Gloria Mundi in NY______, Dating Issue!

I just got a pdf today of the NY________ magazine’s third issue, which contains my poem, “Gloria Mundi.”  The magazine (it’s pronounced “New York Underscore,” if you’re not sure that’s going on with the title), features writing about living in New York City, and each issue is organized around a theme.  The theme of this issue is dating.  My poem is about dating, clearly, and about public transportation, since you can’t really have one without the other in New York City.

I mean, I guess you can, if you live really close by to the person you’re dating or like driving around New York or are super rich and don’t take the subway– but I always thinking living in New York City and not taking the subway (presuming you can, physically, take the subway) is sort of bad sportsmanship.

I have lots of feelings about the subway, which is partially why my poem contains subway trains.  It’s a funny, happy poem!  I hope it makes you smile, if you read it, which you can do by buying the magazine.

The magazine, by the way, is spiffy.  I was impressed with my pdf copy that I just received.  It’s really pretty and well-designed.  I think you will like it, if you try it.  There might even be a picture in it of a man tied up with neckties.  In a sort of artful way.  Just in case a poem by me that will probably make you smile (I don’t want to promise, then I will have angry, non-smiling people writing comments here) is not enough incentive.

Here’s the magazine’s website: http://ny-underscore.com/about.html, where you can find info about where to buy the magazine in New York City.  I recommend that you go to Bluestockings, because you will find 12,000 other books there that you want to buy, if you are me or anything like me.  Probably that would happen at Book Thug Nation, too, I just haven’t been there.  Once Word Up gets up and running again, I will see if we can get copies of it too!  (Now people who only know me through this blog and have been paying attention to old posts are wondering what the heck happened to Word Up.  I should write a post about that soon).

If you’re not in New York City, you can order the magazine here: http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/443896, in print or as a pdf.

I hope you enjoy it!

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Anniversary

I wrote this today during the composition class I teach.  The exercise was to tell the story of your morning, from when you got up to now.  Naturally, I ran out of time.  But I thought I’d share what I wrote, since I haven’t written here in so long.  No editing, no additions, though there’s more to the story and I dearly want to continue–but–in the spirit of the assignment– hot off the presses:

I can’t believe it’s time to get up.  It’s both too early and too late.  Too early because I’m so tired and too late because I’m still marking these essays.  I meant to get up earlier–or maybe stay up later–but now it’s just time to go.  It’s chilly, so I’ll need warmer clothes–do I even have warmer teaching clothes clean?  It was so hot this summer, I thought it would be that hot forever.

I find clothes and get out the door.  My metro card has run out of money.  It seemed to go on beyond the 30 days before, and I was secretly hoping that it was magic and would never run out again.  That turns out to be a false hope.  The turnstiles–well, the part that reads the cards–at my stop are dying some kind of slow death, and everyone just stands there swiping and swiping, hoping to get lucky and get in, which most of us finally do.

On the train, I focus on this one man sitting down.  He’s a tall white guy with a tattoo on his face–wearing camo pants and with a huge camo bag in front of him.  The tattoo makes wandering lines all across his nose and forehead–a mountain range, a bird, an insect?  No idea.  He seems out of it, staring a little, eyelids fluttering from time to time.  I am imagining dangers inside his bag, and I don’t like myself doing that.  When he gets off, I see he has had a large dog with him the whole time–where was it?  How did I not notice?

At my stop, it’s already warmer than it was before.  I head towards John Jay, thinking about class and what I will write in this assignment.  The bells at St. Paul’s are ringing.  I look at my watch, surprised.  It’s not yet 9 AM– why are the bells ringing?  Then I know why, and I stop on the sidewalk.  I put my hand to my chest, over my necklace.  I feel warm now.  I keep walking.

Inheritance at Underwater New York

So, I’ve decided to do this Author Blog Challenge to get blogging again, especially now that I’ve finished writing my last paper for the semester, and I saved some good writing news just to get started!

A couple of months ago I found this cool project/website/organization called Underwater New York.  What they do is go around to the waterways of New York City and environs, and find all sorts of strange, evocative stuff in and around the water.  Then they post about it on their website and people write stories, poems, even songs about the stuff!  Seeing that I love strange, evocative stuff, water, making up stories about strange, evocative stuff, and I live in New York City, I was pretty excited and raring to go.  They were having a flash fiction call when I found them, and I decided to write about an 1897 pocket watch found near Coney Island.

Here’s a link to all the tiny stories that were published about the pocket watch: http://underwaternewyork.com/2012/05/16/flash-fiction-submissions-1897-pocket-watch-coney-island/  Mine’s at the bottom.  With my name on it.  And it’s called “Inheritance,” so the title of this post is now making tons of sense.

I noticed that nearly all the stories about the pocket watch had some aspect of it being inherited or at least a special gift, and also that all of them had something to do with death or loss.  I guess the pocket watch aspect lends itself to the former, and I wonder if most stories about things being lost in the water related to death or loss.  It would be interesting to try to do one that was really jubilant, or something!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the story, and that you check out the rest of Underwater New York, and that you come back throughout the month to see how the blogging challenge is going.  I’m not sure what the challenge is, exactly, mostly just to blog and read stuff by other writers, which I’m excited to do.

If you’re stopping by for the first time, welcome!  I’m glad you’re here!  Please feel free to say hello, and tell me a story about inheritance or pocket watches or Coney Island or finding stuff in the water, or whatever you like.

Yay Blog!

Resilience Reading Coming to Word Up this Saturday!

We hope you can make it!

Hey everyone!  As this image indicates, there’s going to be a Resilience reading and open mic this Saturday, March 17th from 3-5 PM at Word Up!  It will feature Resilience editor Eric Nguyen, and Resilience authors from the New York area, Bill Elenbark, Anne E. Johnson, Emma Eden Ramos, James R. Silvestri, and me.  We’re planning to read our pieces from the book and then to open things up for other people to read their work, ask questions, discuss the project, etc.

To make the week delightfully resilient all around, my fellow authors have written guest posts for this blog, which I will start posting tomorrow, and continue posting throughout the week.  So– if you want an appetizer for the lovely writing you’ll be hearing on Saturday, or if you can’t make the reading and you want to participate virtually, please come by all week and check things out.

And don’t forget that your stories are always welcome here.  🙂

Of course, if you are in the New York City area, please come by to the reading on Saturday.  We want to have a gay old Saint Patrick’s Day with you.  And especially, if you know any young folks who could use some strengthening words, please pass the message along.

Ash Wednesday Thirteen Ways

Here is a poem I wrote today.  A present, for Lent, from me, to you.

Ash Wednesday Thirteen Ways

Anger the beginning

and end

of my observance.

 

In Granada, we caramelized

sugar in our spoons over

an open flame.  Took

what remained

on the underside and crossed

each other’s foreheads, laughing

laughing.

 

Someone is running

in the subway station

along the dangerous

caution yellow, like it’s

a track, singing.  I want

them to stop.

 

Today I notice especially

the Jewish men

with beards and hats

and yarmulkes.  The choice

they are making or

not-making

every day.

 

Behold, behold,

behold, behold—

to look, to take

in fingers, to put

in mouth, to swallow

to smear on face,

Oh Lord.  I am

beholden.

 

I have never trusted

a priest with

my whole heart,

not one.

 

The priest who marks me

is an old man, but looks

strong.  Remember you are

dust and to dust

you shall return.  He smiles

with great kindness, as though

this news is welcome, as though

it is what I have been waiting for.  And it is.

It is.

 

I present myself in ice,

hoping to be melted.

Someday the sun

will eat the earth, you know,

in its death pains.

In its growing.

 

Oh, what a fool

he is, to speak

of a small church, a pure

church.  There is no small-

and-pure, O papa,

there is only your flesh

and my flesh being one

flesh that is Christ’s flesh,

and isn’t that just

the worst?  Aren’t we just

fucked by it, you and I, doesn’t it

make you

laugh?

 

On television, the whales

are having the most beautiful

hunt I have ever seen.

It is a dance.

The whales circle,

and sing the herring

right into their mouths.

 

At church I often think

that people will shout at me,

attack.  Also on the street,

sometimes, on the subway,

at night, when the door to my

room is locked.

 

Jesus,

I want you

to love me enough

to leave me alone,

and to want me enough

to bother the hell

out of me.  I present you

with a note: Do you

like me?  Check yes

or no.  I spend my evening

smudged

and scribbling.

 

Dolphins throw themselves

into the air to say things,

and whales sing all

together.  I watch.

The ash on my forehead

itches.  Gladness comes.

