Ryan Teitman - Visitations

I wanted to be
a saint: to hold
two candles crossed

against my father’s
throat, like a pair
of open scissors,

to cure his cough.
In my dream,
he spoke a language

with no words
for praise. His throat
was an empty quiver;

he wore the silence
like a paper robe.
He wanted to be

a bird: to hollow
out his bones until
they were lighter

than mint. Now,
I am my father’s
ghost, sleeping

in my father’s bed.
I pass the hours
in the rut his body

left behind. His dreams,
small as chess pieces,
visit me each night.

They ask me when
he’s coming back.
I bat them away,

as if they were flies.
I haven’t figured out
how to kill them yet.

Who Gets To Grieve?

Something I think about all the time is this quote by Judith Butler:
Who counts as human? Whose lives count as lives? And, finally, What makes for a grievable life?
I want to go further. I ask myself constantly not just whose lives are grievable but:  who gets to grieve? Grief has two elements:  someone is grieved and someone grieves. There is the object of grief and the source of it. My father is the object of my grief, he is grieved. I am the one who grieves, who gives my grief to him. So while Butler asks the very important question of whose lives are grieved, I want to ask about the grievers. Whose grief is seen as legitimate? When it comes to war and genocide, whose grief is recognized and whose is not? How is grief constructed when it's attached to different bodies?

This tumblr user makes a very important point about how bodies of color are often forced to perform their grief for cameras wielded by the Western media. Photos of grieving women in Gaza are published for the world to see but how many of us would want the worst moment of our lives to be captured without our permission? Whose grief is respected? Who gets to grieve privately and the way they want while certain people have their grief exploited?

I think we must continue to interrogate our conceptions about grief. We need to always keep in mind the political dimensions of grief, how loss is not just an isolated personal ordeal but is also an experience affected by society, systems of power, and our intersectional identities.

Eric Garner, Police Brutality, and the Fight for Justice

Grief and the struggle for social justice are often intertwined. There is a long history of marginalized groups channeling their grief into political action, as in the case of Amadou Diallo, a Guinean immigrant shot by police in 1999. His murder sparked fierce outrage and people took to the streets to express their anger and to demand justice. These demonstrations brought much-needed attention to the issue of racism that plagues American society. People of color are disproportionately targeted by police and subjected to aggressive and excessive brutality.

In college, I remember a class in which several African American women students expressed their profound concern for their sons. They knew that when they sent their sons into our racist society, they were at great risk of suffering bodily harm by police officers and other people. I still think about those women and the fear, anxiety, and helplessness they must feel each day when they kiss their children good-bye not knowing what might happen to them.

We want to protect the people we love, but we live in a society where not all people count as human. People of color, women,  people who are queer, trans*, poor, and disabled all experience various forms of systemic violence. As someone who lives at the intersection of several marginalized identities, as a poor, disabled woman, I have seen firsthand what it's like to be devalued and dehumanized and to watch the lives of those I love also be devalued. It's traumatic and infuriating, but I think we have to find ways to fight back, to resist oppression and silencing.

Once again, people are taking to the streets and making their voices heard in the wake of a deadly incident of police brutality. Eric Garner, a father of six, was put in a chokehold by an NYPD officer and later died. The entire altercation was caught on camera and shows Garner yelling that he cannot breathe. As his body lies lifeless on the street, EMT workers make no attempt to perform CPR or to save his life. At the end of the video, the man who put Garner in the chokehold smiles and waves at the camera. So far, no one involved in the incident has lost their job or been severely reprimanded. I doubt they even feel remorse. In their eyes, Garner was not a human being; he was not worth respecting and certainly not worth saving. As Al Sharpton put it "When does your sense of humanity kick in? Have we gotten so cold?"

We have not gotten cold, we have been cold. America is not special or exceptional, though we are exceptionally violent. We are not post-racial. We are brutal and inhumane. We incarcerate people of color, support the murderous regime in Israel, we ignore the hundreds of thousands of people we killed in Iraq, and we care nothing about the hundreds of Gazans who are dying right now. We care nothing about the people dying in our own nation.

Eric Garner's friends and family joined protesters to demand an investigation into his death. They want answers and they deserve them. They want justice and they should have it. Eric Garner was a human being. He had children and a wife and a mother. His life mattered. During the protest, Garner's widow, Esaw, broke down and could not speak, her grief so enormous and overwhelming that she almost could not stand and had to be held up by other people. Garner's 18-year-old son, also named Eric, has spoken out, expressing his hope that the officer who placed his father in the chokehold will be brought to justice. The young man shared his father's last words to him: "He was telling me how he was proud of me...the first person in my family to go to college." When he starts college in the fall, his father will not be there to see it.

