This past week has been really hard because my partner had to work over the weekend, was very busy with that work, and almost all of the childcare fell on me. It was also around 17 degrees a couple days and kept snowing, so it wasn’t a simple matter of popping outside to help me and Lyra deal with the hours. And my kid can play by herself, but for whatever reason, this past week she refused to even try for any amount of time. So I haven’t read or even considered reading much of anything. Still, a couple things caught my attention and poetry is… well, poetry.
Voices from the Pandemic: ‘Wearing a mask won’t protect us from our history.’
Burnell Cotlon’s experience as a small grocer “turned food pantry” in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans.
Last week, I caught a lady in the back of the store stuffing things into her purse. We don’t really have shoplifters here. This whole store is two aisles. I can see everything from my seat up front. So I walked over to her real calm and put my hand on her shoulder. I took her purse and opened it up. Inside she had a carton of eggs, a six-pack of wieners, and two or three candy bars. She started crying. She said she had three kids, and her man had lost his job, and they had nothing to eat and no place to go. Maybe it was a lie. I don’t know. But who’s making up stories for seven or eight dollars of groceries? She was telling me, “Please, please, I’m begging you,” and I stood there and thought about it, and what am I supposed to do?
I said: “That’s okay. You’re all right.” I let her take it. I like to help. I always want to say yes. But I’m starting to get more desperate myself, so it’s getting harder.
This is about so much more than what’s happening right now, as Mr. Cotlon goes on to talk about with more succinctness and understanding than I can express. And for anyone with kids, you can appreciate the terror of not being able to feed them.
There’s a GoFundMe for Mr. Cotlon you can pitch into here.
And now for some poetry.
Never to Dream of Spiders by Audre Lorde
History as a Process by Amiri Baraka
I Leave Her Weeping by Liz Rosenberg
An Exercise in Love by Diane Di Prima