In the midst of Nat’l Poetry Month

Another week … another mass shooting …  another Texas judge making mass judgements.  Is this what we’ve come to?  But wait … What?  While Idaho may be topping this week’s ‘shame on you’ list, other state governors laced their boots, pulled up their Big Kid underpants and declared, You’re not the boss of us!. The very good people of Wisconsin elected a different kind of judge and the very good people of Tennessee spoke to their legislature loud & clear while hundreds of little kids marched on the state capitol …  and then, Justin Jones got to sing with Joan Baez.  Ain’t Nobody Gonna Turn Us Around!

In the middle of National Poetry Month and in the heart of my little life, while other children are being buried and mourned, two of my Greatest-of-Great-Grandkids are sharing their birthday celebrations with me.  And last week I got to hang out with three Oregon Poet Laureates at the Lake Oswego Library celebrating “100 Years and Counting” …  Paulann Petersen, Kim Stafford, and our current Laureate, two-time individual champion of the National Poetry Slam and winner of the International World Cup Poetry Slam, Anis Mojgani. Be still my heart!  You can treat yourself to the event here. Note: Closed Captioning is available.

AND …  you can further treat yourself to time with Paulann on Sunday, April 23rd at 4pm (pdt) when she joins us for our occasional “Conversation With Friendsright here. Paulann will read from her latest poetry collection, My Kindred, coming soon from Ireland’s Salmon Press. You won’t want to miss this one.

Last week I shared Maya Stein’s “The Poems We Do Not Want to Write” and this week I have the privilege of sharing her follow up. Thank you, Maya.

the poems I still want to write

have street lights in them, and spring peepers, and the word “scintilla,” and also
“smattering” and “sprinkle.” In the poems I still want to write, scars are worn
like medals, their stitchlines a good-luck charm, a treasure map, an augury.
The poems I still want to write have honey-stuck jar lids and crystals of salt on their lips,
and inside some punch-drunk insect swims ambiguous, delirious laps. In the poems
I still want to write, my father reappears at the piano and my mother on a horse
and my siblings in a field of midsummer strawberries, and we are all twelve again.
The poems I want to write are farmhouse windows winter-frosted and dirt roads during
mud season and the smell of greenhouses and the feeling of watching someone on skis
for the first time. That mountain-loud joy of falling down and getting back up again.
© Maya Stein

Whenever I think about the kind of world I want to live in, I always end up with this piece from Naomi Shihab Nye … a good way to end today’s visit. Take Care, Stay Strong, try to Sing & Dance a Little this week, but especially, Be Kind.

Gate A-4
by Naomi Shihab NyeWandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning
my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement:
“If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please
come to the gate immediately.”Well—one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just
like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,”
said the flight agent. “Talk to her. What is her problem? We
told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly.
“Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-
se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly
used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled
entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the
next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just later, who is
picking you up? Let’s call him.”

We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would
stay with his mother till we got on the plane and ride next to
her. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just
for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while
in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I
thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know
and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling of her life, patting my knee,
answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool
cookies—little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and
nuts—from her bag—and was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the
lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same powdered
sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.

And then the airline broke out free apple juice from huge coolers and two
little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they
were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend—
by now we were holding hands—had a potted plant poking out of her bag,
some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country tradi-
tion. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This
is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that
gate—once the crying of confusion stopped—seemed apprehensive about
any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.

This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

You can listen to Naomi read the poem here.

Published by Sulima Malzin

This 'Aging Rascal & Occasional Writer' invites you to embrace the world through her open window of poetry, art, activism, music, and humor.

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Thank you! I needed that.

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