2020 Archive

Letters to Versions Of:

Reflections, Rants, and Raves
Ren Dara Santiago

April 1, 2020

Ren Dara Santiago

Ren Dara Santiago is a Fila-Rican Story-Teller from Yonkers and Harlem who makes theatre for impact, subversion, and celebration. She’s in Residency at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and teaches at TYWLS, NTI and MCC Theater.

This is life.

Some things are happening and it’s going aight
Or it fucking sucks
Cause pandemics are persistent and consuming

But let’s imagine
You having a good day—
It’s goin really, really fuckin good!
’Cause your people came round and stay smiling
Making you laugh from the inside.
And you fed them and they ask for seconds.
And they trust you to keep em safe.

And you love em hard and angular…
That’s what is required of you
When you grow up some type of way.

It doesn’t stop the constant things.
This voice inside your head:
I miss my brother and my sisters.
I want my sisters safe
I want my brother free
I want my siblings with me. 

You tell yourself:
Even though we ain’t together,
I hold em in arms wider than the ocean
In arms made of memories and dreams for them and the
Prayers trapped in stars until they manifest
And you think on that
Maybe get lost in it, so

You make something that keeps
the things you see inside em
from disappearing.
You make a thing that keeps their secrets in loving pillows of
Language and breath.
You write.

You write by thinking really hard about someone
Picturing em
Standing or laid out on the couch
Always in the kitchen or
Playing games on the toilet til their legs fall asleep at the knees.
You think real hard
about people trying
as hard as they can
to make it through, day by day. And more than that—
to connect and create and love fiercely
while living without freedom. 

For the first time,
Everyone in the country can understand living without the freedoms entitled to us.
Like. Here we are: trapped in places that might look similar but are worlds apart.
Here we are, loving people better or worse than ever before, together or apart.
A lot of us are far apart.
Kept separate due to health risks or lack of resources or access or literal distance.
Or pipelines or denied N-400’s or custodial laws or really tough choices.

And we’re stuck inside, or forced to endanger ourselves every time we leave for work
Because we still have to leave for work
While everybody else is stuck in the house—
Unsure of their next check, having to think real hard about choosing groceries or laundry today. About a shower or leaving the bed. About rent or utilities. About not having answers.
We all out here, blind leading the blind right now.
This is now a unifying experience. 

Right now, I go back to being a kid.
Stuck alone, but never really by myself.
Thinking hard about people I can’t touch
Writing as a means to connect with strangers
under impossible circumstances.
Maybe I can tell you about my loved ones
Alone with all the people in my head and heart,
I study em. Their memories. The rules they made for living.
There’s something they know well—
And that’s how to keep going no matter what stands in our way.

I picture this boy I never knew
But shared space with
A young man.
Who I suddenly knew better than anybody
As I watched him watch something I made
As I watched him pull some sleight of hand to wipe his tears on his hoodie
And I learned a feeling
Of knowing a stranger
Of loving them
Because you can, that’s all
Because you see them and
You Can.

Writing gave
The opportunity
of telling them the thing they been longing to know is true:
That they are true.
Against impossible circumstances
And measured freedoms
We are whole and we stay full. 

We make things
Because we love so deeply
At the core of it,
We be fallin in love so deeply with the tiny things
In the deep peace that comes when you know your loved one feels safe.
And the small moments where you don’t have to speak and they know you know.
And enough space to remind yourself what your own voice sounds like.
All these things reside in the spirit in moments
That a body takes with them
When they go

Our moment now
Is made by giving our love
to what we can never let disappear
or be forgotten
That’s what artists are called to do
In the world around us
Our job
Is to love so well we make it permanent
And this permanence is loved deep enough to instruct others
In the ways to keep us together
Even when we’re far apart.

All media courtesy of the writer.

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