Friday, December 11, 2015

Honesty Is the Wildness of the Sea -- V.B. Price

(excerpted and transcribed from this reading)

Only you, for me –
The warmth of your mind,
The breezes your courage attracts –
Only you and I together relieve the fever from the streets of hate,
Stretched out on our bodies like myths sunbathing in the glades.
Only we, together, know each other all alone.
We speak to each other as if we were the sea.
Anything can be said to the ocean.
Without the slightest fear
And the ocean hears.
Imagine, being comprehended by the sea.

It is this we know between us.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Gospel Salt - Andrea Gibson

Sometimes I get so nervous when I speak
I can feel my heartbeat in my tongue.
And my heartbeat talks faster than an auctioneer,
but this is the last place
I would ever try to sell something from.

When I get really scared
I imagine my enormous grandmother
is standing behind me
with her pipe-organ arms
hugged tight around my chest.
She says, “Listen, I know you’re running your mouth
so your mind can rest.”

Now rest

is no broken levy staring up at the water.
It is the bite marks a mother left on the hurricane
while her daughter climbed to the 9th ward rooftop
to spray paint, “We are still here, y’all.”

Yes we are.

While some days we may barely get our feet wet
most of the time we’re gonna have to wake
and shake the tidal wave off our etch-a-sketch
to make space for the notes
of a brass-knuckled saxophone
carrying the tattered hope
of the ocean’s prayer.
All these words
are just paper boats praying they can get there.

Tell me we will get there
before we come up broke,
believing that people, like levies,
have to hold themselves together
when often it’s our falling apart
that gives us the grace,
that makes sure no one ever
builds a condo over our broken open hearts.

Two years after Katrina
I found a sea shell
beneath an oak tree in New Orleans City Park.
I can still hold it to my ear
and hear the song the folk singer sang
that night she left so much blood on her guitar strings
and I knew I have never been touched right,
knew we could be instruments
if we could just let our kite strings
get tuned to the lightning tonight.

Tuned to your thunder.
I am already shaking like a matador’s hands shook
in that 1906 California earthquake
when 28,000 buildings fell
and the people said, “When 28,000 buildings fall
do you know how many walls are no longer there?”

All they had left between them
was the gospel salt of their sweat,
as they carried each other from the rubble to the street
where each night they carried the piano
to be played by a new refugee.

Some wishes can only be made on the stars’ dust.
I know most of the time my shine
cannot hold a match to my rust.
So ask me about the rain.
I will tell you my mother says, “The thing
about wheelchairs is they keep you looking up.”
Says, “Forests may be gorgeous
but there’s nothing more alive than a tree
that learns how to grow in a cemetery.”
So when my grandmother died
I started wearing her thimbles on my fingers
when I’d type these poems,
hoping every key I’d type
would sound like a footstep of someone coming home,
the way my friend came home from Iraq
and named his baby daughter Viva.

We have all fought for our lives
more than we know,
survived our own questions.
How can you grieve a poisoned sea, a bleeding gulf?
Can even the moon handle that kind of gravity,
that pull to surrender?
I say science can split an atom.
But what if Eve could put Adam back together
by reminding him the garden is just a seed
sometimes so small it can fit on the tip of your tongue?

Say, “flint.”
Say, “spark.”
See, this is me hitchhiking with a green thumb,
hoping to grow something in the trust
of letting y’all pick me up
‘cause today, trust me, I was falling for the wreckage.

So remind me
the most fertile lands were built by the fires of volcanoes.
Plant my feet in the one thing that flowered
when everything else erupted. Usman,
an immigrant from Pakistan,
could not stop saying, “Brother, Brother,”
to the Jewish man whose hand he held
down ninety-eight flights of stairs
to escape the fall of the Twin Towers.

Right now, that is the only hour I will set my heart to.
The moment we realize sometimes
it is the metal in the wind chimes that reminds us
how soft the breeze is.

And maybe my grandmother only believed in Jesus
‘cause she believed He came back
wearing that whip on his back like a halo.

Either way, this world
has picked me enough times for its madness vase
for me to know sanity is not
running from the window when the lightning comes.

It’s turning thunder into grace,
knowing sometimes the break in your heart
is like the hole in the flute.

Sometimes it’s the place
where the music comes through.

[Performance by Hakim Bellamy, Angela Herrera, and Mikaela Renz-Whitmore starts at minute 17:17]

Friday, September 04, 2015

What Albuquerque needs to do... Since 1993

V.B. Price:  City at the End of the World on Colores

In an over-urbanized world, in which over half the population lives in cities, if a little town like Albuquerque is going to compete in the urban marketplace of the future, it must protect it's greatest asset, which is its rarity, it's individuality, its uniqueness.

