Storytime: Solstice

Every year in ritual I retell this story.  I also tell it before my Bawdy Divine Workshop. It’s part of my glitter magic and as we descend into the darkest night in what seems the darkest year I cast it out again into the world as a way to reel in the light.

 

The story goes that Amaterasu Omikami the Sun Goddess was so offended by the rachetness of her brother Takehaya Susanoo-no-Mikoto the Storm God that she sealed herself in the Cave of Heaven.

No one was surprised.

Amaterasu’s ladies in waiting have the constitution of a wilting flower so over half of them flat out died when Takehaya caused a huge shit storm and I’m not talking a metaphorical one either.  This was the final straw.  He had crossed a line and Amaterasu literally could not with that shit so she sealed herself away in a cave with the same conviction that that diva cup sealed itself to my cervix this past February.

This sucked monkey balls because without the gift of the sun the earth became cold and withered away. Humanity was screwed and since Deities of Heaven need worshipers to sustain themselves (kinda like Kardashians need Instagram Followers) this was not going to work.

They pleaded with Amaterasu but she only moved further into her cave while ranting about the not figurative shit storm her jackass of a brother had caused among other things. While everyone was freaking out over the situation Uzume sprung into action.

She knew that Amaterasu for the most part was the bees knees but sometimes she could really be into herself. No one on heaven or earth could match her egoism… at least not until Kanye West was born. Uzume knew attention was oxygen to Amaterasu’s flame and Uzume was about to suck the room dry like that scene in Total Recall.

Uzume placed a huge mirror outside of the Cave of Heaven and upended a large tub, climbed on top ,yelled “All eyes on me!” and started to dance. Now it should be noted that Uzume was no covergirl. Uzume was no graceful creature. She had crass and sass and zero fucks to give. She had a belly the jiggled, she had thighs that touched, she was a round thing full of joy and as she danced she un-knotted her obi and peeled out of her kimono. The Deities of Heaven had a collective moment of:
Is she?
She is!
Oh My Myself this is Awesome!
and started cheering and drumming

Amaterasu hearing the great commotion and a bit miffed that no one was paying attention to her peeked out of her cave to see Uzume in all her glory just feeling herself and the Sun Goddess entranced, amused and slightly confused stepped out of the cave for a closer look. And that is when Amaterasu saw the mirror that Uzume had placed outside the cave and for the first time saw herself and her own radiance and how it shined!

She was like whoa.. she was like Tweet with that Missy Elliot on remix

(Missy)
(I looked over to the left)
Umm I was looking so good I couldn’t reject myself
(I looked over to the left)
Umm I was feeling so good I had to touch myself
(I looked over to the left)
Umm I was eyein my thighs butter pecan brown
(I looked over to the left)
Umm comin’ outta my shirt and then the skirt came down

*chorus*
OOPS, there goes my shirt up over my head
Oh my
OOPS, there goes my skirt droppin’ to my feet
Oh my
Ooh, some kinda touch caressing my leg
Oh my
Ooh I’m turning red
Who could this be?

So the Gods took hella advantage of this shit and rolled that stone back into place and locked it in tight.

The Storm God was cast down to earth (and I suspect reincarnated into Donald Trump) where he continues to cause shit storms, and tragedy and in his own way renewal but we are going to be okay because there is always Uzume to remind us to come together, love ourselves, be fiercely vulnerable because we can call back the sun with laughter and joy.

Tonight in ritual I will dance and sing for The Great Persuader, and The Heavenly Alarming Female. She who revels in her sensuality and dances, shimmies and shakes to bring back the Sun. Happy Solstice!!

Burn Bright.

 

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(Attached image is a portrait of me by the artist Thomasina DeMaio.  She tagged me in it this morning and it definitely brightened up my world.  It’s a real honor to be captured by someone who puts forth so much light into the world in such intensely loving and fierce ways. For more info on Thomasina and her prolific work find her on facebook and with the Art Saves Lives Gallery in Castro SF  https://www.facebook.com/thomasina.demaio)

Not that kinda party.

(written after an interaction with an uber driver on my way home from performing at the Uptown Club in Oakland)

 

You…

You saw a happy, tipsy, fat, black woman and assumed I was a straight club girl on her way home from a night of partying. You assumed I was blowing off steam after work, caught in a revolving ritual that would go from 5 p.m. on Friday till 2 a.m. on Sunday morning- 

just enough time to sober up before church. 

