Image by Dodai Stewart, 2019

Hi Robel,

When I first met you [in a group setting], I disclosed that I was feeling grief and sadness, and would like to say “I am sorry”, then I apologized if it sounded offensive. I never heard back from anyone in the group if I offended anyone. I know this is about me and my grief, and I need to know if it is offensive to say “I am sorry”? I also know that people of color need more than an apology too.

I was not apologizing for my emotions. It was a much larger apology, of saying I…

In my dream last night, against all of the rising action and turbulence which comes with a dream, I caught sight of myself in the mirror. I was shirtless. There, across my torso and neck, were three tattoos. I lingered in the mirror as I explored these not-so-fresh markings on my body. On my lower neck, emanating up from my collarbone, were three block glyphs. Across my breastplate were four words in script in a foreign language. Traversing my rib was another set of letters, encoded in yet a third language.

I palpated my neck, turning my head side to…

Tucked underneath the smile, I prize
my ability to hide.
I don’t grimace because I don’t think.
Beyond the reach of my mind’s eye
Lies the conflict.

Blackness is not a commodity to productize.
It cannot be brokered, though
Bodies can. It cannot be forgotten,
Though they have.
I’m tired.

Deep beneath the recesses of concrete,
in subterranean boroughs and
Rooms without windows, in homes that
aren’t homes and blind mind’s eyes.
I tried.

For men have not forgotten,
neither will ancestors let them.
Embedded in the lead,
stones, and heaps, in the sanguine soil,
Their memories thrive.

Once when I walked into a room
my eyes would seek out the one or two black faces
for contact or reassurance or a sign
I was not alone
now walking into rooms full of black faces
that would destroy me for any difference
where shall my eyes look?
Once it was easy to know
who were my people.

— Audre Lorde, Between Ourselves

I attended a book reading this week. An immaculate young woman sat with her friend and discussed her debut novel, a twenty-year labor of love. Her presence was both illuminating and inviting. She answered each question…

Little one, you are more than a thought in your mother and father’s minds. You have changed our lives forever. You do not know about the world yet — but you will. You will have no problem learning what you need to make your way. Dear one, you will hear these words before you understand them. Don’t worry. You will see how repetition is key to retention. One day, you will feel these words more than you hear them. The truth you know you know. Young one, you have a unique gift before you. It is more visible in hindsight…

I was dancing at my desk, something which I always do, unselfconsciously, working on my photograph and otherwise.

I look up and I see two people hide their faces from me, looking away and laughing. We made eye contact and they betrayed themselves. Immediately, I considered what my next steps would be. How would I address it?

My face grew hot. I became ashamed and self-conscious. I stopped dancing.

Then, as my cognition came back, I realized that I was having the same reaction from my childhood. …

When you first asked me to come for dinner, (When are you coming over for dinner?) in a way that implied a longstanding invitation, in the way where you say, “Yeah,” but it’s because your mind is thinking about one or three other things — not distracted, but making connections and inferences — when you first asked me, I accepted outright. This is natural. We set a date — soon — and within ten days, I was at your table with your son and wife and XXXX and XXXX.

And when we talk, I am not lazy — you push…

I always fantasize about the far away.

There is something about away where I have space and time and wood all around me. The beverages are warm and the air has a slight chill to it. I wear long sleeves.

In away, I look into space in between paragraphs or moments. What exactly am I trying to capture? Which word fits?

There is a soft light and soft sounds when I move across the kitchen. I rise periodically to refresh my beverages. The kettle is never far.

In away, I write with urgency even with the space of time all…

This is an act of desperation.

Four score and seven years ago, I died. Or, I was dead. Or, I will be dead.

Suffice it to say, I’m not here anymore. A freeing thought given how much I languished when I was alive.

Always wanting, yearning, bucking against the reins. I don’t know who is riding; I don’t know who saddled me. Probably myself, but I couldn’t see that. And I definitely couldn’t free myself from that.

I felt good when I was swimming forward. I felt terrible whenever I was interrupted.

It’s as if to say — every course correction was painful. Every transition had its cost.

Only, I’m starting to care less, not more.
And I am less rooted now than before.
And I am not rooted.

Not in my self conception.
Not in my role. Not in my vision.

Not in one another.
I don’t count on it at all.

Only, sometimes I don’t know why I bother.
The difference between 50 and 80%.

Nothing you say matters to me
Anymore. Do words survive either of us?
Will they persist when I’m gone?

My questions have no answers.
Not one which I understand.
Nothing I know can be written.
Nothing I know can be told.

read this letter

a series of letters

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