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Hypo

Published December 9, 2015 by April Fox

We are Pavlov’s dogs

gas on

gas off

red light

green light

go

television 

gunshots 

OUTRAGE

new shoes

BUY

captive audience

techno

illogical

warfare

brown is the new black,

haven’t you heard?

your God is ugly and your mama

dresses you funny

go back where you belong

if you can find it

crash-test dummies, toys

dolls for the fat and wealthy children

to destroy

coddled by the idiots

that follow them

like roaches

in a line 

a chess game, red and blue

the pawns are blown away

and left for dead

I typed this on my iPhone

from the safety of my

German automobile. 

Bliss 

Published December 2, 2015 by April Fox

Assume the position 

It’s time for your daily 15 minutes of outrage

time for furrowed brows and fingertips to lips and scripted measures

of concern

your eyes so blacked by ignorance 

you can’t see the gun in your hand. 

Let us pray

for the victims

this sorrowful collection of

lone gunmen. 

Why does this keep happening? Lord, someone make it stop.

And let he who is without sin

fire the first shot.

  

  

Shaded.

Published December 2, 2015 by April Fox

In that final hour, before the stars

set themselves

against the charcoal sky, there is a shroud

up on the mountain

smoke and fog, the gravel path

the only way

in or out

shaded pink by the last, sad efforts

of the sun

to stand her ground

Before coyote songs and the stuttering of

owls drive us back inside

to the fires and the kettles screaming,

televisions calling with their familiar

lullabyes, the sounds of gunfire

echo the staccato beat of

our fingers, tapping

waiting

impatient for the good stuff

the sales and the sports

and just before the night goes black, and the moon breaks loose

and the woods songs come to greet us

like an old familiar friend,

there is a moment, just a fraction of a second

when we think we might remember

what it felt like

to be safe.

image

Happy Holidays (Operative Word: Happy.)

Published November 30, 2015 by April Fox

I used to work with children at the local Jewish Community Center. When I first started there, a little guy who was especially, let’s say, spirited, was leaving at the end of a particularly challenging Friday. He was a smart, sweet little boy, intent on testing his boundaries with the new teacher, and had given me a pretty killer headache by the time his mom picked him up. He had just gone out the door, the last kid to leave, when he poked his head back in the room and said, “Shabbat Shalom, Miss April!” Twenty minutes earlier he had been calling me a poop and refusing to put the scissors away. And now here he was, wishing me well, even though I was undoubtedly a great big meanie scissors-controlling poop.

I’m not Jewish. I don’t celebrate the Jewish Sabbath, or any Sabbath. The words “Shabbat Shalom” by themselves mean little to me. They are words from a language I don’t understand. But when they were spoken by a little boy in the spirit of love and friendship, they were priceless. When my coworkers said those words at the end of the week, I returned them, because I meant them: Have a safe weekend. Have a happy Friday. Peace. Love. I wish you well.

All of this Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas nonsense is a matter of pride and semantics, nothing more. There is no war on Christmas. Nobody is trying to snatch the Christmas tree out of your front window, or waiting by the mailbox with a Sharpie, ready to steal your Christmas cards and replace your greeting with “Happy Holidays.” Santa’s not going to put coal in your stocking if you smile at someone and return their greeting, even if they didn’t phrase it just the way you would.

The world is a really big place, with a lot of really cool people in it. Some of them celebrate the same holidays you do. Some of them have the same skin tone you do. Some of them call their God by the same name you call yours. And some of them don’t. That doesn’t make their words of love, peace, and hope into something malicious and ugly.

When someone chooses to use their words to share a message of joy with you and you take offense to the words rather than appreciating the message, when you slap away a hand held out in friendship because of a minor linguistic difference, you are the offensive thing. You are the one spreading a message of ugliness and despair. As long as the words are given with love, it’s one message with dozens of beautiful translations.

So with that being said-Happy holidays to you, from your favorite great big meanie scissors-controlling poop. It’s been a beautiful year.

* If you’re looking for the snarky, rotten, profanity-laced version of this that I published a few years ago, it’s right here, you cranky heathen. Merry effin’ Xmas, yo.

