When Jesse said his people could fly, we spent the afternoon leaping from boulders, arms spread, rolling into the water instead of digging crawdads for supper. Though he fled to D.C. after the Klan burned Wilmington in 1898, we kept in touch.
In 1965, both ninety-five years old, we rode to Montgomery to hear Dr. King speak. Afterwards, Jesse said, “The moral arc of the universe must be a rainbow. Takes faith to find the end of it.”
“Helps to fly, doesn’t it.”
He nodded, picked up his two-year old great-granddaughter, who spread her arms, laughing and flapping. “This one’s in training.”
“Merciless Indian savage.” The Declaration of Independence contains these hateful words.
I did a double take when I saw the phrase emblazoned on a tee shirt in Southwest Alaska. The dark-haired girl wearing it was laughing with a friend. Her bright eyes and brilliant smile offered a refutation to the offensive words.
Contrast the clutch of fishermen on the ferry who bristled with antipathy as a Native man walked past. I stared at them, a witness. Spoke as an ally when the local clinic turned away a Native who needed emergency treatment. The founding fathers got those three words wrong.
Books stacked to the ceiling; new, old, hard cover, all colors,
smelling of cinnamon, cloves, and musty spider dust.
A woman whirling like a cyclone, her arms extending.
She brushes the walls, her eyes shut.
She chooses. The overstuffed couch swallows her and she reads.
Sips of hot tea, cold tea, cider, coffee, one after another,
the light changing through the day from powdery gray to melancholy green,
at noon quite bright yellow and then white.
Straining, she escapes into history, imbibing the past.
Seeking perspective, finding a foundation to understand the moment.
Respite. She girds to return to earth.
“Donald Trump: the most powerful man on the planet.” The president rinsed his toothbrush. With a lockdown in place, the mirror shot was as close as he could get to a rally. “Don’t you forget it.”
Knotting his robe, The Donald ran ten short feet to bed. “You’ve still got it, baby.”
Picking up his phone, he got to work. Fox News flashed on the TV. His fingers flew, red hot tweets stacking up like dollar pancakes on Sunday morning at HoJos. Invoking emergency powers, he had invalidated the election, clinched by a 5-4 ruling from the Supremes. Now that’s Justice.
Mother, apple pie, wrapped in ribbons, red and white and blue.
Mother pie? Did you say you put your mother in the pie? In pieces? Only a madman would do that. Don’t upset your mother. Now try again.
Some things are patriotic. Apple pie, mother, blue and red and white, for example. And Blue Stockings. Because mothers are revolutionary. And so is the white, blue, and red. A proclamation of revolution was the original intent.
What the hell are you saying here? They’re colors. And food. And who wears stockings anymore. You make it too complicated. Light a sparkler. Relax.
A small black woman stands on stage, the sinews of her arms taut against the lectern. Do you hear her?
The call: “Ain’t I a woman?”
The response: “You are a woman.”
God revealed, though even now not everyone has heard, that women are entitled to respect, to equal rights, to the dignity of their person, to freedom. 150 years ago God spoke through this tiny woman who endured hard lessons about society, about the people close to her, most importantly about herself. Do you know the saying, “The truth will set you free?” Be a sojourner. Find the truth.
We are prohibited from shouting, “Fire,” in a crowded theater where a (citizen, terrorist, madman, patriot, bad guy) will shoot, among others, a legislator who voted against gun control. The legislator’s good friend, asked who permitted the gun in the theater, will burst into hot tears of grief.
Still he says, eyes dry, gun rights are in the Constitution. Other rights aren’t. Women fighting for choice. Sanctuary. Union organizing. Driving a car. Registering to vote. The legislator’s friend explains that there is room for disagreement. These issues evolve. But on guns, the wording is clear.
Popping wheelies on a walker equipped with bright yellow tennis balls to keep it from slip-sliding away, he makes light of his infirmities in a dangerous, delightful way. Nothing interferes with watching Wimbledon on ESPN on the Fourth of July.
An old man, young at ninety, never one to let pain triumph over life. Not early on when it might have done. Not in the war. Not when the press of reporting the news, nor the ups and downs of politics sent him low and high for fifty years. Not even when his dear wife slid away like a dream.