The skies have been incredible of late. This one was above city hall in San Francisco in the second week of February.
I have been more than a little obsessed with the buds and the trees.
Spring really starts in February in California, sometimes as early as
January if there isn't a lot of rain. It seems counter intuitive like
you need rain for spring to come, but not in California. The air gets
warmer and this happens:
Even though there are many buds, there are still trees that look like this:
Then there was this tree that looked like an unfinished sculpture. It was irresistible with its roots pretending to be molten lava.
Of course, rain makes everything more interesting. Just ask the folks who had to evacuate San Jose last week. San Jose! Rain is a strange and powerful thing.
It brings out all the mushrooms and gathers the pretty leaves everywhere.
It creates sculptures on the leaves of the succulents.
Today my grandmother would have been 112. I have been thinking about her a lot lately, as I contemplate how to tell her story -- whether I should or not -- what I know and don't know -- what is her story...
There are lots of questions and very few answers.
Questions like ... who did she cut out of this picture? It is just like my grandmother to have this picture with someone cut out. She was the kind of person who could cut people out of her life. It surprises me to admit this while at the same time I know it to be true. I remember her as harsh, judgemental, not wishy washy at all.
But in this picture, sometime in the 1920s, I think, sometime before she married my grandfather or had my father, she is young and her face tells very little. Inscrutable, that is another way to understand her stoicism which I often read as harsh. Maybe she was feeling super vulnerable all the time.
I just can't always reckon how someone who had lost two parents by the time she was 9, or two siblings by the time she was 30 could have then turned around and cut out her only living sister.
But, of course, I don't know her story, not really.
I know bits and pieces.
Snapshots, like these photos that reveal so little and so much at the same time.
What to make of the starch and the serious face ... everyone else here seems to be having a good time. [click on pic to see the whole thing... maybe it is only the men who are yucking it up.] Did she not smile because the person behind the camera tried to get her to smile? Who was behind the camera??
In another from the same day, she has that half smile that I remember from real life. It was bemused and amused and slightly annoyed and maybe holding something back all at the same time.
But she looked smart in that hat. Maybe that is why she needed to give the serious pose.
What about this one with my aunts. She is almost smiling here -- at least her eyes are smiling. Was my grandfather behind the camera this time? Was she about to break out in the big smile or was this as big as it got, emotions slipping out of the eyes even though the mouth holds the smile back.
And the hand gently holding her oldest daughter's hand ... not her youngest daughter's hand.
Maybe that says more about my aunts than it does about my grandmother, but is says something.
Happy birthday, Grandma.
Hope you don't mind me teasing out some meaning from these photos and your life.
you can listen to it here. It is long but so worth it.
What Would Gwendolyn Brooks Do
~Parneshia Jones, 2017
Dawn oversees percolating coffee and the new wreckage of the world.
I stand before my routine reflection, button up my sanity, brush weary strands of hair with pomade and seal cracked lips of distrust with cocoa butter and matte rouge.
I ready myself once again for morning and mortify. Stacking poetry and bills in a knapsack; I bundle up hope (it’s brutal out there).
For a moment, I stand with ghosts and the framed ancestors surrounding me. I call out, hoping she can hear me over the day-breaking sirens— hoping she’s not far away, or right down the street, praying over another dead black boy.
How will we make it through this, Ms. Brooks?
When she held a body, she saw much worse than this. I know she was earshot and fingertip close to oppression. She saw how hateful hate could be. She raised babies, taught Stone Rangers, grew a natural and wrote around critics.
She won a Pulitzer in the dark.
She justified our kitchenette dreams, and held on. She held on to all of us.
Hold On, she whispers.
Another day, when I have to tip-toe around the police and passive-aggressive emails from people who sit only a few feet away from me. Another day of fractured humans who decide how I will live and die, and I have to act like I like it so I can keep a job; be a team player, pay taxes on it; I have to act like I’m happy to be slammed, severed, and swindled. Otherwise, I’m just part of the problem— a rebel rouser and rude.
They want me to like it, or at least pretend, so the pretty veils that blanket who we really are— this complicated history, can stay pretty and veiled like some desert belly dancer who must be seen but not heard.
We are a world of lesions. Human has become hindrance. We must be stamped and have papers, and still, it’s not enough. Ignorance has become powerful. The dice that rolls our futures is platinum but hollow inside.
Did you see that, Ms. Brooks? Do you see what we’ve become? They are skinning our histories, deporting our roots, detonating our very right to tell the truth. We are one step closer to annihilation.
Hold On, she says, two million light years away.
She’s right. Hold On everybody. Hold On because the poets are still alive—and writing. Hold On to the last of the disappearing bees and that Great Barrier Reef. Hold On to the one sitting next to you, not masked behind some keyboard. The one right next to you. The ones who live and love right next to you. Hold On to them.
And when we bury another grandmother, or another black boy; when we stand in front of a pipeline, pour another glass of dirty drinking water and put it on the dining room table, next to the kreplach, bratwurst, tamales, collards, and dumplings that our foremothers and fathers—immigrants, brought with them so we all knew that we came from somewhere; somewhere that mattered. When we kneel on the rubbled mosques, sit in massacred prayer circles, Holding On is what gets us through.
