The Most Wonderful Time

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
piping through the speakers at Trader Joe’s
as I imagine the many parts of the world
where holidays are not tied to capitalism,
where children don’t grow up on diets
of images of what and who they should be
or of what or who they should never deign
to dream of.

An evening walk in the darkest dark
on the longest night in this corner
of the spinning planet that is a speck,
a whirl in the print of some unfathomable
palm holding us but not holding us
reveals so many windows, lights,
leaving me to wonder what it’s really like
on the inside.

Divorce, death, disability —
these interfere with the fantasy of ease
and joy we are supposed to eat
like the fruitcake that one batty aunt
always brings and everyone kind of wonders
is it the same cake from last year
then says, good, good, we’re all fine, great.

It’s worth trying, you might argue,
at least put on a happy face
if you find this time of year oppressive
with its bottomless expectations of giving
and showing up and receiving and making
things pretty. Maybe. Maybe not, like the old
Buddhist story about the boy and the horse
or something like that.

To you without family, to you whose ex
has the kids this year, to you whose adult
children have other plans, to you who wake
every single morning with the ache
of missing, to you who fills the house
with cheer then disappears into the dark,
what can I say? Let’s blow this joint,
get a room, order in, watch old movies,
and burn nostalgia in the fireplace along
with all the wrapping paper.

Or better yet, here. Let me make us some tea.
We can sit here at the table as the solstice
slips by, reminding each other
the light always returns.

A Columbus Day Poem by Donald Trump

“Columbus Day”

A Very Special Poem by Donald Trump

Pilgrims and Indians, that’s what we learned.
The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. A big rock
In Massachusetts where schoolchildren flock
to learn the History of their Great Country.
But the Indians were already here! Oh no!
That’s ok! The Pilgrims were really nice.
They asked the Indians, can you help us
learn about the local food to eat, and then
we can make a big feast and sit together
to celebrate? The Indians, naturally, agreed.
A great idea! A great idea from a Great People!
And so the Indians opened their hearts
and gladly shared their knowledge of the land.
The Pilgrims expressed their gratitude
by inviting the Indians to their big long table.
Some of them even put feathers in their hair
so the Indians would feel respected and flattered.
They were great friends! They ate cranberries
and bread made from corn. Later, a few Indians
might have died, but it wasn’t so bad,
and after all, the Pilgrims were trying to get free.
They had been badly treated back in England.
They were Very Brave. The Indians had to make room
for them to make little towns. Sometimes,
after they slaughtered the men and raped the women
they would name the little town after the Indians,
as a nod. Because remember, the Pilgrims weren’t bad.
They were fleeing persecution themselves.
They were making freedom! Sometimes freedom
requires sacrifices. Sorry, Indians!
Then the Pilgrims proliferated and moved west
and guess what? More Indians! Indians everywhere.
This was terribly inconvenient for these Brave Pioneers.
They really had no choice. After all, the Indians
were Really Dangerous! They had sharp weapons
and savage ways. It was a terrible influence
on the innocent children. They had to be taken care of.
Some of the settlers were really Nice and they gave
the Indians their very own land on their very own land.
The Indians really should have been grateful
for this kindness. Why couldn’t they just cooperate
like they had at Plymouth Rock? Those were the days.
Poor little American children being told Columbus was a Bad Guy. Sad.
So much is wrong with America. Let’s make it Great Again

p.s. Columbus. Tremendous Guy! We’re having lunch this week!

.

* * *

A note from Jena: Now, dear reader, read this and donate to these campaigns.

Now Is Not the Time to Shrink

Now is not the time to shrink.

Do not disappear into the woodwork.

If you need to disappear into yourself in order to remember what it feels like inside of your own body, do that. Do that, do that, by any means necessary. If you cannot take a day off or even an afternoon because you don’t have childcare or paid time off, brainstorm with a friend or with me. Figure out a way. By any means necessary.

Now is not the time to shrink.

Do you think of writing as a form of shrinking away from the world or a way of being more fully in it?

This seems to me a critical question today.

A writer friend asked me this morning, in a message on the Marco Polo app, “If you have any suggestions for resistance, or writers getting together and taking over the world and storming the White House, let me know.”

I wish I did. I really do. I have been thinking hard on this.I keep reaching the same conclusion, and it’s not sexy. It’s not new or radical or original. Here it is:

Keep going. Keep writing. Keep putting your stories down. Keep speaking up. Keep digging deep.

Staying connected to our own humanity, looking hard at our own places of trauma, recording our own moments of joy — all of this is what keeps a society afloat or at the very least helps us keep hope alive. “Keep hope alive” may sound trite given that babies are imprisoned, lawful, nonviolent protests are met by police in riot gear, and some who have been closest to oppression in this country are understandably bitter at the fact that all of a sudden, lots of folks are feeling scared and threatened.

But there it is. Keep hope alive. This is not the time to shrink.

Yesterday was undeniably tough. And today and tomorrow and many days to come, years, quite possibly decades and entire generations, are looking at tough times. This is a continuum. The America some of us (especially those with some variation of these identities — white, middle or upper class, able-bodied, Christian, male, cisgender, and heterosexual) have found to be a place of freedom and opportunity is showing its true colors. Its ugly, bloody, racist, greedy colors. Does it hurt? Yes. Is it frightening? Very. Is it new? No. Not new.

But now is not the time to shrink.

Coach Omkari Williams, wrote these words yesterday, and I keep returning to them:

“Do whatever you need to do to absorb this blow then get back in the fight. Our grandfathers and fathers didn’t fight wars abroad for this to be who we become at home. We have faced awful times before. Eyes on the ball. Stay in the fight.”

We have to stay focused. We have to stay in the fight not to protect only our personal liberties but each other’s. Especially each other’s. Because the truth is that the American Way has never, ever been fair. One child has access to world-class healthcare while another dies from a minor infection. One child has access to the best lawyers while another is appointed a public defender. One child has a fridge full of organic produce while another gets to school early for free breakfast. One child lives in a leafy neighborhood while another stays inside to be safe.

How a country treats its women and children, how a country treats its most vulnerable populations, is the true nature of that country.

So, how can I write such a thing and in the same breath say something as trite as “keep hope alive”?

Good question, really. I don’t know. But something in me says I must. Something in me, some fighting spirit, some fire, some deep-bellied, unblinking, fierce and remembering voice growls to an empty room: FIGHT.

Now is not the time to shrink.

Now is not the time to bash each other’s heads in for being the wrong kind of fighter, because truth be told, whether you’ve been at this your whole life or are just waking up to what’s been true all along, we need your voice and your body. We need you all in now.

Now is also not the time to dismiss “hope” as something shallow or useless. Sure, it may sound pretty in the first stanza of Emily Dickinson’s famous poem (#314). Don’t be fooled by the sweet-sounding language. She was a radical in a white dress.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

But keep reading. Listen. She was a smart one:

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

These are some gale-force winds we’re facing into. Keep hope alive.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

The chill in the air is enough to make you feel paralyzed. Frozen. But now is not the time to shrink away.  Now is a time to listen to the poets, those who saw through the structures of power and oppression on which this country built its wealth. I give you Langston Hughes:

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow. 

We do not need to look to other countries’ writers for guidance now. We only need to look to our own history. What we’re experiencing now is the rising of a wave that has been growing out at sea for centuries. If it feels like a tsunami, that’s because it is.

Now is not the time to shrink. Now is the time to assess.

What immediate steps must I take to secure the safety of my children? What immediate steps must I take to secure the safety of YOUR children? What immediate steps must I take to take care of my nervous system and physical body, so as not to crash and burn and be of no use to anyone? What immediate steps must I take to remember to breathe?

