a girl is born guilty of having a body

there are many ways to atone:

  1. to give it to someone else, absolve responsibility
    1. first a father, then a lover
      1. (for what is a wedding but a passing of weight?)
  2. to cover it hide & play innocent
    1. (now only the mirror knows what you have)
      1. (mightn't a secret held right serve as a weapon?
      2. )
  3. to plead guilty
    1. (but better hung for a sheep as for a lamb)
      1. (so let us sin more deeply)
      2. here I am!
  4. to repent
    1. through any of many beliefs
      1. for a lifetime
        1. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female..." Galatians 3:28, KJV.
        2. "It is impossible that a woman should be the perfect rightfully Enlightened One. It is possible that a man should be the perfect rightfully Enlightened One." Bahudhātuka-sutta
  5. to pass away expire retire
    1. (nothing is still something other than a girl)

 

a true allegory

I met the Devil the other day, in a dream. I was lost, looking for my siblings, and found him in an alley, among the boxes. He had fallen there or slept there--I can't remember. He was charming in that way of boys who are up to no good, surprisingly self-deprecating. He was red-faced, red-bodied, black-horned, and was he wearing a suit?

I asked to touch his horns, and he bowed to let me. I considered this a gesture to show him no, I'm not afraid of you. He seem to think it an everyday show of condescension, like he was used to it, like of course girls want to touch his horns, like it would win me over.

I asked him about heaven and hell, of course.

Heaven, he said, was like a never-ending game of make-believe. Everyone had power and everything was possible, but even that would get boring after an eternity. No?

My thought was that the creative would never grow bored. I'd love it.

Hell, I think was more of the same. He pitched it as more fun, if you attached to this world's "fun." He said the kinds of things you would expect a devil to say, like that's not me, that's all you guys and ultimately, God is the one in control. My powers are like a subset of Theirs.

He didn't sway me. I think I told him I was muslim, like I say to scare off missionary. And anyway, I had to get going. I was searching for my family. Wait, he said, me too. We're the same.

I was already moving to explore the California of my dream, but I asked why he was here on Earth and what he hoped to find. Ideas, he said, and smiled weakly like a Hollywood confidence man but I had no sympathy, none at all.

synonym for pixie cut

when a boy plays peter pan then

some year after year his voice would break

his body strain muscles mass wrestle free

his beard a tell breaking loose of the young or the green

and he would no longer fly.

 

but if i woman

took on the suit then

still wild at thirty at forty

laugh dew light dancing

unshadowed & weightless scent

forestborne greenhorne each dimple

each jab forgiven & winsome

hair a peter cut because it on

a woman makes the eternal boy

music is black

pitch black, such that

any other color is to drain it wan & thin

til it no longer goes so oceandeep

soaking every nation as it does now

one drop dyed the world.

 

America was born blue in the face

from a bruise with a welt, a wail

new forms of sorrow we six-fingered devils

spun pain into gold into gospel aimed up at a God

remixed to love us back

a God with a little bit of vodun

made the whole church jump with hollers

chants ecstatic & nine-high

 

music is black because we said once, hey l

et me show you what a fiddle can do l

et me show you, Joplin said, how to twist ivories

into a new grey matter

let me show you, Coltrane said swirled some classical

into this new thing young thing wonderchild jazz

made America's orchestra Duke Dizzy Basie Cab's

bop moanin swung & modal black tie brass

& double bass modern that blinded warcannons

 

 

instead of pedigree, our kings & queens

rose merited through soul jazz & swing

the hardest-working we’ve always been

temptations impressions miraculous supreme

Brown-ness & Wonder

conscious & soul music

for marches Malcolm Martin & Mayfield

 

music is black just look

at a speaker grille don’t listen to Elvis

or Boone's lies disguises & covers for housewives

sanitizing to hide its right fever

as they clutch Grammies close like pearls

whether 'round a midnight fire

or the 1s & 2s revolving

even now the roots of K-pop & J-pop

are Chuck's duckwalk Mike’s moonwalk

an nameless cakewalk a vine teen's poplock

 

in Ibiza they thrum to the 4-4s & boom

birthed in Chi-Town & Mo-town warehouses

machine sounds rhythms smuggled on hambone on ships

funk that rode in our hips

techno the grandson heartbeat of disco

needle skip the next rebellion is Brazilian

b-boys call parana e parana e, parana

Zion-bound war-ready they break free

bush meeting is block party

 

music is black

though they dogwhistle urban sneer inner city

Sister Rosetta & Jimi

means it's been ours take all into your ears

rock & roll was rhythm & blues was race music

which said on the very face of it

this is your little corner

our back of the record shop

 

but we sampled & shared laughs

ate well grew big grew loud until

nothing could hold our voices

until nothing could hold us

grew beautiful & still sing

both, neither, and both

a woman is a wanting

a girl is a gasp a

boy is a sigh

the gift of daggers to the sky

i make a man shoot star water

dappling black sheets

gravity is how women beckon

the wet of atmosphere

the expansion of space

inhale or exhale which came first?

you-- i-- fold and unfold

truth bodied & tactile language,

in and out until everything is new

a woman is a secret

a boy is a fact

or statement a girl can rewind time

men interrupt space with limbs

while women like me are so

nothing as to be all

i hold the deepest hunger

no monolith or obelisk can please

i demand tribute i take all light,

men like you liquid things to fill me

where is my boy that gives and takes

i am a girl that births sustains destroys

i am that i am both neither and both

a man has me erupt

(fire is blood to a meteor and)

i have him accept, embrace

we fold together make breath

we original singular mass defeat heat death

heaven's reward fallacy

God doesn't like that celebrity you dislike

God is just

God's likes are equal to ten thousand likes or a hundred thousand whatever it takes to make you happy

God ignores your ex for you

God likes everything your best friend has ever posted online

God gives and takes away

God let your parents spank you and let your mother miscarry after you

God helped you find those family photos in the attic that one time and the memories just came flooding back

God likes how skillfully you describe the innocence of your childhood of social media

God wants you to get that raise

God sees how well you tip

God watches you eat local

God loves how you love animals

God knows the wallet was empty when you found it

God knows you didn't mean to hit her that hard

God believed you first

God let your abuser get off scot-free because it’s good for you

God will have him crash while drunk driving and he will post a selfie from the emergency room but he won't die yet (it will be liver failure)

God knows when you will die of breast cancer, that you will die of breast cancer you are unknowingly attracted to pink ribbon merchandise

God loves you back

God is busy watching sports

God has a favorite team and it’s the same as yours which is the same as your dad's

God wants you to get that energy drink caught in the vending machine it's meant to be yours

God lines up the green lights just perfect for you to catch the bus on that one day for that crucial interview Thank God! you say once for yourself and once to the interviewer

God loves praise

God is like you in that way

God gave you DD boobs but didn’t make you blonde you made yourself blonde and you took selfies at the salon you took selfies at the gym

God loves every face you made

God made Candace blonde

God gave Candace parents that gave her a BMW in high school and a Porsche in college there she goes tagging herself in her family's cabin #ilovemylife

God hates Candace as much you do there is no Fuck You button on Instagram but your fingers are like God's as you ignore her but one day yes one day someday eventually... and you can’t wait until the afterlife

poems about insecure attachment

there was a hole in me where

Home should be, a childhood

deep & a mother wide

my filling is praise receipts

& prayers  names crumpled days

by the handful a

megaphoned song for anyone

digital lights singing i'm still hungry

 

the hole in me a lover tall

(i told myself) and burrowed

huddle small but

she was an ontologist who spoke rainfall

named as adam did the animals

unmade monsters into nothing

my absence into absence

once, each blink destroyed the land

--to a child, everything dies at night but me

but then she gives object permanence

brown & fertile

in two cupped hands

to plant.

Platonic

there is more love

in the bus driver's thumb

when he covers the slot

it's okay, go ahead

as my card chirps from hunger

as I stall and my purse coughs

 

than the thousand soft sighs,

rising wonders and longings

forming cloudlands for dreamed selves

of downcast-eyed boys

love poems for myself

you are the cutest little boy asleep

like a heathen legs wide & sheet-tangled

a bed of rainbows & donuts & all your best friends

(are silent) no Deco artist designed you

gangly neotenous elbowed& kneed thing

til death adolescent the plaid skirt itself

breaks curfew ah! it rises and swirls

like the first ever turns red-black stripe red-black

baby-halty eyes widen

the discovery of girlhood that wet

of a body still being learned--another naked dance

for a body still being learned--the first personal language

the last cartwheel is far too distance

the sand that drips from your underfoot

is sandiegan the hands' undertan knows

the blue-brown mix of beach

(& this can be a song in Robinese)

for applemound breasts & pearbottom

peachvellum tree brown yes & blue & future blue

the afro sprouts has become a halo

of strangers' caught compliments our thought cloud

in the glow of somewhere else you carry

& will one day return to a star or sun isn't that right?

