Friday, June 19, 2020

Last Days

My tiny chalkboard poems continue and, apparently, are appreciated by many who read them on social media, as these readers are telling me. I am glad. In addition to sudden chalkboard revisions as I write, I experience ongoing changes in interpretation. I wrote “Last Days” in my back yard, on the patio, gazing in wonder at the beauty of everything around me, and feeling eternity somehow. Inside me was the scary realization that I/we might be living our last days on earth…but, if so, at least they would be remarkably beautiful. And the world could go on without us.

Last Days

Yes, it might be
one of the last days
so breezy and bright,
so beautiful and clear.

The first version ended with two sentence fragments and had three periods. It felt breezier and brighter, therefore, but lacked eternity. Now it is one long sentence, like life. Eternity remains only in the title and at a line break. These may simply be the last days of sheer beauty before rain (needed!) or terrible heat (coming today). Or…these may indeed be my/our last days on earth.

I suspect I’m under the influence of Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, published in 2014 but terribly pertinent to now, as it’s about the world after a flu pandemic has drastically reduced population and wiped out civilization as we knew it. No grocery stores now, gasoline has expired, no electricity, no phones, no computers. People are making do in settlements here and there. And there’s a Traveling Symphony for entertainment, because, and this is a quotation from Star Trek: Voyager, “survival is insufficient.” This book was gripping and oddly hopeful! And it led me to her new one, The Glass Hotel, which I have to read in a hurry and return as it’s a “7-Day” new book, but time is askew at the library (as elsewhere) due to quarantining of books and materials for seven days upon their return.

I’m also reading Seed to Harvest, a collection of four short novels by Octavia E. Butler. She was a science fiction writer who died young, and people had been telling me about her work, so I read Fledgling, her vampire novel, which turned out to be her last. When Seed to Harvest came in to the library, I happened to be the one who “processed” it for library use, realizing I would now wait and let our regular patrons read it while it was a “new” book, and I’d get it later. Later is now!

Today is Juneteenth (which cannot be descecrated by a president who had never heard of it till he made it “famous.” Oh, my God. See why it feels like our last days?) Last year, Juneteenth was the theme of a script I wrote for an annual event sponsored by the local history museum. I knew it would be as soon as I learned the date of the event, June 19. You can’t hold an event on Juneteenth and not honor it. This year’s event, with its own theme, is not happening, due to the virus, and is postponed till 2021. Its title and theme will still be “Hindsight is 20/20,” which sort of breaks my heart.

I’m glad I happen to be reading a black author as well as a white author on June 19. But, you know, I’m not sure I like white people telling me what books on racism or anti-racism I should be reading. Yes, I want to learn, and, yes, I like book recommendations, but I want to learn about black experience by listening to black people, and reading their words. Is this an example of “white fragility”? I don’t know yet, as I haven’t read White Fragility, which is written by a white woman. Eventually, probably, I will.

For now, I’m reading (and writing) what comes to hand and what comes to heart in these precious, ongoing, even sometimes interminable last days, where every day is a Random Coinciday, and some days are Cranky Doodle Days.


Beth said...

I'm glad to find out about your blog, Kathleen, and will add it to my feed reader. I also like your short chalkboard poems!

Kathleen said...

Thank you, Beth!