You questioned me prodding and poking.

I wondered if you felt comfortable doing so because I am black just like you.

You asked me:

Why I haven’t settled down.

What my mother thought about what I was doing with my life. 

Wasn’t I interested in school?

Wasn’t interested in having kids?

 

I realized because of your assumptions you assumed I was someone you should save, could save and when I assured you of my self sufficiency you were wounded.
You accused me of thinking that black men were unnecessary, and my independence of being a double edged sword which cuts into my femininity while cutting off the masculinity of my ethnicity.

And I smiled to myself.

I smiled to myself because a younger me would have said

You..you are incorrect!

while living as if you were speaking gospel.

 

My humility was the first step on the staircase of my soul that my man used to left himself up

     the second step was my happiness

                    third my sexuality,

                        a fourth my future

                                a fifth of my sanity.

I should have been angry at you for blaming black women who can feed, clothe, and defend themselves for the collapse of a society I wasn’t. 

I felt sorry for you.
I felt sorry for how much power you are giving away. Just like all the power I was giving away.

For me those days are over.

 

My future lovers will not be intimidated by my strength.

My future lovers will walk besides me evenly yoked in it.

My future lovers will answer to its siren song fearlessly and together we shall create harmonies unheard of as we wrap our chords together.

 

You assumed I was a of kind woman,
       a woman I have once been
       I am glad I am that woman no more.

Fashion and Design (a rant)

I do not want a fashion designer

 

I want a goddamn engineer

to make the speed of my curves rival that of the autobahn

 

I want an interior designer

to mold my frame with gold lame

 

I want a mathematician

to calculate the exact type and tautness of my fabric

so that when I strut I get exactly .25 rps (ripples per second)

anything more than that would cost the voyeurs extra

 

I want a chemist

to observe me from sunrise to sunset

manufacturer the perfect color to offset

my skin from bedroom to deskjob to blowjob and back again

 

I want a visual artist

that works exclusively with billboards or at least the broad sides of buildings

to make a pattern so bold that foundations crumble under the weight of it

 

and I want fucking pockets

 

I’ve given my power to the wrong people

they’ve crossed my lines and erased them

leaving only a narrow slice of what beauty, fashion and originality can be

they challenged me to dance on this garrote tightrope

the challenge is not mine

the challenge is theirs

to bend

to yield

to be submissive to my bounty

conscious of my curves

 

i do not want a fashion designer

set on razing this land or recreating it in their image

I want an innovator, a map maker, an explorer to chart this untamed wilderness

and attempt show all its wonder to the world

My Body’s not a Cage

“My Body is not a Cage” was written for “Burlesque and Why”   a stage play produced by Dottie Lux, the founder of Red Hots Burlesque.  Her goal was to give the audience an insight into what is beneath the glitter and glam.  A chance to see that our performances are deeper  than the foundation that goes on our faces.  I was incredibly honored to be a part of this production which included: Burlesque Legend Ellion Ness, POC powerhouse The Lady Ms. Vagina Jenkins, Queer creatrix Lay si Luna, hilariously talented Alexa Von Kickinface and the amazing Dottie Lux herself.

We were supported by an amazing team of people including Kitty Von Quim, Ava Lanche and many others.  I am so happy to have had my voice heard and lovingly received.

I think I was nine. We were parked outside of an old brick building. I was dressed in a black leotards with pink opaque stocking underneath.  (Alexa enters… doing a bit of ballet) Crushing cotton candy colored ballet shoes in my hands as I strained against my seat belt ready to run in. My mother put a calming hand on my arm. She looked worried and she said.

“You don’t have to do this.”

“But I want to”

“There are a lot of girls in there and with your… you just don’t have to do this”

I insisted.

I walked into that building with my head held high and full of wonder.  (Alexa moves puppets) All day I watched women and girls older than me move across polished wood floors with perfect form and flow. They were my dream. Twirling delicate clouds flying through the air and plucked from the sky. Caught in the arms of their partners. Precious. I wanted to be that.

When I walked out of that building five hours later I had been cast. I had a part in Ballet Hysells annual production of the Nutcracker. This was no after school special either. This was the real deal. This show had a fancy opening party at the Museum of Art. People would come dressed in their Sunday best and opera gloves. And I was going to be there on the Sangaer Theater Stage in Downtown New Orleans for one show a week, two on weekends for a full holiday season as one of the rat kings lackey’s.

