But why couldn’t my feelings matter? Why couldn’t they have value, like cash has value. Because anything real doesn’t exist here anymore. Everything real flows on, obscured by the sun, eclipsed by the reality existing in front of our faces. And his shadow looms over me and his voice and his sweat, and the taste of it never leaves my mouth. As I exist here alone, no one reaches for me. The only thing I can do as I reach passed the sun, scattering the shadows as all of the voices reverberate as noise and I can only hear the beat, the beating which I lost so long ago. I attempt to stand and raise my eyes, looking upon the path before me, walking through the doorway of the long forgotten path always existing in the back of my mind. If I close my eyes I can still only see their claws and the empty, angry look upon their faces, lost in the swirling whirlwind of what they let themselves exist as. Fires rage upon the crescent moon above my head and I no longer know what to think. I can no longer define if what appears before me has solidity in reality or breathes as a figment of my own imagination. The only saving grace I have, a belief that everything pulses through me and continues as a dream within my imagination. As the moon, which continues to burn, lives as the only mark on the map of my own consciousness that none of this exists outside of my own mind. The pain which he delivered into my soul becomes the only salvation from the troubling thoughts taking me away from any solid ground beneath my feet. As I look up at the many faces which closing my eyes, become one solid object I cannot discern; I know I can never rise above the weight that has been pressing me down for as long as I can remember. I learn to look forward flowing through the only way I can look past that distorted form which continues to press on me from all sides. I continued to learn how to walk again. Forgetting about the pain shooting through me with each step and yet I continue on, still wrong in every pair of eyes fixed upon me but my own. Through whispers and screams carried along throughout the cold chill winds directly through my ears, wrong, wrong, always wrong. Wrong because I had trust. Wrong because I knew how to love without conditions. Wrong for the projection of weakness placed upon me. Wrong for thinking, wrong for holding up a mirror and saying look, please look, everyday, look beyond what exists in front of your eyes. But no one could look. They could only look at me for all of the wrong I have done to them. But I looked up finally, through the shadows attempting to obstruct my view and I see a swirling vortex of energy form in front of me, every color imaginable directly flowing through my consciousness. And the colors bleed onto the pavement, soaking into the cold sidewalk beneath the flowing, pulsing form, like tears flowing down from the fires of the moon. Drowning in the tears from the color of his heart, his form vibrates at my feet as his large eyes open to my presence standing above him. And he reaches for me and lets out a deep cry as his tears wash down my shoulders drying upon my back. Why? Why would they do this he cries out. Asking the question we can never know the answer to as I quiet him with the slow beating of my heart and he grips me tighter I grasp the only thing we can ever really know, that the injustice they do only brings us closer to each other if we listen quietly enough
“the conquest of the physical world is not man’s only duty. He is also enjoined to conquer the great wilderness of himself. The role of the artist, then, precisely, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest; so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.”
At a time where we must look to the future to see the harmonious existence that must be within reach for all of us, we must look to the past with a critical eye.
“The liberation of Americans from the racial anguish which has crippled us for so long can only mean, truly, the creation of a new people in this still new world.”
It becomes easy to get lost in the farce of the current election, or the sad fact that any living human being would expend the energy to cast a vote for either appallingly similar candidate of the two major parties. I saw a bumper sticker the other day in the same style as the Bernie Sanders sticker but it said “Giant Meteor 2016- just end it already” I laughed out loud but I just don’t believe we exist there. Look at the heroics of someone like Colin Kaepernick, something I can’t even imagine happening, someone starting a movement within the NFL, one of the most restrictive even blatantly fascist organizations one can imagine. Forcing some of the commentators to have intelligent conversations about racism and police violence and oppression. If this can happen within the NFL, my hope continues to grow for our future
“The possibility of liberation which is always real is also always painful, since it involves such an overhauling of all that gave us our identity. The negro who will emerge out of this present struggle-whoever, indeed, this dark stranger may prove to be-will not be dependent, in any way at all, on any of the many props and crutches which help form our identity now. And neither will the white man. We will need every ounce of moral stamina we can find. For everything is changing, from our notion of politics to our notion of ourselves, and we are certain, as we begin history’s strangest metamorphosis, to undergo the torment of being forced to surrender far more than we ever realized we had accepted.”