hot black girl mess/ black girl hot mess / hot girl black mess

Sometimes, I want to tell a really unflattering hot mess bachelorette story about myself, like the time I was cooking half-naked on my second floor apartment and I heard someone call my name--but then i remember that the concept of “hot mess” belongs to young white women who are deemed attractive enough that their self-deprecating “mess” is forgivable because their lives have an underlying expectation of goodness and success regardless of their peccadillos whereas my mess as a black girl is not seen as charming but an endemic representation of the failings of my race whose negative stereotypes i must fight with declarations of royalty, fierceness, and beauty if not an 24/7 facade of respectability due to the societal expectation of me being low enough that the mess is assumed while the success is not, the success must be seized, the competency must be asserted, the intelligence must be proven, the confidence must be tested, and with all the time i must devote to these small tasks, i will scarcely be allowed the luxury of a benign mess. But still, I was cooking half-naked in my second floor apartment and I heard someone call my name. Of course I freaked out, thinking that 1) someone could see into my second floor apartment, 2) they recognized me, and 3) they now knew that I habitually went about my day in a state of undress. What else had they seen? Who else had seen me?

But as they continued to call my name, it occurred to me that they might have been calling for a different Maya. And yep, I eventually met a little girl with her hair in barretted braids who lives in the same complex I do. Meanwhile, I bought a frilly black apron to fend off the oil spills and still wear whatever I want at home.

first world

what it first meant was:

the strongest buildings still announce bomb shelter

sturdy tan boxes where

before i was born

my parents cousins possible friends

learned to hear sirens and crouch under desks

 

what it really meant was a blue for freedom

like the seas between us

an arbitrary line drawn in bullet or tank track

red over there, for blood we still desire

 

what it means now is that a children's tv show

told me to save water.

i choose not to i like the fizz of its pressure,

white with excitement after brushing my teeth

& after the first spit, i cup my hand,

lower my mouth

lips to the water,

ah! how tasty how endless beautiful clean & free

that brief beautiful bubble when i was (we were) rich by osmosis

I was an impressionable child, overimaginative. I caught the sadness of anything near me, even if it was supernatural. After my dad told me about yajuj and majuj, and how Allah made humans of fire (jinn) and light (malaikah), I would idly look for angels in filtered sunbeams or listen for the voices of jinn leading me on--although I'd been told they were not at all like shoudler demons from cartoons, that they were most interested in minding their own business. Still, my dad was so sure that the end of the world was near that I looked for signs as a sort of impulse I still haven't entirely kicked.

Once, when Deadheads in town, my mom got lost on the way from the hospital and I cried of fear that she'd wandered into some other world, taken by ghouls or zombies. I didn't know what Deadheads were. I pictured something like a roving band of conjurers who worshipped the late Jerry Garcia, a baccanal Wild Hunt devoted to a 40-year old rock band. Maybe they even revived him during concert ceremonies--hey, I didn't know what their concerts got up to. All I knew is that the smells and looks of the nomadic van-living dreaded folks who overtook my familiar neighborhoods overnight made it feel as if a gate to the other world had opened. And mightn't Mom have wandered into it?

When Tupac died, I was torn between thinking he would haunt us or that he would rise again. I lived in San Diego while Pac lived and died in Los Angeles, but the mythology around the man was too large for a single city or county. I felt that the fate of the West Coast was tied to the fate of Tupac. He was our lamb and lion, while The Notorious B.I.G. was the martyr for the East Coast.

I didn't understand the difference between Tupac and Makaveli but the fact that Makaveli's album came out after Tupac's death was reason enough to believe in his return. The video for "Hail Mary" was a warning: the spirit of Tupac could act through others and punish those he loved, punish the state he loved for failing him.

The West/East rap rivalry took place largely through lyrical snipes and diss tracks, but I hadn't heard the songs in question. I saw the West/East rivalry as a cross-country gang war in which an underground network of color-coded national alliances, claimed territories, clans and dons and secret passwords. My brother had to assure me that Tupac wouldn't haunt us, that we hadn't betrayed him--because anyway we liked West Coast rap better, right? It was better.

(Well, even now, I prefer Odd Future to the A$AP Mob.)

So I refused to listen to Biggie to preserve my soul, and (when I became less superstituous) as a matter of pride. Total Request Live didn't care about my soul, however, and I couldn't help hearing and seeing the hits from Biggie's Life After Death. I wondered how his greatness had shaped his half of the country. B.I.G's posthumous album sounded not like revenge but like a celebration of a buried harchet. His best friend Puff Daddy mourned with Faith Evans but then they all popped champagne and went dancing in outer space. It sounded like and end and my brother verified that yes, Tupac's and Biggie's death meant the end of the West Coast/East Coast war.

(We would watch the videos for cameos that signified alliances. When Snoop Dogg signed with No Limit, that was irrefutable proof.)

So I wasn't particularly concerned about the y2k bug (we didn't yet own a computer when everyone else was panicking), the year of 1999 was beautiful to me. The apocalyptic symbolism of it, the magnitude of what it could mean... The zeitgeist had shifted from the 90s to the 00s: we'd gone from the hard-knocks and poverty of gangsta rap to the money, power, and sex of party rap.

Listening to "Mo Money, Mo Problems" felt like being in a national sweepstakes: I'd get a car, you'd get a car, they'd get a car, we'd all get cars! I thought that when Diddy said 'we' he meant 'black people,' not just his friends and labelmates. I thought he was wishing into being a world that finally loved black people. I had seen enough Mo-Town documentaries to know the history of black music, and I knew that we were often copied, unpaid, uncredited, erased. But here we were, front and center, successful and loud, top of the charts! Brandy's "Top of the World" told me where we were headed. Mya's Ghetto Superstar" was written with me in mind. The world finally loved black people.

Missy, JanetTLC wore armor and jumpsuits to summon the future with love songs, bye songs, and synced dances. Computer graphics was younger but came closer to replicating our world with every new game and film. Cell phones were still yet twinkles in investor's eyes, and all technology shone with hint & possibility. Black people were front and center in the media, happy and copied and admired by the world. And yet...

I don't know how much money my family had at that time. I know that we moved to the East Coast (Providence, Rhode Island, to be specific) around that time, and we seemd to have moved right into the music. I was ten, tuning my ear to hear the production differences between Swizz Beatz, The Neptunes, and Timbaland. Some part of me knew I would be rich someday, I knew it, because I was a good person and a hard worker--A student without even trying). I was creative and I was young and it was about time. I had everything the world said I needed to be rewarded.

The world was new and new and new no matter where we went and I would be one of those pretty naked girls in Cancun one day, no doubt! I wasn't allowed to wear swimsuits and show that much skin but it would be a matter of course that I would meet Carson Daly.

This was just before politics mattered to me, when everyone was corrupt in a way that didn't matter because everything was fun and everything was fine. Who cared!? The future was coming on. I don't remember how long we were second-hand rich, how long I had the future. I do know that it was gone by the end of 2001. By the end of that September, definitely, it was gone.

Even now, I am one of those impressionable, overimaginative people who think there might be an alternate world in which Bowie and Prince are still alive, a world with more balanced energies in which Trump was not elected. In that world, the FBI caught the hijackers when they were simply names on a watchlist, Bush was not a wartime president and thus not re-elected, the nation that Obama inherited was not a limping thing but a spritely hyperpower arcing towards peace & progress, there was no housing crisis or Great Recession or need for Occupy, and the world really did love black people and the hiphop hit party never ended.

there are things blackness hasn't touched

or doesn't touch

or will or should, like

 

the cork-hat or the cork-hatted man,

his sons: Irwins, Kratts, Hanna

in safari tan, all.

