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Begin Again: A Book Note

Begin Again focuses on James Baldwin, and I have not read enough of Baldwin, or recently enough, to appreciate it as well as I would wish. I read Baldwin (and Richard Wright) long ago, sitting in high school classes that bored me, reading because they did not. From Wright and Baldwin and Malcolm X and Piri Thomas, I learned of race and a world beyond my small, white home town. They opened doors to the world for me.

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Coup Attempt #1

Today I was going to write about farm subsidies going to big ag
and about speed-ups on poultry processing lines 
which correlate with higher rates of COVID infection
as well as less-serious traditional injuries 
like crippling pain from repetitive motion
and the occasional sliced-off finger.

Then insurrectionists marched into the Capitol
wearing MAGA hats, carrying Trump flags,
pushing aside police and barricades. 

I had bookmarked a story about rusty patched bumblebees
and another about monarch butterflies—endangered, but 
denied protection because there are too many endangered species
so there’s a waiting list for protection,
like the waiting list for asylum, which has no end date and 
does not care whether you live or die.  

Then my Twitter feed exploded with 
Senators being led away to safety
Representatives scrambling for 
gas masks and hiding places. 

Today, on Epiphany, I planned
to take down the Christmas tree. 

Instead I sat glued to Twitter and television
watching democracy crumble and wondering
where are the police where are the soldiers where are
all of those people who are supposed to defend the country. 

In fifty years of marches, I have seen armored officers, 
gas-masked and in riot gear,
carrying batons or guns or bayonets, 
spewing tear gas or pepper spray.

Today I saw 
police taking selfies with insurrectionists 
Neo-Nazis posing in Congressional offices
Confederate flags carried through the Capitol
looters carrying off podiums and papers
“Murder the media” scrawled on a wall
men yelling “Wait ’til we come back with rifles” 

The stock market closed higher,
Dow Jones up by 437 points.
The President said he loves his mob.
A journalist asked: 
was today an insurrection, revolt, riot, terrorism, a mob?

Whatever it was 
ended tonight
not with a bang but a whimper
of thirteen arrests.

They will be back. 

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Waiting for 2021.
Waiting for a vaccine.

Waiting for water to boil.
Waiting for bread to rise.

Waiting for Trump to leave.
Waiting for Biden to begin.

Waiting for a white Christmas.
Waiting for the snow to stop.

Waiting for the world to make sense. 
Waiting for people to care about facts.

Waiting for inspiration.
Waiting for a poem. 

Waiting for a rebirth of wonder.
Waiting for Godot. 

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Fourth Sunday of Advent: Promises to Keep

Photo by Alex Harden, licensed under Creative Commons.

Advent is a time of promise and a time of waiting. Two verses from the Magnificat, Mary’s song in Luke’s Gospel, describe a future that does not yet exist. These verses voice promises of a future we still hope and wait for. 

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

Over the past five months, 7.8 million Americans have fallen into poverty. That is “the biggest jump in a single year since the government began tracking poverty 60 years ago.” Poverty has risen most rapidly for people of all races with a high school education or less, for Black families, for households with children. 

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What Side Are We On? Third Sunday of Advent

“Who are you? What do you have to say for yourself?”

These are the questions put to John the Baptist, according to today’s Gospel. The authorities sent people to question him. The powerful people of the time, the representatives of the rulers, wanted to know what side he was on. Was he a threat to the powerful, to the authorities? They wanted to know whether he claimed to be the Messiah or Elijah. No, replied John, neither of those. 

John quoted the prophet Isaiah: “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.'”

That’s not reassuring. Like Isaiah, John is someone sent by God. His voice is the voice of a prophet, and prophets always threaten the powerful.

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Repent From Racism: Second Sunday of Advent

Black Lives Matter sign

In today’s Gospel, the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, we read: 

“As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Some sin is personal and some is social. Some sins are intertwined, the personal and social sin feeding on and supporting one another. Racism is such a sin. 

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Getting Woke for Advent: First Sunday

Zebra48bo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Keep awake. Beware. Keep alert. 

This is a Gospel message for pandemic times, and for the national and global crises that we are living through right now. 

Pope Francis sent a message about our response to these crises, writing in the New York Times on Thanksgiving Day:.  

“Sometimes, when you think globally, you can be paralyzed: There are so many places of apparently ceaseless conflict; there’s so much suffering and need. I find it helps to focus on concrete situations: You see faces looking for life and love in the reality of each person, of each people. You see hope written in the story of every nation, glorious because it’s a story of daily struggle, of lives broken in self-sacrifice. So rather than overwhelm you, it invites you to ponder and to respond with hope.

“These are moments in life that can be ripe for change and conversion.”

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Walking in Winter
Early morning waking, 
two cats in the bed.
Early morning shoveling, 
wet snow below, bright sun above. 
Afternoon dilemma: nap or walk?
Snow and ice or quilt and cat? 
Am I 70 years old? 
Or 70 years strong? 
Bed beckons but I resist, 
choosing blue skies, bright sun, 
snow and slop and ice, 
and Yak Trax. 
Last time I tried these ice-biters,
I hated them. 
But I am older now, and need
insurance for old bones. 
Or so I think.
In half a block, the first one falls off. 
Another block before I notice,
and retrace my steps to find it.  
Carrying their failed coils, I continue, 
down wet streets, through puddled alleys. 
I'm 70 strong and, dammit, 
I am gonna walk. 

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October Laughed

Today began gray and rainy, 

until mid-morning sun burst through, 

scattering clouds, sparkling puddles,

lighting up leaves as they

sway from wind-tossed branches

skitter along sidewalks

gust golden on a wild wind. 

A puddle picture captures gold:

mirroring a tree

floating fallen leaves.

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Phenology Report: September 20-23

Sumac in full color
Mississippi colors changing
Oak leaves underfoot

This week’s weather moved from 60s to 80s, comfortable to summer-sticky.

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