the end

So today is the last day of Just Jot It January. I want to thank Linda Hill, the Canadian author whose blog Life in Progress hosts Just Jot It January, and her blogging community who provide prompts and support for the process.

I know Linda is having a very busy time in her life and considered not holding #JusJoJan this year. I had commented during the decision-making process that I would participate as I could if she held it but that I wasn’t going to put my pressure on myself to post every day.

So, of course, Linda did go forward with Just Jot It January and I did post every day, despite international travel and my current unsettled state of grief/overwhelm/exhaustion.

Have I ever mentioned that I have a bit of a tenacious streak?

Theoretically, I could continue posting every day but I know that won’t happen. I need to devote more time to doing poetry submissions, which will cut into blog writing time. I’m also hoping that I will be writing some more new poems soon. I’m guessing that the Binghamton Poetry Project will be having some sessions in the coming weeks and I’m getting some ideas popping into my head otherwise. I also have a few poems that need final edits before I send them out.

I wish Linda and all the other #JusJoJan bloggers a successful 2022. We’ve all made it through 1/12th of the year intact. May this January be our springboard into February and beyond!

Thanks to the Department of Public Art

I’m not sure if it’s intended to reblog a post for Just Jot It January or not but I am writing this blurb, so it should count. 😉

I was thinking of this poem because the Water Street parking ramp which housed murals from the Department of Public Art is being demolished. The whole first stanza is about that art so it feels strange to see local artists discussing its destruction on the news. It remains to be seen if some of the art will be re-created elsewhere as it was very site-specific.

It also occurs to me that, over five years later, the Heart of the Arts dinner crowd is still the largest audience for whom I have read.

Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/01/30/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-30th-2022/

Top of JC's Mind

When I revealed my secret poetry mission, I promised to share the text of my poem “Thanks to the Department of Public Art” after it was published in the fall anthology of the Binghamton Poetry Project.  The anthology is available tonight at our reading, so I am pleased to share the poem below. Here is a recording of my original reading at the 2016 Heart of the Arts Awards dinner.

Thanks to the Department of Public Art
~~ by Joanne Corey

 for Emily Jablon, Peg Johnston, and all whose hearts are in the arts

Stencils and murals
on descending levels
of the Water Street parking ramp
time-travel through that historic corner –
Link Blue Box flight simulators
evolve from pipe organs –
punching in on Bundy
time recording machines
in the days before IBM
and the move to Endicott –
on street level
“Welcome to the…

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SoCS: JC’s Confessions #21

[Non-stream of consciousness introduction. Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is to write about the first thing that come to mind from the phrase “let go.” I drew a blank at first but then this topic floated to the surface, probably because it was on my list of things to write about in my series, JC’s Confessions, so what follows is the very dangerous intersection of writing stream of consciousness on a difficult topic. I do use a standard opening to explain JC’s Confessions, which will follow as a block quote before launching into the SoC portion of the post.]

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.

JC

I have trouble letting go of guilt.

Even when I’m feeling guilty about something that is not my fault.

Even when it’s something I couldn’t possibly have known. Or remedied.

I’ve had family members diagnosed with conditions which took years to figure out, yet I’m the one who feels guilty/responsible for not having figured it out sooner, even though I am not a trained health professional, just a family member and caregiver.

It would have taken asking totally implausible questions to figure some of these diagnoses out. For example, it turned out years later that one of my daughters’ migraines had started as a child with visual migraines, which manifested as things changing colors. Who would think to point out to their child that, in almost all instances, color is a fixed attribute of an object? Yet, I feel guilty for not having realized this problem before the more serious later intractable migraine that took six months to diagnose, two more to break, cost her a semester of high school, and would later prove to be only a small part of a larger diagnosis of fibromyalgia, now known as ME, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Never mind that it took the doctors ten years to figure it out from the time symptoms first appeared. As a mother, I thought I should have known and been able to alleviate her suffering and help her.

I know that this guilt is totally irrational. I know that my family doesn’t hold me responsible for not being a super-doctor or God or some all-knowing being and getting them help sooner, but still, as hard as I try, there is a vestige of guilt that I can’t shake.

(I can hear those of you who were raised Catholic thinking that this is par for the course of Catholic guilt, although I think it is probably not only that.)

One of my more recent struggles with this problem is the fact that it took months of suffering before my father, known here as Paco, was diagnosed with heart failure, only days before his death. I tried and tried to get the health professionals at his facility to figure things out and treat him appropriately but I failed, robbing him of the peace, comfort, and dignity he deserved in his final months.

It hurts.

I know that I shouldn’t feel guilt on top of the pain, that I’m not at fault, but I still can’t shake the underlying sense of responsibility, failure, and guilt.

Maybe, eventually, I’ll be able to let it go.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January and/or Stream of Consciousness Saturday! (I promise it does not have to be as fraught as this post unfortunately is.) Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/01/28/the-friday-reminder-for-socs-jusjojan-2022-daily-prompt-jan-29th/

Unseen

Sometimes, when I haven’t written a poem in a while, I try to write tanka, which is a Japanese form that, when executed in English, is 31 syllables in 5 lines with a turn at the fourth line.

At other times, I will use a prompt to get me started. These can be written specifically as prompts or can be other works of art which serves as a springboard. Poems that are responses to artwork are known as ekphrastic poems. I write them relatively often because I have been part of the Boiler House Poets Collective since 2015. During our residencies at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, we often write ekphrastic work with most of us choosing to do this throughout the year.

One of my Boiler House poet-friends, Kyle Laws, introduced me to the Ekphrastic Writing Challenges from The Ekphrastic Review. I have been fortunate to have had several poems of my poems appear as selected response to challenges.

Earlier this month, I submitted a tanka in response to this challenge, the painting Blind Girl Reading, by Ejnar Nielsen (Denmark) 1905. You can see the painting at the link, as well as read the selected poems and short fiction in response.

While my poem was not chosen, I thought I’d share it here:

Unseen

In darkness, pale fingers
glide over pages bound
heavy in her lap –
the only light, electric
impulse from fingers to mind.

Comments are welcome, if you are so moved. (There’s nothing like writing a six paragraph post to present a five line poem!)
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/01/28/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-28th-2022/

voting in the US

I’m tired of politicians in Republican-led states that are restricting voting practices boasting that their policies still make voting easier than in “liberal” New York.

I live in New York state and here’s the deal. New York has long had very cumbersome voting rules. Registration and changes in party affiliation had to be completed months in advance of election day. Absentee voting by mail was only for medical issues with a doctor’s letter or being out of the county on election day. Until the pandemic, there were no early voting days. When we did have some early voting for the November 2020 election due to the pandemic, I waited in line for three hours to cast my ballot. Fear of COVID was allowed as a medical exemption so voting by mail was easier in 2020 but those ballots were not counted for over a week.

I envied family and friends in other states where most of the voting was done by mail, often with ballots mailed routinely to registered voters. States with open primaries, same-day registration, weeks of early voting days. States where it was not as cumbersome to fulfill the fundamental responsibility of being a citizen.

Because of the election interference problems of 2016, there had been a lot of preparations done to make the 2020 election more secure. The pandemic added another layer of complexity but the election was very successful with high turnout and accurate results reported. There were only scattered instances of voter fraud. Despite the vociferous and continuing lies from the former president and other Republicans, the election was free and fair. Dozens of recounts, audits, and court cases have upheld the results.

That is not to say that there were no problems. In my Congressional district, New York 22, the vote count was so close that it had not been certified when the new Congress first met in early January. During the January 6 attack, there was no representative from my district huddled in the House chamber and then evacuated to a safer location. The contested election results wound up in court. One of the main issues was that one of the counties did not process new voter registrations even though they arrived before the deadline. When those people appeared to vote, they were not allowed to cast ballots, which was significant in a district where only a few dozen votes separated the candidates. The court allowed the vote count to stand, seating the Republican candidate who had won in 2016 in place of the Democratic incumbent who had beaten her in 2018.

In a way, this foreshadows some of the efforts underway in various states to make registering and voting more difficult for people who are deemed likely to vote for Democrats. This has variously been applied to people of color, urban dwellers, elders, college students, and Latinx populations, depending on the state. For example, in Texas, a handgun license is accepted as identification for voting but a student ID is not. There have also been moves to close polling locations in certain areas, for example, to create long lines to vote in majority black neighborhoods while white neighborhoods have more polling places with only a few minutes’ wait. We also see increased amounts of gerrymandering, whereby districts are drawn in convoluted ways to dilute the voting power of a group, whether that is regarding political party, race, or ethnicity.

