Firestone Friday: Poem XVI

We’re all full of holes,

trying, desperately, to become wholes —

swelling, inserting, filling ourselves

with things as dispensable as they are harmful,

and we look over our

needles, nicotine, nudity, and nights

only long enough to wage

merciless judgments against

our neighbor’s holes-filler.

Strong Language by Logan Gorg

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3 Things Harry Potter Taught Me

When the reader explores the thousands of pages covered in the magical adventures of Harry Potter, she cannot help but to learn something extraordinary, even if she is as reluctant to embrace lessons as Ron Weasley. Here are some things that I have carried with me long after leaving the Great Hall.

1. Creativity can be more powerful than magic.

Even when you’re crushed, cornered, or conquered, creativity can creep in unnoticed and trounce your oppressors. I’m thinking here about Hermione convincing Professor Umbridge to follow her and Harry deep into the Forbidden Forest, where, much to their chagrin, the Centaurs vanquish Umbridge for them. Harry and company were beaten, bested with no chance of recovery, except that Hermione had so much creativity it proved to be even more impactful than a magical wand.

2. Appearance is without value.

Of course, I would like to argue that I long knew this, but do any of us actually internalize it? What I think is unique about the presentation of appearance in HP is this: the ugly and the outcast are not always good and the attractive, alluring characters are not always bad. In fact, they’re not always anything. Hagrid is an honorable outcast, but Wormtail certainly isn’t. Lockhart is captivating, but craven and self-obsessed. Cedric is both handsome and heroic. Appearance, HP seems to say, is happenstance; character is the stuff of consequence.

3. Age?

Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore effortlessly unite to communicate a revolutionary idea: age is an illusion. So, age isn’t an illusion, exactly, but our understanding of age certainly is. We make two mistakes: we think elder people are superior and we think elder people are inferior. Yes, somehow we make both mistakes at once. We think children or young people are inexperienced fools who contribute nothing worthwhile while also considering elders obsolete. (We somehow find a way to devalue every human.) Harry and Dumbledore lay those mistakes bare. Harry and Dumbledore are two of the greatest, most impressive wizards we encounter — one a child and the other supernaturally advanced in years. It is not one’s rotations around the sun that crafts one’s ability, value, experience, or intellect — it is the composition of his soul.

What has Harry Potter taught you?

Wordsmith Wednesday: Poem IX

I fell to sleep singing a love song;

a rhythm to my breathing,

with the cadence

of a chest rising and falling

to the beat of a ballad

that plays for you.

When I awoke

in the middle of the night

in the hollow of a barren silence,

I couldn’t find the music.

After I searched under the covers

and in the corners of the room,

I heard you humming the tune

that lulled me to sleep.

I should have known that only you

could take the music

from my throat.

On ‘Different’ Interests

I’m yet fascinated

by the way “jocks”

deride “nerds”

for their interests in

books, video games, cosplay,

anime, or the thousand other obscure

storylines we adore.

I’m just as amused when “nerds”

shame “jocks” for their

shallow fixation on meat-headed sports.

It seems I live many lives

with my fantasy football team

and my Wizards Unite augmented reality Harry Potter mobile game

and my many DraftKings entries

and my Pokemon GO collection.

As I sit cozily in my Zelda Christmas sweater

selecting my Sunday Night Football lineup,

I feel like a strange conglomeration of humans.

(It already feels as too much to be just one human, doesn’t it?)

But then I think, yet again, how unexpectedly similar these worlds are,

the domain of the nerd and the territory of the jock.

In both experiences

we entertain an affinity for players or characters,

build an entire space with specialized rules and abilities,

watch with intense anticipation in our uniforms or costumes,

pump fists as our team or character performs to their potential,

read news, share updates with companions, and learn more

about our favored sport or video game.

So, I, an amorphous assemblage of human interests,

will fist pump as my wide receiver makes a 30-yard touchdown catch

and as my Ultra Ball finally captures an evasive Pokemon,

just the same.

 

What collections of interests do you enjoy that are seemingly at odds or mutually exclusive?

Wordsmith Wednesday – Poem V

“That’s mine!”
I yell,
as the guard throws another
piece of my flesh
to the hounds.

He laughs,
as their frothy mouths
attack insatiable.
“If you would stop
wandering in here,
we wouldn’t keep doing this.
You know that you may leave
in any moment.”

I respond,
as I always do,
“I will stay a little longer.”

Strong Language

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Touchstone Tuesday – Poem III

Long has it been
since the song of birds
or the chorus of winds
or the cadence of my heart
could drown out
the echoes of you.

Strong Language

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The Handmaid’s Tale and the Economy of Names

“My name isn’t Offred, I have another name, which nobody uses now because it’s forbidden. I tell myself it doesn’t matter, your name is like your telephone number, useful only to others; but what I tell myself is wrong, it does matter.”

Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel reveals a world horrifying in its details yet undeniably familiar, like an old plaything abandoned only to be recovered decades later, faintly recognizable, a symbol of a distant place that does not exist in present time. Her Republic of Gilead illuminates realities and potentialities, extrapolating truths of our histories and refashioning them together.

One such actuality is the economy of names that informs, dictates, and prescribes human value, severally and collectively. To name something is to exercise power over it. We name our children because they are “ours.” We name people, pets, places, and every other tangible and intangible substance in a desperate effort to give order to the things within our reach.

When we gift to someone a nickname, we grant them high value in our inner economy. They have been initiated. They have so climbed the ranks as to achieve a new name — one that is specific to this social group and a private praise that cries “I have known you, and I will keep you.”

The contrary occurs when we yoke someone with an insulting or vulgar “nickname.” They become so repulsive, so abject that their identity is no longer introduced by their birth name, but by this newly-given demotion, this social marker that tells the others that this one is below us.

So also with titles, yet with a bolder intensity. Our accomplishments — our arbitrary victories of scholarship or employment — are so highly valued in the economy of names that they precede them. Doctor Smith. Senator Carrey. Attorney Stone.

Offred, by the structure of her name, uncovers immediately the possessive power of names. Her name announces through the economy of names, “I am of Fred. He is my identity now.” And her title is Handmaid, a collective title that translates in the economy to a dispensable product, an object for persons rather than a person herself.

She meditates on her former name as it fosters a pocket of rebellious freedom. A black market in the Gilead economy of names. She still has something that they can’t control, can’t reorder. Yet the Reader never learns her “real” name. Perhaps, because that isn’t her real name. Perhaps, because that person died for Offred to form. Perhaps, because we wouldn’t know the value of her name even if she told us.

  • What other powers or consequences can be found in names?

If you haven’t read Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, you can purchase it here. The piece is earth-shattering, eye-opening, and perspective-changing.

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