Greetings, Poetry Lovers! It's been a poignant week for any thinking, feeling person, hasn't it?
[Quick, less-serious forward: While keeping a close eye on the news, I've also been getting ready for an event on a much lighter note - our little downtown, after skipping First Friday for April and May, is holding a VIRTUAL First Friday this week. Our merchants association is sponsoring a Facebook Live whirlwind tour of more than two dozen businesses from 6 to 8 p.m. - So YOU can even join in from your couch! (Here is a link to my own little promo for it; I'm slated to have my two minutes of fame in the middle-ish of the event. The event will be posted as a Facebook Live tour on the Downtown Beaufort Merchants Association Facebook Page.)]
I've been making several items using images from my miniature antique map problem - er, I mean - collection. So I've been entertaining maps in my mind and imagination these last few weeks.
Thursday, when I was able to see some of the the moving service for George Floyd, I pondered several map-themed ideas for a haiku that might reflect these fraught but energetic times.
in the legend
©2020 Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved.
I re-wrote this in my head and on scratch paper many times. My first attempts were too preachy, which is quite un-haiku-like. Too much of my own voice (however well-intentioned) was apparent. I knew I wanted to include "legend," because of its double meaning. Other than that, I didn't want to include blatent references to my own feelings, or admonitions to do anything, or other burdens. It was a good exercise in narrowing my focus, trying to shed my own interjections to focus on the images.
When I first started my art business, I was delighted to find a late 19th Century Geography textbook/atlas in an antique shop (the first of a few I have now). I was appalled, however, when I actually read the text. I won't dignify the discussions of various "races" by sharing them here. But I think of the horrible influence of that polluted thinking - it seems so long ago, and yet that particular book was published only a dozen or so years before one of my grandfathers was born. It wasn't really so long ago.
Just before Covid-19 stay-at-home orders, I had a meaningful encounter in front of my own house, in our fairly diverse downtown neighborhood which I love. You've gathered from my pictures that I'm white; so is my husband, and our kids. This incident involved a couple of young African American men (maybe slightly older than my own kids), car trouble, and some agitated behavior that frightened me.
Long story short, I was initially tempted to call the police - one young man was pushing and shoving the other, yelling, pacing wildly, coming toward the house. I decided to try not to overreact - to pray instead, and to listen to my Mom instincts and intuition during some tense moments when he made contact. Seth was here for a visit. (Seth, who was born one month after Trayvon Martin, and with whom we never had to have "the talk.") With Seth's calming presence and real-world de-escalation experience, I asked him to come outside too.
Jumper cables. That's all they needed. The young man calmed down, apologizing for his initial behavior - and I tried to convey it was the potential fighting I was concerned about. The other young man, the driver, never lost his cool with his friend, however, or with the situation. Seth got their engine running, and everything was fine.
We stood and talked for a little bit, and the young man asked for a hug, which I gave both of them, of course. He smelled of alcohol, though it was morning, and I wondered about his struggles. Perhaps that fueled some of his initial behavior. It also might have let his guard down in conversation, because he said, "You don't know how hard it is for us to ask you for help." That broke my heart.
Many hearts have been broken, these weeks, these years, these centuries. I cannot speak for anyone of color. But I do hope we can all heal, together, even if slowly, following that arc that bends toward justice.
Our wonderful Margaret has the Poetry Friday Roundup today at Reflections on the Teche.