The Unswung Bat

Tuesday, August 20, 2013
 
I shouldn't have been surprised, but was unprepared for the cruelty of the Toronto Sun's libel against Asmaa Hussein, whose husband was killed this Friday at a peaceful protest in Alexandria. Insinuations that her one-time employment at one school within a global institute through whose doors a handful of notorious men drifted, in disparate times and places, could be grounds for condemnation or a withdrawal of sympathy, can only appeal to a degenerate mass. They are a reminder that doubt can be spread dumbly, perversely, for the sake of insulating prejudice as much as for spurring inquiry that would reveal it.

I knew Asmaa in undergrad, not well at all, but well enough to be dumbstruck with horror at what has happened to her young family over the past five days. I took a poetry class with her in second year, and while I was an editor at the Varsity she was working in an office directly above mine, editing the Muslim Voice. We attended one or two events with the same party, knew one another through mutual friends, and understood each other a sight better than strangers would. The hideous crimes inflicted on her late husband, her, and their 9-month-old baby, which have been followed by inhumane insults in Egypt and here in her home, I have watched her bear with unimaginable grace, courage and articulateness that have left me shaken by her faith and understanding of what it is to be human.

To those insufficiently concerned with such things, know that you make yourselves apparent when you fling stones at people in her position who happen to fit profiles you've chosen to hate. Her friends, I am sure, are needed as few people ever are. The rest, including those at the Sun prone to feeling deserved guilt, I would suggest should back off. And imagine themselves in her situation, rather than grasping at reasons not to.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008
 
From this valley they say you are going

My grandmother died on Saturday. I heard this Monday when I went home to meet mom on her return from a trip to Anchorage to be with the family. It was good--and unusual--that almost the whole immediate family lived there, especially considering how much they all moved around and have no roots in the area other than those they quickly fabricated. When they have no history, my maternal family will quickly stubborn one into existence.

This powerful bullheadedness is, as you might detect, a bit of a family emblem. Mom said that grandma died as she wanted to. She wanted only her immediate family there, none of her grandchildren, both to prevent us from having the memory of her dying and to draw in the most familiar people in her life while she waited. Mom also said she eventually wasn't even afraid. Though she still had bad stretches where she couldn't breathe and panicked, she was telling everyone that it was natural, what was happening to her.

So grandma had the death she wanted. She was the only person who still called me "Ani" (pronounce it "Onny"), a nickname my mom called me by when I was very young. Grandma always called me that--more the older I got, I swear. I don't remember the exact last time I said goodbye to her, and I'm glad for that. If I did, it would stand falsely as a summary of our connection. I'm left with a long and gappy memory of her. She was as stern and unbending a figure as I have ever known--more so, much more, than any other family member I can think of. But she wouldn't say anything against a view of yours she did not share. I know she was very kind and intelligent, perceptive and different, and worried. I miss my grandmother, and the question of when I, personally, lost her troubles me.

Her ability to find her good death leaves as strong an impression on me as the fatalistic sprit underlying all her wise deciding. She chose what was dearest and steadiest in her life to die beside, which is the first thought to almost bring tears to my eyes since the news began to hit. But she didn't choose to save her life when she could have. I'm unsatisfied we'll ever explain that habit well--is it unrequited curiosity that pulls you to die, fear and rationalization, disenchantment, disappointment, loneliness, weakness, shame, a complicated enjoyment of the object of your guilt, a simple act of mental avoidance? I don't know whether she reached any conclusion or was covered by an iron shield during the worst of it. I know my grandfather, who was exhausted, awoke magically ten minutes before she died, and she became calm when he came in to be with her.

If we have such control over the things we know about, if we can sweep away, more or less, the obstacles we'd hate to encounter even in the face of death, then why does it seem so right for everyone to do everything too late?


Love,

André

Tuesday, April 08, 2008
 
I'm not dead yet

This year will be hard. I'm not going to have any of my own time, and I'll have to be very clever to have enough time for the stuff I've committed to do. I think next year I'll go hollow out a boulder and live in hermitage, enjoying only the simple burdens and absences of a contemplative life, like crickets chirping, hunger, the inability to have odd bumps diagnosed or cuts properly treated, and the sense that those facelike imaginary patterns in foliage are actual people.

Friday, October 12, 2007
 
An adjective est mort

And you can have my overblown tragic pronouncements when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.

I like to use up all my adjectives for a day at once, so I can coast by on clever nouns, gentle pronouns, verbs, and truculent adverbs. Statements simply made ease the strain of communication. Poetry is a consolation of restriction...or in restriction...or just a restriction. I argued the point to a stump today. Is "today" adverbial?

The point is...the stump is...

That is to say...

What I'm getting at is...

...

Well, at least I'm not dead yet.

Monday, September 10, 2007
 
I am not now now have a ever been a member of a sexy party

Just in time, a pack of Jack Kerouac books (nice alliteration) came by buzzer and obnoxious deliveryman (what did I say?). How they won me over: the first one's title is "Why Kerouac Matters."
He ain't much of a writer, but I'll give him a shot on the strength of that title and how fucking weak I'm personally feeling at the moment.
I'm an anemic kitten. I worked an extra day and a half and set rigid deadlines for the news section, and got all the copy in—written, edited, ready to go—by 8 p.m., only to see it all fell apart in a production bottleneck and clusterbomb explosion of fuckups, and no one knows why.
I have my theories, but like my crappier books and more pointless writing, they don't satisfy.
I slept in the office. I may die of mesothelioma. Or whatever you get from instant coffee.

[Away for a moment—where could I have been? Was it a tragicomic interlude? Did I prepare a bisque? The answer to these and more: yes. Microwave bisque is gross. Embracing my American heritage, I'm throwing money at the problem...it's 12:18, class is at 2 and in the meantime I can have anything I want near U of T for breakfast.]

How the hell am I supposed to finish a piece for this newfangled writers' group this Friday? Would Miz Laura notice if I brought one of her own, earlier projects to the table under my name...? Maybe I'll just write down the proceedings of the meeting, imagined in advance.

[A second interlude, y'ain't invited to the details, but it were loud, here.]

Is this anything? G'night, anyone, I do not know what I'm tired of, but I am so God damned tired of it.

A deep breath and regrouping: sitting in on a meditation seminar this term, gonna see what that's all about. Enlightenment pending, compiling inner peace...

Friday, September 07, 2007
 
I'm not dead yet

This year will be hard. I'm not going to have any of my own time, and I'll have to be very clever to have enough time for the stuff I've committed to do. I think next year I'll go hollow out a boulder and live in hermitage, enjoying only the simple burdens and absences of a contemplative life, like crickets chirping, hunger, the inability to have odd bumps diagnosed or cuts properly treated, and the sense that those facelike imaginary patterns in foliage are actual people.

Thursday, August 09, 2007
 
Encore

There's a shopping cart in the ravine
The foam on the creek is like pop and ice cream
A field full of tires that is always on fire
To light my way home


"It's just a little soggy, it's still good, it's still good."



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