Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Read With Us: How to Say Babylon

Last week, Kym gave you an introduction to our current Read With Us selection, How to Say BabylonThis week I'm going to tell you a little bit more about this memoir by Safiya Sinclair. In simple terms, the book is about growing up in Jamaica with a strict and controlling Rastafarian father and how the author struggled and came to find her own power. But there is much more to it than that. 

I just finished Babylon last week and because it was due back at the library, I'm not sure I'll have a chance to reread it before our discussion. I've been trying to search out some more information about Sinclair in the hope this might help me to better understand her. I've read interviews with her, read her poetry, and even found an interview she did with Tara Westover. I'm going to share some bits and pieces with you that I found helpful. 

This Pen Ten interview from 2017 helped me to better understand Sinclair's journey as a writer and poet. This paragraph about when she began considering what kind of poet she wanted to be was especially illuminating for me:

"However, I would say that coming to America as a college student is the first time I really considered what kind of poet I wanted to be. I brought my work into a Bennington College workshop when a white student crossed out any references to Jamaican flora and fauna she didn’t recognize, scratching out the Jamaican patois, remarking “Can you say this in English?” And that was the moment I decided that my responsibility as a poet was to always keep my gaze centered on my Jamaican landscape, to tell the stories of Jamaican womanhood, of blackness and marginalization, to write against postcolonial history and nurture anti-colonial selfhood. To leave no space, no place, not even a sliver of consideration for the venal hegemony of whiteness in my imagination; dark, beautiful, and untamed."

(I did have to look up venal hegemony and it sounds like it might be dominance capable of being bribed. If her main goal is to focus on Jamaica and tell the stories of Jamaican womanhood, Blackness, and marginalization, I would say that she is succeeding.)

Because Sinclair's poem Silver figures largely in How to Say Babylon, I wanted to read the whole thing. It was difficult to track down (it turns out it's on the endpapers of the hardcover version of the book), but I'm going to leave it here in case you might also learn something from reading it.

Silver flows through my veins

Into my hands when I caress the strings 
                            of my guitar
Silver is the moon I swallowed
on a dry dreary night when I willed it so
silver is the rain in May
wholesome and lithe and falling into me

Our springtime sarabande kisses me sodden

up then I'm happy
down then I'm sad
Silver    I cry        Silver

Silver encases my heart
like a drunk jeweller quenching a cigarette
silver is my lips against the ice
my tongue against the frost
the sweet staccato
my praline dress
my stuck umbrella on a sunshiny day

Silver is the witty wind
coaxing my eyes to sleep
upon the blurred pastel pages
of a slipshod butterfly
Silver is a legerdemain
Legs like a leprechaun that feeds on leer 
                                       and lemons
A quire of my deepest thoughts
the inkling of my most secret soul

It is the palsied web
of the crestfallen spider
the ugly dewdrop ring
that scars my finger like acid
dusk that brings the sidereal night
resting its echo upon the wing
of a firefly that drinks the silver from my eyes

Silver is my billowing meerschaum
is the flicking goldfish fin in the silent sun
silver are the wispy strands in my hair
lined silver spiralling through the universe
Silver chose me
like starlight to the naked eye

the words I bleed are silver
the time that dances minuets
upon my broken sylvan skin,
is silver in a lancer's armor

when my stomach bursts
and I disgorge eternity
silver stands beside me
fondling the viol

The weight, the wind, are uxurious
for they are solely silver
ever heading my way

My ears are filled with a pixie's dreams
like honey      only Silver
when the days of maiden's trouble subside
silver peels away

My belly swells
and it'll be a while
but I know more silver 
is welling

Lastly, here is a video of Safiya Sinclair being interviewed by Tara Westover, author of Educated, at the Center for Fiction They have more than a few things in common, but there are also many differences. I loved how Westover let Safiya Sinclair tell her story. It's over an hour long, but maybe you'll find an opportunity to listen to it. 

