Much too close to water’s fluid embrace



Motherly Devotion


Warm, such that it lingers

Sun dips away


Cool, such that it reaches

Night surfaces to day


Anticipation becomes 

Bound

Bitter

Blue

Borne by compassion


She anticipates your every need, knowing your thoughts and feelings almost better than you do. 


I pushed forward without my guidebook, seeking the reassurance that arrives when I find where I am, let myself solidify that truth and learn to stand there without reassurance or external scaffolding. Usually, I give myself a moment with the cards once I have them in front of me to ask myself what my initial reaction is. This time, I want to see what happens if I trust my intuition enough to let the whole reading go ‘unsupervised.’ 


Would this be empowering or would I end up frustrated, reaching for the little booklet with descriptions of each card to give myself the secure sense of clarity?


Am I going to feel as if I am inventing my responses and ignore some truth I would only allow myself to face with the seemingly absolute given interpretation?


I lay down one, two, three spreads.


The Queen of Cups keeps finding me-- reversed, paired with The Fountain at the center of the sequence of cards splashed across my bedroom floor in the summer evening’s half-light; reversed, the first card in the configuration; upright, at the end of what I immediately know will be the final reading I need for the set of abstract and verbalised queries brought with me to this practice.


A striking power seeps through me as I recognize The Queen of Cups again and again. In her presence, I lose any desire to know the book’s interpretation of what I see before me. This card lays a different kind of foundation into which my intuition plants itself. From that tether-point, I feel the rest of the readings’ meanings rise to meet me.


I name the series of spreads “a cosmic bone-crack” as I manifest a return to a groundedness I did not know I had abandoned in this month’s quick adoption of insanity. The Queen of Cups presents herself not only as the foundation but also the thread which ties together visages to cover what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen. 


The journal where I record my free flowing thoughts about the reading to add to later reflection quickly fills.


She has experienced many things; she knows the pain that escorts love and the failure that 

accompanies success. 


As I work on this column, the notification bar on my phone lights up with a succession of messages from my “IRL Sage Stick”. A week has passed since my first unassisted reading, and I am still piecing through the questions I asked and considered in relation to it.


“Didn’t Strength come up in your tarot?” Her most recent message reads in response to a decision I had been mulling over all day and realising I had to make the hard choice in service of my own mental and physical health. 


“It did.” The two words pop onto the screen, surrounded by blue pixels. I sigh, and the world shifts back into a manageable rhythm. I receive four other similar text messages within the same hour. External permission to listen to the permission I had tentatively given myself. 


My sight returns and panic flushes out through my feet. 

The Queen of Cups knows your depth and what you are capable of and more importantly, she 

believes in you, encouraging your greatness and holding your dreams safely and eternally in her heart. 


I am proud of a certain level of independence I have developed this summer--an extended version of the pride I felt in navigating a reading without wanting or needing support and external validation. Sometimes it takes special people to remind you where you’re standing. Especially during this wild Retrograde (counting down the days until August 2, you guys!). And there is never a wrong time to remember to hold your people close, drink lots of coffee, breathe in all the air and wonder how far all the raindrops had to fall to find the ground and read the version of the story where Pandora releases Hope, too. 




“Among [the Utopians] virtue has its rewards, yet everything is shared equally, and all men live in plenty” 

-Utopia, Thomas More


Utopia by Thomas Moore was one of the many books I read in my college English class that focused on English literature from Beuwolf to Paradise Lost, works that influence[d] Western storytelling and English curriculum for centuries to come. Written in 1516 by an English lawyer and philosopher, an eighteen year old me was surprised that such radicalism in terms of the concept of equality has been present for so long. In his classic, Moore details a society that is fair and equal. The popular belief in Western Europe at the time was that some men were just more blessed than others (i.e., Monarchs, Aristocrats). One of the most radical attributes in Moore’s Utopia is the concept of an unpaid labor rehabilitation system used in place of a prison system. While the morality of slavery and unpaid work is hardly progressive, the idea of rehabilitation instead of prisons, where those who have committed crimes can work toward living a better life instead of being stuck in the dehumanizing web of crime and punishment, is an idea I thought would have originated in the 1960s as opposed to in the 1500s. The roots of radicalism toward a future of intersectionality and equality run deeper than one might originally expect. The wide variety of college curriculum, from literature and history to sociology, has further shaped my ideologies and beliefs by exposing me to radical texts, ideas, and perspectives.


