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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Section 5: The Fire in Our Souls

Christina Olivares

Christina Olivares
I remember you.
I saw you, once. You are what and she making me weep, and I wept like a near-cauterized wound, or willow tree sweeping low wind, like a bedsheet filled with tears had roped around my neck. Then I woke and there was a necklace, a tattoo. And it burned me. And you burned me.
You are the hollow in each of our bodies.
I say this but there is actually no translation for hollow.
Since you, since you. We could not survive together and so we left you. You must always leave what you cannot carry because if the carrying interrupts your survival you will not survive for the carrying.
Those of you who maintained carrying despite your fragility–it was both easy and impossible to forget your fragility–did not make it.
That’s okay.
Well. To start: we still like to fuck. What else do we like to do that you can relate to. Well, fucking. Fucking was very In in 2015. Making love. & all the spaces in-between. Pleasure and species survival. We find pleasure in stars. In being close to the earth and away from our homes, then back in our homes. Adventure, then comfort. Small places we call home. Communities that support each other, aren’t threatened or threaten other communities. We don’t have to work at the threatening or not threatening part although certain small challenges do continue to arise, because we still lie to ourselves and one another. We can’t yet talk to animals but some among us believe we will be able to do so and therefore the seeds are planting in our code. We may. Who Knows. We love sugary and salty flavors. We play games, in love and otherwise. And technical ones for pure play, the nature of which is past your ability (no shade) to understand. We often comprehend touch as love. Also like you, we struggle with addictions and confuse these addictions for pleasure. Yes, we are Like You.
And guess what?–we never had to leave Earth.
But/and. We are different. From you. We see the house that made us & we have refigured some of those rooms—the rooms being language—the throats of these languages you use being generally incomplete. This language I communicate with you in, English, it is among the most limited, bitter-tongued and narrow and blocky and hunted and haunted and somewhat alarming and yes refuses to articulate me properly. There are huge gaps between the tenderness I’d like to communicate to you and my ability to do so using this instrument. It is as if I am composing letters for you by stringing together barges on your Hudson River and you see them from a great distance above, instead of drawing them with my hands, or, better, looking into your eyes, or, better, holding you while you sleep, light-kissing the tender of your neck while you dream. Then you would understand me best.
But it’s okay.
Evolution, which is an imprecise term, but I will stop fussing at you now for the imprecision of terms you are so embedded in b/c I doubt you really get me except to perceive the criticism, did this for us: Nationhood, which is false, is gone. Fear of difference, which is false and was outdated and eventually worked itself out, is nearly gone. Fear generally—we do not live in a state of fear, high or low level, as most of you do. We are still scared of that which is entirely unknown, but at this point most things aren’t entirely unknown, and we have ceased to project difference in order to maintain hierarchy. Most important: hierarchy is as archaic as plastic. This is harder to explain. Your language, these words, entirely based in hierarchy. You are literally rooted in it. We are not fixed in that mud anymore, and thank god because as your indomitable prophet Butler alluded, it made you crazy as fuck. We grew out of it. We grew out of it! Can you imagine? We grew out of hierarchy and its attendant addiction, a dislocation of power outside of the physical self, power over.
Also: your/our singleminded focus became two-tracked. Two sets of thoughts can exist forefront. You can solve math equations and compose eloquent love letters to your beloved, beloved. Also: you know when your period is coming because you see it in your body. No more charting, beloved. Body-language is one of the languages which has completely given its articulation over to your consciousness. Imagine: as a child, knowing essentially what your body is, perhaps not the name of the spleen or lung, but the variations and mechanisms and differences that exist within you. We become integrated; it becomes harder, therefore, in our time, to argue for a spirit/body split, or to disregard the health of the body by feeding it bad food or misaligning chemicals.
Similarly, and perhaps causally, our sensitivity to pleasure has increased. And has grown nuanced. Nuance in pleasure. Nuance! This has led to a change that may seem strange. I can see the stars from anywhere at night. Why? They provide worldwide pleasure. So we prioritized stars, over time, naturally.
We absolutely still have psychopaths. Sociopaths. And the like. Also, bad decision makers. We’re better equipped. We love them down. We have places for them to be. They are us, so here again is where this language fails my description. Love requiring seeing. We have a desire to see. Our small communities, towards which we feel instinctively compelled, reinforce this vulnerability/strength within us, to see.
We also hear better. Actually, not metaphorically. It’s strange perhaps to say, but I can hear things that are miles away. Like elephants can. Not as good as bats, which isn’t even hearing exactly, but there’s a growing resonance there. We have become much closer to elephants for this reason. So close we have dinner parties. I’m kidding. Elephants can’t have dinner parties with us because they’re big and we’re little. Still different sizes.
Finally, Our love–we are wired for greater love. Not abstract. Actual.
Also what I am saying is: There are languages we have learned to respect, to listen to, that flow unbidden from within us, that have come springing from us naturally and unbidden, language(s–yes, more than one) you are yet still struggling to discern from one another. The best word you have is intuition. Or, for some of you, prayer. But right now, we count more than we have fingers for (are you suddenly concerned we have a different number of fingers! Ahaha! Maybe we Do!), and we can discern their sources and their differences.
This is not your/our fault. Not knowing. It all just isn’t, yet, inside of you, clear enough to be ready to be named. These too will become a product of our evolution. There are still dormancies within us, even now. There are also red herrings. Do not resist your nature, despite the terror inherent in that, which yes, that is terrifying, given what the world is, where you are in the world, your famine and barrel bombs and most everybody not having enough when it is possible to have enough. Genocide, the astonishment also of small and larger atrocities, committed by your police and governments, and starving you in more ways than your belly and making you destitute and forcing you to be damaged. Forcing you to be damaged. Or complicit. Forcing your complicity. Historical traumas reenacted daily by/with a refusal by the majority to acknowledge their reenactment, because they are blind, or sick with hierarchy, or both. Some absolute fuckery, the human world in the time you are surviving. I imagine it would be easy enough to imagine you are doomed, so easy it’s difficult to imagine otherwise.
We evolve. We become a we. We are not a collective. We are not a Borg. I can’t tell you if there’s TV or not. I won’t. I also won’t tell you what is around the corner. Except to allude to the incomprehensible & vast beauty waiting for you. And let you know it’s okay to let go of what doesn’t serve you. Vestigial limbs, fingers, ways of being, eventually words. Things fall out of use when they are not used. Your word Steal, for example, is archaic. Steal. Why? Because what is taken is perceived as needed. We have outgrown lack. Imagine this, let it seed in you.
But also: we are not unified. We fight. We are aroused by this but not that. So. We are DIFFERENT FROM ONE ANOTHER. But more also: we look different. We taste different. We act different. Our values are different. We are still us but we are more us, each. We did not become all the same and therefore it worked. We never became the same. We outgrew the notion of Universal Anything. We actually grew different, vastly different from even what differences exist on the planet in your time. We have so many languages, so many more. So many ways of cultivating or not cultivating earth. So many technologies that some choose and some do not choose. Imagine a human world built of differences that does not prompt colonization and slavery. This has so rarely and sporadically been, in your short time on Earth so far, and most of the records of these small sanities have been erased or burned or never, perhaps, existed. It is possible you cannot imagine. Still, try.
Know what you experience in all its terrible glory now was merely symptoms. Like: indications. Of where you are, where you were. It wasn’t shit you could do about it. Not that you should just surrender. Struggle is why and how you survive with any part of yourself intact. And: humanity as tide, humanity as flood. Humanity as what we are. Precious to the point of extinction. Somehow, not. Yet. Extinct.
You, a child of hierarchy, of lack, of need, of repression, of violence, executed at every level: your language, the state you create or were born into, the family structure, or lack of family structure, the compensation for that lack, a community that does not totally have you, always. You, vulnerable and resisting the idea that you are temporary. You resist, yet you are capable of imagining, and this is the beauty of you.
You brutalize one another. You brutalize. You are brutalized. Even when you are outside of a space in which you are directly attacking or being attacked, you you you you you–are so deeply, constantly and terribly afraid.
You hate yourselves more than I can imagine. In saying this to you I perceive deeply this historical trauma of self hatred, borne of other historical traumas, all of which are laced in the hollow within my own/our selves, which we, now, in my time, work to heal, though the healing will happen despite ourselves–still we in a frenzy attempt to correct the past, the frenzy is ours, the result of our own lack of evolution past the point of a frenzied attempt to control what is outside of our control. We grieve for you, is what I am saying, not in pity, but because you are us, you brought us here, we are you, and we carry what pains you and what suffered you through brutal times.
Ancestor, you also: imagine difference in order to feed fear. To give the brutality within you, which is imagined (but executed precisely) a place to go, hide. Even in the most absolutely comfortable of places and situations, you spend your entire life seeking money and paying for distractions. You all too often avoid what loves you and seek what rejects you. You invent governments and pay for them and they hunt you or others you believe to be different from you and you believe in your own powerlessness either way because in truth, often, though not even mostly or always, you are. You are numb to the suffering of those outside of you. You are also numb to your own suffering. You wire the body of the earth thick with electricity and plunder it and only in these violences do you make worth of where you live. We grieve for you; know this. Our grief is vast and complicated and intricate and spans generations perhaps eons, it is our reckoning with your and therefore our times.
Finally: imagine the love it takes to cross time and space to speak to you with this frankness. In the words that flare in the dark and remain. Imagine the tremendous love within us for you. Imagine you are laying down your body in the dusk of humanity in order to evolve into what sings you praise. You, alive. You, my deepest and most complete authentic loved beloved home AND origin.
After this missive burns itself into the sky, folding and folding, or perhaps it is a dream that lies smeared and indistinguishable on your consciousness, imagine you are folding into what you must become even when your physical form is long dirt. There is a part of you stubbornly rooted in a desire for transcendence.
If you want Some Thing To Do:
Do not give up on (for example) your poets. And your physicists. And your mystics. And certain comedians. They love you most. Seek comfort in their homes.
Drive towards the language that seeks the satisfaction of your truest nature, the one buried beneath eons of violent turning-over. Still. You live in violent times. Care for self. Stop trying to control so much. In all, my advice is worthless. Why? Evolution is despite you. This is the beauty of evolution. Of being in a current that carries you but is not essentially you. You will eventually–and by you, I do mean us–outgrow the notion that the one is exactly like the many, and vice versa.
The earth will not end soon, and neither will you. Do not be afraid of the work. The work pushes forward, relentless and perfect, despite and instead of and within you. Have babies, have lots of babies. Feed them and love them, practice love, overflow with love. Babies and babies and babies. Some of you resist making more children because you are afraid to bring them into this world. That fear makes sense; the decision borne from it is pragmatic and of love. But if you are compelled otherwise, bring the babies. Love is the unremitting, love is the unrelenting work, what sustains and blooms all of us in your blinded & bound times.
Christina Olivares is the author of No Map of the Earth Includes Stars, winner of the 2014 Marsh Hawk Press Book Prize, of the chaplet Interrupt, published by Belladonna* Collaborative, and of Petition, winner of the 2014 Vinyl 45 Chapbook Competition (forthcoming 2016). She is the recipient of a 2015-2016 LMCC Workspace Residency, two Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grants, a Teachers and Writers Fellowship, and has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in New York City.



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