Featured Poet: Rachel Dacus

I knew someone who had this great bumper sticker. It said, “God bless the whole world. No exceptions.” I live in Texas, and the news cycle hurts. I was raised with religion, but I don’t recognize very much of what I was taught in the people who profess their faith in the public sphere. It’s enough to make a person forget that any of it matters, to dismiss that stuff as crazy. You don’t have to wield a machine gun or build IEDs to be radicalized.

It’s Easter here. And Passover. And Oester. And Sunday, and April, and springtime, and raining, and probably several other things. That seems like a good time to share this lovely poem with you, from Rachel Dacus. It appears in her collection Gods of Water and Air (Aldrich Press, 2013).

I hope whatever good thing you’re celebrating today makes you feel peaceful. I hope you have a good day.

 

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Prayers for Everywhere

 

Prayers for the volcanoes
that need garlands when they erupt
and prayers for the freeways
you never drive them the same twice,
prayers for the buds
that look like babies’ faces
as they open next week and for the blossoms
opening their soft legs to bees.

 

Prayers for everything the soul
must reluctantly or passionately kiss:
rain-running gutters,
a pebble in the shoe,
the silt gritty on your ocean-washed lips.

 

Because what is a prayer
but a laugh that can’t be formed
in letters, but only heard
in that place that, praised, lights up.
So prayers for everywhere
that needs them,

 

Prayers for the worms washed out
of the grass onto driveways,
prayers to step over as they swim
because you can’t pick them up
without damage. So much
of the heart can only be helped
without direct touching.

 

Prayers for everyone
in the throngs who need well-wishes
to suck on in their sleep
like giant glowing lollipops.
Prayers going to every restless sleeper
on this earth who needs a cool hand on the brow.
Prayers for their own sake,
prayers as beautiful as dolphins
leaping and twisting, prayers
freed from gravity’s pull
to fly glistening into the air.

 

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Rachel Dacus is the author of Gods of Water and Air, a collection of poetry, prose, and drama. Her poetry collections are Earth Lessons and Femme au Chapeau, and the spoken word CD A God You Can Dance. Her writing has appeared in The Atlanta Review, Boulevard, Drunken Boat, Prairie Schooner, The Valparaiso Poetry Review, and many other journals. It has appeared in many anthologies, including Ravishing Disunities: Real Ghazals in English (ed. Agha Shaid Ali). She’s currently at work on a time travel novel involving the great Baroque sculptor, Gianlorenzo Bernini.

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Here We Go Again…

I’ve been really sad and angry this week.  The news cycle has upset me even more than it usually does.  I came to accept a long time ago that the political system in our country is dilapidated and crumbling and that it seems to get worse each year.  I still participate, though.  People ask me how I can stand to live in Texas, and the answer is that I love it here, even if I’m embarrassed sometimes by our state government.  Texas has a long and rich tradition in the Democratic party, but many of our non-conservatives are frankly so disgusted or cowed by the current state of affairs that they give up.

I don’t, though.

I don’t ally myself with any party, choosing to be an Independent because honestly, that’s really what makes the most sense to me.  I work to make the world a better place from within as much as I can; I try to keep an open mind.  I have many friends and family members from all parties and all political persuasions, and I know there is intelligence and compassion and good-heartedness in all corners.  I just wish THOSE people made it onto the news.

I’ve been wanting to write all week about the Akin debacle, but every time I tried, I didn’t know where to begin.  There’s just so much to deal with!  (Fortunately, The Onion did a pretty good job of expressing how I and nearly everyone I know feels.)  Perhaps I could start by saying that this was never about a “poor choice of words,” but rather a poor choice of thought.  That the entire concept of rape having different varieties is ludicrous.  That we shouldn’t be offended by the term “legitimate rape,” but rather by the idea that any victim’s pain and trauma could possibly be minimized or marginalized by such utter idiocy as the garbage that spewed from his mouth on Sunday.  That the term “forcible rape,” which was part of some nonsense co-authored by Paul Ryan (currently backtracking as fast as he can from Akin and his ilk) and which implies that rape is only truly rape if the victim also gets beaten up, deserved the ignoble death it got and hopefully won’t be resurrected.

But see, then I start to get angry again.  Not just at Akin, but at all the people who demean others for so very many reasons.  In this world, it’s a hard battle to not hate on people.  It’s tough to remind myself every day not to look down on others for their views or beliefs when they so clearly contradict what I understand as logical or true or good.  But for Christ’s sake, if I can do it, so can everyone.  It’s not like I didn’t have to teach myself this principle, and later in life than it should have been.  Come on, people, deal.

And I have to stop myself — again — from becoming so upset.  Take a deep breath.  Calm down.  Remember that it is not good practice to demean other people for having beliefs different from yours.  Remember that.  Try to make sure everyone does.  Take the emotion out of a situation so you can look at facts.

But when someone on a SCIENCE COMMITTEE says something so utterly mythological it defies not only logic but the common sense God gave a chicken, something so ridiculous that it flies in the face not just of decency but of historical and proven fact, what the hell has happened to this country?  And who let those people in charge??  Oh, good grief.

Today was the first day of school.  I had such a good time meeting all my new students, fantastic and wonderful kids in grades 9-12 who are going to make my days fun and challenging and exciting and intellectually stimulating.  And I got to walk my own children down to their building (I teach in a school which has PreK through 12), and it took forever to get there because my kids had to stop and greet and hug every friend they hadn’t seen over the summer and even the new friends they were meeting just for the first time today.  And when we got to the kindergarten hallway, my son’s new teachers were in the hall exclaiming his name and how happy they were to see him, and he ran to them and hugged them, too.  And my daughter had to stop in each of her old classrooms and hug every teacher she’s ever had — PreK, kindergarten, 1st grade — and visit with them all before joining her new 2nd grade class, who also looked happy to see her.

Today was hectic and energetic, and it was also damn good.

My kids love school, and I want them to.  I count my lucky blessings every day that they’re in a good place, learning and loving it.  This is an excellent foundation for their whole lives.  They are curious.  They question.  They think for themselves, and I am joyfully grateful, numerously blessed.

My kids acting silly in my classroom before school one morning, reminding me to cheer up, that life is still good sometimes. (We don’t let them watch or listen to the news.)

And each day I sally forth, as a parent and as a teacher and as a thinking human being, stamping out ignorance the best I can, one delighted moment or one horrifying piece of propaganda at a time.

Aw, look, here they are again. Doesn’t this just make your day?

Fight the good fight, people.  Be well.

 

Spring in the Garden

It is, once again, springtime.  In my part of Texas, that means the sky is the kind of scrubbed-clean electric blue that comes with being freshly washed by rain, and everything else is green or magenta.  Oleanders and azaleas and roses adorn the yards of conscientious homeowners everywhere, and the birds and butterflies and bees are like gods in bliss.

The twin Chinese tallow trees in my front yard tower over everything with an expansive canopy.  In the autumn, their foliage turns fire-engine red, almost overnight, down to the last tender leaf; within a few weeks, their limbs stick out bare, stretched over a carpet of fading crimson.  But now it is March, and their branches once again flaunt a soft flutter of continually multiplying green, each deep lime cluster crowned with a pale orange flourish of new growth.  Beneath the trees, fledgling rosebushes sprout floribundas basking in the sunlight the tree has not yet blocked.  The ivy groundcover could use a trim.  And a hardy and rapidly burgeoning new vine suggests that, back in the fall, one of our decorative pumpkins must have split open and dropped some opportunistic seeds into the soil without our notice.

You may have read my post a couple of months back about my love-hate relationship with my garden.  Back then, zero-scaping seemed like a viable and reasonable option, but I resisted.  Instead I pruned and weeded and nourished and watered and tried very hard to make a go of it, once more.  And what do I have to show for it now?

climbing roses
Look! Roses!

O glory!  The climbing rose vine has bloomed!

climbing roses blooms detail
And look! There will be more roses to come!

The passion flower vine I planted in a euphoric delirium of optimism late last summer has managed to survive the drought and wrapped its capillary tendrils around everything within reach, including a potted bougainvillea.

passion flower vine capillaries detail
Its tender tendrils have snuggled up like boa constrictors to everything within reach.

And it has dozens of pods, some of which have burst into riotous flowers!  (I’m told it will bear fruit later and simply cannot wait.)

passion flower vine with bloom
If you look carefully, you will see one of the actual passion flowers.

One of the hanging baskets containing another bougainvillea has taken on a roommate, a flourishing strawberry stalk that must have hived off one of the two strawberry plants that were temporarily housed in the same corner of the patio.  Strange bedfellows, no doubt, but they’re both thriving so well I’m a little skittish about a transplant yet.

I’ve even gone so far as to drive down to the local garden center in a heady flush of hope and load up my car with fruit plants — two plum trees loaded with petite white blossoms, a blackberry bush, and a blueberry shrub advertised as being ideal for warm climes and already heavy with tiny gray-green fruits.

Folly?  Setting myself up for failure?  It is possible.  But right now, while the exquisite weather encourages me to spend more time out of doors than in, while I’m not yet used to the extra hours of daylight that surprise me like a gift each lengthening afternoon, I am simply going to water them all, and hope for the best.

Good for Your Karma

This week, I want to give a nod to some projects and blogs I think are really worthwhile and deserve more attention.  Please click on the links below and check these out!

Brown Girl Magazine

http://browngirlmagazine.com/

The person who writes the “Dear Seema Aunty” column is a friend of mine, and really insightful.  I believe the magazine targets young women of any ethnicity, in the way that the Human Condition makes all struggles relatable to all people.

Pluck Magazine

http://www.pluckmagazine.com

This is a great online magazine that’s been around for maybe a year or so.  I was published in it back in September, a brief personal narrative about my arranged marriage.  Here’s the link to that:  http://www.pluckmagazine.com/articles/article_jamail_01.php

Victoria Love’s New Album

Yeah, I know, you’ve heard about her on my blog before.  There are two main reasons I’m passionate about this project:  first, I love the music; second, Victoria Love is my sister.  🙂  Love’s Kickstarter page is up and taking pledges; they start at $1, and she’s offering great rewards.  She also needs to raise a lot of money in the next few weeks for the project to be funded.  Can she do it?  Will it happen??  Ooh, it’s a nail-biter!  😉

Here’s the Kickstarter page:  http://kck.st/twBUzl

And here’s the review I wrote of her EP:  http://wp.me/p1MOqK-1q

You can hear some of her music on her website:  http://www.victorialovemusic.com

Pass it on!

Soap.  You Know, the Fancy Kind.

http://www.soapier.com/

The tag line says it all:  “Life’s dirty.  Get Soapier.”

These little cakes of cleanliness are well-made and super fragrant, they lather beautifully and look even better next to your sink, and they make excellent gifts.  Plus, they’re less expensive than fancy soaps in a boutique for the exact same product.

The website is not flashy and exciting, but the blog is current, and you can Like them on Facebook.

Some Blogs I’m Following

Here are some interesting and insightful blogs and artists you might enjoy.

you do doodle too:  http://udodoodle2.wordpress.com/

Paula Billups, Painter (gallery and blog):  http://www.paulabillups.com

Babette Fraser Hale, author:  http://www.blogger.com/profile/16801971149305731956

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Thank you, everyone, for your attention.