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: On the Screen

What’s happening right now breaks my heart because it was preventable. In fact, it was being prevented. Our Kurdish allies are fighting and dying. Mothers are losing their children. Tiny babies lie in pools of blood, covered in dust. And it’s all because a few men made decisions that meant their lives meant nothing. Life is meant for more. Be outraged. Be angry. Be sad or regretful or depressed. Be anything but accepting of this tragedy. Life is meant for more than ending on our television screens.

On the Screen

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

From across the world we watch as death rains down.

How can we know what to feel?

Safe in our kitchens, our warm homes, our towns—

Not part of the pack anymore.

 

Broken bodies litter the earth but it’s so very far away.

You run, and we don’t miss a meal.

Dust and rubble clear, but your sorrow never may.

Meanwhile we watch the news at four.

 

We shake our heads: Nothing I can do, nothing to be done.

Our hearts go out to your appeal—

But tomorrow’s just a day for us—another day in the sun.

And we’ll check the headlines of course.

 

Across the world, an ocean away, with only the media to guide.

As your hearts’ blood spills

On pavement stones and runs down the mountainside—

Life is meant for more.

 

Poem: Kisses of Steel and Love

Kisses of Steel and Love

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

Blow a kiss to the wind, she said.

What good is a kiss? I replied.

Kisses are free to drift—just feathers.

What good is that in a world of hate?

 

Blow a kiss and find out, she said.

Open yourself to the world, embrace

Its sharp edges with your heart.

Blow kisses of steel and love.

 

Blow kisses to stop hate and fear,

To staunch the flow of tears and

To shield us all from the pain.

But I saw the fault in her grand plan.

 

I might blow kisses of steel and love

But pain is a bullet and it flies direct,

While kisses float aimlessly away

Like fluff and prayers on the wind.IMG_6992

Poem: Teetering

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There’s no guardrail here.

A few days ago, I visited the Grand Canyon. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go, even if it was on my bucket list. The Grand Canyon is a bit of a challenge for someone with even a mild fear of heights, and I definitely have at least that. But I found once I got there that the paths were wide and I could walk on the side away from the canyon and enjoy the view.

My kids were another story entirely. It seemed they were intent on walking as close to the edge as I would allow. I was constantly calling or motioning them back from what seemed like a precipitous edge down which they were sure to fall. My oldest finally looked at me with exasperation and said, “You bring me to a big hole in the ground and tell me to stay away from the big hole in the ground!”

I laughed, but it’s true. I told him to stay away from the hole in the ground because I want to protect him. I don’t want him to fall.

Of course, while we were looking at the big hole in the ground, the United States teetered on the brink of far worse. We put our toes over the very edge of a very dark, deep hole waiting to drown us in war (and don’t fool yourself that it won’t be nuclear). We’re still balancing on the edge of that black pit, but it’s full of our sins just waiting to pull us in. Sins like helpless children held prisoner without decent beds or meals. Environmental regulations rolled back every day in favor of money. A clueless leader who has lost the respect of every nation on earth except those hoping to profit from his ignorance. And our blind eyes turned to all of it.

Remember the feeling of standing on the edge of a pool waiting to plunge in but not quite ready for the cold water to envelop your steaming skin? Remember the feel of the rough concrete beneath your feet as you leaned forward just a little more, spreading your arms for balance so you didn’t fall too soon but you might fall any minute?

Remember the moment your toes finally lost their grip and you plunged in before you were ready and the hopelessness of knowing the icy water would shock your skin and pull you down?

We’re teetering on the edge of something far worse now.

 

Teetering

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

Toe slides…

Over the edge…

Arms spread…

Balanced,

But mindful.

 

Lean a little more—how far can we go?

How far before…

The balance

Slips?

And we

Fall?

 

Wobbling,

Swaying,

Sliding,

It may be

Fate,

But—

 

Who will see the plunge and watch us flatten the world?

Can anyone stop it?

Please?

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.

Dear “Woke” Democrats,

Dear “woke” Democrats,

Here’s the thing. I’ve been a Democrat since Jimmy Carter. No kidding. My first political memory is of campaigning with my mother outside the local Veteran’s Hall. We handed out leaflets and my mother talked about how Carter was a good man.

I was six years old.

Since then most of my family has become Republican, my political affiliation has never wavered. When I registered to vote at the age of 18, I proudly stated my political affiliation as Democrat. Democrat I was and Democrat I always should be. I voted for Mondale and Ferraro. I voted straight Democratic tickets for years. I saw candidates fail time after time because I live in North Carolina, home of Jesse Helms, for God’s sake. I saw Howard Dean’s scream. I lived through Dukakis’s tank ride. I shook my head at Gary Hart’s downfall. In 1991, on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill, I was moved by the enthusiastic and powerful words of Bill Clinton. I later endured what felt like a betrayal by this personable man I’d supported.

In 2000, I waited with bated breath for the results of an election which should not have been close, only to see Al Gore respectfully bow out when I wanted him to fight. My heart cracked then but by 2004 I thought I’d grown accustomed to defeat when John Kerry also fell short.

The Obama years were a bright spot, but my heart truly broke when Hillary failed in 2016. That’s the only time I’ve ever cried over an election. And now, in these dark times, I find myself with a new enemy.

You.

You dare to tell me, who has struggled wearily along this long path strewn with political careers of people I’ve admired and candidates who’ve failed me, that I’m part of the problem because I’m not “woke” enough? I’ll tell you this, young whippersnappers, I’m “woke” enough to see what your “wokeness” hath wrought and being “woke” doesn’t help you when the world is so dark you can’t see anything but black. And that’s what we’re approaching if you keep firing on people who are ON THE SAME SIDE AS YOU. A world that cares nothing for those who are different, a world that denies problems instead of trying to solve them, a world so deeply divided both sides fall into the crevasse instead of reaching across to each other.

Still don’t think I’m woke enough?

The peanut lapel pin my mother received for campaigning for Jimmy Carter. I keep it to remind myself what being Democrat is all about: Persevering for the little guy.

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.