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

Poem 24 (National Poetry Month): When We Return to “Normal”

Everything feels wrong now, and it seems that everyone is trying to quantify it and box it up and make it what they’ve always known. “Don’t judge people if you see them not wearing a mask or taking their kids out or trying to go back to work—you don’t know what they’re going through,” say some. This is true. But it does not escape my sense of fairness that some of these people are the same ones who are quick to judge those who take their families and flee from death and poverty in other countries. Don’t judge them, either. You don’t know what they’ve gone through.

We all want to go back to “normal”, but I don’t think we’re ever going to get back there from here. We’ll go back to some semblance of day-to-day life, but I believe what scifi writers have been warning us about—that some event would come along eventually that would change us forever—has finally happened. Where we go from here is really up to us. We can remain politically divided with half of us in denial about our doom and the other half constantly lecturing about it—or we can unite and fight for survival. I pray we opt to find the best in all of us when we declare victory over this virus…and return to “normal”.

When We Return to “Normal:

By Michelle Garren Flye

“I like that lady’s mask, Mommy.”

The little boy doesn’t wear a mask.

His face bare, he points at me.

Why is he here, I’d love to ask?

But life now is far from easy;

You can’t judge or take to task

Those whose differences you see.

Maybe we will remember this lesson

When we can declare our battle won.

When the world returns to “normal”

And we look each other in the face again

We may remember we are all mortal

And not judge each other by colors of skin.

Maybe we will recall we’re all one world

And where we come from is not our sin.

Maybe this can be done because it’s natural

When we survive a crisis with our fellow man.

Yes, let’s look at each other and see only “us”

When we stand on the battlefield victorious.

Like a flower conquering concrete, we will survive. It’s where we go from there that matters. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem 15 (National Poetry Month): Coalescence

Coalescence

By Michelle Garren Flye

My brother had a kaleidoscope

When we were little, and I

loved looking into it

Watching the little

Flowers and

Figures

Join.

I feel like that now, watching as

Tiny beliefs and strategies

Join together into one

Whole at the center.

A tiny pinprick,

With fans of

Color

Expanding

Outward in a

Glorious rainbow

Technicolor colors

Many individuals with

Only one cause at the center.

Coincidentally, I’m revealing my cover for Magic at Sea today on The Next Chapter Books & Art’s Instagram and Facebook. It’s a romance that takes place on a cruise ship. How’s that for good timing?

Out of focus

Focusing on one thing at a time makes it difficult to see the big picture. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Today I sat in my silent bookstore hoping for the phone to ring with someone wanting to take advantage of my Covid-19 remote shopping option. The silence is of my own making. I closed to the public at the end of last week. It felt like the right thing to do.

It’s very difficult right now to know what the right thing to do is because it’s difficult to know what to focus on. Medical experts who say this epidemic will not end well if we don’t continue to isolate ourselves? Government hopefuls who expect real life to echo the movies and miracle cures to materialize out of thin air? Economic brains who anticipate the further shutdown of the economy to be more catastrophic than thousands of deaths?

And truly, it’s hard to see the true danger. It’s invisible until it hits you or someone you love. The medical community understands this. They’ve given us the tools to defend ourselves (wash hands, don’t touch face, remain socially distant), but they warn if we don’t use them, the effects will be devastating.

The truth is, though, this silent and invisible enemy will be the most devastating one we’ve ever faced if we don’t listen to facts. Scientific facts—something we’ve been trained to disbelieve in our recent alternative fact universe—are what can save us, but how likely are we as humans to listen now that so much is at stake? Our lives depend on it, but are our pocketbooks more important?

What do we focus on? We can’t focus on any one thing, really. We have to see the whole picture. All at once and from every angle. And know that what we don’t see—the invisible—can harm us.

Poem: Pandemic of the Head (with commentary)

Nature is not political. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

In truth, I feel we’ve all been denying truth and facts and science for so long in favor of what one political party or another says, I’m not certain we’re going to really get this pandemic thing until it smacks us in the face. And it’s a slow-moving thing that we’ve been misled about by the government that’s supposed to be looking out for us, so now that we’re told what’s actually happening and what needs to be done to stop it…nobody believes it. Even I—and I am far from a fact-denier—have a hard time believing it’s really so bad that restaurants need to close and kids shouldn’t have play dates. I still go into my store every day hoping it will be normal again. But it’s not. The little town I live in is spookily empty on these bright spring days.

And in spite of all that, it angers me to hear others make this political. The Democrats made it up, the media is whipping us into mass hysteria, it’s no worse than the flu. Yeah, I know it’s hard to accept, but this thing can kill you. And if not you, then someone you love. It’s the first true pandemic since the 1918 influenza epidemic which killed more people than World War I, and we’re still in the beginning stages of it. Denying it won’t stop it, any more than denying global warming will stop the seas’ rise.

That’s where we are right now. We have to make some tough decisions. Tough times are coming, and if history is any indicator, we most likely won’t learn anything from it.

Pandemic of the Head

By Michelle Garren Flye

It’s never happened before, so it can’t be happening—whoa!

Who can tell if this is the end of the world…or just for show?

Yet people sicken and die—but that happens every day.

How can we judge if it’s wrong to go this way?

Time to be responsible, that’s what you claim—

Have you no care for the pocketbooks you maim?

No parties left but political ones, and those you can’t attend.

Who will be left to pick up the pieces of what’s left in the end?

The sweep of a pen proclaims we must stay at home to work.

But what of those whose businesses can’t survive such torque?

Some will suffer more than others, of that there is no doubt.

The choice is simple—sickness and death is the only way out.

Shelter in place to protect the weak of our society.

Quarantine is a trial, but there’s nowhere left to flee.

No matter how this ends, both sides will declare tis what they said:

A pandemic like no other before…but it was all in your head.

Poem: Acquittal (not what you’re thinking…or is it?)

Acquittal

By Michelle Garren Flye

No other flower matches the daffodil

For merrymaking in spring.

Enjoy its jocund spirit for it lasts

But a momentary fling.

The yellow blossoms nod and sway, but

The moment is gone too soon.

They acquit themselves in splendor

And are gone within a moon.

No time spent gazing at yellow buds

Should be considered wasted.

For the moment ends, and memory remains

Of the golden glory so ill-fated.

If only all acquittals left such a taste?

If only all fates were so well spent.

If only we took the time to be sure

We knew what each one meant.

What is Utopia?

As a writer, I get to imagine things all the time, but one thing for me has always been sort of amorphous. What, exactly, would Utopia be like? I can imagine a place with green fields where everyone does their fair share, but eventually I start seeing flaws in the system. For instance, I don’t like working outdoors, I tend to kill plants, and I hate bugs. Would I be expected to help grow crops the same way my brother, who has a green thumb, would? And as a librarian, I wonder, would people who don’t care about books be expected to help me take care of them? How can you be a caretaker for something you have no care for? Who’s making all these rules, anyway?

Usually, I end up deciding I’d rather just retreat onto a mountaintop or desert island with the people I love most and have supplies air dropped to me. But what kind of liberal does that make me if I can’t even picture a Utopia that works?

Today I read this wonderful opinion column by Ross Douthat in the New York Times called Watership Down and the Crisis of Liberalism and I practically clapped my hands. If you’ve never read Watership Down, the classic tale by Richard Adams, you must. Go get a copy. I’ll wait. Okay, maybe not, because it is like 500 pages long, but Watership Down was a masterpiece, and Douthat hits the nail on the head with what makes a true Utopia and how Adams created one with this sentence:

And what makes the regime the rabbits are founding good — and successful, but first and foremost good — is the integration of the different virtues, the cooperation of their different embodiments, their willing subordination to one another as circumstances require.

Bam. Right there. Each rabbit that embarks on the quest to found a new home after they lost their old home to ecoterrorism (a subdivision) has a unique skill that they offer to the group. The leader, the strong, the religiously gifted, the athletic, the intelligent, the creative—all have something to offer the group.

So that’s what Utopia is to me. It’s a world in which we all have our unique gifts and they’re all valued. Imagine a world where you could find your gift and pursue it and contribute to the world in your own way. If a teacher’s offering of education, a doctor’s offering of healing, a policeman’s offering of safety, a politician’s offering of governing, a writer’s offering of…whatever we offer—it was all valued. Every skill, from acting to playing a sport or inventing, all the way to trash collecting and housecleaning.

Isn’t that what we all want? A world we can live in without fear of someone taking what is ours? Our job, our belongings, our happiness. In a world where everyone already had theirs, maybe that wouldn’t be such a problem. To me, that is Utopia.

(Side note: The only other place I’ve ever seen a Utopia that looks like it could work is Starfleet in the Star Trek universe.)

But what is Utopia to you? In our highly divided culture today, maybe this isn’t what everyone wants. Utopian dreams come to us all, though. I’d love to hear yours.

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Utopian perfection? Photo by Michelle Garren Flye