The costumers were thrilled that they didn’t have to pad my costume with a belly because I already had one, I was thrilled that I made it in and my mom was thrilled that she didn’t have to have the you’re just as good as everyone else conversation.

I didn’t understand then. It was before I learned that I was too fat to dance. It was before my body had become a cage. Founded in fear. Forged in anger.Sealed in shame.

I was nine years old and it was my mother’s fear that encouraged her to tell me I was fat when I wasn’t.

She was so afraid that I would end up depressed, requited, undervalued, irrelevant and invisible. Her angst surrounding her own body image was poured into my veins like some dominant hereditary gene. I’d rather have her perfect teeth than this disease.

I was eleven and angry at my elementary school peers who raised white cotton blouses and heavily starched pleated skirts to compare bellies and thighs to pictures of airbrushed models in Cosmopolitan and 17 Magazine. It was a test none of us could pass teaching us to stick fingers down throats to achieve mass media regurgitation of what was pretty

and we were supposed to be oh so pretty.

I was twelve and ashamed because anorexia and bulimia were considered a vicious malady and its bearer’s victims to be loved and looked after while my obsessive compulsive over eating disorder was considered MY CHOICE a self-inflicted, disgustingly gross weakness of character.

I was pissed at every doctor who refused to believe that my period went away before the weight gain. They saw my fat first and not my affliction. It would be six years before they found the cysts lining my ovaries and tubes. Cysts…a string of bright wet pearls across my ovaries. It would be another four years before they would find the tumor in my brain.

I was  17 and so scared of rejection that I would not let her make love to me; I would not let him see me with the lights on. I went seven years without photographic evidence that I indeed exist. Pictures or it didn’t happen. I wanted to pretend I never happened.

I was 22 and  shamed by every colleague and coworkers for their pettish pats on the back

when they saw me at the gym, when they congratulated me for “finally doing something good for myself”. I’m incensed by the audacity of complete strangers spewing their condescending concern for my health and well-being. They were never worried about me. They were afraid of being like me, of being trapped in this body, afraid of touch me as if I were contagious and in some cases…

in the worst cases afraid to love what society as deemed as unlovable. Fuck me all night but won’t hold my hand in the sunlight, abuse me, assault me.

I was 25 and I  stayed because I believed I wasn’t precious. I measured my worth in weight and was found wanting.

I wasn’t skinny, or blonde, I didn’t have blue eyes or white skin. I am completely the opposite.

No one will love me. No one will catch me if I fall. I’m too heavy. My issues are too heavy.

So Burlesque? Why?

Because they were wrong.

I was wrong.

This body is made to dance,

to be seen,

to be beautiful

to be feminine.

I’m 32 and every time I take the stage it is a free fall comprised of blind trust. It is a leap that tests my faith of the sacred within the sensual and 100 hands (and lets be real… on some nights only 10) reach out and catch me every time.

I dance to exist, to break through glass ceilings, shatter concrete beliefs, reshape worlds and retake space.

I burlesque because there was a part of me that hated me and sadly still believes even to this day that I could never be what I am now.

Every time I shimmy I shake this loose… and I welcome those around me to do the same.

From head to toe this is my body. Within it lies boundless joy. Monumental motion. Voluminous love

Fathomless fierceness. I will not let anyone shame me away from it. I will not listen when anyone tells me to hate it. This is my body. It is not a cage. This is me. I am precious. And I am free

image

Loc-n-Jane Out

It has been years… years since I’ve been in a beauty salon… let alone a black salon. The smells of hot grease and curling irons drown me in an ache, a longing for home and pink barrettes, shiny black patent leather shoes and baby blue taffeta dresses. Sade and Aretha Franklin sounds so thick that they wrap around you pulling you into a world between the worlds this portal in to African and American.

And here I sit a fresh 24 feeling all of 14 when he wraps that drape over me and tilts me back in my seat and runs the hot water through my hair. The woman to my left speaks of last Sunday’s sermon and the woman to my right moans about her children. And he scratches and scratches and scratches my head until memories wash up coming clean in mint, lavender rinses.

“Is the water too hot?” he asks but it is barely heard for I can hear my mothers voice sharp in my ears telling me she’ll be back in a few and to be good.

“Yes” I say but not to him.
He makes the water cool.

