For the notorious RBG

I needed this poem by our friend at the Flannel Files.

The Flannel Files

I dreamt I saw RBG in the grocery store

pushing a cart
down the canned food aisle
in a black Adidas tracksuit
Her crocheted collar
a white flower
blooming in her chest

I told her I was sorry 
we had asked her to hold on
for so long

She smiled and nodded
then went back to work
filling her cart
applesauce
sardines
blackberry jam

#RIPRBG

View original post

Wherein I Find a Metaphor on My Walk and Have to Go Lie Down

So, after a few decades as an English teacher, and a few more as a serious reader, I am pretty blind. My glasses, which started out as readers, and then added distance, are now trifocals, with the middle range for the computer. And normally that’s just fine, although whenever I get a slightly stronger prescription, I have to be really careful (or just take them off) while going down stairs for a few weeks–because that can get wonky.

But yesterday, on my second day of exercisanity walking while wearing a bandana, I found myself 1) fogging my glasses and 2) having my glasses rise over the bandana, putting the mid/low bit of the lenses in front of me as I tried to walk on uneven Boston sidewalks. At first the problem was simply tripping slightly. But then I started to get eyestrain. Then nauseated. Then– Yeah, I cut my walk short so I wouldn’t throw up on the side of the street. Yes, Covid-19 is a respiratory disease, but vomit on a sidewalk in your neighborhood is just never a good look.

But the metaphor holds. My attempts at personal safety and at protecting others made it kinda hard to see clearly. It made me self-isolate even though I really felt the need for exercise.

I’m not sure what else I can get from that, but it seemed worth thinking through.

Keep Calm, Stay Well, Keep Writing.

IMG_0768

Love in the Time of Plague

I got an email from Kickstarter a few days ago that spoke to the current moment:

“In times of crisis, some might feel selfish pursuing creative work. It might be hard to imagine why your art matters in the midst of a pandemic. But think of the book that shaped your childhood; the movie you watch whenever you feel sad. Creative work transports us. It recharges and renews us. And in order to experience it, someone needs to make it—to get that strange, unprecedented idea out into the world.” (No author cited)

But a few hours earlier, for the first time in a long damn time I started writing a poem, which I will find tomorrow and finish and post here. But in the meantime I wrote this for a prompt on one of my Facebook groups. It is dedicated to Musashi, who is now the Teaching Assistant for my now-online classes.

 

Love in the time of plague is this black cat

walking over my keyboard because he knows

attention is love, attention to what your loved one

attends to is love, and also when she doesn’t yell at you

for making all the M’s run across the screen

that reticence, the soft voice calling you

a goober, that most of all is also love.

IMG_0673

And yes. That is my rollbook he’s sitting on.

Local Laureate

So last Tuesday, one of my lesbian friends, who teaches 5th grade science at a nearby school, texted me for a poem that she could read at the school assembly. They have been doing a poem a week, and she had asked if she could do something for Pride, which has just kicked off in Boston. I said sure.

I spent two days writing, working on a sestina, my favorite form, since it would give me a way to look at the idea of pride over the years, which would be educational and supportive for the kids, and also reflect some things I’ve been learning from my friends and other queer role models from over the years.

So this is what I wrote.

What We Mean, Now, By Pride

a sestina

 

Years ago, people always said that pride

Was bad, that it and humility were night and day,

That proud people thought only of themselves.

Being proud meant being vain, and that was a no-no.

It meant that you loved only the person in the mirror.

For centuries, folks used “pride” in that sense.

 

And if you think about it, that probably made sense.

Ancient Greek playwrights warned of the perils of pride,

How heroes saw themselves as gods in their mirrors

And overestimated themselves on the day

Of battle. That’s a good way to get killed, no

Doubt about it. Heroes need to know themselves

 

Accurately, what they can do and be. Knowing yourself

Can be difficult. We change as we grow, gaining a sense

Of who we are and who we might become. To know

Who you are is wisdom. To accept who you are is pride,

The good kind of pride, the one that says, “Today

I will be myself in earnest! When I look in the mirror

 

I will see the good I can do, and those who see me will mirror

That goodness back.” Sometimes we change one self

For another, learning to be better and love better every day.

And it’s true: there will be dark, rainy days. There’s no sense

Denying that. There will always be days it’s hard to feel pride

Or joy or accomplishment: this is a fact we know.

 

So we must stand up, let the rain run off us, take no

Notice of those who cannot see us as we see ourselves mirrored

Back. We stand tall, proud of our good selves and our good pride,

Proud to be who we are, love who we love, and accept the self

That God or the universe gave us, with a clear sense

That we will give our gifts to the world, now and someday

 

In the future, when we’ve dreamed and worked our way to a day

When everyone is accepted for who they are, with no

Exceptions. This is not a utopian dream in any sense.

Change happens; the world expands, and then mirrors

Become kinder to those who look at themselves

And smile because they finally know this pride.