Today, however, I had a realization while listening to a podcast by Ezra Klein that one of my acquaintances shared on social media. Many people in my life have said it before, and I’ve certainly heard it on T.V.; colleges and universities are often more radicalized institutions compared to other institutions in America. We as college students are often consuming information that a person who wasn’t assigned [insert specific reading that influenced my ideologies on America: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander; Class Matters by Bill Keller], might not come across without being in an academic institution or without outright looking for it. As I was listening to “The Ezra Klein Show,” his episode entitled, “an enlightening, frustrating conversation on liberalism (with Adam Gopnik),” I realized my views are still considered radical to many Americans. I’ve surrounded myself with other like-minded college students and young people to the point that I forget what leftists are calling neoliberalism is still popular among many Americans that consider themselves on the left of the political spectrum. I will use the term neoliberal, despite Klein and Gopnik’s distaste for the term for it being divisive among the Democratic National Convention since 2016 when the party split between Bernie Sanders supporters and Hillary Clinton supporters. To myself and many others, this split was between those who vote for war and take bribes and money from big corporations (Clinton), and then those of us who are done with that corrupt political system. Today, I remind myself that not as many American’s feel similarly. Especially as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, popular democratic candidates and neoliberals, join the Democratic Primaries.

 

                                                  June 30, 2019. Queer Liberation March, NYC. 


Even in the college atmosphere, I was reminded earlier this year in my poetry class when another student and I vehemently argued for the dismantling of capitalism while the professor and a handful of other students argued that capitalism had its perks. Even in queer theory, specifically Paul B. Preciado’s Testojunkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmapornographic Era, it is suggested that the mix of capitalism, 1970s attitudes, and pornography caused easier access to birth control (estrogen and progesterone supplements) and testosterone because sex wasn’t just about making babies anymore. 


Regardless, I am taken out of my leftist bubble and reminded that changing the American attitude toward radical leftism is an upward battle because neoliberals champion themselves for being pragmatic and reasonable. They consider this attribute to be necessary in politics and what gives them the moral high ground against an ever radicalizing, right-winged GOP. Neoliberals not only believe in capitalism with government restriction, if any, but believe in negotiation and incremental change on most occasions. To be honest, even my mother raised me with a temperament to be pragmatic, patient, and negotiable. To quote Michelle Obama, “when they go low, we go high.”


Even though I hold my radical beliefs close to my heart, I often find myself relaxing into liberal temperament to be able to handle American politics and the DNC. I still remain hopeful in politicians like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Their message, even if not widely accepted in American politics, is gaining momentum. This can be shown through the newly elected District attorney for Queens, NY.  Tiffany Caban is a queer latinx Queens native who is fighting against mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex (if you haven’t checked her out yet, you should). They are fighting an extremely hard battle against  both neoliberals and right-winged America. I can’t help but remember how the DNC rigged the elections for Hillary against Bernie in the Democratic Primaries in 2016. While Sanders was gaining large momentum, the DNC favored Clinton. This event not only highlights voter suppression in America, but shows that it spreads far beyond most Americans perception; even the supposed fair-fighting neoliberals are seemingly against the collective voices of the American people. After a passionate hard fought battle by Sanders’ supporters and Clinton supporters, Trump still won, and our anger and disappointment was palpable. 


I fall into neoliberal attitudes to reason through the mess of our government and political system in America. I fall into it when I realize countless Americans weren’t able to take college courses like I did that enlightened my understanding of American history (which lightens the blow because it isn’t all that surprising that we are in this position if you know your history). I take note of this complacency and think of Roxane Gay’s article in The New York Time, “The Case Against Hope.” After her commencement speech for Pratt Institute’s graduating class of 2019, Gay argues that it is time to take action because hope keeps us complacent. Our hopefulness becomes passive in a belief that someone else will handle the problems of the world. 


