1/30 Poems in November: The Bell at Big Y

ring_my_bell_by_zeiss29-d5hgxfrAt the Big Y on University Drive
there’s a bell by the exit.
You can ring it if you are happy
with your customer experience.
Today, I clanked it on my way
out to the November air,
sharp on the inhale.

I’d asked the cashier
how her morning was going.
Had she voted yet?
She watches her little granddaughter
on days off, so no.
But her husband did.

I knew enough to bite
my tongue, not ask, not cross
that invisible line of privacy,
the ballot booth a place
of conscience,
and how conscience,
unlike the bell, is not affixed
to any wall.

Besides, I wanted to enjoy
the brief, kind interaction
and knew my view of her smile
would be touched by despair
if I knew she was voting
for you-know-who.

What if, at the end
(of each shift, each day, each life),
there was a bell by the door?
Would you ring it today?
Would a stranger ring it for you?



30 Poems in November! is a literary fundraiser for Center for New Americans. Center for New Americans welcomes and serves immigrants in Western Massachusetts with free English classes and a range of support services. For more information, please visit cnam.org This year, we aim to raise $30,000. Writers do their part by writing one poem each day in November. Friends and family do their part by donating to support this effort. Powerful new poems and financial contributions translate to community support for immigrants.

Some of the most meaningful work I’ve ever done was in my early 20s at the Riverside Church in NYC, leading English-language conversations with new Americans from countries all over the world. It was then that I was privileged to witness the courage, resilience, patience, and grit that immigrants and refugees must have in order to navigate life in a new language and culture.

Since poetry is one of the way I practice showing up in the world, for the month of November, I vow to write one poem a day as a small gesture of respect for and in solidarity with those who land in the Pioneer Valley as new Americans. Your donation will spur me on and, more importantly, support the newest members of our community.

Make your donation here


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