I time travelled in the last 24 hours. Yesterday a friend took me for a walk on the streets of Beirut. I always find walking in a city a small way to try and get to know its pace, its energy, what it makes time for, and where some of its lines might be. The first night I arrived, the moon was full, and I have never seen it quite as large, as yellow, and as clear as that night. It rose over the hills framing the horizon, dotted with lights from buildings far away like fairy lights. So even though my body weighed weary, a walk was needed. Moonshine on skin. I found small cafes with men drinking coffee in groups, a shisha coal motorbike parked nearby, dark shop fronts, brightly lit petrol stations, young men in full military uniform carrying M16s, red and white steel barricades on the road, a trendy shopping mall, broken buildings, crosses from churches outlined with neon lights, grafitti-ed walls, a tv crew shooting a man in a suit in front of a makeshift backdrop that was leaning ungraciously against a greek-inspired statue who somehow still managed to summon dignity, big restaurants with lots of young people drinking coffee and beer and smoking shishas..
I tried to do a scent walk, having learnt this recently from Z. Recording a scent walk for her. And the city was a porous wall of exhaust fumes and dust, like a thin curtain. Which contained unexpected clear bright pockets of heady jasmine and another flower that I do not know the name of. And then the sharp knife of urea, or decaying rubbish – I'm not sure which, they are still having a garbage crisis (although, their streets where I was at seemed a lot cleaner than a normal day in Uptown, which makes me think about states of perpetual crisis where crisis becomes the backdrop of the ordinary – like military personnel walking about, fully armed in the streets). And then the smell of leaves, lightening the air, and more lingering than the perfume of flowers.
Last night's walk unpeeled another layer of this city for me. Which is rhythm. We walked along a street named after a tree that lined its pavements. Pavements are a rare thing in Beyrouth (spelled according to road signs). Cars hang out of them. Because there are no car parks. Because everything is privatised. From water and electricity (where you pay twice to get a subpar service, which results in a perpetual hum of water tanks delivering private water to apartments and of massive generators squashed between buildings with entrails of cables pulled into homes, spewing carcinogenics), all the way to beach fronts. On the walk, she was decoding street graffiti to me. One read: “The barbed wires you put around the pigeon rocks
are a shame to the city. The barbed wires are a betrayal of Lebanon.” Street graffiti and art is everywhere in this city. And they are beautiful. They crawl across abandoned flats like amoebas. Line walls and wooden boards as murals conversing next to each other, on top of each other. They pay homage to singers, poets, famous and unknown. Sometimes they are painted on, sometimes sprayed on, sometimes carefully printed and pasted on. Sometimes they are framed by arabic calligraphy reminding me of Yati's artwork from a decade ago. Sometimes they are commissioned. Sometimes they are pleasure. Sometimes they are rebellion.
So we walked across this street, and all the shops were closed. Shuttered down. There were two to three bars still holding up. But it was a long street that did not feel loved by night life. It was quiet, and dark. About 5 years ago, it was one of the most busy street in Lebanon at night. Elbow to elbow with bars and people edging for space with cars on the sidewalks. She tells me that the people in Beirut gets easily bored. There is an impatience for something new. And now the something new is a street away, and that street is the present past. The compulsion for reinvention. And capitalism doing what it does best to feed this on, with banks linked to politicians and the 3%. Something else I found out, while another friend drives like a gangster across the suddenly more uniformed lines of ambient yellow lights in the downtown area – a company called Solidere bought up most of the area during or just after the civil war, only to kick everyone out and replace centuries-old buildings with contemporary hulks that are aesthetically pretty interesting, but also, ethically nauseating (all bar one hotel that still stands grimly with a massive banner on its face saying “Stop Solidere”, seemingly in perpetuity).
So there is something of an impatience in the city. Old buildings that was up one week ago, is now almost entirely rubble. Multi-million dollar apartments wearing the latest thing in architecture (open spaces, queer angles, light, air, balconies, walls of plants) stare haughtily down on a row of shops (where only 3 are open), and wait for their disappearance. I saw on one wall barricading the clean from the messy, four weather-worn wooden birdhouses built by a carpenter across the street. It was tender. And also unpeeled another layer for me, which is persistence. And stubborn persistence blooms everywhere like wildflowers.
She points out shops to me that has been there forever. And my neck ached from looking up and trying to decipher the pattern in the buildings. They are so random. Every shape is perfect, but different. They face each other, away from each other, give sidelong looks at each other. Iron wrought balconies, gently rounded balconies, handsome hard angled balconies, postmodern puzzle-pieced balconies, 70s-styled balconies, stone-carved plaster-cast balconies – all in one breath. Both friends at different times recounted stories that happened in each significant building – this is where the restaurant owner shot the Israeli soldier with his sniper (and is now a Nike store), this is my favourite old house since I was a child (and I hope will be here next week), this used to be where the Meem office was (and did not have any bars in the area then), these series of steps leading upwards used to lead people to olive trees where the hill was an expansive olive grove (and now holds apartments and shophouses crowded together).
Time is a continuous thread of memory and recognition and dream, uninterrupted. So I wondered about the city's people. I wondered about my friend and colleague. And his impatience, that is also persistence.
We walked past another mansion, whose owners could no longer even afford to keep the lights on and had to rent out most of its rooms for events, but kept its garden with old trees. I wondered how our world would be organised differently if we valued property not by its postcode or materials, but by the age of its trees. How much gentler we would be to the land we tread on. And how the art of care would supersede the craft of making (and destroying to make space for more making). How much more yielding our borders would be. And how differently we would engage with time. The time it takes to grow a tree is a lifetime. Several lifetimes.
I wrote too much. And I haven't even started on today. But I am already tired.
Fragments of sentences will have to do for now.
It takes a century to form an inch.
Around me are time pockets calcified.
They look like trees.
They look like forests.
They are landscapes and mountains – and remind me of the drive up with Hassan.
Hassan who brakes gently every time I pull out my phone to snap a picture from the car.
And his face breaks into a sun.
They are flowers formed into stone from water.
And rise in silence.
I am amongst at least eleven thousand years.
I search for pairs.
One needs another couple of hundred years.
One finally meets.
There is an eternal drip of water.
(and I am reminded of a story seed, and another kitchen)
I close my ears because people are so noisy.
I resist making human forms with my eyes.
Trace their shape in the air and it feels like a dance.
What they call mushrooms look like jellyfish.
Abrupt horizontal straight lines, like a fringe
and a complex filigree, tentacled – dripping.
Shoulder blades, wings, bones.
Like cake batter when it's just right,
Thick, and I am surprised
- they always seemed so pointed and fragile in my mind.
They are alive. And life follows water.
And how it is right that humans only live so short, because -
I imagine a bomb lightly exploding this landscape,
or people huddled from the burning fireflies outside,
the careless urgency of human life.
The stone platform winding across this cavern -
centuries snapped off.
The ceiling is so high and the depths so low and folded that I am unable to hold
the shape of this space in my mind. In my body.
It is a relief to weep. Water to water.
I stop to smell their skin. But the smell of my own salt obscures.
And the puffs of perfume from others invade me suddenly as they walk past.
I close my mind. And try again.
The ghost of chalk.
I see time swaying, knotting, small bulbs, thin edges of waves, shelves that holds layers of cities from a fantastic imagination.
They feel soft and hard and cold on the tips of my fingers.
Everywhere, there are ripples.
The water reminds me of water from another space - cold, smooth - skin?
and my hands were hungry for more time.
But the ride is short, and this space is not for passing through.
Not for spotting the couple, the two camels or the leaning tower of Pisa.
I hesitated to wash my hands,
but I just pee-ed, and I must.
The water from the tap is like steel.
The first cable car for people was made in Switzerland in 1912.
Before it was to send goods to castles perched
We rise in a metal bubble, numbered,
crossed the carpark (where is Hassan?),
the busy highway,
I can see the tops of trees,
We rise between apartments
and I see the mundane artefacts of someone's life -
chairs on the balcony, tv, vase, photos on the shelf, laundry.
Trees – the Lebanon flag has the cedar tree, its wealth.
There were a few at the top. In the Church built like a wave or the bones of a fish -
paragliders cut the sky in pairs -
The sea edged the shore in the distance.
I climb up to My Lady Peace, and in two circles I see the mosque.
The church is closed.
The souvenir shop is open.
I buy three small vials of holy water, inscribed in Arabic.
I'm surprised I can read the words Allah in this script.
