The last conversation we had, I told my grandma sometimes I thought about moving back home, closer to family. Her answer was, "You never will. Why would you? What's here for you?" For me, that is true; I spent my youth chafing under the yoke of living in a small town, and after high school I left that life behind like my feet were spring-loaded and haven't really looked back since. Although in many ways, the internet's ubiquity has changed the face of small town life (easier to connect to fellow weirdos), there are still cultural biases that would be frustrating (eating out as a vegetarian would be problematic, not to mention rampant race, religious, gender and sexual-orientation bias, etc., etc.)....yeah, the diversity of living in the city, diversity of population and opportunity and reminders that my way is not the only way - that's something my life would be less without. In a small town where most people have so very much in common, it would be harder than it already is to remember how fucking lucky I am, and that I have an obligation to work for the betterment of the world around me.
And so, even though it means that I can probably count on two hands the number of times I saw my grandmother in the past ten years...and that breaks my heart and makes me feel so ungrateful and guilty and like the worst granddaughter ever...even though there is all that sitting out there and weighing on me, I think she was right. I don't want to live in a small town again. Maybe someday, when I'm ready to be a reclusive organic farmer living in a yurt with my sheep...but not anytime in the immediately foreseeable future. I think my work is here, even at the cost of close family connections that I mourn, especially at times like this.
Le sigh, I'm so tormented. [insert your own rolleyes here]
At times like this, I like to fill my head with poetry and music and art. I like to connect with my creativity, try to work out some of the melodramatic crap in song or verse or making something. The music hasn't been cooperating (heh - big shocker; I'm never good at writing about shit that's happening to me); the poetry is unremarkable and overwrought; I'm working on turning my old fave pants (with the inevitable worn out thighs) into a shoulder bag, and that's going okay.
More exciting, though, was the piece Elizabeth Alexander read at yesterday's inauguration ceremony. It seems there are folks who didn't care for it, or for its delivery...but I fucking loved it. I thought Alexander did a decent job of selling it (though I imagine it could be kicked up a notch interpretively, but I've never given much of a crap for interpretive poetry performance...it's the words themselves, the meter and rhythm, that matters to me - not whether or not the performance itself is evocative; I mean, the right performer could make me cry reading the phone book...), but the poem itself was spot-on for the energy of the day, for the hopes of the moment, and for my own mood and worldview. The metaphor, the phrasing, the arc...it all worked (indeed, works) for me. Well fucking done, I say:
Praise song for the day.
Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."
We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."
We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.
Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."
Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.
What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.
In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.
It does my heart good to see this kind of art honored in a moment of such import, poised between despair and the fear of hope. It makes me even more hopeful that the new president has made space for poetry; it speaks to me of someone who's got his priorities properly in order.