My Poetry Corner June 2021 features the poem “Father’s Presence” (Presença de Pai) by Leonardo André, a Brazilian music composer, music teacher, writer, and poet. He composed his first song at the age of thirteen. In the 1980s, during his years as an undergraduate pursuing an Artistic Education at The Marcelo Tupinambá College in the City of São Paulo, he frequented several poetry groups and joined the Santo Amaro Poets Association.
A year after his graduation, André released five self-published books at the 1990 Biennial Book Fair in São Paulo. These include three children’s books and two poetry collections, Verses that Sing (Versos que Canto) and Verses of Love, Desires, Longing and Solitude (Versos de Amor, Desejos, Saudade e Solidão).
In “Father’s Presence,” André pays homage to a father who is a positive role model in his life. What is made clear at the outset is his father’s constant presence.
These past 15 months under lock-down, social distancing, and mask-wearing due to the COVID-19 pandemic have tested my mental and physical health. Weekends spent outdoors gardening have saved my sanity. To my knowledge, only five neighbors got sick with the coronavirus. None of them were hospitalized. I give thanks that they have all fully recovered.
I got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on February 25 and the second dose on March 18. Though the vaccine is now readily available to all Californians 12 years and over, my adult sons have yet to receive their first shot.
The County of Los Angeles is now dangling Vaccination Sweepstakes. Those who get vaccinated from June 11 to June 17 will have the chance to win a pair of Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers or Los Angeles Clippers season tickets for next season. If you’re a resident of Los Angeles County, is 18 years or older, and is a football fan, now is your chance.
The State of California’s vaccine incentive program, Vax for the Win, is better yet! All Californians who have had at least one vaccine dose are automatically entered. On June 15, ten more winners will be selected to receive $1.5 million each. That’s not money to ignore in these harsh economic times. Since the program was launched, roughly 2 million people have reportedly taken the shot. As at June 11, our state has administered nearly 40 million vaccines. Over 70 percent of Californians 18 years and over have received at least one dose.
On Tuesday, June 1st, after I failed to access my business e-mail account at rosalienebacchus.com, I called Tech Support. My tone must have been belligerent, because the guy at the other end of the line kept saying, “I’m trying to help you, Ma’am.” I snapped when he told me to download the Google Chrome browser. Another browser was the last thing I needed. I refused to comply and ended the call.
How wrong I was to believe that I was coping well with my frustrations over the past seven weeks!
Following my action plan, I contacted Lulu Publishing on April 15th to begin the self-publication process of my second novel, The Twisted Circle. Their reply was devastating. The One-on-One Author Support Plan that I had used when publishing my debut novel, Under the Tamarind Tree, ended in July 2020. I assume that this service was yet another victim of the 2020 pandemic lock-down.
It took me a week to get my bearings. The prospect of working with another self-publishing service provider was not at all appealing. Besides, I am very satisfied with the services that Lulu provides for the global distribution and sales control of my first novel, Under the Tamarind Tree. I made my decision: I would proceed on my own with the help of Lulu’s Book Creation Guide. Their Knowledge Base also provides helpful resources throughout the process.
During my years working in international trade, the computer and I have had a shaky relationship. I mastered only the essential. Book design and production demand new software skills. I can do this, I reassured myself. Just take one step at a time at my own pace. No pressure.
Some promises are made in good faith. Then, as often happens in our lives, another commitment that we consider more important or urgent sabotages our best intentions. This appears to be the case with pledges made by several of the 196 countries at the 2015 Climate Change Paris Agreement to lower their greenhouse gas emissions. What is alarming is that existing pledges, even if fully honored, fall short of attaining global net zero emissions by 2050. If we the people of Earth are to maintain habitable conditions for our species, we must get our priorities straight.
On May 18, 2021, the International Energy Agency (IEA), made up of 30 member countries and 8 association countries committed to shaping a secure and sustainable energy future for Earth’s inhabitants, released a special report that is intended to put us on track. Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector is a comprehensive study of the way forward to a global Net-Zero Emissions Scenario (NZE) by 2050 with an emphasis on economic growth for all.
With just 29 years left for us to catch up, after decades on the path to planetary ruin, the NZE roadmap is no stroll along the beach or jog in the park. It calls for vast amounts of investment, innovation, implementation of skillful policy design, technology deployment, infrastructure building, international cooperation, and much more across all sectors. World War NZE 2050. A war for human survival. Success depends upon an unprecedented level of international cooperation.
My Poetry Corner May 2021 features the poem “Waitress / Suppose” from the debut poetry collection, We Used to Waitress, by the Caribbean American poet, actress, and playwright Jihan Ramroop. Born in Queens, New York, of immigrant Indo-Guyanese parents, Ramroop was raised in Fort Pierce, Florida, and Georgetown, Guyana. She graduated in Theatre and Performance from Purchase College of the State University of New York (SUNY). She lives in upstate New York.
All excerpts of poems featured in this article are taken from Ramroop’s poetry collection, We Used to Waitress, published in 2020. The collection is divided into four parts: Stay, Still, Stubborn, and Suppose.
In Part 1/Stay, the poet notes in “Sunday Inventory” that she has lived in 27 places, went to 14 schools, and held 10 jobs. Throughout this section, she laments love lost for men who did not stay in her life. In “Waitress / Stay,” the final poem in the section, she recalls those days we used to waitress / outside the city / pretending i was / saving up / for dreams and freedom / and something big. Since then, she concludes, everything and nothing changed.
This Mother’s Day 2021, I share the poem “Mother Did You Know” written by fellow blogger, Swarn Gill. He captures with precision my own experience as a woman and mother. I’m heartened that he’s able to see the truth of millions of years of social conditioning of the human species.
*I dedicate this poem to women in general, but also to my mom, who is an amazing woman and still inspires me to be more to this day.
mother did you know
it’s all your fault
you caused the fall
that them’s the breaks
when you talk to snakes
mother did you know
you’re not quite human
humans should be a male
those other parts
aren’t on the chart
Choosing hopefulness is holding out the possibility of change. It’s living with one foot in the mud and muck of the world as it is, while another foot strides forward toward a world that could be. Hope is never a matter of sitting down and waiting patiently; hope is nourished in action, and it assumes that we are—each and all of us—incomplete as human beings…. We can choose to see life as infused with the capacity to cherish happiness, to respect evidence and argument and reason, to uphold integrity, and to imagine a world more loving, more peaceful, more joyous, and more just than the one we were given—and we should.
Excerpt from Demand the Impossible: A Radical Manifesto by Bill Ayers, Haymarket Books, Chicago, Illinois, USA, 2016.
Bill Ayersis a social justice activist, teacher, and a retired distinguished professor of education and senior university scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the author of two memoirs, Fugitive Days and Public Enemy.
On Tuesday, April 20, I was relieved when the jury declared Derek Chauvin guilty on all three counts for the death of George Floyd. Would the Floyd family have obtained justice without national and international outcry? However, there was no justice for George Floyd. Trading with a twenty-dollar counterfeit bill was all it took for his summary execution by a knee chokehold. The CEOs on Wall Street, who took down both the US and global financial systems and destroyed the lives of millions of workers and mortgage holders, were too BIG even for a trial much less the death penalty.
Considering that the police continue to kill blacks without due process, I think it foolhardy to believe that Chauvin’s guilty verdict is any sign of progress towards police reform. While institutionalized systemic racism persists, police killings of black and brown bodies will persist.
How complicit and guilty are we as a nation in the training given to our police force that has no qualms in eliminating black and brown offenders, however trivial their alleged crime?
