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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "A Two-Way Street"

This poem is spillover from the January 21, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from rhodielady_47 and lb_lee.  It also fills the "FREE SPACE: parade" square on my 10-6-13 card for the Origfic Bingo fest.  This poem has been sponsored by janetmiles.  It belongs to the series Walking the Beat.




A Two-Way Street


The spring scandal had been, sadly,
a familiar example of the challenges
that plagued the Boston area police.
Dale and Kelly expected it to blow over,
as such things usually did.

As spring turned into summer, though,
an undercurrent of tension remained,
strumming through Jamaica Plain.

People didn't talk to Officer Long
as freely as they had before,
even though he was cleared of suspicion
and the officers actually in collusion
with the drug lords had been held accountable.

Even Dale found herself getting a cool reception
more often, despite her retirement.
People knew that she still felt a connection
to the local police force.
It didn't happen all the time --
some people still asked her for help --
but the occasional hitch and catch of it
bothered Dale, like stepping on a shoelace.

Kelly frowned over the subtle changes
in body language and proximity.
By July, her patience was wearing thin.
We need to do something about this,
she signed, and Dale nodded agreement,
but neither of them could think of any ideas
beyond what they were already doing.

It was Eryn who suggested a solution,
during a Peace Meeting on community activism.
"Somerville holds this parade called Honk!
where marching bands come to entertain people,"
she said to Dale.  "You and Officer Long
both like the buskers around here.
Maybe they'd help us put together
a little parade to boost community ties."

Dale perked up.  "You mean something
combining police and civilian performers?"
she said.  "That might just work.
Boston has the Gaelic Column;
I bet they'd be glad to come."

"Yeah, we could invite some of the people
who do the Jamaica Plain Music Festival,
and talk to the Street Arts & Buskers Advocates,"
Eryn said.  "They'll know who marches,
and who'd rather ride in a pickup truck."

Ask the Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit,
Kelly signed. If they come, we should also get
folks who want to bring back the mounted police.
The horses make a connection with people
.

From there, the plan took root
and began to grow.
Some people loved the idea
and wanted to join the fun.
Others hated it.

"I don't want a bunch of cops
marching through my neighborhood,"
Juste complained.

Darius, a black boy who busked
as a storyteller to raise money for college,
had a different perspective.
"Brotherhood is a two-way street," he said.
"If I don't hold out a hand to the cops,
why should they care about me?"
Darius performed everything from
African folktales and Uncle Remus
to the Just-So Stories and modern comedy,
mostly with morals about getting along.

It started small, but it grew,
and everyone was surprised
by how much momentum it gained.

Someone in the Jamaica Plain department
had cousins in New Orleans who came up
with their entire krewe to build a float
and then march around it.

Johnny Long was no musician,
but his Falun Gong group heard of the parade
and insisted on performing a routine.

By August when the parade was scheduled to begin,
over a dozen organizations had volunteered,
along with numerous individuals,
despite the relatively short notice.

The park mounties led the parade,
carrying the flag on its tall eagle-winged staff,
stars and stripes snapping merrily in the breeze.

Behind them came the Gaelic Column
dressed in their vivid plaid kilts
with pipes shrilling and drums beating,
then the New Orleans krewe
on and around their colorful float,
some of them dancing with umbrellas.

From the Honk! festival came
several activist marching bands,
a pair of stiltwalkers, and fans in chicken hats.
The Shriners piled out of and then back into
an unbelievably tiny clown car.

There too were the Falun Gong practitioners,
some in glossy gold uniforms that shimmered
as they moved through slow exercises,
and a group of pink-robed women who danced
with pastel lotus flowers in their hands.

The buskers included all sorts of musicians --
a fiddler, an accordion player, several guitarists --
along with jugglers and other performance artists.
The mime kept running into walls, falling down holes,
and tripping over invisible obstacles.

A girl with tousled blond hair balanced a sketchbook
on her knees as she drew scenes from the parade.
The air smelled richly of barbecue where a restaurant
had brought out a portable grill and a whole hog,
sweetened with notes of cotton candy and spiced nuts.

