living, as i often do,
in post-industrial cities,
i articulate reasons why
i am a writing educator –
the stories of our lives
matter. as roland barthes
once famously said,
i am interested in language
because it wounds or seduces me.
or, another, from laetitia sadler:
what’s society built on?
built on words. built on words.
in december i will fly thousands of miles
to speak my languages, all or at minimum
both, repeatedly, in chambers, in hallways.
the fate of the free world could be at stake.
tides are already beginning to rise.
at this prospect, i often feel bathed
in thoughts of blithe nihilism –
to return to the foot of the cordillera
of my birth and assert expertise
on storybook matters of urgency,
on the brisk urge to curtail
the droughts, the floods,
the heat, erosion, melting glaciers,
soil contamination, make a wake, a wake,
a wake, a wake, awake.
these are the stories i want to share:
a woman teaching sick workers in tijuana
how to forage clam shells for beads.
my friend mike, who is
a three-time cancer survivor
and aging prophet of lake charles, louisiana.
the taste and smell of houston air.
how oil and water don’t mix, not
in chalmette, not
in whiting, not
in loreto, not
the first community solar streetlight
ever to grace the streets
of highland park, michigan,
blocks from the birth of cars.
what heat exhaustion feels like.
how easy it can be to plant fruit trees.
the disarming joy of sharing a simple meal.
i am going back home
to south america
because language either wounds
or seduces, and because
we build with words what we see –
we need a story that honors
who’s been failed, who we throw
away, who we’ll need (all of us)
to speak and see
universal things – the romance
and boldness of care, stewardship,
for the earth, for each other.
for abolishing throwaway geography.
having said this, i
want to open up the discourse
and ask you
what you’d say
if you could go, too.
by Pablo Baeza