Dear Lily June,
I had thought about saying nothing. I had thought about putting this out into the universe in some other fashion. But today, already, language begins to disintegrate. Today, my work place’s official wording from the administration is that its university students, opposed to the elected 45th president of America, are holding an “expressive activity.”
That the students themselves are calling a spade a spade and saying it’s a protest is why words, Lily, are so important: As dumb as it is to have to announce this, they don’t just hold meaning like a container. They build it. And the choices of which word to use and how and where? They matter. In the words of George Orwell,
“If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.”
Your mother, shoddy though she may be at it, has always been a word builder. And right now, my bricks are not judgments, per se, but fears. I am afraid. For you. For your future. For the country. For its future. For its people. For their freedoms, real or only presumed, maybe all this time only part of the mythos of history.
My fears may be unfounded. (Most are.) I could end up being proven wrong at every turn, and if I am, I will be, believe you me, happy to be called a fool. I might become the happiest fool on the planet. Of course, I’m also a poet. And no poet has ever read at the inauguration of a Republican American president. That will not change today.
But at the risk of getting egg all over my face, I submit my words (pre-scheduled to post at 12:00PM when I will go out into the rain, handing protestors or witnesses free umbrellas), as my “expressive activity.”
Our Leader Seemed So Sure: He was the Sun on Earth.
Light shone through every pore, through every tooth, through every strand of false hair; every custom-tailored suit burned like a wildfire. Our Leader awoke as the as-yet-uncashed check of our dreams, groin-heat of every loin, cartoon light bulb suspended over each real belief, heaven rain of the cent and dollar for every haver and needer.
For every finder and seeker, he went to sleep as the spiritualist’s claw hammer and the satanist’s wrecking ball, the pawn rolling in the box against the king, each fingertip of every loving strangler, the rules of everyone’s fathers, the tantrums of everyone’s toddlers, maker and taker, decider of right, determiner of law, The only Celebrity to trademark the The, the great drop of whiteout which would erase all previous history. Through his illuminations, we would see.
The Moon had tried to wage a campaign against him. But though powerful enough to move the tides, she was held to blame for its anomalies, its hemorrhages and tsunamis. Though rational enough to caution countless sailors, she was connected endlessly with the lunatics it was claimed she inspired to fits of stabbing when full on any Friday the Thirteenth. I wish I could say she wasn’t thrown, from political debates to internet memes, to the werewolves, but if the fang sinks… It was claimed, with her cold light, she could never make the country warm again, as it once, it was presumed, had been.
In the meantime, after his victory, it grew dark here in the daylight. In the meantime, our Leader tucked beams into his pockets like fabric squares, used them after large meals like business cards with which to pick his teeth. In the meantime, we turned to the dirt and the oceans, thinking with enough shovels or wheels or waves or steam, we could dig or drive or float or propel ourselves Elsewhere, that promised land, that Other country.
The Earth is only so large; its people only so welcoming when we had previously walked upon them like the mats thrown over our floors. Everywhere we presumed would hold a window, we met with a wall. Everywhere we feared would hold a wall, we met with a machine built to build more walls around those walls, then around itself so we could not disconnect the machinery. So we trod home again to try, like vultures, to pick apart the pieces.
We saw, for instance, only too late that the jobs which had come to our country had been to weave the machine’s ropes and forge the machine’s pulleys, but so secretly from one another we dare not share our page of the blueprints over the dinner tables with our mothers; we didn’t even whisper tweet it across the pillows to our lovers’ phones. We took pride in the bits we built, never needing to imagine how ours would fit into our neighbor’s.
After all, the Sun now shone in our own backyards, on our own TVs, for our—and only our—country. Most of us were warm enough, most of us could breathe, at least until none of us could. By then, it was so hot, we saw, only too late, that we weren’t sweating. We were instead, as we’d always claimed of those thrown into our pot, melting. We were all melting together.
- By Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4156824
- In writing this, I was inspired by the sprawling lists (and ultimate message) of this excerpt from Carl Sagan’s A Pale Blue Dot.
- My ending was inspired, in part, by this video of an incredible art installation, which I first saw posted here: