I read an article yesterday morning in The Guardian about unmarked graves along the Rio Grande, where the people of Piedras Negras (a Mexican border town) bury those they've found who’d tried to cross the river and drowned (Migrants drowning in Rio Grande). There was a picture of the crossed sticks that served as markers, with the river beyond.
I live in a state that has several ICE-run prison camps for adults and children who cross the border. This is how the US deals with immigration: criminalization. It is the way the US government seems to deal with everything – as a war. Us versus Them. Blame, Rage, Ignorance, Willful Cruelty. It is a culture of revenge. It ends with state murder, plain and simple. Daily.
The next article I read was about how the mussels in Bodega Bay had cooked in their own shells because of extreme temperatures (Mussels cooked by extreme heat). What to do? The heart and mind squirm, spin, burning in their shells. I wrote a poem.
In the poem, I put all of the bodies of the dead in the same cognitive and emotional universe. I am not saying that the bodies found in the river and the bodies of the mussels are the same by any stretch of the imagination - but the death of those people and of those bivalve mollusks (a foundation species – the ecosystem depends on them) are in the same universe of cause and effect, they are connected by catastrophe, they are connected on the same earth that is in the process of collapse.
People are dying in the desert. People are drowning in rivers. Children are sleeping on concrete prison floors, alone. Mass extinction is ongoing.
As I was writing I imagined that the beautiful blue shells of the mussels – their blue language – could somehow give a voice to those buried along the river. It is a poetic leap, a desperate leap...trying to making connections where there are (seemingly) none…
Sticks tied together to make a cross,
crosses line brown water, follow a slow
brown current; bodies un-named, un-
nameable, blue, blue in brown; tiny
blue bodies cling to shore-rock, wings
open, striated blue wings name the
shades of blue, a blue language for all
the ones who cannot be named, who
line the river, who must not be named
(if we name them, then they will appear);
blue bodies annealed to rock, mouths
open, cooked under the sun, shining
off the surface of the waters; oh holy
sun, false sun, fake-news sun, cooked
meat in a blue shell sun; oh holy water,
false water, fake-news water, brown
water in the heart; heart burnt off,
sorrow drowned, yearning burnt, love
drowned; in the heart of the water, in
the heart of the sun; in the heart, in
the heart, a feeble beat in foam; foam
retreats into an oncoming wave; print
of a gull-claw in wet sand; wet sand,
a mirror; sticks tied together…
At the same time, I read an article where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Greta Thunberg (both heroes of mine) were in a conversation together (Hope is contagious) and the take-away was about action. Action helps dissolve despair, helps work through the avoidance behavior that results from deep depression. The behavior of retreat is natural, a survival mechanism, when our nervous systems become overwhelmed. Remember this: Greta Thunberg started out standing alone – and now is the voice for a worldwide movement. Action is the flaming door – sometimes into the burning house, sometimes out of the burning house. Sometimes both at the same time.
The only way out is through.
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