Category Archives: Rants and Laments

White Woman Rant and To Do list

This is a long post, only partially a rant.

What a razor’s edge: judgment!

Step forward! Shut up and listen! Step back! Silence is violence!

The voice of the hour responds: try being Black for a half hour.

Marshall your hatred and your good person biases and give them license, or don’t, for the hatred and biases both good and bad need no license. They like to go rogue. They operate on the sly. The rotten impulses will thwart and harm another’s soul, a Black person’s soul, whether you grant them permission or not. Being otherwise decent has nothing to do with it. Do a little reading for Christ’s sake.

So why must discrimination law require demonstration of INTENT? So bogus. Such a loophole.

So many ways to pose as ally, whether silent or speaking up. But, oh hallowed white person with every advantage coded into your DNA, silence from your earthworm lips surrounded by freckled skin prone to burning, no no silence is not acceptable.

Shout loud and clear and worry about getting it right and redeeming your moral points later.

(This business of hoping to earn badges toward redemption is not just a White Woman thing, BTW, it’s a very Catholic thing. So — fucking crucify me on two counts).

History shall condemn us if we do not, oh darling freckle-faced politicos, put our bodies on the front lines, yes, even our raggedy, lumpy bodies and yes, even during a pandemic. Protests? Maybe not. But calls and donations, yes. I’ve said it before.

TODAY: I shall call my reps in support of H.R. 51 — a bill regarding Washington, D.C.’s statehood. Why don’t you, too?

TODAY: I shout out the importance of all those down-ballot races. It’s not just the protests shrinking the response time between racial murder and indictment, it’s Black mayors and Black DA’s and Black police commissioners. Progressives of all races.

I long for the day when progress is measured by the absence of Black bodies gunned down by police and not by the swiftness of justice.

TODAY: I shall rest in the satisfaction of a Supreme Court acting like a court and not like an adjunct of the Executive (even though I’m inclined to move straight to dread about the tax case and did just that yesterday). In particular, I say HALLELUJAH AND FUCK YOU to trump for Neil Gorsuch authoring the LGBTQ opinion.

Have I lately been so satisfied by a court’s result?

(Well, yes, Judge Sullivan in the Flynn case. I CANNOT wait for him to sentence that traitorous ass).

TODAY: I shall finish one of the books by a Black author that I purchased in support of a week of buying Black writers (Instagram) (‘course, I’ve been doing this for years, letting myself buy bestsellers penned by Black writers LOOONNNG before they come out in paperback). Today? Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John. It takes place on Antigua where Kincaid grew up and incidentally, where Eliza Lucas Pincnkey also grew up.

The Solstice is nigh (she said). With Leo on the ascendant, and a problematic 12th house, this time of year always comes as a kind of relief to me, a psychological blossoming as well as a literal one.

I will also make two more masks. The elastic I ordered back in March finally arrived. These two will be birthday gifts for a Cancerian friend who is coming over tomorrow to write POSTCARDS to Florida with me. If she’s lucky, I’ll use some of the batiks that Tina sent me.

They say the postcards make a difference, but what do I know? What do any of us know?

In the category of things that surely don’t make a difference but that make ME feel better: this week I sent a postcard to the White House, saying, “You’re Fired!” as part of a campaign to get millions of people buying stamps because — you know — ahem, absentee ballots, the Constitution, the USPS, Jeff Bezos.

I also made a complaint to the Virginia Bar about William Barr (OK impeachment might be out of the question, but can’t somebody disbar the fucker?)

Since this blog is PATTERN and outrage, here’s some noodling from this week, done in anticipation of some hot pink threads from Deb (due to arrive any minute).

P.S. Don’t give to the Minnesota Freedom Fund as I recommended a bit ago — they’ve been SWAMPED by donations! A wonderful problem for them. Also in case you don’t know, don’t give to anything Shaun King is rustling up. He’s reviled by many of the Black woman I follow on Twitter.

