Dear Autumnal Rabbits,
Today I bring you these letters, a small harvest I collected under the light of your stars. It’s almost 90 degrees outside in NYC, as if summer never ended, and I am grateful for the warmth of this day just as I am grateful for the cool crisp days ahead. I’ve spent the week feeling strangely envious of children, the incredible charge that came from the first day of school, a fantastical conviction that this year you would different. How your Lisa Frank folders and trapper keeper, particular mechanical pencils and three-colored pens, would raise your cool factor and make new friends a breeze.
My friend reminded me that in addition to the excitement, there was terror and isolation, fear of being found out for whoever we were then, and inevitably who we wound up being now.
In the spirit of excitement and fear, the kind that falls sparks us well past the age of childhood, I want to end this letter with a beautiful video of a “Soy Yo” by Bomba Estéreo.
Y no te preocupes si no te aprueban cuando te critiquen tu solo di / Soy yo
Soy yo soy soy soy/ Soy yo
With Love and Little Apples,
P.S. If you would like to contribute to the writing of these horoscopes, you can donate at my PayPal.
I remember the state of your guitar particularly. The gloss and fullness of it, bodily, the strap sorta 70’s and almost wholesome. Like, Karen Carpenter wholesome. Like what’s happening under the surface of you where are you and what have we lost you to, sweet songbird? And I loved her bright clear voice like I loved your guitar, earnestly swinging behind you.
There’s grief, I guess, for the lives we imagined for ourselves and lost the blueprint to. And that grief is never-ending despite the fact that we didn’t begin this road together and we sure as hell had no idea where it would lead us and at what cost. When I saw you last, you were living in a house that might as well have had a white picket fence. You were in love, teaching music, you took me to a small town gay bar and I saw the best drag show of my life. Now I don’t know who you are and the possibilities pain me.
I stopped by your life and left so I guess this is a coward’s letter. The kind of letter you write to keep a memory intact then tuck into the corner of a musty cabinet. The internet with it’s river of voices is not so different from a black hole. But, if you are reading this, I want you to know that I remember you powerful. In my mind, you move through the world irreverent and unafraid of love’s possibilities. In my mind you are never lost, never unclear of the path you must choose toward feeling strong and free. I’ve got faith in you, songbird, your dark heart, and your guitar so sweet and clear.
I didn’t know how to ride a bicycle until I was about 20. It was something that embarrassed me but I had excuses: my father was disabled and unable to teach me in that running-behind hands-on way, my brother never offered to, my friends would always stop being my friends etc etc. It took me a long time to commit to learning, to decide I deserved that particular kind of freedom. The first person who helped me help myself was a dear Pisces friend. For a couple of hours on a cool summer day she ran beside me as I tentatively pedaled her bike back and forth along Flatbush Ave. Later that year, I found a Kelly green Schwinn abandoned in an old shed behind a college house I was living in. I cleared it of cobwebs and claimed it.
This isn’t a letter about that bicycle. This is a letter about the moment when, riding around town with a girl I had been seeing on and off, I glanced behind me and in her face saw a happiness I dared to hold between my two open hands. It’s a letter about letting yourself hold happiness for as long as you can without being afraid of going too fast and falling too hard. About trusting yourself to brake when you need to, to take turns well and with grace. The freedom this new venture offers you, you deserve it and you know what to do with it. Wear a helmet, get on and ride.
When a small animal is put in our hands, we are given delicate instructions. We accommodate its wriggling squirm and scramble, shifting our arms this way and that. Fragility is the obvious thing, the small bones and thin skin mewling. We know a woman can love a suckling pig and bring that pig to slaughter. That is a tenderness too, no matter its conclusion. Where does such tenderness come from? Asks Marina Tsvetsaeva of Mandelstam and his eyelashes although his love for her was hardly tender, often cruel and dismissive.
Sometimes, I have encountered women who moved me toward tenderness as if by compulsion—a dull ache in my hand to tuck her loose hair back behind her ear, to smooth the tension from her neck with a light stroke. More rare were the times I felt tender toward myself, stroked myself from collarbone to pelvis like a long worry stone. No one taught me tenderness toward myself, no one said, “be your own small animal, be gentle, be kind.” It was something I learned for myself and keep learning.
Each day you abandon yourself is a day you become less soft and less able to love others. So each day of your life you must say, “you are my charge, my tender thing, I will bring you what you need.” You are where tenderness comes from.
We were there the moment Miriam opened for breakfast, a young woman propping the door with one hand and gesturing us in with the other. Grateful we’d arrived at the same time, our paths intersecting at the cross street, I felt a kind of hope flood me—a knowing. What is life and how do we think our way through it? You scanned the menu and I knew what both of us wanted. Summer cleaving into two parts, your time teaching in the woods and your time after—but this was a break in time, a day of endless meals and friends arriving—you knew soon that what “real life” was, you were returning.
Well, how does it feel to have returned? So many of your responsibilities, roles you anticipated and waited years for. And if it isn’t what you wanted—that is not a failure. It isn’t our lot to walk toward an oasis and settle peaceful amongst the grazing animals. We are not that kind. We were made to re-imagine to world, the clear a path through it as a hoofed land animal might—moving persistent through tall obscuring grass.
