19 August 2017

Big Earth Ball (2017)

Ball Of Confusion (That's What The World Is Today)

Lawn party for the March 1970 solar eclipse, me 
sitting on a blanket in an army jacket and long skirt,
embroidering inserts to bell jeans and holding thick
negatives for the sun show when . . .
Uncle John’s Band” plays from dorm windows lining
the quad and both the stoned and the merely happy
rise in swooping dance, eyes closed, inner harmony . . . 
We needed a break from anti-war demonstration,
the Black platform and certainty of right and wrong. 
Clarity grew from confusion, a sharp diamond set
in too much all at once . . .
Say it, A Ball of Confusion” “The first days are
the hardest days, don’t you worry anymore . . .
The disco ball had not yet turned, rock ruled ~

Temptation to “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out
was hard to resist: I cut all my classes that spring, 
started smoking, played hours of duplicate bridge
in the Student Union . . . 
parted my long hair straight, wore wire-rimmed
glasses, carried Sartre’s Being and Nothingness 
in my pocket, took on Nausea and avoided the gaze
of those who just didn’t get it:   We walk in space.
We build things to destroy people and we walk in space.
We walk and look up at the sun, see its angry glare . . .
Who cares if we go blind?
Sight from blindness grows as clarity from confusion
You know all the rules by now and the fire from ice
Darkness rises as the moon bites into the sun.

Posted for Poets United Poetry Pantry 
because of tomorrow's solar eclipse.

This poem is slightly revised from 2 August 2012, over 5 years ago, when I wrote it for dVerse's "Poetics ~ ‘His’tory, ‘Her’story & time machines" hosted by Brian Miller.  

(Oh what a prompt!  What a post!  I miss Brian.  
Almost every poet who blogs was there, and 
most of you read this poem at that time.)

"Big Earth Ball" is about the March 7, 1970 Solar Eclipse. I was a freshman at Clark U in Worcester, MA.  We could look up that year's events in an encyclopedia, but here's what I recall: 
1970 was the year "Uncle John's Band" appeared on the Grateful Dead's 4th studio album "Workingman's Dead," and the year the Temptations recorded the hit single "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)" for the Gordy label. Both songs helped shape my take on  world, sun, and moon on that grey day. "Turn on, tune in, drop out" is a 1967 quote from either Dr. Timothy Leary or Marshall McLuhan to popularize a psychedelic counter-culture (of which I was not a part). On 21 July 1969, the  Apollo 11 moon landing with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin was televised live, and we heard Armstrong say his famous words "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."  I watched in a little bar near the Hunter Mountain ski resorts where I was during the 1969 Woodstock Festival (but that is another story).   !970 was the year the Vietnam draft lottery began and set male students on edge. Protest against the US involvement in Vietnam and its undeclared war there had escalated since 1964 and was particularly heated by 1970. It was one year after Black student protests took over the campus, and finally gained them some scholarships and courses. On May 4th, 1970 ~ 2 months after the solar eclipse of my poem ~ the  U.S. National Guard killed four young people during a demonstration on the Kent State campus in Ohio. "As a result four million students go on strike at more than 450 universities and colleges" (Wikipedia).
My blog poems are rough drafts. 
Please respect my copyright. 

Copyright © 2012 S.L.Chast
Revised © 2017 Susan L. Chast

16 August 2017

When Climate Change Became Real

Why do fish swim in schools?

By the winter of 2020,
swimming was a required subject in
public and private primary schools.

Worldwide flooding was increasing daily,
and concerned parents gave children extra
water time, extra wilderness training.

The goal was survival, with or without
gills, but the more time submerged in water
the more possible was transformation.

The gills came at puberty, along with
an ability when underwater
to absorb plant life and small bio forms.

Some say prejudice caused the water’s rise,
and some say climate change acted alone,
but everyone wants their children to thrive.

My blog poems are rough drafts. 
Please respect my copyright. 
© 2017 Susan L. Chast

13 August 2017

Winning Our Civil War

light that tamed darkness—
seems villainous now
that fascism reigns.

Taking down statues
is a weak response
to dissolving statutes
that protected all.

Instead, let’s drape them
in black mourning cloth--
reveal the scars they
made in bright plazas.

We’ve pretended that
symbols have little
power, and we pretend
no more, but stand up

and drape our cloth as
another layer
of grief and volume
replacing silence.

In public—here and now—
we reveal disease
is the heart of hate
and hold hands to heal.

We shall not be moved
into white liberation—
never again let
our neighbors be used.

To be civilized
we need both darkness
and light.  We will end
civil wars and last—

or continue to
fight democracy
and lose the last shred
of our sanity.

