February 24, 2010
Good Mirrors Are Not Cheap
It is a waste of time hating a mirror
or its reflection
instead of stopping the hand
that makes glass with distortions
slight enough to pass
until one day you peer
into your face
under a merciless white light
and the fault in a mirror slaps back
what you think
is the shape of your error
and if I am beside that self
you destroy me
or if you can see
the mirror is lying
you shatter the glass
choosing another blindness
and slashed helpless hands.
Because at the same time
down the street
a glassmaker is grinning
turning out new mirrors that lie
at cut rate.
—Audre Lorde, 1973
February 17, 2010
May she rest in peace, secure in the knowledge that she brought a wealth of wisdom and beauty during her time here. I love Dwayne Betts’s memorial, especially this passage, which made my eyes crinkle with tears and laughter:
Anyway, I proceeded to ask her four hundred and eleven questions about her work. I mean about specific poems that dating ten and twenty years old. She was so damn gracious. I mean, she’d look at me like — I know your hand isn’t up again, and then she’d call on me. And smile. Or laugh. It was one of the few moments in my life when I was utterly grateful. The woman was awesome.
I never got to meet her in person, but: yes. Yes, she was.
curling them around
i hold their bodies in obscene embrace
thinking of everything but kinship.
collards and kale
strain against each strange other
away from my kissmaking hand and
the iron bedpot.
the pot is black.
the cutting board is black,
and just for a minute
the greens roll black under the knife,
and the kitchen twists dark on its spine
and i taste in my natural appetite
the bond of live things everywhere.
—Lucille Clifton, 1973
Previously posted Clifton poems:
February 16, 2010
I was fairly young when I first learned the phrase “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar,” but it’s stuck with me. It seems like maybe I learned it in the context of making friends (“If you’re nice, it won’t be a problem! Well, unless you’re an introvert, and/or socially awkward, in which case you might kind of be on your own…”), but when it echoes in my head these days it seems to be more in the context of advertising, of sales pitches, of evangelism (in both the literal and figurative senses). As a consumer, I’m more interested in what FedEx can do for me than what UPS can’t, you know? I appreciate that that’s mostly a personal preference, of course, and that negative advertising isn’t going anywhere soon.
That sort of mindset did lead to a fairly unpleasant interaction this afternoon, however. I came across a display promoting The H2O Project, and decided to stop and take a look; I need to drink more water anyway, I’ve been toying with the idea of abandoning my slavish devotion to diet soda (So fizzy! So caffeinated! So wonderful!), and I had vague memories of the project from last year. I asked the student manning the booth what the deal was, and he went into a fairly rambling sales pitch involving donating money to groups that dig wells in Africa and pointing to a picture of a guinea worm emerging from a child’s leg, then saying “don’t look at that if you’re about to go eat lunch” (too late!). I stuck around and listened, because I myself was once an undergrad fumbling through a pitch explaining why a passerby should get involved in my organization or activity of choice, and I knew he’d get to the heart of the project sooner or later. I couldn’t help noticing that the project was sponsored by a religious group, and that the student wore numerous outward displays of his faith, but I didn’t expect that would be a problem. Making sure people in developing countries have potable water is something people of any or no faith can get behind, right? Read the rest of this entry »
February 12, 2010
Kansas senators endorsed a plan that tells federal lawmakers to stay off their turf.
Senators voted 33-7 in favor of a nonbinding resolution (SCR 1615) Thursday that asserts the state’s sovereignty under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The resolution takes aim at the federal government for taking a bigger role in everything from education to health care.
I’m kind of wondering where these senators were when No Child Left Behind came around, if they’re really so concerned about the federal government interfering with state sovereignty where education is concerned — but maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe they were up in arms about that, too, but since I didn’t live in Kansas at the time, I wasn’t aware of it. At any rate, it gets better (and by “better” I mean “more horrifying”):
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, asked what statement the resolution might make about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The resolution calls for compulsory legislation to be repealed.
“Would this language indeed say that those federal acts should be repealed?” he asked of Sen. Tim Owens, whose Judiciary Committee brought the bill to the full Senate. “That that would be the opinion of the Kansas Legislature to repeal those two acts?”
Owens, an Overland Park Republican, said that was a possible interpretation.
“I find that very troubling,” Hensley said.
Yeah. Me too. I have a bad feeling this is going to become a “red state” trend, if it isn’t one already, and while I appreciate that the resolution is nonbinding, I think it has troubling implications, particularly with regard to issues of civil rights.
E pluribus what now?
February 3, 2010
Believing in Iron
The hills my brothers & I created
Never balanced, & it took years
To discover how the world worked.
We could look at a tree of blackbirds
& tell you how many were there,
But with the scrap dealer
Our math was always off.
Weeks of lifting & grunting
Never added up to much,
But we couldn’t stop
Believing in iron.
Abandoned trucks & cars
Were held to the ground
By thick, nostalgic fingers of vines
Strong as a dozen sharecroppers.
We’d return with our wheelbarrow
Groaning under a new load,
Yet tiger lilies lived better
In their languid, August domain.
Among paper & Coke bottles
Foundry smoke erased sunsets,
& we couldn’t believe iron
Left men bent so close to the earth
As if the ore under their breath
Weighed down the gray sky.
Sometimes I dreamt how our hills
Washed into a sea of metal,
How it all became an anchor
For a warship or bomber
Out over trees with blooms
Too red to look at.
—Yusef Komunyakaa, 1992
February 2, 2010
Banning same-sex unions from being legally recognized is a curious business. Prop 8 supporters in California have tried to make the argument that such a ban is not discriminatory, and yet witness the effect Missouri’s ban on same-sex marriage has had on the lives of Kelly Glossip and his partner, Highway Patrol Cpl. Dennis Engelhard:
When Highway Patrol Cpl. Dennis Engelhard was killed in a Christmas Day traffic accident near Eureka, the agency described him as single with no children.
Gov. Jay Nixon called on Missourians to pray for Engelhard’s family, who “lost a beloved son and brother.”
Neither statement tells the whole story.
Engelhard, hit by a car that lost control in the snow, was gay. He left behind a partner of nearly 15 years who was not mentioned in his obituary or official information released by the Highway Patrol, although members of the agency knew about his sexual orientation.
If Engelhard had been married, his spouse would be entitled to lifetime survivor’s benefits from the state pension system — more than $28,000 a year.
But neither the state Highway Patrol pension system nor Missouri law recognizes domestic partners.
The combination of laws and restrictions combine to form quite a quandary: your partner can only receive your pension benefits after your death if you’re married, and you can’t get married because you’re gay. Read the rest of this entry »