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Why I Write Today

I come home singing with the last night
and the first morning star
~Natalie Goldberg, from her poem Top of My Lungs


This morning I ask myself why I still write poems and if it's worth the time. But I know that poetry is part of my story. Words inside my lungs, part of the millions of alveoli. I breathe in words, and exhale them in sentences cottoned together as clouds that don't need to be explained. Someone will gaze at the clouds I breathe out and feel enveloped. Sending out poems to get published is one of the stumbling blocks of my life. Other poets have persistence but I peter out, return to myself and leave the breathing words in my notebook. Finished, unfinished, asleep, poems dreaming of attention. In 5th grade I wrote a Christmas poem at the behest of our teacher, desperate to make the lines rhyme and be chosen for publication in our 2-page school newspaper. No, I didn't win that one heroic spot of words typed and read aloud in class. It wasn't me. I was left dying…

Finding The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates in Chicago

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The Beautiful Struggle. An eloquent title for a coming-of-age memoir by someone who grew up in Baltimore during the Crack epidemic in the 1980s, an epidemic that we now know was cruelly engineered by a powerful team--the CIA and the Contras in Nicaragua--to take down urban Black America.

The original reporter who brought this information to light in 1996, Gary Webb, was discredited by The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times after his investigation appeared in the San Jose Mercury News. His journalism career was ruined, and the truth about crack in America wasn't fully revealed until after Webb took his life by suicide in 2004.

A survivor of this epidemic who was raised, along with six siblings, during this time tells his personal story and the story of his family in his book The Beautiful Struggle: Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Even though Coates is well known for his most recent book Between the World and Me, as well as his writing for The Atlantic, I chose to read

The Personal is Still Political

The personal is political. This phrase keeps rushing along the river of my brain, then finds itself at a standstill on placid lake water beneath black clouds. My work as a psychotherapist means that I'm reminded daily how the new U.S. president's divisive and cruel rhetoric reverberates and affects women who have been disrespected, harrassed and sexually abused. How people of color, the LGBTQ community and immigrants feel even more threatened and frightened than they felt before. And how some white people are content thinking that this new regime is going to take care of them and put others in their place.

I'll be honest: There are some days when I don't know how to contain my own fears and fatigue, and I want to hibernate.  I want to run from helping others in pain and from what my country is becoming. I want to give in because it's too hard to see and feel the good.

But I take some deep breaths and remember that the commander in chief's racism, misogyny, lie…