South Kensington’s A War Zone

SOUTH KENSINGTON’S A WAR ZONE

Walking through South Kensington is like walking through a war zone. Rapid fire machine guns. Nail guns. Jackhammers. Industrial machinery. Tractor trailers beeping backwards. Dump trucks unfilling their refuse. Shouting so loudly the dust shakes off old concrete bricks and into a cloud of chaos. Eris rules supreme. The sound waves echoing off half-constructed shoddy plywood walls holding up these neo-futuristic monstrosities. Desolate warehouses collapsing under the severe pressure of the drum taps. Ash and smoke rising in the breeze from block to abandoned lot, where the bodies used to pile, now turned into yuppie condos.

Out west they are burning down whole forests, old redwood groves. Whole towns. The “carelessness” of the people in charge. A stray electric wire on a utility pole. Wonder what mini-mall they’ll build next in place of these historic sights.

Back east we’re building rich American Dreams for those who can’t dream on their own. The Manifest Destiny of filling every neighborhood corner and former urban garden and raw alley and even the cracks in the sidewalk with the travesty of supply and demand for a place where no one will know your name, even though you live right next to them, and there’s high black gates in front of every doorway in case someone gets the wrong impression seeking a neighbor.

How did I live through this as long as I did? With every step I step a little closer to this nervousness inside myself coming to the surface. Unconscious to it but feeling my heart racing nonetheless. This concrete jungle active and alive as whole neighborhoods are renovated to suit rich white folk interests from New York and the Jersey burbs squashing an identity that took decades, even generations to grow. Gentrification in a matter of moments.

Developers greedy rich with ideas for what they’ll call this “new” hood, sequestering google maps with murals and handmade road signs they hang from telephone poles, depicting a language of money.

One thing I forget until I return to Philly is the depression. What it feels like to have your hopes dashed in front of you by machines more powerful. Corruption and greed using the anarchy of bureaucracy against you. Creating new structures out of a world that you thought was shared. The exteriors built to crumble so the replacements aren’t even worth the amount of trauma they subjugate us with.

I find it interesting how as I cross over into Northern Liberties, an old hot bed for this type of displacement which has mostly settled down in recent years, except for the outer reaches, my mind and my heart come back into focus. I feel present with my surroundings. I experience the feeling of readjustment. Being one with the sun above.

I can actually hear myself think and the sound of my brother speak, telling a story he’s been saying all along but as we crossed into the war zone it became all jumbled, practically frantic, losing its focus, and becoming just more of the static as I try to make out his point but can’t even figure out what is happening in the present moment.

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South Kensington’s A War Zone

Poets For Peace in Taos

POETS FOR PEACE
Tour no. 4
Day 4 – Taos: recap
on the road with Julia Daye and Anthony Carson

[Read the article in Taos News here.]

To return to the high desert. A community we’ve all grown in. Surrounded by our peers of peace. The night is full of ceremony.

Rose petals made love to are passed around and everyone is instructed to hold them throughout the night channeling peace into those red rosy petals to be buried in the earth later like a seed. Then Alexandra Grajeda shared the prayers of her ancestors to help us to be present for the exchange.

Her words come out slow and graceful. The audience relaxes brought into a space of community.

The Poets For Peace have already shared various emotions in their previous events. Punk rage. The inner clown. This night the tears begin to flow.

As I read essays on my experiences at Standing Rock, I can feel chills stir in the audience and those chills then run up my spine stirring me until I am uncontrollably weeping at each sentence, reliving the experiences as I read them.

Julia and Anthony feel this too. We are all on extra edge. The power of the night causing us to pay special attention to the spells we cast.

At the end of the evening we sit in a circle and everyone exchanges their thoughts and prayers. Hearing the diversity of voices, seeing the diversity of faces, I can’t help but think of an image of Peace that was common when I was a kid. All the people of the world holding hands while dancing around the circumference of the planet.

We sit and exchange.
Everyone listens.
Again I am weeping.
Hearing so much purity of heart.
Hearing the talents of this wild place.
The room feels cathartic.
We are all in this together.
Finding our way.

Poets For Peace in Taos

Poets For Peace in Boulder

POETS FOR PEACE
Tour no. 4
Day 3 – Boulder: recap
on the road with Julia Daye and Anthony Carson

The night in Boulder ends at a pizza place. The table filled with poets old and new. Poets For Pizza. It’s the history of the town that puts this in context. Here we are, the Allen Ginsberg’s, Jack Kerouac’s, Neal Cassidy’s of our generation hovering around our slices of pizza like coffee mugs, discussing the politics of the day.

I look around at my peers and am in awe of the power of these individuals around me. Journeyers and dreamers. Wordsmiths and musicians. Voicing the concerns of the oppressed. Creating a more intersectional reality. Serving their community inwards and outwards.

Earlier there was a poetry reading at Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe, one of the only poetry-specific bookstores in the country. Full of beatnik and meta-beatnik flare, as well as so many other incredibly powerful voices.

The reading begins with the words of Jona Fine. Taking us back to the shooting at a night club in Orlando last year. The outcry of the LGBTQ+ community. The fear that beckons at our door again. The strength of those who have been through it before, coming together and raising each other up to face another day.

Matt Clifford follows. Honoring the inner clown. Espousing through satire, 2nd amendment laws and the way government polices us all. His truths that we all die, most of us relatively soon, are met with bursts of laughter. Jaws dropping. Turning over this bleak reality. And yet the joy inside a moment so fleeting.

More and more students and vagabonds begin marching in. Fellow peaceniks and curious townsfolk. Carrying signs and songs of the rêvelution. The room swells for the Poets For Peace.

It creates the space for two clowns and the voice of the mother earth to take to the microphone and shed applause and laughter on the atmosphere. The room evolving from poetry to vaudeville. The clowns laughing so hard, they’re not sure if others laugh with them, at them, or maybe are all silent, their own laughter being so loud it serves to seem like it’s everyone’s. The voice of the mother earth giving soothing, healing vibes with her groundedness.

A round robin of poetry from each one of them. Haikus that sing. Prayers to Mother Earth. Songs of enlightenment.

The one clown with a guitar makes faces that cause some clowns in the audience to burst out laughing. He says, “Oh, you like that? You like my face?” and continues with more eccentricity in his expressions and voice acting.

The voice of the mother earth blows wind into the two clowns’ fires. She speaks eloquently and passionately about the plague of toxic masculinity on her surface. On her terrestial body. It causes the clowns to settle down with their horseplay and focus on how they too are a part of the problem, but can also be part of the solution.

The other clown reads of the Hayukka. The Sacred Clowns of Lakota legend. He talks of direct action and nonviolent protest. Something of a skit like The Three Stooges that took place at Standing Rock, involving clowns in a canoe and police following along the shore in a professional golf cart.

The night almost lasts too long. But it’s just perfect. Short enough to be a dream. Long enough to leave everyone feeling complete.

To finish it off, one of the clowns pulls out a kaleidoscope and shares his psychedelic visions with the peaceniks who have amassed around him. One of them drops it and it shatters into a million pieces. Confetti for the breeze to take away into the infinite star dust above. When the clown picks it up and looks back through this kaleidoscope monacle, the vision is even more twisted and satisfying.

Everything in rainbows and ecstatic multi-colored light.

Poets For Peace in Boulder

A Visit to #TentCityATL

POETS FOR PEACE
Tour #2
Day 5 – Atlanta
photo by Heather Marie Laveau

On our last night of tour, as the Libra full moon rose over downtown Atlanta, Catherine Rush and I performed with the local leaders of #TentCityATL. It’s an occupation outside of the former Braves baseball stadium, which is being redeveloped by Georgia State University. The encampment is set up to protest the gentrification of the surrounding neighborhoods and make sure the Community Benefits Agreement agreed upon by thousands of members of the neighborhood is used for any future developments.

There was magic held in this moonlight to share words on the front lines in the urban center of a city, and call upon the bald eagles and many blessings I witnessed at Standing Rock to come here to this city of Atlantis. To hear the stories of neighbors and their experiences fighting the imperialistic war machine throughout their lives. To see community formed around a cause that will benefit the many, and take power away from the few.

