Stars are dying and we are their ashes. It’s hard over here like it’s hard over there, I know. Today is the first day that I will not mourn at a public vigil. Today I’m listening to Mazzy Starr and a gun control filibuster on the U.S Senate floor at the same time. Anger and grief, I’m holding it.
I feel as if the years have slipped away and I’m spending the summer with my girlfriend, whose heart is a herd of horses galloping toward me and I’m ready to lie down before them. I was on my knees beneath a print of the American flag in a small gallery near Brandeis. In my headphones, Sharon Hayes was reciting her 2008 performance piece “I March In The Parade of Liberty, But As Long As I Love You I Am Not Free.”
She was reading a love letter and a political testimony about 9/11, about Bush and Bush again, about how many times we rose up against war and America just rose right into it. She was talking about the ecstasy of being gay and angry and I was crying. I was crying because that was the summer when my love for you reached a fever pitch, because Sade was singing so be gentle and be kind and you were fucking me with a non-metaphorical peach, the pit slippery and hard. You said you loved a man once but you couldn’t live within that kind of privilege and I admired your masochistic streak.
There is no prison in any world into which love cannot force an entrance, said Sharon. If you cannot understand that, you don’t understand anything about love at all.
When will love force an entrance into America? I’m frantic, my love. I want everything back and none of it. At the Stonewall vigil, Cuomo makes us chant NOT ONE MORE and I can’t get my mouth around it. A Russian gay refugee stands up and says “I came to America for this?” Do you remember when almost every month a queer child committed suicide and the news called it our bullying problem instead of indoctrination into homophobia? Dan Savage said It Gets Better but I don’t know for whom. Brown women are disappearing in frightening numbers here and across all our borders. Last year 23 Transwomen were reported murdered and 12 more this year and we know it to be more than that and counting and counting. And, now I’m looking at an eighteen old girl who is alive in her photo but dead everywhere else. She’s wearing a graduation robe, which makes me think of her parents and of mine. My mother hasn’t mentioned the massacre but, I know if I was shot dead for who I’ve loved (you), she would give them a picture of me in a graduation robe. She would want to remember a moment when she was proud of me.
Claire says all angels are genderless. All angels are queer. Queer angels, is there a dance floor where you are? I’m getting sentimental. I’m in my feminine Sapphic mind. I want to love you more in the face of this. To kiss wildly and fuck all! All these years they’ve been taming us so we could become them. “Come into our beautiful prison,” they said, “you get a piece of paper, you get to join the army, you get to kill for us and live in this gilded box forever. It doesn’t matter who you love.” It matters who you love. It matters who you are, love. How you love your body into a new world they can’t understand.
When they run out of guns they will use their hands. When they run out of guns they will have brutal imaginations. When they’re afraid of what lies outside their prison they will imprison us. Laws can control guns but who will control them?
We open the cage and discover a cage. We kiss each other and are obliterated.
I need to speak to you my love, of your life and of mine. Of our past and our future. Of sweet things that have turned to bitterness and bitter things that could still be turned to joy.
Stars die everyday to become part of us. Lover, even if we’ve never touched, I open my mouth and wait for you.
Consider Sending money to those grieving the shooting and the lives lost in the Orlando Massacre. Black, Latinx and Puerto Rican families are often deeply underserved by government agencies in times of crisis, especially when some of these families are undocumented.
Secret Heart, what are you made of? What are you so afraid of? I’m singing this song by Feist (Aquarian) and it makes me think of you. I’ve channeled it and I’m running on a low tank, so tell me Little Wind: what’s got you stalling? Could it be that you feel yourself on the great big wheel? The one that promises you stars if you just run fast enough to the top then threatens to send you back where you started before you’ve even gotten to enjoy them?
The wheel is a dual image, isn’t it? When you’re stuck, when you’re down on yourself, we say—it’s the wheel—you’ll come up before you know it. But the wheel is threatening too, how does one move forward in a loop? How do you, Aquarius, break a bad cycle if it works well enough to convince you that it’s the only option you’ve got?
The wheel we imagine is not the one we live in. Imagine a spiral, imagine a circle that doesn’t close but also cannot break. In each new city, new pathway, new lover, new loss, there is a familiar suffering and a familiar joy. The lessons might stay the same but you do not and that is a good thing, Aquarius. Honor your moments at the top, however brief, and bear witness to your time at the bottom. They both fuel what makes you, you who are everyday becoming.
Sitting in my room feeling sorry for myself (because I am good at feeling sorry), I envy an event that I’ve not been invited to and can’t afford to attend. I scroll the images that are slowly rising up off the internet: my friends in elegant outfits, my dapper girlfriend and her beautiful wife. Then, all I can see is your name. You’re texting me for the first time in what feels like a year. “I’m lighting this award show,” you write, “I feel like you should be here. Come! You can sit in the booth with me.” How did you know I was feeling like the loneliest girl in the world? What god did you conspire with so that you could prove me wrong?
This is the way our friendship works: we find each other and we let each other go. At first, this might have felt like a kind of heartbreak. The universe made you soft and glimmering, reflective. The universe brought you lovers who peered at themselves through you; they were slivers of light coming together or light breaking apart. Shadow play, you were good at complicating an image. You were good at slipping through the hands.
Pisces, the little string that tied me to you, I know how it stays unbroken. You tend to it in your own way—from a distance and with no expectation. That’s a powerful and vital way to care for someone and for now it’s more than enough.
Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God. You do not deserve love regardless of the suffering you have endured. You do not deserve love because somebody did you wrong. You do not deserve love just because you want it. You can only earn – by practice and careful contemplations – the right to express it and you have to learn how to accept it. Which is to say you have to earn God. You have to practice God. You have to think God-carefully. And if you are a good and diligent student you may secure the right to show love.
Just hours ago, Surrounded by the lush coral bouquets and shushing trees, I read these words by Toni Morrison aloud as I performed your wedding ritual. Now it’s night and we’ve all changed clothes. Your guests are getting drunk or gone but you are on the couch with me, a couch you assure me is very old, and you’re asking me about my mother.
It’s as if we’re not at your wedding but back in that small town where we were neighbors and I was always crying on your couch. Your reckless generosity pierces me with its beauty.
When you are stretched out thick with sleep beside the one you love, I hope your heart floods with the knowledge that you, too, have been doing the work. You have been learning, slowly, that your desire to control a situation is often the only thing you can control. And, even if there were days when you were afraid and so, spoke with fear instead of gentleness—your gentleness remained. Aries let the world teach you, again and again, that you have earned love, are always earning it.
There is no cure for temperament it’s how / we recognize ourselves but sometimes within it / a narrowing imprisons or is opened such as when my mother / in her last illness snarled and spat and how this lifted my dour father / into a patient tenderness thereby astounding everyone / but mostly it hardens who we always were
Ellen Bryant Voigt
I remember when you used to call me all the time and ask questions about love, about sex, about how to be a feminist or not be one at all. I guess you got it in my head that I should have answers ready lest you came around and requested some. But how am I supposed to answer you when you call me after the Orlando massacre and say, What do we do now? What can we do?
Nothing, I say which is not good enough for you but I’m afraid or heartbroken—which is the same. I send you links that explain what patriarchy is because that’s what I’m blaming tonight and every night. You take me to task. Should we stop dancing? Should we stop having children?
In lieu of action plan, I can tell you what the temperament of the world is. How, no matter how stubborn we are, it gets into us and becomes us. How it convinces us we were never meant to survive. In order to resist it we will have to love each other more than we ever thought we could. That is all I know.
In Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (Gemini), which is less of a novel and more of a capsized ship at the center of the human heart, the protagonist wanders through the night combing ideas and worshipping mad women. When she seeks to know about eros, about the woman she wants, about the nature of night, she is told: There is no truth, and you have set it between you; you have been unwise enough to make it a formula; you have dressed the unknowable in the garments of the known.
I have seen you on slow velvet morning, wrapping up the many old versions of you that you’d let die so something new could be born.When all the planets play with your shadow and shadow you in turn, when it is your birthday month and your rare magic amplifies, how do you direct your power? This year has taught you so much about letting go but what you put in the ground must stay in the ground, Gemini, so don’t spend so much time in the graveyard of your life; don’t waste another moment wondering what you could have done differently.
Anyway, every part of our lives is made up. The bones of the past would look nothing like what you remember. Memory is fiction and it’s exciting! An open door. However you present yourself, whatever garment you drape around your life—that’s the real you if you believe in it.
If I refuse, increasingly, to explain, isn’t/ explanation, at the end of the day, what the sturdier/ truths most resist? It’s been my experience that/ tears are useless against all the rest of it that, if I/ could, I’d forget. That I keep wanting to stay should/ count at least for something. I’m not done with you yet.
All the time the animal comes. How she got here is beyond your understanding. Before, you watched her survey the periphery of your home, gentle maw in the grass, twitch and bristle. Aware of you as you were of her, neither of you ready to touch. Slowly, we let go of the dream so that we might stand in awe before the ordinary. She would come baying and she would come baring teeth. All the time you were wanting to feed her. Take her in. Learn her secret animal language, which is eye glint and a tail stiffening. But she had plans for you and does; she hunts the dying parts of your life. She picks them off from their familiar ground and lays them at your feet. An animal must give something up that it loved in order to feel strong.
Cancer, what known life would you trade for this one? What woman would bury her heart in the ground and expect to grow another heart? Sharp teeth retracted in the mouth. The sun breaks on her haunches and you glisten. Her heart beats by your heart and the rhythm is almost close. The body alone with the memory of wildness: neither one belonging to the other but with.
All my life there’s been a Leo teaching me how to love. Oh you might not know it since I’m all talk, all watch my mouth move around the idea of the thing—the big looming specter of it—but you lead by example. Like the boyfriend I cried about so much he had to leave me for my own good. Like how angry you get when I rely on emotional subterfuge, forcing me to speaking my truth even though it’s really fucking hard. What I mean is, these lessons are often ones that are not curated by you; rather, I’ve learned them from loving you.
Right now, I’m working on a full bladder at a café with no bathroom and the stereo is rasping Love, love will tear us apart again. I don’t think it’s so thematic. Music is always trying to tell you something you already know. I’m thinking about this baby I’ve been taking care of, how his whole entity is a little mystery. It’s a mystery I accept: why are you hungry again? Why are you crying when I’ve fed you and changed you and burped you and held you and sung you and swung you dutifully in my arms? Oh you just try all the things over and over and eventually they work or not at all and the baby just falls asleep. Wakes up laughing.
Love is like that too but we make up lots of reasons beyond the basic ones. “You’re walled with me,” “You don’t appreciate me,” “You don’t respect me,” “You want to control me.” Basically: If you love me, you love me in a way I don’t understand. So what? I don’t understand why the baby’s smiling either but there’s pleasure in watching it, in being so close. Maybe pleasure is worth more than knowledge this time around.
To love women is not simply to fuck women. To love women is not about obscuring their narratives so that you might graph what’s left over your own life. To love women is not to approach the most accomplished/ conventionally beautiful/ same race as you/ masculine/ best dressed women in the room and vie for her attention while purposefully icing the women who are with her. Especially if they are feminine. Especially if their bodies are bodies you were taught not to love. To love women, a woman would have to love herself more than she loves being noticed, more than not being alone.
Everyone hates women. Men hate women. Women hate women. They hate themselves. That’s why they can spend their lives surrounded by men who say horrible demeaning things about them, just laughing it off and joining in.
We might not be able to change the world, Virgo, but we can make more of it. We can, regardless of our gender or sex, commit ourselves to honoring the feminine. To approaching femmes in the room first as if to say: I see you, I value you. We can bear witness to the lives of transwomen: intrepid, ingenious, and always at peril. We can, YOU can!, meditate on the feminine in your heart, the moon side—the sweet shadow side, and be proud of it. The feminine is a deep and fierce well of love that lives in you. It will nurture your spirit through the most trying times.
Sometimes people come into your life and you think oh this isn’t IT, but it’s nice. Then time builds on top of time. Then you can’t wait to see them, to hear from them, to know that they are near. You forget what it was like without them. You forget what you were like without them, you forget yourself.
And that’s nice too, at first, but then it becomes disorienting. Then you have to get a really big flashlight and walk into the dark forest of yourself and figure out where exactly you’ve been keeping yourself. It’s a long and very difficult search. The kind that might make some people leave you because they are impatient or because they are afraid that the girl you find is a girl they don’t know and aren’t ready to meet.
But you realize that, despite all the risks, the girl in the forest is a girl you miss so you bring her back and you keep her company. You realize she’s important to you. That she doesn’t mind being alone if that’s what it costs to fully exist in the world.
Everybody has their sadness. And most people are scared of it.
-Bad Behavior, Mary Gaitskill
It should come as no surprise to you that Mary Gaitskill, author of Bad Behavior amongst many other wrenching books, is a Scorpio. How she pierces so forcefully through the vinyl veneer of our intimate lives and, through the flapping hole, pulls dead rabbit after dead rabbit–that’s Scorpio work.
Lately I’ve been thinking about obsession, the dead rabbit in the bed. How we obsess ourselves of the sicknesses inside our connections. We spend our down time journaling about the self-destructive impulses that make us commit so intensely to relationships that diminish us. We think we are doing ourselves a service, a form of self-care. What we forget is, above all, we’re allowed to make some wrong choice in name of desire. We are allowed to pick the thing that doesn’t always feel good because something in us believes that it feels right.
After all, there are lots of ways for you to learn your lesson, Scorpio. Have a little fun instead of wasting your time worrying whether or not it’s your responsibility to teach yourself.
Parts / of your / body I think / of as stripes / which I have / learned to love along. We / swim naked / in ponds & / I write be- / hind your back. My thoughts / about you are
not exactly / forbidden, but / exalted because / they are useless, not intended / to get you / because I have / you & you love / me. It’s more / like a playground / where I play / with my reflection / of you until / you come back / and into the real you I / get to sink / my teeth.
O every time I see you I feel like I’ve missed you all of my life. In the park the grass is damp and we are too with the breath of it. You roll right into the earth because you are full of animals. I’m carrying around this baby that’s not mine. I lay him softly on the blanket. I play with the soles of his feet so that he knows everything’s ok. You take out a can of sardines and a bag of green beans like an elegant hobo. They’re Portuguese sardines, you say, that’s why they’re so large. Uh huh I say shoveling sardines into my mouth. Sardines make me think of my late father, which you don’t know and that’s ok. You know enough about me to bring them to our picnic.
The baby giggles on his back and over him we eat green beans and try to figure out where sadness comes from. I feel like this is the year you’ve gotten soft and I’ve gotten hard. Something about the loss of direction. A young heart with nowhere to go. We can laugh until we cry about it. For the record, when you stand up tall like that–you look just like a statue of a Greek god, shining with cool water. For what it’s worth, I think you’re as close to happy as a lost girl can get.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world.
I want to sell you the world, Capricorn. I want to sell it to you for a dollar so that it’s a legal transaction but basically free like you’re a squatter who plans to make a freegan mansion out of a run-down tenement building. I want to make everything beautiful with you. I want us to be making instead of crying (now that the time for crying is past and the time for action is upon us). The world that we want, it’s gonna have a green roof and rain water barrels. It’s gonna compost straight from the shitter, it’s gonna generate its own rainbows, it’s gonna surprise even us with possibilities.
Capricorn, do you know that in Orlando, the Angel Action Wing Project is protecting mourners from the West Boro Baptist church that has come to add insult to injury? Angels are flying to Florida from across the country wearing futuristic robes with wings so big and wide, they obscure the violence of West Boro’s hatred.
O Capricorn, channel you anger and grief into good work and you will find yourself relieved of the weight that anger brings when it lives in you too long.