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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Tired, scared and angry

It's been a tough week.  For a lot of reasons I don't want to talk about, but one big, very big reason is that I just don't think I'm equipped to handle the state of our world.

But.

I can't afford a trip to Paris every time I feel depressed, after all . . . More's the pity.  So I ask you guys to bear with me and let me get these things off my chest, and tell you one of the things I'm doing to try to calm the emotional chaos I'm feeling.


There are some who believe that talking about, writing about, political views is a hopeless way of attempting to bring others around to our own point of view.

I say "bunk."

It is not that at all.

It is not an attempt to proselytize, evangelize, convert, or recruit.

It is, in most cases, by most good people, I believe, an attempt to let the light in.  Let's leave trolls and bots out of this equation, and stick to good people and what they want. 

People who want to let the light shine in the dark corners until those corners are forced to give up their secrets.


Because, to not talk about what we see wrong with our country is to give up.  To give up the fight against __________ (you fill in the blank).


What many of us are struggling against is real.

It has a name.


And although its name and genesis are political in nature, it is more.


Post-election stress disorder is real.  It has become a thing.  A real thing causing concern in the medical field.  Many doctors have added one more form to that stack of forms you're given to fill out and update while waiting to see your doctor for your annual check-up.

It's a list of questions aimed at diagnosing patients' stress and anxiety levels. 


I, like many, am feeling the stress and the anxiety and it's not going away.

So tired. Scared. So angry.

I am all of these things.

Sick to death of what's happening to our country.  But no longer just our country.  Our planet.  We seem hellbent on destroying our own world.  Selling off national parks and natural monuments.  Killing our rivers and natural spaces and the creatures who inhabit them.


Angry that democracy and decency are being whittled away by a man "elected" (?) to lead this country, but who would rather be king - screw the rest of nation, along with a  cabinet of know-nothing ignorant lying bigots with a collective IQ that won't fill a teaspoon.  


Angry, sick and tired of a congress intent only on making itself individually richer and more powerful while destroying everything good about our country and our planet.  People are weary.  Getting desperate, I think.  Did you know that as of this past summer, six months into the year 2017, there had been more threats (950) against members of congress investigated than the whole of 2016 (902)?


The fighting between political parties is now morphing, more and more, into in-fighting within political parties.  This is doing nothing to improve anything for citizens of this country.  Nothing.  We are not even secondary.  We, especially if your skin is a different color, or if your religion happens to be non-Christian, are only the fodder for the fight.  We're the excuses for special interests' ability to buy what they want from the people we elect to represent us.

It's time - past time - for change.

The cracks are getting bigger.  More light is beginning to find its way in.  It is - I believe it is.

We need to help the light find its way in.


Tired, SO tired, of reading about one more powerful man stepping down from his "position" because he felt entitled to prey on those less powerful.

Appalled that there are many who are still supporting the present administration, even at their own peril.  Women???? Please!  Wake up!


Help the light find its way. 


We have children and grandchildren to think of.


So I find myself turning to poetry more and more.

I read a lot of the work by well-known poets we all learned about when we were in school; Frost, Auden, etc. but more and more I find I'm drawn to the poets who are tapped in to the feelings so many of us are feeling these days.  Tapped in because they're suffering the same feelings and are blessed with the talent to put those feelings into words that soar.

Strong words.

Some of these poets will not appeal to many due to their unflinching manner of saying what they feel.  They fuel the anger and move us to become better activists.

Strong words coming from strong feelings.

Some of them, however, are more gentle and ease the soul.  We can't be angry activists 24/7, after all.  We need times of peace and reflection.  A bit of whimsy even.

Strong words clothed in velvet and silk, and maybe a bit of sparkly chiffon.

But strong.  Always strong.

Tracy K. Smith, Elizabeth Alexander, Mary Oliver, Matthea Harvey, Andrea Gibson, Amanda Nadelberg, Christopher Buckley, Sally Wen Mao,  Warsan Shire, Adrienne Rich, Ross Gay are a few who feed this weary woman's needs for each. 

I'm going to share some poetry that has spoken to me.  Maybe it will speak to you.


If You Could Go Back


I know, I know
If you could go back you
would walk with Jesus
You would march with King
Maybe assassinate Hitler
At least hide Jews in your basement
It would all be clear to you
But people then, just like you
were baffled, had bills
to pay and children they didn’t
understand and they too
were so desperate for normalcy
they made anything normal
Even turning everything inside out
Even killing, and killing, and it’s easy
for turning the other cheek
to be looking the other way, for walking
to be talking, and they hid
in their houses
and watched it on television, when they had television,
and wrung their hands
or didn’t, and your hands
are just like theirs. Lined, permeable,
small, and you
would follow Caesar, and quote McCarthy, and Hoover, and you would want
to make Germany great again
Because you are afraid, and your
parents are sick, and your
job pays shit and where’s your
dignity? Just a little dignity and those kids sitting down in the highway,
and chaining themselves to
buildings, what’s their fucking problem? And that kid
That’s King. And this is Selma. And Berlin. And Jerusalem. And now
is when they need you to be brave.
Now
is when we need you to go back
and forget everything you know
and give up the things you’re chained to
and make it look so easy in your
grandkids’ history books (they should still have them, kinehora)
Now
is when it will all be clear to them.

~ Danny Bryck, playwright, actor, activist, producer, and educator based in New York.



Evidence


I.


Where do I live? If I had no address, as many people
do not, I could nevertheless say that I lived in the
same town as the lilies of the field, and the still
waters.

Spring, and all through the neighborhood now there are
strong men tending flowers.

Beauty without purpose is beauty without virtue. But
all beautiful things, inherently, have this function -
to excite the viewers toward sublime thought. Glory
to the world, that good teacher.

Among the swans there is none called the least, or
the greatest.

I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in
singing, especially when singing is not necessarily
prescribed.

As for the body, it is solid and strong and curious
and full of detail; it wants to polish itself; it
wants to love another body; it is the only vessel in
the world that can hold, in a mix of power and
sweetness: words, song, gesture, passion, ideas,
ingenuity, devotion, merriment, vanity, and virtue.

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.

2.

There are many ways to perish, or to flourish.

How old pain, for example, can stall us at the threshold of function….

Still friends, consider stone, that is without the fret of gravity, and water that is without anxiety. 

And the pine trees that never forget their recipe for renewal. 

And the female wood duck who is looking this way and that way for her children. And the snapping turtle who is looking this way and that way also. This is the world. 

And consider, always, every day, the determination of the grass to grow despite the unending obstacles. 

3. 

I ask you again: if you have not been enchanted by this adventure--your life--what would do for you? 

And, where are you, with your ears bagged down as if with packets of sand? Listen. We all have much more listening to do. Tear the sand away. And listen. The river is singing. …

For myself, I have walked in these woods for
More than forty years, and I am the only
thing, it seems, that is about to be used up.
Or, to be less extravagant, will, in the
Foreseeable future, be used up.

First, though, I want to step out into some
fresh morning and look around and hear myself
crying out:  "The house of money is falling! The house of money is falling! The weeds are rising! The weeds are rising!"

- - Mary Oliver



Dear John Kelly

What surprised you more 
That black people know 
a black congresswoman
Intimately enough 
To call her family 
Or that a black congresswoman 
Supports a black family enough
To be right by their side 
To wipe tears
Hold hands 
Pray 
Or that a grieving black widow 
Would put trump on speaker 
Being a gold star family 
Doesn’t erase Bigotry 
Doesn’t erase Boston 
Pre integration
From your DNA 
We know where you come from 
What molded you 
There are thousands of men and women 
Who died fighting for their country
Who would also call Congresswoman Wilson
A nigger in a heartbeat 
You just called her an empty barrel 
Instead 
Called her everything but her name 
And then questioned why a phone conversation 
With an admitted sexual abuser 
Wasn’t sacred

