How to Get Lit (It’s a Trap)

Lately I’ve been caught in
     the right way to hold your breath, how to meditate, how to stop the mind
     the right way to cleanse your liver, what to eat, when not to eat it
     when to go to bed, how cold to make your shower, what to put in the bath, what scent to wear
     how slow to dance, how to be a woman, how not to be tamed, how to be domestic
     what gave me acne, how to make it go away
     if I start smoking weed and cigarettes does that make me okay?
     i just asked the dentist if fluoride can close my third eye
     but my gums are bleeding! oh me, oh my!
     should I drink? do my armpits stink?
     is it okay to ask out a guy? or is it better to just sit around and wonder – why?
     be with the mama moon on your period or keep the IUD?
     but hey – if you get pregnant just don’t come to me!
     must I feel guilt when the Beibes comes on?
     or can I claim Despacito as my new favorite song?
     just live life by the fly, but please – don’t cry! it makes you seem weak
     you don’t want to loose your own winning streak
     drink bottled water, or don’t, just recycle the plastic
     hey look – you’re fantastic!
     do you compost? Throw your paper away?
     would you vaccinate your kids or raise them on an apple a day?
     do you ever wonder if your gay friends aren’t actually gay?
     just a closeted hereto as some of them say
     or how some people can split their heart into three?
     shoo away the Mormons at their doorstep but practice their own form of polygamy?
     I’m sorry to say, as I take a breath in
     I don’t really believe in original sin
     I sort of believe we are all just fine as we are
     all chasing that wish on some shooting star
     so join me perhaps in the “the Way” if you will
     because these self-punishment talks are not really real
     between vegan and kosher and old gluten free
     there’s no right way to do it
     I’m just simply
     me

Inner Writer: What Does She Need?

Inner Writer: What Does She Need?
“Who is your inner writer and what does she need?”
So I wrote to her, and in faith, she guided me.
  – An invocation – like to a lover. Where are you? Come to me today.
  – Space – like a date, focus on your needs. Have plenty of food and water.
  – Some inspiration from anything – a music video, a conversation, that will come in and go out.
  – No fear to be vulnerable and open. I am an observing, observing your thoughts.
  – Usually no music – I like the vibes of nature or the sounds of humans or the humming of buildings. If there is music, make sure it’s instrumental or in a different language and tunes into the rhythm of your own words.
  – Relaxation into the entire body.
  – Honesty and trust.
  – A little warm up exercise…just to undo the top layer and get deeper.
  – Some spell checker, because let’s be real, grammar and spelling have never been your friend. Those traumatic moments from teachers and parents that planted perfectionism in your bones. (Blessing to the goddess of Julia Cameron for freeing me from such!)
Meeting my inner writer is like meeting a long lost lover. I can spend hours in her presence. I can laugh and cry with her. She tells me things I never knew that I knew about myself. When I discover them, I feel whole.
She is very particular and will operate only under certain conditions. However, once you have her caught for just a few moments, she will come out to play and forget about the passage of time at all.
She has all kinds of ways to remix the world. To take from the past and turn it into the future. To look at a photograph and unravel its meaning. To dig into the unknown places of history and question them. To take a real wound from love and turn it into a made up story, that makes the hurt not seem so bad after all. To write a poem that rambles on and no one understands, but she feels good every time she sees it.
She gets resentful when she is not seen. But doesn’t matter because she stays cooped up in the house a lot anyway, wearing a vintage silk robe she got a thrift sale. She imagines some dame from the early 20th-century wearing it while she smokes cigarettes off the balcony and says words like “darling” and complains about the unbearable heat in this city.
She likes coffee shops, even though she knows you shouldn’t be drinking coffee anyway, bad for your hormones, at this age. Most of them nowadays are for people who need to “get stuff done” and race on with the world. When the inner writer is in a coffee shop, she imagines them like the something from Revolutionary Paris, although she doesn’t know much about the Revolution or Paris, she just lives in that notion of romance and freedom.
Maybe it’s something like the coffee shops you sat in from the French Quarter in Shanghai or Hanoi in Vietnam – in a secret alleyway, full of with small nooks and crannies for antiques to hide. The oldness about this place brings a meeting of worlds that is comforting. People came here just to sit and talk once, and come up with ideas, with nowhere to go and nowhere to be. A cup of coffee that doesn’t brag about its name, or size, or special latte combination. It’s mixed with something like condensed milk or egg white. No whipped cream on top. She could sit here forever and be the Buddha with froth overflowing from the lotus flower. The energy of this discovery brings this lasting peace that calls to meet the feet on sidewalks and in botanical gardens. Please, take me on a stroll, darling.