Hassan wakes me by saying,
The city is 9000 years old.
And it looks like a UNESCO heritage site.
Shops, cafes, tasteful music -
I am surrounded by hungry cats.
We wandered into an exhibition -
“Memory of Time”
There is an excavation -
850 metres above sea level, in the hills
They split rocks open and found fish -
turtles, prawns, an octopus,
prehistoric great great great grandparents of the stingray,
- 100 million years old.
One swallowed another fish.
How did it happen?
And the sun set against the sea.
Men stand on rocks and swing their lines into the water,
It is a perfect circle of bright yellow, turning orange,
dipping into the horizon,
Dropping flames against deep blue.
It is one day.
Now knotted into words.
R tells me about the significance of space in the urgency of memory. I imagine Beirut as a space that holds time and space in layers - on top of each other, jostling each other. Becoming bigger and longer. Like the stalactites and stalagmites in Jeita. Or the layers of rock in Jbeil that holds the frozen story of fish. And how it will take time, and maybe some measure of love, to get a sense of its textures. And maybe this is all spaces. Except some become mountains because of the imagined borders we construct as we walk. And mountains snatch breath.
Travelling across timezones in airplanes is a game of time. Chasing the sun. Chasing the moon. The screen paints a mountainous border of light and dark. I'm still aching at the same pace as snatches of breath.
They finally sat there and watched the sun set together, in silence. Their forms leaned against each other, not quite breaching the distance, but close enough. It has taken them five recycles to climb this high and reach this close. They began as concrete foundations of the two houses, and remembered the ghost of a time when they shared the same belly of fire, in a space of intensed intimacy, when distinction and selves were not quite constituted.
When they were windows, there was the dissonance of skin. They shared the same sun, wind and monsoon rain, but were unable to speak about the sounds, smells and emotive texture of the lives lived within. As gates they could gossip side by side, as they watched the world pass by. But still, unable to lean. The most embodied space of yearning was probably when they were metal staircases, winding towards each other but separated by a wall. Sometimes they would vibrate with the weight of footsteps on the other, and hum an echo, hoping to be heard.
But that day, today, they leaned towards each other, and watched the sun streak a familiar fire across the sky in a completely new song, in a perfect silence.
Funny how I always return to this space when it's about fathers or grandfathers. I made a kind of resolution to write more this year, and I think I did. But not in this space. In other fragments and scraps of paper, screens, small and big. But anyway, I am getting greater clarity about shifts needed, and a return to this simple means of turning what is inside out. And with that, I recall a tree, a circle, an intention, and being held by the love of friends.
So patriachs. Today is the anniversary of my grandfather's death. When he died, I wrote him a poem. Or maybe a prosetry, as a friend would call it. A couple of years back, I read it at a Lit Fest. And now, it's here again.
His mouth reminded me of my father dying
Pulled back into a frozen "O"
Like the recurring nightmares I used to have
Tooth falling like icebergs
oiled with despair.
What happens to teeth? Do they all fall out this way?
Will our last expression always be that "O" of moans?
I was taken aback by his stretched skin,
His arms deflated
stained, by the red and brown continents of time.
His face carrying a memory, changing with light.
My eyes touched every rise and fall of his bones
to force flesh upon
I could sometimes see it.
My aunt tells me about his withering since my grandma's funeral,
How his body lost the will to sit, even as he needed to shit,
Everyday, that small mechanism of life.
She pulled open the covers and traced his pelvis, pointed to his
legs, skin and bones hanging, missing something -
His arms flutter and his breathing is loud and deliberate.
I put my face in front of his eyes, and tell him who I am, explain
my brother's absence, with a promise I have no power to keep.
His eyes do not blink, but maybe he sees me.
He used to have a glass bunsen burner,
with oil in its rounded bottom and a thin blue flame on top.
He set it up on his desk in the third room - the room I briefly
filled when I turned fifteen, and now houses my father's widowed
wife and their sons,
My brothers -
And when the time is right, measured by a mystery,
he would take out his small medical reference book, grind herbs, and
seal them into little clear capsules,
and for a few months, we would all be fortified with daily doses of
It never occurred to me to question how a clerk knew how to brew medicine.
Every Friday, when the sun set, after dinner, my
cousin and I were summoned.
