How To Protest

What I need you to understand is the way the early morning light reaching across the water teased the surfaces of their brown skin, dancing among the cells and nerve-endings warm and glistening, as they stood waist deep in the gulf, bodies clothed in t-shirts with the sleeves cut off, fishing hats, and glory.

What I need you to understand are the tender boys of nine or ten, all legs and arms, bed head and board shorts, all seriousness and longing to be old enough, their hands skilled enough with sinkers and hooks someday, but not today, so they are wading out with the men, nets in hand to be a part.

What I need you to understand are the mothers and the littles, sitting in the beds of pick-ups backed up to the ocean with make-shift sun umbrellas, long black hair pulled back, and the way tenderness sounds in Spanish, and the dimples by the smile and the pudgy hands of a tiny girl waving to me with a water-winged arm.

What I need you to understand are the fish in schools, darting through the currents as the waves lift their frills to show their secrets, and the big ones leaping from the water after bugs in the air, and the ways they transgress every border, coming from the deeps past the edges of “our waters,” transgressing into the shallows, and how every catch is grace, every meal a witness to mystery and met hopes.

What I need you to understand is the mid-life couple in all their clothes sitting in the tide, his white and blue striped shirt, her sundress riding the waves, his drooping hat and her smile as I walked by, my “you look wonderful – that looks wonderful” met with a “Si, si!”

What I need you to understand is the young brown woman in her bikini, baby bump of five or six months, with the sun kissing her belly over and over, obsessed as it is with her beautiful fecundity, and the way contentment looks all spread out through her smile and her body sprawled in the sand, waves rolling over her feet, her legs, again and again.

What I need you to understand is the man with the long braid, loose strands in the breeze, and his full beard, the edges silvering a little, and the two women with him, one hanging on his every word and the other collecting small shells in a green bucket, as I followed him close enough to join, quietly matching my footsteps to his in the sand, wondering if he might be on the way to make breakfast on the beach.

What I need you to understand is that there are protests which are parasitic upon the human penchant for despair in times like these, even (or especially) parading as hope, fueled by worthy honest rage which will even still, righteousness be damned, eat away the soul and leave you with only the wrong misbegotten questions which given enough power, will crush you.

What I need you to understand is that beauty is not mere fancy, a frothy dessert, a bit of indulgence, but is your very life force pressing through your veins, the voice begging you to keep going, the nutrient your soul needs most for health, and on some days, the only reason to keep going.

What I need you to understand is that this too is justice, this too is protest, this too moves us forward, this back of the hand to despair by visioning heaven on earth, this attention to the morning, this praise of the light transfiguring the bodies which stand at the wild edges between sand and surf, land and sea, here and there, us and not us.

What I need you to understand is that you too are human, you too have limits, you too can only be burdened by so much weight of the world before it begins to erase you from the land of the living, leaving you as a ghost haunted by tellings and visions of the unthinkable you bore witness to.

What I need you to understand is how worthy you are of beauty.

One thought on “How To Protest

  1. Yes. Your words remind me so much of a poem by Jack Gilbert “A Brief for the Defense” that I’ve come back to time and again as the work gets hard, unbearable. Yours are even more beautiful. I will save them for the next time I lose the point of the struggle. Thank you.


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