People may not realize that Nobel Prizes, like other awards, are actively campaigned for. It is as if lobbyists, albeit unpaid ones, were out there petitioning the committee in Stockholm. Here is Gordon Ball's brief for Dylan, which is entitled "I nominated Bob Dylan for the Nobel Prize. You’re welcome" and which appears in today's Washington Post. Ball has campaigned for a Nobel for Dylan since 1996. -- DL
For decades I’ve admired the work of Bob Dylan, whom I first saw at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, but it was in August of 1996 that I first wrote the Nobel Committee, nominating Dylan for its literature prize. The idea to do so originated not with me but with two Dylan aficionados in Norway, journalist Reidar Indrebø and attorney Gunnar Lunde, who had recently written Allen Ginsberg about a Nobel for Dylan. Ginsberg’s office then asked if I’d write a nominating letter. (Nominators must be professors of literature or linguistics, past laureates, presidents of national writers’ groups, or members of the Swedish Academy or similar groups.) Over the next few months, several other professors, including Stephen Scobie, Daniel Karlin, and Betsy Bowden, endorsed Dylan for the Nobel. I would go on to nominate Dylan for the next dozen years. This year, he finally won.
In the name of Abe – biblical predecessor
of honest Abe, who freed the slaves,
and also Bobby’s dad -- I stand at your gate
with faith equal to doubt, and I say,
look out kid, no matter what you did,
and incredulity gives way to unconditional surrender.
Abe say “Where do you want this killing done?”
God say “Out on Highway 61.”
God directs traffic,
and young Isaac say it’s all right Ma I’m only bleeding.
And Ma say it’s all right boy I’m only breathing.
And Dad unpack his heart with words like a whore.
Young Isaac ain’t gonna work for Maggie's brother no more.
Ike no like the white man boss,
and when stuck inside of Mobile to even the score
he looks at the stream he needs to cross
despite schemes of grinning oilpot oligarch arschloch
who wanna be on the side that’s winning.
So he climbs up to the captain’s tower and does his sinning
and has read all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books.
He no get where he got because of his looks.
He’s on the pavement talking about the government,
and he knows something’s happening but he don’t know what it is.
A strange man, Mr. Jones. Isaac Jones that is.
-- David Lehman
We are disoriented. Cubs fans are used to moving on to football by October. Our association with baseball in the fall has usually been looking over someone’s shoulder at a TV in a bar asking, “Who’s playing? Oh yeah? What’s the score?”
This year is all new. That’s because not only are the Cubs still playing on October 15th, but they have a really good chance of winning. Honest. I would not have said that through eight innings on Tuesday night. None of us would have. No, despite 103 regular season victories, we were thinking 1969 when the Cubs blew a 9 1/2 game lead in September. We were thinking 1984 when they were up two zip and got swept by the Padres in San Diego. We were thinking 1989 when San Francisco made easy work of them in the NLCS and 2003 when Steve Bartman seemed a latter day manifestation of Billy Sianis’s goat or 2015 when the New York Mets swept the Cubs in the NLCS. Now we are thinking, “Maybe, just maybe.”
That’s because Tuesday night the Cubs scored 4 runs in the 9th inning in a come from behind playoff victory over the San Francisco Giants. The Chicago National League baseball club had never done that in its 140 year history. In fact, now listen to this, no one had. No major league team in post season history had ever come from behind to score 4 runs in the 9th to win. Sorry to be repetitious. I could say it over and over again.
How did they do it? With children. Twenty-four-year-old Willson Contreras in his first half season in the majors drove in the tying run, and twenty-three-year-old Javier Baez in his first full major league season -- who is not only a wonderful baseball player but a gymnast and magician as well (look for his highlight film on YouTube in which he slides over, around, under and through tags, and in the field reaches behind himself in mid-air to tag out the other guy who can’t believe it until he sees the replay later) -- got the game-winning hit, and twenty-five year old Carl Edwards Jr. pitched a perfect seventh. And that is not to mention 22-year-old-shortstop Addison Russell who looks like a fawn and may be the team’s best all-around player, or 24-year-old-Jorge Soler who got so excited earlier in the year that he jumped out of the dugout and ran the bases with a teammate who had hit a homer, or 23-year-old Kyle Schwarber who wrecked his knee in the third game of the season going all-out to catch a ball in the outfield and is lying in wait for the 2017 National League, or 24-year-old Kris Bryant and gray beard Anthony Rizzo (he’s 27) who are vying for NL MVP honors or the best starting rotation in baseball or hired gun closer Aroldis Chapman who threw 13 pitches Tuesday not one of which was less than a hundred miles an hour to strike out the Giants in the 9th.
Wow! This is such fun. So much in fact that I didn’t mind at all not using the ticket my kids bought me for game five between the Cubs and Giants at Wrigley Field on Thursday. Nope. In fact, it was the very best baseball game I never saw.
-- Peter Ferry
Everything about this album cover was so exquisitely congruent with the historical moment! I recall seeing it for the first time: the slush, the girl, her boots, and most especially the VW van. Bob as a specific identity in the picture was almost irrelevant. It could have been anybody (except me.) But the way he's looking down...the bulge...his look of pleasant surprise. Yes, he's getting a boner, or already has one. As well
he might! Keep it up, Bob! "One more cup of coffee before I go....."
