about dear beloveds:
once upon a time i (franciszka voeltz) wrote a poem to every human in the world entitled dear beloveds (it was brought on by reading juliana spahr’s this connection of everyone with lungs). in summer, 2012, i turned this poem into a zine and then took it on tour. while it was delightful to share the poem in different places, it was even more delightful to pass notecards out to the audience afterwards and ask them to contribute their own sentence, phrase or paragraph addressed to every human in the world (suggested by the phrase dear beloveds). this site exists to show the contributions i gathered along the way and to reach you so that you may submit your own contribution to the collection. (for details on submitting click the submit link above). the posts are currently organized by the location that the notecards were gathered at (click on one image of a card on the homepage and you will land on a post that includes all cards gathered at that location). since i’m no longer on tour, future posts may be organized by date or another category. below the about curator/collector, you will find the text of the dear beloveds zine, intro included.
about the curator/collector franciszka voeltz:
i believe in momentum, collaboration and you. things that interest me include but are not limited to: the power of naming things, the arbitrariness of borders and how bodies and geography carry history. for six years,i led community writing workshops with various underserved communities from low-income adults to inmates in portland, oregon through write around portland. my poems have appeared in a number of publications including Adrienne, Dark Mountain, and Analecta Literary Journal and my daily practice can be read and interacted with here.
while i asked every audience member for their approval to post their contributions in a public space, consent for publication wasn’t procured on a person-by-person basis (rather, only by people in large groups nodding and saying yes). please contact me if you’d like your contribution removed and i will do so.
DEAR BELOVEDS ZINE TEXT:
dear humans, some things you should know:
one: i outright stole the greeting/phrase beloveds from poet juliana spahr in her book this connection of everyone with lungs. one could also call it borrowing or appropriating, or even working in nonconsensual collaboration.
two: i wrote this after my first year of grad-school (mfa program in writing). at that point, i stopped believing in books. if they can’t take apart the border wall (u.s./mexico in specific, but all border walls in general) then what’s the point was one of my go-to phrases. then i read spahr’s lungs. it was not only the way she built the book (not a collection of associatively connected poems, but poems that became a scaffold, a structure, an entire neighborhood). but also the way she wrote through a time (when the u.s. began dropping bombs on afghanistan in 2001) that i was too numbed write through. (the despair at the ripping open of another war in the wake of a rigged election had shut me down.)
three: i read spahr’s book while draped in a hammock in the coastal forest just outside of arcata, california during a two week artist retreat at a queer land project called fancyland. at night i typed by oil lamp light and dreamt in an open-air treehouse. during the day, i yoga’d in a patch of sun near the outdoor shower, baked cookies in the solar oven, read more, typed more, walked the curving roadside down to the creek to swim in the clear cool water under the bridge because no one can claim ownership of that patch of water. i talked over garden-grown dinners in the lamplight with residents, comrades and visitors (tyler, jacqueline, sacha, james, luiza, annie, honna, puck…). it feels important to name these things, because each of them are just as much authors of this piece as i am. in fact, i wish every text i read included a process note about where people wrote the text and who was around them and what their space looked/felt like and what kind of methods/machines they used for that first draft. sometimes we are only privy to that information after the author dies and they become biographized.
four: i tried to think of other possible phrases to use to address the entire world, but nothing else worked. if i chose dear planet, dear humans or dear entire world, none of these phrases could capture the kind of connection that beloveds suggests.
five: i have left space for you to write your own dear beloveds entry/ies. i am hoping to build a collective poem/letter to the entire planet and would love to read and print/publish your contributions.
six: in case it isn’t clear by now, you must read spahr’s this connection of everyone with lungs. though i suggest you read this first since it’s already in your hands. i am grateful to be connected to you. even if we’ve never met, these words are a bridge connecting us.
(DEAR BELOVEDS POEM)
i understand that to address this poem to an entire planet but to write it only in english is problematic. this is a small beginning.
as you breathe, i am breathing, and together we make a globe of humans inhaling and exhaling. a globe of humans discovering and rediscovering the elasticity of our lungs, a globe of humans replenishing our cells every seven years. a globe of humans who often forget about this rhythm. oxygen in, carbon dioxide out.
when i lift my head skywards scanning for stars, feet pushing pedals forward, some of you are most likely doing the same. some of you also decoding satellites and constellations. some of you catching a pink bloom of sunset. some gauging the grey to guess when the sun will slip through. some of you praying for rain to relieve whatever is thirsty. some of you tossing queries like dice up to orion, to ursa major as they diamond-carve their way across night.
