Thanksgiving 2023

… when it comes to holding Heartbreak & Hope in the same hand, sometimes Poetry & Music helps – sometimes not.

Dear Ones, I’m sorry it’s been so long since we’ve been in touch. I seem to have been weighted down by much of what has been happening around me this month.

The Israeli Hamas war (responsible for the slaughter of some 14,000 humans) is in its seventh week with the hopeful possibility of a four-day cease fire and release of some hostages, Ukraine’s valiant fight against Russia is sadly taking a back seat as it approaches its second year, the Uvalde school massacre is hardly mentioned these days and in just a little more than a month, the Lewiston massacre has become old news.

I write this on the 60th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (November 22, 1963) and I remember watching it happen as I stood ironing in front of our black and white TV. I remember it as clearly as I remember watching our country’s Capitol being desecrated on January 6th, 2021 while the man who called himself president stood by.  The “good news”, I suppose, is that our government will stay open at least through the start of 2024, giving us the opportunity to spend and consume with gusto as we dutifully celebrate the Great American Holidays (still) of our choice .

The world turns like an ache in the belly of the sky. These words are from a poem titled “After Seeing a Picture in the New York Times” by John Lazear Okrent, who describes himself as a “poet and a family doctor in Tacoma, Washington”. The poem was published in the online journal Rattle, written during what Okrent describes as the brutal and clumsy roll-out of one of the first iterations of the ‘Travel Ban’. It came, he says, from an ache, which is where a lot of poems come from, I think. “An ache”, yes, I know that ache. You can read the entire poem here.

Sometimes poetry asks the right questions  … 

In her poem, “Now That Anything Could Happen”, Joyce Sutphen doesn’t pull any punches  … You know now that you are not safe (she tells us), you live in fragile skin and bones, and then a few lines later, leaves us with questions:

You know, now that anything can happen,                                                                  

it’s hard to know what will, and what will you
do now that you know? What words will you say
now that you could say anything? What hands
will you hold? Whose heart will beat inside you? 

What hands will you hold? Whose heart will beat inside you? 

The Irish poet, Padraig O’Tuama, in his lyrical litany of “The Facts of Life,” reminds us that life is real

and if you can survive it, well,
survive it well
with love
and art
and meaning given
where meaning’s scarce.

He reminds us that we must accept change before we die … but that we will die anyway.  So you might as well live, he says …

and you might as well love.
You might as well love.
You might as well love.

We might as well love. We will die anyway.

But wait … all at once I came upon Alexandra Umlas and “The American Political Sestina”, which I also read on Rattle. “A daughter asks her mother if humanitarian is the same thing as volunteer. They are an American  family …   the message is quiet, the lines full of assonance and other beautiful American things like sitting in a park one evening, because it is a Tuesday, and you can.“  Read the poem here and notice how often the word “safe” appears.  Notice how the child pulls no punches.

… lines full of assonance and other beautiful American things like sitting in a park one evening because it is a Tuesday, and you can.  And then I remember the pacifist poet William Stafford, and his words about a park … about how they carried the baby to the park for a party.

By William Stafford 

This monument is for the unknown
good in our enemies. Like a picture
their life began to appear: they
gathered at home in the evening
and sang. Above their fields they saw
a new sky. A holiday came
and they carried the baby to the park
for a party. Sunlight surrounded them.

Here we glimpse what our minds long turned
away from. The great mutual
blindness darkened that sunlight in the park,
and the sky that was new, and the holidays.
This monument says that one afternoon
we stood here letting a part of our minds
escape. They came back, but different.
Enemy: one day we glimpsed your life.

This monument is for you.

One day we glimpsed your life … and recognized ourselves. The poet Umlas tells us no poem can explain this; but then there is “Jerusalem” by our beloved Naomi Shihab Nye, where she opens with, I’m not interested in who suffered the most. I’m interested in people getting over it … where she tells us about a child’s poem that says “I don’t like wars, they end up with monuments”, and where her closing line is …  It’s late but everything comes next.

Maybe you can spare a few minutes to read it now. Maybe it will remind you of Gretchen Haley’s invitation to wrap your tender fingers around that still ‘bright thread of hope’, to feel in your heart that still steady hunger for something more.  Maybe it will remind you that there is too much beauty in this world to give up on it yet.

And just maybe, even though it’s late, as Naomi said, we can spend the next five minutes together in spirit experiencing that “One Day” (closed captioning helps) that offers the everything that could still come next.

Until next time, Beloved Rascals, Be Well, Be Kind & Be Carefull.   Love, Sulima

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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What hands will you hold? Whose heart will beat inside you? …. words of wisdom. Sometimes I really wonder. Thank you friend. Thinking of you is calming. 🎶🎶🎶❤️

Thank you so much for One Day — well worth watching and embracing!

Ah Yes, embracing … “One Day” has become my ‘go to’ when I need a reminder. It came to me at just the right moment and continues to be gratefully received.

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