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Adult StoryTime during Safer at Home Orders

Dear Humans,

I’m sorry that the world is scary and uncertain and overwhelming right now. It’s also connected and caring.  I’m in awe of the number of folks I know personally who have, with everything else going on, offered to make art and read stories to our children.  It’s incredible. Isn’t that what we all need right now?  For someone else to pick their favorite books, snuggle us up, and read to us?  That’s what we’re going to do here.  From some cozy place in my house, wearing pajamas, doing my best to not shrink at my dyslexia and my own inability to sit still for too long right now, and with occasional background meows, I’m going to read to you.  I’m so grateful to these artists for their words.  I’m so grateful that you’re here.

Love,

Nik

Listen and Read Here

Poems de amor/Love Poems

Today is the day my partner and I recognize the magical beginning of our connection.  Yesterday we celebrated by marveling and sweating in a botanical garden and stuffing ourselves full of delicious Mediterranean food.  On the drive there she fed me my favorite cheesecake for breakfast.  And then we returned home to read each other poems  (Andrea Gibson) in a shared bubble bath, next to this portable fireplace we bought to make life just a little sweeter and a littler warmer.  Yes, these are our lives.  And not just on special occasions.  Or at least a fraction of our lives.   

All this follows having facilitated a Valentine’s Day Date Poetry Workshop on Friday, in which she wrote me her first love poem and then read it in front of the group, which is maybe the most beautiful gift ever.  

Curled in bed last night we decided to stop forgetting to do things we love.  And then, as life often needs, revised it to: Let’s stop getting too exhausted to do the things we love.  

Being by her side and sharing life with her is worth celebrating, annually and daily.  Especially because we all know no one’s life is all cheesecakes and love poems.  And so, I offer you all this love poem and drawing that I gifted her for Christmas.  Because if now isn’t the time for us all to be sharing love poems with each other, there will never be a time.  

Note: Neither of us look like this, I’m a writer of pictures, not a drawer of them.  But both of us snore like this.  

Para mi sueño: Te quiero.  MUCHO.  Todos los muchos.  Saludos a nosotr@s! May we grow more caring next to each other this year.  xo

 

The poem in the picture, first in Spanish and then in English: 

Mientras roncas

Algunas noches empiezo a 

escribirte poemas de amor mientras duermes

Intento hacer rimas 

que coincidan con el ritmo de tus ronquidos

Pero lo único que he encontrado que coincide 

con tu ritmo es el latido de mi corazón.

Entonces dejé mi lápiz

Olvida mis palabras

Y escucha la magia–

envuelto en ti

enredado en mí.



While you snore 

Some nights I start to 

write you love poems while you sleep

I try to make rhymes 

that match the rhythm of your snores 

But the only thing I’ve found that matches 

the rhythm of you is my heartbeat— 

So I set down my pencil

Forget my words 

And listen to the magic–

wrapped up in you

tangled up in me. 

 

 

What is race? – Part 1

What is race? – Part 1

What is race? – Part 1
— Read on youngpeopleinsight.com/2019/10/25/what-is-race-part-1/

My Latina Girlfriend’s White Ass: Building Shared Understanding and Definitions

Before we move further into our discussion, it’s important that we’re on the same page about some definitions.  Especially because the way demographic information is collected in the U.S. further confuses our understandings of race, ethnicity, and other complex human identities.  So does migration.

atlas close up dark dirty

Photo by Aaditya Arora on Pexels.com

Hispanic: This means of or relating to Spain.  Which is also to say, this means Spain or colonized by Spain.  When referring to a person, it means that they speak Spanish as their primary (but maybe not Native) language.  It’s most commonly used to describe anyone in the U.S. who learned to speak Spanish before, or at the same time as, English. Folks tend to use Hispanic and Latino interchangeably, but they mean quite different things.  You’ll find Hispanic listed as an ethnicity on most the U.S. forms of your life.

Latino: Latino, as patrilineal and patriarchal cultures do, is used to mean everyone, regardless of gender, from Latin America, but it technically means men from Latin America.  The label Latino identifies folks beyond national identity as someone who’s ancestors a) were colonized by Spaniards between the 15th and 18th centuries, b) are descendants of Spanish colonial-settlers, and most commonly c) a combination of a & b.

Latina: The feminine version of Latino.  Never used as a universal term to include everyone from Latin America.  But I’m down to start using it that way, if you want to.

Latinx: A gender neutral alternative to the Latino/Latina dichotomy.  The @ symbol can also be used for gender neutral language: Latin@.  It’s a bit binary, but it will do.  Some Spanish speaking folx, even queer ones, resist these contemporary evolutions as colonial.    Which is interesting, given that Spanish is a colonial language and that most often these folks are primarily of Spanish colonial-settler descent.  But these systems are built to be confusing as fuck.  When Latinx is resisted, it tends to be resisted most commonly by Hispanic and Latinx immigrants to the U.S. with strong colonial ancestry.

A fun comic that helps to explain the difference between Hispanic and Latinx. 

Latin America: This refers to the the collective regions of North, Central, and South America colonized by Spain.  It includes the areas of land we now refer to as: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana (sorta), Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

American: What folks from the U.S. say to refer to things made and born in the U.S. What folks from the UK say to mean not as good as the UK.  What the rest of the world uses to refer to things and beings from two whole continents named America.

Fun Fact: It’s only in North America that we learn that these are two separate continents.  In South America, South and North America are considered one single continent.  I know, I know.  But we have each other.  

 

And it’s a good thing we do:

Race: Well, this one is a doozy.  It’s generally used when we’re referring to the shade of a person’s skin color.  It’s meant, much like Latinx, to group individuals.  This time based on specific shared biological components.  (Though the range of biological differences within a race is actually much more vast than between races, making it more accurate as an additional social and cultural identifier).  It’s a tool to control humans that is sometimes reclaimed as a tool to empower humans.  We’ll find other blogs, written by folks with different experiences than mine, to learn more about race together.  For now, we’re going to follow our societal instincts and simplify a very complex set of concepts.  We’ll consider race as the 5 categories required by the U.S. Census: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.  (Isn’t it weird that we alphabetize nearly everything in the world except this list? Hmmm…) There is the alternative option of “other” which tends to be symbolic for the beginning of an awakening in the humans in charge of PAPERWORK.  And occasionally there is “multiple races”, which is not an occasional occurrence.

So, someone, from any region in the world, from any country in the world, can belong to the following races: Asian, Black, Indigenous, White, and Kānaka maoli.  And after you realize that the U.S. Census is super-general until it gets real specific about the Indigenous groups it’s settler-colonized most recently, we are left with:

Asian     Black     Indigenous    White

And folks of these races can and do live across the entire globe.

This means there are even white supremacist, border-loving, anti-Black, anti-migrant and refugee, folks regularly born in countries like Venezuela.

Generations upon generations of them.

 

And then sometimes, these very same folks, migrate to the U.S.

And become interested in (Im)migrant Rights.

 

 

Now you’re wondering if my girlfriend is one of them.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

But she’s going to tell her own story.

 

 

 

Note: If something is highlighted and a different color than the rest of the text, you can click on it and it will give you more information.  Like “Ethnic”; “Ethnicity”; and “Dichotomy” below.

Language Note: “I’m down” is a phrase used in U.S. English to mean either that you have knowledge of something or that you are in agreement with it.  In the section “Latina”, it means that I am in agreement with it.

More Definitions:

EthnicEthnicity; Dichotomy

Kānaka maoli: The name folks indigenous to Hawaii call themselves.  It means people.

Gender Binary: This is the idea that there are only two genders and that they are somehow in opposition to each other.  Woman and man.

Paperwork: Forms that you have to fill out, whether online or on physical paper, generally about yourself.

Doozy: This doesn’t quite mean what it used to.  Today, it is used to describe something unique and carries a connotation of frustration or difficulty.  Originally, it meant stylish or splendid and generally referred to early American (U.S.) automobiles.

OK, Donald: Our Obsession with Elizabeth Warren on Behalf of Native Folks (And lack of awareness of candidates’ Tribal Policies).

Dear Non-Native Folks,

Your criticism of Elizabeth Warren on Native folks’ behalf is distracting and harmful if you’re not actually looking at candidates’ Tribal Policies or listening to and uplifting Native voices (within and beyond the Cherokee Nation).  And feels a bit missionary.  

I’m not even actually sure what you are doing that the president you want out of office didn’t already do himself on Twitter.

It happened. Colonialism and all of its narratives are tricky as fuck. It’s been addressed. It’s still problematic and still requires un and re-learning. It won’t be forgotten.

But re-sharing (often racist and harmful)  memes that might as well be the president’s Tweets and outdated news articles as further evidence of something that was not denied, but rather owned in problematic ways followed by an entire acknowledgement and apology tour through Indian Country makes you look foolish.  

Check out some Indian news sources.

Share those links if you’re still angry and want to do something about it.  Be careful not to confuse criticism of the harm Warren caused as any candidate’s endorsement.  I’m just going to let you know now that most of what you’ll find is focused on other issues, not white-centered media buzz. And not settler-colonial politics.

My Latina Girlfriend’s White Ass

My least favorite tokenism is the kind where you’re invited to a party to check off a box when you don’t actually fit that box, and they don’t even know you don’t fit that box.  But you’re the closest or most comfortably exotic thing for everyone and they get to high-five themselves instead of growing or getting up from their table from time to time.

Example: Like when everyone kisses my girlfriend’s white ass and checks off the POC seat at their table. I mean, I like that ass more than you do, but it was white in Venezuela and it’s white here. And every Latinx POC knows that. 

Anti-Racist Newsflash: They got white people south of the US/Mexican border.  And something else we don’t talk about much, there are Black folks in Latin America too.  

What does this require us to reconsider?

 

Everything.

 

But let’s pause here for now: 12 Latina Authors You Should Be Reading Right Now. 

 

Note:  Being an immigrant is always complicated.  It’s especially complicated for Latinx folks in the U.S.  This conversation is not meant to minimize that experience.  Our hope is to make our conversation as complicated as folks’ lived realities.  And being a white immigrant, even if you’re an undocumented queer woman, is not the same experience as being a brown or Black immigrant.  Being a Latinx immigrant in the U.S. is difficult, but as with most experiences, it is made less difficult by whiteness.  And language privileges.  But we’ll get to that later in this series as other voices join the conversation.

Language Note: “Our table” or “their table” is a common U.S. English phrase that usually refers to where a group of people meet or share conversations.

Definitions: Tokenism, Latinx

 

Hey friend, it’s been awhile…

As I begin to write in new directions and dust off my blog, I had considered starting fresh.  And while that’s sometimes necessary and healing, I’ve decided this time to get uncomfortable and invite you to witness my processes of growth.  Brining all of the messy parts a long with us.  It’s so counter to my values to only present a polished version, nothing about me is, nor wants to be, polished.  I’m working on it.

I’m really excited for the projects ahead and I’m so happy you’re here with me.

 

xo,

Nik

Stop assuming your kids are straight, please.

Stop assuming your kids are straight, please.

Stop letting people punch your son in the shoulder and ask him how many girlfriends he has.

Stop letting people tell your daughter she’s going to break all the boys’ hearts.

Stop imagining a wedding day that isn’t yours.

If you’re heartbroken, or angry, when your kid comes out to you, it’s because you’ve deceived you. It’s not because of a single thing they’ve done or who they are.

If your kid needs to come out to you, because you haven’t already openly offered possibilities for any version of who they might be, work toward it.

They’ve got the whole world to be uncertain about. Make sure your love isn’t at the top of the list.

Flirting with Disaster

I recently wrote a piece to be read at a local story telling event. The theme was Flirting with Disaster. I’m not sure that I know another way to flirt.

A few months ago, I told someone that something could be really dangerous and she replied, or really beautiful. Yes. Like this.

Flirting with Disaster

One

The first time I kissed a lover, we didn’t kiss.  I was 13.  She was older than me.  And I was the brave one.  She’s always older than me.  And I’m always the brave one.  We were lying on the bottom bunk, under my sister, facing each other, bodies so close it hurt.  It was this time of year.  I couldn’t kiss her.  So instead, I ran my tongue over the surface of her lips.  When I stopped, she ran hers over mine.  And we danced like this for hours, as if kissing was more dangerous than what we were already doing.

Two

Straight women.

