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Last sync:2023-03-09 19:15
Leah Umansky reads her poem "Survival".


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I'm Leah Umansky and I'm going to be reading the poem "Survival" from my book The Barbarous Century.  So "Survival" is sort of the heart of the book, I would say, The Barbarous Century, and it's also the last poem and it's very much a poem about hope, about survival in what could be a very dark time we're living in.  


My whole life I've been the speaker of my poems, but that isn't 
really true.  My voice came late, sympathetic, like a witness, or
a victim.  It was a rescuing impulse: that art.  We were already
groping at each other through the flower-sprayed fields of self-
discovery.  All across this body, I felt I was winning.  I felt the
harshness of promise conspire with the transformation of the story,
my story.  We all have stories, like the way all states have fear.

This is a feared state but we must open the doors of our hearts,
and let the latches fall.  All futures are uncertain.  A brave new
world is one where doom and sight are equivocal.  Look again,
this isn't fiction; we are living this.  

At times, the extraordinary overtakes me.  A kiss, a new book,
a moment of flattery, laughter, or a happy mistake.  The dream,
the scene of the past, and the present are all encounters like
train travel.  The moment passes through us before we register
the scene, but I want to register this.  

I want to remember my hope and my heart.  I want to 
remember the way time skips forward and away, like the 
stunning sight of bird-wings beating, that stirred fascination,
that flutter and art.  Yes, I said art, and it is, even in this pacing
of life we propel ourselves through.

The wild joy is in the speaking.  We must keep speaking.  We
are all in some way depressed, and the undepressed is in the 
imagining of desertion.  The imagining of the next moment,
the next day, the next year, like a rift opening.  Keep looking.
Manipulate that violating.  Manipulate the whirl of your anger
and meld it to what stirs you.

In T.H. White's The Once and Future King, Merlin tells the
young King Arthur, The Wart, that he will someday face all the
evil in the world.  He says, "Learning will never fail you," and I
feel that's good advice.  We are all facing the darkness head-on.

Armor yourself in disruption and creation; that is the way this
will end, in a forward slip into story, in taking the best parts of 
us into a future dawning with art and voice.