Queer Vocation, or Violence and Voice

Yesterday, in my Medieval Conversions class, we were discussing the Prioress’ Tale from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. If you’re not familiar with the story, it goes something like this (be warned, Chaucer certainly tells it better): In Asia somewhere, there’s a city where Christians and Jews both live, though in different areas. There is also a Christian school. A little Christian schoolboy hears older children singing a hymn to Mary and is totally transfixed by it. He learns the song by heart, and sings it all the time, including when passing through the Jewish quarter. The Jews hear him, and become outraged, and hire one of their number to kill the boy. The murderer captures the boy, cuts his throat, and throws him in a privy-pit, where everybody in the Jewish quarter goes to empty their bowels. His mother is worried when her son doesn’t return home, and so she goes looking for him, and eventually finds him, lying face up in the pit with his throat cut, and, miraculously, still singing the Virgin’s song. This draws a crowd, and the boy is taken to church, singing all the while, and all the Jews are bound. The boy reveals that a little grain has been placed under his tongue by Mary to keep him singing, and so the abbot removes the grain and the boy dies. All Jews who knew about the murder are punished by being dragged through the streets behind horses and then hanged.

There’s lots going on in this story, and like many Medieval stories, it’s disturbingly steeped in anti-Semitism. That wasn’t always my primary focus when I was thinking about it in class, but it stayed with me like an aching limb as we talked things through. There’s a line early in the tale, about the Christian children at school that describes them all as being “an heep,” and we were laughing a bit at the image of children all piled up in a heap, and then talking about groups in the tale that are treated collectively, which led us to the Jews at the end, being killed “an heep.”

For a minute I smiled, thinking about the heaped up schoolchildren, and then I remembered that I know exactly what Jews being killed “an heep” looks like. And so do you. Those horrible images of the Holocaust, the bodies piled on bodies, the arms, the legs, the heads, the necks, the spines all heaped up together juxtaposed themselves over the words about Jews in these and other writings I have read. They layered in my mind in a visceral, inescapable way, and I rubbed at my head and I thought maybe I should make a huge art exhibition, something that would take up rooms, with images of the Holocaust and words, centuries of words, miles of words, that marked and remarked Jews as worthy of death.

Class ended and I left. I was walking down the street, feeling overwhelmed, and the idea of how hate and violence and revilement can infect culture, or maybe sort of pool around in its hollow places, sitting there like stagnant water, until later—maybe hundreds of years later—they come back again, reconstitute themselves, and erupt in new ways. And people die. And the rhetoric is never really gone, waiting to fork a tongue and come on out again.

It made me feel hopeless, doomed. I reached out in prayer, and then I was struck by the idea that the whole structure of Christianity, which my prayer was surrounded and in some ways constituted by, was contaminated with this anti-Semitic poison.

I was thinking, too, about the Occupy movements, about my involvement with them, about a student strike being called next week at exactly the time of the class I’d just left, a class I enjoy, and for which I am scheduled to do a presentation, next time.

So I said a prayer, anyway, for openness and for learning. I said a prayer opening myself up to learn and to understand what to do.

I continued walking, passing Macy’s on my right, and grumbling internally about their already-present Christmas decorations, even as I wanted on some level to stop and stare at the admittedly thrilling display. I got to a corner where, on two previous occasions, I had seen a tall black man surrounded by posters and signs laid on the ground, with a small semi-circle of people around him, preaching. I’d glanced at one of the posters as I went by, heard a snatch of his words, and interpreted the whole thing as something about which races and nationalities were included and loved by God and which were not. The whole thing was so frightening and disturbing to me that I did not stop and check things out further, so perhaps that is not what he was saying. The images on the posters looked violent, bombs blooming out in red and yellow fire.

He was not there yesterday. But I pictured him there. And then I saw myself, standing at the edge of his crowd, and I heard myself yelling, “THESE WORDS KILL. THESE WORDS KILL.”

The day before yesterday, one of my composition students stayed to conference with me after class. He told me about a video his friend had shown him, of a Jamaican, black, gay man being beaten and then burned to death. I was horrorstruck and rageful, and trying to find an expression of this while still steering him toward a workable research project.

“Obviously,” he said, “beating and burning someone to death is too extreme, I don’t agree with that, but this is their cultural belief—”

“The one leads to the other,” I interrupted him. “They’re not separate, not completely. If you treat lives as worthless in words, someone will come and take those lives away.”

