Poem: Being Monkeys

In this Christmas season, a lot of people are seeing no evil, hearing no evil and definitely speaking no evil. Congrats.

Being Monkeys

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

Turn your back—you didn’t see it.

Close your ears—you didn’t hear.

Cover your mouth—don’t speak out!

It’s no business of yours if we fall.

 

In one thing only we are united today.

Denial of the truth binds us all together.

If we don’t admit our wrongs, our mistakes,

How can they be marks against our history?

 

It’s a dangerous pass we’ve chosen to tread,

A treacherous and awful way to proceed.

Ignoring one story to side with another,

Passing up wisdom in favor of greed.

 

What do we do now, how to fix what’s broken?

In a world with no laws, how can we be safe?

Stay by the fire, ignore the cries of others—

After all, you are blind and deaf…mute, too.

 

Aren’t you lucky? No one expects you to speak.

 

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Stay by your fire.

 

Poems: Push Back, Speak Up (Warnings)

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Silence is not an option. It’s not golden. Find your voice before it’s lost.

Once again, I take my inspiration from a strong woman. Nancy Pelosi may not be the first person you’d think would inspire poetry, but that picture of her pointing a stern finger at a spoiled man while he recoils in stunned anger should inspire every woman who’s ever felt smothered by men.

I know how that happens. Every woman knows. We’re conditioned to get married and have children and if we don’t then there’s something wrong with us. I got married and had children. For a time I did lose my voice, but then I found it again in my writing. I’m fortunate to be married to a man who is confident enough in his own skin to allow me to speak out from mine.

Me too, nasty women, hear me roar, fight like a girl, my body my choice, the future is female, and my personal favorite: silence is not an option. These are just a few of the things women have found the voice to say. But what they all add up to is this: Every. Single. Woman. Has. A. Voice. And that voice is not meant to echo, it’s not meant to be bitten back or smothered behind a man’s hand. Speaking up doesn’t make you less of a woman. It makes you more of a human.

Speaker Pelosi is speaking up in that picture, and that’s why Donald Trump thinks it depicts her as having a “meltdown”. That’s why some men will agree with him. And that’s why we owe it to all women everywhere to speak up. We have voices. Let’s use them.

Silence is not an option. At least, it’s not a good one.

 

Push Back (A Warning)

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

He wraps you up.

Warmth envelops you.

It’s nice, safe, there in him.

You might never want to leave.

 

He wraps you in.

Safety can suffocate.

You choke, feel lost and alone.

You can’t be free now, can’t speak out.

 

He wraps you down.

And now you push back.

Will he give way, let you breathe?

Can you tell him how you feel at last?

 

He wraps you tight.

Push harder! Don’t give up!

It’s your life to live, your love to give.

And you were given a voice to tell your story.

 

He sets you free…

You can breathe again.

You can speak and believe.

He stands beside you, what will you do?

 

You take his hand.

You’re in this together.

Side-by-side, he can’t forget you’re there.

The ties that bind don’t have to be painful.

 

 

 

 

Speak Out (A Warning)

By Michelle Garren Flye

Lips tremble, form words without sound.

A whisper pushes past, but no one hears.

How can you expect to use what was never found

After days upon days upon years and years?

What is a mouth made for if not to speak?

What good is a tongue if behind it there’s no voice?

You try to push it out, but the words barely squeak.

It’s what happens in the end if you make that choice.

Don’t echo, don’t fib, don’t quiet what will never die.

Your spirit withers within a body of silent tears.

You wish you could scream, but you can only cry.

Oceans of silent waves push back on your cares.

Voices can be lost without thought and exercise.

Form a word of your own now and then—or lose hope.

If you bury yourself in a man’s beliefs, you’ll just tell lies.

Speak up, speak out, and if he objects, just let him cope.

Poem: Shards of Lost Justice

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Shards of Lost Justice

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

She trembles before the white man, a tiny dark hand clutched in hers.

“This is my child,” she says, defiant before him. “I’m keeping her.”

But the white man tears the child away and glares at the black woman.

“Send her back,” he says, and white hands pull mother away from child.

 

The brown woman struggles in the clutch of the ICE men.

Her daughter weeps as she watches them take her away.

“Let her stay,” pleads her husband. “It was only a traffic ticket.”

But the man with the badge shakes his head. “Send her back,” he says.

 

The little girl stands alone before the judge, no idea where her parents are.

“They brought me here,” she whispers. “I don’t know where my home is.”

“She was separated from her parents,” her lawyer says. “This is not the American way.”

The judge shakes his head. “The law is clear. Send her back.”

 

The brown woman is different. She is slight but strong, not easily vanquished.

An American citizen, a Congresswoman, a representative, she speaks out.

He doesn’t like what she says, her differences frighten him, so he bullies and brags.

“She doesn’t love America like me,” he tells the mob. “Send her back,” they chant.

A Perfect Union: Hang Together—or Separately?

IMG_5233“It is a common observation here that our cause is the cause of all mankind, and that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own.” —Benjamin Franklin, 1777

It was indeed a high ideal, worthy of striving for: a country where all men were considered created equal. But, as many point out, even those who dreamed it up didn’t really understand what it entailed.

Yet still, America won her independence from Great Britain and set off on her quest. To welcome the immigrants, whether they be poor or wealthy, hungry or replete. To truly endeavor to deliver liberty and justice for all.

There was a learning curve, of course. There had to be for a nation that enslaved people of color, that treated women as property, that ignored or even condemned those with a different nature (read “with a different sexual preference”). Our nation was nearly a century old when we fought each other over the right to own humans of a different color. And women were not given the right to vote for another fifty to sixty years. A steep learning curve we still climb.

And still we strive. Our Constitution guides us. We want to answer its charge and form a perfect Union of our states. But as the number of states has grown, as more and more immigrants have made their homes here, we have faced a growing quandary. Who is right and who is wrong when so many want such different things? How can we expect a farmer of Hispanic descent to want the same things as a lawyer of white European descent or a businessman whose grandparents moved here from the Middle East?

The very nature of our union of states makes our unified mission ever more difficult. What is easy for the cosmopolitan to accept goes against the very grain of the rural. Add in religious beliefs and splits deepen to crevasses.

And still, until recently, I thought we might someday achieve our perfect union. Until the day our president issued a disturbing statement that women of color who had been duly elected to represent their constituents should “go back to where they came from.”

In that moment, we went from George Washington chopping down a cherry tree to Donald Trump taking an axe to the founding principles of our country. It’s a deep crevasse to fall into, and now we stand divided on either side, teetering on the decision of whether to follow him in or not.

Meanwhile, the enemies of the long-lasting American experiment watch for the opportunity to push us all in. A divided America is much easier to defeat than a “perfect Union”. I like to think that Benjamin Franklin foresaw these circumstances from the beginning. Certainly, when he looked at his fellow signers and co-conspirators and said, “We must all hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately,” he voiced the fear they all felt. But those words may apply now, too. If our nation proves divisible after all, we will all be left hanging—by our fingertips on the edge of a chasm.

Poem: Action Required

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Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Action Required

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

ONE

Every second.

I count them, one, two, three…

Five thousand.

Ten.

Too many, too long.

TWO

Treasures disappear.

See them go? One, two, three…

Liberties and freedoms—

Lives.

Why do we wait?

THREE

Children cry and die.

Counting bars and days: One, two three…

Mother and father gone.

Lost.

Seconds become minutes become

MORE

Nations crumble

In less time than one, two, three…

Walls disintegrate.

Fall.

And so may we—in time.

ONE

TWO

THREE

WELCOME TO THE END.

Trump Tilts at Windmills

They might be giants…they aren’t, but they might be.

Very seldom these days do the worlds of great literature and American politics coincide, but Donald Trump’s recent attack on windmills cannot help reminding me of the passage in the great novel about an insane man, Don Quixote.

Don Trump says, “They kill birds, they cause cancer, you can’t depend on them to power your television for an entire night because if the wind’s not blowing, there’s no power.”

Don Quixote says, “They’re giants and I shall slay them.”

But where is Trump’s Sancho? Where is the voice of reason to tell him that they aren’t actually giants, but very useful and beneficial machines? If we continue the parallel, Sancho would probably be Trump’s voters. The ones he’s promised will benefit if they follow him. Yet Trump’s Sancho doesn’t seem capable of pointing out that the windmills are not actually giants. So, it would seem, Trump Quixote is destined to break his lance without even a word of warning from his companion.

We might laugh at this. Cervantes certainly intended you to laugh at his misguided knight and even at Sancho. But if we’re stuck in Don Trump, or the Man of Queens, we better hope there’s a Knight of the White Moon out there somewhere who will defeat Trump and make him promise to go home to be cured of his madness.

Otherwise, we may be doomed to subscribe to Quixote’s belief near the end of the first volume that knights errant “are exempt from the application of all laws and statutes, that for them law is their sword, statutes are their spirit, and edicts and proclamations are their will and desire.”

Sounds uncomfortably familiar.

Like them or not, you should listen to the poets

If anything has caught me off-guard about today’s political climate, it’s the rising dislike of celebrities and intellectuals. Once upon a time, these were the heroes. Movie stars like James Dean smoked, so everyone had a pack of cigarettes tucked in their rolled up t-shirt sleeve. Jane Fonda said we need more exercise so everyone started aerobics. Remember those “The More You Know” PSAs? They featured everyone from Tom Brokaw to Matthew Perry speaking out about issues like conservation and education. Stars trying to use their star status to make a difference in the world.

In 2016, it felt like all that changed. All of a sudden, conservatives wondered out loud where athletes and movie stars and, God forbid, writers got off having political opinions. And why should they be allowed to speak out about the every day world of politics? Movie stars should just act, singers should just sing, athletes just play their sports (and stand for the National Anthem). The other day, Rob Thomas tweeted that he was shocked to see a reporter’s White House press credentials taken away because he asked the president a question the president didn’t want to be asked. The response Thomas got from fans was less than encouraging in many cases.

But the worst of this is that suddenly writers aren’t supposed to have an opinion. Writers aren’t supposed to speak out against what looks like certain doom. Writers shouldn’t remind the public of what has come before and what it wrought. The press is “fake news” because they are trying to report what’s happening to us. This seems a particularly dangerous attitude, honestly. To prove my point, I’ve compiled a partial list of things writers (mostly in science fiction, but not all) predicted, for want of a better word, in their fiction.

And after reading this, maybe you can understand why I say, listen to the poets. Otherwise, you may live to regret it.

1726 (Jonathan Swift) Gulliver’s Travels predicted the discovery of Mars’s two moons.

1818 (Mary Shelley) Frankenstein predicted organ transplants.

1865 (Jules Verne) From the Earth to the Moon predicted solar sails and lunar modules that launch from Florida and return to earth as splashdown capsules.

1887 (Edward Bellamy) Looking Backward predicted credit/debit cards and shopping malls.

1898 (Morgan Robertson) The Wreck of the Titan: Or, Futility predicted the sinking of the Titanic—by iceberg in the month of April—fourteen years before it happened.

1899 (H.G. Wells) When the Sleeper Wakes predicted motion sensing doors.

1903 (H.G. Wells) The Land Ironclads predicted tanks.

1909 (E.M. Forster) The Machine Stops predicted video chatting.

1910 (Edwin Balmer and William MacHarg) The Achievements of Luther Trant predicted the lie detector test.

1913 (H.G. Wells) The World Set Free predicted the atom bomb.

1923 (H.G. Wells) Men Like Gods predicted phones, email and television.

1924 (J.B.S. Haldane) Daedalus; or Science and the Future predicted in vitro fertilization.

1932 (Aldous Huxley) A Brave New World predicted genetic engineering.

1961 (Robert Heinlein) Stranger in a Strange Land predicted water beds.

1968 (Arthur C. Clarke) 2001: A Space Odyssey predicted the iPad and its use to access news media.

1968 (John Brunner) Stand on Zanzibar predicted satellite tv, violence in schools, and, eerily, President Obama (Obomi was the character’s name). Interestingly, it is set in 2010.

1984 (William Gibson) Neuromancer predicted computer hackers.

1990 (David Brin) Earth predicted broken levees in the Deep South and the meltdown of the Fukushima power plant.

1994 (Tom Clancy) Debt of Honor predicted the use of hijacked jet planes to crash into U.S. government buildings.

Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency has been predicted by everyone from The Simpsons to Philip Roth. In Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents, her presidential candidate even used the slogan “Make America Great Again”.

Are these all coincidence? Life imitating art? Possibly, though Stand on Zanzibar and The Wreck of the Titan sound like blatant fortune-telling to me, and how Jonathan Swift could know Mars had two moons in 1726 is beyond me. But what is my point here, anyway? Should Stephen King and J.K. Rowling be allowed to say whatever they want about Donald Trump and the fools who voted for him?

Yeah. Probably. Because true poets have a knack for looking at things a little closer, opening themselves up to the universe a little more, feeling things a little deeper…and seeing things a little clearer than others do. I’m not saying me. I try, but I haven’t gotten there yet. But I do believe we are given poets and prophets and visionaries by a God who wants to help guide us.

And if the overwhelming majority of those poets and prophets and visionaries are saying don’t go there, I suggest we listen.

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