How to Say Babylon is currently available from Amazon in hardcover ($15.55) or Kindle ($14.99), or from Audible. You can check your local bookstores for a copy — and, of course, the book should also be available at most libraries. I had to wait about two and a half weeks for the audio version, and after I had some difficulty understanding "spoken Jamaican" I had another almost three-week wait for the Kindle version. Reading and listening to both versions worked well for me. 

Our book discussion day for How to Say Babylon will be Tuesday, June 11, 2024. Carole, Kym, and I will each post discussion questions on our blogs that day, and then at 7:00 pm Eastern time we’ll be hosting the always educational and fun live book discussion on Zoom. I have some questions about this book, but I always come away from our discussions with a better understanding. I'm counting on all of you! 

Monday, April 29, 2024

Poetry in Action

As we approach the end of April and National Poetry Month, I want to share O, Miami with you. I was struck by Miami's multi-pronged approach to poetry during April and sharing poetry with the whole city in a variety of ways. Their mission statement is impressive: "O, Miami builds community around the power of poetry. Through collaborations, projects, events, and publications, we create a platform for amplifying Miamians, investing in a new shared narrative of our city and a more equitable picture of its future."

The goal of the annual O, Miami Poetry Festival is for every single person in Miami-Dade County to encounter a poem!

So what does this mean in terms of events? There are loads of them! How about Wheels and Words - a Miami-Dade County Dept. of Transportation bus decorated with poems by 3rd and 4th graders. 

Poetry Parking Tickets are made to look like Miami-Dade County parking tickets, but instead of a citation, each ticket contains a poem. This turns the experience of getting ticketed into something positive. 

I personally like the Lost Socks/Missed Connections Embroidery Workshop. It's described as "a whimsical archival poetry project that connects South Florida’s Craigslist Missed Connections and the mythology of lost socks. Socks featuring sewn, ironed, and embroidered Missed Connection posts-as-poems will be dispersed at five laundromats across Miami-Dade. Lost Socks / Missed Connections is a project of chance and fun, hoping to spread a bit of joy to those who find them." I'd love to find a lost sock that featured some poetry!

Fruit Stickers would put a lot more fun into grocery shopping. O, Miami welcomes you to turn fruits and veggies into a sweet poetic encounter. Join our street team and help us spread joy in the produce aisle by distributing poetry fruit stickers. You may meet an introspective banana or a lime declaring its love for you. The stickers feature 9 original poems written by O, Miami’s elementary & middle school students.

One of the most interesting installations is called Wish-a-PoemThis interactive project involves three libraries in Miami. At each library, patrons will see a magic lamp on a white pedestal. When they rub that lamp, phrases of a new poem appear simultaneously on screens at all three libraries. This was not designed by a genie, but rather by Yucef Merhi, a student of philosophy, physics, and interactive telecommunications. To create the language behind Wish-a-Poem, he built a database of phrases drawn from the poetry archive of O, Miami, and generated by artificial intelligence. 

“I see poetry as a living matter,” says Merhi, “as something that is constantly changing and transforming. Every time you rub the lamp, you get a new poem, and the combinations or the poetry combinations that you can get are in the number of thousands.”

I would love a chance to rub that lamp!

I'm amazed by Miami's commitment of people, time, money, ideas, and creativity to National Poetry Month. I'm not sure if they can meet their lofty goal of every person in the county encountering a poem, but with things like poetry on wheels, fruit stickers, and magical lamps that you can rub and wish-a-poem, it certainly could happen. 

Friday, April 26, 2024

Just a Couple of Books

I only finished two books this week. One is How to Say Babylon so I'll be saving my thoughts on this book for our Read With Us discussion in June. I always come away from our discussions with a better understanding of the book, and that would be really helpful for me with this one. 

The second book is a bit of fluff that I felt compelled to read as soon as I saw the premise. The Husbands is not the type of book I usually read (at all!) but the premise sounded so intriguing that I had to give it a try. A single woman, Lauren, returns home to her flat in London after attending a "hen-do" and is quite surprised to find Michael on her landing. She's even more surprised to find out that he is her husband. Her flat is mostly the same, but there are differences, like the wall color, rugs, and photos on the wall. There are even pictures of Michael on her phone. When he goes up to the attic to change a lightbulb, another completely different husband comes back down. Lauren eventually discovers that she has a magic attic with an endless supply of husbands, and some of her own circumstances (like her job) change with each new husband. I know this sounds ridiculous but Gramazio has written it with a bit more depth than the simple premise might suggest.

Worldbuilding could have been a little more detailed but then the novel might move out of the genre of chick-lit romance and into science fiction. The author has written about 200+ husbands and this becomes very tedious after a while. But the husbands are somewhat ethnically diverse, and Lauren meets one "husband" named Bohai who becomes her confidante in the real world. He has a magical blanket chest and can get new wives or husbands. Some of Lauren's husbands are interesting, as are the differences between them. Then there are her maneuvers to get her current husband back up into the attic when she decides she wants a hopefully better one. Lauren gets a bit philosophical towards the end as she approaches the anniversary of the magic attic, and the ending is abrupt and dramatic. I've been married for 43 years and there have been times when my husband is lucky I didn't ask him to check the attic while crossing my fingers that a better husband might come back down the attic ladder. But the book is definitely fun, creative, and entertaining, and it might even provide me with a daydream or two about what could be in my attic the next time my husband does something that makes me raise my eyebrows. It was just three stars for me, but sometimes a fun and creative bit of fluff is just what you want to read. I even liked the cover!

I hope you've got something good to read this weekend!

Thursday, April 25, 2024

National Poetry Month: A Poem in My Pocket

Today we wrap up our celebration of National Poetry Month. The picture above is the official 2024 National Poetry Month poster featuring artwork by children’s author and illustrator Jack Wong along with lines from “blessing the boats” by poet Lucille Clifton

Last Thursday was  "Poem in Your Pocket Day" but we are celebrating it today. I thought that blessing the boats would be a wonderful poem to slip into my pocket and share with you. 

blessing the boats

(at St. Mary’s)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that


Clifton, Lucille. "blessing the boats". The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010, 2016.

You can read more about the poet here


Be sure to check in with KymKat, and Sarah for more poetry today, and thank you for joining us in celebration of National Poetry Month. (And remember that any time is good for poetry, not just Thursdays in April!) May you in your innocence sail through this to that ...

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Unraveled Wednesday: 4/24/24

I'm happy to join Kat and the Unravelers today. I'm still working on my HotM; I've started a regular old Hitchhiker, and I've got another project all ready to cast on but I have to wait for some more yarn to arrive. Sadly, I haven't knit any cat toys for Nugget, but I'm cat-sitting her into next week, so there is still time.

I have really been enjoying working on my HotM, and thank you to those of you who suggested double-ended crochet hooks as repair tools for garter stitch last week. I now have my own set, ready for any mistake I might make. I hesitated at paying almost $15.00 for three small plastic double-sided crochet hooks, but my grandfather always advised using the right tool for the job. I didn't understand how these were different from my regular crochet hook, but once I watched the video that showed how the repair was accomplished without continually flipping the knitting over, I was convinced. I haven't made any mistakes yet but I'm sure there will be more in the future. 

While I was knitting away on my HotM, a thought popped into my mind, "What if I forget how to knit a regular Hitchhiker?" I had this variegated yarn sitting beside me (it was sort of like emotional support yarn that I had gotten out of my stash) and promptly cast on. Since I only have one skein I'm combining it with the same solid blue that I'm using in my HotM. (Can you tell I really like royal blue?) I'm happy to report that it's just like riding a bike and I have not forgotten how to knit a Hitchhiker.

I was perusing an email from
Must Stash when I saw that they had a colorway named Denali, a lovely succession of Alaska-colored stripes. Jess went to Alaska last year and since I always puzzle over what to knit her for Christmas, I thought some Alaskan-inspired socks would be just the thing. I've received the Denali yarn and decided that using a contrasting color for the cuffs, heels, and toes would be a good idea so I didn't disrupt the stripe sequence. So now I'm impatiently waiting for my contrasting color yarn to be delivered. I'm anxious to get them started before my sock mojo starts to decline. 

This post is getting a bit long, so I think I'll do what I did last week and write a book post on Friday. It's only two books so far but maybe Nugget and I will read together and finish another one. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Friday, April 19, 2024

A Bunch of Books

I didn't include my recent book reviews in my Unraveled Wednesday post so it's time to do it now. These books include a combination of old, relatively new, a reread, and an advance reader's copy. 

I'm not sure how I missed reading Rules of Civility back in 2011 when it was published, but I was glad to finally read it while waiting for my hold on Table for Two. What I liked best was Towles' ability to clearly and realistically write a woman's voice. Other reviewers have disagreed but it worked for me. The story of Katey Kontent, Tinker Grey, and Eve Ross, set in 1930s New York City was written beautifully, but it also provided plenty of impetus that made me want to keep reading. The plot may be slightly predictable but sometimes that's just what I want to read, just like Katey admires Agatha Christie because "everyone gets what they deserve" and justice is served. Three and a half stars rounded up.

I've never been much of a memoir reader, so I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur. I felt much the same about The Many Lives of Mama Love. Both of these books made me think, "These people sure do lead different lives than I do, and in many ways, they sound quite exciting." But then there are also the terrible parts - drug addiction, committing felonies, getting thrown in jail, losing custody of your children, and trying to overcome the shame and stigma of your past crimes to get a job and become a productive member of society. I was impressed with how Lara Love Hardin reinvented herself but would have liked to learn more about what it felt like to overcome her heroin addiction. I also would like to read some more from the other side - what her children felt like having a mother in prison, and the stories from the D.A. that she had previously slept with and his wife who worked in the probation department. Hardin is surprised by her neighbors' contempt for her but seems to justify her crimes of stealing from them by saying that she had done this to provide for her children. She conveniently forgot that she and her husband had spent all of their own money on heroin. But people who have authored their memoirs are free to cast themselves as the hero, and Hardin has accomplished something that not many others have achieved. Three and a half stars rounded up.

"Escape was always my real addiction, the one true high. Books were just my gateway drug. Sex just got me pregnant. Food just made me puffy. Vicodin just helped me pretend I was happy. The heroin, though, that gave me everything I had ever wanted--peace, joy, escape.
Until it didn't.
And everything I knew and everyone I loved was gone."

I reread Elizabeth Strout's Anything Is Possible because I wanted to refresh my memory about the characters before I started Strout's latest book, Tell Me Everything. I felt the same as when I initially read it in 2017, so my review following is the one I wrote then. With Anything Is Possible, Elizabeth Strout has truly perfected her already great string of books in the form of linked stories. Olive Kitteridge was wonderful; My Name is Lucy Barton was even better, and Anything Is Possible is practically perfect. There is Strout's usual excellent prose as each chapter carefully elucidates a different character with an intimate look at their lives, but I think what I especially liked was how much this book added to Lucy Barton's story. It can be heartbreaking, poignant, sometimes heart-rending, and at times even appalling, but through her understated and evocative writing, Strout manages to make the reader understand the characters presented here and Lucy Barton herself in depth. We are introduced to Tommy, the maintenance man at Lucy's elementary school, Lucy's brother Pete, Patty Nicely of the Pretty Nicely girls, and several other characters originally mentioned in My Name is Lucy Barton. They seemed like minor characters in that book, but loom much larger in Anything Is Possible. Lucy herself makes an appearance in the story entitled "Sister", shedding more light on her family dynamics.

This book helped me better appreciate the wonder of learning Lucy's background and full story the way Strout has chosen to reveal it in two separate books. It's hard to imagine how she'll top this with her next novel, but she is certainly an author I'll keep reading.

Tell Me Everything has probably been my most anticipated book this year. I got excited when the cover design was revealed, and even more excited when I requested and was approved for an ARC. Once I had the book in my hands I wanted to read it in one sitting but somehow still savor it to make it last.

Strout tells us more of Bob Burgess' story; remember him from The Burgess Boys? But the book is about so much more and so many more people, including Bob's wife, Margaret, and his first wife, Pam. It's also the story of how Bob comes to defend a local man accused of murdering his mother. There is a small mystery about who committed the crime, but it's more about the changes that Bob helps the accused man make in his life. Bob's brother Jim also appears in this novel with some important revelations for Bob.

Bob meets Lucy Barton frequently so they can take walks together. Their relationship is one of good friends who share a special emotional intimacy until possibly, they don't. This part was a bit worrisome for me, but it all came together wonderfully at the end. In one of my favorite developments, Lucy Barton and Olive Kitteridge get together to tell each other stories about "unrecorded lives". I will be thinking about these stories and their meanings for a long time.

I greatly enjoyed revisiting many of Strout's past characters, especially Olive, Lucy, and Bob, and their interactions with each other now that many of them live in Crosby, Maine. Because Strout has caught the reader up on many favorite characters, this book feels as if it could be an ending to the Lucy Barton series. There were parts of the book that felt as if they might be moving too slowly, but Elizabeth Strout's novels have never been page-turners or plot-driven. They are stories of humanity, love, loss, empathy, and true human connections, and in these respects, this is one of Strout's best. Four and a half stars rounded up.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for providing me with a copy of this book. It will be published on August 13, 2024. 

"Lucy stood up and pulled on her coat. "Those are my stories," she said, and then bent down to put her boots back on. "But you're right. They are stories of loneliness and love." Then she picked up her bag and said, "And the small connections we make in this world if we are lucky." And then to Olive's amazement, Lucy said, smiling at her with a gentleness on her face, "And I feel that way about you. A connection. Love. So thank you."
Olive said, "Wait." As Lucy turned, Olive said, "Well, phooey. I feel connected to you too. So there. " She stuck out her tongue."

For anyone not familiar with Elizabeth Strout's Lucy series, this book is not the best place to start. You'll have a much better appreciation for the characters and their backstories if you read the previous books in order: 
Olive Kitteridge (not technically part of the Lucy series but you'll be familiar with Olive Kitteridge who shows up in Tell Me Everything)
Olive, Again (nice to read but not entirely necessary)
The Burgess Boys (not technically part of the Lucy series but you'll be familiar with Bob Burgess who figures largely in Tell Me Everything)
It looks like a lot of books but I think they're well worth reading (and some of my favorites)!

In case you're interested, there is a giveaway on Goodreads for a copy of Tell Me Everything

I hope have an enjoyable weekend and you're reading something good!

Thursday, April 18, 2024

National Poetry Month: A Poem About Color

To celebrate National Poetry Month, several of us are sharing poetry with you on Thursdays in April. Today's topic is about something we can all use more of, wherever and whenever we can find it - color! Green, fuchsia, white, cotton-candy colored blossoms; I'll take them all. 

Instructions on Not Giving Up
Ada Limón

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.


Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

You can read more about the poet here


Be sure to check in with KymKat, and Sarah for more poetry full of color today, and join us next Thursday for more poems in celebration of National Poetry Month. (And remember that any time is good for poetry, not just Thursdays in April!)

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Unraveled Wednesday: 4/17/24

I'm happy to join Kat and the Unravelers today, with something old and something new. Last week I expressed concern that I was subjecting you, dear readers, to the same photo of my Hitch on the Move week after week. I'll put this in the "be careful what you wish for" department. I was happily knitting along when I noticed that I had dropped a stitch. After securing it with a locking stitch marker, I attempted to fix it. This is not exceptionally difficult but I seem to become all thumbs when repairing garter stitch.

I decided to tink back down six or seven rows. That would give me fewer rows to fix and still ensure that I was able to keep track of the pattern. When knitting Hitch on the Move you only work with one side/one color at a time and tinking would make sure that I didn't mess up the pattern. After a few hours of unraveling, I was left with some loose ramen yarn because it had only been knit for about 12 hours or so. 

