Performed at Stanford University, December 2019.
Mercury is in retrograde this month.
I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean,
but astrology.com tells me not to buy electronics.
Not that I believe in that stuff.
Not that I believe all the answers are tucked into the stars somehow,
that we just have to reach up and unfold the night sky origami.
I believe we are confused and treading water
and confused why we’re still treading water
when we’ve spent so much time learning how to kick forward,
how to push the water backwards
and bring our shoulders an inch closer to the sun.
Retrograde. (Adj.) Moving in a reverse direction.
When a planet is in retrograde, it means it is moving backwards through the sky.
When a person is in retrograde, it means they are moving backwards through the current of their own evolution—
their mirrors melting
their memories meandering.
Like New Year’s Resolutions, but you’re just trying to claw back to last year.
Like your mother tongue, but you’re just trying to remember what it felt like to be fluent.
Like journaling, but yesterday was not as bad as today,
yesterday you were pushing the water backwards,
yesterday the bell jar had not yet descended upon you,
yesterday has slipped into the limbo of bygone things
and a day has passed but you have not aged a bit and
how is that possible when time always points forward?
Retrograde. (Adj.) Reverting to an earlier and inferior condition.
I didn’t know this until I looked it up, but
when planets are in retrograde, they are not actually moving backwards.
They only appear to, because of our earth-bound perspective.
Our eyes only illuminate so much from ground level.
But we’re magical that way, how we create destiny from illusion,
And if it’s that easy to make something from nothing
time travel doesn’t seem like a fantasy all of a sudden.
Thank god we’re made of dirt.
Thank god we only have eyes in the front.
Retrograde. (Adj.) Counterproductive to a desired outcome.
I guess if there is no desired outcome, you are perpetually
Mom. Mommy. Umma.
You may call yourself an empty nester but permanence is not a religion I subscribe to.
Even when I’m fully grown and doing taxes
I’ll ask you to run your finger down the bridge of my nose
because it’s really really really hard to fall asleep.
Some days I unlearn how to fly alone.
Some days I un-leave the nest,
un-emerge from the egg,
and tread water in the shell,
It’s funny because it
seems like retrograde, but it’s not,
nothing is ever one thing and
we never grow up.
We never grow up.
We grow wide so our vessels may carry more of ourselves.
So take my hand
and I’ll wear my regress as an unshackling.
Kiss me for the first time
a hundred times.
I say we elope into limbo,
escape time altogether.
Like the old man who cried like a baby.
Like the mother who delighted at crayons and coloring books.
And like you, who fell back into a man’s arms
and hated yourself for it
but you did it.
Only sometimes a tragedy, always a
You and Mercury locked in a celestial dance,
four three two one,
four three two one,