5thEarth calls forth the 7 back and 7 forward:
i am sitting across from a 64 year old man who is 60 days out, after 46 years in prison.
he is taking me to just before the sentence.
he is showing me anger; he is being abandoned by family over and over again, invaded by promises of violence to his body and his life; by drug, bullet, prison, poverty, miseducation; this is the psychotic fragmented living, governed by the short and twisted chain of the new design for american chattel slavery.
systemic and acute disabling, is an attack on him and all of us,
there is a constant excruciating dissonance;
the promise of, and the exclusion from this flaunted american dream is to be the projective lens for our nightmare.
in anger he is crying for justice.
he is unfathomably hurt; the pain in his life is an electric fence, he’s trapped behind it. he needs something to feed anger; anger is the closest to empowerment he can come right now. he learns masterfully, to draw it from others; this devastating empire is not within reach, so it has to be those close to him, and those who can’t control the consequences any more than he.
there are so many consequences to contend with.
so much of him demanding justice.
i am behind bars now too.
rage wells, grief rocks my tightened body, i notice how afraid i have always been of the promise of this prison, and this violence. this man sits with warmth, wisdom, and tears welling in his gaze. slowly, together, we walk through flashes of the first twenty years inside.
i am also in my first twenty years.
we fight everything.
our resistance to this prison is our dignity.
“fuck you” means “i will not give in”.
when we push against our walls they push back.
or sometimes they fall
the pushing back and forth is what makes them fall.
31 years my senior,
calls me from fresh rubble
into the sanctuary he has somehow made amongst concrete built like slave ships.
as if by magic;
there is a fire and a stream
and the concrete feels like mud and stone
and i can smell the ocean.
somehow there are trees and flowers,
singing in their breathing.
a flower bud drops from above him, he catches it, and passes it to me.
i am holding a ripe bud in my hand
it is blossoming
as am i.
there are other people here, and animals, and creatures i don’t have names for, and the stars and galaxies, and all of time; there are trillions of songs all brilliantly mixed together moving the ethers into harmonious pulse. all of us living in our respective sanctuaries, somehow coexisting here in this baba’s cell in a state prison.
we must find, and then tend the heart of our inner sanctuary for it to flourish.
in the heart is the seed, in the seed is the whole,
the beginnings and endings, and the infinite.
we tend together while we tend ourselves, our relations, and our lives
with whomever else is tending.
wherever we are, they are,
we are never alone.
he turns to me firmly, in subtle unison with everyone here, and says, “listen, i started to get my life back when i finally said to myself, i am not going to take down the entire white supremest, patriarchal, homophobic, narcissistic, exploitative, capitalistic, militaristic, punitive system, today.”
he can hear my resistance to a notion even as humorous and reasonable as this,
it does not feel like an un reasonable demand in my soul
he is not asking what my warriors are demanding no one ever ask.
something flickers through the room,
he says, “It doesn’t mean i don’t know better better come. it doesn’t mean i don’t practice embodying the sensations of the world i need for something like a fully functioning dignity. this does not mean i don’t do my work; this means in order to do my work, i can’t be waiting for the entire premise my life is built on to change; our power doesn’t live in some fantasy of what we deserve or what we remember.”
he takes me by the shoulder with strong and humbled hands,
we flash through tormented days and nights, each of us at war with acknowledgement, forgiveness, acceptance, and what real justice could possibly be.
we watch ourselves break as we deconstruct and balance our inflamed inner lives.
we are delivered to pivotal moments of devastation and awakening to recollect ourselves;
6 or 7 years old
14, 18, 38, 64, 83
we are in different bodies, different colors and genders, and species; other selves, in different worlds with different agreements.
we fall through every possible manifestation of creation into our bodies, into this miraculous room of requirement, this sanctuary, moving through overlapping mazes of insight, and creativity.
we welcome our many selves, detangling the double dutch ropes, two fifths of our humanity; embracing freely in a prison cell.
we invite our selves through the doors to our sanctuary, the free territory we’ve found and built,
laughing at this magic;
walls we may not be able to knock down now,
when transparent to consciousness,
do not exist where we do.
he chuckles, amused at the sweetness of the distance between what he thought he knew and what he lives now. he says, “when i first found this sanctuary, all of a sudden certain people started treating me accordingly; guards started smiling and asking me how i was, fellas started asking for advice, it even seemed like the birds in the yard sang louder, shit sometimes they winked at me! i joined every group i could, and folks came out the wood works; folks i didn’t know, saying they’d been watching me, and that basically they were touched and inspired. you know sometimes it felt like cats could smell it on me, like it was a threat to them, but things didn’t get to me in the same way. i could always come back to to my commitment to myself, and beauty. learning what i wanted to, was eating up what anger used to feed on, and an innocence returned. it wasn’t anger that needed power anymore, i had the power i needed for what i needed to do, i loved the power i had, and by nurturing this life force growing in me, while i let it nurture me too, we grew together into something much bigger.”
“you don’t gotta change the world young blood, bring this place here where ever you go, and see what happens”.
i am driving home from google tech corners where we recorded the interviews, to the barn shed in north oakland i live in; a creative solution to a housing market cannonballed by google and the san francisco bay tech gold rush.
i am 1 month after that precious interview.
i am digesting a month of tantrum, depression, pain, rage
housing and financial trouble,
big dreams manifesting, and still somehow just out of reach.
music, poetry, and insight pouring through me,
and that sanctuary making a home in me.
i am digesting and preparing to mix music and dharma practices with these stories so generously shared.
i am in conversation with the thousands of young men in prisons across the country who have called for this.
and the millions who live it.
the baba and i have kept in touch, only a little and only by text
there’s so much to adjust to,
society doesn’t pay you well and makes you pay so much
and especially after they put you in prison
he’s celebrating fresh air, long walks, and grandkids, and a wife.
he’s bringing his sanctuary home.
i am finding shock from my journeys with the baba,
many areas in my electric fence scrambled.
there are warriors in me confused at the preposterous notion of accepting any real peace behind enemy lines.
terrified that putting the energy used in fighting, into more vulnerably loving, will leave us susceptible to the inevitable attack.
the 5th earth brings me this,
a journey through my own experience, a synthesis of the many stories shared that day, and where they took me, what i said to myself in what the brothers said to us.
beautiful shattered, beveled, stained glass mirrors
shinning on the art work of my own grapplings and liberations.
i am sitting and wrestling with a loving empowered surrender and acceptance and a loving vigilance determined to end my peoples suffering,
these friends only sometimes speak in a language i understand,
we are learning how to fight well,
we make a lot of music, and a lot of love.
for the 7 back and 7 forward