Archive | Country Matters

These Truths, This Self-Evidence

orlando-victims-splitOur country is in the throes of an undeclared civil war, and in the wake of the Orlando murders I find myself with little to say except in urgent letters to political representatives. I look to the elders–to James Baldwin and especially to Audre Lorde–for a path with heart because all around me is broken, bleeding. Lost.

On the subway home last night, surrounded by the beautiful purple and green and pink and black and brown and yellow and blue and red misses and misters and mizzers of my city–variously tired, wired, sober, drunk, happy, sad; variously queer, too–I felt this powerful tenderness for every person in their precious, precarious trajectory. I wanted to strap on an arrow and bow like an Amazon, like Artemis, like Eros himself, and protect them all. We each have a right to be cranky, undefended, soft around each other–to sit shoulder to shoulder without fear or judgment. We are getting closer to that state. We are moving further away. Continue Reading →

The Meditation of Poetry

a-student-of-art-history-ivanov-sakachevSummer has arrived and, with it, a desire to sprawl, preferably under a tree or by water. For those of us lucky enough to live with the seasons, now is the time to surrender – to fruit and flowers and temperatures high enough to prevent us from doing anything rigorous without breaking into a sweat. It is time to be still, in other words, which is not a forte of most Americans. Our lifestyles are built around the hustle and bustle of multitasking – of navigating two or three screens at once, of talking while texting, of filming concerts on our iPhones rather than dancing at them, of layering appointment upon appointment while narrating our every activity on social media. It is what it is, for Americans have always been go-getters, but it is no surprise that the call for “centering activities” has been on the rise. Witness the popularity of yoga, of Buddhism, of tai chi – not to mention of blood pressure medication, muscle relaxants, and tranquilizers. But while I respect each of these practices, I’m intrigued that we look to other cultures (and prescription pads) when it comes to quieting ourselves. For as long as there have been words – before there were novels, let alone status updates and tweets – there has been poetry, and poetry is all about staying in the present. Continue Reading →

Relax: Oprah’s Got H. Lacks

h.lacksRecently it was announced that Oprah Winfrey plans to executive produce and star in an HBO film adaptation of Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. When I read this news, I caught myself heaving an immense sigh of relief. With Oprah at the helm, I knew Miss Henrietta was going to be safe.

Skloot’s 2010 biography of Henrietta Lacks is one of the most extraordinary literary events of this decade, which only befits the extraordinary Lacks and her legacy. Widely regarded as a lynchpin of her Baltimore neighborhood, she was a beautiful, small African-American woman who said what she thought, fed everyone, and painted her nails perfectly red. Raised by her grandfather in the slave quarters where their family had once been relegated, she shared a room with first cousin David “Day” Lacks, with whom she birthed her first child at age fourteen. Day and she married, moved to Baltimore from the tobacco farms of Virginia, and went on to have four more children, including the developmentally disabled Elsie and her youngest, Deborah. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy