Protected: Reflections on Home Economics

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Protected: Family Economic Autobiography

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Wintry Mix

Thunder in the night
ice in the morning
slush shoveling
slip sliding 
spring not yet, still
snow-lovely trees
winter-clad finches feeding
no sunshine but
a bright glow behind the clouds. 

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Heroes

Kira Rudik is a member of the Ukrainian Parliament
A soldier, seeing Russian troops 
coming too fast for a remote detonator
shouts farewell and runs onto the bridge
blowing himself up with it.

Thirteen guards on a tiny island, facing the enemy,
hear "Surrender or we bomb you."
Replying "Fuck you Russian warship!"
they die.

Brave Ukrainian patriots, 
men and women who have never held a gun
watch internet videos and
learn to fire Kalashnikovs.

A woman confronts a Russian soldier:
"You’re occupants, you’re fascists.
Take these seeds and put them in your pockets
so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here."

President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks,
defying invasion, staying in Kyiv:
"We are all here. Defending our independence. Our country.
And so it will continue."

No matter how courageous the stories,
no matter how inspiring the ballads,
I want live people planting their own flowers,
no more dead heroes.

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War, Day One

Headline after first day of Russian invasion of Ukraine

The bombs fall down and the markets go up

as financiers

weep crocodile tears

for rising prices of food and gas,

which at least they see–

unlike far away invisibly burning

homes and children.

And the beat goes on. 

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A little longer day

Dusk descends a little later every day,

morning brightens earlier,

promising another spring, new life, warmth

in the teeth of west winds 

gusting to 60 miles an hour,

so the radio tells me and I

feel less wimpy about giving up

and turning toward home. 

I see no sign of spring except 

the promise implicit in lengthening days, 

which will have to be enough to carry me

through the waning days of winter. 

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Winter Neighborhood

On my evening walk, I count a dozen dogs still romping in the winter park, schnauzer-size to Great Dane. At 17 degrees above zero, the Great Dane wears an elegant royal purple coast and matching boots. Canine apparel seems more fashion-forward than their humans’ parkas. I do not approach today, but other days I’ve enjoyed enthusiastic canine greetings. 

On a farther hill, children and parents slide on bright red, orange, yellow, green sleds or saucers, cheerful, laughing, enjoying outdoors. Beyond the hills that I can see, beyond those I can count, more dogs and humans race and slide and play, on crisp snow tracked by hundreds of skis, boots, and paws. 

Today, the stream and pond, the ducks and hills and snow are free. For a few frozen months, we roam freely through this winter park, until spring returns it to the golfing overlords. 

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Book Review: The Woman I Kept to Myself

I have finished reading The Woman I Kept to Myself by Julia Alvarez. I may never finish reading The Woman I Kept to Myself by Julia Alvarez.

In years past, I read Alvarez’s critically acclaimed first novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1991), and In the Time of Butterflies (nominated for the 1994 National Book Critics Circle Award), a wrenching account of life and death under the Trujillo dictatorship. While the novels are wonderful, her poetry resonates with my own combination of writing and political life. My favorite in this volume may be “Ars Politica,” which begins with the child who dives headlong into reading and writing and ends with the fully adult poet’s conclusion:

“The inhumanity of our humanity

will not be fixed by metaphor alone.

The plot will fail, the tortured will divulge

our names, our human story end, unless

our art can right what happens in the world.” 

As a writer, I found myself saying a resounding YES to “Why I Write,” which begins: 

“Unless I write things down I never know

what I think, no less feel, about the world.”

and explains: 

“As far as I’m concerned the world’s a blur

 which each word in a sentence focuses, 

as if I were fine tuning the lenses

on my binoculars from bird to thrush

to Bicknell’s thrush singing in the maple …”

This collection of Alvarez’s poetry speaks so intimately and powerfully to me that it will remain permanently on my desk, where I can turn to it for inspiration as well as for the beauty of story and phrase. 

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Book Review: Black Feeling, Black Talk, Black Judgement

I read Nikki Giovanni’s first book—Black Feeling, Black Talk—when it was published in 1968. I read her most recent book—Make It Rain—when it was published last year. And I’ve read a few in between. So I was already a fan—and then I read her December 2021 New York Times interview.

Wow. 

Her job, she told the New York Times, is to get people to think. And to be honest. Some of her views have changed over the past 50+ years. “There are things that I have learned and things that Earth has learned,” she says. Race, for example, is “illogical” and “a construct that is destructive.” Saying that does not erase her anger over racism and its destructions. For example, she sees no hope of redemption for Kyle Rittenhouse, and she hates Donald Trump. 

“I as a Christian know that Jesus didn’t love everybody. When he was on the cross, he turned to the man on the right to comfort him, and the man on the right said, ‘You say you’re God, but you’re up here with the rest of us.’ Jesus, he realized, That’s a fool, and I’m not going to waste my time on a fool. He turned to the man on his left, and the man on his left said, ‘I do believe you are God.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You will be with me today in heaven.’ You can’t assume that every fool is going to be saved. Because they’re not.”

I wanted to go back and reread that first book, that book that opened up for me not only black feelings and black talk but also the possibility and promise of poetry. 

Searching the internet, I could find only a 1970 version: Black Feeling, Black Talk, Black Judgement. This book has all of the poems I remembered, and more besides. Some are raw, some are lyrical, some are funny. (As is the New York Times interview, in parts, especially the part about the little drummer boy at the very end. Go read it.) 

She is still a dreamer, Giovanni says. Dreamer, teacher, truth-teller. Not a bad role model.

I’m going to reread the Nikki Giovanni books I already own. And then I’m going to look for the rest of them.  

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Waiting for 2022

Thanks to Ricardo Levins Morales for this image and all of the inspiration he offers throughout this and every year.

Waiting for this new year

new day

new beginning

like your birthday or 

the first day of school,

one more chance to 

start over

try again

get it right

this time

maybe.

Not for me

some ball dropping in Times Square

some crowd of people drinking somewhere

funny hats and horns and sparkly everything.

Instead, I write. Because I can. 

And hope. Because I must. 

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