Letter to Travis

at Occupy Columbia, 22 Oct 2011

 

I saw that photo of you, lean, grinning, skinny jeans,

flannel shirt, newsboy cap, and nearby,

 

my former student Anna, hair dyed black, arms crossed

over her tie-dyed purple tee, leaning

 

on a not-quite-life-sized bronze George Washington

(the one boxed off at the MLK march

 

earlier this year, unfortunate fodder for FOX to spout off

about respect and legacy and shit like that,

 

the one with the broken cane, broken off by Union troops

in 1865 and never repaired,

 

as if he’s doomed to limp down here, and he was shot later

by drunken Governor Ben Tillman, the one

 

so racist he got his own statue in 1940, just

across the square from George, standing watch

 

now over a cluster of punks in sleeping bags, just down

the lawn from the one for gynecological

 

marvel J. Marion Sims, who Nazi-doctored black

women, then ran off to New York to experiment

 

on destitute Irish immigrant women—such difficult history here,

stories of the black, the poor). I heard more

 

about George this morning on NPR, his whiskey distillery

back in business, though without the slave labor,

 

that story after the one about Occupy Washington

clustered near K Street. The front pages

 

of the local papers are Gadhafi’s slaughter, the body stashed

in a shopping center freezer, GOP

 

would-be’s descending on us for another debate, the state fair

ending this weekend, its rides and fried things.

 

I’ve got the list of what you guys need, Travis: gloves,

storage tubs, “head warming stuff,”

 

water, and I plan to drop by later with supplies.

For now, though, I look out my window,

 

the weather beautiful if cool, fair weather, the dogwood gone

red and finches fidgeting among the limbs.

 

Too easy, probably, to turn all pastoral at times

like these, to tend my own garden,

 

the last tomatoes ripening up, collards almost ready,

needing that chill to sweeten a bit.

 

A dear friend wrote me this week, says he’s scared

he’ll lose his job come the new year,

 

a fear we hear over and over, though the GOP folks

tell us it’s our own fault that we’re

 

not the rich—individual responsibility and all that.

I want to believe in the joy

 

and resistance I see there on your face, Travis,

the will revealed in Anna’s crossed arms.

 

I want to believe it, I want it to last, I want it to win.

I’ll stop by later with gloves and water.

 

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