I’m listening to Graceland in my best friend’s apartment singing “I know what I know…I’ll sing what I said.” It’s a song about a woman with a Fullbright and something else, learning and unlearning ways of seeing each other. It’s sort of an album about one kind of America, the kind that I’ve always felt outside of. My family didn’t listen to music together, not Russian and not American, and all the music I knew was MTv mornings and Brooklyn side streets. Honestly, the first time I even heard this record was about three years ago, riding in a car with Claire through Spring time in Michigan—which are all about deluge & thaw—she knew all the words and now I do too. It’s hopeful, something about it, gaining popularity the way it did during the Iran-Contra affair and the final years of the Cold War. Playing on as the AIDS & HIV epidemic spread.
Was he thinking about that too? Were his “role models” gone because a disease was ravaging the most talented bodies of his generation? Then, there’s the fact the he travelled to South Africa to collaborate with artists while the rest of the world divested due to Apartheid. It was considered a betrayal, appropriative, naïve, and then it was considered brilliant. I mean, I’m thinking about time, decades of learning and unlearning. How the world keeps feeling like it could end at any moment and then how it goes on. How creators have been making irreverent choices in the name of art’s higher call for as long as there’s been the threat of war and long before that too.
I’m thinking about us in this moment, this deluge of deceits, each progressive step the U.S made in the past two decades threatened, dismantled, and proudly erased by not only the administration but over half of this country. I’m thinking about hope, who dared to have it eight years ago and who dares to have it now. How these deportations are not new, how Guantanamo Bay never closed, how black people are still getting murdered without consequence, how so much of the responsibility in Syria’s destruction sits squarely on our shoulders. On mine and on yours too. Four transwomen of color killed in one week. Four.
On my first date with my new therapist, she asked me about “the important pieces of the pie,” family, relationships, career, health, and then the radial influences, leisure, pets, hobbies, etc. She didn’t ask me about the world, the large pie I stand on balancing my smaller pie, and I didn’t tell her. I’m telling you now, reader, and it’s not because the stars told me to or because the masks capitalism wears are falling off one by one into a polluted sea… although they are. It’s because, as the feminist adage goes, the personal is always political. And, the celestial is always also material, what falls apart around us falls apart between us. As above so below. So, when we are tired, burnt out from fighting, calling, yelling in the streets, we must turn to each other. We must come back to each other in the event of separation. Hold each other accountable, hold each other with fierce critical tenderness. We must speak the truth over and over until it is the only thing that’s left, find new ways to love ourselves out of this.
P.S. Thanks Claire for being my best and first reader.
P.P.S. THANKS TO EVERYONE for reading this and writing me and supporting me loving me the best way you know how.
One day, when I have less anxiety, I’ll write thank you notes to all of you.
P.P.S. Thanks Jennifer Leigh for being the best seer & Kim Menig & Angela Watrous & Kyoko Nakamaru for being my angels.
For some time now you’ve been collecting. Every day something small, a gesture of kindness toward you, a word that unnerved you, an evocative object completely innocuous to others and yet deeply resonant for you. It’s been an important part of your path, this mindful walk toward knowing assembled piecemeal, this collage of life you mean to compose slowly and with great care. Care is an important word here too because the way you care, your kind of tenderness, is not always obvious—not to those you love and not to you either—but it is deliberate and it is deeply intentional. I have known Aquarians who have forfeited their most ardently pursued missions in response to love’s call. I have known Aquarians who have kept passion and desire in a lockbox for years, choosing to be a safe harbor in exchange for denying their hearts.
Do you know, Aquarius, that every star sign is associated with a Tarot card from the Major Arcana? Yours is The Star (XVII), who carries water and pours it into the rivers and into the earth. She is a visionary card, forward thinking, attuned to her higher calling. The ability to envision your future self or selves is a type of intuition and power few have, but you have it.
What to do with a power that gives you visions and asks you to find your way there? Trust it. Trust that you know who you are and what you feel, even if what you feel is pain. Trust that everything you’ve been doing so far has led you here, even if here feels different from what you envisioned. Trust yourself in love, to fall in it and stay in it, to ask better questions and surpass expectations. Trust yourself to learn from your mistakes and to know when a risk is worth taking because, most often, it is.
There were years when we were lovers of a sort, although no memory accounts for it. When we found each other, out of a mutual loneliness, there was a hole in the fabric of the universe and we set about trying to mend it—believing that we could. I knew the distinct feel of your sheets, the song you liked to put on upon waking, the way you liked your coffee, the feel of your lover’s breast in my hand (because we were boundless, because we wanted to be free). We barely talked about the grief we were born to carry, about being the daughters our mothers drank from like wells. We took care of each other the way night takes care of music, we granted chaos permission and stayed for the aftermath. That is, until we couldn’t, until all there was left to do was leave this underworld city and our hearts too—buried with the ones we lost.
Because the city follows you wherever you go, you have learned to be your own city. Because ruin is also a site of beauty, you are the architect of how others perceive you. It took you years to grow a new heart, didn’t it, Pisces? To trust, against all odds, that there’s something thriving inside of you even as the world teaches you over and over that it will never get better.
Someone must die, must leave you, fire you, miss the whole gorgeousness of you for the parts of you that are wounds—that remain sites of trauma, as is the law of wounds. So, it is up to you to the captain of your lifeboat, the light of the lighthouse, the final push sea that washes you onto shore. Communal pleasure will play its role because joy is necessary and community is vital, you know this. But, neither will sustain if you are not clear-eyed, if your foundation isn’t stable. Note down what you bring into the room of love and what is taken from you. Envision the person you want to grow into, what city of love will you build for her? How will you protect her and honor the risks she’s taken? Walk through your setbacks as she would walk through them, proud and unafraid.
The sun is setting in South Brooklyn and I’m writing against it, invested in the last shreds of light as they bound the wide avenue resting on an awning or window or my hand right now as I imagine you. I want to talk about dreams. Not the sleeping kind that visit you at night with shrouded meaning. The kind you harbor within yourself, slowly built, dismantled, and built again, waiting for their moment to drop sail and ship out. Despite their shape-shifting (and yours), the bones of these dreams stay with you. You, more than anyone know their power over your selfhood and path.
Over my head, I hear Alicia singing these dreams will make you feel brand new and I think maybe she’s right. It’s like when you pick up a fiction book and you fall in love with a character. You cry for them and you remember what it’s like to love a book, what it’s like to be a child with so many possible worlds in her heart. The book finds that child inside you. She’s reading a book by the window and rushing to get to the end of the chapter before the sun sets. She forgets lamps exist. She forgets anything she needs to forget. You read the book and re-discover the girl, you are evoked.
For a long time, Aries, you’ve forged ahead with sword in hand. A warrior, you made a way where no way was, but what for? A warrior was a child once and all children are dreamers so a warrior is a dreamer first and always—no matter what illusions fall away or what trouble comes. Aries, when you set out, you believed you could build a world for yourself. A beautiful world, a world worth living in. That world is still yours if you want it. Protect that world.
In the hotel room you let me share with you, I’m always sleeping when you leave and you’re sleeping when I return. Between the rustled wake of a bed shifting or the jar of a door opening, we try to offer each other a moment of re-connection. I drunkenly recount the strangest events of the night before declaring I can speak no more and you gladly fall back dreaming. You, through the gauzy light of morning, tell me the three places I can find you throughout the day and of course I find you in none of them. It occurs to me that I’m always trying to find you, not because you’re missing and not because it’s urgent. Sitting across from each other sipping coffee, we’re developing a “havingness”—an ability to receive abundance—and reflecting it to each other.
And you are the one who is always teaching what endurance looks like, how to grieve with dignity, how to love generously even when you feel like love is the last thing you were built to give. Our conversations are mostly dry jokes that ride on the back of a mute loyalty to not turn away from each other—no matter what the other sees. Keep on, you say, when you know I want to quit and I feel in you a great will. Keep on and I’ll keep on, I hear you say, I have a purpose, you have a purpose.
