Watch the Gap

To the curly haired, now-slumped over,

gloomily-looking-into-the-distance, 24 year old

sitting on the train, who gave a dollar and an apple away:

thank you.

And it is not your fault.

It is no one person’s fault.

 

If it is, it is that of a few hundred white men,

a few hundred years ago (rounding?)

who claimed their stake at power

and left a wave of predecessors in their wake –

convincing others to do the same

(blackmail, quid pro pro, survival).

 

And here we all are:

soaked in it.

No one is innocent.

We cannot just will it away, drop by drop.

 

It’s a whole other ocean we’re swimming in.

 

http://apps.urban.org/features/wealth-inequality-charts/

 

September 23, 2019

Choose

What choice did I have?

I’m sitting in a torn, bright red, faux leather booth

with photographs of the same old, white man painting a wall splattered on the table.

I do not want to flirt with this long haired, slightly high-pitched voiced Brazilian in front of me.

But what choice do I have?

When it’s an early fall, newly crisp night and your roommate (your sister) invites a “friend” over and you share a bedroom wall with her

I spread my choices out in front of me: ways to meet new people when your sister is banging a guy on the other side of your wall and your friends are all moving to California and leaving you gone with the wind

I download Tinder

What other choice did I have?

I swipe like a good millennial woman, earn my 100 likes in 10 minutes with an assortment of 9 semi-curated self portraits of ease, and no consequence, and pretty-without-trying, and white skin

My brain eats the matches up, aware of the dopamine yet succumbing happily to the little moments of pleasure and validation and rush

What other choice do I have when algorithms have already pierced by face in my last 100 profiles; what good does deleting a profile do?

I walk with the Brazilian man down Bedford Ave and he doesn’t know I live four blocks away (thank goodness he does not know I live four blocks away) and how grateful I am that he took a 30 minute bus to get here instead of me

First impressions, big breaths at the end of his sentences, maybe he is nervous? Maybe I look different than my photos, too? Then he lands, “But enough about me, this is a date. We should get to flirting.”

I thought we had agreed to start with friends and go from there; I thought that was “your philosophy”; I thought I knew you after our 5 min text-app conversation.

My therapist told me dating would be good for me.

And what other choice did I have? As I am walking down this dark street the shadows get darker and I become more aware of my heartbeat and my keys in my left pocket and his substantially larger frame, I tell him, “That’s not my philosophy.”

Sitting on the subway counting the number of people sitting semi-miserably, half conscious staring at a smart phone, most likely an iPhone, playing games and reading texts and scrolling and liking and scrolling and liking, I know the advertisements are still there, both above their heads and in the palm of their hands. I thought I chose another path when I bought this darn Verizon flip phone

I swipe on my old 5C with WiFi and one of my matches chats me up, “anti-capitalist immigrant…let’s talk shit and play with each other’s hair,” recognizes my cis-women luxury to not have to message first even though I used to (before I remembered this was a game and why am I trying so hard?) a cat meme, waving hello

He does not understand my philosophy.

He eases in towards me, brushing my shoulder and my hand – and I back away, tell him I’m a Capricorn, I like the land, I am grounded, and yes I am serious.

I smile as I say it, feel the imprint of the key zig-zag on my finger and finally agree to turn around back to where the bars are, away from north Bedford shadows and whispers of old Tinder date conversations

I gave my sister some privacy (check) this is worth it this is worth it this is worth it

How did I chose this? I don’t even like bars. Or strangers. Or small talk. When we settle in the beer stained, still somehow red booth, I tell him my philosophy is to use the first date to decide if I want to flirt with this profile come to life, an actual, flawed human being.

I tell him that if he gets anything out of meeting me he should check out “Stealing Your Feelings” and that gets me thinking about data and capital and democracy

and choices

that some Silicon Valley giant made for me when they curated my choices for the night, plugged it into our collective conscious, and eased me into paying $11 for a watermelon margarita and a Saturday hangover.

 

In all seriousness! You, too, should check out https://blog.mozilla.org/blog/2019/09/23/introducing-stealing-ur-feelings-an-interactive-documentary-about-big-tech-ai-and-you/ but don’t worry, I won’t force you to

October 12, 2019

Litany

The thing is…

it depends on how you define environmentalists.

 

If you define them as the recyclers and the “good-doers,”

the vegan eaters who see nature as something outside

of New York City’s walls, then I am with you, my friend—

I am tired of them.

 

Don’t get me wrong,

I nod my head to them—

but I bow my head, low,

to those teaching me

in this moment of climate catastrophe,

as my mom figures that, “Yeah,

my fall flowers may die

in this 90 degree late-September heat

but they look okay, now,”

that this is a fight for justice.

 

Look up the social pyramid

and you will see them:

another man with bottom line on the mind,

another woman standing up for him.

Another man calling out why feminism is

“A scam. We’re all equal here.”

 

It’s in the oil.

It’s in the system

that we were all born into.

It matters how we got here, oh yes.

It matters how we fight so that our children,

our children’s children and their children, stay around.

Can you really see them, Mr. and Mrs. Man, from way up there?

 

The system was rigged long ago,

and we have so much to carry already.

Shame is too heavy.

We need our hands to fight;

We need our voices to scream.

 

We need our eyes to see into the very near future,

into a world where the insects lay dead* and

and the birds in the morning don’t sing like they use to

and the fish in the ocean don’t swim like they used to

and the bread on the table don’t taste like it used to

because we cannot go back.

 

We can only hold those high up fuckers accountable,

rebuild,

and move on.

