Running Under Quarantine – A Quadrille

Running under quarantine,

Masked,

Alone

Like a thief who didn’t

Get away with

Anything.

I pass

Closed parks,

Closed shops,

Closed hearts.

I pass

Suspicious eyes

Above smiley face emoji masks.

I return home relieved

Not refreshed.

I can’t run away

From racism’s virus.

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I’ve been missing poetry prompt deadlines on WordPress because…coronavirus…what else is there to blame all the ills of world on?  Even though some of those ills have been going on for generations…

This quadrille was written for De Jackson at dVerse’s Quadrille #101 – Close and also incorporates Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #226 – Running and #227 – Running (I’m late for one, but “early” for the other…what is this world coming to?? =). Seriously though, if you get a chance to read Patrick’s musing on this post about social distancing, please do. His melancholy acceptance makes so much sense.

I, on the other hand, have not yet reached that point. I am still grieving and shaking my fist at the air, asking “Why? Why? Why?” I am also shaking my fist at the news and giving a one finger salute whenever a specific person and/or his “loyal followers”  minimizes the impact of this pandemic. So, despite trying to do all the “right” things to come to terms with current situation, the struggle continues.

Running does help, as does any physical activity, especially outside.  This week, the kids and I have gone on scavenger hunts, had two dance parties and taken walks (can you guess which are outside versus inside activities?).  I’ve done most of my running on the treadmill, though, as the kids haven’t wanted to venture out too far on our walks. I fear that I have put the fear of the virus in them, and they are worried about venturing too far from home.

While this virus is a “new” real threat, it does feel like the “old” real threat of racism which has been a pandemic in the USA since the Pilgrims set foot in the “New World”. Since the first reported outbreak of the coronavirus, there has been a correlated increase in the incidents of hate crimes against Asians and Asian-Americans. Racism in the USA can also be blamed for why people of color (especially Black men) might not be comfortable wearing masks at this time, and also why more people of color are dying from COVID-19 relative to the number of people in the general population. Disparities in all aspects of US society are being laid bare by this pandemic (read more about this here, here and here).

So, I too, worry about running outside alone, with or without a mask. The threat is real as evidence by the data – that’s true whether it’s racism or COVID-19.

 

(c) 2020 iido

America – A Short Story

Looking out my back door, I tried to keep my breathing steady. It had been twenty-four hours since Mamá said goodbye. She had walked me to the school door instead of just dropping me off. She had given me an extra long hug and whispered, “Hay una sorpresa para ti, in your lunchbox,” before letting me go and walking quickly down the steps so she wouldn’t be late for work.

I had entered the school and didn’t give her another thought. Until she didn’t come home for dinner. And she wasn’t in the kitchen making arroz con chorizo on Saturday morning. And now it was Saturday evening.

I walked into the living room and picked up my cell phone. I tapped the “news” icon and watched the app launch. I saw it then, a picture of the factory where she worked. Mamá was coming out of the front door, flanked by two men in dark clothing, carrying guns, and wearing bullet proof vests that had the three scariest letters in the entire English language.

I-C-E

Mamá was still wearing the gloves she used for cleaning, her hair was mussed, the curly tendrils like a crown of ivy on her head. The headline said, “The first day of school turned into a nightmare after record immigration raids.” I sat on the couch, my heart rate increasing.

“No te preocupes,” Mamá would say when I whispered my fears to her. “Tengo fe in this nation.”

Mamá might have faith in this country, but I no longer did.

The photo above was taken by Patrick for his Pic and a Word Challenge #216 – America. I’ve also incorporated other prompts from this last week: Go Dog Go Cafe’s Tuesday Writing Prompt to use the word “ice” and the number “twenty four”; and the Ragtag Daily prompt for Saturday – Nation (Thank you, Punam!), Thursday – Looking out my back door and Wednesday – Goodbye.

This story is based on a true story of an immigration raid in Mississippi that occurred on the first day of school in 2019 – so it isn’t really “fiction”, hence the title. The children, of the immigrants who were taken, were not picked up from school and had no way of knowing what happened to their parents. I can only imagine the terror of those children – losing a parent is a big fear for any child. This incident also reminded me of the way the Jewish people were rounded up by the Nazis. Is this what America has become?

©️ 2020 iido

Liar, Liar – A Poem

Cough, cough, ahem,
Excuse me,
You’re on fire
Yes, you, holding the cell phone
And scrolling
Scrolling
Is it Facebook? Instagram?
Twitter? Tiktok?
Or maybe just the news?
Oh, you don’t notice the smell?
The smoke coming from your pants?
Those pants twisted from all the gymnastics you do –
Well, not actual gymnastics
But the mental gymnastics you do
So you can sleep at night
Oh wait, that’s right
You don’t sleep
You’re scrolling
At 2 AM
Your body, your mind
Your life
Hacked
Into believing
You’re the only one entitled to the American Dream

This poem was written for Jamie Dedes’ Wednesday Writing Prompt from last week to write about living in a “hacked world”. Responses to this prompt can be found here.

The word “hacking” can have many different meanings. This being cold and flu season, and having kids in various stages of “the sniffles”, my first thought was coughing and not electronic hacking. These are both symptoms of much larger problems.

©️ 2020 iido

The Cure – Not the Band but a Double Dizain

For sale! The Ultimate Cure for your ills
It removes pride, hatred, entitlement
It heals hearts and minds as your soul, it fills
But I don’t say this for my amusement
In fact, that’s the cure for Life’s excrement

Put on your fun pants, ignore the pshaw
Start with a titter, a chuckle, guffaw
The wheels start turning when you realize
That laughter, the cure-all, relaxes your jaw
So smile in the face of what you despise

This isn’t snake oil but conflict detox
Holster your words, your glares, your fist and gun
Your howl of hilarity will outfox
The zombies who follow the orange one
Mark Twain said laughter is the best weapon

Stockpile some toothbrushes, toothpaste and mints
Practice your giggles and comedy stints
Change what you can then get your wheels churning
Let the arc on your face leave its imprint
The laughing cure keeps the world from burning

This double dizain (that is, two back-to-back dizains – I may have made this form up…) is my response to Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #200 – Wheels and Jamie’s Wednesday Writing Prompt to write a poem about what would happen if there was a “world-wise detoxification event, an international soul healing day” that would “unite [us/the world] in letting go of the hatreds, resentments, and pains that define so many of us and that we’ve inherited.”

This poem did not come together until I read this blog post from Shaun Jex @stoopkid entitled “Manifesto”. Shaun introduced me to this quote from Mark Twain:

Will a day come when the race will detect the funniness of these juvenilities and laugh at them–and by laughing at them destroy them? For your race, in its poverty, has unquestionably one really effective weapon–laughter. Power, Money, Persuasion, Supplication, Persecution–these can lift at a colossal humbug,–push it a little– crowd it a little–weaken it a little, century by century: but only Laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of Laughter nothing can stand.
– “The Chronicle of Young Satan,” Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts

This reminded me of the “Man in the Green Shirt” who went viral a few weeks ago and as well as the Pop Mob who used humor to diffuse the alt-right demonstrators in Portland, OR (you can read about Pop Mob’s counter-demonstration efforts here).

Of course, it’s not as easy as telling a few jokes and sharing laughter to solve the world’s problems. But imagine if it can be…so wear a smile today and tomorrow and the next day….it’s free and you don’t even need a prescription!

©️ iido 2019

Broken Beacon – A Senryu

The beacon of Home

Broken by guns, money, hate

We have lost our way

This senryu was written for Patrick’s Pic and a Word #198 – Beacons.

If this mini Statue of Liberty location doesn’t look familiar to you, it may be because it is located in Paris, France, just a few minutes walk from the Eiffel Tower. We are on vacation and in light of the two shootings that happened in the USA and after reading Fandango’s spot on assessment (in my opinion) on these happenings and dealing with a bot scraping my blog…it seems that the world is lost in more ways than one….

©️ iido 2019

Cafe Privilege or Why I Don’t Trust White Women Who Don’t Order Coffee When We’re Meeting at a Cafe – A Poem

You had arrived first

Patiently waiting for me

Our meeting began

But you hadn’t ordered coffee

I was confused

Since I knew the score

Without paying the price

They ask you to leave the store

But you sat and you talked

That’s when it got scary.

You exclaimed, “I don’t see colour”

That it wasn’t a worry

I should have known

Right then and there

To keep my mouth shut

I shouldn’t have cared to share

But I took a chance

And brought up the notion

That your ability to sit without buying a thing

Was because of your white complexion

Your demeanor, indignant

And your voice, like ice

“Don’t call me a racist”, you said

“That isn’t nice!”

