Reimagine Seattle: Brian Dang

The challenges of the past two years have changed the way we live, the way we work, and the way we show up for each other. They have also given us a rare chance to collectively reimagine our future. Through the Reimagine Seattle Storytelling Project we invite community members to reflect on their current experiences in Seattle, how they have been impacted by recent events, and their hopes for the future of our city.

prayer as a walk through Ravenna in the Winter

by Brian Dang

this city is notorious for the dark  
   
 it’s true 
   
  winter is a funeral for color
   
 we’ve all seen the chart:
the grey.
 
   
the seattle freeze, a historical coldness, even,  
   
  hard to make friends, or something. nobody knows how to define it.
   
 what’s that about? 
   
 is it true? 
   
  you quickly become metamours with solitude
   
you arrive at affection for it, unprepared  
   
 when my edges came loose 
   
and I began
to collapse, inwards
  
   
  I moved in nearby after living in the outskirts
   
I was grieving  
   
  if I’m being honest,
I was —
   
 Ravenna Park taught me how to live. 
   
 there are three paths: 
   
the north trailthe service roadthe south trail
   
 each path has
its own magic
 
   
you can lay your fingers on the overhead bridge’s steel beams (there are two)  
   
plan to cross them later, the many bridges  
   
 knock on a fell maple’s door, a root system of messy hair and a home (there are two) 
   
  swim at the playground, in children’s laughter, the barking of dogs, thwacking of rackets, dribbles of basketballs, zooming of ziplines (there are two)
   
  the basketball gets stuck in the old hoop, but it’s endearing
   
sit on a bench where the creek sprints loudest (there are two)  
   
a friend shares poetry with me at these benches, tells me she’s thinking of me  
   
  run your hand through sword ferns like hair you’re braiding (there are so many)
   
 step mindfully across the narrow bridge to the erratic (there is only one, depending on who you ask) 
   
 I come to this rock when I need to see the wind’s arms take up the fir tree’s arms 
   
 when I need to trust water 
   
 when I need to trust quiet 
   
I’ve been beat over the head twice in the last year,  
   
 it’s mostly a confusing affair, when walking in your city 
   
  your glasses falling to the sidewalk for the first time
   
 the second, your hat 
   
 never the city, never the cops, but my friends, the people, they were there when I reached — 
   
  you think brightly of the stranger who pulled their car over in the busy intersection, jumping out, asking:
   
 “are you okay?” 
   
I come to Ravenna.  
   
 I remember, I reach out 
   
  when I need it most.
   
 and Winter, 
   
is a time of need.  
   
 Ravenna teaches me
how to live.
 
   
  it’s true: this city is notorious for the dark
   
but it’s brightest, in the Winter, this creek  
   
 the firs, the maples, the pines, the cedars, the hemlocks 
   
  making way is not barren,
   
you wouldn’t say that spreading your fingers,  
   
 to press your hand 
   
  into an open hand,
to be close
   
 you wouldn’t call that
a barren act
 
   
so don’t call them,  
   
  my leafless friends,
   
 barren. 
   
making way for sky,  
   
 these acts of grace only appear in Winter 
   
  and when it snows, oh when it snows, there is so much light to eat
   
  but I get why we hate Winter.
   
 the cold, the cold, the cold 
   
 what a cold two winters we’ve had 
   
 so cold, we close our doors 
   
we’ve collapsed
into ourselves
  
   
  and our unhoused neighbors, who find a home in the welcoming trails of Ravenna,
   
 are swept again, 
   
this city loves to sing displacement  
   
 I once heard there are more cranes here than anywhere. 
   
 what now, of these visions that do not include us? 
   
how do you ask a place that has hurt you, what do you need? without losing something  
   
  oh, but I can’t help but love the Winter,
   
 the world becomes so tinted in blue 
   
and it shows me
I can live
  
   
  you see the nature of nature in branches:
fractals,
   
 the tendrils, the limbs do not grieve the season, they reach so clearly 
   
 we are made to reach out 
   
and reach out in return  
   
 ad infinitum 
   
  (again and again, in the same way forever)
   
 the reaching is 
operaticsymphonicoceanic
   
might welearnto reach
   
throughthe needtoo?
   
reachingthroughthe way
   
when it’scold, findeach other
   
when it’sdark, findeach other
   
I’ll speakwithoutnegation
   
as bestas I’velearned
   
leave theblindsopen
   
care intothe warmthof a collective
   
reachtouchoffer
   
peopleoverthe city
   
lovethe peopleover
   
the citylovethe people
   
underthe citylove
   
the peopleonthe city
   
we havelightto give
   
wayto makeway
   
it’s notso coldhand
   
in handthere’spower
   
in the peoplein the peoplein the people
   
beside youacross from youaround you
   
in the peoplein the peoplein the people
   
in the peoplein the peoplein the people
   
when you leave the trail by making a slight turn, you are faced with the wholeness of a sky
(this                        happens                        at                         both                         ends)
snow covered walkway entering a forested park

Photo of Brian Dang. They are of Vietnamese/Chinese descent and have long black hair. They are standing outside amongst bamboo plants. They are wearing glasses, a patterned button-up shirt and a necklace.
Brian Dang (they/them) is a Vietnamese/Chinese playwright, poet and teaching artist based in Duwamish Territory (Seattle), where they grew up. Brian is a proud resident playwright at Parley. For Brian, writing is an act of envisioning an eventual communing, an opportunity to freeze time as we know it, and a reaching for joy. Their writing has been workshopped with Seattle Opera, Pork Filled Productions, Mirror Stage, Karen’s Secret Army, Theatre Battery, and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Brian was a 2020-21 Hugo House Fellow. For 2022, they were awarded a Centrum Foundation, Seattle CityArtist and 4Culture awards to work on their communal poetry/letter collection 49 words I wish I could write in my family’s language. Finally, Brian is also a big fan of cereal, movies, long walks, bakeries, and pastel. They would like folks to check out the collective Stop the Sweeps.

Submissions for the Reimagine Seattle Storytelling Project were commissioned by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. The opinions expressed and information contained in each submission do not necessarily reflect the policies, plans, beliefs, conclusions, or ideas, of the City of Seattle.