The Smallest Ones

Published November 20, 2015 by April Fox

In my nightmares, there are children playing in a field of tall grass, so tall that the only way I know the children are there is by the sound of their voices and the way the grass moves as they run. Then there are men, impossibly tall men, dressed all in camouflage, with guns strapped to their chests and their sides. They tower above the grass as if they’re on stilts. They look as if they weigh a thousand pounds. They are wearing high pointed hoods that cover their faces, like the KKK, but these too are camouflage. The grass and sky seem almost fluorescent against the dull shades of the uniforms. The men are walking through the field, swinging heavy sticks from side to side, like chasing rodents from the grain. When the children’s laughter stops, the soldiers’ begins.

I’m half-awake and dreaming this, vaguely aware of my husband’s hand moving to smooth my hair, hearing his voice from far away, but unable to wake up. It’s been like this since Paris happened. I wonder if Paris is going to become one of those ominous things we say, the meaning changed forever, like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor: no further explanation necessary.

Normally I use Facebook as kind of an escape, a place to share photos with friends and family, to share in their lives from a distance, to grumble about waking up early or the wheels falling off of my quirky old Beetle. I get angry and political sometimes, and when I see things that make me roll my eyes or groan in disgust, I remind myself why I don’t scroll through my newsfeed much. But after Paris, I had to stop checking in at all. Every time I logged in, there was more and more ugliness. I tried to counter it at first, tried sharing my own thoughts there and was met with the usual words of agreement from the people who usually agree with me, but this wasn’t one of those times I needed to just vent and get it out of my system. This was a kind of ugliness that I hadn’t seen before in such massive force. There were people everywhere, everywhere, directing their words of hate and violence toward people who were lost and suffering, not toward terrorists or soldiers but toward families, men and women who were trying to keep their children safe. They were throwing hate and promises of harm at children running away in fear. Children, like mine and yours and the ones next door and across the globe who didn’t have the geographical misfortune to be born inside a war zone. Children whose brown faces are streaked with tears and whose parents call their Abrahamic god by a different name than those who make the threats.

I think about the times that me and mine have been given refuge. I think about the times that people who didn’t have to help did, not because of shared religion or ethnicity but because of shared humanity. I think about the people who could look at a child, any child, anywhere, and see anything but promise. And then I just can’t think anymore. I can’t think, I can’t write, I can’t answer the phone, I get through the day one autopilot step at a time, only really coming to life when I’m teaching or with my children. Guilt for all the things I screwed up with my own kids has come back with a vengeance, and I turn those things over and over in my head with the images of the refugees, the smallest ones. I don’t understand how a parent can think about any child and want to turn them away. I don’t understand how a parent could want to teach their own children that that’s the right thing to do, at all.

I wrote this next bit a couple months ago, but it sums up how I feel now pretty well. Haven’t we all sought refuge from something, sometime?

This has been a trying week, with a lot of scary things happening close to home and around the world. I’ve been simultaneously trying to wrap my head around it all and to pretend that I don’t see the ugliness, and I keep coming back to this one thing that I simply cannot understand. With all the things that you can teach a child:

To paint a picture
To hula hoop
To identify birds by their songs
To play an instrument
To speak another language
To write in cursive
To grow tomatoes
To tie their shoes
To write their name
To play hopscotch
-or Go Fish
-or Parcheesi
-or Mario Kart
To bake a cake
To care for a pet
To wash their hands
To dance
To tell a joke
To practice gratitude
To love

Why would anyone want to teach them how to hate?

little ones

Refuge.

Published November 19, 2015 by April Fox

They are laughing in the sand,

their high-pitched voices crossing over and under each other and up

into the sky

into the clouds

dirty hands reaching for each other,

circling around

singing songs whose words we cannot recognize

but the tune is universal;

nursery rhymes are all the same.

They are smaller than the dogs who bark behind them

they are larger than the biggest men who wake up in the morning

ready for the hunt

they are oblivious to war

because war is all they know.

In the dark, their voices quiet

they are every child alive

they are sewer rats, princesses

trailer trash and debutantes

reaching for the shore

they are holding hands and dancing,

singing in the light

while the righteous and the holy scream in outrage:

Kill the children.

Faces.

Published November 19, 2015 by April Fox

This is how we live

with our sidearms drawn

our fingers free of scars

and polished

sheltered in the skin

of privilege

ripped away from someone else’s skull,

stretched and starched and painted on

until it fits our own

we are the faces

of the things

we need to hate.

Cowering inside,

doors locked, the black holes of our brains

filled up with pious rhetoric

lying down to sleep on satin sheets

to dream the nightmares of the idiots

terrified of children

and of peace.

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