These kinds of voter suppression tactics and interference in representation have been around for a long time but are worse now than in recent US history due to Supreme Court decisions in 2013 and 2021 which made much of the 1965 Voting Rights Act unenforceable.

What is even more unsettling are the new laws in some states that are empowering partisans to determine which of the votes cast get counted and which get thrown out. The counting of valid votes should be totally straightforward and non-partisan. It’s math. Inserting politics means that it’s possible for electoral college votes to be awarded to the candidate who lost the popular vote in the state, perhaps overseen by the state legislature. We have seen a frightening example of this already with several states sending fraudulent slates of electors for Trump in states where Biden won the popular vote. We have just learned that these cases are being investigated by the Department of Justice.

There have been several bills in Congress to try to address these problems. They have passed the House but not the Senate where they have been impeded by the filibuster that would need ten Republicans to join with the Democratic caucus to advance the bills for a vote.

It’s shameful that Republicans are not standing up for democracy and the right of all citizens to participate in free and fair elections. They are apparently afraid that, if everyone votes and all the votes are counted accurately in fairly drawn districts, they will lose elections and power.

They should, though, be prioritizing our democratic principles and highest ideals. The last time the Voting Rights Act was re-authorized in 2006 it passed in the Senate 98-0 with 17 currently serving Republican senators supporting it. The Voting Rights Act originally targeted black voter suppression in certain jurisdictions with known discriminatory practices and the Supreme Court considered these formulae outdated. The current legislation under consideration goes further in securing voting rights for all in that it addresses a wider range of problems over the country that have appeared or been threatened over time. It would help voters in Democrat-led states like New York as well as Republican-led states like Florida.

Some have argued that the courts will prevent injustice but that does not always happen, as we found in the case in NY-22 where voters were disenfranchised without redress. We are also seeing, unfortunately, cases where judges are acting in a partisan way rather than an impartial, merits-of-the-case way.

Our Constitution begins, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union”. Over our history, voting has been restricted by race, age, gender, and wealth. As we strive to “form a more perfect Union,” we must ensure that all adult American citizens have equal access to voting, whatever their race, age, gender, ethnicity, religion, political opinions, education, place of residence, or health status. We need just and enforceable laws to make that possible. I call on all members of Congress to support their fellow citizens in order to make our union stronger and “more perfect”.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/01/27/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-27th-2022/

