spokane airport

THOTS & PRAYERS
FOR THE BROTHERHOOD OF WHITE MEN

is what I’m gonna call this mess

since we’re the demo that does them best

if thots and prayers mean acting less

or voting against marginalized groups with minority stress… as if women at conference tables… and brown folks in dorms… need white guys subtracting more… and I know we use categories for making sense… and giving names to groups we haven’t met

but no

WHY DO YOU HATE WHITE MEN THAT’S LIKE ME SAYING I HATE FAGGOTS AND LATINAS

my brother

on the phone while I’m at an intersection

but what about flesh in the grass and women in ironworking and los trumpistas in southern california and pixie boys in kootenai county and ill-eagles fireworks on the skokomish reservation and mothers nursing children in rocking chairs at spokane international airport… and steer ropers staring in horses’ eyes… and words so strong they become actions like “guilty” and “I hereby pronounce you”

I want to say

it comes down to

while animals aim for physical victory bc they’re rewarded by evolutionary gain… my brother aims for high-volume sucker-punching bc… well same

no no no I reassure myself… I’ve prepared for this moment… covering my bedroom walls with butcher paper and definitions for agápē and wisdom and grace

the light turns green

in seattle where my boyfriend and I saw a band named “boyfriends”… consisting of three guys with girlfriends who caused drama by play-acting like they were “gay”

not the faggot town I grew up in

did I say faggot town

flipped my thoughts

I live with faggots now

bc of course I moved away

from where I was raised… where ladies in subdivisions filled rusted bathtubs with dahlias… and re-arranged living room sectionals and side tables… and guys in trailer parks worked on TVs in their yards

I never smeared deer blood on my face after a kill… and neither did my brother

we never paintballed stop signs… or climbed trees to catch squirrels (the unofficial after-school workout of the wrestling team)… or nailed the bloody skins to the weight room wall… or chilled in the parking lot with the tenth-grade science teacher slash security guard

where I grew up

white trash
was designated white
as opposed to other dodgy colors

wonder if the cafeteria table at school still says derek smith is a fag… I see blocky letters behind my eyes… nirvana on the lawn… holding a stick next to a praying mantis… hoping she’ll crawl on

live in the same place long enough and the frogs will be gone

each year I bike a block further

find certainty in school

lay around and think about what’s true

leave cleats books water bottles in the living room

train for x-country in july and august… dream of anthropology and art history in college… parents fill out FAFSA forms

unconscious

at the intersection of my privs

square jaw wide grip

I give in

I say to my brother

driving by the gaybucks

are you serious? I ask… you want to do this rn? you think I hate white men? you didn’t show much interest in my self-hatred when we were teens

we were raised to read widely on top of doing our homework for English class… stories about white men unable to find work or shelter… I stayed awake by reading one chapter in the basement of our three-story home and another chapter in the bath… and another chapter in the basement… and another in the bath

it was 1997 and everyone was wearing ck jeans and eternity cologne and disappearing into the wood paneling of their basements

not everyone wrote a 5-paragraph paper on why abortion was wrong

but I did

most people ate the pro-life sundaes at youth group

as the tin man in our high school production of “The Wizard of Oz”… I dreamed of a fabulous life in the emerald city… while listening to conservatives in the community complain about the presence of witches and pagan values in the play… a few token liberals described how the Wicked Witch’s green skin and Glinda’s button nose… equated virtue with appearance

I worked on a farm for $

hi-ho the derrrrrrrrry-o

faggot on the farm

flesh in the grass

telling stories and pulling weeds as I acknowledged “weed” was a human category… for life distinct from other forms of life… standing out in color and shape… budding out of place

when I got home I studied Zanie’s backwoods dialect in Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God”

four years later

ash-covered New Yorkers crossed the Brooklyn Bridge with their hands on their faces

I picked blueberries on Mount Rainier… asked if subalpine flowers should smell like dryer sheets… if lakes should be toilet tab blue

¾” threaded galvanized pipe
two chain links
eye bolts
flag

supplies list from the guy at the rest-stop on the way home… old glory should stand up to a 96 mile trip up to 70 mph

