Surely it is not art. She pulls her phone from her pocket and steps to the stage. Her first time. Tapping the screen, she balances it on the ancient music stand. Grips the mic with both hands. Through ums and mumbles, she describes a man who called it love before the girl learned the proper name for abuse.
Surely this is not poetry, nowhere close to art.
Art you know. You saw Gipsy Kings at the Barns and walked Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors at the Hirshhorn. You can recite Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” by heart.
You know art.
Surely this falls short. Yet…
Continue reading “Hearing Voices”
Here comes the babysitter. You’re pumped. His appearance promises a night of board games, TV, living room dance parties. He’ll make mac & cheese for dinner and skip the broccoli entirely. Turn up the volume on bands you’ve never heard of. Dress up like a Sith Lord and let you annihilate him after a protracted battle that covers every floor of the house.
You may pass several hours draped in sequins and spiked on sugar. Playing, yes. But for show, not for keeps. Playing for this night only. Playing with the door closed.
The babysitter has one job: keeping you safe until your parents get home.
Continue reading “Kill the Babysitter”
So many sweet successes, each alone more than enough.
Today, a group of emerging higher ed superstars wrapped up our yearlong Leadership Legacy program. Before the university president’s speech, before certificates and applause and cake, participants shared the ideas for change we’d launched into existence. It thrilled me to describe an alumni mentor initiative that’s now charging forward, with current PhD students paired with graduates. This program aims to retain and support the success of underrepresented students (first-generation and students of color) by offering a connection with graduates from similar backgrounds.
Continue reading “Day Anew”
The women arrive carrying ceramic bowls of muffins and popcorn. They introduce themselves and shrug out of winter coats, peel the backs off name tags, jot words on green post-its and find seats around the room.
We set up the easel, the flip chart, the clipboards, the jar full of pens.
We share our names, our role models in the movement, the things that make us smile.
After skimming Parker Palmer’s Circle of Trust touchstones, we give a collective nod to a tenor of inquiry and welcome.
Then we begin.
Continue reading “The Women Have Arrived”
I take a deep breath and add another 2-1/2 lb weight to either end of the chest press bar. These “graduation” days are bittersweet. Each crossing of a threshold puts the lie to the comforting narrative that I’m only so capable, only so strong. If I keep surpassing my own limits, I might start to believe that most of them are self-imposed. How in the world can I avoid living my full life under those conditions?
Image: Mary Ellen Mark’s Photograph of Shavanaas Begum, the Indian Circus Strongwoman, 1989
Someone is pooping in my neighborhood. On the edge of the path that connects the playground to the AT&T parking lot, a pile of black feces swarms with silver-winged flies. They are doing the important work. All around the heap of waste are scattered thick restaurant napkins, crushed, stained with smears. Someone squatted right here. Right where our kiddos play. Not in the brambles, not behind a tree, but right here. When he (because I assume it’s a he, who else would be so bold?) finished, he left his tissue all over the ground. The garbage can is 20 paces away, and there is another at each corner of the park. Continue reading “Our Shadows Live Here Too”
On bike, top of hill, foot down. Red light. It was green as I was climbing but turned yellow before I could get through. It’s a quiet Saturday, holiday weekend. A few cars cross in front of me, no one behind me. The rotation complete, my turn next, I step on the pedals and inch out. The light stays red, though. It is red as oncoming traffic starts to enter and turn left. Because no drivers had joined me on my side of the intersection, the signal never kicked to green. I could wait here all day at a red light that stays red. Instead, I press through. The oncoming drivers pause for two extra beats to wait for me before turning left across the empty lane.
A man jams his body halfway out of his driver’s side window. His head, arm, torso look like they’re about to climb out after me. He screams across the road, “Why don’t you obey the law, you fucking idiot!”
I catch my breath and keep riding.
Through my head race all the answers I would say if his were a real question. Louder than my imagined response is the clang clang clang of his fury: “You fucking idiot, you fucking idiot, you. . .” For the next mile at least, I tense at every approaching engine, sure he’s whipped around to come after me. Will my helmet work when he clips me and I flip onto the side of the road? It’s a quiet, leafy neighborhood. People are out. Surely someone will see it and call 911.
You fucking idiot, you fucking. . . Continue reading “Making Way”