Search for the New Land

The future is not a gender, doesn’t even have a body.
And then there’s white women
making T-shirts and selling them for eighty dollars or whatever.
Whatever they do.
The sun doesn’t hate anyone and neither do I.
All I listen to is Lee Morgan’s trumpet
for long stretches of afternoons and nights in the desert.
I decide on the delusion where I live,
genderless and out of sight. This is how I choose
to spend what I have. I’m an American,
so I hear only what I want to.
This is our right—
to protect ourselves in times of extreme stress.
In times of great fear,
we do what we have to do to survive.
Our task is to make it out alive.
This one instruction for having a body,
the punishment for it.
I see the way birds look at me—
Endangered. The future is only earned
or inherited. It writes itself.
Everything wrong with the picture
is the true meaning of the picture.
The future is relative—of course
I am conditional. I am writing this from the deep end.
There are some privileges to being feared,
fearing the consequences of yourself.
How I came all this way and all these centuries,
carrying this extreme stress and pervading American fear.
The taxi driver deposited my many suitcases
into the busy street and drove off.
I don’t have enough hands. My evolution
has not equipped me for this climate.
Lifting a box of books into the overhead compartment,
I wished for a device to make my face a white girl
in times like these, helpless with a body. No full flight
would watch a white girl struggle this way,
her life flashing before her
under the weight of her own books.
I can’t even imagine it. The dissonance of chords
and notes, the hilarious idea of infinity.
The last time I considered suicide—on the edge
of a curb, leaning into the yellow taxis of
the Meatpacking, which in retrospect would have been
a terrible place to die, in front of all those white women
hobbling in their high heels over the cobblestone,
doing that shampoo commercial move,
bathed in the light of themselves—I considered
all I’ve learned about sacrifice, and duty.
I went home in an American SUV, ashamed of something.
That last time I teased death, I couldn’t
listen to any music for weeks, not one note of song.

When I think of the story of Abraham
tying up his son for slaughter—the offering
on an altar at the edge of a mountaintop,
the instruction to do what he had to do, as it is written—
I identify most with the ram. The alternative
asymmetrical sacrifice. I see the way
birds look at me—it writes itself.
We used to sing that song, Father Abraham
had many sons, I am one of them
and so are you, praising the lord and fearing
the wind in our palm trees. The future is this awe:
looking up at the sky in California. Blue in Green.
I am always at the edge of the end of the world.
In the desert, if a ram appears, I may escape death.
Eighty dollars for a certain and secure future.
Miles Davis’s trumpet on “Blue in Green”—a future
where I no longer need to be grateful.
Baldwin wrote, “Our crown has already been bought
and paid for.” What’s important in these times of
war and faith is the consideration, the lean into traffic,
the ax raised dutifully. You are always almost gone—
it is written so that we may remember.
Documentation of the past makes the future possible.
I am learning all I can from this day so I can teach it
to who I will be tomorrow. I have written
I am a different person every minute, and everybody knows
I don’t believe in time, anyway. I did not inherit it.
I always misremember the title Search for the New Land,
the Lee Morgan album and the book by Julius Lester.
I misremember the THE. I think: a new land.
A—all I can hear is go. Wherever, anywhere but here.
In Julius Lester’s Search for the New Land, it is written,
“Being. To be. In America one was taught TO DO.”
My task is to wander until I find a safe place
to continue being. I think: effort, and sacrifice,
and faith—fingers crossed.
I think: it is my responsibility to find
the ram to slaughter in my place.
If we hate the past more than we love the future,
Julius Lester wrote, we will succeed in bringing that past
into the future. Documentation of the past
makes all futures possible, makes the Land New.
The the: it is written. The difference between surviving
and Being. The future is—
take it. The future is out of body,
out of sight, certain as the the.
Looking up at the sky in California.
The trumpet again and again—
wind, blue, one holy bird and everything
possible and promised. The New Land
already waiting for me. Even me.

Last updated March 11, 2023