Monday, February 6, 2017

A poem for a snowy day

This poem is part of the series An American Four Seasons that I wrote for Seattle Symphony's project, All Of Us Belong. The poem is inspired by Charles Ive's A New England Holiday symphony and it is a response to the first movement, Washington's Birthday.

Washington’s Winter

Winter’s taciturn realm asks nothing.
Crowned in hushed browns and somber greens,
it rules by turns with quiet song
then with pummeling winds obeying no one.
It will be dark soon everyday for months
Color hibernates, leaving behind
its essence to purr
in everything oblique light touches.
In the hush, it asks us to see, and see again,
to hear the echo of step
over moss covered ground,
to peek into ourselves
and consider roads not taken
and those taken and why.
Winter’s austere architecture
reveals in trees their armature
and in us a chance to behold
the dried reeds edging our heart.
A man named Washington
set for posterity an example
by willingly electing
a shade of retirement
over political might.
Winter winds do whip
the pubic madness of frozen filigree twigs,
but come summer each branch
will blush in apple glow.
Nothing is so simple as it first appears.
One minute violin strings coax
memories from their tenderest dens
and in the next, pluck
raucous joy at a winter’s barn dance.
What shows on the surface fallow,
conceals a gathering of creative force.
Slow cadence of winter days,
a tune by and by, to awaken.

Robert Frost – The Road Not Taken
George Washington – “shade of retirement” from Washington’s Farewell Address To the people of the United States
Overheard at Dorothy Day House -It will be dark soon everyday for months
Charles Ives – “winter’s barn dance” from Score notes

Sunday, January 29, 2017

El Salvador: America Offers One Family The Chance To Forget Fears
West Palm Beach, The Evening Times - January 30th, 1981

This newspaper article, written exactly 36 years ago, marks the beginning of my immigration story. Those people in the picture are my parents and my sister. I am the one sitting, with my fists turned awkwardly in the foreground. When the photo was taken we had been in the US exactly 13 days. Before that we survived in a war zone. For decades the article awaited, folded, inside a manila folder until the day I realized how lucky I was to have such palpable evidence of my family's arrival in the US.

I have to say that in my rebellious college years the headline struck me as jingoistic. But over time I have come to appreciate the confidence in the sentiment. There is pride in that headline. The pride of being a prosperous, generous country welcoming others into the fold. This is how America saw itself before my family arrived on its shores and how it has seen itself for the thirty six years we have resided on its soil. This welcoming, generous attitude has been a core American value. Until this week.

I have collapsed several times over the past twenty four hours unable to hold in my mind the terror the refugees being denied entry into the US have encountered in the countries they are fleeing. I think of  the shock and desperation they must be feeling at being so close to hope again only to be told they may not leave the airport.

To immigrate is a form of death. No one leaves what they know and love gleefully. In my family's case, my parents left everything they had: brothers, sisters, friends, possessions, jobs, culture, language, the safety of the familiar, to give their daughter's a chance at life. Literally they sought an opportunity to save us from the destruction and massacres destroying El Salvador in the early 1980's.

Despite my youthful misgivings, it turns out that the newspaper headline was correct after all. America did offer me and my family a chance. A huge chance. To dream, to conjure possibilities, to know what is like to plan ahead, to almost take for granted that a new day will come.

The stance taken by the Trump administration comes from a small America, from a US no longer confident in its greatness and in its ability to offer respite to those escaping unspeakable brutalities. It is unbecoming of this nation to take such a narrow, prejudiced stance. It sullies its own history.

I am, and forever will be, grateful for the chance America offered my family. I venture to say everyone who has been given the same chance appreciates it keenly, and every day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

This City

Nothing is more satisfying, I once read, than meeting your baby for the first time and I could not agree more. But seeing your first book published comes in a close second. I have done a few readings of My City in Seattle each imbued with so much meaning. The crowds have been different, but I've always received a very positive reaction. The collaboration with Floating Bridge Press was flawless. Could not be happier with the end result.

And here how to order it from Floating Bridge Press.

And here a review from The Seattle Review of Books