Wednesday, May 17, 2017

the light brightens almost imperceptibly

states of being
charging forward
cacophony of people
history, words, voices
boundaries, limitations
doorways, windows

Stories swirling around me
mom constantly rewrites hers to keep herself safe
I was programmed to be an object
I'm falling apart
A hand on my ribs telling me to soften
Where is the maze? Am I in it?
To rewrite my script, I have to seek out
the source, the code, the core
I have to walk right in what I've been containing,

There is almost nothing more delicious in my mind
than a warm night wrapping itself around you

When I lived in Richmond, I loved the heat with all of my body
wandering past lush gardens in the dark, on the phone,
or alone
I spent a whole year there, in the Fan district
near Museum Row
walking past the statue of Robert E. Lee
on my way down Monument Avenue to the laundromat

The most amazing coffee I've ever tasted
roasted in a nearly invisible space
across the street from the 7-Eleven

A weird hiccup in my history, my roommate
was the mother of the person I was dating
She apologized frequently for how her child treated me
and I kept her company while this person we both were trying to love
traveled for work, too busy to care about either of us.

There was almost never a need to turn on the lights,
the sunshine poured itself through the ancient scum on the windows
and wrapped itself around the moulding
the towers of stuff owned by this woman
dusty, useless

As time rolled on, I caught the mice and released them back
into a neighbor's garden
and convinced the roaches to be a little less brazen
I unearthed her kitchen sink
and then, eventually
her stove

We began a game of filling up trash bags to take to goodwill
Slowly, we could see the walls again
so we bought paint to put on them

In the slow release, the floor became available for sweeping
and the decades seemed to have piled up in the corners of every room
In my confusion, I sorted through the quarter sized flakes everywhere
trying to figure out where they might be coming from

I realized they were the evidence of the psoriasis that consumed her whole body
Years and puddles of dead skin
shed but not gone

I can't help but suspect, in my secret heart
that they are a clue about feelings,
about her children, her life
a previous husband
the damage he caused while she turned a blind eye

eating her up from the inside.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Tabula Rasa

While binge-watching a tv show about the history of a particular Viking hero, and researching the exploits and overlaps referenced in this semi-historical narrative, there came one of those moments - a life changing realization through the eyes of a mostly fictitious character arc. A child is introduced to him, with the clear blue eyes of a person that meant a great deal to him and was killed in a jealous rage by one of his other companions. In the blank, innocent look of this child-of-his-lost-companion, this great Viking warrior paused and gently touched his fingertips to the boy's face. I felt, with the sharpness of a cut, the history of those two figures, made manifest in the presence of his descendant... and I understood for probably the first time the intensity of looking into the face of one's child or grandchild, or that of a close friend. How in the eyes of those-that-came-before-us, we are also a culmination of so many preexisting circumstances, a physical manifestation of a million little moments and rainy days and hard choices and secret shared smiles and successes and failures and how-are-we-going-to-survive-this; we are all creatures born in the crest of a wave, in the dynamic tensions of a butterfly that flapped its wings on the other side of the world, like the stars and Aphrodite, merely an expression of the teeming currents moving invisibly in the darkness underneath and before what we can actually see.

John Locke had it all wrong, maybe what the bible was trying to say was actually a poorly worded version of something more true. Less 'The sins of the fathers being visited upon the children', more how so many of our actions and gestures we perform every day, and the threads we may confuse as our own may be habits and patterns that are discernable across many generations, part of the primordial stuff that we come into being inside of, for better or worse, whether we like it or not.

Just as we often envision ourselves as truly individual beings, I think it is hard to have a really clear sense of our parents and their parents in a context before we transformed them into something else, an identity that they can never discard. What dies to make room for this magical induction, this double baptism, for this new name they will take with them to the grave? And what of those parts of myself that are so like my primary caregivers that I am so angry at and ashamed of? I am not so interested in the person my mother is currently trying to convince everyone that she is, since it is an elaborate defense against choices made when we were both young, and no one is around to hold her accountable. I do however wish I could dig into some of her earlier feelings and experiences, separate from her intensely obsessive and controlling reaction to me as her offspring/pawn/property, and her insistence that I'm just acting like an angry, adolescent brat, rather than a human being who deserves to be listened to, considered, who may be emotionally intelligent or possessing a valid argument about how her choices have realtime and lasting impacts on the children who were left in her care and won't go away until she is willing to be in the pain of addressing them with us. How do I learn about this person and the ways we are similar, without triggering her many layered defenses? Her father used to call her 'the Hulk', her rage was so uncontrollable when she was younger. I suspect my Grandmother fiscally supports my mother because she feels so deeply guilty for what she stood by and allowed to happen in the household my mother grew up in, and I've heard from my sister that Grama told her just how much like her father my mother is. While I may have found a container for rage that has been incredibly fortuitous for me professionally, I know, sometimes more than others, how that taking over/taking control/unable to turn it off mechanism is a direct channeling of the woman who raised me.

'Hollow' is the word my little brother used, describing to me what trying to talk to her is like. It is deeply unsettling to me, this person who calls herself a mother, but has never once asked any of her children how they feel about anything, or why. That someone in her place could be so uncurious about our hopes and fears and choices. But maybe that is what was modeled to her, maybe there is an unheard, neglected child buried deep within her being that is so hungry it makes her blind to us. Is it possible to go unarmed after all this time and anger in search for my mother's soul, locked so deep in the fortress of her stories, and not get lost?

I don't know that I'm quite brave or strong enough to fumble around in her darkness to untangle our shared threads, but I can feel the places in my body where I've ignored pain have created weaknesses in other compensatory places, and I've begun to chase those uncomfortable places to look for what lives on the other side. As strong as I may become though, only she can choose to wade through her scar tissue and liberate those pathways between herself and the rest of the world.

Between herself and her children, who have been waiting our whole lives for her to make that choice.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Whatever gets you through the rituals

City of barnacles
passing a half burnt house
falling apart, fleas
inside the crumbling building
doors lead to musty rooms
with collapsed ceilings
crumbling paint on old opera sets
containing the history of my craft
mastery in every whorl and cloud 
and shadowed transition
coming apart in my hands
flakes of vibrant colors
becoming grey dust
like Dorothy returning
to her washed out, thirsty home
after the technicolor of Oz.

tasting things activates the process
of taking things in
maybe hearing is just the beginning
of listening

My little brother
taller than all of us now
affectionately mentioned
during a holiday
the house full
of our family's particular
dominating cackle
a joyful witch's laughter
that we are all known by
but becomes a devastating
force when we all
come together.

Shame keeps them shuttered inside of themselves, unknowable
like a clam bed in muddy low lying water
they propagate a denial that removes them from their own history
ready to slice open the feet of any of us that try to escape
from the bog of my clan

'Disarming' he called me
when I asked for an evaluation
what a strange word

'half cocked' my mother
always said I was
like a gun
An old boss friend referred to me
as a 'tank' on numerous occasions
expressed disbelief
when I mentioned crying
and even before that
a 'caged tiger'
from the lips of an earlier employer
as she mimicked the pent up rage
that moved my body as we spoke


I can't stop thinking about that word.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

You be the rock and I will be the river

passive time travel
multiple features of space
the salt, sugar and fat
of things that obsess us
coming to terms with our past.

Sands of Time
an hourglass
in the shape
of a Woman.

Women in teal with cheetah print
aprons, wire frame
glasses and chunky necklaces
from Guatemala silk scarves
from Cambodia
scrubbing bright colors
onto their canvases

autumn trees frame
parts of the ancient brick
turret outside the window
rust streaking the walls
matching the rust color of the
trees, just as the grey
of the brick matches
the perpetually grey sky.

Succinct, dry, older Russian professor looked at me through my tears
after I put a robe over my naked body
while the students took a break from drawing me.

'Look,' he told me, 'I'm not into giving advice, but you are too young to worry so much about someone else's problems.'

He talked vaguely about his mother needing some kind of surgery, complicated
he can't paint, because it is such a thinking process, such a mental focus
and he is too obsessive compulsive to stop thinking
about his mother.

So he does mindless things.
He ironed every shirt in his house.

I wanted to be nothing
but muscle and sinew
an archetype
wolf as chaos
rather than
woman as grail
a vessel
to be held, filled
tree that bears fruit,
holds up the sky
home base, earth
man is that sky?
the spear flying through the air?
the act of filling,
the bow of the body needs
its own arrow
of time, intention
what am I if my curves melt away
into nothing
but muscle and sinew?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Electricity takes every path available to it

Structure is not the antithesis
of choice
Circumstances of our environment give us
something to negotiate

What if there was no such thing as
correct or perfect?
How can we wake up inside of
a movement?

Maybe our thoughts are a fluid
Sound as a way of leaving after-images
of yourself

Choosing where I meet the vibrations
of another person

Spectrum of vibration

Creating bonds between matter
that coalesce into a cell membrane

inner and outer
self and other

Center as the meeting point
of a number of forces

Identity is becoming one of those nonsense words
Identity refers to a sameness
Body as a place,
a history of a place

What if Self/Consciousness
was in the conversation,
between overlapping histories
and their momentary meeting point

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Reverberations of those that brought us here

When I was facing away
my back tingled like it was trying to see

Yielding to space implies an invitation

Like dough rising, the edges of my body were
A blend of space and skin

Yielding is not an abdication

If I wasn't hungry for attention
Looking away wouldn't be so painful

Lines of force
A map drawn by connective tissue
The fabric of the body

How we are running when we aren't
Wearing boots when we are not
Fighting when we aren't

Would I know myself without them?

Particularity becomes abstraction
The mouth is a space
Filled with appetites and qualities
of the voice
Words are boundaries, anchors
Words carry histories
That's why they work.

A handrail over time accrues touches
Like a pearl has layers

What if we thought of talking as touching

How does one reach with words
How can I stand my own (ground, matrix of ideas)
How much connection can we take

And yet

Not talking is still saying something
Listening someone into being.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The absence of an electron where there should be one

The year before I went to college I had my first full on psychic reading. It was long ago enough that she recorded the session on a tape, and I haven't owned anything that plays tapes in quite some time. But there are pieces of it I will never forget, that keep rolling back into my periphery, since psychic time is differently related to us than our own fabricated concept of its passage. One of the images she described started with my wading into a pool of water, but before I got too deep, I stepped on something extremely sharp and backed out the way I came. She saw me circling many pools as time unspooled in front of me, never moving deeper into any of them than just barely getting my feet wet.

From my place backstage, blue lights painting us all like ghosts in the preshow calm, I pressed into the pain in my foot. An old injury that has awoken with a vengeance in recent body study, it has been a constant note sung in the background of every weight bearing moment. I was thinking about weight passing through, and realized that feeling the pain was different than engaging with it, and pressed down harder. Like my toes had words to say to the floor, I let the bottom of my foot whisper about gravity and the force of my weight to the stage underneath me. The full length of my toes, all the way up to the metatarsals were clearly illuminated in the conversation between my body and the floor. What had previously been a blind ball of pain with fuzzy, bright edges contained underneath my outer ankle became a network of splinters, a burning spiderweb that spread out along the underside of my foot. The pain has begun to dissipate in the days following, and I can feel my feet talking to various supporting surfaces sometimes, chatty and just a little bit vulnerable. In my anatomy class earlier that week I had a similar awareness rise up, of a multidimensionality of experience that is always happening, but I had always been lost in such a spacial/temporal immediacy of attention. Our attention has a history too, whether we can hold all of the threads in our gaze or not.