We must remember who we are. We are worth fighting for. We’ve seen beauty. We’ve birthed babies who’ve only known a black President. We’ve tasted empathy and paid it forward. We’ve Go-Funded from wrong to right. We’ve marched and made love. We haven’t forgotten—even if they have—Karma is keeping watch.
Hold On. Hold On everybody. Even if all you have left is that middle finger around your God-given right to be free, to be heard, to be loved, and remembered…Hold On, and keep Holding.
But we treat each other like hostile strangers ... on the internet, and too often in real life.
So, we post and prod ... we weave and bob, we do whatever it takes to not actually connect.
Then, at times we meet our lost tribe members and connection, sometimes brief, brings us back to reality.
Life is hard, but it is not without its beauty.
So, in the weeks that have passed since I started this post, I have had a rollercoaster of events ... and I mean that quite seriously.
I had a lovely birthday - truly amazing day with friends that included dancing - an amazing meeting about the foundation to honor Sergio's memory. I was reminded of the blessings I have in my life, especially my wonderful, supportive community.
We celebrated Sergio's 25th birthday without him -- in the lead up, I was sure it would crush me, the energy expended just getting through the last two days made me feel like I was coming down with a cold (thankfully, I am not or it was nipped in the bud). After rain and threats of rain and cold and people dropping out and having to reassure them that participation should only be part of your own way of dealing with this tragedy ... it was a gorgeous day. GORGEOUS. Ominous clouds gathered at the edges but were beat back by the sea breeze, and once again, I could feel Sergio's participation in making sure that our gathering wasn't rained on. Friends from many parts of his life gathered, drank and ate and built a fire and an altar and laughed and cried. While my heart was breaking again into a million pieces, it was so beautiful to see in real flesh and bone the love this person wrought with so few years. Amazing.
I got an email offering me an interview for a job I really want. So important on so many levels -- one, I applied for two jobs, one better paying and more in line with my skills, and one I can do with my eyes closed and enough money to live off of ... I got the interview for the better job ... amazing
My car started the steep decline which I cannot afford right now ... the sound coming from the car is a mixture of the swooped up crazy muffler sound and crazy about to fall apart -- I am generally not so moved by what others might think of me, but I want to hide every time I start my car. And for the first time in 15 years, it needs to be smog checked?! Ugh... I am torn between trying to get it sort of fixed so that I can keep it for a bit longer and donating it now to someone who will take it away... and did I mention that I love my car, I really do. It is the best car in the whole world that has been beyond a trooper for all these years ... ugh ugh ugh.
I killed it in the interview... really, killed it. Waiting to hear back if I make it to the second round sometime in the next two weeks.
The bad thing is though that every time I have a win, I fall into the largest cavern of self doubt which is where I woke up this morning.
These are the quotes I am trying to use to get me out of my funk today:
"You are full of unshaped dreams... You are laden with beginnings ... there is hope in you." ~L. Ridge
"There is alchemy in sorrow. It can be transmuted into wisdom, which, if it does not bring joy, can yet bring happiness." ~Pearl S. Buck
Ok... it's all out there now, no more monsters under the bed. Got a stack of work to do, so I am off to be productive and wallow in self doubt no more ...
My hands are up and the wind is in my hair ... riding the rollercoaster of life.
These cold days when the insane sky’s clear, heat poofs away beyond its net of edible blue. My cat folds, flops across the laundry steps. Flags the size of jeans pockets flip-flap affixed to rowhouse fronts. The nicest, cleanest hands reach to switch out lights in stores: futons, ring trays, eyeglasses, dresses, go dark. “The bed is not very big.” Cold or no there are fathers calling mothers and children walking home or out; also those of us who are neither father nor mother and have forgotten the complicated unchosen knits and methods of being somebody’s child. Hires Root Beer signboard creaking, then not creaking. This year Thanksgiving dinner begins in the afternoon: a moist bird, venison stuffing. Window glass goes blue-indigo. “Is this the right crockery?” Cold little birds, like knots of twine, jam the Japanese Zelkova just outside, gabble in the light-loss hysteria. The Dow Jones dropping. Friends’ kids leer from photos I stuck on the refrigerator. Last night I slammed a door so hard the mirror hung on it shattered over my back. I was not hurt; moreover he stopped shouting back, ran in his socks onto the crackling glass, put his arms around me?
Because speaking to the dead is not something you want to do
When you have other things to do in your day
Like take out the trash or use the vacuum
In the edge between the stove and cupboard
Because the rat is everywhere
Or more so walking
And it doesn’t even notice you
It has its own intentions
And is searching for that perfect bag of potato chips like you once were
Because life is no more important than eating
Or talking someone into fucking
Or talking someone into something
Or sleeping calmly and soundly
And all you can hope for are the people who put that calm in you
Or let you go into it with dignity
Because poetry reminds you
That there is no dignity
You just muddle through and for what
Jack Jack you wrote to him
You wrote to all of us
I wasn’t even born
You wrote to me
A ball of red and green shifting sparks
In my parents’ eye
You wrote to me and I just listened
I listened I listened I tell you
And I came back
Poetry is hard for most people
Because of sound