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“Don’t deny it. Let it go back to where it came from.”

“One person not in life is going to love it and the others are going to hate it. I will disappoint them and disrupt who I am supposed to be for them.”

Before she left to Kuwait she let me film her and speak to her on camera about her mother, her lover, her feelings of leaving home. In the morning I woke up at 6 and sat down stairs listening to her run around quietly. She slipped a bottle of perfume in my bag and kissed me. The rest of the family came to sit with me. The silence was unbearable that I felt only then like I had to keep myself discreet and far from crying. She instantly stood and left the room. I followed and found her in the bathroom already washing her face. She is like a bigger sister, one of my best friends and I have never seen her crying. She hugged me and told me in English that she loved me. I could only say, “One year. It will only be one year.”

She walked into the bedroom where Iklas slept. She laid her head at her feet and cried. I walked away and waited by the door.

Working, traveling ,leaving home, leaving your heart behind. Her image stays with me.

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lt’s exhausting to see the same images of Muslim men in Africa or North of it portrayed as “violent Arab men”

How is it that Christian fundamentalists in Britain and America who “fundamentally” hate “the Jews who killed Jesus” also passionately dislike Muslims many also semitic people.

It’s exhausting to see the same images of Muslim men in Africa or North of it portrayed as “violent Arab men” along with their counterpart images of older women speaking ‘gibberish’ in black who are never given translation unless they are saying “Down with America” right after they lost every member of their family.

On the rare occasion when I watch the news in my friend’s apartment there is always a moment I think I am being paranoid because I don’t recognize anyone. I begin thinking that Moroccan culture and men are so drastically different from all other Muslim men in the world and perhaps yes, but perhaps no.

Just as I had that thought that something doesn’t seem right I saw the cut away shot. They shot the young skinny man beating his fists on the wagon and screaming then raising his hands to his head. Just before they cut away I saw him turning to begin the movement of reaching for his mother obviously to cry in her arms like a little boy but they didn’t show that. All that you will see is him acting ‘violent’ like a ‘savage’ who you partly are glad is on that side of the camera and that side of the world.

Maybe deep inside you don’t really have any sympathy at all. How can you? He’s waving around like a crazy person. The images I see of passion on TV sometimes look strange and are repeated and repeated and I wonder how many times you can repeat the same two or three tricks and tropes until someone catches on? I ask about these edits because the people I know are some or the biggest talkers and expressive people but avoid violence as best as they can. If it comes to blows, well…it just isn’t done that often and certainly a thousand times less then in the states.

What is beginning to surprise me for months now is how much affection, kissing of heads and hands goes on in intimate relationships. Even if I am the one who is yelling, the one I am yelling at will kiss my head and show me they are sorry not with words but by showing me. Gestures.

An angry fighting match that looks like someone is going to die will dissolve into water with a few kisses like once when a man kicked my bags in a heated fight over not moving fast enough. I was about to start a war on him and his family. After I made the whole train station stop as I yelled an English curse and my friend intervened.   Amongst on lookers he admitted he was wrong and asked for forgiveness in as many ways as he could and was ready to kiss my hand twice in two minutes.

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i need your hands

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love means never having to say i’m sorry

i had an argument yesterday about family and the idea of blame. i once lived with someone who thought her life was the result and fault of her mother/father/relatives/birth country/brothers/kins folk/mass american populace/ just as her life now was in large part the fault of me.

everyone else was a fault in the composition of her own life. i agree that we are composed of others. that those we are affected by (and they are many) live around us and make-up who we are daily. sometimes we are reminded that they are there but most times they are like spirits we can’t see.

to this extent i agree but where we disagreed tacitly was on the part of blame, fault, and pain. the pain she felt always seemed to be resting with someone’s fault and i saw it as belonging to her like it belongs to the choices we make as to how we take or mis/take the world. it’s related to the ways we choose to be happy even as we are heart broken or the ways we choose to love someone, daily. the aspects of pain that live with us like the spirits of our history i thought belonged to her like mine i thought belonged to me.

i once told someone, i fell in love with, that she couldn’t harm me. she couldn’t hurt me, i said this even though i had been hurt by her and knew i would again. my point was not that i was divorced from being wounded but no matter what happened between us, no matter how wrapped up we both were in the hurt/ing, and no matter how her body will live in constant dialogue next to mine, even long after she leaves…i felt as i still feel that she is not to blame. and it’s related to my saying “you can’t hurt me.” i guess i was saying that the hurt that i might carry with me maybe the cause of us but not the blame of you.

