A week ago, a torrent of tears and fears were moving through me. Like any storm, mine was just a thing passing through, filling me up with thunder and lightning and darkness: East, West, North, and South. I lit candles. I felt confused and vulnerable; I cried. I cried and cried, and resisted those tears, but tried to tiredly accept them. I was allowing that which needed to shake in me to do just that. It was preparation. It was what needed to happen prior to my performance at Cal State LA: my first paid reading, my first solo stage work in years. I was digging down into the depths, the muck and the diamonds, of my own artist’s cave. I was going to let my voice bellow, when, it hadn’t even uttered a poem in whispers. This is big. For a newly out writer and artist, this is big. For a supporter and creator of arts space for other voices to shine, this is big. I was going to let my voice out. And not just my vocal chords. My words. My ink-pressed thoughts that had come rolling out of my tired and brilliant and magic mind. The words I trace in silence, in quiet. The words I don’t say and don’t show to other humans. The words that are my very purse of goddess magic in the world. And I’ve said NO to my own magic. And now, I was about to fully embody, carry, and be conduit for my words and their power.
Thank goodness for friends.
Because, they saved me.
Betsy Hanger, my mindfulness teacher, let me know that my fear was just my limbic system trying to warn me. My body registered my performance as a threat to my safety. “And even though it’s wrong,” she said, “and you’re not under attack, your limbic system thinks you are and is trying to protect you. So, you know, say thank you. Thank you, sweaty hands, you’re trying to protect me. And even though I don’t need your protection, I thank you for loving me and keeping me safe.”
My dear friend, Monely Soltani, had just manifested her own communal magic via Kickstarter. She and I were in the same boat: non-believers-in-our-own-power turned Believers. I came home the night before my performance, and she was there, sitting on my couch, asking me to read my poems to her. “I can’t,” I said. “Yes you can,” she encouraged, and she guided me, and bore witness to me, like a priestess showing me how to use my new magic.
We made a rattle/wand. I shook it. We lit candles. I read my poems like prayers. I growled them out like a lion, and roared, and crawled on the floor. I laughed from deep in my belly and giggled with my experiments. I pushed myself to the outer limits of what my body could and would do. I kneeled down on my knees and spoke a poem for us, for our peoples, for our stories. For mothers and children; for birth and love-making and loss. For excavations and reclamations. For tongues and for sweat. I read each poem, I inhabited each poem, three times. “Three’s the magic number,” she said, “three gets it into your body.” And so it was. After three possessions of my poems, I began to understand them, for the first time. I had created them, woven them, like magic spells, into being. But I hadn’t owned them yet, hadn’t really understood. When I did, tears moved through me, but not like storm, but like a soft, gentle rain. Like registering the beauty of a prayer. Like remembering your ancestors, discovering a gift they left behind, just for you. This is the power of our words; of inhabiting our own stories. Letting them live through us. Being channels and conduits for their magic and medicine.
The day of the performance, I was present to my magic. This allowed me to embody my words like a message, an offering, an ofrenda to an audience of curious and friendly souls. I could laugh. I invited the ancestors in. I moved, and rattled, and roared. I became the poems themselves. And I loved it.
We are unicorns, lions, tigers, snakes, lizards. We are magical, ancestral creatures. Ruptures and ceremony. We are fields of poems, we are ofrendas.
The question isn’t, am I good enough.
The question is, am I connected to the shape and feel and taste and sound, of my own magic.