I noticed myself getting worked up on the train ride to my current gig, picking fights with people in my head and filling up with the steam I was going to cruise in with. Its not the first time I've watched this happen, preparing myself for the battles I might potentially face and triggering an adrenaline response before I even walk through the heavy doors of the Armory. Like modulating poisons in my body, the clarity and speed that manifest in my anger are a dangerous alchemy that make it hard to settle in non work circumstances, but that shaking rage has helped me unload countless trucks of steel and wield construction vehicles and crews of men like a knife, like an extension of my own hand. In building truly beautiful things in a massive scale, as well as weaving a fleshy tapestry of love with the guys I'm in charge of, I have always felt blessed to have such a profound outlet for all the anger living in my body, that I had a place where my voice could boom so loud it filled the city-block-wide space when I can't even make my own mother hear me. Maybe I always thought I would eventually be drained of that feeling, that I would run dry of rage, but I'm starting to wonder where I got that idea in the first place. I watched my calm, cool boss pace and writhe after a confrontation with an impossible employee, as he tried to speak to me through the blood in his eyes, he admitted how enjoyable he found those moments. He is someone I resonate pretty deeply with, and I know the feeling he described, that same beast lives in my blood, a dark pleasure in proving to an invisible someone that I am not powerless. Only now I am wondering about that conflation of pain and pleasure that makes ease and comfort without a fight seem like it is undeserved, like I am vulnerable somehow for experiencing it. Something I thought I was getting rid of, like emptying a bottle... may only be carving deeper and deeper grooves, burning away my other choices, making it less and less likely I can engage in other ways. Not modulating anymore, but eventually becoming an addiction to accessing these superhuman parts of myself, at the cost of losing access to everything else.

"This pain is not your karma", a wise-woman told me recently.
"I see", said the blind man, after he stared into the sun for too long.

In whispering conference in the dark with my closest counterpart who supervises builds with me, we talk about the unique us-shaped hole we've dug for ourselves, and what it might mean to stop digging and consider climbing out. Five months prior to this moment he had sustained a massive blow to the face while on a jobsite, and the back of his left eye as well as a line down the back of his skull continue to give him serious pain, he is terrified that one of his eyes now lives farther back in its socket. After CAT scans and doctor's visits, they finally told him to come back in a year since they can't quite discern what's happening. As he looked at me through massively uneven pupils, he encouraged me to follow this alternative body-focused path, even though I was scared about affording it. I can't NOT take this eagle-eyed man seriously, hearing the momentary tenderness in his Ukrainian accented voice. I forget sometimes, how much he has seen me grow in the past half decade, two superhuman beings guiding the ship of this space, and I already miss the depth of his awareness, the subterranean knowledge that underlies the language we use with each other. If I choose a different path, will all of the fighting, the boundaries broken by me as a woman in a man's world, the power I've wielded, will it be like it never even happened? If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did I ever drive a forklift and work with steel? Will I just be another long haired artist girl who draws to get by? Who could I ever trust to know or witness the wholeness of me in the world beyond ours?

A man I loved working with a few years ago asked me once,-"Could you imagine showing up to work and not having to fight?". At the time we were renovating parts of buildings under construction, the other guys we worked with hated him, with his loud bossy temperament and Taurean strength, but I could trust him to help me finish the job no matter what - the guys henpecked him into finally leaving the city completely, the way my sibling's chickens killed and consumed my chicken in the backyard as kids, only leaving the feet behind. I was regularly the only woman on these jobsites - the snickers and sneers from the other construction crews slowly turning into respect were my lifeblood for a long time. Men from vastly different cultural backgrounds approached me with questions about why I was different from the women in their lives. I was fighting the good fight in the only way I knew how. But as my body falls apart under the pressure I constantly put it under, I am starting to wonder why I am so afraid to do the things that come naturally, afraid of that particular kind of ease and comfort, like it was something I haven't earned yet.

And I wonder how much of my potential power leaks out into a million pointless, futile battles, if there is not a better way to participate in cultivating those things I believe in and want to be a part of.

Roll Jordan, roll.

Conversation between my estranged mother and my little sister.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The new cathedral crawled out of a rift in the mantle

Interrupting / a bullet
Talking / building a wall
Not having an answer / a deficit, a 'lack' to be filled.

You're not here to be hypnotized.

Something about going away,
extremes I imagined feeling, so I asked her

Did you just want to absorb into the foreign landscape?
Or are you relieved to be home?

Both, I bet she thought in her head
Impossible, I think to myself

To feel both of those things at once -
Maybe in moments, side by side

Why not? I can hear her asking in my head
Like two muscles pulling on the same bone

First you are stuck, trapped by those feelings
Then like a star, you implode

Monday, February 20, 2017

a theoretical particle named after a laundry detergent

photos I took of my mother, 2012

I remember sitting in classes with her as a child, that we were at the Community College. I know as an adult that my mother was probably getting her AA in either child development or ornamental horticulture. I don't know how far she got in either. I remember vaguely her being involved in my earliest education, but am not sure in what capacity. There is just a clear picture in my mind of a day spent washing all of the dolls, a group activity for a roomful of post-toddlers, and how proud she was about that activity she had come up with because she still mentions it sometimes. Later, she helped run a preschool out of a church facility, since it wasn't in use during the week, and my little brother, the youngest of us, was one of those preschoolers. I remember the smell of graham crackers and apple juice, two things I can't bring myself to eat because of how strongly I associate them with the gummy residue on faces and hands that I helped clean up. Rubbing backs during naptime and thinking about my own preschool traumas. The flow of moms at the end of the day, questions they asked us about their children's behavior and eating habits. And so much sunshine, in all of those memories.

In high school I went with her sometimes when she taught classes on child development to child care providers looking for basic certifications. Most of these women were running daycare out of their homes, in trailer park neighborhoods and stripped down forgotten about parts of town, the rambling extremities close to the prairie, far past the shadow of the university that ran most of the town. We drove forever it always felt like, past the cornfield that did haunted rides every Halloween, to be in this lonely little class of women who didn't understand why hitting children was a bad thing. I was the silent witness in the room, the brevity of my mother's countenance held in my own awareness - there was a wooden spoon we were spanked with when I was little, I remember the year before starting my period, my stepfather making me pull down my pants so he could lay the force of his hand against my flesh. I suspect the child development courses she took shifted something in her perspective that my younger siblings didn't have to experience so much, and I do think that she had a very specific understanding of where these women were coming from. I watched her face as she listened to their responses to the material, accidental confessions from the 'students' that were often deeply disconcerting, to know that people left children in their care. But in some of these poor, far flung places, what other choice did they have?

Once, when my mother got to the section on breastfeeding, one woman who was hugely pregnant defensively informed the room that her 18 year old son wasn't breastfed and he was just fine, that breastfeeding was gross, was something animals did. I never saw judgement in my mother's face, she let them confess their fears and remarks about how children were viewed and handled. She merely rolled along, describing colostrum, the thin early milk rich in antibodies for helping construct the baby's immune system, then, a week later fats and vitamins come in, calories to support their ceaseless growth... by the time she finished telling the story of how our bodies adapt to the growing, shifting needs of our young, that same woman spoke up again. 'I had no idea', she said. 'This baby will be breastfed' she told us, with her hand on the broad expanse of her ripening body.

The education system was created in the wake of child labor laws, suddenly the working class needed somewhere to put their children while they filled the factories in the urban areas that exploded during the industrial revolution. It was designed to turn out the future workers to fill a rapidly standardized assembly line structure of production. After my time in public education, I have racked up countless hours studying for standardized tests, memorizing dates and facts that were disjointed, not connected to the history or circumstances they have evolved out of, and I have witnessed and fought with teachers who have brought my classmates to tears from deep condescension whose source I cannot know, but whose boundaries were limitless in the container of those classrooms where no one is around to see how hard we fought, as teenagers, to convince anyone that we existed. All I remember from economics are graphs and formulas that I didn't bother learning, since they were so far removed from my own experience of having been raised on welfare. While I struggle getting my head around adult finances, after having been raised by adults with no idea about their personal finances, I can't believe what we learn in economics has little to no connection to our place inside of the economy, or the agency we might find within it. We learn how to have sex, the hardening of parts and the hormonal responses in our bodies in sex ed, how genes interact to give us our mother's eyes or our father's eyebrows in biology... but never what comes afterwards - not how we grew inside of someone else's body, or how specifically our bodies adapt to such a massive event - like producing its own form of nourishment. I wish we learned about Pythagoras' arrival to his theorems, alongside wrestling with its product. What is the point of a class on current events without any frame of reference for what is happening in our very local government - something that both impacts us, and that we can impact as well? What an opportunity being missed, to build not just a richer community fabric by embedding its constituents more deeply into its awareness and expression, but also give a quickly maturing demographic a sense of where we belong inside of that vast, vague, overwhelming potential of the world, of the hopeless/hopeful statement 'You can be anything'? How do we learn about our relationship to the global community if not in the place we spend so much of our childhood?

How do we take the education of our children back? Like the asbestos and other chemicals I have had to wade through while renovating schools - we send them off, with so little awareness of what they will be taking in and how it will manifest later in their lives. While these generalizations may not apply to everyone's experience, I know I am not alone in having them, and feel very strongly that I can see now the threads that got lost in forming my sense of self, as well as the threads that got strengthened around my particular circumstances.

There were heroes and saints too. My favorite teacher my senior year, Mrs. Bergeron, had a quote over her door from Dante's Inferno: 'Abandon all hope, Ye who enter here' . I believe she went to Harvard, and wore tweed suits with skirts, and talked sometimes about how hard it was to teach us important things around what was required of them to teach to fit inside of those standardized tests. She was cold and serious, but when she told you that your writing was good... it meant more than Christmas ever has.

'It is not by coincidence that archaeologists find weaving tools and weapons side by side.'

Saturday, February 18, 2017

voids in your timeline waiting for color

As we cycled weight through our feet in class, I noticed a place in my left foot that wasn't passing the weight from heel to little toe to big toe. Feeling the drop out in the pinky toe part, how quickly weight passed across my foot from heel to big toe, I paused and rolled through the place it seemed to avoid. Pressing into that quiet space triggered a response in the back of my right pelvic half, close to the sacrum and I can only describe the sensation as the minty freshness my mouth feels after brushing my teeth. I've been slightly nauseous and have felt weirdness underneath my outer ankle in that same foot since last week, when we focused on PNF patterns, and when we sat down after this particular exploration, I looked at my foot, to search for clues in its hills and valleys. As soon as my eyes landed on that pinky toe edge I remembered getting my foot stuck under the wheel of a forklift, years ago in a warehouse. Of course. The flesh sucked away from the bone, the horrible sound I made, my hand on my friend's arm to stop him, while I tried to pull my foot away but couldn't. "Did I catch the steel toe?" he asked me, his body tight with fear. 'No, but I need you to back up.' I responded through clenched teeth. I dragged myself upstairs and put ice on my foot for half an hour then slunk back down to finish pulling orders and putting away pipes. I limped for most of a month, but I didn't speak up, I was a soft skinned baby and a girl in a world of men who had mostly known labor, it was the first time I had any real source of income - that 25k a year was more than my mother had ever made in her life, and I couldn't afford for my hours to be cut or my boss' potential anger, the doctor's visit, or the probability that something might actually be wrong. But I should have known that not dealing with it then would mean I would have to deal with it at some point. One of the older men in the shop had cut a half inch off one of his fingers back when he worked as a roofer, and had to get regular surgeries where doctors would scrape out the tiny sliver of nail bed that tried its best to grow.  Just last week one of my friends from that shop told me about getting trapped under a heap of poorly stacked steel, and in his automatic response to push it away, in the hopes that it would tip in the opposite direction, on of his finger tips got caught and the flesh was ripped clean away.

I wonder if, just like ballet dancers, a certain way of being in the world (person) is drawn into the kind of professional realities that require appearing graceful and strong no matter how much pain they might be in. But there is no Art Historian's Eulogy for the laborer, there is no record of the grace or strength they may have shown in the face of dire or overwhelming circumstances. When guys show up on crews with busted knees and broken backs, they are often regarded as a problem, something that slows everyone down, someone that can't pull their weight, someone that all of us must work harder to compensate for - rather than having a flesh record of how much of themselves they have given away for some elusive 'greater good'. I've seen the evidence of these men from decades and decades past, while renovating educational institutions - places where the drawings I've been given aren't very well related to the existing architecture and I have to make a different choice than the project manager thinks should be made - and I have seen the echoes of choices made that mirror mine, and I can almost see the man that sat where I was sitting 40 years ago, with a hammer drill in their hands, considering their options.

With every footfall right now, I can feel the splinters of an experience in my feet, how my refusal to be vulnerable in that moment has turned into something more all encompassing. It travels through the body like a ghost, my knee in that left leg regularly gets painfully congested in daily walking and I usually wait for the bones of my lower leg that connect to it to pop, alleviating the build up of pressure. The whispering response around my right S.I. joint. How easy it is to ignore the things we can't see. How the buildings we live in are just like us - an architecture formed out of an idea, brought into being by the choices and reactions of a great many people and relationships. Like us they carry the weight of other's hopes and dreams, and like us, they can only be what they are in the face of our expectations. As I sit in my living room, I am embraced by a long history of other people's choices embedded in the walls, the layout of the floorboards, the furniture and trappings that have come through my roommate's lives to overlap in this space, and I wonder now if maybe the one true thing we can ever claim as ours are the choices we make.

After coming from an Alexander session last week, I picked up a drill to bore a hole in a ceramic item for my roommate, the potter. A reoccurring problem, the holes getting filled with glaze, and my steel bits kept snapping with the heat and lack of anything to grab, to disburse the pressure of its center point. Still feeling the space and width in my backbody, I felt settled in, empty of the high alert I often carry with tools that fatigues my hands so quickly. You can both hear a change in the sound of the drill and feel a subtle difference in the kind of vibrations the gun gives your hand when it is about to punch through a rapidly thinning surface, and the response to those changes - in my body, though I assume its similar for a lot of us - is a springing together of the shoulder blades to draw object and gun away from each other since the force of weight required to make the hole could send the drill suddenly somewhere dangerous or painful. But my body wasn't responding, post-Alexander, the way it should have, and when the bit snapped, the shattered bit and all of my strength punched a small hole in my left hand, the one that had been stabilizing the object. Considering the blood that wouldn't stop, that was the first time I really understood how potentially vulnerable playing around with my patterns and responses can be, especially with how I move in my professional world. I think I could actually afford to be much more vigilant about what I am giving away, as the consequences for these changes are rippling out through space and time. I have a choice in this particular renovation, one that is deeply essential that I make use of. I am the architect of my own experience.

Monday, January 30, 2017

whether the crop be corn or character

Day 1.
I hate this exercise because it is so embarrassing in an oddly performative feeling way. I almost immediately start hyperventilating, its hot inside the blanket, and as small as I squeeze myself, I so quickly run out room. Squeeze, hold, squeeze, hold. When I feel like I can't force myself any tighter, I let them know I'm getting the fuck out. 'Are you sure?' I get asked by the teacher's assistant. She says something to me about expanding and condensing, and I realized that I had been HOLDING, not EXPANDING. Her hands joined the others supporting me and I responded to it by pushing into them, and when I went to pull myself back in, there was so much more room to fall into myself. Something about the fullness of my back body firing let the front side of my body calm down, and there seemed an endless reservoir of space every time I pulled myself back in from pressing up against the edges I was contained in. The feeling that built up in my body in this second attempt was so intense, I giggled uncontrollably as a way to stay with it - it reminded me of watching a scary movie, when the music comes on as a clue that something is going to jump out at the screen...except I didn't have to brace myself because I was the thing that was going to jump out.

The hands holding my feet were soft, as in present without pressure. The first time I really pushed out, was the first time I gave those hands any force to even gauge how responsive they needed to be to me. The more I bucked, giving him the force of my weight, the more supportive a jumping of place his hands became. I couldn't do it alone, and I waited for his hands to fee strong enough for me to take my leap.

I still went sooner then I could feel ready in my own body, because what was happening inside of it was too intense for me to be ok feeling in front of an audience. But the giggling followed me out, and I was reminded of the meaning of my name: Fountain of Joy.

There are so many layers to that experience that I need to process. It feels like I understand everything I have ever heard her say in a completely different way now.

Day 2.
At work, 20 feet in the air on a cranky lift, untying drapes from the truss in front of me, while the chandelier hung on air craft cable connected to the truss shifted in space, and the truss swayed and the height of the extended and ancient scissor lift sighed underneath me, I couldn't tell for a second if I was standing on shaky ground or if it was the elements around me. Moments like this are relatively common for me, and the contact of a hand or an elbow is all I need to feel the ground flow through me, the points of contact connected in my body, a spider web of support where the movement is something I can calibrate around. Sometimes in those moments I can't quite tell what is foreground and background, when there aren't quite enough elements for me to have an accurate reading of what I'm looking at. I thought this happened to everyone. I could never do those squinty eye things, there the picture pops out of the white noise background, and 3d movies don't actually work on me. I didn't learn until after college that I had astigmatism in my left eye, and it wasn't until yesterday that there is so much more to this picture than I could ever see in the vacuum of my internal experience.

I heard her see it when my head didn't right itself as I rolled onto my left side, the side with the side bend we discovered a few weeks ago. I had to rush to a gig right after class, but as I went through the appropriate motions, images tumbled through head, my difficulties on the playground and physical education classes all through grade school, from the monkey bars to the gymnastic classes I stopped taking, to falling over while simply standing in a ballet class, while walking home from school, even last week while talking to someone I work with, always to the left side. My violent carsickness growing up that I could only calm with chocolate milkshakes, my persistent belief that I was somehow allergic to alcohol because of almost instantaneous headaches with lasting debilitating effects from relatively small amounts compared to my peers, and the headaches and migraines that have plagued me my whole life. Even silly things, like the terror I feel about roller blades, roller coasters, or the inevitable startle of horror films. I could keep going, the moments of trying to be like everyone else and failing piling up, drowning me in a flood of my own helpless history.

It feels like I've just discovered that I never possessed a limb that I was convinced I was incredibly skilled at using. What could I do but mourn that piece of myself that suddenly was just a ghost? A phantom limb.

I think the best thing I could have done in the wake of that new powerful awareness, was to go to work. To feel in the midst of these images, the culmination of a child's frustrations and fears manifested into the resilient and powerful person that she became. Now that I can so clearly see the thread that connects that little girl to me in time, I know myself as I stand there, watching the flower crew pull apart the thing I brought down for them. Even though I am filled with a sadness that I don't have time to feel at the moment, I am also so proud of that little girl.

My ability to leech support from the world around me, unrelated to the downward pull of gravity is much greater than my fear of falling, which has been one of the defining aspects of my career path. I don't know yet how this may affect my sense of what I want, or how the ways in which I relate to the world are potential expressions of this missing piece, but I'm here. My feet are finally on the ground.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

unreroute the rivers

Seeing footage of the Aids epidemic and ensuing homophobia around the time I was born gives such a deep context to my mother's response to me dating someone of the same gender. "I really fucked up, didn't I?" she said to me with haunted eyes. Since so many of our friends and coworkers at the time were LGBTQ, I was shocked to see something so dark and hypocritical rise up in her. Who is she really, how much of her day to day was just pretend? Maybe the more I know about history, the more I can understand about the human that made me, the more I can unravel about her intentions and her fears.

During my figure modeling career, I ended up in a classroom taught by an intense older Russian man, who was so exacting and specific that his students rarely spoke, so intent on giving him something he considered acceptable. He would tell stories of his previous life in his homeland, about subsisting on the network of the black market, a thick spider web of tricks and tools to circumvent rations and rules. Once he described being in an American grocery store for the first time, the utter shock of choices suddenly available, of shelves overflowing with products, something completely foreign in his younger, 40 year old self. That same person I was dating still, the one that had caused such an unexpected revelation about my mother to manifest. One of those days, headed to his class, my partner dropped me off at the curb outside. The entire car ride there she had been screaming at me that I was a slut for taking my clothes off in front of people, that she was disgusted by me for how I was making my living after graduating from college. For the next three hours, I was the perfect model, still as a statue, but could not stop the tears rolling down my face. Even the teacher was silent, until a break, when he came to ask me if I was alright. There was nowhere I would have wanted to be but there, all of me exposed. In those classrooms, though I am merely an object for learning, the ability to see the truth of what lies before us, free for a moment from its prison of contexts, devoid of sexuality, is the ultimate goal and one of few places where I felt the closest to myself. They were there to draw a human being, and that is something I could give them.

When I was a freshman in college I started dating a man twice my age that I had met in class, a fellow student. He said to me once, with a hint of derision in his voice 'Oh YOU are always going to need a man to take care of you.' I think about that moment often, like when I'm sitting on a forklift, or when I've stepped back to watch an ocean of men I'm supervising on a build. I can hear that same undertone when I'm in bed and a man has positioned himself over me and I've already sunk so far inside of myself, he couldn't make me feel him no matter how hard he might try. That same man told me it hurt his feelings that I didn't refer to him as my boyfriend while we were together. He was the first person I had engaged with sexually on more than one occasion, and months into our relationship when I mentioned something about an orgasm, he reacted suddenly, surprised. 'You have orgasms?' he asked. I was too young and inexperienced to know how to respond.

It takes so little to make someone feel invisible. Especially when they grew up feeling that way. It is amazing to me how a lifetime of careless comments can stack up inside of a person, how moments these people may have instantly forgotten might rattle around in another human being for the rest of their lives.

On the subway awhile ago, I watched a large unkempt man greedily eyeing me. He started at my legs and I watched his eyes travel up my body almost as tangible as a touch - until he got to my face. I don't remember why I was upset, but tears rolled down my cheeks in a constant stream, and he could tell that I had seen his path of attention. His face changed, his whole demeanor shifted. I felt myself transform from sexual object to human being in his gaze as he turned his face respectfully away, and glanced with thoughtful worry at my face a few times before we arrived at my stop and I stepped out of his awareness.

In a developmental movement class a few weeks ago, it was just me and an instructor. As I came upfrom my side to my belly with the support of my arms wrapping towards each other, there was an intense moment of sweetness in the lack of muscular involvement between my shoulder blades. A freedom, a sense of spaciousness, that felt so good I was surprised and almost immediately ashamed of feeling in the presence of another person. I thought about that yesterday while cleaning my room, surrounded by a bunch of figure drawings I was sorting through, choosing which ones to keep. It suddenly hit me that some people draw for the pleasure of it, something that I had never quite felt, or maybe let myself feel. Art for me was almost always a product of intense pain, or someone else's desires as a constraint for me to work around, probably a deeply rooted way of engaging with the world that goes back farther than I can quite understand. Both my mother and my therapist have tried to make points to me about my inability to receive, whether in the medium of gifts or sexually, but I think it is both deeper and subtler than that. My therapist also clearly found that my mother treated me like an object, so my mother's anger at my unwillingness to receive anything from her is intimately tied up in her way of engaging with me. It feels like I intercept and absorb a constant flood of information from the world around me, like sometimes I have no ability to shut out the amount of things being recieved.

Moments of places I've lived have been flooding my senses the past few days. The smell of salt and the piercing blue sky of Sarasota, except I can't tell if its an image from my earliest years, growing up on the beach, or from when I went back decades later for college. The smell of musty coolness in my Grandmother's kitchen, full of Rooster and Apple paraphernalia from her days as a school teacher. We spent our summers there, all of the cousins, wild and free with almost no supervision. Her collections seemed related to us back then, the room full of Care Bears, her Jacuzzi bathtub, unused in decades was filled with beanie babies, and recently I've heard she sleeps amidst stacks of romance novels and kewpie dolls, that angels sit on every surface. My little sister also possesses this fierce desire to collect things, something that manifested pretty early in her life. Last night I had a kind of night-terror, something that happened to me a lot as a child, but only has happened a few times since moving away from my childhood home. Lying awake, it will look as if the shadows are shifting, and gaping dark shapes will seem filled with the potential for something to step out of them. I distracted myself from the flickering shadows and managed to find sleep, unlike anxiety ridden nights of my youth.

Now that I have remembered my emotional attachment to that bear, I understand how the ball they hand us in the developmental movement classes can represent something we desire, it had been such a foreign concept prior to today. I have thought about that ball and that bear overlapping in my physical responsiveness, and every time it crosses my mind I suddenly can't see through my tears and I am filled with almost debilitating intense feelings in the center of my body. With a developmental workshop coming up this next weekend, I am terrified that I will be unable to participate because I am drowning in an ocean of my own tears, helplessly regurgitating the offhand and careless comments, the bricks in my being formed in a thousand careless moments.

The only way out is through.

I’m building a body
From balsam and ash
I’m building a body with
No god attached
I’m building a body
From blueprints in Braille
I’m building a body
Where our design has failed

There’s a book full of plans
At the feet of poor Atlas
Titled ‘For Man’
But the architects Only drew blanks

Now there’s nowhere to go
But go back, go back, Go back, go back

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Your horse teaches you to drink the ghost of its water

From the booth I sat in at the Columbus Circle Holiday Market, I watched the eddies and flows of the bodies moving past. Eyes flicked and scanned, individuals glossed over the variety of potential gifts with something or someone in mind. Often the gaze stopped on the wares displayed in my particular booth, a weird double vision, where it was clear that they were looking at objects for sale, but saw someone very specific while taking that object in. This time I was selling someone else's handcrafted items, instead of my own, and in the lack of fear about my own value as an artist, I was able to participate in the gift buying business in a completely different way. All of the emotional space I might have held for things I gave birth to was instead available to hold the customers needs and desire as they considered their loved one's needs and desires. It was no less intimate than having my own things handled, but I was invited into their sense of love or care for an individual, I was a way to express that in the future ritual of gift giving. I felt like a Sphinx, like my job was to ask the kinds of questions that gave me clues to this invisible person, to guide me as I offered different items to my audience. Oracular in my booth, the days I worked ended up being big money days for my friend who had hired me, as I took in mirrored gestures and matching laugh lines suggesting the similarity of structure gifted genetically, as I witnessed mothers and daughters confer, the unsure and the confident gift givers, as I silently showed children the inner structures of the hand built Book Clocks, while their parents perused the selection surrounding me.

In the booths around me were mostly mass produced home goods and jewelry, much farther along in their transition from handmade art-thing to full fledged capitalist venture. My friend's process by necessity gets more streamlined, when faced with the kind of volume that the market's proximity to Times Square had to offer, but his particular product still lived in the space of being novel and somehow familiar, being crafted from books that so many grandmas paused to consider because they recognized titles from their youth. I've come across Craigslist ads during slow season that are explicitly asking for skilled fabricators to work in shops that create the things that famous artists are known for. People like Jeff Koons send their specs in and teams of highly skilled, underpaid craftsmen build the things that sell for so much money, with that man's name on it, that 'artist'. There are entire towns in Italy filled with mold makers and bronze masters that spend their whole lives reproducing other people's work, but it is Rodin's name that is spoken in hushed tones in the antique show booth I just finished constructing, for a tiny copy of a copy of a copy that will sell for $45,000.

What is the difference between being an artist and a slave? Between being a Subject and an Object? What does Ownership really mean? When you buy a reproduction, or something fabricated by individuals being paid to produce someone else's ideas, what now belongs to you? The sweat and sensitivities of those unknown hands? The shape of an experience born out of a context of which you may know nothing? A feeling you had when you first looked at that thing? Part of me wonders if antique shows aren't a product of age trying to prove it still has value.

I watched an ancient man spew unkind words and an attitude of such superiority towards me as I sat in a scissor lift waiting for my crew to get back from their union specified break. 'You are going to move this 'contraption'.' he informed me. I explained that we needed to finish building the wall it was parked under, to which he replied 'Not right now, you are not.' He was an appraiser of antiques, there were about 50 of them let in before the build was complete. I finally stopped working for Fashion Week events, the divide between 'worker' and the Production team is so clearly delineated by those who touch things and those who don't, and Designers won't even respond to you if they have seen you lay hands on something. The last Alexander Wang gig that I worked I received excited comments from someone I went to grade school with, who still lives in my home town. I didn't mean to dump my darkness on her romantic associations of the fashion world, but this divide between people with ideas and money, and those who actually have the skills to craft it but are paid to make someone else's art are held in the kind of regard we might associate servants and slaves with. I have found this attitude to be pervasive. And no one seems to know that we treat the builders of our physical and cultural reality this way. There is only so much of ourselves that we can give away in obscurity before we are merely selling the effort of our bodies for money, and they too become simply objects to be filled with other people's desires, and we in turn become numb to our own cravings and creative impulses.

When I had the pleasure of working on a massive project with Marina Abramovich, we all were participants in the creation of what was essentially a piece of art. When I asked her how she felt about the way the director had translated her life, she responded with 'I don't know, I give him my story and he make slapstick.' Its impossible to describe the herculean effort of constructing the space for this performance, and I worked on almost every crew that installed and then ran the show, I was backstage surrounded by performance artists from all over the world who have devoted their lives and physical bodies to becoming an object of expression to be consumed by an audience. And when I rode the train home every night, I was surrounded by that audience, most of them the older wealthy patrons of the Armory. All I heard was one vicious dismissal after another. They didn't care how hard any of us worked to give that experience to them.

In a circle of conversation the other day, there arose a distinction between heart and intellect that someone was seeing as important, but something about it really rubbed me wrong. I tried to explain how my crews and I communicate in and around a spatial plane that involves a bodily understanding that supersedes that distinction, and she quickly blew me off  'that's an object. I'm talking about an idea.' she said, flipping her hand vaguely in my direction without making eye contact. I thought about one of my best friends, from the first shop I worked in. He had almost a superstitious reaction to drawings, and had really intense fears of feeling stupid, something that was beat into him in the public education system. He wouldn't even come near the drawings at first, it took me months to make him feel comfortable enough to be confused or unsure in my presence to finally talk him through the symbols we use to indicate shapes in space and relate that to the time of building a thing and the organization of what comes first and how abstract numbers relate to physical markings in the room. And in the midst of this conversation with these educated women, I suddenly felt, for the first time like I shouldn't be there. There was no space for my reality in her dismissive gesture, in the words she was trying to find to describe some specific internal feeling about having an Idea. Like objects aren't inherently a manifestation of ideas, like material and immaterial aren't deeply intertwined expressions of each other. Like these men aren't having ideas while they discuss how to build something.

