This is the first poem I've started since I began to work on my novel eighteen months ago. Recent events have made it difficult for me to enter the fourth revision of my novel.
Today's writing is the beginning of a poem examining the bitter side of love that comes with loss. In this writing, the rules and structure of form (A1 b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 A2.), protected me from breaking the bough or the dam or whatever one needs to honor sadness with grace in this world.
My hope is that by writing into my sorrow, I offer a mirror through which others can reflect upon theirs and in that space, grace might find its way in.
The Futility of Waking
There will be grieving, there will be for some time
when the heart, bent and broken is trampled again
tumorous ending of beginnings, splintering and sublime
Scrambling for shards, we listen for the chime
Uncertain of all things, the who, why or when
There will be grieving, there will be for some time
From sunrise slog to teatime trudge, all will be climb
Every futile waking, every stroke of pen
tumorous ending of beginnings, splintering and sublime
All thing of beauty a venomous lime
When that whom you hold has broke from the bend
There will be grieving, there will be for some time
Nor howl of wolf, nor rooster crow, nor movement of mime
None will echo the melancholy which cannot be spoken
tumorous ending of beginnings, splintering and sublime
Death is a thief and theft is a crime
Woeful and sullen, we are left on the mend
There will be grieving, there will be for some time
tumorous ending of beginnings, splintering and sublime.
It's a gorgeous almost-Spring Sunday in Brooklyn, I'm in my favorite local coffee shop and although it's been decades since I wrote my college essays, I find myself in that same giddy space of wonder and optimism.
I should tell you, I also find myself in a place of slight procrastination. I should be working on a project proposal. Instead, I'm in deep inspiration as ideas are coming together in my magical mind. I'm distracted by a dream I keep having. It occupies my thoughts, invades my sleep and tickles that part of my psyche that makes me ask what if? why not?
It all started when I was confronted with this essay prompt:
Tell us about the world as you see it...
How often do we consider our world view? How often are we saying something, tweeting something or writing something when it strikes us: DANG! That's really good, I think that's my world view.
This is what's happening to me. This is what is distracting me. This THIS is growing inside me, and I like it. I think I will promote it soon from preoccupation to obsession. This THIS has beans at the core. What is this THIS, you ask?
There is an old way of thinking that sees a jar of beans and makes aggressive moves to take all the beans, as if the only beans possible are the same ones in the jar.
I don't know about you, but I reject this thinking. Sometimes ascribed to competitive edge, this thinking is small-minded. It assumes the only to be had are the ones that already exist in jars.
This thinking is rooted in the belief that the only way for anyone to win more beans is for someone else to lose their beans. It thinks nothing of making more beans or finding new ways to make new beans.
I say beans for everyone, beans all around!
Call this THIS what you like, I'm calling it my world view. And now I'm calling you.
Where do you see yourself in this world view of mine? Are you a bean-maker or a bean-taker? Do you live in the world that fights over the same-old, same-old few beans or do you live in the world of many, new, more beans?
When I say to you: BEANS FOR ALL!
...do you flinch?
...do you weep for the beans you fear you will lose?
Do you light up inside, mind spinning as you ponder new beans, new bean-making ideas and new bean-based concoctions?
(I realize it's been a while, and I hope you're ready because I am coming back with a whopper of a proposition!)
There's something about the phrase giving back that does not sit well with me. And rather than go the way of the easier harrumph response, I've taken time to sit in a space of discomfort to better understand what it is that bothers me about giving back.
What I've come to is that it isn't the giving part that troubles me, it's that to give back is predicated upon having received, accumulated or amassed from the system or society to which you are returning a favor. Inherently, the notion suggests a sort of classism and privilege in which the giver has been given more, and as such is better than, perhaps more than the receiver who presumably having less than, is also less than.
I know, I know. Sometimes we're up and sometimes we're down. But does this mean when we're down, we aren't in a position to give time, space, thought, affection, generosity? How about advocating simply giving – a genuine generosity and commitment to doing for each other? How about taking the back out of giving back and giving it back to the privilege mongers who started it in the first place?
When one of is not equal, none of us are equal. It's as simple and profound as that. The sooner as we shake off this inequality haze that encourages lame notions of privilege and classism, the sooner we can get on with the business of true rich living, with compassion, creativity, rich spirit and progress. Until then, we remain in versions of a sandbox that limit everyone.
Lately it has been impossible to ignore these battles of certainty, these clashes of truths. How can I ignore the clanging of that certain type of male; who believes so strongly in the truths he holds about whether or not a woman has the right to make her own decisions about her own body? How can I possibly shut out the trill condemning in pure ignorant certainty all other religions except its own?
How paradoxical that something as absolute as the truth seems so very slippery in these times.
Here I stand, all at once unwavering in certain truths and evolving in others. What does this say about me? What does this say about the truth?
So, here's some truth telling.
Truths about me run on a spectrum. There are things that no one will doubt to be true about me: that I a generous collaborator, a staunch advocate for fairness and a fiercely loyal friend. One the opposite end, there are things that even my closest circle might find hard to believe about me. Somber things, like the fact that I am affective and empathetic to such depths that I cannot enter war museums without absorbing such deep sorrow it sometimes takes me days to recover. And somewhere in the middle would be things that might split the camp. Some of these truths are loaded with whimsy, like the fact that seeing a first star will still send me giddily into "star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, wish I may, wish I might have the wish I wish tonight" and a deeply-felt-eyes-tight-breath-held wish.
I am co-licensee and head of programming for TEDxNewYorkSalon.
In curating our salon for September 26th I invited our community into this paradoxical exploration. I extend this invitation to you. As we think about the truth, and as we think about the truths we hold dear about ourselves I share with you with two provocative TED talks and this inquiry into your truth:
As I had anticipated, the delayed Denver-Tokyo flight resulted in my missing the connection to Manila. The night before, I had already been alerted with an email from United Airlines letting me know that my flight scheduled the next day was delayed. They had not counted on a four-hour delay and the collateral damage on most of us on the plane. Sensibly, the airline arranged a hotel room 15 minutes from the airport and included 'meal vouchers' as compensation for their scheduling kerfuffle.
Of course I was annoyed, sleepless and inconvenienced. But listening to the stories of the others who were also inconvenienced, how simple things like having the foresight to set up an international text and roaming plan, an iPad that charges and plugs into standard hotel outlets, not having to constantly count the pennies to see of I can afford a liter of water or just 8 ounces... It grounded me, not to make light of my own inconvenience but just for the broader perspective. Mostly we are all doing the best we can.
One American man didn't have the ability to reach his Filipina wife by text or email, instead needing an old school phone calling card and pay phone. One Chinese woman had the exhaustion of two tired kids to manage on top of her own as they figured out the best way to Beijjng. An elderly Vietnamese couple who spoke only their native tongue leaned on the kindness of other passengers and our charade-hand signaling skills to let them know what was happening.
And of course, the irony of ironies. Pictured here is the meal this hotel felt was what displaced American travelers needed from one night in Tokyo. Yes, Virginia, it is a hamburger meal
Here's an interesting line of examination.
If you call me friend, can you bear my glow? Can you stand it when I am luminous? Does your light dance with mine in holy shine and shimmer? Or do you feel blinded, throw shade and wither the vine of all that is divine?
Over the weekend, I was watching the World Cup with my girls, my Brooklyn inner circle when I opened a phrase with "and I fully acknowledge that I can be naive and too generous with people sometimes..." when my girl Syreeta gave me the realest real talk. She said, "Listen, I warned you about (insert name here) from the very start."
And she was right.
And so in the bright warmth of this 2014 summer, guided by the light and apparently the stars I promise to be most true to my own light. If you want to be my friend, you better be ready for all of the lights 'cos baby, it's all bright-blazing-bold from here.
