Wednesday, March 1, 2017

This Side of the Grave

We've got to keep writing and making art.

I'm really trying to hold on to hope. Heaney's The Cure at Troy has sustained me for decades, and this morning I'm typing out the part I love right here, by memory:

Human beings suffer,
They torture one another,
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured

The innocent in gaols
Beat on their bars together
A hunger-striker's father
Stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
Faints at the funeral home.

History says, Don't hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.

Call miracle self-healing:
The utter, self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there's fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.
It means once in a lifetime
That justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.

I feel not a little despair.

Did you see the thin lips of the men who canvassed the crowd, pushed through ahead of him last night as he walked in and then, again, walked out?

Struck last night during the presidential address by a memory of working with women who had been abused by their husbands, by the ways abusers show recalcitrance, how the cycle continues. His dark imposition on the world. The two behind him. I cried during his convention speech and cried again during the inaugural one. Last night I watched the widow turn her face up to the sky as he droned on and the glamorous daughter looked on and all the people cried. No tears from me. I choked on bile. I thought about the great war machine that all presidents turn on, the tyranny of the ultimate sacrifice, of valuing soldiers' lives more than those they kill. Samsara, illusion, delusion. Maya, the illusion or appearance of the phenomenal world.

This morning I see that the attorney general will not be supporting those states who have legalized marijuana, that he will, indeed, be marshaling forces to come down hard. He's got federal law to enforce and federal law pre-empts state law. I'm going to persist in believing in miracles and cures and healing wells even as prisons continue to fill and children die and the sheep are driven over the cliff.

I'm going swimming today, may a further shore be reachable.


  1. Thank you for that poem, for those words. They filled a very sad and empty part of my heart just now and allowed the much-needed tears being held back to come on, to cleanse.
    I love you Elizabeth. And your incredible mind, your amazing soul and heart.

  2. Thank you for the beautiful poetry. I am impressed and envious that your brain lets you recall from memory. I have lost that ability, but the up side is every time I read a poem I love, I discover it all over again.
    Cleaning my desk this month, I found poems I printed for my pocket in 2012 and 2015. So many were appropriate to 2017, especially Wendall Berry's The Peace of Wild Things from Beth's blog, Ellen Bass' Pray for Peace from yours, and so many others. I found William Stafford to be calming and comforting. I am trying to love the earth like a mole right now, nearsighted, holding close the clods. I really enjoyed and needed the diversion and the reflection of the re-found poems and poets, and the wonder of all the beautiful and profound words blogger has brought to my world.

    I would not listen to him speak, and just seeing his muted pouty lips disgusted me. He makes my blood pressure spike and I don't need that right now. So I ignore him, and only read the news highlights, which is awful enough. I feel your despair too, and thank goodness for your voices here to remind me that we are many, and to hold out hope for good, slim though it may seem. Love to you and yours.

  3. Swimming is the antidote right now, I think. I think of being caught between the in and the out flow, the rise and fall, and I am reminded that it all comes back to balance, even if there is incredible destruction in the meantime, and while that is small comfort to those being destroyed, there are forces more powerful at play. Immersing ourselves in the water and using our strength to move forward and through - that is the perfect metaphor and activity and I will swim through your words and let them wash over me as I contemplate the best way to move myself through and protect those who are most vulnerable. Love.

  4. The eloquence of your writing is a gift not lightly enjoyed. It's ability to console and enlighten and open the door to the soul and heart of a woman named Elizabeth is food for my soul.

    I felt the same when watching the lies and distortions and was heartbroken for the widow of Ryan Owen as he paid tribute to her. The self aggrandizing for which he used her to promote himself and his attempt through that use to assuage his own lack of responsibility was obscene. It was indeed almost as horrifying to watch the two lemmings behind him. I was speechless at the maniacal look of Ryan's grin.

    I hope that long swim today washes away some of the stress and the grime.
    Love to you Elizabeth and thank you.

    1. This is why I couldn't stomach watching any of it, just hearing secondhand how it played out is obscene enough! That unfortunate Widow being exploited like that in the midst of her Grief and intense Pain of such a Loss due to irresponsibility of an ill advised Mission being ordered! Is there no limits to the self aggrandizement!? Gak! Dawn... The Bohemian

  5. That poem nearly stops my heart every time. And I know it's been so important to you. Thanks for sharing it again. I hope your swim was all you wanted it to be. xxxxoooo

  6. Samsara, indeed. This excerpt says it all, as do your own words. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

  7. There is what he says and then what he does.

  8. Thank you for bearing witness to this and writing I down. I could not find the words but you have expressed here exactly what I felt. It was obscene. I too was in despair. Nor is impeachment any hope because the men in identical blue ties seem just as evil, perhaps more so. Federal rights trump state's rights unless of course the state's rights are nefarious. At this point they are opposing things just to oppose them. It makes me nauseous to watch them. So I will borrow the hope from your poem, that hope and history rhyme.

  9. The ugliest part of the forced display, before the whole gawking world, of the young widow: Keep the cameras on her tortured face, keep up the drumroll of applause, until she can force out a brief glimmer of a grimaced smile. Exploitation at its cruelest. Disgusting.

  10. You, your words and your readers and friends give me hope when tears come readily and hope is hard to find.

  11. I'm hoping for a great sea-change, for sure.

    It's interesting how they all cry "state's rights!" until states want to do something they don't like.



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