Then I spent another hour with a crochet hook working the dropped stitch back up. I finally finished at about my bedtime and decided it was best to put it down and look at the repair in the bright light of morning to make sure it really was fixed. And it was! I knit all the loose ramen, so the picture below really is pretty much like last week. I'm trying to be more careful and not drop stitches so I don't have to do all of that again. 

But I have come up with an idea for another project or two. I'm cat-sitting Justin's cat, Nugget, next week, and I thought it might be nice to make her a couple of toys. 

So I bought 100 Little Knitted Projects and some catnip. John just shook his head when I said that I wanted to take my grand-cat a few small presents when I visited her, but I'm betting that all of you understand. I haven't cast on anything yet, but I might start with the pig if I can find some pig-appropriate yarn in my stash. 

I've finished four books since last week but this post is already long enough, so I think I'll review them separately on Friday. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Thursday, April 11, 2024

National Poetry Month: A Poem by Ross Gay

To celebrate National Poetry Month, several of us are sharing poetry with you on Thursdays in April. Today's topic is about something we can all use more of, wherever and whenever we can find it - the joyousness and emotional remembrance present in the poetry of Ross Gay.

The only thing I knew about Eric Garner was that he was killed by the NYPD who had placed him into a chokehold despite the fact that Mr. Garner told them 11 times that he couldn't breathe. Ross Gay read that Garner had worked in the horticultural department and wrote about many items in his life rather than focusing solely on his death. 

A Small Needful Fact
by Ross Gay

Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.


Copyright © 2015 by Ross Gay. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database. 

You can read more about the poet here


Be sure to check in with KymKat, and Sarah for more poetry by Ross Gay today, and join us next Thursday for more poems in celebration of National Poetry Month. (And remember that any time is good for poetry, not just Thursdays in April!)

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Unraveled Wednesday: 4/10/24

I'm happy to join Kat and the Unravelers for one of the highlights of my week, Unraveled Wednesday! I've got the same old HotM once again, but at least I could take my photo outdoors so the colors are fairly true.

I have thought about starting some small projects so I'm not always showing you the same old thing. None of the sock yarn in my stash struck me but I have had an idea while writing this, so hopefully next week you'll see something else in addition to HotM.

One of the books I read this week was American Mother. It's a poignant, compelling, and very difficult book to read. Colum McCann has written the story of Diane Foley, mother of American journalist Jim Foley who was kidnapped, tortured, and killed in a horrific way in Syria. It's hard for me to understand how Jim Foley could have willingly gone into Syria, knowing full well the danger he was placing himself in, so I appreciated the biographical information about Jim's childhood and road to becoming a journalist. It's also difficult for me to understand how his mother could sit down with one of his killers, but Diane Foley has chosen to channel her grief into working for policy changes in the US to bring hostages back home. I welcomed the chance to read about and remember people like Jim Foley.

I also reread My Name is Lucy Barton in excited anticipation of Tell Me Everything later this summer. I'm not sure I would say now that My Name is Lucy Barton is better than Olive Kitteridge, but it's right up there vying for a top spot. I loved revisiting Lucy, and even though I've read three other books featuring her, I will never tire of listening to her try to make sense of the world and her family while she tries to find hope in darkness and dysfunction. Elizabeth Strout is a master of writing that is spare but rich in meaning.

What are you making and reading this week? 

Monday, April 8, 2024

A Little Bit Rattled

I had been feeling under the weather for much of last week - headache, cough, congestion, etc. I did a covid test and it was negative but I still had no energy and felt best sitting under an afghan trying to stay warm. But I got a bit of a wake-up about 10:25 on Friday morning. 

I heard a huge bang first and then the whole house shook for 10 seconds or so. The china cupboard banged against the wall and all the dishes rattled. They're doing heavy construction work a block away on Main St. so my first thought was that there had been a gas explosion or a crane had collapsed. There didn't seem to be any sirens or smoke, so then I did wonder if maybe it was an earthquake. I went to USGS but there was nothing, so I checked the next most reliable source of information - facebook. Loads of "knowledgeable" people there thought that it was an earthquake, and by then USGS had confirmed a 4.8 magnitude earthquake about nine miles northeast of us. 

