This haiku was written for Patrick’s Pic and Word Challenge #236 – Freedom. My head has been pretty preoccupied with all the protests that have been occurring, as well as the usual pandemic news briefings. It’s disconcerting to me in many ways, so I have been trying hard to find the places that I can control and feel effective in what I do. This has been challenging.
Besides redlining, sundown towns are another “hidden” aspect of the systemic nature of racism here in the USA. These practices were not written in history books but people – whites and blacks – knew about them. Because they weren’t documented, there was no way for blacks to prove they were being discriminated against. And if they tried to prove it or if they did not follow these written rules, there would be a violent reaction.
This is how racism works for people of color – stay silent or be a target. For white people, racism’s message is – stay silent and enjoy the benefits or you’ll be a target as well.
This is why we need to be raise our voices and our actions to be ANTI-Racist. Being passively against racism is how racism exists. This passivity includes saying the right words, even believing in equality, but not doing anything about it.
I live in a white neighborhood – there is only one other Asian family that lives in our whole entire neighborhood. On our cul-de-sac with six families, I know there are three families that support the current president who has shown support for racist attitudes. I bought the sign below:
Will freedom of speech be extended to us? We’ll see when the sun goes down….
I really liked the haziness of this painting – it reminds me of the images/ideas I had in my head about the kind of house I would live in when I grew up. I wanted a symmetrical house, with a weeping willow in the yard, maybe a pond close by. There would be a swing under the weeping willow and in the fenced in yard, there would be apple trees and flowers. And of course, there would be birds flying under the yellow sun with a few puffy clouds overhead.
I lived on the first floor of a duplex in Brooklyn when I envisioned my “grown up home”. We had a little yard in the back that was usually overgrown with weeds despite our attempts to grow vegetables and flowers. The kitchen was all the way in the back, so you had to pass through all the rooms to get to the back of the house. I would ride my bike up and down the street on the sidewalk, from our house to Aunt Rita’s house – that’s as far as my mom would let us. Sometimes, we would go to the bodega at the end of the block to get treats or get some plantains for a quick and yummy afternoon snack.
My kids have never lived in the type of place I lived in growing up. They’ve only known single family homes in the suburbs with decent yards and two or more bathrooms. They all are currently obsessed with living in tiny homes when they grow up, that they would park in our driveway so we can all still have dinner together as a family.
All my dreams of living in a spacious house have been reversed with my children’s dream of living in a home smaller than my childhood Brooklyn home. The irony.
As I write this in my typical American suburban kitchen with granite countertops, I am acutely aware of what I have, that others don’t. Yes, I know my husband and I worked hard to afford to be “comfortable”; that our parents also worked hard so we can live “better” then they did. But I know we had help – social supports, financial resources and a systemic societal advantage of being stereotyped as the “model minority”.
So while I have lead a financially and educationally privileged life, I still have experienced racism:
I’ve been accused of stealing at the local grocery store numerous time (to the point that I go to a different store farther way in a more diverse neighborhood just so I don’t have to worry about being “randomly audited” when I shop – because it isn’t random if it’s always and only me)
I’ve been called racial slurs as I’ve been out running
I’ve felt afraid going to a new place and realizing I was the only non-white person there and getting those looks that tell me I don’t belong
The thing with racism is that it erases the individual – that all important staple of American exceptionalism. You don’t see my struggles and triumphs. You don’t know about the awards I’ve won or that my closet with pants sizes ranging from college to pregnancy. You aren’t aware that I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or of my passionate conviction that Heinz is the best and only ketchup in the world. You don’t know that I dreamt of a house with a willow tree in the front.
But because I have lead a financially and educationally privileged life, I need to use that advantage to help those who were not as fortunate (through no fault of their own). Otherwise, I will be just as complicit in perpetuating racism.
I was actually thinking of titling this poem, “Patrick – A Poem”, but I wasn’t sure if the subject would appreciate that since he seems most comfortable behind the camera than in front. I owe Patrick a great debt of gratitude – he was one of the first, if not, the first blog that I followed and commented on. I was quite surprised that he actually responded to my comment with such warmth and humor. That’s when I realized that WordPress wasn’t just about posting stuff. It really is about building a community through words and pictures.
You can find my first submission for Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge # 43 – Lesson – HERE. It took awhile, but I have been fairly consistent with doing this challenge, even though I am a week behind. Patrick’s photos are breathtaking and his words are thought-provoking. In another life where I have more of an artist’s eye, I would have loved to be a world traveling photographer and writer. But for now, I am content seeing the world through Patrick’s Pix to Words.
I’ve been looking into virtual summer camps for my kids today and thinking about what we can focus on for this summer – academics, athletics, or amusement? At the same time, I was reading parenting blogs about how parents are dealing with kids being home all the time during shelter in place. The saying, “You reap what you sow” popped in my head – what summer seeds do I want to sow in my kids that will lead to a “good harvest”? What does a “good harvest” look like?
I’m going to be thinking about this during my run tonight…
This is the first kyoka that I have written, in fact, I hadn’t heard of a kyoka until reading Frank’s Meet the Bar post on dVerse about 5 line Japanese poetry. Frank (not to be confused with this Frank Tassone), who is an expert in English-language, Japanese style poetry, writes that a kyoka like a tanka except the focus is on human nature. He also explains that in order to follow more closely, the Japanese linguistic unit called “mora”, that the syllable count should be between 20-24 and not 31. Challenge accepted!
Did I succeed in taking a lovely picture offered by Sadje’s What do you see Picture Prompt #30 and turning it into a satirical take on human nature? My allergies say, YES! Especially since I was also able to include Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #232 – Emergent into this piece. (I’m still on a streak and it was Patrick’s birthday last weekend!) Do I get bonus points for the unintentional rhyming? The kyoka doesn’t have that requirement but this poem seemed to think it was the “elbow nudge, nudge” it needed.
Spring is definitely here and summer is fast on her heels. School has ended for my kids so we are taking a break from academics and focusing on….nothing for now. This has been hard for me as it seems we “devolve” when we don’t have some sort of structure…however, my kids are not big fans of schedules or “being told what to do”. Of course, they’re not….they are big fans of video games, eating brownies for breakfast, eating breakfast food for any meal other than breakfast, talking to friends on the latest app for hours and seeing how many days can they not shower or brush their teeth before they’re able to smell themselves.
With shelter in place is still in effect, there no summer camps available, the play grounds are still off-limits and our usual summer activities (pool, museums, travel) are all still closed. I worry about how the next two months will go, as I don’t think being in front of electronic screens while eating sugar in all it’s forms is the best idea.
So, I’m giving them through the weekend, then, we’re going to start having suggestions for things to do during the day that needs to be done by a certain time.
A schedule by any other name…is still structure that is needed by children and welcome by mothers!
This quadrille was also written for Sadje’s What to do you see? Photo Prompt #28. I had so many thoughts about this picture of a man – is he dancing? just strolling along? I think the background is in NYC, maybe looking into Queens but I am not sure. I have more thoughts about it though, but I have to confess, my mind has been preoccupied.
Finally, Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #231 – Nothing, completes this trifecta. While his “nothing” conjures relaxation and peace, my “nothing” has undertones of anger and hurt. Interesting how “nothing” can actually be more than one thing….
My mind is overwhelmed yet I am finding it hard to put into words all the thoughts that keep spilling…
When I was thinking about this poem, I actually was washing dishes and looking out the window – this was after dinner, when the kids were still up and about and not at all tired enough for bed. The noise was daytime loud. There was nothing in particular that happened to make the day “bad” and even their after dinner/before bedtime squabbling wasn’t particularly bothersome. I was just waiting for the day to be over, so I could have some time for myself (sorry, Hubby).
It was only after all the kids (and Hubby) were in bed and the house was silent that I was able to formulate into words and phrases what that moment was like – a moment that I’m sure many mothers (and maybe some fathers) have experienced. It’s these moments that people always tell you to be grateful for because they will be gone soon enough. It’s these moments that you try your hardest to accept as just a phase of life.
I was reminded about a quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta, Mother Teresa, who said, “Wash the plate not because it is dirty nor because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.” Yet what if you’re having a hard time loving any of the potential people who will use the dish next because they are arguing about who’s turn it is to pick a show to watch while getting sticky ice cream and cake crumbs all over the couch? (It was supposed to be a nice treat….) Maybe it takes a saint to not answer Artemis’ call….
I also wrote it for my cousin in Texas who is in the last stages of cancer. She was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago. She beat it once but when it returned again, the prognosis was not as good. They didn’t think she would make it to Christmas of last year so we held a huge birthday party for her in September. But she held on, and had time to visit with family here and in the Philippines. Through it all, she was in extreme pain and had lost the use of one side of her body. This past week, she took a turn for the worse and was admitted to the hospital. She decided that she was done fighting. Yesterday morning, she had minor surgery to insert some tubes so she could be more comfortable. She will be saying her final goodbyes this weekend and has decided that she wants to go home to die instead of to a hospice.
When I saw Sadje’s picture prompt, I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first. Then I started getting news of my cousin and the week flew by. This morning, I looked at the picture again and I finally noticed the lighthouse in the distance – a beacon of hope in this intense picture.
Patrick’s prompt (like so many of his prompts) resonated with what I was experiencing this week. I know making this choice is a painful one for my cousin, but it is what is right for her. She leaves behind two young adult daughters, both her parents and stepparents, two siblings and their children, and all of us, cousins and our families.
Amidst this pandemic, the ebb and flow of illness and health, life and death, happiness and sadness still occur.
I had written this poem and then posted it really quickly on Sunday night to make the deadline for Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #228 – Otherness. If you read and commented before I was able to totally finish this post, thank you! I hope you get a chance to read this 2nd part of it.
The week the schools closed here because of the pandemic, I had taken the kids to Target to grab a few things. On our way home, at the corner where we had stopped to make a right, we saw a homeless man carrying a sign asking for help, as he went from car to car. Usually, I have a little baggie with some granola bars and a few dollars that I would hand out however, on this day, I didn’t even look at the homeless man, trying to avoid making eye contact with him.
The light turned green and we turned the corner, and my kids asked me why I hadn’t given him anything. Hesitantly, I explained that I was worried about getting the coronavirus and that our safety was more important right now than helping the homeless man. My 9 year old then said, “But he probably doesn’t know about the coronavirus if he’s homeless. He probably doesn’t have a TV or a cell phone to get the news. He just knows that he needs help and we didn’t help him.”
Her astute perception has stayed with me.
Especially as more Americans file for unemployment benefits, the line between Self and Other, “Us Who Have” and “Them Who Have Not”, is blurring. In a lot of ways, we are all “Those Who Used To Have”.
Will we be able to see each other’s similarities now instead of focusing on our differences?