{second tuesday tales}

The Making Of Alastair Beckworth, 008: The Ride

It was, his father told him, time to stop pretending like a child in a man’s world, and act as a man his age. The directives he’d been given were to Stop Faffing About and Do Something With Your Life. While his father’s newest wife stood by, bright manicured yands wringing in discomfited silence, Father had read him the riot act, beginning with how he’d done nothing but bother the maids and trouble the gardener since he’d been home, that it had been months since he’d done his A-levels, and that, no, a gap year wouldn’t do, since he obviously had energy to spare, and nothing to turn his hand to but pestering the staff. Something Must Be Done, and It Was Time To Get On With Things. Beckworth Men Were Men Of Worth and it was Time To Be Getting On In The World.

Unfortunately, Alastair had no idea how Getting On In The World was supposed to work.

It wasn’t as if he didn’t DO things already – hadn’t DONE things for the last several months. He wasn’t indolent, and knowledge had always come easily – too easily – to him, falling like ripe plums into his lap. When he’d been six, his mother already gone, he’d found the new nanny, a plump woman with a coronet of gray-streaked brown hair, weeping in the linen closet. Father had caught her teaching Alastair a skipping dance that morning, instead of drilling him his maths, and had threatened to sack her, even though she was once someone’s mum. Even though her husband had passed on, just like Alastair’s mum had, because Beckworth men did not gallivant around when there was work to be done.

If he had asked, Alastair would have told him that the skipping was a way to count that he hadn’t seen before. If he had asked, Alastair would have told him he’d danced that morning for the first time since his mother had died. He’d have told his father that he’d felt the iron bands around his chest begin to ease that morning, for the first time, and felt a little like smiling again, for the first time. But no.

The thought of losing Ms. Nan had stung like jellyfish whips. Alastair had made an unhesitating beeline for his Father’s study and, once his father was occupied, made sure to spill his tea all over the letter Father was typing to the employment agency. As Father cursed and sputtered, Alastair had wept glossy crocodile tears, then made such a hash of trying to “help” him clean it up that Father had bellowed for the nanny to come and take him away. Afterward, Alastair had made sure to be perfect for weeks after, so there was no more talk of turning Nan out after that.

In grammar school, things like spelling long words, and reading longer books had been side hobbies Alastair had pursued while the stalking more thrilling game like finding out why the chaplain was whispering on his mobile phone in the hall, and why the Games mistress would watch the highway every afternoon at three with a gloomy sigh. (The chaplain was a habitual gambler, making book with the local man down the way, while the Games mistress was watching for the lorry driven by her erstwhile love, the Estate Manager from Gorbals Park, who only had time to see her at the weekend.) (Those secrets had been fairly easy to suss out, once he’d cracked the code on the Dean’s phone, and filched the Games mistress’ stopwatch. An alarm had been set for three.) When Alastair had charged home for tea to relate the story to Nanny, she had been by turns amused and exasperated. “You’re going to get yourself into trouble one of these days, my boy,” she’d warned him. Alastair had simply shrugged.

By secondary school, Alastair had excelled at being both a thief and a spy. No longer content just to bedevil his teachers, he kept an ear to the floor – and to all doors – around the manor. Knowing the cook’s son had been bullied by a butler’s daughter put the cook in his debt, after he sorted the snotty little miss as to who really had the right to push others around. Watching his stepmother’s newer, brighter makeup and hair styles as his father’s business meetings multiplied made Alastair set himself to quietly finding out; was Father really away on business, or doing something – or someone – new?

