I can’t sing, have no talent for music, play no instrument but the radio. Now, however, more than ever, my one creative skill comforts me and perhaps my readers and listeners. If you poke around on line, you’ll see that I am one of the poets who contribute to Colorado Independent‘s “News Poetry” project. Colorado Independent Our readers are, probably, like us. They care about equality, fair and adequate housing, well-funded education, development of renewable energy, environmental awareness and honest government. Our readers are those who sign petitions, call legislators, donate to food banks, support safety and sanctuary for ICE victims.
So, when I write a poem in support of them, pardon my cliché, I know that I am preaching to the choir. And here’s the thing: the choir members who sing for me need to know that I hear them; sotto voce, I hum along. My belief in their efforts helps to keep the choir singing.
The music that is activism must go on. So I’ll go on writing poems of witness, of protest, of awareness, gifts to those whose voices are heard by a public that doesn’t read poetry, poor souls. No, I cannot sing but I can write the words. That’s how the truth gets in. “Imagine” that. (RIP John Lennon, Leonard Cohen, Woody Guthrie, et al.)
I’ve been thinking about scary stories and my reluctance to read them. My fear relates to seeing years ago the movie What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. I was on a first date and just when the movie got intense, the guy I was with disappeared into the men’s room and left me alone in the dark theater with danger on the screen. First and last date, and I still don’t go to many movies. The last one was, I think, The Hundred Foot Journey in 2014. I’ve tried twice now to read Ken Follett’s World Without End, but the opening chapter involves a little girl in danger and I squirm and slam the tome shut. Sorry, Mr. Follett.
Yet, when I look at the book covers posted on various sites, I know I’m out of touch with what’s hot in fiction–murder, mayhem, betrayal and Armageddon. Not my idea of a good read. And yet–yet–I read scary non-fiction that other people won’t touch. Recently I posted a short list of climate-related books on my author FB page and people ran screaming into the night, I guess. Only one of my readers admitted noticing. We can keep the danger in fiction at a safe remove, but science–which is not fake–hits too hard. Scrapes us raw and we retreat into fairy tales. I do that too, but we have to break this habit. Climate fiction helps, some. But sooner, rather than too late, we have to consider the results of our ignorance and our guilt over what we’ve done to the earth and what it will, in return, do to us.
When I wrote the poems in The Great Hunger, I was concerned about the state of the world’s food supply. I still am. More than ever. I’m increasingly concerned about the health of our shrinking planet. What can one woman do about the massive insults we have inflicted on the environment and on each other? Writing in a cocoon of comfort is not the answer.
In my writing group on Tuesday, we each spoke with passion about an issue and this piece of writing grew out of that passion.
Things We Cannot Change: The list includes B’s petitions for women’s rights, D’s vegan diet in the face of crap food, my rant against ubiquitous plastic. Maybe we take up such issues in vain, spitting into the wind, finger in the dyke so we don’t have to face the horror of a potential future that guarantees needless suffering, much of it avoidable if we could act in concert.
So many people survive on the edges of consumerism who either cannot act or who choose not to act. The very poor take what they can get. Living in poverty or in a food desert, they buy whatever is near, be it plastic wrapped or empty of calories. Then there are those with huge disposable incomes who prefer to be unaware that multiple cars, houses, jet planes and closets full of shoes cost the rest of us.
Smug in my perhaps ill-informed life, who am I to think I can change anything, armed as I am against an avalanche with a soup spoon. But, selfishly, I don’t want to plow on and not feel that I’ve done what I can to clean up the mess we’ve made. It’s not easy being a pilgrim, leaving the snug plastic world, but neither is it astrophysics. It takes open eyes, a little planning and a bit of courage to say to store managers, “No plastic please.” Maybe someone in line behind me will hear and take a similar approach. Or not. Hopefully, I’ll find a way to escape the plastic trap I’m living in.
Maybe I cling to what often feels like false hope rather than have no hope at all.