It’s raining and I was running up the streets in northwest Toronto this morning. In every other tree there was an orchestra of birds while the geese heralded their arrival overhead. I caught this beyond my headphones and above the periphery of my running cap because I was aiming for distraction.
Still getting used to the fat squirrels who’ve probably been so confused by the change of climate. We welcome spring so fast here now, we forget that it hasn’t always been this way. Three blankets of snow in the season does not a winter make. This is just our new reality, so I shrug and welcome it anyway because I need warmth, only it’s raining today.
When we first moved up here, it wasn’t lost on me that you moved me back to a place where my recurring dreams end up. It’s not always a scary ending, in fact, just north from our house are the buildings I gather my family up in dreams to keep them safe. I had my first driving lesson on our street. I made the school I used to be heavily bullied at part of my route, not to relive anything, but to remind myself how things change, perspectives change over time. When you pick up the kids for your visits now, I go for a run at night through my old neighbourhood, now the one I’m settled in once again, and think of nothing. I distract myself with the sights of people going to work, coming home from work, grocery shopping, and traffic. I live on the cross sections of major concrete rivers in our city. The actual rivers just around them.
A squirrel gathers nuts to fatten itself before winter. It all goes to their cheeks, legs, thighs, and little paws. As soon as you told me you were leaving, (right after I asked if we could work this out. You said no because you had been thinking of it for three years. A secret hard for you keep.), I went into survival mode. I gathered up whatever internal resources I had in me and we went through the list of things we had to do.
How could I ever think you betrayed me, you didn’t, because you know, I am no saint. I know how this goes. I see opportunity and I take it. I used to think it was living free. Seize the day, you used to say to me. Then you did it too. I see how karma works. Heaven knows you taught me more about spirituality than school ever did.
I gathered it all up and you gathered yourself up. I opened up the boxes I had my stuff in and threw out all the garbage. I organized my room and our children’s rooms. Took down the engagement photo and put up twin photos of you holding our son and I holding up our daughter. Both of them age one, but a year apart.
Today I ran up the hills of northwest Toronto trying to forget the importance of today in my too long memory. This has taught me commemorations mean nothing when you can rewrite the day anew for a different version of you. The honk of a horn and a cat call on my run more keenly noticed now because of who I am now or what this transition has helped opened my eyes to. Too many things to mention.
It’s been eighteen years since we started things at Jane Station. It’s been four months after we finished. This will be the last time I mark today as what it was. I bought breakfast for the kids and they are happy. We’ve done that. That is one vow we keep on: to help our kids be happy. The best constraint.
I am glad we had what we did. I am hopeful in the steps you’ve made for your own happiness. Of course, I get angry and I cry, but what anger does is set back. I could be lying all day in bed crying to Radiohead. But why would I today when the first thing a squirrel does before winter is gather nuts? Besides, I did all my crying yesterday. Salty rivers for months have dried up my face. It’ll take a bit. Believe me, I see what you mean about freedom and independence. There is a lot of hope inside me too. I’m working hard so I don’t need you or anyone again.
I write this because you’ll never read it. All those times I read you my poems and you pretended to listen. Then you’d say that I was getting better. Yet you’re the only one I believed.
You don’t need to care about what I do now. I know you care. You say so with every good bye hug and the look you give me when you’re trying to read my thoughts. I try not to care if you do. You’ve moved on and the climate changed so fast. I am adjusting. I am gathering.
I need the warmth in my head and my heart. I will find it.
This isn’t winter coming. It’s an enduring summer.
The thing I don’t get about trauma is how people tell you to get over it. Stuff happens. Stuff does happen, but it doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make it all right.
Abuse happened to me through other children, adults I trusted, strangers, and these were all times when I was either vulnerable or strong. There’s no formula for the conditions of abuse. It happens. However, a violence that happens to you is a violation that makes a scarring imprint. How do we heal?
