If I roamed in speech like Mark Twain, Making sure of my woods, river, sea, I'd wander in a circle, find an old goat, A grandfather, a porch, gold, river pirates. A wooden rocker and an audience, newsprint. Of innocents abroad, of jaded women here. If I enlisted like Mark Twain, casually, Caustic humor, avoiding combat, dinner. Serving for two, yes two, weeks And late for dinner. Tents and shovels. Tour of duty, the South, Rising late For breakfast, late home for dinner, Lectures from well meaning adult fools Who don't understand that war means blood. If I prayed like Mark Twain, for he did, It would be short, sweet, to the point, An argument of reason, intellect, An avoidance of familiarity, a face, questions. He prayed for salvation for his absurd truths. He never even got a letter in return. I am not Mark Twain, although I ramble in A concrete jungle, a zoo of originality, Of pauses and starts, hesitation, then Galloping on two feet with little hands. Children are my joy, his too. I enlisted, found a hole with my name, Foxlike I waited for the big dog, But all he wanted was sex. Sex, with me! Fraternizing with peers, I said no, and no, I found the door to file papers of abuse. Learned men are a grouping of Rotten apples, grapes on a vine. I have no time for old boys. Networks, bah. I don't pray. No, never got an answer, Not even a no. I figure God will Send me a postcard, or an email Asking for money, when God gets around. Everyone wants money. I have a hole in my pocket. Leaking. I am an emotional clamp, holding together A family of squirrels. Who knew? Mother always knew best, then I, Me, became the All Knowing Mother To mine own be true. Schools and crossbows Peeking from Concrete towers of sand. Sand stolen from the river. Free. Wait, there's a charge? Grumpy black bear, Moose Feet, It's something Twain saw, In the City of Gold at sunset In San Francisco, My dream city. Twain and I would have whiskey Talking politics, reading Dickens. Laughing at the words lost On a system of learning. Unlearning. Creeping, shadowing, loathing. We'd chat, sympathize, reconnoiter The political landscapes with Enough comedy for years of shows. Appalled that thinking people still hate. Appalled at the randomness of the bible Applied at a voting booth. Politics And religion rarely join joist to hinge. Mankind at its best, condemning sky, water, Others because they can, do, lust after. He'd shake his head, write a book, Find Adam in the park. Discuss with disdain, And I would listen, rapt, filing for later All of the similarities through time, A century of time, of things he thought Would mend, but haven't. So I write.
Rainbows at sunset, roads to follow. Lined with flowers, cars and noise, In capitols, in the wild, in back, The alleyways, the secret ways, How do we know where to tread lightly? When should our feet pound the pavement And fight the oppression that takes The middle class and the poor from us? We celebrate the shiny, fountain sprinkling Water that gives us a drink of hope, Then take our place, eyes down Shuffling along as we try to Keep the noise down so the neighbors Don't complain. Is this the road of The future? I step outside and look up At the soaring bald eagles who were once Endangered. Their flyways are now healthier. Our roadways should be healthier, broader, Wiser, a step firm with resolve, a hand On the wheel, a place to arrive at. Soon.
While much of the world talks about gratitude, we in the U.S. find ourselves dealing with “anticipation” as the world shakes and turns around us. What’s going to happen in our future? Where will the next shoe drop? What happens if so and so does such and such? And then the political elbows appear to dog us back into our perimeters of uncertainty and our place at the bottom of the totem. Personally, I am tired of elbows being thrown to show who is the authoritarian expert on life itself and am ready to start throwing my elbows around. However that would be tiresome, and tiresome isn’t who I am.
I’d like to anticipate a broad future for us all, but I just don’t have it in me today. So I’ll simplify the anticipation of what I’m anticipating to what it means personally and shake out my brain’s rafters a bit.
We will survive to retire. We weren’t sure of this before, but as we get closer, well, the anticipation is thick with us. (Sorry Yoda.)
- Despite all of the efforts to throw issues between the two of us, my husband and I, we still stand together. I anticipate this to continue, after all, money won’t always be this tight, will it?
- Medical issues will be part of the future, but I think we can handle them. I have good doctors that are willing to work with me as my life becomes more complicated. I’m also willing, and have made arrangements, to donate my body to science so that more can be learned about MS, Type 2 Diabetes, and my other issues. I anticipate medical science will continue to improve our lives. I have to believe that the catch phrase of “there is a cure down the line” will eventually mean there is a cure down the line.
- I anticipate that my husband and my parents will remain independent. Alzheimers disease rates are down. Mom and Dad-in-law are both competent at age 81, and have significantly more energy than I do. They’ll both rock into the 90s knowing that they are well loved. We also have assigned rooms in their names if they ever do need to reside with us. Family will remain an important factor of our lives.
