SOL Tuesdays: Blurb Art

“achingly beautiful prose”

“gorgeous, funny and heartwarming”

“vivid, fast, funny, way-smart, and verbally inventive”

“quirky characterization, iron-laden repartee, and edgy humor”

“gripping deep dive”

“astonishing literary debut”

“drops on us like a thunderclap”

“a comic vision haunted by profound sadness”


 

vision: gorgeous

prose: astonishing

thunderclap: loud

By a vivid debut of literary vision, we are haunted, achingly so, by inventive repartee that drops profound sadness on us.

gripping and gorgeous, these quirky characterizations warm our hearts.

inventive, deep, profound

iron-laden and beautiful dive

like way-smart.


 

 

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SOL Tuesdays: Angry Poems

Sometimes I feel anger and I’m not sure where to take it. So I write. Below are some angry poems to vent my frustrations.

 

Statement

I will not pass inspection on Thursday

or ever.

Please accept my resignation

effective immediately.

 

Discrepancy

Your manic cleaning spree may clear out the cobwebs

and banish some crusty panels of dust

but the collected silences and

ingrained resentments between us

will not yield to your polishing hand.

Your soapy fingers scratching the surface

are no match for a decade’s worth of false pretenses.

 

 

SOL Tuesday: Ignorance Walks

A student comes into the library and requests a novel that features a portrayal of Native Americans as “savages”. The novel was written by a white woman and published several decades ago. The student was referred to this title by her current English teacher.

This happened.

This continues to happen.

Over and over and over again.

It’s a pattern that plays out in hundreds of variations in school curricula, library selections, in homes. The demand for racist literature sustains itself over decades. But is it a demand specifically for racist literature?

Oh, of course not!

Rather, what it is and stays is a well trod ignorance; a pair of heavy blinders that prevent the clear perception of any racist baggage or intent. Not racist, maybe outdated, some might say.

Well, racist literature exists in all eras and is published with remarkable frequency although it is seldom seen that way.

Here’s how I think this happens: we are accustomed to whitewashed history, a penchant for happy endings, and the separation of multiple, concurrent forms of oppression; as a result we compartmentalize, dissemble, and prepare our escape routes from uncomfortable truths.

The US is built on slavery, genocide, theft and cruelty.

We decide it’s time to do something about our ignorance of Black history, so we read some books and forget that the genocide of native people played a role in that same history of how the United States came to be. We learn to finally acknowledge white privilege as an actual thing but can’t quite grasp what folks mean when they claim that American society is definitely White Supremacist. We keep our biases contained, or so we believe.

Instead, it’s true that our ignorance walks. It talks, travels and welcomes comfort. It asks for neat packages, clear story lines, uncomplicated histories. Not surprisingly, we have whole industries dedicated to satisfying these specific demands.

So it was that a child could make a request for a firmly racist story at the recommendation of a well meaning teacher and some of us see a cycle repeating itself, while others see nothing at all.

SOL Tuesdays: The Funeral

We knew this day would come and it did.

When our oldest die, we can see it coming and yet we’re always caught short.

It seems hardly possible to attend a funeral without imagining one’s own.

My funeral experience is limited. Today was the first time I saw the casket lowered into the ground, the flowers offered to accompany it, a tablespoon of dirt proffered to complete the ritual.

Ultimately the people collected in the room share some connection to this one person. We may not know each other. we know that we cared about this one person enough to be here at this final gathering.

At the meal afterwards, one dear old friend of my departed mother-in-law told me that Mama regularly read my poems to her on the phone.

Another close friend of Mama’s told me how proud Maria was of me. That it meant so much to her that we remained close even after I separated from her son.

My oldest friend in Vienna sang the most beautiful rendition of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and I thought about how this single friend has seen me through all the rites of my adulthood – 2 weddings, 2 births, one divorce and now one funeral. Such a blessing to have that kind of person in one’s life – a living testament saying “you were here.”

My 10 year old remarked: “that was a pretty happy funeral.” Meaning that he noticed and took part in the sense of fellowship that followed the ceremony. He felt his place, observed his own belonging.

One life less among us. And we say thank you that you spent your precious hours on us. We celebrate that you were here and grieve that you are no more.

SOL Tuesday ’18: Question Champs

We’re going to play tunnel tag, I tell them. We’re going to play with balls. That means that anyone who is running can pick up a ball and become “it.” If you are “it”, you have to throw the ball to tag players from the shoulders down. If you get tagged, then you make a strengthening tunnel like this (I demonstrate). Someone needs to crawl through your tunnel and then you’re free. If you’re crawling through a tunnel or you’re just getting up from being saved, you cannot be tagged. Oh yes, taggers can be tagged and if that happens, you have to drop the ball and make a tunnel.

(That’s clear, right?)

OK, friends, I see some hands up. Are these questions about the game or do you just want to be “it”? Questions about the game. Ok.

What if someone tags you in the head, does it count?

What if the tagger doesn’t throw the ball when he tags you, does it count?

Can you jump over the ball?

What if I’m holding a ball and someone hits my ball with theirs?

Can I have more than one ball?

What if I tag someone at the same time that she tags me?

If I’m just getting up can I get tagged?

Is puppy guarding allowed?

What happens if you fall down, can you still be tagged?

What if someone catches the ball?

Can you have a winner in this game?

Can you play in teams?

How many balls are in the game?

What if everybody gets tagged?

Is this dodgeball?

Can you take out more balls?

Can we please start?

2nd graders thought of all these questions. About one simple tag game. And just when I reached the point of “well, that’s enough,” someone asked about a situation we hadn’t yet considered. While I may not always be patient, they are certainly persistent. They are a marvel in their collective cleverness and creativity. To be able to imagine all sorts of contingencies – that is their spectacular gift.

And they do this regularly. Every time we play a game, they interrogate its parameters and possibilities with astounding rigor and focus. I think the process would merit a study of its own. The Role of Student Questioning in Games of Low Organization.

 

SOL Tuesday: participant-observer in nice shoes

One of the reasons that I write it’s because I have feelings.  My need to work through  those feelings often gives me reason to put words on the page. I struggle to know how to write about a recent experience. I’ll write as a participant-observer, I’ve decided.

So I just spent an amazing weekend in the Mediterranean enjoying the company of kind people, many of whom I’ve known for over 20 years. These are collegial relationships that have developed over the course of many track meets some great dinners and other events and I realize that I came to this particular celebration because it was an opportunity to spend time with friends. When I arrived, however, I found myself actually questioning my purpose in being here, the only black person, the only woman of color and one of two people of color at this event and and I really ask myself: why am I here? How do I fit into this group? Do I fit into this group at all?

I shared a couple of tweets that speak to some of the awkwardness I was feeling about being here. I revealed some hesitancy to engage in conversation realizing that, yes, I too have those feelings. I don’t feel comfortable in certain social situations although I consider myself to be a social person. Even though I like people, it can happen that getting started in conversation feels difficult and fraught.

It seems helpful to clarify that these feelings are not all related to race. There are other aspects: Among the handful of women in attendance, and I was one of two or three not attached to a partner or spouse. Most of the men who were present belong to the administration ranks of their institutions; those men were all white, majority British with a few other nationalities tossed in for good measure. That said, these were almost all folks involved in interscholastic sports, who have hosted and organized tournaments, coached numerous teams and developed remarkable friendships with each other over years. There were lots of people there I enjoyed chatting with, getting to know better and finding connection points. Seen both from the outside and inside, this grouping is indeed and old boys’ club. While I am very fond of several of its members, I see a desperate need for change which seems also deeply unlikely.

The fact of the matter is that I also enjoyed myself immensely. The weekend gave me a chance to see myself in a different light: as a hesitant socializer, as a reluctant performer of femininity, as a bearer of history and memory within this organization, as a mature (read: middle aged) adult, as someone who fits in without necessarily being “one of the guys.”

I learned that the invitation I received could not have been more genuine or heartfelt. This fact allowed me to truly practice enjoyment; to accept all the benefits of the invitation without guilt.

After the fact I am still wrestling with the positive feelings I have for the people and the event versus the realization of how this tiny specific world – this heteronormative collection of (almost exclusively) white male leaders – seems to have little incentive to diversify its composition on any level and how closely this is tied to the leadership culture of international schools across the globe. It’s a both/and scenario and it merits unpacking.

At the same time, being here also helped me recognize my role in other people’s lives. Deciding to attend also meant being seen and recognized and appreciated in ways that I think might otherwise go unnoticed.

I don’t know that the celebrated organization is prepared to look closely at itself and its leadership to consider how to become more inclusive of folks who do not fit the typical demographic. As a participant-observer it became much clearer to me how convenient and simple it becomes for these systems of relationships to mutually reinforce each other over time. There is no need to look far outside the group because the shared understanding is already so much more comfortable and established. I think I knew that going in. Seeing it up close for a weekend without the members having to perform their usual duties made it impossible not to see.

I went to the Mediterranean for a weekend party, had a lovely time actually and I did not spearhead a revolution. That’s my reality and I own it.

SOL Tuesdays: Mama

I married twice but got only one mother-in-law.

I quit her son but kept her. She was the only woman I ever called ‘Mama’.

She was a feminist before that was a thing. She survived the holocaust and only reached  full awareness of this fact as an adult.

A prickly personality she could put you in your place and make it sting. But she never did this to me. I was like a favored child who could do no wrong.

When it was time to leave her son she spoke her solidarity: “No one understands better than I that you need to do this.”

I always loved her for that.

And her son and I stayed friends and raised our son together apart.

When I remarried, she attended my wedding and even had a dance with my widowed new father-in-law. Jigsaw families are my specialty it seems.

When my second child was born she showered him with affection. He is the only Omi he has ever had.

She was a writer, a journalist and activist. Not a day went by that she did not read and respond to the news. Fierce and opinionated, she could argue you down through dinner and invite you to tea the next day.

I wrote some poems and shared them with her. She kept them close and read them aloud to me. She insisted that I make something of them.

The poems became a skinny little book which I dedicated to her. This is one thing I am proud of.

Now she is gone. Passed on into the next life or non-life. We don’t know.

I will know her memory, remember her affection, carry small pieces of her legacy forward.

My only mother-in-law, Mama.