Images and quotes via The New York Daily News

Tweeting From a War Zone

As Israel sends deadly bombs into Gaza, Palestinian citizens are using social media to bear witness to the destruction of their communities. On twitter, Mohammed Suliman posts short, searing messages from his home in Gaza. There's something about the 140 character limit that reduces language to its most basic elements. Suliman's tweets read like messages scribbled on scraps of paper and smuggled to the world. They make you stop what you are doing and contemplate the horrific reality of the violence occurring in Gaza. Suliman writes of parents grieving their children, the sound of missiles flying over his home, his fear of death but his desire to communicate the atrocity he is experiencing. This kind of intimate knowledge of everyday life under occupation and bombardment is unprecedented. While mainstream news sources rarely mention the loss of Palestinian life, some Palestinians are finding ways to subvert the West's silencing of their voices and speak out.

Suliman is but one voice. There are many other voices that have been silenced forever by Israel's missiles and bombs. I urge you to follow Suliman's twitter account. We cannot turn away from this appalling injustice.

Mary Shelley's Poem About the Death of Her Husband

Mary Shelley's manuscript for "Absence," which is about the death of Percy Bysshe Shelley
Ah! he is gone — and I alone;
How dark and dreary seems the time!
‘Tis Thus, when the glad sun is flown,
Night rushes o’er the Indian clime.
Is there no star to cheer this night
No soothing twilight for the breast?
Yes, Memory sheds her fairy light,
Pleasing as sunset’s golden west.
And hope of dawn — Oh! brighter far
Than clouds that in the orient burn;
More welcome than the morning star
Is the dear thought — he will return!

Grieving The Deaths of Palestinians

At Vanity Fair, Anna Lekas Miller has written a powerful piece about the world community's refusal to acknowledge and mourn the deaths of Palestinians. When three Israeli teenagers went missing in early June, violence against Palestinians exploded around Israel and continues unabated now that the teens have been found dead. While thousands commemorate the lives of the Israeli teens, including President Obama and other heads of state, the killing of Palestinians barely registers in Western media. We keep perpetuating this lie about the "Israeli-Palestinian Conflict," as if both sides are equal in power. The truth is, Israel continues to occupy, oppress, and kill Palestinians with impunity. Only Israeli lives are counted as human, as "grievable," in the words of Judith Butler. This is not a conflict between two equal forces, this is a slaughter, an ongoing human rights violation that the world stands by and watches. Miller's piece is so important because it reminds us that Palestinians are suffering and grieving and losing people they love because of state-sanctioned violence and genocidal policies.

On social media, the overwhelming grief and sorrow for Eyal, Gilad and Naftali coalesced into a hashtag, #EyalGiladNaftali. People from around the world can share their grief and condolences to the families, and many such messages have gone viral. But there is no mainstream viral hashtag for the slain Palestinian youth, no collective expression of grief or sympathy sent to the families. It is even difficult to find their names in the media; while Muhammad and Tariq’s cases are starting to draw international attention, many articles that mention the deaths of other Arabs often merely state that “a Palestinian” was killed. Nameless. A number, to be filed away.
Read the full article 

'Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire' at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire, The Costume Institute’s first fall exhibition in seven years, will be on view in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Anna Wintour Costume Center from October 21, 2014 through February 1, 2015. The exhibition will explore the aesthetic development and cultural implications of mourning fashions of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Approximately 30 ensembles, many of which are being exhibited for the first time, will reveal the impact of high-fashion standards on the sartorial dictates of bereavement rituals as they evolved over a century.  
“The predominantly black palette of mourning dramatizes the evolution of period silhouettes and the increasing absorption of fashion ideals into this most codified of etiquettes,” said Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, who is curating the exhibition with Jessica Regan, Assistant Curator. “The veiled widow could elicit sympathy as well as predatory male advances. As a woman of sexual experience without marital constraints, she was often imagined as a potential threat to the social order.” 
The thematic exhibition will be organized chronologically and feature mourning dress from 1815 to 1915, primarily from The Costume Institute’s collection. The calendar of bereavement’s evolution and cultural implications will be illuminated through women’s clothing and accessories, showing the progression of appropriate fabrics from mourning crape to corded silks, and the later introduction of color with shades of gray and mauve. 
“Elaborate standards of mourning set by royalty spread across class lines via fashion magazines,” said Ms. Regan, “and the prescribed clothing was readily available for purchase through mourning ‘warehouses’ that proliferated in European and American cities by mid-century.” 
The Anna Wintour Costume Center’s Carl and Iris Barrel Apfel Gallery will orient visitors to the exhibition with fashion plates, jewelry, and accessories. The main Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery will illustrate the evolution of mourning wear through high fashion silhouettes and will include mourning gowns worn by Queen Victoria and Queen Alexandra. Examples of restrained simplicity will be shown alongside those with ostentatious ornamentation. The predominantly black clothes will be set off against a stark white background and amplified with historic photographs and daguerreotypes.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Elizabeth Barrett Browning - De Profundis


The face, which, duly as the sun,
Rose up for me with life begun,
To mark all bright hours of the day
With hourly love, is dimmed away-
And yet my days go on, go on.


The tongue which, like a stream, could run
Smooth music from the roughest stone,
And every morning with ' Good day'
Make each day good, is hushed away,
And yet my days go on, go on.


The heart which, like a staff, was one
For mine to lean and rest upon,
The strongest on the longest day
With steadfast love, is caught away,
And yet my days go on, go on.


And cold before my summer's done,
And deaf in Nature's general tune,
And fallen too low for special fear,
And here, with hope no longer here,
While the tears drop, my days go on.


The world goes whispering to its own,
'This anguish pierces to the bone;'
And tender friends go sighing round,
'What love can ever cure this wound ?'
My days go on, my days go on.


The past rolls forward on the sun
And makes all night. O dreams begun,
Not to be ended! Ended bliss,
And life that will not end in this!
My days go on, my days go on.


Breath freezes on my lips to moan:
As one alone, once not alone,
I sit and knock at Nature's door,
Heart-bare, heart-hungry, very poor,
Whose desolated days go on.


I knock and cry, -Undone, undone!
Is there no help, no comfort, -none?
No gleaning in the wide wheat plains
Where others drive their loaded wains?
My vacant days go on, go on.


This Nature, though the snows be down,
Thinks kindly of the bird of June:
The little red hip on the tree
Is ripe for such. What is for me,
Whose days so winterly go on?


No bird am I, to sing in June,
And dare not ask an equal boon.
Good nests and berries red are Nature's
To give away to better creatures, -
And yet my days go on, go on.


I ask less kindness to be done, -
Only to loose these pilgrim shoon,
(Too early worn and grimed) with sweet
Cool deadly touch to these tired feet.
Till days go out which now go on.


Only to lift the turf unmown
From off the earth where it has grown,
Some cubit-space, and say 'Behold,
Creep in, poor Heart, beneath that fold,
Forgetting how the days go on.'


What harm would that do? Green anon
The sward would quicken, overshone
By skies as blue; and crickets might
Have leave to chirp there day and night
While my new rest went on, went on.


From gracious Nature have I won
Such liberal bounty? may I run
So, lizard-like, within her side,
And there be safe, who now am tried
By days that painfully go on?


-A Voice reproves me thereupon,
More sweet than Nature's when the drone
Of bees is sweetest, and more deep
Than when the rivers overleap
The shuddering pines, and thunder on.


God's Voice, not Nature's! Night and noon
He sits upon the great white throne
And listens for the creatures' praise.
What babble we of days and days?
The Day-spring He, whose days go on.


He reigns above, He reigns alone;
Systems burn out and have his throne;
Fair mists of seraphs melt and fall
Around Him, changeless amid all,
Ancient of Days, whose days go on.


He reigns below, He reigns alone,
And, having life in love forgone
Beneath the crown of sovran thorns,
He reigns the Jealous God. Who mourns
Or rules with Him, while days go on?


By anguish which made pale the sun,
I hear Him charge his saints that none
Among his creatures anywhere
Blaspheme against Him with despair,
However darkly days go on.


Take from my head the thorn-wreath brown!
No mortal grief deserves that crown.
O supreme Love, chief misery,
The sharp regalia are for Thee
Whose days eternally go on!


For us, -whatever's undergone,
Thou knowest, willest what is done,
Grief may be joy misunderstood;
Only the Good discerns the good.
I trust Thee while my days go on.


Whatever's lost, it first was won;
We will not struggle nor impugn.
Perhaps the cup was broken here,
That Heaven's new wine might show more clear.
I praise Thee while my days go on.


I praise Thee while my days go on;
I love Thee while my days go on:
Through dark and dearth, through fire and frost,
With emptied arms and treasure lost,
I thank Thee while my days go on.


And having in thy life-depth thrown
Being and suffering (which are one),
As a child drops his pebble small
Down some deep well, and hears it fall
Smiling-so I. THY DAYS GO ON.

Ayad Alkadhi - Widow Nation (2010)

Iraq has been in a continuous state of war since 1980. Almost every family including my own has suffered a loss in these recent wars. According to the Iraqi Minister of Women’s Affairs, Mrs. Nawal Alsamaraai, an estimated 1.5 million “war widows” who range in age from 23 to 80 exist in Iraq today; 40% are younger than 30 years old.
Many widows do not have steady jobs and are totally dependent on their families and communities to assist them with living expenses and the burden of raising their children. Families living with the sadness of losing a loved one will forever suffer the psychological and emotional effects of that loss, resulting in a negative mindset. Emotional scars will accompany the war generations and their subsequent offspring, weakening their hearts and minds thus creating further disillusionment.
This series portrays the mothers and wives of those who have died in those wars; everyone a victim as much as the portrait of the loved one they hold. I dedicate this series to them.
Ayad Alkadhi, Artist's Statement

Matthew and the Atlas - Everything That Dies

You said everyone you know one day will surely die
But everything that dies in some way returns
You said everyone you know one day will surely die
But everything that dies in some way returns