Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"I am in charge of noticing and acknowledging miracles"

There have been 60 murders in Camden this year. 

But there's also this, from the neighborhood I lived in:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I saw it all from my green sky.

A poem for this week.

Pablo Neruda

It was passed from one bird to another,
the whole gift of the day.
The day went from flute to flute,
went dressed in vegetation,
in flights which opened a tunnel
through the wind would pass
to where birds were breaking open
the dense blue air -
and there, night came in.

When I returned from so many journeys,
I stayed suspended and green
between sun and geography -
I saw how wings worked,
how perfumes are transmitted
by feathery telegraph,
and from above I saw the path,
the springs and the roof tiles,
the fishermen at their trades,
the trousers of the foam;
I saw it all from my green sky.
I had no more alphabet
than the swallows in their courses,
the tiny, shining water
of the small bird on fire
which dances out of the pollen.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The final ballot-shower from East to West

A post-Election Day poem, brought to you by Whitman:

Election Day, November, 1884
Walt Whitman

If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,
'Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite—nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing
   and disappearing,
Nor Oregon's white cones—nor Huron's belt of mighty lakes—nor Mississippi's stream:
—This seething hemisphere's humanity, as now, I'd name—the still small voice vibrating—America's
   choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen—the act itself the main, the quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous'd—sea-board and inland—Texas to Maine—the Prairie States—Vermont,
   Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling—(a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome's wars of old, or modern Napoleon's:) the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
—Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell'd Washington's, Jefferson's, Lincoln's sails.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

doing my civic duty

My immediate family has a history of being politically independent. We vote third-party, and we're proud of it.

...Except that my immediate family's all in Massachusetts. In 2004 (my first presidential election), I voted for Nader. In the 2008 election, I also voted Green Party. I was in college in 2004 and in grad school in 2008, so I was registered to vote in Massachusetts -- which is going blue no matter what.

But I'm in Pennsylvania this year, which is suddenly a swing state. It hasn't been a real swing state for the past couple of elections, but this year the polls say that Romney and Obama are neck-and-neck.

I don't agree with everything Obama's done. I wish he'd shut down Guantanamo Bay, for example. Drone wars make my stomach turn, and while I'm in favor of reducing the number of casualties in war, I also realize that 1) we're really interested in saving American lives, 2) they're not as precise as they want us to believe, and 3) I'm pretty much a pacifist, which is sort of out of the range of normal politics. (Can you be the commander-in-chief and be a pacifist? I...doubt it.)

In 2008, when the recession hit, I was in grad school, living off of work-study, the dregs of my savings, and student loans. In a way, even though I was pretty much broke, I was lucky. I know people who weren't so lucky. And while I'm no economist -- far from it -- it looks like it could have ended up much, much worse.

For the record, I support marriage equality; I couldn't look my LGBT friends in the eye if I didn't. I support social programs through the government. I've worked in social services, and poverty is more complicated than private charities can handle.

Our healthcare system is screwed up and probably will continue to be screwed up, but I think that protecting people from getting screwed over by insurance companies (because of pre-existing conditions and the like) is a really good thing. And when I was 24 and didn't have health insurance, I really could have used the Affordable Care Act. My middle brother, at 25, benefits from it -- he works as a chef and can still be on my parents' insurance.

What I realize is this: no candidate is going to be perfect -- Democrat, Republican, or third-party. I'd rather have a multi-party system. But we don't have one. And I'm a pragmatist under all my cynicism and idealism.

I think four or five years ago, I was probably less pragmatic and more of an idealist. But maybe that's the price of growing up.

If I were registered in MA, I'd vote for Jill Stein, because her platform is most closely aligned with my opinions. Plus, her running mate is Cheri Honkala, who's from Philly and is kinda awesome

I'm not in MA, though. Since I'm in PA, I voted for Obama.

