Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Category: Writing

Poor little rich white girl

Poor little rich white girl
from everywhere
and nowhere in particular
Shrinks in horror
And confusion from
Imperious or friendly voices
Vying for her attention
Her full support
Her obedience
Her submission
Her silence

To be or not to be?

Fear wins the lottery
As she retreats into
Familiar shadows
Of false safety
Unraveling her soul
From the inside out
One stitch at a time
Drifting into slumber
Overflowing with dreams
Of what might have been
Once upon a time before
The clock struck midnight

Covid-19 has disrupted my life. Black Lives Matter has galvanized me. Not because I think we’ll overcome racism in my lifetime, but because I grew up as a poor rich white girl. I was ignorant, confused, and filled with shame about being white and female. Questions about obvious inequalities on display every day of my life went unanswered.

As a preacher’s kid I was fully immersed in the culture of conservative Christianity as interpreted by my father, plus other male preachers and Bible teachers I encountered along the way.

When I married D and left home, I chose to follow a different understanding of Christian faith. Yet even this didn’t give adequate attention to underlying disasters and sins of this country. These included treatment of native American Indians, and treatment of Black women, men and families captured and put on sale to serve as slaves to white Americans.

Being silent today is not an option. Neither is carrying on life as usual.

So I’m asking questions. What does all this mean for me at this time in my life? How will it affect my reading and writing? How will it affect my relationship to the church? What can I do, and What must I NOT do? This isn’t about my generation; it’s about our collective future. With and without me.

I’m also wondering how all this impacts your daily life.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 June 2020
Photo of me with my younger sisters; taken by JERenich in 1953; mixed rural neighborhood outside Savannah, Georgia

Lost

Lost–

Not simply to myself
but to others who think
they’ve found me

as though I were a box
of brown/white/red/black/yellow rice
sitting on a bottom shelf

Even writing
feels like wandering
down neglected back roads

and fake inroads
littered with poisonous comments
I’d rather not hear

Much more of this
and I’ll be certified useless–
stuck in todays’ sorrows

wondering how this came to be
and why I find myself on the
bottom shelf in the back row

As a nation we’re lost in warring madness, even though there’s been no official declaration of war.

I’m grateful for heated dialogue, courageous and persistent protests, and demands for sorely needed change. I’m also grateful for medical and support personnel as well as researchers paying attention to Covid-19 patterns and realities.

Without them, we wouldn’t have documentation about the high cost of Covid-19 to Black lives (see visual chart above). Nor would we hear about the high inhuman cost of rewarding corporations and Fat Cats on the take.

Still, we don’t yet have a clear path forward that takes these realities into account, or nation-wide strategies to create fair playing fields for all denied basic human rights and dignity. The next Presidential election feels like light years away.

I wonder how all this affects you, and your daily decisions. I’m still feeling my way along, grateful for WordPress and for you.

Thanks for visiting and reading!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 June 2020
Graphic chart of COVID-19 impact on NYC neighborhoods found at rollingstones.com

Resisting Mr. Trump


Civil Rights March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama (1965)

What is the content of my character? The question haunts me. I’m in the golden to fading-golden years of my life. Until early this year, all my ducks (as many as I could herd) seemed to be lining up in a neat row, with plans and documents in fairly good order.

The appearance of Mr. Trump on the overtly political stage distressed me in 2016. Today it horrifies me that he’s still there.

This isn’t about who wins the next election. It isn’t even about Covid-19. It’s about resistance and the content of our character.

Mr. Trump doesn’t seem to lose sleep over the content of his character.

I wonder about myself.
Do I understand true resistance?
And what is the content of my character right now?

For decades I minimized the circumstances of my childhood. I thought that if I got on with my life as an adult, the baggage of the past would gradually fade away.

That didn’t happen. It never does. I had to resist openly. I had to open my mouth, and say what I needed to say to the people who most needed to hear from me–my parents. Which I did on the eve of my 50th birthday.

I grew up under the strict, sometimes harsh tutelage of a father who contantly reminded me that he was in control, and I was not. But power is never a sign of ‘rightness’ or even (as in my ordained father’s case) ‘righteousness.’

When I look back at my internal resistance to my father’s heavy-handed methods of control, I wonder how I did it. Stubborn? Yes. I was stubborn–though not in the way my father thought I was.

Instead, I learned to embody stubborn resistance in the face of overwhelming odds. Sometimes it worked to my advantage. Overall, however, it did not. My body paid a high price.

It would not be fair or true to say my father and Mr. Trump were cut from the same cloth. Still, there are obvious overlaps, including unhealthy narcissism. The kind that tries to eradicate healthy narcissism in others.

It doesn’t matter whether Mr. Trump wins the next election or not. He has already wreaked havoc here in the USA and abroad. It won’t do for me to hold my nose and wait for November.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 May 2020
Photo of 1965 March from Selma to Birmingham, Alabama found at americanyawp.com

Unwelcome truth

Sometimes truth
drops bursting
through dark layers
deep beneath
my sea of normal

What is this and
why now and am I
all washed up
flailing uselessly
in this murky sludge?

Tentacles reach out
pulling in strained
nets of strangers and
enemies I’ve never
Seen or met before

Looking around
I take stock of
unwelcome truth
long gone underground
waiting to be acknowledged

I want to rant and rave about something. Or swim in an ocean of poetic images. But the ‘something’ that keeps haunting me is Trance.

Why? Because it’s complex at every level. A reality that both attracts and puts me off.

But Trance won’t be kept waiting. What self-evident truths already swim beneath the surface of my everyday life, unacknowledged?

This might be a slow process. Nonetheless, I’d rather be a turtle making it across the road than a squirrel, possum, or crow caught in the headlights. Though there is something to be said for flaming out.

Thanks for visiting and reading!
Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 March 2020
Photo found at shutterstock.com

Sunday morning silence

Small floor heater hums
Smudge rearranges himself
Next to radiator pipes
Refrigerator labors to maintain chill
Table clock whispers each tiny tick
Silence seeps through my bones

Outside my kitchen window
Neighborly trees stand at attention
Calm surveyors from above
Testing winds of change
And chance encounters
A dog barks in the near distance

All things considered, I stayed home this Sunday. What will happen next? The question is on my mind in more ways than one.

As for today, I’m grateful to be alive, awake and able to write.

As a writer, I’m turning a corner. Though I’m not sure what to call it, I know what it isn’t about.

It isn’t about feeling good. Nor is it about highlighting lovely side roads without acknowledging exactly where we find ourselves today.

It isn’t about making myself or you happy, or trying to keep myself out of trouble when trouble is spelled t-r-u-t-h.

Not just truth about what’s on the surface, but truth hidden at the heart of what feels normal but is not.

Easier said than done, I know. Yet that’s part of the tug. Trance is a tricky subject, with tentacles that reach everywhere.

The future of our neighbors, our country and this globe is worth our best efforts. Beginning with Sunday morning silence.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 March 2020
Photo taken by me this morning, 8 March 2020

From where I sit today | Politics

We have yet again reduced our integrity as a nation by resorting to a white-male-only race for the Grand Prize, President of the USA.

Cloaked in our national Trance, we appear unwilling to acknowledge our collective history, or make changes from the top down. Instead, we find ourselves yet again fighting from the bottom up.

I know whom I don’t want as President of the United States after the next election. I also know I won’t have as President of the United States a woman of any color at all.

Our nation remains deeply invested in Trance mode. After centuries of practice, too many of us are highly skilled in stepping around and over our inglorious past, making nice, and believing we’re the greatest.

In addition, we’ve been bought and/or sold to the highest bidder so many times we don’t always recognize when it’s happening.

This doesn’t mean past elections were simply another version of what we’re seeing today.

