I wonder how many beds stand empty every night
while people sleep in discomfort on the street.
Sometimes I think, well, some people are just nomads.
there are nomadic people all over the place,
there have always been nomadic people…
But a group which travels together
is different from an individual who has perhaps lost his way,
who travels alone
who sits in grime…
Does he sit and wonder, how do I get out of this situation?
Or does he hunch and limp across the road while thinking,
yes, this is what I wanted. No responsibility, nothing to answer to, it’s just easier this way…?
We just can’t know what he is thinking,
what brought him to his position,
what led him to choose this corner, this wall, this fetid alley. We don’t know. And we don’t want to.
We write him off and turn our head. Our own lives are enough to work on.
But back to those empty beds…
I watched some men constructing a new hotel the other day -
(in fact, there is constant construction all over the city)
but it is all meant for people who have money -
perhaps rightfully so - for why should the sweat and
labor of the builders provide for anyone undeserving?
I just wonder what it means
a bed to rest on. Some privacy, some water
with which to wash, some light to read by, or even
a device with which to listen to some music or watch a film…
such luxuries… simple yet so unattainable for so many.
If I say, let’s allow people to sleep in empty hotel rooms without having to pay,
like, there could be a website or an app which would link up location with availability
(and if you think homeless people can’t get online, please visit the Hollywood libraries and take note)
and an individual
can check in.
Be brought a meal.
I know I know I know!
This reason and that reason and this and that and you just can’t give people stuff for free, and it’s just enabling them, and who exactly is paying for this? and how are the maids going to get out the smell, and what about their carts full of crap, and aren’t they’re going to do drugs! and it’s not a real solution for anything just a temporary pleasure and this and that and this and that, I know! I know I can’t write up this idea without it failing before it reaches even just the end of the thought thinking it. I know. It’s self-defeating.
It only exists in my imaginary, poverty-less world -
where transient living
is still a reality,
(for it is a lifestyle which many souls perhaps require in the process of searching for themselves and seeing the world in a particular way)
but it in this imagined world,
is actually supported,
and not so sunken in mire as it is here now…
The Dervish, oil on wood, by Vera Rey (a.k.a. my mother Yelena Chemerisov)
Today on the radio I heard that Mayor Garcetti has declared a State of Emergency for Los Angeles’s homelessness. A hundred million dollars is to be spent on more service workers and shelters. Despite being advised to not focus on this issue (as it supposedly “kills votes” and people just wish it would go away without actually having to do anything about it), the mayor is deciding to make it a priority, and to give it a sense of urgency. Of course there’s a sense of urgency! The people I pass daily on the streets here in Hollywood - they need help urgently. I imagine each hour and each day spent in discomfort and hunger is not something that might as well just stretch into longer periods, until the person becomes even more destitute, and the people who are “better off” judge them even more severely (“they choose to live this way,” “why should they get anything for free when I work hard,” etc). I think the urgency is the missing key.
The suffering is not only apparent, but exponential - in that the people who have struggled and sickened and sought refuge without finding any haven are rotting in squalor, while the people who have the energy, creativity, ingenuity, and resources to think up and implement possible solutions are misdirected in their aims. We’ve been programmed to look the other way, we’ve been set up in a fierce rat race to prove our worth to one another in terms of possessions, accomplishments, colorful journeys and beautiful offspring. Believe me when I admit that my baby being born a total cutie pie makes me feel like a huge success, treated to doting reverie from the world which I receive daily in the form of compliments from strangers and friends, each one making me feel like a super human for just having reproduced. This giddy joy has such power to distract me from the pain in the world. But it also teaches me, everyday, that I have accomplished nothing, if I do not augment my happiness with a purpose.
During my pregnancy, and now ten months of my baby’s life, my purpose has been to be healthy and make the transition into motherhood. Most days this task has been all I could focus on, but as I gain more steadiness in this new footing, the shadows in my heart lean more and more into my view. They bow in, slowly creeping, and often withdraw quickly as if they don’t want me to notice, for fear of fracturing my glittering bubble of carefree living. But they know. There’s no such thing as carefree, when 2 billion people on our planet live in poverty. My shadows have had to learn, however, that they cannot disguise themselves as guilt, and take away from my true joy. I think all of our shadows must learn this. We can’t help anyone if we think we shouldn’t be happy out of solidarity for the poor, the ill, and the innocent immersed in violence.
Because there are so many instances of these poor, ill, violent things in our current existence (which also pulls with it the weight of the past poor, ill, violent things), the shadows in our hearts need to be allowed full entrance into view. We need to embrace them and understand their significance. We need to grow stronger through the processes of healing, and then assert our power to influence the world.
Tonight’s moon is so close to us it’s called a Supermoon. It’s aligned with the Sun and eclipsed so perfectly by the Earth that it’s glowing blood-red as it reflects all the light off of our planet. It’s the harvest moon, and it orbits us in celebration of the crops coming in, our work paying off, our stock for the winter, our keep and sustenance. Oh to be as connected to older agricultural cycles than we are in our industrialized stupor. Perhaps we’d tap into compassion easier. If we understood that all the bounty we enjoy comes with a price, a give and take… a tilling, a seeding, a sprouting, a nourishing, a reaping, a processing, and only then - the consuming.
