She fingered the teacup at the sink. Hands wet, dishes stacked waiting, overhead light off but the light under the cabinets on which made for dramatic shadows and underbelly.
The teacup was her grandmother’s. Used to be. She didn’t put it in the sink anymore because of the porcelain on porcelain danger. The sliver of gold around the rim and edge of the saucer were still the ring she loved most, even since the one on her finger. Her lips touched it and she was kissing like King Midas was touching, she was drinking like the sorceress at the waterfall. The way it balanced in between her fingers felt like a fine Japanese knife, like a feather compared to a cairn of rocks, like the sacrum loose in the pelvis.
The rest of it was white. It still held it’s gleam, though it could use a deep polish by one of those harsher chemicals. The glass of the glaze was still diligently strong, protecting everything after all these years, protecting hot sweet poured flow like a mountain cradles the lava.
She used to beg her grandmother to get it down from the high glass shelf of the cabinet and let her hold it. Gently, gently, with two hands, only when she was sitting on her bottom, only when her hands were clean and steady. She learned to keep her hands clean and steady. Learned to ask the way her grandmother wanted to hear. Learned to remember the settled feeling in her belly even when it wasn’t in her hand.
The hairline crack was still visible. He fixed the break, the fracture that separated it into half-moons, splitting into duality, no longer whole. He was as precise as she was. He researched how to repair fine porcelain on youtube. He had tears in his eyes as he mixed the chemicals to make the sealant, and again when he smoothed the outside until she couldn’t even feel it with her fingertips. He presented it to her again. He gave it back to her. He as much as raised it in both hands on bended knee.
There was nothing to do but go forward. She cradled it in both hands, careful not to have too much soap. It was reparable, she told herself. The sealant was made from gold, too. A fine river-shape down the side where her thumb sat. It was stronger than it had ever been before. But she knew the line was there. She will always know it is there. And someday it will be more beautiful than it was before.
I’ve been writing personal journal entries online again. For a while, it was on a completely different WordPress subdomain, but recently I imported all those posts to Sugarbutch — about 30 of them from the last two years. Since I brought them in to Sugarbutch, I’ve had more supporters there, and sharing them again has been inspiring me to write even more of them.
The new password is available for people who are Patreon supporters. You can be a supporter at any amount. (There are other benefits, too! Like free ebooks and giveaways and following my work in all the places I’ve been writing and personal updates and musings.)
I understand the frustration of someone you follow putting their (arguable best) work behind a paywall … but at this point, 11 years into writing on Sugarbutch, and with the death of personal blogs, things have changed so much. I just can’t share like I used to. A big part of the challenge of publishing personal things is the vulnerability, and the overexposure. There are just too many people reading, and when things are very fresh, when the things I’m writing about are still happening, it can be crippling to have comments or even acknowledgment.
So I am narrowing my audience. I tried to narrow it before, offering the password to the mailing list. But the mailing list is over 10,000 email addresses now. So now, it goes to the Patreon folks. I know that they are invested in me, in my art and expression, in my journey, and that feels like buy-in in a different way than folks who consume my writing as more of a reality tv show. Sharing it with the Patreon folks is a new experiment, and I’m not even sure how long it’ll last.
When I met rife, and Kristen and I started breaking up and having deep challenges between us, I started writing less about what was happening for me personally. Kristen requested me not to — but also, I was shutting down, struggling. Maybe I’d call it a sort of writer’s block, but really it was because I didn’t want to read or admit what I was writing. As I started writing less personally, I also started building Sugarbutch as more of a ‘brand,’ studying entrepreneurship, and trying to turn my work into a more serious business. That too took my focus away from sharing the personal. And in lots of ways, it was good for me; I learned a lot and it moved me forward. And I kept struggling. Those years were a major depression for me, and it’s taken a lot to get out of it … but maybe I am out of it? It’s certainly different now.
Plus, I have a job again. My grip on survival and money is not quite so terrified. I’m not working on my brand, my work, my websites, my marketing for every spare minute of every day, and collapsing when not working on it. It’s taken about a year of this new job (and 18 months of therapy) to get back to myself in this way, but it’s been a relief now that I’m writing more.
And yet, it still incites panic in my stomach to think about publishing those very personal things. But the Patreon has been deeply supportive … I love that it gives me hope that my writing is actually a valuable addition to the world, and it gives me financial proof in exchange. I love getting to know folks more and recognizing their names and having deeper conversations — it feels like I’m building friendships, not ‘readers.’
Money isn’t the only kind of exchange for my work, though. I know sometimes money is just not an option at all — my finances have at times been that tight, where it’s just impossible to spend even a dollar. I get it. I’m open to other ideas. As many of my friends have said, “I can’t pay my rent in vegan cupcakes,” so there are plenty of things I don’t really need and that won’t help me to exchange, but I’m sure there are even more which are useful and lovely. I’m not sure what they are? Perhaps folks who are interested in trading for something other than money can let me know and we can talk about what we could do?
I often hate it when people put their (arguably best) work behind a paywall, and I have in the past refused to give them money on principle. Even through all of the work I’ve done in the entrepreneur world, and knowing how little artists and activists get paid, it still feels arrogant or self-righteous to me — though I know it shouldn’t. But now that Patreon has rolled around, it feels very easy to support artists in that way. At first, as research, I pledged $10 a month to be divided among different folks on Patreon, and I’ve kept with that for the past few years, moving around the money depending on whose work is speaking to me right then. I’ve loved seeing behind the scenes and getting to know the struggles behind the creations. It really is a wonderful platform for creators online.