Three

The first time you try to let someone touch the body your father raped.

Four

When I realized that my 4 year-old niece was calling my friend “Auntie” because she read our interactions as partnership, as romantic.  Where children cannot see societal boundaries they fully feel emotions.  We were having an ordinary conversation.  I said, “That’s her husband.”  And with that tiny string of words, I broke my niece’s heart for the first time.  Through sobs she kept yelling, “Auntie Nik, fix it!”  “No, please.”  “Fix it.” Until she needed it so desperately that she slapped me across the face.

My young niece doesn’t yet understand the power in friendship.

Five

When I was 12, or 13, I was a witness of the state, living in a foster home, ordered to testify against my parents.  My social worker asked me to list folks who felt safe, who were my support.  I gave her my girlfriend’s name.  She told me that I shouldn’t tell anyone about that, or I would lose the support I did have.  I found a boyfriend.

Six

I’m raising a child who is now 13.

Seven

Being the executive director of a nonprofit organization.

Eight

Have you ever been kind to someone?

Have you ever been kind to someone who is desperate to be loved?

Nine

When he proposed and I let him put the diamond ring on my finger and practiced signing his last name as if it would become mine.  It didn’t.

Ten

When I couldn’t tell if we were communicating to each other in jewelry, like hankies in our pockets, the things we were too afraid, or unwilling, or desperately trying, to say.

Eleven

Have you ever dated someone with children?

There is no sense in trying not to fall in love.

Twelve

Everyone is desperate to be loved.

Thirteen

Straight women who expect their boyfriend to love them the way you love them.

Especially when you’re just friends.

Fourteen

The first time you let someone enter your mind as you bring yourself to orgasm.

The first time you let someone enter your mind when someone else is bringing you to orgasm.

Fifteen

When she proposed and we put square rings on each other’s round fingers and then fed each other pasta with them the week after I had written a poem describing our kisses as manufactured brownies, the kind you don’t actually want, but eat because they are there.  We hyphenated our last names.

Sixteen

I’m supposed to tell you that threesomes are disaster.  I won’t.

Seventeen

She keeps reaching for my hand. Sometimes,

I let her find it.

Eighteen

Multiple times a day, I walk past a note in my own handwriting, giving me permission, or commanding me, to fall in love again today.

Nineteen

I started 9th grade at a new school.  A girl a year older than me stopped me at the water fountain and asked me if I was bi.  I asked her why she was asking me.  She told me because she was my friend and she’d tell people to stop spreading lies.  I told her to let them talk and walked away.  The next day “Dyke” was etched in my locker.

Twenty

Have you ever loved someone more than they loved themselves?

Have you ever let someone love you more than you love yourself?

Twenty-one

Any time you welcome someone to the body your father raped.  But, of course, it’s not that same body.

Twenty-two

When the world dissolves and suddenly you’re fucking her in the airport bathroom, at the train station, on the piano bench, outside the rock concert, outside the folk concert, against the tree, she’s inside you while you drive, in the bar bathroom, after your mother’s funeral, at the abandoned mini golf course you’re both pretending you’re going to buy and run together, which you’re calling Paradise.  When the police show up at your door to check on your wellness because entirely out of character, you didn’t show up to teach your class.  When the world dissolves and neither of you has ever uttered the phrase “making love” but now you can’t call it anything else.

Twenty-three

Knowing we only get one body.  That all the things we live, stay in our body.

Twenty-four

Reading this out loud to you.

A Strand (a love poem)

When I found her hair in the shower the first time,

my knees bent as if she left me a love poem.

I wrapped my hand around it,

like I would never let her go.

I watched another make its way down the drain

and realized I was holding it like

I understood she would probably go.

Knuckles white-red from grasping so tight,

her hair-poem made fists for loving.

I loved her before

I kissed her. Which is the hardest way to fall.

All heart. The way a balloon keeps filling until

it bursts. The way a robin’s egg falls out of the nest

just before it births flight. I swallow down the yellow

yoke of her, lick her words like frosting from my face.

One little hair and I am folded naked in the tub,

knees to my chest, water drowning my grin–

wondering if she understands how brilliantly she feels

or how beautifully she knows. I curl around her questions as if

the desperation behind questions have been answers the whole time.