Dear February Rabbits,
Because I am Russian/Ukrainian and grew up in Little Odessa By The Sea, Brighton Beach, I have looked forward to the Lunar New Year for as long as I can remember. Starting January first (inaccurate, I know), old men with furred hats would roll out their carts full of that year’s animal from the Chinese Zodiac. Aunts and in-laws would arrive at our apartment with tiny charms to dangle from our wrists or cellphones. There was magic in those small charms and a ritual power I grew up belieiving in. Some winters ago, under a full moon, my mother told me that her older sister Anya would raise her fat beaded purse to the full moon and waggle it chanting “Goddess do you hear me? Goddess give me money!” That is why this weekend I bought two gold coins molded with monkey images, one for me and one for a friend. For money. For luck. For welcoming whatever comes next with red hot energy.
Welcome the Aquarian New Moon, lovers, and the year of the Red Fire Monkey. The year when all the work we’ve done, all the drudgery and mud slapping, gives way to clarity and swift rewards. The year that each tiny revolution in our spirit will bring forth magnificent consequences.
All Charms Come To You,
P.S. THANKS CLAIRE SKINNER! Again always forever.
P.S. Thank you all readers for your love notes and support and yes I screenshot each one and save it and look at it when I’m sad.
P.P.S. If you’d like to contribute to the making of these horoscopes and my Red Monkey Year, here is a little link: PayPal!
In her essay “Other Balms, Other Gileads,” about being positive, and queer, and poor, and fucking run down, Bryn Kelly writes: Does the soul, which has been degraded by poverty, by neglect, by racism, by homophobia, the soul that has always been told it has nothing to live for, now, somehow, have the promise of tomorrow? Of hope and everlasting life?
Yeah, right. Gimme a break. She wasn’t born yesterday. But she has to admit; it all has a certain resonance.
This summer, in order to take regular breaks from a bad living situation, I frequently slept over at my friend’s apt. Every morning, she would leave early for work and I would descend the bunk bed (that she built herself) slowly, carefully. At ground level, I’d come face to face with a light box, an index card tucked in its corner. On the card, written in rainbow pencil, was my old mailing address and the sentence When you lift someone’s load, you don’t allow them to expand. These two notes seemed purposely paired together—where I’m coming from and where I’m going. I wondered if sleeping at her place, if finding relief instead of solving the issue—was my fear of expansion.
My avoidance, my lack of trust in my own ability to thrive, I inherited them from my mother, from poverty, from a country that never wanted girls like me to succeed. With depression, suffering is a speculative genre, wherein we all attempt to catalogue the heaviest weight so that we might shrug it off. It’s harder to chart the loss we endure from years spent under a rock, expanding. The people we forget we have every right to be. Still, I think it only fair that you try your best, Aquarius, to find out just how much this past year of endurance has taught you. Test your limit. You’ve made it this far so why not go farther?
You call me and night fills up with the crackle of your laughter. Every person that has done you wrong, every bad turn, you roll them like olives on your tongue and suck the pit right out. In a story we tell ourselves when we are afraid to grow: we are always the ones hurt, we are always the ones abandoned, we are always the ones who lose. Stories, like prayers, are more powerful the more we believe in them.
When you say—I am the one love falls from—you open your hands and let go. You compromise your heart in order to protect it and then you are the one love falls from. But what if I told you that you are not that one? What if, all along, the world has been asking you to hold on a little harder?
hangover. Find a cure. Viola Davis my way
through a room with no wig. Call you bigot
to your face. Keep my hunger for pushing
my fingers against the wall of a lover’s writhing.
I’m feeling myself on the dance floor,
in the bedroom of my witching hour.
What if the story of your life was not about suffering for the sake of benediction? Imagine a world wherein you have always been strong enough to forgive whatever harms you. It can be hard to finally feel strong but, Pisces, you are different then you once were—kinder at the core and luminescent. I wish you could see with clear eyes the many ways you were cared for—each of us your mother as if we knew how to be mothers.
