Yesterday I opened a can of tomatoes, squished them through my fingers to break them up, added them to the soup, and suddenly pictured the long line of people who made this possible. The invisible humans who planted the seeds, watched over the growing plants, harvested the tomatoes, hauled them to the processing plant, trucked them to the store, stocked the shelf I plucked them from. The people who made the can, cast the iron pot, strung together the gas lines that feed my stove.
I happily eat alone at restaurants and bars, go to movies alone, travel thousands of miles and across oceans alone, work alone, spend much of my time alone. But still, my life is entirely dependent on the decency of people I don’t know and will never know. Every time I read this poem I think about that.
Islands, Muriel Rukeyser
O for God’s sake
they are connected
They look at each other
across the glittering sea
some keep a low profile
Some are cliffs
The bathers think
islands are separate like them
For more information about Muriel Rukeyser, please click here.
Words by Winter: my podcast
I’d love to see you in one of my spring workshops! Details here.
Observation: anyone who thinks it’s an insult to describe someone as a “former comedian” has clearly never stood alone in front of a crowd of people with the intention of making them laugh. Doing so takes crazy courage, along with smarts, empathy, compassion, and an ability not only to sense but to change the energy of the room. Go to a Moth show sometime. Stand up on stage and tell a story. Put your heart on the line.
When you do that, you’ll likely be terrified. You’ll look out at the packed room and all you’ll see is the glare of the spotlight. You won’t see all the people cheering you on with the kindness it’s possible to show a stranger who’s putting themself on the line.
I don’t know what will happen in Ukraine. I do know that Zelenskyy, the former comedian, is brave as hell.
Poem (I lived in the first century of world wars), by Muriel Rukeyser
I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
the newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
the news would pour out of various devices
interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
they would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
we would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
to construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
to reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
to let go the means, to wake.
I lived in the first century of these wars.