Dear friends and readers,
The earliest days of spring have passed and the flowers on most of the trees in my neighborhood have fallen or been pushed out and dissolved and green leaves are in their place. Our little flower patches are just green stems again and the maple has her first dark red leaves.
Last week’s horrors in the immediate sense are over: no more terrifying shots and films. Now the unlucky dead and maimed and unprotected left workers in Texas must try to survive again, and the US gov’t, Massachusetts authorities & hospital people and those bereft of the dead and the maimed and crippled will most of them also carry on. No hope for decent gun control, no hope for workplace regulation protection, and debates (some by people with power) over how to try Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year old now in hospital who together with his older brother, Tamerlan (aged 26) set off two bombs which killed 3 people and threaten the lives of and maimed many more. There is understandable fear that this will be another instance where constitutional rights are abused or ignored, our court system bypassed, by defining the young man as a “terrorist” and his home-made lethal bomb “a weapon of mass destruction.” Over last week we saw once again the power of money poured into the vast armies of men in the US as squads of them fanned out across Boston, acting as they pleased without search warrants, shutting down a whole city.
I’ve no brief sympathetic to the two suspects, but would like to offer this ordinary description of them without hype, comparing them to a figure familiar to many, Jerry Cruncher, and his thug-friends, who rob graves (and perhaps then particpate in the production of corpses), in Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities.
In the TV and mainstream media little attention is paid to the real details of this family’s lives. The older brother has had no visible means of support for years. He is an ex-boxer who like many people in the US can’t get a job. He reminds me of Lee Harvey Oswald, with the different he had a wife who worked for menial pay (and without any protections) as she is one of these women who do 24/7 care for the very elderly. Did she make enough for the rent or that house, the divorced sister and her baby (products of a coerced arranged marriage) and the boy in college. Did Tamerlan (as ex-boxers do) hire himself out as a thug to menace people, “small jobs” (which may include threatening, beating, killing too); perhaps in Chechnya no one much cares if bombs kill a few people at a parade; he and his brother did not think it necessary to flee far afterward. Perhaps he took his younger brother with him because he needed help. Some of these details come from the wife stories (he was taken in for assaulting her). Look at the father though & you see the similar thug macho-male pattern: he lets it be known he is “displeased” his ex-son-in-law has exercised his right to take the daughter’s baby away from her so the ex-husband hurries back from Chechnya and returns the infant. Out of fear. Yes in Chechnya, they belonged to angry fringe so-called politicized groups.
So the two charged into one of these ritual pastoral-patriot celebrations occurring in pretty semi-elite (safe) areas of cities or countryside that US people so like to pass the time watching identifying themselves with. Who paid them? what was the motive for this useless (to them) senseless murder?
I’m reminded of Timothy McVeigh‘s desire for revenge against someone somewhere. Angry people with assault weapons. The US goes after only socialists (“communists”), people trying to protect animals (now deemed “eco-terrorists”), stop nuclear development, protect the environment, like Sandra Steingraber, whistleblowers, the Aaron Swartzes.
Women can note what life is like for women in these third-world desperate places; and everyone in the US how dsyfunctional US has become, how Mrs Thatcher’s famous “there is no society” is actually increasingly becoming true – except of course when the gov’t wants your taxes (and you are too small to fight) or bank account (Cyprus) or to cut whatever social services you have been using — unless you can scare up the money to borrow at large interest rates to be a fringe person somewhere.
Now I’ll have done with this one, only being sure to vote wherever possible to put people in office who will try to expand OSHA enormously and re-invigorate the desperately-needed protectionist movement for workers which unions are so powerless to help and vote wherever possible for those who vote for gun and gunpowder weapon control.
Why Dickens? I’ve been reading A Tale of Two Cities and have now watched three of the film adaptations, 1935, Ronald Colman; 1958 Dirke Bogarde, and 1989, Hopcraft the writer with James Wilby as Carton. I’ll blog next about Colmon, a long-time love of mine (since age 13).
Here on our block we did some planting yesterday: begonias, dahlias and silver ferns. I did the digging and the Admiral the supervising and I didn’t do it alphabetically. We went to a nearby gardening shop that is moving — a large beautiful place which will be replaced by one of ostentatiously luxury-type developments of single family homes (they’re called). we paid nearly $80 but were two bags shy of covering our third little patch. I don’t have an electric blub planter and found the earth very stone-y so don’t know if I got the blubs down deep enough. I can’t lean on my knees any more nor are my arms strong. We can’t reach the patch with our hose so I used a bucket to water them afterward. Fingers crossed.
The scavengers referred-to (above) are not birds or insects, but people. My reader may remember that last fall we got rid of a huge useless mess filling out our attic and set up a room for me to work in with shelves of less-needed older books and research materials and another for left-over things we don’t want to get rid of (crib, shelving), picnic stuff, suitcases. We had left over old radios, obsolete toys (junk telescope), filthy computers, keyboards, crap. Well it was “unusual trash collection day” and we put what was not super-heavy out for collections. We will do the few super-heavy items now left there two a year (we told ourselves). Within an hour it was gone.
