--for Jason Dodge
Let's devote the next 12 days to this poetry ritual.
Be the Imprisoned Compass Aiming North
Day 1, place a map of the world on the floor, use a compass to align it with the planet's approximate directions. Lie on the floor next to the map, your head acting as tip of compass needle, always pointed North, the compass devoted to North only, and in this exclusive deep affection witnessed by humans did we long ago lose our minds on behalf of North? Roll onto the map, resting on your stomach, eyes facing North. Quietly tune into everything you see, smell, hear, taste, and feel in this position. What is there around you? Take notes (please refer to the appendix for instructions and tips on taking these raw notes for the poem).
Make as many noises with your body as you can without using your voice. Be quiet again, taking deep breaths, meditating for a short while on January. What is your body used to in this month, what foods, what love, what things make the month of January clear to you for warmth, for pleasure, work, and growth? How do you grow in January? It's Capricorn the mountain goat so how do you climb in January? Take time to think about Januarys you have known and Januarys you would like to see. Send these thoughts into the North. Take notes.
Finding the deepest tone in your stomach, eyes facing North, bring that deepest hum you can make, then slowly progress it to higher tones until you find your highest tone. Hold highest tone as long as you can, feeling it in the top if your head. You are a compass splitting clouds to find North. Rest, then take notes.
What is North? How is it so privileged? Write on the map the things you think of North. What is there? What power? Nuclear weapons? What struggles to be heard in the North? Who says North gets to have such dominance? In what ways do you regale or rebuff or admonish or accept or enjoy or fear or love or anticipate or revile the North? Take notes.
108 Parts of the One
Sit on the map please. Have an object you will want to work with for the next 12 days. For me it is my favorite object, the pen. I am a loving, terrible friend to pens. I lose them, find them, miss them until I find them. I am careful when allowing someone to borrow my friend. Do you spook easily as an accidental thief? Each day focus on 9 parts of your object. My pen is a line, a straight line. I see straight lines on the map, on my body, straight lines all around me. My pen has ink, where is the ink made? Where is the pen factory on the map? Where are the ingredients for the ink imported from? And the plastic tip and body, where is this from? Glue? Blue, black, and translucent, my pen can write of surprise, torment, the profane, or the deviant way to propel a culture forward, ready or not. The letters I write, the English I write through to connect with readers and ritual-makers alike. My pen could be a weapon if a weapon were needed, or to tap on glass for attention, or to point North for the explorers, or to softly caress my boyfriend's cheek to chin. Keep going, don't stop, 9 parts of your object a day until on the 12th day you will have found 108 parts of your object. Take notes, take notes, take notes.
Your Body, The Map
Roll on the map like caught on a wild stream of water, thrashing your body, then rocking from side to side, then slowly, slowly, quietly bringing yourself to shore. Think about your body in relation to the direction. The first day is North. The second will be East, then South, then West, then begin on the fifth day with North again, spiraling through the 12 days. Take notes.
For instance, for North, what are our bodies in relation to the map with North? Isn't North what is privileged? The heart and brain given leadership. Everything South of our belt line, our equator, we have been told what about? What have church doctrines told us of the forbidden, the desire of the lower, South of our bodies? Taboo, dangerous, and needing a priest's binding wedding ritual to procure safe passage into one another's sanctioned Souths. How is the body sacred to you? How do you prefer the sacred? What spirit gives you joy? Then take notes. Then look at the map and find where you live, where you are, and begin to say exactly what you need to say out loud about where you are from. Speak to the map. For instance, for me:
I am a citizen of the United States. Currently there are many thoughtful people in circles I travel in who ask about safety, are we feeling safe, is this safe for you? It is a beautiful thing when another human being asks this of us. I appreciate it, but also want to extend it to where we do not feel safe. How do we create safety as US-Americans for the people in the seven different nations our military is currently bombing and shooting in our name, of, freedom tis of Thee? No other nation is more aggressively killing to steal resources like the United States. How can we stop this warring, hording, and suppressing? The latest workforce data in early 2018 shows an increased use of US-employer tracking devices placed on US-employees. The latest endangered and recently extinct species of insects, fish, mammals, birds, and reptiles are an everything must go kind of sale at every one of the 9,000 Walmart stores in the lower 48 states. We need to consider all the conviction, affliction and complicity of being a citizen of the nation we have ties to. I have read about the thousands of civilian deaths my nation's drone wars have inflicted on the people of the Middle East. Someone asks me to join them at a falafel shop and like an asshole I imagine I know anything about falafel or the people who invented it. Every tax dollar I have paid from the shit-jobs I have worked have killed children. This is not a joke. How to align with others to change this world? How to look closely at the shifting policies to privacy, citizenship, and no longer being allowed to sue a bank. How to see how we fail ourselves and others. How to watch the hand of the United States's racist military industrial complex reaching to its federal, state, and local racist, militarized police forces cheering for fascism in DC. There is also love, joy, kisses, so many tears, and so many days of being tired of all of it, but finding the magic in a cell dividing into kale, trees, penguins, carpenter bees. It is good to hold another's hand in this world. Do you have someone to hold hands with? Not everyone does, I know this, and if you do not, where would you like to start in finding someone to hold onto? How to ease the embarrassments of not having enough of what we need so that we may ask? How to also be good at seeing what is needed and provide? How thankful? How much more thankful can we be? Take notes.
For 12 days work through the ritual, rotating through the months, a month per day. A different direction, head always in the North, but facing and reaching East on the day of East. What is East and what about West? Who gets to say what is East or West? Who got to first call the Middle East the middle of what, from whose vantage, for whose advantage? The object you choose, your body, the map, trusting yourself in the ritual. Take notes, take lots of notes for your poem. And always, always, always be ready to change this ritual, or to add ingredients to it and to be at peace with and challenged by the ritual.