Frederica Wilson is far from empty 
Do you understand the boldness it takes
To aspire to what you have never seen 
To walk through life
Being told you are nothing 
And still rise 
From Teacher 
To Principal 
To Mentor 
To Congresswoman

She is as bold as the hats on her head 
The only thing bolder is 
The hate in your soul

How dare we Black Women 
Support each other 
Stand in the gaps 
How dare we have our own Elders 
How dare we have comfort when we grieve

You said there was a time 
when things were 
Sacred 
When Women were sacred 
When have Black Women 
ever been 
Sacred here ?

We have only been sacred to
Each other

That empty barrel is full of more ammunition 
Than your wildest dream
You wear stars on your lapel
She wears stars on her hats 
In her eyes 
In the blood in her veins

What is more disgusting 
The idiot who calls a widow 
And offers no words of comfort 
Or the coward who defends him 

by Leslé Honoré


Ithaka

As you set out for Ithaka 
hope your road is a long one, 
full of adventure, full of discovery. 
Laistrygonians, Cyclops, 
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them: 
you’ll never find things like that on your way 
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high, 
as long as a rare excitement 
stirs your spirit and your body. 
Laistrygonians, Cyclops, 
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them 
unless you bring them along inside your soul, 
unless your soul sets them up in front of you. 

Hope your road is a long one. 
May there be many summer mornings when, 
with what pleasure, what joy, 
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time; 
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations 
to buy fine things, 
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony, 
sensual perfume of every kind— 
as many sensual perfumes as you can; 
and may you visit many Egyptian cities 
to learn and go on learning from their scholars. 

Keep Ithaka always in your mind. 
Arriving there is what you’re destined for. 
But don’t hurry the journey at all. 
Better if it lasts for years, 
so you’re old by the time you reach the island, 
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way, 
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich. 

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. 
Without her you wouldn't have set out. 
She has nothing left to give you now. 

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you. 
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, 
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.  

 - - C. P. Cavafy


Hymn
Why do we measure people's capacity
To love by how well they love their progeny?
That kind of love is easy. Encoded.
Any lion can be devoted
To its cubs. Any insect, be it prey
Or predator, worships its own DNA.
Like the wolf, elephant, bear, and bees,
We humans are programmed to love what we conceive.
That's why it's so shocking when a neighbor
Drives his car into a pond and slaughter–
Drowns his children. And that's why we curse
The mother who leaves her kids—her hearth—
And never returns. That kind of betrayal
Rattles our souls. That shit is biblical.
So, yes, we should grieve an ocean
When we encounter a caretaker so broken.
But I'm not going to send you a card
For being a decent parent. It ain't that hard
To love somebody who resembles you.
If you want an ode then join the endless queue
Of people who are good to their next of kin—
Who somehow love people with the same chin
And skin and religion and accent and eyes.
So you love your sibling? Big fucking surprise.
But how much do you love the strange and stranger?
Hey, Caveman, do you see only danger
When you peer into the night? Are you afraid
Of the country that exists outside of your cave?
Hey, Caveman, when are you going to evolve?
Are you still baffled by the way the earth revolves
Around the sun and not the other way around?
Are you terrified by the ever-shifting ground?
Hey, Trump, I know you weren't loved enough
By your sandpaper father, who roughed and roughed
And roughed the world. I have some empathy
For the boy you were. But, damn, your incivility,
Your volcanic hostility, your lists
Of enemies, your moral apocalypse—
All of it makes you dumb and dangerous.
You are the Antichrist we need to antitrust.
Or maybe you're only a minor league
Dictator—temporary, small, and weak.
You've wounded our country. It might heal.
And yet, I think of what you've revealed
About the millions and millions of people
Who worship beneath your tarnished steeple.
Those folks admire your lack of compassion.
They think it's honest and wonderfully old-fashioned.
They call you traditional and Christian.
LOL! You've given them permission
To be callous. They have been rewarded
For being heavily armed and heavily guarded.
You've convinced them that their deadly sins
(Envy, wrath, greed) have transformed into wins.
Of course, I'm also fragile and finite and flawed.
I have yet to fully atone for the pain I've caused.
I'm an atheist who believes in grace if not in God.
I'm a humanist who thinks that we’re all not
Humane enough. I think of someone who loves me—
A friend I love back—and how he didn't believe
How much I grieved the death of Prince and his paisley.
My friend doubted that anyone could grieve so deeply
The death of any stranger, especially a star.
"It doesn't feel real," he said. If I could play guitar
And sing, I would have turned purple and roared
One hundred Prince songs—every lick and chord—
But I think my friend would have still doubted me.
And now, in the context of this poem, I can see
That my friend’s love was the kind that only burns
In expectation of a fire in return.
He’s no longer my friend. I mourn that loss.
But, in the Trump aftermath, I've measured the costs
And benefits of loving those who don't love
Strangers. After all, I'm often the odd one—
The strangest stranger—in any field or room.
"He was weird" will be carved into my tomb.
But it’s wrong to measure my family and friends
By where their love for me begins or ends.
It’s too easy to keep a domestic score.
This world demands more love than that. More.
So let me ask demanding questions: Will you be
Eyes for the blind? Will you become the feet
For the wounded? Will you protect the poor?
Will you welcome the lost to your shore?
Will you battle the blood-thieves
And rescue the powerless from their teeth?
Who will you be? Who will I become
As we gather in this terrible kingdom?
My friends, I'm not quite sure what I should do.
I'm as angry and afraid and disillusioned as you.
But I do know this: I will resist hate. I will resist.
I will stand and sing my love. I will use my fist
To drum and drum my love. I will write and read poems
That offer the warmth and shelter of any good home.
I will sing for people who might not sing for me.
I will sing for people who are not my family.
I will sing honor songs for the unfamilar and new.
I will visit a different church and pray in a different pew.
I will silently sit and carefully listen to new stories
About other people’s tragedies and glories.
I will not assume my pain and joy are better.
I will not claim my people invented gravity or weather.
And, oh, I know I will still feel my rage and rage and rage
But I won’t act like I’m the only person onstage.
I am one more citizen marching against hatred.
Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.
We will march by the millions. We will tremble and grieve.
We will praise and weep and laugh. We will believe.
We will be courageous with our love. We will risk danger
As we sing and sing and sing to welcome strangers.
©2017, Sherman Alexi
HUG O’WAR (Where the Sidewalk Ends)

I will not play tug o’ war.
I’d rather play hug o’ war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.

        - - Shel Silverstein

And now I'm off to stick my nose in yet another book of poetry.  

Happy Sunday, everyone!

7 comments:

Leslie Budewitz said...

Thank you, Kaye.
xo

Kathy Reel said...

Kaye, this was such a wonderful post! The poetry was awesome, and ending with Shel Silverstein was perfect. Love you, my sister!

Earl Staggs said...


Kaye, darlin', I'm just as tired, scared and angry as you. I wish something could be done to return our country to the "of, by, and for the people" entity it was originally intended to be. Unfortunately, that would require major changes, and those changes could only be made by our "elected representatives" in Washington. Since they are the biggest part of the problem, there's not much chance of that happening. I wish I knew the answer, but short of revolution, I can't think of one.

Malcolm Avenue Review said...

Thank you, Kaye. xx

Unknown said...

<3 <3 <3
Libby

Elisabeth said...

Thank you, Kaye, for words that touch my heart and affirm that I am not alone. Blessings,
Elisabeth

Lesa said...

Kaye, I think you speak for so many of us, and those poets speak for so many of us. It's scary. Let's hope we're not the last ones to live through scary times.