Friday, February 23, 2018

cracking up, raising up

So much good news for the master poets among us!  This week it seems better to be a full-time poet than a full-time teacher: I am Tired and Emotional despite two days of freakishly May weather, ample use of sunlamp, and efforts to remember to dance.    I am discouraged.

First response: give in and wallow.  Here's a song--were you listening to this in 1979?--that I've rediscovered and that seems to speak to the moment.  #lyricsaspoetry

Thank you for being Tired and Emotional with me.  Now here's an antidote.  This is a poem by an unassuming Unitarian Universalist minister that was read in my service recently.  It makes me feel.......encouraged.

LET THE ARTISTS WIN | Bob Janis-Dillon

I vote we let the artists win
the ones covered in paint from their last attempt
to smuggle across the beauty of a bowl of fruit
the 14-year-old rapper learning to spit
throwing life's chaos on the rhythm wheel
uncovering the shapes that live on after the next break

I say we let the food bank volunteers win
the ones always carrying around their agenda
for the meeting, waging campaigns
to stock shelves with bread

I would like to see the nurses extend their string of victories
from the hospital bed to the nation's boardrooms
until we care for each other as if death
were inevitable and mercy was the only thing
that made the rounds bearable

I say we let the kindergarten teachers win
as they raise up small edifices
for the beauty words
will never capture or reveal

Maybe even let the helpless drunkard win sometimes,
when she cries into her beer
and declares it's all too much

I will let the grandmothers win
when they tell the old stories
that hold me in their keeping

And the children yelling
play! play! The ones who have already cost us so much
of our final productivity
the only tyrants who can command
the true attention of the wise
I want them to win too
again and again
without pity

and then when the men with guns come
we can say I'm sorry
but whether you win or lose
it's really never been my game sir
I have lost
and lost again a thousand wars of the heart
and those to whom I have waved the white flag
those to whom
I have surrendered
the whole and holy of my life
will never
let me go

There are too many soul-thumping moments in this to list them all...but let me tell you, when my minister read the words "I say we let the kindergarten teachers win," and three people sitting close to me reached over to touch my shoulder or look in my eyes, their acknowledgment mattered.

And now I'm off to school, to
"raise up today's small edifices
for the beauty words
will never capture or reveal."

The round-up today is hosted by Liz--long time no see!--at her blog Elizabeth Steinglass.


  1. Oh, Heidi, if I were with you at the service, you would have had my hand making that contact, too. I wish you peace.

    Find yourself an Audubon sanctuary and spend a few hours among the birds. I spent part of Wednesday here. Magical.

    I haven't thought of Nick Lowe in a long time...I wonder where that CD is...

  2. I saved that before -- it's marvelous! (I'm afraid my post this week isn't exactly uplifting. Lo siento.)

  3. Thank you! Yes! I am tired and emotional. I have cracked up and rallied and I think I do it multiple times every day. It's exhausting. I love this poem. I will print it out and return to it.

  4. I had to take a news break after watching the amazing town hall meeting on CNN. It did me in. Poetry helps us. Poetry heals us. Thanks for this poem and for being you, someone I could reach out and touch if I needed to.

    1. Those amazing kids from Florida. So unexpected and life-affirming. We all have power, if only we band together. No one thought the Berlin wall would come down. More of us are good than bad. I have faith in teachers, students and even politicians. Even politicians can do good things. Surely the world will come to a better place sometime soon. If we apply two hands to its back.

  5. Sometimes we are in the place just for us, as you were when your minister read this, Heidi. It's been a week, really a year or so, and we will keep on I know, but for a little while, I'll re-read your poem and shout hurrah for the winners! Thank you!

  6. Such a wonderful poem! And I agree - let's change the winners!

  7. Thank you for sharing this poem, Heidi. Here's to "rais[ing] up small edifices/for the beauty words/will never capture or reveal!" Hugs to you, my friend.

  8. Oh, thank you for sharing this poem. It does give up in these muddled, dark days. Here is to all who raise up small edifices for the beauty words will never capture or reveal--and all those others included. There are more good people quietly doing good things all around us. Let them win and let their lives ad voices lead us.

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