Calm

The presidential election has been decided and I can hardly bear to speak the name of the person who emerged as the victor. The soaring elation I felt as I walked into the voting booth with my daughter and watched her push the button that recorded our vote for the first woman to run for the highest office in the land was matched by the tremendous grief I felt when the votes were tallied and the results announced in the early morning hours.

This is not hyperbole: it feels like a death.

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We wore white to honor the women who came before us.

Yesterday morning, my daughter told us she felt like she would never be happy again. “This is the funeral of my happiness, she said.” I imagine many of us woke up yesterday feeling this way.

But last night she did something amazing and brave. She was invited to read one of her poems as the opening to an alum/faculty reading on campus. I watched in absolute awe and pride as she stood on the stage and looked out at an audience of mostly unknown-to-her adults, and expressed her gratitude at having been included and her hope that the poem she was about to read would make us feel a little better. It was gorgeous and she sounded so confident and at ease. She held herself with such poise.

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But then, a well-meaning adult shouted something from the crowd–something clearly expressing delight–and then others laughed–also, clearly in delight. But she is not quite nine and none of this was clear to her.

She froze. Her body tensed and her face fell. I called out a reassurance from the back of the room and she stayed quiet for one more beat and then continued to read her beautiful poem to us.

She stayed on that stage and kept going despite being unsettled and even afraid.

I am unsettled and deeply afraid and I imagine I will continue to be for quite a while. I don’t have any clear ideas yet about how I can counter that fear, but I told my kids–I promised them–I am going to keep writing poems, teaching my students, tending my family and friendships and looking for ways I can help the most vulnerable members of our community.

I’m going to follow my daughter’s example and stay on the stage.

**

Here is the poem she read, which appears in her chapbook, Peace to Heart. It does make me feel a little bit better.

peace-to-heart-coverCalm

The tree is calm.
I am the tree.
I am calm.

The tree releases sap.
The sap is calm.
I am the sap.
I am calm.

The sap forms amber.
Amber is calm.
I am amber.
I am calm.

The amber turns to jewelry.
The jewelry is calm.
I am the jewelry.
I am calm.

The jewelry is on the body.
The body is calm.
I am the body.

I am calm.

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