The Un-Naming of Us: 365 Haiku

F.R. Rhyne (2019-2020)


1 – 8, Speech

roll your tongue, pushing

pulling air into your lungs 

spitting out the truth


It sounds like, “Ahem,”

“Hmmm,” “Uhhhhh,” “Ungh,” “Ach,” “I…don’t know…” 

how to speak it clear…


a quiet phrasing 

sun scent of warming grasses

softer expression 


thin reed whistle sound

pitched like the tilt of a bird’s wing

cutting bright air clean


comes as a stumble

breaking wavelet memory

grit of sand, breadfruit


warmly sticky hands

fatigue of dirt road laughing 

symphony at night 


sour sweet brother breath 

heavy sigh as puppies sleep 

adults speaking low 


almost separate

a photograph held lightly 

“Was this us? Really?” 


9 – 12, Before Time

…there are no word-sounds

for the beginning movements, 

before anything 


What was there? Expanse?

Just a void-full vacuum space?

An empty socket?


There can be no wind,

if nothing moves a muscle.

No wind, no muscles. 


so conspicuous,

the absence of everything 

we might call ‘alive’ 


13 – 17, Melding

arrangements were made

atom configurations

created the spark 


Ain’t got a name, no 

or a mind like our new minds 

no sense of itself 


no imagined time 

or knowledge of space beyond 

nothing but knowing 


Knowing not like us, 

but, moving without effort

without intention 


The sweetest pulling 

elemental attraction 

bonds beyond breaking 


18, Initial Questions

Was there a whisper,

a murmuring in the dark?

Did the first cells sigh?


19 – 23, Utterances

beautiful, we were

in all the ways we have been 

alive and dying 


The snow and ice

the fires and beasts, new life 

not knowing what comes 


oh, to remember 

that the world was here before

we discovered names


…all so long ago,

there is no one who can tell, 

can’t speak that story. 


silent origins

are not soundless, listen here:

speech without talking 


25 – 28, Without Knowing

bromeliads grew 

and the lizards sprouted wings 

it took a good while


before winding clocks

or any imagining 

of long nighttime hours 


slow living and death

just as daily as it is now 

without knowing time 


there was no distance

no measurement of the miles

nothing had a name 


29, Truth

the land was nameless 

there was no way to say ‘home’

no one to say ‘home’


30 – 33, Innation

all creatures know, tho’…

creation lessons taught them

where they can survive


all things born knowing 

what they crave and what they fear 

DNA knowledge 


To run, to jump, dig

to eat grubs, seeds, fish, algae

to keep on living 


Pituitary 

endocrine and thyroid gland 

signaling us: Grow. 


34 – 35, 4 Ws

We learn as we go

the sourness and sickness, 

the sweetness and warmth


we thrive or falter 

depending on when and where 

who, what we are born


36, Truth (2)

for some of us here

life is a slow-blinking eye

over and done, gone


37 – 40, Instinct

the first words were grunts 

howls, songs sung without singing

the scream of murder


storms were almighty 

new hominids had no gods

death-fear was instinct


the striving of life

required no will at all

it was natural 


To seek out food, hunt

to gather, drink water from leaves 

these were not choices 


41, Truth(3)

oceans did not choose

the rhythm of tidal flow 

rain falls without choice


42 – 46, Anthro

afarensis, comprende?

Australopithecus, yo? 

Old Lucy no se


it became a job

to dig up hundreds of bones 

study the fragments 


unearth the sacred 

Use the most delicate brush

remove dirt from teeth


Lay out the bodies

rib cage, femur, mandible

marvel at the skulls


Ethiopia

Tanzania, Olduvai

footprints left in ash


47 – 50, Naming

our ancestors died 

howling in the flaming heat 

without knowing death 


Homo habilis

Long prior to the Maasai 

Place of wild sisal


The Great Rift Valley

one million years ago, man

Kariandusi 


These are made up names 

for places we claim to know 

as ours to lay claim


51 – 54, History

Thick walls enclosing

the city-town of Jericho…

why did they need walls?


Catal Huyuk held

spaces for worship, women

made of stone and clay


Organized villages

created special labors

jobs and roles, talents


Tasks took on value

products emerged in surplus

trade began, tribes fought


55 – 57, In Modern Rendition

How does this show up

thousands of years later?

Colonial turf wars


even kids know it 

colors become codified

Street sign boundaries


Elder mothers mourn

keep their own pistols loaded

Please God, watch over us.


58 – 61, of Weaponry

The earliest tools

were not made of rock and sharp bone

clawed hands were weapons


Closing into fists

strong, rough like worn-out leather

Dirt under broken nail


Never enough food

Had to learn to kill a deer

Satisfy hunger


The thrill of the hunt

predatory lust writ deep

makes human hearts beat


62 – 66, Where We Came…

go to the river

each day, every morning 

wash away the blood


 tell us the story 

of the animals’ escape 

speak in native tongue


myths of creation

shape the world as we see it

center us or them


have to be careful 

of the tales we tell children

about who they are


Where did we come from?

Not our bodies, our cells, bones –

the naming of us.


67 – 70, From

Judaculla’s rock 

sits speaking in the forest 

speaks silent under trees.


Spelling a story 

lines cut into the hard rock 

for the future ones


Maps are like stories,

stories are like maps, like guides

telling us the way


Children taking turns

wander through woods far from home

name them “good” or “bad


71 – 78, Prior

There were buffalo 

clear to the ocean, huge herds

land belonged to them


This place was their home 

the fields and the valley grass

their bones are still here


The water flowing

here, right on through the mountains 

thousands of years old


mountains were jagged

Earth slamming into itself 

rocks jutting from collisions


Broken pottery 

found in the soil below banks 

worn smooth at the edges


the flow of the streams

in places now dry, barren

written as ridges


From above, the lines 

look just like your fingerprints

swirled sand beaches


Before we could fly

everything was smaller

and yet still so vast


81 – 88, Forging

roots grow persistent 

somehow breaking through hard stone 

making small pathways


In the night, rocks fall

land heavy and stay forever 

or til they erode…


it’s not a secret:

there is no forever here 

it’s easy to see.


Yawn, oh great cloud break

not witnessed in the pre-dawn

opening above


The breath of owl song

a thread through trees, pushing soft

making sound-cut spaces


Tilt of the orbit

positions a planet near

closer to the moon


The woman pauses

never noticed that before

Looking up, surprised


There are slim chances

brief windows, prime conditions

sap rise, season shift


89 – 95, Forests

No words for the sound

capillaries opening

eyes dilating wide


Tremble of vein stretch

cellulose walls forming up

to become an oak


Entire empires thrive

tucked in around the root web

pulsing in dark soil


scientists can hear

by way of lines on paper

amplification


voices from the trees

the subaudible gasping

bite of the chainsaw


how to amplify

millions of hearts beating fast

terrified in flight


pass the mic over

colonies of insects scurry

carry out big plans


96 – 100, Archae

Skilled human being 

2.5 million years ago

Homo habilis


it was crucible

the birth place, cradling us 

civilization


Land was colored gold

and gods lived everywhere

in everything


winds and fires speak

tell what those who came before 

wish us to know, hear


secrets conjured up

feet hit the ground, dust rising

bones shake, rattle, roll


101 – 107, Habit

be invisible 

walk without touching the ground

do not make a sound


cover the smell up

with crushed leaves, sharp scent, thick mud

leave no tracks, no trace


Hold the arrow lightly

let it be a part of you

send the point flying


Homo sapiens

the thinking human being 

moved outward, naming


Paleolithic 

stone tools to cut, smash, break 

all with bloody hands


When the ice came 

there was no lamenting cold

no questioning death


We didn’t see it 

had no way to predict rain

unstoppable floods


108 – 110, Innovate

Speech was simple code

utterance and gesturing

pitch to make meaning


sequences set firm

names for flames and lions, sky 

sounds for who we are


in all four corners,

seeds were sown, barley millet 

rice wheat lentils corn


How did it happen?

That we suddenly knew how

to grow food to eat?


Burgeoning, winning

the thrust of diving hawk flight

cutting through the fields


111 – 115, Alchemy

our life histories

begin with the history

of all before us


They carried whispers

small stirrings that make breezes

from the prior ages


They made the world new

from mud, stars, from their own blood

they breathed life into…


they still exist, gods

even if we don’t know their stories

Don’t see them in wind


we were directed

our organs pulsed with humors

blood was once magic


116 – 121, Numinosity

schematics and maps

drew a firmament dome, hands

in the human form


world in our image

not in God’s image, in ours

at least some of ours…


Early ones knew well

that man was imperfect, crude

not like the great beasts


The ones with horns

with wings and fins, lionine

crafting the storms


There were spirit forms

and powerful dark beings

exist, still unseen


 Holy books are full

cloudforms speaking, fire and blight

all the miracles


122 – 127, Composite

Look closely, breathe in

count the layers in silence

stratification


When I look at you

salt stings my eyes, I tremble

welcomed home again.


how can the clouds hold

water in the shapes of bears

briefly showing themselves?


birth of rare fever

blooming jewel of Africa

blood-colored flowers


Craving to eat stones

let them rest under the tongue

to spit or swallow


shines like dew, slug trails

dash of stars, the Milky Way‘s

constituent parts


128 – 134, -onyms

Timucuans lived 

had numerous settlements 

all along rivers


Names for homeplaces 

never knew them to forget

“ancient history”


Never such a thing

as a “Timucuan” tribe

Spanish mispronounced


Exonyms misheard

Double mistakes in hearing

become the name known


Letters we use say

nothing of the sounds spoken

such crude translations


Two hundred thousand 

more than all that died in wars 

in one hundred years


that was just one tribe 

one people among many 

whose names we don’t know


135 – 139, Panther

in the night, she walks 

slow and careful, listening 

for raccoons, possums


eyes glint gold in dark 

thick insect symphony sounds

rhythms for hunting


wild boars aren’t careful

they get busy, distracted 

rooting, face in dirt


It’s almost easy

to run into the pack, claws out

and grab what you can


scattering screaming 

everything exploding 

in movement and fear


140 – 143, Sensing

In the forest shade

a tiny life moves fast, light

under leaves cool, damp.


Talon on the branch 

sharper than made by machines,

perfect feathering.


The wave of a pulse,

and the night quivers alive

with unseen currents.


I’m far from the owl.

There’s too much to do everyday,

to sense a heartbeat.


144 – 148, 1984

My great grandmother

Hands like crepe baby birds

She was a racist


I remember this

at intervals, dawn

and right before sleep


Who and where and what

we are, the people, places

that gave birth to us


It all rushes in 

adrenaline, cortisol

spitting out the words


refusal to go

Unsegregated swimming 

1984


149 – 158, Combat

Their jawlines were smooth

tho’ hands were rough from working

holding rusted guns


Men, closed offices

drawing lines, cartography

X marks the target


my brother, your kin

became numbers, troops deployed

to die for ideas


Sleep was a joke, son

No rest for the weary there

under hellfire rain


Dream never again

no softness, no golden fields

just red explosions


it’s a trick, you see

to turn men into machines

to command their will


soil holds vibrations

sings rusted earth elegies

lay your head down, son


a monarch catches

air currents undetected

becomes transparent


walls crumble in wind

ultraviolet light dissolves

clay and stone, slowly


reports ring out, CRACK

doesn’t it split your head wide?

cities up in smoke


159 – 165, Multiplicities

In the midst of war

starvation, emergency 

grasses softly blow


In dark, lives away 

Gunshots ring out across town 

the fire burns warm


smart submarines rest

in channels dredged from the deep

bombs in their bellies


show security badge

drive through armed gate, go slowly 

everything is filmed


Trains come, broad daylight

take new spur line to the north 

carrying supplies


Lockheed Martin watches

Trident Training officers

show the simulated launch


take a deep breath now 

all your friends are doing it 

step onto the rails


166 – 172, Entrope

You spend days waiting

looking for the envelope

but don’t want to know


You can’t get away

from news on every screen

garish smiling faces


“This isn’t real! No!”

You want to shake their shoulders

“Wake up! It’s not real!”


It feels like ice, cold

hollow like a dying tree

how real it all is


dailyness of days

the whirlwind blur not seeing

but, moving forward


Sometimes the movements

are small, stuck tight round and round

some motion skitters


There are tangles, traps

vines of kudzu, stay busy

forever growing


173 – 180, Edu

fog creeps at dew point

Early morning siren sounds

distorted, screech owls


why is the moon located

in the wrong part of the sky

easternly crescent


secrets do not lie

in obsidian spaces

between the trees


‘Cept what do we have

a light sweeping ‘round bushes

crackling footsteps


people live in woods

sleep under tarps with wet shoes

right by middle schools


there is chain link fence

and so i feel safe, ashamed,

fearing poverty


That is my secret.

Nature doesn’t keep secrets

people keep secrets


Even to ourselves

we hide the truth, who we are,

what we learn in school


181 – 187, Peri- 

cadence of footfalls

dry brush of cardboard boxes

thudding gravity


rubber wheels cheapen

nuance of selecting meat

unsanitized hands


To walk like a whisper

imagine air as body

and watch where you step


you can be soundless

almost anyway – quiet

quieter than most


unspool the wires

use the hammer to break glass

open up the line, please


She felt it, knew it

Somewhere over the mountain tops

where Chance is slow born


Full crowning takes years

and it’s easy to forget

we are in birth-time


188, (…)

body as air, rise

don’t try to beat gravity

it doesn’t exist


189 – 192, Micro/Macro

Middle of the night

hands find each other

simple human ways


The mother holds child

walks down the dirt road, pointing

there is goldenrod


They don’t stop walking

to look closer at the blooming 

four kinds of bees feed


We see the whole scene

offer up broad brush coding

details become blurred


193 – 198, Coverings

We learned to weave wool

spin silk from mulberry trees

invented clothing


Polyester viscose blend

in polymers mixed to make 

color of rainbows


Cover yourself, girl!