Also, John Scalzi nails my thoughts about the current Republican party:
Look: The modern national Republican party is a hot mess, a simmering pot of angry reactionaries driven by selfishness and willful ignorance, whose guiding star is not governance but power, and whose policies and practices are tuned to build an oligarchy, not nurture a democracy. Its economic policies are charitably described as nonsense and its social policies are vicious; for a party which parades its association with Jesus around like a fetish, it is notably lacking in the simple compassion of the Christ. There is so little I find good or useful in the current national GOP, intellectually, philosophically or politically, that I genuinely look on it with despair and wonder when or if the grown-ups are ever going to come back to it. Before anyone leaps up to say that the modern Democratic Party has problems of its own, know that I do not disagree. But if your practical choices for governance of the country are between the marginally competent and the actively malicious, you go with the marginally competent.
Go read the whole thing. In general, the Republicans scare me. Romney seems to have gone back on many of his pretty moderate views that he espoused while he was the governor of Massachusetts. And Paul Ryan? You're going to pick the guy who bases his political philosophy around Ayn Rand?

When it comes down to it, I trust Obama (albeit tentatively and with trepidation) more than I trust Romney.

So yeah. While the Democrats don't necessarily inspire confidence in me -- they're just as much corporate tools as the Republicans -- I'd rather have them.

Yes, I'm going with the lesser of two evils. I know that a lot of people would disagree with me on that, but there it is.

But! Just to make your day brighter, just to end this on a nonpartisan note, have a classroom of fourth-graders schooling you on your civic duty:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

this story has a point, I promise.

So I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that in early September, I almost blew myself up with my gas stove. There was an actual fireball.

(Lesson one: do not let the gas run too long before you try to light the pilot light.)

The events that happened afterward went like this:

No one was home at the time, so I called two of my wonderful, lovely friends in a panic. They came over to my house, rescued me out of the bathroom sink where I'd submerged my forearms in cold water, and drove me to the nearest ER at Penn Presbyterian. (Helen did the "take a deep breath, hold it - 1 2 3 4 5 - exhale" thing for me the entire way there, because I was kind of going into shock.)

At the ER, I was pretty much checked in as soon as they heard "burns."

The triage nurse: "So on a scale from 1 to 10, what's your pain level?"

Me: "Uh. About a 7 or 8?"

Her: "Wow. You're very stoic."

Me (in my head): painkillers? Please?

The ER doctor took a look at my arms and hands and said that he wanted to transfer me over to Temple University Hospital because they have an actual burn unit.

Me: "So I guess I won't be going into work tomorrow?"

Helen and Scout (who brought me in): "Hell no."

ER doc: "Yeah, I don't think so."

They put me on morphine. Gave me a tetanus booster. Put tons of fluids in me, and were generally  pleasant people (even more pleasant after I got the morphine in me).

I was transferred by ambulance over to Temple and kept overnight. My roommate (bless her) brought me food, because I hadn't eaten, and a change of clothes, because I was soaking wet from trying to cool off the burns.

Last week, I got the bill from Penn Presbyterian. Overall, my ER trip cost a couple thousand dollars. My actual bill from Penn Pres? $100.

I haven't gotten the Temple bill yet. And why not? Still getting processed through insurance, I guess.

And there's the point right there: I have health insurance -- I have fairly good health insurance that ensures that if I blow myself up in a fireball (that's an exaggeration) or get in an accident or get sick, I'm not going to be paying thousands of dollars in medical bills.

I'm fortunate. Lucky. Privileged to be working a job that allows me to have benefits. And look, I'm fairly young (turning 29 on Saturday, oh god) and healthy, but shit happens. Like fireballs and second-degree burns.

And shit happens to other people who don't have insurance -- who will get those bills in the mail and see that they have to pay those thousands of dollars.

Those "other people" aren't abstract. They might be my neighbors and friends. They might be the people on the trolley next to me, who work but don't get insurance. They might be my brother or other members of my family.

Why is this so hard to understand?

