A Small Needfull Fact
by Ross Gay
Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe
For the first time since George Floyd’s death, I feel a little better, a little more hopeful. I cancelled my meetings on Thursday afternoon from 1 to 3 pm central time and watched the George Floyd memorial on TV in Minneapolis. I was moved by the poise and the power of the message of everyone who spoke. I was particularly struck by the eulogy delivered by Reverend Al Sharpton. He bridged the anger the entire world is feeling with hope. He called out the white elephant of failed leadership in this country. His message was inclusive but continued to build the foundation of Black Lives Matter. He delivered an indictment on the endemic racism that plagues America and called for us to work together to remove the barriers and realize the true dream that America can become and needs to be.
Despite that small injection of optimism on Thursday, it is with some trepidation that I select poems at this time for this blog. It is a such a time of sadness that it is hard to decipher whether words are appropriate to the gravity of the situation. Poetry can be a force for change. Poetry can be a respite from the anguish and frustration many of us are feeling, it can be a pleasant diversion. But poetry by its very essence is a framework around which each person can attach their own perspective and emotions. I am guarded that I might easily misstep. I worry that I might include a poem I find meaningful or enjoyable based on my interpretation but without realizing it, offend someone else for reasons I haven’t even considered.
I have not lived the experiences of African Americans. It would be wrong for me to only post pleasantries when my heart feels none of those things at this moment. It would also be wrong to usurp black poet’s words and feel that I am doing them justice. It is not my intent for this blog to become a commentary on social justice or politics. Fourteen Lines is about enjoyment of poetry. But it is also about sharing poetry that is relevant to what is happening in my life. And what is happening right now is more complex and more screwed up than at anytime in the past. So dear reader, if one of my selections misses the mark for you, please accept my apology and know it was not my intention to offend. The purpose of Fourteen Lines is to amuse, inspire and touch base with kindred souls across this planet, who find in the poetic arts our common humanity and an imprint of our spiritual voices that we share beyond what only reason conveys.
Why do I pair Mark Strand’s Coming to This with Ross Gay’s A Small Needfull Fact? Several imperfect reasons. First, its going to take voices on all sides to move forward; perspectives from African American, White, Latino, Native American, Asian, male, female, straight, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, trans, Republican, Democrat and disenfranchised. We need to even share ideas and voices about things which we may disagree, for no other reason than to find empathy and help us better understand our cultural diversity, and ultimately move towards a better measure of equity. But the main imperfect reason is that each poem has at least several lines and ideas or words that illuminated my thoughts in recent days or re-enforced I am not alone in thinking this way. I see in each poem things that reflect my current state of mind. It is reassuring for me to know I am not crazy. Reassuring to know someone else has tread this path before, tread it well enough to write it down, share it in a poem and seemingly survived and moved forward. If they can do it, so can I. I hope you find a line or thought or emotion or idea that helps you do the same in today’s poems. Be safe, be well. We can do better. We will do better. The time is now for change. Like Reverend Sharpton said during the memorial, the time has arrived “to make America great for everyone for the first time.”
Coming To This
by Mark Strand
We have done what we wanted.
We have discarded dreams, preferring the heavy industry
of each other, and we have welcomed grief
and called ruin the impossible habit to break.
And now we are here.
The dinner is ready and we cannot eat.
The meat sits in the white lake of its dish.
The wine waits.
Coming to this
has its rewards: nothing is promised, nothing is taken away.
We have no heart or saving grace,
no place to go, no reason to remain.