Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Here's a link to the Writers' Almanac archive of my poem "Lullaby," from my first book Boy Land & Other Poems. You can read the poem; you can listen to Garrison Keillor read it; you can cry a little more about what we're all crying about . . . the insistent, ruthless attack on joy. The Boston Marathon debacle is our current American version, but you, in your country, have your own.

Today I will do what I often do in these situations: I will read the work of the Polish poets--Milosz, Szymborska, Herbert. They knew how to put the words together. I could read Amichai also. He knew.

I don't really know, but then again I am only an American. Our stupid, forgetful, gung-ho optimism gets in the way.


Lucy Barber said...

I think you are right that "not being American" for awhile is an approach to these events, even as we are awash with all the ways that the marathon is tied to American History. Perhaps there is some comfort that it was run on Patriot's Day and that today is DC, April 16 is Emancipation Day because the Executive Order freeing slaves in the District was signed today in 1862. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emancipation_Day#Washington.2C_D.C.). Now, my attitude about this holiday, which is acknowledged by a day off for DC school students and government workers, was not all American gung ho, because it turned out that my bus to work was detoured because of the parade. But when I got to work 15 minutes late, I received confirmed that the fire at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library which is part of the National Archives was just an unfortunate fire. Not good, but not tragic. And that so many of us were trying somehow to remember that we love Boston, we love marathoners (even if I think they are a little crazy). And we love!

Dawn Potter said...

I have been thinking about you and the archives a lot, given the JFK link. Yes, I know that Americans are rightly accused of ignoring the suffering around the world and acting as if what happens to them is the only story in town. Yet as individuals, rather than a generalized nation, how can we not care about what we know and love? Less than a year ago I was shepherding a pack of goofy Harmony 8th graders through Copley Square. I was proud because, over the course of 3 days, these country mice had learned to feel safe there. I'm having a hard time getting their joy out of my head; I'm having a hard time understanding why a similar joy didn't matter to whoever placed those bombs on Monday. But even as I say this, I know I am revealing an absurb naivete.

Christopher said...

They'd never done what you've done Dawn, and I don't mean take children to Copley Square. I mean take goofy chilrden to Copley Square from Harmony, Maine, and I think everybody reading this will know what I mean, including their parents.


It's such a difficult thing to be privileged, and most people who find they are have never asked to be put in such an unfair and embarrassing position. And of course we don't realize the enormity of having too much until something terrible goes wrong, and we're asked not only to take the blame but to start over.

Read Jean Rhys "The Wide Sargasso Sea" to see how the children who have been left with it even after it's all gone still have to suffer.

Or "King Lear."

The sooner Americans can start divesting themselves of privilege the better -- but who's ready to take a cut in their pay? Who's ready to make do in Harmony Maine as opposed to Bennington, Vermont, or Eden Prairie, Far Hills or Lake Forest? And who's ready to say no to a so-called "good school," even if they can afford it, what is more decide not to be a dentist or a lawyer?

Until that time comes, we Americans will never be entirely safe, I'm afraid, or entirely blameless.

Christopher said...

Forgive me my hobby-horse, Dawn and Lucy – the knee jerk out of my own na├»ve socialist background.

Of course the problem isn’t just about fairness and equality in the world, and of course no amount of economic or social restructuring is going stop the anonymous explosions. No one is equal in the traditional societies that nurture terrorists, after all, for the gods, angels, priests, neighbors, elders, shaman and ancestors of such societies are very strict about keeping everybody and everything in its place. Democracy is rarely a God-sponsored structure, after all, because even when there is an emphasis on charity and compassion in a religion there are still no provisions for removing the rich and the powerful from their positions, but plenty of injunctions against disobeying orders from above.

That's why I chose Jean Rhys (a young girl) and King Lear (a powerful old man) as examples.

Terrorist attacks all over the world are most often nourished not by democratic longings at all but by those awful traditional convictions like God on our side, or God not on yours, or in certain circumstances even, God sanctions violence!

I know this isn’t the right place to get into such things -- got caught in what Dawn said about joy. Won’t do it again, I promise.