Sometimes when I’m sleeping I dream of guns. Guns are taking over. Over is a place you might be when you’re not under. Being under the weather is better than being under a tombstone. Tombstones made of trombones might offer the dead more dancing throughout the day. Don’t think of this day as another wall being built, rather a new chance to knock an old wall down. Down is a place you might be when you’re not feeling up. Sometimes when I’m up late at night I worry about guns.
All those late-night road trips where my true north was family, a city, or lover calling me home. Radio blaring in surround sound, like the gods of rock were riding shotgun. Checking the rear-view for cops or to see if my bleary eyes were still alive. Windows wide open, taking in the crisp, clear air like it was breathable gold. Sleeplessness alternately turning my brain into pure electricity or Demerol dreams. Oncoming headlights, liquid ghosts moving through the syringe of highway. Road trips like those were their own drug. All the mile markers blurring by, looking more like Jesus on the cross than a simple countdown of how far I had to drive until reaching home.
Memories of mosh pits and Southern grits. Cross-country road trips and bohemian girls with hairy armpits. Counting off four with the beat of my drums. Wannabe Bruce Lee kicks and a busted thumb. Driving wasted, so many wasted days and nights. Being held up at gunpoint and protesting to make a point. Crossdressing and second-guessing. Cruising late-night Mulholland and cooling my heels in county jail. Teenaged streaking and baby peekaboos. Love haloed by dashboard light and moonlight. House plants and a nearby Jersey nuclear power plant. Being read to as a child and words blooming wild.
Love slays me. The sound of my baby girl saying “Daddy” slays me. Hate, ignorance, and racism slay me. Bill Hicks, bell hooks, and Booker T. Washington slay me. Ditto with violence and the soulful sounds of violins. John Bonham’s drums and the relentless beatbox of time marching forward. Rosa Parks and Joan of Arc. 3D-printable guns and the orange-skinned terrorist-in-chief that’s the real Agent Orange. MLK’s strength and dreams slay me. Those who dream of a dreamless future slay me. George Zimmerman and Robert Zimmerman. “Candle in the Wind”, “The Wind Cries Mary”, and winds that sound like the soft breathing of my true love when she sleeps slay me.
My city’s angels, all working-class sweat and millionaire smiles. Asphalt halos, wings as strong as barrio souls. A blood of excitation and impending doom runs through their tectonic-plate veins. They’re free-spirited and freeway-spined. Forged from the bloodied and beautified earth of Hollywood Hills and Chavez Ravine. My city’s angels walk across fire, across water. Speak the language of hustlers and heroes, saints and serial killers. By day, my city’s angels bear crucifixes. By night, they wield rosaries of bones and roses as they float high above a city whose twinkling lights resemble illuminated tombstones in a graveyard of the absolutely alive.
Why can’t there be a global warming that melts chains of enslavement, warms the hearts of cold-eyed criminals, tans and darkens whites enough so they know what it’s like to live in the skin of another. Why can’t there be a global warming that evaporates hate, burns ignorance to a crisp. A global warming whose sun always looks on the bright side, acts as a mighty spotlight on the stage of life. A global warming that’s a freedom fighter, a love igniter, and self-aware enough to know that when the heat is on, I mean really on, it’s time to cool down.
Don’t think of my heart as an old typewriter that hasn’t written a word in years. I’m just sitting here quietly waiting for Eternity to call. Lately, it’s been ringing me collect, expecting me to have all of life’s answers. I’ve only been able to tell it things like how if you wanna teach your misery to play music, start by chiseling your inner tombstones into trombones. Or how you shouldn’t store your most prized possessions in the cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Or how being drunk with love and drunk while pursuing love are two very different things. Don’t think of my heart as an old typewriter that hasn’t written a word in years. I’m just sitting here quietly waiting for Eternity to call.
As I hold you in my arms you point to the summer night sky and repeat a word you recently learned from a bedtime story. “Moon,” you say. I give you a bubbly bounce. “That’s right. That is the moon.” You repeat the word. It sounds like a one-syllable prayer, a sweet celestial music harmonizing with the spinning of the spheres. Just then, you become lighter, brighter, like you could rise out of my arms and become one with the evening sky. Night’s clock sighs as it strikes the next moment. I feel us all getting a little older. I hold you a little more securely. As long as possible before the baby that is you grows beyond my reach and you become your own storybook moon.
The news headlines are bleeding as still another gunman brandishes wide-awake nightmares. Bullet songs cut the air, steal blood and breath from the innocent. So many lives lost from all this senseless violence. We count the body bags backwards from infinity. Yet again we’re shown how love’s alphabet is fragile, can be so easily scattered. Once you manage to pick up the stray letters, sometimes the only word left: heartbreak. The trick is to swallow the sorrow, yet somehow extract beauty and meaning. Today a kiss, tomorrow a tombstone.
The deep red dirt of my earth belly stepped on. My jukebox heart bashed in. We are measured for lynching rope neckties. Our bones made kindling for your bonfire furies. We are bullied, berated, families separated. You grab pussies, mock the disabled and marginalized. We are rubbed out by your tiki torch-wielding, sick-ass sycophants. Still, the starlight electricity in our eyes grows fiercer by the hour. Our resolve lights up the night. Your misery may have its way with us, but you’ll never kill our spirit.