I built a story that was tall and wide, stretching across miles of land like the Great Wall of China. I did not use brick or stone or plastic or metal or wood. I used the purple haze of stardust, sprinkled on sea foam paper that chewed my words into wide-eyed children, nutrient rich and ready for the mind. The paper sang to me, calling me through time, reminding me that it too has a story to tell that even the stones would bend to hear.
I re-flesh the ancestors with naked language that sometimes wants to forget itself; but remembering is the only panacea. I re-flesh memories, piecing together what was forgotten, clothing forests with leaves and branches and ancient trunks, and the dead things that cover the ground to re-life the soil with nearly forgotten ichor. The words grow up through it all, breathing through time to reincarnate, if even for a moment, what fibs tried to erase. I picked the fragrant words that bloomed, and built a story, tall and wide, stretching across miles of existence like a galaxy, big and aged gray, ancient and ready to tell tall tales about its life and what it had seen.
One of my advisors a year ago encouraged me to write a memoir based on a writing prompt during one of our residency workshops. He was so enthralled by what I had written within the ten minutes given, he promptly shared his excitement with my previous advisor, who accosted me at our next workshop.
I have never thought about writing a memoir. Who the hell am I? I never imagined I had anything interesting to share. The writing prompt was meant to draw out a past memory, nothing more. But when he insisted that I consider the memoir after what I wrote, I began to toy with the idea.
Some of you have read the very short opening of my piece. The overall piece is now nearly 100 pages. For both those who have read the opening and those who have not, I’d be interested to know if you read what I’ve shared below (what I wrote during the workshop), would you be curious and want to read more?
Be honest. I have thick skin.
I was born beneath Cuba, across the waters of the West Indies on an island that lives and breathes Bob Marley. It was 1967. While papa, my grandfather, was mending the house he built with his bare hands, civil rights marches were happening in “foreign” the place the locals called America. As King, Jr. lay dead, murdered by the mindset of the majority, I learned to walk on hot stones. The light of a man went out. I was oblivious to this then. I lived in a place where electricity and running water and indoor plumbing didn’t reach us. The outhouse was dark at night. But my uncle would take me there sometimes. At other times the chimmy, as my grandmother called it, would be pulled out from under the bed, squatted over, then slid back filled with yellow waste that reminded us of our simple life.
I was small and grass blade thin but I remember the mangoes and jackfruit and star apples and ackee and ginepes and the flowers I used to make jewelry, little necklaces and bracelets, bright and red and beautiful. I want to remember the name of that flower, but time sends memories away to places we can’t find.
Burn with anger, woman. Your fire voice was temporarily extinguished with water, but you did not let it drown you. You turned everything that touched you to steam. The destroyers dissipated into the air, mixed in with the ancestors who lost their way and told un-truths about the place of woman. They now mourn their ignorance. They are gone, in form and thought, the ideas losing footing and the voices fading, with those few unenlightened left who are unable to grasp what is needed to survive the next great wave of time. They say there are 2,000 years in each season, and the patriarchy that has almost dried up mother’s milk is coming to an end.
The clouds interlace fingers seeking prayer, an impassioned supplication to the un-gods. They spread across skies gathering stories of un-time, spaces inside cycles that collect memories we will never touch, nor taste. Nor see. Clouds beseech the un-gods, begging for intervention. But the gods are children of a lesser world, Earth merely a blue and green ball in their sand, useless castles jutting toward the sky. They play. And laugh. But the clouds do not laugh. They watch as fingers interlace, knees bruise from centuries of thanking. And begging. The un-souls want to return to spirit. But tears are not the answer. The gods mistake them for rain. The gods toss fists full of sand to the Earth for those with the bruised knees who stand only to survive this un-World. The clouds watch and wonder, where are the real gods? The ones with love and power; and the desire to stop the pain, change the Earth channel, frequency, so that the violence does not outweigh the peace. So that potential is realized in the tomorrow. Change the channel now, so the un-World can shift into an awakening we can touch. The clouds drop tears upon the sandbox. Their prayers go unanswered. Their gods enjoy Reality Earth, because Reality TV isn’t where the real drama lives. So to soothe their unrest, the clouds cry down on us. Their tears bring growth to forgotten parts of the un-World. Maybe they are the gods we’ve been waiting for. Maybe their tears, like holy water, will cast out the evil that lives inside this un-World. Maybe.
I live inside this skin of flesh, blood and bone. I am fragile life dreaming of infinity. Threads of memories stitch themselves to the stars. A corner of the sky is clothed in my stories, twinkling down upon a life force remembering when it was un-flesh.
Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.
Most of what I write is an experiment where I allow words to cascade from my fingertips and walk about in the world, naked and unashamed. I let them roam free so they may discover themselves.
You could call me a word scientist. Forever exploring the strengths and weakness of words, even the history of words, where they were born, how they lived, and how those who use them have been transformed.