Forget about Russian or other foreign intrusions into our elections. We have uncounted, unaccountable home-grown intruders flying under the radar as well as in plain sight. They’re enabled by our current President plus too many national and local leaders willing to tolerate injustice in order to maintain their own political agendas, life styles, or access to the Good Life.

For each woman who announced her candidacy to become President in this environment, I say Kudos! The crushing weight of USA-style white male dominance began early in our history. What you have done was daring, courageous, and visionary.

I’m not saying women are perfect. Nor are we, on our own, the solution to our descent into warring madness.

I am, however, saying we, as a nation, cut off our own hands, feet, and huge portions of our brains and hearts when we ignore, belittle or misappropriate the gifts of women in leadership.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 March 2020
Image found at learn.kqed.org

A note to Mary Oliver

This morning
I woke with a start
Already caught up in
The impossible tug between
Daily upkeep and writing
Now in danger of starvation
Thanks to inedible pieces
Unredeemed if not forgotten
Standing at my heart’s door
Begging for a breath of air

Yes, Mary, you found a way to live with disciplined abandon. Doing what you loved most. Though it wasn’t easy, you found a way.

I want to believe there’s a way for me. Not to be you, but to be the writer I am, the woman I am, the mother, sister, and grandmother I am.

I was happy to retire from my professional life. It wasn’t all bad. I can’t imagine myself today without it. It was, however, punishingly difficult work, sometimes even outrageous.

So here I am, wondering how I might relate to you except in some far-off never never land.

It pains me to admit this: In spite of the inspiration and insights I gain from your writing, I might be happier if I’d never discovered you. Then again, this is probably the highest compliment I could give you.

I don’t hate my life, and I have no plans to give up. It’s just that every time I read Upstream, I realize how much of life I’ve missed, and how little time is left for me.

Gratefully,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 March 2020
Photo found at labmonline.co.uk

Did Our Best Moment last — | Emily Dickinson

Have you ever had a Best Moment? When did it come, and when did it go? Did it change you? My comments follow

Did Our Best Moment last –
‘Twould supersede the Heaven –
A few – and they by Risk – procure –
So this Sort – are not given –

Except as stimulants – in
Cases of Despair –
Or Stupor – The Reserve –
These Heavenly Moments are –

A Grant of the Divine –
That Certain as it Comes –
Withdraws – and leaves the dazzled Soul
In her unfurnished Rooms

(c. 1862)

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

Have you known Despair from the inside out? Emily doesn’t promise a Best Moment for each of us. She does, however, acknowledge that sometimes we need a Best Moment. Not to hoard, but to encourage us to keep going.

Some may Risk trying to obtain a Heavenly Moment. Perhaps to lock away and show off from time to time.

Instead, Our Best Moment is a rarely given temporary gift, a Grant from the Divine. Not because we ask for it or earned it, but because we’re in danger of falling into Despair. Or, just as heavy, walking around in a Stupor wondering what to say, do or write next.

While each Best Moment is beyond wonderful, it’s also a sign. It appears unbidden. A small Grant of the Divine we didn’t expect to receive. For a Moment it dazzles us, and then withdraws. Leaving us to make do with our everyday unfurnished Rooms.

Emily’s image of our unfurnished Rooms might sound empty and hollow, On the other hand, perhaps our unfurnished Rooms are invitations to furnish them. Just as we furnished the Room that became our temporary Best Moment, a gift that dazzled our Soul.

We aren’t alone in our efforts. What we say and do makes a difference, though we don’t always know or see how it plays out. Still, from time to time, the curtain is drawn back to dazzle and encourage us.

Praying these uneasy times will yield Best Moments that let each of us know we’re not alone, or left to figure things out on our own. No matter what happens next.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 February 2020
Image of Victorian Era Kitchen in America found at pinterest.com

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper | Poet and Abolitionist

Thanks to Poem-a-Day for introducing me to Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s poetry. And thanks to Black History Month for bringing it to mind. My comments follow.

Aunt Chloe’s Politics

Of course, I don’t know very much
About these politics,
But I think that some who run ’em
Do mighty ugly tricks.

I’ve seen ’em honey-fugle round,
And talk so awful sweet,
That you’d think them full of kindness,
As an egg is full of meat.

Now I don’t believe in looking
Honest people in the face,
And saying when you’re doing wrong,
That “I haven’t sold my race.”

When we want to school our children,
If the money isn’t there,
Whether black or white have took it,
The loss we all must share.

And this buying up each other
Is something worse than mean,
Though I thinks a heap of voting,
I go for voting clean.

First published by Ferguson Brothers in Sketches of Southern Life (1891), now in the public domain
Published online by Poem-a-Day on 23 June 2019, by the Academy of American Poets

“Honey fugle” means to deceive by flattery or sweet talk, to swindle or cheat. Click here to see the full definition.

I love Aunt Chloe’s straightforward language. Rigged voting machines and gerry-mandering didn’t begin yesterday. Nor did pie-in-the sky promises and ‘street money’ handed out to influence our votes. As Aunt Chloe points out, it doesn’t matter what color your skin is if the money isn’t there to fund those lovely promises. Everyone loses, no matter the color of our skin.

Aunt Chloe nailed it decades ago. Her words are presented in a no-nonsense voice that invites us to believe her and do something about it. Maybe it’s as simple as getting off our political bandwagons and taking a look at ourselves.

So….The next time you hear politicians making promises too good to be true, think of a flugel horn (profuse apologies to lovers of flugel horns). It may sound sweet and mellow. Nonetheless, sweet music and stars in our eyes won’t buy groceries, pay for medical bills, or turn manipulation into truth. Instead, the cost will continue falling on all of us.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 February 2020
Image found at Wikipedia.org

Everlasting | Mary Oliver

In this poem, Mary Oliver tells us clearly what she wants to accomplish when she writes poems. It’s a high order. Some might say impossible. My brief comments follow.

I want to make poems that say right out, plainly
what I mean, that don’t go looking for the
laces of elaboration, puffed sleeves. I want to
keep close and use often words like
heavy, heart, joy, soon, and to cherish
the question mark and her bold sister

the dash. I want to write with quiet hands. I
want to write while crossing the fields that are
fresh with daisies and everlasting and the
ordinary grass. I want to make poems while thinking of
the bread of heaven and the
cup of astonishment; let them be

songs in which nothing is neglected,
not a hope, not a promise. I want to make poems
that look into the earth and the heavens
and see the unseeable. I want them to honor
both the heart of faith, and the light of the world;
the gladness that says, without any words, everything.

© 2005 by Mary Oliver in New and Selected Poems Volume Two, p. 4
Published by Beacon Press

The lovely photo at the top is deceptive. It omits the everything of those fields Mary Oliver is crossing. In particular, it should include “daisies and everlasting and the ordinary grass.” What is this thing called everlasting? Think invasive pest, cudweed, or more properly, American everlasting. In case you haven’t met up with it yet, here’s the other photo I might have put at the top.

When I read this poem about writing poetry, I hear Mary’s emphasis falling on beauty. Everyday beauty that wants to be seen just as it is, not dressed up. Unfortunately, this includes beauty that doesn’t always strike us as beautiful. We prefer words like ‘invasive’ and devote time to keeping them out of our fields and gardens.

Just as creation includes everything, so Mary Oliver wants her poetry to honor everything, no matter how beautiful or invasive or downright ugly we think it is. Hope and promise, hearts of faith and the light of the world point to the unseeable, never to be underestimated or second-guessed due to our timebound, limited sight.

I wonder whether Mary Oliver knows her poem begs to be preached. She sets a high bar for herself and for us–whether we write poetry or not.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 January 2020
Top photo found at pinterest.com; invasive American everlasting photo found at http://www.invasive.org

%d bloggers like this: