Se Levante

Life flutters to stillness,
echoing a captured coqui
lifting up a noiseless voice.
In dimness, dreams form.

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My Hurricane Malady (or “What I’ve Learned About Myself When Silence and Darkness Overwhelm”)

As the hurricane approached, I thought to myself, “Should I have left?” My heart raced, my thoughts and actions were quick, and my speech and texts to friends and family were random and somewhat incoherent.

It was the first moment I was second-guessing myself about my decision to stay on the island or not go to what may be deemed a more secure area on the island. But as the storm continued, I realized the anxiety was based from the social media frenzy, the constant texts from stateside individuals, and many of the gringos who moved to the island acting only in panic and unpreparedness.

This is an island in the Caribbean. We must always be prepared for the unknown; and the unknown is the worst that comes.

No–I wasn’t born on the island or ever experienced a hurricane. But I was confident in friends who were born and raised in Puerto Rico. However, I am a country boy at heart and I learned human behavior. Therefore, I was confident in their judgment. I was confident that if I simply do as the locals did, I would be okay. I did that. But I was not calm.

 

Pre-storm, I set my alarm on my phone for 3 hours, I took a sleeping pill to calm myself and zone out, and fell fast asleep as the electricity went out.

I woke to a puddle of sweat and my two dogs were still asleep. The storm continued to rage, sounding like a high-end blender. I looked outside the window and there was no sign of flooding on my street. I was safe, I felt.

For the weeks approaching the hurricane, I searched for duct tape and other things I felt I needed as supplies. But to no avail, there was none. I searched for sand bags–again, none. I was concerned that my apartment would get flooded due to it being on the first floor and needed to protect myself and my belongings.  I thought outside the box–I ended up using bubble wrap and packing tape and sealed all the crevices and locked myself indoors. I strategically folded bubble wrap into every crevice around the door and then shut it. Then I taped the crevices. Would it work? I don’t know. But it should because all the crevices were visibly sealed. I was locked inside–me, my dogs, 10 gallons of water, and a supply of food.

After the storm, electricity remained out. Days turned into weeks. Time became lost. Time coupled with excess heat and solitude played games, cruel games, with my mind. I battled demons. I resisted. I mourned. I battled life.

I confronted myself, my life, my goals, my inspirations and downfalls. In my head, I confronted relatives who came to me in odd visions and asked them why they had to die or why certain incidents happened. Answers came to me in the darkness, laying on the floor on a sweaty sheet where the room seemed cooler.

Anxiety came first. I was forced to walk away from people during this natural disaster and preparing for it. Walking away from the people or things that make you anxious, sometimes temporarily, solves the excess worry. As hurtful as it may sound, sometimes it’s so much easily to walk away, deal with the current issues on your path and when the time is right for you confront the said problem. I’ve had to let individuals know that their anxiety was feeding mine and it just wasn’t working out during the hurricane preparedness and aftermath. As two unhealed spirits do not make a conducive relation. You must worry about your own spirit first; your own safety and mental and physical health. Let it heal so that you can inspire and help others later.

Much of the anxiety held during the hurricane and post-hurricane was from individuals who lacked preparedness, which could have been easily resolved. If we live on an island, and we have what is known as “hurricane season”, there’s no reason not to be prepared. Again, I was prepared. I had no reason to be anxious. I had to keep re-affirming myself

Later, Creativity set it. Sometimes there’s no words to describe feelings and the only way to emote is through art. Many people will never understand that. That’s okay. Emote any way you feel necessary. I’m recalling a friend who painted his entire apartment in a twisted mixed-media installation as a response to what he, too, saw on 9/11. And that, too, was the moment when I started painting for the first time in 10 years. I didn’t realize these two hurricanes I would experience would coincide with the 9/11 anniversary for me. The timing was perfectly odd. But I created. I emoted. I wrote by hand; I sketched. I filled a notebook with odd drawings, incoherent poetry, and beginnings of stories. Nothing was complete, but still yet, this was how I could emote.

In the midst of the darkness, Loneliness came knocking on my door, unexpectedly, taunting me like an 8th grade bully.  The hurricane became my malady and I did not think I could find a cure after loneliness came. Simply because you are alone doesn’t mean you are lonely or vice versa. I’ve lived somewhat a single life and have been somewhat happy about this as well. I always say I’ve designed my selfish life so that I can remain single. But loneliness is different. Loneliness is personal. Loneliness is a part of being an outsider. And, that’s fine too. Most artists are outsiders and feel they are alone, despite all the love they may have surrounding them. And I was left, after the hurricane, with loneliness slowing devouring me like a plague.