I have found the solution to the proverbial "juggling of too many hats." I decided I needed a bigger head. And this is exactly what happened - I got me a bigger head. And now all these hats fit wonderfully on my head as I flow in and out of poetry, conversation, discovery, exploration, brunch, provocation, observation, culinary experimentation, crock pot concoction, coffee consumption, bubbly beverage indulgence, inspiration, locomotion, moon bathing, stargazing, social connection, books and diversion, people watching, future-scaping, rebel rousing, pot-stirring, match making, sun saluting, hug giving, shade throwing, World Cup Viewing, feministing, humanitarianisting, collaborating, facilitating, fund raising, wish-making, day dreaming, blog posting, retweeting, park walking, sun workshopping, ideating, creating, living and living and living.
This big head is a very very good thing. Perhaps this makes me an egghead? A happy egghead. A happy dictator-overthrowing egghead. A happy open-mic reading egghead. A happy salon programming egghead. A happy persuasive egghead whose strategic approach has had a Philippine president gagging to wear a T-shirt declaring "they call me Shorty" (she is barely five feet tall...) A happy future-focused egghead whose big idea in the Philippines traveled the developing world and found its way to the US ten years later.
A happy collaborationista egghead who sees a jar of beans and doesn't need to take all of them for herself, instead saying "beans for all." A happy bean-making bean-sharing egghead. A happy American born Spanish-Filipino egghead. A happy global egghead who has lived and worked in four continents. A happy multi-ethnic, multicultural multilingual egghead. A happy Brooklyn based egghead ready for all of it.
Come, fellow eggheads. Come and call me. Let's talk talk talk. Let's go make some beans.
Do you sometimes feel like the minutes tick by, get away or even disappear? I know there is more than one app to overcome this, but I have gone totally old school and assigned myself my very own Chief Prpductivity Officer.
Meet Ms. Petunia.
She has been working wonders, for me and the colleagues I've been working with for these past two weeks.
The simple and profound truth that all this confirms is that by holding myself accountable for my time, my energy and how these play into the way I work I am find myself energized and feeling quite productive. I think Ms. Petunia agrees with me.
I've never really been into Valentine's Day, the commercialization of it has always bored me. This year, when my collaborator Mia Dahlmer asked me this:
I was prompted to contemplate this celebrated day, and I got to thinking about the push-pull of the romanticism of love.
Popular culture likes to focus on the lollipops and roses when thinking about love, but I often think about the darker side of love. Love is not kind– it tests you. Love puts a mirror right in front of you and forces you to stare your most unloveable parts - so you see yourself, so you grow, so that by loving another you learn to love yourself better. Love is not patient, it roars with urgency. It wants your attention. NOW. Love is not gentle. It sweeps you off your feet and takes your breath away. And therein lies the magic, the duende, the source of every love song, the pulse of the dance. And everyone who knows me knows I LOVE to dance
I also love to write poetry.
In my writing, I am working on slowing down and taking my time with my poetry, and I am loving it. I am a prolific writer, and the poems can come quickly to me. Lately, I've been inspired by the amazing Ross Gay, who at a recent reading at the louderARTS Project spoke about how he gives a poem time and space. He talked about the importance of staying with a poem until it almost turns on you, and in doing this, transforms you. I have been working on a poem called After The Wild Beasts Slumber and I am really taking my time with it, not taking any word or nuance for granted. In fact, I just made a subtle but significant revision to it yesterday.
Because life and art weave in and out of one another, my family back home are at our vacation spot in the mountains where I first I learned to ride a horse. This is also the place where I found fire. May the year of the horse bring you fire!
I catch a glint
in your eye that
as if to challenge.
This is how I know it.
You’re the one.
All dark brown stunning,
and proud stance.
Today there was
only you. Tomorrow
today, I ride.
I am eleven years old.
I motion to you
with a slight
then mount you.
held in my left hand,
in right, I click
tongue to inner
cheek, get up
on my haunches
with my right shoe
and we are off.
We are beautiful
brown hair blowing
in the wind,
gallop, we are
of brute force
and balletic gait.
We are break
away from the trail,
we are abandon.
We are thrill and
my girl gasps
and your beastly
breath. We are mist
on this cool summer
morning. We are
Not the skinny
trail, not the
our right, not
of the pack we’ve
left behind. Not
the cloud of
dust, not the
other on our
tail. Not even
can catch our skins.
can touch me,
Only I can
On this ride,
on a trail called
I found fire.
I have the great fortune of serving as organizer and programming director for TEDxNewYorkSalon. We are a thriving community that has met almost week since 2009 for thought-provoking conversation and reflection. Last week, we kicked off our 2014 season with a salon I facilitated. Unlike most other TEDx programs which host larger conferences, our community is all about creating and cultivating a safe space for thinkers, doers and change agents to have the harder, more intimate and provocative conversations. No two Fridays are ever the same, and the experience remains a wonderful way for me to shift into weekend mode.
We had such a magical salon on Friday that I HAD TO write about it here. Boyd Varty speaking from the heart to remind us all about the collective and the core South African value of Ubuntu set the tone.
Ubuntu. I am because you are.
Together we reflected upon what each of us hungers for in 2014. As a community, we held a space for everyone's hunger as we launched into the new season and the new year fired up by our highest ideals, by our deepest hopes for ourselves and each other. Still in this spirit, still in this space of connectedness I offer to you this promise:
I am because you are. I hunger because you hunger.
When we stand in our best light. our deepest desires have the power to propel us forward. As we stand in this space between the calendar new year and the lunar new year, let us be inspired by our highest ideals and deepest hopes.
May the 2014 and the year of the Wooden Horse bring us all closer to our aspirations.
Just when I had grown weary of heavy-handed, badly written pedestrian ways of the advertising world… just when I had lost almost all faith…this happened
And just like that, I am madly in crush again!
Oh Apple, you owner of my tech heart. You've done it again. You've taken divergent things we all love into a remix that makes us all want to write poetry and join the dance of life and living.
Thank you for borrowing the genius of Dead Poets Society's Tom Schulman's writing and the power of Robin Williams' voice to tug at my heart strings and light my fire around brands and ads and all that is possible in this world of ideas.
We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?
Inevitably the apple and the tree mirror one another if we've played our parts well.
For someone who has written for as long as I can remember, I have not been able to write a poem solely centered on my mother. The impossible task of reconstructing then reconstructing my mother became feasible one May evening when I confessed to my girl, Lynne Procope this simple truth. To which she rightly replied "well isn't that the perfect place to start? And of course it happened in Brooklyn, in a restaurant called Alice Arbor, at tea time like Alice - a tradition started when Mama first introduced me to Alice and her looking glass.
Tea Time Like Alice
Alice’s Arbor, Brooklyn July 2013
My mother does not have
soft hands, does not own an
apron. Does not temper her words.
Not made like that, we
are made of micro minis
and straight As. Hard working
hands and words clear as crystal.
My mother was not built to
obey, was not built to submit.
Questioning, always questioning.
Never feeding the answer. Never
coddling, always trusting.
“Look it up.” or “What do you think
it means?” or “How do you want
to resolve this?” She does not
have a green thumb, my mother.
Not the light of our home, she was
the fire. The weapon-wielding
shorty-short wearing warrior
who raged through a bus at
rush hour to confront the driver
who had cut-off our car and hold him
accountable for his almost
murder of her family.
My mother does not make
hot tsokolaté and pan de sal to
ease my pain. Not made
like that, we are made of tea
time like Alice and riddles without
answers. Rabbit holes leading to
rabbit holes. She did not hide things,
did not make things pretty. Wanted me
to see. Wanted me to know.
Took me to my own limits
so that I and I alone would say
how far was far enough.
Not made of modest things,
my mother was no brassieres
and the highest hemlines.
She showed me that the female
form was a celebration of
all things alive and beautiful.
She did not hide her skin,
never apologizing for who she
was. Brown woman in a weary
land the white man ravaged again
and again. She is no one else’s
possession but her own.
My mother is not made of obedient
parts. Never acquiescing, not
to the nuns or the priests in the
schools she went to. Not to the
negotiators who would talk down
to the Filipino teachers union.
Not to my Spanish father who would
have us and our raised fists safely home
during the Martial Law protests.
She was always subversive
and she did not even know it. How
could she, what with all that fight?