In the future, choice will be key...  There will be so many urban environments, there will be so many human beings, that the places that maintain their essential character and their respectful relationship to the land will have a tremendous advantage over all the other urban environments that don't.

Our challenge in the next 20 years is not to go for short-term, cheap-shot profits but to hang onto our essential character and beauty.
Even with all that's happened to Albuquerque since the war, we are a beautiful place.

We still have this landscape, we still have the river, we still have the volcanoes, we still have the mountains, we still have the bosque, we still have our people.

We are a unique environment, and we are an endangered environment.

Unique urban places are endangered places all over the world because of a globalizing commercial culture which want all of us to be the same kind of person so it can sell things to us.

Urban environments not only contain people, contain cultures, they shape them. When you have a place as unique as ours, with different kinds of populations and different kinds of cultures intermingling, this is not a place that's easy to sell to.  What some people want to do to us is to flatten us out, make us like every place else. That's why we're in danger. Culturally, we are in danger because rapid growth is swamping us, not necessarily with careless or uncaring human beings, but with huge number of people who know nothing about this town, and who more importantly have been told nothing about it by our leadership.

The collective myth of Albuquerque which used to be so present every place we went... When I came here in 1958, I met person after person after person who was proud to be a New Mexican, proud to be an Albuquerquean, who would tell you at the drop of a hat why they loved to live here, who understood all kinds of things about this place.  Now you hardly meet anybody who knows anything about it at all. Now's that's going to happen, obviously, if you have massive, rapid growth like we've had.

But there's only one way to counteract that, and that is to have large-scale, persistent educational efforts on the part of all of the schools and all of our elected leadership. And not just the kind of slogan-eering that goes into skiing and the Balloon Fiesta. You have to talk about real things, real human beings, real neighborhoods.


How carefully and  respectfully we try to keep the connections to the past alive is the degree to which we flourish as a town that knows itself.

Its originality, its individuality, its personality as a distinctive, eccentric town in the southwest is very close to being lost, and once you lose it, you never get it back.  Endangered cities that have worked to preserve their connectedness with the past have realized that their towns have grown geographically, and that the farther from the center that their towns have growth, the farther from the past they have also grown.  Town that have maintained their identities have struggled to keep the historical connection with the past in their downtowns. We've struggled to do that, too, we've done a fairly good job of it.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Some things will never change - Thomas Wolfe

Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen.

The voice of forest water in the night, a woman's laughter in the dark, the clean, hard rattle of raked gravel, the cricketing stitch of midday in hot meadows, the delicate web of children's voices in bright air--these things will never change.

The glitter of sunlight on roughened water, the glory of the stars, the innocence of morning, the smell of the sea in harbors, the feathery blur and smoky buddings of young boughs, and something there that comes and goes and never can be captured, the thorn of spring, the sharp and tongueless cry--these things will always be the same.

All things belonging to the earth will never change--the leaf, the blade, the flower, the wind that cries and sleeps and wakes again, the trees whose stiff arms clash and tremble in the dark, and the dust of lovers long since buried in the earth--all things proceeding from the earth to seasons, all things that lapse and change and come again upon the earth--these things will always be the same, for they come up from the earth that never changes, they go back into the earth that lasts forever. Only the earth endures, but it endures forever.

The tarantula, the adder, and the asp will also never change. Pain and death will always be the same. But under the pavements trembling like a pulse, under the buildings trembling like a cry, under the waste of time, under the hoof of the beast above the broken bones of cities, there will be something growing like a flower, something bursting from the earth again, forever deathless, faithful, coming into life again like April.

My help is in the mountain - Nancy Wood

My help is in the mountain
Where I take myself to heal
The earthly wounds
That people give to me.
I find a rock with sun on it
And a stream where the water runs gentle
And the trees which one by one give me company.
So must I stay for a long time
Until I have grown from the rock
And the stream is running through me
And I cannot tell myself from one tall tree.
Then I know that nothing touches me
Nor makes me run away.
My help is in the mountain
That I take away with me.

Earth cure me. Earth receive my woe. Rock strengthen me. Rock receive my weakness. Rain wash my sadness away. Rain receive my doubt. Sun make sweet my song. Sun receive the anger from my heart.

i thank you god for this most amazing - ee cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and

now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Russian Roulette, Indian Style

Sara Littlecrow-Russell

Russian Roulette
Indian style,
Is the spinning cylinder
Of a 500-year-old gun
With 5 out of 6 chambers loaded.

Each bullet
Has a different name—

Survival is finding the name
Of the empty chamber.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Albuquerque Boosterism

I've been thinking a lot in bumper stickers lately.  What do you say to capture the unique cacophony of humble greatness that is our city?

