Poetry, Writing

When All Else Fails

I don’t have the words today.

What I mean is, I have nothing illuminating or interesting or amusing of my own to share.  I’m just not in the mood.

So I’m going to leave you with some more bits on Warsan Shire.

I’ve made no secret of my fascination with her. And through the clouds that continue to linger over me, I’m starting to realize why.  I don’t have the words today, so I can’t tell you exactly what it is. Maybe later. But not right now.

Anyway, enjoy these interview excerpts I rounded up:

List 3 things that have made you a better poet?

1. Not competing,

2. not comparing,

3. being honest (even if the truth is perhaps a little shameful, a little painful)

from “Ask a Poet” by Indigo Williams. Read the rest here.

Any writing rituals? What is your writing process like? Do you keep a journal, write before dawn…?

I write when everyone is asleep. I write with music. I never plan it. But it is a very constant. It feels organic. My poems come to me in images, like film. I can see it very clearly and then this overwhelming urge to write out best what I just saw comes over me. I write best with free writes, where I refuse to edit what is leaving me, where I write within a specific time frame. I refuse to obsess over it, and if it doesn’t come out easily, then I leave it. I don’t write for an audience. I don’t write under pressure. I’m thankful to take my time. The poems happen to me. Sometimes I have no actual idea where they have come from.

from “To Be Vulnerable and Fearless” by Kameelah Janan Rasheed. Read the rest here.

How did you develop such an acute sense of observation (about human nature in particular)? Is it something that came naturally to you or was it something that developed over time? Is that sense of observation perhaps what drew you to write in the first place?

I’ve always been very observant; I’d rather listen than speak. It’s overwhelming, the amount of detail I see in really mundane scenarios: strangers touching one another; someone arguing on the phone; a man falling asleep on the train. I’ll fill in the gaps of the story myself. In my mind I’ll follow them home, I’ll imagine their childhood, what their bedroom looks like, if they are in love with someone who does not love them. The downfall is that I give everything (and everyone) too much meaning. Sometimes a thing is vacant and I’ll create depth for it; that’s not always fair.

From “Warsan Shire’s Raw & Vulnerable Poetry” by Anya Wassenberg for OkayAfrica. Read the rest here.

And finally, listen to Warsan herself read her poem “What We Have” here (fast forward to the 23:30 mark, though the rest of the discussion is fairly interesting if you like poetry). I’m thinking of getting the last line of this poem tattooed on the inside of my left arm:

The only darkness we should allow into our lives is the night, and even then, we have the moon.

Decor, Personal, Yoga

Home Decor Obsessions and Root Chakra Clearing

At the very moment I type this, I have a West Elm shibori duvet and matching shams in my shopping cart. I am trying to convince myself not to buy them. One part of my brain is saying:  “You don’t need them. Save your money. Who cares if they’re on sale?” The other part is shouting, “But they’re so beautiful. And you may not need them now, but you will definitely need them later. What if they’re no longer available then? You’ll be sad you didn’t buy them when you had the chance.”

It is no coincidence that I had a pretty awful day at work yesterday.  I like to buy myself nice things when I get stressed out. Especially when the stress is job-related.  I tell myself that I deserve to spend the money I earn on something that will make me smile.  I hardly buy clothes or shoes anymore because a) I like to travel, so I save for two trips per year, three if I can get the time off; and b) if I do shop, I usually buy things for my home. I’m slowly amassing a collection of home decor items to take with me when I finally move.  My most outrageous purchase yet was a set of end tables from World Market.  When they were delivered to the house, Marvs said, “You can’t buy furniture. That’s just crazy. This isn’t a storage unit. This is my house!”   That exact thought actually crossed my mind when I hit the checkout button, but I ignored it because I’d been drooling over the tables for at least a year and they were finally on sale for HALF of their original price.  World Market had already discontinued the coordinating coffee table, so I thought it would be my last chance to get them.  They’re in their boxes in the sunroom now and I check on them once a week. It sounds absurd because it is.

I recently found myself enamored by this Tretchikoff pillow.  Laurie overheard me talking about it with Tiff and asked me the same question I have asked myself many times: “Why do you keep buying all these things when you have no use for them now?” I had no real explanation other than: “Because I want to?”

Her assessment: my root chakra needs some clearing.  Located at the bottom of the spine/groin area, the root chakra is associated with survival . Self-preservation.  Individuality. Security. Symptoms of a low-energy root chakra include lack of confidence,  anxiousness about finances, job, or home, weight issues, and feeling lost. All things I’ve experienced intermittently in the last several years.  Laurie thinks my need to collect all these pretty things allows me some semblance of control.  Sounds like she and my old therapist (still on the hunt for a new one) are on the same page.

So, I’m probably not going to buy the duvet and the shams, even though I really, really want them.

And now I need to figure out how to heal my root chakra. A quick search yielded this Mind Body Green article. I think I’ll start by practicing barefoot in the backyard to ground myself. And maybe I’ll try out all the reds in my nail polish stash.

My yogi friends, do you have any other suggestions?


Asana on Demand

So this kid who attends my “home” studio kind of annoys me.

[sidenote: He’s like 23 and it is very scary to me that I am old enough to think of him as a kid. But he sometimes behaves like an overgrown 8-year-old. So I do.]

Upon my return to LY, he said, “Oh Keisha! You just finished teacher training, right? You need to practice in the front row so I can check out your skills!”

We’ve already established that I have zero tact.  I just ignored him and set my mat in my usual corner in the back row.

