Speak

To my friends, for always listening & freeing me a little more each day

I don’t often speak about being mentally abused, but this is about more than just me. For all those who have suffered in skin or in spirit, no matter what shape your scars take: you are a survivor, I am touched every day by all that you are, and you are never, ever alone.

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consonants cause traffic jams

in the rush

for release

from

their white ridged confines

elbowing aside luckless scowling vowels

& artificially flavored filters

while whispering syllables

hatch an escape plan

over by bitter and sweet

i feel them tumbling around my tongue

an emotional recipe for uncertainty

mixed with the heady brew

of pain/trust/fear

uncaged

trailing meteor tail memories

the words spill out into the

suddenly frozen air

and i find myself

free

Belief

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i thought it would feel

close&crystalline

instead

it’s a far away

wonky weird amber

pulsing slowly against

sudden sweet goosebumps

as painful as they are pure

these noble sentinels

standing

up

reaching out to touch

this curious new feeling

settling comfortably

inside my mind

nudging aside scars

most only half-healed

mouths agape,

they retreat with deferential nods

+ make room for the

mysteriously edged

awe-inspiring newcomer

History

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the broken songs of our race

jab sharp spears against

the overburdened heart of history

(our ends of course justify the means)

we have always

made the choice not to survive

without casting stones at sinners.

so we blame blind eyed destiny for

subtly seeping scarlett letters

into the bared bone melody

of earth’s humming voice,

+ etching permanent bullet holes

in our skinbound human harmony.

we savagely reap + sew

 endless staccato scars,

plunging our necrotic needles into

 the keeper of all life

as she begs + pleads for us

to learn, remember,

or at least sing freely.

lately it seems as if

only the sullen strains of discord

sound in our depths.

the delicately fluting grace

of love’s unstrung notes

fading,

dimmed.

instead, a chorus of fear ripples through

our increasingly distant lyrics.

have we lost our place

in the song of the universe?

Dreams

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gutwrench symmetries

rake the unformed heart haze

peeling back

our artificially wrought layers

like an overbaked potato

until all kinds of reality

lay bare

only in the world below slumber

can the earth’s memories

and the mistakes of man

be recognized, free at last to

smash + sidle along into

lightning rod hopes,

pure primal urges,

thrice-buried emotions

framing blame blooded columns of

the back corner crevices of creation,

until what emerges

are blank blurred truths

couched in fragments of francy–

so easily dismiss upon waking

yet they still leave lingering

crumbs of in-between

whisper planted in your soul

Wake Up America

I just finished reading a news article about the highly volatile situation in the Middle East. Listing five different countries and explaining the individual sources of tension and conflict, the article was both informative and clear.

My issue lies with the four little words at the end-cap of each country: “why we should care.” Each little blurb describes how the situation links back to the U.S. and offers a salient quote from a U.S. public official.

To me, this is despicable. The “why we should care” has absolutely nothing to do with American involvement. It has nothing to do with the fact that some U.S. citizens might be volunteering to fight in the Middle East, or to consult, or whatever euphemism they use for our government’s sticky web of self-interest.

It has everything to do with the fact that we’re human beings. That reading stories about war, about civilian and children dying, should be horrific enough in its own right. It should spur us into action, not coax us into showing a spark of interest by forging a tenuous connection with victims of ongoing tragedy.

It’s like the high school guidance counselor rewarding you with a week off school for showing up for your mandatory 3 hours of community service. It is reinforcing the message that “you need a black and white connection to your home country of U.S. in order to feel even a mild interest in what’s happening elsewhere.”

Isn’t it enough that we’re part of this world? The blood, death and destruction we’ve written off as everyday parts of life no longer shock us the way that it should. We live in a culture-wide complacency that would be terrifying.. if we could even be bothered to care.

I am mixed race, including Israeli and Arabic. While I have a supremely personal connection to what’s happening now, I find both sides of my heritage condemned and blasted. According to the news media, I should be much more self-loathing. When I read the press coverage of the Middle East I feel heartbroken, because it’s always about apportioning blame. Who fired which rocket, who killed which civilian, who issued statements of denial first, etc.

You know what I’d like to see, in a perfect world?

Media coverage of the families of victims, of the first aid workers flying in from other countries to offer their help, to put themselves on the line for others. I’d like to see the people banding together to help out in the wake of crisis, visuals of the aftermath of bloodshed. I’d like to see U.N. meetings that are pro-active instead of declamatory.

I want us to feel, to hope and act, and not just because we’re told we’re supposed to for ________ reason. More than that, how can we possibly hope for peace in the Middle East if all we can fixate on is blame, doubt, and “why we should care?”

Shutdown

its always easier

to sympathize from a distance.

erect walls & hang a vacation sign on the knob

build a security barrier

out of partisans&phrases

delay opportunity & much needed relief

with the cheerful grin

of a semi-mournful newly enriched golddiging widow

you cannot know

what it is

to exist in a bubble of uncertainty

afraid as much of the present

as the imminently explosive future

you cannot know

what it is

to see your jobs,

your dreams

wrenched away with

closed doors and turgid explanations

you cannot know

what it is

to watch loved ones suffer

and slip away

because their barcode

wasn’t luxe& gold

-Our government is shutdown-

Well, its people are not.

Endangered Species: Coming of Age

Sacrifice. It’s a concept that makes glorious heroes in glamorous movies, but its also crippling entire generations. The choice between doing what you love and doing whatever makes a living may seem obvious, but it is not without cost.

With this economy, these expectations, bills and standards and networks, choice is slowly being removed from the equation. Or rather, it is being highlighted and narrowed until you have tangible tunnels leading to specific ends. For some, that’s great.

But I find it disturbing that the guidance counselor of my 13-year-old sister told her that she needs to be thinking about her college, her majors and her future. Oh, and taking proactive steps to become an appealing candidate. Even worse, this is not the first time she has been told that by an authority figure.

To me, that’s not responsible. That’s horrifying. So many wonder, why does each successive generation seem so adult, so prematurely mature and jaded? Because we are making them deliberately shed their innocence in order to gain labels. Labels are the currency of our insecure society, and hint at the death of a necessary stage in our lives: a natural, unforced coming of age.

A child of the 80s, I was raised to believe that I could be anything. I had options, potentials, interests and the freedom to explore myself without justification or reproof. That is now a luxury that is increasingly tossed aside, fading into history without comment.

So, with the encouragement of my elders, I embraced life. Now, I have many passions, and have worked in multiple industries. I have a great portfolio, a good degree, and an intense drive fueled equally by debt, desperation and hope. But to most companies, I am simply one of many.

Apparently, my resume is too diverse, and I am an unpredictable commodity. Like my peers, I am a Risk. And unless the reward is staring somebody in the face, a gamble people are unwilling to take.

This is despite the fact that I have worked multiple jobs since age 15. My different dreams, ideals and aspirations are perceived as unfocused and willfully ignorant.  The dreaded “What do you want to do in 5 years?” question has etched a permanent black mark next to my name.

Because I could easily lie, and be convincingly perfect-candidate-material and tell you what you want to hear. I can take my marketing background, and people-reading skills from customer service, and fabricate the perfect answer guaranteed to impress you with my commitment and reliability.

But if I do that, let’s call a spade a spade. I will be selling myself, like many others of my generation have been forced to do, in spirit if not flesh. We have been taught the ability to compartmentalize everything we are into a series of marketable brands. Apparently, internal prostitution is completely socially acceptable.

But I can still choose. So, I choose not to lie or misrepresent myself. I choose to embrace all that I am without completely understanding it. I choose not to accept something that compromises my heart and innate wonder even though it may provide a gilded cage.

I choose to stand in the storm instead of venturing into fair weather land where all the rides are insured and strings are always attached. I choose to believe in humanity’s potential and not our limitations. I choose to see the undefined as beautiful instead of threatening.

When asked to predict my future, I choose to say, “I don’t know.”

Harmony

the-old-guitarist

Newspaper thin brim,

soggy cardboard

masquerading as a hat,

hides eyes

inexorably drawn

to his Lady

 

brass knuckled spine

settles into home position.

plucking at the memories

weighing the air with their

spices and pinches.

 

smoke of a forgotten cigar

curls lazy protests in the corner

ash sputtering indignantly

onto the smirking dirt

 

greasy ink tipped fingers

trace the spiraling

whirls and grooves

of his melodies

 

Humanity shatter pulses around him

tick boom smash

everyday life

unable to stop

unwilling to be tamed

an imperfect canvas,

battling the scarred neck

and smudge battered body.

 

None of it matters

She is his Lady

He doesn’t play for us.

 

their Voices

soak the air

ensuring he won’t be forgotten.

How to be an artist

To be a writer is to guess at things hidden. To prod and poke and tease until our truths come out. Our truths are not the truth. They are our beliefs, sometimes our lies, our little dramas in the unabsorbed spectacle of the universe. Writers’ block is really just a barrier we put up to keep from painting an accurate self-portrait of ourselves and our race. From descending into the unresolved, creeping overgrowth of the intimately self-aware.

It is the canary that sounds when mines are probed too deeplyas our lungs desperately exhale and choke on the fumes of the demons we all carry. To be a great writer is to ignore the call of the canary and plunge further into the abyss. To Fall with open eyes into our ghosts and Hydes and chained memories. To view the panoply of humanity in all its overripe savagery without the delusion of social constructs.

Those who are Fallen go where the rest of us are afraid to go. Most of us are unwilling to see the glorious ills, blinding injustices, eleventh-hour births of hope, and faithful destructions that pepper everyday life. Pleading ignorance, we prefer to activate our spam blockers, guarding against any such serpents in our well-manicured Gardens of Eden.

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Why are Da Vinci, Michelangelo, James Dean and their peers revered above all others? Their work transcends boundaries of color and race and religion and language. It is because of the Fall.

The rest of us are grasping at the chaos of our core, trying to tame it into symbols & pictures & summer blockbusters. To capture it within cages so that it can be assessed and analyzed. We live in a world of titles, a world where we’re constantly asked to label ourselves. What a perverse mockery of identity.

Why do we need to build bars around something before we can understand it? Why are we so afraid to Fall? To claim those terrifying caves and unending jungles inside our skins? Instead, we hunt and erase any such unacceptable blemishes until we can pass for functioning members of society.

It is time to love ourselves and heal our society, damages and all. To all those in the Nomad Generation and beyond, I think I may finally get it. In order to Rise, we first have to Fall.

Roots

my roots in the sandMy birthplace is in Connecticut, but if you were to untangle my roots you’d see the influence of several countries in shaping who I am today. Born to a Dominican mother and an Israeli-Moroccan father, I was raised to respect and appreciate other cultures and to keep an open mind about my heritage.

I always felt different than everyone around me, a point that was driven home my senior year of high school. Our social science teacher instructed us to create a family tree project documenting our families’ history in the United States. As the only child of immigrants in my class, the teacher had to create an original assignment for me.

After-school specials hone in on the cruelty of teenagers who often mock anybody different, or anybody who is not in a certain social group. But what about a classroom that is polite on the surface, not intentionally trying to cause harm yet the end result was still everybody else: the same and me: different. Maybe it comes with the slightly oxymoronic territory of being a Middle Eastern Dominican Jew.

My parents always encouraged me to travel, and because of them I’ve been lucky enough to live abroad. Most recently in China, as an adolescent visiting family in Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, spending vibrant childhood summers in Israel… but most memorably in Spain. I spent my junior year of college at the University of Granada in the southern region of Andalusia, home to a wonderfully laid-back, jumbled gypsy culture. Because of the Moorish atmosphere of my surroundings, I was inspired to visit Morocco with some new friends.

I ended up in the desert outside Merzouga, conducted to an oasis by camelback as we watched our shadowy profiles in the sand against the sunset. Our Berber guides were friendly, sharing their fire with us and cooking us traditional meals, singing songs understood by all despite the language barriers. Overhead, a sky brimming with stars in an endless sea also featured shimmering heat lightning and simultaneous rainstorms. It was an unlikely conjunction of elements that was all the more beautiful because of its contrast.

At that moment, I recalled a conversation with my father. He explained to me that my ancestors were Jews living in Spain until they were expelled during the inquisition. They went to live in the deserts of Morocco, and ultimately my grandfather moved to Israel. I realized that I had retraced the path of my ancestors. As a child roaming the Dead Sea and Holy City, as a young woman learning about herself while studying abroad, and as a traveler wandering the alluring sands of Morocco.

I had come full circle. Like that blazing sky above me, I am a study of contrasts. Born before the technological boom, growing up alongside the Internet and computers, a child of several worlds. In that moment, without WiFi access or cell tower reception, I felt truly connected, dialed in to the beating life pulse of the universe. In that moment, I felt insignificant and overawed by our planet and dizzily, wonderfully unsure. In that moment, I inhaled the world and breathed out new roots.

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