Welcome to earthweal’s open link weekend #25. Share a poem from your repertoire—new or classic—and visit your fellow linkers and comment on their work.
Open link til midnight Sunday, when the next weekly challenge, tentatively titled SUSTAINING NATURE WITH CULTURE, begins.
See you in the fray — Brendan
Now the heavy summer comes to Florida, and right when you would think the atmospheric sizzle would put the fizzle on coronavirus, new cases are leaping everywhere the Florida sun doth shine.
Our state governor protests its because of all the testing now being done, but as usual that’s a curly piece of Republican obfuscation spreading from the country’s vice president on down. In Florida, the rate of infection for testing is heading north of 10 percent now (in nearby Orange County the rate is 15%), which says coronavirus is dangerously swelling. Welcome to the first spike we just couldn’t say goodbye fast enough to.
Many other places around—maybe yours—the world took better precautions; they shut down early and didn’t demonize wearing masks. In the US, the overall death rate is falling dramatically because hardest-hit areas like New York and New Jersey did their work. People there are just now getting back to daily life.
Where I live, you hardly see anyone wearing masks and daily life has been at full roar for weeks. Still, it’s silent and weird, this raging COVID infection overtaking the Sunshine State. Officials deny and people defy it as if science had no bearing in a tourist mecca, which apparently it doesn’t. Mickey his own corona.
Weirdest is that Florida is a retirement mecca as well, loaded to the gills with 55+ housing communities and people racing about in golf carts and nursing homes without backup generators. If there’s any place where a refusal to heed signs with that old proverbial leading with the chin, Florida deserves the knockout punch.
But that’s just our local story. COVID errancies and lunacies, griefs and heroics weave our world variously but bind us all in ways none of us much understand. Just try compiling a list of COVID dreams and you’ll see. (Last night I packed into an auditorium ahead of a hurricane, sitting first with peers at the company which eliminated my job and then moving to a sparer area where GIs on a World War II transport plane tried to keep their spirits up as they transported to the depths of war. The hurricane getting closer and closer but never quite arriving.)
Today is also Juneteenth, the celebration of the official end of slavery—two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation and three months after the end of the Civil War. (Texas was the most distant Confederate state, though it is also said that slaveholders did everything they could to conceal the news of their slaves’ freedom.) In the exceptionally racially charged atmosphere of this summer (again, US news, sorry if it doesn’t resonate in your country), the day feels like tinder. President Trump had originally scheduled a campaign rally in Tulsa today but bowed to public pressure and moved the event to Saturday. As a pair of events, the poles couldn’t be wider.
Splitting seems to be the nature of this summer, a rip-saw of reversal. (Just a few months ago, Florida’s unemployment rate was around 3 percent; in Central Florida today the rate is at 22.4.) Temperatures in the Arctic Circle are hotter now than many places in the tropics, with Siberia seeing zombie fires (fires burning undergrown all winter breaking out afresh) and fire thunderstorms in the wake of a 6 month heat wave.
Carl Jung has a psychologic term for this: enantiodromia or splitting into one’s psychic opposite. Will Black Lives Matter protestors suddenly become racists, venting on whitepeople the historic angst and hate of their fair-skinned other? And those foaming Trump-worshippers in Tulsa, will they be struck black by COVID and find themselves intubated and body-bagged while the world pays attention to other things?
We await further news …
WHILE I THINK OF TAMIR RICE WHILE DRIVING
Reginald Dwayne Betts
in the backseat of my car are my own sons,
still not yet Tamir’s age, already having heard
me warn them against playing with toy pistols,
though my rhetoric is always about what I don’t
like, not what I fear, because sometimes
I think of Tamir Rice & shed tears, the weeping
all another insignificance, all another way to avoid
saying what should be said: the Second Amendment
is a ruthless one, the pomp & constitutional circumstance
that says my arms should be heavy with the weight
of a pistol when forced to confront death like
this: a child, a hidden toy gun, an officer that fires
before his heart beats twice. My two young sons play
in the backseat while the video of Tamir dying
plays in my head, & for everything I do know, the thing
I don’t say is that this should not be the brick and mortar
of poetry, the moment when a black father drives
his black sons to school & the thing in the air is the death
of a black boy that the father cannot mention,
because to mention the death is to invite discussion
of taboo: if you touch my sons the crimson
that touches the concrete must belong, at some point,
to you, the police officer who justifies the echo
of the fired pistol; taboo: the thing that says that justice
is a killer’s body mangled and disrupted by bullets
because his mind would not accept the narrative
of your child’s dignity, of his right to life, of his humanity,
and the crystalline brilliance you saw when your boys first breathed;
the narrative must invite more than the children bleeding
on crisp fall days; & this is why I hate it all, the people around me,
the black people who march, the white people who cheer,
the other brown people, Latinos & Asians & all the colors of humanity
that we erase in this American dance around death, as we
are not permitted to articulate the reasons we might yearn
to see a man die; there is so much that has to disappear
for my mind not to abandon sanity: Tamir for instance, everything
about him, even as his face, really and truly reminds me
of my own, in the last photo I took before heading off
to a cell, disappears, and all I have stomach for is blood,
and there is a part of me that wishes that it would go away,
the memories, & that I could abandon all talk of making it right
& justice. But my mind is no sieve & sanity is no elixir & I am bound
to be haunted by the strength that lets Tamir’s father,
mother, kinfolk resist the temptation to turn everything
they see into a grave & make home the series of cells
that so many of my brothers already call their tomb.
from Felon: Poems (2019)