I write as one who has correctly predicted every presidential election since 1980 with the possible exception of 2004. This is not to claim special powers of prophecy for myself. Rather it is the result of a mathematical algorithm based on statistical analyses of each of the past twenty-five election cycles, taking into account the peculiarities of a system in which it is altogether possible that a candidate who wins the popular vote may yet lose the election due to the disproportionate power of states as tabulated by the so-called electoral college or, in extremely rare cases, the Supreme Court.
A value-neutral approach to presidential cycles indicates a perhaps surprising tendency on the part of the electorate. In brief, this tendency manifests itself as a loyalty to certain states of the union -- California, for example, as the most populous state, which has given us Nixon and Reagan, and Texas, as the "lone star" state, home of LBJ and George W. Bush..
According to the statistical formula devised by Peat Marwick, confirmed by Pete Runnels, and corroborated by Peter Campbell, with modifications introduced by pundits Arthur Buchwald and George Gordon, the state that is due, indeed overdue, to host the next president is the state of New York, which has not been represented in the White House since the three-plus terms of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1932-1945).
The Roosevelt aura won him four elections but led to a backlash against the Empire State, which helps account for the defeat of Thomas Dewey in 1948 and the inability of Nelson Rockefeller to get himself nominated, as by rights he should have been, in 1964. The emergence of William Miller as the GOP's VP candidate in 1964 and Geraldine Ferraro as the Democrats' VP candidate in 1984, does little to assuage the feelings of New Yorkers who have come to resent Massachusetts as the home state of one recent president (Kennedy), two presidential nominees (Dukakis, Romney), and the Boston Red Sox. But denizens of the Big Apple need worry no more.
According to the rule of four-year recurrence, New York's comeback is inevitable. It is therefore an utter certainty that the next president of the United States will be a New Yorker whether by birth or by choice.
I am willing to bet a large amount of money on this prediction though I suspect that the logic behind my reasoning, if grasped in good faith by the Tattaglias and Barzini, will allow for no dissent.
Although the algorithm is the intellectual property of the Santino Foundation and cannot be revealed on penalty of a lawsuit, I will say that the principle of the four-year term, divided by the hundred years in a century, results invariably in a ratio of one to four. Ohio had its Taft and Harding, and now it is New York's turn to bring home the bacon. As Ira Gershwin put it, there's a boat that's leaving soon for New York.
NB: Minnesota, home of near-miss candidate Humphrey and landslide loser with dignity Mondale, may well be next in line, though Arizona (Goldwater, McCain) will put up a furious fight four years hence.
-- David Lehman
The essence of the rivalry between the Orioles and the Yankees revealed itself last night. Tense, cerebral, nail-biting, four-hour pitching duels have defined their contests over the past three decades. Add managers Buck Showalter and Joe Girardi into the mix, two of the game's great tacticians and you're in for a satisfying nine course movable feast.
In the 4th, the Yankees loaded the bases with one out. With the count full, Gausman uncorked a mid-80s splitter that dove to the bottom of the strike zone. Starlin Castro couldn't hold up and swung at ball four. The game hung in the balance and Castro had the chance to alter it. Brian McCann hit a fly ball to deep center for the final out.
In the bottom of the inning, an error by the rookie right fielder Aaron Judge on a Chris Davis single allowed Mark Trumbo to score from second base.
Sabathia brilliantly worked the edges last night. He relies on location to confuse the hitters -- extending them little-by-little into his zones. He mixes speeds and locations and then sneaks fastballs by hitters. It's difficult to pick up the ball because of his mammoth presence and his ability to hide the pill. He has great success against Baltimore but he made one mistake. In the fifth with two out, Sabathia left a ball up and in the middle of the plate for Adam Jones, who connected for his 26th home run.
Writers often talk about persona. Pitchers are no different. Since losing his Kent Tekulve spectacles and growing a goatee, Kevin Gausman is on a streak of nineteen scoreless innings. He no longer grooves ninety-five mile an hour fastballs down the middle of the plate. His ball bends and darts as it reaches the hitter.
Both teams played solid defense and O's third baseman Manny Machado once again flashed his prowess on a ball hit by Brett Gardner. Orioles closer Zach Britton notched his 42nd consecutive save in preserving the win.
This series is the exact opposite of what happened last week in New York when the Yanks took the first two games. American League East teams spend so much time trying to beat each other, they often lose touch with the rest of baseball where the Cubs, Giants, Dodgers, Rangers, Mets and Nationals lie in wait.
The Orioles gained a game in the Wildcard hunt and crept closer to the division leading Blue Jays.
Only 30,000 fans showed up last night and much has been written including this screed by Thom Loverro in the Washington Times as to why fans aren't going to Oriole games this year. Was it last year's riots that led to the first Major League baseball game ever in any empty stadium? Are the Orioles bad marketers? Are tickets too expensive? It made me recall a moment in Fenway Park during the 1990 playoffs when the Red Sox pulled Roger Clemens after six innings and a one-run lead. Fans headed for the exits. They knew how bad their bullpen was.