Taurus, there will be weeks when your endless projects will indeed feel endless and your tireless heart will exhaust itself on people who don’t know the first thing about taking care of you. And, yes, there will be desire, collected and unspent, bellowing in the bull pen of your body. Let it be known that to be adored is something you deserve in this world. To give yourself away and be claimed, proudly, soft and powerful at once. All the beautiful things you want to make in the world? Keep on. All the ways in which you are trying to better yourself? Keep on. All the doors in you that you closed a long time ago, afraid of what would come? Open them.
For me, writing isn’t a way of being public or private; it’s just a way of being. The process is always full of pain, but I like that. It’s a reality, and I just accept it as something not to be avoided.
Not long ago, we walked circles around a hotel bar, which was ringed with white walls and artificial rivers. Your hands wound and unwound around themselves. We wanted to dance or I wanted to be dancing with you or we were engaged in a very measured dance where we kept our bodies near to each other and looked outward. Your shape-shifting form of care made it impossible to guess who was tending to whom and whose needs. Instead, it seemed that by the very fact of nearness, we re-assured each other that it was safe to gather all the information the world was offering us and report back. What have you found? What do you think it means? What are you willing to risk to know more?
It would be impossible not to notice that underneath all the gathering, all the parsing of visual stimuli, signified and signifier, there was pain. Yours and mine. A quiet thing. And, it is true that people who don’t know how to make sense of their pain spend a lot of time making sense of everything else, as if starting from the farthest point and working back to the body. As if what was found and righted out there will serve as instruction manual.
We know people are not their living situations, their jobs, their books, and certainly not their significant others. But, these are the parts of our lives we use as scaffolding. We start from the outside and look for whatever gives us structure and encloses us in its meaning. If the structure is maintained and built intentionally it will do well to shelter the building. The building in the center, which is us, remains. The building is inherently a site of beauty and ruin. It wants to be rebuilt, supported, and modeled in its best interest. The scaffolding of your life will not do any of those things for you. The scaffolding is only a shelter, it’s you who are the architect.
When you are a creature who lives in water and traverses land, you know the difference between a life lived subject to turbulent waves and a life exposed to birds of prey. On land’s surface, what can harm you is unpredictable. Seagulls, too, become birds of prey, as do fishermen and careless wanderers. Comparatively, the sea is familiar, you feel the currents shift through you and move with them, you dig deep inside the sand and wait. But, in this life nothing is as familiar as you want it to be and even our most intimate landscapes will shift right from under us. Everything you feel and have felt is not everything you know. One is always subject to what some of us call fate and what the rest of us call circumstance.
This is the year of accountability, of pushing yourself to take note of where you are and what has gotten you here and at what cost. This is the moment when I tell you, Cancer, that although there is much unwritten in our lives—our circumstances are subject to our will. Just as our nation must look unflinchingly at who represents us now and how we, as citizens, are culpable, so too must you look head on at the god of your life. What is the driving force of your decisions? Is it love? Is it fear? If this country insists on stealing the truth from us, we must do our damnedest to live in our truth.
Cancer, insisting on the familiar is not truth, it’s coping. On the surface of the sea, the waves argue and the sun beats down. Avoidance isn’t the same as forgiveness. Let go the past and your past self in it, then you are ready to serve the higher good.
It’s late night when you text me from the other coast asking “Are you up, still? Are people up?” And, of course, I’m up because I’m always up—trying to figure out how to talk to owls and listen to morning bird song—trying to have it all. It’s always the same sadness, not the one between us but the ones within us, we were probably born to carry them. And, maybe we’re born to carry each other too. Otherwise, how did such heavy souls find each other and in finding each other generate so much lightness?
You post an article about old souls being forever lonely because they’re so particular. I post a small grief relating to my mother and dozens of women answer, pulling from their own well of loss. I am reminded, again and again, that loneliness can be a mood, an invoked state. When we walk through darkening streets alone, I am calling you and you are calling me, soon one of us will answer—something we both know and are better for it.
Love brought you here and it keeps you here—but love is a child you raise in the house of yourself. Behold pleasure, behold betrayal, behold the beauty of expectation—the hopefulness of it in such a hopeless world. I guess what I’m trying to give you is reassurance that you can have what you want, you can be loved for exactly who you are but you’ve got to be vulnerable to know that. That means risking loneliness, risking your ego, risking admitting you’ve made a mistake without being afraid that mistake will define you.
On the patchy green gay magnet that is Dolores Park, we were in the summer of our discontent. We loved those idle clouds and furrowed our brows at love, its magnitude of destruction, its lure. I wrote the poems walking to you and read them reclining in the grass, you said they were good when they were not good. Remember Pride? How my ex sat down with the girl she was leaving me for on the scarf I had spread on the grass? I stared, amazed at how much pain a gesture so small could evoke. You were livid for me, shooting off sparks. We walked around the block punching the air and swigging Jameson.
I think about that time as a time of truth. We were in a city that was not ours (but would later become yours), risking more than we had to risk. We had come because of relationships but something else too. A deep need to fight for the world we want to have or could have if we just believed hard enough.
Today, so many years later, I’m think about risk and I’m thinking about anger. I’m thinking that a full moon in your sign illuminated your darkness—where you keep your anger, where you keep your grief. Then the moon left you but all those feelings resonate, stay. It has taken you so many years to get exactly where you are and, in many ways, those years have served to clear the debris so you can begin the most important journey of your life. You can be angry at what you’ve lost, you can grieve what has passed, you can feel it all, Virgo. Just remember to look around and be damn proud of how far you’ve come to be so near your truest self.
For the past month, I’ve moved through an unceasing sadness. It hasn’t always been bold or thick, sometimes it was a cold air I pulled into my lungs as I walked across the street. Sometimes, I would wake up with it already gripping my heart. Today I left my apartment and started walking north. I knew I would eventually come to the most Southern point of Prospect Park. At the archway, I was struck with the memory of my first girlfriend who had lived just across the street from that very entrance. Like a time-traveler, I felt my body become soft and the years pull away. Suddenly it was 6am on a summer morning twelve years ago, I had stayed up all night watching her sleep and slipped out with the first sliver of light. There she was, wearing pajama pants running out after me, asking me to come back, calling me her pretty faggot and fingering my velvet blazer from the night before. She was asking me to believe that she could love me.
So many times, I said goodbye to her at that archway, a visceral memory of her boy-body swaying toward and away from mine. Today, I walked past the arch and toward the pond. Yes, we’d sat by the pond before, feeding ducks. Now, a swan moved across the muddy surface, a handful of geese spraying each other at the bank. I sat on a bench nearby, very aware of how cold the air felt.
“Make a choice,” Stephen Dunn wrote in a poem called Between Angels, “to read or love or watch, / and increasingly I watch.” The birds always return, although they are not always the same birds. It doesn’t matter which birds they are, we recognize them as the universe making a gesture. A gesture of what? A circle. You have loved before; you have felt greater sorrow and greater joy. “I do not mind living / like this. I cannot bear / living like this. / Oh, everything’s true / at different times.”
I want to admit to you that I spent the morning listening to women singing folk songs. It started with a conversation about spring, how flowers want the rain although it’s cold, how sometimes, what they want can kill them if there is too much of it. And, of course, most of those songs I listened to were about love. Well, not love exactly. Sort of around love or love as a kind of path we walk around ourselves. You know that moment in “Closer to Fine” (I know you know that moment) when Amy and Emily sing “Well, sadness has a hunger that’s insatiable and lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.” I’ve been thinking about that lightness, looking for songs, poems, essays, anything that calls me to that lightness.
Over text, I reached out to a Scorpio I know, a poet—someone who could be my friend but isn’t yet because friendship takes time and is precious. I said “You know when you’re sort of absorbing and absorbing everyone’s struggles and sadness? Then you realize that you’re drowning in it, in your sadness and the sadness of those you love, and you think “what is my life?” And, even though you know better it feels like your life might be nothing?” “Yes, I do know all of that,” she texted back, “You need to fuck someone, babe, don’t you think?” We went back and forth on the merits of fucking “someone.” The lightness, I think, was the fact that I could text a practical stranger and have them think about what might bring me pleasure.
