by Rachael on July 4, 2017

The text on the sign I carried during the Women’s March on NYC in January baffled some people. It’s based on the opening of the first of Thomas Paine’s Crisis pamphlets:

These are the times that try men’s [sic] souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

It was a column by Charles Blow, in which he quoted Samuel Adams (“If ever the Time should come, when vain & aspiring Men shall possess the highest Seats in Government, our Country will stand in Need of its experiencd Patriots to prevent its Ruin”), that inspired my wish to embrace the word patriot. It is not a comfortable embrace. What is it that I say I love when I say that I love my country? I wonder sometimes if it’s only the purported ideals of this nation that I love (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [sic] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”), while its actual people infuriate me.

My fury became clear to me when I understood the reasons for my disappointment in the results of the GA-06 special election. Why do people vote for the candidate who actually says, “I don’t believe in a livable wage”? How exactly do people expect people to live with no livable wage, no affordable health care, no affordable child/elder care, no safety net whatsoever? What kind of democracy is possible when so many in the demos do not actually believe in or care about the unalienable rights of all people?

The Founding Fathers themselves certainly were not faithful to their own grandiose claims — at least not as we understand those ideals today. What good have those ideals nevertheless made possible in this world? And to what violence have those ideals given cover? These are among the questions I ask as I consider this word patriot.


On Doing the Undone Things

by Rachael on June 6, 2017

There is so much that I have neglected to do (letters I should have written, poems I want to finish, things I ought to give away or throw away or find a place for in my home, in my life) because to do these things would be to trigger anxiety. The undone things settle around me like sediment at the bottom of a pond — the gunk and dead leaves I don’t want to touch with the bottoms of my feet.

I don’t want to live like this, in the midst of gunk I can’t stand to touch, but just to begin to take care of the undone things is to stir things up. What had been tamped-down anxiety becomes anxiety that I wade through, that I breathe, that runs like static through my veins.

But just to begin seems to be the worst part. I find that I actually can wade through the anxiety, breathe it in, and find an opening. The energy of the anxiety is transformed into a kind of buoyancy, sometimes even exuberance.

And the only way to get to that opening is to go through the barrier — again, and again, and again.

Photo credit: Ehud Neuhaus


On My Mind: WTF Is Happening to My Country

June 1, 2017

These days my pinned tweet says “WTF is happening to my country is the biggest open loop draining my psyche rn,” and recently I found myself wasting so much time trying to close this loop that I’ve set up the Freedom app so that I cannot look at social media or the news for most […]

Read the full article →

Still Little

May 16, 2017

Recently, when I told someone how old my kids are, she exclaimed, “They’re still little!” Her response surprised me, because now that the days of nursing, naps, and diapers are long behind us, my boys don’t seem so little to me anymore. I’m glad to have been reminded that though they have grown, they are […]

Read the full article →

#FridayReads: The Federalist Papers

January 20, 2017

“It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men [sic] are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for […]

Read the full article →


October 28, 2016

“The frantumaglia is an unstable landscape,” she writes, “an infinite aerial or aquatic mass of debris that appears to the I, brutally, as its true and unique inner self. The frantumaglia is the storehouse of time without the orderliness of a history, a story. The frantumaglia is an effect of the sense of loss, when […]

Read the full article →

How I Spent the Kids’ Summer Vacation

September 6, 2016

Through the first week of August, the kids went to camp while at home or the public library I struggled to focus on my work. In my free time, instead of reading books, I scrolled through my Twitter feed, seeking some kind of inspiration and (foolishly) reassurance about the future of our country. This tweet […]

Read the full article →


April 21, 2016

I dream of the perfect container, or holding space, for my idiosyncratic, freelancing poet’s life. This container would comprise a spacious, orderly home and predictable routine, and (I imagine) it would grant me a more placid soul. The dream makes sense, given the chaos in which everyday life typically plays out in our home. I […]

Read the full article →

Three Views of Housekeeping

March 24, 2016

1. When one keeps house, what is kept is a boundary between society and nature. Inside is civilization and order; outside is wilderness and chaos. Thus when I say that I want my family and I to take better care of our home, is it because I want to disavow the parts of myself that […]

Read the full article →

To Keep Me from Forgetting

March 22, 2016

Though I love the sunlit evenings of spring and summer, the adjustment to Daylight Savings Time is always more exhausting than I think it ought to be. This year the change wore me out, and on Sunday I greeted spring with a head cold. As I often do when I’m feeling overwhelmed, last week I […]

Read the full article →