I want to write about my pain
But it’s too early.
What happens next?
after everything that happened
A fear I never knew I’d know
America: what I once thought
what I now know.
A deep break in my heart.
A wound I am not sure I want to heal.
“It can’t happen here”
but slavery did — unlike the world had ever seen
and burnings: of whole neighborhoods and of city blocks, the wrong color
and cops killing in broad daylight
The porch that supports me and my coffee mug lifts from padded earth with three shallow stairs made of wood boards. I am surrounded by spectacular greenery, and the non-silent silence of the countryside.
I study the details: an old habit that the pandemic has amplified. Ahead, across the pebble driveway, a square of tall grass and flowers, groomed, beautiful. It demands attention. Beyond it, a slice of forest. The sky dips into it. My feet rest on the last step, my back is against the chop of wood that makes the rail. The wooden board on the ground spreads…
In America, I am a white woman. In the bigger world, my first years on this planet I spent learning what I could and could not say out loud. That’s because in Ceausescu’s Romania where I was born, anyone’s neighbor could be working for the secret police and anyone could disappear in the middle of the night for saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. And so children were taught what to say and to whom as soon as they could speak.
In America, people with a different color pigmentation than mine need to teach their children what to…
Dear Gov. Cuomo,
I am a New Yorker who will start with a big thank you. I’ve watched you sweep in and take charge and rise to the curve of COVID-19, and I’ve watched America crush on you, hard. I’ve seen you do this before. I used to be paid to watch you take charge. I get Americans’ infatuation.
And because I know what you are capable of, I am asking: Will you cancel my rent this month? Please?
Not only mine, of course. Cancel our rents, across the state, like you suspended mortgage payments for three months.
Poverty has a look. An aesthetic.
I am talking poverty, not destitution. What’s the difference? Poverty has just enough to build shelter, and survive, but not thrive and better. Poverty can still hope tomorrow will improve, but knows it likely won’t, and can see its demise into the next step, destitution. Destitution is the point past: the savage game of survival in which every moment is consumed by the need to provide for the next. …
Every so often we have a thought that shines out of the constant muddle that makes up awareness and lights up with brief precision to reveal a course of action that will bring change to the long-term. This thought makes perfect sense for the seconds it is alive, it eliminates the rest of the muddle or pushes it aside like Moses’ Red Sea trick, and glows with the simple knowledge that life will align itself once the thought is acted upon. As decision-making, it sneaks in without the information that the future inevitably brings.
The next steps define us: for…
The global trend of retreat from democracy, internationalism and globalism, with its corresponding swing toward populism, nativism and despotism, has been noted and discussed. I will call it the great retreat. And I will argue that it is not limited to politics.
Within my intellectual middle-class world, the local has climbed to an almost sacred status: local/”community” living, rediscovering local flora, eating local, and so on. In my hyper-international city of New York, the sign of good citizenship is “coming back to one’s community” and “serving it” after having left that very same community in order to escape its implied…