On Praying for Kim Davis

Kim Davis

I spent the last few weeks (mostly) detached from Facebook and Twitter.  I’m not taking a moral stand here. I just needed a little time to hear my own mind. The snowballing outrage that plows through social media can’t be good for the imagination. Or the limbic system.

Last night, I came back. I was glad to witness the hijinks of the hive mind. And I missed the peephole into my friends’ and colleagues’ lives even if I don’t get to see them in the flesh very often. Not surprisingly, the outrage machine was still running at full tilt, this time over Pope Francis’ private meeting with Kim Davis—the Rowan County clerk who made herself famous by refusing to issue marriage licenses in protest over same-sex marriage—and over a picture that Cheryl Strayed posted of herself with Hillary Clinton saying “IStandWithPP”(as in Planned Parenthood) and using the hashtag #pinkout.

Poor Cheryl was not only called a baby-killer, but the Bernistas also came out in force, chastising her for supporting Hillary and accusing the former Secretary of State of all kinds of nefariousness. The hissy over the Pope’s meeting with Kim Davis was much bigger. My Facebook feed was filled with crestfallenness on one side and I-told-you-soishness on the other.

Pope Francis Arrives From Cuba For Visit To D.C., New York, And Philadelphia         My first thought was “Cheryl Strayed is a grown woman and a fully enfranchised citizen of this country. She gets to stand with, take photographs with, support, celebrate, drink with, or vote for anyone she pleases. So back off.”  But my feelings about the Pope and Kim Davis were more complex. I have to admit, I was disappointed. I have a well documented #popecrush. I enjoyed every second of his tour of the East Coast—riding around in a stylish black fiat, talking about economic and environmental justice, kissing babies and stopping the car to bless the suffering. For g-d’s sake, John Boehner resigned during Pope Francis’s visit. I didn’t want that magic nimbus to be punctured with an image of the people’s hero meeting and embracing that sadsack hater, Kim Davis.

But after I wrestled my limbic system out of the grips of outrage, I had to admit a few things. The first is this – Pope Francis has every bit as much agency as Cheryl does.  In the same way that she gets to put her arm around whatever damned candidate she pleases, Francis also gets to give out his special pope rosaries to whomever he wants.

But it goes deeper than that, too.  While he was here, Pope Francis also visited with prisoners in an overcrowded Philadelphia jail. In his address, he said: “I am here as a pastor, but above all as a brother, to share your situation and to make it my own.” hands

I know. It can hardly be argued that Kim Davis, though she did spend 5 days in jail for contempt of court, was swept up by the prison-industrial complex that incarcerates thousands of men of color and decimates communities. Like most of my friends in cyberspace and life, I’d rather see the Pope comforting those men than some backwater county clerk that refuses to issue marriage licenses to people who love each other. But poor ol’ Kim Davis must be suffering in her own way, too. This is not the world she signed up for. Last month, she turned 50 years old. How was she to know that the black and white world that she was born into where boys married girls and everything else was off-screen would go the way of the rabbit ears and in its place there would emerge a 3-D technicolor world where love means love and the greatest athlete on earth rocks a cocktail dress and boys paint their nails and girls go to Army Ranger school? Some people are slower to adapt than others. We know this.

I’m not suggesting that Kim Davis should not have to issue marriage licenses or that she shouldn’t be held in contempt or even that she shouldn’t have to withstand a little ridicule. But I am saying that she’s a sad, confused, failing human just like the rest of us. And just like the ones that Pope Francis has promised to minister to.

One of the things that moved me the most about the Pope’s visit was that he kept asking people to pray for him. That gesture was both humble (as John Boehner said: “Who am I to pray for the Pope?”) and entitled in the best sense of the word (It is our birthright to reach out to one another for love and succor.). As Pope Francis himself said: “To pray for a person with whom I am irritated is a beautiful step forward in love.”  I guess I’ll do just that today. For Pope Francis and for Kim Davis.

On Tempting the Fates

lightning strike

I am a great lover of beginnings. I love both New Year’s Day and my birthday (which are conveniently spaced about six months apart, giving me two opportunities a year to vow to be better, kinder, skinnier, smarter). I love mornings and even Mondays. But of all the beginnings, I think I love the first day of school most. I love the tidy backpack and the sharp pencils, the teachers who are clear-eyed and excited, the low buzz in the back of the skull that says anything is possible.

