Words as Sanctuary: Poetry as Community

Hello, how are you? I’m fine, just living in Modesto and creating poetry events at my library…the latest event is Words as Sanctuary: Poetry as Community at the MJC East Campus Library & Learning Center. Check out the gorg flyer local artist Andrew Cain created for this event. And I’m so thrilled to present, again, writers from the Hmong American Writers’ Circle, featuring poets Soul Vang and Pos Moua along with Yu-Ha Chao; the most excellent performance poet and REFORMA superstar Aideed Medina; and UndocuPoets collaborator and current Stegner Fellow Esther Lin. This event features an opportunity to have work published in a new little zine that our brave library is pioneering. See the event page for all the details.

…Like a red rubber ball

What in the goddamn hell is going on? Look, an entire year + has passed, and nary a word from my brain to this page was recorded. Lots of things in life got wrecked beyond recognition: my daughter was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in late 2017 (+ underwent chemotherapy, and has been cancer-free now for 10 months, so there’s a happy ending). Then, after that emotional ablation, love came to me and just as swiftly it slammed the door shut on itself. Hey, what’s that I see on the horizon? Oh, it’s me, holding myself up, all by myself, and that's all it ever is.

It’s a miracle to be exactly in this spot, where time is not a straight line but more a dimension on which we travel laterally & beyond, outward, on a carpet or a bedknobs-and-broomsticks-type situation. I love my daughter and am mad with joy that she will graduate high school in precisely 4 months and go out into the world, with courage and spirit that grows out of shit circumstance. Sure as fuck won’t take shit for granted. And won’t take shit, either.

Random, related wonderfulness: I danced next to my friend Josslyn on New Year’s Eve for a time and drank a whisky-infused cup of coffee. I’ve taken up watching a long-delayed teeVEE series with a dear friend. I’ve heard geese flying north in the middle of the night two times in the past week. I drove out in the country with Joe and did some non-adult smashy things that felt really fucking great. I’m writing some lines of poems again, and I am okay with most of the feelings that arrive in my forebrain. I know what it’s like to be held by community: how people brought us dinner for 4 straight months last year so I didn’t have to shop and cook while my daughter and I were home from her chemo treatments in Oakland. How my best friend Gillian hand-drew for me monthly calendars of meal deliveries & brought over an illustrated list of things I can do when I was feeling crap. How my family continued to show up for me so many times, helping with house care and beyond. Considering all of these thoughts, I recently became aware that I might be in a state of happiness. Enjoying this probably-brief excusion into that foreign country. <3

10 Ways to Feel More Alive

1. Gather beautiful designs on Pinterest. Cut your legs in beautiful patterns with a razor or box cutter. In a pinch, a sharp twig or sewing pin will do.  
2. Take your safety net and turn it into fishnet tights. 
3. Put your whole body into it; at times, ignore the fact your body is standing in the next room waiting for you to return to itself. 
4. Touch your knee to the knee of the person sitting next to you. Feel sparks and think explosion.
5. Walk outside on a 101 degree day in the California Central Valley. Notice when sweat comes. 
6. Bad things are most assuredly happening at all times. Here you are, rubbing shoulders with those shadows. Be grateful. 
7. Just as giant sequoias in the Sierras require heat to regenerate, so does your nervous system. Drink 2 shots of rye in rapid succession. Mark event as recurring.  
8. Take your lovers to the same diner whenever they spend the night. Confound the waitress. 
9. Hold your breath and learn to love how it feels when fate's wheel crushes your brittle rib-cage.  
10. Swallow your feelings; over time, build a structure of scar tissue around the lump in your chest. This is your new home. 

Factory of sparks and explosion. &nbsp;

Factory of sparks and explosion.  

Moving on, summer 2017

My fire alarm has a feature which engages when the battery needs to be changed: it beeps and a woman's recorded voice intones, calmly and business-like, "low battery." I'm taking it as a warning for my entire existence. 

It's the last week of my job as librarian/supervisor at the Tracy Library before I take a month-long break. In August,  I start a new position as academic librarian at Modesto Junior College, a job I've long since coveted.

And damn, I have needed the break. In the past 1 1/2 years, the job has sucked the life out of me. I commute 1 1/2  hours per day, arrive at a workplace where no one seems to be on the same team & which has been ruled by a long-time toxic employee with control issues.  I can't believe grown-ass adults can't just do what they're supposed to do. Which is this: do as I say, and life will be better, because I'm magic, you fuckers. MAGIC. 

So. In the time off, I'm writing poems, start riding my new bike, planning work on the local 100,000 Poets for Change, and get some long-neglected shit done in my house. Maybe address all my deep-seated emotional issues. No big deal. 

So what is planned for the break? In between poem-writing and mom stuff, I'll be reading with poet Dana Gioa at the Carnegie Arts Center, talking to kids in a summer writing program at CSU Stanislaus, reading poems at our local UU church, and starting an oral history project with Modesto Sound. Oh, and there's this radio project I've wanted to do with the Modesto Peace-Life Center...and leaving the country would be pretty rad too. And starting a zine. And planning a poetry walk.

 I need to stay alive for all those things, so help me out, would you? 

Mayn't We Struggle

Here's a list of poetry things:  

1. Read at LitHop April 29. 

2. Helped organize and present the Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center's benefit on April 30.  

3. Attended Queen Bean Poetry Night; read "How to Find Someone or Something by Praying."

4. Wrote poem for Amgen VIP event, May 4.  

5. Judged Merced College's first poetry slam on May 4. Outdoors, 97° heat in early May. Thanks, Obama. 

6. Ordered poetry books for my library: Solmaz Sharif, Danez Smith, Layli Long Soldier, Gillian Wegener, Dana Koster, Linda Scheller. 

6.5. Helping Linda Scheller celebrate her new book, Fierce Light, at party this afternoon.

7. Emceeing/reading poem from Item 3 at City of Modesto's Poets' Corner Reading on Sunday May 7. 

8. Second Tuesday Reading at the Barkin' Dog on May 9. 

9. Mai Der Vang will read at Dana's series at Tri-Chromatic Gallery on Fri. May 12.  

10. Writing poems with Dana Koster at Cosmic Gathering on May 13: "Seedy Poetry: Poems. Wishes. Curses."  

11. Die.