 

Let us begin this work today, start by looking in the mirror

Accepting what we know, accepting our truest self

And our sense, finally, of deep and lasting pride.

 

I sent it to my friend and she expressed shock that I had written the poem. She had expected me to send her some good gay poem I knew about or found online. But because I knew that she had read my poetry in the past, it never occurred to me that she had meant anything other than that I should write one.

Today was the assembly. Afterwards she sent me a text saying, “I want to thank you for putting the time in and writing that beautiful poem about Pride. It was a huge success….! I even heard there were some tears.”

Success.

Happy Pride Month!

61989205_10217289933872102_2720903151140995072_o

The Power of Collaboration

I often tell my writing students that we all write alone but we shouldn’t always write alone. What I usually mean by this that nobody can adequately read their own writing much of the time, so we need someone else—or better yet, a few someone elses—to give us feedback.

But recently I got the opportunity to work with a new friend on a new creative endeavor. Although we are both teachers, we are also artists: she, a photographer, and me, a poet. I have frequently caught my breath when seeing her photographs of the city. Sometimes they are simply (“simply”) from an unusual angle—from the ground looking down the trolley tracks, or from the top of a spiraling stairway. Sometimes it’s the filter she uses: a street corner with all the colors but blue drained away, for example. It reminds me of M.C. Escher or Georgia O’Keeffe. And of course, that’s what artists do: find some lens that stops us in our tracks and forces us to look, to actually see what is in front of us.

We were discussing this over sushi and beer on St. Patrick’s Day (because, duh, sushi on St. Patrick’s Day) and decided to set up on Instagram account to present pairs of our work. She would send me a photo and I would write a poem.

So we set it up. (Okay, TBH she set it up and I nodded and gave opinions when she asked me about choices. I did mention that I’m the poet here.) Over the second beer, we came up with the description of the project @vertexekphrases:

“Our project: creating common endpoints of two rays, where lines meet and act as a rhetorical device where one medium of art works to relate to another.”

We liked the image of the vertex, since the two rays are always at the same angle to each other, no matter how far out the rays go, so even when our two art forms are very different, we can still be in conversation with each other, or the art we make can be.

I’ve engage in ekphrasis for years, usually writing poetry about Japanese woodblock art, as I have written about here before, but also writing about the works of artists such as Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper. But now, I get to write into the works of a contemporary artist. Yay me!

And Speaking of Harry Potter…

So our Blog Buddy, Mike Allegra, is having a contest to give away a copy of Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist. The ballot question is what fictional character would you most want to have as a next-door neighbor. I picked Hermione Granger. We could go to used bookstores together and then come back home and argue about how we are each going to arrange our home library. This isn’t thinking like a scientist, I know. It’s thinking like a humanist.

scampers-thinks-like-a-scientist-cover

Image: “Hermione in the Library” by Pelegrin-tn

d8hthio-663d958e-5b2e-4d44-be9f-241bcd3bdca1

Cover art: Elizabeth Zechel

From the Ashes, a Fire Shall Rise

Spring has arrived. It took about 123 weeks, but it happened. The snowbells are blooming, the sun is shining, the Democrats took back the House, and I think I may be able to write again.

Until the last presidential election here in the US, I had not clearly seen what an act of hope writing is: we hope we figure out our thinking, we hope someone publishes it, we hope someone reads it, we hope it makes a difference. And when your hopes for a better world, or a good world, or at least a world not currently ablaze and flooding at the same time, at a time, I say, when those hopes are dashed not just in the course of an evening as the map of your nation turns red with what isn’t currently blood but could be, but also over the course of day after day, week after week, month after month—

I think you see where I’m going with this. Circumstances like that make it hard to have enough hope to write.

I’ve tried. I’ve started things, short and long, but they never seem to lead anywhere and I can’t see the way forward. So I stopped.

It reminds me a bit of that moment in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Harry is up in Dumbledore’s office and he sees his professor’s old, sick bird burst into flames and turn into a pile of ash. “Your bird,” says Harry frantically when Dumbledore returns to his office. “I couldn’t do anything—he just caught fire—”

Dumbledore explains, “Phoenixes burst into flame when it is time for them to die and are reborn from the ashes.”

I was thinking of this because of a project I got starting with a friend and the thought that our conversations these past few days got the ashes sparking again. I will be writing about that soon, and hopefully (feathers crossed) often in the coming days. And weeks. And months.

Image: “Phoenix Rising” by Michael Balchan0316-phoenix-rising

Our Pal Dina Honour on Rights & Using Them!

“Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!” -Donald Trump Last year Colin Kaepernick, an American football player, refused to stand during the American national anthem. Several other high-profile athletes such as US soccer star Megan Rapinnoe followed suit. The backlash was quick. A year later, it hasn’t […]

via What’s the Point of Having Rights if You’re Not Going to Use Them? — Wine and Cheese (Doodles)