Dale and Kelly watched the whole parade
from a friend's porch, and afterwards
they went down to get barbecue sandwiches
and ice cream cones for dessert
from a truck that Eryn pointed out to them.

The buskers had scattered to settle down
in places where they could put out a hat.
Dale and Kelly passed Darius
doing a three-way argument amongst
Br'er Rabbit, Bugs Bunny, and Nanabozho
as to who was the best trickster.

The atmosphere wasn't perfect,
but it was much improved,
and they caught a glimpse of Johnny Long
half-buried in a throng of gold and pink uniforms.

Now and then Dale would see
someone she knew from her old job,
a quick bittersweet twinge of recognition.
Dale smiled and waved at them,
and held Kelly a little closer.

This was their place now,
weaving themselves into the community,
encouraging people to connect with each other,
because understanding was also a two-way street.

* * *

Notes:

"I believe in the brotherhood of all men, but I don't believe in wasting brotherhood on anyone who doesn't want to practice it with me. Brotherhood is a two-way street."
-- Malcolm X

"Understanding is a two-way street."
-- Eleanor Roosevelt

Read about the Honk! Festival of Activist Street Bands.

The Gaelic Column is a Boston police band.

Browse the Jamaica Plain Music Festival.

The Street Arts & Buskers Advocates aims to keep cities safe and accessible for the performing arts.

The Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit still exists, although the Boston Police Department Mounted Unit was closed due to budget cuts.  Efforts are underway to restore it.  Horses offer advantages of going where a police car won't fit, giving officers a height and weight advantage in a crowd, and making a connection with people under peaceful circumstances.  The Philadelphia Police Department is fighting to keep their horses.  Mounted police have assisted in many community projects such as working with disabled children, and retired police horses sometimes become therapy mounts.

A krewe is a group of people who build floats for New Orleans parades, and sometimes travel elsewhere in the off season.

Falun Gong is an Asian religion that gets a lot of persecution.  They sometimes perform in parades, so I'm borrowing a lot from an example I saw once.  Watch a video of another Falun Gong performance.

Stiltwalkers are popular in parades too.  Shriners are famous for their clown car acts, among other things.

Trickster figures appear in many cultures, often as rabbits.  As an entertainment trope, it's "Rascally Rabbit."  You can read more about Br'er Rabbit, Bugs Bunny, and Nanabozho.

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Comments
thnidu From: thnidu Date: February 18th, 2014 04:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I like this a whole lot. Not just the parade, but that it's working.

(Waves to Darius acting out the argument among the tricksters.)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 18th, 2014 04:15 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> Oh, I like this a whole lot. <<

Yay!

>> Not just the parade, but that it's working. <<

Serious problems often cannot be fixed quickly and easily. But they can usually be improved, and if people put diligent effort into solving them, it tends to happen eventually. A community is a relationship, and relationships do not just "happen." They take work to establish and maintain. There will be problems; people will upset each other; and it will be a pain in the neck to fix. If you care about your community, you will do that work. Then you have a nice place to live, and when things go wrong, neighbors have the habit of doing something about it instead of standing around with their thumbs up their butts. This matters.

>> (Waves to Darius acting out the argument among the tricksters.) <<

*Darius waves back.*
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: February 18th, 2014 05:32 am (UTC) (Link)
:)

I think you mean "Somerville" rather than "Somerset", as you seem to be using real events and geography.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 19th, 2014 01:54 am (UTC) (Link)

Fixed!

>> I think you mean "Somerville" rather than "Somerset", <<

Got it, thanks.

>> as you seem to be using real events and geography. <<

Primarily, yes, although some are imaginary.
From: technoshaman Date: February 18th, 2014 06:32 am (UTC) (Link)
HA! Trickster fight! Oooooooh, that Darius, I hope he knows what's coming... eventually those bunnies are gonna figure out who's encouraging them to fight, and he's gonna have a Wile E moment... :)

Yay for community building. Especially with music. We're starting to do that here, small-scale. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 18th, 2014 06:50 am (UTC) (Link)

*laugh*

>> HA! Trickster fight! Oooooooh, that Darius, I hope he knows what's coming... eventually those bunnies are gonna figure out who's encouraging them to fight, and he's gonna have a Wile E moment... :) <<

Yeah, that'd be a riot.