There’s also news that Patreon has changed their terms of service to exclude certain kinds of adult content. Violet Blue has been following this and investigating very closely, and I’m sure there’s still many updates to come, but it has made me panic much more than I expected. Will this support that has become so important to my work suddenly be taken out from under me? Will my CONSENSUAL explorations of fantasy cause me this circle of friends and support that has become an essential piece of my work? They aren’t saying that all adult content is banned, but I know my content with consensual non-consent and age play sets off alarm bells. I don’t really want to remove all of that from my site, but what if they say I can stay if I do? Would I do it?
I don’t know what’ll happen next with that. But for now, please come join my inner circle, and tell me you support my writing not with your words, but with a little bit of energy. For the price of a cup of coffee once a month. For a dollar. For a hundred dollars. For whatever you can spare. It tells me you want me to keep going, that you get value from this. And I’ll be glad to bring you in and share some of the harder, deeper truths that I’m struggling with, and learning.
PS: The old password still works for the older journal entries. The new ones tagged with mentalkink have the new password, the older ones have the password you got via email on the mailing list. I probably would go back and change all the old ones if I could, but that will be a deep to-do item for the site, since it’s so time consuming.
… among other things. I have much to say about my experience at the erotic energy intensive, but as my heart & body & mind sorts through everything, here’s a poem I wrote on the plane.
The bowl of the Jemez Valley
sinks the circle to center. We
dip our unclothed bodies into
the hot pools, hearts cracking
open like the sky after mid-
afternoon thunder storms
saunter in to nourish the thirsty
ground of the high desert. Skin
shows wear, blush, want—
we take turns holding ourselves
under water, letting our bodies sink
and surface. Ant colonies construct
the shifting ground under our feet.
The hummingbirds arrive when we
offer them sugar water, offering
themselves as medicine in return.
We fly in the kitchen, sit like
boulders in the zendo, grow
wings through holding, fill our bowls,
dip our fingers in to clean them.
I attempt re-mothering, I am Daddy,
I watch, shining light inward
down from my comfortable purple
easy chair. I discover an inner
engagement, ready to wed;
act it out in ten minute experiments
while wheelbarrows win, rain
falls, voices are replaced. Our
climaxes are our own responsibilities.
We dazzle in the evenings under
the milky way, emptying and refilling
our hungry open bowls.
Cheryl’s memorial was yesterday. More than two hundred people attended, brought food, and comforted each other, and fifteen people read some of their own thoughts and some of Cheryl’s work.
I hosted the event. It was the hardest reading I’ve ever done. I felt like I called on more of my tantra and energy/space holding abilities more than I used my reading host skills, though both of course were present. In putting together the line-up, I thought a lot about how much Cheryl has taught me about hosting readings, stage presence, how to order it, how to keep it moving, what to say and how to banter between readers. I learned so much in such a short time, she really knew what she was doing.
I had a pretty strict script so as not to babble, which, if you’ve ever seen me host a reading, you know I can tend to do. So here’s the part that I read.
Hello everyone. Thank you for being here at Dixon Place to celebrate Cheryl B.
We’re all here because we knew Cheryl, because she touched us in some way. Some of Cheryl’s accomplishments are listed in the chapbook/program, but we all know that she was widely anthologized, created three reading series in New York City in the last ten years, and performed all over the US, UK and Canada.
I’ve known Cheryl since I moved to New York in 2005. She was one of the first people I met in the literary performance circles. We kept being booked for the same readings, and eventually became friendly, then friends. She read at my chapbook release party in 2007, we started working together in 2009, and then started a reading series, Sideshow: the Queer Literary Carnival, together in 2010. I was there throughout her diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma last November, through the chemo treatment, which I even accompanied her to (once), and through her hospitalization.
What has struck me consistently in thinking about which story to tell about Cheryl here has been the transformation which happened after she was diagnosed. Cheryl had a dark, cynical sense of humor, and was private, often feeling alienated. But when she truly needed help from her friends and her larger community, you all—we—surprised her by offering up our support, our pies, our cars for rides, our wallets for Fresh Direct gift cards, our time, and our prayers.
I saw how much it meant to her that everyone rallied, throwing spelling bee fundraisers, offering research, and sending emails of support. Cheryl opened up and took in that love in a way that I’d never seen her do before.
Kelli told me that at the end, when she and Cheryl were doing some woo-woo aspirations that clearly were Kelli’s idea, Cheryl chose to say “I am thankful for my community,” and she didn’t even roll her eyes.
More than anything else, I’m so glad this event is an opportunity to get all of us together, all of us who loved and cared for Cheryl, and who love and care for Kelli, to look around the room and acknowledge what a community ourpouring of love looks like.
Tonight, you’ll hear some of her work read by some artists, writers, and friends, from Cheryl’s brother, and a few videos of Cheryl herself.
— Readers —
Thank you to all the readers for coming and being here today.
I’d like to conclude by reading one of my favorite poems, which has been a comfort to me lately. You’ll notice it’s not in Cheryl’s style, but I’d like to offer it up as a prayer, in whatever way that means to you.
The Summer Day by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Thank you all for being here. Thank you Dixon Place, thank you to the volunteers who helped us set up and will help us clean up, thank you United Stages and Kathleen Warnock for the beautiful program/chapbooks. Thanks to Genne and Bevin for helping to coordinate this event, thank you Kelli for your beautiful heart and friendship, to all of us.
There is a new writer’s fund set up in Cheryl’s name through the Astraea Foundation; you can donate on your way out. When there are more events to raise funds for the Cheryl B. Fund, you can find out about them on wtfcancerdiaries.com.
You are also welcome to take a book from Cheryl’s collection, we have a donation hat next to it if you’d like to contribute.
And please remember to support each other, tonight and ongoing.
Thank you for being here.