Again, so much I want to say to you. Even the choice made where to begin tells a story--pushing at my head is the image of Romney, manicured and politically handsome, telling us that America is the land of the believers, that religion is the now spoken badge of American identity--at a time of war, where deaths pile up at our door--but they have been doing this for such a long time--the assassination of Allende, the non-believer, always pulls at me--Right wing politicians are pushing God to the center of their real politick, how the righteous thrive in killing times. I listened to an excerpt of Romney's speech on the weekly program that carries me over the seas back to America--the Lehrer Report--and the conversation about it afterwards. Then I read Brooks' column, trying to pull of his peculiar balance of quoting authorities, fear of radicals, half ashamed, a little ashamed, of the world he is helping to build, one marked by economic, cultural, class, gender safety for his kind. How quickly we are moving to demonize our own non-believers--from Charles O'Reilly's rantings about the dark forces of secularism to the white house. Of course, I am a queer, old lesbian non-religious socialist Jew so what do I know--be careful, oh people of America, of how you draw your circles of who is human and who is not--we know many of you have already decided the alien, the worker without papers but with strong arms to do your work, is already beyond the pale. Oh Whitman, poet of the ever widening glory of American human possibility, as you nursed the dying soldiers and kissed the tram conductor, how narrow, how unlovely we are becoming--never were pagans needed as much. What god is this that appears on money and in the cavernous public mouths of power seeking men--it is in the quiet places I thought you were found and whatever kisses one chose to send your way,
were the gifts of private small selves--you better run, Mr God, if you don't want a whole nation saying you made them do it, the torture, the neglect, the selfishness, the greed, the lying, the waste, oh the waste--I, a non believer, worry for you.
But you see, I did not want to begin my day with you this way--it just feels as if so much is slipping away so fast and well meaning people are just slightly turning their heads away--perhaps it is only me that is slipping away and you will be stronger and clearer. I had a day of terrible pain yesterday and night, pain of the body, and I am less a body for it. I have used Emily Dickinson's poem, "After great pain, a formal feeling comes" in one of my earlier pieces, but I think what I am learning now is the aftermath of great pain, the shaken smaller body that fears the next visit. This is just to tell you of deeper day.
Last night at 1 in the morning, La Professora left for Goa, India, to give a paper at a conference. So often our relationship has been this way; I catch her between nations and this is her joy. Oh darling, we spoke last on Singapore lines and now you will find me here when you reach India. My day started early--5:30 am, the three dogs stretching their Skippergee bodies to greet me and get their day's rations. Because of drought conditions, we can only water gardens twice a week in the early morning so I began the rounds, a short woman in her nightgown in the dawn of a mild early summer day. As I walked down the right side of the house where the orange tree is and the fern trees, Anna called out to me, thinking I was you--"Buongiorno, Dianna, como esta?"
"Buongiorna, Anna, it is me Joan, Di is in India." A pause and over the old wood fence, I see the top of her broom knocking down spider webs, "Good morning, Joan--I am here, if you need anything I am here."
Grazie, Anna, thank you.
I walk to the shops to buy bird seed for our visiting wild parrots and a chicken for my soup; on the way home, I pause to cross the street and a tall old woman in a blue jumper and white skirt, with a graying little shepherd mix, a rescue dog, I find out, called Gemina, begins to talk with me. The streets are empty, as they often are and the morning air is fresh. The bird seed gets her going and then she tells me she will be 90 years old in January and she was born on Fitzgibbon Avenue all those years ago. "I don't believe in this multiculturalism," she looks down at me and says, her tongue moving between her only two front teeth. "In my day the Scandanavians lived over there," and she points up the street, and "the Germans lived over there, that's my family, high German"--she points down the street--"but we were Australians, this new lot, they never want to fit it in but they sure do want everything else." I know from my own limited knowledge of West Brunswick's history that this new lot, the Italians, the Lebanese and the Vietnamese have been living here for over 40 years. I try to convince her that change is a good thing--"what is your name?" Joan. And yours, "Wyn." I wonder how after the bird seed the very first thing she needed to say to someone on this morning was her dislike of the old change in her neighborhood. She goes on speaking to me for a half hour, about her life as a public servant, about her mother's friendship with Emily Pankhurst back in Manchester. The years stretch out behind her, almost a century--at pauses, I suggest she should make a tape with the Brunswick Historical Society--"my niece says that too, but I would fight with them." Then she introduces me to her dog who is growing impatient--saved her, no one else wanted her, she is the nervous type."
My bags are growing heavy and I still have Anna's words in my ears, Anna, who came as a migrant 45 years ago and worked in textile factories most of all those years, Anna who shows me the old photos of her mother left in Calabria so many years ago and holds her hand over her heart and say, "Joan--in that special way she says my name--"I am so sad sometimes, so sad, " Anna who gives me her precious words, "I am here, I am here."
To close, I love Lorena Ochoa as much as I do Tiger Woods.
Welcome to a new country, my love and light a candle for our elephant protector.