These words kill. The words of hate spoken in our streets, in our subways, in our schools, in our senate. And I was tired–as I walked to my train yesterday I was burning with tiredness—of having the voices of hate being the voices that shout. Of letting people say, we are the saved ones, you are the damned ones. Of letting people scream that God will enjoy burning homosexuals in Hell and walking by quietly. I was tired of hate being loud and love being quiet. I was ready to shout.
I began to think about sex, about my sexuality, and about church, and about God. I have thought about these things many times, but they blazed up new for me yesterday.

I want to tell you this story: I grew up loving God and loving church. I was not bored; I was not disengaged. I loved Jesus, adored him. I loved being Catholic. I enjoyed Mass. I took part in all kinds of ways. This was not a cultural love—not only that. This was not a social, I’m-part-of-this-group love—not only that. This was my love for my God. It was mysterious. It was overwhelming. It was mystical and real and very solidly experiential.

Today, I do not know what to say when people ask me what religion I am. I do not know how to share the joy of my religious experience because of layers of pain and fear that stand between me and the religiosity I so enjoyed when I was younger. Going to church is a strained and conflicted experience, and yet I don’t like the idea of trading in my Catholicism for something else, so I stay home most Sundays. I feel nervous when I think of times when I will be called upon to go to Church, and I feel nervous when I think of staying away. I feel pretty fucking goddamned nervous a lot of the time. So I try not to think about it too much at all.

These changes in my feelings are not because I am a bisexual woman living in a loving, mutual, sexual partnership with another woman, and I somehow recognize my sinfulness and feel divided from God—though there are some who will say that this is why.

I don’t feel this way because I am not strong enough or brave enough, or because I can’t just suck it up and deal with the whole church-stance-on-sexuality thing like a lot of other folks do. I thought this was why for a long time. I thought this was my problem, an individual problem, something I, personally, in my own heart and head and soul, needed to work through.

Yesterday, sitting on the train with the Prioress and the Holocaust and the murdered Jamaican man all together in my mind, I understood that I feel this way because of spiritual violence. I feel this way because of spiritual violence that has been and is being committed against me and against lots of other people, queer and straight, of all colors and races and genders and abilities, in sacred and secular spaces.

I do not feel comfortable and at home in Catholic spaces NOT because I have often heard priests preaching against homosexuality. That only happened once, and I walked out—followed by my girlfriend, my mother, and my octogenarian grandmother. I have heard many other Catholic people be completely warm and accepting of homosexuality—many, many more than I have heard denouncing it or me.

I do not feel comfortable and at home in Catholic spaces because this church that professes to love and mother me would protect that one priest and would not protect me. Because everyone has a right, according to what the church teachers, to denigrate and deny my life, my family, my experience, my love, and my body. And defending those things must be done secretly, quietly, sotto voce, under the radar. I could go to a Catholic church my whole life—but could I stand there and marry the woman I love? Could we stand at the fountain and baptize our children? And if we did—what would happen to the church that let us? Who has the power? Who is supported? You know the answers to these questions. And so do I. And so does every queer person in every congregation, even the most welcoming.

That is enough. I am here to tell you that that is enough to brutalize the spirit. The silence is enough. The secrecy is enough. This kind of atmosphere is antithetical to spiritual growth. It is the exact opposite of love and welcome. There need be no shouting, no dramatics. These words kill in a whisper. These words kill in a roar.

I am hardly the first person to say this. But I want to make it clear. And it is not just about me, and it is not just about sexuality, and it is not just about church. I want you to feel it through my experience, and I want you to look, carefully, at the places where you worship, work, live, sing, play, read, cook, sew—who is there? Who do you know is there? Who is silent there? Who is not present at all? Where are the people of color? Where are the immigrants? Where are the women? Where are the queer people and the gender non-conforming? Where are the poor people? Where are the disabled people? If they are not there, or they are silent—it is up to each of us in positions of privilege to notice, and it is up to us to take the risk and ask why and ask what we can do to make the spaces we are in places where all can be welcome, where all can worship, work, live, sing, play, read, cook, sew…

It is time to be loud. And it is time, for me, and I hope for many who have experienced spiritual violence, to recognize our lives as ones we have been called to. Last night, through all of these swirling experiences that I have tried to recreate for you, I felt a strong sense that intense, joyful, Jesus-loving, religious-little-girl me was not on some separate trajectory from questioning, wounded, angry, men-and-women-and-Jesus loving exiled-Catholic adult me, but rather that my vocation, my call from God, is to be found in these very experiences.

