Monday, December 5, 2016

On questions and capes: A poem about post-election survival

On questions and capes: A poem about post-election survival

The cashier at the pharmacy verifies my name, address, date of birth,
looks me over and says, "Solomon, huh?
Is that Jewish?"

It is 3 weeks after the election.
We are standing in a Walgreens in a blue state
across the corner from where the
high school kids stood on election day with signs reading,
"build that wall" and "Hillary for Prison." We are
down the road from the Starbucks where I was lectured on
how young people will be the downfall of society because
we don't know any better, and up the street from the
house with the Confederate flag painted in its garage, from the
Trump sign that lights up in the dark, from the
pick-up truck with two Confederate flags flying off the back above the gun rack, from the
Safeway where men followed me to my car, tried to get in after me, where I
did not buy from the Kosher for Passover section because
a man in a Trump hat was in the aisle with me spouting ignorance and now I
why I am standing in Walgreens
trying to answer this question as
my mouth goes dry.

Dr. Laura?
If Donald Trump is president, will he hate me?

Dr. Laura?
When Donald Trump runs the world, will he make people be cannibals?
Will they eat people with autism first?

Dr. Laura?
Is it okay to worry about Donald Trump?
Sometimes I can't sleep because I worry about him, like, about what he might do to my family.

Dr. Laura?
Will it be the end of the world when Donald Trump is president? 

Dr. Laura? 
Can I be a superhero and save the world from Donald Trump?  Sometimes I imagine that.

Dr. Laura?
I don't know how to be a superhero. 
I tried to fly once, but
I just falled down.

Each session feels like a Bingo card of heartbreak:
a unique pattern of life on the margins.
I find newfound fear as the day's
headlines flash by.

Session 1:
White single father with mental illness raising teenage son with
disabilities on the Eastern Shore has to give up
a day of work to wait
for Medical Assistance transportation.

Session 2:
Muslim woman in hijab has twins with autism, works
nights to support them, about to lose her job due to
inability to find child care.

Session 3:
Non-English speaking, immigrant mother with
intellectual disability raising child with autism.

Session 4:
Black lesbian grandmothers, one with cancer, one an immigrant, raising
child with multiple disabilities on
food stamps in section 8 housing with a history of
multigenerational trauma.


I receive an email:
"I don't understand why you're so upset.
Now is the time to send love and prayers and compassion."

I fire off a response:
"Fuck your prayers.
Now is the time to fight for the superheroes flying
across the margins."

I feel so small in the face of the
resilience I sit across from.

What privilege it is to feel
shell-shocked and
curl into my
white, lesbian, half-Jewish shell when all day I
sit with people who only had a quarter shell to start with and it
leaks when it rains.

Dr. Laura?
I was teaching my son to ride the bus.
He was going to do it himself.
Should I let him?  I'm scared.

Dr. Laura?
I want him to be able to work
but I don't know what people will say.
Have you seen all these hate crimes?

Dr. Laura?
He runs away from me in public.
He hugs strangers, he's
a grown man now.
A 14-year-old black boy.
What do we do?

Dr. Laura?

I spend days telling myself I cannot do this.
I cannot find my breath.
I ask myself: what if the next person you meet is the one the world is waiting for?
I give everyone capes in my mind so they are
flying as I
learn to ask the questions that will
imagine our survival.


Note: All clients portrayed above are fictionalized and/or composites of actual clients I see/have seen. 

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