A family recipe, a childhood memory, a Depression-era handout
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I was drawn to quite the opposite: curiosities, anachronisms, misfits, innocents, and angels. They quickly became my family. They gave me something my blood relatives could not, something fresh and immediate, accepting and nonjudgmental.
When COVID-19 hit, Dr. Anthony Fauci was portrayed on the Right as a deep-state villain, one of these “elitists” who are trying to tell “us” how to live in Middle America.
Well, if the world handed me strangeness, then I’d take whatever advantage I could, which meant walking right down the middle of a street usually clogged with traffic. There was luxury in the freedom to roam as I pleased.
Eventually, when it was clear that things could not go on as they were, and it was obvious to everyone that matters were now completely out of hand, that something had to be done, we had a meeting in the town hall, all of us crowded in.
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There are many different uses of language. There’s the politician’s use of language, which is too often an outright lie. There’s the diplomat’s use of language, which is carefully worded so as not to anger or offend, yet calculated to achieve the intended goal. The supreme diplomat these days is UN secretary-general Kofi Annan. And then there’s the poet’s use of language. Emily Dickinson said, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” I think she meant that the truth, like the sun, is too bright to look at directly. Allegory, for example, is a way of telling the truth but telling it slant. In my own poems, though, most of the time, I try to tell it blunt and straight.
In our culture, when you have a medical problem, you visit a doctor, who writes you a prescription; then you drive to a pharmacy and pay thirty-two dollars for a medication. There are few surprises or slip-ups. But if you decide to single-handedly reconnect with a lost ancient lineage of herbal wisdom, you may end up with a short spear of garlic bearing down on your eardrum.
Between the ages of four and nine I lived in a California desert community called Anza, a gathering of burnouts, hermits, and rejects where I had come with my mom and little brother, Eli, after my parents’ divorce.