Weekly reading 2

Another round up of articles, ideas, and even a video.


Dancer Merce Cunningham, left, and writer M.C. Richards met at Black Mountain College. The two were lifelong friends and collaborated at times, though Cunningham was known for only caring about dance, while Richards was interested in the ways various creative disciples informed each other.

• “Going It Alone” by Rahawa Haile in Outside: “There were days when the only thing that kept me going was knowing that each step was one toward progress, a boot to the granite face of white supremacy. I belong here, I told the trail. It rewarded me in lasting ways.”

• “Race is a fiction. Racism is not” by Francys Johnson at TEDxUGA: “From the cradle to the grave, racism — theory, practice and discrimination — matters. And it matters for this reason: Racism, like all of the other isms, is legally constructed, socially maintained, politically expedient and still confers too many economic benefits.”

• “This Is Proof That Institutional Racism Is Still Very Much A Problem” by Mia Mercado in Bustle: “The practice of redlining still exists, which involves denying funding or services based on the racial demographics of an area. Just this month, AT&T was accused of discriminating against low-income neighborhoods.” And more discouraging news about institutionalized bias.

• “How We Met: Merce Cunningham and M C Richards,” in the Independent: “Merce was Jonas the mechanical monkey, Willem de Kooning did the decor, and Buckie Fuller was in the lead – he was there because, I think, it was his 50th birthday and he was celebrating by building the first geodesic dome which, as I remember, fell down.”

• “7 overlooked women writers you should be reading now” on PBS Newshour: “Writers whose work was dazzling or influential, but had been mostly forgotten or overlooked, either because of their gender, the language in which they wrote, or other reasons we had not imagined.”

Weekly reading

I opted out of the Goodreads challenge this year not because I’m not that into reading, but because in January I issued myself a different sort of challenge: Read more work by writers of color, LGBT writers and differently abled writers. It’s taken my reading in interesting directions — into more non-fiction and into more magazine and blog articles (as opposed to just books).

Here’s what I’ve been reading and thinking about this week. If you check any of these links out, let me know what you think.

pulitzer winners

How America Fails Black Girls (New York Times): “Mainstream feminism has historically ignored the issues facing runaway and other missing black girls as well as most other issues regarding women and children of color.”

This Whole ‘Are Trans Women Real Women’ Thing is Gross (Medium.com): “Often, [trans women] talk about a type of interior struggle to realize that it’s ok to like feminine things, and it doesn’t make you worse to embody feminine traits. This is absolutely something I have been struggling with my whole life.”

This Is What I Mean When I Say ‘White Feminism’ (Cate-young.com): “White feminism is any expression of feminist thought or action that is anti-intersectional. It is a set of beliefs that allows for the exclusion of issues that specifically affect women of colour. It is ‘one size-fits all’ feminism, where middle class white women are the mould that others must fit.”

Short and sweet recommendation: W. Kamau Bell’s Resistance Reading (Mother Jones)

Worth noting: Olio by Tyehimba Jess (featured image, right) just won the 2017 Pulitzer for poetry and The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (featured image, left) won for fiction. It’s good to see writers of color recognized for their work and made prominent in the collective conversation about literature. We need so much more of this, but these two wins are important.


Bus ride to Glasgow

An essay constructed from notes written in Scotland, March, 2013

The bus departs from the station in a belch of diesel exhaust. Only the locals board there. Tourists are oblivious to the city busses as they wait for their carefully mapped day excursions. Some plush coach that picks up at the Quaitch Guest House.

72415_10151514836280218_601959733_nQuickly multistory apartment buildings give way to squat stone cottages with neat white doors. A pair of bay windows on each, because light matters. Old mixed with new, sometimes gracefully, but the city’s growth at its far reach is an ugly gash of mud and large equipment. Power lines across a gray sky, bus shelter at the end of the world.

Norton House Hotel, Ratho Station. A guy boards with a short Mohawk and someone’s initials — perhaps his own — inked behind his ear. D.W. in script. Villages rise and fall beyond the bus window. They are stunted and napping, like villages everywhere. Towns don’t buzz like cities do. Cities never sleep. Towns keep hitting the snooze button. Continue reading

Winter writes to spring


Is it okay to be happy today, when
the world is so sad? To fold into the arms
of pink and yellow, to carry my grief
like an Easter egg — fragile but vivid.

Maybe I’ll leave this sorrow among the leaves
of new grass, its green the pulse of breathing
and of ceasing to breathe; of all that ebbs
and flows again. Maybe I’ll string this sorrow

among the branches of the cherry trees
for the birds to weave into nests, or for the wind
to carry away. Maybe I’ll plant it deep
in the still-dreaming earth

and see what blooms.

A Valentine’s Day poem. Sort of.


This is what you named the rat you bought
from the pet store. White fur and red eyes
that narrowed and darted and never met yours.

Because you couldn’t afford a cage,
Valentine lived in a cardboard box
though it took him less than one night

depressed-runaway-teenager-in-backyard-picture-id175482777to chew his way out and move into the cupboards.
But the apartment you shared with three other girls,
none of you yet eighteen, was empty of food

and furniture and parents and anyone
who could make a decent decision. You lived on
school lunches and leftover desserts

from the restaurants where you washed dishes. You slept
like four orphans curled together on one mattress.
You read poetry sometimes, for entertainment,

but mostly prowled the night streets, stealing
toilet paper from hotels and tampons from the machines
in gas station bathrooms. Scraped knuckles to prove it. Who knew

how adults made their way in the world?
There was no guidebook. You were often hungry
but you didn’t need much food. When you’re young

you can go without a lot. Sleep, love, letters
from home. You lie awake and listen to the sounds
of the neighbors below, or the trucks on the highway

or the rattle of a pet rat gone feral
in the ductwork. Your father stopped by once
with some things. A winter coat, maybe, and fifty dollars.

So the four of you ate like lottery winners. Grilled cheese
and fries in a diner, the windows steamed over
like it was your own world. And you only wondered a little

how far you could have gotten if you’d kept the money
to yourself. But you didn’t know where to go
or how to get there, so you stayed

close to the rattle of the radiator and the other
night noises. The girls with their profiles sharpened, mean,
a shield against everything. Even the good things.

They brought boys home sometimes, for warmth
or distraction. Played cassette tapes of German punk,
ate shoplifted Grasshopper cookies. Minty and green

as a dream of a birthday party. Spring was close
when you finally caught the rat, trapped him
in a corner of the kitchen. Naked pink tail,

no kindness left in his face. Or maybe you’d imagined it.
That’s what you did. Like how you imagined Valentine
happy, living like a king in the dumpster

behind the apartment building. You should have felt sad
about letting him go, but you were only relieved. The night
had fewer teeth, and sleep circled steadily closer.