I have not read or heard the news in seven days, but most likely some of you were mentioned or pictured there. most likely some of you died in ways that no human was ever meant to. the shape of your nose, the angle of your shoulders when you walk lodging themselves. slivers of ache we carry around in your name, or in the name of humanity which, if we ever had any say, some of us would never choose this planet. some of you mourning in groves of trees where my dawn is your sunset. some of you mourning in your living room down the block in a house i’ve never entered though i’ve probably said hello to you while you where kneeling in your front yard patch of alyssum or cosmos separating weeds from blooms and tugging at the root. some of you are walking over the arc of the bridge between worlds at this moment, and by the time i reach the end of this stanza, some of you will have completed your crossing and i am extending blessings, unfurling from ribcage like ribbons in wind. some of you are asking who the fuck is she to extend her blessings?!, which would chorus well with the questions i ask myself, but i extend anyway and leave you to choose whether or not to accept.
when i fly, i prefer window seats because i like to look out as we hover over freeways. i like to pick out a single car/truck/van as it ant-crawls along the cloverleaf on-ramps, the stretches of straight line. i like to imagine myself in that car. in the passenger seat. holding the driver’s hand in mine, telling them everything will work out, telling them that they’re doing an amazing job, telling them anything that might help them crack their chest open a little wider.
i am scared about the story of water. still brainwrapping around the fact that some people, some companies, some corporations own/sell this element. bought. packs of plastic bottles stacked twelve high on flatbeds. same bottles that can be found floating in a patch of trash four times the size of texas in the middle of the pacific ocean. an ‘island’ so big it took a yachter a week to sail through it before he hit open ocean again. bottles that will eventually break down to little bits for fish to feed on, but that will never disappear. I am scared that one of the chapters of this water story tells us that our bodies are about 70% water. same as the earth’s surface. numbers so similar that when the oil leak on the gulf could not be stopped, i could feel the slick in my stomach, in between my muscle and bone. a sheen on the skin, in the cells of all us that we do not know how to wipe away.
i want to believe in all of you. and i do. but i get confused because some of you happen to be officers in the u.s. army that condone things like taking photos of your soldiers at abu ghraib with their thumbs up while hovering over the naked corpses of tortured detainees. some of you are glad that matthew shephard is dead and you would do it all over yourself if you had to. some of you would prefer immigrants dying in the desert from heat exhaustion and severe dehydration rather than make it across into the u.s. to do the work you wouldn’t be caught dead doing in the first place. some of you have forced yourself beyond the boundaries of someone else’s body even after they said no. some of you have broken other people open this way more than once. i understand that there is a great need for healing amongst us. i understand that if you grew up taking the blows, then you are more likely to deliver them when you grow up. right now one of you is splintering someone else’s jaw with your knuckles. one of you is about to press the trigger of the gun in your hands aimed at someone else’s chest. one of you is discovering how many layers of skin and muscle there are before your blade hits a bone. if this poem could do anything right now, i’d will it to lasso the bullet back into the gun, to bind the severed flesh, to unclench the fist, to meld bone back to bone. i’d will this poem to ferry you, beloveds, into safety. unharmed. unarmed. i’d will this poem to unravel every moment we have ever felt unsafe in our bodies, unless you use those moments as fuel, as momentum to push you forward.
when i say healing, I mean feeling safe inside our bodies. i mean our ribcages cracked open by the dazzle of light that wants to break out from inside us. i mean. spiraling back in time to re-create our history as one that doesn’t include genocide. i mean unhinging isolation. i mean each of our basic needs being met. i mean taking apart border fences, coil by coil of razor war, sheet after sheet of corrugated metal.
part of the complication is what i want for us/our world is not always what you want for you/our world. when i am dying, i will want hands to hold, but some of you would rather camp alone at the frays of the forest, would rather sit solo along the river shores until your bodies give themselves back over to earth. this is called projecting. this is called gap.
maybe if there are enough of us who want these things, we could create them together. sometimes i lose hope because there are times when there are just two of us who can’t work it out, who can’t agree, who can’t come to a shared understanding. if sometimes just two of us are unable, then how is it possible for two countries, or even two families to live in agreement, can coexist outside of violence?
maybe you wonder why i want these things, why some of you want these things. i don’t know the answer, but sometimes i think it sounds like this: because even though my grandma janina was alive for my first 35 years, even though we shared christmases and sundays, even though i knew the sound of her voice, the creases in her lips, even though i have been handed her stories – the ones where age and geography are never certain, but trauma and survival are – it has been impossible to get close to someone who is split. it is hard to get to know someone who lived in the same city as me but left most of herself across the atlantic back in nazi-occupied poland where she wheeled her mother’s corpse in a cart at age eighteen. nazi-occupied poland where her first child died under the ‘care’ of the german government. it is hard to get to know someone whose body is in the same room while the rest of her is still wandering bombed out streets searching for her sister, her aunts. Seeking shoes with scuffs in just the right places, or an unmistakeable voice regardless how much it’s rendered by distress.
and because my grandma was only one-eighth here, my mom has spent a good portion of her life seeking her own wholeness, tight and afraid. which means it never occurred to her to tell me the world is yours baby girl, you are capable of doing whatever you want, which, turns out, is the only thing i’ve ever needed to hear. to heal. maybe you carry a story like this too. maybe you also keep returning to its pages hoping they’ll offer new clues. maybe it makes more sense for you to refer to your grandma as me instead of her.