Saturday, May 3, 2008

Upstream : A Prosem About Being An Ally

Hey folks! wassup. So yes, I was inspired by The Angry Black Woman's Carnival Of Allies to write a piece about what it means to be an ally. It ended up feeling somewhere between philosophical prose and image evoking poetry, so... lets call it prosetry. Apparently that's a real term in the canon of literature, I had only heard my longtime bredrin Steve Urchin use it before! Thought he made it up. Before going into it, wanna thank another key bredrin and key sistren, parami10 and Aimee Suzara for reading my drafts and lending me their invaluable insights as accomplished wordsmiths. I love where my piece evolved to under their guidance. I also want to thank another key sistren who inspired me because she brought that fire when my sexism showed up. You know who you are, and like i told you, i will inhale lava for you anytime.

ok, time for a prosem.



an ally

is someone willing to swim upstream.

so easy to relax and let the current take you.
and you can.
you’ve done it your whole life.

those of us targeted by oppression
spend our lives swimming upstream.
a lot of us drown.
most of us survive, and become strong swimmers
because there is

when you exercise your choice to be my ally
you choose to also become an active upstream swimmer.
(this cannot be a hobby)
we won’t have the same struggles
but you will feel the ache of shoulder sockets and fatigue of thigh muscles
from pushing against all you have learned.

when you swim upstream
there will be those of your privilege who will not appreciate the splashing.
you will need a community of dedicated swimmers who share your privilege.
because it cannot be my job, our job
to link tired arms under your shoulders
and hold you when you feel vulnerable and unappreciated.
there is but so much we can teach you about how to swim upstream.
there is but so much energy we have to teach you how to swim,
while swimming the marathon that is this life.

i may see you slipping,
see you deep in reverie
strokes lagging, hesitating
your kicking feet growing languid.
i may see you
your body again relaxing into the flow
seduced downstream by cooling waters
distancing you to the point that you cannot hear me,
cannot understand me

even when i shout.
your ears are full of the calming streamsong
the lulling currents that have carried you and shaped your life
for so long.

you cannot hear me.
and when this happens
i shout louder.
i may grow furious.
and the fact that i am shouting, angry
has to be ok.
because when you step to me as an ally
you must step with a form of revolutionary love.
a love that means
you cannot fully love yourself
or say that you love others
knowing that we swim upstream so you can float.
when you awake from your lullabies of nostalgic streamsong
you must not dwell in the self indulgent eddies of guilt.
feeling bad while floating downstream does nothing for anyone.
you must act, and swim with revolutionary love.
let it fill your breast with warm purpose.

and as in any relationship fueled by love
when trust is broken
when one is not heard
when you forget about the power that this world gives you
there will be anger.
in fact, the anger of the very people you are swimming in alliance with
will be another current for you to navigate
like thick hot lava cascading over you as you swim upstream.
you will have to learn how to breathe red and yellow streams of lava,
acrid sulphur in your nostrils
steaming rivulets transfusing into your veins.
you will feel the reality of our valid rage
giving you essential lessons,
tempering you.

you will have to learn to inhale lava
through open lungs eyes and ears
and exhale through your heart and throat.
inhale lava
and exhale acknowledgment and humility
inhale lava
and exhale apologies, ownership of bias
inhale lava
and exhale resolve to keep swimming,
exhale resolve to take this lesson
and never to forget what we went through to get here
and you must act so that neither of us need to taste
this particular blend of hot, salted, molten earth again.

because if you think its rough to inhale lava sometimes,
try exhaling it from the depths of your historical oppression

and me?
i too have had to learn to inhale lava
as a gesture of revolutionary love.
i am still learning
how to listen
while my tongue tastes of burnt matches.
i too have had to learn to inhale lava
as a gesture of revolutionary love,
i have felt words like a molten bowling ball of simmering magma
in the pit of my belly.
i too have had to learn to inhale lava
as a gesture of revolutionary love,
and the truth is...
there are lulling waters
where i too can listen to old streamsong lullabies
and continue to float downstream.

until the day
that all humans on the planet
can drift downstream together
smiling, knowing that it isn’t at the expense of another
then equality must look like this
community swimming upstream



mitzi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mitzi said...

now that's a love supreme. bravo. robin t turned me on to your blog and this prosem. i felt the rhythm and the waves and the spiritual consciousness of breathing through real community building and ally making and it was terrifyingly raw and beautiful. thank you truly for sharing this.

richard said...

wow Mitzi... your words have really touched me as well! thank you for your reflections and love. bless up!