Thursday, June 6, 2013

All Our Useless Currencies

My poem "Currencies" is the featured poem for the day at the website of Rattle.  Go here to read it--and you can hear me read it, if you're so inclined.

Those of you who are familiar with me and/or my writing will say, "Yes, I recognize these apocalyptic themes."

I'm trying to remember the specifics of how I came to write this poem.  I had watched Hotel Rwanda again, and I'm always thinking about apocalypse in some form or another.  I thought about how we watch traditional apocalyptic movies with the assumption that it cannot happen here.

In the case of zombie take-over, that's probably a safe assumption.  But with other types of mass disaster, it's not so safe.  Hotel Rwanda shows us how quickly society can collapse, and the body-choked rivers run red with blood.

I had been thinking about how we try to hedge against disaster.  We get additional degrees, and we stock up supplies.  Some of us have something in reserve, like the family jewels.  And so much of it will be ineffective against what we might eventually face.

We can't prepare for every disaster, of course.  But it's staggering to realize how self-supporting skills have vanished from the culture.  So few people know how to cook, let alone preserve food.  Could you mend a shoe?  Most people say, "Why should I know how to mend a shoe?  I can replace it cheap."

But that supply line might get cut off for so many reasons.  What if the shoes on your feet were the last shoes you'd ever have?

I live in hurricane country, and it's clear that should there be a big storm, we'll be on our own for awhile.  It's easy to stockpile food.  It's not so easy to stockpile water.

We can see a storm coming; we'll have days to prepare.  But what if the water supply was disrupted with no warning?  I used to keep a bathtub full of filled water jugs.  That supply, used sparingly, would only last for a few days.

Eventually, during one day of our dry season, we poured the stockpiled water on the seedlings.  If something happens to suddenly disrupt the water supply, we'll hope that it's not a nation-wide problem.

As I've watched/read various apocalyptic narratives, I've been struck by how many of them depict survivors wandering the countryside, as my poem's character is about to do.  As a woman, I've decided it will be wiser to shelter in place. 

It would go against my grain.  Even during flush times, I'm always wondering if life would be better elsewhere.  If there had been a disaster, that trait would be even more pronounced.  But apocalyptic narrative after narrative shows how much risk comes with travel, especially for women.

Would I have disaster on the brain, even if this poem hadn't appeared today?  Perhaps.  We're under a tornado watch here, until 11 a.m., as the first named storm of the season swirls in the Gulf of Mexico.  It's still a tropical storm, and I'm not expecting much beyond a lot of rain--of course, a lot of rain can do more damage than wind, as the soil gets saturated, and drenched trees fall right over.

We'll likely be fine here.  I'll keep the rest of the Eastern seaboard in my thoughts and prayers today.  And I'll keep a nervous eye on Syria and that region which seems closer to meltdown than ever.

And I'll write a poem--my hedge against catastrophe.

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