Note: Draping with black cloth is an action borrowed from the earliest World AIDS day (December First, since 1988), where the action symbolized what we lost in senseless AIDS deaths. Draping statues that honor our white supremacist past, symbolizes the oppositethat we still have to lose a limb or more to rid ourselves of racism.

My blog poems are rough drafts. 
Please respect my copyright. 
© 2017 Susan L. Chast

09 August 2017

Exposing the Seams

Grandmother taught us to hide our stitches
when hemming, darning and tailoring—
her lesson as deep as Mom’s not to shoplift.
We picked out offending threads with grubby little
fingers just as we brought tiny lifted things
back to salespeople, shame-faced and contrite.

We did the same with our skin, hiding the scars
of stitches and cysts, covering the pock marks
of childhood diseases, and composing poker faces
for emotional and spiritual wounds healing and unhealed,
trying to hide our isms, hushing quickly when
“our slip is showing” or we “air our dirty laundry.”

Yet now we learn we must air wounds to mend them,
walk our grievances in upper class streets to create change,
expose the harm to our nation’s soul to remain human
or rejoin humanity.  If some of us tattoo our bodies freely,
making art of wrist cuts and face slashes, who can blame us?
We broadcast beliefs and relationships like billboards.

We work as hard to expose wounds as we did
to hide them.  We watch them turn to scars and medals
or disappear, marking progress and sealing memberships.
And now I own my grey hair and wrinkles, my gender
and liver spots, my whiteness and color, I learn how
they add to or reduce harm and good in the world.

My blog poems are rough drafts. 
Please respect my copyright. 
© 2017 Susan L. Chast

08 August 2017

If They Be of Use

July 7, 2017: A wildfire burns on a mountain near Ashcroft, B.C.
July 7, 2017: A wildfire burns on a mountain near Ashcroft, B.C.

Take these tears if they be of use
in quenching your forest fires.
They’re too salty to quench a thirst.

Cry with horses, trees and eagles
Cry with those who can never cry
but run and burn, call out and die

while we hold buckets on the side
to catch the teardrops as they fall
and try to make our buckets full.

But water evaporates faster
than we can gather it, and salt
left behind is dry as plaster.

Who can wring out the clouds and steam,
to draw the water needed here?
Oceans overflow, but not near.

Take our actions as true prayers
if they be of use, though unformed.
They're all we have to counter fear.

My blog poems are rough drafts. 
Please respect my copyright. 

© 2017 Susan L. Chast

05 August 2017

The Holy Water Cycle*

In code, we call our planet earth.
Indeed, that’s what I stand upon
and keep sight of, even when
in water.  I who seek the shore
for solace forget we could call
our home ocean, the larger part,
which overwhelms and mystifies.
Is gravity enough to keep
water in place? I wonder, then
marvel at the water cycle
and its sun-driven processes*
in words that roll off of my tongue:  
From any reservoir, water
evaporates and condenses
runs off surfaces and gathers
again, molecules waving to
each other and bringing their trash
with them, baggage renewed each day.

Our bodies are also water
reservoirs, yet we focus on
the solid parts and overlook
our correspondence with the earth,
code name of our planet home.
Each minute we undergo it.
The water cycle. I want to
sound those two words as holy.  As
they are: Water Cycle.  Music
in my eardrums.  I hear the pulse
clearly when water’s in my ears,
when my fingers are in my ears.
This most amazing invention
of God and nature, unceasing
water cycle.  I don’t always
love it like I should when I thirst
or when my bowels want to burst—
and yet I would pledge allegiance
to it in a minute if faith allowed.

Faith lets me affirm holiness
and so recognize water cycle
at the core of my belief, God
exists. What grand design! Water
Cycle.  The words are code for life
on earth, for gills to breathe and for
seasons that transform it into art.
Nature is the first artist, first
Bible—creator of all we
long to imitate in science
and art and faith. Whew!  Talk about
survival and we talk about water.
Talk about air and we talk of
water.  Talk of dry land and talk
water.  Water Cycle.  Water
music.  Walking on water.   Prayer.
If you don’t stand up whispering
water cycle with reverence,
I have failed at this holy dance.

Today I am inspired by We Should Never Have Called It Earth by Kate Marvel, Contributing Editor at On Being, and also a quote by Nichola Tesla that is viral on FB:  
“My brain is only a receiver, in the Universe there is a core from which we obtain knowledge, strength and inspiration. I have not penetrated into the secrets of this core, but I know that it exists.”   ― Nikola Tesla

 *Water cycle at Wikipedia

My blog poems are rough drafts. 
Please respect my copyright. 
© 2017 Susan L. Chast