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the word sufra

is                table

 

but it is when I am across the sea from the tables I have known

that sufra opens

and I discover

not like Columbus

encountering a country

without ever grasping

it was already populated

I discover sufra

is hospitality

  

the word sufra is     yes

a flat surface used for food

now after all these years

of eating moored at the sink

a writer who sits too much

my excuse

to refuse the table  

to refuse

sufra which now scatters

bright meaning through

me   like a prism

 

worlds unfurl from words

worlds unfurl into words

either and both

there are countries

secreted in syllables

meanings beyond the initial horizons

I had limited them to

before knowing what

seems plain planed constrained denotation

waits to detonate into connotation

 

I grasp     finally     table’s true inhabitant

sufra is      embrace

 

opening wide only after

do you hear me

 

I offer hospitality

to the scarred and scared selves

that navigate dark seas

that buoy me

through darknesses

 

when I extend sufra

to my shipwrecked selves

at the shore

anchor in my own harbor

in the country of self

and feast at the table

of my making

 

table at last

is                sufra

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Updated: Oct 27, 2023




October 2023 I got to participate in KC Rep's annual Ghost Light event. Tasked with writing and performing a haunting story rooted in my heritage and/or Kansas City, I came up with 'the harmonias.' What a delightful adventure this was! I had the privilege of collaborating with not only the talented KC Rep Ghost Light team, but also with the amazing Amado Espinoza for the mesmerizing instrumentation to my piece.


I'm sharing my story with you in three ways:


1) Here is an audio recording made at Amado's studio where you can really hear the instrumentation well.


2) Here's a video a friend made.


3) Below is the transcript.


the harmonias


Ahuli touched wings with her younger brother Elu. She was old enough to guide Elu and he buzzed with excitement, finally a big enough nymph to participate in the Great Web Ceremony.


At the end of summer and cusp of fall, countless species gathered to express gratitude to the Harmonias. Through their wings, Harmonias spoke the languages of every being. Thus, the Harmonias could sing with their sky sisters and brothers, play with their river and ocean cousins, share stories with their forest and prairie relations and so on. And, when eagle, otter, and willow needed to hold counsel, when weasel, sunflower and crab wanted to converse, they called upon the Harmonias. Then, a Harmonia would hover like an iridescent hummingbird, spread translucent wings to the splendid sun and thrum language to every being in its own tongue so that they understood one another.


In the Great Web Ceremony, the Harmonias joined wing to paw, hoof, tail, branch, all manner of appendage to form a shimmering web. When the Harmonias lifted their voices in song, every being from fox to fern to firefly to flounder felt their own species song rise in their hearts and added their voices to the joyous chorus. The gathered species knew themselves as family, through the sacred magic of the Harmonias.


With the end of day, the glorious celebration began to wind down. Ahuli’s family often stayed with Oak and she burrowed amongst the roots and leaf litter of an Oak sapling friend. Happy and exhausted, Ahuli hollered good night as loud as she could, instigating a chorus of good nights from the other nymphs and a chorus of scolding from their parents. Ahuli chuckled at her brother, a few feet away snuggling with mushrooms, suppressing his giggles. As Ahuli’s body relaxed into slumber, she began to dream.

In her dream, Ahuli flies inches above the waves, singing. Her dolphin cousin Tayo is teaching her a song and dance. They crack themselves up in the parts where they roll over-she in the air and he in the water. While Tayo dives skyward, Ahuli leaps onto his fin, loving the thrill of staying on as long as she can before he splashes back into the ocean. Ahuli and Tayo surf wave after wave singing dancing laughing. Ahuli hopes this dream will last and last and last. But a wave slams her body hard and when she opens her eyes, Tayo is nowhere. The ocean red with blood.


Ahuli woke in agony. When she tried to move, pain knifed her wings, took her breath away, and for several panicked minutes, Ahuli was frozen. Her entire being locked inside the raw throbbing of her wings, pain relentless.


