Commonplace: Derek Walcott, “Love After Love”

The time will come when, with elation 

you will greet yourself arriving 

at your own door, in your own mirror 

and each will smile at the other’s welcome, 
and say, sit here. Eat. 

You will love again the stranger who was your self. 

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart 

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you 
all your life, whom you ignored 

for another, who knows you by heart. 

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, 
the photographs, the desperate notes, 

peel your own image from the mirror. 

Sit. Feast on your life.
-Derek Walcott, “Love after Love” 

Walcott passed away today, March 17, 2017

Margaret Atwood on The Handmaid’s Tale’s enduring legacy

Margaret Atwood has an essay in the New Times this week on the writing of and meaning of her 1984 dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale. Key points on the type of narrative she sees her novel as:

But there’s a literary form I haven’t mentioned yet: the literature of witness. Offred records her story as best she can; then she hides it, trusting that it may be discovered later, by someone who is free to understand it and share it. This is an act of hope: Every recorded story implies a future reader. Robinson Crusoe keeps a journal. So did Samuel Pepys, in which he chronicled the Great Fire of London. So did many who lived during the Black Death, although their accounts often stop abruptly. So did Roméo Daillaire, who chronicled both the Rwandan genocide and the world’s indifference to it. So did Anne Frank, hidden in her secret annex.

There are two reading audiences for Offred’s account: the one at the end of the book, at an academic conference in the future, who are free to read but who are not always as empathetic as one might wish; and the individual reader of the book at any given time. That is the “real” reader, the Dear Reader for whom every writer writes. And many Dear Readers will become writers in their turn. That is how we writers all started: by reading. We heard the voice of a book speaking to us.

Your Moment of Zen

I cannot explain why, but watching Isabelle Bellis washing her face is the most calming thing you’ll do this evening. Well next to following her steps, and giving yourself a delightful face massage. Watch part two of moisture application too.

Sports and Politics

Fascinating long piece exploring the ways that star athletes are translating their brands into political activism. Worth the time, but even though the article touches on race –how could it not given that much of the activism in sports is driven by issues facing black communities–it does have some moments that will give you pause, such as this one:

The most difficult thing, Blejwas had found, was getting people in D.C. to realize that Boldin and the others were capable of doing serious work. Before Boldin’s first appearance to give testimony in D.C., one person involved in setting up the hearing asked Blejwas, “Do you know if Anquan … can he read?”

“An NFL player can help achieve all these important objectives, and people will still be like, ‘Why don’t you just do a PSA?’ ” Blejwas told me. “It’s like, ‘No, we’re trying to do work. We’re not trying to get on TV.’ You can really move the needle if you just trust that this 32-year-old black man can read.”

Since it’s a piece of long-form journalism, the writer, Reeves Wideman, cannot stop and pause on the blatantly racist elements of white congressional worker asking if a football player is literate, but the question is breathtaking in its implications. First off, we view professional athletes as not intelligent even though the training to become a professional athlete requires it; if not, there wouldn’t be so many failed high school athletes who couldn’t make it at the college level or NFL players pursuing PhD’s in math from MIT. Secondly, the idea that someone would assume a black man in 2017 is not literate is a gut punch.

Nikki Giovanni, “A Historical Footnote to Consider Only When All Else Fails”

“(For Barbara Crosby)

While it is true
(though only in a factual sense)
That in the wake of a
Her-I-can comes a
Surely I am not
The gravitating force
that keeps this house
full of panthers

Why, LBJ has made it
quite clear to me
He doesn’t give a
Good goddamn what I think
(else why would he continue to masterbate in public?)

Rhythm and Blues is not
The downfall of a great civilization
And I expect you to
That the Temptations
have no connection with

We must move on to
the true issues of
Our time
like the mini-skirt
And perhaps take a
Closer look at
Flour power

It is for Us
to lead our people
out of the
   into the streets
into the streets
(for safety reasons only)
Lord knows we don’t
Want to lose the
of our Jewish friends

So let us work
for our day of Presence
When Stokely is in
The Black House
And all will be right with
Our World”

~ Nikki Giovanni, “A Historical Footnote to Consider Only When All Else Fails”

Commonplace, Phyllis Wheatley, “On Being Brought to America from Africa”

“‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,Taught my benighted soul to understand

That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:

Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.

Some view our sable race with scornful eye,

‘Their colour is a diabolic die.’

Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,

May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.”

~Phyllis Wheatley, “On Being Brought to America from Africa”

Commonplace: Alice Walker, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens”

“Black women are called, in the folklore that so aptly identifies one’s status in society, ‘the mule of the world,’ because we have been handed the burdens that everyone else-everyone else-refused to carry. We have also been called ‘Matriarchs,’ ‘Superwomen,’ and ‘Mean and Evil Bitches.’ Not to mention ‘Castraters’ and ‘Sapphire’s Mama.’ When we have pleaded for understanding, our character has been distorted; when we have asked for simple caring, we have been handed empty inspirational appellations, then stuck in a far corner. When we have asked for love, we have been given children. In short, even our plainer gifts, our labors of fidelity and love, have been knocked down our throats. To be an artist, and a Black woman, even today, lowers our status in many respects, rather than raises it: and yet, artists we will be.

Therefore we must fearlessly pull out of ourselves and look at and identify with our lives the living creativity some of our great-grandmothers knew, even without ‘knowing’ it, the reality of their spirituality, even if they didn’t recognize it beyond what happened in the singing at church-and they never had any intention of giving it up.”

~Alice Walker, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens”

Commonplace: Paul Laurence Dunbar, “Sympathy”

“I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals–
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting–
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,–
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings–
I know why the caged bird sings!”

~ Paul Laurence Dunbar, “Sympathy”