river road trail, south/north
Got up at 6 am again. Why won’t my body ever let me sleep in? Did my morning ritual of coffee, poems-of-the-day, and slowly waking up. Decided to head out for a run before the thunderstorms arrived at 7:30. It was dark-ish — dark enough for the street lamps to be on — and thick and heavy with humidity, green, and birdsong. I liked it. I encountered a few people on the trail, including a runner who “mornied” me. Heard some trickling from the sewer pipe, wind moving through the trees. It wasn’t drizzling all the time, although it was difficult to tell what was rain and what was sweat.
Running back north on the dirt trail between edmund and the river road I heard some more screeching blue jays. I thought about how I’ve been identifying them as crows for years. Why? I guess when I hear an annoying bird cry I think, crow. Sorry crows. The cry of a blue jay is way more annoying.
No river, but I managed to look down at the oak savanna: dark and mysterious. No roller skiers, a few bikers, no laughing kids or chattering walkers. Not too many cars this early on a Sunday morning. No rowers on the river.
Here’s some wisdom from @chenchenwrites that I found on twitter the other day:
as i’m always telling my students—why start from scratch? look at some paintings. look at photography. take a long walk. smell some basil. flip through an old notebook. tweak a favorite song lyric. follow what you already love into its forest. deepen that love. step into it more
and @hechizante777’s reply:
I worry that so many of my students (potentially pressured into nursing or other healthcare majors) simply haven’t had opportunities to figure out what they love… how to make space for that in an era of violence and scarcity?
Making space for figuring out what we love and then loving it in an era of violence and scarcity. So difficult. This discussion reminds me of Teju Cole and his interview with David Naimon for Between the Covers, especially this part:
This frenzied capitalism that we live in—what I’ve been calling market totalitarianism—produces loneliness, existential isolation that deprives people of the tools with which to navigate their place in the universe. This might be genuinely new in the history of the world, cultures have always provided people with those tools, and now we’re all just screaming into the void. Because we’ve been robbed of many, many of the tools that help anchor human experience in the world. I remember what Sun Ra said, he said “Everything comes from outer space.” Everything, it’s all meteors, it’s all from the sun. “The only thing Earth produces is the dead bodies of humans,” he said. I feel in a very vital way that the only thing market totalitarianism really produces is human alienation, depriving us of the tools with which enfold ourselves in the fabric of time. So when I encounter a quintet by Brahms, or traditional Papuan flute music, these are things that give me a chance to re-enfold myself in those sustaining human networks; to the mystery of being alive.Teju Cole interview
And I’m also thinking of Haniq Abdurraqib’s “On Joy” (which I found very early this morning via twitter):
I don’t know what to do with all of the world’s burning anymore. Sometimes we start the fire directly, other times we’re unwitting accomplices to it, and then there are times when the smoke rises and dances above our own doorsteps, and we’re just too tired to keep the flames under control. I turn on the TV and people of color are still dying. I read the news and people in Trans communities remain dismissed, remain punchlines until they are dead, and people are still laughing at the bad joke. I talk to the women in my life and hear how they’re treated as a different class of person entirely. I don’t have the luxury to not dismantle the systems that allow for those things, and more. I am impacted by it, in some ways, I’m complicit in it, and it’s hard to sit idle while knowing those things. While being afforded a platform, artistic and otherwise.
When we talk about “the work”, as writers, so many of us mean the actual work of writing. The work on the page, of course. After a year of wrestling with the fragility of my own life, and the life of my closest human love, I realized that “the work” is also the work of living. It is the work of loving others when we can, taking care of ourselves when we can, and knowing not to let the former overwhelm us into forgetting the latter. Those two different types of work are two rivers flowing into the same body of water, for me. I don’t know how to write healthy and productive poems if I’m only doing one side of the work.
The only promise here is that I will wake up tomorrow and be as exhausted by the world as I was today. Sure, I may find a brief reprieve in a panda video (or, in the case of the particular tomorrow at the time of this writing, the new Terrance Hayes book!), but I will still find myself going outside to throw water on whatever flames I can, my arms weakening. I know that they will be there, every day. But even through all of it, something happened at around the end of last year. I started writing poems about being married. About my father, still healthy and living. About the friends I love and miss dearly. About my dog. I realized this urgency to archive the things that are not promised. I need the joy in my life to live outside of my body. I need to see it, to touch it. I need that outside of my body even more than I need the rage, confusion, and sadness on the outside. I know the sadness will always replenish itself. There is no certainty in almost anything else. I don’t know how long I’ll get to hear my wife sing along to pop songs in the car during road trips. I don’t know how much longer I’ll get to talk to my father with him remembering who I am. I don’t know when my dog will be too old to rush towards me with a wagging tail whenever I come back from an especially long trip. I need those things to live in other places. I need to have them outside of me so that I can run into them on the days where I will need to. Surely, each small joy has an expiration date. I have touched the edges of them. I don’t know how to fight against this reality except for to write into these moments with urgency. With fearlessness and hunger.