Category: Literary Witches

100 Day Project – Days 54 – 56 Literary Witch: Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde wasn’t chosen as this week’s literary witch because of the mystical power of the universe. I chose her and pulled her out of the deck on purpose. I’ve been trying to write this blog post for days and who else could I have this week, a week of protests and demonstrations and anger and sadness because another black man has been killed needlessly by the police. George Floyd. Death by asphyxiation because the officer wouldn’t take his knee off of his throat.

When I was in my early 20s my brother-in-law offered to drive my parent’s car across the country to their cottage. I don’t remember the specifics but for some reason the car was owned by me (I bought the car from my dad for a dollar but I don’t remember why he wanted me to do this). Anyway, as my brother-in-law was driving across Saskatchewan he was pulled over by the RCMP for the crime of “driving while coloured”. He wasn’t speeding but he was a dark man driving a nice car (a 10-year old Nissan Maxima is the “nice” car in this case) and if it wasn’t for the letter I had written saying that I had given my brother-in-law the permission to drive my car across the country we don’t know what would have happened to him. Somehow I knew to worry about him enough to write that letter. Canada is not immune to racism, it’s just that ours is usually quieter. We are politely racist. All of us. Having relatives of colour does not give me a pass from this – but it has certainly made me keep my eyes open. Open to witness strangers touching my nephew’s soft afro when he was a toddler (without asking). Open to one of my nephews being accused of being a terrorist as he walks down the street.

I haven’t been posting anything on social media about the deaths or the protests because I don’t want to contribute to what I call all the “white noise” that is going on at the moment. This blog, this little spot on the internet that few people read, this is where I can post. But right now I don’t need to be another voice shouting “Look at me! I’m one of the good ones!” Am I? Probably not. I want to help but other than educating myself and my children about white privilege and white supremacy I don’t really know how. I need to come to terms with my own biases and not pass them along to my children. I think what white people need to realize is that the term white privilege isn’t a derogatory term or an insult and to not immediately get offended. It’s just a fact. My job right now, in addition to teaching my children, is to make sure they don’t immediately go to the “I hate all white people.” Or, “I hate being white!” statements (because this is what I am getting.) That doesn’t help anyone and it doesn’t move us forward. It’s okay to be happy with the skin you are in, it is okay to be white but the issue is that it should also be okay to be black. But it is being proven again and again that being black in North America is not okay. It is not equal. While I am teaching my children about equality black mothers and fathers are teaching their children how to deal with the police and try and not get shot. How is that equal?

A good quote I found on explaining to the “All Lives Matter” people why Black Lives Matter: “If you were at an event supporting people with Breast Cancer no one would run in and scream ALL CANCER MATTERS. That’s a given, it’s obvious. No one is saying it doesn’t.” (Quoted from Blessthemessy on Instagram.)

Today there was a protest in Calgary. I did not attend. I feel guilty that I did not attend but that is just not the kind of support I can give right now. My family is giving up a lot to keep me safe from Covid-19 and exposing myself (even with a mask) would have been a disservice to them. I would have had to have someone push me around in my wheelchair and I just can’t get that close to anyone right now. (Also I spent most of the day at the hospital.) It isn’t the same as the protests and riots going on in the U.S. People seem shocked by the violence but when your voice has been silenced and ignored for so long how else can you get attention? I’ve got no answers and my white tears don’t help anyone. All this talking seems like a lot of white noise.

Here is a poem by Audre Lorde published in 1978.

Power

The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
yourself
instead of your children.

I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds
and a dead child dragging his shattered black
face off the edge of my sleep
blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders
is the only liquid for miles
and my stomach
churns at the imagined taste while
my mouth splits into dry lips
without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the wetness of his blood
as it sinks into the whiteness
of the desert where I am lost
without imagery or magic
trying to make power out of hatred and destruction
trying to heal my dying son with kisses
only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.

A policeman who shot down a ten year old in Queens
stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood
and a voice said “Die you little motherfucker” and
there are tapes to prove it. At his trial
this policeman said in his own defense
“I didn’t notice the size nor nothing else
only the color”. And
there are tapes to prove that, too.

Today that 37 year old white man
with 13 years of police forcing
was set free
by eleven white men who said they were satisfied
justice had been done
and one Black Woman who said
“They convinced me” meaning
they had dragged her 4’10” black Woman’s frame
over the hot coals
of four centuries of white male approval
until she let go
the first real power she ever had
and lined her own womb with cement
to make a graveyard for our children.

I have not been able to touch the destruction
within me.
But unless I learn to use
the difference between poetry and rhetoric
my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold
or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire
and one day I will take my teenaged plug
and connect it to the nearest socket
raping an 85 year old white woman
who is somebody’s mother
and as I beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed
a greek chorus will be singing in 3/4 time
“Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are.”

100 Day Project – Days 41 & 42 Literary Witch: Anna Akhmatova

This week’s literary witch is Russian poet Anna Akhmatova whom I think I have heard about only in passing through my friend Anya Krugovoy Silver who was also a poet and of Russian descent (whom I have written about before in my post: Death in the age of Internet friends). Anna Akhmatova calls for Endurance this week – which is something I know quite a bit about. And also: staying with pain, avoiding pain, patience. Pain is something I know about all too well – avoiding it is something I would like to do. Patience is something I am always working on (aren’t we all?)