There were enough people there for me to hear the boos directed at Mark Teixeira, the Severna Park native and Mt. St. Joe grad who spurned the Orioles offer in 2009. That's now lasted seven years. It's a fickle city--a place where former Oriole pitcher turned Yankee Mike Mussina is referred to as Judas on message boards.
The last two nights, Oriole pitching has shutout the Yankees. Going back to last Sunday's game, the Yankees haven't scored a run against the Orioles in 27 innings. The last time that happened to the Bombers was in 1973. Oriole starters have been untouchable. The lack of off season moves in the pitching department is a sore spot with O's fans but it's being dealt with.
According to some, Baltimore has always been "a football town with a baseball problem." Legendary manager Earl Weaver was jealous of the city's love for the Colts. Take the poet Moira Egan who hails from Baltimore. Moira and I were born in the same hospital only months apart. Our fathers ran the streets of West Baltimore together during the late '50s. She happens to be in town this weekend from Rome, Italy--attending a wedding and partaking in crab feasts.
"I'm more of a football gal, but when I home, I get the O's report every morning," she writes.
"He needed an axe handle, so he took that bat and made one."
Katy Evans-Bush is a New York-born poet and blogger who has spent most of her life in London. Author of two collections with Salt Publishing, her latest book is Forgive the Language, a collection of essays published by Penned in the Margins. Find her at baroqueinhackney.com
Thank you, Katy.
Watching the greenish-brown waters swirl and swell beneath the Pont au change, perchance to carry off a selfie-snapping tourist, does certainly capture the imagination of some. However, it is not the rising waters below (ici-bas), but the lowering clouds above (là-haut) that have captured imaginations in this famous Somewhat Luminous City on the Seine.
Let’s keep in mind that in Paris, one can make a good economic case for unemployment as opposed to working. In short, life ain’t bad. Also, getting a good photo of some things is really a challenge. One has to weigh carefully the trouble of being forced to trouble yourself to get an arresting image against continuing your promenade de dimanche with Karine, who just happened to be in an, ah, uneasy mood…
What is sinister news in Paris, therefore, isn’t the same as in, say, Kinshasha or Raquaa or Beijing. Strikes, for example, are mostly unrealizable threats made by comfy-looking union bureaucrats.
Actual work stoppages or picket lines or slowdowns touch small numbers of poorly-selected but generally helpless strategic targets. They are generally carried out by relatively well-paid, tenured public services-workers. These men - and they are virtually all men - use an antique rhetoric of insurrection and social-incendiarism that is mostly directed at sympathizing left-wing politicians. And while they do manage to truly harass segments of the more public-services dependent and suburban population, other than disappointing people hopeful for change and provoking hours of bilious TV-yelling matches, they are pointless.
True, many staff at the famous museums along the Seine, as well as maintenance and emergency personnel, will be working overtime to ensure that absolutely nothing will happen. Some may actually have to cancel their girls’ night out or put off the postponed visit to an aging and rebarbative relative. So far, they’ve been successful in holding back the possibility of real problems. Just today, the experts say, the rivers are falling back to more manageable levels.
But, really, it’s not the fate of waterproof storage along the Seine or strikes that are getting people worked up, or, rather, down. It’s the the overcast and rain, which is really tough to live with and really very difficult to take as an action photo.
The weather has been mostly cool, grey and rainy since at least January 1st, I believe. It sure seems like it, anyhow. That’s what counts for us. We don’t care a bit if you think it’s frivolous; we’ve got the Seine for soaking heads. Keep it in mind and get on with your selfie.
It has rained so pitilessly during this particularly interminable period since the first of June that I personally have lost three (3) umbrellas and have felt obliged to buy a fourth (4th). I have got so used to smelling like a wet dog that I have not used the foolish thing, in spite of the constant spitting and spluttering of the sky.
Karine is typical when she says, “Mais, mon Tracy, c’est le mois de juin!” That’s it. In June, for pity’s sake, short sleeves and floofy skirts are normal; hoodies and muddy sneakers are an abomination.
I have, personally, witnessed hats on people who weren’t getting married or in some religious movement or another.
However, good news is here. At 6 pm today, June 5, at the corner of rue des Pyrénées and rue de l’Ermitage, the sun poked out of the clouds and illuminated a whole square of asphalt in front of the gym. To the great delight of his little family, the customers at the café on the corner and myself, a man burst into a comic but quite sincere version of the halleluiah chorus.
Météo France to Paris: The worst is over! Halleluiah!
Pourvu que ça dure! ;-
- Tracy Danison
Freedom - Better Now
Better far— from all I see—
To die fighting to be free
What more fitting end could be?
