Katie's Voice

What Are We But a Fire?

candle-flame-1062513_1920Since the U.S. election when somehow–impossibly, it had seemed–Donald Trump became president-elect, I have been vacillating between tears and panic. Subsequent events have proven many of our fears well-founded–the rise in hate speech and vandalism, the discoveries of illegalities and foreign interference in the election, the disastrous appointments to the Cabinet, Trump’s refusal to participate in the basic governmental obligations of a president-elect. Every day there seems to be some new information showing America moving towards fascism, our democracy wrenched away from us by people who care only about making the richest 1 percent even richer.

But you know all this, and if you don’t, there are reputable news sources that will bring you up to speed. What you may not know, if you’re like me, is how to deal with all this. How to push back against depression and anxiety, how to protect the small flame of hope and re-light it when it goes out. Me, I have a number of strategies, which work or don’t work to varying degrees: wishing I could move to another country, waiting for a political expert to say it’s all going to be ok, meditating (ok, that one works some), medicating (hey, aren’t we all entitled to have “situational depression” right now?), writing, reading… Which brings me to this poem by Elisa Chavez, which felt like exactly the right kind of conflagration–funny, angry, and determined, while also recognizing how incredibly devastated we feel. Unlike the exclamation-point-filled calls-to-action that seem to dismiss grief and depression as weakness, this poem made space for those feelings, too.

I’ll confess I don’t know if I’m alive right now;
I haven’t heard my heart beat in days,
I keep holding my breath for the moment the plane goes down
and I have to save enough oxygen to get my friends through.

But I finally found the argument against suicide and it’s us.
We’re the effigies that haunt America’s nights harder
the longer they spend burning us,
we are scaring the shit out of people by spreading, 
by refusing to die: what are we but a fire?
We know everything we do is so the kids after us
will be able to follow something towards safety;
what can I call us but lighthouse…

(from “Revenge” by Elisa Chavez)

Read the rest of this gorgeous poem here, and share it so it spreads like wildfire.

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