PPS. I do not mean to hassle those who are taking time to absorb things and order their thinking and staying quiet. I can’t tell you how tentatively I posted our Hearts for Charleston quilt on Instagram yesterday, it being the 5th anniversary of the Mother Emanuel AME massacre.

Food, news, and a rant

Snowflakes wander to the ground this morning and put us in mind of another April Fools Day, when two feet of snow fell. We couldn’t open the front door. It seemed a grand joke from Nature.

Who feels like joking now?

What will people discover isn’t so necessary when this is all over? D’s biology class resumes this week, but online. No lab. Surely hands-on science won’t fall by the wayside, but maybe all those corporate, in-person meetings?

The snow must be over, for the skylight is a blue rectangle.

Problem: a very bland fish chowder. I’m considering a remoulade to add flavor. NOTE: Jars of roasted red peppers make fabulous quarantine food, especially when fresh vegetables run low.

My next grocery delivery isn’t for another ten days and I’m almost out of onions and celery! Lettuce for two salads left, maybe. I must wage my war of emptying-the-fridge and relying-on-the-pantry in silence, otherwise K might take it upon himself to grocery shop.

I really don’t want him to go to the grocery store. I know people are making different decisions about this, but avoiding the store is a way to avoid worry.

Put another two ways: I really want my husband to live; I really don’t feel like dying.

Leave it to my friend DT to get to the heart of any matter, even if harsh truths are involved. ESPECIALLY if harsh truths are involved.

“What’s so bad about dying,” she asks in a recent phone call. “Why are we so afraid of it?” After a pause, in which perhaps she thinks about the recent arrival of another granddaughter, DT adds, “But, I have so many reasons to want to live.”

Another friend’s brother is on a ventilator. In Florida (no comment — rant comes later). She’s remarkably sanguine about it. She’s married to a doctor, which makes me wonder if the medical perspective is generally less hyped-up with avoidance strategies. My brother’s going grocery shopping, that’s for sure. His partner is being exposed in a Los Angeles ER and coming home. What’s grocery shopping compared with that?

My roasted pepper remoulade will feature garlic, salt, and olive oil. Can you picture the pretty red swirl in the creamy soup? Plus a sprinkling of chives from the pot out by the garage.

A plane passes. Earlier, an ambulance. Hong Kong’s numbers rise again. Talk of asymptomatic carriers who never get sick. K quips, “I’ll bet China doesn’t want to call Hong Kong theirs NOW.”

We see clip after clip of ER doctors describing war zones, their eyes wide with sadness. We see field hospitals being erected in Central Park and in various arena around the country. And still, the Partisan Dicks of some Red States stand their ground in a vicious display of macho-trumpism (oh, sorry. Is macho-trumpism redundant?) How can their decisions be allowed to govern when their toxic allegiance will literally kill people?

It’s no metaphor when Nancy Pelosi says trump has blood on his hands. The Boston Globe says it, too. Blood AND sputum.

Among other things, trump demands that we re-invent language, for surely “callous disregard for human life” and “lack of empathy” don’t quite capture his epic willingness to let people die.

We are still running the heat. I look forward to a short-sleeves day.

I’ll keep you posted on how the food challenge goes, as the vegetable bins empty and the onion bowl reveals only a littering of rust-colored, papery skins. The challenge appeals to me — something about my farming ancestors? A potato-blighted, starving past, perhaps. But seriously, this is a fight I’m equipped to fight. For so many, I lack all skill, all stamina.

A friend once said to me, “In a barter economy, you’d be a queen.”

It was a compliment, I know, but at the time also stood as an indictment about how I just couldn’t manage to make money or survive in the corridors of business.

Offspring: a poem, a lament

Speaking of offspring, here’s a lament written during the summer writing retreat.* I can’t remember what the prompt was — maybe something about emptying your mind?


Golden rod tug slightly in a breeze. Higher up, the rustle of maples. And everywhere: insects. Bees and flies and stinging pests. How sweet it’d be to merely lament the season coming to a close and not the earth herself melting, collapsing, churning, with the Ring of Fire activating quakes up and down the coasts on either side of the Pacific. Which one will open up under Brentwood, Pasadena, Korea Town, and Studio City and gobble up great edifices of society not to mention, people: Brother, Son? I could never have been the mother who said, ‘No. Do not go.’ And even if I had been, he’d not have listened which is how it should be, but still — a bigger worry added to the usual worries.

And then there’s the plains of Nebraska, the river banks along the Mississippi, the lower reaches of Missouri — should so much land be under water?

And how can the potential destruction of, say, one American Western city compare to all of Greenland’s ice melting, Paris and London frying under a merciless sun? Or colony collapse, the bees giving up the ghost, along with whole caveloads of bats, unable to fight the poisonous fight any longer, tongues and nails, slab and tourniquet. What place, then after?

When we look at the data, we also look away, preferring to note how a grasshopper landing not five feet away says something about summer ending and the memory of other summers ending — times when bikes, hoses, pools, bare feet were the signifiers. Our poor brood when little watched nature show after nature show offering up news of habitat decline and species extinction and people wonder why millennials are anxious?

We wonder why the young refuse heirlooms of any kind, but especially have no interest in the Rosenthal china, the Royal Doulton, the Strawberry Wedgewood. ‘Will we have a home or air?’ they wonder — the inability to afford the former a trifling but inescapable concern compared to the latter.

‘We have ten years,’ they keep saying, trying and failing to sound the alarm. ‘Ten years’ means something different to the young than it does to my aging ears. Gone are the days when insects present as cute and annoying pests. Not when closer scrutiny might reveal how numbered their days are. How connected they are to everything else.

Even if we all rowed in the same direction, what a monumental challenge! But with lies the prevalent currency and corporations granted all ascendancy, we first have to clean house and by then — I’m sorry, the thought is there — mightn’t it be too late?

How many monarchs migrated to the milkweeds, those perennials standing proud and erect, proper in their heliotropic course, casting lozenge-shaped shadows, offering praise to sun and nourishment to caterpillars? How many? Less than last year? A tenth of the year before?

It’s easy to shrug at the extinction of some two-toed sloth or a miniature lizard with nocturnal habits literally never seeing the light of day, but what about ALL of the passerines? Polar bears and reindeer? What about us? If we’d cared more about the two-toed sloth all those years ago, would we be better situated today — able to enter the “Wild Kingdom” programming, sponsored by Mutual of Omaha and hosted by some hokey and corny know-nothing, instead of learning about floating islands of plastic the size of Delaware and about Colorado burning for half a season?

 

* It turns out that the response to the prompt mentioned yesterday became a chapter in the book (working title: •Blood and Indigo•). That means I’m precluded from ‘publishing’ here (seriously, with 100 hits a day?) What would happen if I ‘published’ it, left it up for ten days, and then tagged it private? SShhh

Sharon Olds poem, published in Atlantic Magazine.

Jesus in the rubble

After the debris had been lifted and carted away, all that was left of the little yellow house was concrete — an impersonal litter devoid of any indicia of 40 or 50 years of living. I told myself that I would hold dear whatever little sign of life I found. Don’t ask me why.

First, I spied a disk of nylon tulle, scarlet against the grey debris like a splash of fresh blood. How did it survive when so little else did? During one of my trespasses, I’d come upon a pile of these in the basement — leftovers from a baby shower, perhaps? They were the perfect size to load with pastel-colored candies and tie up as a favor.

hipstamaticphoto-566341937.775817But mostly, there was rubble. No hemp. No copper. No stray nails. Nothing. When I squatted down near where one of the basement doors had been, however, I found four more things.

There was a hank of black cord, a padlock, and a dead mouse. I used the tulle to pick up the mouse. I would bury it later.

img_9538-1The house triggered thoughts about our predicament. Most of us operate under the shared hallucination that more is better, but developers and corporations do so with a vengeance. The old calculus of cost-benefit analysis (long-term consequences be damned) these days means risking the future of our planet.

