i tried to figure out the rhythm of her heart while she slept on my foot

August 24th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

my dog doesn’t like it when i listen to her heartbeat
i don’t really like it either i can’t quite place the rhythm it’s either
six beats one rest or four beats one rest or six / rest / four / rest
every rest i think she has died
i hold my hand to her heart to get the measure of something
and she slowly rolls away
maybe she thinks i will kill her maybe it’s simply a spot too tender
to touch

barely morning still dark
the space between inhale and exhale
i feel the wind between my cheeks
mouth full of summer leaving
song on the radio says isn’t it isn’t it
i find the tender heart of the present the space
between this suffering and that suffering
for one second it’s everything and then it’s gone and i can’t
quite get that beat down again

my dog looks up at me
getting dressed for the early shift all stretched out impossibly
taking up the whole bed she looks at me like stay
how is my look back i have to do these things to pay rent
she blinks slowly just stay
she doesn’t understand anything but the space between suffering i think

yes people are forever writing about what their dogs teach them
and this is my lesson she really is so good and not in the ways
i’ve selfishly shaped her here she is exploring each pocket of the porch
sniffing out bees and lizards and sitting among the flowers and chewing
the wood chips i painstakingly spread thick and wide she goes wherever
her heart takes her until basically until basically i step in

my heart is taking me somewhere somewhere pretty nice i think even though
i might just sleep with my coworker even though the fantasy of him is much
hotter than the reality and i might just have tea with my ex every week so she
can see me as good as healed as not the one who caused her all this pain even
though eventually i’ll cancel our standing plans closing the door yet
again when i feel better because that’s what i’m still getting unstuck from

my dog hates the car like hates it enough that the anti-anxiety meds i stuff in her
mouth just make her lay down not even sleep she pants her heart races
but ten minutes later we are in the woods twenty and we’re at the creek
twelve hours later we’re at the sea and she can spin like a maniac across the sand
never have i seen her bound for joy like when we get to the beach the creek
the forest but i wonder if the suffering is worth it for her
i wonder if dogs kill themselves ever like birds can pluck that one feather above
their heart that makes them bleed out
suddenly i’m wondering if that’s apocryphal

if there’s one chance i get to strip away suffering in this life
the only real chance i have is with my dog
so how am i doing with that and does it have anything to do with what i’ve
stripped away in my own?

i don’t know where we’re going and now i’m the one panting at the window
sticking my face in the breeze and then changing my mind it’s a little too much
we’re going a little too fast for all that and not fast enough how are we still
in this hellbox it’s been seven seconds hours lifetimes and when we arrive
it’s pretty spectacular i have to say even though it’s one space between breaths
one moment in a billion trillion moments where everything feels okay and
like maybe all the suffering was a different life or a dream or just a movie
i saw once and cried at and then we get back in the car even though i’m
screaming and shouting no and i
wonder how many more times can we do this
before it stops being worth it



understanding violence

November 7th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

the caribou calf call out
the wolves closing in
the mother
has calculated risk &
does not turn back
she understands violence.

calf’s small rubbery tongue
to the biting air
just as our throats are
gashes in fear

i do not want the wolves to go hungry
i do not want this caribou to die
they close in.

a friend watches with me &
says violence is simply change.

what does the calf think—
the wolf’s mouth wrapping around her back leg,
like my precious dog as she picks up a stick
to be thrown—resign? or greater fear?
does she know she is about to be eaten alive?

please, i pray to the wolf, who hears
nothing, kill her fast.

if we must all exist at the expense of another,
if life relies on the exchange of suffering
please let there be less of it.

i am just trying to understand violence
and why it is the mother of all life.

the pack does not close in fast enough
the calf gains ground, escapes.
luck, unluck: the wolves keep their hunger,
tomorrow another calf will call out
for nothing.


It’s the End* and Life Means Nothing

October 13th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

*It’s the end of the anthropocene at least. Humans. Most animals.

Let’s say we have ten more good years. Ten more years to swim in the ocean, to use cellphones, to drink tap water. Even that seems preposterous. The amount of carelessness, neglect, over-extraction, denial—the sheer amount of people in the world—if we make it ten more years, that would be truly astonishing.