With him between us, we would walk down the black tarred street, from
the house to the only supermarket in town,
It was a quiet walk, with little talk or questions.
The silence of how stars were trapped into
secrets on the road;
I asked him once, he didn't answer me,
he didn't laugh at me, or tell me off for being silly.
The journey back was the sound of the two of us
eating the best ice creams in the world -
Cornetto (1 ringgit) or the one with the chocolate suit around a
chocolate flesh encasing a chocolate heart (70 sen).
My grandpa's treat to his two granddaughters
In a house where men ruled.
His silent anomaly of love.
This morning I saw the messages on the phone,
Electronic news of his passing.
I think of his bones and his face and his eyes and his arms.
I don't think I held him when he was strong,
But when his skin faded and his soul looked out through cloudy frames
I touched him
I spent some time thinking of him today. And it is never that moment. But the in between years. When he kept asking me for my name card, certain but not until he sees the name card, that I am a lawyer. How do I explain feminist activist to a man who was so ahead of his time, and yet so stuck within it? When he kept complaining to me about his legs failing. That he couldn't walk anymore. He used to walk everyday to play mahjong, to work, until he was at least 80. Now everytime my leg aches, I think of him. And him who fed scraps to a kitten, and I think about the painful ache of aloneness. But that is maybe enough for today. We keep replaying memories in our heads until they become lore. Shape shifting until words hold them. And words hold poorly without attention.
Being still and being present. There have been spectacular sunsets recently. Every day since I got back the sky is a confident glow of orange and pink against bright blue, with clouds that summon the awe of mountains. They tell me to stop, and look up. So I do. And resist the itch of pulling out my camera to try and freeze yet another moment into something that I don't have to pay too much attention to now.
I wanted to write about the film I jst saw. The Cemetary of Splendour. Because it was at the same time a film, a poem, a story, a piece of conceptual art. And it was such a tender love letter to the idea of a nation. Of belonging. With mundanity and magic threaded throughout. Simultaneously serious, critical, playful, witty and moving. I'm not sure I can work up enough energy to do this now. But maybe the moments.
When she raised her trouser leg to show the scars from her right leg that is 10cm shorter than her left, and her companion, both present and past, male and female, real and imagined, washed it with a mixture of gingko and goji berry (for memory) and lovingly kissed it. And she finally broke down and wept. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to the pain that the past has marked us with, with a choice to openly believe in something not quite real, but so inextricably linked to the landscape that is real before us.
When the soldiers are lost in sleep (within that, folded are dreams of glory from a previous kingdom, nightmares of the current battles) and the flourescent lights are the only things changing. From soothing blue to gently angry pink, to the indeterminate in between. To soothe the nightmares. The collective nightmares from the shared lore of warfare from border to border. Somehow the silent hum of technology is meant to make it better. And maybe with that, a narrative of the future. But even that has its tides. And the ceiling fans turn pink and blue and purple and yellow and green and pink and blue and purple and yellow and green.
When the women ask about important things. Like "Who are with you?" "Are they men or women?" "What do you want to eat?" "Where are you hiding your life?" And pray to the princesses of lands that once flew fire over her. "Wake him up." "Give us health." "Thank you for bringing me love." "Still time." "Stay my beauty."
Balms made from the land. To heal and preserve what is beautiful. But smells of sperm. And she rubs it on her chest. And tells the younger woman, "My breasts are perking up." And they laugh. Puncturing the myth (again, so much folded in this) with mirth.
And the women move in unison. A dance, some kind of exercise, not quite marching soldiers, a different rhythm, but it is the same. Almost the same. Because here, her body, her person, her flesh, messes with the metaphor. And he joins in at the end. And you are no longer sure which is more chaotic, more "real". The music has hope. But you are meant to laugh.
And everytime technology appears. There is this uneasy story. It's not a simple one, of raising past glory in romanticised ideals vs the literal metallic hunk of a yellow excavator digging up the earth. But that everything is held in the same kind of mythical dream. The progress of the past that still has not ended (that steals the souls of current soldiers to continue fighting), the promise of the future-past that is wiped out by a flood with only broken monuments and a line on a tree marking the moment, and a mysterious incessant digging, the anxiety of the now soon to be obliterated into the then by an unnamed next.
And yet, she found her love through online dating. The intimacy of an interface. A broken man, but a real man. Maybe a broken dream. The American dream. Coming in the form of an overweight retired soldier who has old-age problems and a big open laugh.
