A Little Citizen Goes to Washington

IMG_3647One week ago as Donald Trump took the oath of office, I boarded a plane for DC with my six-year-old daughter, Lucette.

In the days after November 8th when the first rumors of a Women’s March on Washington began to surface, I told my husband Bruce, “I’m going. And I want to take Lu with me.”

I’ve had a lot of time to think about why. Not so much why I myself would want to go, to put on a pink pussy hat, to march with sign held high down the streets of our capitol—I knew I needed to do something drastic, to get up off the couch, out of my safe San Francisco bubble and make my voice heard. But why, as my Dad asked me a few weeks ago, why would I “put a child in that sort of situation.”

Because, I said. Because she is a Little Citizen. Because she will one day be a woman, and the things that are happening in our country today will directly impact her life. Because I want her to know that her mom stood up, not only for her, but all women and girls—of all colors, creeds and concerns. Because someday I want her to be able to say, “I was there, too.” Because I want her to know that she can say No. That it is very American to resist. That protest is patriotic, too. That this is what democracy looks like. That she has power. That her voice matters, and so she should stand up and shout.

She’s only six, but she gets it—she gets the heart of why we were there. She spent hours crafting her very own march sign that on one side said, “It is not OK to be mean” and on the other, “I can teach you to be a better person, and you can be a kind person.”IMG_3750

“Will Donald Trump be there, Mom?” she asked me, “will he see my sign? Because I wrote it so he knows that he can be a kind person. He should be a kind person. It’s dumb to be mean to me just because I’m a girl.”

The metro to L’Enfant Plaza was incredibly crowded—Lu’s Auntie Kathy handed her an iphone playing My Little Pony to distract her from the absolute crush that was honestly starting to freak her out.

But when we hit the streets, when people straightened their pussy ears and lifted their poster board signs and began to chant, “Love trumps hate! Love trumps hate!” I watched Lu’s eyes get wide with wonder. “Mom,” she whispered, “there are so many people here! Are they all here to march with us?”

And when I told her “Yes, we are all marching together today,” and I saw the white dome of Capitol Hill just blocks away, surrounded by a sea of pink hats, I started crying. Not sad tears, I had to explain to her—proud tears. I was so fiercely proud to be there.

IMG_3746

For most of the day, our “march” was more like a shuffle. But I have never been crushed in a crowd of kinder, more polite people. There was no pushing. There was no arguing. Other women helped me lift Lucette up to my shoulders so she could see (and breathe). Other moms gave me the wink and nod as they shouldered their own kids.

I honestly don’t know how much of that day Lu will remember. It was inspiring and empowering, yes, but it was also emotionally draining and difficult—and I’m just speaking for myself as an adult! Hanging around in a crowd of half a million people wasn’t all fun and games for a 6-year-old either (although I did find her a tree to climb and an ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles).

I think she’ll remember the hats, and the signs, especially the ones that she thought were hilarious. I think she’ll remember that there were more people there than she’s ever seen in her life, and they were all laughing and smiling and helping each other. She’ll probably remember the pink hair spray she asked me to color her pigtails with. But I hope somewhere, the knowledge that she can make a difference remains and sinks down into her very bones.

The day after the march was pretty special, as we spent it visiting monuments and memorials—Lincoln and FDR and Korea and Vietnam, where I had to explain the concept of war.

IMG_3895IMG_3851IMG_3896

Her favorite was the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial—she had just finished learning about him at school and I overheard her telling her Aunties, “Did you know that Martin Luther King changed the world? People thought that if you had brown skin you weren’t as important as if you had light skin? Isn’t that stupid? But then Martin Luther King told people, ‘No, we’re all the same inside.’ Just like how if you have two eggs and one is white and one is brown, it doesn’t matter because inside the yolk is still yellow in both of them and you can’t even tell them apart!”

One of the hardest things about being a parent, to me, is the ever-present and awesome responsibility to do right by this small human being. To love them unconditionally, yes, but also to equip them with the knowledge and confidence and fortitude they will need to be a good citizen of the world.

Our world today is not the one I want for my daughter. But going to the March, I think, was a way of showing her that hope is greater than fear, and that she herself is brave and strong and powerful. And she is not alone.

IMG_3902

It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to.

Although honestly I don’t actually feel like crying. I did that yesterday when I woke up to what certainly felt like the end of the world as I knew it. The dawn of a new world helmed by a misogynistic, bigoted, fascist, racist, hate-spewing, violence-inciting, completely unhinged orange despot-elect.

But then I got mad. I got together with my tribe of strong and powerful and brave women, with my men of quality who do not fear equality, and I made a commitment to raise hell. To say No More. To stand up for a better world, a kinder world, a more open and connected and curious and inclusive world. A world that embraces Love and rejects fear. This is what I will fight for what I will work for, what I will pray for–for the next four years and the next four decades and however long I have breath.

katniss

Change is coming. This election, this crisis, this unbelievable unfolding of events has awakened the Katniss in me–and in thousands and millions like me. We are not sitting this one out, crying and scared in a corner. We are standing up. We are marching forward. We are linking arms and  raising voices and moving mountains. Hope trumps fear. Love trumps hate. Even now. Especially now.

I worked on this poem for 4 months, earlier this year and finished it about 4 weeks ago. It feels more true and more powerful now than it did when I put down my pen.

2016 has been an almighty shitstorm of a year. And maybe we’ve just barely seen the worst of it. They say things get worse before they get better, don’t they? But here today, on my birthday, I–the natural-born pessimist–am saying that I BELIEVE it will get better. Because we will make it better. We will.

 


 

SWEET CHILD OF MINE

I want to give you the world
but not this one.

Not the one where a boy
with dirty fingers
can stuff you with leaves
behind a dumpster
and get off easy
because he can swim 200 meters
in a hot fucking minute.

Not the one where a man
with a grudge and a gun
turns a dance floor
into an abattoir
where rainbow lights pulse
on the tortured limbs of dying men
who came out for the music.

And those bullets, oh child,
you have to dodge them everywhere,
take care, take cover
at the office
at school
at concert halls and cafes.
Even first graders here
know how to cower in a closet
while their teacher lays down
her body as a barrier.

Not for you, a world
ruled by moneyblind megalomaniacs with
big fears and small minds
and small hands
and small opinions of women
of poor people
of gay people
of brown people
of people in general.

There is no equality here
so don’t expect understanding
if the gender gifted you at birth
makes your very skin crawl
and you require stitches and knives
to make it right.
Don’t expect impartiality
if you share a bed
a live
a love
and genitalia, too.
That rainbow flag waves
in defiance here
more often than joy.

I want for you no limits
not the size of your curves
or the shape of your smile
or the purity of your unsullied sheets.
I want for you the assurance
that your sex does not determine your worth
or your health or your wealth or your freedom
of choice.
of voice.
Because this world does not want to listen, child,
this world will not give you ground and I

want to give you the sky but not this one
where dispassionate bombs
fall from the blue
obliterating schools
and hospitals
and hope.
Death delivered by remote control.

And people flee that death
and horror, that loss and
ruin unleashed by all the powers that be.
People run and they crawl and they swim
and even as their children sink beneath waves,
we won’t let them in. There is no room in this world
for the war torn
for the foreign born.
No vacancy for the burqa bearing.
No clemency for the keffiyeh wearing.
One whiff of otherness and
the door slams in your face.

I want to give you a window
to crawl through. I want to give you
wide open space. I want to give you
the ocean-deep depths. But the water
is choked with plastic and the prairies
are plundered for oil and
this place, child, this place
is headlined by blood by bullets by bastards
Every.
Gods.
Damned.
Day.

I do not want for you a world
where a cop fires his gun into a car
regardless of the
Baby on Board
because
the man behind the wheel was black
and then he was dead
and he was unarmed
and then he was dead
and his hands were up
and then he was dead.
And white men kill black men kill white men kill people
kill sons kill fathers kill sisters kill mothers kill brothers kill daughters kill people
kill kill kill.

