How to Choose a Future, Line by Line: A Work in Progress

Inspired by the painting that Wikipedia used yesterday on its homepage, on President Barack Obama’s last day.

800px-assistants_and_george_frederic_watts_-_hope_-_google_art_project

“Hope” George Frederic Watts, 1886

 

There have always been moments

Like this: the whole world a weeping

Woman, half-collapsed, up to her knees

In tears for our unborn futures.

 

There/like/woman/in: blah

Moments/weeping/knees/future: so-so

good enough start; carry on.

In 1886, my great-grandparents chose

 

(or turned?) (Look this up; give context;

History is personal and political:

The sweat of a single brow, the blood

Of thousands soaking a nation’s fields)

 

Since then, the vote and indoor plumbing:

Yes, all that. But also, a nuclear arsenal

In the small idle hands of a man

With neither conscience nor safeguards.

 

And so, this lyre–all strings but one long since

Broken, washed away in these salt waves,

The tears of my people, my tears–

And all the air above this musician

 

Awaiting the quiet note still to come perhaps

From this final trembling audacious

String and the transformation

That may yet follow its music.

In Retrospect

So this is the poem I wrote about voting on Tuesday, or actually, waiting in the playground before we got into the school to vote: anticipation.

suffragettes-on-a-poster-parade-selling-the-suffragette-31st-july-picture-id464472733

Election Morning, Nov. 8, 2016

Alexander Hamilton Elementary School

 

Bodies order themselves in circles, concentric,

The newest arrivals on the inside, protected:

One step forward. Stand. Watch each others’

Nervous faces, watch the selfies on this

Historic morning. Another step forward. Stand.

 

This election has kept us guessing, neither able

To watch this boor go up against this white-clad

Suffragette, nor able to look away, alas.

One embraces the thought of war—he’s a fan,

Apparently; the other considers him deplorable.

 

The circle moves incrementally, a lazy dragon

Shifting forward one step at a time, waiting to take

A stand on the issues, to fill in small ovals

With a black marker on a slightly shielded shaky

Table. But not yet. For now, take a step forward.

 

Stand. I hear a woman say, “This is like that

Catholic thing in the garden.” Oh yes. The living

Rosary. People stand in a circle, each saying on prayer

To our mother to save us. Three rounds: Joyful,

Sorrowful, Glorious mysteries. Pray for us sinners.

 

Yes, this is a circle like that one. Taking a step forward.

Standing. Remembering the joys and sorrows of

The last eight years. Hoping against hope for glory

To come. Twelve hours later we sit and wait for hope

And unity to win, take another step forward, stand.

 

NaNoWriMo: Nation over Novel

half_moon_by_stormpenguin

So yesterday I was struggling to write a blogpost about how we need to vote to avoid turning this country into an English-speaking version of 1930s Italy or Germany, how if we fail our country now, we are both figuratively and literally screwed, all our buried racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia, all our buried shit will come up from where it has been buried for so long and will be turned into public policy.

I am a student of history. I know how that sort of thing turns out.

And I was trying to write this, I found it easier to write about writing, something neutral and safe. But I am a writer and I cannot stay neutral and safe. Yesterday on Facebook, I put out a post saying this:

“Well, even if Wednesday does not begin with a hail of jackboots, we have our work cut out for us trying to unfuck this country from its toxic political discourse and the reality of recharged institutional oppressions. Where do we even begin?”

And while many of my friends focused on my (apparently) original use of the verb “unfuck,” my old friend Jack Reynolds wrote the following:

“Where to begin? Create things of beauty; art, music, poetry, food. Step out of comfort zones with small acts of kindness, not random unplanned ones but something to do everyday. Smile. Tell a joke. Give compliments. Break bread (gluten free if needed) with others and find out what makes them tick. As Dan Berrigan once said “Lets tell the truth to each other and see what happens.” Make community. Don’t search for it, make it or it’ll never happen. Smile. Take quiet time and not take ourselves too serious. Take others seriously. Be grateful for any and all things that are beautiful and unearned and are gifts. I heard a sailor say that you can’t control the wind but you can control the sail.”

He is wise.

So I thought I would write a poem to give us hope, because I seriously believe that this is a huge part of what art is for. So this is my offering to you and to God and whatever other gods might be out there: for sanity and liberty and the hope that this country stands for.

Election Eve, November 7, 2016

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live…” Deuteronomy 30:19-20

 

The moon is half-and-half tonight, like

A mitzpah coin holding out its promise:

That this is not some space-opera dystopia,

Where the creepy demagogue wanna-be

Is going to shoot down the moon, leave

All our tides raging out of control, our seas

Washing their bloody waves, troughing through

Our silent, ravaged, grey cities. No. Never.

 

The moon will remain to govern all our tides,

Those of water, those of blood: like clockwork.

The shining silver half-coin will grow to full,

Showing that we shall be together, not long hence,

With what this country was always meant to be:

The melted alloy of many elements, the gift given,

The promise kept: that we are stronger together,

And together we can heal all the broken pieces.

mpxrjcyzizq8zhmohjoalkq

And again, Robert comes through…

In Response to Nadia’s Misdirected Email, I State Exactly What I Am Looking For Balance. The ability to stand on one foot, on a tightrope, and juggle AR-15s, ethics and dollar bills, while chanting the U.S. Constitution, in tongues. Or good health. Unweighted dreams. A mechanism for disagreeing without needing to annihilate the opposition. […]

via In Response to Nadia’s Misdirected Email, I State Exactly What I Am Looking For — O at the Edges

Save

Sh*t, Robert, You’ve Done it Again

Human Distance 1 Apart from edges, and into deeper darkness, our scars crawl, remaining aloof. 2 Open windows frame the ache in motion, the displaced notes between two wavering spaces. 3 Absent light, absent voice. What is the longitude of grace? Consider errors and their remnants. 4 Navigators measured lunar distance and the height of […]

via Human Distance — O at the Edges

Save

Zoom Lens

Watching from the shadows, the heart wears dark

Glasses, a trenchcoat, carries a camera optimized

For distance and details. Curiosity kills cats

Regularly, it seems, but hearts don’t learn. They long

To know, to be prepared, to study the pictures–

Foreground, background, shadow on top of shadow.

 

Photo+graphein: Greek, to draw with light. We think

That light reveals, unveils, shows us an image

We can recognized. We know that the eyes

Rely on light to differentiate what (and who)

We should walk toward or away from. The heart

More private than the eye, remains in shadows.