Spring will come

Ice Damaged Trees – Chatham County Cooperative Extension NCSU

About ICE and ice

I see it in the news. The immigration agency ICE, acting on our behalf, is deporting people en-mass. There was a story recently, a milder one among many such harrowing stories, where a nuclear family was torn asunder with the father deported to one Latin American country and the mother to a different country and the two DACA children left here with an uncertain future. One of the parents was a political refugee in peril seeking sanctuary with us.

I want to write about people who are always there for us to see – very much part of our American consciousness – in our streets, in our universities, in our supermarkets, in our farms, in our malls, helping fix our homes, factories, buildings and roads, at our workplaces, in our assembly lines and among our priests, scientists and intellectuals. They are an integral part of our psyche. Deporting them is tearing the American soul. If it were surgery – they would be removing an arm and a leg and good part of the prefrontal cortex. It is there for you to see – and see it you must.

I will use the other ‘ice’ as a connotation for a narrow rationality. I much prefer a rationality which is subservient to our sense of right and wrong derived from our principles and values, secular or religious. Rationality and logic has long run its course on immigration in this country. Even in the enlightened Obama years mass deportation was justified in the hopes that it would trigger reform. It didn’t work and it was wrong – the ends do not justify the means. It was ‘ice’. It is now an icy destructive avalanche and the rationality continues – ‘legal and not illegal’, ‘just DACA’, ‘just Christians’, ‘throw out the criminals’, ‘merit based’, ‘back of the queue’, ‘additional whetting of refugees’, ‘DACA in exchange for the wall’, ‘Norway and not Haiti’ etc. Let’s have a heart! – compassion is now! – compassion is limitless! – don’t let people use this narrow rationality to postpone and derail action or limit the scope of action.

I will try poetry, which I am told, is a rationality, which, at its best, is true and honest and right. The poem that follows was written when I was a graduate student at Virginia Tech. I had the honor of sitting in a creative writing course by Professor Nikki Giovanni. We had been dumped with 24 inches of snow in Blacksburg, Virginia. Professor Giovanni told us to step out and look around and write about it. The snow was white, light and beautiful that day. A joy to see. Warmed me to the core. In the next few days the temperature hovered around freezing leading to some melting and refreezing. The ice on the trees started weighting the branches down. There were contorted trees and broken branches and fallen trees. We could hear the crackling and snapping of broken branches through the night. It was quite a surreal mess and it took quite a while for crews to remove trees and branches and clear the roads.

I wrote a poem about it for Professor Giovanni’s class (I thought it apt now to capitalize ICE in my poem below). I was a little awed by Professor Giovanni and a little shy and did not meet her one on one. But I know she did read my poem. A few weeks later she worked in the phrase ‘spring will come’ into her talk while glancing pointedly at me.

I hope spring does come. It must be climate change. We haven’t had it in at least a decade.

Spring will come

i’m always there for you to see.
in little strips of exposed earth
trapped between cement and tar,
in this land and others elsewhere.

of course you can’t see my roots.
they glide beyond stone, and your slabs.
neither gnarled nor twisted nor old-
they are sinewy, deep and brown.

brown is my bark, brown are my limbs.
brown as love etched on my skin,
and a brown heart survives the
budding, blooming, dying, falling.

sometime back i lost my rustle-
warm sounds of comfort, peace and calm.
now:- just a silent wiry brown
amidst wintry desolation.

Heaven freezes its tears on me.
white, surreal, strange yet pleasing.
so that in halting crackle and snap
i somehow speak- you may hear me.

when you hear me, think of the ICE
that held me down, battered bones
and sputtered speech,… and think of
summers of yore and spring to come.

(to all shades of brown.
light brown, dark brown, red brown.
especially mayan brown.

do not mistake me, my
love, like yours, transcends color)

Ask, that which is deep within you, what is right and what is wrong and act. I have done my bit with this blog and a donation to the new sanctuary coalition which is one of many organizations helping immigrants. The new sanctuary coalition is a collection of religious organizations including Baptist churches, Synagogues, Buddhist Temples and Masjids providing sanctuary to immigrants in need and those facing deportation. A truly American coalition representing and respecting a plurality of beliefs. A humanity that we all share is driving these people of faith – we must help as well.