This is US life too. People in trucks from far-away and a couple of recognizable neighbors came by and searched diligently and took away what they hope to fix or delude others into buying. In two previous years (once 10 years ago or so, and once 20) we did throw out some useful stuff; the response was so scary I began to realize only custom prevented people from coming into my house and taking things away. Regularly I see neighbors have “yard sales;” nothing is too shameful to try to wrest money from. If you can pretend it has some elite resonances, you can call your shit an estate and invite people to come to your house and buy it. Admittedly then the rip-off comes from selling old furniture (which would fetch nothing from any businessman).
I am hesitating over phase 5 of my “big renovation” plans: fixing the kitchen. I would like a new paint job (ours is now worn and dirty, and in two spots peeling), new cabinets (a couple are broken), and this time not white ones (which I loathe), we need new flooring (as our linoleum is buckling), and we need a new dish-washer so I am willing to listen to replace the sink (right next to it) but I don’t see that I need to spend another $40,000 as the room does not need rebuilding and a lot of my equipment is not only good, but works well so after all I’m not going to use the same company and wait until next spring. Similarly I’ll wait until next year to see what to do over the porch. These are not small jobs and I’m not up to being my own contractor. I can’t negotiate very well.
I don’t want all our money to go — or even a chunk of it so quickly. Going to conferences and to NYC is a way of meeting people, feeling “in” life, being active (I give papers) and cheers me (if it’s very stressful too) but it costs, especially with the Admiral who (bless him) likes to live well. I cannot travel alone, panic attacks very bad, so Yvette is coming with me to 3 days of a Jane Austen summer program end of June. I’m going to accompany her this coming January to Boston for a huge ice-skating event (week-long); in this case she’s thus far paying for it.
I still yearn to paint my house a soft cream color. I’ve never forgotten the sense of shame when the man painted my house such a bright blue. It’s faded and pastel-ly but some of the brick color shows through. At minimum I’d like a plant box beneath the front window where there are the ridiculous stone things sticking out for one to sit on. Who to ask or where to find someone for such a small job (which yet I still cannot do) I’ve no idea.
So we planted our bulbs as a small step to make the place cheerful and one I can feel some modest comfort and self-esteem in. My home. The Admiral in May is still planning to buy a newer used Jaguar, trade in his 1996 and get maybe a 2003 one.
Not that I’m against pot-latches. For an umpteenth time we went to a bi-annual book sale in the large George Mason Fairfax library on Little River Turnpike. Since we’ve so many books nowadays and can buy whatever we want on the Net, these have come to mean less and sometimes if we go on Sunday (the fifth of the sale, and when prices are halved) we feel we can find almost nothing that is valuable we don’t already have.
But this year we did better than we have in a while — as also last and the year before. I fear not as many people have money even for these priced-down good used books. We got some real treasures and if you belong to Library Thing, you need only look at our last 19 items. These do not include Yvette’s finds, at least two ice-skating books, one mystery, one series type the woman counting the money recognized, and a bunch of DVDs, including Wimbledon which has her once favorite, Paul Bettany, and which even the Admiral saw with us and laughed over.
I’ll single out a thick, three-book number by Adriene Rich: published as one her What Is Found There; An Atlas of the Difficult World; and the Fact of a Doorframe: eloquent essays interspersed with great poetry. Rich includes and discusses Audrey Lorde’s Power:
The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
instead of your children.
I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds
and a dead child dragging his shattered black
face off the edge of my sleep
blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders
is the only liquid for miles
and my stomach
churns at the imagined taste while
my mouth splits into dry lips
without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the wetness of his blood
as it sinks into the whiteness
of the desert where I am lost
without imagery or magic
trying to make power out of hatred and destruction
trying to heal my dying son with kisses
only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.
A policeman who shot down a ten year old in Queens
stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood
and a voice said “Die you little motherfucker” and
there are tapes to prove it. At his trial
this policeman said in his own defense
“I didn’t notice the size nor nothing else
only the color”. And
there are tapes to prove that, too.
Today that 37 year old white man
with 13 years of police forcing
was set free
by eleven white men who said they were satisfied
justice had been done
and one Black Woman who said
“They convinced me” meaning
they had dragged her 4’10” black Woman’s frame
over the hot coals
of four centuries of white male approval
until she let go
the first real power she ever had
and lined her own womb with cement
to make a graveyard for our children.
I have not been able to touch the destruction
But unless I learn to use
the difference between poetry and rhetoric
my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold
or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire
and one day I will take my teenaged plug
and connect it to the nearest socket
raping an 85 year old white woman
who is somebody’s mother
and as I beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed
a greek chorus will be singing in 3/4 time
“Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are.”
The Admiral has left off his ipad for now and is reading the immense History of Wales by John Davies. I’ve two more literary biographies by the superb Claire Harman: of Sylvia Townsend Warner and of Robert Louis Stevenson.