Eleanor's Song

I came from Sheboygan
she said
the bratwurst capitol of the world.
And lived my life with dreams deferred
in sterile rooms with
men in white like giant
winged cranes
without the grace
of god or bird.

I tried to live my life
she said
but sausage kings were in my way.
And stopped my dreams of soaring heights
with whispered threats and
knowing looks to reel me in
their darkened rooms
and take my mind
and dim my sight.

I used to be a girl
she said
and hated bratwurst in the world.
And dreamed my dreams of grander lands
while men in white
in airless rooms with deadened souls
instructed me
in what was wrong
and what was planned.

I longed to be alive
she said
in the sausage center of the world.
And tried to tell them
dreams are real
in empty rooms with men in white like giant
winged cranes
without their flight
without their love without my life.


Sometimes, it seems, you have to walk through this world
with a shield.

An elderly vet in a wheelchair posts himself daily
at the exit from the Whole Foods Parking lot asking for money and
I wonder if he ponders the irony of the $4 asparagus water
inside the shiny and brightly lit produce department,
as I feel the guilt of my just having spent way too much money
on things that I probably did not need.

He asks, “Darling, are you going to Starbucks?” with the
unspoken, but crystal clear request for a cup to go.

And when I say, “Sorry brother, not today” and he says
nonetheless, “God bess you”, I feel like I am letting him

So at times I just wave or nod to him, keeping my
window up to avoid the necessity of saying sorry
one more time.

But today, after I waved hello and drove
out of the lot and back towards the thousand things
that need doing, today I thought to myself as I drove away,

Sometimes, it seems, you have to walk through this world
with a shield.



On The Anniversary

Fifteen years ago we sat together in a conference room
in Los Angeles. holding onto those with family in the towers
watching grainy television without proper reception
in the small conference room by the exit doors.

We sat in our new school, where only a few days earlier children had
walked the halls for the first time, and now we tried to
help the children understand.

Being children you see, they did not comprehend that the news
repeatedly showing the events of the morning,
did not mean continual attacks were ongoing.
Being children, they asked “Why do they want
to kill us?”

And I paused a great long while, not knowing how to answer
before reassuring them that there were lots of helpers
in this world who along with their families
and their teachers were always working on keeping
them safe.

And they, being children accepted my response in good faith.

Fifteen years ago,  on that morning, it was Nancy’s birthday and I brought her
the bunch of flowers I had gotten for her, giving them to her,
because I did not know what else to do, but feeling odd, like
why does this matter right now.

And yet knowing that the only answers to hate are compassion,
love, remembrance, celebration and our recognition of each other.

Fifteen years ago we came together in a large auditorium, all of the
teachers and therapists, administrators and staff, and we listened to the names of those who had been lost by those in our community being spoken out loud.  Sandra’s cousin, lost in the Pentagon,  Susan’s friend on that United Airlines flight.  And we remembered with relief those who had been spared.

Narda’s brother who worked in the World Trade Center,
Maggie’s father and brother were there as well. 
And I wore an American flag pin, something I never did
because nationalism never struck me as a terribly
beneficial thing.

And when I came home I found a group of people gathered around
an apartment building just down the street with candles lit.
One of their neighbors had been lost.  And even though I did not
know them, I wanted to belong to others that night.

And I sang “God Bless America” with a larger group of strangers a couple
of days later, standing on the grass median of a street nearby,
candles lit, people crying and headlights going by, pausing
to pay respects.  And  despite my previously mentioned aversion
to nationalistic fervor, it felt good.

And now, fifteen years later, I wonder what we learned.  It seems harder now
to tell children that the grown-ups will keep them safe.  It seems harder for them and me to believe.

As they watch what masquerades as our presidential election with the name
calling, vitriol, bullying, lies and disrespect, how are we to explain to them that goodness matters.

That it is worthwhile to be kind and to be tolerant, that diversity
is what makes us grow.  That cooperation is the best way to solve our
challenges and dilemmas.

When congress refuses to do its job, preferring instead to
impede and suppress and win at all costs.

When they willingly decide to make sure that the
President of the United States does not succeed
before he even steps into the oval office,
When they cannot stand up to a bully whose only
goal is to enrich himself and his ego, and seemingly they
are willing to give up their own values to come out ahead,
Then I wonder what they can possibly win.

Fifteen years ago we watched in horror at the worst mankind
has to offer, and we watched in sadness and hope the best
of who we are. 

When we seek to destroy others because of their differences,
or because we feel threatened by ideas.
When we believe our way is the only way and rigidly
hold on to that as if we are our ideas, rather then
human beings who  have ideas; who will not perish if our
ideas are challenged.  

When in the words of Mother Teresa, “We’ve forgotten that we belong to each other”, then in the past 15 years, we have learned nothing.

But if as Seamus Heaney wrote, we can
 “…hope for a great sea-change
on the far side of revenge.
Believe that further shore
is reachable from here. 
Believe in miracle and cures and healing wells…”

Then we can rise like a new born colt
on shaky legs perhaps, but with resolve and
joy to be in this world together.