Early this fall, I ran across a clip from a DV8 production, and about two minutes into the scene I was slammed with a memory. The cutting edge of a memory – not of having seen the clip or the production, but of something from my childhood. One of those emotions without a name. No story, no features, but as vivid as the taste of something turned sour and effervescent. Something wrong. Dangerous.

I can’t place it. I don’t want to place it. And I know enough about memory to know there is really no point in trying. The imagination is powerful and will find reasons.

I used the clip then, and again since then, for teaching because it’s a good demonstration of dynamics and movement. And because, in some way, my allowing this in and holding it in my gut for those few minutes and in the echoing hours, I feel like I am paying some kind of tribute to that child I was. Respect for whatever she had that got her through.

Memory is weird, and it stitches things together in ways that make the world both more bearable and more complicated than it needs to be. I may be projecting the ambiance of a known event onto something else, following a trail of music. Footsteps on gravel. Or a gesture. A shadow. Because some hurts aren’t easily contained.

Early this morning I saw a brief film clip on Twitter and that same taste returned. That same fear. And again, it made no sense, since the film was made in the late 90s. But set in the 70s. Something in the music. Something in the angle of a jawbone. I have no idea. But I sit with it after the fact. I sit with a raw ache.

On this morning’s beach run, E. asks me if the memory writing is affecting me more than I know. And I deny it, and I talk a lot about who-remembers-what.

Then I realize that this is all about grief.

My trauma is not what you think it is. What I was told it was. What breaks “those people” is not always what we want to believe it is. We don’t want to look at the subtle and dangerous ways people move through the world. What they casually do to one another in the daylight. The real monsters are never what we expect.

Jimmy is dead. So is the father who was not my father, and the mother who chose not to mother. And I was and have been so many things along the way to now.

I am sharp as a bone knife. I am resonant as rosewood.

A loss will leave a hole. But a hole is not without purpose: a sound hole in a rosewood guitar will amplify a melody.

And forgive me if that metaphor is ridiculously strained. I need a nap.

Thursday already. A free week flying by – though in a witch on a broom kind of way despite the sunshine. I wake up every morning and wonder if I should check the news first thing. Before writing, before coffee, before anything else. And I do. And I am left with the same exact uncomfortable anticipation.

Wanting, hoping… that is not the same as anticipation. There’s a horrible, unspeakable desire for it to be “over” before it gets worse. It is what I want. But not what I anticipate will happen.

I was wondering when my social media feeds would return to normal and am disappointed to see how quickly they are. Sort of. And I am only sort of disappointed. I mean, this really isn’t something that will be solved or “over” quickly, and the days go on as they do where we are – yes, with a shadow over them – but there is still dinner to cook, and evenings to be filled with something other than a meditation on pain.

This whole thing makes me wish I were one to give blessings before dinner. I suddenly understand the whole purpose of such a beautiful ritual. I never imagined that “the starving children in China” blessings had any potential to be anything more than racist, guilt-inducing tactics to make children in privileged countries eat vegetables.

Only now am I understanding that gratitude can be disconnected from guilt. This is how we can experience the small, but significant moments of joy.

This disconnection (guilt from gratitude) is probably the only way that gratitude can ease the pain of living. And dying.

It’s not a new question: How much do we take on ourselves in terms of the world’s pain? In solidarity? In community? How much do we do so in self-preservation – out of fear – as performance – as opportunists?

How much of today’s private moments of ease do we turn our backs on in deference to future and potential troubles? How do we honor and acknowledge the suffering of so many, while authentically acknowledging our own ignorance, avoiding masquerading/appropriation… How do we unashamedly focus on gratitude rather than guilt?

Computer language is binary, but the real world isn’t either/or.

What can we hold in our arms? “This, too.”

“And also…”

Under one arm are my private sorrows: my own struggles and the pain belonging to people I love (and am losing right now). Under the other, the knowledge I have of all of the people who are (violently) losing their loved ones or facing the (violent) loss of their own lives.

Exactly how do we carry the joy?


I have never been an occasional poet.

I think that’s because at some point I realized that my best writing comes from the body.

Writing is difficult right now.