Writing the Apocalypse: The Breaks

View from a New Paltz porch. | Photo by Puma Perl

“Writing the Apocalypse” is a weekly series featuring the poems, essays, and recollections of Puma Perl, with subject matter influenced by her experiences as a NYC resident during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Breaks | BY PUMA PERL

Sometimes, you just need a break.

I drive upstate.

 

The writer on the trail. | Photo Lauren Smilowitz

On 87, just past Newburgh,

an SUV passes me, horn blaring,

Trump banners waving.

 

My hands shake on the wheel.

 

In New Paltz,

we walk on trails and over trestles,

watch the debate, watch movies.

I rant at the inaccuracies

of the Chicago 7 film.

 

History turned “30-Something”

and “This is Us”.

 

Bobby Seale, a Black man,

bound and gagged

in a United States courtroom.

This is true. It really happened.

 

He was denied counsel after

his lawyer became ill.

His courtroom crime was insisting

upon his right to cross examine a witness.

This is true. It really happened.

 

He never said “Fuck you” to the judge,

as the movie claimed.

Fred Hampton was not yet murdered.

His death triggered no outburst.

In fact, it was not an outburst,

it was a demand for justice,

it was racism,

it was violence orchestrated

by an appointed justice.

In black robes.

Like the ones that now adorn

the Handmaid from Hell.

The writer’s pillowcase banner. | Photo by Puma Perl

Adding dramatic twists to the truth

denies the reality, revises history.

 

And there’s more. So much more.

 

But this is not about that.

 

On the way back,

driving down the FDR,

a change in traffic flow;

a Trump cavalcade of trucks

appears on the northbound side,

en route to a rally.

 

The drivers ahead of me

slowed down momentarily,

probably in shock, as I was.

And in fear.

Like when I saw the flags

on the highway.

 

Once safely home,

I look out my window

and notice a Trump banner

in a neighboring building.

Flapping in the breeze.

 

That’s all I see every time I look out.

It’s obliterated the sky,

the bridge, the river, the trees.

 

The following day,

I grab a pillowcase

and write “Black Lives Matter”

with a sharpie

and hang it over the sill.

 

It waves freely

at the flapping Trump.

 

Afterward, I walk to the polling site.

It’s embarrassing to admit,

or maybe it’s not,

but I almost cried

The author’s child, after she voted. | Photo by Juliet Sasha

watching the ballot disappear

into the scanner,

and reading the message

assuring me that

I’ve voted successfully.

 

I had an urge to hug

every poll worker,

every person waiting on line,

everyone on the Lower East Side

except whoever lives

on the fifth floor in Building 6.

 

It was an impulse that I couldn’t define

until I realized it stemmed from a feeling

that’s become almost foreign.

 

I’m not sure, but I think it’s called “hope.”

 

© puma perl, 10/28/20

Puma Perl is a poet and writer, with five solo collections in print. The most recent is Birthdays Before and After (Beyond Baroque Books, 2019.) She is the producer/creator of Puma’s Pandemonium, which brings spoken word together with rock and roll, and she performs regularly with her band Puma Perl and Friends. She’s received three New York Press Association awards in recognition of her journalism, and is the recipient of the 2016 Acker Award in the category of writing. Her most recent books can be found by clicking here.                                                           

 

 

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