 

Industry heads, government leaders, blog readers: we are way past deciding whether climate change is something to be “believed.”

A highly recommended read: https://popula.com/2019/08/19/the-case-for-climate-rage/

*and a note: https://e360.yale.edu/features/insect_numbers_declining_why_it_matters

 

September 24, 2019

Only In My Head

Does anyone else

realize how fast

we are moving,

or is it just me?

Railroad cars,

and subway cards,

and price limits,

and band tickets

all so much to buy

I’m not sure who has the time

and courage

to yell, “Stop!”

Just fucking stop already.

I channel my thoughts to my 17 year old brother

awake,

in bed,

on his phone,

under a VR mask,

playing the switch

(or whatever it’s called these days).

Yes, play Pokemon Go, my boy,

but don’t live Pokemon Go.

“They think I’m happy,” Yeah, Joe.

“They think I’m happy when I’m sad.”

That’s all this social media is about.

I may speak, write, live directly,

but I can be patient about it.

Do not write me down as just another name,

another number, to walk into a room of strangers,

check my pocket three times for a ghost buzz,

see no notifications, selfie instead, and move on.

Instagram? Marketing.

Facebook? Self deprecating.

It all doesn’t exist until we make it exist,

that’s what Steve Jobs, a Steven Jobs,

said, some time, some where.

The Internet is a place like any other;

no wonder we move so fast to keep up,

living in two worlds —

I got enough on my mind,

a bi gal wondering what to do with all this love.

Be patient, spread it ’round;

don’t squash it and run.

 

This all happens in my mind, 9AM,

on a subway car: cold yet humid,

crowded yet silent

on mustard yellow seats

pretending to be chairs,

heads down,

money away,

screens up.

 

August 28, 2019

 

Thank you Jonas Brothers for inspiring this poem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZnBVfSGdqk

My Gold

Because how can you read the news, my Jo?

How can that shit be your day job?

The day glaciers melt and

people teach machines to

teach other people

about the same machines and

sitting in my rose garden all alone

can lead to murder and

taking a soda without asking

and running out the door

can lead to murder and

you can meet a love of your life

and realize that everyone

is human, and that no relationship

or person will ever be perfect and

that in spite of all the “good shit”

going your way, you can still feel

lonely and out dated and

so damn curious about the future

that you just don’t want to know anymore.

 

How can anyone guarantee family?

I got so god damn lucky.

 

How can anyone read my lips

and promise neutrality?

Everyone’s always gotta have an opinion.

 

We live on stories, so we might as well

accept the truth and move on.

 

If truth is the end of a rainbow

I am never going to see,

I might as well pray to it

and acknowledge its existence anyway,

know that Spinoza will help me find my way,

that Julia will help me find my way,

and that this god damn one beautiful Earth

that has done nothing but save our sorry souls

one lifetime after another, promising renewal

and never quitting, never disappointing—

it lives in me. In you. In us.

 

After I read the news,

I have to remember:

my first mother may one day be all I have left,

but she is everything…

before I got here, now, and long after

you and I are gone.

 

Thank you for giving me the chance to live on, to see a few stories play out,

and know that while the foreground is temporary, the background holds,

sacred,

secure.

 

August 19, 2019

A Note

To my beautiful baby brother:

you have to grow up in an age of social media

and all of its toxins

and it is not your fault.

You have no control over it,

nor do I.

All I want do to is live it for you—

the suicides,

the mass shooting threats,

every day life in boring ass high school —

keep it boring!

School was meant to be that way,

safe enough to be boring.

Not even the white people are safe,

not even the rich people.

My beautiful Puerto Rican brother:

do you fit in? do you like it? do you not?

Tell me more than “ugh.”

I know your innocent face,

your soul-searching eyes

I have seen your heart

and its pure essence

a thousand times.

I just hope I told you enough stories…

about how much you are loved,

and how smart and kind and handsome

you are, my brother — you can do it,

because it cannot last for much longer.

I will take every bullet of some child

calling out for help;

I will relive 9th, 10th — fuck, every grade

if that is what it takes to protect you,

to take up that space of wondering.

The world has changed

in just 10 short years between me and you.

Look at what Facebook has done,

kids sending Snaps 1,000 times a day.

My brother I do not know shit about “SnapChat”

but I know you are more than it,

I promise you.

Everyone is wandering,

looking for more than a screen—

and yet video games have saved you.

Play SmashBros all freaking day

if that is what it takes to save you, my boy,

from giving a damn what people think.

How do I protect you from this world…

this pit of society

that is eating minds and bodies alive?

How do I get you to talk truth?

Who cares “how.”

Know that it is enough to try,

enough to be with yourself,

fully.

Whenever your body yells,

“Trauma!”

“Pain!”

“Greif!”

Cradle every part

and say, “I am here for you, always.”

And remember:

your sister is here for you.

Always.

 

March 29, 2019

A Song For You

To write a song for you…

I’m not sure

that would be enough

to conquer all the land mines

and droughts of ego,

to call back love and light and mystery

all in their due time.

You are an angel

from a sky I have not seen;

you are a fighter

sent to battle with the demons of our ancestors,

a capitalistic machine

that drowns us all in its own way;

you are the oxygen tank.

 

Take your place on the stage, my dear,

and I will hear your heart sing before your lungs,

will promise to throw every rose

from my garden up to you,

to let you take a bow,

to strike up a conversation with my neighbor

when he says, “God damn, that child sure does know how to sing,”

to which I will say, “And she sure does know how to live.”

 

May 6, 2018