All You Need Is Love

All you need is love.

And justice. And equal pay. And justice. And fair legal representation. And justice. And protection from discrimination. And the right to be safe in your own skin. And justice. And gun control. And justice. And clean water. And justice. And safe schools. And justice. And the right to choose. And justice. And reparations. And justice. And sacred land. And justice. And solid allies. And justice. And access to affordable and unbiased medical care. And justice. And housing. And justice. And scientific research. And justice. And opportunities for higher learning. And justice. And livable wages. And justice. And freedom of the press. And justice. And sanctuary cities. And justice. And art of all kinds that makes you think and squirm and burst into tears or laughter. And justice. And intersectionality. And justice.

If all of this is love, than yes, love is all you need. But if by “love” you do not include the above, then that’s not love. That’s a platitude.

Holding Hands Across America

handsRemember the time
you pulled me over to the side
when memory stampeded
down the middle of Main Street?
How it kicked dust to our mouths
and later we stuffed our pockets
with dusty rose petals smashed
by the feet of what can never be
undone or revisited?
Remember how we made out
in the middle of Main Street
and schemed about making
a documentary called
“Holding Hands Across America”
where we’d walk on sidewalks
all around the country,
a ramshackle crew, just one
camera or two along
for the reactions
from men driving and ladies
lunching and kids holding
hands on field trips, each one
with a buddy, stay in line,
stop at every corner
and don’t, by any means,
let go?
Remember when we thought
this was a novel idea,
and Obama was still president
and the future was bright
even though those drivers
didn’t stop for pedestrians
and more than once
you had to pull me to the side,
me, with my New York chutzpah,
jay-walking as if this was
Morningside Heights
rather than downtown Phoenix?
We could never have known
which of our ideas would
survive the changes
yet to come, that were there
riding shotgun all along.
We could never have known
that we were, even then,
forming new pathways
of memory that would save us
all these years later,
from our own cross-wired brains.
Here’s what I know, babe:
I’d make a movie with you
any day, love you eight ways
to Sunday, hold your hand
and bear your name in ink
in every city, sea, and border
in this place called America,
this place called two bodies,
this place called marriage,
this place where the dust
never settles and the roses
grow outside our door
no matter how ugly things get,
I will keep claiming myself
yours, and yours, and yours
again.

3/30 Poems in November: Options

phone-callThursday morning.
A disembodied voice. A hollow
apple core. The definition of “integrity”
in your inbox. Early voting
sticker on fridge door.
Fallow farms where migrant workers
pick your produce. Inspiration
either lives nowhere or everywhere
and everything is either just as it seems
or nothing is what it seems.
How do you tell the difference?
Don’t think. Just sit there.
Nothing conventional about this
and who decides what counts
as wisdom? Solid or shifting,
precarious, political, press one
for uncomfortable and two for nice,
three to hang up.
Why don’t we know how to stay
with what’s hard to look at?
Let me rephrase that: Why don’t I?
A morning phone call
led to conversation about the body.
What would your ankle say
about the family secrets you know
you don’t know and you,
so many states away,
who dig and scratch
and knock and persist,
making everyone
so uncomfortable? Keep it up.
That thing you don’t think
is interesting or worthy
of a proper burial
is the one-woman show
I’ll be lining up for
when the tickets finally go
on sale.

3/30

**

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

The Art of Humility

Photo: Kyson Dana

Photo: Kyson Dana

There’s a humility that lives deep on the inside of confidence. Call it an acorn or a beating heart, a knowing that the hot sun will also come to its ending, that these full green leaves will soon turn to reds and yellows, and fall.

There’s a humility that lives deep on the inside of love. Call it the kind of welling up that happens when you see a child growing up right before your eyes, knowing she has her own life and that it’s the biggest privilege ever to be included.

There’s a humility that lives deep on the inside of making art and writing words. Call it a mystery, some blend of mind and matter and mysticism, intellect plus that which defies explanation or language.

There’s a humility that lives deep inside of each moment. Call it a breath. A swell. A contraction. Call it eye contact. Call it listening. Call it aliveness or awareness. Call it thank you.

Happy Half-Birthday to Me (and a Gift for You)

Lily
I could click “share” on Facebook all day long, and feel less and less connected.

Instead, I took my bike out of the garage and rode to town. I got a taco and a $2 lottery ticket. Then I rode home. Anger, envy, sadness, missing, confusion, and love — all perched on my handlebars like a motley crew of dark companions, offset by the chirping of birds and pretty houses and flowers growing around picket fences. It wasn’t until I got to my own old yellow house that I stopped and put down the kickstand. Put down my guard and my armor and opened my eyes again. These lilies, towering amidst weeds, growing by the curb in a kind of accidental garden.

Continue reading today’s newsletter, which includes other musings as well as a special gift for you: 14% off everything on the menu until midnight July 14 (my half-birthday!).

If you don’t already receive Fierce Encouragement for Writing + Lifesubscribe here and the next one will appear in your inbox.

Thank you for showing up, in all the ways.