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a peaceful protest

I was 16, and the thought of being forced to mention God as part of the pledge of allegiance was too hypocritical an act for me to play along with. Each day of high school began with this mundane recitation, as most people just stood with their hand jutting from a hip, the other dangling across their chest as they counted out the seconds until they could sit back down. They leaned against desks, and talked through it about what party and where it would be, if there would be a keg or a bonfire in the woods. I recited the words, omitting the "under God" part as a sort of half-baked protest. I was raised to flaunt my family's ramshackle atheism, as a choice of smug pride. We knew better, was the prevailing logic.

But one day, I could not stand and say any of it. It felt so rote, so hollow, so devoid of choice. There was no law that said I was required to say it. I knew this was my right, a form of free speech. My homeroom teacher was a legendary drinker, a trash-talking re…

late summer


Late summer is dragging its heels. There are sluggish chainsaws during the day, whacking all of those fallen trees to bits. It takes them hours, but there is no rush. There are men in orange vests with weedwhackers around the schools. That day is coming, the cool morning, the freshly pressed shirts, the bag lunch, the fast kiss on the forehead. E is ready, but not ready all at the same time. I think she retreats the same as I do, hiding in the afternoons deep in thought, researching something obscure instead of facing the immediate future.

There are more rainstorms, more flooded streets. The trees outside the windows bend in the same impossible arc, not snapping, not splintering but coming back and then doing it all over the again. The wind howls, and the baby still sleeps. I find myself scribbling thoughts in the middle of the night,  yanking myself out of a sound sleep my eyes almost tearing up as the bright lights are too much for them. They are dark, black ideas. A few days ago I learned about the words above the entrance to Auschwitz for example Arbeit macht frei, or "work sets you free". The terrifying logic of this quote hovers in the air, cutting two ways at once. I do not take the writing process of Blackbetty lightly, and these are the waters I have dipped into. What fruit they will bear, and how, that is the job at hand in these late summer days.

To refresh my thoughts, I pull the camera bag across my shoulder and walk to Sparrow Hills, an outlook high above the rest of Moscow, where people visit on a Sunday to take family pictures, where nostalgic wedding parties stop and drink cheap champagne from plastic cups. I have this idea to take pictures of people taking pictures. There are young boys standing on a railing, flexing their biceps until the faces nod, that the image was indeed taken. A teenage couple mash their faces together as their bikes lean slack against the railing. Her arms hang loose around his neck. He buries his face in her shirt. They kiss again, her with one eye open seeing who is watching them. 

The clouds are packed up in the sky. The trees are still green. A motorcycle roars past. I slip the camera back into the bag. 

Time to go home, and back to work.





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