Out here nekkid in the yard –

what you thinkin’, child?


The door can close, lock

sheets smell like sunshine 

or something like that


Sunshine has no smell

the scent you call sunshine fresh 

chemical odor


Sunshine fresh means clean

clean means decent, and decent – 

who knows what that means?


199 – 203, Carryings

Late model sedan

riding up and down the road

looking for ladies


“Need a ride, honey?”

window rolls down slow

man leans over, grins


not riding the bus

they talk at the bus stop

smoking cigarettes


Don’t talk about them,

children with names like Justice,

names like Hope and Faith


They don’t exist here

man smiling midnight, “Get in…”

opens the car door


204, Carryings(2)

they sleep still knowing

the sound of their mothers’ voices

even in dreaming


205 – 211, Relations

Ms. Social Worker 

comes without calling, knocks loud

we know what it means


learned to be ready

keep the floors cleaned with Pine Sol

quick, go change the baby


Mama’s hands shake now

clatter the dishes, nervous

moving like a squirrel


they took my brother

didn’t seem to care nothin’ 

‘bout his crying out


He reached back to us

straining against the holding

arms straight out, grasping


was late afternoon

with the sun gold orange through pines

light, a good feeling


Officer knew us,

played football back in highschool

Mama was pretty.


212 – 214, Enter

we were all there then

my brother playing with me

in the yard, dirty


We were throwing sticks

that landed to make dust rise

dog started barking


Fence gate latch clanking

world coming in, wearing pumps

carrying clipboards


215, Yardwork

You pull the grass rough

grimace and claw, rip, tear, pop

rhizomal network


216 – 222, Sowing

To plant nasturtium

bury the seeds deep to wait

away from all light


Soak them in water

if you want to play like God

mimic the spring rain


Notice, important

the way the hulls look like brains,

gonads, ovaries


You don’t know just yet

what color the blooms will be

only that they will come


at least you hope so

pushing finger, tunneling

making birth canals


A cluster, no rows

the edge of the fence, near gate

a constellation


stretch of sunny days

unfurl like sweet promises

of orange, maybe red


223 – 228, Inside

The heft of the door,

hard seats, a screen of faces.

Print the yellow pass.


Go up, air is warm…

stuffy indoors, fluorescent…

bang, metallic sound.


Looks in people’s eyes…

speech, smile, vocal timbre…words

like a preacher says.


“Then, dude, 45…”

*hand held like a loaded gun*

“Can’t say shit ‘bout it.”


“You leave a person…”

“Alone like that, after that…”

“Man, it is not good.”


Everyone is a child

When they speak of unfairness,

the anger of all.


229 – 237, Context

Automatic doors

 smell of plastic petroleum

 home goods product lines


 box architecture

 all right angles, empty space

 mimics containers


 “Fill ‘er up?” “Yes, sir.”

 this product is known to cause

 cancer, explosions


 discharge static

 before fueling, touch something

 electricity


 hovers and buzzes

 tingling, lurch, bundle and build

 a haze of lightning


tiny bolts surround

 gather electrons, lose them

 a frenzy dance


they say the earth hums

emits constant noise unheard

makes me want to cry


Stand in the center

 city swirls roaring around

 great din of commerce


rises like vapor

 wave crossing wave, tangling

 webs shudder on lines


229 – 235, Famine Lands

They named the disease

after the first child hunger

never enough milk


The river banks steam

swarming with flies, no water

the bodies of fish


Places where grass will grow

someday for a moment, two

a generation


There is no food here

There is nothing to eat here

We are starving here


Low wail across plains

for the sons and the daughters

the kin taken far


Taken for the tusks

Taken for the strength of backs

the cords of muscle


In the world they made

Every thing has a price

despite sacred life


236 – 245, Processions

Sovereign beings all

Every creature that lives

that has ever lived


Encased in plastic

perspectives of worth

mutable and made cheap


How can we forget

The soil itself is old bones

of trees, men, and birds?


no matter trying

we cannot manufacture

water with machines


So, wring your hands, sir

Under the table, listen

there is no way out


Take the direction

opposite to the road home

walk into the dark


…day before you left

did you kneel on the ground there?

Touch the dirt and weep?


“Don’t go!” I cry out,

“Stay where you are, stay at home!”

“…you will die here, too.”


The desert lands wait

for your footsteps

migration rhythms


Desperate parade

Stooped figures travel at night

Milky Way watching


246 – 250, Deals 

The starched napkins lay

Crumpled doves dinner

Plucked quick by brown hands


On the southeast side

there is no light of day shining

through the small windows


The briefing took place

in a locked room, underground

monitors record


The world will never

be the same again, any day

any second passing


There are small stirrings

noticing the child’s eyes flash

saying: “You are bad.”


251 – 255, Flee

The cities grow, sprawl

Patterning metastasis

we cannot control


Men, names like punches

that you won’t ever know, speak

holler from corners


The wives and children

huddle in rooms warm, fetid

waiting for the word


Go, go now, time comes

Mother’s blue bowl broke, oh well

one of many things lost


In the mix with bones

of trees, men, and birds, find

small fragments of glass


256 – 262, Transition

Chemicals derived

Taxus brevifolia

Kill cells good and bad


bone marrow suffers

stops making blood, hair falls out

the Pacific Yew.


My father cries now

Talks about morphine, hospice

what will happen next.


My mother’s hands, birds

resting quiet and folded

at peace in her lap


“Please come tomorrow,”

“Come whenever you can,”

“Please visit with me.”


“I’ll miss you too much,”

she says this by the flowers,

blooming brief, brightly.


How can I help her

to know and to deep-believe:

the dead miss nothing?


263 – 272, Transition(2)

The end of day comes

with my mother looking far

down the field, away


Father talked to owls

Calling soft the other night

now I hear them, too


dying has a gaze

all it’s own, mortality

written in the eyes


Oval loops in dark

running fast to feel Alive

before the sunrise


The curve of the track

Catches footstep sounds, echoes

Following faintly


I saw this morning

a bright star beside the moon

never seen before


Remember the night

at the mouth of the canyon?

The galaxy edge?


We could only see

if we didn’t try too hard,

only with soft eyes


My second born child

asked me to watch the sunrise

Of course I said: “yes.”


We saw a raven

flying low, everything

suddenly golden


273 – 279, Evolute

when industry boomed,

 were birds scared of factories?

 smoke and noise, machines


 we watched moths turn dark

 to hide in soot-covered trees

 why are we surprised?


 Evolution day

 every moment we change

 die and born again


Wise apoptosis

 billions dying all the time

 learning from what was


slow down, speed up, flinch

 the smell of cherry blossoms,

 laboratories


Atlanta, Georgia:

 mice were afraid of flowers

 remember the shock


Fear imprints with ease

 more than love, more than comfort

 Cortisol teaches


280 – 289, Old Boys

Put on your holsters

you old boys, with wagging tongues

and secret meetings…


Swallow the bullets 

you’ve been saving up for us 

in the name of Father


The lead sits heavy

in your soft pink gut-belly

feels heavy like fear


Hear the sound they make,

breaking the water’s surface,

setting old ghosts free?


Don’t you burn no cross,

don’t you burn no church ‘round here.

I know who you are.


I came from you, man. 

Your voice sounds like home,

the place that I left.


No white robe can hide

the truth of who you are now –

scared and pink, confused.


Dirty hands, salt earth 

caught under your fingernails

the bone, the marrow


Heft that anchor weight,

the blood-swollen decks creaking

with the roll of waves.


Speak your daddy’s name.

Your great great grand? Say it, too.

Ask them to tell you.


290 – 298, Stupid ?’s

Atlanta, Georgia:

When a white woman passes

Men learned to look down


No need to say why,

 they were bowing their heads, pray

to Emmett Till’s ghost


You want to know why?

 Smart as all you people are?

 Asking is insult.


It doesn’t take brains

 to notice people dying

 in the streets, shot down


Do you not see it?

 This whole motherf*ckin’ place

 built by slave labor


Wall Street worried now,

 ‘bout the collapse of what was

 never theirs to own


 energy it took

 to build this country, this wealth

 rape economy


glib motherf*ckers

 eating their f*cking lunches

 hands bloody as hell


How dare you ask why.

 Incredulous. Idiots.

 You really don’t know.


299 – 306, Multiplicities(2)

Lives no longer live.

Old cotton gathering dust.

The space breathes in, out.


A declaration:

“Anxiety opposite

of humility.”


dancing the slow dance,

the steady turning of Earth.

“Oh, how she lights up!”


A blur of grasses

Gives way to edge, the township

fences along roads


The world seemed insane,

but it didn’t bother me

more than a quiver.


Flash of moving screen,

brief and inspecific weight

shifting in my core.


Before the sun came up

the elder woman walked  slow,

a moving treadmill.


Watching the reel play

silent, muted,  on flat screen,

no certain futures.


307 – 311, Stagger

distance between worlds

one person to another

a moment passing


we adjust quickly

our adaptability

new realities


We forget the names

creatures extinct, this century

whole histories lost


rushing toward the new

we tear down what was sacred

spewing exhaust fumes


left alone too long

it all goes back to the wild

strong instincts of plants


312 – 321, No Frontera

All weariness gone

watch under ponderosa 

hummingbird cloud sky


desert night is long

Factory Butte lit by moon

illuminated like day


equisetum lashes 

legs scratched and burning red raw

prehistoric plants


how human to see

fire in the sky as God’s work,

something like magic


small rocks hold color

like the big hills and mesas 

similarity


dead truck container

virtual reality

Arizona road


Ravens flash black wing

a suburbanite is stunned

valley of the gods


Canyons sleep sundown

Pinyon quiet windless night

the beautiful wild


The grass catches light

shining golden afternoon 

rarely seen glowing


Quiet breathes easy

here in the canyon silence

just the sighing wind


322 – 329, Dead Lands

How many days in

the millions of years it took

to make the land here?


This place was on fire

seasons burning on and on 

cold in the morning


western towns cluttered 

with junk we thought we needed 

rusting along roads


New side of town lights 

pizza storage rusting tin

desert winds blow dust


Random road messages

give hope to dreamers, gamblers

Long shot, all is true


I caught signal here

under high point juniper 

to listen, hear truth


She said on the phone, 

“I can’t really be myself, 

in this life, my life.”


Two ravens watch cars

guarding town or the highway 

or nothing at all.


330 – 337, Parking Lots

We tend toward order 

the implicit pull to lines

numbers, doors, closed, *lock*.


Man, geometry 

hard edges everywhere

except reflected


Things we hold onto

Stored for a possible life

we need to let go


pull back your shoulders

throw your fist in living air

you are really free


Find moments of breath

to see the shape of wind waves

carve dances in trees


The gods sleep gape-mouthed

Crawl in like a dream, settle

as a prayer-thought


They will wake with you

in the turning of the winds

the spinning of time


when widening luck

and rich configurations

clear the space ahead


338 – 346, Moves

American road

The river down below us

flows quiet like it does


The brand new of youth

gave way to just skeletons

gasoline for sale


It wouldn’t take long 

for all this to be swallowed 

in green light, small trees


Things lose their shine quick

traffic traffic all day long

forgetting with ease


The names of these places

They are all made up by men

real names are secrets


Wind will tell you soft

the syllables of longing 

to simply move free


There are parts of us

that never die, quiet down

“Listen, don’t forget!”


The people walked here

no choice but to leave it all 

for this? Really? This?!


The grass doesn’t care

what it is called by humans

Fine blades sing real names


347 -349, Singularity

So alive to me. 

Branch and bough, wind-blown and still 

growing steady, slow.


In mute expansion

breathing as leaves in light breeze 

What else is there now?


When sirens go by

oftenloudlyovertime

the forest exists.


350 – 352, Existing

The end is nameless

as is the mute beginning

space in wind, sunlight


The heat from buildings

shimmers across busy streets

making atmosphere


it doesn’t take faith

To know the stars are still there

even if unseen


353 – 361, Momentum

none of the girls talk

about wanting a new life

they work, no questions


At night, eyes are cast

look down at your hands, count deeds

adding up the costs


clock in, clock out, work

life is a factory now

all you’ll ever know


fingers are calloused

no softness there, at the tip

knuckles swell at night


on television

there is a bright-colored life

people laughing loud


make worthless products

your life spent earning wages 

fingers twisted, sore


Give away talents

so someone else can profit

that’s the way it is


you will never see

such a vivid universe

oceans blue, sky blue


your world is dull grey

under haze of smog and ash

sun a silver disk


362 – 365, Ending

We will forget them.

The ones who came before us,

those who we destroyed.


The names we gave them

never spoke to who they were.

Names don’t tell stories.


All beings lifted…

Lord, let us be un-named now.

All beings seen whole.


The only knowing

life, death, continuation

the forever earth.

img_5683

“…before all that.” [Remembering Poems]


Scarborough 

The woman behind the front desk,

who is quick to call any man handsome,

once told me

‎after she’d seen a picture 

(curling at the corners, becoming indefinite at the edges, in the background)

from your marathon years

or your Navy years

or some other years

before this year

of kittens and pornography

not sleeping through the night

skipped medication

self-medication

sitting alone in the dark, the early morning

out in the county 

where there is hardly a sound at 3:00am

before you didn’t sleep for days

on the long trip north 

to go see your mother

dance ‘round the living room

to some song she used to like

to bicker with your remaining brother

your last brother

the good son, the one who didn’t kill himself,

who stayed alive, stayed home, became impatient 

and complained to you

about the mess of her eating,

the food falling out of the mouth

that sang you to sleep

‎before you got on the bus

before you were the far away son, the runaway son

the man who left the kittens

in these stupid mountains 

that were never your home

because you wanted to tell your mother goodbye

when you thought 

she would be the one 

to die first.                                                                            You were handsome, before all that. 


