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For this session our text was the poem A Braid of Unknowing I Tie Before You by Bob Hicok, posted below.
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A BRAID OF UNKNOWING I TIE BEFORE YOU by Bob Hicok Eight minutes, almost nine. I’ve been seeing a star to the east in the morning. It’ll be hard not to give four or five students Ds this semester. Are optimists fools? For eight minutes, almost nine, one man knelt on another man’s neck. A star or planet, I don’t know. Many have stopped turning in poems or coming to class, more than ever in my twenty years of teaching, during this third semester of COVID. Obviously there are more problems than solutions, more shit than Shinola. A white cop kneeling on a black man’s neck. I’ve been meaning to ask the internet what the light is so I can refer to it in the first person, Dear Vega, Dear Saturn, when I’m grateful for company from so far away. They expected to be going to parties and football games, to be drinking and dropping acid, to be rubbing against space and time, but the friction of bodies and growing older, into adults, has been replaced by fear of breathing in the wrong place at the wrong time. To think we can change or get better at changing our oil or not clear-cutting forests or listening to opinions we don’t hold or sharing our wealth is insane in an evidence-based system of analysis, if you look at the data, if I remember back to five minutes ago when I scanned the headlines and Chicken Little was right: the sky is falling. How is it not murder, clearly and simply murder to kneel on a man’s neck for eight minutes, almost nine, and what happens, what rot overtakes our hearts when we can’t admit this, can’t white admit to black, old to young, sane to the crazy world in which one man tries to justify kneeling on another man’s neck after subdued, after compliant, after hearing him call for mama and say sixteen times that he can’t breathe, that this is wrong, so obviously and clearly immoral that we’ll step from this cruelty in unison and cast it in steel and touch it every day for the rest of our lives to remind ourselves of what we’ll never do again. Dear Vega, Dear Saturn, tell me something I don’t know about the universe, that as it grows we grow, that as light leaves us more arrives, that entropy is actually patience in disguise, that love is the only way to explain why atoms cling to each other and something more than the zero exists. Is it kind to set aside their failures, what they haven’t done or said, the stones they’ve channeled with their silences in class, and how do we ask something of each other, or give, in ways that lift and teach, how can we lay this period of time on a blanket and wrap it, roll it in softness and concern and make our way to the other side? Optimism is the source of karaoke, light bulbs, mosh pits, kissing and fucking and birth and thinking a man’s pointless death can have a point, can be a fulcrum or lever or both. How do you a lift a world already afloat in space or convince people that we’re surfers and gliders called to be animals of grace, that we cling to speed and grand motions and need each other to hang on? I am lost in every way except my certainty that the only true mirror is each and every other face. Eight minutes, almost nine. It’ll be hard not to sit in an actual room with their actual eagerness to overcome gravity and time. Optimists are oceans and skies at heart. A star or planet touching me with light I want to deserve.