And still
tonight
another man in blue will strap on boots
and his badge and his wife
will wait red-eyed by the window
while across town a black man slips on shoes
and his wallet and his wife
will wait red-eyed by the window
because this world, sweet child,
this world is ruled by fear.

I cannot give you this world, child.
Not the world that makes me
want to lie down and die
day after day after
24-hour news cycle.

But for you, for you
I will get up and go on
for one more day
and then another.

For you I will stand
and fight
for you I will kneel
and pray
for you I am woke
I will speak
I will vote
I will write
I will see
I will love
I will hear
I will hope.

For you, I will.

06.09.16/09.21.16/10.02.16/11.08.16

voters

-Lo, who found her voice.

Tempest

 

It’s been a long time.

A long, long, long time since there was a new cinépoem in the house. Two whole years, in fact.

So I’m beyond ecstatic to announce a new cinépoem featuring the lovely Lucette de Luna (for the second time) and introducing the gorgeous and frighteningly talented Caroline Augusta (a formidable artist in her own right.)

 

The new vid isn’t on this site, however… technology issues and the need for a whole new website redo, my webmaster tells me. But you can find it at the usual You Tube channel for all my cinépoems, and it will probably show up on vimeo before too long, as well.

 

Go take a gander, and if you want to read along, here’s the poem itself…

 

TEMPEST

There is nothing civilized
about love.

Not the way she does it…
a living thing
of hoof and horn
of dervish whirl
and lunar howl.

She abides in the eye of a season of storms
where there can be no allowance
for abnegation–ask her to deny herself
and you ask the moon to abandon the sky
and orbit instead around your shoelace.

Her love is unfit
for polite company.
prone to violence.
subject to squalls.
she goes in for a kiss
and takes out your eyes.

Society will not stand
for such barbarity, will demand
a dress code and Corinthians
which is, of course, a language
she has not learned to speak.

But then again, she will never
lie or vamp or hide
behind starched and lacquered protocol.

What you see is what she feels.
unrefined. unrestrained. undiluted.

She stomps feet, she seizes hearts
in sticky-fisted strangleholds,
then guards her stash like a dragon’s hoard
roaring MINE and MORE.

The best strategy for survival is to Get To Her First.
hunt hard and fast, chase her down softly
like a wild winged thing.
(Do not try to tame her.)

Gather the Tempest in your arms
and hold her close while she rages,
for in her wake follows
the most dazzling sunlight,
the likes of which exist
only in dreamscapes
and photoshop.

In all your days you will never again see
a love so true.

-Lo, who knows from experience.

A Girl and a Goat from Gaonli

When I was four years old, a missionary from India came to my Sunday school class. I don’t remember her name, just her sari. I had never seen one before and I was captivated.

She told us stories of the faraway land of India, of monkeys and camels and elephants, of the crowded slums of Mumbai and a woman named Ramabai Mukti who founded an orphanage and school for unwanted children.

It was a lot for a four year old to digest, but the woman and her stories made a huge impression on me. For years I was obsessed with India. I studied the country, its culture and history. I read alot about Ghandi. I asked my mom to take me to Devon Avenue in Chicago, where I purchased a sari of my own.

From the time I was 4 until I turned 16, I told everyone I met that I was going to be a missionary to India. As a religious kid in the Midwest, that seemed the best option to me for visiting this exotic land. Certainly my family would never have the money it took to travel to a place like that–we went to Indiana on family vacations.

And besides, I wanted to help. Even as a really young kid, I was struck by the idea that somewhere across the world, there was a girl like me.

But while I was born into a family who loved me unconditionally and encouraged me to follow my dreams, whatever they might be, this girl was born into a culture where she had no worth, no value, and no options. It seemed like a very random assignation of destiny to me. Why me? Why her?

 

As I got older, simple answers like, “Because it’s the will of God” didn’t work anymore. And although I renounced my future career as a missionary in my mid-teens, my fascination with India remained.

And finally, 37 years after I first heard of India, I set foot on its soil.

