“From the Boiler House” in Leaping Clear magazine

I’m pleased to share the link to “From the Boiler House” in Leaping Clear magazine. This videopoem was a collaboration of the Boiler House Poets during our residency at MASS MoCA in October 2016, edited and produced by one of our fantastically talented members Marilyn McCabe. You can hear the voices of the eight poets, each reading her own lines of the poem, with Marilyn’s videography and additional sound from Stephen Vitiello’s installation “All Those Vanished Engines.”

All the poets are happy that our work has found a home at Leaping Clear. Enjoy!

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still around

Contrary to appearances, I have not (quite) fallen off the face of the earth.

Since I last posted, I have spent quite a bit of time trying to take care of people who are sick and being sick myself. Luckily, both of my sisters have visited to help take care of Nana and Paco while I was sick.

This week, I need to do a ton of catching up on paperwork and poetry. Before the end of the month, I need to prepare comments on four manuscripts and get my own together to distribute to our group. Fingers crossed that I can get my brain in gear to manage it.

Of course, all of this is happening against the backdrop of the continuing maelstrom of the news. If a television show, novel, or movie followed a plot from the current political news in the US, everyone would dismiss it as too far-fetched. Yet, here we are in a continuing succession of situations that are accurately called unprecedented.

It’s enough to make one’s head spin.

more unsettled

Last week, I wrote about how unsettled I was, for both personal and societal reasons.

It’s worse now, particularly on the political front.

With the Manafort verdict and the Cohen guilty pleas and the immunity deals for Pecker and  Weisselberg, the possible legal jeopardy for the Trump family and businesses has increased. The president has tweeted multiple threats against the Justice Department and especially against Attorney General Jeff Sessions. There has been public discussion about the possible issuing of presidential pardons, but those only apply to federal charges and it is likely that the state of New York will bring more tax and financial charges against the Trump Foundation, businesses, and family members. Meanwhile, the Mueller investigation on Russian election and political interference continues and no one knows when the next indictment or plea deal will be announced.

It makes my head spin.

Although I was a preteen at the time, I remember this same unsettled feeling during the final stage of the Watergate scandal before Nixon resigned. Despite the public revelation of evidence of corruption and coverup, many of Nixon’s supporters among the electorate were adamantly against his impeachment or resignation; it took the intercession of Republican Congressional leaders to convince Nixon to resign rather than put the country through impeachment of the president and subsequent Senate trial.

I have no idea how our current predicament will resolve. I pray that it will be just and peaceful and lead to healing and reconciliation in the country, but I fear that it will not.

Senator John McCain died yesterday, leaving a long and distinguished record of public service, as a Navy officer, including five and a half years as a prisoner of war, a member of the House of Representatives, a Senator for over thirty years, and a presidential nominee. Tributes to him, his courage, and his service are pouring in from across the country from people across the political spectrum. It saddens me that part of the obituaries and coverage is dedicated to Donald Trump’s personal animus against and disparagement of Senator McCain.  Given that history, DT’s current condolences ring hollow.

May John rest in peace and may his legacy live on in his family, friends, and colleagues.

unsettled

This month has been a demanding one personally; hence, I have managed only a few posts this month.

I will spare you the bureaucratic details that have been occupying so much of my time and headspace, but the situation is made all the more difficult by the public unraveling going on around us.

Although I have cut back on the amount of news that I see, the continuing revelations of foreign entanglements with United States elections and governance have been truly disturbing, as has evidence that the Russians have been detected infiltrating computer systems involved with the upcoming midterm elections in November. The Manafort trial, more books and articles being published about the administration and the investigation, DT’s tweets, and interviews with members of the administration and the president’s lawyers add to the unsettling mix.

The past week has also seen a lot of coverage of the grand jury report on sexual crimes by Catholic clergy and coverup by church officials in six Pennsylvania dioceses. The behavior described in the report is appalling, sinful, and criminal and my heart breaks for the victims and their families, but, unlike many people, I did not find the report shocking or surprising. We have heard similar stories from other US dioceses and from other countries for years now.

Some Catholics feel that the Church is being attacked or singled out for criticism, but I don’t feel that way at all. I see the root of the problem as abuse of power. Sexual violence is one form of abuse of power, but there are many others, verbal, emotional, and physical abuse, financial and employment discrimination, racism, and sexism among them. All of this has led some priests into a culture of clericalism, which, in turn, led to the coverup of crimes by “brother priests” and the silencing or ignoring of victims, who are usually lay people, although sometimes also members of religious orders, other priests, or seminarians.

For many people, the Pennsylvania report highlights the lack of accountability among bishops. While this issue has been on my mind for years, it is gaining new prominence in the Catholic and general press now and is being more openly discussed among lay people, theologians, and ethicists.

Pope Francis, when he visited Chile, made the mistake of dismissing sexual abuse survivors and supporting a bishop who mishandled credible allegations against priests. After public outcry, Francis appointed an investigator. Upon receiving the report, Francis changed course, met with Chilean survivors, and called all the bishops to Rome. All thirty-four bishops offered their resignations; at this point, Francis has accepted five of them.

There are now calls for the United States’ bishops to also offer their resignations, which the Pope could accept or not on a case-by-case basis. This is occurring in the aftermath of the resignation of retired archbishop of Washington, DC Theodore McCarrick from the College of Cardinals, after reports of abuse of both minors and adult seminarians. He has been ordered into seclusion; it’s not clear if he will be laicized if he is found guilty at a canonical trial, as has happened with priests.

