Friday, November 08, 2019

Poetry Friday: An Incomplete Picture

I read an article this morning with the headline: "International Media Often Paints an Incomplete Picture of the Situation, says Haitian Studies Association." It's not really surprising that that should be the case. Every picture is incomplete; every sound byte is from one person's perspective; every opinion is formed by one person's experience.

Like everywhere else, most people aren't as concerned with the politics as with their daily struggle to get to work, to earn a living, to provide for their families. Some people feel strongly; presumably they are the ones out demonstrating. Others are just waiting to see what will happen and don't necessarily think that a change of who's at the top will change their lives much one way or the other. I've heard people speak passionately on both sides of the current struggle, and each one was giving an incomplete picture.

Right now children in Haiti can't go to school. Businesses can't function normally. Hospitals can't treat people. Yesterday in my area things seemed almost normal, but then I talked to someone who had taken two hours to get to work (about seven miles), and she said they had to weave around all different back roads and cross several barricades (sometimes paying for the privilege).

Here's a six minute video in English giving some background.

Even in my own head and heart, any moment is an incomplete picture. Sometimes I feel hopeful and encouraged. (A student sent me some writing that was such a good start!) Sometimes I am discouraged and can't see any hope anywhere. (I got an email from an administrator at work with the word "predictable-ish" in the subject line!) I read about street merchants having their artwork cut up and burned by protesters. But I also had a chai party with a bunch of colleagues and people were speculating that maybe the worst was over already. Yesterday I read about people getting burned by an attack on public transport (both sides blamed the other). But then also yesterday, there was traffic out and "people were timidly resuming their activities," as the local media always expresses it. (I love that word "timidly" because it really is perfect. You can sense the tension everyone is experiencing, and people are ready to run and hide at a moment's notice.)

And today I saw a bird in my yard that I'm pretty sure was this guy:
Like the timid people in the streets, he flew away when I attempted to examine him a bit more closely.

It's all partial and incomplete.

I've been trying to do NaNoWriMo, with very limited success. I'm to the point where I hate everything I write and know for a fact that I have no words worth reading. Since my own writing is going so badly, here's someone else's for Poetry Friday this week. As Douglas Dunn says in this poem, "I Am a Cameraman," each sentence of mine "shrugs off every word I try."

I Am a Cameraman
by Douglas Dunn

They suffer, and I catch only the surface.
The rest is inexpressible, beyond
What can be recorded. You can't be them.
If they'd talk to you, you might guess
What pain is like though they might spit on you.

Film is just a reflection
Of the matchless despair of the century.
There have been twenty centuries since charity began.
Indignation is day-to-day stuff;
It keeps us off the streets, it keeps us watching.

Film has no words of its own.
It is a silent waste of things happening
Without us, when it is too late to help.
What of the dignity of those caught suffering?
It hurts me. I robbed them of privacy.

My young friends think Film will be all of Art.
It will be revolutionary proof
Their films will not guess wrongly and will not lie.
They'll film what is happening behind barbed wire.
They'll always know the truth and be famous.

Politics softens everything.
Truth is known only to its victims.
All else is photographs - a documentary
The starving and the playboys perish in.
Life disguises itself with professionalism.

Life tells the biggest lies of all,
And draws wages from itself.
Truth is a landscape the saintly tribes live on,
And all the lenses of Japan and Germany
Wouldn't know how to focus on it.

Life flickers on the frame like beautiful hummingbirds.
That is the film that always comes out blank.
The painting the artist can't get shapes to fit.
The poem that shrugs off every word you try.
The music no one has ever heard.
Irene has today's roundup.

9 comments:

Tabatha said...

I was struck by "Their films will not guess wrongly and will not lie." -- how naive they are. On a lighter, related note, when I took photos of my new puppy, it was hard sometimes to convey his size. When my older daughter saw him over Skype, she was surprised by how small he was.
(It's best, when you're doing NaNoWriMo, to try not to judge what you've written. Withhold judgement until the end, if you can.)

Irene Latham said...

Ruth, I am struck again how much the world needs YOUR perspective. Not the whole story, of course, as you say. YOUR story. I am also struck by the line "Life tells the biggest lies of all." I don't know why I love that so much. Thinking of you with so much love -- xo

Molly Hogan said...

Oh, Ruth. I think of you and your students so often. Take care.

Linda B said...

"Politics softens everything." and then there is the truth. We simply don't hear little news until I search on Google & then I'm not sure how truthful it is. I did hear news of your dear country on NPR today, saying that little has changed, & the country most likely to help, the US, is reluctant because even if they gave the protestors what they wanted, then the US would be in power. That was the part I'm not sure I understand. I'm so sorry to hear your news, Ruth, & to see the video of the chaos and danger. I hope you continue to be safe & see the beauty as you shared, that lovely warbler.

Linda Mitchell said...

Ruth, how you feel about your writing is only that -- how you feel. What you are writing about your world is vital. It's parts of the picture that aren't showing up elsewhere. Keep writing. In the meantime, that poem of the Cameraman. Wow! I hope Molly sees this post. It's the perfect description of how photography meets words.

Karen Edmisten said...

Ruth, thank you for the video. I can only try to imagine what you all are living through. Know of my prayers, as feeble as that can sound in difficult times. And yet I know it's not.

When I read, "Like everywhere else, most people aren't as concerned with the politics as with their daily struggle to get to work, to earn a living, to provide for their families." -- it made me think of some lines from Pachinko, which I read this past summer. I copied these words into my quote book:

"Whether China capitulated or avenged itself, the weeds would have to be pulled from the vegetable garden, rope sandals would need to be woven if they were to have shoes, and the thieves who tried often to steal their few chickens would have to be kept away."

You are so right -- most people are simply trying to live, and to live a life that those in politics rarely truly understand.

As for your writing, -- your voice is so needed, and ALL your words are worth reading. Write that novel, pound out those words. Don't think about the words ... just write, write, write them. If nothing else, writing is therapy and a healing balm.

GatheringBooks said...

How so very powerful. I devoured every word on this page. Thank you for being fearless and for showing a slice of reality, a facet of the truth, as multidimensional as it is. Sending you positive energies, light and love.

Cheriee Weichel said...

Politics softens everything.
Truth is known only to its victims.

Like other's before me, your voice has become important to me. Years ago I learned that the Quakers believe that God gives everyone just a piece of the truth. We need to listen to as many voices as possible before we can get even close to what truth is. I used this idea a lot in my classroom for making group decisions and helping individuals resolve problems.

Sometimes you need to abandon your writing for a while I think and just let it cook.

Michelle Kogan said...

Ruth, I like Linda B. am so taken that you, in the midsts of all the chaos around you see and hold beauty–as from the warbler–perhaps that helps. I appreciate your sharing all here especially the short film on what's happening in Haiti. I hope you will pick up your pen again, for you have much to say and share, thanks and be safe, xo.