My mother’s hands

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Phoenix, AZ, auntie Pita & uncle Sixto’s house, circa 1992

Mama used to tell me this story about when I was a baby, under two years old most likely. I woke up from sleep in the middle of the night and would not stop crying. I was my parent’s first born, so naturally they were attempting new things daily. This night, they tried everything from bottles of milk, pacifiers, stories, cuddles, singing, rocking, music, moving from one room to another, until they decided to take me on a drive. It wasn’t until my mama took my hand in the car, from the passenger’s seat to my car seat in the back, and started softly caressing the tips of my fingers did I stop crying and finally rest.

They say physical touch is one of the single most important aspects of baby-raising. A language made physical, the brilliance of infant brains and brilliance of infant bodies are made stronger through touch. Aside from the rise of oxytocin, a hormone released during (but not limited to) cuddling and physical contact, the histories communicated through touch is unique. Further more, endemic knowledge of brown mxthers is unparalleled, influencing future generations through a multitude of expressions.

Throughout my childhood up until I was a teenager and before I moved out of her house, this was a ritual my mom and I would do. We would relax at home and watch movies with my two younger sisters on weekends while my dad was at work or out of town and she would take my hand in her’s, lacing histories into me through tenderness. When we were walking together in public places, unknowingly or not, she would trace circles around my fingertips and I was immediately calmed. Between our busy schedules, after Sunday housework, during late-night conversations in her bed while some Lifetime movie played in the background, this was a gift she gave me.

It’s no wonder I became a writer, the weaving of stories through fingertips seems more native to me than anything.

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Me, mom, & dad, probably age 1.5, but my mom’s style is fire

There are undervalued and underappreciated acts that black and brown womxn do daily for the survival of their loved ones and the families they build. It’s often times less about coming to new conclusions with these acts and more about tapping into deep-rooted histories. We learn through story-telling, through traditions, through reworking traditions, through acts of love. We survive and we thrive through going against the grain. My mother was instilling and rebuilding these traditions of survival within me, unspoken resiliency.

The fact that I am alive today is in part to my mother’s courage in the face of colonial politics. Assimilation and violent imperialism has played its part in our lives but that is for another day. Today is about appreciation, about hands, about comfort, about strength.

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December 1990, my first Christmas

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The creek, baby days

Hands, for me, are often times an incredible depiction of someone’s authenticity. I was fortunate to be born with typical body parts for a human baby: two legs and ten toes, two arms and ten fingers, all my organs were healthy and working, I had a full head of black black hair, I was born a day late. (Sorry For Making You Wait, Mama, & Sorry For Trying To Come Too Early: The Saga.) But hands have always been the portal to souls, touch, a gateway to spirit, growth by means of the non-verbal.

I’ll say it again: The fact that I am alive today is in part to my mother and her intelligence. This wisdom and celebration of matriarchs and femmes in black and brown communities is the reason for the survival of our people. It is deeper than biology. There are vital roles played, relationships that span through time and space and generations. I would not be around to tell my stories today if it weren’t for the mujerxs in my life. To that baby in the back seat screaming her lungs out, we hear you, and we urge you to keep screaming. To the mama in the front seat thinking too hard about how to comfort, we see you, and we know you have infinite knowledge within your bones. To the ancestors in our histories passing knowledge down through traumas and wisdoms, we feel you, and we know you will continue to guide us.

To my mother’s hands, you saved me.

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Flintstone’s Bedrock City, Williams, AZ, circa 1993 probably

Feature #1

I have had friends from around the country reach out to me and say they want to publish something but they want to do so anonymously. Here on my own platform of brown recluse, I will be posting features every once in a while from a friend somewhere out in the world. Enjoy!


 

January 5, 2018
anonymous

I can feel your pulse on my lips. Not
In a sexual way, but resting.
In a
We’re both half awake half asleep kind of way.
In a
Breathing deeply kind of way.
In a
We’re wrapped so tightly around each other
I have to breathe deep or
I’ll suffocate.
I am already suffocating in your skin.
I can feel you living.
I will not kiss you with my lips in this moment.
I don’t want it to be anything but what it is.
It’s supposed to be winter when we wake up.

27 things I learned at 27

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greenwich villiage, new york city, my birthday, january 2017

1 – eat; after years of self-deprecating behaviors, it’s best to eat

2 – take pictures. take pictures of everything. take pictures of your friends, of all of your loved ones, of your cats, of yourself, of the earth, of your music, of your art, of art, of art, of art. keep taking pictures until you swallow the void that is meant to suck you dry.

3 – you’re going to break things. you don’t always have to put them back together, sometimes you have to sweep the pieces to the gutters and hope the rain washes away any memories you may be holding onto.

4 – lay out in the sun – and sweat – remind yourself that crying isn’t the only way to cleanse your body.

5 – support your sweeties in their art. show them that you love and appreciate them in all their glory. hang their creations around your home. foster living memorials in the crevasses of the most intimate places in your life.

6 – you will read more books. you will find solace in the confines of printed pages, you will be five years old again, you will be ten years old again, you will be 13 and you will remember the peace reading brought to you. you will read more books.

7 – family is forever being created.

8 – wake yourself up early at least once a month to watch a sunrise – stay up throughout the night to see the sky shift from purple black to blue and grey to the colors of the sunrise. remind yourself there is rebirth in new days.

9 – braid your friends hair. there are deep connections rooted in locks, there are stories to be told and you’ll read every single one when your fingers weave through their histories.

10 – you’re a brat. you’re getting better, you’re learning still, but this is something you will never grow out of. accept it.

11 – as a child, travel never came easy. it was rare you made it out of the confines of your hometown, sometimes a few miles down the hill, you even crossed the california border two or three times, but your desire to travel became greater with age. travel. when you can save up enough money (cuz god knows shit ain’t cheap) travel. meet new people. experience a new world. and forgive your ten year old self for not knowing what you know now.

12 – when your loved ones are threatened in bathroom stalls, when they are targeted thru anti-trans violence, show up with molotov cocktails and never let them down.

13 – your blankets are underrated. bring them with you. the weight they offer is unconditional. use them every day.

14 – “if we carry intergenerational trauma, then we also carry intergenerational wisdom.” -kazu haga

15 – rest. lay in bed for as long as you want. lay in hammocks in your backyard or across the world. receive body work and physical touch. be kind to yourself and to your body, write with lipstick on your mirror that you are more than your ability to produce. rest.

16 – never underestimate the power of a homemade cake or a loaf of bread. gift these to your friends. nurture them with your genius. feed them.

17 – touch yourself. be intimate with your body. seduce yourself. do research in and of yourself, leave no part of your body, mind, or spirit untouched.

18 – white anarchism is out of my sphere. the common narrative focuses around white voices in anarchist circles (especially here in our tiny town of bullshit) and i have no desire to be part of it. there is a spiritual connection i have with governmental reform and abolition, but the mainstream narrative is not it. here’s to learning and creating more sustainable and browner histories.

19 – ain’t no president in the history of colonial america claimed “mine.”

20 – surviving abuse has come in many forms: from a full eight hours of sleep uninterrupted, to being choked during sex without any triggers. from holding down a meal, to paying my bills on time. every day is different, and you have to forgive yourself for the days you fall back into old tricks; be patient, be strong, be vulnerable.

21 – we live in a working society where black & brown queer & trans femmes have to be twice as better than everyone else to succeed monetarily. the amount of microagressions we endure on a daily basis would blow the minds of the privileged if they could experience what we do. the amount of abuse we take is unacceptable. the amount of income we lose through unfair boundaries and advantages of the privileged is unethical. we are the best because we have to be. i see you. i see you. i see you.

22 – love hard, love like white hot light, love until you are free, love until you can promise yourself you are free.

23 – like the great prophet aaliyah once said, “if at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again.”

24 – stonewall was a riot. never stop reminding people.

25 – dance until your bones ache, do what you can with the motion you still have, carve your space into the homes and clubs in which you move. if it doesn’t sound like missy elliot put the party on, don’t waste your time.

26 – you don’t need alcohol to feel something. you don’t need alcohol to refuse to feel something. stop disassociating. it’s time to feel, it’s time to relearn how to do everything in your life sober again. it’s time for you to really live.

27 – take your own advice sometimes. you were living then, you are living now. everything you’ve done consciously or unconsciously has gotten you to this point. be more vocal with yourself and take to heart your true intentions. don’t be afraid to teach yourself, don’t be afraid to learn from others. you are living, revel in yourself. happy birthday to you, you’re still here.

Eartha Kitt, my audience, & you

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It took me ten years to realize that Madame Zeroni was in fact, radical activist, femme legend, Eartha Kitt. I remember watching Holes with my sisters and thinking, “This womxn is the power I want to encompass during this lifetime,” and I wasn’t really sure why. Eartha Mae, activist, singer, actress, dancer, performer has and will forever be a heroine to me. Born on a plantation, conceived by rape by the owner’s son, Eartha was disowned by nearly every person in her family for being born a scarlet letter child. She grew up abused, physically, sexually, emotionally, spiritually, and fought tooth and nail to succeed in as many aspects of her life as she could.