Last night I turned off my phone and put it in my closet. We went for a walk/push in the wheelchair today (I did get out and walk for a bit though) and it was nice not having my phone with me. When I am connected I am always looking for things to take photos of – but today I just got to notice what was around me. I did have to pull it out and turn it on to take the photo of this week’s literary witch but I turned it back off right after and put it away. Today I got a lot of reading done, made sushi, went for a walk, sorted out & minimized my mending pile, had a nap, watched half a movie with Mister & Fionnuala (we watched the first half last night), ordered seeds (I know, I know, I’m very late), kept up with my Latin practice and did countless other things without taking one single photo. I’ve felt odd though, like I SHOULD be taking photos or checking my texts or playing PokemonGo or scrolling mindlessly on social media. But I’ve also felt great. Now I’m going to go and keep reading my book with out the need to put it down every couple pages and check my phone for no reason.

100 Day Project – Days 34 & 35: Literary Witch: Gertrude Stein

What do I know about Gertrude Stein? Not much to be honest. I know she was a contemporary of Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds and was in love with Alice B. Toklas with whom she was with for four decades. I haven’t read anything by her although have always been intrigued by her book The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas but it also sounds really weird in the sense that she wrote a biography of her life through the eyes of her lover. (When I was younger she always seemed kind of scary and bossy and thought it weird that Toklas was always referred to as Stein’s companion AND secretary.) As far as female writers living in Paris during that time go I’ve always been partial to Simone de Beauvoir (whose biographies I have read having spent one summer going through all of her works in order as their timeline appeared in her biographies – although I never did finish reading all of them).

The words associated with card are: making sense, frames, and new ways of seeing. I think we are all working on new ways of seeing these days. And if we aren’t we certainly should be. In terms of frames there are many ways to look at that but this week I’m going to take it literally because I bought a beautiful vintage photo frame a while ago and have done nothing with it so this week I am going to find the perfect photo for it. That’s the thing about oracle cards – you take what you need and leave the rest. There is an interesting (but long) biography on Stein over at The Poetry Foundation if anyone is interested.

(These current blog posts are part of my #100dayproject and are written quickly and posted without significant editing. They are what they are, mistakes and all. Much like me.)

100 Day Project, Day 28 – Literary Witch: Zora Neale Hurston

It was 12:30pm today when I realized that it was already lunchtime and we were still doing school work. Then the afternoon followed with our daily chore and spring cleaning out the front closet (including mopping inside the closet which probably hadn’t happened in years). Even though it felt good to get all of that done I was so sore and exhausted afterwards my whole body shut-down into some weird semi-conscious state where I was napping but also aware of everything that was going on around me yet physically unable to move.

At some point I did get a chance to pick this week’s Literary Witch and put Virginia Woolf away for now to make room for Zora Neale Hurston. This card brought back vivid memories of when I first read Their Eyes Were Watching God in an American Literature class in university and it being so different than anything I had read before. Coming from a very white conservative prairie city I just hadn’t been exposed literature that was so vastly different from anything my small world view knew about. I had spent junior high and high school reading Stephen King, John Steinbeck, and Thomas Hardy. My knowledge of the American Civil War came from the pages (and screen) of Gone With the Wind. Zora Neale Hurston blew me out of the water.

I remember reading Their Eyes Were Watching God a couple times the summer following that American Literature class. Laying on my couch in my basement apartment trying to avoid the sweltering Montreal heat. At some point before leaving Montreal I passed the book along to a friend and haven’t read it since.

This week’s card calls me to focus on stories: my own and others. And to listen – also to myself and others. I need to listen to my needs – some days I need to listen to my body and some days I need to ignore it and see how far I can push myself (which in a sense is listening to my wants because I don’t want to always have to step back and be that sick person). Times are also changing in our little family as people are growing and maturing. As the voices of my children grow older I need to start listening to them with new ears.

(These current blog posts are part of my #100dayproject and are written quickly and posted without significant editing. They are what they are, mistakes and all. Much like me.)

100 Day Project, Day 21 – Literary Witch: Virginia Woolf

Today felt like a productive day. I pulled out an old bullet journal and started a spread for this week. It was weird, and maybe a little sad, to look back at my old spreads and see my exercise schedules where I would have every day of the month planned to workout in the basement and do things like 90 Day something (I don’t even remember right now but I really liked it). Or my schedules of how many push-ups/planks/squats I would do which I did for quite a while trying to stay strong. Now, well we just won’t talk about how all of my muscle tone has faded away.

So, what do I need a schedule for? Lots of things really. Something to focus my mind and help me feel like I am contributing to this family instead of my husband feeling like he has to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. I know mothering is important so I don’t need comments about how I’m doing what I can. I know I am. But sometimes I feel less than.

Less than everything, really.

And now I’m starting another round of chemo tonight so we will see how all my plans work out this week once the chemo kicks in and I’m tired and nauseated.

Another thing I haven’t done in a long time is pull out my Literary Witches Oracle Cards. These are really fun. I’ve decided to pull one card a week to see what it tells me – or to see what I want it to tell me. *insert winky face here* The Virginia Woolf card is about developing a vision, innovation, and limitations. This was an apt reminder for me today since I am having to learn how to live with these new limitations that have been placed on me. My body is becoming increasingly limited and as a previously active person it is easy to fall back into the “if only things would go back to normal” frame of mind and getting depressed waiting around for something that will probably never come.

I think many of us are feeling that way these days. We are all under limitations at the moment with the Covid-19 pandemic isolation rules set in place and even when it is over what was once normal will not be the same. And who is to say it should be? I think learning to live with these limitations is making us be more innovative in some ways even if it is frustrating and born out of a necessity that no one really wants to embrace. What the world is going to look like when this is over and so many people have lost their jobs or whole industries are collapsing (tourism?) we don’t know yet. I certainly have no answers.

I don’t think I have a single Virginia Woolf book in this house. That’s kind of sad.

(These current blog posts are part of my #100dayproject and are written quickly and posted without significant editing. They are what they are, mistakes and all. Much like me.)