And she pulls out her phone to snap a picture of a forgotten monument of people hiding in a bomb shelter from the planes coming from Laos, retelling a memory from her past held awkwardly in the between stones, to something even more ephemeral but stubborn. The containers of our memory are embodied and unreliable. And the narratives are constantly shifting, even in the witness.
The blue sky that is unchanging. And you are forced to stare at it until the pieces of floatsam in your own eyes start to make patterns, and you see what isn't there, but is there, and is melded with a legend, that is both there, and isn't there.
The men become metaphors of the nation. The women become the quiet reality. And even then, it doesn't stay still. They move from metaphor to mundane to mythical to metaphysical. And then they exchange and merge, and you're not quite sure anymore. But the men do not fully become real here. They slip back into sleep. And what happens when you have a metaphor that sleeps? A symbol that dreams?
And finally, the last call. Is to open your eyes wide to truly see. And to do so, you must stay still. And your face is severe. It's serious. It's a commitment. Even as the playing kids kick up a storm dust, and the film is deliberately coloured in a way that obscures, we see her open her eyes wide, and commit to seeing.
This is an incredible piece of work. I feel like I need a notebook the next time I go and see it. There are so many layers folded within each moment. I'm glad I went to see it. And I'm glad I'm taking the time to write down bits of it. Memory. So unreliable.
[Part 2 observations]
Watched it again. And again it exploded within me. Some other moments.
The soporific balm of the colours, that spoke simultaneously of seasons, of ideologies over time that balm us (trash and perhaps a body lumped next to a stern concrete wall with a story of stoic patriotism > maybe beautiful serenity in a cultivated landscape at the heart of a city but there is always someone there, picking up the trash > an advertising board selling the union of civilisations between a current dream of the west but even that is starting to become dated as time speeds by in the shape of motorcycles and cars > consumption of anxieties embodied in a cheesy horror movie that just reinforces the sleep > elevators going up and down, left and right, and we simply follow in line), of precision and rhythm which is broken by sleep and wakefulness, of a phallus that evokes science and art and mysticism, bent like an upside down umbrella or the waning bough of a tree -
Time, time, time, time. Held in objects, in colours, in bodies, in memory, in history, in rhythms, in extended gaze, in stories, in * // ".. ^,./.... ~~~ '" .
"Did you have a meal with the villagehead?"
"Yes, we had a celebration."
"I thought so. You have parasites."
Interrupting the writing of history in the land of sleep with more pertinent questions like: "What does he want to eat?" "How many chillies?"
The food we put into our mouths becomes us. Land to flesh. And the in betweens where we make language, flavours, kinships..
End of 2015/start of 2016 seems to be about fathers. I found out a friend lost her father to a car accident on Facebook, early in 2015, and that she has been shattered by this. And I feel so sad for her, I wished I sensed it early enough to bake her some Lamingtons, unasked for. Which I still will. But better if it came before an intimate baring on something as callous as Facebook. Which is why I can't still seem to unplug. How much of my friends' lives will I lose? Even as I invest less and less in this space, others are investing more. Putting aside more and more scraps of our lives, big and small, into this space of curated self, or a thoughtless one. More of the former I suspect. Will any other way of knowing, relating weigh as heavily as this? Is the age of letter writing truly over, or the age of knowing only as much as you make the effort to have an actual sustained contact, over? That would be a huge loss for humanity. But then again, we have never been able to keep as much known as now. Even the peripheries of our friendships, and time travelling to times past to keep in the present. Or as much as we would allow into our timelines, or of some sense of self with the webs we extend, visibly, at least to ourselves.
But I'm wandering, I was talking about fathers. Another person I met recently, an acquaintance, work friend, whom I enjoy talking to, was talking about his father. Who had dementia. And we were wondering about the 'miracle' of modern medicine. That it can be so incredible to find out within the filigree of our nerves and veins exactly which one is blocked, and to then actually intervene at that spot. But sometimes, what is it extending? A life? Or the flesh and blood shell that holds what was once a life? His father was an intelligent man, his intellectual hero, and they had such profound conversations. And now, he is grasping with everyday sense. And he had just passed away. And no matter which direction this conversation takes, a loss is always something so unexpectedly cavernous.
