I built a fire from the trimmings of the honeysuckle which threatened to devour the right corner of my front yard, by the street, almost chewing my neighbor’s mailbox. Most of the limbs were dead, and the live ones had a few days to season, leaves still attached, ready to crackle the blaze to life. I started with the lined notebook paper holding my notes from yesterday’s class, now obsolete. I don’t save notes from semester to semester. When I lecture on topics as dry as essay format and outlining and works cited pages, the least I can do is to bring the freshness of new life, thoughts not yet ready for the woodpile, analogies and strategies not yet prime for kindling. Then I tore the lid flaps from a small cardboard box, most recently the delivery vessel for new pens, 0.7’s, Sharpies. I heard they glide like Kristi Yamaguchi, so I opened the Amazon app on my smartphone, searched them, clicked “Buy Now,” and that was just Tuesday, and this is Thursday, and I have new pens. Then I opened and wadded a piece of junk mail addressed to the previous occupant of the house I refer to as “mine,” or “mine and the bank’s,” all the while knowing that this life is a dream and everything I know of it will fade. I stack the papers and lean the cardboard and angle the leaved branches, and teepee the larger pieces of wood that I offer to the Harvest Moon. Once the fire has a life of its own, I toss a half-used bundle of white sage into the hottest part, at least seven or eight smudges left in it, but I have two more bundles, and who says only the insides need cleansing, besides it always sets off the smoke alarm, and it is a Harvest Moon after all, and there should be an offering. And the fire grows, and the smoke seeps into the fabric of my jacket, and from my seat, I can see the fire, and just above it, the house, and just above that, the moon. And I contemplate the prayer I wish to give to the neon sky, to the only thing I know that has seen all of it. And I say these words to the closest part I can see of God, the satellite of each soul and season, the grandmother moon of me and my mother and her mother and her mother, “Please, heal my nation.” © 2020 Deborah E. Moore, All Rights Reserved
There is a Muslim woman on the walking trail this morning. I spot her in the distance, coming my direction, her black from head to toe. I look forward to the chance for kindness, anticipating a warm “good morning,” a smile. And dare I be so bold as to offer “As-salamu alaykum”? Or would I be appropriating culture to weave my own humble-brag cloak of magnanimity? Maybe just “hello.” As she gets closer, I begin to calculate the odds of us meeting on this trail today. A trail in a small southern town. A town that only desegregated its high schools in 1970. A town where one can still see the old slave quarters, and plantation houses are still occupied. A town Trumpier than Trump himself. And here, on this walking trail, comes this woman, bravely hijabbed, shoulders back, not curved with the fear that I seem to feel so often these days, striding with purpose along a path in a town perhaps far, far away from her homeland. When we get closer, I become sure of this. We smile and say hello. She makes a comment about my dog, a friendly comment. A friendly accented comment. Pakistani? Afghan? My ear is not good enough to discern. But not American. Not USian. Not Southern. Her warm rounded vowels, the soft r’s, the hard t’s like d’s. I hear almost Indian. Pakistani, I feel certain. I have friends who are Pakistani, and I wonder how lame it will sound to tell her so, so I don’t. I just smile as warmly as I know how. I try to create a smile that says, “I’m really glad you’re here. No, really. I’m not just saying that. I welcome you, and I honor you, and I will stand up for your right to be here.” But the smile is just a smile, and its sincerity is enough, I suppose. I tell her to have a nice day, and I hope that I’m not the only one who ever tells her that here in this confederate backwater, but I fear I could be. And after we pass, I realize that she handled our encounter with so much more grace than I. I walk about 50 yards and turn around to see the woman in black walking away, shoulders back, with purpose. And then I think about how I’m too afraid to even put a Biden sign in my front yard, and I realize that her smile was saying to me, “Darlin’, if I belong here, so do you. You don’t have to hide.” And my liberal, socialist-democrat, progressive, lesbian self says out loud, right there on that path, in the heart of Dixie, “Wa-Alaykum Salaam.” © 2020 Deborah E. Moore, All Rights Reserved
CNN was abuzz last night about all the protocol the Obamas would have to follow to meet Queen Elizabeth. Fortunately, they were not required to bow. Apparently American citizens don’t have to bow to the Queen of England.
But there were other considerations. They were not to speak until the Queen spoke first. They were not to touch the Queen. When they met the Queen, she would stick her hand out first to greet them, and then they could reach their hands out to shake hers. They were to never have their backs to the Queen. In their private audience, the Queen would leave the room first or walk out with them in order to avoid this horrible event that would probably cause the worlds to stop turning in at least eight different universes.
I’m a quasi- Anglophile. I’m about as interested in all things British as any good English Literature major. I admire the fact that the Brits have managed to keep a monarchy going for a bejillion-and-a-half years, and I can be moved by tradition, pomp, and circumstance as much as the next rebellious Yank. But, I cannot help but hear the above ridiculous protocol for a President of the United States (for god’s sake) meeting the Queen of England without rolling my eyes and letting fly with a very American “Good grief.” Get over yourself, Bess.
Perhaps it’s simply my baseball and apple pie showing, but it goes against every liberty-loving cell of my body to hear the news of ANYBODY bowing to ANYBODY, with the singular exception of curtain-call time on Broadway.
I see two ways the British Monarchy can continue to be relevant:
1) Skip right past Charles and have William’s coronation. Tomorrow.
2) Figure out some way to convince Elizabeth to join the 20th Century (Yes, I mean 20th; even I’m not enough of an optimist to think she could make the leap all the way to the 21st).
God Save the Queen. From her own pomposity.