There have been years when I've been so interested in election results that I've stayed up late; I wanted to know the direction of the future before heading to bed. Ah, youth! Last night I went to bed because I got so tired of the constant interruptions by our local newscasters who breathlessly announced races still to close to call. Really? Nothing definitive has happened since ten minutes ago? Leave me alone and let me watch The Biggest Loser.
I know people who have managed to retain their youthful righteous indignation when it comes to politics. Not me. I survived the Reagan years, where I fully expected a nuclear war. My students look at me as if I am a clueless dope when I say such things, but I was not the only one constantly scanning the horizon for the mushroom cloud.
I've seen regimes come and go; sweeping changes one year are swept aside two years later. I've been more enthusiastic about some candidates than others, but these days, I'm hoping for the best but not taking any of it too personally. I still agree with Martin Luther King that history arcs towards justice, and I don't expect to live long enough to see the full transformation, but I see the arc, and it thrills me.
I also know that life can throw us a lot of sorrow that we're not expecting, so I'm not going to get myself worked up over sorrows (political or otherwise) that haven't come yet and may never arrive. I'm happy to have my health, a job that I like, my mental self intact--as poet Jane Kenyon says in this poem, "It might have been otherwise."
Here's my poem that tills similar soil, although it focuses more on the otherwise state than Kenyon does. This poem was recently published in The Healing Muse. It's part of my series of poems where I imagine Jesus moving through our modern lives (going to spin class, playing putt putt or softball, helping with hurricane clean up).
Transfiguration Sunday on the Cancer Ward
He waits with them because who knows
better how disconcerting
it is to discern one’s disjointed bones
dissolving into water. He remembers
how it feels to be forsaken.
He remembers feeling life flow out of him,
only a husk of his former humanity remaining.
Here, he can’t do much.
In a world of free will, cancer cells can multiply,
bright sons of the morning who would rather reign
in hell than serve in heaven.
Here on the cancer ward, he can’t do
much, but he does what he can.
He brings ice chips and water to those annoyed
by their drought desert mouths.
He offers consolation to the woman who complains
that she can see all her bones through her translucent skin.
He offers tales of transfiguration,
and holds out the hope of resurrection.
He reminisces with those who are too far
gone to remain on the earthly plane much longer.
They trade tales of what they’ll miss most:
crisp sheets on a fresh-made bed,
long lingering meals,
birdsong in the morning,
the change in light that signals a new season,
the soft rains and gentle sunsets,
a perfect bottle of wine.
What I Did On My Summer Vacation
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