Kindling the Embers

Every day when I get to work I immediately open the Poetry Foundation website to the “Poem of the Day”. It’s my five-minute rebellion to being chained to a desk - my homage to creative writing, critical thinking, and my dreams. It’s five minutes to read and think about the words of a poet who, more often than not, I’ve never heard of. A poem I read recently that I love is called “The birthday of the world”, by Marge Piercy.

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———————

On the birthday of the world

I begin to contemplate

what I have done and left

undone, but this year

not so much rebuilding

 

of my perennially damaged

psyche, shoring up eroding

friendships, digging out

stumps of old resentments

that refuse to rot on their own.

 

No, this year I want to call

myself to task for what

I have done and not done

for peace. How much have

I dared in opposition?

 

How much have I put

on the line for freedom?

For mine and others?

As these freedoms are pared,

sliced and diced, where

 

have I spoken out? Who

have I tried to move? In

this holy season, I stand

self-convicted of sloth

in a time when lies choke

 

the mind and rhetoric

bends reason to slithering

choking pythons. Here

I stand before the gates

opening, the fire dazzling

 

my eyes, and as I approach

what judges me, I judge

myself. Give me weapons

of minute destruction. Let

my words turn into sparks.

 

 

 ———————

One stanza grabbed hold of me and refused to let go:

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No, this year I want to call
myself to task for what
I have done and not done
for peace. How much have
I dared in opposition?

 

In seven stanzas and 35 lines, this poet has summarized nearly everything I’ve written this year. In a gloriously inspiring and humbling way, she’s taken thoughts, feelings, and concepts that would take me pages to write to a level of clarity and conciseness that I aspire to.

It made me think: What have I done this year? What have I voiced, written, contributed, inspired, or took a stand on? Did I just write article after article about my life and my “troubles” from my position of privilege while I turned a blind eye to politics with the mindset that if I ignore it I won’t have to see it, hear it, or face it? I’ve wronged humanity, my heritage, my friends, and my gender. I haven’t aspired to, or done anything for peace.

But I will allow the fact that things right now in the world are overwhelming and daunting. In a world gone mad, where does one start?

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As a young teen I wanted to be a missionary. Not a religious one, but one that was driven by something, like the PeaceCorps. I wanted to be a photojournalist; to travel and document the atrocities that we neglect to care about or even see in the world. I wanted to be a writer; to passionately move people into learning about the places they can go and the things they can do. I wanted to be an educator; to inspire and guide a new generation of humans who care.

As a young adult I traveled out of the country, certain that the only way to truly appreciate my place in the world as a human was to experience it. That premise was accurate – it’s crucial and important to do these things. Yet somehow, as I’ve gotten older into the “adult” category, I’ve realized how big the world is and how small I am. I’ve realized it’s so easy to just not read the news; to instead turn on the TV or browse the internet. I can buy my sci-fi fantasy books, play my board games, and waste my time on Facebook. But none of these things I do now I do for peace. I am not daring anything.

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So, inspired by Marge Piercy and her poem, I’m going to call myself to task. It’s less what I have done, and more an accounting of what I have not done.


I’m inspired by others around me who are taking action toward peace. I have a friend who uses his position as a straight, white, highly-paid male to have conversations and challenge the individuals in his circle to broaden their thoughts on politics, race, and power. Many of the Cushy Community members write beautiful, haunting, and challenging pieces on their experiences as women, mothers, minorities, and humans, in an effort toward broadening the audience of these conversations and finding peace.

 

I’m not a brilliant writer. I’m not an amazing orator. I’m lazy, entitled, and often ignorant. What can I do to make a difference, to bring peace to the world?

 

Maybe this is step one: to recognize my failings and put this out in the world, to “Let / my words turn into sparks.”

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Rachael GallegosComment