Dear Summer Hares,
Today is July 19th and there is a full moon in Capricorn. Today would have been my father’s 79th birthday so I’m thinking of him and who he taught me to be and who he never got to be and why. My father was already disabled when we came to America. He had a vulnerable heart and spent most of his time being my caregiver, organizing the apartment, and hiding needful things in useful places where we never found them again. Once, in a life before I ever knew him, he had been a photographer, a “speculator” in Moscow’s shadow markets, and an alcoholic. My mother said he “loved women” and that I must have taken after him. He spent a lot of time alone in this country and when he died, his death was just like his life here—neglected by doctors, numerical, shrouded in a language he never understood.
When I think about my place in this country, as a refugee turned citizen, as a Jew fleeing violence and a girl too gay to ever go back, I wonder what it feels like to belong anywhere and at what cost? Citizenship is dissociation, the art of forgetting: to belong in America is to forget America. What wars has this country waged for its citizens and against them? We fill our tanks, we pay our taxes. Who walks blithely over the graves black and brown bodies make—men and women both, named and unnamed? This toxic whiteness—which is not new but is also not inevitable—is a pollution we accept, build houses on, grow food in, swim. It is a thriving not in spite of death but because of it. Patriarchy—root of capitalism, which is fascism’s disguise, which claims there are those of us who are disposable—how can we extricate ourselves from its power? That, too, is a mythology our money has made real.
I spend my days unraveling, following a thread of violence and suppression that only has to whisper its presence in order to expel power over me and who I believe I am meant to be in this world. And what about you, reader? What have you agreed to so that you might feel this free?
P.S. You can support the writing of these astro-loveletters at my paypal site OR
You can donate to FIERCE instead, an organization I value in NYC
“FIERCE is an LGBTQ youth of color-led organization. We build the leadership, political consciousness, and organizing skills of LGBTQ youth. In New York City, we organize local grassroots campaigns to fight police harassment and violence and increased access to safe public space for LGBTQ youth. ”
It was not until I became a student of women’s liberation ideology that I could understand and forgive my father. I needed an ideology that would define his behavior in context. The black movement had given me an ideology that helped explain his colorism (he did fall in love with my mother partly because she was so light; he never denied it). Feminism helped explain his sexism. I was relieved to know his sexist behavior was not something uniquely his own, but rather an imitation of the behavior of the society around us.
All partisan movements add to the fullness of our understanding of society as a whole. They never detract; or, in any case, one must not allow them to do so. Experience adds to experience.
-Alice Walker “Can I Be My Brother’s Sister?” Ms., August 1979
Today I’m thinking about the fullness of your experience, what you allow yourself to feel
and know—deep in your bones—and what you file away for a later date when you think you’ll be ready. Our books only teach us so much. And countries too, with their invented histories, their every-day pleasures and heaps of garbage, what can they tell you about your purpose in this world? Your reflection glimmers beautiful in shop windows and is gone.
I want to believe, given all this war and death and violent denial, that this summer has been easy for no one. Still, time presses down on us with her thumb and demands work, demands we eat, demands we smile when someone takes a picture of us standing under a waterfall. And you must go to the waterfall, Aquarius, no matter how broken the world. You must go to the waterfall and watch the cataract beat down on the rocks at its foot, watch the water shape them. In what other types of suffering is beauty born? And when is beauty a seed? And when is beauty a burden?
You run the hot water over the dishes in the sink, of which there are many. They are evidence of a beautiful morning, a morning making food for a lover or a friend or your kid—who is coloring now in the other room and really only sometimes on the table instead of the paper—which is to say, evidence of your life. There is soap too, in this water, breaking down grease from butter and meat and from meals before this meal. Is this what it’s like to have a beautiful heart? Small tasks adding up to a daily life, which is not removed, which has today to worry about and tend to.
You tend to it. You pluck each dish from the hot basin and think about gloves, about needing some. You can do this. You can clean each separate thing, sometimes gently and sometimes with your elbow deep in it. This work is an offering, a gratitude, a time to think about the rest of the day and the many meals that follow this one. Not all of them will be beautiful but each one will be a choice you have made in response to some kind of hunger.
Once, life was a different room everyday. You walked in and walked out, you were always changing but nothing felt changed. These days, you walk into the same room and it is the room of yourself. In this room, you let the right ones in and you know you are strong to care and be cared for, both. In this room, you do the work, you get dirty and you come clean.