When I lost my father, in 2009, I couldn't reconcile how I felt about him. His absences, the pieces of his presence all throughout my life, my absences in his, and the small stories where our paths met in some way. And how he looked, in that coffin. How I flew back from halfway across the world, having just landed, and being unable to summon the tears for grief. And how I kept stumbling into sadness everytime I saw a person that looked like him, that had a body shaped like him, that had a smile or a mischievous gaze like his. I suppose death is so final. And there is no more space to figure things out. To have the hopeful cloudiness of potential, of something different. I am glad I drove every weekend to see him, but my heart broke over his body trapped in the hospital, even as he could look out of the wooden lourved windows into the sky. He wanted to go home. But home was always something ephemeral for him. When I die, I hope I will have a home. A space where I have rooted. And that at least one person will go through my things to give away or sell, with the sweet, aching sense of loving, missing, and letting go. My aunt took care of all my papa's stuff, but it was more pragmatic, about duty, than anything else. My grandmother loved him above everyone else. Or at least, that is the family lore. She, I miss with every warm pulse. And her love, I remember so clearly. Even as I realise that I am turning 40 this year, and my memories have become those washed out photographs that I used to look at and think about how old things were. My life is aging, and my memories have become the old things. Old laminated green table with worn down white spots where I spent most of my life growing up. Peeling shallots, clearing the tables, telling stories, having make believe fancy dinner dates like a grown up, breakfast of Mastin Ghani mee rebus or Maggi mee assam laksa at the weekends, or when I came home. That house is my home. And even as it no longer exists now, it's in my bones. And when I die, they disappear with me. They don't exist, lifeless, on a timeline, with perfunctory likes and awkward comments that fail to hold the thought, even with countless emoticons. The casualness of relating.
And if life is too brief for stitching relationships that come from actual intention made and time spent, then maybe life is simply too brief to be lived fully. And maybe there is a reason that when we age, we begin to feel that we need to somehow make decisions about which relationship too keep, to nurture, and which to let go off, even with sadness. But I hope that doesn't mean I stop uncovering new friendships, new people, new lives to make a commitment of time to.
I strayed from fathers. I seem to know many people who love and adore their fathers. I accidentally typed my uncle's name under "father" in an application for visa. Maybe that is who my father is, and I do love him, and adore him. So at least one resolution for the year, is to call him more often.
It's been awhile. So why not restart. There are things lingering in the mind, and there is a need to get them out before I forget. And forgetfulness is becoming friendly.
I just watched the new Star Wars yesterday. And the trailers were of yet another recycled story of super hero men in metallic suits, off on a mission to save the world, with slivers of humanity and vulnerable masculinities as personal hurdles to overcome. For a split second, I wondered if Robert Downey Jr and the guy who plays Captain America ever get a little embarassed to do this again. That their craft and life's work has been reduced to this. Then I remembered that they live in another universe, where their social capital is precisely around the lore of the comics, even though it's becoming a little frayed around the edges.
Another trailer was a contemporary retelling of essentially, Famous Five stories. Instead of parallel of colonisation, where there are lost, wild worlds to be tamed as their entire playground, fighting pirates through friendship and a loyal dog, it's now a dystopian future, where they are fighting monsters with a loyal droid, or magical assistance. The same tale of the chosen one, aided through friendship, loyalty, gumption. And so white. Beautiful, young, white imagination of what youthful hardship could look like, in a fantasy world of meaning and consequence. And then my mind wanders to the young people who join Daesh, and thinking about their motivations. Remembering how I was when I was younger, full of energy and idealism, of believing in my own power and vision to create a much better world than the one that is currently fucked up. And how Daesh provides that - a divine call of solidarity, meaning, purpose - a different kind of social and spiritual capital.
Putting these various pictures against each other. One is playing, make belief, glamourised. At the heart of it, a thought experiment, and not even a very good one, in case it offends sensibility or turn the infinitely more profitable pop culture into the constraints of high art. Another is the vision carved out of the space of a small town, constrained by having very little in money, books or mirror stories. And another is the grip of a time that is so real, it seems like a moment in history. And having the ability to be part of this. The harsher the call, the more real it seems.
Maybe it's not such a leap to imagine how easy it could be to take it on. Feeling so isolated and alone, misunderstood, unseen, and seeing so much. That being given a chance to hold a weapon, being told how it fits into an entire picture, and your critical place in this network of imminent change. I heard from a researcher recently, that many young women become radicalised through peer network. That friends convince each other that this makes sense, which makes sense, because friends often help to make sense of things. It reminded me of a conversation in another chapter, of young lesbians choosing to transition because of their peer network. That friends convince each other that this makes sense. And that in both instances, they are also people who feel rejected by the current social system of value and meaning. And having that other space, where who you are matters a whole lot, not just to you, but to the actual real and material world - and every world is infinitely personal - what fullness that brings.
And this is so familiar. We have all stood at that trajectory, of not being seen, of being excluded, of sensing the texture of our own impotence at a large and unjust world. And then we make choices. And the choices we have are also already within the topography of how we are named, and the history that we carry with us from before we were born. Like the number of blades in a folded fan. And as we take one step to another, these continue to open up. Hopefully, we don't walk ourselves into a knot or a dead end.
I chose to be an activist, quite late in life. Not realising that this was actually possible until another bookmark. And now I am constrained by this choice, because what radical change can happen from within a node that exists in the system in which it tries to reconstruct? But then are there even pockets outside of this increasingly hungry machine that we have finessed like a super AI who understands layers of conscience, learning and choice?
Not sure where I am going with this. But I am just struck, but how much of one is the shallow sheen of plastic at play, and how much of another is the crusty sound of bone and flesh. Two opposite ends of the same quilt. Powered by guns and ideology and adults who are also just consuming and consuming. It can be a little depressing.
Star wars though, was very satisfying. Even as it fit neatly into its own mould.
Read, cycled, listened, tarot, spoke, ate, read, painted. Good weekend.
Cat pee-ed everywhere. Malaysia suffers another loss. Sad weekend.
Tomorrow: must finish writing. must finish writing. must finish writing.
Strings of words have come into my head
that are almost like psalms about you.
If you knew, you'd probably laugh.
It's funny isn't it?
If the people who made decrees were wise,
you would be canonised -
In my dyslexia, i wrote Satin Toni -
maybe you would have preferred that more.
I keep bumping into moments when I wished you were around
There are so many questions still;
So many moments when I am shaky, and lazy,
and I knew that if only I could have 5 minutes
with your voice on the telephone
pressed close to my ears,
or a quick chat next to the photocopy machine,
or the time that it takes for rings from sweaty glass mugs
to stain the table
as you weave your stories into parables;
Everything will make sense again,
the fire will have new light, my small feet
ready for fight, for flight,
It might even be called hope.
There are so many things that you
would have been proud of;
So many changes that maybe,
you wouldn't be surprised at,
since you always knew the might of seeds.
I keep bumping into moments when I wished you were around.
Today there is a meeting that you would have gone for,
where I would go, with two-thirds of the reason
being just to catch up with you, have a huge hug with you.
But I will still be there. And so will you.
In so many ways.
Every single person you have spent time with,
have you in them.
Like magic. Or witchcraft.
Or common sense.
It's been a year, and I still keep bumping into you.
It makes me smile.
And it makes me sad.
It makes me write weird psalms about you in my head.
It makes me breakdance with hope and ache.
Miss you Toni. Miss you a lot.
There are a lot of things that puzzle me that I simply have no time to unravel. The automatic choice of the word "unravel" puzzles me. As though puzzles were a series of interlocking question marks that have been kicked about, gnawed and crocheted by a barrel of unhappy cats.
Black, Perak and Ghandi. To be frank.. I am tired of it all. I'm pretty sure I'm meant to be excited. To feel some kind of fire bubbling over inside me. The compelling force of outrage and quest for justice in the shape of democracy. It is exciting. Everyday, twitter is like a cliff-hanger, waiting to see what happens next. Who's going to bring who to which imagined higher body over which clause and sentence under which law. It is extremely exciting to wait and see when the queer theory idea of the ludicrous will bring the house down. It's almost funny. Hysterical. But I guess it can only be funny when you are a spectator and not one of the actors. By force or choice or by simple accident.
I lost my train of thought. And started thinking about mirrors. About two sides of a dirty 10 sen coin. Palmed from person to person. It can get so black that only McDonald's chilli sauce is able to stain it clean.
Ran out of words again for today.