Moving to The States has been much more of a culture shock than I realized it would be. I am wrestling in my spirit with all of the muck we are in right now as a country, this country I am now a part of - and for the first time, truly fearing for my safety on any given day. I was gifted tickets to a music festival this weekend and my first thought was wondering if it would be the target for a mass shooting - sitting ducks, I thought.
Are we not to go on living, to stay in the house, for truly, it could happen at any time, at this grocery store or on this bus or with these friends or in this park. But are we to just go on living, and not say enough to this?
I write to my senator and I sign the petitions and I get my affairs in order to be able to vote in the coming elections. I shake my head and I struggle to find the words, and so sometimes I borrow others’ who capture the belly of the beast in its heartbreakingly accurate tone:
The Opposites Game (for Patricia Maisch) - Brendan Constantine
This day my students and I play the Opposites Game
with a line from Emily Dickinson. My life had stood
a loaded gun, it goes and I write it on the board,
pausing so they can call out the antonyms –
Had stood ? Will sit
For a moment, very much like the one between
lightning and it’s sound, the children just stare at me,
and then it comes, a flurry, a hail storm of answers –
Flower, says one. No, Book, says another. That's stupid,
cries a third, the opposite of a gun is a pillow. Or maybe
a hug, but not a book, no way is it a book. With this,
the others gather their thoughts
and suddenly it’s a shouting match. No one can agree,
for every student there’s a final answer. It's a song,
a prayer, I mean a promise, like a wedding ring, and
later a baby. Or what’s that person who delivers babies?
A midwife? Yes, a midwife. No, that’s wrong. You're so
wrong you’ll never be right again. It's a whisper, a star,
it's saying I love you into your hand and then touching
someone's ear. Are you crazy? Are you the president
of Stupid-land? You should be, When's the election?
It’s a teddy bear, a sword, a perfect, perfect peach.
Go back to the first one, it's a flower, a white rose.
When the bell rings, I reach for an eraser but a girl
snatches it from my hand. Nothing's decided, she says,
We’re not done here. I leave all the answers
on the board. The next day some of them have
stopped talking to each other, they’ve taken sides.
There's a Flower club. And a Kitten club. And two boys
calling themselves The Snowballs. The rest have stuck
with the original game, which was to try to write
something like poetry.
It's a diamond, it's a dance,
the opposite of a gun is a museum in France.
It's the moon, it's a mirror,
it's the sound of a bell and the hearer.
The arguing starts again, more shouting, and finally
a new club. For the first time I dare to push them.
Maybe all of you are right, I say.
Well, maybe. Maybe it's everything we said. Maybe it’s
everything we didn't say. It's words and the spaces for words.
They're looking at each other now. It's everything in this room
and outside this room and down the street and in the sky.
It's everyone on campus and at the mall, and all the people
waiting at the hospital. And at the post office. And, yeah,
it's a flower, too. All the flowers. The whole garden.
The opposite of a gun is wherever you point it.
Don’t write that on the board, they say. Just say poem.
Your death will sit through many empty poems.