Let’s travel together back in time a couple of weeks…
So, then, in a flash of official paperwork and the tired eyes of a government official at the edge of a compulsory furlough I became a US Citizen. A tortuous path of stacks and stacks of forms requiring me to repeatedly detail every country I’ve ever visited since before cable TV and expound on intricacies like marriage dates of wives long since divorced.
It was slightly unnerving to hand over my precious ten year Green Card in exchange for a rather pedestrian sticky label in which my allocated seat number for the Citizenship Ceremony had been written in black Sharpie. We filed in, the ‘guy’ pronounced my middle name, “Paul” wrongly no less than twice before getting it right, a feat I didn’t think possible, had some speeches and then we all stood and took the solemn oath and pledged allegiance to our new national flag and the republic for which it stands. It was, as they say here, freaking awesome.
It was the culmination of a day of remaining calm after my morning appointment for the compulsory immigration interview and US Civics test. I had about a twenty minute wait after I arrived, glowing and inwardly panicking before my name was called. With barely one foot inside the tiny office I was told not to sit and remain standing whilst I swore to tell the truth. Thankfully that was the last time anyone from the USCIS or State Department have ever given me that kind of penetrating glare. Oath of Truth done, we reviewed the information on the official forms, seemingly corrected some minor date issues (they got the chronology of my first and second wives reversed) and then after a few subtle conversational questions to make sure I was on the level we went on to the Civics test. Which I aced.
After a bit of computer prodding I was told that I would be recommended for citizenship but reminded that I would not be a citizen until I had a chance to complete the Oath Ceremony. “There’s an Oath Ceremony being held here this afternoon if you’re able to attend”.
So I did. What’s more my wife and my daughter were able to be there with me too as I became an American.
Now, a few weeks later, my US passport has arrived and my voter registration has been enabled so I get to have my say next week, for the first time in the US, on some key things like mayors and propositions and other such ephemera. Just like everyone else…
Lots of poetry going on. Good things. A few anthologies coming out this year, plus there is a plan to release another book of my own stuff too.
Oh, and, a small thing, I’m about to become a US citizen (assuming I don’t flunk the Civics Test) 😉
But then, a week is a long time in poetry.
We were out delivering Thanksgiving meals as part of this: We went last year and, as this year, it is such a humbling experience and yet so fantastic to say “Happy Thanksgiving” to someone and hand them a huge turkey, a case of water and a box full of ‘fixings’ (accompaniments like stuffing and gravy) – all for free.One area had a whole bunch of people with the hoods of their cars propped up and wires going from the batteries through their windows – and this is how they get their electricity; several houses powering their homes by their car batteries – not in an emergency or because of power failures, floods or storms but as an *everyday thing*. Not one, not all – but many. I didn’t see any satellite dishes, air conditioning or pools but then the area actually barely had more than a clearing in the grit amongst the houses to call a road. I have no idea how they make it through the frigid beating they must get from your average Nebraskan winter.Shame on me for closing my eyes to the fact that this happens. Walking up to several houses where it was difficult to find the house because it looked like no house was there in amongst debris, was made from the debris, was patched together from a multitude of planks and offcuts. People who would hobble to the door. People who were clearly on their own and really needed not to be. Other people who apparently lived in abject poverty amongst huge houses with a fleet of cars parked here and there in front against the ramshackle backdrop of an unkempt driveway of the person who rushed outside after putting his turkey inside and shouted to us “have a blessed day, thank you, thank you” as we tucked ourselves back into our car.
When you see this and more, as we did today, you realize that real life can be a very unequal existence even in a city full of joie de vivre and that you are (and should be), indeed, very thankful for small mercies.
The Kooks are out in the streets….
Then, when I heard my dad crying over the death of his cat, I realized I was more of a hard-ass than he ever was…and that was a bad thing.
Cast thine light mysteriously,
cast thine light mysteriously
tiny celestial body
One doth verily ponder what manner of body
Yonder in the nether reaches of ye heav’ns
mightily thither at height beyond mine grasp
where thou rests, a glassy jewel
abed in a nocturne’s clasp.
(Incidentally, I meant this as a little joke – my ‘real’ poetry can be found at www.omahapoet.com)
So, oddly, I found myself this morning thinking about the controversial nature of god. Or..God..as some might prefer it to be represented.
For example, I wondered if my big Golden Retriever – who appears to be profoundly philosophical about many things, especially when staring into the wind, nose raised to the currents of unsmelled morning odor – I wondered if she ever thinks about dying. Or even if she has a concept of death or that there can be an inconvenient time for death to arrive or that it even arrives rather than just…is.
The main thing is if she does believe or understand death then I wonder if she also has a thought for what that actually means to her personally? If something dies, what does she think happens? Then this leads to another question – does she believe that death is..It, finite, terminal, The End. Or does she believe that there is something more?
If there is more..could there be a doggy heaven or a doggy hell? If there is a dog heaven/hell then could there be a dog god and dog devil?
Outwardly it appears that she is fairly black or white on most things where life’s questions for her seem to fit into a fairly limited set of categories, I judge this mainly by her actions – What does it smell like? Can I / Should I eat it? Will it kill / injure me? Is it a human? (Top on her list of bounce-to-it-quickly-hug-it loves) Is it a car? (Cars carry humans, humans are her favorite hobby ergo cars = bounce-along-the-road-next-to-it-love things). Grass is one of her other concerns – mainly, where is precisely the right spot to..erm..’unload the cargo’. This takes a lot of searching and changing-of-mind and is clearly more complicated than I had anticipated.
She does seem very mellow and happy though. I just can’t work out if that means dog god exists or not.
It’s odd for me to cast my mind back to England. British TV programmes that people rave about on Facebook are a mystery to me; British weather forecasts seem shockingly cold (it was 0c in the UK last Friday whilst we walking around in shorts and 32C sunshine). It’s weird how your memory can’t remember if you had to wear a jumper in May in England. Then of course there’s the fact that I no longer say “jumper” to talk about a “pullover” since a “jumper” is a little girl’s school dress. The same language, used differently. I get annoyed about UK prejudices toward America and American misunderstandings of British ‘ways’. I would say it makes me mad – but then that does not make sense here where you must instead say “it makes me cross”. Mad people are…well, crazy people…although, confusingly, crazy people are cross. It’s a wonder I manage to understand a word people say sometimes.
It was a long letter…sometimes saying “no” nicely requires it.