Grasping at Straws

Grasping at Straws

The thing is, unless you change, nothing changes.”— Jose Mujica Cordano

“It’s easy,” you tell your niece, showing her how to manage
the simplest task, baby steps and all that, perhaps how to form
her first question, her first double-u, perhaps how to maintain
the fire in the grate, perhaps later to count out her monthly
medicine. So she looks at you askance, and all children should,
and all anyone younger than we are, whatever our age, should,
when we skip the leastmost precaution. As if we had said,
“We’ll risk it this time—OK with everyone if we run the red light
for once? If we let the baby use the Roundup?” No. It’s the scoffing
reduction, the bravado, which centers us in the ego’s bubble
as though our great-grandchildren are too far away just now,
as though they are on the edge of mind like China, like
Argentina (what is the capital of Argentina, anyway? I always
loved that name, arguros, argentum, argentine, so far off)
how strangely usual to have one’s land named by aliens—
Are you getting this? You’re at baby steps and you resent it.
Now think of it from her perspective. It’s nothing. It’s a straw,
well a plastic straw. It’s a knife, well a plastic knife.
And where will she keep 18,000 plastic knives as she
goes on living her life this way and that way and this,
just as you showed her in your story about responsible
adults? And when? When ever will then breed now?


Harold Ackerman retired from teaching English and ESOL to concentrate on writing and making photographic art.  He has poetry at The Museum of Poetry and photography at Brushfire Literature and Arts and has published a collection of poems and photos, February 2.

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