ABQ:  The good/bad news is that nothing is professionalized here!

ABQ:  Not for posers.

ABQ:  Underestimating itself for over 400 years.

ABQ:  Not for your children, or your parents

ABQ:  The only thing we hate more than sprawl is infill

ABQ:  Where we want improvement with no change

ABQ:  Where we won't change until it's too late

ABQ:  Good thing the quality of life is so high; incomes certainly aren't!

ABQ:  More open space than jobs

ABQ:  View your future the past

ABQ:  So many views, such narrow perspectives

ABQ:  Be who you want here; no one's watching

ABQ:  So cool we don't even have to be cool anymore

ABQ:  No one to dress up for; nowhere to go dressed up

ABQ:  Micro brews, nano night life

ABQ:  Come for the lifestyle, leave for a better wage

ABQ:  More beautiful than Denver, without all that pesky transit and night life

ABQ:  Bring your wealth; you won't find any here (p.s. don't flaunt it)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Money Money Money Maaaanay

I've gone from never carrying a balance on a credit card to feeling really good that we have ENOUGH credit left on the credit card to get through the next month.

Not because we don't earn enough but because my husband, as an independent contractor, cannot seem to psychologically handle invoicing.

And I get it.  I have the opportunity to apply for a promotion at work, and I'm paralyzed. I've known for days, and I can't seem to get past the initial questions on the application.  There's something that kicks in about worthiness and having to prove it with a job application or an invoice or a summary report of your monthly activities.  We want to be appreciated and loved for who we are, not what we brag about on paper.  And maybe we feel entitled, too. We're awesome; why can't they just pay us for that?

But after four months of no salary coming in, it's worse than scary. It's crazy-making, rage-inducing, marriage-wrecking awful.  Not sure we'll survive even when the crisis passes.  There's just so much trust that's been lost and so much of my faith betrayed, wracked up like the credit cards with no minimum payments.

Anger the only dividends.

We barely touch anymore. Laugh infrequently.  Parenting and Hulu about all we share.

I might be more sad about that if I wasn't so angry all the time.  And tired of being angry all the time.

I want to be saving money for a house addition, and instead we're tens of thousands in the hole.

Invoices would put us right but not ahead.  And once we do get paid, we will likely owe much of it in taxes.  Which I'm happy to pay.


Maybe it will be enough to plan a trip to Chicago and Michigan this summer.  Maybe all will be right in a matter of another month, and I can breathe again and unknot the pretzel at my core.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Well being

I don't know what it is tonight...

A presenter's high.  A bolt of coffee late in the day.  Exercise three days in a row. Drinking enough water, finally, throughout the day.  Enough sleep. A new regimen of Vitamin D kicking in.  Several good work days in a row where I've gotten SO.MUCH.DONE.  An evening without the grind of small children and cooking and bedtime.  A tiny amount of money in the bank at the moment. A reprieve from allergies.  Good music. Good friends.  Good life.  All of it together in a trough of life chaos.

But I'm feeling good tonight. Whole. Called to action.  So happy that I'm working on the project of a lifetime with co-workers I love and respect and care about.  Doing work that matters, will matter.  Precedent-setting, once-in-a-generation kind of work.  Work that takes me to the edge of my competence, that uses all my skills, that feels like I've been building up all of my experiences and education and talents for this.  An opportunity.  A challenge.  A blessing.

I've been thinking a lot about my high school boyfriend who took his own life a little over a year ago.  He was a tortured soul.  I loved his dark side, felt it complemented my goody two shoes shallowness in a way I knew was needed.  I think he was drawn to the commitment and effort I put into everything I do.  It complemented his own sporadic runs at greatness.  I miss him.  I miss the way he loved me and forgave me my earnestness.

And he foreshadowed all the other boyfriends in that same vein for me. The boys trying to be men sporadically.  The black hole love they offered and I fell into every time.

My marriage is the light side of that dark side moon.  Constant but unchanging and therefore often easy to overlook.  In my worst moments, all I can feel is its lifelessness.

But today, it just seemed like sunlight.  Impersonal, maybe, but ultimately life-sustaining. Warm.  Like a day in April when everything seemed full of Spring potential and latent energy.

I've done two events connected to my work project now that have felt FATED. Where I was so on, so connected with folks in the room, that nothing could fail.  Where the right words came and hit just the right note, set just the right tone.  Well received and reciprocated.

That is so magical.  I imagine it feels like preaching a sermon that resonates with people you are called to love.

I am a true believer, it appears.  And the optimism that once drew dark boys is now drawing community members into a story of hope and potential and opportunity.  And at just the right time.

Oh hallelujah.  Just the right time.  I am so grateful and so full of grace and so grateful to be so full of grace.