I appreciate James Balwin’s articulations so deeply because he carefully and convincingly points out that the struggle to overcome racism, oppression and achieve true freedom is not only a black struggle, but a struggle of all people. The division lines the media creates between us are a complete fabrication and it continues to be easier to see through. Sane, patient conversations are happening everyday, in fact just the other day I was speaking with a kind old, maybe 70’s early 80’s white gentleman and we were speaking about James Baldwin and how relevant he continues to be and he told me honestly growing up in Arizona he never realized he carried bigotry with him until he moved to the city and began to experience black people and it took him having to work with a black co-worker to begin to understand how different everyone’s experience is and to come to terms that bigotry existed within him and acknowledging it was the only way any of us can heal.
“We are the strongest nation in the western world, but this is not for the reasons that we think. It is because we have an opportunity which no other nation has of moving beyond the Old World concepts of race and class and caste, and create, finally, what we must have had in mind when we first began speaking of the New World. But the price for this is a long look backward whence we came and an unflinching assessment of the record. For an artist, the record of that journey is most clearly revealed in the personalities of the people the journey produced. Societies never know it, but the war of an artist with his society is a lover’s war, and he does, at his best, what lovers do, which is to reveal the beloved to himself, and with that revelation, make freedom real.”
James Baldwin’s essays should be read by anyone interested in a better future. He speaks to us from a past with no bitterness, or even bias, to point us towards a new direction and to remind us, our present circumstances do not need to be the way they are. We have the power to change everything, but we must start from the beginning and come to an understanding of how we have gotten here.
“What we can make of our unique experience depends on our willingness to accept the bitterness in which this experience was gained-the price we paid, both black and white, and the effect it has had on us. We look upon this experience with shame, but it is out of what has been our greatest shame that we may be able to create one day our greatest opportunity.”
Unable to look through the pain of his broken heart my father looked to the ground for comfort, mistaking the shattered pieces of me as points of light. But he couldn’t face the light, not yet. His shadow fades into the darkness as I close my eyes and begin my battle for rest. I exist here oh so empty, a shell whose echo speaks a thousand words as the tide of the ocean carries away the pieces of my fathers broken heart, along with my dreams. And their words, daggers into the heart of my own dreams, tearing away everything I ever thought I could be as I swallow their darkness and know no way out. And the only one who reaches out for me, my long forgotten voice, once attached to my side, now swallowed in darkness. The vision of me after it went away, standing on the edge of the beach, the cold Atlantic water comforting my feet, looking up to the sky seeing so many dreams just out of reach and the voice, always there, the voice that pushed my finger to dial the emergency button as they all continued laughing and taking from me and staring, taking all of the dreams that I thought I would never let go. I lie on the bed in silence, the fluorescent lights a reminder every time I awoke that I still have not moved and a voice, that brought back so much pain, and I can’t focus on his face without the sun behind him, without the football helmet, he looked so vulnerable and as I looked into his eyes, he looked away but I felt what he thought-why are you doing this to me-and I thought maybe I should be thinking that, but I rose above that plateau and in my mind I opened my arms and I felt all of those dreams flowing through me and I knew then that their words didn’t matter, what happened to me happened and it was only because they were scared and I just didn’t know how to be scared. And he asked me why I was doing this. And he asked me if I could just let it go. And he told me it just wasn’t that bad now was it? I had no words, not until he could look at me, not until he could see that I am here, breathing, moving, and still living even though all of the life in me disappeared, superimposed by the mass hallucination of what I appeared to them, an object absorbing all they could not digest inside of themselves. He touched my hand as it immediately tightened, and he spoke in a sweet quiet voice, you don’t really want to do this do you? What about my life, can you think of me? This could ruin everything I’ve worked for and after all it wasn’t so bad right? And he took a bouquet of flowers behind his back and he said just think about it okay and don’t forget, this was your fault, don’t forget, you wanted this to happen. I closed my eyes as he disappeared into the shadows. And I looked upon the flowers he placed on the dresser beside me and I watched as they began to wrinkle and die and as the fading sunlight drew upon them in their last gasp of life, I watched a caterpillar crawling through the leaves, rising to the top of them and I closed my eyes and I learned how to rest and I learned how to forget the noise that continuously tried to prevent me from seeing its true form, and I listened to that forgotten voice in the distance and I knew there would always be a way out
And they wanted me to disappear because inside of me existed all of the smoldering hatred trapped within themselves. The hatred which drives them yet they can never face, floating above them as a web of fog, shrouded in a web of lies. Brown and yellow leaves fall through the sunlight, traveling with the flow in a creek below my feet, slowly moving with the current. But I still forgot how to move. I can only blink my eyes, and they can’t see me so I can’t understand what they continue staring at and laughing and cheering. I’m not here, I couldn’t possibly be. I reach up for my underwear because I want to go home now but the tree won’t let them go and my ears are overcome with a loud whirring as wings are floating above me and I close my eyes and can no longer open them. I reach down to feel the pain pulsing from me and wipe the warm blood from my hands as it keeps falling. I smile as I float in the air above it all. They still stare at me and instantly the fault becomes all my own. And they ask me questions I have no answers to. And they have answers to the questions I couldn’t understand. And I just wanted to disappear because if the fault existed within me, the only way left would be a disappearance. And I would look in the mirror and I didn’t see anything I remembered. The phone would ring and ominous whispers to keep quiet entered my consciousness, in the middle of the night, accusing me of my horrid way, my reasons for doing this to everyone. My shaking never stopped, moving along with the ocean and that faintly beating heart, leading me on my way, possibly only in circles. And the yelling reverberated inside my mind, never moving as it continued to swell and echo deep inside me and I never lost sight of the beating which continues to lead me on. The trees waving away from the power of the wings seemed like they could be uprooted at any moment, and that piece of me blowing in the wind over all their heads with no one at any moment looking up, only screaming at me. And I slept for a brief moment the most peaceful sleep I have ever known. And then I saw his face, the sun beating from behind his back, shining into my eyes, he shyly clutched the face mask of his football helmet, my black heart opened and saw life. And his face laughing, and the anger and the sweat and blankness and me, wrong, so wrong about so many things, so wrong about myself. Taken away on mechanical wings delivered to the new form of my life, covered in black, soaking in everything directed at me. I open my eyes to bright artificial, angry light and see my father and he can look everywhere but into my eyes, clutching his broken heart with never a thought for my own. My mother looks down at her feet, no one speaks and I see no flowers for me. I see pictures on a table next to me, the bruised form of what I became. I can’t open my arms, I have forgotten how to move as I absorb everything I close my eyes and go back, I have not forgotten how to dream
The leaves fall in slow circular motion. I twirl around with my arms in the air. I look to the sky as I feel something growing inside me. The tree appears before me. I could never go back. I open my eyes, close them, no sound. Something buzzes by looking for shelter. Muted screams as my body closes itself. The past breezes through my mind looking for shelter where shelter no longer exists. The shadows from the tree branches travel down my legs along with my pulsing veins, the sun is obscured but still shines upon me through the falling leaves. So long ago but none of this ever left. I see someone in the distance awkwardly staring at me as I’m walking in circles gazing at the sky. I met god today, right here. Waving me to come on by, telling me to forget about it. Forget about everything. Echoing in my heart, pulsations overcome me revealing all I have ever known. Forgetting for once the pain which brought me here. The tree above me, underwear flowing with the wind, hanging from its branches. A life taken, held briefly in its hands. I let it float away, unprotected, running on hope, crushed by a lie. I believed, held in your hands, light can be so deceiving. I reach out, only the branches of the tree reach back. The beating grows louder as I can see through the disorienting sunlight shooting through the tree. The fall wind a comfort on my face. I feel my wings beating, trying to free themselves from the ground below my back. And then his face, a smile, the way the grass smells as the dried leaves fall upon the ground in the fall. My rebirth, the light, the empty branches of the tree and the pieces of us, attached to the branches, my ears close to the sound delivering me from this. A rainbow, spread across my socks, waving in the air, falling from me, all that I am…the water dripping down from their faces, the only sign of a change, a different one, hurting but they said it’d be okay, suppose to be okay but nothing could be okay, I could not be okay. My existence cannot be floating in this now, my wings beneath me attempt to free themselves, a cry from my stomach goes unheard. I couldn’t look into her eyes, their eyes, closed, wide shut, I fly, fly away, floating above with crooked wings. Maybe they think I’m happy and I close my eyes and smile and I close my eyes and dream of floating away. Leaving my desecrated form. I hear cheers and screaming and laughing and I wish I remembered how to laugh, I wish someone could take me away as I travel in darkness, following a slow beat leading me on, no pain, no sight, no…love. The beating leads me on through darkness upon darkness as I feel my wings, dripping with blood straighten upon my back. I absorbed all of you and I became all of the hatred I could endure and maybe they thought they gave me love and I was unworthy and maybe I was. The pulse grows louder as I reach for it. The darkness fractures as I reach for one sliver of light. As I open my eyes nothing appears. Now, a loud sound over head but I can no longer move, I only hear the loud whirring, and louder cries and still laughter. In my mind I reach for deliverance yet they will not let me go as water still falls on my face and it tastes different every time. I continue to reach for the beating through the darkness as the blood falls away from my wings and in that beat, all that I am leads me through