Last November I traveled to Jaipur with Tea Collection. My colleagues were there to shoot an editorial catalog for our Spring 15 collection, which is inspired by the beauty and culture of India. I was there as the storyteller, to record the sights and sounds and smells of our visit. To take notes on what it felt like to be there. To observe, to ask questions, to internalize the experience so that later I could make it real for readers who hadn’t come along on our journey.

But I had a second purpose. Tea Collection partners with the Global Fund for Children, and I and my coworker Jessie were to spend a day visiting a GFC grantee in Jaipur, an Indian-run nonprofit called Gram Bharati Samiti.

The day we spent in rural villages with Bhawani, Kusum and Sarita was the best day of my whole trip to India.

Better, even, than my birthday two days later when I was surprised with a chocolate cake and a gorgeous photo taken by our photographer Hideaki Hamada.

The people I met that day, the staff of Gram Bharati Samiti and the girls and women in the villages we visited–their faces will stay with me for the rest of my life.


I wrote a blog about my experience for Tea–you can read it here, and please do. You’ll find all about a 6-year-old girl named Buja and the amazing gift (baby goat!!) I was given by another girl named Rekha. It’s the best story, really it is.

 
Hardly a day has gone by since I came back without me thinking of those girls, those villages.

Someday I’m going back. I’m going back and I’m taking Bruce and Lucette with me.
We’ll ride elephants and tour palaces and go back to Gaonli village to see if Buja’s still there.

And then we’ll hop on a plane and head south to Mumbai. I want to see where it all began for me, I want to visit Ramabai Mukti.

 

 

 

-Lo, who can’t believe 2014 went by without one. single. word.

 

 

A Cinderella Story

Usually, you’re very aware of the life-changing moments. Baby birthed, troth pledged, first day of college, cross-country move, whatever etcetera.

But October 11th came and went this year and I barely noticed. Meanwhile, down south in Gardena CA, someone found a starving, half-bald dog on the streets and took her to the Carson Animal Shelter.
        

On October 16, a Wednesday, my one-line-a-day journal says that I took Lu to school in the morning and watched her climb a tree. I didn’t know that was the day West Coast Boxer Rescue found that emaciated, mange-ridden little dog in isolation at the animal shelter and brought her into their fold.

They named her Cinderella, hoping to lend a little fairytale magic to her hitherto desperate life.

The vet told the WCBR rescuer that the dog wasn’t a 3-month-old Boxer pup, as they first assumed. She was a Boxer/Boston Terrier mix, and she was closer t0 a year-and-a-half.

It was an easy mistake to make. At 18 pounds, covered in mange, infested with worms and suffering from pneumonia and anemia–little Cinder was a sad story indeed. But there was something in her eyes. A sweetness. A spark.

A volunteer in Redlands welcomed her into her home, taught her how to sit and pee outside. Fed her and loved her and nursed her back toward health. Two weeks later, WCBR noted that Cinder was up to 23 pounds, her hair was starting to grow back, and she was enjoying a long-delayed puppyhood, playing with toys and goofing around with her foster-dog-brother, Baxter.

        

On November 7, WCBR reported that Cinder had gained 5 more pounds and was clear of pneumonia. In photos, the difference was obvious…

      

Around this time, I started stalking the WCBR website for Boxer ladies. Bruce and I had decided that, three+ years after the death of our much-loved LeeLoo, we were ready to add a dog to our family again. LeeLoo was with us for 7 years, and was a huge part of our lives. She died just 2 months before our daughter Lucette was born. Although I missed her every day, bringing a new dog into a home with a new baby wasn’t a good idea. So we waited until we were ready, until Lu was ready, and then we started looking for the right dog.

My parents got me a dog, Mitzi the Beagle, when I was 5 years old. So many of my childhood memories include Mitzi–running together down the lane to the cottonwood tree, exploring the 40 acres of woods behind our house, showing off at the 4-H Fair in Amboy every July.

                         

And then there was LeeLoo. My friend, my confidant, my best Boxer lady. I missed having a dog in my life, and more than anything, I wanted Lu to have that experience, that friendship, that one-of-a-kind love. So, as I said, we were looking. We submitted our application, I made a list of available dogs. Cinder wasn’t on it.