Better surely than in some bed
Where in broken health I'm led
Lingering until I'm dead
Better than with prayers and pleas
Or in the clutch of some disease
Wasting slowly by degrees
Better than a heart attack
or some dose of drug I lack
Let me die by being black
Better far that I should go
Standing here against the foe
Is the sweeter death to know
Better than the bloody stain
on some highway where I’m lain
Torn by flying glass and pane
Better calling death to come
than to die another dumb,
muted victim in the slum
Better than of this prison rot
if there’s any choice I’ve got
Kill me here on the spot
Better for my fight to wage
Now while my blood boils with rage
Less it cool with ancient age
Better violent for us to die
Than to Uncle Tom and try
Making peace just to live a lie
Better now that I say my sooth
I’m gonna die demanding Truth
While I’m still akin to youth
Better now than later on
Now that fear of death is gone
Never mind another dawn.
-- Muhammad Ali
Trochaic theory, the political forecasting system based on poetic metrics, which correctly predicted Obama's presidential victories in 2008 and 2012, has shortened the odds on Bernie Sanders -- if, and it's a big if, the Sandman gets the Democratic party nomination. The reason: his name conforms to the double trochee pattern that has reliably given us an array of chief executives including Andrew Jackson, Millard Fillmore, Grover Cleveland, Warren Harding, Harry Truman, and Richard Nixon.
The odds of presidential triumph shorten further if the candidate's first and last name alliterate (e.g. Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Ronald Reagan). But it is probably too late for Bernie to change his name to Sandy. While deeply critical of Israeli PM Netanyahu, the Brooklyn-born Sanders remains a Zionist ("Do I think Israel has the right to exist? Yeah, I do") who scores high on the "Jew You" test devised by a team of experts including Larry David, Sarah Silverman, and University of Vermont professor Richard Sugarman. His favorite poet would be Yehuda Amichai if he had a favorite poet and were at liberty to disclose the name.
Hilary Clinton merits an asterisk if only because the two major precedents for her name are those of Zachary Taylor and Abraham Lincoln -- in both cases a dactyl before a trochee. Astrological analysis sees the likelihood of war following such an ascendant. But maybe that's just talk. If Clinton were to consider an "Abraham Clinton" ad campaign, with an actress playing Hillary in the role of Honest Abe, she would gain ten points in some polls. Deliberate mispellings of her last name (Clitnon), common in right-wing supermarket tabloids, are bound to backfire.
The monosyllabicTed Cruz doth lose unless, like George Bush he faces an opponent who shortens his name to the same thump thump (2000) or a hapless chap on water skis (2004) The triumph of the first George Bush against Michael Dukakis in 1988 remains an aberrant case that is usually explained (a) as an expression of satisfaction with the Reagan administration, (b) proof that a picture (Dukakis in tank with helmet) is worth a thousand words, and (c) the insertion of two middle initials in Mr. Bush's name, ostensibly to distinguish the 41st from the 43rd US president, but with attendant metrical mischief.
It is however pertinent to note that the metrical makeup of "Michael Dukakis" resembles that of Barack Obama except that, luckily for Barry, his first name scans as an iamb not a trochee and so he escapes the Dukakis ignominy.
Of John Kasich, it may be said that his best hope is to add a middle initial, preferably F, and launch an "all the way with JFK" campaign, but that would cost a huge amount of money and the candidate would dismiss the idea in line with his no-nonsense Ohioan personality. The relative fates of the governors of Ohio and Michigan during this primary season fall into their own pattern -- the many seasons when the Buckeyes trounced the Wolverines by three touchdowns and went on to a bowl game.
As to the one person I seem to have left out, I would reiterate that a simple syllabic extension of his last name -- from Trump to Trumpet -- would make all the difference. -- DL
The following is a starting point for anyone willing to understand the plight of immigrants in this country better. For anyone that is interested in our humanity. I believe that if everyone read these books, signed up for the authors'/websites' newsletters, friend-requested artists/writers, followed them on Instagram/tumbler/twitter; we would not have such a strong anti-immigrant sentiment in this country. I truly believe that when we begin to listen to each other, we understand each other. We understand why we do things, how we might help each other through them, and we begin to care about each other’s happiness.
The following is a list of first-hand accounts from immigrants, or accounts written by children of immigrants. It's important that we tell our own stories and that we read the stories from the mouths of immigrants.
And anything by Reyna Grande
Poetry of Resistance: Poets Responding to SB-1070 and Xenophobia, Francisco X. Alarcón, Odilia Galván Rodriguez
And a forthcoming undocumented anthology edited by Sonia Guiñansaca, look for it. Look for anything she does over at: http://soniaguinansaca.com/
Melanie Cervantes and Jesus Barraza's Dignidad Rebelde Collective
And these helpful organizations:
Again, these are only the beginning in understanding the 12 million undocumented individuals in this country. Spread the word. Let's talk to each other via our art, writings, posts. Let's understand each other and treat each other with respect. Also feel free to add any other suggestions in the comment section. Thank you for reading.
“Why didn’t you take me with you? Why didn’t you come back sooner?” Someone-We-Love remembers these questions perfectly. Her daughter, Maria, was searching for an explanation. At 14, she couldn’t quite understand why her mom had left.
In the four and a half years that Someone-We-Love had been away, Maria dropped out of school twice. The first time, right after her mom’s departure, Maria stopped going to school for a few weeks. The second time, the year before Someone-We-Love returned, she dropped out for an entire year.
I asked Someone-We-Love why she thought Maria had done this, “because she missed me. And also, I think it was difficult for Maria to accept I had a daughter with Carlos.”
Someone-We-Love gave birth to Ana a year before she migrated back to El Salvador. Of course, she told Maria the moment she found out. Which was around the same time she dropped out of school for a year.
“Maria grew even more distant. I understood her struggle, so I tried to talk her through it, but also give her space. It was difficult for me. I wanted to be happy with Carlos. I wanted Maria to be happy.”
Before Ana turned two, Someone-We-Love boarded the ICE plane with her second daughter, Ana, in her arms. Ana’s father, Carlos, doesn’t have documentation, so he had to stay in California.
“Carlos was so afraid that he didn’t want to come into the airport. We said goodbye outside.” Someone-We-Love told Carlos that she would be back soon. Two or three years maximum.
“My plan was to convince Maria to come to this country with me. I returned for the quinceañera, yes, but I wanted her to be here with me.” But, someone-We-Love didn’t count on the strong bond Maria had formed with her Abuelita Nelly—Someone-We-Love’s mother.
“‘How can I leave her here? Who’s going to take care of Abuelita Nelly now that all her daughters have left?’ Hearing my daughter Maria tell me this, really broke my heart.” Someone-We-Love started to cry.
She explained to me that she felt pulled in all directions. She felt terrible to leave her mother behind. She felt terrible to leave her daughter Maria behind. She felt guilty for wanting to take Maria away, for wanting to leave her mother, Nelly, alone again.
“I didn’t know what to do.”
On top of the difficulties she faced with her family, Someone-We-Love’s hometown continued to get more and more dangerous. When she returned, she was afraid to sell pupusas again. She had to depend on Carlos sending money. And on top of all of that, Ana was born with hyperthyroidism, which meant she needed special medication to control her growth. If she didn’t get the right dose, it could put her development in jeopardy.
Someone-We-Love stayed in El Salvador until 2013. Close to three years, before she had to return to California.
“Ana’s hyperthyroidism was the main reason why we came back. I didn’t want to leave Maria again. I begged her to come with us. I did. But she didn’t want to.”
Maria said she couldn’t leave her real mom behind. Just remembering this detail hurt Someone-We-Love. She couldn’t hold back the tears.
Someone-We-Love had to migrate to California by land again. By then, Ana was old enough to take a plane on her own. She flew with a flight attendant and her father picked her up from the airport. But since her mother was not a citizen, she had to take the long way to California.
“The second try took a little longer. Five weeks.” Someone-We-Love tells me about her time at the border, “we had crossed the river and gotten to the van. But once in the van, La Migra put their lights on and wanted to stop the van. The driver told us to get ready to jump out, that he was gonna slow the van down and everyone, even himself, was gonna run out. I’m not the coyote ok? He repeated. Then we all ran.”
The first time she crossed, she didn’t have any trouble, but this time, she was caught in December 2013. By then, ICE had a new policy. They were letting immigrants come into the country for a month, but they had to report back to the immigration court within that month in order to hear their verdict. Someone-We-Love like many immigrants decided to not report back to the court and by default became undocumented and deportable.
I ask her why she didn’t report back. “Because everyone knows that they don’t listen to you and simply deport you.”
Someone-We-Love is correct. She was made to sign a document without knowing what she was signing. She never got a lawyer. She never got a translator. No one told her what to do besides signing that document that told her to report back in a month.
The date when Someone-We-Love crossed into the US is a month before the Obama administration’s cut-off date for an all-out deportation of anyone who crossed after January 1, 2014. Which means that anyone, mother or child, who crossed after that date, is going to get deported, without a hearing, without being granted refugee status.
In Someone-We-Love’s hometown, just last month, they shot a referee at the soccer fields because he made the wrong call to the wrong person. He was shot point-blank at 2 pm. These incidents are occurring all over the country and if they’re not murdered, people are disappearing. Last year, they found a mass grave in the bay that surrounds Someone-We-Love’s hometown. They couldn’t identify who the people were. Everyone knows not to venture into other neighborhoods during the day and no one can safely walk at night. “Things are worse. And I’m scared Maria is still over there.”
According to USA Today, El Salvador’s murder rate for 2015 was 104 people per 100,000, which is the highest for any country in nearly 20 years.
“It’s a civil war again,” Someone-We-Love says. But it seems no one is calling it what it is because if the U.S. government called it a war, Someone-We-Love, and the 100,000 plus families fleeing, would be called refugees. But they are not. So every time Someone-We-Love comes to work at this café, she’s scared she will not see her daughter Ana again. She’s constantly watching the back door.
“If they come, I know to run.” She tells me. But she shouldn’t have to be afraid. Her daughter Ana shouldn’t have to be afraid of her mother getting deported.
The recent hypocrisy of the Obama Administration is infuriating. Yes, the president cried during his much-needed gun-control Executive Order speech, but the same day his administration released a letter that justified the deportation of everyone––including children and mothers––who crossed the border after January 1, 2014, the year the United States had a “crisis of unaccompanied children at the border.” But there have been children immigrating for quite some time (i.e. I was an unaccompanied minor in 1999). In 2014 alone, it is estimated that over 100,000 families crossed the border. My question is: Why does the media not see that the people crossing the US-Mexico border are just like the refugees crossing the Mediterranean?