I remember now the awkwardness of sitting there… tilted back stomach exposed hands left at your side not feeling quite covered, trying to sit like a lady instead of bracing your legs wide apart. I curl my feet to the right, clasp my hands across my belly and curs silently for not wearing my longer skirt. He leaves me there… letting some herbal formula work its way into my scalp…

I still feel 14 “isn’t that the truth sista?” I hear from my left. I turn in the direction of the voice and nod uncomfortably and manage a smile I hope was not bewildered… The woman smiles in satisfaction and rambles on to her friend ignoring the little brown girl that is tugging at the hem of her exposed black slip edged with an inch or so of lace. And I realize that I am not 14 anymore. That I am a woman. I smile at the little girl… I remember being her. I remember my mother’s slip the long conversations about what I do not know. Wanting her to see me.
He comes and rinses me clean.
Pump,
Pump
up goes the chair, his fingers twisting my wet hair. And we speak of home, of the south, of politics, of religion, of past, and hope and ambitions. He gently rings out pain as he twists and binds in hope as he locs. This is ordinary for him but today he twists me in and locs “Jane” out. three hours go by I’m worried, my legs ache. He consoles me tells me my hair will loc nicely and quickly and grow so fast I will hate it.

I remember to breathe.

He seals the bees wax with heat. He spins the chair hands me a mirror and I try not to cry.
Oh my sweet Goddess what have I done.
Where has it gone, my mane, my crown, my glory gone.
Only twisted slender curling dark strands snake around my head. “6 weeks until they locs and thicken and 3 months hard up keep after that you will be fine don’t worry.” He smiles and me. No matter how much I tell myself to smile back I feel the falling of a frown. And I stare into the mirror directly at myself. My round face with ample chin, full heavy lips and large large eyes and I don’t believe it is me.

The eyes turn sad.
I manage a smile, pay, leave, go home and stare,
stare,
stare into the mirror with a comb in one hand and towel in the other ready to wash it out…
and slowly,
slowly,
slowly I see what I have done and the woman that I have become and the lesson I have

yet to learn .
I am the field run through, up turned scattered with seeds barren and brown…
my hair, my body, my soul, my being laid farrow far too long.
I am the field run through up turned tilled scattered with seed, and hope, and dreams and determination.
And just like my hair my being will grow.
Just like my hair wild and free and fat and black and nappy and me.
And so I begin again.
For I have never in my life ever looked so not like “Jane”.
We my hair and I unruly once more
like an unbroken wild animal thing
wild beautiful unbroken thing
back in Africa
all the way back in Africa.

Birth

Today is my birthday

I’m looking through the pictures… trying to see if I can see my house in them.
Mother calls… its a bad day
a bad day
for us both
she cries… I don’t
she apologizes… I tell her its okay
to not be okay
I am hesitant to ask about friends and family but I have to know. I ask her about Courtney
she says she does not know
I ask for Courtney’s number, I dont ask about anyone else.
I dont want to think about it.
I dont want her to think about it.
she cries… apologizes… tries to find a reason why Why WHY?!?!??!!?!?!
This happened. Everything happens for a reason. What lesson is to be learned from this. Why WHY WHY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! this?
Sometimes…
I tell her
Sometimes things happen to us because there is something that needs to be taught to the enviroment of those around us. We experince the karma because we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. This storm… this perfect storm. Did we create it ourselves? Did we mess up the earth so much with out toxins that we created this storm? Were our govenments so intent on other issuses and corrupt in other places that we were left wide open, defenseless our levee inadaquate? Did we need to be humbled like those who lay beneath the stones of Babble’s greatest tower? Did we need to know that we can not exist alone. That we must work with the peoples of the world. That we are not all powerful… that we are all the same. And sometimes the world is just chaotic… life chaotic?
I search for reason
I search for people
I search for home
I see a old man pulled from out of a building.
A hole in the roof.
Delivered
from the hot wet dark place.
Birthed back into the world
It is his birthday too

Drowning

My city is drowning

I turn on the tv. I want to know what is happening. I don’t know how to feel . . . what to feel. I see. My city drowning. I see my people black and bruised and begging and screaming and dying. The faces are all familiar. Voices all heard before. There is violence and desperation.
“I hear they are looting for food, and water and passing it out to other people” someone says.
The pretty blonde news anchor scoffs at the remark “Makes them sound like modern day Robin hoods . . . right.”
A tiny laugh.
She shakes her head, her stomach full, her clothes clean, her environment air-conditioned, her bathroom works.
News continues. Looters. Anarchy. My people are shown plastered against the screen. Violence shooting black bodies baked by the sun. The camera zooms in the sound cuts out, like some damned discovery channel special. But we are people, humans we are beings. I can see them cry. My youngest sister is trapped in the once proud convention center. People are dying all around her. A mother gives birth. A three month old is starving. The mother mal nourished and sick cannot produce the mil to feed her child A diabetic goes into shock an old woman faints the smell of shit and rot stifles the hot humid air. A woman sits besides the body of her dead lover wrapped in a white sheet. Still, clinging to the past despite the one-hundred and five degree heat.
And she cries
-and i cry
And she screams
-and i scream
Help us!
-i am helpless

I call. Circuits are down, signal busy. I cannot get through
so I wait
for the phone to ring
endless hours
days
tick tock
loudly by
And finally Mother calls from Baton Rouge. She is safe and with family. Everything lost. Everything is gone. This woman who raised my brother and me on her own, this woman who shed tears of blood and sweet to own her own piece of land to make a life, a better world for her children, my hero, my Saint, lost everything. She doesn’t cry. No tears are left
So I cry instead.
She tells me of a woman whom I’ve known since birth. “She was screaming because the glass was breaking all around her. I told her to get into the bathroom. She was screaming just screaming.
She tells me of the man who called her early in the morning to tell her to get out. He didn’t leave himself.
“The water is rising in the house,” he says his island accent strong
“Get out,” she cries
“The water is rising in the house”
“Get out. Get to the roof. Get out”
“It’s to late for me to leave the water rises.”
That is the last she has heard.

She is 56 she has to begin again
Everything is lost
but she is lucky
she is blessed
she is alive

Finally Brother calls. A friend made it out but his grand mother stays behind.

I see the view from above. I know the street. I’ve walked it. I know how the streets run with water in the gentle rains and how it flows like a river in the heavy storms. I know the roofs of the houses barely visible swallowed by water.

Big Sister calls. The man whom we share as a father made it . . . he had to be dragged away from his business. It was the world to him. It was his life. I wonder if he will recover.

PaRaine calls. “I don’t know where my daughter is, her husband the grandchildren?”
“Did they stay behind?” I ask in tears.
“Yes”
The answer is simple
solid
stark
stressing
“I’ve heard nothing”

I make a list that grows longer and l o n g e r.

Where are they? Did they make it?
On the news I watch them spray painting Ds and Xs over housed. The dead are here – do not enter.
But are they alive? Did they make it?
Dead bloated bodies tied to stop signs. People walk past trying not to see, trying not to stop.

A best friend calls. Her mother. My second mother makes it out of the hospital after walking through raw sewage and shit and rot through a river of death and decay she makes it out

The phone stops ringing.
Night falls
another day begins
I watch.
The president denies the aid of other countries
I seethe, I cry, I scream
I watch
rape and death and birth

“Where are you?” they cry to God and Country “Help us! Help us!”
Goddess, God, Lord and Lady help them I cry help them!
Where is their Home Security now?! Are they left to die because they are poor and black . . . like me? Are they to be washed away and forgotten? The rich sit on leather couches watching HD tv screens, shaking their head, sipping their cocktails. “What a shame. ” Remember you once came to play in my city you walked my streets of magick and mystery and now it drowns and where are you
Where am I?
Curled inside a bottle trying to forget trying to hide trying to run.
At least for a little while.

I turn off the television
I go to get a drink of water to clear my head but as soon as it touches my lips I am full of guilt for those who have not this luxury.
I can’t sleep in my bed because there are those that have not this luxury
I turn out the light

They scream
I scream

“Where are you my Country,” They scream
Where are you Aunt Grace, Uncle Robert, Troy, Ms Miles, Ms Oubre, Aunt Diane, Alethea, Susie, Mrs. Guevara, Sondra, Angela, Dawn, Katie, McClain, Cathy, Mike, Ashley? The list goes on and on, rolling out adding more and more
Help Us
Help Us
Help US
Help them!
My city drowns
My people die
Some say we can never go back
But I will
I will stand on the ashes.
I will touch the wreckage of what was once my home.
I will make my peace
and honor the dead
My city will live in me