found a starving cat last time it snowed

My mom sent this text to me this morning:

 

didn’t realize you had

texted back     glad all is

good and little package

arrived     farm is good

very busy but moving forward

trimming vineyard up

grading kennel for

usda license     selling rat

terrier puppies

new screen door for

porch    fix my

bathroom floor

after trimming is done

fencing it off is next

waiting on more baby

goats     going to try

to find home for andy

can maybe trade

a baby goat for a

breeding and have milk

I milked april last

year until she cut her

utter jumping fences

found a starving cat

last time it snowed    is

getting very fat

I read rural literature

While a great deal of attention has been paid to political and temporal shifts in literature, not to mention issues of gender, race, and sexual orientation, little has been paid to a rural versus urban viewpoint. Given that the last 100 years has produced not only wanton destruction of rural and natural lands but has presided over an unprecedented shift in population– for the first time in mankind’s history the vast majority of people live in cities– this silence cannot just written off as a lack of interest. 

While there are exceptions, being a rural writer a good way to get forgotten. “Regional” is the term usually used to dismiss a writer or a work, carrying with it the stink of poor quality and parochialism, but frequently masks a prejudice against any writing too deeply rooted in a place, and therefore unlikely find a wide audience.

But there is more at stake than commercial success. It is my hope that we will come to view the struggles of rural Kentucky, rural China, and rural Australia to be, largely, one in the same and to encourage writers from or drawn to such regions to view their work as part of an insurgency.

Additionally, the mythologies and folklore of Native Americans are rural, as is nature writing, but in order to talk about them as such the notion of ‘rural’ must be redefined. This is part of the struggle.

Rural peoples, whether they be natives tribes, like those protesting the building of a mega-dam in the Amazon, or French viticulturists resisting a multinational land-grab, or small communities in Kansas trying to keep a grocery store, are the last line of defense against wanton misuse and destruction of the lands that provide their food and shelter, not to mention in possession of unique cultural merit.

An empty land is a defenseless land.

A rural renaissance is necessary for the survival of the species.      

Rural culture is exciting.

The Wife’s Lament

In 2003, the United States finalized plans to invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein. Ten years ago to this very day world wide protests broke out from New York to Rome to Capetown to Auckland to Antarctica, where a group of scientists protested outside McMurdo Station on the edge of the icy Ross sea. And today my short story “The Wife’s Lament,” inspired by the unreality of those times, has been published by The Collagist.

I was with the estimated two hundred thousand people who took to the streets in San Francisco, joining thirty-six million people said to have protested across the globe over the next two months. I went to the protests alone, chanted when I could bear it, and stepped up onto the sidewalk from the street when a cop touched my arm and asked me to do so. Most of the protesters buzzed with a holiday vibe and directed their unfocused rage on the few cars that had become stranded or tried to force their way through the throngs.

It came to nothing of course. The Iraqi invasion started in March and when the leaders of the American anti-war movement backed Democrat John Kerry in his doomed bid for the Presidency and halted street protests all momentum was lost. I felt betrayed and gave up on political activism, though by that time I had been distancing myself from it for many years. I am a writer by training. temperament, and gift. I was forced to acknowledge that politics made me miserable and unproductive.

“The Wife’s Lament” is an attempt to reconcile the existence of politics and war with the demands of art and I understood them. An Iraqi woman, a scholar of old English poetry, has returned to Iraq with her husband before the invasion. As she translates a poem by another anonymous writer in the middle ages whose subject, and perhaps experience, is a woman whose husband has been lost to a foreign war, her own husband apparently goes missing. The poem, in an original translation, and the story are woven together with meditations on truth and language, and what can and cannot be said. What follows in an excerpt. The whole story is here.

“We may fall into the hands of the soldiers or the insurgents at any moment. We have learned to live with this. He knew this, or he did not, and I knew this, or I did not, when he left me this morning.

The Wife’s Lament

I speak a riddle of my unhappiness, my own,
mine fated. I who am able to tell
of my life’s hardships after I grew up,
recent or of old, never more than now.
Tenebrific, my torment, always, my troubles,
As when my husband first left his people
Over tumbling waves, and I grieved before
dawn
For where my leader of men might be.”