Let me count the ways in which I am blessed:
born to a loving family, able afford therapy for
times my mind turned against me,
I forget these blessings, wallow in grief
a warm + wet blanket of self-absorption
but as I look at the clear blue sky
see the radiant sun + heavens shining above
I count the ways in which I am blessed.
(Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash)
I have a (slight) problem with going on book-buying binges. When I feel anxious, sometimes I buy a book. I’ve reined in this annoying tendency recently to cut expenses. But when the pandemic hit in early March, I saw an essay about Albert Camus’ novel, The Plague, and knew I immediately had to read it.
History is collective memory, and it’s always subject to correction.
It’s written by winners, whether daughters of despots or democrats. They build bronze statues that inform us of what happened, who’s calling the shots, who owns the space you occupy.
As the city convulses, an ex-mayor’s monument is fractured, beat to the ground. Our historical texts must be rewritten, newspaper editors must be removed, the revolution must be televised and live streamed to your social media feeds, and you must forget what you’ve learned because
there are new facts.
(Photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash)
The woman asks me for ten dollars – she demands it
I’m reluctant, standing in a pock-marked city,
but feeling pity for her, as she frantically talks
her eyes yellow like harvest moons
her voice shrieks like an urban banshee –
the realities of poverty and addiction,
the rich getting fatter off broken backs.
I reach into my wallet, hand her a ten-dollar bill
she hugs me + hurries away, vanishing into the night,
and as I walk home, I wonder if I’ll ever need to
ask for my ten dollars back
(Photo by Vitaly Taranov on Unsplash)
We are damnifacados: homeless, junkies,
people deem us less than human.
When you pass us on a hectic street, we’re resting with
backs to the wall asking for mercy, spare change –
you look away from our weathered faces,
we feel disgrace, in our soiled clothes, our tired eyes.
I love my city, the city of Philadelphia
I grew up outside your limits, near you in the ‘burbs
amazed by your skyscrapers, watching from
grandma’s steps in the shadow of St. Monica’s –
you aren’t always pretty, but you’re a city
with pride and spunk, attitude and funk,
the engine of our region with a legion of fans –
behind the cheesesteaks and Rocky Balboa,
we know how much heart you have and
even if we speak rough and act tough,
underneath this grime and slime,
you have a whole lotta love inside.
(Photo of a mural in Philly from the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance)
Garbage piles up on street corners, you can smell it
everywhere you go – a trash crisis, another effect
of the pandemic, giving the town an apocalyptic feel
as we deal with a failing economy, killer virus,
foreboding sense that we’re plunging into an abyss –
but excuse me, miss, we’re resilient, us humans,
even if rubbish surrounds us and the president astounds us,
we find a way to keep the faith.
(Photo by chris liu on Unsplash)
I’ve always been a big John Steinbeck fan. So I was pretty excited when I picked up In Dubious Battle from my library. It’s not one of Steinbeck’s most famous books, but it’s written with the same energy and zeal of all the other books I love by him.
After reading Franz Kafka’s complete short stories last year, I was determined to read the three novels that were published posthumously. I find Kafka to be a tremendously interesting writer and literary figure, and after reading most of his work, the recurrent themes became evident.
The people in this apartment complex are so nice!
They smile, ask how I’m doing
I can tell they mean it by their bright eyes,
gentle body language, the way they speak of
this complex as a community.
But why does it seem so strange?
Behind these pearly-white smiles,
are they planning my demise?