On January 18, 1968, (one day after her birthday) Eartha was invited to the white house by president at the time, Lyndon B. Johnson. First lady, Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, asked Eartha her thoughts on the basic problems of the young people at the time. Eartha worked very closely with youth organizations around the world and responded with very real struggles these kids were experiencing day-by-day, pointing out how much anger there is among the American people. She continued by asking Johnson what they were going to do about drafting the young black kids of America overseas to get shot, saying “Vietnam is the main reason we are having trouble with the youth of America. It is a war without explanation or reason.” With no valid response, and probably the feelings of inadequacies because they thought they were doing just fine planting flowers along the highway, (eye-roll) the president & his lil lady along with the whole slue of white folks in the white house freaked the fuck out, claiming she was an “enemy” to himself and his successors. Eartha began to get death threats as the news spread, the president called the FBI and the CIA, eventually blacklisting her from the United States. In her CIA dossier, it states she was a “sadistic sex nymphomaniac,” as if that were a bad thing. She spent many years trying to figure out why clubs she had worked at previously would not hire her again. Her survival depended on her ability to make money, and through the false accusations of the US president, she lost vital lucrative years — which translates to this: the violence and harm done to her could have cost her her life, and in many ways cost her her years.

A friend of mine recently asked me where I was sharing all of my poetry nowadays. I used to run a tumblr blog under a creative commons attribution, which I think meant I owned all of the original work I published, but who can really know in the cyber ether. I told them it had been over five years since I truly wrote anything besides, “Diet coke, Mai Thai, Mic Drop, cheesecake.” I feel like when I was younger and a teacher, I had a little more time to be immersed in my depression, and a little less money to be comfortable. The trade-off after transferring to the service industry, I realized I had a little more money to pay my bills, and a little less breathing room to write. I am still equally as depressed. But this world is all about its pushes and pulls, its balancing acts, its figuring out if you are deserving of space in which to carve yourself into, isn’t it? No, not always. But I’ve realized that if I don’t start to write again, I’ll continue to feel as if my life ended at age 22, and as often as I’ve thought about life ending scenarios, I’m not ready to go yet.

So, what does it mean to come back to writing after what seems like lifetimes wasted? It feels like forgetting that slant rhyme is in everything, like headstones are human, like we all need to sleep eventually. It feels like I keep buying my favorite kind of pen just to leave it in my back pocket till the ink leaks out. It feels like attempting to connect to a community I don’t always remember, to detach, to disassociate, to fuck, to breath, to live, to heal.

Eartha was asked to apologize for her words. By asking this, they were asking her to apologize for her existence. They were attempting to shove her into an easily consumable box, framing her as an illegitimate black woman, stealing her right to her own narrative. She was asked to apologize even after the truth came out that she was right, where the Johnsons fabricated lies to demolish her life, she was the one being asked to apologize. She didn’t. She continued to flourish. And in a later interview about that mid-January day in the white house when Eartha laid down the truth, she was told it was a very embarrassing moment for the first lady, and was asked if she had any regrets.

She said,
“No, I don’t have any regrets about it at all. Why should I be upset that she was embarrassed?”

Why should I be upset that you were embarrassed? More times than I can count I’ve been asked to bite my tongue, I’ve been asked to apologize for my existence, I’ve been told my existence depends on it. Not anymore.

So, who am I writing for, who is my audience, who am I fighting for?
I’m here for brown folx, black folx, indigenous folx, for strippers, for dancers, for full-service sex workers, folx with disabilities and folx with chronic illness, folx living with mental illness and folx with no access to health care, queer folx, transgender and genderqueer folx, nonbinary folx and gender-varient folx, fat folx and folx with eating disorders, folx with body dysphoria and folx with no self-worth, immigrants, folx living within the confines of the prison industrial complex, people living in poverty, the houseless, the queer youth. I’m writing with and for the folx on the margins of society. I’m writing with and for myself at age 4. I’m writing with and for my abused sister at age 7. I’m writing with and for my pregnant sister at age 18, and for the little human I help raise. I’m writing with and for my colonized mother at age 52. I’m writing with and for my ancestors, may they speak through me and grace me with endless wisdom. I’m writing against the common social narrative, I’m killing the liberal white embodiment of the modern day KKK, I’m creating healing spaces for the queers who are still alive today, for the ones we lost. For queens & fags & dykes & fairies, for pansies and twinks and bears, for bi-babies who continually get erased, for kinksters & asexuals, and spics & hos & whores, the bitches, the cunts, the sluts, for rape survivors coming up with new ways to heal, for black goths, for brown punx, for compartmentalization, for the 13 year olds giving blowjobs behind the middle school, for exposure and education, for the demolition of censorship, for the diaspora struggle, for victims of police brutality, for the introverts in activist communities, for the witches with no money, for the suicidal ones, for the self-harmers, for teen mothers, for the bitches who eat Cheetos for breakfast, for the bitches who don’t eat at all, for femmes, for butches, for tops and bottoms and verses, for the invisible, the voice with no platform, for drop-outs, for accountability.

I’m writing with and for y’all.