The almighty dollar will float like limp lily pads when a super storm floods the new and enlarged basement. Money in the bank won’t slow the storm surge when a torrential, 100-year-storm hits. And, by the way, when will we stop calling storms that happen twice a year, ‘100 year storms’?

The almighty dollar won’t buy our grandchildren a future when water becomes the new oil and Ted Turner’s descendants own the Mississippi. Money will be rendered conspicuously useless in a barter economy. What do stocks and bonds mean to hoards of refugees fleeing drought or civil war? And when the pandemic comes, bleach will be the precious commodity.

Maybe the empty lot, still forlorn and naked in transition, suggests that you won’t want to live in a post-capitalist disaster zone — one bottle of bleach and a beaker being enough, if you catch my meaning.

The empty lot speaks to the break down of bodies, since we too will crumble into anonymous debris. But while the decay of flesh falls within the natural order of things, conspicuous and reckless consumption does not.

New lives will occupy this square of land —  lives of sorrow and triumph, pettiness and valor. Will they act as if we can consume and invent our way out of climate change? Or will they be willing to look at hard truths and buckle up? Am I?

And then, I found Jesus in the rubble. A piece of maroon felt about the size of a quarter appeared at my feet. I flipped it over to find Jesus. Half a scapular. This and the dead mouse somehow became emblems of ‘radical hope.’


A crescent moon winked through the branches as I walked home. The air was crisp. With a dead mouse and half a scapular in my pocket, I pulled an airing quilt off the yew in front of my house. After the grey debris and feelings of regret, the colorful patchwork moved my tired and clamped heart. This was yet another emblem, wasn’t it? One of love. One I hope will survive as a minor but meaningful legacy.

 

Little yellow house : after

Early on demolition day, I blindly pulled this quote by May Swenson as a writing prompt: “Am I the bullet / or the target / or the hand / that holds the gun?

The destruction was unexpectedly and utterly fascinating. Yes, there went the bedroom then the room with the radio, the staircase — but what an efficient and powerful brutality! I was no longer the target, I was the gun. Sometimes the bucket chewed on support beams like a hungry beast. Other times the operator used it to nudge weakened walls into collapse, not unlike a mother animal nudging her wayward young. How did the operator know when to grab and claw and when to shove and tip? I was the finger pulling the trigger.

It was 19 degrees that morning. Gloves off to use the camera, my fingers quickly froze. Finn had hopped up onto the rock wall at my back, so when he started shivering I could feel it immediately. Oh but I wasn’t ready to leave!

I slung my arm around the dog and pulled him close. Like a gory car accident that you can’t look away from, the floors and walls being compressed into rubble kept us standing by.

Close to dusk, I went back only to be shocked at the uniformity and anonymity of the debris. It seemed to consist only of wood and bits of insulation. Where did the bed springs go? The yellow velvet cushions of the couch? Naturally, not a chip of the praying figurines showed up, but the pink bathroom tiles? How did they so thoroughly vanish? The crocheted afghan that had occupied the end of one of the beds just hours earlier might as well have been vaporized.

There were two very large stuffed creatures, pierced and toppled in a gruesome fashion. There was a piece of wood (part of a closet wall?) on which an oil change had been noted. A coil of wire. A glove. But not much else except round back.

Since the basement was still intact after day one, I went back to see what I could grab, not quite remembering earlier rationales for restraint. Perhaps the linens? Maybe that strange collection of incense burners? But to no avail. The basement door gushed pieces of the caved-in house like a barfing mouth.

On the second day of demo, they wrecked the last of the wooden structure and removed most of the debris. Again the utter lack of identifying detail in what was left seemed physically inexplicable. How could there be so little evidence of all those things — of all those years of living?

I told myself that if I found anything I would treat it as something important.

And that will be the third (and final?) post about this wreckage. Incredibly enough, the prompt in today’s writing class was: “the empty lot was a constant reminder of…