I went to work folding taco wrappers into triangles like nothing had happened… and made food with beef that showed up in boxes marked “fit for human consumption”… staging mexi-fries under heat lamps in groups of two or three

while boy george (w.) signed the Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism act

after work I slept in self-inflicted poverty in a house full of guys who did backyard enemas and drank jars of pee and kept mushroom journals… and changed my opinion about property ownership… bc why bother storing up treasure when human possession is an illusion… and condoleeza rice has a chevron tanker named after her

we argued about earth history and theological precepts like pre-destination

but agreed

god’s complacent

should be more like the hippie guy in the volkswagen van… with Eden Before The Fall painted one side… and Eden After The Fall on the other… and a nice patch of grass growing on top

textbooks copied screens

fireplaces provided intimacy w/o heat

virtual experiences dominated references in speech

green-tongued goats on forest service roads licked antifreeze

we asked if the phone was real or surround sound prestige… did the spin instructor in the windowless gym want sixty percent on hills or ninety percent on streets… is the norway maple transplanted to the front lawn of the new house conveying a line of aristocratic family wealth

an old-growth tree

the entrepreneur in an education workshop talked about “products” metaphorically

a patriot/explorer on a mustang/bronco went on an expedition/excursion to the frontier/tundra… passing through the winnebago tribe saying

srry bout it

the kids on the makah reservation don’t want whale sandwiches

wal-mart got blue and target red

white wonder bread 

happy meals

j. christ

c.e.o.

5 lb cereal

4 brown ghosts

the speaker at the commencement ceremony joked, “what’s the difference between Pullman and a cup of yogurt?”

the cup of yogurt has more culture

zuckerberg’s hoodie went from “disregard for convention” to “purity of intention”… for someone too focused to worry about clothes… monastic gray was helping folks

now we’re here

we’re here

at the mindfulness weight loss retreat… three raisins… six almonds… the right herbal tincture… twenty minutes in the redwoods

dragging

the past in front of us bc it happened

we’re at home eating pancakes with butter and syrup and powdered sugar… but the sugar is crushed-up hydroxycut

city buildings capture sun for the 20%

hey shadows

and data-mining companies have been adding my places of employment and the mesh shorts I almost bought… and the dreams I deferred and the shows I watch… to their digital dossier of me… and I guess the gazing goes one way but not the other… like church… where predictive analytics play upon thirsts…  and hunt me down like unicorn shirts

what’s next

trees drop plastic fruits

domesticated deer eat out of troughs

stunt-double bears rent suits in parking lots

forest rangers lasso the last of the orioles and roll up the sky

no

we learn

the last time I had a long island iced was… the last time I had a long island iced tea

seeeeeeeeeeeeeee

bro

I’m doing better

you’re like me

except I’m a busybody

with no kids

wish: “pc lecture with moral authoritarian tone by urban elite who reflexively rejects critiques of globalization”… reads “fearless inventory in a world where ‘quinoa empanadas’ are a thing… and platters of deviled eggs watch the horizon”

so even as I call your baby’s bedroom view of the skyline from your island home

privilege bestowed

I call out myself

for lavender cookies and oatmeal soap

hating appropriation while sharing cartoon indian smokes

white peace pipes under a red sun on a yellow box

database of ruin snapshots

you know how I spent those years teaching high school in gig harbor… what you don’t know is I had two Hispanic sisters… Maria and Paula… spend a quarter translating children’s books on sticky notes

they

smiled

yawned

bored

I was their teacher and offered “support”

(but if you need more… in 2009 I was plucking spraying spiking shaving shoving… like the guys on jersey shore… watched every episode and called it my reward… for getting through two president bushes)

the founding fathers designed our branches of government to withstand the likes of King George

(also: granted love to gather more of it, shirked a wrong but lorded over it)

psychologically spiraling… debating if I should share the video of the first lady in the blue dress staring at her feet during inaugural prayer… wondering if I’m feeling personal irritability or existential despair… if I have “compassion fatigue” from doing “emotional labor” in my newsfeed

why someone hasn’t invented a female-friendly pee trough between the knees… why menopausal sensuality gets teased… why testosterone means feeling confident about incorrect answers

have the decency to feel guilty

living off the massive retail workforce stocking big-box brick-and-mortar stores and online fulfillment centers

what did we expect

detaching personal accountability from global effects

what did you think

watching nature documentaries frame lions as villains… positing giraffes as victims… when we know aggression isn’t something “we get out of our systems”

but confessing rings wrong

I say to my brother

pulling up to my apartment home

ear hot from the phone

how’s the kid

peeing blood

good… he’s got a kitchen set with a stove and dishwasher… he cooks plastic things while he toot-toots… farts on command… he says