One-Liner Wednesday: doing your best

“Do the best you can in every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time. No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom.”
~~~~~ Sandra Day O’Connor
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January and/or One-Liner Wednesdays! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/01/26/one-liner-wednesday-jusjojan-the-26th-2022-enchanted-snowfall/

journaling

Today is another of the rare occasions where I am using the #JusJoJan prompt, which is “journal.”

There have been a few periods in my life where I have kept a journal, most often in conjunction with a specific purpose, such as when I was studying Adult Psychology in college and it was an assignment.

There have been other times when I have substituted other modes for journaling. There were two friends, sadly both deceased for some time now, that I kept up email correspondence with when they were being treated for cancer. Due to their health struggles, there were times when the correspondence was one-sided, with my entries being much more numerous than theirs. I often thought that what I was writing would seem boring and mundane to them. Instead, as one told me, it was good to hear about everyday life when their own had been so derailed by illness. That gave me a new perspective on what I was sharing and an enhanced ability to find deeper meaning in daily activities and surroundings. I think this continues to undergird my writing today, both in prose and in poetry.

Since I started Top of JC’s Mind in September, 2013, blogging has frequently been similar to journaling for me. Because I write about what is at the top of my mind, I do often work through important issues in my life, albeit with editing that doesn’t usually happen with journaling.

I hope my readers don’t mind being along for the ride…
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/01/25/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-25th-2022/

a long haul

I’ve been thinking a lot about my late father, known here as Paco, recently.

I wish I could say that I am browsing old photos or remembering family holidays but, instead, I am mired in dealing with trying to settle insurance claims and begin the work needed to file his final tax returns and other estate sort of things.

Unfortunately, some of the issues are medical and it is bringing me back to a place of feeling helpless to alleviate Paco’s symptoms and not being able to get timely and accurate information about his condition.

It’s difficult and energy-draining and makes me feel like crawling into bed and pulling the covers over my head.

I’m not doing that.

I am trying to shepherd my energy and steel myself to chip away at all the work. It’s going to take a long time to get through it all.

It remains to be seen whether I can get the sadness to abate somewhat before I finish or not.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/01/24/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-24th-2022/

N95s

With the immensely transmissible Omicron variant so prevalent, I’ve decided to try to get N95 masks to wear when I have to go out in public. I have been double-masking with a surgical mask under a very good quality cloth mask made by medicalwear producer Jaanuu but thought that I should probably go to an N95 mask which is designed to fit more closely and filter out 95% of particles under NIOSH standards. (NIOSH is the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.)

It’s somewhat difficult to find N95 masks in stores here. We did get a few from a home improvement store which stocks them because they are protective against dust and other particles for people doing construction or renovating. The problem is that they only carry one size which is too large for my petite face. I was able to find N95s in a size small online and a second fold-flat style that people complained about in the comments as running small, so I have ordered some. They won’t arrive until late this week or early next but I think I’ll be safe with my current mask set-up until then.

Or safe enough…

Masking is just one piece of our strategy. The three doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is my primary protection. The masks, avoiding crowds, distancing, etc. are additional measures to stay as safe as possible but, especially with Omicron, there are no guarantees.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/01/23/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-23rd-2022/

healing the earth together

On Thursday, I posted that I had a new poem available on Silver Birch Press as part of their series “How to Heal the Earth.” The prompt for the series read, in part, “Your poem can offer practical ideas of how to heal the earth from a personal perspective (i.e., something specific to you and not didactic or soapboxy) or your poem can offer fanciful thoughts that defy the practical.”

Anyone who knows me will not be surprised that I came down on the practical rather than fanciful side. (I’ll leave it to you to determine whether my poem or this post is soapboxy.)

I wrote a list poem, helpfully formatted into a checklist by Word, that relates some of the things I and my family have done to help combat environmental degradation and climate change. The list blends practical, individual actions, like using LED bulbs and driving an electric car, with social and political actions, like voting and boycotting. Okay, there are also a few more poetic lines thrown in, too.

One of the excuses people use for not taking individual action is that they don’t think that their change will have any impact in the face of such a large challenge as global warming. It’s true that the impact of any one individual action is infinitesimally small but those actions do add up within your household, in your neighborhood, your region, your country to something larger and helpful. If everyone, though, throws up their hands and accepts the polluting status quo, the condition of the planet worsens faster, often harming worst and first those who did the least to create the problems in the first place. As someone from the United States, which is historically the largest contributor to global warming, I feel a particular responsibility to cut carbon emissions as much as I can and am fortunate enough to have the resources to do so.

Individual actions will never be enough, though, unless systemic changes also occur. The political and economic systems in most countries are heavily weighted toward fossil fuels and those companies wield a lot of power. Trying to counteract that is also an example of needing many, many individual actions to create positive change. For example, I and hundreds of thousands fellow New Yorkers worked for years to ban fracking and enact a climate bill in our state. There were protests, public commentary, writing and calling elected officials, court cases, elections, research, networking, meetings, and on and on, but the needed legislation finally passed. Of course, there is still work to be done as it is being implemented but, if so many of us hadn’t made our voices heard, my region would probably look like our neighboring counties in Pennsylvania with large fracked gas wells and the pollution they bring as part of our landscape.

There is still plenty of work to do on the systemic level in the US and around the world, too. Current efforts include boycotting the banks that fund fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure, despite the danger that the companies may never be able to pay the loans back and will go bankrupt with lots of stranded assets in the form of rights to extract fossil fuels that cannot be fulfilled if the world is going to stay under 1.5, or even 2, degrees Celsius in global warming. There is also a major divestment push against fossil fuel companies with some pension funds, universities, and other large institutions refusing to hold stock in those companies. In the US, we are also trying to get more federal funding for the transition to renewable energy and an end to decades of subsidies for fossil fuels.

All of these efforts have an individual as well as a corporate component. Whether you are inspired by prose or by (the much shorter and easier to read) poetry, I hope you will join me by doing what you are able to do to fight global warming and heal help the earth from wherever you are.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January and/or Stream of Consciousness Saturday! I chose to not take Linda up on the SoCS prompt this week, which is “icing on the cake”, but do want to wish Linda a happy birthday and a peaceful, healthy, creative year to come! You can find out more about #JusJoJan and #SoCS here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/01/21/the-friday-reminder-for-socs-jusjojan-2022-daily-prompt-jan-22nd/

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