I grew up in a very Hispanic family as I’ve mentioned before. Much of the stuff women in Hispanic families are told is based on maintaining a weird patriarchal-matriarchal tension that has become an ideology. You either listen to your mother or you listen to the man of the house. But you always default to the eldest man of the house. If he isn’t around it’s the mother’s words you heed, but if you’re married or seeing a guy, you default to his needs and wants.
You also are taught to repress a lot to maintain appearances or an upstanding status within the community. Women are always shamed into submitting. Women bring shame, men bring honour. Supposedly. This is why abortion is still illegal in many Latin American countries like Colombia. You get put in jail for having an abortion, regardless of how you got pregnant.
In several circumstances, women and children are silenced within Hispanic families for speaking out against sexual abuse. If you reveal it, the first thing that’s asked of you is how you provoked it or maybe why you didn’t speak up sooner, implying a sort of conspiracy of some sort. This isn’t always the case, but my impression growing up with and around Hispanic families, this was/is the norm for children and women.
And yet, abortion is still illegal in some parts of Latin America. Women are still shamed for not getting married or immediately labelled as lesbian, as if that were a derogatory term.
The way I dealt with trauma was to repress it. Buck up, learn from it, and deal with it. You’re better than your trauma. The problem with that though is if you live many years this way, that trauma manifests itself later on in weird ways. You hurt yourself or hurt others, or your body starts to internally explode with destroying schema. Schemas are supposed to help deal with stress (ie., panic attacks, anxiety, psychogenic seizures, etc.). They help the body deal with mental confusion and pain. It’s injurious though.
There is no obligation to anyone who has had a trauma to speak of it. Everyone finds respite and healing in their own way. I’ve had injurious schema and have lessened it through writing online about it. Why does anyone silence anyone, especially women, who have trauma? If we were allowed to speak of it more, we could understand why it happens. If we understood why it happens, then maybe we could help prevent it from happening so often.
I’m speaking solely as me because I can not speak for every woman, but I can speak to support every woman’s right to choose. I’m writing through the lens of an Hispanic woman who sees abortion as a life saving operation. A women’s right is to be safe and have the potential to do anything that doesn’t involve being with a man. If she chooses not to have a child, regardless of the circumstances, no one has a say in that except because it is her body. A life is not a life unless it is lived. There is no such thing as “potential life.” Maybe we should be imprisoning men who masturbate. Why don’t we? Because they’re men. Why does society try to tell women what’s right and what’s wrong? Because we’re women. That’s the illogical logic.
The attacks happening at abortion clinics around the world are atrocious. They’re trauma over trauma and a way silencing women. You’re killing people. Women who have an abortion are saving themselves. They’re saving themselves from a society that tells them what to do, how to be, how to look, and what to say all in the name of keeping them down and silenced.
There are parts of the world where they arrest women who have an abortion. There are parts of the world where you have to give birth to the child born of rape and incest. There are parts of the world where you are forced to give birth to a child without any regard for the body aka the person it came from.
The terrorists bombing, shooting, and committing violent acts against women to maintain a dominion over them are no better than rapists and violators. They are inhuman pieces of shit procreating a culture of violence and trauma that will never end unless woman take up their inherent right to speak out and claim their own rights.
“Dina and Daniel head to Toronto, a.k.a. Hotline Bling central, and Jacqueline Valencia is there to talk with them about Toronto Poetry Talks, her upcoming poetry collection, There is No Escape Out of Time, diversity and race in poetry, teens, chocolate and Instagram. D & D give an update from their trip to Montreal’s strip clubs, karaoke bars and mozzarella stick establishments and even create a new strip club. And we all shout out The BreakBeat Poets and come up with whole new categories of literary awards.”
