January 20, 2022
From The Commoner
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Reflections on a year of revolt, loss, growth, and care from the Triangle region of North Carolina. This is the first part of a multi-part series.


I’ll never be able to tell you
what you’ve meant to me
not in earnest, the words don’t exist
not in any language I’ve found
Even if they did
I’m not sure you’d want to know
So I’ll say it here
for everyone and for no one
That you’ve kept me alive
kept me fighting for something
when it was cold and dark
I love you for that
and for a million things
that you will never hear me say
but I hope you know

The following offers reflection on a year beginning in March 2020 and ending in March 2021. This reflection covers personal and political scenes, protests, riots, mutual aid work, isolation, care, and more. These reflections are only meant to speak for the author, not a group or collective. I hope that you are able to take something away from these reflections or at least kill some time.

March

1.

It all travels at a finite speed
at a definite velocity
Nothing is instantaneous
our bodies, our vehicles, our voices, our light
Andromeda
our closest galactic neighbor
lies 2.573 million light years away
So
if some amateur astronomer out there
pointed their telescope to earth
today
right now
they would see an ice age
Maybe an early bipedal humanoid
use fire
Though even that is unlikely
They would need to watch our planet
for two million five hundred and seventy thousand years
before they would know
that you
or I
ever existed
Before the particles of light
that emanated from the thousands of fires that raged this summer
would reach their eyes

Some days I’m struck by
an intense heartache at this thought
that we will never be witnessed in
our reality, only as a holograph
kept at a time constrained distance
from even those closest to us
How even if the sun were to disappear
in an instant we
would still live in ignorance
for a full eight minutes before we had
even the slightest idea
of our impending collapse

But other days I find these
same thoughts an inspiration
or at least a comfort
That perhaps the collapse of the
institutions of our suffering
is also imminent, existent
separated through some temporal space
and we are just ignorant
of how close it is
of how delicate our predicament
of where we need to look
to find the cracks in our cages

2.

They shot a man over a pizza
cause he ran when they sprinted towards
him with guns drawn
So we stand in this Sheetz parking lot
Not more than 75 of us and as many cops
Heard there are others by the chief’s house
demanding justice
Heard the lights are off

We make it downtown
some folks try to give speeches
A woman gets on a megaphone
candidate for city council I think
She demands peaceful protest
crowd tells her to fuck off
Two flags get cut down
on fire as we pass by
Window shatters and a car alarm goes off
A young man holds someone’s photo
Begs police to look
to recognize him as human
They don’t react
Nothing but shields and helmets and boots
There’s a standoff as I walk to my car
Everyone makes it out as far as I know
Stop on the way home
Soda and a sandwich

3.

It looks the same but smaller
A biopsy of the future
put under a microscope
It’s the same pain, same emotion
Could’ve been then
But it wasn’t

4.

The kids were excited
for a few weeks
Extended spring break being
the only change they saw
I made plans with old friends
set up a few calls
Commiserated over the state of the world
Took bets like we did in school
on the chances of snow days
or delayed openings
None of us won this time
Stopped keeping track
when the reports came out of
Brooklyn, Iselin, Tenafly
We worried about our parents
and grandparents if we still had them
Called once a week
but the dead space was heavy
At least we didn’t have to wear
masks over zoom

5.

Sometimes I wish I drank
If for no other reason than to
have some way to kill time
when it appears without warning
Caught off guard by the length of the day
Instead I let my eyes lose focus
blend the paintings on the wall
remember to blink as tears start to roll
Salt caught on lips
Chest trembles
Weather the tremor
Unclench jaw
Catch my breath from the marathon I’ve been running
every morning this week
Turn the page of the book on my lap unsure of when I opened it
no concern for the content
Start over again
But dad drinks

APRIL

1.

Shared the idea before thinking it through
Make a “mutual aid” fund
with the goal to keep it
perpetually empty, no balance
no future plans beyond
how do we distribute this cash
as fast as possible
Hit up the professors
who have no concept of solidarity
outside of writing a check
but we’ll take a check

A few grand in the first week
a few more in the second
The requests pick up
We never have enough to meet them all
We get scammed a few times
but it is what it is
We do our best
spending hours fighting with
a faceless voice on the phone
over holds on our accounts
they don’t even have authority to remove

The requests keep piling up
no way to put a hold on
a utility payment
a water bill
and groceries
or gas
or groceries
or diapers
or groceries

Each morning I check the emails
from folks desperate
no more job
electricity turned off
running out of food
And we tell them we don’t
have the funds right now
but there are other resources
We’re so sorry
And they’re always so gracious
but sorry doesn’t help us keep warm

Fifteen grand we raised and distributed
in four weeks, eleven months ago
We still get emails
Phone calls
begging for help
I don’t sleep much those nights

2.

Face down on the hardwood (actually linoleum)
Feel my weight press my ribcage
into the ground
Believe if I am to focus hard enough
I might sink beneath the foundation
and disappear
Keep moving until I hit water
stop for a bit to hydrate
Continue downward
Pass the crust
into and through the mantle
Reach the core and boil off
Rise back up through the channels
of molten rock
Reemerge as a plume of ash
from a devastating eruption in Turkey or Japan
or New Jersey
Instead I sneeze from the dust
under my fridge
and gather the composure to make lunch

3.

Cut my palm
slicing through an onion
Didn’t realize the knife was so sharp
took a second to start bleeding
a second longer to start hurting
Deep, pink
It will scar
it does

4.

My mom calls to check in
to ask how I’m doing
If I’m keeping safe
and eating alright
I lie and say I’m good
I am
and that I’m learning to cook all kinds
of new dishes
The last one is more an
exaggeration than a lie
She worries, and I don’t want to make
that any worse
Says she wishes she could touch me
see my face
to find some peace of mind
I don’t call enough
I know that
But it’s good to hear her voice
Hear her complain about work
or the neighbors
like life is still happening
somewhere out there

Keep an eye out for part two.


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