It took me well into my twenties and my mother’s sister to tell me the truth, because in my family, secrets were locked into drawers and tucked under hooded eyes and they had a wall of shame built around them, so they were hard to break into.
I was a hummingbird living in an intoxicating city. Even the smell of the exhaust fumes of the cars thrilled me. It was all heady – the museums, the history, the concrete and the sizzling dance club.
In the chaos, my whole body became calm – like I was in the eye of a hurricane. There was screaming and noise, but I was like a sleeping dog in front of a fireplace, telling the woman across the aisle from me, who had grabbed my hand and cut off the circulation in my fingers…. that everything would be alright.
Not having enough becomes a mantra, a creed, an ode – and you hear it everywhere – in church when the shove the basket toward your father, in your home, your friend’s homes, businesses, relatives, the women in line at the bank with small pieces of paper, numbers not adding up to need.
Miss you in a body with a too thick waist
and flaming red hair out of a box,
and one overlapping tooth
and the laugh that could crack an Easter egg.
The three of us shared a diary that year, a black composition book, and we’d pass it back and forth, hating and loving our parents, falling in love with eighth grade boys and math teachers and each other’s brothers – with Bruce and E. Street Band and John Lennon.
So here we were. – me and a DJ from Brooklyn, in a hot tub over the Pacific Ocean hanging off a cliff – the milky way over us, the night inky black with no moon, laughing and coughing and laughing when she said, “Holy fuck. What the fuck is that?”
I was in a landslide of my own making, and I lived as if I was dying. Until I went to Italy, and I threw a coin into Trevi fountain, the muscled cement gods staring at me. I made a wish for all of it to stop, right after that wish, it did stop.
I wanted to say, Kauai’s going to fuck you so hard now, I wanted to warn her – take the words back, but I knew it was too late.
The three of us shared a diary that year, a black composition book, and we’d pass it back and forth, hating and loving our parents, falling in love with eighth grade boys and math teachers and each other’s brothers – with Bruce Springsteen and John Lennon.
Together, the three of us were discovering our voices.
Each year the undertow took us farther out to sea, while we tread water, a graveyard beneath our feet, the waves grinding us down like sea glass.
When I am most brave, I look up at the night sky, and it gazes back.
Now when I look in the mirror my mother and grandmother and great mother and even my daughter and granddaughter are staring back at me, and I’m so grateful for all of us, it helps me understand time is not linear.
And I know the whole night Makena was with my father she didn’t see his racism, his privilege, or the young boy who had lost his mother at five years old. She didn’t have his history.
She just saw the soul of him.
I was throwing out my kitchen for generations of women who couldn’t be contained by a home or a traditional marriage.
Denial is a powerful tool. We can forgive the people who prefer to live inside a bubble of denial, until it touches their lives.
We are learning how to release the people we love, the homes we love, even the land, as the oceans rise and the weather shifts.
This is how we use our words, how we love against hate, how we know we are alive in between breaths.
I yelled his name again, loudly into his left ear. Do you want to live or are you ready to die?
Because my left shoulder hurts from my grandfather’s violin. Because my knees belong to my mother.
This is not a poem about love – it’s how we find the compass to truth north in an old pocket in a dusty closet.
Falling in love is directional, a going down, a spiral, but perhaps instead of falling in love we need to rise in love.
Grief and love are two of three braids – the third braid is forgiveness. We cannot love unless we are first able to forgive.
My song becomes a prayer – that my family and friends withstand the isolation and overcome their fear of death.
Don’t fly – you’ll miss the valleys, the abandoned cars, the Indians, the coyotes, the intersections and the signs.
I thought of all the miles by brother pedaled trying to hold onto my mother’s faith for all of us.
My hands are bloody from taking blackberries off reluctant vines and I have woke in the night to wild pigs.
Ben lived in an abandoned upstairs apartment that smelled of stale cigarettes, whiskey, and oil paint.
And the Rabbi pulled me onto his lap and told me about his God. “If you are still alive,” he said “you must be alive.”
Though my mother was the writer, this over the shoulder scrutiny by my father taught me how to write.
Yes, we are souls having an experience in human bodies, connected by an intricate, endless web of love.
But after my father died, after I moved to Kauai and began to write, I didn’t understand Ho’oponopono is not about changing someone else.
My 2-year old grandson turned to me in his gravelly toddler voice and said, “Grandma – you are dying, and it’s okay”
I pedaled my bike with fury. Past children on bicycles, past thumb suckers and hunger and dogs off leash, past Nene birds and Shama birds and a school.
Your ancestors want to remind you they were also citizens of dark times.
Going into the future, I want a Mt. Saint Helen’s of love, a Pacific Ocean of Love. I want a planet, a galaxy and a universe of love.
The old Italian women created a circle and prayed for me, put water to my lips, stripped me naked and put cool towels on me, their rosaries brushing against my young skin.
Before this moment I was light, I was song, I was throat and love, I was the breeze that blew my thin pink curtain and woke me this morning, and then I realized I didn’t have a mask on.
I discovered by accident I had a knack for shooting pool one night, which came as a surprise, since I failed geometry and physics.
You kneel down to get closer to the suffering –
extend your finger,
the one that accuses.
May you love harder, slower and unconditionally.
May you honor those who dreamt you into being.
I began to reject the noise, and became a refugee from sound, moving toward silence to heal my body and spirit.