Monday, October 13, 2014

crossings (excerpt)

right after that woman made that racist comment in the diversity workshop
that went unattended about not being someone whose family had gotten here
by crossing a river, a friend and I raced, ran full out to catch up
to the group getting to the boats for a sunset cruise of the canal.  we
lunge with bags hefted and jettison all dec(orum) as we vault bionic
down the convention maze and I hear the duhduhduh of jamie summers as
we dodge left and lap right and leap onto the escalator, panting like dogs for our one last jump.
little did we know we didn’t need to race
for our lives (this time), though for us, whose ancestors crossed on boats
unwilling, shackled; for those whose ancestors crossed desperate or forced out;
and for those displaced and slaughtered by ancestors who came on boats;
we knew instantly how to run as if our lives depended
on it. we are a species crouched on the brink, the future
threatened to break, and we summon our strength, hurdle thump,
hurdle thump, hurdle thump. the waters we hurry to cross
are invisible: the deep, stained structures of ownership, denial, dominion.
what will the stories be, and the skills and cultures, ten lines down,
200 years from now? i hope it’s not the waters of the milky way
they cross, infecting other places. in the north american canals
of willingness, let the lapping waters soften us. it’s what we don’t take
that matters. what we put down. here at the brink. the chasm, the ridge
the cliff, the cleft, the jump-off, the bridge.  like fools leaping
off. or over. let our magic bags on a stick be light. filled with autumn leaves
of leaving, and seeds, magic beans, for saving. launching into the cool waters
willingly, this time, and for joy at how water teaches presence, teaches
that sky and land are one, mirrored partners in beauty, this cloud, this water, this land
without gizmos or plugging in, we are part of the river of life running through.
let us be this clear, there is no where at all to go. water teaches:
we are right here. water: river, ocean, giver generous. quivering sun and moon,
giving these back. flexible fabric of connection. slaking thirst and making life.
at the verge of these inner crossings, we lay down
the need to flee in fear either from or toward some migration to somewhere
else. we no longer know whether our children’s children
of all species will survive. we know some will make it through.
we have the canny craft of those who came before. the whisper
wisdom of those who are to come. we lift up a handful of leaves
and crinkle them into duff. the trees have already contracted the green
the chloroplasts, and hunkered off. make your choices. here in the winter
of planetary life, we contract, saving what matters
which is not something
that can be

plugged in.


  1. workshoppy questions: in revision, any suggestions about where to cut this poem off? perhaps more than one poem or sections? also, when we made it to the dock, the boat had left without us, something to weave in? another question, i'm wondering whether it becomes too personal or somehow misses the power differentials involved, with phrases like "make your choices" - ideas appreciated.

    1. I am drawn to the idea of sections. The story kicked off in the opening lines gets left behind somewhere. I thought the discussion of ancestry would loop back in a more here-and-now way. Then the poem transitions to water paean and eventually gets to leaves and trees.

      I think I need to go through it again. If it's significant or poignant that you missed the boat at the dock, then IMHO, the narrative begun at the beginning of the poem could use more focus throughout.

      I do wonder (as a fussy poet myself) if some samuri editing might help. That's Natalie Goldberg's idea: cut it out. Jettison the extra. Also an idea in this poem. I wonder if there's something in leaving out bits and mentioning them in an abbreviated way.