Objects are often things that we fill, with memories, with symbolic weight, with fear or desire, but not as much with their own sense of history, of being born, of being filled with something before or outside of our interactions with it. I wonder how a baby experiences an object, as they grapple with organizing and coordinating their own seemingly disparate parts. Do they feel that object possessing its own selfness the way they themselves do? Is having that little bit of dominion in an alien landscape that they are initially helpless in an important piece in distinguishing themselves from other things? Is it something to wrap the sense of experiencing around, a container of sorts for their growing awareness? How does the way we handle objects when engaging with a baby help define the way in which they will handle objects or other people later?

I wonder if I lost my mother in a sense, when she met my stepfather. I was 3 and suddenly she was pregnant and in love, when they eventually married she asked him to dress in the same white tux with a red rose in the pocket, like her favorite potential option from the board game Mystery Date. I'm sure in some fractured vacuum in myself, there was a desire for some animal affection that I saw in the face and the soft triangular body of a stuffed bear I found at a garage sale with my Grandmother. Digging through other people's things was a regular weekend event, whether it was driving around looking for handwritten poster board signs with arrows, or riding from one thrift store to another to another. My Grandmother was born in the middle of the great depression, and grew up during a war time era, a rationed society, so store bought gifts and school clothes were a once or twice a year kind of event for us when I was growing up. I don't know anything about that bear's previous name or life, but I cried so many tears into Brownie's fake fur over the years. When I was 11, I knew it was time, that I was too old for stuffed animals and tucked him away in a box in my closet. In the 7th grade our Labrador puppy dug him out and chewed off his nose, so I moved him to a high shelf in the closet. When I came home from college every once in awhile, I would apologize, not with words, but the feelings in my body when I saw his dark eyes up there in a forgotten cardboard box.

Once when I was a tarot reader for an event, I asked that payment be some form of exchange, whatever the receiver of the reading chose to give in return for my energetic focus on their question. People laughed and cried, there were intense pauses, and furtive glances towards partners who were out of earshot, and I was an anonymous vessel, to be filled with their burning questions about a looming decision, about something they were second guessing, things they didn't even want to admit they hoped for, things they admitted to me but wouldn't even admit to their spouse. I took it all, wrapping them in my steady presence, listening without judgement, paying attention to what rose to the surface in them during our session. Things that went into my cup included a lock of hair, a poem written in lipstick on a piece of trash, two small silver rings that the girl told me later had been made with someone who had died, the person who ended up being a major part of her reading.

Out of respect, I wore those rings on my pinky finger, every day for an entire year. I still have them. It seems strange to me now, that I would treat someone else's memory filled objects with such reverence, when I have vehemently refused to keep pieces of my own history.

"Movements are born in the moments when abstract principles become concrete concerns."

Friday, January 13, 2017

If it looks like a tornado isn't moving, that means it's coming towards you

I so rarely dream. Especially when I'm exhausted from so much work, yet they are piling up.

The sense of foreboding told me it was a nightmare. My little sister had passed out in my arms, and then she called me on the phone from California a second later. I asked her to check the weather for me, I knew something was up. She laughed it off and I asked again, something was coming, I could feel it. I walked over to the window while I waited, and saw what it was. The length of Manhattan was a writhing mass of partial tornados, forming and unforming, at least four where solid, pulsing and spiraling through the cityscape. almost above the building I watched from, a cloud began to twist in on itself, and I knew I had moments, barely even minutes. Wrenching my siblings from their disparate activities in different rooms, I gathered the four of us into a closet in the center of the apartment. My older brother dragged his feet, annoyed at my intensity, but clamored in with us. This closet had no door, and my littlest brother, the tallest of us now was exposed in that opening to potential debris, traveling at hundreds of miles an hour, and my fear of his vulnerability to the impending storm brought me out of my dream state, my mouth dry, my lips cracked.

As I lay there awake, my body hummed in the night. I've felt this before, a vibrating in my sacrum, the sound of roaring waves in my ears, but this time the energy poured upwards from the soles of my feet. They were so active they felt hot, vibrating up through my pelvis and pooling in my thoracic spine. The energy splashed out along the muscular columns that framed the groove of my axis, fanned out in the space between my shoulder blades. I could clearly distinguish a conductive quality in the radiating of my sacral and solar plexuses, and there was a hint of a tingling response in the base of my skull. What reminded me of elementary particles pinged and ricocheted underneath my eyelids at rapid speed and I was out of breath and almost numb from the vibrating in my body. I didn't want to chase away these bizarre sensations, but I was so thirsty finally I rolled myself over and reached for the glass of water at the table by my bed as the waves of sensation slowly subsided.

In class earlier that day I had felt like one of those radical particles, or filled with them maybe. I bounced and pinged around the room until it was time to focus. We spent a portion of the lesson discussing Joints - the relationship between bones. In the roundnesses of our rotating parts I felt a familiar slippery freedom, a space of infinite possibilities, but was introduced to their containers for the first time - Sockets, the concavities that help give those possibilities a sense of direction, a vehicle for expressing that potency in the material plane. I learned that I am not just a million possible paths, but that I am my own vehicle, and those possibilities are there to be responsive to what I stumble across on the path I happen to be traveling down.

I have always had this system of checks and balances and I never knew it was there. I keep finding myself deeper and deeper in the labyrinth. The labyrinth is me. I am both the virgin and the minotaur, I now that much, but I do not know what will happen when they finally meet.

In English, the term labyrinth is generally synonymous with
maze. As a result of the long history of unicursal representation of the mythological Labyrinth, however, many contemporary scholars and enthusiasts observe a distinction between the two. In this specialized usage maze refers to a complex branching multicursal puzzle with choices of path and direction, while a unicursal labyrinth has only a single path to the center.

Many [New World] Indians who make the labyrinth regard it as a sacred symbol, a beneficial ancestor, a deity. In this they may be preserving its original meaning: the ultimate ancestor, here evoked by two continuous lines joining its twelve primary joints.