At the Dead of Noon, a poem … and your Wednesday Writing Prompt

A screenshot for “Duck and Cover” (1952), early cold war era propaganda film for children (U.S. Public Domain)


If you weren’t there
you can hardly imagine the beauty,
the exquisite peace of those hot summers
Sun as bright as a child’s heart
Trees thickly leaved and old as God
Heat rising off the nubby concrete
in mighty rainbow waves and life
moving in time to the music of paradise
Or, so it seemed to preschoolers at play

At the dead of noon
a stillness
Even the child sensed it
that transcendent moment,
nature in quiet meditation
no breeze
no sighs
no butterflies winging
children stopped playing
grown-ups stopped working
the Hudson Bay stilled its roiling

when
suddenly
the beloved city choked on the swell of an air-raid siren ….

…. testing

just testing

just blowing a chill wind into
languid days of childhood dreaming
toddlers crying for toddler reasons
well-trained grade-school children
diving under oak desks for the required

. . . duck

and cover

As if that would save us from extinction.

© 2011, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved


WEDNESDAY WRITING PROMPT

The cold war: there was so much revealed by the singularity of that time. What crazy quirks do you remember or have you heard about from those you know who lived through it?

If you are comfortable, leave your work or a link to it in the comments section below.  All shared pieces will be published on this site next Tuesday.


ABOUT THE POET BY DAY

“Survivance” … the task of refusing erasure

SurvivanceMichael Watson ~ After a couple of days of warmth and rain, today is seasonably cold. Next week is forecast to be very warm again, an unnerving scenario as we rely on the snow pack for our summer water supply.

Climate change is a complex issue, not so much because there is doubt that it is human caused and accelerating, but because it affects people unevenly. Here in Vermont folks are divided about the issue. Many are appreciative of our much briefer and milder winters. Others lament the loss of tourism jobs, the declining maple forests, and the increasing number of failed drinking water wells.

Much of the divide in opinion can be linked to whether a person lives their life inside or outside. City folk tend to lament cold, snowy, inconvenient weather. Those who spend most of their days outside are more likely to have a keen sense of the problems and losses that come with global climate change.

Those about to assume leadership of the United States deny climate change. They also reject ideas of diversity,  stewardship, and mutual responsibility and community. But you already know this. What you may not know is that many idolize Andrew Jackson. Jackson defied the Supreme Court and stole the lands and farms of Naive people in the Southeast, sending The People on a Trail of Tears. He is so hated in Indian Country that many Native people refuse to use twenty-dollar bills.

Somehow, a few families managed to avoid deportation. I like to imagine they lived up in distant hollows or in the dense forested swamps of the river bottoms.

My father’s family identified as Native, although they refused to tell us younger ones what tribes we hail from. (They did instill in us a deep sense that governments can’t be trusted.) They grew up in Indiana at a time when being Native could cost you your farm, or your life. My understanding is that after my grandfather left the family, my grandmother moved the farm to a rocky, inhospitable, spectacularly beautiful location overlooking the Ohio River. She correctly assumed they would be safe there. My dad and his siblings walked downhill to school, then back up to home. Once, dad took me to see the homestead, in what is now a state park. It took us almost two hours to hike up. (No doubt my Polio body slowed us down.)

A few years ago I was introduce to the idea of “survivance.” The term was apparently a legal term in the Eighteenth Century,  but was adapted for Native use by Jerald Vizenor, a much venerated Native Studies scholar who is no longer here in physical form. The term refers to active survival, a continued presence even as we are supposed to have been erased from the land.

I like to think of survivance as the task of refusing erasure. Beyond that, it is the art of living well in the face of hatred and genocide. I imagine the concept of continuing to live well while under threat might be applicable to the situation of many of us in 2017. (My wife, Jennie, a Jewess, contends that the term applies perfectly to folks who resisted the Holocaust, and I suspect she is right.) Survivance implies asking important questions and making difficult choices. When does one openly resist? When does one hide or, if possible, pass? How do we find and nurture joy, family, and community in the face of hatred?

For me, there is an even more fundamental definition of survivance: the task of nurturing and protecting the soul in the face of those who would obliterate it. We need to save our souls, (individual, cultural, and collective) from those who would destroy them, for soul loss is excruciatingly painful and may impact many generations. (Make no mistake, Jackson and his ilk wanted nothing less than the destruction of the Native soul; those who idealize him now want nothing less than the destruction of all that is “Other”.)

Perhaps we can learn something about survivance from those who came before us. There is much to be said for living on land no one else desires, holding ceremony in the deep night, and pretending to be one of the majority. There is much to gain from building coalitions, going to court, and telling our stories to a larger audience. There is much to be won from making, and sharing, art, music, and literature. My guess is that we will need to draw from all these, and more, during the years to come.

© Michael Watson
Excerpt from the January issue of The BeZine and published here with Michael’s permission.

michael-drum

If you have time enough to follow only one blog, make it Michael’s:

MICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World and Journey Works)  is a contributing editor to The BeZine, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, a psychotherapist, educator, and an artist of Native American and European descent.

Michael lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he recently retired from his teaching position in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there.  He also had wonderful experiences teaching in India and Hong Kong, which are documented on his blog, Dreaming the World. In childhood Michael had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

UBUNTU ~ “I am because we are.”

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Nadira Cotticollan (Dreaming through Twilight) from Kannur, India shared this with us on Facebook. I’m just in love with the idea of it. Wouldn’t it be a joy if people the world over adopted this phrase and philosophy?  How civilized (and more practical) this value is than our Western individuality and winner-takes-all values. Something to think about, especially in the light of current events and history.

The Xhosa (pronounced with a click for the “X” and then “hosa”) are a Bantu people (related to Swazi and Zulu) from South Africa. I know this because I was “introduced” to them by a visiting priest many years ago.  From him I know that the Xhosa – like many peoples around the world – are suffering the social fallout that results from colonialism, segregation/apartheid and corporate greed. Their society is rife with poverty and nutritional deficiencies, crime and broken families. Shame on us.

I am because we are. xo

Let us remember that.

This illustration may be copyrighted.  I’ve been unable to find its origin.

Throwback Thursday: Miss Rheingold

“I remember running from store to store, grabbing as many ballots as I could. In the neighborhood there sure wasn’t talk about the election for mayor or governor … but when it came to the Miss Rheingold Contest, everybody was involved. The talk was all about it. Everybody talked about it … and everybody voted.”
— John Corrado, resident of East Harlem, New York City during the 1940s and 1950s. As quoted by
Will Anderson in his book, From Beer to Eternity

The voting every year for Miss Rheingold was a huge event in Brooklyn
– in all the five boroughs in fact. It is said that more people voted for Miss Rheingold than any elections other than the presidential ones. Kids couldn’t wait until their moms had to go to the corner grocery so that they could vote . . .and vote . . . and vote. Some folks used up whole pads of voting slips to cast for their faves.

If memory serves the Miss Rheingold Contest always came at the start of baseball season. My cousin Linda and I would go to the store with my Aunt Mildred and stare hopelessly at the beautiful pale and mostly blond girls whose pristine purity was on display. No hope for us . . . or Italian girls, or blacks, or Puerto Ricans. Jinx Falconburg, a Spaniard and probably the most ethnic-looking of the Ms. Rheingolds, was the only one who held out some sort of hope (however false) to the boroughs’ browns and olives. Blacks and Asians were S.O.L.

The Rheingold contestants were always modest. They were rigorously vetted.It could just be me, but I don’t remember ever seeing a Miss Rheingold pictured with a can or glass of beer.

The contest ran from 1941 – 1964, so anyone from our region who came of age during that period will remember this event, some with more pleasure than others. The contest was genius marketing: I’ve read that for much of this period, Rheingold held a 35% market share. I couldn’t tell you what the beer was like.  I was too young to drink then. In any case, I’m a lifelong teetotaler.

The Miss Rheingold Contest evolved over time, originating from a print salesman’s marketing ploy. He showed the Rheingold folks some sample material that happened to have Falkenburg pictured. She became the first Miss Rheingold. Subsequently Miss Rheingolds were selected by a vote of the retailers. Ultimately contest voting was opened to the public.

There were lots of perks and benefits to be derived from winning, so there were thousands of applicants including Grace Kelley (she didn’t make the cut), Hope Lange (a finalist), and Tippi Hedren (a finalist). The  six finalists (selected by the entertainment industry, Tony Randell was one of the judges) were worked hard, paraded around town for every event (with chaperon) and the winners, of course, had lots more of the same. 1964’s winner was host at the Rheingold Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, which happened to be the site nd occasion of my very first date. (My mother chaperoned. Boy, haven’t times changed?)

Eventually the Rheingold company recognized that it had a diverse customer base. Hence, in the early sixties, it purchased advertising on the short-lived Nat King Cole Show. It used black, Hispanic and Asian actors in its ads, among the better known was Jackie Robinson. (Rheingold was the official beer of the NY Mets. Robinson, who broke the racial barrier in baseball played mostly for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Cleveland Indians, retired from baseball in 1954.) Because of this recognition, the Miss Rheingold contest ended in 1964. The concern was that blacks and Hispanics would be offended by the continued parade of six fair candidates every year, while whites would be offended by the entry of blacks and Hispanics into the contest.

In 1976 the company, no longer able to compete with the larger conglomerates, closed. In 1998, when the Rheingold label was revived by  Mitaro’s Rheingold Brewing Company LLC, the contest was reinstated. A new breed of contestant emerged. Consistent with the times, they were unabashedly bare-armed, tattooed, pierced, and had six-pack abs.

Thirteen bartenders entered the fray in 2003. Kate Duyn(27 at that time) won. The Village Voice declared the contest “the best marketing campaign co-opting hipster drinking habits.” The company was sold in 2005 to Drinks America in Connecticut. To my knowledge, there are no longer any Miss Rheingold contests.

2003 Miss Rheingold, Kate Duyn.

The Rheingold Bewing Company was headquartered in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.

© 2008, article, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; Public domain photograph of Jinx Falconburg (January 21 1919/Barcelona, Spain – August 27, 2003/Manhasset, NY, USA), the first Miss Reingold, from the April 27, 1947 issue of Yank, The Army Weekly; The 1964 World’s Fair poster for Rheingold via eBay auction; Miss Reingold 1949 illustration is in the public domain; 2003 Miss Rheingold, Kate, Duyn, copyright holder might be Mitaro’s or Drinks America.