How strange this silent longing for death,/ as if you could make the sun not come up,/
the world’s wheeling and wheeling its seasons/ like a cruel continuation of stubborn force.
I just took a break from writing horoscopes to make my very first ever batch of Rice Krispies treats. Melting the butter slowly in the pan and cutting the big puffs into smaller puffs, I thought about time—how it slips away from us or how we try desperately to get ahead of it. It was a funny thing to do—cut marshmallows into quarters—they stuck to each other and to me. Still, I kept doing it, one after the other. Days are like this too; we cut the whole into halves and smaller, smaller, trying to make something easier, to separate the ingredients of ourselves from ourselves.
Bear with me while I make a sudden turn. The crispy mess that might be a sweet tooth’s heaven is cooling in the refrigerator and I’m trying to tell you that the time you put in doing “the work,” no matter how tedious or seemingly unnecessary, it was not for nothing. Each gesture toward self-care: the exercise regimens, the therapist appointments, that time when you chose a little sanity over a little money.
But that’s not how it happens. Instead, light / escapes from the heart’s room and for a moment / you believe the clock will stop itself. Absence. / You see: light escapes from a body at night / and in the morning, despite the oppressive vacancy / of her leaving’s shadow, light comes up / over the mountains and it is and it is and it is.
It matters, the small things we do for each other and ourselves so that life can be a little brighter—a little more bearable.
“Writing is not the body. Neither is the house. The body is the body.”- Claire Skinner
I have a secret dream where you come back to me. My face is covered in mascara and you clean it off slowly with wet fingertips because this is a gesture of love we both understand. It doesn’t matter who I was crying for because you are the answer. You, and your beautiful hands I have always loved for their elegant power to tend or to quietly refuse. In the dream, we ride down big avenues on a bicycle. The basket is alive with blooming and the wind is your hair. We never go anywhere; we never grow up into women. We ride and rest, our hips spreading into the earth and over each other.
In a series of poems about altars, or bodies, or the living space made sacred, Kristen Nelson writes: Akilah, what are the limits of the body? The first time she asked me, I said: The body is limited by our own expectations. The last time she asked me, I said: the body is limited by who we allow to love us.
You have tended to your home, Taurus. You have tended to the roots—the elders and the ancestors. You have been meticulous, picking your poisons with careful intent and your body wants to love you back, wants to feel like it too is a sacred altar in which you live.
In my dreams, each gesture of love is a candle I light for your pleasure. In this world, I hope the light in you burns bright into the night and beckons. Let healers come, let lovers come.
A few weeks ago I agreed to join a small coven. What I mean is: a group consisting of my lover’s wife and one of her closest friends and me. Because women in proximity are always each other’s teachers, the three of us chatted naturally on Facebook about what we might bring to the table. One asked about building psychic barriers and the other wants to practice empowering each other. These are the two skills that make friendship powerful and witchcraft even more so. I don’t yet know what I need to learn so I’ve begun reading Starhawk’s Dreaming the Dark.
“When we devote our best energies to what we most cherish, when we refuse to let our energies be diverted to further destruction or to serve other people’s end, we tap into the power that creates the everyday miracles of birth, growth, and change, touch the fires that have not cooled since the beginning of the world, shift the very plates we stand on so that new continents can form.”
Starhawk is a Gemini and I’m convinced all famous witches are Gemini (cough Stevie cough), which means I’m convinced that you, dear reader, are meant to be famous or at least very very bright in the constellation of things. So bright that when you approach the wrong girl in the wrong bar, you somehow get half a sandwich out of it. So bright that even if you are sick right now, even if you can barely leave your apartment, there is a party outside time where people are dancing beneath the image of your glowing face.
If you were to be in my coven (if you are in my coven) then everything you bring to the table, when you have the energy and even when you don’t, is something of great value.
In The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson writes: The pleasure of abiding. The pleasure of insistence, of persistence. The pleasure of obligation, the pleasure of dependency. The pleasures of ordinary devotion.
