I was weaned on fear,
marinated in bitterness;
My grandparents fed me stories
of fleeing the Czar,
the Cossacks, the pogroms.
Growing up in Ohio,
the fifties were difficult years
my Jewish family, outsiders, determined
that the events in Russia, in Germany,
would not happen again,
could not happen here.
With this election the universe shifted.
Words, like bullets, ripped through
a veil of pretense leaving us
stranded on an ice floe
of worse case scenarios.
Daily news coverage
has become a reality show
in which I am powerless
to change the channel.
A ship of state,
tilting menacingly off balance,
over a roiling sea.
Unlike the frogs in the pot,
I am aware of the heat rising.
I move in sometimes in anger,
other times in hypnotic denial.
Witnessing the frontlines of a culture war
that has enveloped us
In nightmare visions
I dodge cars, teargas, bullets,
escape down totalitarian streets,
covered in the toxic white dust of nationalism;
a caustic mixture
of hatred and despair.
Perhaps I will get used to it, become inured,
the same way that online comments
about lampshades, ovens and gas chambers,
one day lost much of their capacity
to shock or wound.
Now casualties mount
and desperation rules.
I re-examine history, mobilize inner strength
and measure resistance
against the weight
of authoritarian forces.
History’s clock is unrelenting.
It ticks off minutes, hours;
we watch, mesmerized,
as the needle of racial memory
moves closer to zero.
The longest night has just begun.
Shapeless as shadows,
my ancestors surround me;
gather like exiles,
hover like phantoms,
whisper in foreign tongues.
Awake, alive, afraid,
I understand every word.
By Joan Annsfire
Joan Annsfire lives is a retired librarian who lives in Berkeley California and writes poetry, memoir, and non-fiction. Her poetry chapbook, “Distant Music” was published by Headmistress Press.
Her poetry has appeared most recently in the anthology “Older Queer Women: the Intimacy of Survival,” Lambert and Einstein and “9/11: The Fall of American Democracy, Casey Lawrence. The Times They Were A- Changing, Women Remember the 60’s and 70’s,” Farrell, Meyers and Starfire. “The Queer Collection,” “99 Poems for the 99 Percent,” “Milk and Honey, a Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry” and “The Other side of the Postcard among others as well as online and in literary journals including, Counterpunch’s Poet’s Basement, Lavender Review, Sinister Wisdom, The 13th Moon, Bridges, The Evergreen Chronicles, OccuPoetry, The SoMa Literary Review and The Harrington Lesbian Literary Quarterly.
Her stories have appeared in “Identity Envy,” Readtheselips, Aunt Lute Press blog about the seventies, “Uprooted, an Anthology on Gender and Illness,”and Harrington Lesbian Literary Quarterly, and the just published anthology, “Dispatches From Lesbian America,” edited by Smith, Berber and Capone.