This energy is rising. It has been for a while now. The floodgates have been released. In each city. In each neighborhood. In each residence. The people are coming together and fighting off the warmongers. Fighting off the profiteers. They’re fighting for the right to exist. They’re fighting for their identities. They’re fighting for PEACE.

One wisdom from the night shared by a sister activist and poet: “When we think of peace, we think of flowers. But, to get flowers you have to shake up the ground a little. You know, till the earth and such. To get peace, we’re going to have to shake things up a little. Overturn the ground. That’s how peace can grow.”

A Visit to #TentCityATL

“MAHWAH” MEANS “MEETING GROUND” IN LENNI LENAPE

A pleasant mist hangs in the trees. There are bright colored faces carved into the wood. Ancestors reaching through the bark to the present. Half asleep in their awakened stare.

We circle around the open fire as the Peace Walkers march in. Peace Walkers from Okinawa and elsewhere. Buddhist in Faith, but all of us connected in prayers for the Water.

We face the East and welcome the Sun. We face the West and watch it go. We face the North and welcome the Wind. As we turn South, Red-Tailed Hawk soars over us in a patch of sky between the trees.

I’m reminded of my time spent in Standing Rock, from the songs that are sung. From the drums that are played. Native flutes and sage smoke. Tobacco and prayer.

We stand near the water and hold it in our hand. Prayers of Love and Hope. We blow on these Prayers with our Breath and sprinkle them into the Ramapo River.

I watch as the Tobacco drifts downstream. It swirls with renewed energy. It feeds the Waters with Life. A Life to Protect.

“MAHWAH” MEANS “MEETING GROUND” IN LENNI LENAPE

Where The Wild People Live

The full moon rises. Another night of song and prayer. Howls echo into the night as mother moon reaches her maxim. Drums are the driving force. Fireworks burst in the night time sky.

All day there are chainsaws resounding across the camps. Groups of people chopping large woodpiles for their neighbors in preparation for the coming snows. Yurts and teepees going up filling every open space. 

Daily actions drive out in caravans to disrupt DAPL’s construction. Those that return tell stories of great strength and peaceful resolve through extreme conflict. Armed DAPL workers that pull out their guns and threaten the Water Protectors. National guard lined up in riot gear. Water Protectors being jailed in dog kennels. Twenty hours spent imprisoned by a police force that is utterly disorganized in their attempt to control the will of the people.

At sunset, my uncles strip down and dive into the freezing waters of Cannonball River. They shout, “In the spirit of Crazy Horse! In the spirit of Sitting Bull!” as they resurface. The river reflects the purple-orange of northern heavens.

A somber note is in the Hayukka Camp. Clowns feel as much sadness as everyone else, if not more. They feel it all, whatever it is. 

News that the pipeline is almost 100% complete in North Dakota has reached the front page of the Bismark Times. Everyone holds their breath that there will be a continued halt to construction as the Army Corps continues to not approve a permit for construction underneath the Missouri River.

The Bismark Times says the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners is going to go ahead with construction anyway. They can afford to pay the fines. They even offer to pay the $10 million in expenses that Morton County has incurred arresting everyone.

This is where this country is these days. The only penalties banks and corporations face are monetary, and they have so much amassed wealth no fine is too much to stop them.

Where are the People to hold these tyrants accountable? You think politicians have any control of these bullies? When are the People going to rise up and demand change?

Iceland is a small island. And yet after the financial collapse they had millions in the streets. Within weeks the bankers that caused the collapse were in jail. A new government was in place. Now they are one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, with the Pirate Party making gains each election in Parliament.

It doesn’t take much for social change. It takes the people trusting their own power. It takes getting rid of cynicism and despair. It takes warriors investing in their hearts.

Standing Rock is where these warriors are born. It is where the wild people live. The last people willing to take risks to save the water where all life comes from. It is a native movement that has encouraged others wanting to find their roots to dig in deep.

Communication is key here. The white way of talking has ruled this country for far too long. Man comes up and tells Other Man what to do. Other Man responds by arguing a better way of action. Both Men spend more time arguing than doing anything.

Here that doesn’t happen. Nightly, the conversation over the fire is about letting go of this old way of talking. Letting go of this toxic masculinity. Listening and showing respect.

Grandfather walks up to the Sacred Fire. The fire goes quiet to listen. Grandfather taps the fire with his staff and says, “This fire. These rocks. This river. These have been here. A long time. These people. We come here to learn the old ways. The ways of our relatives. The ways of this earth. This ground. These stars. The people come to the earth. They ask for her lessons. This is the way it was told. This is what we find here.”

The youth lead the charge. The elders are there with them. The clowns provide distractions to disrupt the Black Snake, so that the rest can continue to take action. The rest learn how to live without the Black Snake’s influence.

Two nights ago, I dreamt of the Black Snake. He had all my relatives entangled in his long winding scales. But he was not invincible. He was not indestructible. In the dream, I was close to defeating him. Another swipe of my sword and he would have fallen.

Life, unfortunately, is destructible. And we must protect it or fail ourselves.

Where The Wild People Live

Heart Warriors

Perhaps what I miss the most is being referred to as “Warrior”: 

“Warriors protect your sisters. Protect your aunts and grandmothers. Form a line to surround them in prayer. Hold the line, warriors!”

“Warriors form up. We’ll build a fire for the women’s sweat. A big fire. Be in prayer as you build this fire. Think of the women in your life. Think of the women you love. Hold them in your heart as you gather wood. Hold them there as you chop it. This whole ceremony is a prayer. After the fire is built, you’ll stand guard over your sisters. Make sure no one comes in to disrupt the ceremony. Make sure no one is gawking or taking photos. Make sure the women feel safe, so they can be in prayer. Make sure the fire is healing.”

“Warriors! Don’t leave anyone behind. You need to watch out for your elders. Make sure you offer them a hand to get back to safety. Your duty is to protect your elders. To protect your sisters. To protect the future generations. Warriors! Be strong! Protect life!”

My inner Aries, God of War, already feeling greatly encouraged with an ax in my hand, swinging at the logs, building camp fires, and living a rugged simple life, smiling to be referred to in this way, empowered by a culture of strength.

Though, one day, an elder revealed “The Warrior” in Lakota culture is not so much a person who goes out onto the battlefield, ensnared by a cycle of bloodshed, but instead is a person who is heavy with heart, feeling all things, and following the flow of life through their veins, protecting those around them, recognizing the sacredness of life and how the heart’s ability to love is the only way to restore balance, when darkness has overtaken the light.

It is this second definition of Warrior that I felt the strongest while camped out with fellow Water Protectors in North Dakota, defending the Sacred Waters of over 32 million people downstream, living off the land in a community strengthened by Love. There are plenty of days where the weight of my heart caused tears in my eyes. I would weep by the river I stood near to defend. Other days, I was overwhelmed by so much hope and love, my whole body glowed from the embrace of this inner warmth. Inside myself, I felt a peace of action. Doing right by my being.

Daily, I felt my Celtic origins coming to the surface. My Irish ancestry mystified by the land on which I lived to protect. Earth which lived to give a foundation to my community. A balance of Mother and Steward. My Pagan heart warming me through Grandmother Winter’s onset of cold, a lesson of humility, while Grandfather River flowed by increasingly charged by our prayers, to which an elder said: 

“We drink this water, DAPL drinks this water, the police drink this water. We are all drinking this water that we’ve put so much prayer into. Eventually, these waters will be so full of prayer, they will be unable to resist. The conflict will resolve itself. The people of this land will be healed. The scars on the Mother will be replaced by a harvest shared by all. A coming together of all people will be celebrated. Water is Life will be the refrain.” 

I met some of the bravest, most creative, inspiring, strong people during my time at Standing Rock. They came from all generations and backgrounds. Something pulled at their hearts and brought them there. Some traveling thousands of miles and across vast landscapes  and even oceans. Over 500 flags from over 500 indigenous nations displayed in the wind, proudly. These Water Protectors each from a long line of warriors, using their hearts to defend the sacredness of life.

This battle is ongoing. 

It will spread to each of our communities. 

Everywhere it spreads, be sure there will be Warriors there to carry Love in their Hearts. 

Enough Love to Protect Life.

No Spiritual Surrender.

Heart Warriors