In response to a question about the future of Queer art in relation to “Society’s” progress and growing acceptance of “Others,” Avram Finkelstein, famous for his political and collective-focused art (Silence = Death poster), replied:
I think the idea of queerness as we’re talking about it at the moment, in academic circles, the idea of queerness as a way of describing otherness will always be true. There’s only room for 1 percent to rule the world. We can’t all rule the world, although, I’ve spent my life trying to figure out how we can.
And that’s what my work is about—it’s a battle, and you never stop fighting, and every time you figure out one way to navigate power structures, they figure out another way to absorb it, so it’s a constant, ongoing struggle.
The generosity of the artist’s vision, his ability to balance grief and action, pride and humility—I wasn’t surprised to find out he was an Aries. Aries, the visionary, the optimistic heart, the one who believes a skill they don’t have is just something they haven’t learned yet.
For the past few weeks your generosity has drained you. In order to care for those who depend on you, you split your world into two: creator and nurturer. You felt like you had to choose and in choosing lost sight of how—in the many other lives you’ve lived—the two not only met but also thrived at once. Aries, you maker of new possibilities, rest up and let your collective visions return to you. Imagine a life where the nurturer in you has boundaries that rise up out of love and never out of fear, where the creator in you makes art that is a reason to live in this world.
In another world we are walking shoulder to shoulder through an exhibit called Twice Militant. It’s at the Brooklyn Museum’s Sackler Center and it’s all about Lorraine Hansberry. We want to honor her brilliance of course, to scan her ingenious arguments for the liberation of women, black and gay in particular, her commitment to being exceptional and her suffering from it. Her suffering feels very present in the room the way genius can change the air when it is made visible.
What holds onto us, what always holds, are the secret things. The lists she wrote privately, her likes and dislikes, her contradictions and her clear river of want:
Lorraine Hansberry, age 32, 1962:
That love is really as elusive as everybody over 30 knows it to be
My consuming loneliness
All the friggin’ hurts in this world
That a certain lady let my letter be read!
The shallowness of the people who have come into (and lately been expelled from) my life.
69 when it really works
The first scotch
The fact that I almost never want the third or even the second when I am alone. Praise fate!
The inside of a lovely woman’s mouth
The way little JW looks in the movies
Her behind—those fresh little muscles
Parts of the lingering memory of a betrayer
I am proud
that I am losing some of those fears
that I struggle to work
against many, many things
and on my own
of my people
I should like
to be utterly, utterly in love
to work and finish something
Taurus, as this month comes to a close and the full moon rises thick with strong will, I want to imagine you writing a list. You can start with the easy things—a job that fulfills your strong spirit, when you have enough money to make time with friends luxurious. These things are easy because you know the limits of the material world. Now go deeper. To work and finish something. Now go deeper.
You’re in my room with the door closed and I can hear the drill driving into the drywall. All day you’ve followed amiably like a bright kite string as our mutual love, my best friend—your lover, tugged us along. Here to there, this way then that—she’s the boss, even when the plan is in my best interest, even when I’m the one who said Ikea? Fort Tryon Park? She says soft serve AND hot dogs, house margaritas and a whole pizza pie.
We might have our own concerns but none of them apply. Yes bring it all over. Let’s make a room beautiful together, bending seductively over hammers.
It’s not impossible to commit to beauty, after all, to a day spent tightening and un-tightening the same curtain-hanging system. And isn’t this a kind of worship? A kind of being there for each other—the witnessing of daily tasks: bringing bags in from the rain, fumbling for the dropped screw through the under-bed dust bunnies, the sticky margaritas that splash up everywhere.
Dear Gemini, if the words that fill you now seem impossible to say, it is ok to make what you mean. To offer up the physical thing: small offerings, gentle tidings, something material you’ve imbued with love power. This is about ritual and intention. About having a clean heart. But, keep in mind that an offering won’t guarantee you anything, not love or secrets or even a gift in return. An offering is made for the pleasure of giving, the lightness of it. I see you, your Gemini gift might say, you are so important to me—this is a symbol of my gratitude.
I’m listening to “Don’t Stop Believing” at my local café and the song is turned on too loud (Can one even listen to the song on low? you might ask and I might answer…yes). It’s infiltrating my mind and flooding me with images of who we were a decade ago: irreverent philosophers, whimsical radicals, patriarchy smashers. Who knew Bon Jovi could conjure up such feminisms?
Last week, I found you in the East Village and we took turns people watching. At our final destination, Tompkins Square Park, we watched a six-person cover band sing American hits. Everyone danced in their own way: one women swayed her arms up from her fold-out chair while her husband thrashed around a few feet away, a young man walked the periphery pumping his limbs in rhythm to the beat. We were talking about loss and heartache, about when what we love holds us back and when it helps us grow. We were also talking about people, the people dancing, the people we love, the people walking by with dogs that looked exactly like them.
Even though it looks entirely different than how it once did, I know I grew up in that park. I fell in love with lost girls, I thrashed around in misogynist mosh pits and I want to tell you that it’s ok, everything. That even though we’re grown up, we’re not done yet. When we were young, we felt large in the world and everything was ours. Now we are smaller and so we lose things: our old self-beliefs, the futures we thought we wanted, the parents we imagined we could have. We can’t have everything, Cancer, not even most things. But we can have a bench to sit on, a bad song to sing along to, a good friend who rubs our hand gently and says Even if it feels impossible, one day you’ll be grateful that you lived through this.
I knew I had no business there, in that stark white basement room full of bodies wringing hands and tapping feet. I went anyway. I went every week on a Thursday evening for a month until, faithfully, I was bestowed a 30-day chip, a coin with the number 1 on one side and the words One Day At A Time on the other. And yes, there was alcoholism in my family, plenty stories of the man my father had been and who my brother was becoming. But, I wasn’t there to think through either of their lives or the effect they had on me. I was just chasing a dead relationship in a foreign city and I needed ways to nurse my sense of self-worth.
What I understood: Sobriety isn’t always practiced in weekly meetings guided by a nameless God and twelve step lists. Sometimes it’s the practice of seriousness in regards to the self, of understanding emotional limits and physically wrenching restraint. I didn’t give up substances, I didn’t get sober, but that month of listening, of impromptu post-meeting dinners held in the generous homes of women with long beaded necklaces and wise eyes, drew a line around my body and defined me: a boundary between my own pain and the pain of others, the place where our lives met and diverged.
This month, I encourage you to think about what sobriety means to you. Even if you are wandering home drunk, even if the soft rattle of Klonopin in your tote bag brings you a sense of safety. I know you might be out there doing the hard work of fighting for your life. I understand that you might be nursing a soda at the bar, leaving parties early because the smell of pot is bringing up waves of nausea. But, Leo, your commitment to yourself—to knowing your own limits—is more than what substances you consume. It’s the relationships you have, the jobs you take on, the amount of time you spend sitting still within your own grief so that you might touch its edges and soften them with that touch.
Just as I sat down to write this lovenote a Virgo texted me and asked whether or not she is crazy, a Virgo who I don’t know well, a good friend of good friends, almost family. I couldn’t give her a straight answer, mainly because I know that for many Virgos “crazy” is a loaded word and an even more loaded state of being. Perhaps it’s because Virgos give so much of themselves up to other people, their love leaks through their very presence—their hands and their good deeds. Or perhaps it’s their mutable nature mixed with their very human(e) sign that can feel nothing less than crazy when our country—and this world—feels on the brink of very great disaster. It permeates our being, this suffering racist world, whether or not we know it.
I think feeling out of place can make you feel crazy. I think buying dozens of self-help books you never finish can make you feel crazy, especially if your idea of self-help is unraveling the minds of great philosophers. I think that folding your whole self into the life of someone else, whether it is because you are afraid to lose them or afraid to find yourself, can make you crazy.
If this month of late night bacchanals and badly timed commitments has left you feeling alienated, outside of some greater picture, outside of yourself and what means most to you—I understand. Virgo, returning to yourself is a work that is never over. We fuck up, we start again, we find reasons to be better versions of ourselves that are beyond us—whether it be the work we have left to do, the people (sometimes very small) who look up to us, or all the lives that have conspired to bring us to this very troubled moment.
What’s passion anyway and who knows where it comes from? For a long time, it all seemed sort of cut and dry: some people are passionate people and some are not; passion exists in some nebulous part of our psyches, evoked from us if the flute plays just the right song. O if it were so then make it so, sister. What I’ve come to, and this knowledge was not wanted but needed, is that there is no lack of passion inside anyone and passion is not summoned from the outside by anyone.
If you want to pray to the goddess of passion on your own terms, to light a large votive candle, look no further than the face (and Amazonian everything) of Serena Williams. Libra-extraordinaire, Serena is asked to prove to the world over and over that she is worth adoration. It must be daunting to work so hard, to give up your life, to know that your own country will cheer for a stranger before it cheers for you. Watch this woman, only in her thirties, this world a trembling passionate muscle in her arms:
“I felt a lot of pressure I guess, I put a lot of that pressure on myself. Obviously had some tough losses… I had to start looking at positives and not focusing on that one loss…Once I started focusing more on the positive I realized that…um… I’m pretty good, and then I started playing better.”
Passion, you have it, more than enough—even on the days when you feel weak and small in the world. Make something. Make something everyday even if you’re feeling like nothing you do is close enough to your dreams. Focus on the way small wins lead to the big ones. Focus on Serena, or any Amazon who raises her racket and never backs down.
Once, in rags and mesh, you were two girls belonging to no one. The East Village community gardens were just as much yours as the open sky raining. Each night, when you ran away from your family, you ran to her little storefront teeming with roaches and radical road shows—women and books and guitars and lost cats. You were seventeen, queer, and unafraid to die. She read your tarot card under a tin tile ceiling painting dry-blood-red. Now, over a decade later, you’re sitting in a blue-carpeted living room and a Himalayan salt lamp is glowing over the Ikea furniture. It’s a different era but the magic has only gotten stronger.
She turns over your cards one by one and you know she’s the only one you trust to tell you who you’re becoming—since you’ve been becoming in front of her for so long.
Queen of Pentacles, the signifier, eight of pentacles the cross, and so it goes: a reading where the universe screams abundance and you can’t look anyone in the eye. This is the truth you’ve known all along, the only thing that has kept you going despite your most valiant, self-destructive, efforts. Whatever you believe in—it believes in you. However empty your pockets, your cup overflows. Bring the cup to your lips, Scorpio. This month, make a contract with the universe. Honor it everyday and in your best interest. Don’t let yourself down and you’ll not be let down. Promise.
I’m lying alone on a beach in Cherry Grove and so far I’m the only naked one here. Both my girlfriend and I have Eileen’s books out on the blanket. She’s re-reading Chelsea Girls, which is making me nostalgic for when I was reading Chelsea Girls. It was so good all of it, the butch bravado, the playful puppy-dog narcissism. I’m reading Maxfield Parrish but the poems—there’s labor in poems—they make all these holes threw me. I just want to laugh about Sagittarian impulses like in “1969” where she wrote:
We were both Sagittariuses and had enjoyed standing outside the library at night, smoking cigarettes and talking about sex. We laughed a lot.
Ugh, and I’m so selfish I don’t care I want every life we’ve lived to exist all at once. Like right now. We could be drinking G&Ts together over a big cabbage salad while I scan your essay and you scan my third eye AND we could be watching the sunset over a strip club in LA, splitting a Xanax for the road AND you could be walking me along Coney Island beach in the middle of October and letting me kiss you because my father is dead. I guess we cry a lot too. Laughing and crying, all the women we’ve been together—it’s getting easier.
I don’t care if I’m the only naked one out here; don’t be afraid to be feminine. I’m getting up and going in the water. Can’t you feel your most vibrant capable selves returning? I feel it. Everything you’ve been doing has brought you to this moment. Don’t be afraid to choose your life on your own terms.
What does it mean to be self-made and how to go about the business of un-making oneself? There are pop cultural narratives of course: the overnight success, rags-to-riches, the lonely girl who got herself out of a nothing town and into the arms of a big city stud. There are narrower interpretations as well, the mural artist discovered on the street, the YouTube singer gone viral, how one perfectly crafted Tindr profile got someone their life partner. These stories serve to fill our imaginations with limits, to keep us wanting the same thing—so that we might never question what is underneath all this wanting. Narratives of fabricated lives, of blind luck, tell us nothing about the day-to-day work of loving one another and ourselves. They give us no road maps for becoming; they say sky’s the limit but they paint a sky on the ceiling over our dreams.
Well, what if our dreams are deeply rooted in one another? What if, beyond the painted ceiling there’s a universe where you and I—we can build the world we want? We would first have to look at ourselves: the person you imagine yourself to be, the unique and only “I.” Ask: Have I fallen victim to capitalist ideology? Has the hardness and scarcity of this world found its way inside me and, despite my best intentions, I have harmed more people than I’ve helped, lost more friends than I care to admit?
There will always be two sides to our lives (and maybe more, maybe many more): the side that is illuminated and the underside the floats us down this river. Capricorn, have you dealt with the underside? Seek counsel, journal your nightmares, take a swimming class. I know you trust your intuition but maybe it’s time to learn other kinds of trust.