>> Yay for community building. Especially with music. We're starting to do that here, small-scale. :) <<

I hope it works out for you. I think the world needs more attention to community building.
lb_lee From: lb_lee Date: February 18th, 2014 06:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, Somerville is what has Honk!

Also, I am irrationally pleased that you kept the chicken hats.

--Rogan
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 18th, 2014 07:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> Yeah, Somerville is what has Honk! <<

Fixed.

>> Also, I am irrationally pleased that you kept the chicken hats. <<

They were funny. You folks did a great job of describing fun parade things.
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: February 18th, 2014 06:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wonderful! I'm glad the parade helped, and kudos to Dale and Kelly for helping organize it - that's a huge job.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 18th, 2014 07:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

>> Wonderful! I'm glad the parade helped, and kudos to Dale and Kelly for helping organize it - that's a huge job. <<

Yeah, it's a lot of work, but not so bad when you spread it over a bunch of volunteers.

I'm glad you liked this poem.
siege From: siege Date: February 19th, 2014 06:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

On Falun Gong

Here's an except from one of my files containing "farmemory" recall on martial arts:

Gong Qi Do: A martial art based on curves (not circles), supposedly dead for at least 500 years. It is one of the most _balancing_ martial arts I know of.

* Some forms of it have survived! Distorted, mixed, but present on Earth. Gong falun is one of these.


There are three basic stances: Mountain, which is a solid resting stance, stable side to side; Air or Wind, which is an active and forceful forward-focused stance using open hands, stable front to back; and Water, which is a twisting and flowing stance for redirecting energies using curved hands, stable diagonally. Fists are used exclusively for power strikes, often as a follow-up to a preparatory maneuver (such as blocking with a hand, then striking to break one's opponent's flow).
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 19th, 2014 06:42 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: On Falun Gong

That's pretty cool. Force-based martial arts can be very powerful. It's one reason I admire Aikido.
siege From: siege Date: February 19th, 2014 07:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: On Falun Gong

From what I've managed to reconstruct, it's about half force and half flow, half energy and half physical, sort of what you'd get if you mixed Tai Chi, Judo, Shotokan, and Aikido. I haven't managed to recall much of the spiritual philosophy, just a touch of the practical commentary ("Human bones are straight where we move. The only curved bones we have are enclosing, protective. Yet if one becomes gracefully curved, one may step out of danger and create openings for action." and Destruction is the way of the warrior, peace the way of the servant of Truth, balance the way of the artist. So one must be all three in order to succeed.), so I'm not sure precisely where the schools used to lie.

That said, I've found that I used a variety of techniques from various martial arts, not all of them of human origin. For example, there's a balancing exercise I've used where I hold my hands out low by my sides while bicycling or otherwise balancing in motion, palms down toward the earth, which helps enhance my energy senses and physical centering since it relies more on proprioception and energy balance than on center of gravity and mechanical balance. I recall that one as a metheow self-awareness exercise taught to Ak'nash raur'd ("Blood of Ak'nash", natural berserkers), usually practiced while walking a balance beam or equivalent. It works best when also practicing steady breath and inner focus, and often fails when one is out of tune with oneself or being actively unbalanced by something.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 19th, 2014 07:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: On Falun Gong

>> For example, there's a balancing exercise I've used where I hold my hands out low by my sides while bicycling or otherwise balancing in motion, palms down toward the earth, which helps enhance my energy senses and physical centering since it relies more on proprioception and energy balance than on center of gravity and mechanical balance. <<

Oh, I do that, but I add a factor in terms of pushing off the gravitic field of the Earth. Same thing when I'm snow-walking, only I hold my hands higher and aim to spread out the force of my weight, kind of like energy snowshoes.
siege From: siege Date: February 19th, 2014 08:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

On Rabbit as Trickster

Took me a while, but I finally found something I wrote in 2010 as part of a multi-part post: Rabbit's Shadow. See, Rabbit can throw his shadow to confuse the hunters, but then he has to steal it back. So what happens when Rabbit gets caught anyway?
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