Sunday, August 25, 2013

United States Poet Laureate

Natasha Trethewey is the Poet Laureate of these United States. She teaches creative writing at Emory University. And like the pages that frame her art, she is Black and White. Born of mixed parentage on the Mississippi Gulf Coast Trethewey understands more than most, root and branch of racial intolerance and inequity.
The poems in Native Guard did not let me rest in the comfort of my middle-class; I finished the poetry but it was not finished with me. In a vague and impersonal way I know about slavery, cotton, sugar cane and the unspeakable crimes of Man's inhumanity to Man. But Trethewey brings it home. It moves in, it lives with's uncomfortable and unsettling because it is "today."
Beyond Katrina is a chronicle of times past and present; poverty past, poverty present, worsened by government injustice. Gulfport, Mississippi like other costal cities was struck by Katrina's fury. Nature does not discriminate...people do. Katrina left a record of destruction and rubble; there was cleanup and rebuilding to do, so for a time work seemed plentiful. Federal funds sent for rebuilding were somehow diverted into widening and deepening the shipping channel...assuring a more prosperous future for Gulfport. City officials rewrote ordinances so that condemned or destroyed homes could not be rebuilt. This was accomplished by increasing the legal setback distance from the street to the home resulting in lots that were...with the stroke of a pen...too small for rebuilding. For the poor, their monument to Katrina (and the city fathers) was a naked slab of condemned concrete too small for building. In a word, they had nothing; legislated, homeless refugees in a city where many had lived for generation upon generation..
The Bible has an message for Gulfport and all cities practicing similar legal evils: These are the words of God given to  Isaiah"What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor? declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty."  Isaiah 3:15 [NIV]
Think on these things. ec

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

John 14

In the New Testament of the Bible, I love reading the book of John. It is filled with promises of peace. Written in red, the beloved disciple of Jesus begins with these words; "Let not your heart be troubled." To me Christ is saying, "Don't be anxious or afraid. I AM your creator, redeemer and friend." He continues, "You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions (many rooms), if it were not so I would have told you." Then comes promises; "I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go I will come again and recieve you unto myself, that where I AM there you may be also." [vs. 1-3] I hear Christ saying, "I AM building a place for you; designed and built with you in mind. I AM coming back to Earth a second time to take you, along with the redeemed of all the ages, to live where I Heaven.
Later in the chapter the opening words are repeated, but with an assuring and strengthening twist [vs. 27]. "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." The Old Testanent prophet Daniel speaks of the End Times [chap. 12] (paraphrasing) 'That there will be a time of trouble such as has never been on the Earth.' I believe that we are living in tha last days of a dying world. The waters of the earth...fresh and salt...are polluted. Fresh water is increasingly in short supply in many parts of of the Earth. And that means that the agricultural water supply... for growing food... is becoming insufficient to maintain an adequate food supply.
Fact: here in the US the Ogallala aquifer which underlies much of the mid-western states...the nation's bread being depleted faster than it is replenished. This largest of US underground aquifers supplies fresh water to agriculture, industry and domestic use, and the level continues to fall.
There are reasons for people to fear what is already happening on a startlingly broad scale. We don't hear much about this on the news, but does that mean it is not occurring? No!
If and when you begin to search these things out...which each should do rather than take my words for it...remember the words of Jesus Christ: "Let not YOUR heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Little Folding of the Hands in Sleep

More than once I heard my mother say, "Whenever I woke up during the night there never was a time that Lawrence (my dad) wasn't awake...smoking." He died at age 45, she at 92.  First-hand smoke, second-hand smoke; it was everywhere all the time during my growing-up years in our small home in western Washington.
Four things kept my father going as long as he did; music, meat-and-potatatoes, lots of gravey and beer. There was always music in the home, either on the radio or at gatherings of family and neighbors (in the days when neighbors were neighborly). Dad played the guitar, Alita the accordion and Pete the bass fiddle; a homemade affair of odd shape but not-so-odd sound.
Of course, everybody harmony...the old songs; the ones you used to hear in nursing homes at Saturday sing-alongs: I'm gonna buy a paper doll that I can call my own, a doll that other fellas cannot steal..." or maybe... "Down by the old mill stream, where I first met you..." that one a Mills' Brothers favorite for harmony. The Mills' Brothers were a black family famous for their velvet voices blended in four-parts.
We don't go to the nursing homes anymore. Those who were there are gone. I see my turn coming  up like a slow ship over the horizon returning from a long voyage.
People are living longer but I'm not convinced that's necessarily a good thing. My grandmother, who had a heart of Ophiric gold and gave opinions freely, said many times near the end of her ninety-nine tears, "Buddy, it"s not easy to grow old." She knew. I was 60 years old the day she died. My grandson was watching me put down a tile floor in the bathroom; watching his grandfather weep over his now-gone grandmother.
In case you're  doing the math (she 99, me 60) Inga was married at 16 and birthed my mother at 17. Two times in succession we were five generations alive. Looking back, I can't see any of them. Looking ahead, I know where  it ends...but not yet do I look forward to that sleep that all must enter. For now an afternoon nap is good enough. ec