Art Gives My Life Meaning, But I Need Ducats

Graphic of a starry night sky with comet passing through.

Shooting Star – graphic by Estela

So, did you look up at the sky and see the comets last month? I looked, but didn’t get to see them. The sky was overcast. 😦 Besides, I live in a city, and cities pollute the night with light. But I have seen shooting stars, when I lived in a smallish town. To me, comets are like natural poetry, their beauty more spectacular than fireworks. They give me a feeling that goes deep, an ineffable feeling.

I miss seeing a black, star-filled sky. I was disappointed that I couldn’t see the meteor shower. I decided if I couldn’t see a shooting star, I would draw/paint a graphic art representation of one. It helped ease my longing.

Although I miss a vivid night sky, living in a city, I love it here. It’s a city of poets. Published and unpublished. I’m grateful, because I’m lucky to be here. Not too long ago, this bitch says to me, and I detected a presumptuous, haughty air in her demeanor, “Estela, do you still live here?” I understood her fucking implication. “Yes,” I said, ignoring her tone. She was surprised. “Oh,” she says. Her eyes opened a little wider, her brow jumped up. It gives me pleasure that I disappointed her fucking, smug expectation. A lot of people in the neighborhood have been displaced, and she assumed perhaps I might’ve been. I know she would just love to hear that. It would feed her sense of superiority. She owns her house, a house her ex bought, and when they divorced she bought his half, with a loan from her parents. There’s more to this story, but that’s all I want to say about it right now. But I will tell you this: this woman told me she hates poetry, really hates it, that she doesn’t understand it. To her, poetry and poets are incomprehensible and useless. It later occurred to me–she reminds me of my mother.

I live in the Mission District, which is currently the trendy place for techies. I half don’t mind. There are things I like about the changes, and things I don’t like. But it isn’t my home, per se, it’s just where I happen to live right now. I don’t really have a place that feels like home. I mean, I haven’t grown roots anywhere. I’m a tumbleweed.

Graphic of a tumbleweed in the middle of a highway.

Me as a tumbleweed blowing down the road of my life.

A Texas tumbleweed, since I was born in El Paso. The wind of Fate carried me here. But in a general sense, I’ve grown a few roots in the Bay Area, where I’ve lived half my life. Oakland and San Francisco are the only cities I have ever been in love with. I once thought I loved Berkeley, and was thrilled when I got to live there. But one day I woke up and realized it was only an infatuation. I hate Berkeley. Well, “hate” is such a strong word. But I am intensely disinterested. With the city, I mean.

I don’t know if I’ll ever live anywhere else. I mean, some place where I WANT TO live. I hope so. I just have these dreams in my head. That’s me, the perennial dreamer. But, for now, I need, and want, to live here. I love living here. It’s a good place to promote my poetry, myself as poet, as artist. And I really like some of the poets, storytellers, and various artists I have met here. I like them very much.

I used to be ok with the idea of the “starving artist”. I really thought I could live like that forever. I guess I was misguided, a Romantic idealist. Or maybe I didn’t have enough confidence. It’s easier to resign to poverty than to hope for success. I tried one job after another, but couldn’t hang. I was a job hopper. I was accused by my own children of not wanting to work. But that isn’t true. I wanted to. It’s just that it made me feel suicidal.

I’ve never wanted to be anything but an artist. That has been with me for as long as I can recall. So has hard Luck. She’s persistently kicked my ass. I’m hoping she’ll lighten up some day. But Luck isn’t always dark. Sometimes Fluke pops in, like a small miracle. Fluke has been good to me. I think of Fluke as Luck’s child. Sort of like Cupid is Venus’s child.

I have a poetry reading coming up. Poets read at book stores, cultural centers, libraries, cafés, bars, and all kind’a places.  In my neighborhood, there’s a new monthly poetry reading. This one is at a panadería, a Mexican pastry shop. This is the Mission District, which has been designated a Latino Cultural District, just as Chinatown is designated an Asian Cultural District. So, it makes sense to have readings at a panadería. Ricardo, the host, titled the reading series, Pan Dulce, which means pastry, or, literally, sweet bread. 😀 Ha. That makes me chuckle. My poetry isn’t sweet. It’s mostly sardonic. 😈 But, truly, I have nothing but love in my heart. ❤ It’s really tongue-in-cheek. Even with a poem like You Make Me Sick. I don’t know if people get the deeper meaning–that being with an abusive person does damage to the soul of the victim. I want to give voice to women who are abused, to empower them.

Last month I attended Pan Dulce, and there was a good crowd, a diverse crowd. I like diversity. I’m reading on Tuesday, the 8th. Four of us will read, and then there will be open mic.

Flyer forpoetry reading at La Reyna.I’ve never ridden in a car like the one in the flyer. I feel lucky and grateful to be included. I’m happy to represent.

This reading will feature four brown women. Antonio, an artist, a painter, would say we are red, those of us of mixed ancestry, indigenous and Spanish. I agree with him. I hope he shows up and offers words of wisdom again, and sings another healing and cleansing song. He always starts by asking permission of the ancestors to speak. He was born in Mexico, he said. Where in Mexico, I don’t know. I totally love him, his words, his way, his art, indigenous art, it’s so beautiful. Most my life I’ve lived in diverse neighborhoods, so I’m acculturated. But I still remember the indigenous frame of reference that was more prominent in my early childhood. But my mother wanted us to acculturate, even if she didn’t know that word.

Living as an artist isn’t easy. It’s a gamble, really. Lydia Lunch, a rocker, poet, performance artist, says, “If you make art for money, it isn’t art.” I agree with that. But it’s ok to earn a living with art. If you can. Hell, she has. But the art matters more than money, more than your name, reputation, fame. For me, art is a compulsion. I need to do it. If I don’t, I feel like there’s no reason to live. I don’t want to do anything else. I’ve tried.

I’ve struggled to be my true self. In fact, I write words in an effort to find myself, my self, me.

I’m reading Tao Lin, reading his novel Tai Pei. I’m loving it. I intend to read more of his work. He’s a writer and a visual artist. He’s just a kid, for god’s sake, and I find him incredibly inspiring. He says something like, “There is no good or bad art. It’s just a matter of preference.” I agree with the second half of that. I believe there IS good and bad art, but art is subjective, so who gets to call it, really? Lin is absolutely right: art is about preference. An artist just has to find her audience, patrons, people willing to pay for her (or his) art.

I believe in myself. Shit. As soon as I write that, the demons rise. They say, “Who do you think you are? You’re fooling yourself. You aren’t good enough.” And they laugh at me. Abusive motherfuckers.

BEGONE, you assholes! I believe in myself! 

Life is an amazing experience. I’m so grateful to be alive. Art gives my life meaning, but I need ducats too. I have to keep putting myself out there.


About Poet Dressed In Black

Poet. Artist. Grammy of one, a granddaughter. Mom of three, son and two daughters, all grown. Individualist. Care-taker of Isabel, an agoraphobic, fear-aggressive, very nervous, delicate flower, Chihuahua mix.
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