Someone-We-Love’s two-part story is a brief compilation of several interviews. I call her Someone-We-Love because she’s our grandmother, mother, aunt, sister, cousin, friend. She’s someone we know, across the counter, at the checkout-line, walking on the sidewalk. I hope you can have compassion, share her story, and see her humanity—something the media often erases.
* * *
It’s two weeks before Christmas and I am sitting with Someone-We-Love at the small café she works at. She just clocked out for the day. I jot notes on a small pad as she sips her coffee. What I understand is that migrating from El Salvador was her last resort.
Someone-We-Love gave birth to her daughter Maria when she was only 16 years old. Her husband Juan was twice her age. He was a retired Atlacatl Battalion soldier (the most ruthless faction of the military during the civil war), so he got a pension.
“I thought he was handsome in that olive-green uniform,” Someone-We-Love says. “To this day, I don’t know why I liked him.”
Beatings and verbal abuses happened too many times the nights he would stumble through the door. Someone-We-Love says, “He spent all his money on cheap cane vodka. He hung around with the village drunks. He would get so wasted and recall what he did during the war. He said if he really wanted to, he could kill me with his bare hands. That he could kill anyone, that that’s what the army taught him.”
When that occurred, Someone-We-Love and her daughter would walk in the dark for two kilometers on dirt roads to her parent’s house. It wasn’t until Maria turned five that Someone-We-Love garnered the strength to leave Juan for good. Even then, from time to time he would yell at her from the street when he was drunk. He had never helped her with money. She worked with her mom at their pupuseria, but their earnings were not enough. Her sisters, who had fled to the U.S. years earlier, sent her more money once she got separated from her husband, but still, it wasn’t enough.
In 1999, El Salvador changed their currency to the dollar and with it, the cost of living increased. Around the same year, gangs started to take hold of San Salvador. News began to spring up about a gang-tax for local businesses. Someone-We-Love and her parents lived far away from the capital, in a small coastal town, but as the years went by, so did the strength and spread of the gangs.
By 2006, fear of murders, extortions, and shootouts, were a reality as Mara Salvatrucha controlled Someone-We-Love’s town. Townspeople started to find bodies on the side of the streets like they had during the civil war. Instead of jeopardizing her parents and her daughter for fear of a gang-enforced business-tax, Someone-We-Love decided to take a shot at a U.S. visa. Her sisters sent her the 120 dollars to apply, 120 dollars is an average month’s salary in El Salvador. The plan was that if Someone-We-Love migrated and made more money in the U.S., her mother would not have to sell pupusas anymore. Avoiding the gang-tax.
With a 6th grade education, no bank account, no land or business (all unofficial requirements); Someone-We-Love got denied by the U.S. embassy.
“I had no other option, but to try and reach the U.S. by land,” she says.
She knew of the dangers of crossing Guatemala and Mexico by land. But she knew a trusted coyote who had recently completed many trips with local women and nothing had happened to them. She paid the man and made it to California in less than a month. She considers herself one of the lucky ones.
“The decision was hard. I didn’t want to leave my 11-year-old daughter. But I don’t think she could’ve made the trip at that age. I didn’t want her to. I’d heard stories. I wanted her to be older, or to try another way.” Her eyes began to water as she told me this.
Do you regret not taking your daughter with you?
She promised Maria she would return and/or send for her as soon as she got enough money. But in California, Someone-We-Love couldn’t find a job where she earned enough to pay her sisters back for the 8,000 dollars for her own passage, to save the 10,000 dollars to pay the coyote to bring her daughter, AND send Maria and parents some money every month.
“It was very hard for me. A part of me regretted coming here. I felt so alone. I missed my daughter so much. I was missing out on her childhood. But I didn’t want to stay over there and not have enough money for her education,” she said rubbing her hands as she spoke.
“On top of the financial hardship, I was scared of La Migra. They came to where I worked (a local supermarket, where she earned six dollars an hour), but I wasn’t there. I was scared La Migra would come again.”
Two years passed, she switched jobs and started cleaning houses, but still she couldn’t raise enough money to bring Maria here.
Someone-We-Love met Carlos at her apartment complex. He was quiet, hardworking, and loved her so much.
“He was the complete opposite of Juan.” Her eyes stopped tearing up and glistened. “I love Carlos.” I asked Someone-We-Love what it was like for Maria to learn about Carlos.
“It was really difficult telling Maria I had met a man I loved and that we were thinking of having children.”
Someone-We-Love didn’t know what to do. She cried so many times. She wanted to have a baby with Carlos. But she knew it would mean Maria would be mad at her. She didn’t know if her daughter would, or, could understand.
Someone-We-Love had promised Maria she would return for her quinceañera. “I left her when she was eleven. I didn’t want to break that promise.” Someone-We-Love had never had a quinceañera. She always dreamed of buying her daughter a big dress, cake, and throw a big party, so Maria would celebrate with her friends.
