20 Days

What happened next, while I was locked in the grip of this rural Midwestern location, during the final months of the election, and the remaining months of my mother’s life were compounded by the sudden and unexpected death of my beloved brother a mere forty-eight days after my mother’s passing.

I have been paralyzed with shock.

There is a cold wind blowing down my neck. It chills me to the bone and I have been writing ever since. All these days and nights, pluck, pluck, pluck on the keyboard, as if my own life depended on it.

I have been trying to stitch the pieces of this fragmented existence together. The pieces are East, West, right and left, racist, and tolerant. They are feminist and patriarchal. They are life and death, destruction, and the hereafter. There is no one-way, to sum up, the complicated and continual unraveling of both the personal and political aspects of daily life. For some of us, rising on the tide of the seventies, loping through the eighties, nineties, and into the twenty-first century, in the midst of the “me” generation, robust consumerism obliterates the imperative for a cohesive American agenda. There hasn’t been a world war crashing on our shores since chaos shattered our 9/11 realities. Our remote desert enemy lulls us into a mainland existence buoyantly and selfishly focused on immediate economic desires. Sure, we struggle with our jobs, our families, and our health.

Life isn’t easy. But it’s not like there are famines or fires, or hurricanes ripping through our coast? It’s not like our healthcare is in jeopardy, or our black sons get incarcerated at a higher rate than whites, or our black mothers die in childbirth at three times the rate of white women, while the richest 1 percent of America holds more wealth than the 90% combined?

(Sing Out Sister, first draft 2016)

31 Days

In 2016, one man, Donald Trump, and one woman, Hillary Clinton, embarked on the most contentious political race in contemporary history. Smashing toward victory for the ultimate power position on the planet, they clawed through obstacles, insulted constituents, tapped the Russians, hacked e-mails, and employed rank profanity.

Back on the farm, people like me hired helpers to plow the fields. We mowed the grass, pumped gas in our vehicles, and tuned in our televisions. First, we joked and chatted. Then family members were diagnosed, right then left. First, one lung and then both lungs were involved. Things progressed through the throat, hands, feet, stomach, and bowels. We passed the time, fading away, one after the other until ultimately one of the candidates garnered enough votes to win the Presidency of the United States of America.

Turns out this was more than just a race for the presidency, it was a battle for the soul of the country, and it frightened, angered, and captivated the world. It also exposed the often disparate and oppositional views of Americans themselves. The contentiousness infected our states, our cities, and our neighborhoods. It polarized relationships, made Facebook friends un-“friend” each other, and pitted partners against each other.

In my own home, family members were at odds, often stiff with disagreement and righteously angry at the other’s perspective. In fact, nowhere was the hostility more palatable than when I was summoned from my generally liberal state of New York to the Appalachian foothills of Eastern Ohio where I spent the year after my mother was diagnosed with acute, aggressive lung cancer and given only months to live.

(Excerpts from Sing Out Sister, first draft)

Working Draft

32 Days

“Darton,” I would say to my remaining brother who is alive and living in New Hampshire, “Darton, what happened and what are we going to do?”

The national election of 2016 followed only five months after my mother and oldest brother died. It carved a long red and blue psychic wound up the middle of the country. Raw and gaping. The newly elected President slipped an insidious claw into the country’s casing and split the whole thing from the neck all the way to its pelvis. He thrust his finger into the hole and wiggled his fingers until everyone gasped. Being sensitive, riddled with pain, clutching at sutures, I went to bed for days on end, trying to sleep it off. I woke briefly to work, to write, and to turn the television channels hardly believing the reality of what was going on rather than a bad dream. I lamented.

With regard to women’s rights, oppression makes the path clear, makes solidarity appealing, and makes sisterhood the best way forward. But it’s the tension between us that we operate under. For true equality, we need to remove that tension and have expansive agreement and understanding. What will we do then? What do we do if we don’t have to fight?

I don’t want to insulate myself or isolate myself because together we rise and because I need that tension. I need a direction and the only way to find direction is to be able to identify a way forward. So, knowing these things puts me into a quandary. I want peace but I crave resistance. I want consensus but I only know the difference. What can these things teach me? I suppose there is something about opposites? Something about needing death at the end of life to help us understand our precious time is finite. Maybe, perhaps, it shows us what sadness is to joy. We need these things. We need everything including President Trump in order to move forward instead of backward, away from the darkness and into the light. For that reason, I thank him and embrace him for showing me other and for illuminating my perspectives. I thank him for making the way clear and the path obvious.

“Here we are.” The voice in my head says, “Pick yourself up. Find your voice. Sing out your truth; loud, strong, clear.”

Sometimes the voice is rough and jagged. Sometimes I remember the lyrics as I seek the sweet harmonious groove. But, I know that I am not ready for any performances, yet. I’m still trying to heal. Most days I only have a barely audible whisper. But, I am trying hard to find the words, even though I did not pick this path. Or, did I?

(Excerpts from Sing Out Sister, first draft)

Thirty-Two Days Left Before We Vote!