To listen for the call of lightness is not easy, but you can try. The trying is a beautiful work. In a field by a farm or wooded area, the sound of lightness might come. I have heard it in the tongue of a donkey named Romeo, licking a brick of salt over and over. The rasp of it. And, the horse that Romeo protected, there was lightness when the horse stood still and breathed out softly as I ran my hands over its flank. In the city, there are no horses, but there are young queers who will offer you friendship and talk to you about “the artist’s way” over coffee. They will run their hands through their hair and glance up at you and make you feel wise and fragile all at once—like yeah, maybe you should fuck someone but, also, the flowers are breaking through the earth right now. Some because of the rain, some in spite of it.
When my Sagittarius friend comes over, she brings me 5 types of liquor in small glass bottles because “I like little bottles.” I pour her a drink from a big bottle I have and we sit across from each other talking about women we know who are fearless in their creativity. It’s a windy night but we go into it anyway, I’m convinced there’s a party at the local bar but I’m wrong. We sit for a while at a private table and I don’t know how it comes up but, all of a sudden, I’m telling her that no one has ever taught me how to love anyone, that I had no examples of it growing up. It might be a wild claim but I notice she’s crying. The tears well in her eyes without brimming over.
She’s someone I’ve known for a long time. When I look at her, I see her present self and her past self. I see the young queer who moved to NYC in search of truth. Who was raised Mennonite, that is, who was home-schooled and sheltered and imagined her own queerness out of the secret of her heart and ran toward it. Bleached her hair, made lattes, earned a leather jacket from an on-and-off-again lover. I have watched her absorb the world, witness it, fall in and out love, quietly enduring her private sorrows in ways I’ve learned to recognize as her grace. At the bar, I hold her for a while because she lets me.
I can see her future self, too, but it’s a not a guarantee. The shape of our future selves change all the time because we want them to. And, of course there are days when our future selves seem impossibly difficult to fathom. When we’re either hard on ourselves for how little progress we’ve made towards our dreams or we convince ourselves we don’t know what we want—that we don’t know who we are.
It’s all a trick, Sagittarius, an illusion. You are never not on your path. Time works on you, cities affect you, childhoods instill difficult mechanisms of avoidance, but who you are—oh, that is a knowing that never leaves you, that always drives you.
My friend L calls me and when I pick up the phone, she asks very frankly, “Do you think good triumphs over evil?” I laugh because this is the kind of conversations I am always having with L. It’s been years of impromptu political and philosophical debates spurred by some small exchange at her office or an article she’s read online. In many ways, these exchanges fill me with a deep gratitude, it’s a gift to have a friend who is so different in her approach to the world, so willing to change her own mind or at least consider the minds of others. It is also a gift to have a friend who, no matter how much you disagree with her, will never allow that disagreement to breed hostility between us.
I don’t take long to answer her question. I’ve been thinking about this world all day and the horrible things that happen in it. “No,” I am sure of my answer, “good doesn’t always triumph. Sometimes the terrible thing is the thing that remains.” She accepts my answer without interrogation, it’s not really the reason she called. It’s a three-hour phone call and we’ve covered everything from the DAPL protest to the fact that my mother will never be the mother I want.
I’m listening to her but I’m also above us, listening to a conversation between two women who have known each other since they were 14 years old. I’m thinking about what binds her to me, a kind of mute loyalty to the friends we make in this life—a desire to be each other’s support systems. And, then I’m above our conversation, higher up, thinking about the people who come into our lives who inevitably disappoint us in some way that can feel irredeemable. What makes someone irredeemable? Perhaps this is just another way the evil triumphs over good—erasing it—I’m not sure. I’m just sitting here, after getting the phone, thinking about compassion, I’m thinking, Capricorn, about how it’s important for you to try and see the good in everyone, the possibility for good. Even if you can only love certain people from a distance. Capricorn, maybe there are some betrayals you could learn to forgive, some fights that are no longer worth fighting.