My cousin asked me, “What made you into the person you are today?” and instantly I responded, “After 9/11, I felt like I was alone. Not knowing many people in NYC, and stuck at home for a few weeks post-9/11 my mind got the best of me (like with the hurricane). Feeling as if I were alone and no one cared whether I lived or died that day woke me up. I stopped living to please others.” With this hurricane, things were different. I had support from friends and family. I genuinely felt it. But the loneliness got the best of me one night and I cracked under pressure. I truly didn’t know if I were sweating or if I were crying. But eventually I fell asleep.

I woke at 5am, walked my two dogs toward the beach. I rarely walk my dogs on the beach due to the sand and sandfleas. But this day, I had to. I was impulsed to do so. And I sat there on a beach, with my legs half covered with sand and my dogs wanting to play and I waited. I waited for the sun to rise. As she rose from the East, peeking her nose from the mountains afar, I smiled for the first time. I walked East along the beach. The sun continued to rise and beckoned individuals from their homes and hotels. The beach became crowded, and we all walked toward the sun as if we could reach it, yet knowing we could not. At that moment, I knew I would be okay. No one took out their cameras to take photos, no one talked. And for that sheer moment my heart and the ocean became still. I learned that day, that specific moment that I was okay. I’ve always been okay.

 

 

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3 Unrelated Poems Written During Hurricane Maria

Three Unrelated Poems Written During Hurricane Maria

I.

The wind raped
my Basquiat-covered walls,
leaving them white and trite—
a hometown cheerleader
(with bobby socks and green and white hairbow)
overdosed on lack of goals
and horse tranquilizers—
a brushstroke without paint
inside my orifice
broke down my Indigo,
bashing obedience within.
Like Black Pearl,
but Maria raged more.

I slept beside the half-open window.
Calm came late.

II.

You don’t decide how it ends,
You simply know it will–
En Vogue, the Spice Girls,
Destiny’s Child, The Supremes,
Your life.
Black ballerina limbs break
with soft blows
like Sonny Bono.
After abuse,
will you ever bear fruit again, El Yunque?
I thought bulimia was the bitch,
but Mother Nature is a well-hung
Puerto Rican drag queen
in for the hard, long, and raw rides.

III.
The flashlight is alone.
She moves along walls
guiding me through my home,
Cueva Ventana,
or caves unnamed
reading Taino petroglyphs
I decipher like
Baptist tongues
on gay babies.
I count drunk mosquitoes
silhouetted by my light,
comparing the welts on my skin to us–
We could never connect.

Search!
Find a way out of your mind.
Loneliness looks for fillings.
She is a cavity.

 

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10 Lessons I’ve Learned During My 40 Years

 

  1. Only invite an exclusive group into your home/life. Not everyone needs to know what you have. We work so hard that unless we built a substantial relationship years ago, it’s difficult to find friends of substance now. And that’s okay–It’s about quality instead of quantity. Not every person who treats you kind is a friend. As such, not everyone should be invited into your home. Didn’t we learn anything from the old horror films? The devil and other bad energies will not enter your home, unless you invite them. Make your circle of friends small and keep your home as your safe space.
  2. The only thing, sometimes, you have control over is the way you react to people. As we get older, and probably more medicated, we have to be strategic on how we react to each other. There’s no need to get in exasperating arguments to support your already-established beliefs and morals. There’s no reason to use excess brain power or storage on individuals. I’ve learned what works best for me is to state the problem, cause, and a solution to the individual and simply walk away. In turn, there’s less grief for all parties.
  3. Speaking with authority doesn’t mean you are aggressive or disrespectful– It means you will not be taken advantage of and know what you stand for. Importantly, if you have nothing to stand for, you will always fall for everything by giving the perception you are accepting everything. Differences are okay in our lives–that’s how we grow and learn from one another. However, speaking with confidence and authority with simple phrases such as, “This is what I stand for. . .” or “This is not acceptable in my life because. . . ” gives firm responses and gives you a footing that should never be debated.
  4. Trust no one until they are proven to be trustworthy. It’s interesting how people toss around the word “friend” so readily that it has lost its value. Just recently I had to eliminate 3/4 of the people I was associating with. Just like a new employee at a job, someone with the title of ‘friend’ that you would eventually trust with your assets must prove themselves to deserve that title, or they just aren’t qualified for the position. Regarding trust, never give information out to individuals that don’t have that true title. Real friends do not use your private information or your weak moments to exploit you. Think of it like this–would you trust just any random person to house-sit for you. How would you know they aren’t snooping or stealing? I don’t understand individuals who have bachelor or bachelorette parties with 40+ people. In my eyes, and in my world, the title of friend and those you trust is a small circle of people.
  5. Pets are easier than children. I like to vacation. The downfall is that I have two dogs. Every time I go on vacation for a week, I dish out about $500 for boarding. Many of my pet-less friends shake their heads that I dish out so much money for my pets, but still yet it’s cheaper and easier than having and raising children. After all, just like pets children are not welcome in all functions either. And, just like pets, not everyone likes or wants to be around children. I tend to joke with my friends and say that I’m “allergic” to children. When I invite my friends over, I feel that I’m inviting them over for full adult one-on-one attention not for a constant child disturbance. Though I tend to keep my dogs out and about when I have guests, if they get unruly, it’s so much easier (and acceptable) to cage them in another room to ensure the adults can have solid time together.
  6. Patience is important. Everything happens when it happens. We can’t rush things. With the constant use of social media, we see how ‘great’ things are going for people. But what you don’t see are the struggles behind the scenes. After all, most people don’t want you to see their struggles, so we tend to post only the good things online. I, for one, do. I don’t want to see a fitness guru with a 6 pack without seeing the transition of them struggling. I don’t want to see a home renovation project unless I see the Before photos. We have to understand that things happen in time and with patience and perseverance. If others claim their success happened over night, they are probably exaggerating the truth and don’t want to share their story. That’s fine. Have patience. Create your own story as you learn patience and watch things unfold.
  7. Being kind does not mean I’m naive. Understanding this will allow all of us to keep our guard up. Remember there are definitely some genuinely kind people out there who want to do everything to help others (ie, donate all old clothes to a family in need, offer the same family money for the children’s lunches, possibly paying for one of their cell phones for a month, etc). But then there are times when the ‘needy’ will take advantage of all the generosity. As the ‘thank you’s’ begin to fade, and the money and offerings are still expected, a strong disdain grows at times. In short, be kind to each other. But don’t be naive of others long-term bad intentions. Give what you can without suffering mentally or financially. Help someone who is also willing to help themselves if, and when, they could.
  8. Reciprocate with those who dedicate themselves to you and your beliefs. Your circle of friends create your personalized church. They nourish you in so many different ways. If someone feeds your soul, feed theirs. If there is no reciprocity, then you must reconsider the type of relationship you two have.
  9. Struggles are recycled, not unique. Sometimes we feel alone and fall into a deep depression. This is human nature. This is also okay and normal. As we fall deep into our slump we tend to feel as if we are alone and no one has experienced what we have. I’ve realized that once I have a day or so of sitting in my slump and separating myself from others, I can analyze which of my friends have probably been through the same problems. It is that moment I realize my problems are not unique, I am not as isolated as I felt, and there are others who can help with whatever struggle I’m trying to hurdle.
  10. Don’t allow people to question or destroy your belief system. My experiences are my experiences. Understanding that 40 years of experiences are what molded my views on race, class, gender and religion makes me stronger. You have a firm foundation. However, though you don’t need to justify to others any of your feelings and decisions, you should always justify them to yourself and understand the roots of your beliefs.
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Crumbled Up (poem and photography)

Crumbled Up by Stephen Earley Jordan II

My sky crumbled up,
taking the last breath
from my parasitic twin.

Silence twisted.
Still I grieve you.

 

 

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King of Shame (poetry + photography)

“King of Shame” photo by Stephen Earley Jordan II

 

The King of Shame takes a bow,
contempts his whores
as nighttime cash-cows.

They think he cares, but he abhors
those he lays at the seashore

on a foul mattress with distressing springs
left with a scent and a one-night fling.

They will return
to the loneliness and yearn.

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Crumbling Blue (poetry + photography)

“Crumbling Blue” foto by Stephen Earley Jordan II

 

I forgot how
the day gives solace, 
but the moon vows
to haul us
to that unspoken place–
You crumbled blue
to the base
where weeds grew.

 

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