• Mel Jones

A Woman Without a Country (library angel)

Originally posted April 2017

Many years ago I was so innocent I still considered it possible that we could become the humane and reasonable America so many members of my generation dreamed of. We dreamed of such an America…and we fought and often died for that dream…” (Kurt Vonnegut, 2005, pg 71).

Oh, Kurt, I miss ya. A voice of comfort; a voice that I echo in all my sorrow. I too was innocent. Bad things happen, you pick yourself up and carry on, because it’s a personal moment, from heartbreak to rape. It’s personal. Dust yourself off. The world is a bigger place than that, and I have my country. A place I can always make better.

But I can’t. Can I?

I am active politically, boots on the ground. I am active online, fingers always working the keyboard. Let’s fix this, let’s rise above. But how, Kurt, how do I do that now? Where are the words of wisdom tucked in your wit and charm?

I am a woman without a country. I woke with a Kristofferson tune running through my head:

I’m in the mood that I was born in

And my skin was feeling tight.

Defeated. I am defeated. Trapped in an alternate universe that causes me to want to break out of my very skin.

Alone in a wilderness I don’t recognize. How do I get back to America? At least an America I sort of recognize. At least the place of dreams deferred. A place that held tomorrow’s promise. I don’t know where that is anymore. It’s gone.

And I am still here. Alone. Defeated. That’s how I feel. What can I do? How do I do it? I am surrounded by people who sing the praises of the man in the White House. Who are they? How do they live in my country?

The day the senate changed the rule, went nuclear for the supreme court nominee and bombs were dropped in Syria my country died. No one was hurt, it was a seventy-four-million-dollar show. And my heart broke.


I turned the music up: Cat Stevens, John Prine, Willie Nelson, Billie Holiday, Bruce Springsteen.

Block it out.

But I can’t can I?

Every song talked to me. Every song, another stab in my heart. I tried to find things to be busy: write, do astrology, walk, exercise, take pictures. Be the artist, writer, astrologer; be anything that will make me not political. I cannot find that place. I start thinking about old escapes.

I cannot find my center, for it dwells deep in my soul. I am, at my core, an American. I bristle when people tell me I can’t be a patriot because I am not a veteran. Really? So the man who goes AWOL is a patriot, but someone who has marched, protested, written letters, worked for politicians, volunteered—surely that’s not a patriot!

Shattered. Hands trembling, eyes watering. Frozen in my inability to fix it. Kurt, can ya hear me? Can you be my library angel? If I open this book will the right words jump out at me? …

“Hey, you know, I got some pages. Are you still typing? And she sure is” (57).

Kurt, I hate you! I don’t know the right words to say. I have other things in my life—huge things. Partner stuff. Kid stuff. Friend stuff. Student stuff. Can’t someone else do this now? I don’t have any words left that aren’t tear-stained:

“It so happens that idealism enough for everyone is not made of pink clouds. It is the law! It is the U. S. Constitution” (98).

Oh, Kurt, Kurt, I’m a model—not that sharp. I’m a poet, my words are pretty but not too deep.

“If I were writing about a tragic situation, it wouldn’t be necessary to time it to make sure the things work. You can’t really misfire with a tragic scene. It’s bound to be moving if all the right elements are present” (128).

Damn you, Kurt. You’re good at this library angel thing, aren’t ya?

Youtube: Step! We gaily on we go. Heel for heel and toe for toe. Arm and Arm and row and row.

Ok, so it’s not a political song, but damn it! Kurt stay on the page. Let me wallow!

Arm in arm, row and row — are you out there? Are you with me? Can we do this arm in arm?

“Who was the wisest person I ever met in my entire life?” (134).

You Kurt, you, we’ll talk again.

Vonnegut, Kurt. (2005) A Man Without a Country. New York: Random house.

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