it’s not to rob her of her presence because i acknowledge her body is constantly in negotiation/movement with me as it is also fixed to mine. it’s a statement made with the acknowledgement that i am fragile and she has the power to harm me. but it isn’t her fault. she isn’t to blame and neither am i. our union is felt in me, the happiness and the hurt is hard to judge. but all of it…i see it as belonging to me. a part of me now. i can’t blame it.

even with those who have done irreparable harm, family members and strangers, i find it hard to blame for the pain of my living experience. they make-me-up, they are a part of me and the pain is possible like happiness and forgiveness.

taking me back to the argument yesterday that centered on questions of whether people should be let off so easily to be blameless or that anyone should be expected not to blame someone else. i get it. i get the impulse to blame and hate because i’ve done it and i do enough pouting to know that i enjoy enacting the performance of blame. that’s what happens when i hang my hurt on the clothes line between myself and another. it releases my weight to that lighter space momentarily but check me on it. i’ll take it back.

i’ll admit to the bodies responsible and honor their presence daily as they live with me and compose the skin that covers me, but the feeling…my life is mine, it’s mine.

 

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unconditional surrender

“Exile is the only country without a geography. It has, however, a climate, a culture, an ecology, an archeology and virtually a national smell.”

“The map of the unreal, the imaginary. And it is only then that they express precisely the immeasurable experience of exile.”-Ugresic

Remembrance is possession. Memory is object(s).

Writing on an author for class, I find that against my will i love these writings in The Croatian that are both scholarship and memoir, impersonal facts and personal stories in between record and invention on this feeling of being displaced.

Searching for home, being in love, loss, exile, feeling displaced…has been the subject of my poems since coming to America at ten. It’s the spirit that makes me hunt genealogy records and save all pictures and all my father’s jewelry. When asked why i am this way, why i do these things, i could never explain it well enough.

All the objects, idols, images, tangibles we’re taught to disrespect but whose importance to me all the same is wrapped up in a story i read.

A Bosnian friend remarks that there are two kinds of refugees, “those who have photographs and those who have none.”

On this particular day the Bosnian-Serb general/war criminal by the name of Ratko Mladic noticed that the Sarajevo home of an acquaintance was on his bombardment list. Mladic phoned him to tell him that he had less then five minutes to collect his photographs and leave.

“The general, who had been destroying the city for months, knew precisely how to annihilate memory. That is why he ‘generously’ bestowed on his acquaintance life, with the right to remembrance.”

All photographs are mementos mori. “To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to…relentless melt.” – Susan Sontag

remembrance is possession, and i am relentlessly possessed.

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transverse unshamed, take it as a souvenir

your toothbrush is resting down the hall
I shut my eyes
entwined in your legs
aware you will be traveling soon.
I find us,
waking up in the dark with
five interwoven parts, persuaded, won over,
seduced, converted, seduced the other way.
in the night praying hands come out of
a wetness on these finger tips,
un-self consciously wandering across your back.
in the night I lay quiet
listening to you speaking in tongues
watching you sleep with me, traveler.
traveling into your dreams
tugging on to kites and hemlines
running through space
where we’re nearing the lighthouse,
I close my eyes
tighter,
you’re almost at the gate,
I smile, I want to thank you
for this…

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when i will reach home

life holds your hand and breaks your heart.

it tells you that a broken heart isn’t bad. each break is an opening.

so i put trust in love just as the dream ends, lying in bed touching the one i love. the dream ends and like magic it expands out anew like a sand timer opening up on the other side.

michelle

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Lupita says

Her assignment in the film-making class we share between Smith College and Hampshire College, is to write a personal letter and add images. Simple. But she tells me that she can’t write anything. That everything seems so trite and done and everything she writes she reads and throws out because it isn’t what she meant to say at all. She isn’t this gaping void that needs to be filled, thank you very much. But it feels like that doesn’t it? We share an acting class at Smith and sometimes it feels like in the process of creating, we are  not only challenged but empty as well, with nothing, no words, like the ones others apparently have.

I wanted to write you Lupita, the letter I promised about words because for as much as I love them and the spirit of what they try to do, they seem to always fail me too. It feels as if I’m always in the process of learning how to read. Learning to read music, to read French, to read people, to read my body, to read yours, to read words I can’t (re)member how to spell. Always these languages within languages and so it feels like I’ll be illiterate forever. And as for the words in my head, Lupita, you sound like me and so many like us I’ve known who struggle with words.

For the women living so much of their lives in their heads, it’s hard to spell out this interior conversation that does not belabor words. Like Lindsay said at lunch today, “There are so many symbols, so many pictures that are in my head, all shorthand for all my words.” How do you speak for an experience located in your mind and in its own language? Tell me how I can translate these images that look you in the face with a smile and say, “Hello. I think you’re gorgeous and may many love you”…but instead is translated into an overly nervous voice projected in hyper confidence that in one second (oh my god she’s walking closer) goes to silence as I hide my face in my skirt.

When will I stop being an asshole? When? When I learn to read? When I learn to speak?

I hate words, maybe, maybe, because I love them. I love how they try to do for me what I ask them to do. They try to make me manifest and they try, they do. See I’m almost coming, almost there, but there is no promise. No promise that you will render me how I intended. Or that you will read me in the same language I speak. My words may not mean the same as yours just as when I say love or faith I don’t think it quite expresses the journey, the hardship that brought these words to me, and all that they carry on their little backs. These words took a long time coming and they may not mean the same things to us. They aren’t dictionary proof or even sometimes grammatically correct. They don’t appear as they should which is perhaps worse then if they thought we didn’t have them in us at all.

If we’re not artistically void then we are at least intellectually challenged. So why are we doing this, day after day, writing and trying for what!  The image will always be misread. I will always be misread. Language tries to say it all and is unable to do so…these words, these images, what are they to me?

When words fail us, Lupita, when we struggle for a language, I remember Anissa Bouziane and a fragment from her letter that reads, “So she placed her pen to paper in an act of faith.

Faith. Love. God.  What does this mean to you?

Narjiss Nejjar spoke through a translator in the lobby, in simple white cotton overalls and pulled back hair, and I understood the one line of English that she said with a smile, “A god of Love!”  A response that came fast and she continued in French:

“[I want] to be god for five minutes. Not a god who says what not to do or to do…a god that likes individuals and difference that understands and accepts…

{In English} “ A god of Love!

“…I don’t like the taboos about love. All the taboos that surround love…I don’t like conservatism and dogmatism. I like the idea that any man has the right to love a woman or a man…No body has the right to prohibit or to intervene in {pause}…do you understand? Because no one has the right to say you can love {pause}…you understand? {laughing} So I’m crazy?”

 

It’s a resistant act that makes her search for the words that are not available and the stories not yet here. Searching for a language that takes on the task of god, giving speech and giving life, she appears blasphemous by her audacity but this is in fact quiet. A quiet blind act of love that engages with a higher power beyond oneself.

What is love?

Love is a willful act, a move upon the world, defiant and brave. Love goes beyond you as a self. Love transgresses beyond nation. Love struggles over words. Love struggles to announce you. Love struggles to make beauty.

Playing in words and creating images, it is an act of faith, like love unseen and unscripted wherein you are asked to go with it from a “self” to beyond yourself.  “So she place[s] her pen to paper in an act of faith” in a decision to love in the invisible, wherein she seeks a language to evidence:   

             

“I have a passion. I have a dream. I live for that passion. I’m just trying to give something…You try to do something, not a miracle, probably never a miracle, but, that makes me believe.”

           

As with the women who make pictures, who write words, they take courage to wake in the morning, to put faith in the belief that the love they make can transgress all boundaries. Love that dares to keep faith that seeks beauty in words and places love in the unseen. A love that keeps you up all night and gets you up in the morning. “What gets me up in the morning…love. Yes. Love. Human love. Love.”

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To the girls who cannot sleep

You say you can’t sleep.  you say that you lay on your bed with your eyes open in the dark.  you replay the conversations, you think of the world, big and small, yours and mine…lonely and brillant and sweet. This is you tonight.  i don’t know how to change the night.  but i know that i care about you.  that you are too good to feel crazy like us.   I wish that I could sit up in your bed and keep my fingertips on your hair. tell you that i have your dreams and your fears in my chest. so shhhh… close your eyes. I’m here. go to bed. I’ve got you.

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The Bizarre Moral Criticism Against Israel

Originally posted on TIME:

On “NBC Nightly News” on July 12, David Gregory spoke of growing pressure from the United Nations for a ceasefire in Gaza. He noted that the United States and many other nations believed that Israel had a right to self-defense. Nonetheless, Gregory reported, these countries were likely to be sympathetic to calls for a ceasefire because of the “disproportionate” number of casualties between the two sides. Among the residents of Gaza, the death toll then exceeded 100, while Israel had suffered dozens of injuries but no casualties.

Mr. Gregory was simply reporting the news, but I found his comments disturbing, nonetheless. What does it mean to say that the casualties are “disproportionate”? And is that really the moral issue that we need to be concerned about?

The implication of the “disproportionality” claim is that, given their losses, the people of Gaza are the real victims. But morally and politically, this…

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10 Ways Men Can Combat Sexist Entitlement in Public

Originally posted on Change From Within:

After the tragic mass murder in Isla Vista, CA in May, violence driven by Elliot Rodger’s misogyny and racism, countless women used the hashtag #YesAllWomen to voice the endless ways in which overt and microaggressive misogyny shows up in their everyday lives.  It was an incredible response to a terrible tragedy, one with the power to raise awareness of the constant assault on their lives, bodies, personhood, and livelihoods that women-identified people face.  I, along with a number of other pro-feminist men, called on men to read as many of the tweets and to reflect on what they cumulatively call on us to change.

Sadly, though, many men saw it as a chance to question and challenge women’s experiences with misogyny rather than to listen.

One of the most common refrains, despite the thousands of voices cumulatively calling on men to realize the harsh realities of misogyny, was “PROVE IT!”…

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My Husband Is Not My Soul Mate

http://trustychucks.com/2014/05/my-husband-is-not-my-soul-mate/

Article by Mary Graham

I would like to say that while grading my students’ essays there is never a dull moment, but that would be an absolute lie.

Mostly grading students’ essays is a boring, excruciating job. It makes me rethink my college career path, my desire to be a teacher, and life in general. Essays written by twelve year olds are life sucking.

But then there are moments, just a line or two, that flip switches. Maybe not in the students’ heads–they still don’t seem to remember to indent a new paragraph or to not use abbreviations in formal writing–but a switch, a light bulb, will go off in my head and, like dominoes, one thing leads to another and then there we are.

It’s not fair that people with disabilities get judged by how they look. Some adults don’t get soul mates because of how they are looked at.
-Makenzie, 7th grader

There are about a million different ways I could go right now. Those two sentences are so full of confusion and discussion points, I could probably make those lines a series of posts, but where I’m going has to do with “soul mates.”

Soul mates.

The first thing I wanted to do was run home and tell my children–my daughters–that soul mates aren’t real. That this isn’t something to dream about, something to wish and hope for. Because it will let you down and make all your real, healthy, and sometimes-disappointing relationships feel less than.

finding a soul mate

The only thing stopping me from this conversation is that my daughters are three and five. They think they’re going to grow up and marry their daddy. They’re not sure if they’ll be the husband or the wife though because those are confusing words to remember. In our house gender roles are the exact opposite of societal norms. I don’t want them to know how our house works isn’t “normal.” I don’t want them to think one way is normal, I want them to figure out what works best for their world when they finally get to make their own.

But I don’t want them to long for, look for, or hold out hope for their soul mate. Because they will always be let down. Chris Graham is not my soul mate. He is my husband, my best friend, my lover, my favorite person to talk to, my biggest cheerleader, and my family.

But he does not complete me, fill me up, or make my world.

finding a soul mate 1

He challenges me, encourages me, and talks me down off cliffs, but he isn’t the end-all-be-all of my world. That is a dangerous thing to ask of a relationship because I’m in love with and married to a flawed man. And he married a really flawed Mary. The idea that I can complete the hole he has in his heart, this want for something to fill him up, is wrong and destined to be painful. Because that hole isn’t of this world. That want and need we have for someone to know us, really know us, will never be satisfied while we’re here on earth.

And I think that idea, that lie we’ve been sold, damages so many relationships, ends marriages, and leaves countless people unhappy when they’ll truly never be happy.

I love my husband. I think he’s pretty awesome or I wouldn’t have married him and had some babies with him. He makes my life more interesting, makes me better, and loves me even when I’m not very lovable (which is a lot of the time). I picked a good one, for sure. And I’m glad he’s in my life.

you are not my soul mate

But if I hadn’t met him, I think my life would still be pretty good. I wasn’t waiting for someone else to come along and rescue me from my horrible existence. I had a good existence before him.

Soon I’m going to let my daughters in on the “soul mate” secret. That it’s made up and dangerous and unrealistic. That their God loves them more than any man ever could and that no one will ever come along and complete them the way they long to be completed. Their longing isn’t of this world. But that isn’t to say I don’t want them to find amazing husbands one day… But that they don’t look to complete a girl’s life, either. That they’re pretty good on their own and then they meet one of my amazing daughters and they’ll want to do life together. 

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Why More Men Need To Stand With Women

Originally posted on James Michael Sama:

The recent conversation we had this week on this website about Santa Barbara killer Elliot Rodger opened my eyes to some issues that I probably should have thought about more before this.

One of the biggest issues is that it is almost taboo for a man to speak out for equality or stand with women against violence or abuse. Many of you probably have seen the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter, which is being used for women to express their experiences with harassment in many different forms. Some men chimed in with their surprise at just how many women have been abused or mistreated…by other men.

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Running a website like this, I have gotten an extraordinary amount of feedback because I am a man. A man writing articles on how he believes men should act in life and in relationships will be seen much differently than a woman who writes the 

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