politics


Maybe it’s the simplicity of her singular suit

resisting dismissive labels of ‘girly’ or ‘cute’.

Maybe it’s the hotness of tweedy butch

that turns her watchers’ knees to mush:

Even straight married ladies

seem to be going crazy

singing this particular pundit’s praise

saying she’s “a real role model for the gays”

But while I’m thankful for role models

who can dismantle the old twaddle

of Pat and FOX News with ease and elocution

I’d prefer a slightly wider distribution

of role-model-fodder on American TVs

besides Ellen, Wanda, and MSNBC’s

hot mixer-maven, out-token Mister Cronkite Junior;

how ’bout six or seven outspoken sister wonk-dykes to join her?

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though she and I are young, we’ve never exactly

acted our age.  raised with an older sister or by a mother

like a sister, we’ve each taken on roles too big

to fit our frames before.  but this is the first time for the two of us

and excited as kids on Halloween, she and I are ready

to pick

what we want the next years

to resemble; as if we could see

the glowing promise beyond cheap curtains

of voting booths and stages.  trust makes better

lovers of us both, and we

talk about the future

like we’ve got all the time in the world in our hands

ignore the sky growing dark a little earlier each day, girl

it’s hard not to be optimistic when

someone’s loving you

and she could make me almost believe in a country that

exists beyond borders

where skins can mix and match, where she and I

can kiss on a street corner and nobody raise

an eyebrow or a ruckus

where a Southern-raised Baptist and the daughter of a lapsed Catholic both

can defend the right to choose without

losing high school friendships.

when she can endure evacuations and return

again to a city of cracked foundations

hope clinging like vines to gutted houses, how can I

claim it’s not safe to put trust

in tomorrow and whatever it brings?

I don’t know where I will be a year from now, under what skies

but this is a delicate thing grown up

far beyond its short time

I cradle it in my fingers, keep the flame burning

through darkness til tomorrow comes.

I really hope he wins.  I don’t know if there’s anyone who can stitch this fractured patchwork of a country back together, but if there is, it’s probably him.  Comes from the middle of the west, not the heartland but at least the lungs or liver, son of an immigrant and a single mother, multiracial, educated–Obama’s story sounds like the kind you’d hear on NPR during “This American Life”.  He talks to inspire, and that’s something I think we’re lacking these days.  I’m not sure I buy everything he promises–after living in two states with incarcerated former leaders, I don’t hold much faith in what politicians say–and I wish he’d stand up more for what’s right and worry less about what’s going to be popular.    But when every opinion poll seems to shift with a stiff breeze and the color of a necktie at a debate appears to be crucially correlated with voters’ perceptions, I guess I understand why he’s trying to play it safe.

Still, I really hope it doesn’t backfire.  I don’t know anymore what “the average American” wants, because living in a blue-state, blue-collar bastion and a city where “minorities” outnumber the silent majority, my views are probably more than a little skewed. I’d like to believe I live in a country where longtime Democrats like my grandmother won’t vote against Obama just because he’s black.  I’d like to believe most people possess enough awareness and a long enough attention span to remember what happened after 9/11,  after Enron, after Abu Ghraib, after the last election, after Katrina…But I’m not sure that these wishes are realistic, or just idealistic.

I remember what it was like last time.  Too young to vote, I helped register other students at my school and then burned with frustration as state after state fell to Bush.  The electoral map showed a continent divided, narrow bookends of blue bracketing a stubbornly red expanse, and nobody really talked about recounts anymore.  I wondered whether it would change, especially when scandals started popping up left and right and when Katrina and Jena laid bare the terrible results of centuries-old racism and poverty.  I wondered whether I’d be proud of my country again without reservation.  If Obama wins on Tuesday, I think I will be.  Because if folks across America, black and white, young and old, actually vote for him, that’s the real sign of hope: not that Obama himself is some Superman or messiah who can transform everything, but that we as a nation are willing to change.  We can lead ourselves to a better place if we can overcome our differences, or at least I hope so.

Please vote, but don’t stop at voting–there’s so much more to do outside the curtain of that booth.

This is meant to be performed as a spoken word piece.  It’s based on true conversations with my dad’s mother, known as Mamus in our family.

***

My grandmother thinks I hate America.

She cried at the dinner table last Thanksgiving because

I believe in a woman’s right to choose,

and because I chose to eat tofu

instead of turkey.  Mamus doesn’t really “get” me:

(more…)

i hereby resign

my position as US citizen

i hand in my passport and

social security card–i faked them anyway–

that smile on the photograph

is actually a grimace, because this

isn’t my country tis of thee

it’s somewhere i’ve never been and I don’t

recognize this constitution

it was signed long ago by men now dead

this place is wasting away

and as much as I try to dig my roots in, water this dust

with my tears and sweat, it’s not enough

never enough

for you, hard stern mother-country

i don’t know how to hold you

and you own me without

even knowing my real name, so just take

back my citizenship, this number

you gave me

at birth. i never really earned it anyway

and you have no idea what I’m worth.

(Copy of a poem-comment I just posted to Jen’s blog):

slip a piece of paper
into a locked box
switch a lever and
press a button
electronic is safe, they say, better than human error
but I’d prefer a human touch any day
than blank iron-clad terror forcing
us to go one way
or another,
one choice or forever
hold your peace
I hold pieces of a worn-out driver’s license
and registration card
in my hand and I’m not certain
whether they’ll believe me
whether it’ll feel relieving
to finally enter my opinion into a black box machine
and out will come a god
deus ex machina
to fix all our nation’s ills
sing and dance our economic recovery
regain the world’s goodwill from
these unforgivable actions
I don’t know whether I believe me
when I try to tell my grandmother that she
is wrong, without showing disrespect
how can I convince her to vote
and elect
someone I’m not sure I trust all the time
but who’s better
maybe a little better
than the folks currently in line
to hold that power tight
in their white fists, raised high as if
they ever knew what oppression felt like.  listen
I want to tell her
can’t you hear the sound of a country
splitting open at the seams
like a giant fault line through the middle
of its brightest dreams, we
stand on opposite sides from each other but
she is still my blood, my mother’s mother
shouldn’t that mean something?
I write her a note
slip it into a light blue envelope,
hope she will learn to decipher
what I’m trying to tell her–it’s not
that I believe, but I wish for more
and I lose faith every fucking day but maybe
there’s something in this we can both hold onto, a rope
I can throw her across the gap between
us, jagged and wide
scarring the outside we see
beyond the curtains of the voting booth.