I Was Someone Else Before


I’ve been thinking about the soul a lot lately. My poetry professor tells us not to write about the soul because he doesn’t know what a soul is — “Nobody knows what a soul is.” As much as I absolutely love him, I have to disagree, because my particular brand of spirituality — Hinduism — is centered around the soul. I don’t find it insensitive of him, per say, but I do think he might want to take a step back and think about the soul a little before he makes such broad nullifying statements.

Everyone has their own view of the soul. There’s soul food, which is comforting and filling; there’s soul music, which fills us up in a more spiritual way; there are what we call soulmates, people who we feel a deep connection with on a basic level. With all this talk of the soul, it’s hard not to believe that it exists some way or another, especially since this particular concept has been around since practically the dawn of time.

I think of the soul as occupying a physical space within our body, which you may or may not agree with, but that’s the beauty of the soul: it’s a little different for everyone, because everyone’s needs are just a little different. To me, the soul exists between the Naval (Swadhisthana) and Solar Plexus (Manipura) chakras, in a realm between orange and yellow (which I find to be the warmest tones, anyway, and why not? Filling your soul makes you feel warm). For those of you who aren’t very familiar with the chakras, they’re the energy centers of our body, and the Naval Chakra is the center of creativity and joy, among other things; the Solar Plexus Chakra governs individual strength and expansiveness, among others.

What I’m getting at here is my belief that the soul is a part of the Self that combines the power of one’s inner light with the joy of the world around us, and when I feel complete, satisfied, and soul-happy, the area just below my solar plexus feels like it’s glowing, like my soul is expanding and trying to reach out to all the other parts of the universe, connecting me to every other entity that exists.

Our soul is everything about us that isn’t flesh and bone. It is who we are. It is all the good, and all the bad, that we inherently are. And as a Hindu, and even just as a person who exists on this planet and contemplates life and death from time to time, I believe that my soul existed before it occupied my current body, just as I believe that once this body dies, my soul will occupy another. Sometimes history repeats itself, and why not? We are the same souls, existing over and over in different times, learning a little each time we have a go at life. We are reincarnated in many different forms — of “good” and “bad” people, rich and poor, different ethnicities, different religions, until we become someone who truly understands the universe and the meaning of existence. I’m not there yet. I am most definitely not there yet.

The soul drifts — not aimlessly, but with purpose. Sometimes I have these moments — crazy as it seems — when I feel like I existed a very long time ago, in a very different place from America. I have an internal, inherent knowledge that I attempt to tap into sometimes, and though I struggle, I believe it’s all there, just below the surface. Maybe that knowledge exists within my soul, and maybe it’s what drives me to make certain life choices. Or maybe not. I don’t know. But there’s no point in sitting down, declaring that the soul is nonexistent, and not bothering to explore these fascinating avenues of myself and the world around me.

And this brings us, very loosely, to the idea of karma. Karma is complicated and complex, and I won’t claim that I understand it very well at all. Put very simply (perhaps too simply), karma is the idea of action and reaction, but we mistakenly think of it as “if you do something bad, something bad will happen to you immediately because you deserve to be punished by a higher power/the universe.”

But recently, I read a great quote on this site: “There is a tendency to cry during times of personal crisis, “Why has God done this to me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” While God is the creator and sustainer of the cosmic law of karma, He does not dispense individual karma. He does not produce cancer in one person’s body and develop Olympic athletic prowess in another’s. We create our own experiences.”

We create our own experiences. That can be incredibly liberating and also so very terrifying, because while most people will be happy to know they have free will, knowing that your negative experiences were not due to God punishing you can be scary for some people. I know what an oversimplification that last bit was, because not everything is up to us, and bad things don’t necessarily happen because you deserved them. But I think the takeaway here is this: we are responsible for ourselves, and the bad things we do have negative consequences, while the good things we do have positive ones, in the long run. I prefer to think of it this way, since I’m really big on positive and negative energy: we receive from the universe what we put into it. If you decide to be a massive jerk all the time, it’ll catch up with you. Not necessarily immediately, because I know a whole lot of really successful assholes, but I really do think that at some point the choices you make will come back to bite you. Or kiss you on the cheek, if you happen to be a wonderful person. Maybe in the next life you’ll learn to emit more positive energy.
And there are shades of grey here. I don’t know many people who are always good, and I definitely don’t know people who are always bad. Good and bad are relative terms anyway.

Anyway, in an attempt to explain/hash out some very confusing and intricate topics that I cannot claim to be an expert on, I have probably confused most of you or made you all think I’m some kind of hippie nut-job. I’ll probably have different views on life and the soul in a year, in ten years, as I continue to exist and learn about who I am and how the world works. But honestly, I’m embracing my inner hippie nut-job a lot more lately, because I think she has a lot of really interesting things to say. Maybe she’s not so nuts after all.

I love you all, and namaste. The light in me greets the light in you. Positive energy forever!

Please note that, while the article I link to above is very interesting and informative, it does not necessarily reflect all my views on life. There are some interesting ideas about suicide and euthanasia in that article, and when I say “interesting” I don’t mean good. I mean sassy. So I agree with a lot of the info in the first half of the article about karma and reincarnation, but I have some serious issues with the idea that suicide causes you to be reincarnated to a lower karmic plane, etc. Anyway, happy reading!

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Skin


Yesterday, my poetry professor asked if my “write” tattoo was part of the Skin project by Shelley Jackson from 2004. When I explained that I would’ve been 11 years old in 2004, so my tattoo didn’t stem from that particular project, he explained it to me.

I’m obsessed and in awe and shocked and in love and…so upset that I couldn’t be a part of that project. Because it’s honestly the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever heard.

Shelley Jackson wrote a 2,095 word story and asked that people come forward and get one of those words tattooed on their body. The participants had no choice in which word they would receive, though they could refuse to get the tattoo if they so chose. Most of those words, outside of the context, would seem completely random, and a lot of them involve one end of punctuation, like back,”. She has the word “skin” — the title of the story — tattooed on her body. And no one, no one besides these people and Shelley Jackson herself, know the story.

Shelley refers to these people as her words. When they die, she will try her best to attend their funerals. And when they’ve all passed, the story is over. The story is gone.

There’s something so perfect about this. These 2,095 people, scattered around the world, are connected forever. There is a secret story that binds them. Isn’t that the most ingenious, wonderful notion you’ve ever heard?

An Ode to a Pencil


Silver-grey lines
become wisps, spirits
like seagull wings in flight
capturing impermanent
imperfect
rushes of ideas, which
to me are more stunning than final drafts.

You are worth more
than bubbles on answer sheets,
short essays in high school.
You deserve to become
a novel
a love note
a sonnet
poetic devices stretched out along blue horizons.

You should be bowed to,
your wooden soul propped on a pedestal
and worshipped by the meek
for they shall inherit the earth
one silver-grey line at a time.

I’m gonna read this aloud tonight, y’all. It’s the perfect embodiment of everything I feel when I write, and it needs to be spoken. So tonight, at a burrito joint downtown, the world will hear my ode to a pencil. xoxo

Home


No feeling matches this
stirring in my bed, expecting to be at school
then opening my eyes and…home.
Where every moment feels slowed down
a bubbled sanctuary from the world
as nothing touches me but softness —
the hugs of my mother
the quilt of my youth
the cat sitting on my face.

Snow Globe


I want to rummage through stacks of books with you.
Dirty, musty books
so when we rustle their pages we choke with joy.
I want to sit on the floor, legs crossed
and pile adventures in my lap.
You’ll stand on a stack of encyclopedias and reach for
that perfect copy of Don Quixote
while I flip through Robinson Crusoe
until you reach down and say, “I found this one for you.”
I want to be lost with you inside a fiction more beautiful than the
huge snow globe we inhabit
always shaken by someone else til we’re displaced
tiny flakes in a fish tank.
So I think if I have to get lost, I’d like to be holding your hand
when my dreams for this life
seem so broken
like this damned snow globe
because aren’t they supposed to make you smile
and turn the sky white?
The sky was grey today. This snow globe’s defective.
I want to be poor with you
but only with you
because poverty isn’t romantic
unless all the riches in the world exist in the gold flecks in your eyes.
I want to be anything with you
because you’ll be anything with me
and that could stop this snow globe shaking.

With this, I revamp my current poetry series from one about my childhood to a poetry series about anything, because…why restrict myself? Poetry is freeing, and I need to be freed right now. Cheers. Let’s all work on making this snow globe a little better.

Champa


If words were fragrant
my poems would smell like champa flowers.
Heady, deep and sweet,
they smell like —
The moment I knew I would grow up
My daydreams of adventure
The dark room I adopted in my adolescence
The isolation I felt as I became someone no one else had known
The reason for my faith
My future.

If fragrances were words
the champa flower would be Shakespeare.
Songs to Krishna
carried on the breeze like soliloquies
depicting his lotus eyes
whispering softly —
I could feel you before you were real
I looked for you and found nothing
I waited for you, and you came
I love you like I’ve loved no other
I’ve seen you, but I was blind to all else
I know you like I know myself
I carry you deep inside
I thank you.

There ends part 4 of my childhood poetry series, which describes more my adolescence/early adulthood and less my childhood, but which is a huge transformative part of who I am today.

Porches Are For Brownie


I’m all for smiling
but that woman is baring her teeth at me.
Why, Giada? Why? They…sparkle…
And Ina, I know that France
with its shops and street corners, berets and baguettes
is enchanting
but why must you tease me like that?
Hey, you. Sandra Lee
What’s in a name? You might as well be called
Sandra Dee, with your spiffy cooking ideas and
adorable cocktails.
Why does your outfit match your kitchen?
And who told you to put moss on that table?
As a “centerpiece”– more like
centipedes are gonna crawl outta that moss.
Paula! I love you, boo!
Needs more butter.
Rachael Ray, with your EVOO, you do realize that
fine dining establishments have
adopted that
on
their
menus
right?
Bobby Flay, I don’t wanna barbecue with you.
And Masaharu Morimoto, you iron chef you,
that’s some scary seafood, bro.
But I watch you all
and love you all
if only to pass beautiful afternoons
on the porch
playing cards with my grandmother
with sizzling steaks and — “I wish you could smell this”
existing quietly in the background.
Porches are for Brownie, my grandmother.
Porches and The Food Network.

 

So concludes part three of my childhood poetry series. Cheers, and all my love to my grandma, Brownie, whose delightful ring of “Cappy, darling!” brightens my day every time I call. xoxox.

Tura Lura


A chair that rocks but doesn’t squeak
and lulls me to wonderland.
A skylight for the moon to watch
my dreams that leave in daylight.
As she sings to me
tura lura
and I go to sleep in her arms
I know someday tura lura
will mean more than looking at stars.
In a twin sized bed with drawers on the bottom
too small for two but somehow managed
she held me as close as we had been
when I was possibility.
Flurries of song tickle my hair
as she sings to me
tura lura
in the nighttime,
else wonderland might be kidnapped by
a killer with cruel intentions.
But a lullaby
never says goodnight
just tiptoes into the morning.

That little gem was part two of my series of poems about my childhood. I don’t know why I thought it was a good idea to promise this vast quantity of hastily written poetry to you, my little muffins, but you’d better appreciate it. Also, I do know why…it was 2 a.m. and I was falling asleep as I was writing.

Cheers!

I Grew Up So Well


I may be up at 2 a.m. and it may be because I finished editing a short story I’ve been working on for a year and I may have just submitted it to my university’s literary journal so I may be having a mini heart attack but also may be feeling so accomplished that I can’t stop jittering. Y’all, I actually finished something. Conceptualized, drafted, wrote, edited, re-edited, ruminated, re-re-edited, and…submitted. This is real life.

And it got me thinking…I had the best childhood. (How’d this thought train happen? I wrote something! –> Reading as a child helped me write –> one time I wrote a crappy story about Cleopatra and my mom loved it –> My parents were so supportive –> My parents had such eclectic taste in everything –> I practically came out of the womb singing Neil Young.)

When I say “best childhood” I don’t mean “most innocent” or “happiest” necessarily. I mean I had a childhood that I look back on and appreciate, because I accidentally was a pretty insightful kid. And everything I did then, everything I was exposed to, has made me pretty awesome (if I do say so).

Want an explanation? I present you with a series of poems from my childhood, which you will receive every other day for as long as I can come up with them. They will all be first drafts and will probably be written in the middle of the night, so feel free (gently and lovingly) to offer criticisms and ideas.

We’ll begin with BLOCKS.

I drag Pops’ box blocks, dead like wooden bricks
across the oriental carpet (red spirals from somewhere I will dream of later)
and — thunk — drop rubber zoo animals from their cloth prison, only to box them in again
within the lifeless block-walls.
The harder they come the harder they fall
Jimmy Cliff sings, high and warm, as lions leap upon giraffes, teeth tearing through tendons and muscles, spurts of blood hitting onlookers.
Years later I will remember this carnage fondly
if only to laugh at my morbidity as a five-year-old
and to rent a copy of The Harder They Come
which was about drugs
according to Dad
and I didn’t know that meant violence, too, because drugs are always paired with violence
at least when desperation gets involved,
so we document it in movies that hurl knives against the TV screen.
Age 5 doesn’t allow for true understanding of desperation, but I must’ve seen it
because I replicated it
with lions
in my house.
Peace often followed, as the lions
sick with remorse and giraffe flesh
bathed in the sun, rolling in the red tide of a rug born somewhere I’d never heard of.
As all I couldn’t comprehend washed over me
heavy accents filled my ears
and mondegreen* stole my understanding, turning every sad lyric into something pleasant.
Them a loot them a shoot them a wail shanty town.

*mondegreen is the mishearing of a word, usually within a song.

Sad Banana


Imagine: A rain stick swishes softly in the background. A girl performs an interpretive dance involving a lot of stretching, then balling up on the ground, then stretching, then rolling around. Then stretching, while I recite the poem…

Oh, banana. Why are you so sad?
Yellow butter skin
bruised by the softest touch
bruised by time
Oh, banana. All I want is to
dip you in nutella
to please my taste buds.
Oh, banana.
Sassy bastard.
The love I feel for you is equal to the hate you feel for fruit flies.
Biz-buz, little fruit fly. Fly away from
sad banana, and let him die in peace.
Sad, sad banana.

Bow.