“I want her to have everything I never had.”
Part of Someone-We-Love didn’t want to return to El Salvador because the gang-violence had not only continued, but it had gotten worse in her hometown. She knew she had to go back to see her daughter, to watch her grow, to show her mother’s love, to keep her daughter from resenting her.
“Maria had grown distant. Sometimes when I called, she wouldn’t answer the phone. Or she would be short with me. But she would always ask when I would return.”
Someone-We-Love knew the physical distance had begun to pull her daughter away from her. She repeated, “I didn’t want her to resent me.”
“And God forbid, I didn’t want anything to happen to her. I wanted to protect her from the violence. I wanted to be there with my daughter.”
In 2010, Someone-We-Love willingly got on board the first airplane of her life—a US Immigration Customs Enforcement flight to El Salvador alongside other deportees. But the difference was that everyone else on that full flight, hadn’t chosen to be there. Her love for her daughter called for her.
But it wouldn’t be long before the circumstances in El Salvador worsened. And she would have to make the 3,000-mile trip back to California.
A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead. -- James Joyce, The Dead
Sunday, December 13, 2015 • 4pm
Hoboken Historical Museum,
1301 Hudson St.,
Acclaimed poet and critic David Lehman will visit the Museum on Sunday, Dec. 13 at 4 pm, to discuss his latest book: "Sinatra's Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World," a series of short meditations on the man, his music and his larger-than-life story. The author of the award-winning A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs, Lehman devotes each of these short pieces to one facet of the Sinatra story—from the singer’s origins on the streets of Hoboken, to his emergence as “The Voice” in the 1940s, to the wild ebb and flow of his career in the decades that followed. With a wordsmith’s turn of phrase, and a lifelong affection for the singer and the man, Lehman offers a wide-ranging appreciation of Sinatra’s incomparable life and career.
More information here.
Understand that by Monday, November 16th, utter dismay has turned the Friday the 13th Paris Massacre into “The Events”.
Monday is our first day back on the grindstone after the Events, is the day everybody found out how not-close friends or immediate family had fared on Friday 13th: at bus & metro stops, at stores, bakeries, cafés, on the street, at work.
I thought, this will all be, genre, type, “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” Inconsequential.
But no, as it turns out, it’s not.
The dismay means that even the egomaniac bloofering that usually fills the airwaves in the days after something bad happens remains shriveled down into pretty fair reporting.
In case you’re wondering, bloofer is from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. “Bloofer lady” is how one of the naïve children describes a particularly seductive vampire. Jeez-louise, but that part scared me. It scares me still. I’m not sure why - and I don’t have to be, thank you - but vampirism seems entirely appropriate where religious fanaticism is concerned.
The buses, trams and metros have been full from Sunday. They will continue to be full, sauf exception, beyond the national days of mourning. Routines are always ready to hand, even under a state of emergency.
This Monday, as every Monday, the bus up the rue des Pyrénées to Saint Lazare is full of Everypersons. This Monday, though they give off just a hint of more than usual discrete readiness to help out, should needs must, of course.
Full of women like this scrupulously-groomed, courteous and friendly 20-something personal assistant or caregiver or whatever she is. She smiles and primly makes room, anticipating that I’ll sit next to her, though she’s wrong.
The puffy red-head 40-something floozy splayed out over the other empty seat is never in any mind to help anybody, ever. I have often wondered how her now permanent moral exhaustion came about? But this morning, as every morning, I discover that I don’t care enough to linger over the question.
Full of men like the postal worker with the silly-looking top-knot. He nods and smiles at me as if his sack is filled with winning lottery tickets for me. I have no idea why. Perhaps I have a black smear across my face? Perhaps he is one of the lesser imbeciles, full of good will because he fears the wrath of Father Christmas’s brother, Father Scourge? O! But he does seem a nice sort of fellow, so I incline my head in a way that indicates OK, but no conversation, please.
Full of fathers like the skinny, tall, tense Arab-looking guy whose eyes tell me he thinks I am probably wearing the suicide vest I think he might be wearing. His daughter is babbling peacefully in her push chair, shaking her foul-looking cloth doudou in air and cooing to melt the hardest hearts. Totally unaware she has a crazy daddy.
Of course, it is just possible he isn’t so crazy at home, that his lady swears by his husbandly & paternal virtues. Maybe he buys ice cream for the kid when there’s nowhere to buy himself ecstasy. I don’t know.
Full of inscrutable beings like the boubou-clad guy with a skull cap and kinky, greying, pious-Muslim beard. He clacks his worry beads with the resigned air of a hungry man who hears the tell-tale clatter and cries of slave-raiders in the near distance. A permanent cringe tells me he has decided that, this time, after years of cowardly hesitation, Fate shall be the judge. I see him often. His function is to remind me that my darker moments are just moments.
I scan all the faces, “heads,” the French say, for signs that, against appeareance, this is a special Monday. I conclude that this is the ideal day to fall down with a heart attack or psychotic fit. Today, instead of recoiling and trying to find excuses to get away, I think I see that these people today will force themselves to do something positive in the circumstances.
