Thursday, August 6, 2020

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Katherine Anderson Howell

We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond.  ― Gwendolyn Brooks  

Split This Rock Virtual Open Mic announcement includes a black background with red Split This Rock logo, text that reads "Virtual Open Mic," and an illustration of a hanging lamp sending out rays of light over a laptop.
As we journey through political, economic, and global health crises, we turn to poetry to share truths that unearth underlying causes, illuminate impacts, and insist on transformative change. For many of us, today’s challenges are not new. The struggle of isolation, economic insecurity, inadequate medical care, deadly institutionalized negligence, governmental decisions that put Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, disabled, sick, and other structurally precarious people at greater risk are not new. Today, many more people are experiencing the vulnerability of these unrelenting issues. We recognize this opportunity for a heightened awareness of how our very survival depends on one another.

Poetry can help keep the flame of resilience, solidarity, and resistance alive in us. It can help us process and move through grief, anger, loneliness. Poetry can be a comfort when the most necessary actions are to rest and recover. It can remind us of what’s at stake, that our lives and legacy are worth the fight. As cultural workers, we know that culture shapes our political and social imagination at a foundational level. As poets, we can use poetry to map what is, what has been, and possibly, the way forward, including the reasons not to return to what does not honor and protect our lives, our communities, and our planet.

From late April to mid-May, Split This Rock asked poets to send the words they chant to get out of bed, to raise their fists, to encourage their kin, to remind us, as this crisis does, that “we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” To read all of these poems, visit Split This Rock’s website.


Hestia Vs. The Pandemic
By Katherine Anderson Howell

Yes, I sit and eat potato chips 
right out of the bag.
No goddess in the know
would try to clean up this 
state of affairs, this hearth
littered with shipping boxes
and masks.  Look, it isn’t enough 
to say, You were warned.
But you were. Yet here you are, 
in my fireplace, with another 
bad offering. I rule
over feasting, the intact 
household, the state, and
its buildings. What is it
you think a supplication to me
will achieve? What do
you expect for me to do?
Even I have hit pause
on my desmense,
sitting alone with my snacks,
shooing away the would-be
architects of demise. Fine, fine, 
I’ll do something, but it
won’t be what you want.
Don’t look to me to make
the miracle of social distance
go away, for your life
to return to what you once
thought was normal. 
When I wash my hands
free of chip crumbs,
I intend to show you
how to bake your own 
bread, how to dig
a garden, how to sew,
how to build a new domestic
to stretch long, and open and flat, 
so you can still see the sky,
so you remember the goddess
you beg for relief is also
the goddess of welcome.
My temples always public, 
My flames ready to warm all, 
make new households, new rules.

Listen as Katherine Anderson Howell reads “Hestia Vs. The Pandemic.”

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