Monday, October 15, 2012

laying out my winter clothes and wishing I was gone

1. This is a great cover of "The Boxer." 

(Paul Simon once said that the "lie la lies" were a failure of poetic imagination. Could you imagine this song without them?)

2. This is an interesting set of profiles from The Academy of American Poets: 6 Poets, 6 Questions

3. This is a short poem for a long day:

blessing the boats
Lucille Clifton
 (at St. Mary's)
may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back    may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

after an interlude

Harrumph. I am a bad blogger, but I thought I'd try to start this going again with a couple of updates.

1. Stuff I've been reading:
Home, Toni Morrison
The Solitude of Prime Numbers, Paolo Giordano
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz (who was at the Free Library in mid-September. I didn't go because I'd just started this book)
The Price of Malice, Archer Mayor (who is the father of one of my friends; also a Vermonter and  an EMT/medical examiner/detective/everything and the kitchen sink)

I can do book thoughts if anyone wants on any of these.

2. Stuff I've seen:
While I don't go see movies in the theater (mainly because my roommate has a projector and we have a nice white wall on which to project), I did see Beasts of the Southern Wild a few weeks ago. I have yet to sort out my thoughts about it.

Also, this, which I came across a couple of weeks ago. Every girl should watch it:

3. Life in general:
I had an incident with my gas stove and a fireball (don't ask!) and ended up in the hospital with 2nd-degree burns on my right forearm and 1st-degree burns all the way to my shoulder. I have pictures...which I'm not going to share because I don't want to make anyone vomit. Anyway, I'm fine, my arm's fine, and I am now sure to be much more careful when I turn on the oven and light the pilot light.

Last Friday was the fifth anniversary of my friend Ben's death. Ben was...I'm not sure how to explain Ben. Suffice it to say that he was a big part of a lot of lives. I'm not sure I can think of college as a whole without thinking of Ben.

4. I went up to Massachusetts this past weekend. The leaves have started to turn:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

a geography of poetry

I kind of love The Academy of American Poets' National Poetry Map. You can click on a state and it'll give you a list of poets who came from there (and their poetry), the "poetic history" of the state, and current poetry events. 

I've lived in a few places in my (relatively short) lifetime, so I thought I'd do a quick synopsis of what I'll call my poetic geography.

(Pardon the screwed-up formatting. Blogspot's being bratty.)

When I tell people that I grew up in New York (Long Island, to be precise), I get odd looks and often a "You don't act/sound/seem like a New Yorker." Maybe not, but it's where I lived until I was 13. And I've got roots there, as my great-grandparents on both sides came over to Ellis Island back in the early 1900s. 

We can lay claim to a lot of poets:
Billy Collins  (born in the city in 1941)
Langston Hughes (lived in Harlem) 
Louise Gl├╝ck (grew up on LI)
Walt Whitman (grew up in Brooklyn and on LI)
John Ashberry (born in Rochester)
June Jordan (born in the city)

...and many more. Have some Hughes to start your day:

Dream Variations

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun, 
To whirl and to dance 
Till the white day is done. 
Then rest at cool evening 
Beneath a tall tree 
While night comes on gently, 
Dark like me-- That is my dream! 

To fling my arms wide 
In the face of the sun, 
Dance! Whirl! Whirl! 
Till the quick day is done. 
Rest at pale evening . . . 
A tall, slim tree . . . 
Night coming tenderly 
Black like me.

We moved to central Mass when I was 13. When people ask me where I'm "from,"
I usually say Massachusetts, even though I only really lived there from ages 13-18. 

Massachusetts is, well, it's a hub of poetry. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Sage of Concord) 
ee cummings (born in Cambridge) 
Anne Bradstreet (emigrated to MA with the Puritans) 
Emily Dickinson (the Belle of Amherst)
Robert Lowell (born in Boston) 
Robert Frost (grew up in Lawrence)

Need I go on? 
Have a wee bit of Frost:

For Once, Then, Something
Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths—and then I lost it.
Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.