The first time I went to D.C. I was 16 years old and just stopped to get a cupcake. I saw the Capitol in the rearview mirror and excitedly said “Wow, it’s just like it looks on TV!” The next time I went I was 20 and finally stood with my face pressed against the gates of The White House, watching lights turn on and off as who-knows-who was walking through rooms and doing who-knows-what. I couldn’t believe it’d really taken me 20 years to walk the streets of my nation’s capital. I couldn’t believe the amount of homeless people that filled the streets on my walk there. “Right at their doorstep…and they don’t do anything,” I thought.
The years passed and I was able to work in DC a few times enough where the streets grew familiar; enough to have favorite spots and emotional connections to places. The place I loved the most was here, the Lincoln Memorial. He’s witnessed history right at his feet time and time again. He sits there watching over DC and their decisions; their decisions to harm Americans by refusing to change laws, to tear apart and hurt families while they live a great life. It’s never the time to talk or act, just the time to defend what was laid down before us and before society got more complicated. We are not who we were and we must adapt. I think Darwin was on to something.
These repeated events shape the United States in the eyes of the world as a stubborn child; still so young with much to learn. There are those that hold the power and refuse to act—those are the ones I’m disgusted with; there are those that are the victims that will never be solaced—those are the ones my heart breaks for; there are those that don’t realize that the real power lies in numbers, loud voices, and powerful actions to attract global attention—my hope is that we rise up. I don’t want to walk the streets or read the news years from now and still keep thinking “…and they still don’t do anything.”
Be better. Do better.
I looked up at this man who had the balcony to himself. The street was loud with cars from the ‘50s, not a gimmick but for real purpose. You know how you always point those cars out and smile when you see them in the States? They filled all the streets of Havana; no A/C and half of them stuck on the side of the road with their hoods open, steam billowing out, and the drivers turn into mechanics because they’ve done this countless times.
There’s at least three apartments blaring salsa music into the street with all the viejitos del barrio playing chess or cards on little wire tables. The kids ran rampant dribbling a fútbol through their abuelos’ legs, around cars that honked, around horses that trodded. The distant sound of roosters still crowing as if they had no idea they’d already woken everyone up, or maybe they didn’t care. There I was alone in the street, giddy as ever, watching this man enjoying watching everyone else having the time of their life. Some alone, some with others. All happy.
We went to get a mietwagen,
A car to travel ‘round
The worker asked if she was Swiss
Her face beamed at the sound.
For course she was Swiss;
It was in her eyes
it was in her name
it was in her blood
The blood that pumped her mother’s heart
And the one that still runs through her very own.
It runs swift like the rivers that flow
And the water that falls
From the mountain above.
Her roots run deep like the trees on the hills
And the cool summer air
In this country she loves.
The majestic and powerful
The vibrant and pretty
Its serene, calming beauty
Even in its cities.
She walks in nostalgia
As if she’d been here in dreams
And stories that’d been told to her
As a little Elise.
A simple glance up
Reveals a simple white cross.
It dances in the wind
Like her heart flutters with each step,
They both celebrate in silence
For they’ve both been waiting
You’ve found me Elise.
You’ve found me, you made it.
7:10 PM, the lights buzz on;
The humming of neon red lines
Millions flock in awe.
To stare down this street
Is the dichotomy of life;
Church to the left
“Sin” to the right.
But under these lights
They perform for eyes;
Bright eyes and new eyes,
excitable and glaring—
All those strangers’ eyes
Judging and staring.
These women aren’t bothered,
As if the eyes from up above
Haven’t been doing that their whole life already.
They’re just working for a dollar
And that is no different than I.
As vile as people can be
This city demands your best.
A call for decency
And a slogan for the world,
“Make photos of art and respect the ladies”
There are people who contain others in this world who don’t wear a uniform.
I got caught up watching mini-documentaries on borders today; lines that dictate an identity and walls that separate humans—it’s a concept that has always troubled me. I can see the economic advantage of keeping fences up to keep people in and others out, for it would seem impossible to change our ways now; cities would be abandoned, countries would fall.
But my mind and heart never lets me rest or forget that a human is a human and no better than the next, so when I see injustice at my feet and hear of abuse from others, it awakens the part of me that so wishes to separate from my routine and culture. It makes my Facebook feed of memes seem small and any conversations thereafter insignificant. It makes me realize that if I were to do something else with my life other than helping others, it’d be a waste.
The past few years of increased televised and reported injustices in our communities and world equally frustrates and galvanizes me to the point where I feel impassioned yet helpless. I write words to help express but know more needs to be done in ways that aren’t just calling a rep or sharing a link to donate. I don’t know where to start and it feels overwhelming. I feel I’m missing a collaborative force to guide me to enacting individual, unique change, even if it’s initially minute. But the fact that that opportunity exists is not lost on me. For as oppressive and destructive I feel the United States is at times, I know I ultimately live within borders that allow for experimentation and expression while others are desperately trying to achieve the same liberty. Without my homeland’s triumphs and shortcomings, I’d be even more lost, but because of their faults, I am driven to enact change.
So listen, “some people build fences to keep people out, and other people build fences to keep people in,” so while I am stuck behind a gate in this photograph, I do not allow it to stop the critique of what lies beyond it, a police officer protecting 3 city blocks around the Trump tower.
I frequently notice how little time I have. How I waste the days with thoughts of nostalgia and doubts of futurism. How my morality and mortality fluctuate with each decision made, mistake learned, and consequence lived. And a life with no time creates shortcuts for all, which allows us to live and run on absolutes. It allows for concise comprehension of strong beliefs and an intolerance of others’, for we’ve created a world that should not be because we are a complex system of options.
And that complexity exists not only in us but relates to these trees with its roots underground all winding and touching, we often forget how they all meet. The solemn trees are barren as I stare up from the road—it reminds me of mankind and the patterns that we take; thrive for a season and fall every year but always connected and responsive to forces that come. So just like the man that was once a boy, this growth will come to change what I knew until one day I notice how different you’ve become, how little time I have and how much of it i’ve wasted.
Trapped inside amongst mountains on a piercing night
Shadows and silhouettes fill the room
While heavy eyelids paint our faces
A faint musk of beer lingers around
As do us owls who awaken to the moonlight.
I crave that beautiful midnight orb that desperately strives and achieves to be different every day
Ever-changing but predictable if one just pays attention
For the moon and I have the same faces
That if time is kind, you can see the patterns
Floating alone amongst billions of old friends eons away
That even when our eyes deceive us and feel it has forever gone
The universe urges us to wait for a new day
For this is always true, everything ends and we are always beginning.