24 little hours.
One day we are living peacefully, the next our world has changed.
The news is filled with havoc, we cannot escape the barrage of negative information unless we unplug and live off the grid. Although I find that tempting, I am too interested in what is happening to stop watching Morning Joe five times a week.
It seemed reasonable when I started this habit, the discussions more humane that other news shows, and I did want to learn more about the presidential candidates.
But then Paris.
And then San Bernardino.
I literally spent days watching, horrified and unable to turn away.
How do we process this collective loss? The usual escape mechanisms no longer work. It has taken me weeks to come out of a melancholy fog. Even now I feel different, as if there was a before and an after. The after has left me more somber.
Now Christmas is almost here. It doesn't seem real this year, almost like a play we are putting on so as not to acknowledge how fragile the world seems. But then I am reminded that 99% of humankind is decent. Most people are not violent. Most people are compassionate.
Tonight my grandson told me I would be eaten by a dolphin and broken, but then he would pull me out and fix me. It was just what I needed to hear, I would be broken and then I would be fixed. The wisdom of a two-year old.
In times of stress, of war, of loss, poetry has been the elixir that spoke to us and for us. If we can attempt to speak of the unspeakable, we take part in the slow process of healing. Sometimes the unintentional poem is the very best writing we'll ever do. Our guard is down, we are raw, and the words fall out and onto the page.
There is nothing inside me
that won’t be cured by
grieving; but I have given
myself orders to
carry you to my death.
These are lines from my most recent poem. They are personal, but universal in that all of us know what it is to grieve, to want to stop grieving, and then to finally acknowledge that some losses are inevitably permanent. We carry our losses differently, but those of us who call ourselves poets, have a fantastic container for our grief.
What I wish for all of you this holiday season is first and foremost peace.
But then I wish you something less ethereal: sharpened pencils and TUL pens, legal pads and yellow highlighters. The latest Poet's Market and a subscription to World Literature Today. I wish you these mundane items, because I know you will use them to write beautiful things, to make people stop momentarily to watch a flock of geese skating on a frozen lake, or to hear, maybe for the first time, a woodpecker in the trees overhead. Because your words will become a catalyst for hope.
What a difference a day makes. What a difference a poem makes.