This year, I’m just not feeling it. Of course, I personally haven’t gone back to school in about two decades. Blessedly though, for more than half that time, I’ve relished the pleasures of school shopping and backpack packing and first-day jitters with my daughters. But today as we zipped out the door, I didn’t even stop to take a first-day-of-school picture.  We weren’t really in that big of a rush.  I just didn’t think about it.  They looked well-scrubbed and darling, but I didn’t remember. Because it didn’t feel like the first day of school.

Look: August 27 is no day to start a school year.  It is a Thursday. It is before Labor Day. It is in August, for god’s sake.  I know that people all over the country start school at all sorts of odd times.  But we start school in September.  That’s when civilized people go to school. They don’t go to school in August.

By submitting ourselves to this abomination, we’re once again turning our back on the fates. Labor Day means something around here. Yes yes, we celebrate the workers of the world. But it is also something else. The girls and I usually go away for a night or two. We eat junk food, vowing to eat nothing but salad until June. We set our goals and intentions for the year. We make lists. We dream about the possibilities. We come home, barbecue in the back yard, then go to bed tingling with readiness to step over the threshold.

But Americans, man. We do not respect the power of ritual. The pragmatic, the industrial, the mechanized comes first. The needs of the spirit get left in the dust. And—this year at least—I contributed to it. Around here, we also prioritized the practical—new jeans, notebooks, text books, scheduling—over any sense of occasion. I couldn’t even be bothered to pull my phone out of my purse and snap a picture.

That is bad practice. The fates need their due. So today—on this profanely early first day of school, before it gets too late in the day—here is an offering from the great Joseph Brodsky (and translated by the also great Richard Wilbur and run in the New Yorker at the turn of the millennium) for all those children who trudged off to school without the proper blessing.

XII. 1993

For a miracle, take one shepherd’s sheepskin, throw

In a pinch of now, a grain of long ago

And a handful of tomorrow. Add by eye

A little chunk of space, a piece of sky,


And it will happen. For miracles, gravitating

To earth, know just where people will be waiting,

And eagerly will find the right address

And tenant, even in a wilderness.


Or if you’re leaving home, switch on a new

Four-pointed star, then, as you say adieu,

To light a vacant world with a steady blaze.

And follow you forever with its gaze.

There. Have a great school year. Don’t get struck by lightning.


From time to time one of my friends announces she is going on a media fast. She (or sometimes he) cuts herself off from the barrage of outside stimulus in order to reconnect to her own mind or body or spirit.  While I admire the discipline, my reflexive reaction is always: I could never do that.

I wake up reading the news and often go to sleep reading it. I try to finish off the day with a novel or a poem, but I am not always that disciplined. And I won’t even tell you how many times a day I look at Twitter. It would be undignified.

Some of it is my intrinsic fear of missing something.  I worry that if I am away from my devices for more than a few hours at a time, some piece of world-changing news will have happened, and I will not have been there in the know and alert to its significance.

But some of it is something else. I feel some sort of deep obligation to bear witness to what is happening out there in the world. I feel as if—from my position of comfort and safety—the least I can do is face up to what is happening to others who live intimately with violence and repression and environmental degradation. I feel like it is my responsibility to do my very best not to bury my head in the sand.

But my resolve is weakening. There have been months of what we call “bad news”—terrorist attacks and natural disasters and police shootings and political scandals. The weight of human suffering is almost unbearable. I am willing to tolerate that though–painful as it is–in order to keep my eyes open and my heart awake.

But there is also an undercurrent of breathlessness that reeks of glee and cynicism. And that is what I find to be untenable. We don’t have a television at home, but whenever I go to a hotel room and turn on the TV, the scrolling red banner that runs under the newscaster makes my heart jump. It makes me think: Something horrible has happened. And my whole body goes on high alert. Then I remember that the red banner is always running. That the TV news gets what it needs—us—not by reporting but by creating fear and drama.  It taps right into our reptile brain, bypassing the genteel frontal cortex.

My own dear state of Oregon has been gripped by a political drama of unprecedented proportions this week. Everyone I know was glued to their phones and radios and Twitter feeds. Each hour offered a new hit of salacious gossip and blanket outrage. Every day was more surreal than the next. I found myself battered from one moment to the next and have landed—hard—in a pile of uncertainty and sadness. I have found myself unclear about how to even analyze what happened or what should have happened. I will say this:  A media driven by the need to stimulate our worst, most primal instincts at an ever-increasing speed will never serve the needs of a pluralistic, deliberative nation. It will never serve a society made up of human beings with their frailties and idiosyncracies. If everything is fair game, there will always be more to attack, to tear down.