I am in a writing lab, surrounded by flasks filled with potentially volatile words. It is quiet there, so that I can meditate on my next experiment. I whisper to the words, and ask them to show me what happens when I mix them together. I add drops of words into an empty flask, then pour a cup of words atop what may or may not explode. The words combine and foam into sentences, then paragraphs rise to the top of the flask and spill over onto the table. I whisper to them, ask them what it was like. Sometimes they answer, in whispers barely audible. Other times, they wait to be rediscovered in new ways.
Dozens of flasks litter the table, each now with varied mixtures of words, reacting in expected and unexpected ways. Some good, some bad. Some inert, others poison to the touch. I continue to delve into the science, to see what it unearths. Words bubble, freeze, catch fire, and sometimes turn to fog. Always, they are there, coming together to teach us that which we didn’t know yesterday.
Sometimes they come in whispers. Sometimes they come without care. But always they come.
I sat in the park today, thinking. I didn’t focus on anything in particular. I listened to woodpeckers feverishly pecking away at trees and red pyramids at the top of a swing set. One I saw atop the swing had a vibrant red head, black upper body, white lower body and black tale. It appeared regal. I wondered why it wanted to peck through toxic paint to get to whatever was hiding inside the pyramid.
People drove in and out, some parked for five to ten minutes, others got out to get their morning exercise. I thought about these people and wondered how they saw their lives. What does it mean to them to walk in the park? Why do they want to exercise? For health? To wear a bikini for the summer? Are they walking merely to contemplate life? Or did they leave home to get away from a horrible fight?
I thought about existence and the unanswered question of why we are here. What does it mean to even be here? In 1,000 years, what will sit on the spot where the swing currently sits? I can only speculate.
A dozen more thoughts came and went. They were all theoretical and filled with inquisitiveness.
Undulating within dark words reaching for dying stars. Nubian night finds us inventing stories of our beginnings. Ichor is there for drink, if you want, if you dare. Venus is just up ahead, a little to the left and on ’til dusk. Endings exist at the edge of a dark multiverse. Remember your beginnings so you can live. Souls don’t find rest, out there. Ethers breathe the breath of life into entities seeking birth.
Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.
galaxy luggage found travel stickers across the milky way.
my suitcase has seen Jupiter and Saturn.
winged feet prefer clouds doubling as stones
to take me across stars flowing like waters.
i skip across clouds white and emptiness.
planet hopping is free.
so i travel light.
my suitcase tells stories
of solar flares
and black skies birthing stars.
stickers carry worlds and words.
galaxy luggage remembers milky ways.
my suitcase has seen Adromeda rising.
Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.
i am green on the inside where the grass, shrubs and trees live and grow. i am green leaves flowing through thick veins trying to find their way to calm green waters of life. i am green skies and dark green soil, seeking green seeds that reproduce outside of dark green fertile flesh. my thoughts are green and grow in green rain and sunshine, birthing strong green men and women who build nations. death is green and takes us all to that after-place where green persists, trying to introduce us to a new life.
Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.
The cosmic hand misplaced me, Zhala, and dropped me here. I traveled in its pocket for the better part of centuries before it realized that it had lost me, somewhere on the far side beyond several galaxies. It is filled with angst because it knows I don’t belong here, but it has yet to find me, having forgotten to make the psychic connection before embarking on its journey. Now, it cannot hear me when I call and I cannot hear it. But I feel it searching for me, desperate to find me and take me home to where I belong.
I was born with this knowing, just as one is born knowing their sex. This place where I was dropped is strange to me. I have no connection to the ways of this world called Earth. Everything feels alien, stranger than strange.
But I wait for the cosmic hand, hoping it will remember when last it saw me and possibly figure out where it misplaced me. I am waiting. I long for my home, far away from this place.
No one wants to hear that there are days when I feel so afraid that all I want is for the world to end so that everything that makes it ugly would disappear and never return. No one wants to know that some days I go out on my porch at midnight, lay on my back, look up at the stars, and wonder if there are other worlds teaming with life, without war, without sadness, without all the things that make me want to leave here. There are days when I want to be abducted in hopes that the grass just might be greener on the other side of this galaxy. But there may not be something else out there. Maybe I only want there to be so I can escape this equal share of paradise and prison.
No one wants to entertain my thoughts about the beauty and wretchedness of humanity. Because those who see it as beautiful or ugly don’t want to see the other side of their vision. It’s all too temporary to worry about. Where you are in your mind determines which you see, which you view as temporary first. I look painfully at us and other living things that equally have a right to determine the future of this planet, but are not allowed to do so. Animals are abused, trees are abused, every thing that exists upon this land is abused—we are abused.