Our centuries old, racist, social-economic system extends way beyond policing. This entrenched system determines where we live, the schools our children attend, our access to a healthy diet, the health care we receive, our exposure to toxic air and water, and much more. We need to address these inequities in our policies and actions to Restore our Earth, not just for a few but for the 99 Percent.
For how long can we continue to enjoy the benefits of an unjust and inequitable system and not share collective guilt?
April 22, 2021 is Earth Day. The theme this year is Restore Our Earth, an optimistic outlook given the ongoing challenges humanity faces with a climate emergency, now coupled with yet another year of a global pandemic.
“Restoring Our Earth is about solving climate change through the world’s natural systems, such as regenerative agriculture practices and reforestation, as well as through existing and safe technologies,” said Kathleen Rogers, President of EarthDay.org. “Restoring our planet will also require commitment of our world’s leaders to support climate literacy and civic skill building so that we can create a global engaged and active citizenry, a green consumer movement, and an economy that is just and equitable across all countries and across all demographics.”
There will be three days of climate action, beginning on Tuesday, April 20, with a global climate summit led by Earth Uprising. In the evening, the Hip Hop Caucus and its partners will present the “We Shall Breathe” virtual summit.
On April 21, Education International will lead the “Teach for the Planet: Global Education Summit.” It will be a multilingual virtual summit spanning several time zones. If we’re to solve the climate emergency, we must learn about it. We can’t build a sustainable environment without educating the next generation. That’s why EarthDay.org is spearheading a campaign to have “compulsory, assessed climate and environmental education with a strong civic engagement component in every school in the world.”
On the big day, Earth Day Live: Restore Our Earth will be streamed live beginning at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time on April 22. You can tune in on EarthDay.org, Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and GEM-TV. For those of us who live on the Pacific Coast, this means tuning in earlier at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time.
Joining forces with EarthDay.org, TED Countdown will premiere several original TED Talks during the livestream, providing additional top-tier content by climate leaders.
We can restore our Earth with reforestation. It’s one of the cheapest ways to sequester atmospheric carbon and tackle our climate emergency. But reforestation is not easy. It has its pitfalls. Learning from past failures, EarthDay.org developed The Canopy Project.
Human activities have destabilized Earth’s life systems. The signs are all around us. It’s time to restore the balance. Tune in to one of Earth Day’s events. Learn. Engage. Let’s make a difference. Act now.
My Poetry Corner April 2021 features the poem “Cruel Radiance” from the debut poetry collection A Nail the Evening Hangs On (Copper Canyon Press, 2020) by Cambodian American poet Monica Sok. Born in 1990 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Sok is the daughter of refugees. She is a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University and teaches poetry to Southeast Asian youth at the Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants in Oakland, California.
Sok dedicates her poetry collection to her grandmother Bun Em who arrived in the USA in 1981, two years after escaping genocide under the Khmer Rouge regime with her four daughters and two sons. A master silk weaver, Bun Em’s loom, grief, joy, and perseverance infuse Sok’s real and imagined collective memory.
In “The Weaver,” Sok transforms her grandmother’s grief into nourishment for others around her. It made her happy / as she worked on silk dresses / and her hair never ran out. / Sometimes, when she was tired, / she’d tie it up / and let all the tired animals around her house / drink from her head. Her loom becomes an old friend and an ancestor she prays to in the poem “Ode to the Loom.” Her grief is re-imagined as nails falling like rain in the darkness, so that when her hair falls / not as rain does / but as nails the evening hangs on, / and her hands slip no longer / from silk but on walls in the dark / hall to her room…
As the daughter of genocide survivors, Sok grew up with familial silence. Her poems came out of silence, she told Danny Thanh Nguyen during an interview in May 2020. “I’m writing about the genocide, but I’m writing more about the inheritance of that trauma…. I had to give myself the permission to write the stories and I went into myth-making, tried to mythologize my family’s narratives.” But the narratives are not just about her family’s experience, she noted. Rather, she was working towards a collective history of all Cambodian families.