Breathe. Yes, breathe. Feel the air filling your lungs. Expanding your capacity to hold what keeps you going — oxygen — and release what is toxic — carbon dioxide. To breathe consciously is the basis for living consciously, and being conscious must be a cornerstone of writing, living, loving, and fighting through this wave of violence, fear, and rapid rolling back of the rights so many have given their lives to secure for the rest of us.

So if you have no idea what it means “not to shrink,” just start there.

Really. Right now. Don’t wait. This, too, is a kind of poem and a kind of fighting.

Inhale. 

Hold. 

Exhale. 

Pause. 

Again. 

And now, get out that journal, that notebook, that blank piece of paper. Open a new Word doc.

Start writing from this place, this place of tsunami, this place of fear, this place of anger, this place of not shrinking. Start with these words: “Now is not the time to shrink.” Seven words. Seven syllables. Say them out loud. Say them to the empty room. Lower your voice. Feel the vibration of your voice in your chest, your throat, the sounds leaving your mouth and entering the world.

We need that voice. YOUR voice.

We need it today and we are also going to need it tomorrow. So do not shrink. Do not be silent. Do not flail in fear. Stand on your feet. Get out your pen. And know that you are one of millions who are not turning their backs on this moment.

trust women

trust women
because we know when to push
& when to pause

○○○

trust women
because love & light are not an option
when there’s so much burning at the stake

●●●

trust women
because every day is the first day
every birth the first birth
every victory the first victory
the salvation of laughter
inseparable from the battles we wage

○○○

trust women
because our memories are as long
as the dusky shadows our children chase

●●●

trust women
because our bodies contain the dna
of foresight & afterthought & moments
between

○○○

trust women
because our friendships form such a tight weave
you’ll be safe against the bracing chill

●●●

trust women
because women know when to fight
when to fold
when to write a love letter to a terrorist

○○○

trust women
join us or move aside
for we have a revolution to tend to
for we are the fire stokers
& the water bearers
& the soothsayers
& the truth tellers.

●●●

trust.

○○○

International Women’s Day. Every damn day.

Book of Fire {a poem}

Photo: Rey Seven

To you
hurt in the crossfire
of my confusion
I’m sorry

To you
harmed in the chaos
of my coming out
I’m sorry

To you
hit by the clamor
of my clarity
I’m sorry

To you
for telling me
to take up all the room
thank you

To you
for emboldening me
to be my own witness
thank you

To you
for bearing witness
when I was so frightened
thank you

To you
for believing (in) me
when I startled awake
thank you

To you
reading these words
stand in your own bold knowing
stop beating yourself up
apologize
and make right what you can

Let her go
who holds you hostage
in a room with no doors

Let him be
responsible
for his own growing

Trust yourself
and stay close
to the places where sustenance
comes easily
the woods
ice cream
the voice
of that one friend
who always answers

Accountability
and self-forgiveness
have their own fan club
for two
check under your door
for a personal invitation
today only
and tomorrow, too
and the next day
as long as it takes

The keys
the answers
the way

These are in you
as sure
as the air
you breathe
and the poison
you exhale thirty thousand times
every day

To you
who waited
and watched
and loved me
as I learned to be still
thank you

I will return
this gift
even as it dissolves
into daylight

I will practice
listening hard
looking closely
laughing freely
and raging
with reason
on your behalf

We are not the same
you know
but our roots are tangled
together
deep
beneath
the frozen winter ground

Somewhere
there’s a book of fire
a desert
a crossing
a circle of dancers
a tribe of scholars
a place where
we stood
before the earth
shifted and we had to choose
sides

Somewhere
the broken spaces
where borders became
perilous thresholds
still remember
our suffering
and our joy

To you
who wakes
with a glimmer
of memory

To who
who makes
coffee the night before
and brings it to your lover
in bed
to you who longs for
a lover
to you who left your lover

To you who said I can’t
to you who said I won’t
to you who said no more
to you who said I’m sorry
to you who said I’m not sorry
to you who said nothing
and regretted it later
to you who said nothing
to save your life
or another’s

Somewhere
the embers
remember
you