We were bathing in the dim light of morning and warmth of endless coffee re-fills. I said I feel too aware of the world—too aware of the intentions of others—what they mean versus what they say. You said I have always been this way, all my life. And, I knew that was where your strength came from, your ability to push through and onward toward a wide and more ample landscape.
I have a funny feeling about moons. Seems like I’m always looking for one when I’m in the mood to get a big eye-full and all I get is clouds, the obfuscation of cosmos. And, there I was, naked in a Hampton Bay waiting for bioluminescent transcendence, thwarted by the greedy light of the big full moon. In the dark water I swished my hands back and forth to activate barely visible small crystals of light, one doesn’t get what they want when they want it. I thought about how lucky I was to be swimming with my love, my friends and strangers, queers of various ages and races—free under the hooded eye of night.
Maybe life is all about chance, a double-sided coin that falls how it may—despite everything we learned about odds and probability. Or maybe there’s fate in it—a fist you can’t see grips the coin out the sky and slaps the back of your hand with the answer. Yes or no, go or stay, this way or that. Whichever power governs our lives, we stand square in the midst of these forces and we are culpable in their outcomes. We are the ones tossing the coin, looking toward the sky for answers and choosing whether or not to listen.
If you can’t see the moon imagine the moon. If you are walking through a dark path, let your eyes adjust to the dark. You are more than capable of getting where you need to be, you are not lost and you’re not without help. Be patient with yourself and the moon, it will light your way softly for a long time.
A while ago I read an article that encouraged those of us going through heartbreak to lie down on the ground and feel it all, submit to Kali, Hindu goddess of chaos. I thought about this article for a long time after, remembering friends of mine who had gotten sober and tattooed the word surrender on their forearms—grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change… And, I thought about my friend Willow who told me to “lie down in it” when I told her the pain in my heart was at times excruciating. How does one go about practicing surrender when surrender is not in one’s nature? Write it down, Cancer, a page of what you mean to surrender.
Remember when we found a poster advertising a “gesture store” and we stood for a while wondering what we could not know before deciding to find out? How the man with the gold flag welcomed us into a ramshackle alley and two foreigners looked us over as if we were the experiment? We could have never known, hours before, that we would be perched on stacked pallets getting the veins in our feet traced by their paintbrushes. How quietly we folded into the demands of that universe, how easily we played along—teaching the foreigners a hand clapping game we both knew from childhood.
The folds in our lives are sometimes slight and sometimes so sharp they change the shape of the page entirely. You might be surprised to find that you never needed it the way it was. What leaves you, what you leave, it’s just one page of a book. Your book.
In your bathroom, I’m standing with my shoulders squared and my feet hips-width apart, breathing even breaths so as not to move while you cut the fringe on my forehead in a diagonal curve. That’s my exposed futuristic eyebrow, I explain, and the other’s my relaxed bohemian behind a curtain. You laugh and seem to understand perfectly, tufts of my hair fall on your chest and make you wooly. Hair is an intimacy, I think, my mother saved my long Russian braid from when I was a child. I would open up her chest looking for costume jewelry or handkerchiefs and come upon my own hair, a golden color it will never be again. And then, there was the way you described your dead sister’s childhood braid in your mother’s hands. A rope that lead to Jane who wasn’t.
It’s been a year today, and when I ask you about this month you say a hard month. When I think about what the stars say I think compromise, suppression, a lasting wound that shapes you.
How does one parse themselves from themselves, a bruise on the heart from all other bruises? Here I think about Stephen Dunn’s Each From Different Heights. Yes, we talked about the falsity of tender things and, yes, we know some bruises fade. But what do the living owe the dead? What do you owe the ghosts of relationships past, the girl you thought you were and the women you discovered you are?
On the news all morning the North Dakota Pipeline protestors representing tribes near and far, on horseback and on foot, children and elders chanting go away go away pushing attack dogs back with their big voices. I’m so moved and so menstrual, I witness their unrelenting courage and burst into tears. What comes to mind is the summer we drove through the Dakotas. The fields now flat now undulating, the sky true blue and so wide I felt like we could drive right off the earth. Wheels of golden hay punctuated the landscape and we saw a horse faint from heat. Powwow to powwow, we went looking for fry bread like your grandmother’s. You told me how you dreamed of coming back here, to help kids who might or might not be your relations—teaching them animation skills so they might tell their stories.
Today the protestors are out there again. People on horses and one man is wearing a Russian scarf around his neck for protection against mace. I imagine I am that scarf, glittering, sentinel. I imagine you there too, your strong legs braced, your shoulders squared against menacing oncomers. Then, I imagine you wherever you are in this world, watching this same video, wondering what you can do from where you are. It doesn’t matter what you held you back before, the wrong turns and false starts. If you want to be of beautiful use to something bigger than yourself, if you want to do something that matters, you’re ready. Just make sure the help you give is an offering in response to a need, a need wider than your own.
When I was eleven, my erotic eye opened—a butterfly—resting on beauty. That was probably how I found you, with your long black hair layered in thick wisps, your always perfect pearlescent nails, the waist band of your Adidas running pants flush against your narrow hips. You probably don’t remember that I loved you this way, only that we were different and the same somehow, only that it was good to sit beside each other, play MASH and draw flowers.
Last night at a bar full of hipsters braying about Bushwick being “just like high school,” I got my first drink with you in over a decade and outside we saw a boy I dated once that you did go to high school with and he was on a date with a girl he went to high school with. New York is a small town, all of it. “I don’t know why,” you interjected mid-sentence, “I just feel like I can tell you everything because you’re you and I’m me.” And, listening to you, I was reminded of who I had been all this time—the ineffable aspects of our characters that must have been inherent to us as children (our shameless flirting with strangers, our ability to sigh into a heartbreak and then lay it down to the side).
Sometimes, when the world’s demands feel endless and you think you must be changing into someone you can’t recognize, it’s powerful to remember that there is a core self—a butterfly—that informs your relationships to others and to yourself. That butterfly is always open to the world, she is young-hearted and easy to love.
In order for the truth to set you free, you’ve got to believe that there’s only one truth and any kind of freedom but you know better. You’ve learned that no matter how true something feels, there’s always a little lie in it, or a little lie around it. That’s the bee in the honey, the worm in the mushroom. A poet I admire, a Scorpio skilled at seeing, recently complained that in her Myers-Briggs profile, she had morphed from J to P, judging to perceiving. She asserted that the P made her vulnerable in her empathy.
What’s funny, or strange, or just right, is that there exists a path that Scorpios do walk which leads them from judgment toward perception. When a Scorpio is young in their spirit, they are said to be scorpions—stingers—moved by instinct. The truth of the scorpion is a truth that pours from fear means to wound others. When a Scorpio begins to walk their path with mindfulness, they are said to be eagles. They are interested in self-awareness and precision. But they are also hunters and they don’t wound until they mean to kill. These are the Scorpios that hold their truth for a long time before burning one large and final bridge. The third Scorpio is said to be a phoenix. This is Scorpio that lays its judgment down in favor of perception. It does not mean to tell you how you are; rather, it means to see you for who you are. This is the Scorpio that knows how care for someone by caring for their damn self, how to love someone even as they let them go.
Scorpio, because fall is coming and that is kind of walking towards death—not mortal but seasonal, spiritual—I want you to think about the kind of Scorpio you are. What has your commitment to judgments (about yourself, about your life, even your workspace) held you back from? Maybe freedom begins by learning to see the many complicated truths you are capable of.
In Brewster NY, there’s an organic farm belonging to my friend’s family. There is a centenarian Sycamore grows right by the house we sleep in, a house so old it feels like I’m on a tour in one of those towns where women are hired to wear bonnets and turn butter. The bed I sleep in has ropes for slats. My friend informs me that these ropes have never been replaced and I go to sleep thinking about how long a good rope can last.
I did not come to test ropes or stroke Sycamores, I came because of a donkey named Romeo. At the pasture where Romeo grazes, I behold a Bay horse. What I want is to be close. The horse’s handler is away so we climb the fence, bunches of sweet grass in our fists. Neither animal is afraid but the more we touch them the more they seem to recognize us. Romeo doesn’t want my grass unless I press it softly to his mouth—which is bristly and warm. The horse knows our nature now, he nudges my friend to fetch him grass, he wants to be stroked along his back.
The horse makes me think of you, how there are times when you appear reserved by nature. Or, how you reserve yourself, afraid to give away your softness lest it makes you soft indefinitely—vulnerable and bad at lying. Like the horse, you project a kind of wall but lean softly towards a hand with sweet offerings. Imagine what life would be like, Sagittarius, if for a while you trusted the universe to protect you and you let your reserve down. What if, for while, it was you who made the offerings?
It’s the end of night and the talking has become a little laborious, a little slow, Vicky’s sipping tequila and Mina’s tattooing a slow and fine canoe into her arm. Someone begins to wonder about power and fear, how each relates and where they diverge. I’m thinking about the relationships power creates, something beyond Stockholm syndrome and closer to Kara Walker’s My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love, the dependency of meanings. Who am I without you? Asks each from the other. A Hegelian puzzle: who is powerful without having power over? Who is weak?
There is book of the collected writings and statements of Louise Bourgeois lying on the table and so I pick it up and let it fall where it may. A statement she made about spirals strikes me and I read out loud:
The spiral is an attempt at controlling the chaos. It has two directions. Where do you place yourself, at the periphery or at the vortex? Beginning at the outside is the fear of losing control; the winding in is a tightening, a retreating, a compacting to the point of disappearance. Beginning at the centre is affirmation, the move outward is a representation of giving, and giving up control: of trust, positive energy, of life itself.
Although these words attend to power, they are not interested in what power does to us. Rather, they want to know how you place yourself in relation to control, seeking or surrendering. I want to know how you place yourself at all, Capricorn, in this moment, which is a spiral like any other. If you are retreating, know that there is no disappearance, only a point when the world becomes so taut—it is a bud at estivation’s end. When you think you’ll disappear is the moment when you’ll burst forth.