If I Should Have A Daughter

Below, an excerpt from Sarah Kay’s If I Should Have A Daughter:

If I should have a daughter, instead of “Mom,” she’s going to call me “Point B,” because that way she knows that no matter what happens, at least she can always find her way to me.

And I’m going to paint solar systems on the backs of her hands so she has to learn the entire universe before she can say, “Oh, I know that like the back of my hand.”

And she’s going to learn that this life will hit you hard in the face, wait for you to get back up just so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air. There is hurt, here, that cannot be fixed by Band-Aids or poetry.

So the first time she realizes that Wonder Woman isn’t coming, I’ll make sure she knows she doesn’t have to wear the cape all by herself, because no matter how wide you stretch your fingers, your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal. Believe me, I’ve tried. “And, baby,” I’ll tell her, don’t keep your nose up in the air like that. I know that trick; I’ve done it a million times. You’re just smelling for smoke so you can follow the trail back to a burning house, so you can find the boy who lost everything in the fire to see if you can save him. Or else find the boy who lit the fire in the first place, to see if you can change him. But I know she will anyway, so instead I’ll always keep an extra supply of chocolate and rain boots nearby, because there is no heartbreak that chocolate can’t fix. Okay, there’s a few that chocolate can’t fix.

But that’s what the rain boots are for, because rain will wash away everything, if you let it. I want her to look at the world through the underside of a glass-bottom boat, to look through a microscope at the galaxies that exist on the pinpoint of a human mind, because that’s the way my mom taught me. That there’ll be days like this.

There’ll be days like this, my momma said. When you open your hands to catch and wind up with only blisters and bruises; when you step out of the phone booth and try to fly and the very people you want to save are the ones standing on your cape; when your boots will fill with rain, and you’ll be up to your knees in disappointment. And those are the very days you have all the more reason to say thank you.

Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away. You will put the wind in win some, lose some. You will put the star in starting over, and over. And no matter how many land mines erupt in a minute, be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life. And yes, on a scale from one to over-trusting, I am pretty damn naive. But I want her to know that this world is made out of sugar. It can crumble so easily, but don’t be afraid to stick your tongue out and taste it.

“Baby,” I’ll tell her, “remember, your momma is a worrier, and your poppa is a warrior, and you are the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more.” Remember that good things come in threes and so do bad things. Always apologize when you’ve done something wrong, but don’t you ever apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining. Your voice is small, but don’t ever stop singing. And when they finally hand you heartache, when they slip war and hatred under your door and offer you handouts on street-corners of cynicism and defeat, you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.

authentic tacos 🌮 

The idea that authenticity is a fixed and rigid thing is absurd for a food culture that has gone through as much historic change and reinvention as Mexican gastronomy.

To declare that the only good Mexican food is “authentic” Mexican food also assumes that the cuisine has ceased evolving. Like so many international cuisines, Mexican food has thrived as it has adapted, and it isn’t done doing that.

― from “Tacos: Recipes and Provocations” by Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman

What It Looks Like To Us and the Words We Use (National Poetry Month)

It’s been a year since I embarked on a solo road trip along the West Coast and subsequently started a separate blog to jot down travel notes & inspiration. I also recently composed my first poem since 2009, so maybe one day I’ll finally start sharing my own poetry again. I loved what Ayana Mathis wrote about her trajectory as a writer. Like her, I started writing short stories when I was very young, then later I wanted to be a poet and I blogged my own poems in middle and high school. I’m not sure where my interest in writing my own poetry went, and my love of reading poems was sporadic but has never faded. In my day-to-day relationships, up until recently, I rarely mentioned poetry. Friends found it difficult to relate. As Jia Tolentino wrote about teaching poetry, “Not that I talk to anyone about poetry, ever. My relationship to it is sidelong and almost entirely private. I can’t write it; I read it irregularly. […] I could only locate myself as a student, with no authority, no important opinions, no sense that I was ever correct. And that, in the end, is what made me free.” Meanwhile, Ayana Mathis writes:

I was suspicious of all of the things I wanted, writing or otherwise, simply because I wanted them. And so my desires were reduced to beautiful dreams that floated through my adolescent and young adult life, only acted upon in halfhearted fits and starts. Five or six months of furious writing were followed by a year or two in which I didn’t pen a single line. I never made any real attempt at publishing my work. Better a dream deferred than hopes dashed.

I’ll blog more about Ayana’s essay soon. My friends tell me to be braver with my writing, they tell me I’m too cautious. There’s probably truth in that.

***

I collected many more quotes and poems on the other blog I created last year, but I promised to share here during National Poetry Month a few more of the poems I’ve enjoyed.

The masters of information have forgotten about poetry, where words may have a meaning quite different from what the lexicon says, where the metaphoric spark is always one jump ahead of the decoding function, where another, unforeseen reading is always possible.

– J.M. Coetzee, Diary of a Bad Year

Some little tastes of poetry for National Poetry Month after the jump below. By the way, Amazon has lots of deals on classic poetry compilations. You can also get Emily Dickinson’s complete poems on your Kindle for free!

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National Poetry Month: sense records of our humanity

Tomorrow is the beginning of National Poetry Month. Though I already post quite often about poetry, I’m considering posting some more significant poems during the month of April.

Jennifer Benka, the director of the Academy of American Poets, discusses the benefits of reading poetry. 

The benefits of reading any literary work are immeasurable and life enriching. Reading is reflection—contemplative time. I think poetry, especially, requires that you step outside of the daily rush. Each poem is an art object that’s only activated when a person engages with it. And when you let words with their jagged edges, sharp music, and visual prompts assemble in the mind—when you exercise your imagination and allow language to elicit an intellectual and emotional response—you are more actively participating in your life. Audre Lorde said, “Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.” Poetry requires feeling, offers personal insight, and increases empathy. In speaking about the role of the art form, Mark Doty once said, “The project of poetry, in a way, is to raise language to such a level that it can convey the precise nature of subjective experience.” In this way, poems are sense records of our humanity, mapping ways in and ways out. 

on the nature of maps

Marfa Texas

The skies of Marfa, Texas

A space “without” seems strange: in today’s world, we are so accustomed to more rather than less. More buildings, more cars, more people, more things. Things everywhere.

The desert and open skies expand something in the heart; the apparent endlessness feels both intensely personal and coolly insouciant. Empty yet simultaneously so full of possibility. I referenced a friend’s tattoo once: a Chinese character that means “emptiness” but is idiomatic because it connotes “a space waiting to be filled,” which is arguably different from emptiness. There is a beauty in the waiting, in the pause in between. Sometimes when we see or feel emptiness we feel rushed or anxious to put something in it, rather than exploring the space. Stillness and space are necessary for us to find ourselves. Pico Iyer says, “I began to think how much we need space in those we love, space enough to accommodate growth and possibility.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to embrace the uncertainty of the future despite a past that is laden with preconceived notions of how things will go. I stumble a lot, take a lot of wrong turns in life. I try to preempt disappointment and protect myself by following the maps I’ve already made, but in staying in the harbor, I may pass up that one turn that will take me to the view I’ve been searching for; the one that will change everything that the past has programmed in me. I worry a lot about knowing the right path ahead of time, when really we are still the explorers of the path. Not everything is known, and that is ok. Epiphanies rarely repeat themselves. Rolf Faste’s “On the Nature of Maps” can be interpreted as double entendre, a metaphor of how to charter the new; he acknowledges the usefulness of the maps we already have, while also recognizing the space beyond that which is familiar.

  1. Maps are useful.
  2. Maps are useful in inverse proportion to their completeness.
  3. “The map is not the territory” – Korzybski
  4. Maps of known territories can be purchased.
  5. You can’t buy maps for unknown territories.
  6. Explorers go into unknown territories.
  7. In the absence of maps, explorers outfit themselves in other ways.
  8. The future is an unknown territory.

“And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.”

— Pico Iyer

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