This is not to say that I entirely blame the media. I blame the ravenous market that can never have enough – enough money, enough power, enough attention. But I also blame myself. I blame myself for my own addictions to speed, to gossip, to the adrenaline of crisis.

So maybe my friends are right.  Maybe a news fast is the right thing to do. I sure feel as if my own mind and imagination could use a break. But I also wonder if—in the marketplace of ideas—I need to make a purchasing decision. I need to take my one and only bargaining chip—my attention—out of the mix.

So while I still wholeheartedly believe that it is my—our—obligation not to turn away, I am not sure the news media is the must trustworthy intermediary between us and those who we want to honor.  I don’t trust the intentions of the news media at the moment, and I am not even sure I trust my own.

So I think I’ll join the ranks of those who take breaks from the fray. I’ll give my adrenal system and my overtaxed mind a break. And when I come back—which inevitably I will—maybe I will come back with more imagination about how we my genuinely connect, about how we might more humbly and rationally bear witness.


It was a bumpy start to the day around here. I hauled upstairs four separate times to drag the girls out of bed. Their breakfast got cold on the counter, and when they finally did come down, they picked at it, one resting her head in her hand, the other closing her eyes while she chewed. The moved through the morning routine at a snail’s pace. Between them, they must have whined I’m tired, 25 times. Finally I snapped back: We’re all tired.

And then I thought, that’s the truth, isn’t it? We’re all tired. These days, it seems as if the answer to the obligatory how are you?  is one of two things – busy or tired. I’ve written here about busy before. But why in the world are we so tired?

Of course, some of us suffer from illness or loss or are struggling to keep a family afloat on low wages with no support. But even for those of us with no excuse, there are some well-documented reasons. Recent research is making it increasingly obvious that schools start classes way too early and that teenagers would both learn more and be less likely to crack up their cars if we started school just a little later. Study after study also shows that Americans—and many others, particularly the Japanese—don’t get enough sleep.

I know I don’t get enough sleep. I willingly trade an extra hour under the duvet for the quiet dark of the house where I can think my own thoughts and brew a cup of tea before the rush of gathering lunch and homework begins, before the email starts flowing in earnest.

But all that said, I can’t help but think that part of our tiredness—the exhaustion we feel all the way to our bones—is more than just lack of sleep.  I can’t help but think that the human organism is overwhelmed by the whole too muchness of things. Too much work, too much stuff, too much email, too many demands, too many bills, too many must-read articles, too many school forms, too many life-changing books, too many songs to download, too many helpful hints, too many choices of barbecue sauce. Too many, too much.

I have taken Gallup’s StrengthsFinder test a couple of different times, and both times I have scored off the charts on “Input.” This is how they describe it: “People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.” You can imagine what this looks like in the information age. I could spend 24-hours a day scratching the input itch. Thankfully my children need to be driven to school

A psychiatrist who studies information overload, E.M. Hallowell, has identified what he calls Attention Deficit Trait, or ADT:

It isn’t an illness; it’s purely a response to the hyperkinetic environment in which we live….When a manager is desperately trying to deal with more input than he possibly can, the brain and body get locked into a reverberating circuit while the brain’s frontal lobes lose their sophistication, as if vinegar were added to wine. The result is black-and-white thinking; perspective and shades of gray disappear. People with ADT have difficulty staying organised, setting priorities, and managing time, and they feel a constant low level of panic and guilt.’

Difficulty staying organized? Check.  Setting priorities? Check.  Constant low level of panic and guilt? Check and check. But I don’t think it’s just me. Everyone I know seems to be fighting this battle in form or another. Everyone—as I rudely snapped at my daughters—is tired.

In those precious hours when I am awake and alone with my tea, I seek solace both in the silence of the dark and in the slow reading of poems. There are so many talented poets who have nailed the pacing and freneticism of contemporary life. They are masterful at the jump cut, the darting mind, the threat of the isolation and fragmentation. And I admire them and am grateful for their commentary. But I don’t seek solace with them. No. I am looking for the singular voice, speaking from her–or his–dark kitchen straight into mine. I am searching for a mind still intact. I am straining for a human voice—fleshy and tremorous and undigitized.

Blessedly, there is always warm comfort in Neruda’s Odes, like the “Ode to a Chestnut on the Ground”:

Out of the bristling foliage

You fell


polished wood,

glistening mahogany,


as a violin that has just

been born in the treetops

and falls

And Gjertrud Schnackenberg’s “A Gilded Lapse of Time”:

I lower my foot

As if a holy stream were running past,

As if the puddle held a rain-bright cross,

Then reach down to touch

This fragment of the northern hemisphere,

To riffle and disturb

An empty place the rain is rending,

A hole spreading above the world,

A drift of dark reflected—

And Derek Walcott’s “Bleecker Street, Summer”:

Summer for prose and lemons, for nakedness and languor,

for the eternal idleness of the imagined return,

for rare flutes and bare feet, and the August bedroom

of tangled sheets and the Sunday salt, ah violin!

When I press summer dusks together, it is

a month of street accordions and sprinklers

laying the dust, small shadows running from me.

Because I am all about input, now I have to ask: What are the poems that bring you comfort? That slow your breathing? That make you feel just a little less tired?

Shaimaa el Sabbagh In Memory of Shaimaa el-Sabbagh

1984 – January 24, 2015

Who will honor the city without a name
If so many are dead and others pan gold
Or sell arms in faraway countries?
-Czesław Miłosz

Like millions of Americans, I woke up on Wednesday to a front-page photo of a man carrying a mortally wounded young woman across a Cairo street. Oddly, I hadn’t heard a thing about the story despite the fact that the photograph—and the others that accompanied it—had already captured the attention of much of the rest of the world. The young woman was Egyptian mother, poet and folklorist, Shaimaa el-Sabbagh. The young man was her friend, Sayyed Abu el-Ela, a lawyer and activist. On the afternoon of January 24, Shaimaa and Sayyed and their friends were part of a small demonstration intent on delivering flowers to Tahrir Square in remembrance of the fourth anniversary of Arab Spring. The police fired on the group, Shaimaa was hit, and she ultimately died on the street in Cairo.

Shaimaa 2

Shaimaa is one of thousands of Egyptians who have been killed by police since the 2011 uprising, including 17-year old Sondos Reda, who was killed the same day as Shaimaa at a demonstration in Alexandria. As we mourn the deaths of Sondos and Shaimaa, we can’t help but also recall the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, also at the hands of the police.

Since I first saw the images and started reading about Shaimaa, I cannot get her out of my mind. I can’t stop thinking about her five-year-old son, Bilal, and about her friends who held her as she died. Shaimaa was doing what poets do—using the power of metaphor to re-assert individual memory and spirit  into what seems a chaotic and inhuman system. She was carrying flowers into the public square to honor the dead. She was speaking the symbolic language of remembrance and hope and rebirth. And she was shot down in broad daylight in the process.

In the cascade of daily tragedy, it is tempting to succumb to the series of “yes buts.” Yes but Shaimaa’s death was not as brutal or violent or horrific as this other act of brutality or violence or horror. Yes but this killing was not as ruthless as the one that happened two weeks ago or yesterday or this morning. Yes but Shaimaa was not tortured quite as torturously, so we dismiss her death as not quite as senseless and not quite as deserving of our attention and move on to the next horrific tragedy.

I am stepping out of the yes but stream. I am declaring my refusal to participate in the ranking of brutality. Not only is it soul-crushing, but it incentivizes those who trade in shock and terror to become ever more imaginative and callous in their campaign of broadcast thuggery.

Rather, I am going to look to Shaimaa’s life—and her sacrifice in death—as a window into the wondrousness that is the human spirit. One of the things I most want to remember about Shaimaa is that she once spent months touring the Nile Delta studying and writing about traditions and practices for making flatbread. And that in November, she supervised students who studied and performed the traditional Alexandrian dances that surround a birth. And that she wrote an ode to her lost handbag:

What might she be feeling right now
Maybe scared?
Or disgusted from the sweat of someone she doesn’t know
Annoyed by the new streets?
If she stopped by one of the stores we visited together
Would she like the same items?
Anyway, she has the house keys
And I am waiting for her

I am going to remember that she chose to celebrate the small rituals that give humans meaning in the face of turmoil and murder.shaimaa 3 I am going to remember that she was courageous not just on the day that she carried flowers through the streets of Cairo but on all the days before when she stood for what is life-giving in the face of what is brutal and destructive.
Last year, Tilda Swinton gave a talk at the Rothko chapel where she said: I believe that all great art holds the power to dissolve things: time, distance, difference, injustice, alienation, despair. I believe that all great art holds the power to mend things: join, comfort, inspire hope in fellowship, reconcile us to ourselves. Shaimaa el-Sabbagh spent her all-too-short life on the side of dissolving injustice and mending hope, and that is how I am going to remember her.