20131213_DSC8849.jpg

Even as he learned what papers on his father’s desk meant, learning the languages of business to peruse contracts and writs, Alastair was writing brilliant essays and arguing confidently in his debate club. While slipping into his Father’s electronic books to track down where he really kept his assets, Alastair was excelling in higher maths, geometry, trigonometry. Just knowing things meant that there was more to know; after chemistry and physics failed to sate him, his satisfaction in knowing there was simply more to know itself a heady lure. If only he didn’t keep getting distracted by the things he knew… there was always something more to find out, though; another fact, another story, another secret just over the horizon. And then graduation had come, and he’d marched out with the rest of his peers, content to wander back to the estate and rusticate with nanny – now retired – for a bit, then, maybe later, attempt university, if he could wrestle down the reams of things which interested him, piqued his curiosity, or looked like things he could do…

And now Father was… ending the fun. He was being packed up, sent off, and locked away in the gray iron-and-cement vault of the London business world. He was meant now to be A Grown Man, a Beckworth Man. A Man of Worth.

Alastair had no idea if he wanted to be a man of worth. Even being a Beckworth was somewhat suspect, to his mind.

“They’re expecting you at Benchmark Monday morning,” Father said firmly. “You’ll stay in my rooms at Broderick’s, and set yourself to shadowing Errol for a few weeks, see what you can learn. I expect you to distinguish yourself,” he added. “At the very least, you can be out of my hair for a time.”

“If that’s what you want,” Alastair said tonelessly, furiously calculating how much time he had, where he could go, and what he could do to escape this.

“It’s what you need,” his father had barked, launching into one of his aphorisms. “Beckworths are men of character, men of consequence. We set our feet on the road and let no one stop us.”

Alastair paused. “Indeed,” he murmured thoughtfully, then looked up, his expression full of false heartiness as he made his decision. “Well, then, Sir,” he said, shaking his father’s hand. “I shall take myself off to London.”

When the family sat down to supper that evening, he was astounded to note that his son had packed a bag, instructed his rooms to be packed up, and had driven himself off in the old gray Audi he’d bought for the nanny to drive, years and years ago. Mr. Beckworth was undeniably piqued – but curious. He knew Alastair was probably not obediently going to show up at Benchmark Ltd. on Monday, ready to do his duty. He supposed he was lucky Alastair had come home after school was finished; he’d expected him to vanish somewhere in the countryside and to hole up with questionable peers at some house party. Instead, he’d come home as if he’d had nowhere else to go. Mr. Beckworth shook his head and applied himself to his steak and peas. There was no telling where someone like Alastair would end up.


It had been a long while since he’d been behind the wheel. Alastair shifted gears noisily, the clutch grinding threateningly. He only tightened his mouth, concentrated, and shifted again. Better. Better. He’d get up to speed back here on these flat country roads, and have things figured out well before he got to the airport.

From there, of course, there was no telling what he’d do. No one actually said that being at an airport meant he had to board a plane for London. Perhaps he’d try a train. A boat. A ship headed for the Foreign Legion. Who were the Foreign Legion, anyway? Pretend Frenchmen, signing up to lose themselves in the desert? Why? What did they have to hide?

How much would it be worth to them to make sure no one found out?

Alastair narrowed his eyes speculatively, his foot easing on the accelerator. Up ahead, there was a smudge of black on the side of the road. As he zoomed closer, it resolved itself into a waving figure, and then he was past. He braked convulsively, fighting the car as it skidded. Clamping his arm around the passenger seat, he wove his way backwards, grateful that there was no one else on the lonely road.

At the black-coated figure, he stopped, and let out a disbelieving laugh.

“Nan?”

The old woman beamed. How she had gotten there, so far ahead of him, Alastair could only guess. She carried only her handbag, a clunky, old-fashioned thing, but which was usually filled with every necessity for a good adventure – boiled sweets, toy cars, handkerchiefs, and the odd cheese sandwich.

Alastair rubbed his chest. Sometimes, he missed Nan, and the little adventures they’d gone on when he was a child. Sometimes he missed the odd dance or gallivant. He wondered if Nan was up for a little fun.

She stepped forward, brows raised. “Going my way?” she asked demurely, waggling her handbag.

It seemed she was.

Alastair laughed, for real this time, and opened the car door to let her inside.

< /end>

This was fun, and reminded me of the Police Adventures stories I used to make up when I was eleven, about my friend Danny and me, being Smart Detectives. I figure that a.) 007 had to come from somewhere, and b.) we’re overdue for a 008 by now. So, here’s Alastair for you, before his Big Adventures (whatever those might be) and you’re welcome.

