In the last two months I’ve gone on many walks, crisscrossed the city in search of solitude and silence. But lately I’ve stayed in my room, in the windowsill where I do my work, watching the pedestrians come and go, the more frequent appearance of an electronic scooter, the everyday confrontation between masked and unmasked, between caution and throwing it to the wind.
When I learned about what happened to Ahmaud Arbery, I wondered among other things (Do Black people ever get justice in America? Will this country finally kill me?) how his death would feel in my body, how the knowledge of Black death has metastasized in my ankles before, how it slows my movement, how I feel it in my knees, my chest, a strain in my eyes.
I thought perhaps, with everything going on, I might not feel it too acutely; it might just pile on to the overall fatigue and quick, sharp breaths with which I wake.
But I was curious about where this particular hurt lay inside of me, in us. So, I went for a walk.
Yesterday while heading east I listened to an episode of “On Being” in conversation with Ross Gay whose book “The Book of Delights” is on its way to me now.
I tried with each small step, to record moments of delight like Gay has done, its shadows and what shadows it. I did this to think of what it means to move freely and to think of all the life that a walk can capture, can hold, can be, to speculate on all that Ahmaud might have passed by, might have noted as he jogged through the streets Satilla Shores on the day that he was lynched.
This is for anyone who needs to take a breath. Written in the style of a Sesshu Foster postcard.
one brown tree whose leaves refuse spring/ the precious swirl of the turbine ventilator above the nursing home where my grandmother spent the last few months before she died/ eucalyptus impressionism/ Sesshu Foster’s City of the Future/ leftover giraffe stuffed animal on the corner of the Lutheran Church with the trans flag/ beanie baby body splayed open/ a green rubber pacifier at its mouth/ the constant stopping/ red burned back of man bun man running/ that Wojnarowicz quote/ 7 miles per second is how fast we need to run to break earth’s gravitational pull/ “to achieve escape”/ Ross Gay says you can always walk into the orchard/ the ferns sloping down/ the dad the man of dadly build throwing a vertical spiral football/ the neatly plaited fire hose in a clear glass box/ the existence of a non-fire a non-emergency/ what is the name for non-fire seasons in California?/ the long beam of flowers supporting a garage door/ the small steel house crowning the yellow chimney/ 5 black plates stacked upon 3 white ones/ more American flags than I expected/ more Teslas than I care to count/ a Black woman with twists walking a fluffy white dog/ what are the trees that link the power lines?/ a dead tree wrapped in wire sweating fiberoptic sap/ is it also sweet?/ the streets with no people who live on them ever outside/ all the day laborers/ the construction workers their pickup trucks the women and daughters who clean blocks of mansions/ towers of thick green bush/ two midair hawks lilting/ one circling the other/ oh how I miss the studio/ one Black man jogging on San Vicente Blvd./ Charles Bradley’s “Changes”/ gulping down My Big Cry/ there is something about the overgrowth the wildness/ of alleyways/ the harsh strain in my right ankle that has been there since Saturday/ since I cried at the sad gay movie/ since I first felt it at age 15 that shot up to my kneecap/ and thus spoke the mileage of pain/ wanting to be seen but also not/ the infinity of eyes of Next Door of Ring/ I catch myself rolling my eyes at the car blasting/ trap music probably some white idiots I went to high school with/ a Black man driving to my surprise we see each other/ the first eye contact on this whole/ long walk/ the dance studio back in London the Dutch teacher with a strange diagonal/ fringe and layers of purple mesh turtle neck a body suit/ asks us to find different eyes with our bodies/ I make eye contact with the tips of my fingers/ to the succulents/ I make eye contact with the side of my hip/ to the peeling black bark/ a white woman in her car rubbing her eyes like babies do/ 5th St street of my grandmother’s apartment/ when she moved from New York after my grandfather died/ tuna noodle casserole pretending to like spelt pancakes/ tastes like sand/ her back room painting studio/ 8th grade up late on the phone/ with Joe/ sleeping on her wool couch/ the landmark tree notice/ of pending construction for a duplex/ who fought for this tree to be?/ on the course toward non-productive delight/ one last truck parked 530 pm/ the thrum of automatic staple gun to yellowing wood/ a man tucks in the pickup truck bed/ champagne bottle in hand/ there is still occasion/ for celebration