By Guest Blogger Alison Luterman (Plus a poem!) – with my video commentary on how to make a movement go viral — from Erica Mandy’s Show, The News Worthy
I was walking up the street minding my own business when a superhero jumped out in front of me. He landed in a wide-legged stance, arms outstretched, head thrown back in true Olympic superhero style. He was about three feet high and was wearing sneakers that lit up with flashing lights when he moved.
“I’m magic!” he announced.
“You are magic–I can see that!” I said.
It had been two weeks since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and I was still in a funky mood. Events, both national and personal, had been clouding my ability to see the magic in life. But here it was, on a bright Tuesday afternoon when the dogwood was blooming.
“I’m also the fastest runner,” the super-hero went on. “Wanna see?”
He tore up the sidewalk, his sneakers flashing.
“Wow, you are super fast!!” His Dad was leaning up against the family SUV, chuckling.
“He’s actually the fastest runner in the world,” he clarified. “It’s not everyday you get to see something like that. I can understand if you’re overwhelmed.”
I put my hand on my heart and staggered back. “It’s going to take me awhile to recover.”
In truth I hope never to recover from the magic of children. It may be our only hope as a species.
Like so many other people, I’m still blown away by the power of the young students speaking up now for gun control, especially Emma Gonzalez, the shaven-headed, bisexual, Latinx student (president of her school’s Gay-Straight Student Alliance), who rose up out of the smoke and spilled blood of the Parkland massacre, and has been speaking truth to power like a lioness.
If you haven’t seen the video of her making an impassioned plea for gun control while wiping away tears–weeping freely, but making her points with fierce accuracy, including the amount of money the Great Pretender accepted from the NRA for his campaign–go watch it. (Spoiler alert: 30 million dollars.)
Watch the way she feels deeply, but also has facts and figures at her command, and uses them. That’s not easy. When I’m crying my voice shakes, or it knots up in my throat, my chin quivers uncontrollably, and I feel foolish and naked. I’d prefer to hide under the bed than let people see me like that.
But it’s the job in front of us right now–all of us. Find our deepest feelings and speak from that vulnerable, exposed place.
It turns out many of the young activists effectively challenging Senators and Congress are drama club kids. I was a drama club kid. It was the ultimate safe space for queer kids, outcasts, weirdos. The energy and passion, the intense bonding love that gets generated backstage can be used for so many good things. You can put on a play, you can read your poetry at an open mic, you can start a movement and take your message to Congress.
Art teaches us to be brave. And we need a lot of courage these days. And a lot of love. Hold your friends and companions, fellow-artists, fellow-activists, children and the young at heart extra tightly. And don’t stop speaking truth to power even if it makes you cry.
Watching the Giraffes
The baby giraffe stands
in the shadow of the tall
both of their astonishing
with a perfect mosaic pattern
like kitchen linoleum.
How close the gods come to
Then the tallest one
who has been gazing off into
his small head atop that
like a long lonesome train
high above everything,
lets loose a Niagara of
and another giraffe ducks
a swanlike neck down,
to catch a deep, hot
mouthful of urine,then undulates back up,
gulping and swallowing.So that too is part of it.
How they take
what they are thirsty for
as I am drinking in the gentle
of the child’s small trusting
leaning against my arm
on the bench at the zoo,
both of us watching the
without saying anything.
Alison Luterman’s three books of poetry are The Largest Possible Life; See How We Almost Fly; and Desire Zoo. Her poems and stories have appeared in The Sun, Rattle, Prairie Schooner, Nimrod, The Atlanta Review, Tattoo Highway, and elsewhere.. She has also written an e-book of personal essays, Feral City, and more than half a dozen plays, including Oasis, Saying Kaddish With My Sister, Glitter and Spew, Touched, and two musicals, The Chain and Nasty Women. She performs with the Oakland-based improvisation troupe Wing It! and has given writing workshops all over the country, including at Omega and Esalen Institutes.
She teaches memoir at The Writing Salon in Berkeley, and is available for private coaching in writing or creativity, both in-person or on-line. She also loves to teach easy accessible theater games and writing prompts to groups. For more information, please visit her website at www.alisonluterman.net.