Monday, December 13, 2021

Disagreeing with Gandhi

by Bacopa Literary Review 2021 contributor Jessica Barksdale

My poem, "Disagreeing with Gandhi" emerged from an online writing workshop put together by the good folks at Two Sylvias Press.

The prompt asked us to examine a quote, and I found one from Mahatma Gandhi: "You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean. If a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."

At the time, his words did not sit well. Of course, who was I to argue with Gandhi? But it was my feeling that we are all turned from clean to dirty by the acts of a few. Things seemed, at the time, to be going wrong in so many ways: politically, environmentally, personally.

Most pointedly for me was writing about my mother, who continues to slip into a different and new person due to dementia, one who doesn't know who I am. In that way, my connection to her, the world, and the planet seemed to be growing faint. 

My poem lists a number of other wrongs, highlighting the fact that if things are broken, it is our collective fault. I wrote:

Hear the gulls caw
their hunger. Step over
bits of plastic, twists
of dried kelp.

Things are discordant, empty, trashed, but I called for a fix with the last lines: "The ocean is dirty now. / We are all part of the ocean," meaning we are all affected by each other's actions. We are living in "dirty" times, and we have to accept and move onward, together.

As for my mother and my understanding of her and her experience, I keep writing. Recently published in Revolute, my poem "Alice Takes Her Mother to a Funeral" continues my examination of my confused feelings. We are all still in the ocean, swirling together, dirty and living.

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Jessica Barksdale's fifteenth novel, The Play's the Thing, and second poetry collection, Grim Honey, were published in Spring, 2021. Recently retired, she taught at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California for thirty-two years and continues to teach novel writing online for UCLA Extension and in the online MFA program for Southern New Hampshire University. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, she now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband.

 Read Jessica Barksdale's poem and other exciting
Poetry, Prose Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Nonfiction
in Bacopa Literary Review 2021