Survival kit


Go back. Do what Walcott recommends - give your heart back to yourself.

Do to the darkness what a seed knows best; eat it whole, grow.

Mouth what you once wrote : Sticks & stones will hone my bones. Be whittled. Soap scrapped into sculpture by a patient prisoner. The fine art of embroidered bones. Invite the elephant into the room. Teach it how to pronounce copacetic. Look up at the fan again, not to weigh its verdure against the lapses of your own body but to admire the physics that powers it. Look at how it dances with all this enduring invisibility.

Don’t noose the shoelaces, let them stay in the mud-slapped sneakers; let them remind you of how someday you want your fingers this entwined in a transcendent hand and the signature of any detritus won’t define who you belong to & with. Sit and touch the chartreuse giggle of grass peeking from the callused knuckles of this cracked asphalt. Let it teach you how to unbury yourself. Let it whisper the reverse of ya'burnee in the tired conch of your ear.

Find the sea again. Ask her to love you again. She has never failed you till now, she has stored all your fleeting afterbirths of all your centuries in the jewelbox of her fist. Stand before her & let her remind you how you are the switchblade of lightning that shivers the silver mirror of water to the ambered dust of sands. Know that suffering beyond pain is powerless, is parasitic. Sprinkle some rock salt on that leech.Take a pair of scissors but this time don’t split your skin; find a long red thread, cut it into half & fling it outside the window you wanted to catapult from. Stare at a starling murmuration over the skies of Palestine. Stare at it with intent. Let it speak to you with the symmetry of its vignettes. Find the first letter of your name in this tango of bird shapes. Pet a dog. Any dog. Pet a pit bull. Build up the day when you can go to a zoo & ask if you can pet a snake. This is a lesson in tender tension.

Memorize that tao of the Audi ad - All conditions are perfect conditions. Decide what is this condition perfect for. Act. Write poems again. Don’t ever let him take that away from you. Don’t be ashamed of the poems you wrote about him. Claim back the alchemy of every word you were arted into. Invoke through poetry.

Call upon your sisters, your serpent goddesses, your guardian paladins. Call Calliope, Coatlicue, Athena. Watch the owl nest in the mango tree the next morning. What antediluvian prophesies are sleeping inside you? What will it take to kindle their veins?

Seek the books you stashed at the back of those sandalwood shelves. Thumb through the dog-eared pages. Search through the debris of memory to find just a single diamond of logic you can smuggle across to your consciousness.

Repeat Ozick - Trust the afterward. Trust what comes next. Trust your survival. Watch those wildlife documentaries. It is always the female of the species that can predict the oncoming natural disasters. This struggle is power. This makes a whole from your halves. This reminds you never to dichotomize your sense of self at the knife of another’s deceit. You know about the monarch butterflies of Yucatan, don’t you? You have come here through generations of women like yourself; women with clayen pitchers & bronzed children on their hips, women like your mother who sat alone in a pregnancy ward, feet heavier than church bells, your grandmother - 15 when married, 18, illiterate with 2 children, 25 -a student of herbal medicine.You have flown through epochs of migratory trance, the ache of wintered wings, their chorus warming your chrysalis. Respect their lives. Respect yours. Pin their photographs on the soft board. Watch them as they watch over you. Bow your head to what is whispering la vida! la vida! in quiet corridors of your mind. Etymologies are a parade of cliche but sometimes we need this ready entourage to rearrange our sadness. Find yours. For example, anger - from old norse “angr”. Meaning : grief.

You want to leave this body? Do so. Leave the anger of this body. Leave its lies. Leave its violent hiss that tells you to distrust your gut. Replace its staccato with symphonies. Maybe Tchaikovsky’s Sixth (‘Pathetique’) or Mahler’s Symphony No 1. Bathe in music. Make it a menage-a-trois with Mos Def & Rakim.

Go to the rooftop on a new moon night - Fire up your own Candomblé. Come back. Strip yourself. Let your eye travel the whole country of your body. This is the alphabet of desire. Pick the places you have hidden from yourself. Show them light. Show them grace. All civilizations are cradled in ruins. Bless your blisters, your shanty towns of mute scars. Pull back the tarpaulin off this skid row. These are the places you have best survived in. These are the spots you were strengthened in. These folded, cratered corners are telling you what Rilke knew - how beautiful the terror of enduring; how wild the appetite of angels. Go forward. Touch your past. Then let it go. It can’t call out. It has no voice, only echoes. Close the door. There is nothing to be scared of. Mark a spot - in a garden, a cathedral, a beach. Dare to meet yourself there. Daily. Ask how you have been. Show yourself at least a quarter of the kindness you lavish on those who wound you without a fear of repercussions. Loss is a weed of language.

Find a scythe. Don’t keep your apologies hungry. Don’t let anyone reduce you to the sum of your mistakes. Refrain from bisecting yourself into the martyr/victim binary. You are neither. You are both. You are so much more.

Break often - not like porcelain, but like waves. Make multiples out of your singularity. Bind the rains to your tongue. Find that place in your mouth where a storm darkens. Stand still while this hell handles you. Trust me, you have begun to scare the fire out of its throat. Everything good, kind & compassionate is waiting for you. Within you. Order a large pizza. Go back to Walcott. Sit. Feast on your life.

​© 2020 by Camila Reland

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