To tell you her life story, 

she’d crawl under that low table, 

tuck into a ball, 

duck walk crawl,

lay down flat-bellied 

on the nubbed-out carpet

Smelling dirt and plastic,

the cold of the concrete in the floor seeps up. 

She’d tell about watching

small hands fidget,

rising and falling from tabletop to chair 

elbows pressed close to bodies

and feet hooked ‘round the legs of chairs,

scuffing, rolling toes.

Air too warm,

like sleeping breath.

Thick buzz of sound and light, 

making tired,

voices, thin windows in the corner 

green grass between buildings, 

hard look of brick. 

Nothing at home was made of brick 

except the bottom part 

of her great-grandmother’s house

and old fallen chimneys out in the woods, 

from people that’d been there before, 

after the other people who had been there. 

You felt quiet 

still and cool in the yellow white light 

the cinder block room 

eyelashes curled up silky and black

butterfly mouth, proboscis

a word you’d never heard, did not know 

skin, the river bank 

right hand was resting on the edge of the table 

thumb feeling out the line from top to side, 

the formic seam

some pages flat and silent 

Adult voice

droning layer in the air

heavy over the room of round tables 

Your hand drops to the edge of the chair, 

under the table, into the shade

feels along the hard yellow 

lean the body forward, hold to the silvery leg 

She felt a crawling toward,

nervous animal,

hand under the table 

only a foot away 

surprising how easy it is

for hands to find one another, 

familiar clasp, palm across palm

fingerprints like the river we grew up on 

hot and dry, the dock railing in the summer sun

There’s no way she could tell, 

and no reason she’d need to, 

because you felt it, too

the cold of that grasp,

adult hand like air conditioning

smooth and bloodless

the pulling the warm creatures curled together

up into the bright of the room above the table

lifting the holding hands like some dead thing, 

some sad thing. 

“You will not,”

voice from behind, from above,

before they knew what was happening,

hands still clasped together,

dumb and silent in the air, 

because what can a child’s fingers speak,

“hold hands with,”

wrists encircled,

a swift outward pull, uncoupling the grasp

breaking the hold 

set the hands firmly onto the table, 

issue the declaration

that tells the story of who they are,

“little white girls.” 

To tell you her life story,

she’d have to crawl down on the floor,

hands and knees, 

and tell you that she knows:

This isn’t her life story,

in the way that it is yours.


Old Boy, swallow your bullets 

let the lead

sit in your belly

that weight like an anchor

holding a Bloated wood hull

Blood-swollen decks

right offshore, right offshore

You old boys, with wagging tongues

and shotgun shells

your backroom meetings

dirty hands, the salt of the earth

all its bones, all its marrow

caught under your nails

You old boys, don’t think that I don’t know you.

I came from you.

Old Boy, don’t you burn no churches ’round here

don’t you burn no crosses

because I know who you are.

I came from you. 

All the sheets in the world can’t hide the truth 

of who you are. 

I can see right through them.

You’re pink and soft, trembling and damp.

You’re scared, Old Boy. 

You’ve always been scared. 

So, you just swallow those bullets that you’ve been saving up

in the name of your own daddy 

in the name of your own greatgrands

and the slow death 

of the world they taught you to believe in

You just let that lead sit there in your belly

like the weight of everything you came from.

or, better yet, throw those bullets out into the river, 

and listen to the sound they make 

when they break the surface

setting all those old ghosts free.


In the thick ribbon of sucking tires

The shimmer of the earth ground to twinkling dust gathered at the barrier seams as snow that swirls and hushes at the edge of the roar I travel in insulated and absurd under grinning proclamations of injury and payout, promises of justice and redemption spelled in bright red, bright yellow As I travel to retrieve you by means of this road, which is not the only road, but is the quickest, despite my slowing, despite the impossibility of passage that mounts at the cloverleaf, the junction, the joining of major channels all witnessed blithely by the Waffle House that has turned into a We Buy Gold, announcing in familiar block black letters the eventual way of everything around here.

And you are landing as I stall under the reluctant sunrise that slow sighs a dull orange across the stunned oaks that pull to the forest that surely the fibers of their cambium remember as sweet water and blessed breeze the air pulling at stiff leaf and nimble green branch, up, up, into the air

As you come down, as stunned as the oak into all this mess from the bliss of empty spaces and open sky, only to see me, to come home to me and I know, in the early morning that I have near forgotten, that to have a home to return to makes the departure possible, defines, in fact, the adventure as something other than just a sad wandering away from something that does not love you, that cannot love anything, not even the gold it buys with the payout, even the triumph of the super highway, even the majesty of the unseen oaks sliding by as I get a little closer to welcoming you home.


I drove two thousand miles 

to find you in a parking lot,

to walk over slickrock with you,

to eat eggs

in the places where people used to live,

but don’t live now, 

those canyons filled with echoes

I didn’t know 

that I was supposed to meet another man

in another parking lot

while you fumbled for directions

with weak data. 

Maybe I was?

Maybe I wasn’t. 

In any event, 

there were 9 ravens in the sky, 

and a white bird like a hawk,

maybe a golden eagle, 

like we saw a couple of days later, 

in that Cortez parking lot,

drinking melted ice cream,

that warm day when the dog died,

back home, 

right before my father’s birthday. 

I held the drunk old man’s hand

listened to him talk about:

how long her hair was, how he wakes in the night and cries, his daughter that is off to war in Afghanistan, how he used to jump out of planes in the dark, was just a body falling, before he came home to be a Navajo again, before he ever knew that he would wake up at night thinking about the war, would drink himself to sleep for years…

I think we said a prayer together?

I gave him my phone number, 

and he gave me a rock. 

He never called. 

At least I don’t think he did? 

I don’t know. 

I hardly answer the phone anymore. 

I still have that rock. 

It’s in the box

in the back of the car 

with my cobra pin, 

the one I carry for good luck 

and for protection. 

There was that other man, in Cortez,

begging money for a friend, 

also with a face 

that spoke of ancestry and alcoholism, 

saying, “It’s cold out here tonight, 

he’ll freeze to death.” 

You were in the store buying ice cream. 

I gave him three dollars. 

I should have given him my blanket. 


If you didn’t really want to die

they will hold you down

and

if you didn’t really want to die

they will not speak to you

only to each other

small talk with the syringe from one hand to another

like a shaker of salt

at a lunch table

that you won’t be sitting at

and in that moment

you die a little

even if

you didn’t really want to die

before

the door locks behind you

people come and go

you stay

and the light is thin through

thin windows

always the same behind glass

you don’t even have shoelaces

only socks

rubberized

so you don’t slip

and stumble

your way into line

“Take this,”

if you didn’t already

want to die

They don’t tell you what it does and so you stop asking.

You swallow the pills

because you have to

and you wonder,

dimly,

why you want to die now, when you didn’t really want to die before

when, really, you were

just trying to explain that it was hard to live

The Family Papers

History is tricky.

We have only the records of the past to construct our knowledge of what happened before our immediate witness. Even when the history explored is our very own – experienced and remembered – the truth is slippery. 

This is an incipient autoethnographic process, meaning that I’ve only recently begun to review, catalog, and transcribe the ‘papers’ stored at my parents’ house, which detail through saved letters and documents – a receipt for a train ticket, a certificate given for having died in the war – my great-great uncle’s running away from home at age 16 in 1917 and his subsequent experiences in the Marine Corps training prior to being deployed to fight in WW1. He died in mid-1918, just 18 months after he had written home from Florida that he wanted to be an architect.

His father – my great-great grandfather was a presiding Georgia State Supreme Court judge during the same era that gave rise the 1906 race riots in Atlanta and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan.

Marcus W. Beck, Jr. – my favorite dead uncle – was an artist and – as his pen+ink drawings make clear, a staunch opponent to prejudice and lynchings.

Ten years after his son died at the Battle of Belleau Wood in France, Judge Beck accepted the carving of Robert E. Lee at Stone Mountain, Georgia on behalf of the South.

As I consider this cache of family history from my father’s bloodline, I am reflecting on my experience of learning about this particular branch of my ancestry – my thoughts and feelings about this history I am discovering, my judgements and laments.

I am deeply considering why I may feel so conflicted, sick, and sad to think about the story of my great-great uncle Marcus who was an artist that wanted to be an architect and his father the Judge-with-a-dead-son going on and on in his long-winded acceptance of the Robert E. Lee monument while the crowd stood in an uncharacteristically cold April rain waiting for him to finish his speech.

I don’t know what it is about humans that make us so fascinated with what came before our brief little time, our nanosecond lives on earth. 

Who am I? 

Who are my people? 

What happened to create the world that I understand to be real?  

What are the stories that define who I am?

I grew up in the American South, and am – if I count back the sons and daughters correctly – a 6th or 7th generation Georgian on my father’s side.

It is worth noting that – in my opinion – nobody other than the descendants of indigenous people can justly claim multigenerational ancestry tied to any place in the lands we call North America, as their ancestral lineages stretch back thousands of years.

The rest of us Americans are the descendants of immigrants, refugees, or colonial conquerors.

Although my mother is from Florida, her grandparents immigrated to the United States from Lebanon in, I believe, the 1890s. They had intended to go to Albany, New York, but due to what is explained as ‘getting on the wrong train,’ they ended up in Albany, Georgia at the edge of the 20th century, just three decades after the end of the American Civil War.

Although the Nicholas (ex Khoury and al-Shahaidi) family eventually moved to Miami, they lived in Georgia at the same time my father’s great-grandfather was gaining judicial stature.

My maternal grandfather – brown eyes, brown skin, tightly curled black hair, a mother who spoke little English – was born in 1907 in Albany, Georgia, the year after the riots in Atlanta.

I know nothing of his childhood and very little about my mother’s Lebanese ancestors in general, who they were, where they were from, what their experience as immigrants was. As an adult, the man who would become my mother’s father married late to a young switchboard operator named Faith, who had come out of an abusive family line in Alabama. They had 3 daughters and lived on SW 23rd Terrace in Miami, a small house with Spanish tiles on the roof.

When their youngest daughter – my mother – was 10, he dropped dead of a heart attack while on the job in Jacksonville, an low-level executive in the Florida Milk Co. The few pictures of him are photos of him at work, black and white company photos.

He is the only brown man in the room, but he is smiling, and looks happy, a light in his eyes.

His family spoke Arabic until they learned English. My mother called her paternal grandmother sit’ti and in the 1980’s, I ate kibbeh, lebneh, and khubz arabi when we went to Miami. My mother made lentils and rice as frequently as she did spaghetti, prepared spinach pies with shreds of American orange cheese instead of lemon juice and vinegar.

I am the only one on my mother’s side of the family who has studied Arabic, who made an effort to learn the language of where some of my people are from, a language that was forgotten in the ever-present glare of necessity to speak English, to be American.

I imagine that people in Albany, Georgia at the turn of the 20th century might have…what? Disliked the Lebanese immigrants? Discriminated against them?

I don’t know. I can imagine all sorts of things, but I have no facts and – like I said – even facts are dubious when it comes to history.

Judge Beck was appointed to the Georgia State Supreme Court by Governor Joseph M. Terrell in 1905, a year before the Atlanta race riots of 1906

The term ‘race riots’ may not be an accurate descriptor for the events that took place in Atlanta the September that my great-grandmother was 11 and her brother – Marcus Beck, Jr. – was 8 or 9. 

What happened in Atlanta in 1906 was a massacre, a mass beating, a mass lynching. The term race riot does not name the details and descriptors of what happened in Atlanta. 

‘Race riot’ does not explain that a violent mob of 15,000 – 20,000 white men raged through the city destroying Black-owned businesses and gathering places, killing dozens of Black people in the streets. The official death toll was 25. Nobody knows how many Black people really died. Some estimates place the death count at over 100.

Only two white people died, and one was a white woman who had a heart attack after seeing the violence in the streets outside her home.

‘Race riot’ doesn’t name white supremacy, or white violence. 

In popular culture, at least in my mind’s 20th century associations, a ‘race riot’ means that a large group of people from a specific demographic group take to the streets in an angry and unruly manner, and destroy property, set fires, often in their own locality, both randomly and with retributive intent, as in damage done to police vehicles during responses to police brutality.

A ‘race riot’ does not mean a small army of demographically distinct people sweeping through a city killing people from another demographic group.

‘Race riot’ does not mean 15,000 white people – (Men and boys, mostly, I’m almost sure, as it was likely not proper for white women and girls to be out in the street committing acts of violence, though if one has ever seen the ugly hate on the faces of white school girls protesting school integration in the mid-20th century, 50 years after the Atlanta race riot, it is easy to imagine white women and girls cheering on the brutality committed by their white counterparts) – publicly killing dozens of Black people and going out of their way to destroy Black-owned businesses, burning Black homes.

It was not until 2006 that the Atlanta race riots were even officially acknowledged by the state of Georgia.

I can recognize in myself a subtle sense of embarrassment, a sheepishness, in admitting that I had no idea that there was a ‘race riot’ in Atlanta when my great-grandmother was about to turn 12, when her Papa had just become a Supreme Court Judge the year before.

The Atlanta race riots of 1906 were not part of the Georgia History curriculum taught at Mary Lee Clark Middle, c. 1988.

Although I have a minor in Black Studies with my BA in Sociology from Portland State University, I don’t remember any African-American History courses that mentioned the Atlanta race riots. This event probably was taught, perhaps in a lecture crammed full of the brutal beatings and racism-fueled fires of the 20th century – but, I took those classes 25 years ago and – to be honest – a lot of history just blurs in my mind, the details and names and dates slurring into a cluttered timeline of mass atrocities that leaves my heart heavy with the enormity of how many ugly things happen in the world.

I wonder what it was like for them, the children of the house. Rachel and Marcus, their older sister Margaret. Their father was an important man, had become an important man. Their Papa was a judge. They were home with their mother, going to school. I don’t know what their lives were like, the day-to-day of home and childhood, their little world.

One Saturday afternoon, the newspapers reported that White women had been raped by Black men and the city exploded into violence.

I wonder if my great-great grandfather went out into the mobs. It is unlikely that he was in the streets. He was, after all, an ‘important man.’

It is, however, very, very likely that he contributed to the violence – condoned it, perhaps even sanctioned it, agreed to allow it, conferred with the Sheriff and deputies who – it is said – openly participated in the public beatings and burnings of business.

As I write this, I notice a sick-ish feeling in the center of me and I don’t know – specifically – why I feel this.

Is it the knowledge that accusing a Black man of raping a white woman, or – in the case of Emmett Till, whistling at or even talking to a white woman – was (and in some places, in some minds, still is) essentially a warrant for violence against the accused Black man, as well as violence against people of African descent in general?

Is it the knowledge that my great-great grandfather was involved in the establishment of structural and systemic racism in the state I grew up in, those bloody ties between injustice and the justice system?

Just as the facts of history blur in my mind, my heart’s response (and my nervous system’s response, my mind’s response) to the rampant ugliness of American history, world history, the reality of slavery, old mothers mourning stolen sons in Sierra Leone) is less a specific facet of feeling and meaning, and more an overwhelming though quiet wash of feelings and images that sums itself in feeling sick, feeling sad, graven at the center of me.

My ability to articulate any sort of coherent incisive reflection or analysis is blunted and stammering, regressive almost, stammering like a child about how it’s just so grossly wrong, all of it.

“All of what, Faith?” 

“All of it! People and society and stores and wars and this disgusting commodification of every fucking thing, rape culture, slave economies, police brutality. All of it.” 

I feel like spitting. My hands are tingling with wanting to clench. I can feel something big and righteous in my chest, an aggression. An anger. I am an outraged child, tormented by the dissonance of knowing that people I love and who I want to see as good people do things that I know are deeply ugly, wrong, deplorable.

It’s interesting to think about the perspectives of the white men who took the streets in a killing mob one Saturday night. They were probably feeling righteous about themselves and what they intended to do. In the context of who they were and the times they lived in, they probably thought their actions were serving some twisted justice.

It strikes me, however, that perhaps they were also excited, that maybe they wanted to kill and destroy, that they seized the righteousness they found in the perception of themselves as the white male savior and protector of white women against a perceived threat, and allowed that male human bloodlust to be released en masse.

One thing I do remember from my African American History class is my professor asking us if we thought that any Black man in his right mind would dare to sexually assault a white woman with so many examples having been shown to him of what happens to Black men if they mess with white women. 

White men had raped women and girls of African descent for generations and generations, had brutalized women and girls of African descent. 

God, I feel sick.

7/06/2013

Everyday, this time of year especially, I think about my favorite dead uncle.

It has been about 3 years since I opened up the box of papers and set his ghost free.

How do I know there was a ghost?

I could feel it.

I don’t know why I decided to ask my father about Uncle Marcus’ letters, where they were. It’s possible that I simply remembered they existed, and wondered what had happened to them.

I was surprised to find out that the box of letters and photos was here, in the mountains.

Then again, where else would it be?

I think I wanted to see his drawings, because I was drawing a lot then, trying to keep myself sane by making lines and driving myself crazy with erasing them.

I opened the box very innocently, just wanting to look at old things and think for a few minutes about the smell of my great-grandmother’s house and about the closet that the papers were in, the closet in the room on the shady side of the house, with hydrangea an impossible blue beneath the second story window of the room with the cabbage rose wall paper.

The closet seemed to gasp out all its dusty, old smells in surprise when the light – a bare bulb on a brittle string – was turned on with a decisively incandescent click to display in swinging shadows shelves of boxes and old rows of shoes, a war helmet on the wall with the words “War Is Hell” written across the top of the old canvas.

We knew that there were letters in the boxes, though we never saw them. The boxes were never opened. We knew the letters had something to do with Uncle Marcus, who died before ever becoming an uncle.

We know this because his sister, my great-grandmother, told us. She was the one who saved them, all that proof of the brother that she had lost.great-grandmother saved them, all that proof of the beloved brother that she had lost.

They say that he was “special, an artist.”

I was in my mid-30s when I first saw Marcus’ drawings, and understood that he was deeply critical of politics and laws…and lynchings.

As a teenager, he drew the picture above, which depicts a sword-wielding figure with a sash reading ‘JUSTICE’ hanging a classical white woman-ish figure with a sash reading ‘GEORGIA STATE LAWS.’

He was the son of a Georgia judge in the early 20th century.

When I was young, and wanting to draw pictures, people would remember him. I don’t think I ever identified with him though, except to wish that I might be special, too and to long to have enough bravery to run away to the circus, or somewhere.

My family – like most families, I guess – is full of histories that nobody ever talks about.

We did not speak of the way my father’s mother briefly married her professor, or how it was that the professor came to leave just after my father was born, the marriage annulled. For years, I did not know my paternal grandfather’s last name. I still don’t know his first name, and have never had any contact with any of the people I am related to through his bloodline.

We did not speak of how my great-grandfather died or the fact that my beloved great-grandmother was an alcoholic.

Why have I never wanted to write a book about my great grandmother?

She was the one who taught me to play cards, after all. She was the one who taught me to tell stories.

Why has her ghost never clamored at me the way her brother’s has, nagging “Tell my story, tell my story…”

Perhaps it is her, not him, that is nagging? Maybe it is both, doing as children do, which is to try to get what they want, to get what they need, to have their voices heard.

Why else would she have saved his papers and drawings?

A Letter From Rachel Beck Moeckel and her Brother Marcus, Jr. (1917)


Jan 3, 1917

My Dear Son:

I want you to come home and enter Peacock School or some other good school so that you may prepare for [?] next Fall or the year following. A year lost for school now will hurt more than a year of life lost when you are older. Don’t go on in this way; Don’t waste your life. Don’t distress and humiliate your parents. If you will come back to enter Peacock or some other school here write, or wire me, where to send you the money to come on & I will wire it or send it by registered mail.

Yr loving father,

M.W. Beck

Dear Papa,

You are –

about my at –

leaving [?] –

thoroughly –

myself and –

go somewhere else and show that I could stick with something any way. Do not think that I am not going to college next year for I am. I am going either to Auburn or Fisk and take a special course in architecture. I have not enough units in mathematics so if we do not get jobs in a month or so, enabling us to go to night school and make up geometry we will come back to Atlanta. You said that I only had to stay two years at college and I think it would be better to take a special two year course than break off in the middle of 4 years. Marcus


Seven months after Marcus had been in Florida writing to his father about wanting to take an architecture course, he had joined the Marines and was in Basic Training at Parris Island, SC – writing home with an entirely different tone. It is worth noting that in most all of his letters from Parris Island, he persisted in spelling it Paris Island. I do not know if this was a tongue-in-cheek convention of misspelling among recruits in training, or a hint of hopes to defect in Europe. I like to imagine my great-great uncle running away, changing his name, becoming an architect, an artist.
I think he died though. He died in the war.
A year and a half after he set out
– as so many young people do – as I myself did,
to find freedom,
he died.

Parris Island, S.C.

July 4, 1917 

Wednesday 

Dear Mama and Papa, 

I am writing you this way because I am afraid if I write two letters that I won’t be able to finish both of them. Today’s the big day here and instead of celebrating with noise and powder, we’re celebrating with athletic meets. We get enough fireworks on the rifle range on other days. We haven’t started shooting yet. We are just snapping in. Snapping in is when you learn how to aim and hold the gun, judge distances, etc. it’s the hardest and most important part of the range training. “Colors” just blew, sixteen bugles all blowing together and everybody standing at attention.

[stamp reading M.W. Beck, w/ text reading “This is the way we mark our clothes”]

There is going to be a big fight tonight to decide championships of the island. It’s between a fellow in training and an old timer named Kelly, who is the present champion. The new man is an amateur from N. Orleans. I broke my resolutions and bet $5 of my next months pay into the New Orleans fellow. He’s in the next street to us. Nearly everybody in camp has bet up on this fight. I don’t consider it the same as playing poker for money or shooting craps. We had some dinner today. Real chicken, (unreadable) potatoes, an orange and a banana apiece and all the lemonade we could drink. X That cross represents a pause. The (unreadable) down at the docks fired the first salute and everybody ran out in the rain to watch it. There were fifteen salutes fired. The light’s so poor I have to

[end of page]


I just got home from Fairview, where my father – as he folds old shirts he calls Hawaiian, but that are really more Floridian, with dolphins and colonial compasses and sportfishing boats – tells me again that I should just get in touch with the people at the University of Georgia and tell them that we have all these old family papers, original documents from the life and career of Marcus W. Beck, whose journals are archived at the university and who is of historical significance due to him being a Georgia State Supreme Court Judge during the first quarter of the 20th century, as WWI unfolded, raged, and took the life of his namesake son following a year of tense rebellion that produced a thick sheath of correspondence between young runaway Marcus, his father and mother, and his sister Rachel, who was my great-grandmother and who I was raised with until her death when I was 16, in 1992. Rachel kept the letters and papers in a closet upstairs in an unused room on the northwest side of the house, perched above the bright blue hydrangea that bloomed and nodded heavily in the shade alongside a dirt road that I still dream about frequently. 

Rachel Beck was born in 1894, and so I grew up in the 1980s in South Georgia just down the road from a person I loved that was born in another century. 

Marcus W. Beck was significant not for groundbreaking legal decisions that changed legislature, or for his authorship of seminal works of law, ethics, or literature, which – to my knowledge – he did not, but because in April of 1928 – on behalf of the South – he accepted the as-yet-unfinished monument to Robert E. Lee at Stone Mountain, Georgia, a monument that over the next 40 years would become the largest confederate monument in the United States.


Judge Beck accepted the monument on behalf of the South via a speech that my father tells me that ‘some article somewhere’ reported was a lengthy speech on an unseasonably cold and wet day in early April, 1928.

[Insert excerpts of speech content]

In his acceptance of the monument, Judge Beck offers a thorough example of the idolatry of Robert E. Lee and other Confederate leaders that is part and parcel of the revisionist history of the Civil War known as The Lost Cause. The Lost Cause narrative is the substance of an imagined Confederate heritage, a story that one can and should be proud of.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_1378-1.jpg

Millions of people in the American South have been told that this is their heritage, a heritage to be proud of and to defend, a noble resistance to threats to the ‘way of life’ in the South led by brave and capable men. 

The Myth of the Lost Cause is…a myth…epic story spun to tell people what is real and what is true, a story to teach a lesson, to shape our worldviews and our identities.

The Myth of the Lost Cause was designed to not only justify, but glorify an act of treason orchestrated to protect the interests of those who profit from slave economies and to preserve a ‘way of life’ that was perceived as being under attack by the efforts to abolish slavery.

This alternative version of history promotes a deeply biased, factually inaccurate, and aggrandized story which uplifts and benefits the character of the (white) Confederate Southerner and proffers a sense of distinct historical and ethnic identity that exists in what seems to be a confused, tense, but generally compatible relation with the similarly white supremacist United States of America, a country whose dominant culture all but demands assimilation into a peculiar brand of English-speaking consumer capitalist culture in which only smatterings of the diverse languages and life-ways of ancestors from all over the world survive only in the form of phrases and food, clothing styles and sacred symbols that have long since been appropriated by the trend fashion industry.


My father is unfolding the shirts and now putting them on hangers, telling me what I should say to the university librarian when I offer to give them our family papers for the purpose of making them available to study. “Just tell them these papers were discovered, primary source documents, and that we want them to be placed in archival…” 

“I know what to tell them, how to get in touch with people and what to say.”

Did my father not realize that I had secured over ½ a million dollars in grants for nonprofits over the past year, while doing other work no less, and that I have a Master’s degree? 

My ego felt stupidly wounded and I watched a blithe blankness spread over my father’s face as I went on speaking. It is hard to listen to me sometimes.

“I am not going to have them donated or archived until I have a chance to look at the documents and work on them. I mean, this is why I studied sociology, this is why I have a degree in Black Studies, and learned how to do content analysis on media messaging about race, and why I went to the University of Georgia to study under Dr. Beck who researched lynchings and lynching culture and even though that didn’t work out, I still think that it is not entirely out of my wheelhouse to put together an essay or an account of the family papers, particularly as they relate to Judge Beck and Marcus and the monument at Stone Mountain. There are two pieces of legislation right now in Georgia that are focused on the future of Stone Mountain and some groups are actively advocating for the removal of the monument. It is a big deal. The largest Confederate monument in America. I want to at least put together and publish one or two essays and an autoethnographic piece about the papers and my ancestry, so that if someone does decide to work with the papers, I can possibly work with them and learn more about how to do archival documentation and analysis.”

I want to explore how my knowledge of my ancestry, knowledge that for many years was slightly outside of my conscious knowing, but that still was evident to me in the dissonance that I lived with knowing that my great-great grandmother, Judge Beck’s daughter, was a white supremacist.

My father explained her racism as a matter of being a ‘product of her times.’ This concept – that people can become who they are based on when and where they grew up – seeded a sociological curiosity that exists to this day.

Perhaps it would have been helpful or inspiring to me to know that Judge Beck’s sister Leonora Beck Ellis had been a poet sociologist and an advocate for the protection of wild places in Florida?! Maybe if I’d known about Leonora, I would have stayed in graduate school, instead of dropping out in the first semester and trying to commit suicide.
I hardly know anything about her, but recently found a 47 page handwritten letter that may be from her to her brother Marcus.

It is also important for me to reflect on the ways that not knowing my family’s history has also shaped me.

The knowledge that Leonora (“A Brilliant Woman”) had existed, along with more information about Marcus, Jr.’s love of and skill in drawing and his still-developing and yet radical perspectives on justice and politics, may have situated some of my least validated and most authentic character attributes in relation to my ancestry and – perhaps – offered me the opportunity to imagine the encouragement of my long-dead relatives as I floundered in becoming an artist, an activist, a social scientist. (See above caption)


The video above is not fantastic. It may not load on some devices. That’s okay. Wr

AwNote unplanned awkward efforts to be sensitive to the fragile egos of reactionary good ‘ol boys through learned non-confrontational messaging and mealy-mouthed phrasing.

This reflexive social behavior has its origins in gender socialization to be pleasant and non-angry, as well as extensive social learning re: how truly difficult it is to interact with indignant, offended redneck dudes, with the sub-legit fear of pissing off the wrong Confederate fanboy, because some of those folks are delusional and armed.

Cringe-worthy in moments, this currently unlisted video features me speaking about how I want to see the Confederate monument at Stone Mountain removed.

Additional information about the history and possible futures of Stone Mountain are included in the video’s description on YouTube


I just got home from spending several hours – four, actually – on sorting out the family papers. My intent was to simply revisit the speech at Stone Mountain, for the purpose of doing a more thorough content analysis, but in the process of finding the speech pamphlet again, I had to go through a lot of boxes of old papers – lengthy letters, photos, and documents, invitations to weddings, sympathy cards and newspaper clippings. 

“I’ll get the box out for you,” my dad said, and proceeded to pull all the boxes out of the deep closet set into the slope of the roof in the loft room where my family now stores our papers, at least some of them. Old tax records are kept in a different closet across from the bathroom downstairs, with the toilet paper and my mother’s robes, a laundry basket filled with miscellaneous personal care products that my mom found on sale or was simply stocking up on. 

Before going upstairs, I asked my mother to begin writing down what she knows about her father’s family, Lebanese immigrants in the 1890s. She began to tell me right then and there the names and places and the story of how my great-grandparents arrived in America and went to Albany as they had planned, but ended up in Georgia, not New York, and were resigned to stay due to having exhausted their money for traveling and – besides – they were already there. 

As I was talking with my mother about these things and getting ready to go upstairs and look for the speech again, to capture what was on the pages I’d missed in my first quick documentation of my great-great grandfather’s acceptance (on behalf of the South) of the unfinished bust and head of Robert E Lee that was carved into Stone Mountain, Georgia. 

I don’t know why it is that I believe my ancestor’s acceptance of this monument – on behalf of an entire region, no less – somehow ties me to the responsibility to have it removed, to right wrongs done through – at the very least – the erasure of false idols from recent history, the symbols of men that have become enmeshed with a particular brand of Southern white supremacy, in which the old ways of being and the heritage of many white-identified Southern families are entangled with the brutal enslavement of millions of people who were kidnapped from their African home countries in a model of exploitative colonial capitalism that exterminated millions of indigenous people and stripped away the actual heritages of the diverse ‘European’ people who were designated ‘white’ in the ham-handed delineations contructed based on observable physical phenotypes at the expense of everything we really are and who our people really were. Not false wartime idols, but our real ancestors, our real heritage. 

My father – again – was going on about talking to the archival people at various universities and I had to tell him again and again that it is important to me to be able to have the opportunity to look at the papers and do some work with them, to take an inventory. 

“Yes, an inventory is a good idea, so that when we talk to the archival people, we can tell them what we are donating.”

When I talk to him about autoethnography and the current cultural relevance of white Americans unlearning the bad ideas that are woven into our National and regional identities, and – furthermore – it’s Stone Mountain! The biggest most atrociously tacky Confederate blemish in the country, accepted on behalf of the South by my great-great grandfather…my father seems to think I am foolish and that I don’t know what I’m talking about no matter how clearly, concisely, and intelligently I speak. I explain that if we just hand the boxes over to the University of Georgia, and don’t have our own digital archives, we will be relying on a university library to make the materials accessible beyond traveling to a climate controlled basement 4 hours from here to study the papers for a limited amount of time. 

People who may want to learn about their distant relatives will not be able to ever see them, and it’s a good story, not just for scholars.

“Well, that all sounds good.” His tone is ambivalent, if not slightly doubting. “Then we can get things to a point where the scholars can have access to them.” He paused and glanced at me, “…and the wanna-be scholars.” 


Picture Completion: An Autoethnography

notes

The hidden blog space on this site is being used to archive notes and reports on my process of autoethnographic inquiry and experiential data collection. This project exists for the purpose of constructing a project that will both satisfy the requirements of my degree program and offer me the opportunity to develop skill in practices of autoethnographic inquiry, as well as the opportunity to challenge myself in storytelling.

To give voice to one’s own understanding of experience while critically analyzing factors, forces, and constructions that impact one’s identity and life capabilities is unavoidably an act of resistance and reclamation.

Scroll down for links to initial posts regarding this incipient project.

[Content is subject to change.]

 Here is an outline of an expanded consideration of autoethnographic praxis in relation to this project.

In the meantime, the Wikipedia entry on Autoethnography is a well-referenced and informative resource on autoethnographic methodology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autoethnography

References

Ellis, Carolyn. (2004) The ethnographic I: A methodological novel about autoethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.

Denzin, Norman K. (2014) Interpretive Autoethnography. Qualitative Research Methods, Vol.17. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

POSTS ON PROCESS

Brief Autoethnography 1: A Subject Unto Itself [Initial reflections.]

Autoethnography 2: The Validity of Voice 

Autoethnography 3: Messy Texts 

Autoethnography 4:[Poem]

Autoethnography 5: Outline at Outset

Autethnography 6: The Importance of Analysis [correspondence and recollection]

Autoethnography 7: Picture Completion: An Experimental Autoethnography on Neurodiversity, Psychosis, and Anomalous Experience

“There is water here.” [Reflection Poems]


The wind that raised me

whispered

spartina alterniflora

juncus romanus

then laughed,

in wavelets holding

brackish reflections

of a blue that we called ‘sky,’

at the way we try to name things


The stories carried hints

like the underside of leaves

that had just pushed out

through the flesh of stems

in a gathering of cells

quick as lightning to open

without knowing why

into the sun that warmed

the tiny chambers of sap and cellulose

to cast a glow out into air

and radiate the simple, fervent scent

of brand new life

barely more than a breeze,

a soft exhale through the epiphyte

they called Spanish

even though it knows nothing about Spain

or anything else in the world

where things and places

have names

who I am, who I was,

the place where I am from,

which doesn’t exist anymore,

in the way that it did,

just like everything else

they come in the night

hot breath and mother’s milk,

smoke and beer,

the cold of ice on the tongue,

hollering across a blazing field,

speaking low

with the pine gathered close and quiet seeping

the sharp smell of a home

I will not see again.


glabrous shine dark red

to black, a critical mass

sweetness building slow

Beautiful people

all over the world, living

sad lives, scenic places

a chart, scatterplot

would show no going back now

too much ripe, ready

(what is it to live

the last summer of one’s life?

…asking for a friend.)

Next year’s cane reach bold

soft green, fleshy thorn, straight tall

not knowing, they’ll wait

Last week, a surprise

to find the dark half globe hid

among the blood red

Now, everywhere

more than ever,

then gone.


The look of the room 

was full of New South 

Palmettos in pines, sweet blessed shade

beyond the plastic lines of blinds 

and brutal swathe of buffalo lawn 

stucco on the outside 

carpet and rush of cold,

compressed air 

on the inside 

all pale blue and grey 

pastel accents 

under khaki, sitting prim 

and civilized, fur sprayed and face made 

to be modern, educated, 

informed behind the convex spectacles

that hide the earnest child

the one who wants to help, 

the one who thinks they know the answers.

The answers were all wrong, 

but she gave them anyway

because she thought they were right,

the answers. 

A common mistake,

very human thing to do. To have the wrong answers, and to think they are the right answers.

“Your daughter,” she said,

“has a condition.”


On the night before the full moon

I bickered with my oldest child in the wind

About why he could not run off

to Shining Rock at sundown,

we watched the day explode

Glad for the gales that make silence

No need to talk in wind like that

light gold and purple

All across the mountains

Walking in the dark

Across the field of dry grass

Spotlight on our backs

Shadows on the road

Land rising black against the sky

Right under Venus

No lights up there on that rise

feet getting wet down here

shifting stones in the ink of the ground

I was with my children

Taller than I am

Daughter in the stream, wetting her head

her feet, like some baptism

just silliness

Silly like the geese in the river on Sunday

Reminding us

not to leave one another behind


Always,

a day full of voices

Warbled and piping

Bowed heads

and the happy, kicking feet of children

Old brows stern with the serious business

Of giving thanks

and the rituals of passing plates,

setting knives aside

with a gracious hand

Outside,

Away from talk

of games and scores,

sickness and health,

plans, a grievance,

maybe two,

wishes and a regret,

the solemn nod to the seat

now empty

owls call into the dark

roots rest in cold soil

dry leaves spin silent to the waiting ground

their arrival announced

in a whispering, settling sound

that nobody hears

While water falls across rocks

Stirring up wind

That blows branch and limb

against the windows

of warm houses,

and shudders the flames

of fires burning

all night long.


She considers the ringing in her ears

sweet lull between cars passing

Down on the street beyond

The tangle of old apple trees and privet

That hides this house

The birds settle down

when there are no cars

And the sky is beginning to have

That soft look about it

Like the inside of a blanket

Not even grey, just the white glare of down

a thunderstorm just being born

In the slight wind from the southeast

Where all those boneyard beaches are

She’d spent the morning daydreaming

Awake and smiling

In the ease of line

And in the imagining

of a quick drive from here

To there

A whole ‘nother world

Down there by the water

Now she considers the ringing in her ears

And how bothered she is by the sound

Of cars, the guttural push of a bus on the hill

She doesn’t think she wants

to go for a bike ride

To be out on the road

With the bright and the glare

The cars driving past

Loud all around her


I painted a tiny picture once

Of a woman on a table

Cut open at the chest

Blue roses spilling forth

From the cavity of herself

And what I meant to say with this

Sitting at my desk in a white painted room

With a window northwest facing

The view of the roof next door

lives underneath the tar

woman at a counter on the bottom floor

A store clerk and a seamstress

Making noodles

behind a wall of glass

While the brush painted blue

Onto blue

The curve of petal and closed lid

The movements of the city

Rushing as a breeze in the bare limbs

Of the tree that grew up between the buildings

And what I meant to say

Years ago, with that tiny figure

Blue roses spilling forth

Was that I wanted to show you

What’s inside of me


“Here, look,” she said,

leaned into the dark

disappearing into the slur of night

new moon, no moon

thick of shadow suggesting

just a little light

up there, Venus rising

sun gone, still

over past the mountain

casting dim on clouds

shimmer the leaves and slick up the water

but, fail

to show us the bark,

to show us the details

(Lenticel and the pursed mouths of blooms

not quite open

“Kalmia latifolia,” she’d told you at the car,

when she’d said,

“I am learning to learn again.”

and listed all the names she knew.)

(She didn’t tell you that the sounds of them, these names, felt uncertain in her mouth, that she felt like a child saying them. She said nothing about the strangeness of remembering that she used to be a person who knew the names of things, could say them like quicksilver, say them like music, syllables like dancing in the everyday talk of flowers. She doesn’t tell you any of this, standing beside the car with the day bright blue and Rhododendron catawbiensis mutely blooming behind you.)


At night, she leans forward

into the mass that is earth

toward the rustle of spring

and for a second she is gone,

swallowed, but you heard her push aside the branches,

hollow knock of rocks disturbed, 

feet grinding stones,

licking into moss,

the damp fur of mountain

speckled with light that might be the moon,

or plain old mica.

Reaching forward, one finger, two,

bracing toward the glow

curious to see what would happen

if she touches it. 

Held her breath to find

the light stayed the same,

fixed to the ground,

beaming up in pinprick smears

a scatterplot spelling out,

“There is water here.”


that place is still

there

underneath the pavement

and the tires

and the signs

with their sun-bleached messages

that said:

You Don’t Belong Here

they lied

again

this has always been your place

underneath the bones

and the branches

the moss like ghosts

and the tides like a heartbeat

as slow and steady

as your very own history


Picture Completion: An Experimental Autoethnography on Neurodiversity, Psychosis, and Anomalous Experience

2:58 PM (20 hours ago)

to me

Hi Faith,

I have reviewed your MA Project and I would like to discuss it with you. No problems – I just want to explore a few things. The document is remarkable in many respects. Could I call you tomorrow, Saturday, any time? Thanks, Bob
 
 

10:37 AM (4 minutes ago)

to me
I am willing myself to not be anxious about this phone conversation, and – really – I do feel fairly calm.
Perhaps there will be revisions requested, maybe a re-write. I don’t know if I will take something like that on, or if it is an option for me to take something like that on. I might not have to, for the purposes of the project in the immediate.
Eventually, I will need to re-write the entire thing, and – come to think of it – I am excited about the prospect of revisiting the work, not for the purpose of satisfying degree requirements, but for the purpose of refining the way I tell this story, which is the only story I have to work with, save for stories I might make up.
I may have to make up stories to tell parts of this story – give the characters fictionalized personas, different names, different places.
In working on this project, I realized a few very important things.
The most prominent of these, in my mind, is the understanding that, yes, I really was crazy at a few points. I was not aware of what I was doing in appropriate reference to the world around me, the other people in my life, my self and established identity. Further, I was inhabiting a reality that – while some elements were potentially actual – simply was not real, at least not in the details that I believed in.
I think, for a long time, my instinct has been to try to somehow prove that I was not crazy, or to somehow justify my craziness. In a lot of ways, my experience of psychosis was justified.
It wasn’t random. It was a result, a critical outcome.
I still am crazy, but I am also alright.
In working on this project, I have come to understand why my family was so concerned, so panicked. I knew, conceptually, that they were not seeing me clearly, and that they were worried and that it was hard for them ot know how to help me. In seeing myself here, as presented in this project, I understand a little more – in my heart – how terrible it must have been for my father to have that conversation with me in the parking lot.
I was being extremely weird, not stable.
Part of me whines about my right to be weird, to indulge in emotionally-driven and impulsive whims.
I don’t think, however, that my family should have to worry about me.
Why didn’t it matter to me that my father got worried when I talked about postmodernism? Why did my right to talk about things that I find interesting supersede his right to be communicated with in a way that wasn’t baffling and worrisome?
I have kids and three loads of laundry to put away. My geriatric pets demand a high level of care.
Yesterday, I got home from work at 7:00pm, a whole day spent at the state-funded recovery education center and on the road. I took care of dogs and ran interference between cantankerous and hyperactive pets and cleaned up after dogs until 9:30pm.
It was Friday night.
I got this message about a Phone Conversation, and I went outside to pull bindweed and kudzu. I discovered a new mimosa tree in the wild space between my neighbor’s house and mine.
I wrote myself email about killing kudzu, the beginning of an essay that I may or may not complete.
‎My arms are itchy and my hands are covered with small cuts and scrapes. The vision in my right eye is blurry and I can’t stop blinking. I can feel that there are small shards of broken trees and scraps of leaves in my shirt. I sneeze, and look around, a little dazed by the sagging heaps of biomass around me, mounds of tangled vines and sharp sticks, entire small trees, split from the earth at the trunk. I couldn’t find the hedge clippers. They had become buried in kudzu. 
It’s that time of year again, when you look up one afternoon and catch sight of the first few truly stretching tendrils of furred vine dancing out into the breeze, reaching for the next branch. You see that the top of the hedge has already been covered, the small trees at the back of the lot already tangled with secondary and even tertiary growth. It’s almost like it happened over night. One day it isn’t there, only the dried grey withered ropes of last year’s vines, and the next day it is, twisting up the remnant’s of its own old growth. 
We didn’t really even notice the kudzu when we moved in. It seemed to just blend in to the hedge, or it didn’t register with us, in our state of new-home-adoration, that, “Hey, that’s a ton of kudzu, right there. Growing up onto the house.” 
It clung to the windows, and snaked up the siding, leaning over from the old skeleton of a hedge, now a sinewy mass at least five years thick, the oldest vines crumbling to a thin dust at the very core, the outer vines still showing green, last year’s first year growth spawning this year’s production, the season’s accumulation. 
We thought it would be easy at first, to kill it, to clear it off.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network.
____________________
I looked at this project again. My God, the glaring errors. Where was my mind when I was working on this?
For the most part, work on this project has taken place in fits and bursts, long trudges of staring at screens and scrolling pages past 10:00pm, my eyes literally crossing from fatigue, dogs chewing their hindquarters on the couch beside me, because I still don’t have a proper workspace for writing and art, because of the conundrum of time and energy to maintain and energy to create, to change, to clean my desk and paint my room.
I have tried so hard to build a life, and it’s all just jumbled and overgrown.
There is a therapeutic element to this project, but I never wanted it to only be about me and my healing, my sense-making.
On Friday morning, I woke up ‎to a message that my friend, who is only briefly here, in this project – but, who was such a massive part of 2011 and onward, until – only recently – they were not…that my friend is in jail.
This person was, at one time, the most brilliant person I have ever known, genuinely gifted and golden. Over the course of the past 5 years, this person has lost a brother to suicide, and survived multiple encounters with compulsory psychiatric care, because they have had an increasingly difficult time modul‎ating their realities, and are prone to alcohol-exacerbated foibles and foolery in public spaces. The last time I talked with them, they thought they were someone else, this person who – for a time – was my best friend, my true friend.
Now, this person is in jail, a detention center in a place named Rancho Cucamonga, and I just can’t help but to wonder if something had been different in my friend’s life, if they would have known more joy, more freedom?
Well, yes, of course if something had been different their life would be different. It might have turned out worse than it did, but what might have improved the odds of a favorable outcome?
So, this is not only about me and my healing, it is about all of these other people, friends and people I never even met who have gotten lost and hurt and who have died because of who they are and how they are and what happens in the space between their minds and their hearts, and the world.
The treatment of psychosis is important. I do not think that compulsory mental health treatment is helpful. Helping people to understand themselves and to understand how their mind works, how it puts together realities and sensitivities, how to heal from dark trauma…helping people to contextualize these experiences and to not be isolated in them…these are things that I believe are helpful.
‎I have to keep trying to gain the skills to be able to help change ideas about what psychosis is and how it is best treated. There is so much amazing work that is happening around the world. The Hearing Voices Network and Open Dialogue and first episode psychosis programs and psychosis-specific peer respite programs – all of these things are shifting the practice and theory that surrounds psychosis.
There is also an enormous amount of research being done on the neurophysiological processes associated with psychosis. From what I have seen, there are some murky relationships of causality in this body of research. For example, in National Institute of Health-funded research investigating epigenetic markers for schizophrenia, it was found that there is a shared epigenetic trait among people with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism, attention-deficit disorder, and major depressive disorder.
National Institute of Mental Health, (March 1, 2013). Five major mental disorders share genetic roots: Overlap blurs diagnostic categories – NIH funded research. Science News. [online report]. Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/science-news/2013/five-major-mental-disorders-share-genetic-roots.shtml.
Is it possible that perhaps this is not a marker for mental illness, but a marker for a variation in being human, or an epigenetic change caused by atypical antipsychotics, which are well-known to be heavily prescribed across these five diagnostic categories?
I wonder if there are epigenetic markers for certain forms of cognition, sensitivity, and intelligence?
I am interested in surveying the literature pertaining to the intersection of cognitive and sensory processing styles, creativity, and psychosis. I want to learn about practices and theories that integrate understanding of tendencies in thought, conceptualization, and experience through awareness of individual variance in cognitive/sensory processing.
As for my own cognitive processing, working on this project helped me to see that – whoa – I am slipping, at least that is the assessment that could be made, based on chaotic and errored assemblages, sloppy referencing, unfinished thoughts.
I think that working on difficult projects is best done when one is well-rested and clear-headed, not when one is addled by dogs and long drives and dinner and dishes to be done.
In this next chapter, this next phase of this long project, which probably started – very quietly – over 1/2 a decade ago, possibly earlier, I am going to explore my capacity and ability to write coherently, and to use referencing and citation correctly. I might have to learn the Chicago Manual of Style format, because another thing that working on this project taught me is that I cannot stand APA style. Parenthetical referencing is intrusive and clunky-looking.
I can’t stand the aesthetic of it. It disrupts my thoughts, both in writing and in reading. It is a craft, I know. It is bothersome to me when the demands of the craft utilized for conveyance usurp and distract from what is being conveyed. ‎I like footnotes. I want to use them.  Referencing with the Chicago Manual of Style may be more compatible with how I interact with information and with how I would like to relate my work to references, with slight expansions and additional notes as to why the specific reference is relevant.
Because I struggle with organization of data, both cognitively and concretely, I have not cataloged the figures or images contained in this project, as it stands.
That would be a nice project. Straight-forward, direct, adding captions, making a list of figures, notes on each one, adding more.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network.
_______________________________________________
Here is the project, as it stands…a mess, in ways that are both intentional and unintentional. Parts of it are extremely problematic. This is not a six month project, this is a multi-year project. I feel like I have pulled together a tremendous heap of story and description, much of it not necessary, a great deal gratuitous.  The project at this point exposes a great many shortcomings in skill and flaws in logic.  My immaturity astounds me, when I am able to get a little distance from myself.
“What was I thinking?”
Now, I am thinking that it is very important to me that I take care of my thinking, that I continue to work to figure out my strengths and vulnerabilities in thought, so that – maybe – someday, I can be understood in what it is that I am trying to say, and understood in a way that matters, that has some impact, that changes the outcome.
[pdf of project will be added soon]
The past few months, working in earnest on this project, have been grueling and strange. It has been a difficult project. I almost left school, quit in the eleventh hour. I even wrote the message and looked at the withdrawal form.  It is hard to face one’s limitations, and to see one’s assumptions and errors in thinking and presentation laid out there, right on the page. It is easy to think about writing a book, but actually showing something that you’ve written to another person, to try to read one’s words through different possible perceptions…well, it is harrowing and, in many ways, humiliating.
“Humiliation is good/ It means you believe in something” – Bill Callahan, Smog, Fool’s Lament
I don’t know if that is true. Maybe humiliation is good because it gives us clues as to what we believe about what is dignified and respectable, and can inform us as to how these beliefs work in our sense of self and our determinations as to whether or not we’ve failed, or done something we can be proud of.
Addendum:

May 26 (4 days ago)

to me
‎Several days ago, I had a conversation with the professor who supervised/signed off on this project. I did not receive much supervision, nor did I ask for much supervision. In fact, I somewhat avoided it.
It was a difficult project for me to work on. I didn’t know what I was doing. Rather, I knew enough about what I was doing to know that I wasn’t doing it right. I could conceptualize – with a sense of almost gestalt clarity, totality of detail – a quality data analysis methodology for a project such as this, but I could not carry out the methodologies that I could imagine.
In this work, I confront my current limitations in producing quality academic work, and consider my experience of anxiety in relation to these‎ constructs of desirable formatting and conveyance of ideas within rubrics of measurable relevance.
So, I mostly kept to myself, muddling through the significance of my difficulty in producing quality, coherent academic work, drowning in a sea of self-produced narrative data and grandiose intentions, humiliating evidence of previous selves and worldviews.
I didn’t quite know what to expect in the conversation, though was calm and able to speak fairly confidently and with relative ease, remembering names.
The call came in at exactly 4:00pm, on the dot.
“Hello, Faith…” A man’s voice, that I connected with my recollection of his face and posture, his gray hair, a kind countenance, standing there in the preposterous lobby of the Westin, of all places to go to a school conference. ‎Drinking strawberry lemonade, talking about autoethnography.
“Hi, Dr. _____.”
[brief small talk, how are you?
 hope you’re well, etc.]
I sounded overly confident, “So, how do you want to…”
I stammered with the phrase “use this time”…because it sounded like something a therapist might say.
“What…do you to get out this…are, um, there any, you know, particular things you want to talk about?”
“Well,” the man’s voice said, “I just want to address a few questions and thoughts about the project and talk a little about your…future…little things…”
I laughed a little, and was surprised that I did, “Oh, yeah, little things like my future?”
“Yes, yes,” the man’s said, sounding friendly, “so…first, I want to ask you why you chose to do this particular project‎, why this project?”
“Okay…I…”
I was looking out the window, in the blue room at my parents’ home. It was sunny outside and everything was green and gold and blue, warm.
“I had considered several different potential projects, coming into this. I do a lot of community organizing and community building type…work…here, and so I thought about maybe putting together a participatory action research type project, and went so far as to design a potential project around organizing mental health dialogues as part of the National Dialogue on Mental Health.”
I paused, remembering what the question was.
“I didn’t even learn about autoethnography until maybe this past Fall, Fall of 2014, just a few months before I started this project. I learned about the methodology through…a community group that I have been a coordinator of for the past couple of years…well…the group has been working with a researcher, Erica Fletcher, from the Institute of Medical Humanities at the University of Texas, who is doing ethnographic research, and using some autoethnographic methods in her process of analysis and reflections. ‎I learned about the methodology through her and…when I learned about it, I felt a strong resonance, an inspiration.”
I stood at the window, and looked at the woodgrain of the sill. “You know how when you come across an idea or a theory or a practice and it just…resonates…?”
I remembered that, in the project, I written quite a bit about my relief when I learned about autoethnography, and that I had spoken with the professor about how powerful it was for me to learn about these methods  of inquiry. In fact, I had written about this relief by relaying that very conversation.
I didn’t need to go on and on about it.
“I don’t know why I didn’t just do an expanded literature review or…I really probably need to do an expanded literature review, that would be a good thing to do. I need to spend some time reporting on the formal literature and developing stronger skills in referencing and citation…I…I think I might look into learning the Chicago Manual of Style method of citation, as I think it would be more compatible with how I interact with information. I have a difficult time working with the American Psychological Association style of referencing…”
“Don’t get into it, Faith.”
I told this to myself as I walked back over toward the window.
“I wanted to experiment with using autoethnographic methods, and I found myself compelled to address this particular topic of personal experience because…well, I wanted to honor the experience, and – also – I work as a peer and have been involved in…human rights and mental health advocacy movements…and I know that a lot of people experience what could be clinically called psychosis and…everyone’s experience is different…but, I…have a personal and professional interest in this topic and as an area of lived experience, it felt important that I spend some time with it….and, you know, I have all this…self-documentation, all this data…so…I wanted to explore autoethnographic methods and…”
I was pacing in the room. It was easier to talk if I was moving around, standing up.
I paused, “So…”
“Okay, yes…”
[unrecalled portion of conversation. I was standing at a bookshelf, looking at the spines of my son’s old fantasy novels, colorful and shiny…]
I paced a little bit.
“What’s your motivation for getting an MA degree? Career? Are you interested in…what? What are the benefits of ‎getting this degree for you?”
“Well, I work as a peer in a state-funded setting. I’m certified as a peer and as an Associate Mental Health Professional, according to state-criteria. If I get my MA, I might be able to be a Qualified Mental Health Professional, and that would give me a bit of a pay increase…which would be lovely. Also, I have – ever since I was pretty young – respected higher education and been interested in…I just have always wanted to earn an advanced degree. It’s just something I value for some reason. I actually have a little bit of a…this showed up some in the project…a little bit of a conflicted relationship with the idea advanced degrees…and there might even be some resentment toward…”
I made myself stop talking.
“So,” the man’s voice asked, “why did choose to do this degree at _______?”
“I appreciate the Humanistic tradition as a branch of psychology…and_______ was actually recommended to me, by Dr. Michael Cornwall, who is a private practice therapist, but who is involved in advocating for alternative approaches to psychosis. I know some people who went there, Dr. David Lukoff and Dr. Paris Williams. I knew that I would be most successful in an interdisciplinary program, than a…hardcore empiricist…”
I fumbled, “I don’t know the words for it…” I realized that I had just said “hardcore empiricist” and that I did, in fact have the words for the sort of program that I knew I would struggle within.
“I’m interested in qualitative research and methodologies like autoethnography and narrative analysis. I felt like ______ would be a good fit…”
I walked across the room.
“I, you know…I am a little bit of a non-traditional student. I think the first graduate program…yes, the first graduate program that I was enrolled in was in 1999-2000. My education has been…um, disrupted by various life events, and so…I am learning a lot as I go along, and have some significant growth edges as a student…but, I feel like I could potentially work well in interdisciplinary programs, and in certain methodologies. I mean, my life trajectory was…derailed a few times and so…here I am at age 38, still building some occupational stability.”
[I may have added some there at the end, now – as I recollect the conversation.]
“Yes, okay…”
I waited for him to speak.
“I’d like to share some thoughts with you about your project, the project, and…”
“Okay,” I said, feeling suddenly nervous.
“Okay,” the man sounded good humored enough. I listened.
“Your project has a lot of different…pieces…there’s a lot in it, and…some of it stronger than other parts, but it’s…remarkable in many ways.”
[I am struggling to remember exactly what he said. It is easier for me to remember what I said, though I recall the basic gist of what was said to me, mostly in segments.]
“Your project could be cleaned up, and edited…parts of it could be published…it’s not in a format that is publishable now…but, you could continue to work with it and refine it.”
“Yes,” I interjected, in a slight pause, “I’ve already begun to think about how I could approach refining parts of this project and have done bit of editing already. There is a lot that could be done to strengthen‎ it.”
My voice felt quiet, “It was a very difficult project in a lot ways. There a few different approaches I could have taken.”
“This concept of neurodiversity…you really could have spent more time on that…I mean, I think I have heard the term, and I have a vague idea of what it means, but…in the table of contents, you have this section that is about 10 pages long, but in that, you don’t spend much time o‎n the idea of neurodiversity…”
“Yeah, I know…I caught that. I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t explain that at all.'”
I looked down at the grass outside of the window, a full story below. I saw a cardinal fly into the bramble at the edge of the yard.
“The term came out of the autistic advocacy and activism movements…the idea that some people have different styles of cognition and sensory integration, but that these differences aren’t‎ necessarily a disease.”
“I’m interested in exploring how that idea intersects with the experiences of people who are diagnosed with…what would be called severe and persistent mental illness.”
“Yes, well, it would be good to say more about that, to look at some of the existing ideas and…use those ideas to strengthen this project. The idea of neurodiversity is presented as being a big part of the project, and you need to spend more time on it.”
“I’m excited to work on it more. The project ended up being a bit of a…process…and working on it helped me to identify what I need to research and what I need to…develop more skill around…”
“In addition to expanding the theoretical basis of the project, and connecting it to existing work, existing theories, you need to spend some time learning more about…autoethnography as a method, and different approaches to it. Now, you seem to have some idea about different ways that autoethnography can be approached.”
I walked out of the room, listening. I was going outside. “There are lots of different approaches…some people may take…now, you take a more evocative approach, maybe drawing on the work of Ellis and other…”
I walked down the wooden stairs from the porch, a long flight of stairs, down to a juniper that cramped the walk, thinking about the passages that had most inspired me, that had most reassured me of the legitimacy and purpose of this work.
“Or you could take a more analytical approach…and people interpret these approaches in various ways, and sometimes make up new approaches…and that’s how all science works, how things grow.”
[I am growing weary of reporting on this conversation as a series of exchanges and orientation to my physical surroundings as I talked with the supervising professor. So, I am shifting to a different means of reporting on the conversation.]
The woman sat in her car, a late model import, hatchback and black, banged up a little and covered in pollen. She found the ignition key in the cupholder by the gear shift, with a cigarette lighter and a plastic fork. She turned the key to roll down the windows, and then put it back in the cupholder. It had broken off of her keyring over a year ago, and she still hadn’t lost it. Rolling a cigarette, she listened as the man spoke about the potential for her to get a Ph.D. “Some students, they are able to apply some of their MA coursework to a Ph.D. and come into the program at essays…it might be worth
It to explore what your options might be to continue this work.”
“I might take a little time off…the August residential conference…it comes at a bad time, every year. Both my children have birthdays around that time and they start school…and maybe when they’re older…I mean, they need me less now, but my youngest child is starting middle school this year and…”
“Yes, well, the RC comes at a bad time for students who are getting their Ph.Ds and teaching at other schools and, for years, we just haven’t found a way around it.”
“It’s not a good idea to take too long of a break, because you know…you take a break and then life…happens…”
“It’s possible that a Ph.D would offer you a lot more in the ways of opportunities to teach and publish and, sure, there are a lot of different ways to go about anything, and you’re going to be a lifetime learner, no matter what, it just doesn’t stop, but academic work could offer you a…sort of ‎container in which you could pursue your curiosities and also contribute to literature around your area of interest.”
“Yes,” the woman said, getting out of the car and sitting on the grass, “that makes a lot of sense.”
“So, are you familiar with the work of Gregory Bateson and double bind theory?”
The woman made an affirmative sound: “Um hmmm…” She felt herself get excited, “Yes! Of course, double bind theory. That had something to do with all of this. This whole thing could be looked at in terms of double binds as a driver in my experience. Yes…”
She listened. “Well, when I was doing my dissertation…Gregory Bateson was my mentor and I spent quite a bit of time with his work and…are you familiar with…probably not, it’s a small book, among his first, and it’s…it’s called Percival’s Narrative and it’s the work of this man…back in the late 1900’s, who experienced what we would now call a psychotic break and he basically wrote his way through it…and…”
“That’s sort of what I did…” The woman said this quietly, feeling – suddenly – a little incredulous that she was having this conversation, with this person who seemed to understand what she was saying, what she had been trying to say. She sat in the grass beside the car and jammed a stick into the ground, digging up under the grasses.
“Yes, yes…well, Bateson looked at this man’s work and narrative and then wrote about it. You should look into getting that book…”
The conversation began to take on a lively feel, her own excitement blooming in her mind. “I could read that book and think about how it connects to this work, and write about that. I want to read that book. I want to see how Bateson approached this person’s narrative. I want to read this person’s narrative.”
She thought about how long ago the late-19th century was. “Not so long ago.”
“So, yes, you need to spend some time reading some of the work that is out there around this topic…and other people who are doing memoirs and autoethnography. There are a number of people who are doing writing about, you know, their experiences of being in the mental health system and what not and people approach it differently. One of my favorite writers who talks about their experience with, I think it was mostly severe, really tremendously difficult depression, is this person, who is a therapist and who does clinical work, but who also writes about their experience, this person Lauren Slater, who is I think in the Northeast, and she really does a wonderful job of writing about her experience. I have all her books…I’m looking around, what is the title of that one…anyway, there are a lot of people writing about these sorts of things and you can just find the styles and approaches that make sense to you, that you enjoy reading and…”
He paused, “You’ve really devoted quite a bit of attention to your experience and have spent a lot of time considering your own experience and…it’s good that you have that record, that’s something you can use and also something that other people can make use of and potentially learn from…but, it’d be good to spend some time with some of the other work that has been done in this area.”

Autoethnography 6: The Importance of Analysis

Draft of a mini-zine (32 1/8th sheet pages) that I am constructing for the purpose of collecting a sampling of current main points and initial resonant ideas.

CORRESPONDENCE ON THE SUBJECT OF THE PROJECT

[letter to supervisory faculty, who sent encouraging feedback and helpful articles this afternoon]

Hi Dr. _________ –
 Thanks so much for the document review and helpful feedback. The Autoethnography: An Overview document is a great article. One thing I love* – so far – about autoethnography is that it is identified as a postmodern methodology, and that it is – in “fact” – a postmodern methodology.
(*feeling slightly stunned by how excited I feel about this project and autoethnography in general…and appreciating the ‎feeling of almost being passionate about something, the way that this sense/feel/tremoring of intense fascination and jubilation that a thing exists can cast a new light on the imagined life.)
 The references are a great source of additional literature leads. I have been amazed by the well-maintained reading and reference lists that come up with Google searches of ‘autoethnography.’ It’s like a gift, these lists of links.
I will get access to Tessa Muncey’s Creating Autoethnographies and look forward to checking it out.
‎I do recall you talking with me about ___________’s dissertation, and I would love to read it if possible.
I think reading more autoethnographies in their entirety would be a good thing for me to start doing. The articles and essays I have read (informally) so far  seem fairly diverse in style and presentation, but working within the self-in-the-context-of-larger-culture framework.
I appreciated that the Bochner, Adams, Ellis overview stressed the importance of analysis.
Below, you’ll find an additional reflection/update, which I wrote as an additional response to your email. I will probably use portions of it as content for notes and updates.
If I am only using my words, and any identification of the recipient of correspondence is stripped away, that is alright, huh?
I will follow-up with you if I have any questions, concerns, or updates. I appreciate you sharing articles with me.‎ There is no need to read or respond with any immediacy, but let me know if you have any questions/concerns.
Hope the weekend is good, and thanks again,
F. Rhyne
‎Update:
I have a tendency to be over-ambitious in a lot of life areas. One of the hallmarks of my experience of clinical psychosis was a conviction that it was thoroughly possible (and necessary!) to impart a proof of God through presenting evidence of iconic and symbolic compositions ‎in the geometries and relational aesthetics of cloudforms and the leaves of trees, patterns in nature, numinous structures of pattern and recognition, elemental language and code for something holy.  I am still not entirely unconvinced that such a proof may be possible. A great many things are possible.
In any event, the outline as posted is a representation of my most recent concentrated thinking about the ‎general landscape of ideas/information/sub-parameters that this project exists within. It is a framework of a version of my current general understanding of what definitions, criteria, practice, and experiences provide anchor points, a non-exhaustive scope.
I could be more ambitious. I don’t think I even mentioned ecosystemic consciousness, social justice, or modes of cognition?
One of the ways I want to challenge myself is to effectively express an expansive reality in as few words as possible, while still allowing for a modulated effusivity when protracted articulation may support the conveyance of a sense of absolute wonder and bewilderment within which new worlds are possible.
‎However, it is very important to me that I finish this project and complete my MA. Moreover, I want to enjoy working on this project, and be successful in this work.  So, I am developing a vision of this project that will be both expansive and efficient in telling a story and analyzing why it is the story that it is, what happened within that story, and why those things – for better or for worse – may have happened.
Autoethnography strikes me as unavoidably vast  because of the reality of our lives’ complexity, the ways that it is impossible not to mention history and economy, the ways that some minds and ways of being are more valued than others, what that has to do with colonialism and capitalism, which is measurably impacting species, habitat, and ideas.
‎I am looking forward to seeing what happens with this project.
I think I am going to try to approach working within the outline, and see what evolves from that introductory framework. It would be a good exercise for me, because that segment/aspect of the project relies on formal research and literature review processes, which are skills I need to exercise.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network.
[letter to myself]

