election

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An American E.R.

That was the first title that I wrote for this poem, submitted yesterday to Rattle’s Poet’s Respond.

In this NPR story, Zeke Emanuel, one architect of the ACA, talks about Donald Trump reconciling his pre-election promises to provide health coverage to all Americans and his post-election agenda. When Emanuel said “threading that needle,” I thought about how the way we care for others represents the essence of our compassion and equality—our humanity. In that moment, the current threat to health care served as a symbol for all the other risks.

Threading the Needle

After sewing up the election,
the seven thousand cuts begin.
A stitch in time saves nine,
but new wounds appear on the hour,
sharp knives in the cabinet
whetting their appetites.
In the body’s lobby, scarlet
fountains burble and spew, spray
the stains we can’t scrub out—
no spatters for Park Avenue suits,
just the holes growing wider,
just enough tiny sutures
to keep the patient coming back.
The needle makes a blunt instrument.
The eye sees what it wants to see,
not owning what the hands know.

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Let’s start with what’s next: The election. High anxiety for everyone, or almost everyone, on all sides. How do we get through Tuesday? The days after Tuesday? How do we heal?

This morning, my husband turned on the TV news, which ran a story about a woman who is making yard signs and tote bags that say, “Make America Kind Again.”

Yes.

And in between election anxiety, I’ve also been doing the Whole 30. Yeah, you could call it a fad diet, but it’s supposed to be a physical and mental reset. Some things are resetting, and others not so much. And I’ve been cheating in that about two weeks in, I did get on the scale, and have done since then, and do not feel bad about it. In many ways, it isn’t that much different from the way I’d been trying to eat–except for no dairy and no alcohol (no wine, no gin martini). I’m on day 25, having made it through several parties and events and two election debates. In other ways, it’s helpful to check in when I feel like I want a treat and ask whether I really want that or want something else. Usually, the answer is both. On the other hand, I don’t think the authors of the program are my people. For example, they say that at one point I might start dreaming of junk food. Did not happen. They say that on day 21 I will be probably be sick of my food choices. No, I’m not sick of my food choices. I’m sick of cooking and shopping and cooking and shopping. I want the pizza not because I crave junk food, but because they will deliver it to my door. So much for my pioneer fantasies. My husband has been really helpful about making things that don’t include the vast number of forbidden things (obvious things, like sugar, and not so obvious, like soy, which means any commercial mayonnaise). Five more days. We’ll see.

I’ve also been writing (really excited about a poem that includes both Star Trek and the Wizard of Oz, and another poem about topological phase change) and writing and reading as part of the Ekphrastic Assimilations project. US poets wrote after Chinese artists’ works, and the Chinese artist–who are also poets–wrote after the works by US artists. The  Ekphrastic Assimilations website is still up, and you can view the art and post your own ekphrastic poem there. I’ve been working on a second one.

Finally, what’s next: I’ll be reading this Friday, November 11, at the Good Shepherd Center. I’m excited to hear poems by Amy Schrader, Douglas Schuder, Griffeth Williams, Raul Sanchez, and Victoria Ford. I’m also excited to return to room 202, where I took a fantastic Hugo House class with John Marshall, and where, walking to the car after a reading, an owl flew over my head. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by at 7:00. If you aren’t in the neighborhood, they have parking!

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Fill in the oval to voteFinally, the day has arrived. It feels a little surreal–because we mailed in our ballots last week (what? the election’s still going on? Oh, yeah…).

Washington is now a mail-in ballot only state. I admit I miss going to the polls–especially early in the morning–and voting with my neighbors. I’ll never forget the sunny election day morning in 1992 and the exuberance that filled the voting room and the hallways of the elementary school. That place was charged!

This year feels charged in a different way. I try to remind myself that as passionately as I believe there’s only one good choice for President, people for the other side feel exactly the same way about their candidate. It helps me to have empathy–but we’re still polarized.

My mom fears all the voter intimidation she’s heard about–although she’s dropped off her ballot. What country are we living in? When did democracy take a back seat to winning?

I think/fear it’s going to take a few weeks before we have the final results. Already lawyers are going to court. And we have several tight races in our state (Approve 74!). Jittery weeks.

As flawed as the system might be, I’m thankful that we get to vote. And we vote because it isn’t just our right, it’s our responsibility (the nicer way of saying “put up or shut up”).

Happy voting day. And if you have any election poems online, please add a link in the comments.

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