One year ago this book released into a pandemic and the most consequential election in modern times. Remember how nervous and weary so many of us were in October 2020? Nervous about getting the grifter and his autocratic cronies for another four years. Weary of keeping our distance and masking and waiting for a vaccine.
I remember well. I also remember joy. I mean, after five decades of writing hundreds of poems, I was really really happy about this book. (Thank you Wayne State University Press.) And isn’t that the human condition? Moving through life while entertaining conflicting emotions? Isn’t it marvelous that we can feel fear, weariness, joy, et cetera, and continue to move through our days tending to our responsibilities and our dreams?
A year ago I dreamed of celebrations to come, of gathering in person without too much worry, of parties and memorials to mark milestones and passages. In our little family, among the ones deferred besides my book were: a 21st birthday, a 60th birthday, a 35th wedding anniversary, the death of one matriarch and patriarch, the 60th wedding anniversary of the other…
When the pandemic has run itself out—and when climate chaos, a couple of years more chaotic, has moved to the front of more minds—I expect we will need to mark the milestones and passages that are still to come. From the lockdown and physical distancing, I have learned celebrations and memorials cannot happen any old time, any old way, and still feel like what I need.
Meanwhile, I am writing the next book—which, fingers crossed—will contain a long poem about a central concern of the last three decades of my life: the Lake Michigan shore at the Kalamazoo River mouth, a place sacred for millennia to Indigenous people, and sacred to me for most of my adult life—a place that despite generations of pushback continues to suffer new construction projects and feels like a microcosm of what has happened and what hasn’t happened on this continent, my home.
I hope that whoever you are reading this, you have found your sources of ongoingness as the losses accrue. May you and I clink glasses soon. Until then, tell me what you would have told me if we could have gathered in a room to celebrate this book when it was brand new. I would have told you: thank you for reading. Thank you for pausing for literary art and books. If you write, thank you. Keep it going.
How are you doing? I would have asked you. How are you doing?