On June 30, 2019 in New York’s Central Park, thousands marched from Christopher St. and others joined along the way to gather for the rally on the Great Lawn. The Queer Liberation March was in protest of corporate pride. This event had thousands of people of all ages, we listened to speakers that made us shiver in the blistering heat turned sweeping rain of the event. I felt emboldened by the presence of such passion, anger, and strength of a community sharing similar sentiments, struggles, and goals.


Angela Davis argues in her book Freedom is a Constant Struggle that optimism is a necessity, “even if it is optimism of the will”, but that hope/optimism need to inspire us into action in this upcoming election season rather than make us complacent. It is time to take to the streets, call our elected officials, speak to our friends and family about the issues that matter to us (if we are so privileged to have family and friends that will listen), and demand for change.  



*The entire quote is “Optimism is an absolute necessity, even if it’s only optimism of the will, as Gramsci said, and pessimism of the intellect” (p.49, Freedom is a Constant Struggle),

Antonio Francesco Gramsci was an Italian Marxist philosopher and communist politician.

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Image by Veronica Ashwoth

The Hunger Games proved to be a marketing whale when it emerged in the late 2000s and redefined dystopian fantasy for younger generations. Appealing to the sense of global cataclysm and seemingly ridiculous, unreachable power structures that parodied foreseeable possibilities, teenagers latched onto the strong and determined Katniss as a fictional revolutionary like no other before her. Suzanne Collins managed to intersect themes of classic Orwellian sci-fi, myths and empires and alluring YA novel tropes into a series that captured the hearts, minds and wallets of Gen Y and Z kids, especially huge flocks of teen girls that fell in sync with the characters, world and Katniss’s love life. 


Today: the world is a wasteland of human rights. So much progress has been made, pushed back, pushed for, caught in that whirlwind of back-and-forth, until the media tells us that one thing or another happened so women can’t access this, and the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t have funding for that and we have to rally even harder. Now, Collins is working on some kind of prequel book for the series which came out before it all seemed this bad.


It isn’t hard to agree with the Hunger Games’ central messages: momentous apathy stemming from corporate media monopolies who have shaped violence between the less powerful as entertainment to keep themselves in power, is bad. In any case, we live in that world today. But when have we not? It’s only so prevalent now because the marginalized and their allies are amassing and fighting back in undeniable ways that have garnered attention, and in turn, the conservative bloc is amassing to decentralize and delegitimize their arguments, and it’s just all so loud now.Katniss’s world is, too. It’s hysterically loud and dangerous. And that is the dual side of the book’s main theme: radical action for the good of the people, is good.


The entire thing is a contradiction. The book launched a series that roped in almost $3 billion in box office money. Internally, it is a story about a young woman living in and deconstructing a world that endangers her and feeds off power structures. Externally, the franchise is a money-making machine. It feeds corporate media in its very existence. In turn, it becomes an empty cathartic experience that people can watch and go, “Yeah, I agree,” and ally themselves with revolution without revolutionizing. Not to say that it hasn’t inspired anyone to fight. Heck, I would say that fiction, especially pop culture phenomena, drive the way people think in minute ways we might not realize. As the biggest success in its own self-defining genre, it has definitely pushed the boundaries of expectation for what a movie can and should do. It provided the world, especially the young, with a female protagonist so well-defined she’s spawned multiple parodies, lookalikes and knockoffs—yeah, I’m looking at you, Divergent. But it also became saturated, just like the rich citizens of the Capitol in its own fiction.


So now, a prequel, in this day and age. Collins has a lot to top with this behemoth. It is essential modern mythology, which has pushed genre and defined a generation. How will it do it today’s political hellscape? It has to do something new with the themes but carry on its old glory. A story about children’s violence could prove all too real. It could be denied by audiences as co-opting revolution for capitalist gain. It could be revered for its support of marginalized communities rising up to protest hierarchy. Or, it could be all these things at once, just like its predecessors. It could have the ferocity of 1984 and the following of Twilight once again. It could very well be a flop, but that is unlikely with the history of the series.