Not made of meek things, my mother
will not apologize for what
she knows, And oh she knows
things. Brilliant woman, teacher
of young minds and the teachers
who would follow in the service
of learning. “My kids.” She called them.
My mother was everybody’s mother.
Everybody’s teacher. She was never
mine, but oh how I hold her, as she holds me.
High as the moon, countless as the stars
at tea time, which is to say, always.
Über got this one so right. It totally understands every New Yorkers shopping-then-schlep struggle, and solves this problem with a wink and a smile. And as if this wasn't cool enough, when I hit them up on twitter, they totally went there with me.
To this I say, well done. Very well done, Über. That is oh so very High Fidelity!
PS - you now have me SERIOUSLY considering a tree. I am ALMOST there.
So, this found its way to my inbox this morning.
And at first, it made me sad. But now it just makes me mad. What a MASSIVE CRM fail for a brand that claims to be all about clout and influence.
All I can think is, "that's so LOW FIDELITY." And who has time for LoFi? Aren't we all tired of the noise and static of high-pitched, attention-seeking tactics that give marketing a bad name?
It's easy to stay silent in the midst of the endless assault of all these small-minded, poorly executed tactics. But those days are over. I am a brand fanatic, and I believe that, when done right, marketing can be engaging, entertaining and at its best, has the power to shift conversations in a good way.
Silent no more, I'm gonna start calling out all things LoFi and stand with High Fidelity. And I'm starting right here - right now.
Dear Klout: That's so Low Fidelity.
I have never had to consider my breasts as much as I do now that I live in New York. Never before did I have to stop and reconsider the socio - political implications of my breasts and their presence. This is something I was not prepared for, after all this is the land from whence such bosomic (bosomal?) range covers burning the bra and the Victoria's Secret fashion show. How would I ever come to expect that these breastal celebrations were approached with a double standard, primarily protected by women who call themselves feminists.
It seems America has a problem with my breasts, and I take great offense at this. We'll have you know, we are quite a formidable team. My breasts and I have forged into hostile boardrooms of anglo expat males in Asia who needed ME to convince THEM that I was the expert on Asian women's motivations in the beauty business and not them. My breasts and I have dealt with female health issues which most likely impede my ability to bear children or nurse my own offspring. Flanked by fellow women warriors and their breasts, my breasts and I have ousted a dictator to install a female president. We have conquered male dominated corporate scenarios, have built a successful career that traverses three continents, and have made it in the mythical city where, if you make it there chances are you will make it anywhere.
I am not alone, either. America has a problem with your breasts, too. Yes, you with your tetas, pecho, your suso, du sein, matiti. What else would explain the way women in America scoff at the sight of another woman breastfeeding in public? Or America's antagonistic relationship with your nipples, when they have the gall to show through your clothes? Or their condescending attitude towards cleavage, as if its mere presence ruins all chances that people would take seriously any woman in proud possession of such.
Well, my bosom and I will no longer take this nonsense. We will no longer silently bear your judgment or coddle you through your bosom hang-ups. We will stand proud and strong, all supple and fleshy as the female design. With confident swagger and sensuality, we celebrate fellow warrior women and remember those lost to diseases that attack our woman parts. With eloquent grace, we will speak with authority and will be taken seriously even by those we make uncomfortable.
Breasts of America and the women who bear them, we come in peace. We love our breasts and love yours too. One day we will shimmy together in unity. But until then, we will have to agree to disagree.
Just because you have issues with your breasts doesn't mean I am going to start developing issues with mine.
* This post originally appeared in my other blog during one iteration of the so-called 'War on Women' in December 2010. Unfortunately for me, my breasts and yours, the war goes on and the sentiment remains relevant three years later.
A couple of summers ago, my girl MJ and I were walking to brunch when we were met with the greeting of an elderly: "Good morning! Don't you ladies look lovely today?" To which I replied, "Thank you, sir." She looked at me, rathe puzzled, and I simply said: "Sometimes it actually is a compliment."
A week later, we were having dinner and she told me that she had since taken a similar approach of acknowledging when men give her compliments. She also told me that she noticed two shifts: One in her perception of the situation and another in how she held her body in these circumstances. By meeting the person where he was, she was able to neutralize any anxiety she might have otherwise experienced.
More recently, the song of the summer was 'Blurred Lines' and conversations about personal responsibility have been in the ether. All this prompts questions on when a compliment stopped being just a compliment and it when the day-after reality checks that stem from the previous night's new experiences become someone else's doing.
When I turned 40 I got inked in a two-part tattoo, right through my heart. The front part of the tattoo sits in the cleavage region and I can control when I show by it what I wear. It is beautiful body art. When the front part is in plain sight it almost always comes up in conversation, and I am always happy to tell the story behind the art I wear through my heart. How I took the Spanish word "Si" and wrote it through my heart, constant reminder to say 'yes.' How the verbal in Spanish dances with the visual in Filipino, just like the ethnicities of my bloodline.
I am proud of this body that has held me. I try my best to hold myself with feminine grace and dignity. I recognize that I am able to make choices about my body because of women and allies who fought the good fight before me. I am also aware that the easy confidence with which I hold my body is sometimes misunderstood as it doesn't quite translate in other cultures or contexts.
Sure, I cannot control how people see me and my body, or the impressions they form about either. However, I do take full responsibility for how I hold myself, the choices I make with my body and the aftermath that sometimes results when said choices are of the questionable kind. A killer hang-over from that one-for-the-road that was one too many? That's on me. A sore knee resulting from the combo of five-inch heels and all-night dance party? Yep, also on me.
Choices relating to sexual activity aren't excluded from this notion of personal responsibility. I am hearing stories of one person's shame or regret about a previous night's exploits getting projected as another person's responsibility. This blurring of narratives creates a dangerously gray area in discussions of personal responsibility and consent. This troubles me. A lot. There is nothing retroactive about consent. Permission given cannot be taken back after the fact. Doing this undermines the importance of consent in its entirety.
As I thought about this more, I came to suspect that what is really happening is less about consent and more about shame. It is less about what women truly want for ourselves and more about how stifled we feel in the confines that the culture imposes upon us. Society continues trying to shame women for our bodies and our sexuality. Conservatives are steadfast in their campaign to control our bodies and limit the choices we can make regarding our bodies.
If there is an enemy, it is that constriction. It is that imposition. If there is a place to point the finger, it's towards the insidious way the patriarchy turns us against ourselves. That is the fight right there. Let's fight that fight. The one in which society shames women for how we experience and learn our own bodies. The one in which conservatives guilt us into regretting how we hold our bodies. The one in which the establishment pretends to celebrate our choices then moralizes us into regretting what we chose. Let's unblur those lines.
I don't recall ever consenting to any of that, do you?
- New York born Tish Vallés is of Spanish-Filipino descent.
- She is a lunatic and a chocoholic, loving the moon and chocolate almost as much as the sunset.
- Her experience in strategy and marketing covers the gamut of qualitative research design and facilitation, brand strategy, communications and innovation pipeline development.
- Tish speaks three languages fluently, is conversant in Spanish and taxi-conversant in five Asian languages and two European languages.
- She is a poet and blogger, and she's on twitter.
- A self-described ‘Accidental American,’ Tish came to live in New York for the first time as an adult in 2007 where she now lives with her nomadic partner Navé, their art, their books and their quirks. They divide their time between their heart homes of Brooklyn, Taos, Paris, Asheville and Manila.
- She belongs to The louderARTS Project poetry and writing community and reads at their Monday night reading series at Bar 13 NYC. She is also on the organizing team of TEDxNewYork, New York's city's longest running TEDx event and the only one that hosts weekly salons.
- She is also a social entrepreneur, having co-founded the Women’s Worldwide Web, a breakthrough platform that harnesses the power digital space to empower women and their families around the world.
- Tish is crazy about her two nephews Gael & Aiden. Being their tita (aunt) is one of her life's biggest joys.
- Tish has been known to take brunch quite seriously at the weekend> This is a habit which began with long, boozy, lingering Sunday lunches at her Nana's house and one she has refined across five global cities she's lived in and the many cities she's visited.