Wide awake in the dark, she was surrounded by dissonant sounds and movement as though plunged into a hornet’s nest. Ahuli swiveled her head in a panic, willing her eyes to pierce the darkness. Useless. Ahuli was confused. What was she hearing? If she could hear these Dissonant beings, why couldn’t she understand them? She knew all the species, all the beings around her. Ahuli had never been in the midst of language she could not understand.


Though the piercing pain had lessened into a dull ache, though she felt the instinct to fly, fear pinned Ahuli to the spot. Ahuli’s heart raced. She felt alone. Where was Elu? Where were her parents?


The dissonant sounds abruptly stopped. In the eerie stillness, Ahuli could sense them closer still. Something crouched inches from her. She could feel the creature breathing raspy and shallow. Ahuli instantly shrank; tried to fly but her wings would not cooperate. The tiny hairs on her body stood up. She felt a scream rise within her, but like in a nightmare, nothing came out. Her heart pounded. For an eternity, the creature circled Ahuli in the dark, its claws scraping.


The creature then seized Ahuli, claws pinching her sides, and threw her into a wagon. The creatures shouted to one another, again in dissonant tones she couldn’t decipher. Was this their language? Shouting?


She felt the presence of other Harmonia in the wagon. Ahuli wanted to call out for her mother and father, her brother. But somehow knew to stay quiet.


In the moonlight, Ahuli could see the creatures were covered head to tail in a thick shiny coating that glinted cold. Ahuli was terrified. What was this creature, metal and sharp angles? She tried to shield herself but again her wings didn’t move.


Ahuli turned to her wings. Shrieked! Her wings were gone! Shredded wisps of arteries twitched incoherently from shoulders where wings once fluttered. WHY? As Ahuli looked away from her shoulders she locked eyes with Elu, saw the terror in his face and dragged herself to him. The creatures shouted at her. Why couldn’t she comfort her brother? Where were their parents? Why were there only children in the wagon?


As the wagon lurched along the rough trail through the dark forest, sparkles caught Ahuli’s attention. Tree branches shimmered in the moonlight, luminous. How? With what? Ahuli caught her breath. Smeared and slashed wings. Tattered bits of wing twinkled from tree limbs. Crushed, torn wings glimmered from the forest floor. The nymphs moaned in anguish, huddled closer to each other. Ahuli held Elu tight. wanting to comfort him despite her own anguish. Confusion. Her own horror.


Then, when the wagon reached the edge of the forest, the nymphs shuddered at what they saw. Young trees, saplings, had been cut, their limbs amputated…just like the nymphs. Ahuli recognized the Oak friend she had snuggled with in the night. Her narrow graceful limbs, jagged, sawed off. Ahuli instinctively called out to her but heard no reply. She could not speak with Sapling anymore. Ahuli could not speak with any creature anymore. She then remembered her dream. No more singing with Tayo. Time stopped. Tears overcame Ahuli. She nestled Elu tighter, desperate for wings.


Who were Harmonia if they could not communicate with other beings?


While they traveled through the long night and into day, the creatures shouted at the nymphs, shouted at each other. Ahuli noticed that the grey flinty coating was not actually a part of them, but a covering worn to protect themselves, from the sun. Ahuli remembered when she was a younger nymph hearing whispers about these creatures, tales meant to frighten wayward nymphs. Stunned. She thought they were just made up. What were they? Ahuli watched as they lashed at the mare pulling the wagon, slashed trees and shrubs out of their way, destroy whatever crossed their path. The stories told by the elders came back to Ahuli.


Long ago, the mole rats refused relationship with the Harmonia, renounced community with other species. Over time, they lost the ability to see or hear any being unlike themselves and therefore believed their ways superior. They evolved into the blind and deaf Discords, descendants of mole rats. The Discords thought it their right to force others into submission, killed those who resisted. The Discords contempt for other species, especially Harmonia, was dark and dangerous.


Along the trail in the distance the Harmonia nymphs saw rows and rows of grotesque, shadowy shapes they could not, at first, identify. But as the wagon drew near, each nymph screamed. Screamed when their recognized the shapes as their own mothers, their own fathers, shrieked when they saw their grandmothers, howled when they saw their grandfathers. The Harmonia elders had been massacred. Impaled. Impaled on the amputated limbs of saplings. Their once iridescent bodies brown, hollow, dried out, desiccated.