After class, a student who was relatively new to the studio overheard him lamenting the fact that the teacher hadn’t done Bird of Paradise.  She asked him what the pose looked like.  I was, again, in the corner, minding my business, just trying to let the effects of the practice sink into my bones.  The kid turned to me and said, “You can do Bird of Paradise, right? Can you show us?”

Without looking at him, I began to pack my things and said, “I have to get home.  But since you wanted to do it in class so badly, why don’t you do it?”

I’m not sure if he caught the annoyance in my voice, because he clapped his hands and said, “You’re right!” Then he proceeded to demonstrate the pose as I sidestepped his puddles of sweat on the bamboo floor, trying to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible, before he could make any more ludicrous requests of me.

It took me a little while to figure out why I was so annoyed, and why I’ve since avoided taking classes with him.  But here it is:

I’m not a show pony.

I didn’t go through teacher training to become some superstar yogini.

I took the course because I wanted to learn how to teach yoga.

The fact of the matter is, although I have a fairly regular physical practice, there are just certain poses that my body, at this point, is unable to do.  I don’t necessarily have the lightness and fearlessness required for arm balances and inversions. I also have tight hips, tight quads, tight hamstrings. Pretty much the only part of my body where I’m not tight is my shoulders. So the arms in Gomukhasana  are no problem…but that’s not particularly impressive. I’m working on increasing my flexibility— I’ve even begun a yin practice. But that takes time. I have learned not to push myself. Pushing myself (training for the 10k that never was) is how I ended up with this bum knee. And I certainly won’t push myself for some overzealous student’s entertainment.

I can do Bird of Paradise, for the most part. My hamstrings do not allow me to extend my leg all the way. I’m okay with that.  Some days, my leg can straighten nearly all the way. Other days, I just chill in Utthita Parsvakonasana with my arms bound,  and I don’t bother with Bird of Paradise. Honestly…the fact that I can even bind facing my right is a physical triumph for me. I have scoliosis; my spine hooks to the left (which I exacerbate, much to my mother’s exasperation, by carrying my very heavy purse on my left shoulder), so twisting to the right can be downright painful for me. Regardless of my issues with the pose, it bothered me that this kid just assumed that I would perform for him.

I don’t go to class to show off. I go because it makes me feel good.  Compliments about the “impressive” poses  I can do make me slightly uncomfortable. Is it nice to be able to do beautiful things with my body? Absolutely. But the satisfaction of those poses comes from the hard work it takes to learn them, to make them work for my body. And one thing I learned throughout my teacher training—the physical practice is the least important part of this yoga journey for me.  Asana, though challenging, is not the reason why I show up to my mat every day.

When I attend classes, I try my best not to pay attention to the yogis around me. My practice is my practice. It doesn’t serve me to steal glances at another woman’s Eka Pada Koundinyasana, and wonder why she can get her back leg so high in the air and float there like magic, while I struggle to lift off for even just a few seconds.  So the idea of this kid watching me to see my “skills” made my skin crawl. It made me want to say to him: “Are you here to practice yoga? Or do you want to do gymnastics? Because there are gyms for that.”

But his practice is his practice.  Everyone does yoga for different reasons.

I will just keep ignoring him, and keep working on my Bird of Paradise until I can straighten that leg all the way.

And don’t expect me to just bust out a forearm stand or Eka Pada Galavasana for shits and giggles. It’s not gonna happen.

Fiction, Writing

Excerpts (+ Housekeeping)

I love when I find these random, abandoned scraps of stories or failed writing exercises and I actually like them:

My first boyfriend had skin the color of parchment paper, with large reddish freckles painted across his nose and cheeks. His eyes were round and grey, his eyelashes brown and short and stubby.  He blinked slowly when he lied. My friends did not understand what I saw in him. We were sophomores in college, and he had already been arrested twice that year, once for drugs possession and the other, for public intoxication.  He’d left a party in Norfolk high on ecstasy and with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit.  He took off his shirt and pissed on the sidewalk before he ever made it to his car.

He had another girlfriend at the university across the bay.  I saw her car parked across the street from my apartment complex for five nights in a row before she finally knocked on my door.  I knew it was her because the green and yellow plates were her school colors. When I opened the door, I expected her to throw acid on my face.  I shut my eyes and awaited the pain.  Instead, I heard her sob.  “You’re so pretty,” she said.

When I opened my eyes, she was just standing there, crying. She wore several heavy layers of mascara and the tears dripping over her nose led trails of soot down her face.  She wasn’t ugly.  We were about the same height, just over five feet.  Orville was only five six; he liked smaller girls.  She had rough coppery skin and wore a waist-length weave the same red-brown color as our boyfriend’s freckles.  Weaves weren’t as popular or as realistic back then, and I could see the lump of tracks around her crown. Her hands were tiny.  There was a slim gold band on her left ring finger.  She saw me look at it, and twisted it around and around.  Her hot pink nail polish was chipped.

“He promised,” she said.  “He promised we would get married after graduation.”

I said nothing.  She stopped crying at my silence.  It seemed to make her angry, that I had not reacted to this news.

“You’re wasting your time,” she said.

“Maybe,” I replied.  “Maybe we both are.”

Her eyes narrowed.

“You think just because you live in this fancy apartment and go to this bougie school and your dad is a judge and your mom is an AKA—you think he’ll choose you?”

The fact that she knew these things about my parents made me flinch.  I knew nothing about her, except that my boyfriend was her boyfriend, too, and that she was standing outside my apartment yelling at me, with her makeup smeared all over her face and a fistful of tissues that she hadn’t used.

I held the door between us.  Maybe the acid was in her purse and she just hadn’t reached for it yet.

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