From the event site: “Harriet’s Legacies: Race, Historical Memory and Futures in Canada Organized by Ronald Cummings, Natalee Caple, Gregory Betts, Kevin Gosine, and Tamari Kitossa This important conference will highlight the historical presence of Black Canadians in Canada. The title refers to the crucial role that St. Catharines played in the Underground Railroad and the abolition of slavery. Harriet Tubman, who is recognized by UNESCO, as a freedom seeker, abolitionist and ‘conductor’ was the city’s most renowned participant in the Underground Railroad. Tubman and the Black citizens who helped to build St. Catharines are soon to be recognized by the opening of a new elementary school in downtown St. Catharines. The timing of the conference will help to connect the university and the broader community around shared goals of unity in diversity, the recovery and memorialization of Black history in Ontario and the promotion of general knowledge around the multiple accomplishments of Black Canadians”
I’ll be on a panel tomorrow, October 22nd:
2:00-3:15 Panel 3: Creative Writing / Writing Through Race and Building
Chair: Natalee Caple
I’m going out tonight to see Patti Smith talk about her newest book, M Train, at the Design Exchange here in Toronto. I saw her perform once and that was by sure luck and the generosity of a friend who gave me an extra ticket to see her at the AGO. Tickets for Patti Smith always sell out fast here and I think that a lot of venues underestimate her importance in the here and now. The AGO is a small venue and once tickets went up, the fans brought the site down from their demand. It’s made me think a lot about how much we love the heroes we admire.
“The boy was in the hallway drinking a glass of tea From the other end of the hallway a rhythm was generating Another boy was sliding up the hallway He merged perfectly with the hallway, He merged perfectly, the mirror in the hallway”
(Patti Smith, “Land,” Horses)
Artists and sports legends become these eternal super-people in our minds. I’m a fan of a lot of things, but I’d be left a bumbling fool if I were ever to meet Peter Gabriel, Patti Smith, or Arnold Schwarzenegger (there’s a lot missing though because I should put in Sting, Claire Denis, Ian Curtis, Anne Sexton, Alan Parker, Blondie, Chris Marker, Mary Shelley, etc., etc., but I’m not going to because it would make this too long really). The only thing they have in common is my love for their work, but I guess in some ways Gabriel and Smith connect because of their music. Schwarzenegger stands on his own because my main love for him is because of my favourite film of all time is Conan the Barbarian. It’s not a film that I can easily pull out in auteur conversations without resorting to idiotic quotes and cheesy trivia that only matters to me.
Patti Smith is a good example. I got into Patti Smith about the same time Lou Reed and William S. Burroughs came into my life musically and in books. I connected with the surreal, yet down to earth nature of Burroughs and Reed, but Smith’s music exuded a weird erotic yet grounding existential now for me. She’s just everything I’ve ever wanted to be. She’s a writer, musician, an intellect, and has lived her life well. I can’t imagine ever being like her, but her work is something I aspire to getting somewhat close to.
I planned my first trip to New York City through her book Just Kids. I have two copies: the one I first read, and the other I read again to highlight the places I should go to feel the ghosts of things she’d seen and heard.
“Is was in a Beat humor. The Bibles were piled in small stacks. The Holy Barbarian. The Angry Young Men. Rummaging around, I found some poems by Ray Bremser. He really got me going. Ray had that human saxophone thing. You could feel his improvisational ease the way language spilled out like linear notes. Inspired, I put on some Coltrane but nothing good happened. I was just jacking off. Truman Capote once accused Kerouac of typing, not writing. But Kerouac infused his being onto rolls of Teletype paper, banging on his machine. Me, I was typing. I leapt up frustrated.”
This is what I get from Smith: her undying love for the word. She’s a bookworm like me. Her mastery over the word, however, is something so underrated. If I’ve read half the amount of books she has in her lifetime and sucked up so little in turn, I can only aspire and I’m happy there. I never wanted more than to just exist in that middle ground (which I don’t think I’ve reached yet). It’s the middle ground where your brain tries its best to catch with what it has seen, read, and heard. Through the peripheral world of Smith, I’ve come to know the NYC punk scene, the beat poets, the French romantics, and the spin offs in the film world. I owe a lot to my influences, not for what I write or my work, but for the ever evolving thirst to know more than what is within myself. If every person is a universe within itself, I can’t imagine forever being boring. I want to exist in the plane and write in the plane where forever stands still in expectation.
I’m writing this in a spontaneous state of upward mania coming up from down and I know the down is coming real soon again. This is a state where people take their anchors (sad or happy or angry music, cooking up a storm, cleaning the house, focusing on work, taking a walk, lying on the floor, seeing a friend, having a drink, coping, etc.). I’m taking an anchor today in writing my excitement at seeing a hero again. In a time where all the heroes become human because we know way too much about them (or think we do) through media and in the endless twitter stream, sometimes the light isn’t dulled because of their humanity. I guess, the light should never end because of it. However, Patti Smith is one of the few examples that heroes are perfect with their scars, flaws, and imperfections. The gilded cracks in their interior make their exterior shine ever more. They make you want to be the best you, even if that you is full mania and gloom.
“We broke from our moth husks alive in the night,
the sky smeared with stars we no longer see.
A child’ creed stitched on handkerchiefs —–
God does not abandon us
we are all he knows.
We must not abandon him,
he is ourselves
of our deeds.
The whistling hobo calls, sweeping time, sweeping time.
I admire because I aspire and in such my heart sings to just be. This is where one doesn’t give a fuck about what you are in the entirety of it all. I am me and in all my chaotic, self indulgent doom reverie I still scream. From there I create and express. You can’t pin a historic document on a person’s lifetime and you can’t really place a marker of any significance on an individual star. I am mediocrity and a xerox machine. But I am still there, observing, expressing, painting an imprint, and in there is the connection to a universal truth of spirit and faith. Fandom is a religion, like everything else. No one state holds dominion over an individual’s emotions and in that is the validation. Despite the media’s swing of vituperation for failure, the words, lyrics, performance, and spectacle…if the undeniable connection is there, all hail fandom: an escape and return to find one’s true self.
Say hello to your heroes, lose yourself in them, and revel in the joy they bring. They ask for nothing more than for you to just be.
Your tempest in a teapot,
Update: I had no idea there would be a book signing. It’s a weirdo photo of me, but OMG PATTI. ❤
No idea if she’ll read and/or like the book I gave her, but this small exchange …I have no words.
When I was a kid it has been my dream to write books that you could look up at the library or bookstore. You could see the name of the book and the author on the spine as you’d scan the rows of shelves. It’s a dream come true and if anything, I’m very happy and grateful to have this opportunity.
Some other big news is that I’ve been hired by theRusty Toque as one of their Senior Literary Editors. I’m honoured to be a part of this magazine and to work with Kathryn Mockler to boot. Their openness to all forms of art, poetry, and literature has been far reaching and I hope to contribute as best I can to it.
I’m still plugging away at my novel. I don’t say much on it since it’s taken all sorts of turns to the form it is now. There’s no stresses on it, just a lot of sorting out of arcs, research, and ideas that need fleshing out.
This fall The Power Plant in Toronto is opening an exhibition featuring the work of Dora García.García‘s work is heavily influenced by literary references and the exhibition investigates and stages the work of James Joyce through annotated books, performance and video.
I’ve been asked by The Power Plant to give an hour talk on my perspective of the exhibit for their Sunday Scene on November 8th at 2pm.
First of all, it blows my mind that we’ll have Dora García’s work here in Toronto, but on top of that I get to speak on it!
On the film critic front, I’ve been accredited again this year for The Toronto International Film Festival! I’ll be a reporter on the scene doing reviews and interviews for Next Projection. Always a high energy time and I’m over the moon about it. It’s work, but it’s fun.
More details on everything as this year has been a bit overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fired up though! This with planning the Toronto Poetry Talks (and many thanks to all who have come to help at the monthly meetings!), it’s all go go go. Staying the course and working at it.