Ahuli’s stomach heaved as though she would vomit. She squeezed her eyes shut to make the horrific sight disappear but it was seared into her. When did she last hug her mother? Her father? Why would the Discords do this? Why did they hate the Harmonia?


They were carted in the wagon for miles and miles along the trail. And for miles and miles the Harmonias wailed. The Discords tried to force the nymphs to be quiet. They threatened them. They beat them. But the Harmonia nymphs wailed ceaselessly. The Discords shouted the same word over and over again at the Harmonia: cicada. cicada. cicada.


And that is why each year at the end of summer and the cusp of fall you hear the ceaseless wailing, a chorus of sorrow, from what we know as cicadas along what has come to be known as the trails of tears knifing all across this land.


***

In solidarity with displaced peoples worldwide. May Harmony overcome Discord.

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YES, I’m gonna geek out again about lambs quarters.


Earth is always singing abundance, yet western mind insists on scarcity; driven to prune and cut back and weed and discard to keep our definition of abundance domesticated, controllable.


So I let this lamb’s quarters do its thing because I wanted to see what would happen. Why not let the plant do its thing? What prevents us from doing so? Look at all this. I harvested a ton of leaves and seeds this week, aware that of several things as I did.


One, as I pulled leaves and collected seeds, I enjoyed being with the plant and the rhythm my hands got into. It is a tedious meditative task. This is another way wild abundance shows up: in a society where we’re hyper-plugged in, addicted to screens and external inputs and stimuli, such hand-tasks help regulate our nervous systems.


Two, it is work meant to be done in community with others. There is no way, or reason, one should be harvesting so much by oneself. This ‘I do it by myself’ is a function of scarcity; causes us to organize our lives around solitary confinement. Normalizes aloneness.


Three, this harvest is meant to be shared. There is no way, or reason, this abundance ‘belongs’ to me. Again, a function of scarcity, descendant of the ol’ pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps paradigm.


So if you’re reading this, consider it an invitation to come over and harvest. Oh and if you don't know the health benefits of lambs quarters, do yourself a favor and look these puppies up.


What do we miss out on when we offshore work with our hands? Offshore communal tasks and abundance? And what do we turn to to replace it? Does this not dis-locate our sense of and relationship with abundance to capitalist forces?


Maybe when we live outside of Earth's cycles, as we do in capitalism, we become dependent on the market which provides us stuff year round, regardless of Earth's cycles. How does that impact of our dependence on each other? Maybe it goes like this: maybe since we don't need to rely on the bounty of say, lambs quarters, we don't need to gather to harvest. Maybe since we rely on the 24/7/365 bounty of the grocery store, we don't need awe of Earth's abundance. Where does our awe go to? Does it pivot to awe of material abundance, even if it doesn't respect Earth's parameters and seasons? Does our awe turn to hubris?


Four, true abundance is regenerative. This plant will continue to flourish and provide. I didn’t plant, water, feed or do anything to make this abundance happen. Maybe I just did the most important thing there is to do when wild abundance shows up: I expressed awe and gratitude. Stood in the knowing that I am completely dependent on Earth and her astonishing systems. Stood in the knowing that these systems are cyclical. And guess what, so am I. And I want to lean more into that because without a cyclical understanding of myself, I tend to think I can go all day every day and wonder why I have a scarcity of energy and focus.


Five, Earth’s wild abundance serves community. Scarcity mindset has us thinking we need domestication, to be contained, tamped down and palatable to be ‘of service.’ But that’s in service to supremacy and capitalism. It doesn’t serve us or our souls in nourishing, deep rooted, regenerative ways.


In fact, the deep roots of lamb’s quarters are so good for soil! That’s why they can grow and flourish anywhere—they show up and make soil better. Sciencey people call it ecosystem services. But to do so, deprives us from the soul lesson here about abundance: when we thrive and flourish, when we are big and bushy and have space to be articulate as ourselves, we are of transformative service to our communities.

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dissolving distances between self & other 
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