Then, the question isn’t whether or not this thing will do well. It will do fine. But will it carry the same thematically revolutionary weight as its predecessor in content, and can it carry that weight, in its existence, in our dystopian-esque world? It is a book about revolution and the power of self-determination, but the reality of its success is terrifyingly capitalist. So I think the question is, in this world of turmoil and needing new fictions to fuel our hearts: what will we do with it this time?

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Image by Eliza Ross


Fairness

I witness

eye witness


or


A balance of scales:

mind and body,

mind the body,

mind every body.


Concentrate.

Collect.


Justice is fairness-- logical and concerned only with what is needed right now for your life in reality, not in your mind. 


Initially, I was not sure why this card kept appearing in my readings at the beginning of the month. I saw it right way up, inverted, sideways, and in just about every possible position in the very basic readings I performed between going back to North Carolina, coming back to Brooklyn and the time since. Though summer brought on the need to figure out what I would do with myself outside the bounds of classes, most of that planning had happened in April and May. I did not need to question whether I needed those things in my reality because I had already decided they would be there. Those occupations, instead, had already moved into a place where I could wonder about their impact and influence. 

One of my dearest friends had also been telling me the card was in her life a lot the last little while, so I moved to wondering if the repetition was a reminder of our connection and its place not only as a constant, reassuring force, but also a representation of relationships that allow me to grow and change in a time where I am questioning others. Was it some cosmic force saying “hey, you know what healthy looks like, trust your gut”? I knew at the very least that it could never mean that we are not meant to be in each other’s lives, though she is 342 miles away. 


Gaze directly into your heart, past the confusion. 


While both of those readings resonated with me, I saw immediately that they were both individualised and introspective (which can be a good foundation but is nowhere to stop reading).


Let justice balance in her scales the material and spiritual choices you have made, the naked consequences of your actions. 


So, I looked outwards. 

I feel like I can safely assume that everyone who reads this column knows that it is Pride month. When I think about that and the persistance of the Justice card in my readings, I obviously think of the necessary justice the queer community fights for. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which was not only a response to a police raid but was lead by trans women of color and sex workers. Next weekend the Queer Liberation March, along with so many other events pushing against rainbow capitalism and the corperate co-opting of Pride for the sake of proffiting off queer culture without any intention of meaningful and sustained support throughout the remainder of the year, will protest instead of participating in what has become an anual parade. In an interview posted on Reclaim Pride Coalition’s website, Masha Gessen, Russian-American writer, journalist and community activist stated, “On the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, I would like to take part in a protest, not a corporate celebration.”

No more rainbow capitalism, no more white-washing, no more denial of the true roots of the movement. 


Examine the motives of your life, identify the raw truths, find clarity, and take responsibility for your choices to create and restore balance.


I think, too, of taking this time (and every other possible moment) to more closely examine one's own privilege and to use it to pass the mic and support oppressed individuals and communities. That could mean using access to education to learn more about different systems of oppression and to read and engage with archival material that others may not have access to. It could also mean finding opportunities to educate younger people in the community and potential allies about different communities. That may mean donating money and/or time to organizations that support immigrants, sex workers, queers, reproductive health, etc. That may mean following accounts and reposting information on instagram and other social media platforms to spread awareness within your own circles (though this cannot, I believe, be the solo contribution of any individual who seeks social change). 

And, most importantly, it means allying yourself with communities that you are not a part of in a way that puts you in the service of their goals and not a celebration of your own ally-status. As allies, we are there to help make sure the mic is passed, protect members of the communities to which we are allied at all times, especially when we are more immune to social and legal violence (for example, refusing to show your ID to an ICE officer so that your undocumented friend does not have to be the first or only person resisting), and making space for them whenever and wherever we can. 




Some organizations* that I love to support (this is by no means exhaustive and most of these are ones that I also follow on Instagram):


VOWperfparty

GLITS (Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society)

Planned Parenthood

Lambda Literary

SONG (Southerners On New Ground)

LGBT Center NYC

Queer Liberation March

Lesbian Sex Mafia

Dyke March

Salty

RISE Indigenous

SWOP Behind Bars (Sex Workers Outreach Project) 


*supporting individual makers, artists, performers, musicians, etc. is also really important and made quick and easy with platforms such as Patreon and Venmo



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