I ask tonight’s moon - do you feel it, our dullness? Our greed? Our distraction? I see you float there, far away with the magic of space between us, holding the distance at an ebbing radius, never wishing to touch, just circling, just leading us in our dance of ignorance. Or can you illuminate our potential? Come even closer, moon, I wish you didn’t fear us. We are quite lost. You’re bleeding for us as you take our shadow. And behind us, that scepter sun is standing true as ever, casting its brightness everywhere except on you, as we pass through.
My new purpose in life, as a mother and a citizen of the world, is to think about the way a world without poverty will look. How it will feel, smell, taste, sound. How it will resonate in our souls. (I think of poverty as including all wars and violence, for it both stems from and causes these things.) My words may not always fall to the screen or paper clearly, my thoughts may not always connect logically, and my actions may certainly not always reflect my preference for how I think the world “should be.” After years of inadvertently subconsciously punishing myself for not living up to ideals, I now shed the snakeskin of perfectionism and striving, and step into an attempt at pure imagination. It’s the only thing that has ever gotten me anywhere. The only place I want to get to, though, is a place right here already within my soul. I suppose I want to figure out how to expand it so infinitely, that everyone else’s universe of being can intertwine and pulse together, strengthening each connection point, beautifying each wavelength in between.
I heard that our president also had something to say today about world poverty and how it had to be our priority… and after the thoughts I had yesterday about wanting to think only about this question of how the world could be without it… well… my thoughts now scatter into tiredness and various things from today float before me… the Pope’s visit… Amma’s birthday… moon in Aries… moon… moon… shadow… red… harvest… light… blood… world… poor… ill… a prayer for the suffering people in our world is left on my consciousness. And a prayer for those of us living with utter joy. And a prayer for every cell and every atom. And every star and supernova. Peace. Blasted through the everythingness like a massive sneeze from the god that is our brain in the act of thinking. Thinking it so. Letting it become.
Tonight under the fullness of the moon I sit at my desk, writing, and impulsively decide to open facebook (as one does). First thing the feed shows me is this photo I posted of myself, three years ago, with a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery that resonates pretty synchronistically with what I was just writing, which was:
The other day I saw a caption on Instagram which said the UN has a goal of eliminating all poverty in the world by the year 2030. The photo showed delegates standing holding hands in the assembly room. I scrolled past it as quickly as I did the puppies and sunsets, but later I started to feel the weight of such a goal. It’s a concept I’ve held in an “if only” frame of thinking, but putting a timeframe on it makes it more real. Many thoughts, sensations, intuitive longings and tempting visuals unraveled out of my heart as I began imagining it coming to pass. Then came a slew of cynical doubts. Then a heavy sense of being overwhelmed. And then some more visuals. What would our world look like without poverty? This question has become all I want to think about. We become what we think. The world models our microcosmic brain power with its effulgent macro dimensions. Perhaps with the small synapses of my imaginings, I can contribute more to the healing of the world than I have been able to with various strivings thus far. Perhaps my heart can feel a little softer and unafraid, if I can give the world my longing, phrased in confessions of how beautiful I know it all could be.
Oh and here's the quote:
"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery
A sudden pull, from throat to gut,
a heartache, dull, and thick
It’s the spark of reactionary emotion
to an image
I did not want or expect to see.
(Indeed, how can one expect to see such a thing,
unless seeking it,
unless visiting a source of information
where such a
would be presented).
I was not visiting such a source.
Or so I thought.
Now I realize,
my source of common, normal, casual
my “social network” -
is no longer casual.
Hasn’t been so,
for many years now,
though I’m just now admitting
the weight of this to myself.
Too many links to
too many sad things.
An image I casually glimpsed tonight, just now -
just cannot be unseen.
Cannot be un-thought.
I’ve seen many a horrific truth or scandal detailed deftly in digital telling.
I’ve even similarly reacted, with that pull of dread and an instant wet eye.
made me reel
the way this image did tonight, just now -
now that I have a child.
I cannot see an image of a child,
now that I have a child.
I cannot see this image and forget it,
now that I have a child.
A sweet young being, its short life curtailed,
its sweet young body
awash on a beach. I cannot un-see this, I cannot un-think this.
The heart which beats within me
rips at its many-times-healed sutures,
it swells with its overstated sensitivities and sends pumps of pained
breaths through the body which is
The brain which hovers in my skull
beams its confusions and
lyric magic bandages
of spiritualized ideas
light and dark
and la la la la la!
There is no
And no temperance,
in any atomic grain of instance,
in any divided pixel of presence,
in any damn dose of regurgitated perception.
Plain hell on earth.
Now that I have a child,
because just the iota of thought
of seeing him (my child)
in place of
the Syrian child swallowed by the Mediterranean,
shows me a glimpse
of hell on Earth.
And I get to take my next breath in
and then exhale my next breath out,
and get to stand and walk and eat,
and cuddle my baby
when he awakes…
These heartfelt moments of
appreciating the tiny things of life
are common enough,
lovely and poignant and
And they make my life that much more rich…
and those of the rich, full, rainbow tribes,
what are we doing -
how are we accountable?
We’re missing something.
to the ether,
we’re pouring our love into
and it’s still not enough.
Hasn’t been enough.
To see a drowned child,
because he could never arrive
at safe haven…
we haven’t done enough.
"Our world is in crisis because of the absence of consciousness. And so to whatever degree any one of us, can bring back a small piece of the picture and contribute it to the building of the new paradigm, then we participate in the redemption of the human spirit, and that after all is what it's really all about."
Last.fm Music Profile
Alex Chemer Photography (my father)
Vera Rey Fine Art