I hope he’s reading “Radical American Women A-Z” and “The Adventures of Toni the Tampon”… I say… and playing with the nine new ken dolls with ethnically ambiguous face-sculpts… developing new play patterns… bc brown kids asked to play with “the good doll” choose the white doll… and still grow up overly disciplined at school… by administrators analyzing “racial predictability and dis-proportionality in achievement categories”… without saying the word “racist”

I like body positive post-holiday ken
his paunch

also our white immigrant ancestors
got rich
enslaving Blacks

(the rest of the starter kit for understanding institutional injustice can be found online @ www.google.com)

(intermediate: people of color fight against constructed realities… internally and externally… and the racial imaginary overlaps with the gay imaginary bc invisible people need some space to practice their fkn moves… but what about time and place… whose ear does the hearing… which mouth translates)

o say can I… being me… understand how corporate restructuring shows one face and sublimates others… contributes to oppression where double consciousness affects women and people of color

o say can I hear the oppressors’ voices
renegotiate my thoughts
decolonize space

where do I fit in?
will there be room for me?
how do I make room for others?

my brother suddenly has to go
asks if you’ll be him
on the phone

yes

it’s complicated

but yes

(if you’re not my brother and the request is nbd bc you’ve always heard the voices of white men… I invite you to continue… if you’d rather not… peace be with you… let’s hang soon… I love you)

and right there
did you feel that
[
[
[
[

in actual life we aren’t there yet… I hung up the phone after “faggots and Latinas”… bc my hands were shaking so hard I could barely steer

typical of you to back out of conversation
before we say the hurtful things
you say

before we say the hurtful things?
before?
I ask

1) well at least I finally have the upper hand with you thinking you can threaten broken bonds 2) I’ve never seen two belief systems more perfectly in line 3) I guess you stand for democratic values most of the time

we’ll never know what’s depraved and what’s divine… I can’t read hearts and I can’t read minds

already I had escaped into the televised self-help seminar in my head… where I am the host rolling up my sleeves…  ready to hear from household cleaner huffing sisters… and visualize problems worse than mine

after the commercial break I engage the girls in patient-therapist interactions… mixing hard-hitting realism and hypersensitive dialogue… as intolerable and inauthentic as my wife’s bouffant

basically I’m dr. phil… but also… if it’s okay with you… I’d love to try being the girls… who haven’t seen their father since they were two

and later during the re-tape… the visiting expert with a new self-help book… explains the “colorization of the soul”… saying “I think it makes sense to nurture the ‘daily me’ before skimming the news… look here… on the color rubric… reds before blues”

red
apples picked by farm workers with multiple SSNs

blue
mechanics in overalls twirling ballpoint pens

white
eggshell enamel over pink or saccharine

symbols up for grabs… by anyone… bc that’s what I was told growing up and believed… I can be anyone I wanna be

hope the same for Muslim girls wearing spandex hijabs in P.E.

our country is not exempt… when campaign rallies look like nests… but I know I’m like… eighty-two percent spoon-fed/tone-deaf

tomorrow

is a child’s flying drone-wish… where native plants have extraordinary ability visas like the biebs… germinate round-up ready soft white wheat… and facial recognition software on my self-driving truck beeps… bc I’m not wearing guyliner… and lack ethereum cryptocurrency

so I walk into a bar and borrow liquid pencil

apply it in the mirror by the urinal

remembrance of things pabst

love comes in spurts

the worst

hasn’t

hap-

pened

be around

no

thanks

I’ll be a morel mushroom full of vitamin d in the dark

an emerald city queer in the shadow of Rainier where bark is bark

mist from the Nisqually River rolls above the fast part

torrent > P2P file sharing

a robot hands me a warm towel after yoga… scans my sweat for communicable diseases

construction workers buy baguettes out of a wheelbarrow… from my kids

paid in no-nuance knockoff dramatized black lady gifs

blood on their faces hunting feral pigs

allahu akbar… on the fortieth click… means more than the first search results about jihadist battle cries… jihad… means more than the first search results about holy wars

as-salaam aleikum… peace be unto you

ah

saw-lahm

all-lay-koooooooom

while keeping an eye on the horizon

for crowd estimation software in weather balloons

across the un-crossable Puget Sound

not really

we live in western wash.

