Jennifer Angelina Petro
I love this country. I really do. I will never forget, however, that it was, and is, being born from violence—genocide, slavery, and corruption. It was also born from a deep thirst of religious freedom and the ideal where anyone could come to live out their lives the way they chose.
Yes, we have a terrorist imbecile in the white house. Yes, it has a barbaric administration. We also have you. We also have many who will resist and fight, and care—maybe not in the ways you think they should, but they are do, and in their own ways are living out their lives the way they choose—a life of generosity, compassion, kindness, love, and humor.
And yes, there are those who have no choice in how they live—those who have no independence. There are the oppressed, the marginalized, the hated, feared, the hungry, the homeless, the people without healthcare, or enough money to live on no matter how many hours they work at a minimum wage job. And of course, this must change. The dangers of capitalism, the patriarchy, white supremacy, the attacks on the environment, racism—these all must change and be dismantled. And it is hard. Most days it seems impossible. I truly believe we can do it though. I truly believe we can, and are, rising up as never before. The powers of good are getting stronger every day, and you and I are a part of that energy.
Yes, this country is deeply flawed, and we can look around and see those flaws, and rightly so, everywhere we look. And we should. We need to be awake to what we can do to help make positive, lasting changes in our country. We need to bear witness to each other’s pain. We need to listen to each other’s stories of sorrow and victory.
Yes, there are people living kind, compassionate, good lives—I daresay the vast majority in this country are trying to do so. They love their kids. They do good in their communities. They offer you a hand when you’re down. They do amazingly inventive, hilarious, useful things. They do their best to live in such a way as to promote basic, human decency.
Yes, this country is a mess. It is also a tapestry of wonder and of good people creating peace and a safe place for all. There are many people who do not let hate live in their homes.
And no, I am not going to say we are the greatest country in the world. There is no greatest country. There is only a world of souls woven together by threads of hope in the face of great, unholy darkness.
I am a trans woman….I have tasted oppression and marginalization. I have received death threats, and been the target of hate. I fear going out of my apartment every day. And yet I go. I go with the faith that the good people will always outnumber the ignorant, misguided, brainwashed, hateful, hurtful people. And it has never failed to be so in my experience. For every act of hatred aimed at me, there have been a hundred acts of kindness aimed at me also. The vast majority of my days I go out into the world, and while afraid, realize I am OK.
And no, I am not free. I am not truly independent. I am held back by my gender, by my mental illness, by my not being able to pass. I also can share many gifts and strengths by being trans. My mental illness may prevent me somedays from getting out of bed, but it also helps me see the world in magical ways, and it heightens my desire to be more and more compassionate to myself and others.
Yes, I am free to fight, and I do. I am an activist by my very existence. I am free to let you help me, and I do, and you do. I am free to help you. I am free to troll the world with beauty, courage, compassion, and humor. I am free to be me even as, in the same moment, I am not.
Today, I am going to change the name of this day to Interdependence Day. We all need each other. We all need one another. And if today the best you can do is post a meme about justice, then you have helped the world. Today I might need to be carried. Today I might be able to carry. We are all inextricably connected. We even share the same air as trump.
I believe in us. I believe in you.
I believe in our capacity to help one another, to see the good, to assume the good in one another. I believe in our desire for justice, equality, and the genuine acceptance of one another. I believe in our power to fight, to speak out however loudly or softly we can. I believe in the good people doing acts of kindness every day. I believe in love. I believe in the collective power of our vision and that it will one day prevail. It is already spreading. A fire is burning in our hearts. A light is shining from our eyes. We can rise up, lifting one another, and learn how to help change the things that so desperately need changing.
I am going to celebrate Interdependence Day by bringing a meal to a family in need. I am not bragging, but if I was, who fucking cares? Announce your goodness for all to see.
Happy Interdependence Day.
I love you all. Thank you for all you have done, and will do to help me survive the illnesses I carry. I would not be here today were in not for good people like you.
Look for Signs
Jennifer Angelina Petro
Having bipolar disorder is like…is like…..
Huh? Oh, um…ideas are coming, just wait a second,
I must write them down. One is about air
And how we all depend on it to lift us in our lungs
And in the tires of our bikes and cars;
The other is about the wings of demons
And what would happen if the wings
Became angels and decided not to carry the demons
Around anymore. Wait, I’ll be right there. I just have to
Get these ideas down so I don’t forget them.
Huh? If I don’t write them down the Muse
Might get angry and start ignoring me—
Passing me by when she’s handing out gifts—
Just…..wait a second. No…..wait. Don’t wait.
I am not sure how long this will take—the poems will suck
No matter how they turn out anyways—all my poems
Suck. Why wouldn’t they? I’m a piece of shit.
Huh? Why would I say that? Because it’s true.
It’s also true I am a visionary and these ideas
That are coming—the one about air and the one
About the wings of demons—as soon as I turn them
Into poems they will change modern poetics forever.
Yes, even though they’re shitty. Modern poetics suck too—
And I am a modern poet. So…wait….if you want to.
I am going to write these ideas down before we talk—
The Muse is waiting, she won’t be denied.
Huh? Where is she? She’s here, inside, and she’s there
Behind the moon and that tree. She’s in your eyes…
Wait….there is another idea. This one is about
How we talk with our hands, and wait, there is another.
This one is about why we feel it in our teeth
When we crunch snow with our boots. Oh wait,
You don’t feel it in your teeth when you walk
Over snow and it makes a crunching sound?
Told you these poems would suck. No. No. No.
I am not saying the gifts from the Muse suck.
No. Never. Ever. Her ideas are always pure gold—
It’s just they distill through me and I suck
Which, of course, colors the ideas, making the poems suck
That I make out of the ideas. You see? No? It’s OK.
No one does. Just know this—air lifts you
By your lungs and by the tires of your car, demon wings
Dream of rebelling and flying off the demon’s back,
And, and, the next time you walk over fresh, wet snow,
Touch your hand to your jaw and feel the crunch
From your boots shooting right there in your teeth,
And then, once you know these things—once you believe me
That she will be upset if I do not write them down right now—
Then, maybe you will understand, maybe you will know
What it’s like to be bipolar, but probably not—by the time
You catch a glimpse of understanding I will be
Dead. It’s inevitable, isn’t it? I mean, I cannot go on this way
Forever. God wants me home and demons are clawing at my heels
And the depression is crushing my bones—I feel it
In my teeth, and then, and then, and then…Huh? Why?
Why kill myself? The ideas the Muse will give me
Bodiless will be heaven-flavored and better than ever. But don’t worry.
I will get them to you somehow.
Look for signs.
Jennifer Angelina Petro
Regimented, monitored, life-signs checked,
“It’s time to eat,” and, “attention please,
Level two trauma alert, ETA four minutes,
attention please, level two trauma alert, ETA four minutes,
attention please, level two trauma alert, ETA four minutes.”
The meditation room is off limits right now
Since they don’t have anyone to keep an eye on me
While I pray.
“Attention please, level three trauma alert, ETA now,
attention please, level three trauma alert, ETA now,
attention please, level three trauma alert, ETA now.”
Suffering, shock-brained-slow-moving/talking people
Try to be friendly, “Welcome to the party,” another patient says
As I enter the craft room, “You are who you are,” she says
As I sit down amidst the stares, Zen-doodle coloring books,
Beads, tempera paints, crayons, and colored pencils,
And start to draw a golden dragon. “You are
Who you are,” I say to myself as I add crimson wings
To the dragon that open out over a valley of Saint George’s
And Saint Michael’s—swords drawn—
Waiting for me to land.