My neighbor, a black man in his 80s, will no longer leave his porch. Mostly he reads. His wife is white. She now does all the things that need to be done outside the house. During his lifetime, he has been a security guard in a hospital and at a college, where he once saved a young white woman from jumping from the roof of her dormitory. He owned a company in Detroit, lived through the riots.
He and his wife bought, and made highly successful, a rundown farm. He fell in love with the earth and with tending the produce he and his wife sold out by noon every day.
In the backyard behind our condos now he grows about a bucketful of potatoes. We had some for dinner last night.
No matter where they have lived, as soon as they moved in, he has gone to the local police station, first responder teams, and firefighters to introduce himself, give his address, and tell them that “If there is ever a need for you to come into our home, the white woman there is my wife.”
His grandfather’s family had been slaves who were given some land. Beginning around age ten my neighbor spent the summers working in his grandfather’s tobacco fields. His job: covering the plants with arsenic insecticide. Today he can barely breathe.
Somehow through this whole long, fascinating and difficult and hardworking life he can find a way to laugh, and grow potatoes, and share them. But right now, he won’t leave his porch. Except to watch Portland and Kenosha and Minneapolis and Louisville.
This is but one example of the consequences of 45’s bullying claim of being the “LAW & ORDER” president, protecting us from the “violence incited by the leftist, radical democrats.”
Obviously it’s 45 who incites the hate that leads to violence. It’s 45 who has jailed my friend, confined him to his porch.
There’s a bit of a rustle, leaves maybe,
the wind lifting them off the dust
for a second or two. Or a deer, startled,
turning back. Overhead, the clouds go by.
Someone raises the sheets, gives them
a shake and makes the bed, fluffing the pillow
to finish things. You lie back. There
are dogs in your dreams, a garden, a daughter
picking a flower to bring to you. She’s not
supposed to pick the flowers there. No matter.
Everyone’s asleep in another room. When you
opened your eyes, the world stopped, looked
your way, went on. It’s like that. The cars go by.
Some people give speeches. Some have it all
figured out. The cardinals and sparrows feed
at the seed outside the window. You used to watch
them. You heard their song. When the big band
played “Satin Doll,” you were dancing
again, the ballroom floor glistening under
the sparkle of the spinning silver globe,
everything else a long way away.
This poem first appeared in Controlled Burn and was subsequently published Practicing To Walk Like a Heron, Wayne State University Press
I’ve been asked how I pick the books to include here. I don’t. I simply list books by those I know who I’ve learned have books out. I know that I miss many. And for that I am sorry. Friend, if you’ve got a new book out, tell me about it!
These writers have books I know that some of you would appreciate: Laura Donnelly, Alison Luterman, Jeff Munroe, Heidi Aronson, Shea Tuttle Charlie Brice, Judith Brice, R.A. Kamin, Matthew Baker, Ginger Rankin (her husband was my dad’s first All-American player), Dan Gerber, Phyllis Klein, Linda Hillringhouse, Patricia Barnes, Lisa Lenzo, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Robert Hamblin, Faith Shearin, Nancy Esther James, Salvatore Sapienza, Kirk Westphal, Thomas Allbaugh, D.R. James.
Where are the books? Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.
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Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.