No—not astonishing—it would be another decade of treading water in a riptide. Time will beat down the already suffering: the silenced, the ignored, the forgotten so the privileged few could have ten more years—maybe. Borders will continue to close. People will continue to be submerged in scarcity. We will work ceaselessly on all of the wrong things, selling our time to the endlessly churning machine of capitalism. Every physical, necessary resource will unravel. Every intangible, nebulous form of currency (time, digits in a bank account, data on a cloud), will take on a crushing weight.

Life—all life, since the beginning—is at the expense of life. Survival for one group means the peril of another. Some of us will fight this, as we fight this now. We will continue to fight borders and cages and walls and insist on the path of least suffering. It will always take longer. It will always take time and time and time to heal. It will always take less then a second to shatter. I don’t know if we are fighting against our true nature. I don’t know if there is some fundamental human state. I know transformation is always possible. I also know that violence is our ancestry and violence is our progeny.

Some of us—perhaps too few, always too few—will love fiercely and fight against oppression tirelessly, as we do now, as the world burns and drowns, as we hold up memories like negatives to the light, as we see a future beyond this one, one to fear and one to fight for. I will always wonder if freedom is truly possible on this plane, in these bodies. Freedom, for me, is the end of suffering. Not just the individual’s, which I do believe has a proximate possible form, but for all that sustains the individual. Freedom, true freedom at the expense of nothing—is to be unborn. But here we are: born, without our consent or consideration. Born into one body or another, one land or another, one time or another, all of which place us on a continuum of suffering.

So what then? We are, almost certainly, at the end of days, without a unified meaning or purpose. Now what?

Here’s where I find freedom because my path forward is clear. All that remains for me to do is this: lessen suffering. Less and less suffering. There is a ticking clock (although time is, you know, relative) and still so much pain. Animals that spend their cramped, butchered lives tortured and miserable. Humans that spend their whole lives in cages. Parents that tear their children into shreds because they were torn apart as children. People who are systematically disenfranchised and murdered by the state. And the rest that remains: to simultaneously lessen my own suffering, to heal all that I can, to stop the cycle of pain of my ancestors. To do all of this imperfectly: sometimes hastily, sometimes without full understanding of the consequences.

But this is what I can commit.

  1. To be my own parent, to be my own child.
  2. To love my parents, to talk to them, learn from them, share with them, to not shy away from their suffering.
  3. Same for my friends. Same for my community. Same for the world, for every life I can fit into my heart.
  4. To lessen my dependence on any product that causes animals or humans suffering, i.e. factory farms, exploited labor, deforestation.
  5. To experience wonder in all things. The history of all things, the life cycle, the specificity, the nuance, the connection.
  6. To be unafraid of money because, for my particular circumstances, I have access to enough. I am lucky. I am incredibly, undeservedly lucky. I can use this to uplift and care for others. This includes going to school for trauma healing therapy. Take out those loans. If the world ends in ten years, the joke’s on the bank.
  7. To write and create: processing information, experience so as not to get caught in it and dragged by it. To transform, envision and honor the subject matter.
  8. To adjust my learned discomfort, push beyond what I think I can do. For me, this primarily means pushing beyond any assumptions and socialization based on my race, gender and class; to ceaselessly fight for, envision, and build the liberation of all. To always share my resources even in the midst of scarcity. To always question my feelings of deserving and righteousness for they often are born of ego and fear. And to always strive to give away as much as I receive for there is no reason to build an individual material legacy. This is the end.
  9. To pursue any small or great desire I have because why not. My entire universe of experience will die with me. And there is so little time left.

So why not:

  1. Get as close as I can to a whale, a blue whale, to touch her, to swim alongside her.
  2. Self-publish whatever I want.
  3. Live by the ocean, close enough to walk to.
  4. Foster children, always have a rescue dog, always have a home that I can share with those that need it.
  5. Eat pastries.
  6. Go to Lebanon, Morocco, Madagascar, Botswana, Hawaii, Japan.
  7. Spend time in boats, canoes, pirogues.
  8. Visit parks, gardens, waterfalls, canyons, caves, forests.
  9. Read everything.
  10. Watch TV because whatever it’s good and I love it.
  11. Continue to watch the same movies over and over.
  12. Listen to more Beyoncé.
  13. Dress in drag.
  14. Go everywhere possible with Hen.