I never called you that

I began to protest

I’m just pointing out this double standard

To get it off my chest

But you didn’t see

The privilege that you wore

And just like that

You stomped out the door

I sat and I wondered

Just when things went wrong

You and I had a lot in common

We even liked the same songs

But the one thing different

Was what you claimed not to see

The colour of my skin

That claimed my ancestry

I know I’m not poor

Or disabled or gay

I speak the language

And I’m allowed to stay

I know I’m privileged

And have much to repay

But today you proved again

The different rules in play

While I sat stunned

Feeling full of self-pity

The server comes and asked

When I’m buying a coffee

I’m still seen as other

I just have to accept

While drinking my coffee

I silently wept

But you just continued

No hiccup in your step

Then you told everyone

That I was inept

You used your white privilege

To put me in my place

Because I said the price of coffee

Depended on your race

So – if you are a person

Who is truly aware

Of your privilege and whether

Life is really unfair

Be sure to buy coffee

And listen with your heart

In order to end the -isms

That’s where we need to start

This poem was written for Anmol’s prompt at dVerse Poetics to write about privilege. dVerse has had several thought provoking posts: political provocation in poetry and now this one on privilege. It makes me happy and hopeful that they are opening the conversation about these topics. * As of this writing, the link has expired for this prompt! My overthinking has again caused me to miss Mr. Linky! 😢

The poem is also written for Patrick’s Pic and a Word Weekly Challenge – Color (or as Patrick would say “Colour”). The issue of privilege, race and racism isn’t just based on ethnicity (a person’s cultural background – whether it’s based on religion, tradition or ancestral location) or nationality (the country of one’s passport) but the actual color of one’s skin. Even within communities of color, talking about “colorism” – the fact that light skinned POC have some of the white privilege that darker skinned POC don’t have – is a difficult conversation.

This poem is based on a true incident that happened to me a few weeks ago. The white woman who I was speaking with effectively damaged my reputation because of a disagreement regarding politics and race. Despite saying she wasn’t racist, her behavior indicated otherwise and I don’t think she was even aware of this. I carry the burden of this interaction. No matter the privileges I have (whether born with it like being physically able or earned like my education and financial status), here in the USA, it is what people see that often times determines their behavior.

One last note – Björn’s post about provocation in poetry inspired the title of this poem. Before anyone gets into a huff – I don’t mistrust all White Women – just the racists ones who don’t order coffee when meeting in a cafe.

©️ iido 2019

One Slice of Bread – A Poem

Uncle, why only one slice of white bread?

Something is happening, what is it I dread?

Oh dear, don’t worry, it will all be just fine.

Just do as you’re told and toe the line.

But Uncle I see others have food on their plate.

And yours, above all, looks deliciously great.

Look, I need more sustenance than you.

Do you realize all the work that I do?

Now go to bed and do as you’re told.

Nothing will come from you being bold.

Uncle, what do those letters say?

I need to read if I am to stay.

Who says you’re staying, impertinent imp!

School is expensive, we just have to scrimp.

But Uncle I am working hard, too.

I pay for my clothes and give my extra to you.

Of course you do, that’s the only way.

How else can we live if you don’t slave away?

Now go to bed. That is not a choice.

I’m starting to get really annoyed at your voice.

Uncle, it just doesn’t seem fair.

I put in my time. You know that I care.

But it seems that I am the only one

These austerity measures will make me undone

Well, if that happens, it’s your own fault!

You’re not strong enough, clearly not worth your salt.

It’s because of you that we need these measures today

Always wanting to help others who have lost their way.

But Uncle, that was the right thing to do!

Shouldn’t we share with those who have few?

We have so much, but you’re saying we don’t.

Yet you still seem to be able to buy all you want.

Those are things that are my due.

I deserve more things than you.

Look at me! Why can’t you agree?

All you want are things for free.

And that’s why these cuts are your burden to bear.

Being in the middle, you should be aware.

Now go to bed, let these issues unfold.

Just be glad only a few things need sold.

Oh Uncle, why did you sell your soul?

For personal wealth, was that your goal?

I came to you with stars in my eyes.

I thought you were strong and honest and wise.

Together, we could have done so well!

But now I fear we will both go to hell.

Uncle Sam you ask so much of me.

I have so much less, yet you ask for more austerity.

What about healthcare, a decent wage and fair representation?

Or respect for my genders or religious affiliation?

On my back, you’ve created this fantasy,

And now you still just want to grab my pussy?

I’ve had enough. I won’t go to bed.

I deserve much more than one slice of bread.

This was a difficult poem to write for Jamie Dedes’ Wednesday prompt of “austerity measures”. She writes “The phrase “austerity measure” isn’t used as much now as it was when I wrote this poem, but that injustice by other name or unnamed is still an injustice and it’s one that is happening all over the world.

I had never heard that term before reading Jamie’s poem. I had always associated austerity with something that saints did, something positive, like sacrificing or doing without for the greater good. The term “austerity measures” is actually a financial term to denote an action by government to decrease its debt by increasing taxes while cutting spending on wages and programs (usually for the poor). So it’s something government imposes on its populace with those who are most in need, shouldering the burden of these measures. I will add that the financial definition does note that the tax cuts should be for the wealthy, however, I have a “feeling” that those cuts would depend on who is in government.

Families also implement austerity measures. I know my family did – growing up and being immigrants here, however, I know my parents took the brunt of those measures and did without, so that us children would not need to know that we were financially struggling. Of course, as kids, we still knew that other people had more than we did, but it wasn’t a hardship, just what our family did to live within our means.

Money has so many different meanings for different people. Our attitudes towards money, saving/spending are shaped by our upbringing and experiences. I wonder if austerity measures would be less of an injustice if it wasn’t imposed, if we all agreed to tighten our belts a little for the good of all. Whether a family, a company or a country – could there be compassion in financial matters?

©️ iido 2018

Pastel Life – a Poem

In the ‘80s, the mute button was on

For colors and for words

Pastel festooned interior walls

Women breathlessly whispered to be heard

So we could carry the burden with care

Big shoulders and hair were in vogue

Mint greens, baby pinks and sky blues

Relaxed us so we wouldn’t go rogue

The pastel life appealed for a while

But then we realized

That keeping us in innocent colors

Were all just part of the lies.

It isn’t equal when we’re given more

But men weren’t required to take less

Care for your family and for your job?

No wonder it is all such a mess

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to be sexy

And make sure you don’t get too fat

This was how you can “have it all”

And still “be all of that”.

But times they changed and colors deepened

Bright and bold and loud

Like fuchsia and cobalt and emerald green

Attention getters finally, so proud

We shouted out and showed some skin

Girls just want to have fun

We asserted our independence

But was it a victory we won?

Why does it need to be a choice

Why can’t we have both/and?

Men have to evolve and make a space

Respect women, hand in hand

And women, we still have work to do

The trends are coming back

Don’t lose the goals we’re striving for

Because right now, they’re under attack

This poem was written for Patrick Jennings’ Pic and a Word Challenge #157 – Pastels. Full disclosure – I totally love the 1980s! Pastels, big hair (and big hair bands!!), shoulder pads, Jordache Jeans….fun times! I wasn’t aware at all about anything political besides the “Just say No” campaign. Maybe that was why it seemed so blissful!

For me, part of becoming a real grown up meant registering to vote and doing my part as a citizen. My parents are involved in the elections in our hometown – my dad as an assistant coordinator of six voting districts and my mom is a chairperson of one district. I’m very proud of them for doing this civic duty so I do my part and vote. We may not always agree on the issues but we all agree on making sure our voice is heard and our vote is counted.

As a citizen, voting is a privilege and a responsibility. So whether wearing your pastel jacket with the large shoulder pads or your skinny jeans and crop top – go out (on November 6) and VOTE!

©️ iido 2018

NESCITUR IGNESCITUR -Unknown It Burns

Seventeen years ago, September 11, 2001, was a cloudless, bright blue Tuesday morning. This year, it was a cloudy, humid Tuesday morning. Still, we remember.

In Patrick Jennings’s Pic and a Word Challenge #152 – Fire, his poem for this prompt evokes a warning from a toxic threat. The Tuesday Prompt at Go Dog Go Cafe, inspired by the events of 9/11, requested: “Write about a time that you were challenged by an outside force, and talk about what you did to overcome it? More importantly, how did it change your view of yourself and/or the world around you?” Lastly, I was introduced by Linda Lee Lyberg at Charmed Chaos to a poetry structure called the “reverse Nonet”. This is a poem whose syllable count is: 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9.

Read on for a poem inspired by past and current fiery events, written in reverse nonet. The picture is an oil painting by Dante Gabriel Rosetti depicting Pandora and her infamous box (he also wrote a sonnet to accompany this painting). In the painting, the words on the box state “Nescitur Ignescitur” meaning “unknown it burns”.

******

Pandora’s Fire Box

or

NESCITUR IGNESCITUR (Unknown It Burns)

In tears I watched my world burning down

Like twin towers of faith and hope

Rumors about That Woman

Hatred for That Black Man

I am still held down

My disbelief

Progressing

Fearing

Fucked

Hurt

Anger

Loss of voice

World view shattered

Land of the “what now”

Home of the “not our job”

Reclaim the tiki torches

Be a beacon to light the way

Dried tears fuel the fire of freedom

(“Pandora”, Oil painting by Dante Gabriel Rosetti. Public Domain)

©️iido 2018