- Our pension is with a union which we predict will float through the changing times. Someday people will understand that those of us at the bottom and the middle are human too. We don’t expect it to happen in our lifetime, but hopefully for our children and our grand nephews and nieces. I anticipate that the union will stay in business.
- Our children are grown, and although there is still one at home, he’s a kind hearted young man. He knows that his situation is putting stress on us, but tries to mitigate it. He’s one hell of a salesman. He also has empathy for those who haven’t had his advantages and has learned how to positively effect those around him with small kindnesses. The other is a competent and surly, beautiful, young woman who can rise to battle as I was once able to. She’s smart, caring, kind hearted and one who will always fight for the underdog. It’s a nice thing to know that what we anticipated our children turning out like has come true. I anticipate that they will continue to amaze me. I anticipate that they will advocate for us when we need it. It feels good to know that they are keeping a close eye on me.
- I anticipate that I will become published one day. It has taken a lot of work, and I foresee more in the future, but I think that my dream will come true. What did Jefferson say? “The harder I work, the luckier I become.” Well, that is a truth that is hard to argue. Finishing the first book was a process of growing into wordier shoes.
- I anticipate, hope, dream, and lust after winning the Emily Dickinson Poetry Contest. It runs out of Chicago and hasn’t been offered for a while. This coming January it is back and will be accepting 46-80 page submissions of poetry by people over 40 years of age who haven’t had a poetry book published. (That would be me.) I’ve started the process of going over all of the work I’ve ever done and honing it down, categorizing it, slimming it, potty training it and all of the other things one must do to succeed where one has never even had a dream of success before. It’s an anticipation to fill all of those hours when I’m alone over December and January.
- I anticipate that I will start to make friends again. I’ve become rather reclusive. The first step to meeting people is getting out of the house, and to that end, I bought a car for me. It’s a vibrant blue 2017 Sonic. Why did I chose that one? I like the way Chevies crash. Two of the people I love have crashed tested their cars in the past 5 weeks and both owners of the Chevies got out of their cars and walked away from what could have been fatal accidents. It wasn’t what I intended to buy, but when I was out looking, I had my son looking out for me. The car had been in the dealership less than 10 hours, hadn’t been processed yet, had two miles on the odometer, and had never been test driven. In a lot of primarily silver, white and black cars, it called to me from around the corner and behind the service bays.
- I anticipate going to spring ball games for our minor league team, the Potomac Nationals. I anticipate going to a bookstore for events like poetry readings, sales, and browsing.
- I anticipate more people standing up for what is right, honest, fair and pushing back against hatred, bigotry, racism, poverty, and ignorance.
I think that I will develop a broader anticipation of what is coming in the immediate future if I am patient and stick to my value system. Kids always amaze me and give me hope. As I watch this next generation grow, I’ll learn which direction we’re headed in and then can focus my anticipation list better. I’d certainly like to become hopeful on a global scale. I’d better go back and look that that gratitude thing, too. Maybe it will allow me to anticipate some really good things in a new light.
Climb a Mayan Pyramid,
Meet the Jaguar God,
The protector of the family,
The thief of the Sun,
The ender of days,
Beginner of nights.
Feel the cool wind
Arriving from the East,
Bringing the Moon
Protecting the dream
From the Nightmares
Who flee at Dawn.
Climb a Mayan Pyramid,
Meet the Sun,
The divider of days,
The multiplier of one
And zero. A binary god.
A sponsor of sport.
Meet the team, team Jaguar.
They compete with ferocity
To be the companions
Of the Gods. They strive.
They lift the children
To the sun to be seen.
Climb into the past:
Chichen Itza, Dzibanche,
Where the water
Meets the future,
And the lens is clear
To see into another world.
All photographs and poetry@Ann’s Eyes, by Ann WJ White 2006
As a little girl,
She read a book where whitewashing was done on walls and fences.
She pretended to be Tom
Swishing and brushing to put a shine
Where the fence was between
Swish, splash, she turned her head
Looking for missed spots in the surface.
As a woman,
She worked long hours for a firm
That asked her to clean up
After their long day of dealings,
So she bent over her computer
Editing the to and from
The up and down
She washed the pages clean of color
Transposed them into a harmless key.
As an ancient one,
She sat and snipped her luscious
Thread, using the rainbow
Stitching and splicing
Ribbons created of long colored
Memories that never
Were just as they were remembered.
She thought of her paint brushes,
Dry and gone, from when she ran out of white paint.
I joined the US Army in July 1979. I left the Minnesota National Guard behind me, a series of positive and negative growth opportunity. I believed at the time that a person owed a time of service to their country, and I was the only one in my family who prepared to follow my father’s footsteps. I was a musician in a world that had no way to find opportunities in music, if you didn’t have someone to point you in the right direction. I had no one pointing careers out to me. The Army would give me a few musical opportunities, a few contacts. No mention was made about the bad things that I would learn.
I thought my dad would support my move. He had served during Korea, had played jazz, marched and made the voice of the tuba, baritone, french horn, and string bass ring across two countries. He was a genius in the art of music who was lost to the profession by a lack of contacts, a young wife, four hungry, reading children. He needed a job to take care of us, often holding two jobs until the time that would always arise when his sense of honor was affronted and he would quit. I was sure he would support my move. I was wrong.
It was my mother who glued the family together as we grew; working at jobs, creating works of art, making sure that we would never lose our home, or go too hungry. She was my friend and supporter, but she also understood that I needed the canvas to create who I was and what I stood for in my life. There was the quote, “Oh, Ann” that would follow mistakes I made. That quote follows me to now.
My father told me he would never speak to me again. He did though, calling the Commander of the Naval School of Music and letting him know of our argument. My Commander set me straight about fathers.
My mother stood strong and let me do as I believed I needed to do. None of us knew that music in Minneapolis/St. Paul was about to explode in ways that shouldn’t have been possible. I missed every single one. If only there had been an internet for me, the outcome very likely would have been different.
I went off to the Army. I packed an iron, jeans, a concert dress, a cowboy hat and a faux leather coat that would eventually crack and show it was plastic, “pleather” was the term. What I found was, some of the military are honorable men and women. Some are abusive. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, it’s been this way since the beginning of history. What surprised me was that a peacetime army would have so many heroes, and so many predators, when no one was required to be there. I wanted to serve my family, country, and the goddess music with all of my heart.
The heroes aren’t seen on lists of heroes. I can name some. Lt. Colonel Tony Cason and his wife. They were honest hardworking people concerned for the lives of those under their command. Wherever they ended up, their standards followed them. Music under this man was a living entity. He also allowed me to believe in a love that was only beginning. He handed me to my new husband with a smile. When Lt. Colonel Cason was promoted, life changed for me.
I, like my father, found myself somewhere I didn’t think I would end up. I was married with a husband who was stationed 3000 miles away. When the harassment and the coverup of the behavior of a second commander happened, all I could think of was to find a band on the east coast. So the Army sent me to Maryland, firstly to get me out of the hair of a band that no longer wanted me to be a member. Secondly, because I was loudly protective of the women I served with, even though there was one who was an old boy herself. I ended up in a band that could have been the most cohesive band I had been in yet, but they had a problem communicating between top and bottom ranks. Shortly after I arrived, several members where prosecuted for possession of illegal substances. The commander of the band decided that because I was nice to these members, as I was nice to everyone, that I must have been a drug dealer. He called me into his office to let me know how miserable he was going to make my life, destroy my reputation, and destroy my marriage to one of Fort Myer’s Charlie Company’s enlisted. I had enough. I laughed. Yes, I laughed. I told the commander he had no power over me. I had just found out that I was pregnant with my first child. I was willing to take any blood test needed. I had base housing, bring it on. And, after all that, I was leaving. I walked down to the Admin building and filed for a discharge. It was granted and I was given time to serve in the inactive reserve. My sense of honor had been affronted, so I did what my dad did, I walked.
I’m sorry I lost my chance of music as a career. It hurts to this day. What I gained was a family with two children, now well grown and establishing their own worlds, who also possess a sense of honor, and the most gracious man in the world. He’s handsome, supportive, caring, intelligent and the hardest working man I’ve had the honor to know. He’s been tolerant of all of my harebrained adventures and given me his smile to bless them. For 35 1/2 years, he’s been here for me.
Eric is a force of nature in a very confused world that seems to be repeating itself. He’s saved my life at least three times. He’s sacrificed his career possibilities to make sure my healthcare is safe because of my MS. He gave me the ability to be myself, although I am rather shy of sharing where I came from and my experiences. You might not understand that from this post, but my words are stronger because of him.
Don’t let the past surround you to the extent of losing all else. Miracles are born in hard times to good people. We work for them, tailor our lives to them, and if we are very lucky, we become the instrument of our miracle. If we work hard enough, we become a Force to be reckoned with, as the world repeats the anger and horror of prior generations and the human History. The future isn’t known. It’s a gift that way.