Sunday

Jul. 23, 2006

Creed

by Meg Kearney

SUNDAY, 23 JULY, 2006
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Poem: "Creed" by Meg Kearney from An Unkindness of Ravens. © BOA Editions, Rochester, New York, 2001. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Creed

I believe the chicken before the egg
though I believe in the egg. I believe
eating is a form of touch carried
to the bitter end; I believe chocolate
is good for you; I believe I'm a lefty
in a right-handed world, which does not
make me gauche, or abnormal, or sinister.
I believe "normal" is just a cycle on
the washing machine; I believe the touch
of hands has the power to heal, though
nothing will ever fill this immeasurable
hole in the center of my chest. I believe
in kissing; I believe in mail; I believe
in salt over the shoulder, a watched
pot never boils, and if I sit by my
mailbox waiting for the letter I want
it will never arrive—not because of
superstition, but because that's not
how life works. I believe in work:
phone calls, typing, multiplying,
black coffee, write write write, dig
dig dig, sweep sweep. I believe in
a slow, tortuous sweep of tongue
down the lover's belly; I believe I've
been swept off my feet more than once
and it's a good idea not to name names.
Digging for names is part of my work,
but that's a different poem. I believe
there's a difference between men and
women and I thank God for it. I believe
in God, and if you hold the door
and carry my books, I'll be sure to ask
for your name. What is your name? Do
you believe in ghosts? I believe
the morning my father died I heard him
whistling "Danny Boy" in the bathroom,
and a week later saw him standing in
the living room with a suitcase in his
hand. We never got to say good-bye, he
said, and I said I don't believe in
good-byes. I believe that's why I have
this hole in my chest; sometimes it's
rabid; sometimes it's incoherent. I
believe I'll survive. I believe that
"early to bed and early to rise" is
a boring way to live. I believe good
poets borrow, great poets steal, and
if only we'd stop trying to be happy
we could have a pretty good time. I
believe time doesn't heal all wounds;
I believe in getting flowers for no
reason; I believe "Give a Hoot, Don't
Pollute," "Reading is Fundamental,"
Yankee Stadium belongs in the Bronx,
and the best bagels in New York are
boiled and baked on the corner of First
and 21st. I believe in Santa
Claus, Jimmy Stewart, ZuZu's petals,
Arbor Day, and that ugly baby I keep
dreaming about—she lives inside me
opening and closing her wide mouth.
I believe she will never taste her
mother's milk; she will never be
beautiful; she will always wonder what
it's like to be born; and if you hold
your hand right here—touch me right
here, as if this is all that matters,
this is all you ever wanted, I believe
something might move inside me,
and it would be more than I could stand.


Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of crime novelist Raymond Chandler, (books by this author) born in Chicago, Illinois (1888). He lived with his mother in England growing up and then came back to this country. He became a wealthy oil executive and didn't begin writing until the stock market crash of 1929. He went on to write several novels about the private detective Philip Marlow, such as The Big Sleep (1939) and The Long Goodbye (1954).

Chandler was never any good at coming up with plots. He believed that readers enjoyed his stories for his descriptions, not the action. He said, "The things [my readers] remembered, that haunted them, were not for example that a man got killed, but that in the moment of his death he was trying to pick a paper clip up off the polished surface of a desk, and it kept slipping away from him, so that there was a look of strain on his face and his mouth was half open in a kind of tormented grin, and the last thing in the world he thought about was death."


It was on this night in 1967 that a riot broke out in Detroit, marking the beginning of the decline of one of the greatest manufacturing cities in the country. An all-white squadron of police officers decided to raid a bar in a black neighborhood where there was a party to welcome home two recent veterans of the Vietnam War. The police stormed the bar, rounded up and arrested eighty-five black men and began loading them into vans.

The riot that broke out raged for five days. Thousands of soldiers from the Michigan National Guard were called in, along with tanks. The National Guardsmen fired off more than 150,000 bullets over the course of the riot.

Forty-three people were killed and whole blocks of the city went up in flames. After the riots, many of the white residents of the city moved to the suburbs. Thousands of homes were abandoned, and the city's population plunged from 1.6 million to 992,000 in just a few years. By 1990, Detroit was one of the poorest cities in America, with one in every three residents living in poverty.


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