There are no platitudes to offer a five year old whose mother was murdered as she laid down flowers of remembrance. To quote Pope Francis on his recent trip to vissilenceit victims of the hurricane in the Philippines: “All I can do is keep silence and walk with you all with my silent heart.”

But for poets—in the United States and abroad—silence is exactly what we cannot keep. We cannot keep silence while journalists are being beheaded and arrested, while cartoonists are being executed in their offices, while poets are being shot down in the street. We must keep making and writing and painting. We must keep protesting and laying flowers down as offerings. We must stand for that which creates in the face of so much that destroys. We must stand on the side of mending what is broken. We must stand with Shaimaa.

In Love & Awe


Thanks to the fabulous Erin Coughlin Hollowell, I have recently been following Jeffrey Davis’ Quest 2015. The basic premise is that smart, imaginative people send out prompts throughout the month of December asking other smart, imaginative people to respond as they set their intentions for 2015. It’s a very cool thing.

But, as much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been a C- student. I love getting the questions and reading everyone else’s responses. I lurk around the edges. I’m just reluctant to spill too many of my own frailties and uncertainties into the lap of the world.  So I’ve mostly been living in my head and cheering from the sidelines.

Yesterday’s prompt, though, is stuck in my craw.  The question was posed by the incredible fiction writer, Pam Houston, and this is how it went: Sit quietly and ask yourself, what in the last day or week or month has made your heart leap up? Not what should, or might or always had, but what did. Make that list. Be honest, even if it surprises you. Keep the list with you this month. Add to it when it happens. Train yourself to notice. Then ask your self today, how can I arrange my life to get more of those heart leaps in it?

Those questions have continued to knock around my head. The truth is, my heart leaps constantly. Sometimes several times an hour.  It leaps when the phone number for one of the girls’ schools pops up on my phone. It leaps when my husband is 15 minutes late, and I can’t reach him. It leaps when my mother leaves a message saying “call me back.” My heart leaps when my dog chases a ball onto the sidewalk too near the street.

And my heart leaps when I hear that a grand jury has acquitted yet another police officer and that the global ice sheet is at the lowest level in recorded history and that the United States is torturing people in overseas dungeons and that coal companies are dynamiting the tops off mountains and that bees are falling dead out of trees like rain and that the government is spying on basically every human being on the entire planet.

My heart leaps every time my text bell goes off or I see the word “breaking news” scroll across a screen.

So in other words, I am in a constant state of “leap,” and—in fact—the primary adjective my family uses to describe me is “jumpy.” I can imagine a full-blown catastrophe in half the time that it takes to type the word “catastrophe.”

But I don’t think that is what Pam was talking about, and frankly, that’s not how I want to live.  Plus it drives everyone I love crazy.

I am yearning for the other type of heart leap, the leap of beauty and awe rather than the leap of anxiety and fear. It’s funny how close fear and awe live in the body. And that’s appropriate really, isn’t it? Awe cracks us open to that which is bigger than us, to the unknown, to the mystery. And we’d better admit there is something fearsome in the mystery or we’ll have other things to worry about.

But in my daily worries, I’m skipping past the awe and running straight for the fear. I fear the call from the school because I love those girls so fiercely that even a wisp of a thought that something might be wrong brings me to my knees. And there is such animal joy in watching that beautiful dog of mine run at full-tilt, I hate the fact that I shatter that moment by imagining her in the street, the screech of breaks, the thud of impact.









And isn’t the grinding fear of climate change just the underside of loving the earth and her inhabitants so frigging hard? But, in 2015, I want to feel the love before the terror sets in.  The French artist, Hubert Dupra, has for years been working with insects to create sculptures. Here, he provided caddis worms with gold leaf and jewels in a small terrarium, and the larvae build their cases from the environment. Eventually, a caddisfly emerged.


Everything about that makes my heart leap. Yes, the beauty is breathtaking, but also the imagination, the biological impulse, the collaboration between insect and human artist.

What a world we live in! I owe it the respect of a little awe before I push the panic button.

I am a baby of the first order. I can’t watch violent movies. I am repelled by songs that are woman-hating and threatening. In fact, we had to walk out of Slumdog Millionaire because I couldn’t handle the first few scenes. Once I get those images—or lyrics—into my head, I can’t get them out. It’s as if they become part of my makeup, and Robocop and RiFF RAFF are not what I want to be made up of.

Our pediatrician once suggested that I read a book called The Highly Sensitive Child for some help in raising my daughters. After I read it, I thought “My daughter probably isn’t a highly sensitive child, but I’m pretty sure I am.” As a result, I have developed a habit of protecting myself. If content gets too intense, I turn away. I shut it off. I excise it from my consciousness.

This is a week where I have sorely wanted to do that – to just turn it off. Along with the rest of America, we spent Monday evening anxiously awaiting the outcome of the Ferguson grand jury, knowing that no matter what happened, it would partially define us as a country. We listened to the tortured nine-minute statement by County Attorney Robert McCullough as he indicted everyone—the media, the public, Michael Brown—except the officer who shot and killed an unarmed teenager.

I took a big deep breath, and then I turned it off. I spent the rest of the night heart-sick and worried, but relatively cut off from the rest of the world. Tuesday, though, we were barraged with images and evidence and testimonials. We were inundated with outrage on one hand and celebration on the other. It seemed as if the whole nation took to Twitter and Facebook, and the collective impact was overwhelming. It was—bar none—the worst Facebook day I have ever had, and boy did I want to shut it off.

But I decided I could not. That it would be irresponsible and inhumane to turn away from what my neighbors were telling me. Young black men were pouring out their fear of walking down the street in their own neighborhoods. African American moms were sharing their anguish at having to warn their sons about the life-threatening possibilities of an encounter with the police. And you know what? Friends and family members were also spewing racial vitriol, calling Michael Brown a thug, and celebrating the failure to indict. I needed to see that with clear eyes, too.

And it doesn’t stop at Ferguson either. I can’t turn my face from the gang-rape of an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Virginia. Or the suffering of Peter Lanza, the father of the Sandyhook shooter, who decided he was ready to tell his story to the New Yorker.  I can’t ignore actress Diane Guerrero whose parents were whisked away by immigration officers while she was at school, leaving her to fend for herself at 14 years old.

In all this, I am reminded of Garrett Hongo’s masterful and heartbreaking poem about a shooting he saw callously reported on television. Here it is in full:

The Legend

 In memory of Jay Kashiwamura

In Chicago, it is snowing softly

and a man has just done his wash for the week.

He steps into the twilight of early evening,

carrying a wrinkled shopping bag

full of neatly folded clothes,

and, for a moment, enjoys

the feel of warm laundry and crinkled paper,

flannellike against his gloveless hands.

There’s a Rembrandt glow on his face,

a triangle of orange in the hollow of his cheek

as a last flash of sunset

blazes the storefronts and lit windows of the street.


He is Asian, Thai or Vietnamese,

and very skinny, dressed as one of the poor

in rumpled suit pants and a plaid mackinaw,

dingy and too large.

He negotiates the slick of ice

on the sidewalk by his car,

opens the Fairlane’s back door,

leans to place the laundry in,

and turns, for an instant,

toward the flurry of footsteps

and cries of pedestrians

as a boy–that’s all he was–

backs from the corner package store

shooting a pistol, firing it,

once, at the dumbfounded man

who falls forward,

grabbing at his chest.


A few sounds escape from his mouth,

a babbling no one understands

as people surround him

bewildered at his speech.

The noises he makes are nothing to them.

The boy has gone, lost

in the light array of foot traffic

dappling the snow with fresh prints.


Tonight, I read about Descartes’

grand courage to doubt everything

except his own miraculous existence

and I feel so distinct

from the wounded man lying on the concrete

I am ashamed


Let the night sky cover him as he dies.

Let the weaver girl cross the bridge of heaven

and take up his cold hands.


No. I can’t hide behind the preciousness of sensitivity, though I want to mightily. As Hongo says—I feel so distinct, and I am ashamed. These stories of anguish and suffering are the stories of my neighbors, yes. And I am obligated to really hear what it is they have to tell. But they are also stories of my country and my culture, they are the stories that I help create—over and over—by turning a blind eye and refusing to examine the rot in the systems we perpetuate and submit ourselves and our children to. Even as I write this, I feel sick to my stomach. I know these are stories I have taken into my body and that they have become part of my DNA. But the thing is, they were already there. I am already implicated in the shooting of unarmed children and gang rape and the isolation of mental illness. And it is my responsibility to keep my eyes clear and my heart open. That’s the least I can do.


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