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.

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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.

 

When Stories Make Us Stronger

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2004) started as a horror-comedy TV show to make fun all the angst we went through in high school. As it gained popularity, and the writers and showrunner Joss Whedon got into their groove, it turned into a popular culture phenomenon with lessons about loving teamwork, sharing power, and having the courage of one’s convictions. It was about female power, strength and leadership, and most of all the redemptive power of love, friendship and community.

So maybe it is no surprise that nineteen years after the episode “Amends” aired, I saw my friend on Facebook saying, “It strikes me that there’s a Buffy episode about today… the one where she has a soliloquy on the work never ending. I forget which.”

I responded, “Amends.” And posted the following quote:

Buffy: You’re weak. Everybody is. Everybody fails. Maybe this evil did bring you back, but if it did, it’s because it needs you. And that means that you can hurt it. Angel, you have the power to do real good, to make amends. …Strong is fighting! It’s hard, and it’s painful, and it’s every day. It’s what we have to do. And we can do it together.

My friend replied, “Shouldn’t this be your status today? And for all time?”

She’s not wrong. That quote comes from the middle of Season 3, when Angel, after having been turned evil, slayed by Buffy, sent to a demon dimension and then sent back by the Powers that Be, is trying to attempt suicide by sunlight, and Buffy tries to stop him. Then snow comes to Sunnydale, California’s Christmas morning and he doesn’t die, but rather continues to work for good.

The problem is, that this is a situation where she is fighting a friend to get him to fight for people’s safety. Previously, at the end of Season 2, when Angel was still evil and before Buffy had dredged up the guts to kill him and save the world, she is confronted by a neutral demon who is trying to help her. In a voice over, he says:

Whistler: Bottom line is even if you see ’em coming, you’re not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So, what, are we helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come, can’t help that. It’s what you do afterwards that counts. That’s when you find out who you are.

That is where we are today, in the middle of a big moment, with a cascade of big moments ready to attempt to engulf us in the weeks and months to come. My friends—sad, terrified, ashamed of our brother and sister Americans who apparently hate us and want to strip us of our rights and safety—are trying today to take a ragged breath, wipe away their own tears and those of their friends and children, and get ready to take a stand. Count. Find out who we are.

So thank you, Joss Whedon. Your stories will help us to do it.

NaNoWriMo: Nation over Novel

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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.

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The First Rule Of Hillary Club — Wine and Cheese (Doodles)

A few words from our pal Dina Honour. I am also a proud member of the group she describes, which at last look had 151,755 members, after beginning only a week from yesterday.

Recently I was added to a secret group. It’s a group of women (and men) who are #WithHer. And by with her, I mean with Hillary. But even more than that, they are with every HER that is part of the group. Members run the gamut between long time Hillary supporters (raising hand) to those who […]

via The First Rule Of Hillary Club — Wine and Cheese (Doodles)

Social Media as a form of Constructive Procrastination

Social media is not the villain everyone claims it to be. Sometimes social media actually helps us get stuff done. I often have a Word doc open on one side of my computer and some social media site open on the other side. When my brain wanders, it has a place to go for a few minutes to rest and recuperate and do other things that also probably start with the letter R. If I am lonely, I can feel connected briefly. If I feel like what I say doesn’t matter, I can hit the little thumbs-up hand and Like all kinds of stuff.

I mean think about it. Facebook has cat videos (and goat, otter, dog and people videos, but we all know what really matters). My Facebook feed also has groups dedicated to my favorite actors, TV shows, movie franchises, writing and social justice, mostly in that order. You would think that such things would be Inspirational, Moving Me To Write Stuff. I mean, after all, putting up motivational posters in Pinterest helps me to get my sorry little butt to the gym, right?

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Of course, the gym is easy. You show up and lift things over and over again. Then you go lift other things over and over again. You don’t need to think, “Yes, sure, but WHY does this 25 lb. weight NEED to be lifted? What is it trying to ACHIEVE? What will be the CONSEQUENCES of my lifting it?”

Is there anybody here, maybe that lady on the elliptical machine or the guy jumping up and down, thinking, “WHY must she lift that? Why can’t she just LEAVE IT ALONE?”

And the chick who takes the laundry basket filled with used towels, she is probably thinking, “I am the PROTAGONIST, dammit, not that 25 lb. weight, which isn’t CHOOSING to be lifted, the way I am CHOOSING to launder the damn towels for the tenth time since Monday!”

And the trainer who is showing some guy the Proper Way to Do Squats, she glances across the gym floor and thinks, “Yes, but HOW WILL IT ALL END?” Or possibly, she is just wishing she had had that second cup of coffee.

I mean, you don’t actually have to PLOT your gym time. The weight might or might not be expecting to get a happy ending, but it’s not telling either way, so you can pretty much tell people, when you get to the end of your workout, that you killed it.

So social media must work, because, no, I haven’t worked on my novel today, but I did just manage to bang out a blogpost.

Pumpkin Spice Nachos, et al.

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Happy Fall, y’all. It’s that time of year, when everybody is eating, drinking and presumably smoking Pumpkin Spice Fill-in-the-Blank. I admit to being guilty. The Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Waffles have fewer calories, less sodium and cholesterol and more vitamins than their other flavors, and let’s face it a warm waffle on a chilly morning is a happy thing.

But pumpkin nachos? Oh, Joe, what were you thinking?

At least we now know what Linus van Pelt will be munching while waiting in his sincere pumpkin patch on Halloween.

Third of Three for Jane

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Postcard from the Pillow

 

the world i have discovered

is full of more than sunsets and dreams

are not the only reason for being

sorry to leave you to sleep without me

supporting your head (if i had feet

i would stand by my decision) the world

is full of leaves and waking people

not limited by the fading colors

of sheets not tucked in and

not apologetic i am travelling

through a world so full of skyscrapers

and fireworks so full so full I bet you

wish you were here

 

Photo by Jane Kokernak.