Rowing Through the Rot

He paddled, day after day and night after night. Looking into the mirror of experience. Looking for that truth. That essence of his being that seemed to be missing forever.
Some would call it the Rot. Some would call it the “dark night of the soul.” The dark swamp of despair that he could not get out of. The paddler is like the Grim Reaper coming forth from Death to carry you across the Hades, into the underworld, where you will sit – wondering why you can’t really speak to anyone. Where you feel like you look around and every one seems happy and joyful and you just are not a part of that, while also knowing you are a part of everything at the same time.  Knowing death is imminent, you infinite, and human all at the same time. The feeling of now-ness, of nothingness. Of wanting to connect with your true self yet manipulate the tides of nature and her curses all at the same time. Using your gifts of magic to speak wisdom to the ages, yet lost at sea, alone, wanting to finally reach that next tree, but the water of consciousness just keeps running forever, knowing that you will never quite get there without a fellow paddler at the bow. Yet you keep rowing along, the lone traveler, thinking “If I just try this” or “If I just did this correctly” I would finally get there and I would be whole again. I have bad news for you – the water keeps going and from the illusions of trees there is just more water. You need not row forever, because, my dear, you have not yet learned to just rest in the stroke. You’ll see – something that used to be essential now Rots away, a compositing of the muck you could say, into the very White-Hot heart of Our Being.

Once Upon a Time in a New Mexican Hot Spring

The story began “Once upon a time in the New Mexican hot spring…” I doodled on the flight over. Creating the vision of what would be when I arrived.

I met my little not-related-by-blood-and-it’s-a-long-story cousin. She had loads of those mindfulness coloring books that are in vogue now. I tend to like my personal brand of coloring creation, so in the cupola of my aunt’s adobe home, we sat together and designed our original pictures in journals.

“Look,” she said, “It’s Mother Earth giving everyone in the world a big hug.”

It’s Christmastime, so I give her a gift – a journal from a Chinese stationary store. It says “Love – where there is great love, there are great miracles” and is covered in little cutout hearts. When I lived in rural China, my close friend and I developed a mild obsession with finding the best of the best in cheap Chinese stationery stores. The inspiration for “fly.the.dreams” came from one of these notebooks I bought over spring break, upon which I healed the wounds of a mental breakdown and the pages of my first story poured out.

A few days later, I go to visit my cousin’s family at the hot springs they own and operate. She had filled up the journal with notes — details about her family, her home at the Springs, her dreams about what she would be when she grew up, the boys in her class that she had a crush on. To think, I once did the same. To think, I still basically do.

I thought about the diary my mother gave me one Easter, etched in existence forever in my mind and in the form of a recorded home movie. I’m eight or nine, around the same age as my cousin. In this video, I can see where it all went downhill.

“Oh! A journal!” I exclaim as I pull out the Lisa Frank brand book with three bright yellow puppies sitting on a sandcastle.

It goes by the wayside, as my mother immediately digs into the plastic grass and takes out the plush head of a girl with two pigtails. It’s made for hanging clips and barrettes. “Do you like it?” obvious that no Easter bunny brought this for me and her desire for me to affirm that I’d actually use it. I shrugged it off “Oh, yeah, it’s cute,” I say to appease her. I knew myself, and that my mind was running away with thoughts of what I could fill the pages of the diary with. No one indulges me in my private world, and the diary remains with only a few pages filled.

Here in New Mexico around Christmastime, small, simple gifts are galore. I’ve already given the journal, and now I’m a cowgirl ready to take the mistakes of family karma by the reigns. I help my cousin set up some twinkling fairy around the desk in the room of their double-wide.

“Every writer needs her special space,” I tell her. “Let’s make yours beautiful.”

Hot springs might sound more glamorous then they really are. Don’t get me wrong, they are a lovely way to relax, heal and connect into the Earth. But remember, we are in rural New Mexico. There’s a show in recent memory about a cancerous science teacher with a meth lab inspired by this part of the world, perhaps you know it well.

Outside under the sunshine, we I take some photos of my cousin and her little brother with my father. The life they have here reminds me much of my childhood with my own in rural Pennsylvania – not a lot of kids our age around to play with, but a whole world of nature, animals and secret trails to run around between, becoming barefoot and bruised. I can see the playfulness my father had with my brother and I when we were kids come out when he is with the two kids – a side of him I rarely get to experience in his age of empty-nesting retirement.

My little not-really-blood-related cousins are both bi-racial, of Mexican-American descent. I find the nearby towns themselves to be very segregated, attracting the bougie Santa Fe art crowd mixed between impoverished Central American immigrants and white Americans alike.

At one point, she points to her melanin and says, “My brother is browner and more Mexican than I am. I’m the whiter one, see. ” and I can see the seeds of some implicit superiority already being implanted. Trying to take in this family karma again by the reigns I say to her, tenderly, “Neither one is better or worse than the other. Both are beautiful. Remember that.”

The story begins”Once upon a time in the New Mexican hot spring…” I doodled on the flight over. Creating the vision of what would be when I arrived.

I met my little not-related-by-blood-and-it’s-a-long-story cousin. She had loads of those mindfulness coloring books that are in vogue now. I tend to like my personal brand of coloring creation, so in the cupola of my aunt’s adobe home, we sat together and designed our original pictures in journals.

“Look,” she said, “It’s Mother Earth giving everyone in the world a big hug.”

It’s Christmastime, so I give her a gift – a journal from a Chinese stationary store. It says “Love – where there is great love, there are great miracles” and is covered in little cutout hearts. When I lived in rural China, my close friend and I developed a mild obsession with finding the best of the best in cheap Chinese stationery stores. The inspiration for “fly.the.dreams” came from one of these notebooks I bought over spring break, upon which I healed the wounds of a mental breakdown and the pages of my first story poured out.

A few days later, I go to visit my cousin’s family at the hot springs they own and operate. She had filled up the journal with notes — details about her family, her home at the Springs, her dreams about what she would be when she grew up, the boys in her class that she had a crush on. To think, I once did the same. To think, I still basically do.

I thought about the diary my mother gave me one Easter, etched in existence forever in my mind and in the form of a recorded home movie. I’m eight or nine, around the same age as my cousin. In this video, I can see where it all went downhill.

“Oh! A journal!” I exclaim as I pull out the Lisa Frank brand book with three bright yellow puppies sitting on a sandcastle.

It goes by the wayside, as my mother immediately digs into the plastic grass and takes out the plush head of a girl with two pigtails. It’s made for hanging clips and barrettes. “Do you like it?” obvious that no Easter bunny brought this for me and her desire for me to affirm that I’d actually use it. I shrugged it off “Oh, yeah, it’s cute,” I say to appease her. I knew myself, and that my mind was running away with thoughts of what I could fill the pages of the diary with. No one indulges me in my private world, and the diary remains with only a few pages filled.

Here in New Mexico around Christmastime, small, simple gifts are galore. I’ve already given the journal, and now I’m a cowgirl ready to take the mistakes of family karma by the reigns. I help my cousin set up some twinkling fairy around the desk in the room of their double-wide.

“Every writer needs her special space,” I tell her. “Let’s make yours beautiful.”

Hot springs might sound more glamorous then they really are. Don’t get me wrong, they are a lovely way to relax, heal and connect into the Earth. But remember, we are in rural New Mexico. There’s a show in recent memory about a cancerous science teacher with a meth lab inspired by this part of the world, perhaps you know it well.

Outside under the sunshine, we I take some photos of my cousin and her little brother with my father. The life they have here reminds me much of my childhood with my own in rural Pennsylvania – not a lot of kids our age around to play with, but a whole world of nature, animals, and secret trails to run around between, becoming barefoot and bruised. I can see the playfulness my father had with my brother and I when we were kids come out when he is with the two kids – a side of him I rarely get to experience in his age of empty-nesting retirement.

My little not-really-blood-related cousins are both bi-racial, of Mexican-American descent. I find the nearby towns themselves to be very segregated, attracting the bougie Santa Fe art crowd mixed between impoverished Central American immigrants and white Americans alike.

At one point, she points to her melanin and says, “My brother is browner and more Mexican than I am. I’m the whiter one, see. ” and I can see the seeds of some implicit superiority already being implanted. Trying to take in this family karma again by the reigns I say to her, tenderly, “Neither one is better or worse than the other. Both are beautiful. Remember that.”

New York 1/Tel Aviv 0

I feel in love with this collection of short stories I picked up at a Little Free Library.
This one stood out to me. Reminds me much of the same sentiment Maxine Hong Kingston explains in her explanation of “ghosts,” time and America.
“And somehow, in spite of the half-baked walking among us, in spite of mad, ersatz Time Counters who walk the streets of our cities mumbling numbers, convinced that time has not resume, in spite of the various inedible, temporally corrupted fruits and vegetables that the earth, after its long stagnation, produces for at least a year — people forget. People forget because they choose to do so, and they choose to forget because remembering allows for the possibility of recurrence. People forget, and make cardamom tea, and fall in love, and buy ties. On Valentine’s Day, they pay for overpriced dinners. Salmon in their mouth, they talk about their planned vacation for the summer. At weddings, they try to guess who the next person to get married will be, and they smile at the thought of the entire family together in one place again, the joy it will bring. Every moment, they wait for the next. Every day, they think about the future. They forget.
I can say this: I never forgot. I found it curious that people around me did. I remember, and I knew that time would stop again, only to resume again, only to stop again. It seemed obvious, like gravity, or death.”
Live in the present ya’ll.

Can You Take a Wrong Turn?

I finally wrote a series of poems about my trip to New York.

—————————–

Can You Take a Wrong Turn?
  1. Wrong Train
I got on the wrong train towards East Village
And fretted – will It ever stop?
Will I ever get off?
Do you ever wonder?
How many people boarded a vessel to come here?
By choice or by brute force?
More likely, some combination of both
After hearing two girls talking about the slaves
Harvesting sugar cane in the Caribbean
You can feel that New York City
Vibrates on a level of
Everyone who has come and departed 
Looking for a better life
Only to be caged in coal mines
Profiting from industry
And the cleansing of the countryside
To think we all that we had something
Together
Fusing steel to sky
To see it all
  1. To Be Appropriate
More than death in the Civil War
Burns a cultural vapid hell 
Some envy in knowing where you come from
Some hold resentment for those who drink
From the well
Sitting on my hands and clear separation 
I’m thinking this shirt from West Africa
Fits better than yoga pants
He said, “As token of appreciation 
For more than a minute
Of your understanding.”
  1. Revolutionary Sister
The Lady Liberty in the Brooklyn Museum
By Dingha McCannon
Stands taller than 
Her green-eyed predecessor 
With bullets on her belt and flag-pole hair
Gazing in at the room of Judy Chicago’s
Goddess gathering
Suppose that no one would have invited her there 
“How do you get to Harlem?” she asked
“A-train I suppose” 
I didn’t need to know New York
To know the Duke taught me that
  1. 23 And Free
Other so-called nations don’t trace their
Generations into the pathways of ghosts
Question their DNA
We’re forced to wonder “What am I?”
Search in codes of chromosomes and hormones
Leftover from McDonald’s chicken nugget bones
For the soul only knows “I am”
And that bodies are just individual homes
  1. Bad Juice
Seems like everyone struggles with
Knowing they were born “bad”
Born a conqueror or born a slave
Born to be broken or born to be made
Thank the gods of industry for bringing me
Comfort in a mason jar of freshly pressed juice
For only ten dollars
Get a cleanse for your soccer-ball soul
Make you right, give you better eye sight
So I gave her my credit card without looking twice
  1. Prayer
Shaman says:
Oh Great Spirit
Visit me again tonight
Take me away
Heal my bones
Comfort me and remind me
No matter the sins
Of our Ancestral lands
That the end
We all go home

 

The Woman Warrior

Ever feel like a book comes to you at the perfect time, describing the exact emotion you have been wishing to capture for so long?
We all know the feeling, and I’m an addict. I confess I have a vice for getting used books each time I pass a Little Free Library or find a free or cheap book bargain shelf. All of them spoke to me in a title or a passage. Most of them now sitting on my shelf, waiting to cozy up with me at a cafe, couch or park and be devoured for hours. It’s real.
When I went to NYC last week, I found The Woman Warrior at a vintage clothing shop where nothing I tried on seemed to fit quite right. I put on a nice poolside cover-up thinking Hey, this will motivate me to swim and get in shape this summer. A woman waiting in line told me I “looked like a lady of leisure.” I had just gotten off from my teaching job for the summer. My mother, just retired, after 30 years.  Yet, the passage I picked up out of this book was about work, as the narrator is talking to her mother about her life after immigration:
“See what I mean? I have worked too much. Human beings don’t work like this in China. Time goes slower there. Here we have to hurry, feed the hungry children before we’re too old to work. I feel like a mother cat hunting for its kittens. She has to find them fast because in a few hours she will forget how to count or that she had any kittens at all. I can’t sleep in this country because it doesn’t shut down for the night. Factories, canaries, restaurants — always somebody somewhere working through the night. It never gets done all at once here. Time was different in China. One year lasted as long as my total time here; one evening so long, you could visit your women friends, drink tea, and play cards at each house, and it would still be twilight. It even got boring, nothing to do but fan ourselves. Here midnight comes at the floor’s not swept, the ironing’s not ready, the money’s not made. I would still be young if we lived in China.”
I have been feeling this for the past two years, but really lately, trying to explain to others how deeply my friendships, relationships, and experiences unfolded when living in rural China. How expansive life felt, and yet bitter at the same time. I couldn’t seem to quite touch that again in the US. Only a few friends stuck around enough to get “bored,” which usually left us singing, dancing or sometimes sleepy.
At times, I feel blocked between the knowingness of “time” and its natural flow, and a culture where acquiring more money, more material items, and less time is bounded towards our eventual death. Not enough for this, not enough for that. Everyone moving about with deep seeds of unworthiness in the lack of our “productivity.”
The stars have it out for us as well. We are all healing the mother wound and our relationship between our focus on the masculine essence of linear time and the feminine co-creative universe. Despite a messy election cycle, there has been a tidal wave pop culture art of women in the past year and few months – the Women’s March, the Handmaid’s Tale, Beyonce’s photos, Hidden Figures, Moana, Wonder Woman, etc – ya know what I’m saying. The list goes on.
I see the fruits of the long evenings in my friendships bearing gifts to the world.
One of my closest friends from China just made a return, and looking at her pictures reminds me of this feeling.
Another friend has started her own clothing business, another will deepen her passion for teaching and the healing arts in grad school. Another, falling in love again like it’s the first time.
I wonder if those changes came about in those long evenings – movements we took to pause, sit, share our souls, and simply be.
Our modern, culture does not allow for this. Political action wants you to think otherwise, but see what happens when you stop living in resistance, and rather in receptivity.
For the next week, I challenge you to sit with a friend as if time would never end.
Hold that space in your heart and see what change comes about.
– Blessings

The end of the green line

The end of the green line
At the end of the green line, Sonia swooped Mae into her arms and carried her out of the train.
Strollers were too sleek, expensive, and took up too much space on the train. Leave those for the couples from the northern suburbs, with spacious yards and gardens. She used a back sling, like the one her grandmother used to carry her through the wheat fields. She chuckled to herself – some kind of people we are Urbanites who desire to return to something that felt pastoral. Who are we kidding? The strap pushed too hard against her collarbone. Yet a part of her preferred to carry her baby from here to there, always knowing where she was, never letting the weight of Mae leave her, as if she was still a part of her womb.
“Mama!” Mae said, chubby fingers reaching for her mother’s dangling earrings. 
“No!” Sonia scolded, craning her neck away from the baby. She held her right hand up to block the baby but in doing so, knocked Mae’s pink face mask to the ground. Mae started to laugh.
 
“Don’t smile!” Sonia commanded, slipping the loops of her facemask back around her baby’s ears. “The smog might get in.” 
I have to protect that smile. Yet she hadn’t see it in weeks. Actually, she hadn’t let Mae out of the house in over a month, since the Great Fog. And when they were in the house, Sonia still demanded that Mae keep the mask on. No faith that air purifiers, 20 yen piece of shit. Maybe her father took the mask off when he stayed with her. She shuddered at the thought of it. She shuddered to think about it. How he chose the raise the child was no business of hers, but if she could take control on how to raise Mae on her time, she would.
I have to make up for the mistakes of my past. The mask that led Mae to get the tumor in the first place. She never wondered why did I choose to move to this dreadful city? Or why did I choose to marry that man, but rather Why did I choose to even breathe in this air at all? That she could have controlled.
Five years ago, when she was in college, most doctors did not think the masks did much good.
They might have blocked 20% of particulates, like small ones that came from motorbike exhaust or small cars. Why bother? she thought, and her friends agreed. After coming from the countryside to one of the biggest cities in the nation at one of the most exciting times of the century, why cover up shiny red lipstick and straight white veneers with a piece of foam? How else would he have been attracted to me? she wondered. 
Yet the research started to catch up with the realities, and the robotics department had developed the NH-720 mask model. It was a monster of a mask, with a long tube sticking out like a hungry anteater and making a small hissing sound. News sites reported hundreds of young children having nightmares about being snatched by mask-wearers. Unlike previous models, this one was guaranteed to protect the user from 99% of particulates in the air and its ergonomic design gave the user instant air almost as clean and pure as an oxygen tank.  At first, the frightening design drew no customers, but when the WHO announced near deathly levels of smog about the descend on the city, able to kill elderly citizens and children alike in a mere instant, the device flew off the shelves. The panic saved the city billions in lung cancer and other medical care costs. How else were the citizenry going to listen? Those who used it loved it. “It’s like I’m walking in a cloud!” she remembered from an old man in a commercial, although she wasn’t so sure what a “cloud” was or what it was supposed to feel like. “It’s like the feeling you get after having sex,” her friend once told her.
The NH-720 faded in popularity with the youth, but those sensitive citizens didn’t mind, and would rather risk public scrutiny for wearing something ugly than risk their own lives.
She felt the worst when he wore it in public. On their walk back from school she remembered hearing her friends whispering – “How could she stand to be seen with that mole rat…” Although in public, they all pretended to love him and his endless sense of humor. Most of all, she missed the way he used to lean down and kiss the tip of her nose at the street corner when they wear waiting for the light to turn green.
She looked up at him, under the streetlight and raindrops.
“Why did you wear it?” she asked him. Longing brown eyes staring back.
“For her,” he’d say, holding Sonia’s belly with his warm hand. “For her future.”
They were unmarried but hopeful that a hasty elopement would throw off their relatives when the child arrived only eight months later. Two lovers, crazy mad an anxious for love, they booked tickets to a small island in the east and even bought each other platinum Peruvian rings at a foreign goods dealer. But the night before the flight she lost it, and she lost him too. A whole college romance gone in one night when he woke up and saw the blood stained sheets. He blamed her, she felt. She came back from the bathroom and saw the NH-720 laying in indentation the mattress with a note saying “Use it.” 
She didn’t leave the room for five days. Her friends brought her fresh fruit from the vendor across the street.
“It happens,” the tried to tell her. They’d all lost a child in one way or another by now – by their own choice, or by accident.
“It’s not uncommon.”
“He wasn’t one to stick around anyway.”
Even after all of that, she never questioned the quality of the air. The skies of the city began to clear up the year after she graduated. The Crystal Revolution (or so they called it) brought purity to the city when a man found that simply holding a vacuum cleaner to the sky would suck out bricks of pollution, that could then be recycled to build houses for low-income villagers who were rapidly moving to the city’s outskirts. Along with that, small changes in regulatory committees reduced emission by 50%. That year, she began to fall in love again, time with a high-society real estate mogul, who wasn’t afraid to explore their deep passions under the red moonlight on the streets. She promised to herself she’d never loose him, and five months later they wed.
Many considered rain on a wedding day an auspicious sign, but the toxic muck that began to fall out of the sky could only be considered disastrous. Whatever so-called “Crystal Revolution” that government touted for half of a year, was eroding slowly as Natural Helio sources were being tapped from the sky, relating a slow leak of Biotoxin into the air stream. The plan was quickly abandoned in favor of previous coal burning. But this time the government didn’t let anyone know, for fear of violent uprisings. The burning would be such a shock to the cities skies that climate experts were bribed to call this hazy weather not smog but “The Great Fog.”
Not everyone bought it, of course, but not everyone really seemed to care. Those who had lived through the smog-filled says could sustain another. After all, the economy had been much better. “At least we had jobs,” popular editorials would say. The wheels of the factories began to turn, with more fury than ever before, and the so-called “revolution” was forgotten in a fortnight.
Thankfully, Sonia didn’t need to work with her husband profits coming in, but she found herself bored as a childless housewife and set out to work part-time at a clothing boutique on the riverside plaza, earning her a tiny commission to freshen up her own closest. All the tight-fitting jeans would go by the wayside when she found out she was pregnant again. Her husband never knew about the first loss, but he didn’t need to. After all, it already felt like a lifetime ago, and she had moved on.
Despite the government admitting very little about the environmental changes, pregnant women still fell into the “sensitive” category and were advised to wear masks. The N-720 had a newer model, the WPX-515, which didn’t come with a long protruding nozzle, but even that was only worn by the elderly and disabled, occasionally by friends of hers when they came down with a particularly bad cough that they’d attribute to accidentally smoking too much pot at a particularly devious dance party. She would slip on her cover daily, only to take it off and stuff it in her pocket after work when she went to pick up a street-side snack. Her proclivity for red lipstick had waned, and the mask did make it easier to breathe, but she had never adopted the habit of slipping it over. With her increased appetite from the pregnancy, she found herself stuffing her mask in her purse pocket more and more.
When Mae was born, the doctor told her she had a benign tumor and had to be taken away immediately for surgery. Sonia had never imagined she’d feel such an immensity of loss again in her life. Her husband had been called away by a business emergency only days before, but quickly rushed back to the hospital. He found her too tired to weep and she collapsed in his arms.
She would have held him forever in that moment. The doctors brought the baby girl back three days later, a now seemingly healthy child who had to take a daily dose of medication in the foot to assure no new growth would appear during her infancy. Sonia almost got pleasure giving her baby the shot, hearing her cry reminder her how the little girl fought so hard. “This is so you can live,” Sonya would whisper in her ear. There was no way she would let another one leave this world on her own accord.
But another man? Perhaps. For it was only five weeks after Mae came home, that Sonia found a pair of red lacy stockings rolled up in her husband’s laundry. She certainly couldn’t fit into anything that small of a size. And there was no room in her life for him either. It was time she cut away anything she couldn’t make love her.
Divorce papers were filed, although he still wanted partial custody over the girl. Fair enough, she’d thought, yet she’d still spend sleepless night anytime Mae was out of her arms, so eventually she begged him for more supervision hours. He conceded but took away his portion of the child support along with it. Mae’s schooling would be paid for, but Sonia would have to work.
She started a job receptionist at an accounting firm, giving her normal hours and childcare during the day. Most days she felt like nothing more than an invisible pillar of sand at the office, flipping through lifeless days in front of a computer screen. When there was a lull in the paperwork, she’d search for things she’d always wanted to know about – clouds, scuba diving, the Third World War, the possibility of Alien life – until nagging client would interrupt her daydream flow.
On a particularly slow day, she found herself typing
    birth defects
Causes, symptoms, the endless pages, and scrolling. She’d even carry the search into the subway on her phone when she’d pick Mae up from daycare, and into the house at night while cooking dinner. For the next few days, she read. And when she couldn’t find what she needed (the government censored at least 80% of image content) she’d order virtual private network software that would allow her access to sites from London and Taipei. Mae, now a healthy child at home, was fine. But still, Sonia couldn’t help but wonder. “Why twice? Why me? Why did the doctors never say anything?” How unusual how her friends had said “This happens all time” and “We’ve lost one too.” What about the mothers on the street? The ones she walked by with blind, longing eyes?
“It’s not just me, is it?”
Her investigation grew deeper. She started at the childcare lobby when she went to pick up Mae after work, just casually asking another mother how her baby was, recording their long conversations on her phone, typing up notes in when she got home. Long days became sleepless nights, interviewing mothers in hospital waiting rooms and pulling out bibs at the laundromat. She had never felt so exhausted yet energized by anything in her life. The desire to know, the desire to want more. The whole time, Mae by her side, wrapped in a small bundle on her back. Protected by a mask.
She simmered down, and spent the month of sitting in the house, never leaving, and finishing her book. “The foreign press will be all over this.” This world deserves to know. “So this is how they decide to solve our population problem? More bricks in the air for better houses in the East?” She told her boss she would telework but as the days went on perhaps there was less and less for her to do and before she knew it he had put her on part-time. It didn’t matter much since she had enough saved up to feed the two of them and didn’t have to pay for Mae’s daycare. Finances were the least of her concerns right now. After all, she was sure money would pour in from foreign investors interested in her data and she’d be set for life, if not granted asylum in another place for at least two years while the commotion settled down.  
She sat down and began her first email to the Guardian:
“Five years ago, I dare not ask what the smell in the air was – but now I know. And that smell, is the desire for a massive death. The desire for money.” 
—–
A loud knock at the door awoke Sonia from her stupor as her stack of notebooks fell from her lap to the floor. Who the hell could be visiting me? She lost contact with friends, lovers, and family.  Her heart stuttered. She clutched her chest to look around for Mae, who had crawled away to the corner and was kicking at the baby mobile on the floor.
She opened the door. Longing brown eyes, with an emptiness inside.
No longer did he have the boyish charm of her college days, the scrawny legs and the wide grin and playful gait. Last she heard from her old classmates, he had entered the military and achieved some high ranking position. Now, standing in her doorway, towering over her with the eyes of a man who had touched death.
She breathed in to speak, interrupted by the sound of heavy boots pounding on the cement stairways. Eight other men in blue uniforms and black masks slipped into the doorway. He pulled on his masks on and ready to give them an order.
“What is the meaning of this?” Sonia stammered as she reached down to pick up Mae and cradle her into her chest.
“You’re under arrest.”
“For….for what?”
“Divergence from state priorities.”
He slipped Mae out of her hands with gentle and tender touch, despite the aggressive tone of his voice.
“You’ve been missing work. Your boss knows why.”
Sonia felt her entirely become limp, wanting to curl up like a fetus on the floor.
“She’ll be safe with me,” he said, as he placed the baby girl into a large yellow backpack and turned down the stairwell.
She crumbled to the floor, sobbing and holding herself; in as much pain as if she was missing a limb. The remaining officers took hold of her wrists and ankles and zip-tied them together.
After all of this, all I have researched, all that I have come to know about the plight of a mother on the city streets, what will become of me?
 
And at once, they picked her up and threw her over the balcony, into the density of the smog-filled night.
—————————-
Story Inspired by the Life of:

Better in My Body

Better in my body
Better to be on the ground
Better to heal some eternal hurt
          with the patchwork that I’ve found
Better to hear music
          and dance my life away
          greet the sun with glory
          and fade into the day
Better to have lovers
          that I know will break my heart
          bend it out and backward
          so that I may make some art
Better to lead children
          into the great unknown
          in a world that limits their expression
          before their bones are sown
Better to learn languages
          that some tongues will never know
          speak some truths around the world
          from my palm and its light glow
Better to make mistakes
         and take the wrong turn going home
         so that I can be more present
         in the places my soul has flown

Compassion

Eating seeds of compassion
From my hands
An open pomegranate
Of thick tears
Crying for those I lost
   A soul mate
   An idea of mom and dad
   A grieving brother
   A friend I call sister
Crying for those who rule over me
    A powerful woman
    Who in passing
    Awakens me to love
    Like all of us
    She walks in her own hell
    Talking to her
    Leaves me with
    Pools of reflection
    That wash away
    My mask of denial
    “Why do you do this?”
    “Listen to us, like this?”
     She says, “Because, I care for adults here
like
     the adults here care for children.”
     How then, does the heart
     Translate those words
     To a crying lover asking
     “Why do you do this for me?”
     “Stay here with me, like this?”
     “Because, I care for my friends
like
     the children I care for every day.”
     From inside, I hear
     The voice
     Of a child
     Whispering
 tenderly
     “Actually,
Because,
     I love you.”