Poem: A Hard Left

Make no mistake. It’s not going to be easy to come back from where we are. “Hard” has more than one meaning.

A Hard Left

By Michelle Garren Flye

Safe footing may take a while.

We’ve hovered so long over the abyss

Trembled with fear, mile after mile

Lips stuttering our tremulous wish

Oh, safety, security, sanity, please

Return to us in our daily life

We know you embody the keys

To free us from all this strife

Now we understand how hell feels

Evil creeping in through marble halls

Peril lingers here, flames lick our heels

Darkness still beckons with wanton calls

We’ve landed just this side of hell

We’ve still got such a long way to go

And our journey may not go well

But at least the direction we now know

Stand still a second before taking a step

Gain your balance, then make a hard left.

The winds of change. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: Hell at Your Doorstep

Like many, I’ve been watching the developments of the riot at the Capitol Building last week. Probably more than I should…although, maybe not.

You see, at first, I thought it was a bunch of yahoos that overwhelmed an unprepared bunch of basically mall cops. Were the cops even armed with anything but batons and shields? I wasn’t clear. It seemed, at first, like a bunch of rednecks got out of control at a tailgate party.

Over the course of the past week, it’s become very clear, that’s not what happened at all. The rioting crowd was out for blood. And blood was spilled. Some theirs, but a lot of it from the courageous police who were all that stood between the mob and the fragile gears of our democracy.

I think it’s important that we all not only realize this but accept it. Maybe there were good people in that mob swept up by the evil and the hell. Maybe we all need to be on guard because if the events of January 6, 2021 are any indication, hellfire is just a step away.

Hell at Your Doorstep

By Michelle Garren Flye

Hell’s not far away

Pull back the shade

You know it’s there

It doesn’t try to hide

Watch people tumble

Unresisting to the flames

Follow, follow, the light cries

Come and meet your doom

The eagle’s flight wavers

Courageous profiles darken

When hell flames alight

At your very doorstep

Massive gates won’t stop

The press of fiery rage

Stone burns the same

As wooden crosses then

Thorns bleed tears of wine

Drip down marble visage

Don’t look out the window, love

Hell will greet you there

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: Echoes: For Our Congress

Echoes: For Our Congress

By Michelle Garren Flye

Angry bangs and steps echo

In hallowed halls

While souls scrunch under chairs

And keep silent

To avoid detection

Anguished texts and last-minute calls

Words left unsaid must be spoken

Because time is suddenly ending

A doorknob rattles

(Is it friend or foe?)

Huddle down, small one,

Don’t grab attention now

The loud crashes might be gunshots

Those screams might be a friend

Don’t react, keep your cries quiet

Until someone calls the all clear

Then hold your hands up,

Follow directions through bloody halls—

And welcome the U.S. Capitol to the ranks

The domestic terror list that includes:

Parkland

Sandy Hook

Columbine

Listen to the echoes

And know what they endured

Because of your neglect.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: Gen X

I’m not sure where this came from except my frustration and angst boiled over a bit this morning. It’s sort of an apology to my kids. Give it some thought. Do you owe the next generation an apology?

Gen X

By Michelle Garren Flye

Let’s face it, we fucked up.

So long as we had our bite and sup

We didn’t care who had their way—

We just didn’t have that much to say.

The environment crumbles without our care;

Others struggle—we know it’s not fair.

But those others aren’t us, so why fear?

For them we will not shed a tear.

“We’re so laid back” is what we brag.

“We’ll leave it to others to piss and nag.”

The younger generation will have to fix

The mess we made when we were in the mix.

Retirement looms for us all now.

We’re almost ready to take a bow.

Our children shake their heads in wonder

At the world we’ve left torn asunder.

“Good times,” we say with wanton cheer;

“To better days,” we raise our beer.

All that’s left is to watch it burn

As we patiently sip and wait our turn.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: No Protection

No Protection

By Michelle Garren Flye

You’re right, you know.

Masks won’t protect us.

Science can’t stop the blow

Nor quiet all the fuss.

You can’t hide from despair

And politics won’t save the lost.

Maybe just focus on repair

And not tallying up the cost?

What can help us heal from this?

The neighbor is “other” to the free,

And all that matters is our own bliss.

Is it really too much to hear their plea?

Reach out a hand, fight to converge—

Look behind the mask to the soul.

Only when we find that courage

Can we hope to be made whole.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: Hellsong

Hellsong

By Michelle Garren Flye

Betrayal burns, feverish holes

Sprout and fill with flame,

Spilling ash out onto coals;

Leaping up, you’re unable to tame.

Will you watch it all burn?

Where will you go to escape?

No matter which way you turn

The consummation takes shape.

Don’t look for a way out—

Just give yourself to the fire.

The freedom you used to flout

Just a subject for the choir.

Your sins catch up to you here.

Your lies will haunt you again.

Remember them all, embrace fear—

Hell sings out in this last quatrain.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: Fever Phoenix

My apologies for my continued fascination with fire right now…but maybe it’s just because, HEY! THE WORLD IS BURNING! WE MIGHT NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT!