9:21 PM (3 minutes ago)

to me
‎In my earlier thinking about this project, thinking that occurred a few weeks ago, in the now hazy January, early February…
I read the article sitting on the front porch with the yard covered in ice, and I didn’t know if I would remember the moment that I looked around, the sky now blue, and felt what a pretty day it was, with the birds singing in spite of the cold.) 
(…and I wondered, briefly, if time and event seem to have taken on a quality of being segmented, quickly ‎relegated to disconnected memory, separate and disjointed in relation to today, right now…if maybe this experience that I now have of memory, my sense of distance, was caused by a difference in how I now experience emotion, the emotionality of events,  if – perhaps – my amygdala and hippocampus have changed their working relationship.)
In earlier writings about this project…
(several hours have elapsed. Those hours contained business negotiations with children in the matter of cleaning the car, sorting the books on the shelves. The house was an overwhelming hustle of bins and piles, a flurry of questions, piles of objects accumulating where there were no objects before, detritus, bags, a copy of Don Delillo’s The Names torn in 1/2, its binding split…)
(…and here we have an example, a moment of knowing, remembering that it was that book, The Names, that I took with me, only broken then, not split in half, when I checked into the Residence Inn for a night and marveled that the maintenance man, who I spoke with at the side of the building, where I sat and smoked a cigarette, waiting for my father to pull into the parking lot, was from Moldova. Just months before, a friend’s sister had sent a package containing pumpkin seeds from Moldova. ‎These things seemed like small miracles, connected signs, unlikely threads that link story and place. ‎My friend had stayed at the Residence Inn.  There was some defeated sadness in my going to stay at that place, because my friend, who was – for entirely understandable reasons that nonetheless hurt –  no longer my friend…my friend had stayed there. Even at the time, I was a little ashamed to be doing such a sad and quiet thing as wanting to be where a friend had briefly been.
I told the desk clerk my name, spelling it out and looking around the lobby, down the hall. My friend had been there. It was not my home. My friend had been there, too. I did not want to be at home.
I was losing my mind at home. I was exhausted at home.
I don’t remember what room I checked into.
At the time, I felt like it was appropriate that I should take some time away from the house, for just a couple of days…to be able to step out of my life, and re-group. I packed my toothbrush, the broken-binding copy of The Names, and a biography of Amelia Earhart published for young readers. I told people where I was going. Left my phone at home, and the back door unlocked for a reason I wasn’t sure of, but felt strongly about. It was late summer, hot.
I called my kids’ father, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I am staying at the Residence Inn…just to get a break from the house, you know…and they have a pool here, if the kids wanted to come swimming.”
I looked at the hotel-market impressionist landscape above the bed and breathed in the smell of the room. There was a scent in it, something safe and pleasant, clean.
I was told that my children could not see me, that they would not be able to come swimming with me. My parents had told him that I had gone to the hotel, that I had left the door unlocked. He said, coldly and with a disgusted edge, that he had “to leave work” to call the neighbors to come lock my door, as if it were a serious and urgent problem that my door was open.
Something in me quietly crumbled and then howled.  I went outside to smoke and wait for my father to get there, because he wanted to talk with me.
That was where I talked with the Moldovan maintenance man, there on the side of the building, sitting just out of the shade, in the sun on the curb, smoking. He seemed to think I was a nice enough person.
I noticed that it was very quiet, that there were no cars, not even distant sirens. The Residence Inn is on a busy street, but there were no cars. The cars slowly came back, and then ceased again, a broad rhythm of silence and motors, the background non-noise to the conversation about the weather, the heat, that this man was from Moldova, that I was from S. Georgia.
The cars, and the lack of cars, felt like a signal. The silence was delicious, numinous, like a sigh from the earth, no cars, no sirens, just sporadic birds, a distant barking dog, the sun beating down, the thread of smoke.
The maintenance man went back to work, the cars returned. I understood that something had happened. My children could not come swimming, my father was coming to talk with me.  I had just spoken with a man from Moldova at this hotel where I had decided to come stay for a couple of days.
I knew that days such as that day can have significant impact on one’s life and relationships. I hadn’t yelled at anyone. I hadn’t brandished a weapon. I hadn’t expressed an intent to harm myself or anyone else. I felt excited, because I was seeing the world differently than I had seen it in a very long time, and it felt as though I was remembering something important. I was feeling myself burst out from my bones. My mind was full of ideas, strung together and well-articulated, gestalt after gestalt after gestalt, all interlocking in theme and detail.  The world was intricate again, magical…powerful.
I looked at the trees on the other side of the road in between the passing cars. Their leaves rustled and swirled around, settled and then swirled.  There was a partially decomposed shard of what appeared to be styrofoam in the scraggly summer grass.
Everything was beautiful. My life would be okay. Things would settle down, settle down.  I’d figure it out, maybe get the medication I was taking for anxiety and depression changed, talk with my doctor, stop drinking energy drinks, get some sleep. I was, I thought, already working on getting some rest. That was why I checked into the hotel.  I needed some space to think and sort through some feelings, some ideas.
My father pulled into the lot, parked. He wouldn’t look me in the eye. He was being strange. I didn’t understand that I was being as problematic as I was being. I was, in my mind, “going through a lot.” Moreover, I was – at the time – convinced that I had observed something important, and the ramifications of my observation were walloping me, undoing my psyche, dredging up everything I thought I had forgotten and rewriting my future and identity moment by moment.
Standing in the parking lot, talking with my father, I was astounded by the dismissal of my state as being inappropriate. I was calm. I felt lucid. I understood that my children could not come swimming and that I should not do anything that might be construed as “crazy,” like check into the Residence Inn.
I also understood that it really wasn’t such a big deal, and that it could easily be understandable, if people chose to understand.  Standing there with my father not looking at me, I began to get the impression that people were definitely not understanding.  I began to get the impression that everything was taking a peculiar turn, in which I ceased to be who I was in the eyes of others and that people were seeing me like I was out of my mind.
My previous life, in which children could come swimming and my father looked at me, was deteriorating with each and every conversation, any action or non-action spurring on the pulling apart of who I was to people who I loved and who loved me.*
A rift in perception and reality was occurring.
Standing in the parking lot, talking with my father, him not looking at me, and me keeping my voice calm while the sun beat down and cars drove back and forth, back and forth, I casually explained that I was a “hidden driver” – which was an idea that I thought I had made up, based on the name of a production company and also the basic mechanics of catalytics and kinetic operation. How was I hidden? What was I driving? As I was speaking, I realized that I did not know.
My father sounded exhausted when he asked, “What’s a hidden driver, Faith?”
I knew that he thought that anything I might say would be crazy.
I didn’t answer him.
“Nevermind,” I said. “I’m fine, I just need to rest.”
I spent the afternoon in the room I had checked myself into, reading a few pages in The Names, which I could glean enough from to know that the story was about a post-time, a future time, a different time, of character operatives and influencers, traveling in a damaged world, a world reduced to archetypes, markets, and memories.)
So, here, this morning, I cannot take a broken book up to my room ‎without being reminded of the time I checked myself into the Residence Inn.
In my earlier thinking about this project, I was gripped by insecurities, fears about the quality of my mind, my ability to convey what I want to convey. My early conceptualizations of this project were bound up in reference to the mental health/psychiatric paradigm, framed with awareness of these ideas, these lenses for understanding and qualifying the human condition.
My voice felt stilted, fumbling and uncertain, wheedling through all the barriers and hang-ups.

Notes

When I was there, at the Residence Inn, a conference was taking place – non-speakers and miscellaneous women and children with lupus and cancers, all people who possess energetic, intuitive power. This is what the woman pushing a child in a wheelchair told me. I wondered if, in addition to the conscious wanting to be in a neutral/positive place that reminded me of a friend who had played a vital role in helping me to understand that I am an artist who is fueled by laughter, if maybe I was drawn to the crowd at the hotel, if I knew that they were there somehow, all those people who do not speak and instead communicate through radiance and nuance.
In the shower, I ran the water as hot as it would get, let it scald me. My legs would not stop itching, deep in the muscle they itched, up and through my skin, the long red scratches I had made, trying to ease the itching. The scratches did not bleed, except under the skin, where small spots of dark purple bruise speckled my thighs.
*The word ‘loved’ is used in past tense not to indicate a lack of current love or to suggest that I no longer love the people I am referring to. I am simply emphasizing that I loved them then, too.
[Later, I would tell my mother, as we drove to the grocery store in the early winter, when – still – my children could not see me, that I would not be able to forgive people for what they had done. 
 
(I have since forgiven them.) 
 
‎”People pay thousands of dollars to go through what I went through, they spend their whole lives trying to find a sense of meaning and connection within the world, trying to find God, and then when your daughter unwittingly goes through a legitimate existential and spiritual transformation, you call her crazy and say she’s not being “responsible” – as if I am not allowed to go through processes of redemption and reckoning, as if that is not for me?!”]

Brief Autoethnography 5: Outline of Outset

iProposed Outline of Developing Content Areas

I. Overview of autoethnographic practice and theory (non-exhaustive)

A. Review of Ellis, Reed-Danahay, and Denzin, et. al

1. Discussion of the interdisciplinary nature of autoethnographic practice

2. Discussion of autoethnography as a tool and practice in creating transformative social change through facilitating critical reflection on the factors and forces which impact human and ecosystemic life in the 21st century

a. liberation psychology

b. decolonization praxis

c. cultural narratives, epistemic knowing and identity

B.  Roots in symbolic interactionism (sociology) and practices of ethnography (anthropology), also expressive arts

C.  postmodern overview of postmodern (Baudrillard, Debord, others) perspectives on self, truth, and reality

1. self and simulacra

a. representational, reflexive, relational crises of existence

b. the compulsion to document as a means of proving one’s existence

c. the pathos therein

II. Reflection on researcher’s motivations in working with autoethnography

A. Summary of the researcher’s personal relationship with narrative writing as a life practice

1. letters, emails, writing-to-self

2. public writing, depositing private writings in public, online spaces

3. Purpose and motivations

a. visibility

b. vulnerability

4. impact of writing and self-presentation/writing on life experiences and circumstantial outcomes

1. pathos stories (define pathos)

2. reality stories (define reality)

3. Difficult choices and things I will not write about in ways that are public

B. Reflection on the process by which the research came to realize that they were powerfully motivated to work with autoethnographic practices within academic, vocational, and personal pursuits

1. Specific autoethnographic practices and methods that the researcher will be utilizing for the purpose of this inquiry

a. a layered account

b. narrative analysis

c. multimedia presentation

C. Discussion of potential outcomes, personal goals, and disclosure of known anticipated experiences

                           

[All of this is subject to change.]

I am not sure of the precise moment when I understood that I had begun to change my relationship with formal research and reporting, reviews of the literature and APA citations. For some reason, I have developed an attitude about formal reporting that  could be assessed as being immature, disrespectful, or wise, depending on how my views of the legitimacy of expectations placed upon participants in the production of knowledge, rhetoric, and culture were seen, what quality or character of the attitude was amplified or diminished, over-looked or hyperbolized. It’s possible that my conflicted relationship with academic endeavors, the culture and economies of higher education, the abitrers of ideas and policy, is simultaneously immature, disrespectful, and wise – all at the same time.

Since being challenged by the rubrics and linearity of graduate studies at the turn of the century, just prior to several absurdly tragic and dangerous years, I have thought/believed that the rigors of academic reporting and legitimacy of thought rooted in referencing are basically a tool of oppressive systems of knowledge bound by modernist privilege and prerogative in establishing systems of exclusion that relegate the production of knowledge to people who know how to use proper citation format.

I think – at this moment – that, very real politics of privilege and exclusion in knowledge production aside, my attitudes toward solid works of academic relevance and significance has been a little immature.

I struggle to maintain attention to linear coherence and my inattentiveness to tasks and processes of research. It’s odd that I should have a troubled relationship with research, because what I have realized over the past two days is that I love research, I love theory, I love putting together solid ideas. It feels good to me. It makes me happy. It is hard for me to work within rubrics and my coherence is subjectively variable, so it is intimidating for me to face work that carries these formalized expectations of performance and participation.

I have told myself, a number of times, “Forget it! Who needs to dally around in all that academic-ish work? I don’t need to do that. People have lives of deprivation, who am I to go to school?”

I have, believe me, tried to not finish graduate school, quitting programs and changing programs for over a decade – fraught with dissonance over privilege and education, muddled in purpose, confounded by how hard it was to re-recite knowledge in writing that was not remotely interesting or exciting to me, going through some life upheaval or another.

I have been finding myself feeling excited about constructing a well-researched and dynamically contextualized and told story, an autoethnographic project. I actually love reading about autoethnography, and postmodern theory/anti-theory, stories about telling stories.

This is not a project that I ‘have to’ do. It is not an opportunistic project, or a perfunctory project. This project is – in a lot of ways – my dream. It is an extension of so much that I have already been doing, a natural and – no matter how much I downplay it – hard-earned assertion of the part of me that will not let go of the importance of telling one’s story and exploring how it is that story comes to take such shape in the mind and heart, why we are who we believe ourselves to be, how history and imagined futures have shaped identity and outcomes within our lives.

However, I have never been so great at “reports,” at “research.”

It is going to be hard for me to complete this project, because my mind has become so willful and unwieldy in how I express myself, or how I feel I should express myself, and what I then feel about how I think I should be expressing myself. I have developed a chip on my shoulder in regard to other people’s theoretically possible perspectives and estimations of my voice and/or expression.

My perception of my own voice as written is pretty unreliable. Half the time, I know that objectively a great many of the words I have written are utterly superfluous, foolish even. I know this and then issue the words anyway, sometimes out of sheer defiance, and sometimes as an act of self-destruction. I am certain that I have – on one or two occasions –  put words together in a way that does something, enacts something, conveys something in such a way that the phrase or pause becomes a mechanism, almost a code. I know this not by the words, but by the feeling that I sometimes get when I am writing, a fluidity, a pleasant urgency, a single-minded clarity and rhythm in communication, soliloquy, like singing.

I know that, in order to begin the segment of my project which defines my chosen methodology and offers an initial contextual framework and scope of inquiry…

  • I need to write down an extensive list of all the reference resources I have identified and made note of
  • I need to begin to write down excerpts I may want to include in reporting, as well as further clarify my theoretical and practical girding in regard to this project at its outset.
  • Continue to remind myself that I am able to change my ideas and interaction with research processes and procedures, that – lately – working on this project has felt amazingly good, that I feel good about myself when I work on this project.

…My goal is to have a reference list completed by the end of this week, 02/21/2015

…I will utilize free-writing time to begin creating content according to the outline above.

OUTTAKE:

When I was 16 years old, I dropped out of high school and went to community college on the campus of a military installation in S. Georgia. I moved to the mountains, took a Western Civ. class in a modular pod, another community college. Finally, I transferred to Portland State University. I took my first sociology class and understood that I was a sociologist. I took long walks and discovered I was an artist, because I noticed things that nobody else seemed to notice, and saw them as beautiful and significant. I wrote letters to a friend, and found out that I could use words to make things happen.