Of course, for most bishops, the issue will be if they covered up crimes of priests in their dioceses or moved priests to other locations where they abused still more minors or vulnerable adults.

For me, there is also a larger crisis of leadership. If a bishop fails to protect children and teens from such terrible crimes, how can he credibly claim to be leading and caring for all the Catholics in his jurisdiction? For a variety of reasons, I have been avoiding dealing with the bishops in my diocese, concentrating instead on parish-level ministry and the Church as the people of God, not as a hierarchical institution.

Still, I can’t help but think that personal complications would be easier to bear if the government and the church were functioning with stability and rectitude.

a rainbow at Mercy House

On Wednesday evening, I drove to Mercy House, the hospice residence where my mother lives, during a sun-shower after a heavy downpour. Given the time of day and the moisture in the air, I started to look for a rainbow. When I turned east, a full rainbow appeared before me, one end of it resting on Mercy House.

What I didn’t know at the time was that Phatar, a twelve-year-old who was also in residence at Mercy House, had become unresponsive and would pass away the following day, surrounded by the love of family, friends, and caregivers.

On Friday morning, the door to Phatar’s room was open, his bed made with the quilt pulled up. Near his pillow was a little memorial with a flower, the United States flag that had been on his door, a little poem that had been posted in his room, and his handprint in green paint on white canvas.

This morning at church, Father Clarence told Phatar’s story during the homily, about his cancer diagnosis, about his final months at Mercy House, about his desire to receive Jesus in the Eucharist and his baptism, and the comfort that brought him in his final weeks. There were smiles and tears as we listened.

Our mix of emotions in reacting to death is always complex, but I think most people have a particularly strong sense of sadness at the death of a child. It has also been sad watching Phatar’s mom these last months, suffering through every parent’s nightmare of the illness and death of their child. Still, I am grateful to have met Phatar and to know that he is now at peace.

The next time I see a rainbow, I will think of him.

Incredibles 2

B and I finally carved out time to see Incredibles 2, the long-awaited sequel to one of our favorite Pixar movies. I’ll try not to have spoilers in this piece, although, with world-wide box office receipts around a billion dollars, there are probably not many people left to spoil.

Like all Pixar features, Incredible 2 is preceded by a short; Bao, written and directed by Domee Shi, is the first Pixar short to be directed by a woman. It covers decades of family life in a few short minutes in a rich, culturally significant context. I would not have imagined an animated dumpling could be so adorable!

Incredibles 2, like the original film, is also built around family life. Superheroes with special powers still have to deal with adolescent angst, homework help, division of paid and unpaid work, and child care and rearing. Because we have had grandbaby ABC living with us for most of her almost fourteen months, I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Incredible baby Jack-Jack, who is still very much a baby in his behavior, movements, and reactions, superpowered or not.

I also appreciated the themes of the use/misuse of media and celebrity. Although the script must have been written years ago, these issues are especially salient right now.

As always, I recommend staying for the credits. While there is no bonus scene, there is a great medley of superhero theme songs. I especially enjoyed Elastigirl’s.

 

SoCS: an unexpected call

[Warning for family: This post is about Nana’s hospice care. You may prefer not to read it.]

I got an unexpected call this week from my mom’s (Nana here at TJCM) hospice social worker. She wanted to set up a family meeting with her and the hospice nurse. It was a bit unusual to have a formal meeting time set up, but we agreed to meet in my mom’s room at Mercy House, the hospice residence where she moved in May. We were fortunate that my older sister was here visiting, so she was able to join in, too.

What I hadn’t suspected was that the meeting was about re-certification issues. In most hospices, acceptance means that life expectancy is six months or less. With some diagnoses, that determination is relatively clear, but, with heart failure, as my mom shows, it isn’t so clear.

Nana was re-certified at three months, at six months, and then every two months since. We are now at fourteen months. There have been lots of ups and downs, but, sadly but not unexpectedly, the overall direction has been one of decline with continuing weakness and fatigue that has worsened significantly over the course of this year.

Therefore, we were shocked that the social worker told us that the medical director was considering de-certifying Nana. I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked, as there had been a couple of other times that the medical director has questioned re-certification, but it seemed so clear that symptoms were worsening that I never thought there was a possibility that he would think Nana didn’t meet the criteria to remain in hospice care.

As I understand it, there are two basic issues. One is that the medical director only has access to data points collected during visits from the hospice personnel, perhaps two or three hours a week and always during the day. Second, the criteria to stay under hospice care have to do with rate of decline, so, even though Nana would easily qualify to enter hospice care in her current condition, it doesn’t necessarily follow that she would be re-certified to remain under hospice.

So, on hearing the news from the social worker, I freaked out a bit. Well, not outwardly. But losing hospice care at this point would be very complicated. In order to be in residence at Mercy House, one has to be under hospice care, so de-certification would have meant having to move Nana, which would be complicated and exhausting. We had a preliminary plan in place, but we hoped not to have to implement it.

What we could do was give the social worker more information of what we were seeing when we were there visiting, which covers about nine hours most days. Nana was also able to give us some more information about night-time issues.

The social worker took the additional information we were able to provide and the medical director was able to see how it fulfilled the criteria for Nana to be re-certified. We were very relieved. From now on, though, I will be more deliberate about noting changes in case we need to fill in the blanks again.

Through it all, we are grateful for the care hospice has been able to provide. If it were not for their expertise in managing symptoms, it is likely that we would already have lost Nana. As it is, we continue to have the hope of more time with her.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “call.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2018/08/03/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-4-18/