I don’t know that I was “born this way,” though I also did not experience my sexuality as some conscious, particular choice. I do feel that I was and am called to be who I am, in all my embodied particularity, and that my queerness is part of a holy, mysterious call. And I feel called to be louder about love in the face of hatred, wherever I see it.

I don’t know what that looks like yet. I know we still live in the fog and mud of history and old and new hates are waiting to swallow us whole. But I still believe in a better kind of resurrection, too. And I just wanted to tell you, and ask you to begin, with me, to use your voice and declare a call, declare a welcome, declare a defiance of that which limits and destroys love and life. I just wanted to tell you. I just wanted to begin.

When I was trying to think of what to say, what message of worth I would like to give to oppose the messages of worthlessness I was hearing, I thought about saying “You are essential to the universe. The entire universe needs you to be exactly what it is right now. You are vital to us all.” And then I thought a moment more, and added, “Just like the blades of grass.”

Amen.

Word Up- a Video, a Petition, and a Story

So, if you’ve been wondering about Word Up, the new community bookstore I posted about awhile back, here are some things to take the edge off of your curiosity.

First, a really cool video made by volunteer DJ Boy, so you can see what the place actually looks like!  (Though the layout changes all the time…)

http://uptowncollective.com/2011/08/15/word-up-books-a-video-retrospective/

I love the song he used.  It seems really perfect for the space.  I also love the wall art with the guy with the big book bling.  The part with the kids talking comes from a presentation they had pretty early on in the life of the bookstore, which was this play/presentation called Dig It, written, created, and performed by Northern Manhattan kids as part of a workshop based on Howard Zinn’s A Young People’s History of the United States.  I recommend all of the things that went into this performance… collective theater-making, Howard Zinn, Northern Manhattan kids… all pretty great! 🙂

Next, we’re now trying to figure out a way to stay permanently in the space or at least in the neighborhood, so here’s a petition about that.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/help-make-word-up-a-permanent-bookstore-uptown/

You can sign it even if you aren’t from Northern Manhattan, so if you like the idea of the bookstore, don’t hesitate!

I’ve been enjoying my time volunteering there (aside from the fact that I seem to be facing a small curse related to turning the lights on and off).  A fascinating mix of people comes through the store in the course of a night or afternoon, and so many are so excited about the bookstore.

Today a man named Eddie Spaghetti came in and bought photography books from the bargain section.  One had pictures of European castles.  He showed me one, saying it was Dracula’s castle in Transylvania.  I don’t know if he meant a castle that was used in the movie (he was a fan of the one from the 1930s) or the actual castle of Vlad the Impaler, or what.  In any case, he told me that the castle had been on sale for… I think it was a hundred million dollars, at a time when the New York Lottery was three hundred million.  (Does the lottery even go up to three hundred million?  Shows how much I know about this..)  So his plan was to buy a lottery ticket, and if he won, buy the castle.

“I’d still have 200 million left,” he told me, laughing, “Use it to buy blood for the man.”

His favorite artist is Escher, and he rhapsodized for awhile about this Escher painting called Metamorphosis.  He gestured around the room, showing me how large it is.

“It goes all the way around, all the way from here…. all the way around the whole room.”  He described how one thing transformed into another, and then back into what it had been.  I liked the idea of this.  He told me that the painting is in Rhode Island, if I remember right, and that he wanted to go and see it himself. I thought of the paintings I have seen myself.  How beautiful they are up close.

He told me, too, about a boy who had cancer, and then his father snuck cannabis in the kid’s IV, and the boy got better and was hungry.  While the procedure sounds highly suspect, the detail about the hunger held my attention.

“There’s all this stuff we don’t know, about bark and plants and stuff,” he said.  And I agreed.

I thought about Dracula and transformation.  We talked about prison, about people in prison for drugs, about the books that people bring to the store.  He talked about how much a simple book can be worth, in money, if it’s a first edition, has a dust jacket.

After awhile he left.

Here’s a picture I found when I looked up “metamorphosis by Escher.”

http://www.globalgallery.com/enlarge/20774/

So there’s my Word Up story for today.  If you’re in the neighborhood, don’t forget to stop by!

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