This month’s image comes from Flickr user Philipp Rein of Augsburg, Germany.

{flicktion affliction catch-up}

I missed writing a story in February for our Second Tuesday Flickr exercise. I can’t remember why, but I’m pretty sure it’s because the first two months of this year disappeared beneath the pall of illness and general blahs. Now that I’m better, I’m a bit regretful of missed opportunities, and want to do something with this picture because it is still so weird that I need to address it somehow.

MOSS MEDIA (Acción Urbana)

I know, right? ‘Weird’ was kind of an understatement.


green on cobblestones
even in the city square
Spring shares its secrets.


Okay, I feel better for having at least given it a shot. Better late than never.

{a very minor royalty}

So, there was a skunk on my walk this morning.

Other than the skunk that lived by the canal behind my Martinez apartment (where the guy downstairs yelled, “Bad skunk!” every time it a.] ate his outdoor cat’s food, and b.] sprayed his cat), whose presence I never saw but only smelled, I’ve not interacted with skunks. Most people don’t, at least, not pleasantly. They’re small, slow, and nocturnal, and wisely avoid humans like the plague we are.

There was, of course, Warner Brothers’ Pepé Le Pew, the skunk of my childhood whom I hated with all my soul. A serial assaulter, his insinuating pseudo-Frenchness populated my nightmares. (HOW someone thought an animal who wouldn’t take no for an answer and violated random black cats was a good comedy starter for children, I do not know.) There was also my friend Dan’s skunk, and “Kitty” as he called her, stomped her slender feet every time I came over. Foot stomping, incidentally, is a prelude to aerosol warfare, and you can trust that I hustled out of any room that skunk was in while she probably snickered. Knowing who provided her canned cat food, Kitty never sprayed; hand-raised and thoroughly spoiled, she was a professional saber-rattler, a little stripey punk who lived to pester her owners for nine, fat and cranky years.

I hustled out for a walk in the early hours of this latest “pineapple express” which meant that, as the mist suddenly thickened into fat drops, I was hustling along at nearly a run. Skidding to a stop after meeting an ambling form low to the ground was… a lot of windmilling arms and panicking. I wasn’t sure if I should go forward or back, and waited to see if the little queen of the road was going to cede half of it to me without argument. She wasn’t too vexed until Himself shone his flashlight on her.

NB: Should you ever meet a skunk in the wild, don’t do that. Queen Stink Was Not Amused. She got TETCHY. Her half-raised tail and a head-down position indicated mounting aggression, and I froze, whispering, “Would you stop blinding her? Do you want to try out that Mythbuster’s peroxide and baking soda recipe before work?!” As soon as Tech Boy’s flashlight went off, her tail went down, and she went back to digging out whatever grubby salamander she was after, as if she’d never even seen us. We waited in frozen fear, and… she utterly ignored us.

We had to walk toward her to pass her, so as she walked waddled toward us, we walked toward her… and, like duelists who are pacing off to turn and fire, we just… kept… walking, sneaking glances over our shoulders.

Queen Stink didn’t bother looking back.

{pushing back the finish line}

It’s been an EXHAUSTING month in the children’s lit field – really, in the literary industry in general. Between the current administration wanting to gut federal support for libraries, to the continued firestorm of authors naming industry insiders and other high profile movers and shakers as serial abusers, it’s been… hard to focus on actually writing. That’s been par for the course for the last year, of course, but lately it’s become harder to imagine this industry in two years, or five years time. With all of the turmoil finished, who will we be then? (Or, will we ever finish?)

It’s Women’s History Month, and across the internet, children’s lit folk have committed to 31 days of posts focused on “improving the climate for social and gender equality in the children’s and teens’ industry.” Children’s lit people have an open invitation to join in the conversation in various places, using the Twitter hashtag #kidlitwomen or to access all the #KidlitWomen posts this month on the FaceBook page https://www.facebook.com/kidlitwomen/

While I haven’t participated, I’ve quietly been reading industry professionals’ essays (and ironic poems) about the issues of being overlooked and undervalued, and how to address those issues. Through these writings, we observe where power and representation in terms of who receives professional acclaim, and who does not receive it, intersect. Edi Campbell has continued to do her good work in interpreting data to come up with a rough outline of the facts on diversity within the larger picture (which you’ll find here and more here.) As usual, she is spot-on, and timely.

I am collecting these links here as a place for me to come back to them – because I think they will, in time, be proof — that we’ve been talking about some of these inequities for ages. The numbers won’t lie when it comes to looking back and seeing if a change has been made. The revelatory Ripped Bodice Diversity Report for 2017 dropped in a PERFECTLY timed space with its message of “we have to do better, and we’re doing worse than last year.” Honestly, it’s hard to see where “better” is going to come from, when right now a lot of powerbrokers within the industry seem content with virtue signaling to make sure everyone knows they’re “committed” to being better… but these claims will have to be seen to be believed. Women struggle as a whole within the writing industry, and in the children’s lit world, it continues to be woman-heavy in staffing, but sustain a culture which awards and prioritizes men, as if the business savvy act of writing for children and teens – the largest industry IN publishing just now – is equal to giving birth and nurturing an infant to childhood with one’s own body. Not to mention how women of color are left with not even the few perquisites offered to women in the industry as a whole. And let’s not talk about disabled women, or queer women, or older women, or…

How do we move from desire to action? How do we get ourselves out of conversation and across the room to… act?

If we were writing this scene in a novel, what would happen next?

{pf: p7 ekphrastic…acrostic}

This month the Seven Sisters are swanning about in India, having a gorgeous waterfall and a few pitha. A few of them have taken the time to put their lassi and mugs of Assam and write a poem or two — Laura’s is here, and Sara’s‘s is here. Tricia’s is here. Liz’s poem can be found here, and Kelly’s is here. We couldn’t get Andi to come away from the waterfalls, so she’ll write a poem once she’s inside with her tea.


Normally, I love a good ekphrastic, and I loved our image so much. But, as I’ve had to learn, my brain and I have a new relationship now which includes something doctors euphemistically call “brain fog.” I call it “staring into space.” I did a lot of that, trying to write this poem. In my defense, I’ve also started a new project and rewritten the first ten pages twice, once in first person, and the next time in close third and also finished a revision so a novel could get out the door to publishers (fingers crossed), but … yeah. A lot of staring these last few weeks. At least I had something good to stare at, though. I mean, look at it:

Again, it’s not the image – the sky is a perfect, cloudless azure bowl, the rocks are a wonderful red ocher, there’s detail and shadow — it’s some lovely contrast, and the wee little rock in between could be so many things — a point snapped off, a friend, a dependent… But I just couldn’t even find a form. Until the very last second. Welcome to March: that’s how I’m going to roll this month, apparently. And so, without further ado:

Foundational

Learn well those truths that desert life avails you –
(Expect that lesson one is “cherish rain.”)
All deserts are not flat, and as you pass through,
Necessity will teach you this domain.

In desert lands the rocks jut tall and lonely
Neath iron suns rusting in ocher reds
Gaunt sentinels remind the traveler only
Into each life, alone our steps must tread.

Survival is dependent on some timing –
(Nowhere to leap if first you do not look)
Trusting your leaping makes you keep on climbing
Familiar paths fresh vistas overlook.

A parable, for now, from lofty summits
Left sharp by time’s erosions, rain and wind,
Is told of one sharp stone which didn’t plummet
Noting the help its partners could extend.

Good rocks hold up the world in its foundations.
Durable infrastructures, like good friends
Order the world. Bedrock for generations
When slipping down, these rocks are our godsends.

No lofty peak need stand alone when friendship is a lodestone.

Poetry Friday is hosted at No Water River, an intriguing name!

{pf original: mama bird}

I mentioned my conflicted feelings some months back about my mother coming out of retirement to return to teaching, and many of you kindly reassured me that your parents – or yourselves – worked well into your seventies and didn’t die of it. (The Atlantic actually recently did a piece on this very phenomenon.) This culture has granted us artificial ideas about when we’re “grown” enough to set out on our own, and when we’re meant to lay aside our independence, and I think I fell willingly into that pretend-we’re-all-the-Jones’-rich idea that wants so desperately to ignore differences in class and income. My parents aren’t rich. I’m not rich. It is what it is.

In November, my family came, with friends in tow, to our new house for Thanksgiving… and it was a literal crush, as our new house is MUCH smaller than our old one. And I’d just been diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder I’m living with, and was trying – hard – to be the hostess-with-the-mostest; some blend of B. Smith and Martha Stewart with sprinklings of Emily Post. My mother wrote a poem about me on the fly, as I took everyone on a postprandial walk around the neighborhood.

My mother isn’t a poet… that she reached out to me in my own language, as it were, floored me, as it is a truly loving act. Also really cute. And so, I’ve finally written her one back.

Newark 104

Mama Bird

No nightingale, nor angel without wings
Her song rings out while pushing playground swings –
“Use listening ears – Is that what Teacher said?
“Sand’s not for throwing. Use a ball instead.”
Long years her songs have echoed in the yard
As Littles changed, and outgrew her safeguards
Such weary notes must falter now, sometimes…
“Keep bottoms on your chairs. It’s clean-up time!”
Some birds fly south, once eggs, now hatched, take flight
Are RV migrants, dawn, until twilight
This nightingale, whose silver-plumage shines
Still loves the song, affection genuine.

Though caged, she sings in faith. Substance deferred
Through evidence unseen, hope’s undeterred.

Poetry Friday today is graciously hosted by Elizabeth Steinglass. Happy weekend, and remember to be good to your Mama birds, if you can.

{…but, history keeps the score}

After Psalm 137

Anne Porter

We’re still in Babylon but
We do not weep
Why should we weep?
We have forgotten
How to weep

We’ve sold our harps
And bought ourselves machines
That do our singing for us
And who remembers now
The songs we sang in Zion?

(The rest of the poem is here.)

These words have come back to haunt me repeatedly this past week… the beauty and power of Porter’s poem remind us that not only have we forgotten how to weep, the reasons we were meant to weep, and that we ever sang, we’ve also not really got time for any of the above… History rushes us on, and tomorrow, there will be another reason for outrage, if not for song, as The Globe predicts.

This week, Mitali Perkins’ Twitter comment that “Social media is a shallow container for grief” was poignant and empathetic, though yesterday, I felt like adding “…and, collective memory is a deep colander.” Not only are we failing to assign any real thought to things, in the fast-paced give-and-take of conversation on our Facebook feeds, we aren’t taking the time to fact-check before we state and repeat. I found this to be true this week in myriad comments I heard about school shootings.

The world has grown dangerous, is the usual cant, and I didn’t sign on for this, and We should arm teachers, and the classic, In Free America, they’ll take my guns from out of my cold, dead hands. (Yes, ol’ Charleton’s long dead, but apparently, still armed.) These are comments from smart people, too, but what they’re saying isn’t very intelligent… because school shootings are not, unfortunately, a recent phenomenon of a world gone suddenly, inexplicably crazy.

Because we forget things so fast, having new images and information crammed into our heads all the time, it’s forgivable, in some respects, to think that Columbine’s tragedy in 1999 was the beginning of a new trend in American violence. It was not. Setting aside violence perpetuated as a result of the Reconstruction, and against tribal groups in the American West, there’s a long historical trail of violence against students in schools, some specifically Civil Rights related, others directed by law enforcement for reasons of “public safety.” I remember being in high school when a man blew up his van in Stockton, CA, which was parked by a school, and then, in the ensuing chaos, shot into a playground, killing mostly Hmong kids. That was 1989. There has been so much violence since, and so much violence before 1999, when the most infamous school tragedy happened in Colorado.

We forget. But, history keeps a scorecard, riddled with holes and gunpowder burns.

In 1989 reporters argued that the bitter alcoholic man who killed all of those Cambodian and Vietnamese refugee kids shouldn’t have been able to get access to an AK-47. He’d had depression, and showed signs of mental issues. The Colorado students had posted questionable things on their Facebook. How could this have happened? the community raged. And yet, it did happen, and it has happened again, and again, and again, over, and over, and over…

And, in between, we hang up our harps and post cat videos on our Instagram. Until the next event for collective, ineffectual rage is called for.


And speaking of rage: I’m flattered that people felt so moved by my last blog post on the children’s publishing industry’s sexual harassment outrage/racist indifference that they’ve followed my Twitter and have tried to contact me for comment. To the many more who retweeted and boosted my thoughts, thank you. I’ve watched, as people have taken the “pay attention” that Debbie and Tracey tweeted and further characterized that post as “raging” – albeit beautifully, or as an essay “venting frustrations” albeit “eloquently,” and as “furious” albeit again with the modifier “beautiful.” It is… telling, to me, how even people who are trying to show they’re on your side can mischaracterize thoughts and intentions so easily. The Angry Black Woman trope is ever, ever before us; ever pervasive. Truth is, I was not furious when I wrote that blog post, I was factual. If I, as a black woman, got mad every time there was an injustice, I’d never do anything else. This wasn’t raging, this was Tuesday, and me thinking an issue through, and processing it in written form, as I often do…. This is why I mostly blog and often don’t speak up about things on social media. It’s just too, too easy for even those who appreciate us to misunderstand tone or intent, and for that misunderstanding to be a springboard to some other person’s soapbox. I appreciate so many people reading with and thinking with me – and there’s definitely a time and a use for anger – but I’ll save my rage for when I believe it will tilt the scales toward justice.

{“…after the watermelon thing.”}

I told you! I told Jackie she was going to win. And I said that if she won, I would tell all of you something I learned this summer, which is that Jackie Woodson is allergic to watermelon. Just let that sink in your mind.

And I said you have to put that in a book. And she said, you put that in a book. And I said I am only writing a book about a black girl who is allergic to watermelon if I get a blurb from you, Cornell West, Toni Morrison, and Barack Obama saying,”This guy’s okay. This guy’s fine.”

Yeah, remember that? 2014, the National Book Award, televised on C-SPAN and elsewhere. People are so heartened to see African Americans on the National Book Award finalist list. Poets and writers and people of letters are tuning in. In the children’s lit community, we’re thrilled that Jacqueline Woodson, one of our steady bright lights in YA literature, has won. She’s earned that BIG award, one which will thrust her outside the quieter waters of children’s lit, and… in that moment, the professional crowning pinnacle of her success thus far, the presenter makes …a watermelon joke.

“In a few short words, the audience and I were asked to take a step back from everything I’ve ever written, a step back from the power and meaning of the National Book Award, lest we forget, lest I forget, where I came from.” – Jacqueline Woodson, quoted in the New York Times.

He had an hundred million reasons why, later, he had remarked so disparagingly on the poets who were nominated, why he had told jokes and tried to wrest the attention of the crowd from the nominees onto his vast and hungry ego. But, it wasn’t personal; he cried no foul, she’s my friend! a thousand times, and yet, that moment, those sly, knowing words sliced thousands of us to ribbons, as the audience laughed, and a tall, serene woman had to stand – and yet again, endure. Endure. Endure, with her face at peace, as if the buffoonery of the man before her didn’t reach her.

I don’t support hate, and yet, in that moment, that dizzyingly visceral emotion shivered in my sight. Gut-punched, I wanted to both hiss and claw, scream and spit. As far as I was concerned, that man was finished, and I was done with him and all his works, forever. I never bought, reviewed, read, or talked of anything else he said or did. It made no difference to his life, I am sure, but it seemed right, to me, to simply use my internal Wite-Out and blot him from my notice for the rest of forever. I was fully over this “problematic” favorite.

