Welcome from Amy D. Unsworth

Language, Literature, Learning & Life.

The Old Dream

Over the course of the last year, I've read a handful of books written 1850-1900's. It makes me wonder where that America has gone? Yes, life was (is) often brutish and cruel, but what a sense of optimism, too. Giants in the Earth does an excellent joy of contrasting the hope and excitement of the pioneer with the drudgery and loneliness. (And the lovely personification of the earth, nature, storms as trolls/giants is notable) The contrast plays out in a single household between husband and wife. I'm much more familiar with the prairie stories of Willa Cather, the glorious golden future laid out in neat rows of wheat; the prairie soil turned by the plow and the contented grazing of cattle. And I've often wondered about the women's perspective on the prairie life: lonely, dirty, exhausting. But I understand the other perspective too: freedom, the pleasure of making the earth bear sustenance, of watching things grow, the satisfaction of the work of one's hands. Do you know about the locust plagues?

The thyme sprouts green on the windowsill. And the zinnia seedlings keep turning towards the afternoon sunlight flooding into the house. On days like this, I can imagine spring. The prairie is brown again, but anticipating. Soon the burndowns will begin and the flames will march across the prairie, sometimes so tall that you could imagine them as the Giants walking, devouring the leavings of hope and fear, until there is nothing but the everlasting rocks, and the fertile soil: a challenge to try once again to make a life sprout. A re-blackened slate.

A Heart at Half Mast

During the last few weeks, I've spent a lot of time in thought grappling with the ideas of need.
The news everyday is depressing, homes lost to foreclosure, more people losing their grip and taking their lives and the lives of others, more poverty, more hunger, more environmental problems. My God, what are we doing to each other? And to this world we must live in?

I used to think that poetry *shouldn't* be political; it to quite a long time to realize how even that stance is (in fact) a political one, albeit, choosing to live with blinders in the lala land of art, rather than to take a good look around and to accept responsibility for my part, my actions, or more accurately: my lack of action. I dance with this issue, I really do: is it right for me to be sitting at my computer writing when there is always work that needs to be done? There are people that need food, not just a poem, even though I still want to hope that poems can make a difference:

by Amy Unsworth

Given time and distance, both between us,
how can I give what I should give:
bread, warm from the oven, crisp crust,
butter dripping with each bite? Tea and honey,
lemon for tartness, to temper the little sorrows,
the sweet to soothe, for the warmth against our palms,
the leaves swirled in the patterned cups predicting
a tomorrow we could live with and through.
But here, an envelope, lined paper, inked with words
that perhaps you can read as hope, perhaps one
as strength, and one--with time--as joy.


Long ago, I imagined poetry as a way of making human connection. And I think that the lack human connection is the essential problem still, and I believe that art has its place and role in making life worth living. And beauty too, essential.

But people are dying of loneliness, from lack of hope, from the lack of a neighbor who even checks to see if they are ok. (a news story a few weeks ago: a toddler starved to death in his own apartment, because his mother died and NO ONE knew, or worried about them, or cared enough to check on them.)

Because we look away, when we don't like what we see, when it makes us UN-comfortable, when it makes us feel selfish, because we don't want to feel bad. (They are eating dirt mixed with lard in the Haitian slums.)

Too bad for them, we say. Bad choices on their part, we say. They should have thought about that before they (fill in the blank) (had a baby, rented that bigger house, bought a car). It makes it easier for us to look the other way. (RJ touched on this over at Scoplaw recently)
But, it's really: There, but for the grace of God, go I.

A friend sent me to check out a web site (wishuponahero.com). People ask for socks for their kids. For help this month with this and that. But the reoccurring note that continues to surprise me: it's not the stuff (money, sock monkey, diapers) that makes the biggest difference: it is knowing that someone *out there* gives a damn.

At half-mast,

quote from today's mail:

Action springs not from a thought,
but from a readiness for responsibility.
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer