Dec 28
Yellow Sweater's picture

Prayer Wheel or Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone

At the beginning of December, I found myself on Capitol Hill for a poetry reading. I had some time to spare, so I walked around the neighborhood’s green-space, Cal Anderson Park. If you were paying close attention to the news, you might recognize the name as the heart of the former Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, a self-declared anarchist community in the middle of Seattle. Ground Zero of the Culture War. A Beautiful Desperate Experiment. A Necessary Disaster. America.  

The park was a little rough around the edges: graffiti on the cement, empty soda cans and drug-needles underneath the picnic tables. There were only a couple of people, wrapped in their puff-jackets, trudging through the puddles. The rainbow crosswalk, the rainbow bridge leading over the scarred road, had a fresh coat of paint. The grass was dulled by winter. 

My mom lived on Capitol Hill in the nineties. She was getting her major in dance at Cornish College of the Arts. Sometimes, I picture her: an artist, a newly converted Christian always arguing with the Bible, breathless, sweaty, beautiful, dancing down the street, having the time of her life, trying to understand life. Sometimes, she will tell me stories about her time on Capitol Hill, about the nineties, about fitting four people into a one-bedroom apartment, about thrift-shopping, about piano concertos that verged on poetry, about how she hardly had time to pause between dance performances, about the Skinheads lurking in alleyways, about the wheel-in coffee bars on the streets, about her extraordinary friends, too many of whom died of AIDS.  

I don’t know what I’m trying to write. I don’t know if this is a prayer or journal entry. I don’t know what I’m trying to find. But what I found was the memorial at the center of the park: a tower attached to a fountain. Its fake windows were  boarded up with paintings depicting a city full of color. I started crying. I started to hate Reagan like I hated Trump.  

I thought about how sometimes hate is easier when you lose too much to love. I thought about the girl I kissed. I thought about how I never want to kiss a boy. I thought about how this was only second hand grief. I thought about how I had no right to be sitting in this muddy park crying when just blocks and months away the police had brutalized protesters. I thought about how lucky I was to have a mostly safe body. I thought about what it meant to redefine freedom. I thought about how I should stop romanticizing the nineties. I thought about how each time the New Year comes around it feels like we’re spinning a prayer wheel. I thought about how I needed to do more than pray. I thought about how God should step up to the plate and write a new book.