one thinks anyone actually lives.

 

I am from foothill apple orchards and fall harvests, from cookies for all occasions and stubbornness, from Seelbach and McCabe and Kalitizki and Lachotzki turned Lyon through immigration.

 

I am from Irish Catholic and assimilated Jew, from religion forced and religion invisible, a tension that birthed a zen pagan faerie with an evangelical christian sibling.

 

I am from “you’re wasting your potential” and “you don’t have to act on those tendencies”, from perfectionism and home-baked birthday cakes (always chocolate chocolate chip), from father knows everything and conflict avoidance and planning it all out.

 

I’m from the California of dreams, the Midwest of roots, the Irish and German old country where the seeds of family trees were birthed, from meatless Friday tuna casserole my father would never make or eat after, from boxes of matzo hidden in plain sight in the cupboard next to the cheerios.

 

I’m more from the stories we don’t tell than the ones we do, from secrets, from lines traced back to famine and genocide, from assimilation stories and attempts at normalcy, from freedom rides and civil disobedience. I am from boxes jammed with pictures, from scrapbooked memories, from digital files and my sister’s baby book, but not mine.

 

I am from the middle, middle America, the middle of the upper and lower middle class, the middle of two monotheisms, the middle of matriarchy and patriarchy. I have straddled binaries since birth.