what I’m saying is… I’m not traveling down Tolkien’s path… climbing Silverstein’s precipice… crossing a toothpick pier… or boarding a balsa wood boat… for a “dialogue event”… when I see you across this metaphorical inlet

not everything overlaps… smoke + fog = smog… marionette + puppet = muppet… enchilada + burrito = enchurrito… intermingling > provinciality…but apple slices on guacamole is white people saying to Mexicans we want your food and want to “touch” it too

eww

I want the queer bar full of queers… and that’s true of any gathering place… the identity shifts with who’s there and who stays… for physical touch and feeling safe… and cultural intensification… we congregate

I could never hate feminist separatists reading sappho by lyre

agrarian nationalists and queer energy collectives disappear

cross the cascades… to north idaho… passport in hand to show agents at the skin of the bubble… preparing for my cousin the welder… who can’t get out of his trailer… and my dad who says seat belts and metric measurements are communist and has a legal pad with instructions for working the computer

the girl on the greyhound says she didn’t go to college for four years to sit on her ass and bake cookies

been awhile

a few days later I ride in the back of our uncle’s truck to the parade… where grandma reminds me to keep my beer tabs so kristy will get a party for her class… as we set up folding chairs on the sidewalk… to watch shriners on little cars… and wave at hooters girls on the make-a-wish float… the mayor… always pooping in other people’s pants… grandma says… as we find ourselves standing and clapping for the coeur d’alene tribe

after mayor and police go by

later help grandma make tater tot hot dish… wrap the pan in a bath towel she pulls from a cabinet full of towels stacked vertically like pizza boxes

small talk

fawn over the s’mores pie with graham cracker crumbs on bottom and top… especially the marshmallowy middle

oh oops

did I go there

pre-prayer

here’s the thing… the alliances we need to overcome the monster are never what we think they are… and seeing anti-american sentiment in the firmament… and indicator species’ temperaments… reminds us the world collects… and/or usurps the throne… the debt is more than we think we owe… there won’t be polite knocking or ceremonial drumming… by so-called “others” we didn’t see coming

solution… testing limits… and I don’t mean excusing myself to get the wings by the jumper cables in the trunk… walking back in and telling everyone angel gabriel is here… saying… oh I guess this isn’t… is this not the sexy jesus party with a crucifix selfie station?

omg that hoe over there

our arguments are basically light divisions… internal-only obstacles where I go back and forth debating

I know

this makes you wanna scream into the phone

well

here’s a semi-autobiographical lyric novella in the form of an epic poem

typical passive progressiveness… I can’t even talk to you face-to-face… would prefer to communicate by writing messages on popsicle sticks and sending them down the gutter… or running out of space… when you wanna chill by the water tank

one thing’s for sure… we’re giving up some things… s’mores pie is on the table… but it’s not on the table… of sacrifices I’ll be making… bc I love s’mores pie

we don’t wanna give up anything but we have to try

our lives are characterized by conveniences with steep costs

like celery and bell peppers and onions already chopped

people with invisibility powers can’t be stopped

rowing outside San Diego and the Gulf

above cracked pipes and pvc

clouds of oil

grass and reeds

dragonflies and damselflies with heavy wings

on multi-generational round-trips without breaks to breathe in juniper trees

addition: we had a seed vault… a plan b food bank… to take care of us… in case a plague trapped in siberian ice destroyed our crops… but ten years went by without permafrost… and car-less urbanites with mileage plans… shrugged and said there was nothing they could do

a collapsed ice shelf is another place for cargo ships to pass through

our ecosystems depend on conversations among interlocking interdependent parts… more than mermaid toast or zombie shows… or mother nature wish-fulfillment fantasies… where we ask quail and cranes in the forest… to come out of the trees and lift us away by our shoulder pads

our second eye watches the ground… as we pace sidewalks disrupted by roots… thank inchworms for decompositions…. trace the paths of ants on the side… turn our ears like ferris wheels on the sly

inner vision attuned

wilderness survival guide

I do not have superior autobiographical memory like my faggot boyfriend does… brother… but if I remember right you beat up the guy who peed on my backpack in ninth grade… bc the next passing period… he apologized

I’m in bed rn… thinking about how I hate your muscular public practice… but needed it… srry for being confused

the word is not the thing

the menu is not the food

the plan

after I’ve figured out what I can give up

is to invite people to a park

the gay-hating florist… the slacktivist slash deejay… the middle-aged man who’s afraid to lose… the kid born in Buenavista and beset in Baton Rouge… the mothers of dead black children who don’t know what to do… the YIMBY… the accent coach… the man behind the curtain… the El Savadoran sugarcane harvester… the Saudi woman prohibited from driving carpools… the Egyptian police officer patrolling Grindr… the entrepreneur hawking fast-fashion woke outerwear patterned with protest iconography… the trans woman fighting the state… Miss Texas 1988… my friends Jonny and James… the Filipino girl who says her nanny enjoys the tinikling routine to Lil’ Wayne… Harlotte O’Scara and Hellen Tragedy… snake handlers and crab trappers… the world’s most prolific fortune cookie writer… the middle school kid in a straw hat… the tenured professor who came out as a qualitative researcher… the barista in the leopard print bikini… Bible Jim… the shirtless guy in briefs next to him with “This man gave me a blowjob” sharpied on his chest… the self-professed leader of the dark-net… and your brother with a Tin Man body

no children dressed as power rangers

but def the kids who helped salmon get to the other side of the river after the pipeline explosion

and the mom in dallas… doing cashier clerical caregiving work… competing for section 8 vouchers

and the developer counting his kickbacks and calories… at a housing tax credit industry gathering

come

it’ll be the opposite of when I showed up at your house after my wife left me… and you opened the door… and I collapsed in your arms in the hallway… and bc you’re a few inches taller than me… or my knees wouldn’t work… you saw the fingernail marks on the walls of my subconscious

we’ll play a game… where we introduce ourselves by name… promise not to make a straw man out of anything anyone says

recall times in our lives less about repetition and more about repair

confess we have versions of ourselves adding post-scripts each day we’re more aware

list the words we couldn’t use: farce, fatuous, machination, myopic, subterfuge

admit we have beliefs that have no proof

discuss satire-less south park

tend the fires we start

galvanize over rust

help hippielandia hostel in flames

do something spontaneous other than combust

commit to meaningful routines

learn ancient proto-langs

remind each other of what we’re trying to forget

has anyone checked on the family in the nuclear train car yet

we’ll discuss what should change… what should stay the same… believe ourselves capable of restraint… revive the practice of communal processing… where townspeople gather side by side… to watch events from the day reenacted in light

practice… on a page

like in a play

oceans and lands… dna strands… airspace… electromagnetic spectrums… gridded and privatized… but the public square

ACT I

CURTAINS OPEN ON PARK/SQUARE. TOWNSPEOPLE GATHER IN HALF-CIRCLE. MISSILE, WEATHER BALLOON, AND RED SUN HANG OVERHEAD

NICO: “I’ve been thinking about how I might convey my progressive morals in a way that sounds wholesome to my family.”

ISSA: “I’m done with that. I spend ten dollars on tampons at the store and my husband gets a bowlful of condoms every time he orders a jaeger shot. Then if I mention the disparity he blames ‘red tide.’ When I needed postnatal care to stop my fourth trimester pants-pissing, my doctor’s visit wasn’t covered. Society isn’t family friendly. I spend forty-minutes on the couch organizing housework and childcare each week, and regardless of what society says, that’s project management.”

JASLENE: “Last year my teacher gave everyone two bathroom passes and if you didn’t use them they were worth extra credit, so I left bloody circles on the chair para mostrarle que esto es lo que sucedería.”

CROWD SILENCES. BOY IN “WANNA LIFT?” SHIRT LEAVES. DARLENE STEPS TO THE MIDDLE.

DARLENE (to vacated space, then to group): “We’ll miss you… Every manifestation of good and evil has part of the answer, but also, immovable people will not be moved. We will show civil inattention by giving him the space he needs.”

MARK: “I’ll never represent my beliefs adequately since I have trouble telling the barber how I want my hair without the assistance of visual aids, but I’m here to talk anyway.”

JAMES: “We’re standing on varying levels of culturally constructed oppressive frames and the only way to deconstruct the artifice as it exists is to stand on the ones that are more entrenched and take apart the ones that are less entrenched.”

SOFÍA: “I’m so confused by the fact that I’m not supposed to feel shame, except for all the things I’m supposed to feel shameful about, which aren’t the things I thought were shameful. Am I supposed to know what a ‘gender illusionist’ is? I thought liking men made my nephew gay.”

CURTAINS CLOSE

overheard in audience:

they’re not connecting… just waiting turns and expressing

let’s not underestimate the hard work of avoiding moral outrage

I’m dismayed at the repetition of “but”… our conversations disintegrate

cognac food chef on insta has a recipe for caramel-drizzled hennessy cupcakes

they seem unwilling to listen generously… we converse better than they do… maybe they’re setting up for an ending other than intensifying favoritism

jumping from flower to flower in a fern gulley type situation

pragmatism is a dangerous alternative to conviction

be as absolutist as our adversaries

ACT II

CURTAINS OPEN. CHARACTER ‘YOU’ GAZES OUT OF HOUSE WINDOW ON AN ISLAND, STAGE LEFT. CHARACTER ‘ME’ LOOKS OUT APARTMENT WINDOW IN A CITY, STAGE RIGHT

In unison: I promise
me: to fight for-profit prisons, schools, and kidney-dialysis centers.
you:
[
[
[
[

In unison: I think I can give up
me: the scholarship I got in college and give it to someone who needs it. But don’t touch the s’mores pie.
you:
[
[
[
[

In unison: I’ve been thinking about
me: what you shared with me about China building artificial land around the Spratly Islands. And how prison construction companies look at standardized test data from second grade children of color.
you:
[
[
[
[

In unison: I believe I am owed
me: a reply. Not long, but something.
you:
[
[
[
[

In unison: I care about
me: how Ryan and Jesse’s mom used to put Carl Budding lunchmeat with mayonnaise and mustard in a blender… set it on ‘mash’ for a game of Duck Hunt… scoop it into Tupperware… and smear it on white bread throughout the week. I would eat that over apples on guacamole. The real globaloney.
you:
[
[
[
[

In unison: I hope
me: we find space to show real love to kenyan baboons in garbage dumps and dioxin babies walking like spiders with red septic skin and people in apartments named after species they’ve displaced and women planning the clean-up of their suicides.
you:
[
[
[
[

CURTAINS CLOSE: INTERMISSION

overheard in lobby:

they’re trying to come up with a formula for interacting in common space… nailing jelly to a tree… chainsaw cutting butter

himalayan crystals from the mystic utilikit dude

maybe we’ll see them agree… or calm down… or point towards partial truth… or connect idealism to privilege

not youth

we know old folks are idealistic

planting seeds without expecting fruits

tj maxx and target are next to payless shoes

sex scenes from insecure on loop

ACTS III+

CURTAINS OPEN ON PARK/SQUARE. TOWNSPEOPLE HUDDLE AROUND A RADIO, AS IF IN A SNOWSTORM.

RADIO: … let it be that great strong land of love… where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme… that any man be crushed by one above…

DARLENE: “Starting sentences with ‘I’ is a good place to begin, but feelings of belonging go deeper. Shift responses bring the attention back to ourselves. Support responses ask for more. Let’s be more than cannibals with knives and forks.”

MARK: “Food metaphors. We want to think about asking better questions. ‘What place most inspires you?’ instead of ‘Where have you traveled?’ ‘What work are you passionate about?’ instead of ‘What do you?’”

JASLENE: “What’s your weightiest belief? What’s your most potent fear?”

RADIO: … clutching the hope I seek… and finding only the same old stupid plan… of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak… it never was America to me…

ISSA: “The desperate search for an ethic, a specter.”

JASON: “I am willing to give up my authority but don’t touch my autonomy.”

RADIO: … say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? and who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

YOU:
[
[
[
[
[
[
[
[
[
[
[
[
[
[
[
[

EPILOGUE

Before sharing my brother’s response, I want to say I wrote “Thots & Prayers” because women get fewer obituaries than men in newspapers. Because the Baltimore Orioles lost way back when they had no tree canopy in which to land. Because trauma squats in the valley and anxiety raps her knuckles on the hill. Because Taco Bell spent 10 years and $15 mill developing stretchy cheese. Because men look at other men working in daycare centers and think they’re dumb for frittering away perks that should have been theirs from birth. Because my older brother yelled about faggots and Latinas after visiting the site of the Orlando Pulse shooting.

I am not looking to be comforted or assuaged.

White men need to educate each other. It’s not anyone else’s job. We need to listen to the cultural conversation, see connections, and act on behalf of people who aren’t seen. We need to be friendly in crowded places, pull each other aside and be bridges.

I hope my family understands how many things will break if we don’t accommodate fragility. I’m not a metaphysician and don’t know about quantum mechanics or particle physics, but I know the phrase “I hope” is a glimmer of light living outside my rage. “I hope” signals my privilege. I hope to understand more about “I hope” in the context of everyday life in coming days.

As a beneficiary of entrenched systems, I work for everyone to have equal voice and access. I work for what’s best in my neighborhood and nation, on this striking and stunning and astoundingly polluted planet. I avoid asteroid-bashing. I avoid the ossification of stalemate. I avoid co-opting the language of the oppressed. I transcend “I avoid.” I save room for warmth and time for children. I learn about neuro-diversity in the workplace and nutrient density in public school lunches, and communicate generously about these issues and other issues of significance, like the shared struggle for justice.

Mantras I’m saying and acting upon.

What’s mine is yours.

We do not need all the parts of the old society to create a new one.

If you feel inspired, please comment. I’d love to hear your weightiest belief, most potent fear, frustrations, considerations, qualifications, corrections, assessments, and agreements. No presh. I get nervous sharing my feelings, and words impact and behave differently for different people. The spaces between known grains of wood make wood strong.

I wasn’t sure if my brother would be a grain or a space. He’s the first person to admit he doesn’t read much and would rather talk on the phone or hash things out in person. Before sharing this, I called him up and said, “I’m about to send you a piece of writing. You don’t have to read the whole thing. You can always ‘Ctl. F’ and look for ‘brother.’”

Here’s what he wrote:

FYI, I don’t really like you writing somewhat rude things about me and my house (which I take as jabs towards my wife and kids), etc. I don’t do that towards you. I know there was some nice stuff too… I am communicating by e-mail as I know email is your preferred method, but at some point you need to realize I have feelings and opinions too, and don’t share them with everyone.

Right now I’m looking at 40+ people smoking joints outside the subsidized housing across the street. Wish I had that option. I wonder if their chronic drug use is helping out the health care system – I know they’re not paying into it? I was up at 4:05 a.m. today to keep working toward losing that 20 lbs. so I’m not a burden on the system in the future. Learned that from Mom and Dad. I guess sometimes I feel ripped off. Need to get back to work now as I need to pay bills.

I’m sorry about the hate stuff that one day, you know I don’t feel that way.

On another note, is hydroxycut good stuff?

R

He attached a document where he continued the conversation.

I promise to… take care of my kids and not cheat on my wife.

I’ve been thinking about… how to lose 20 more lbs. so I’m not dead when my kids are 40.

I feel like I am owed… nothing. I don’t feel I’m owed anything. Everyone chooses how to spend their money.

… and gave me prompts of my own.

In unison: I’ve been busy
me: working about 12 hours per day if I count commuting and working on my house.
you:
[

In unison: I save my money for
me: the future. I think I’m responsible for taking care of my own problems instead of hoping someone will help me out if something happens.
you:
[

In unison: I feel I’m privileged because
me: I had a good Mom, Dad, and brothers growing up. I was never given any money, but having someone in your corner is more valuable. I am in your corner if you are in a pinch, and I know Mom and Dad are too.
you:
[

Working for a great strong land of love,

D

COLOPHON

Published on tumblr on Thursday, Aug. 10, “Thots & Prayers” is a phone transcript, visual essay, poem, and interactive self-help manual. I edited my brother’s written response for clarity. My mom took the pictures of my brother and me. My friend Jonathan Ursin took the pictures of me kneeling on the amphitheater stage and laying in the grass with rosary beads. I took the rest. Spanish phrases were proofed by Alè Barrientos. Radio broadcast lines are excerpted from Langston Hughes’ “Let America Be America Again.” Endorsement by Seattle performer Nico Pecans (they/them) / Miss Texas 1988 (she/her) is available. Lines from “James” and “Jason” are from interviews with James and Jason. PDF with original formatting shared upon request.