I've lived in Flemington for more than 30 years but never knew that earthquakes could happen here. I also learned that there are faults in NJ and we live at the confluence of three of them. We've felt a couple of small aftershocks but they were milder and much shorter in duration. Even a little earthquake was a bit unnerving, so I can hardly imagine what it would be like to live in Taiwan or CA or another earthquake-prone place. 

So that was the most exciting part of my weekend. Now that I know what an earthquake sounds and feels like, I'm ready to experience my next natural phenomenon - the solar eclipse this afternoon. I hope your week is off to a good start and you're not feeling rattled!

Thursday, April 4, 2024

National Poetry Month: A Poem About Humanity

To celebrate National Poetry Month, several of us are sharing poetry with you on Thursdays in April. Today's topic is about something we can all use more of, wherever and whenever we can find it - peace and humanity. This poem by Mohja Kahf says to me that humanity can be found almost anywhere, including the sink in the bathroom at Sears. 

My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears
By Mohja Kahf

My grandmother puts her feet in the sink
        of the bathroom at Sears
to wash them in the ritual washing for prayer,
because she has to pray in the store or miss
the mandatory prayer time for Muslims
She does it with great poise, balancing
herself with one plump matronly arm
against the automated hot-air hand dryer,
after having removed her support knee-highs
and laid them aside, folded in thirds,
and given me her purse and her packages to hold
so she can accomplish this august ritual
and get back to the ritual of shopping for housewares

Respectable Sears matrons shake their heads and frown
as they notice what my grandmother is doing,
an affront to American porcelain,
a contamination of American Standards
by something foreign and unhygienic
requiring civic action and possible use of disinfectant spray
They fluster about and flutter their hands and I can see
a clash of civilizations brewing in the Sears bathroom

My grandmother, though she speaks no English,
catches their meaning and her look in the mirror says,
I have washed my feet over Iznik tile in Istanbul
with water from the world's ancient irrigation systems
I have washed my feet in the bathhouses of Damascus
over painted bowls imported from China
among the best families of Aleppo
And if you Americans knew anything
about civilization and cleanliness,
you'd make wider washbins, anyway
My grandmother knows one culture—the right one,

as do these matrons of the Middle West. For them,
my grandmother might as well have been squatting
in the mud over a rusty tin in vaguely tropical squalor,
Mexican or Middle Eastern, it doesn't matter which,
when she lifts her well-groomed foot and puts it over the edge.
"You can't do that," one of the women protests,
turning to me, "Tell her she can't do that."
"We wash our feet five times a day,"
my grandmother declares hotly in Arabic.
"My feet are cleaner than their sink.
Worried about their sink, are they? I
should worry about my feet!"
My grandmother nudges me, "Go on, tell them."

Standing between the door and the mirror, I can see
at multiple angles, my grandmother and the other shoppers,
all of them decent and goodhearted women, diligent
in cleanliness, grooming, and decorum
Even now my grandmother, not to be rushed,
is delicately drying her pumps with tissues from her purse
For my grandmother always wears well-turned pumps
that match her purse, I think in case someone
from one of the best families of Aleppo
should run into her—here, in front of the Kenmore display

I smile at the midwestern women
as if my grandmother has just said something lovely about them
and shrug at my grandmother as if they
had just apologized through me
No one is fooled, but I

hold the door open for everyone
and we all emerge on the sales floor
and lose ourselves in the great common ground
of housewares on markdown.


Mohja Kahf, "My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears" from E-mails from Scheherazad. University Press of Florida, 2003.
You can read more about the poet here
Be sure to check in with KymKat, and Sarah for more poetry full of peace and humanity today, and join us next Thursday for more poems in celebration of National Poetry Month. (And remember that any time is good for poetry, not just Thursdays in April!)