 

or the mother of watching, who crouches

hidden recording & watching a band

or family troop or community that--

(how does she rank them? a step above us? me a step below her?)

in the light of the college's chapel

what did she think when i raised my hand and voice:

'i think their rights are not as pressing

for now'? or the plant-fed girls seated around me

 

or the father of altruism, sitting tenured

over his envisioned drowning child,

hands forming professorial barrels

around something like 'liberation'

--i want to say he stole that word

just as his young infiltrate a farm quicker than a prison,

free cattle sooner than a man

 

before all that, i lay before the tv

(9 or younger

(legs swinging

(hair still braided)

with my animal books & a notepad

sketching the photos of roseate spoonbills

pallas cats

fennec foxes

endangered and extinct:

that whales this pigeon that tigers

i am not Black yet

when we are all beasts

 

a human onscreen talks of warmth and breasts

& i realize my mothers (& my own someday)

but i don't yet weigh men's bodies

against dogs or lions;

link the wildness of the Motherland

to my own blood

or recognize the yokes or cages & colonies in it no

 

i learn somethings of Human Nature,

build my morals it brick by fact by brick

they tell me something about tooth and claw

violent innocence green wonder

black theory has yet to address

my search for the great homeschooled novel

Back around 2011, when I bought an up-to-date Guide to Literary Agents and did market research while sincerely believing I could sell a middle grade book despite my utter distance from the literary market, I read that there was a gap in the market for book about homeschooled kids.

As a homeschooling grad, I thought (and still think) I could fill that gap. But not right now; right now, I don't know what the Great Homeschooled Novel looks like. I'll probably be fumbling towards that as I continue to write, for adults as well as for kids.

There are a couple of things that resonated with me as a homeschooled grad, and I feel like these influences will bring me closer to figuring out how to portray the experience:

  • Where the Red Fern Growswhich struck me as a kid as familiar and vivid and adventurous, same as it would strike any other kid, right? There is a scene where the wild boy protagonist comes face-to-face with a normal schoolboy from town, and someting in that scene make me realize that I was the wild boy and not the schoolboy.
  • Captain Fantastic, which I had been dying to see since it came out but have watched only recently. Based on the childhood of the director Matt Ross, the family in the movie has a particularly White Anarchist back-to-nature philosophy, but so much of it rings so true to my life. It would be easier to list the differences:
    • That we were seven siblings, not six
    • That my dad plays flute and drums, never bagpipes
    • That our mobile home wasn't a renovated bus named Steve, but a brougham of some sort
    • That my dad doesn't make fun of christians, not that much
    • That my dad would never buy us knives (wth?)
    • That we didn't celebrate Santa OR Noam but Ramadan
    • Oh, and my mom is still alive
  • The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which I haven't seen yet. I know the show covers themes of innocence/shelteredness that I am afraid I will relate too strongly. In my mind, the set-up is too close to the narratively-ironic innocence of Room, which gets way into the darker side of seculsion from society, way into abuse and neglect. I haven't seen that either, and don't really want to...
  • Similarly, Dancer in the Dark, and the rest of Lars Von Trier's Golden Heart Trilogy. The sweetness/darkness of Dancer in the Dark resulted in it being the only movie that's ever made me cry. Having Bjork portray an immigrant who believes in Broadway musicals but gets screwed over by America is just too cruel. I haven't seen the others in this trilogy, but I got into his unfinished American Trilogy through Dogville, which smacked the martyr out of me and also killed me a bit. (It was a good idea to watch them both entering the nonprofit world! 🙂)
  • On a lighter note, I loved The Wild Thornberries, or anything else where the kids live in an RV and learn from books and nature but not teachers. That show gets special bonus points because Nigel Thornberry's job is the one I once wanted. (RIP Steven Irwin, forever love and admiration for you and your wife and your kid 💙) This was one of the few kids cartoons I could watch not set in a school, but there should be more. I like to think the lack is what drove me to anime like Pokemon, which featured preteens running wild, free of all institutions, and learning about fauna and flora.
  • I occasionally read up about the Quiverfull movement, although I have been shy of watching or reading too much about the Duggars or Jon + Kate, because of all the hate aimed at them. A lot of the homeschool movement is Christian, though, so I'm obligated to know about them as well as the anti-establishment hippies, I guess.
  • Speaking of hippies, Sufjan Stevens, but also anything related to Wardorf schoolsMontessori schools, or other kinds of alternative education. Since I really don't know how to portray school in fiction, I really have no choice but to set my child characters in settings where they have more choice, freedom, or democracy in how they learn. Oh well.
  • Anything Jaden And Willow Do Or Say Or Think Or Make Or Sing, on a similar weird-schooling note.
  • And last but not least, J. D. Salinger's Glass family stories. I can't and won't say too much about how this series affected me for fear of spoiling an upcoming project, but I know me and my siblings bonded over this series. It's already providing me a roadmap for how to write my life.