Locationally Challenged

Where is my place in this America? It is the question asked by millions, and so frequently no answer is ever offered. Our collective experiences often lead us to both hate and love this country. It’s a balance, a scale, ready to tip as easily towards hate as towards love.

I am a white woman. It is a blessing and a curse. It comes with white privilege and preferential treatment. It comes with the burden of white privilege and preferential treatment. Because yes, these are burdens. I participate in the historical women’s march and am demonized for the privilege the protesters are allowed by law enforcement since the organizers and protesters are primarily white. I am reminded that “white women voted for Trump” even though I am not one of those white women.

I am trapped between feeling like I want to do everything to stop the hatred that has taken over the world and feeling like no matter what I do, nothing will change. Trump will continue to sign executive order after executive order (ten so far in three business days) stripping every last one of us from our human rights. I have signed at least 100 petitions since election day. I have posted on social media. I have spoken to friends and family about my beliefs. I have supported my students as best as I can while “remaining neutral” (a requirement of the school district). I have called the Department of Justice, my senators, my congress men and women (only to be blocked, to receive a busy signal, or be directed to a full voicemail box).

Where is my place in this America? As a mother of three daughters, a wife of a white man, a teacher of refugee and immigrant students, a Democrat, an atheist, an idealist?

Because white women have betrayed me. Defriended me. Voted for Trump (58% of them??).

Because mothers don’t seem to care that we have a president who brags about grabbing women by their pussies.

Because white men (nothing like my husband)–63%–voted for a man who publicly mocked a disabled reporter.

Because Democrats voted for third party candidates instead of Clinton.

Because I spend my day surrounded by non-whites from every culture and religious belief you can imagine, and I don’t belong with any of them, other than as a figurehead to the white world that is Our America.

Where is my place in this America? I can’t seem to find it. I search in my students’ eyes, my daughters’ artwork, my husband’s anti-government views… And no matter where I look, I feel homeless. Hopeless.

I am searching for what we have lost and will continue to lose. Seeking the solace of activists and friends. Pouring myself into research and writing. Studying law and politics and fact-checking every last piece of media. Taking the time to understand how horribly impactful the violation of human rights can be, how that violation trickles from person to person until the entire society buckles under itself.

And all I can ask, all I keep asking as I am surrounded by doubt and alternative facts and fact-checkers and protests and postcards and last-ditch efforts, is where is my place in this America?

Where is yours?

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My Muse

he tells me about the Muse
the one she spoke of
all those years back–
hippie of the nineties

she comes to me
just as he described
like a demon
moving my words into place

even on this small screen
just like the tiny notebooks
i used to carry place to place
she is as furious as ever

i spill my Stonehenge story
like blood dripping from my nose
that can’t be stopped without
a giant glass of water

my irking for a different take
on this simple life we’re all handed
can be summarized by that summer
when spoiled teens stole my Stonehenge

my muse comes in disguise
in lips belonging to me to her
and her words my words
are as genuine as at sixteen

he speaks of demons
we all carry them like shadows
in our back pockets
me? i let them out

Thread

my thread always pulls toward words
words that come flying out of my mouth
in frustration or anger or coldblooded truth
or words of happiness and love

they come to me in all sorts of places
when i’m speaking with people in pain
i think of the words deep in my soul
that would work to heal them (me)

on my bike with a song a sunrise a wind
i might hear the words trampling across
my mind, forming pieces of a poem that
will, hours later, meet its page.

my thread includes the snippets of speech
from my daughters, the bits and pieces
of other authors, phrases from lyrics
and emails and letters (tied together)

always, the thread pulls me toward words
(I was born with them in my mouth, caught
like blackberries, their juice pungent and sweet
at the same time, ready to drip down my chin)

Write My Heart

my first broken heart shattered
more than an organ in my chest
the parents who didn’t notice
(they never liked him anyway)
the sister whose world revolved around
school, work, boys, reverse
the friend whose own budding relationship
took the place of the grieving conversations
I longed to have.

I was in AP Euro when I wrote
the last pages of that journal,
tears seeping out of my eyes
in the small class when he, usually cool,
called on me to answer
and when I looked away,
the saltiness gushing down my cheeks now,
he snapped at me
(snapped up every last piece of my heart)
and I couldn’t care about
school
God
work
friends
parents
anything
until I found a way to heal,
to seal the wound with words
(the same words he wouldn’t allow me to write).

Step Write Up

This year I run into writing
even when it brings me pain
because pain breeds good writing
even when it brings me criticism
because criticism makes me more determined
even when I’m too tired to write
because lack of sleep is inspirational
even when I feel it’s going nowhere
because it always goes to me
even when I hate what I put in words
because no words are ever wasted

This year I am stepping write up
and revising who I am.