Saturday, August 22, 2009

I think, in my mind, I have officially become an adopted Tejana. Meaning, the bad-ass folks in Texas have brought me over to the other side of the Texas-US border and I really love it in nepantla land. I really do. Sure, I was only in Texas for three years, but they were a meaningful three years. I'm going back. I decided that's where home is.

For those who know me, this is quite a HUMONGOUS statement. The fact that I call anyplace, geographical place, home, is first of all unprecedented. That, combined with the fact that it's Texas, and not some big city...well, yes, I admit: I'm a country girl. I am. I like being surrounded by trees and creeks and hills and stars and cows. I like slow traffic when I'm not in a rush. And I like that people ride their horses to the 7-11 and that everyone says HELLO when they see you.

I'm in New Haven now. That's right. New Haven, Connecticut. I'm supposed to be here for three or five years or something like that. Getting my PhD at Yale. That part's exciting, at least. Though after picking up my course readings for my intro classes (Rosseau, Durkheim, etc), I realized that a little Vinnie Deloria was in order first. And thank G-D I have classes in such topics as Black feminism, Queer Ethnographies, etc...add a little seasoning to the cardboard (how can Durkheim still be relevant in 2009??!!!! anyways... I won't write the guy off completely. after all, I still have to read it).

I've had a weird day today. I even posted that as my status on facebook. It started off with a brass sky at 7am - I've only ever seen that color sky in Samira Abbassy's paintings. I think it was dust from the harmattan carried over by the hurricane whose fingers just gently swept past us. It was such an odd color, a color I've rarely seen that I woke up from a deep dream and stared, then freaked out about not having any stores of water therefore jumping out of bed, filling my biggest pot with water, and then nodding off again only waking two hours later to a bright white light coming through my window. The sky was blue. I stumbled into the kitchen and stared blankly at the pot of water, pouring some into a smaller pot to make coffee.

kts has asked me to write a poem for her opera. I'm not sure she'll use any of what I create - which is always a risk in creative collaborations - but I decided to give it a go today. So, I sat down, water boiling on the stove, and began reading through the heart sutra....

gone, gone
gone beyond
gone completely beyond
Praise to awakening

This is one translation of the sanskrit (transliterated below):

gate, gate paaragate paarasamgate bodhi svaaha

I was captivated, but me being me, I had to first play with the sound of the text before actually uncovering its meaning through the vehicle of poetry. It was fun. I came up with a gangsta version of Deus and Boddhi sattva coming to terms with each other, using only sounds from the sanskrit transliteration of the heart sutra and latin version of the Gloria...

Deus et Boddhisattva rasa ruupam

Et skandhaah! Sambodim tad Deus in terra “Boddhisattvas cum yathaa magnum!” Samskaaram, sama duhkha. Deus tollis, “Laudamus! Boddhisattva –yaa iha nobis terra filius te cittaavarana. Yaa gate samjnaate naandyaa. Pax yaa un gratius Altissiumus et gandha! Na. Amen. ‘ Boddhisattva, cakshuh satyam "Evem eva omnipotens, sma dharmaah Deus. Pax." et Gloria, Agnus, Shaari – et propter miserere. Peccata miserere.

You have to read it aloud to understand any of it. And yeah - it's gangsta and COMPLETELY sacreligious. I'm just warning you.

So, I spent three delicious hours writing poems, ideas for poems, concepts, uncovering my own heart and its truth, its attachments, its yearning. I came up with several silly poems, and then a couple that might actually be worth something when I'm done with them. It was only after this that I looked at the Gloria...realizing that if I'm to write about the Blessed Mother Buddha/Earth I must also write about Pater noster...omnipotens.

Oi vey.

In this raw state, I decided to put down the pen and call the truck rental company I used to drive from Austin to New Haven. New Haven is actually VERY gangsta. The Budget truck company tried to swindle me for having the truck towed from their property...and then charged me a gas/key replacement fee AFTER I turned in the key. Long story short, I had to get on the phone and the woman on the other end of the line was totally RUDE. This poor poet, in a raw and vulnerable state, couldn't hack it. I just had to ask her, "Are you having a bad day?"

If that wasn't enough, the previous resident from my current apartment showed up asking me - no wait - telling me to take care of her WEIRD. And then, I left the apartment. I won't go into details. It was bizarre. Some guy in the store making shady deals with his landlord

"Look, I need to take a shower. You need to turn the hot water back on. I have a wedding at 4pm."

and then

"I know, but I don't have time for this. What do you need?"

"Okay, 6 bags of cement. I can find that. 6 bags cement and you'll turn my hot water back on? Fine. It's a deal."


At least, I hope, everybody in that deal's gonna be happy and nobody gets hurt, right?

Well, I decided that I needed to chill out - avoid any further business kinda interactions. My vulnerable poet self was not feeling up to people. So, I went home, packed up a picnic and a couple of books and went to the New Haven Green for the Jazz Festival. Does Austin have a Jazz Festival? Well, it looks like one's in the planning stages...but the one today, here in New Haven, was great. Shawn Monteiro was singing when I got there - she has a voice rich and deep like Nina Simone's. It was pure joy to sit on the grass and listen to her. She sang some beautiful songs. Even made the breeze pick up.

And it stayed good - Hamiett Bluiett played - and he's a light that just bounces all over the stage. He was dressed all in white, moving here and there, talking with musicians, playing in this mic and that one. He was a lot of fun to watch. I read Alexis De Veaux's "The Tapestry" while the groups were on break. And then the night closed out with Bobby Sanabria...THAT was awesome.

Bobby opens up with a prayer to Yemanya and enter audience right none other than Yemanya herself - a big, Mandinga queen wrapped in a white sheet dancing to Yemanya in front of all the stupified New Haven crowd. S/he just tore it up, shimmying shoulders, greeting the children - oh s/he was so BEAUTIFUL to watch. I was sad when the police chased Yemanya out of the park - just reminded me our kind is not always welcome, that our genderqueer black bodies are constantly under surveillance. S/he was dancing so beautifully, and unexpectedly. I tried to rationalize it all by praying for the child's safety. And then Bobbie brought out Ogun with a full percussive jazz rendition of Olu Talade. If that wasn't enough and the incredible, legendary percussionist Candido - who is 88 years old, walked out with a cane and then played like he was 15.

I left with when the band was playing a traditional merengue and danced back to my apartment - happy to be alive, and feeling a whole lot better about the day. Now I'm here - ready to write another poem, to settle into the night.