There is good nature and, as Diderot might have said, natural philosophy, here.
Settling myself in the well that fronts the exit door, I am now feeling jokey, more my usual crazy Midwest Uncle self, ready to amuse myself, for example, by somehow startling the tense guy who thinks I’m wearing the suicide vest that I believe belongs to him.
I try to imagine the personal assistant’s discretely helping me. She asks politely before puffing air between my blueing lips. After a heroic leap to plant herself over my manly, defibrillating chest, she stops to smooth her starched knee-length uni-color pleated skirt. To keep me from self-harming.
Snickering, I arrive at place Gambetta, just behind the City Hall. I cannot get up even a minor cardiovascular event or neurotic delirium in the short time allotted.
I give a fleeting smile and nod, seemingly to the whole bus, but really only to the personal assistant. She smiles back with her eyes, as if realizing suddenly she’s in a play, anyway. It sobers me to think that she might very well be a Jehovah’s Witness.
I am suddenly thinking that if I had to give a TED lecture on how to hold oneself with amiable dignity in the wake of a terrorist massacre, I’d just show a 14-minute video of these, my fellow usagers, as we call public-transport riders, grunting from time to time to keep up interest.
I hop off and negotiate through the crowd to the crosswalk, where I wait for traffic to lighten.
The people on the full buses make me remember that life after all is that Peasant dance that the elder Bruegel painted, a pas à deux combination of incontrovertibly material and overwhelmingly symbolic elements, a debauched priest blessing a deadly game of handerchief-dagger between best friends...
Though Garrick flubbed an adlib subsequently picked up by Johnson, W. Shakespeare did write, did he not? That
Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Macbeth, Act V, Scene 2
I abruptly dash across avenue Gambetta and go up the rue du Cambodge and notice that the instrument maker’s workshop is closed. There’s a handwritten note, explaining that Romain, the luthier and owner of the place, has been murdered. At dinner down the hill, I suppose.
Such is my shock that I have to hold myself against a wall so I don’t fall.
This catastrophe, against all hope, is really, really, really real. And for the first time feeling really at a loss, I continue my way and, at the top of the rue des Pyrénées, I see my pal Gérald trudging up Ménilmontant hill. Smoking.
On Monday, still, also, children, spouses, parents, cousins, friends, lovers were learning that their own had been shot down, killed, wounded, crippled for life.When he reaches me, I tell him of my distress, something I am usually not so unwary as to do. Between gasps, he puffs, “Well, 130 people, each knowing or known by 100 people? Sadness and grief spreading like a chilly fog.” As if wishing to do it himself, the Cartesian angel of calculation casts wide this fell net.
Once at the office, I learn that Florent grabbed his little son and fled in a panic when a man exploded in front of them. But he doesn’t say a word about it. Gérald got an email all about it, written from the excruciating wee hours of Sunday. An old PTA friend of Miriam lost her daughter. Parents of young adult children, we retch to think of it.
In the late afternoon, Thomas comes by. All well, Tom? His sister has been murdered over her dessert, he says, trying too hard to be matter-of-fact. He bursts into sobs. Our hugs are so damn awkward… Aïsha’s rollerblading copine has been shot dead… She joins Thomas in sobbing.
Late in the evening, I notice a pile of flowers in front of my favorite café. It’s for Caroline, a girl who used to sit and take her coffee there while tapping her Mac, murdered at the Bataclan.
By day’s end Monday, I have learnt that a terrible chagrin has cut a rough swath through the strongest human ties. But I have also learnt something that seems to me worse. In the course of time one does lose one’s parents, children, loves, friends. Even so cruelly.
But these murders have deliberately splashed filth over the bright detail of our lives among us known strangers: over the pleasant nod, the brief wink, the evanescent smile, the amused or indignant shared glance.
A handwritten note on Romain’s instrument workshop reads:
I go past your workshop every morning.
I have often wanted to come in and see your art, discover the person you were.
A terrible regret not to have done so.
I miss you.
The following post, which originally appeared on the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog, was written by Rob Casper, head of the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress.
Describe what you do at the Library of Congress and the materials you work with.
I am the head of the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library. The Center is home to the U.S. Poet Laureate, the only federally-funded position for a literary artist in the country and the most visible position for a poet by far. We also put on over 40 programs—readings, panels, symposia, and such—every year, and we have a robust website which features online-only content such as our “Interview Series” as well as webcasts from our events.
Do you have a favorite item from the Library’s online collections?
Well, as a poetry person I have to say I’m thrilled by the wealth of Walt Whitman materials we have, and the “Revising Himself: Walt Whitman and Leaves of Grass” exhibition page is a great place to start exploring. I’m also proud of our two new audio archives we’ve put online this past year: the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature (ARPL) and the Archive of Hispanic Poetry on Tape(AHLOT). Both offer gems, such as a recording of Pablo Neruda in our studio or the historic anniversary reading for the Academy of American Poets in our Coolidge Auditorium.
Share a time when an item from the collections sparked your curiosity.
I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark
from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman
THE RULE OF THUMB
Ringfinger was nervous
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.