Poetry is the damndest thing.
Last night at dinner I said to my husband, “What do we do? How are we supposed to go on when we have world leaders who can listen to a speech like Greta’s and then not take action? Do we just revolt in every single country that’s not falling in line? Do we create some kind of a parallel leadership structure? Do we just take over? Do we just create a new, single nation of people who give a rat’s ass, and elect our own leaders and go from there?”
He shrugged, which I guess is a logical response to such questions, especially when you have a mouthful of soup.
And then I walked upstairs and took a book of Costa Rican poetry off the shelf on a WWJDS-ish whim (that’s What Would Jorge Debravo Say, of course), and the book fell open to “La Patria,” and there he was, telling me just about the same thing. “A homeland is just like fruit,” he says, “sometimes sweet and delicious, sometimes acidic and bitter.” He imagines a borderless planet where “we could work, serenely abandoned.”
Isn’t that what we need to do? To get to work, abandoned though we may be by many of the people who have the most power to create change? Don’t those of us who are committed to this have more in common than compatriots might? Should we be pledging allegiance and paying taxes, with our donation dollars and purchase power, to a new nation led by the scientists and CEOs and mayors and teenagers and whoever else has been stepping up to the plate? It sounds like a fantasy, but it may also be the only possible way to continue.
For the first time in a long time, a poem made me feel more energetic at night than I had in the the morning. I’m not sure how serene I’ll feel about our abandonment in the harsh light of day, but I won’t be alone. I’m a citizen of the unstoppable. Now, there is no other way to be.
Here’s the full poem, “La Patria” (my apologies for any late-night less-than-elegant or overly creative translation):
The homeland is like fruit:
sometimes sweet and delicious;
sometimes acidic and bitter.
As soon as we start school,
or even as soon as we’re born,
they place the homeland in our hands
and they make us love it.
They tell us that “homeland” is delicious.
They never tell us that sometimes it’s bitter.
Homeland is the bitterest invention
since the bad invention of our soul.
If we all inhabited the world
as one single homeland,
there would be no orphans, no widows,
not in the lands of drought, not in the pouring rain.
We would be able to work, serenely abandoned,
without killing each other for the homeland on the battlefield…
(From Vórtices, Editorial Costa Rica, Second Edition, 1999)
I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook!