coping & coping & trying to cope

When I wake up every morning now and curl back into the darkness that laid me to rest the night before, it is so that I might return to the spaces inside me where I have been most hurt. Last Tuesday, when the world fell away from me, from us, I distinctly remembered collapsing into my mother’s arms at the Denver airport the day Jake Adam York died four years ago. How I had saved all my energy for that moment when I could give myself to a sturdier frame. Mothers were made, if for nothing else, to hold us. I began as something held by my mother and she is who I turn to when I cannot hold myself. Last Tuesday I watched the map of my country bleed red and I texted her again and again while surrounded by a small group of people I barely know. Mom. Mommmmm, I pleaded. I know. I know. I’m sorry, was all she could say. Mom, I tried again. But nothing could stop the momentum of hate that swept from east to west on my TV screen.

The night Jake died, my three best friends and I made a small nest for each other with our bodies on a couch in a living room in Denver. My mother had delivered me to that nest straight from the airport where she’d pulled me off the floor. In that nest, we convulsed, drank bourbon, smoked packs of cigarettes in the garage and watched people we’d never seen cry unleash something painful and wet.

When I woke up this morning in darkness, I sought Jake out. I found images of him and cried thinking about all of the times we came up against one another in pretend battle, me a teenager, him my professor who fought so hard to light a fire under me, to keep me moving. I found videos of him reading the poems he wrote, the poems that promised to give their all to help repair the damage this country has done. In “Anniversary,” Jake read, Whenever water’s broken/water moves to mend/to fill what’s missing. His voice sounded like it had never left this world. It felt like my mother’s arms. It felt like vapor. It felt like breath.

Jake’s wife Sarah reminded me recently of where Jake would turn to for basic inspiration. Back to the place in music that steadied him always. A song I listened to in JFK airport while waiting for my plane home to Colorado the day I gave up and left New York City for good. A decision that led to my going to school where Jake happened to teach, where I happened to meet him again for the first time since high school. In “You and Whose Army?” Thom Yorke sings:

Come on if you think
Come on if you think
You can take us on
You can take us on

You and whose army?
You and your cronies

You forget so easy
We ride tonight
We ride tonight
Ghost horses
Ghost horses
We ride tonight
We ride tonight
Ghost horses
Ghost horses
Ghost horses

Yesterday I went for the second day in a row to the small building where I have worked with the same elementary school children for nearly four and a half years. I’ve been away awhile working in the desert. I sat with my 11 year old Yami who likes to remind everyone around us of our history. She known me since I was five, she repeats to anyone who will listen. She know my whole family, she know all of us, she know my sisters and she know my little brother since he was a baby. This is true. Mostly. I’ve known her since she was six. I know her siblings, helped tutor them through 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th grade. Once, they went back to Oaxaca for the summer and brought me a small leather shoe their grandfather made on a keychain. It hangs near my desk next to the eulogy my friend wrote for Jake and read at his memorial service during the rainiest January I’ve ever seen in Colorado.

Yesterday my kids wrote letters to the new president-elect. My kids who are too young to understand exactly what this means for the country but old enough and scared enough to understand their families are being threatened. If you take my parents away I would have no one to take care of me. When I read this line, I remembered my mother holding me through all of the worst things that have ever happened and I began to cry. While Yami and the rest of the table worked, I colored her a picture of her name with fancy patterns and I quietly sang a song my new friend taught me to sing about will and strength to fight. I love your singing, Yami said to me, just loud enough for the table to hear. Embarrassed that someone had noticed my voice, a singing voice I have little confidence in, I stopped singing. No, I mean it, Yami said. And I kept singing.

These days, in the darkest of times, I return to the other darkest times in my life. I return to those times so I can hide in them because in them, I feel as though nothing can possibly get worse and I can feel safe in the depths of despair. I return to that night in Denver with my nest of women sobbing ourselves to sleep. I return to the absence of the man who taught us how to speak, how to write. I return to that place where moving forward feels not just futile but truly impossible. Because I know it is out of that place that we grew as women, as writers, as poets, as teachers. It is out of that place that we picked up where Jake left off and began again the work he started but couldn’t ever possibly have finished. Whenever water’s broken/water moves to mend/to fill what’s missing. The water has been broken. Again. This time we are water. We are here to fill what’s missing.

 

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