How Not to Drown

I take a day away from the internet
mostly. I take another. For long stretches
I think about the garden or fiction or kids
or cleaning, and almost feel like myself
again. Then I glance at the news
and I’m drowning. It’s no single thing.
It’s dancing at a club, and putting
my kindergartner on a bus the morning
after, it’s months working the queer
anti-violence hotline, listening to the
suicidal, asking them to please just
not kill themselves tonight, promise me
that much. It’s black mothers raising
black sons right next to my child (who can
pass for white), the quiet terror in their
eyes when the news reports yet another
and another and another. Wrong place,
wrong time, pissed off the wrong person
by breathing. It’s my hijabi students
crossing campus the morning after
the marathon, the way some of them
are quiet until a few weeks into each
semester, until they realize I will
treat them just the same as any other
students – I try. What did it cost
the Christians to wear their cross,
back in the day? The dark currents
of history are strong and deep, will drag
us under. What do we have to put up
against that sodden despair –
a garden, a story, lunches made
for the children, kisses given
and gathered, before they run to play
It’s not enough, not enough to change
anything. Maybe enough to get me
through the worst days, though,
so I can catch a breath, find my stroke
again. Come back fighting.

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