I’m so honored to have been included in LaTonya Yvette’s Community series. I’ve loved LaTonya’s work for several years now (since the release of her first book, Woman of Color), and am constantly drawing inspiration from her words and images. I can’t think of community without thinking of The Last Waltz and the women I watch it with, year after year.
The last prompt of March Ensemble is “turn it upside down”. The first thing that came to mind was Upside Down by Diana Ross. I think I was in high school when I first really got into this song? I’d never seen the music video, though, what a treat. I decided to create something like the music video, and also like the name of the prompt. What could be more “upside down” than a white lady taking a picture emulating Diana Ross? And then, why not just put it upside down, literally, like some bizarro mirror image. Like the “upside down” in Stranger Things, or some extra wrong “tethered” from Us.
Instinctively I thought, “Diana Ross must be an Aries”, but really I probably just knew that somewhere in my brain that never forgets people’s astrological signs. March 26! She just had her 77th birthday. I thought about who would be the Diana Ross of our generation, and Lana Del Rey was actually the first person who came to mind. Talk about upside down. But for real, what other artist now would have a line in a song like “respectfully I say to thee I’m aware that you’re cheating”? Diana Ross isn’t angry when she sings this, she’s just stating a fact, and also stating she doesn’t care because the love that she gets “instinctively” from this lover is worth the cheating that is also happening. Sounds like a Lana Del Rey song to me, but don’t tell Diana Ross.
So I put together this image, working with that I have (as I’ve done with all the March Ensemble prompts), a printer/copier and some scissors. I like working within limits. I can’t worry too much about the quality of the print, because this printer/copier is all I have. I can’t worry about getting my picture to look exactly like Diana Ross’, because I’m working in bed before my children wake up. I can’t worry about making something too profound, I don’t want to overthink or take myself too seriously. Then again, I think all these works people have been making for March Ensemble are profound precisely because of the limits. Freedom Under Law, as an old friend of mine used to say. At the risk of sounding too sappy, March Ensemble has been life changing for me. It’s been something to open my brain, push me to make for the sake of making, think about things differently, experience a part of my brain and psyche I haven’t really tapped into for awhile. We’ve pushed through the waters of Pisces, into the fire of Aries throughout the ensemble. The symbol of the horns comes back to me, like the first piece I made for March Ensemble. Sick, sad song. Maybe if you turn a sick, sad song upside down you get a Diana Ross bop. The sign of the horns protects Diana Ross and I from the Evil Eye.
I check the March Ensemble prompt every morning, but some days don’t resonate with me, or I’m too lazy, or I know I won’t have enough time in the day (even to think). This morning I loved one of two prompts given; Exist for Love. THIS RESONATES. I truly believe I exist for love. I wonder what you are doing if you’re NOT existing for love? What else is worth existing for? I had all these thoughts about ways I exist for love, or things I love. Simple, mundane, everyday things are how I exist for love. The first cup of coffee, damn. I walked downstairs to get that cup of coffee, just past 5am, and the moon struck me right through one of the many windows on the south side of my house. Moonstruck. We just had a full super worm moon in Libra, damn. I took a morning walk with my daughters and kept noticing the way the sun hit the moss on the rocks in the woods, damn! This stream of consciousness tiny piece came to me tonight, while my husband put the girls to bed. Like Lady Lamb says, “and if you’re crying by the moon, in the sun you better LIFT UP THAT CHIIIIIIN!”.
first cup of coffee
light on moss
blood on the tracks
stepping before knowing where your foot will land
choosing love over fear
The moon exists
I thought a lot about the moon while I looked up at it before the sun rose, and I remembered my dream of two moons. What does the moon exist for, besides love?
My first daughter was born when lupines were blooming, June 18. My second daughter was born just as tulips began to come up, May 15. My mother likes to remind me of this, or actually, she’s the one that put this idea into my head. Don’t you wonder how many memories or thoughts are just there because someone else said them once, or one time? My mother likes to remember the girls through what flowers were blooming at the time of their birth. It’s appropriate, I mean, what could be more evocative of birth than a flower opening? Something bursting through the ground, some tight bud changing color and widening overnight, only to keep widening and unfurling until it’s unrecognizable and needs to be cut back for the sake of everyone’s who has to look at it.
Anyway, I’m obviously talking about vaginas and vulvas now, in case you’ve never seen a Georgia O’Keefe painting.
The prompt for today is Tulips, and that’s the first thing I thought of. I’ve never been wild about tulips, but as I get older I’m finding beauty in any living thing. Hostas, for example, a plant I used to hate, astound me now. There’s a little farm close to us called Seek No Further, and they forced tulips for Valentine’s Day. I’ve gotten tulips from them once before, last year, for my mother in law’s 79th birthday on April 11. Amidst a massive snowstorm they had tulips ready in April. My second daughter was born a month four days after my mother in law’s birthday. I pushed through frozen ground, through a previous cesarean, through a pandemic, and had her safely at home in the nest of our bed.
I tore and bled and was sewn up and healed and couldn’t stand straight or walk or go up and down stairs. I was like the tail end of a bunch of tulips. When you look at them, totally busted, and are like “okay, I think it’s time for the compost pile”.
I didn’t know this Joey Bada$$ song before I made this post. I didn’t know any of the lyrics, I was just looking for a song about tulips or two lips.
I feel like a fresh air force’s first step Like some fresh flesh, first pack, first sex And then I doze off for a sec And see the hand of god pick me up like forceps You told me never to forget and never to force it To embrace the time and glorious moments Cus you could die in a second So open up within, fore I get to dissecting
What’s closer to death than birth? Not that I feared death, but you push through this unknown and wade through the deepest darkest parts of yourself. Open up within, fore I get to dissecting.
I hemorrhaged a bit after my daughter was placed on my stomach (her cord wasn’t really long enough for her to reach higher on my body), and things moved fast. There was pitocin and uterine “massage” and some gentle tugging on the umbilical cord. Everything was fine in the end, and I trusted my birth team wholly, but never forget to embrace the time and glorious moments.
A friend dropped of a bouquet from a local farm to table restaurant. Among many flowers, there were tulips.
My husband was married once before. For over 20 years he’d been with the same woman. They’d been married over a decade. She’d had a boyfriend for over a decade. They had built a house together, gutting and renovating a one room schoolhouse. They’d just finished the house, just gotten married, and then she went to Haystack.
He stayed home, working and tending to gardens and dogs, and when she returned, she told him she’d fallen in love. “You can’t be in love with two people.” He said. But they were exceptional. They did not say no just because something was difficult or painful or unusual. They would lean into this, work through this, figure it out and accept this new reality. She left for Chicago, and he stayed home making the fence she’d always wanted, so the dogs could run out back. He stopped sleeping, and started taking walks for countless miles. He grew a beard, and saw a therapist. He was on several medications for sleep and depression and anxiety. Panic attacks were common. The trees, especially, made him anxious.
Before she left to visit her boyfriend he asked her, plain and pitifully,
There’s this thing called March Ensemble going on. It’s a prompt every day for the month of March (duh). You get 24h to make a piece of art. The organizers are two Finnish women, one of whom I used to know long ago. Some of my friends (or, I don’t know, people I used to be friends with?) are in the “extended ensemble” which is like featured artists I guess? But anyone is welcome to make and join and use the hashtag #marchensemble. On Instagram they have 222 followers which feels auspicious. I had a dream last night about what the prompt would be. I can’t remember exactly, but it was something like
Groundbreaking, I know. I also dreamed about scraping the dregs of my collagen powder, and killing time with my two daughters, waiting for a friend to make plans with me. I was dressing my baby in a sweater, but also making the sweater. I was cutting it to fit her body perfectly, while she lay on a wooden deck of some restaurant. I was looking up at my friend, nodding and “m-hmm”ing every so often, while dressing my baby and keeping my toddler in my periphery. This is second nature to me now. Keeping all these pieces moving and still at the same time. Trying to give as much attention as I can to the adult I’m dealing with, while making sure nobody wanders off or is hungry or needs to pee or needs a diaper or needs a nap or needs a sweater cut to their form and hemmed up and buttoned.
My friend canceled on me, even though we were together. I had waited and waited with two small children only for her to say we should get together another day. I wanted to cry but I didn’t. I said today was the only day that would work and that this took tremendous effort to put together (I had the sense we were about an hour from home). So I took my children and began to walk down a path to a beach. It was long and felt like California. We got closer to some houses and then it felt like Maine. Goose Rocks Beach. A woman and her son were grilling or doing something outside, and everything was grey and misty. I asked if we could come inside, maybe to use the bathroom, or warm up, or make a phone call, I can’t remember. She was aloof and I could tell she did not trust us, or think us worthy of entering. There were other people inside, maybe other kids, having a party. She said we weren’t pretty enough.
I wake up and check the prompt for March Ensemble.
SICK SAD SONG
I immediately think of the line from a Guns N’ Roses song, “just like every cowboy sings his sad, sad song”, and then I imagine if the line was sick sad song. And then I think of sad songs I know, and Casimir Pulaski Day by Sufjan Stevens is the first one that pops into my head. And then I think of Sibylle Baier and how sad and haunting her music is. I google the lyrics of that Guns N’ Roses song just to be sure, and so that I don’t make a mistake while typing. And then I realize what someone reading this probably already knows; it’s not Guns N’ Roses at all, it’s Poison. To be fair, it’s still Bret Michaels. So then I google Bret Michaels, and realize his birthday is tomorrow, March 15. The Ides of March. He’s a Pisces. My baby will be 10 months old tomorrow. She was born on May 15. She’s a Taurus.
Dee Snider and Mark McGrath also have birthdays March 15. This feels significant.
Do you think Bret Michaels is always warding off the evil eye, or just doing your standard heavy metal hand gesture?
Shut the door baby, don’t say a word.
I make so that I can make more. I write so that I can write more. It’s all an experiment in coincidence. I submitted this to March Ensemble despite feelings of unworthiness. I scrolled through all the wonderful posts and listened to songs. I thought, “I am not an artist, I just like to write and make.” Regardless, I submitted. On the verge of 30 it’s time to take myself less seriously and lean into any creative path that excites me.
A Dream Woman may tell you you are unworthy, not pretty. Do not listen to the Dream Woman.
I dreamed about a bookstore of yours, for the second time. This time it was very different, but I was reminded of a dream I had years before. I was there, spying, or being a detective as you would say. You were out of town? I found myself in your bookstore, but then customers kept coming in, even though it was so tiny and I didn’t think it was actually successful. I assumed all the books inside were you and your boyfriend, now husband’s old books. I assumed you hadn’t bought any for the store. Anyway, an Amish family came in first and selected one book. When I opened the cover to check the price I found a long scrawling list in pencil, not your handwriting, nor your boyfriend’s. I was able, somehow, to decipher $6.78 as the price, and tax was shown to be $7.78. I kept trying to add these numbers on a calculator on the desk of the store. The calculator was broken, or some buttons weren’t working, or it was glitching. In my dream state I couldn’t really figure it out, but I was getting more and more stressed. I found another calculator on the desk and try that one, but it’s the same story. I realize I can add these on paper, and realize how much time I’ve wasted with calculators when I could have a total by now, but I’m ashamed of doing math slowly and having people watch me, so this feels arduous as well.
More customers come in, and my anxiety goes up further. Will you come back? What am I supposed to be doing in here anyway? Surely not helping these customers. I see a small brown enveloped with the words
Where the address should be. I’m confused and scared and curious. I pick it up and begin to open in, but there’s nothing inside. Instead, the envelope begins to fall apart and I realize it’s been pieced together by scraps of paper I have written on, but don’t remember writing on. Some of these scraps don’t even have my actual writing, just the indent of writing, like they’ve been taken out of a notebook with writing on the page before.
Then I’m in your apartment, and you’re there, too, and maybe your child as well? It’s a loft apartment, with large windows and cement floors. It’s decorated well, of course it is, it’s your apartment. There’s a large table with paper lanterns above, suggesting large parties or gatherings or some communal eating situation. A large staircase leads up and out and, I realize, directly into the hallway or entrance to the apartment building. I’m confused, as anyone can enter your space without going through a door or ringing a bell or using a key. You don’t seem bothered by this, and maybe that’s the strangest thing of all. I never knew you to be anything by highly anxious and on alert in the most mundane of circumstances.
There’s a beautiful runner up the staircase. Red, pink, and purple hues. I turn back and watch you ascend after me.
The most otherworldly show I’ve ever been to. I went alone. My hair was right below my chin and bleached blonde. It was so dark and steamy and surreal. The set was short and intense and he disappeared after. The lights came on and everyone dispersed in a daze, without speaking.
I walked back to the metro station alone and in the exciting chill of a spring night in Paris (just a bit warmer than Maine).
All stills taken from a video from YouTube. My hand can be seen in the bottom right of the last two shots.
When I was pregnant with my second daughter I painted our upstairs hallway. Initially I had started to wash the walls because I was in a nesting frenzy, and then decided to paint because I didn’t like the color anyway and it was in need of a revival. I had a warm white leftover from painting our entryway earlier in the spring. It’s also the same warm white of the baby’s room. Anyway, I’ve been needing another gallon of it but COVID hit, and I also just haven’t felt like I have the TIME to paint until now. But now I’ve changed my mind.
I’ve been so inspired by these two images lately (found on Pinterest). I love the idea of a dark hall opening into brightly colored rooms. My husband and I have a pink room, but I am thinking about repainting the baby and toddler’s rooms. Also I would love to paint the doors complimentary bright colors to each room. Not as fully bright as the yellow doors seen above, perhaps, I’m imagining more muted and warm, but we’ll see. Maybe it’s a day for picking paint chips and samples.
I also want to paint our downstairs floor, but that’s a bit more of a commitment time and energy wise.