It’s clear that I’m still sitting with our current moment in the children’s lit industry, trying to work through it, and thinking about the last time that so many voices came together to exclaim in disgust. It was for our Ms. Woodson, and rightly so. The commentary was sharp, and loud – and ultimately… was placated by the huge monetary donation Handler gave to We Need Diverse Books. And then, most of the voices were hushed, pressing their hands against the shoulders of those who still rose up, and their hands over the mouths of those still bitterly protesting. He apologized. He made it right. You can’t judge people on what they say.

But, yesterday, after Handler wandered flat-footedly into the pages of children’s lit history again, this time into the earnest signatories of the #ustoo pledge, wherein members of the children’s lit industry pledged to hold accountable conferences and gatherings, and not attend those which have no clear sexual harassment policy, people took him to task for his very clear participation IN the harassment. The very innuendo-laden jokes, in front of children and adults. The demeaning sexual talk. But — he apologized. He made it right. You can’t judge people on what they say.

It seems clear that you can, unless what you say is racist.

In my small and petty way, I blocked Daniel Handler from my sight years ago – but he’s still been doing things, writing, being invited places, feted within the industry, and I’m the doofus who didn’t realize that his “little faux pas” on Ms. Woodson’s big night had long been forgotten.

But, as Heidi so succinctly asked, didn’t we figure out this guy was trash after the watermelon thing? What are we doing still courting that kind of person to be a speaker and to visit classrooms? Why don’t we seem to take the humiliation, shame, and harm of racism as seriously as we’re all endeavoring to take the #metoo harassment thing?

In all seriousness – is a #metoo movement going to actually succeed if, once again, racism is instructed to take a seat at the back of the bus?

1897. “The day before the inauguration of the nation’s 28th president the Congressional Committee of NAWSA hosted a large parade on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. The idea behind this was to maximize onlookers who happened to be in town to attend the inauguration. Woodrow Wilson expected a crowd at the train station to greet him; however, very few people actually showed up to greet the president, the largest part of the crowd was his staff. The parade was led by the beautiful lawyer Inez Milholland Bouissevain upon a white horse. This image of her as a warrior atop a horse is what made her an iconic image in the fight for womens’ right to vote. This massive parade consisted of no less than nine bands. It also included four brigades on horseback and close to eight thousand marchers. The parade was cut into sections: working women, state delegates, male suffragists, and finally African-American women.

The point of the parade was “to march in the spirit of protest against the present political organization of society, from which women are excluded.”

Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the journalist who led an anti-lynching campaign in the late nineteenth century, organized the Alpha Suffrage Club among Black women in Chicago and brought members with her to participate in the 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, D.C. The organizers of the march asked that they walk at the end of the parade. She tried to get the White Illinois delegation to support her opposition of this segregation, but found few supporters. They either would march at the end or not at all. Ida refused to march, but as the parade progressed, Ida emerged from the crowd and joined the White Illinois delegation, marching between two White supporters. She refused to comply with the segregation.”

– Excerpts taken from One of Divided Sisters: Bridging the Gap Between Black and White Women by Midge Wilson & Kathy Russell, Anchor, 1996, and PBS.org.

I think I’ve been naive, and pretty quiet – but it’s clear the time for my naive assumptions is way over.

{so very Monday}

Newark 107

No idea what kind of flower this is, but it was unfurling outside the post office where I – finally, after entirely removing three chapters I’d moved around in the narrative twice before – mailed off my latest project.

I shall take a tiny moment and say “Hurray!”


There is a lot swirling through my head this morning: yesterday, I attended a community concert on behalf of our chamber choir, and upon returning home a.) found out that the mother of a dear Scottish friend of mine has died, a woman I had met and enjoyed; b.) was told a “you’re-not-supposed-to-know” update on my Dad’s cancer, c.) then, my autoimmune disorder, which over the last two weeks lulled me into a false sense of serenity, bloomed out in full malevolent force, and d.) myriad people asked me if I knew what was going with Anne Ursu’s report, and the subsequent discussion in School Library Journal on sexual harassment in the children’s lit industry. (After a bit, the comments are NOT worth reading. Reader discretion is advised.)

I decided to take a bath and go to bed.

Today is a new day, and everything I tried to ignore yesterday has returned to pay a call. In triplicate.

There is so much good – all of the Youth Media Awards from the ALA are in and faaaabulous, and Erin Estrada Kelly’s win is well overdue, so I’m thrilled she’s being honored; the fourth Asian overall, and the first Filipina to BE honored with a Newberry by the American Library Association – within the horrible, there are shades of wonderful swirling past (Witness Rick Riordan’s commentary and Gwenda’s sterling response and empowerment to the community.). Still, I feel like I’ve been caught in a hurricane, one the forecaster had predicted, but which had been ignored.

So, here’s a song to which you can sit and breathe… and then, get up, and head back into the fray.

{pf: seven sisters and a february tanka}

Another month (was January sixteen years long, or was that just me???), another poetic endeavor with the Seven Sisters! This month we’re visiting Moscow (brrr, in spirit only, it’s far too chilly to venture that direction these days) to stride the wide boulevards surrounding this lovely bit of Moscow called by Muscovites “Vysotniye Zdaniye,” or “the tall buildings.” That nondescript description is more fancifully known to Westerners as “Stalin’s Seven Sisters.” While this is basically one gigantic architectural wedding cake, each of the seven buildings has its own distinct spire.

In our poetic endeavors this month, we’ve been tasked to create tankas – but with a tiny catch. Our topics were chosen for us, as each of us was to respond this month to another sister’s sonnet from last month. You’ll find Sara’s here, right here is Liz’s; Laura’s is here, and along with an explanation of the form, Kelly’s is here, and Tricia’s, here. We wish Andi a happy February, and hope catch up with her another time.

I am fairly certain that I got the easiest assignment out of the crew. Kelly’s winsome little beauty, Kismet made words sparkle from Kelly’s pen, and certainly Kismet easily lent herself to the tanka form, which traditionally celebrated the glories of nature. Well, nothing more natural than a cat falling asleep while plotting world domination, right? I mean, if they could just stay awake long enough, we might need to worry. But, otherwise, nah.

I played with the idea of what it means to “respond” to the sonnet, and, since we’ve encountered tankas before repeatedly in this poetry project, I also tried harder on the “turn,” that comes in the third line of the tanka form. Conventional wisdom suggests that this “turn” could be both used as a widening of perspective, bridging topics between the top and bottom lines, or for a complete turn of attitude. This makes it fun to use Kismet in the sense of destiny, and as the subject of our poems.

o, mighty huntress

russet drab, and dun
flap/flutter/peck unceasing.
double-glazed reprieve
denies this bat-eared huntress.
Crouch gains curl, then, pounce turns purr.

days of dozing

what calico dreams
await the fuzzball, sleeping?
the feline kismet
paws splayed, claws keen to capture
at least one fluffed-up sparrow.

as told by k2

sunbeams shift closer
that translucent obstacle
unimpaired by claws slashing
frames distraction. my human,
eyes dreaming, hears Muses sing

wayfarer

all hard ground and horns
the world is colder, outside
landing on her feet
she’s found warm laps and purring
not all who wander stay lost

Around Glasgow 596

Last week’s Poetry Friday host, Carol Varsalona, invited me to join the Winter Wonderland Gallery, where throughout the months of January and February, the poetry community will be sharing poems, photography, illustrations and reflections on the stillness and artistry of the natural world this season. Carol invites us to share “YOUR perspective of the winter season in any of these mediums: photographs, videos, digital slide shows, songs musical compositions, artistic renderings, collages, illustrations, digital inspirations, image poems, inspirational quotes, sketches, or hand-draw pictures. Share your inspirations globally.” Drop by, friends, and check it out.

Meanwhile, further poetry can be found at Poetry Friday, hosted this week by Donna JT Smith @ Mainley Write.

Pack as much introspection and discovery as you can into these crisp winter mornings. It’s the shortest month of the year. Make every day significant.