The dogs I was drawn to were fawn-colored Boxers. LeeLoo-esque Boxers. And by the time our application was approved, they were all adopted. That’s when Julie from WCBR said, “What about Cinderella?”

I had scrolled past her picture on the “Available Dogs” list several times, but never even thought that she could be our dog.

But after talking to Julie and talking to Doni, Cinder’s foster mum, I began to reconsider. On December 3, Doni sent me these pictures of Cinder:

                              

I printed them out, showed them to Bruce & Lu and said, “I think this is our dog!” Lu looked at the pictures, then leaned closer and looked harder. “Ooooh, she’s soooooo cute! Can she be mine? Can I love her?” she said.

On December 14, we drove to San Jose to meet the WCBR transport from southern California. I took one look at Cinder in the back of the van and burst into tears. Yeah. She was our dog.

         

She’s been a part of our family for 17 days now. I’m already wondering what we ever did without her. She’s the sweetest thing ever. Patient with Lucette, eager to learn new things, snuggly and snorty and wiggly and funny.

We call her Vila. In folklore, the Vila are nymphs, fairy-like creatures who live in the wilderness or in the clouds. It seems a fitting name for such a magical wee lady. We’ve already had all sorts of adventures together, and we’re looking forward to a lifetime of more.

        

Last night, snuggled up on the couch, Lu leaned over and planted a kiss between Vila’s ears. “I wuv you in the morning, Weewah. I wuv you in the evening,” she whispered. “I wuv you so much!”

And I sighed a happy sigh. Our family is complete.

-Lo, who’s thinking life is doggone good.

Stereotactic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These machines would be softer
had their creators been women.

There would be less smashing,
for starters. Less smashing
and gentler needles.

In the waiting room you fidget
through piles of last year’s  glossy models
and wonder if this blonde ever dangled a breast
through a glory hole in an elevated table
like a Toyota awaiting tire rotation.

Yesterday on the phone, your doctor
avoided all words beginning with C
and instructed you, belatedly,
not to worry.

But the second that fuzzy-lipped nurse
pinned you in place with a well-practiced
look of pity, the moment she plied you
with poorly-written brochures
about procedures and tissue samples,
you bypassed worry and shortcut
straight to funeral planning.

The nurse’s voice, tuned to a level
statistically proven to be soothing,
turned to static before she even
got to the part about how calcifications
are “usually” benign.

In your head, you’re already malignant.
You’re already bisected and breastless.
You’re already ash.

It’s like that pre-dawn phone call
months ago warning of tsunami.
And though they swiftly chased it
with platitudes about low probabilities,
and the tide could barely be bothered
to rise half a foot, you had already seen how the wave
would hulk down on all those complacent roofs,
turning your haven into so much flotsam
polluting the slipstream.

Panicked and pajama-clad, you stuffed
the trunk with non-essential photo albums
and the long white box in which your
long white wedding dress lay entombed.
You scooped up your favorite boots and
tossed in a notebook of poems and drove
up the hill to the safe zone while your neighbors slept on
and woke calmly to their coffee mugs,
immune to overreaction.

Now you sit bared to the waist
in a sickly pink room and memorize
the letters you must write to your tiny daughter
about how she shouldn’t try to be popular
in high school, because it’s the nerds
who always turn out better in the end.

When they open the door smiling
with gauze and hollow needles
you begin to understand just how far
your body will go to betray you.

 

-Lo, who got the negative result today. And I mean “negative” in the most positively benign way possible. Happy ending and all that.

Famine

It’s easy to take for granted the way
the phosphorescence of solitude
ignites a thousand poems.

Not all of them good, of course.

In truth and hindsight,
most were un-notably awful
and overly enamored of lank-haired boys
who didn’t rate a reciprocal glance
much less a rhyming couplet.

And yet.
The unremorseful exuberance
of so much twentyish angst is
impressive.

Would now I could
dredge one bullion ounce
of such lyrical fervor.

-Lo, attempting a comeback.