Fever Phoenix

By Michelle Garren Flye

Fever burns within,

But are you

Fire or fuel?

Make the call.

Will you destroy what you touch

Or feed the flames of others?

Spew your own sparks

Or rise from the ashes

Of all you caressed

Of all that you fed

And like a phoenix

With feathers ablaze

Spread your wings

And scorch all in your way

Until even the tiniest flicker

Of a candle is engulfed

In your laughing mouth

As you rise

Above those without escape

From the conflagration

At the end of the world.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: Fire (Because the world is burning and nobody seems to care)

Fire

By Michelle Garren Flye

Burning from the inside out

Is better than exploding in public

Keep it inside, don’t be loud

No one cares what’s in your heart

So you can get away with that

Live a subtle life

Don’t speak what’s not asked.

Or…

Spit out the ash and fire and lava

That’s built up all your life

Because who cares?

Once it’s out it won’t matter

Anyway.

Lava leaves only ash in its wake

Ash chokes those who dare breathe it

And Fire destroys all in its path.

So burn anyway you want—

Kick it out to your neighbors (aha!)

With their green lawns peppered by red signs

Smash it into the bumpers branded enemy…

Or breathe it deliciously

Over those too slow to resist

Caress it onto those who forget to run

From Fire.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

What we are witnessing—from a Southern White Woman’s perspective

“We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.” —Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, June 2020

I actually don’t think that’s all we’re witnessing. I think our problems run much deeper. Four hundred years deep, dating back to the day the first slave stepped off the ship onto the soil that would one day be the soil of the United States.

Oh where were our visionaries then?

I suppose we could look to our founding fathers. Well, not all of them. But Benjamin Franklin allowed himself to be educated on the slave situation, though he remained pessimistic about integrating Black people into society. However, a thoughtful, intelligent man could not help but be troubled by what he himself saw as “an atrocious debasement of human nature”.

Yet he owned two slaves himself. And Benjamin Franklin was the best white man we had to offer at the time.

Jump ahead a few centuries. On June 16, 2015, Donald J. Trump announced he was running for president. Less than a year later, it was obvious he had the support to win. To the befuddlement and consternation of thoughtful, intelligent people everywhere, Donald J. Trump went on to become president of what was once the greatest nation in the world.

Life went on, but from that moment, the rights of the marginalized were under attack and in danger. As Mattis says, we haven’t had mature leadership. We have had evil leadership. Ignorant leadership. Leadership with the rights and privileges of the rich and powerful and white (and mainly male) prioritized. And our institutions have suffered because so much of them is controlled by that very demographic. It’s hard to stand up for what’s right when your stock portfolio is soaring. It’s hard to be concerned about “the others” when your race/religion/party is on top.

“The founding fathers, in their genius, created a system of three co-equal branches of government and a built-in system of checks and balances. I feel as though that is under assault and is eroding.” —Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, May 2017

Turns out Clapper was right. Our institutions have crumbled. Our checks and balances are nearly gone. And now we have a choice to make. The economy is on the verge of recovering after the blow it was dealt by Trump’s mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis. We haven’t seen the last of COVID-19, but people are learning how to live with the danger. That’s not even the wrong thing to do. We had to adapt. We are strong that way. Where we are weak is remembering the bad times.

Black Lives Matter has a chance for the first time in our history to make a difference. As a Southern White Woman—which I put in capitals because I worry constantly that it defines me to others, but, worse, to myself—I know this is important. It is important to every marginalized human being in our country including women, but it is most important to the Black community, which may finally throw off four hundred years of oppression.

Can we as a nation find the strength to resist a government which would oppress all of us—all but the powerful, white, and rich? Can the powerful, white, and rich find it in themselves to resist the call of more power and more money? Some have. James Mattis was one of them. There have been others.

“We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent.” —Senator John McCain, October 2017

“Without fear of the consequences and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal. Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as telling it like it is when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified.” Senator Jeff Flake, October 2017

Can others follow? Can we all come to realize what is wrong is wrong even when it is not in our own interests? I don’t know. In November 2020 I hope I will find out. I pray what has been normalized—whether that has happened over four years or four centuries—will be rejected. Only then will the symbols of freedom we treasure mean anything at all.

Southern White Woman signing off.

Eagle. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: Why He Knelt (for Colin)

Why He Knelt (for Colin)

By Michelle Garren Flye

A man kneels in a green field.

Father, help me find the way

To fight the power they wield,

To make them know what they

Don’t fathom: simply why I kneeled.

Years pass and he is condemned

To life, but not on the stage he sought.

Until the news is overwhelmed

By the injustices he warned about—

And we recall what he did contend.

Kneeling at work seems little enough

When you look at the news today.

His gentle defiance is practically fluff

And a much less destructive way.

(Ignored injustice can get rough.)

What can you do now, you plead.

What service can you provide?

Listen to what they cry and heed—

It may be time to take a side,

And in the black earth, plant the seed.

And if all else fails to satisfy

To your knees you should fall.

The act we can’t expect to justify,

But what we can do is simply all

Kneel and know exactly why.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye