Friday, November 10, 2017


Recently my writing was described by a pastor as "...something like gothic architecture—intricate, strong, thematic and it keeps the gargoyles hidden unless you know where to look for them."

I have always found comfort (and mirth) in the shelter of flying butt-resses.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

this split second of sweet sovereign Catalonia

Dolça Catalunya,
pàtria del meu cor,
quan de tu s’allunya
d’enyorança es mor.
Adéu, germans;
adéu-siau, mon pare,
no us veuré més!
Oh, si al fossar
on jau ma dolça mare
jo el llit tingués!
el vent que me’n desterra,
que em fa sofrir!
Estic malalt, més ai!,
torneu-me a terra,
que hi vull morir!

Stanzas 1 and 3 of ‘L’emigrant’ by Mossèn Jacint Verdgauer, 1888
Translation by David Block below:

Sweet Catalonia.
Homeland of my heart,
to be far from you
is to die of longing.
Good-bye, brothers and sisters;
farewell, my father,
I shan’t see you again!
Oh, if in the graveyard
where my sweet mother lies
I had my bed!
Oh mariners,
the wind that banishes me,
that makes me suffer!
I am sick, and more!,
return me to land,
for I want to die there!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

God our Mother

to be a mother is to suffer
to travail in the dark, stretched and torn
exposed in half-naked humiliation
subjected to indignities
for the sake of new life

to be a mother is to say,
this is my body, broken for you
and in the next instant
in response to the created's primal hunger
"this is my body, take, and eat"

to be a mother is to self-empty
to neither slumber or sleep
so attuned you are to cries in the night
offering the comfort of yourself
and assurances of "i'm here"

to be a mother is to weep
over the fighting and exclusions
and wounds your children inflict on one another
to long for reconciliation and brotherly love
and when all is said and done
to gather all parties– the offender and offended
into the folds of your embrace
and to whisper in their ears that they are beloved

to be a mother is to be vulnerable
to be misunderstood, railed against, blamed
for the heartaches of the bewildered children
who don't know where else to cast
the angst they feel over their own existence
in this perplexing universe

to be a mother is to hoist onto your hips
those on whom your image is imprinted
bearing the burden of their weight
rejoicing in their returned affection
delighting in their wonder
bleeding in the presence of their pain

to be a mother is to be accused of sentimentality
one moment and injustice the next
to be the receiver of endless demands
absorber of perpetual complaints
reckoner of bottomless needs.

o be a mother is to to be an artist
a keeper of memories past
weaver of stories untold
visionary of lives looming ahead.

 to be a mother is to be the first voice listened to
and the first disregarded
a mender of broken creations
and comforter of the distraught children
whose hands wrought them

to be a mother is to be a touchstone and the source
bestower of names, influencer of identities
life-giver, life-shaper, empath, healer
and original love.

//  from Alison Woodward's poem read aloud on The LiturgistsOctober 17, 2017 episode "God our Mother"

Monday, September 25, 2017

language as μεταξύ

That is what I investigate. Words both enable and limit human communication.
Divine communication.

When I hear:
Linguistics? Cool! How many languages do you speak?

It's like asking an optometrist how many eyes she has or a marine biologist how many orcas he owns.

Language acts upon the world, it does not merely passively describe/reflect it. Words create worlds.
God speaks to us as he makes us.

What is the world that we are creating, with our political discourse and rhetoric? In what worlds do our pattern of language index our membership? How can changing speech change society?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

a Tayal myth

Here is a story that lies deep in the Taiwanese clay that makes me.

Long ago, two suns ruled the sky. There was no alternation of night and day, and the earth was scorched. The grass withered, the flowers faded, the rivers too were parched. The people of the land convened to speak, and determined that one of the suns had to be shot down.

Three noble warriors volunteered themselves. Each packed his own provisions and carried also a young child on his back, for the journey to the sun was very long. Along the way, they planted seeds. Year by year, month by month, they pressed on. The men grew old and and died.

The children they had carried were grown now. They continued on to the place of the suns to shoot one down. On their journey back they were nourished by the fruit of the trees planted by their fathers. 

"The obligation of anyone who thinks of himself as responsible is to examine society and try to change it and to fight it—at no matter what risk" said James Baldwin in his "A Talk to Teachers."

Sometimes we plant for the seasons and sometimes we must plant trees. We who labor to change the field(s), must take the children and seeds along.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

between breaths

Monday night we tangoed in Mitzrayim. Quite literally. The Argentine tango at Penn Museum's Lower Egypt exhibit all evening.

Saturday night after being fed royally by the TSA, all of whose activities revolve around food and feasting, I introduced some of them to Lindy at PILE. Cultural immersion they said.

Sunday while I moped around the church-coffee table at a place I had not visited before because I forgot to coordinate a ride to G&P, I hear, ESTHER?! I glance up and there is the beaming face of a 2nd year in my very same program. She said, Oh my gosh, I'd been praying a long time to make some Christian friends at Penn!

This time of year, every group and initiative says, join us, join us! Clamoring for my attention, affection. Keep me true Abba.

This time of year... my edges get fuzzy. The aki air is tumbling.

Mom went off to TW again.

Guh got a gougou and stars recrossed.

And I remember so hard how Prometheus brought the gift of fire... to the prairie. And I dwell still in this lack and abundance and cycles of seasons. But this one's different.

I met a Peruvian mummy. Being interred in the fetal position - that makes sense to me.

I got to handle 200 years of woven textiles from the Americas. Breathtaking. The Collections ask to be studied. Museums were projects of colonialism.

There is a thorn in my ass sparing me from any delusions that I am good at loving neighbors or serving refugees. When he swung his cane at me and threatened to beat me last week, alarm bells went off, shot me to that speedy space. I called the police. I don't think it was the best thing to do. He and I are made of the same scared, sacred starstuff.

I went straight to work and tanked a training session I was giving. Bad. Not clear of this cloud yet.

von Balthasar and Weil and Harjo and Ignatian exercises keep my heart chambers spacious.

interrogating my privilege and platform constantly these days as friends are affected by DACA, as I enroll students at NSC. Nationalities. Birth lottery. Being a POC in this day and time. Can we bundle and align with indigenous peoples? Should we? Dare we?

The Chao family came down. Revolutionary War museum and Washington's tent. SEPTA troubles and Wissahickon. Sarah haircut experiment.

Chinese students all around. That REC meeting, the KA girl who thinks she's white spilling over, and me wanting to evaporate. AAPI. Burdens/opportunities of representation. Never been in academic spaces in which AAPI's weren't at least more represented than Chinese internationals. (Until now.)

Can I really do this school thing?

Can I learn more languages? Achieve sociocultural fluency in Mandarin instead of this like 9-year-old stammer.

October in Chicago...? Sigh.

Ling and Em and Cliff are home.

Losing my kirigami scissors (where are they?!) is driving me nuts. Brush & ink centering.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Salome or Esther

what favor shall i seek? and whose?
wattissa hesed

even up to half my kingdom
 what shall i ask of the King?

...your favor, Lord, is our desire
it's Your beauty, Lord
that makes us stand in silence
Your love is better than life.