Poem: ‘Inaugural’

This is the time
to be generous
this is the time to be brave
to watch
how the dove tails up, blinks,
sits tight over invisible eggs
and waits

this is the time to protect
a time to risk
to poet
this is the time to mother
to become curious
this is the time to father
the time to be a child
and listen to the world’s striped
breath
this is the time to caulk blood
and love water

this is the time to build
to speckle and spackle
sorrow and happiness
understanding there was never justice
only enough love to keep the species going
against the constant backdrop of arrogance
this is the time to listen to a porcupine
follow a lizard
this is the time to undress

this is the time to redress
dance to the music of our youth
like we’re still young
accepting our turtle bodies
this is the time to hear our children’s music
this is the time to grow food
and give it away
to see time as a lover,
acrobatic, responsive, calm with familiarity
always uncertain
this is the time to reconcile
and this is the time to expect more
conquer less
this is the time to end torture
(and war)
to stop believing that because things have been
they must continue to be

this is the time for garlic
and a new Jerusalem
this is the time to distinguish between cruelty and absence
and not to be absent or silent
in the face of the intolerable
this is the time to insist
the time to become whole
and give back what you’ve learned in wholeness
eyelid of light
a disciplined gift of pure grace
for anyone who can breathe and for those
whose breath was stolen or just left them

this is the time to make maps to end hunger of the belly
language to fill hunger of the heart
this is the time to starve
the invader and
turn history back into a prose poem
this is a time to recognize the fuzzy lines –
lack of clarity is not indifference
a time to discern not judge
this is the time for storytelling
sad and defiant and laughing tongues
holding forth about bamboo and the miracle of living things
as well as the inevitable and what appears to be mundane
this is a time to dare being sappy and silly
to fill buckets with endless
alliterative lines replacing cellphones
and instant message

leading towards
lemon verbena
or a flat shining dawn over the spiral sea
to hold your coffee cup
in your hand as you walk into day
smoky java musk
and heartbreak
swirling before you
and behind you

this is a time for jasmine
to construct schools with plenty of light and paint
led by adults who love children more than state exams
this is a time to stare into the prison abyss
write songs
with wrinkled eyes and cayenne lips
this is the time for loving ghosts and fathers
who talk through their ashes
in farmland and film
to let bad ghosts hang out too
until they realize there’s no place for them and leave

this is the time to remember the future
like lentil soup
adding one at a time, each ingredient,
a piece of the possible, the savory — cilantro,
rosemary
seasoning according to the tastes of those you love
this is a time to recount the words of favorite writers
and laborers
and find the words of writers you’ve never heard of
painted onto walls and train cars
anywhere
books hidden in dusty shelves
in small villages surrounded by birds and possum
this is the time to remake a family
and make dinner

this is the time for atheists to pray and zealots to let go
to marvel at the way a sea lion
gets lost on the shore, nods
then waddles back to the waves,
and smile with the realization that the world is not yet
coming to an end
but not become complacent
this is the time to suck out the garbage, all the plastic bags
suffocating salt whispers and ocean roars,
the hump of life
to gasp at the sight of a 5 ton whale
its perfect shining arc
white tipped lime green fin extension
proving there is a form of life whose
structure and purpose remain exquisite

this is the time to twang country music, skit skat jazz
and reach for aria’s in languages you may never understand
this is a time to be with animals
and remember when you were an animal
lying in a field in the warm horse snort
newly cut grass turning to hay
the sweetest tonic

this is a time to intervene in matters
of bureaucratic pain and idiocy
and not accept the appropriate
a time to make small things matter
and imagine big things
this is a time to turn the faucet off
and rain poems

June 2008 SeaChange Cottage, Provincetown Mass

Kathy Engel is a poet, cultural worker, producer, and creative and strategic consultant for peace, human rights, and social justice groups. She is the co-founder and founder of numerous organizations including MADRE and Riptide Communications. She is the author of Banish The Tentative and Ruth’s Skirts, and teaches at NYU.