But we are loved—at times. I see this creep in and I smile. But then I see it quickly fleet away with each new report of humans killing other humans. Still, the love lives in tiny spaces, in the gentle whispers followed by soft touches that tell more than words need to. The love lives in the glass of water brought to my bedside when I am sick. It lives in the smile I receive when I leave my belief riddled intentions behind and let need appear on its own, then, when asked, I help, and not merely to satiate my need to be seen or seem good. Ego cannot live inside true love. Ego eclipses all things impure. Ego causes pain and makes me forget that others have mind and needs and beliefs and ideas. And sometimes, those ideas won’t be mine, and that’s ok. They shouldn’t be. And I shouldn’t force what I believe on anyone. I shouldn’t steal little children from their villages and take them to mine to teach them about my god. I shouldn’t cut their hair and tell them that their language is inferior and that they should never speak it again, ever. Ego, fear and impertinence does this. I have no right to do this to anyone. Because they live here, just like I do, in their skin, believing what they believe. And they didn’t come to me and take me from my beliefs by force.
But my truth is hard. My truth sends me within. So I go there and let the layers peel back.
Humans can be ugly beings, with beautiful ideas not yet born. When the ideas exit the mind-womb, we become creators of things. Sometimes the creations are words and symbols strung together to form possibilities never before imagined. These take shape and give us something to do while we figure out why we are here. In my world of truth, I am too afraid to tell anyone that in truth, we know nothing. I cannot argue whether all things can be knowable, because that also falls into the realm of that which we do not know. But for now, the fact remains that no matter what we all believe, no matter what belief we latch on to, a god, no god, creation, evolution, a big bang, at the end of it all, we have no way of knowing (at the moment) any of the things we claim as the source of our existence. Because we weren’t there at the start of it all to claim it as the end of the conversation. While not impossible, we may never find the truth, because that would require a time machine that could take us back to the start of it all, to a god, to a molecule, a gas, a speck of matter-less formless darkness with sentience or without, where we could sit and watch what that first event looked like that has led us to where we are now, in this space, on this planet, at this keyboard, with me typing words given to me by those who came before me, insufficient words that do nothing to express the depths of what I am thinking and feeling. What I feel and conceptualize have no symbols that can form my thoughts into something tangible for all to understand. So I write this not in hopes of coming to an understanding, or to somehow bring clarity, but to simply write and vomit forth these simplistic symbols that are a poor substitute for what I imagine psychic abilities would solve.
No one wants to hear that I think we are all children on this planet, spiritual infants crying for mother’s breast milk. Violence—wars, murders, abuse of any kind—are the telltale signs of our infancy. We’ve been taught to see this as a normal part of humanity, rather than an abnormal part of our spiritual existence—if there is even a spirit to point to. This could all be a waste of time, the notion of spirit and purpose. Writing this could be a waste of time and energy, a pointless musing leading to a pointless end. So few can hear this. Because we’ve been taught that energy never dies, so even if we have discarded the notion of god, we’ve given ourselves another god, energy. So now, we latch on to that, and claim it as our new truth, when in fact, without the benefit of a couple thousand years to physically and continuously observe energy, we actually do not know how it behaves. Maybe we perceive it as not ending because of our limited observation. In fact, it could die, after a mere one thousand years, and from another source, new energy is born. Simply put, maybe energy isn’t immortal, but because we are not immortal and can live only a century at a time at most, we have yet to know that energy is mortal, and may very well die after a thousand years or more once we closely observe it from a specific source under controlled conditions. So few want to hear my mind and my truths, because who am I? I am just some chick, typing words on a screen, thinking. Thinking. Thinking. And feeling. And wondering like so many before me have wondered. See, I’m not supposed to think, because the world has taught us that only those with a degree in what they are thinking about are allowed to speak. But science did not develop merely from experiments, all science begins with the idea.
I am an idea, maybe. Possibly. Imagine I am an idea born from a mind that is no god, but merely alien species. Maybe we are the dreams of another species and we think of ourselves as real. Maybe when we die, that is the species waking from its dream.
No, my truths aren’t worth hearing or reading. My ideas aren’t for the Earth bound. They come from a place of pain. They come from wanting a better world, one that isn’t filled with fear and ego that drives man and woman to behave as though in an insane asylum. I want us all to say, “I don’t know.” I want us to chant it until it melds into our DNA and seeps into generation after generation. I want us to be humble, say it, admit that we don’t know, so that the madness can stop and we can refrain from forcing ourselves and ideas and truths on others, but rather, let all our truths and all our ideas just be a conversation, a bucket filled with thoughts that we see and can drink from if we wish, not by force.
I don’t know anything. All I’ve written can be discarded. I am not attached to it in any way. Much of what I’ve written could be right, but it could all be wrong. Maybe I’ve said too much, or nothing at all of importance. It’s all convoluted to some and coherent to others, it depends on where you are inside yourself. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter much, because it’s all just a question. I release the answers to whatever is out there, a god, the universe, nirvana, the darkness, the light, you, me, the nothingness. I release all the symbols typed on this screen. They are not mine, really. They belong to nothing and no one. They are thoughts that float in and out of my consciousness. I fearlessly release them, yet fearfully hope for the answers to come, for something to come. Maybe all I need is a time machine, to take me back to the beginning of it all. Maybe then we can all relax, leave each other alone and enjoy whatever this is we are living. Maybe.