Random Acts: Walt Whitman

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.” ― Walt Whitman

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Herstory

Do you think Cinderella looked up from her ironing and thought “this is going to be a great story someday”? Do you think she could identify the elements of her narrative arc, living in the moment? No doubt the beginning was very clear, it usually is. But what was the inciting incident – was it the first kiss or the first argument? the first time she stopped pretending or the first time he made her cry? If the tensions rose and fell like the tides, how could she ever recognize the climax? And had the ending been foretold—Chekov’s gun-on-the-wall theory come to pass? Had she missed it in the exposition? Or did she choose to ignore it? It would all be explained, of course, in the dénouement, when the fibers of the story are finally woven together. Or untied, as the French word suggests? Untethered?

©2017, Jen Payne. IMAGE: Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire, Thomas Sully

Mass, Shooting, God, Guns

At the shopping mall
where she bought the onesie
for her sweet little niece,
five people were shot.
She wondered who would do such a thing
— and why?
Just the day before, she’d walked
by that same cosmetics counter
to the Children’s Department,
spotted the rack of pink,
saw the embroidery,
Lock up your sons, my daddy has guns.
Had it boxed and gift wrapped.
Something was wrong with the world, she thought,
then knelt down to pray.

Poem ©2017, Jen Payne