I think we were taught that love comes into our lives to hold us and I won’t tell you that’s a lie. Rather, I want to propose that learning how to love is the journey we’re after. And I mean it in the biggest way one can imagine. Learning to love our families even when they can’t love us in the ways we need, learning to love our partners without judging them for the ways they haven’t yet learned to love themselves. And, above all, learning to love ourselves enough to demand more when what surrounds us is not enough to sustain us.
The pleasure of recognizing that one may have to undergo the same realizations, write the same notes in the margin, return to the same themes in one’s work, relearn the same emotional truths, write the same book over and over again—not because one is stupid or obstinate or incapable of change, but because such revisitations constitute a life.
This is a journey that will bring you to your knees with regret—and with pleasure. We create the path we roll down and we never stop rolling so it’s important, Cancer, that you remember the part you play in our own undoing. It’s important that you say out loud what make you feel good, what harms you, and when you are sorry.
Remember when you were my professor and I’d watch your dogs, DVR The L word, and read your how-to books on fisting while you were out of town. I’d walk around your apartment and think about how much care you put into each rug and note of color. Your refrigerator plastered with photographs of a young dyke and lithe gay men—Fire Island probably. I was looking for a photo of the woman who broke your heart, the one who let you get away to that sleepy college town we were both in.
I am astounded / by the various kisses we’re capable of. / Each from different heights / diminished, which is simply the law. /And the big bruise / from the longer fall / looked perfectly white / in a few years / That astounded me most of all. *
I was thinking of that woman when I called you from San Francisco years later. The sun was pounding over my head and I cast a long shadow demanding you tell me whether or not I would be heart broken forever (what I meant was what I thought I knew about your heart). You laughed at me and told me to go dancing.
But I didn’t go dancing, I was heartbroken for months, I kept crying in all the wrong places and still, I know I carried your conviction with me. Not that time heals all wounds, as they say. Rather, that wounds are just wounds—we can cry about them or not and no one is made the more honorable for doing so.
* “Each from Different Heights” Stephen Dunn
One winter, long before we ever broke each other’s hearts, we walked along a Finger Lake quietly knowing each other. I lived in a town under so many stars and you were the best one that ever came to me. The wind was wet and alive against us so we climbed into the back of your card where the seats were gone and it was like we’d kidnapped ourselves. No. Something less menacing, a glitch in location in order to pause time.
I don’t remember why you were crying—or maybe you weren’t crying—maybe I was just beginning to understand the shape of your face in a moment of anguish. You told me you wanted to write stories. I asked you why you weren’t writing stories. I don’t think I ever got an answer.
Removing the notion of forever (-f) allows, ironically, for forever to emerge: The sky is, in this sense, as deep and wide as it is deep and wide. To understand this: Imagine blood vessels, say, broken in an old lover’s eyes
I hope that wherever you are now, you are making exactly what you love. I hope you are surrounded by people who value you, people who can read the pleasure and pain in your face without a moment’s hesitation, who feed you when you are hungry. Old love, if that is not the case than let me remind you, stress is a symptom not a root. Don’t confuse anxiety and fear for personal failure and don’t define yourself based on anyone else’s dreams but your own.
You said that there was a time when we could have been more than friends—that winter years ago when you drove hours out from the city and towards my sleepy town cloaked in blizzard. You brought me three mix cds I couldn’t listen to; at night we curled around each other and slept. You whispered, “this is nice” and I said, “this is something we can do.” I felt relief—yours, mine. I said there was a time when we could have been more than friends—that summer years ago when we pounded Four Loko on a dark stoop and took off our shirts dancing at Outpost. Phone numbers rained from our pockets and we crawled on the dance floor toward music (each other).
I’m incredibly powerful in my ignorance. I’m incredible, like some kind of fuzzy star.
The nonsense of me is the nonsense of death, and
Oh look! Light through the trees on the lake:
the lake has the kind of calmness
my pupils’ surface believes…and this is just the thing
that the boxed land of shades at the end of the remote
doesn’t program for: the lake is so kind to me, Amy,
and I’ll be so kind to you, Amy, and so we’ll never die:
there’ll be plenty of us around to
keep casting our inquiry
against the crisp light. Light is all like,
what’s up, I’m here I’m an angel! & we’re
all: no you’re not, that doesn’t exist. We all laugh and laugh…
I don’t know what more than friends is. I love you in that queer way of two intimate bodies hurtling in a shabby car towards nothing in particular. Two stars hanging precariously over the same ocean of lovers. All these years, tenderness without knowledge, the both of us dancing to seduce no one in particular. Old friend, I never knew you. Tonight I want to know who did. Whose hand have you let reach deeper than the first sadness and into well of you? Old friend, love pours like water around your mouth. In order to drink, you must open.
Because there is a wound in the universe, a wound appears in us. Yes, all stars in relation, all pain—a belt of pain. Scorpio, you are the one who prays to stop feeling so much so much—and it’s private, the praying. A wound is tight inside your chest; a stone that glistens when wet, appears soft. Before, when it was easy to be cruel and you were interested in the easy way, you’d ask your lovers to heal that wound in you. Now nothing is ever the easy way so you sooth yourself.
I’m awake / no one is here–no one is ever here / the affect is very no the / affect permeates me deeply. thats why Im a rock Never use the word ‘is’ / the therapys to move the rock, render the affect flexible Why bother Nothing / wrong with rock, sings a rock You are not stone not stone soul, sings another thing / Yes I am Dont cry youre not allowed to. I will cry stone / I’d rather be stone than their imbecile. *
Solitude is powerful but there are other ways to feel strong. There are nights when a body can be with another body—a beloved—and each hour will lie down upon the hour before fingertip to fingertip. Whatever joy there is left on Earth (in the wake of intimate loss, of haunting loss, of violent public spectacle) it hums between them. Keep listening for that hum, Scorpio. There will be months when music is the only thing that stays with you—so gather it up inside your bones with listening and be grateful.
* “Love” from Benediction by Alice Notley.
There are days when I live in another universe where you are very much near me. We go to that place we like and order the same big vegan salad, extra dressing, extra pico, extra big smile in the hopes that something gets tossed in for free. We order gin too but later. Or maybe you get gin and I get whiskey but the important thing is we’re going to write all evening and take up lots of counter space. We’ll swap work and praise each other’s very brave hearts.
But, in this universe, you are far from me. In an email to you, I write: Have you noticed that when you sleep, nothing makes you sad and nothing hurts? Yes, you write back. My inbox is full messages with your name and the word Yes.
Such a hurricane/ Such a hurt and pain/ Trapped in my soul and I can’t explain.
So many nights I have called you with burning anger, you are the only one I seem to trust with mine. I read you an offending correspondence and you gasp with indignation. You teach me to be gracious in response, to never give away my power. In the business of being a better friend, I kindly request you show me where you keep your anger. Let me hold the ruby jewel of it to the light and give you clarity. And, when that anger pains you, let me praise your sharp mind, perceptive graces.
A long time ago, a psychic told me that I use a lot of reserve energy. I had never heard the term before but the moment he uttered it, I understood it perfectly. I understood that, for years, I’d been running on energy I didn’t have to spare—energy that I wasn’t generating for use. Instead, I was tapping into the core resources of my spirit, shifting from depressive lows to survival mode just to catch the bus or finish a project.
A goat moves up a mountain and toward a cooler altitude, looking for water. She is a marvel of gravity, a vertical dancer, hooved acrobat. She knows in her bones when a storm is coming, when it’s safest to nestle in the crag’s natural shelters. She knows when climbing toward what she needs might cost her more than she’s got to give.
Because our bodies teach us new things every day, because we were not made to work flawlessly forever into old age, and because caring for yourself can often feel like a luxury many of us can’t afford, you are no stranger to running on reserve energy. I understand. Capricorn, this month, I want you to imagine a place inside yourself where you keep your strength—emotional—physical—spiritual. Imagine it is a beautiful box. Mind how often you must open it, how often you replenish what you take.