I've forgotten how many days I've been sheltering at home, social distancing, or whatever the hell I am doing. What I haven't forgotten is the feeling of walls closing in. Of the deep worry that clings to my stomach for the safety of my family and loved ones. I try not to dwell on the Covad19 statistics that are changing daily. I look at them from time to but i find it difficult to process in my mind that these are not numbers, but people. It's devastating.
We are coming through a period of the year that usually brings me down. SAD or seasonal affective disorder usually leaves somewhere between melancholy and out and out depressed. Baseball season should be starting and it usually ushers in a happier springtime and pushes the blues out of the way. But there is no baseball season and we don't know if MLB will play one at all this year. I'm looking for any positive sign of relief from the drudgery of the Covad19 daily sheltering from the world.
As crestfallen as I have been today, I did receive news of a poetry acceptance this afternoon. It cheered my up a bit, but these times we are going through cannot be erased by a whole trove of accepted poetry submissions. A part of me says poetry is so insignificant in light of a pandemic. On the other hand, it is the humanity of us all that is at risk, and poetry, music, literature and the arts is the sign of hope that we so greatly need.
It seems like it is all around us. Mostly on the two coasts, but closing in. I'm a believer. There are deniers and some not sure.
I'm trying to do all the precautions and isolate within reason, but as the numbers increase what is reason? My work is reducing the numbers in our office by rotating employees that will work from home so each of us will be in the office some times and home at others.
Disinfecting wipes are my friend, but it seems I am shedding friends at an alarming rate and there seems few if any places to find more available.
I want to stay out of stores as much as possible and I do a pretty good job of this but there are things that you suddenly realize you are out of, like shampoo. Or you need to make a trip to the pharmacy.
Writing is essentially an act of solitude in itself, but you can get up and stretch your legs and go some place to clear your head. My daily step count is way down. Mid-day and I'm under 1100 so far today. That's a sign of just how sedentary this has made me.
I found myself watching the TV series Homeland on Hulu. By watching, I mean binge watching for periods of time in the evening. This stimulates my mind a bit which is good but takes time away from writing which is not good. In the last 24 hours I have become increasingly aware of the opportunities this pandemic affords any writer, and that is to give witness to these times. This is good fodder for poetry, essay. fiction, you name it. So I will be looking for ways today, and moving forward, to make this connection with my writing.
In the meantime, I urge others, writers or not, to make good decisions among the choices afforded to us, so that we may remain safe. All of us!
Thirty years ago a young man stood in defiance of Chinese tanks at Tiananmen Squair. The photo of this single person in street clothing and clutching two shopping bags, standing face to face with a tank, is widely recognized and associated with the student freedom movement. The man and the massive machines of war catapulted itself to become an icon seen around the world. It was June 5th, 1989 when "Tank Man"was photographed in the aftermath of a deadly government crackdown to clear Tiananmen of young protesters.
At home, however, China was attempted to scrub this image from the public minds. They once used it to demonstrate their need to use force, but the picture hardly served that purpose well. Generations of Chinese youth have been largely sheltered from this picture and the deadly government actions 30 years ago.
In 2005 I wrote a poem the poem that follows - Tiananmen Mother - dedicating it to a Communist Party official that broke with the government and tried to warn the protesters of the coming violence. As has been the case with others, he was ostracized. Beyond that, I believe the poem speaks for itself.
for Zhao Ziyang
The Beijing breeze whispers
Tears like the mountain rains
to tributaries until they become one
with the rippling waters of the Yangtze.
I am a Tiananmen mother.
My eyes have swelled
with this sadness before.
The wetness follows a path
My nights are immense.
I am but a lone bare branch
in a cold, dark world.
that June night
etched in my soul
over and over.
My son stood
in the Square
with a vision
and they came-
The People's Army.
My son stood
in Tiananmen Square,
amid a sea of other
sons and daughters
and they came-
clanking along the streets into Tiananmen
driven by fear, ordered by paranoia.
Our sons and daughters
toppled to the earth
at their hands.
Crimson crawling into every crevice
Of these ancient Chinese streets
A stain still upon us today.
I cannot count the nights
I've wept for my son since.
Today, I weep for another.
There is no official news
but the Beijing breeze whispers again.
This time for the death of the old man.
There are guards of fear
stationed outside my door.
The lump in my throat is big,
I cannot begin to swallow,
that is how I know the truth.
Guilt always gnawing at my heart.
I could not help my son that June night.
Again as I am helpless.
I want to pay my respects
to the old man who stood up
for my son and others
massacred in Tiananmen,
but the thugs watch
my every move.
I am a Tiananmen mother.
It is my duty to weep
for the lost ones.
© 2005 Michael A. Wells
Sometimes I have to pinch myself and be reminded it is January 2018. How is it that America seems to find a way to go backwards instead of advance? The recent battle over protecting DACA recipients, a crisis of President Trump's own making became weighted down with ugly language in recent weeks.
With time running out to give protected status these young people, Trump recently backtracked on earlier support for dealing with the issue as Congress worked to do it alongside a continuing resolution to keep the government budgeted. What he had been referring to as dreamers suddenly became illegals. Couple that with his hateful remarks about persons coming from Haiti and a host of African nations became people from shithole countries and persons from say, Norway would be preferable to let into this nation.
Words have consequences. We are a witness to some terrible times. We are shaped by the times we live in and it is clear that these are not normal times. They are not times of reason. They are not times of love and compassion. As much as I would love to forget about the ugliness that is so prolific right now, I can't, or should't. Nor should you. It is at times like these writers of all types, are called to witness what is happening all around us. We must no allow such times as these come to define us. Come to be normalized. We need to call out the ugliness and hate. We need to be a better nation, and we each have a responsibility to speak up.
Michael Allyn Wells - notes & musings