The night after Trump is elected, my friend offers another protestor Mike n Ikes. It is two hours into marching and screaming and time to share the snacks. The protestor doesn’t understand the offer, doesn’t know what Mike ‘n’ Ikes are, doesn’t speak that English. And we all laugh, because the candy, we figure, is harmless.
Jacob calls us into child’s pose. Tells us we will end in corpse pose no matter what we do between here and there. But I think there is no corpse pose if you are incinerated alive, if you are obliterated by a nuclear bomb—unless corpse pose is your last living pose, not your dead one. Not during this thought, but during a standstill, a long breath, I start sobbing. No one in the room stops breathing except me.
The accounting students show me their presentation. I am supposed to help them communicate clearly, confidently. They tell me a story about Walt Disney, cotton, and Micky Mouse dolls. At the end, I don’t want to know, but I ask them, What’s the relationship between derivatives and hedging? Oh, I realize—subject, predicate.
The front page of the Times reports on the failure of data. So much for the “Information Age,” I tell my love. I say we need a car. He wants a cabin in the country—he wants to be able to grow our own food. And I picture the only land we could afford, densely wooded, roots suturing the soil in place.
I sit down on the platform bench next to an elderly black man. A white guy in fatigues sits down next to him, offers him a postcard advertising I dunno what. Man asks guy what branch he’s in. Guy says he did his five years in the Army and now he’s retired—he’s in the “reservations,” he says. “I can take a man down with these two fingers,” he adds, showing the man the two of them. I move along the platform to avoid getting into the same car as the aggressive psycho. The old man does the same. The train departs. Then two seconds later Pyscho sits down right next to me, legs spread wide, cards gripped.
Making bean soup for the potluck, I scrape the jalapeño and poblano seeds into the basket. There will be enough to feed many. The Pandora station is set to revolve around Etta James’ classic, “This Bitter Earth.” C. talks about how hard it is to really imagine doom. He says his concept of what’s coming is like a seed—he knows it’s gonna grow and produce something bigger, but scarily can’t see the lines, the edges, the colors, can’t picture it. Earlier that day, he realized he had a hole in the lining of his stomach.
Anne Carson says this is how metaphor works—it puts the mind at war with itself—or Plato said it—you can’t picture it all the way. But what happens when that’s the world—not a metaphor for the world but the world in effect. We walk past a construction dumpster where someone has taken a piece of board out of it, written “DUMP TRUMP” in scrappy black pen lines, and placed it over the license plate. This is not a metaphor. This is CK replaced with MP. This is one thing that is the other thing—no stand-in. No puppet or army of tropes.
I do a google search for best martial arts training for women. Brazilian jujitsu and Muay Thai boxing show up. Both places offer free first classes. No prices advertised beyond the freebie. Yesterday I took turns with a stranger at the gym doing back squats. Each time we rotated, we’d switch from his hundred and seventy-five pounds to my eighty-five. These numbers don’t feel like data.
Sunday the pigs have the protest routed basically in a circle. One man’s sign says he’s not a farm animal. My love’s says, “Dejen a mi familia sóla.” Down 59th St. to 5th Ave. then back 57th St. to 6th Ave. Noses to the ground.
M. says they will start a white caucus for white people only. At first I bristle at the “only.” But the border is to protect POCs from dumb shit we might say. In texts with a friend, C. processes the need for white progressives to dismantle their perfectionism, to leave a spot right where it appears, bear the stares. Another friend posts a picture of their safety pin wrist tattoo. The question of limits. The questions: what is a body, and what can one do for another?
Watching Bob’s Burgers and seeing Louise dismantle Tina’s affection for her scouting group, the Thundergirls. Is there chanting? Louise pokes. There is, Tina admits. Trinkets? Louise goads. Omg yes it’s a cult, Tina realizes. I remember the lineage of the modern day Boy Scouts, Baden-Powell’s darling brigades: Britain, America, Nazi Germany, back to America. The Veterans Day parade is still going strong after three hours of groups marching past my school building. Inside I collect books on the black radical poet Amiri Baraka. Jerry Watts says people used his name as a rhetorical tool. To put themselves where they wanted to be seen. Outside, kilts, bagpipes, and a ceaseless drum beating. Most of the veterans under fifty are not Scottish, or white.
I know I’m being that guy on the sidewalk talking on my cellphone as if unaware that people are trying to walk down it. I’m trying to get off the phone but C. is suggesting more Thai places than I can handle. I try to duck out of the way but almost collide with two black teens, one who calls after me sweetly, “Nice white lady voice.”
Karen Lepri is the author of Incidents of Scattering (Noemi, 2013) and the chapbook Fig. I (Horse Less Press, 2012). Lepri was the recipient of 2012 Noemi Poetry Prize. Lepri holds an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University. Her poems, translations, & reviews have appeared in 1913, Chicago Review, Conjunctions, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn and teaches writing and literature.