I am honoured to feature the prose of a dear friend, Tangerine Bolen. Tangerine has an extraordinary way of tapping into powerful metaphors. Her writing at once captures the daily struggles so many of us encounter, especially those who struggle with chronic illness or disability, while simultaneously lifting us to a different plane of understanding, imagination and wonder. Her musings sing to the contradictions of what it means to have a body, and to live consciously in that body, loving it with all of its beauty and failings, while dreaming of something more.
I want to be a cicada, buried underground for 20 years in the cool dark, then bursting forth, furiously singing, furiously mating, then letting my earthly body go.
I want to be a caterpillar, forming my hard-shelled, spiked cocoon, the armor that allows the whole of me to dissolve into goo, liquid forming wings, eyes, head, legs, bursting armor open in the alchemy of transformation, to take to the skies.
Light as a feather, silent as dead stars.
I want to ask the Boatman on the river, the one and only river, why some of us are forced to live bobbing on its waters, where he refuses to speak to us, refuses to row to either shore.
An interminable twilight, racked with sickness and pain, where we must remember to try to capture every gleam, hold it, then let it go, as another piece of us is taken.
I want to speak to Death, and have long conversations. If only Death would deign to speak to me, while I am still keen on living.
I want to climb mountains again, and dance again, and cross logs over rivers, and go bouldering.
I want music to seep into my bones, in a way it hasn’t done, since sound unfriended me, and became ice picks in the ears, diffuse yet glinting.
I want to save the dogs, and help the people, and help myself, and never be sick again.
I want to enter the un-Promised land. Where every wrongful death, animal and human, where every life of suffering, extinguished before grace and relief could come, where the saddest and loneliest of all, in Elysian Fields live, free, utterly free, from all pain.
I want to be with those ones.
Not the Instagram celebrities and vacuous “influencers” and modern-day Nazis, or the people who have it good enough to neither understand, nor care about, others’ suffering.
I want to see transformation in hearts and on faces. I want to see hope return.
I want another planet, but I want this one, and I want another body, yet I just want my own, recovered, and steady.
I want to breathe again, freely, without devastation in my veins.
I want to live in a river of love, where I can learn to dream again.
And I want for you what you need too, because I am human, and my heart, though broken, is still open, and like all the hearts here that are forged by both sorrow and courage—it is made for greater things.
~ Tangerine Bolen is a writer, activist, disability rights advocate and former director of a civil liberties and human rights group she founded in 2010. RevolutionTruth created “Legal Campaigns,” combining grassroots advocacy and multi-plaintiff lawsuits to address power abuses committed by the United States government. The group has taken both the Obama and Trump administrations to court over indefinite detention and environmental injustice at Standing Rock.
*Title photo is Metamorphosis, 1936, by Joan Miró.
Tangerine is the real thing : a 21st Century 1st world mystic who is totally “ “in the flesh, the body “. She is unabashedly all too human but – like you, Kenn, sense – This Spirit swooshes like a Sandhill crane downward toward us and tantalizes us until we sense the archangel holding us above the evil current. If Tangerine Bolen’s musings are never gathered into a book all of us will struggle with less power: She’s the song we need to hear, the power that will heal us, that will free us to rise up singing .
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