Planet Locals, Planet Travelers

San Cristobal de Las CasasToday I am traveling

far from home.

You, a Tsotzil woman,

here in Chiapas

are home.

I greet your beauty,

which belongs here.

Your land, for me

a place to pass through,

depends on passers now.

I long to gaze at your face.

I want to draw you,

smile wide into your eyes.


I turn away so you won´t

think I might buy what you sell.

I cannot connect with you

without misleading.


I draw arches, flowers.

Traveling like this

isn´t the way.

Traveling like this

hurts my heart.


As soon as I say it,Rosa Teresa & parents

something changes.

In Zinacantan,

Rosa Teresa and IIMG_2235[1]

cross the boundary that says:

tourists and locals

move only in our own dimensions,

only in our separate tracks!

At home in Zinacantan,

Rosa Teresa and her family

share laughs and café with me.


As soon as I say it,

that traveling like this

cannot enlarge any of us,

something else changes.

I climb the steps

to the Templo de Guadalupe.

A woman in the first pewClimbing to Connection

bends in grief.

Her black-clad shoulders

heave with silent sobs.

I stay and

from another pew,

bear witness, share kinship.

As I pray for us,

it comes more clear to me:

We each are planet locals, and

we each,

all of us,

are travelers on this earth.

My Book of Life by Angel

Young adult author Martine Leavitt found a way to take a story so besmeared no one wants to hear it, and to tell it in such a compelling manner that readers wrench hands away from our ears to hear it. Leavitt found a way to let in the pain of the story, all of it, and not die. She found a way to stay compassionate, stay alive. How did she go that deep? How did she stand the immersion process of research and writing? How did she tell ugliness in poetry?

I wish I could say. What I see is that she made her narrator, Angel, both ethereal and excruciatingly real by embracing the whole of Angel. What I hear is a voice, in Angel’s diary in verse, which has the spareness, the authenticity, and the reverberations of great poetry. What I see is that Leavitt brilliantly framed the story and juxtaposed with Angel’s harsh life, quotations from Milton’s Paradise Lost, thus linking forever in the reader’s mind the sordid with the sublime.

She wrote a book that is a container of passion, a volcano that can somehow fit between book covers, yet burst its fire in the reader’s soul and create cascading lava of ramifications. As author, Leavitt had to hold within the container of herself, first, the whole story of the disappeared girls from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Then she created Angel, had to become Angel. Leavitt felt her way in to the macro story from the micro story of one girl’s experience – one girl’s fierce mind piecing together the true story of a misogynist killer, one girl with a name, laboring to wean herself off drugs and get out of the life. Leavitt told the story from the inside, out.

As a writer, I marvel at Leavitt’s accomplishment. To me it seems that authorship operates something like a pre-incarnating Self who sees a whole lifetime spread as a story, but then at conception on the earthplane, forgets. The writer then gropes her slow way to reveal the story to herself, piecemeal, hour by agonizing hour at the page— until finally, with the best of authors, with a book like My Book of Life by Angel, the story bursts into seamless, scalding clarity; even, joy. Thank you, Martine.

One Billion Rising V-Day

 Today is V-Day, founded by Eve Ensler to stop violence against women. This year V-Day is called One Billion Rising to say, in honor of the one in three women on the planet who during their lives are beaten or raped, ENOUGH! “One billion women violated is an atrocity. One billion women DANCING is a revolution!”

Listen to poet Alice Walker urging all of us to rise, strike, dance! and please, find an event to attend where you live. I will be at the YWCA in Asheville North Carolina where the One Billion Rising event features poetry (by the incomparable Annelinde Metzner) and dance!

According to a new book by American professor Valerie Hudson, Sex and World Peace:  If a country focuses on reducing its rates of violence against girls and women, it also lowers its own propensity for engaging in military conflict. The author finds a close relationship between rape, domestic violence and all social issues on one side, and the so-called manly national security issues on the other. As war is a manifestation of a state’s sense of insecurity vis-à-vis the “other” — the enemy —, violence against women is the manifestation of a man’s insecurity vis-à-vis the “other”, that is, the woman. It is this perception of the gender equation that demands a change!

Sisters and Brothers, it’s time for the true meaning of security to emerge.





Alchemy by Margaret Mahy

Alchemy book cover


Billed as magic versus willpower, the real thrill of this young adult fantasy fiction from story master Mahy is how much seventeen-year-old Roland changes over its course. He starts off as a high school dominator, taking it as his due to get the best marks in school, sit on the best outside seats during lunch hour with the other high rankers in his gang including most popular girlfriend, being liked by the teachers,  and generally having his way. By the end, his casual judgements of others and his sense of arrogant deservingness have been replaced by a sensitivity and a compassion that make him much more likable.

Mahy makes it credible by bringing these qualities out so gradually that the reader understands Roland had it in him all along. Roland slowly discovers things about himself and his family that make him understand other people in a new way, too. The plot of alchemy between Roland and Jess, the girl he is assigned to investigate, parallels the subtle developmental arc, the true alchemy, that of Roland’s character. This is the kind of reading I love.

New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2003