the living and the dead

“Your body

Hurts me as the world hurts God. I am a lantern——

And I’ve decided to start a blog.”

- Sylvia Plath, Fever 103 (minor edits by me)

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really though: it does, and i am, and i have. 

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where to start? i worry my writing is full of holes. for some reason, i imagine clumps of grass and dirt entering the space between my legs to fill that void. it helps to begin somewhere.

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there’s something about staring into a hole in the ground where a great woman was just buried that makes my heart feel like a suspended rock. at louise’s funeral earlier this month, i entered a graveyard for the first time since becca died. i was nervous but calmed upon arrival. we huddled in the cold, listened to prayers and poems. at one point, the sun blew out from behind some clouds and the wind picked up and trees moved and everyone’s eyes were wet and glistening and i felt heavy and lifted at once.

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in judaism, loved ones bury the dead. i stuck the shovel upside down into dirt, as per the tradition, to make it more difficult, to remember it’s no task to take lightly. i did my part to bury a great woman and to hold the ones i love who loved her best. 

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bodies warm bodies. bodies warm bodies. bodies warm other bodies.

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my dream last night was one i’ve had hundreds of times, with a twist. this time, when the moon fell out of the sky and the air pressure began to rise, fear setting in, a new moon appeared, flickering, to take its place. relief. then again, the drop. fear. flicker, relief.

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it seems everyone around me’s gone especially astrology nutty recently. i admit that i’ve started to adore astrology the way i adore a short story by flashlight — i.e., i devour it, & when good, it expands my mind to new possibilities. when what i read makes me feel trapped, i put it down. it’s reached the limit of its usefulness. i guess some would say that’s a piscean trait and i’m just fucking fine with that.

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speaking of rocks in space, mercury’s back in retrograde. do what you gotta to feel your feet under you.

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years ago, i took an astronomy course at harvard. we met at nights in cambridge in the fall and winter. sometimes, we’d get to use an enormous cavern-sized telescope to scout stars. there will always be something gravely romantic to me about cambridge in those bitter winter months. there’s also something gravely romantic about past versions of ourselves. i gotta say, studying the physics and mathematics of stars lit my brain up more than any astrology literature ever has. i have a hungry scientist inside who wants to be fed. warmed.

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i read soleil ho’s hungry ghosts this month and it gave me proof of solid, short, straight-to-the-gut writing about molestation.

upon closing it, i felt an acute sense of permission to create my own structure. a swelling architecture that folds itself around violence. full of multiplicity and voice and opposing forces. i’m learning i can rise to fill the holes my abusers created. i can put my face up to their milky rims, rub the froth with my lips. suck in poison, hold it in my mouth, spit it out. refill with something of my own. breathe. 

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hungry ghosts reminded me that when trauma goes unaddressed, IT CAN KILL. it can also turn people into walking specters. i’ve seen it. that said, trauma does not absolve us of our choices. we are always making choices. every moment contains a choice. this is a truth that needs to be repeated until the end of time.

so here’s what i have little patience for right now: unchecked nihilism and self-loathing of those of us with privilege. i’m looking at us, white folks. there will be plenty of time to luxuriate in a warm bath of meaninglessness and self-annihilation when we’re dead. people you love need you at your best, so do your work. make your choices. don’t take the task lightly.

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bodies hurt bodies, bodies hurt bodies, bodies hurt other bodies. 

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helping to bury a loved one is considered an honor — the last act of kindness you can perform for them. after dropping dirt into the grave, the shovel is returned to the mound rather than handed to the next person. this signifies an effort to avoid passing sorrow from person to person.

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i’ve always known on some truer than true level that when we hurt ourselves, we hurt others. likewise, when we help ourselves, we help others. when we don’t challenge the voices in our head that tell us that we don’t belong here or that we deserve only pain, we are hurting those we care about. this is because we need each other.

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on that note, a person hurt me recently. it’s been a destabilizing force in an otherwise heartbreaking few months — a reminder that inaction is an action that can and does injure. the real challenge is to not shut down when hurting deeply. to remain conscientious. to keep feeling, even under enormous pressure to go numb. to hold ourselves accountable for our fuck-ups but not drown ourselves in them. to transform the flightiness of fear into something worth passing on. the body knows how to grieve cleanly and consciously. believe it.

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this font reminds me of my first gay crush, who used it often. she was my 7th grade english teacher who helped me (without knowing it) come into my queerness. she also taught me what it felt like to have a secret, confusing thing be recognized and acknowledged. i’m still in touch with her. i try not to lose contact with those who make that kind of deep positive impact on my being. to be seen in that way can turn a life around.

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with that in mind, i think almost every day about the two (hugely impactful) women i’m not in contact with right now, for disparate reasons. the choice to absent the living i love is a difficult, slow-moving creature that looks back at me with questions in its eyes.

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in some ways, absence is harder when the person is alive. in this moment, i can’t explain how.

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intimacy while holding so much heartbreak is strange. a few nights ago, with my mouth on a man’s mouth, i actually thought to myself, “what am i looking for in here?” 

afterwards, walking in the cold, i felt that light and heavy feeling again. lightness in the legs, heaviness in the heart. 

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i’m trying to recall a memory where my body felt the reverse of that: heaviness in the legs, lightness in the heart. i think that’s where i need to be to fight my best fight.

got one. don’t know why it’s the first to mind. it’s another new england winter story: hiding behind a mass of bushes with andrea, scoping out the home of one of my rapists with binoculars. shivering and sipping black coffee and speaking in strong voices. doing it to do it, not knowing what we’d find. having someone by my side in the cold, by that house, warmed me. heavy legs, light heart. strange circumstances.

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between fighting the good fight, running an organization, and trying to care for my body / the bodies of loved ones (which, yes, is part of the good fight) (arguably, all of the good fight), i’m creating things and it feels good. i’m working on some satire, i’m working on a collection of short songs i wrote in the shower, and i’m working on something bigger that that scares the living fuck out of me. it’s happening slowly but it’s happening and for that i am grateful. the heat is back on in my place and for that i am also grateful. i wrote some of this on my phone while walking outside and maybe that’s why it reads like i am obsessed with cold.

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more on gratitude and the good fight: now’s a good time to donate what you can (financial or otherwise) to organizations doing incredible work. i’ve been volunteering at new alternatives and the sylvia rivera law project and i’m plugging these guys wherever and whenever i can. both are POC-centered and support low-income / homeless LGBTQIA2S+ and gender non-conforming individuals. read about their missions on their websites. if you have clothing to donate, i’m collecting for SRLP. you know where to find me and if you don’t, hit me up here.

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this year has been full of loss and fear. the aftermath of each blow has reminded us that no, we can’t fill each other’s voids entirely, but yes, we can mourn together, breathe together, stick the shovel in upside down and lift.

this is how we honor the living and the dead.

ciao for now,

s.

Siena O.