Episode XXXII of "The Events of Election '08," a series of spoken word works by Mike Varley covering the 2008 campaign. For more entries and entertainment, visit mikevarley.com.
“On Election Night and Day”
I am an old, black woman from Macon, Georgia on a sworn mission from God. I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. My Lord rubbed my feet soft at the dawn of the morning and told me I had good work to do.
Mr. Peterson took the day off from cooking and drove a van to pick us old folk up. ‘Course, it used to be Little Richie Peterson, but he’s a fine young man now; baby names don’t suit him.
We got to the school where my own children went. It’s a terrible place of crucified dreams. My Lord gives me strength.
I pulled shut the curtains and stood in that booth, afraid I’d do something wrong. I read and reread the instructions to make sure everything was right. My Lord gives me strength.
I stayed up past midnight for the first time in maybe twenty years. The way he talks fills me like warm bread. Sometimes I smile just at the thought of him. I’m proud as though I grew him in my garden.
I bought the paper for my husband gone on up to heaven; I put it on his chair and felt his love beside me. Some things aren’t worth celebrating alone. Some dreams only find you once you’re sleeping.
They said the nation wasn’t ready and it wasn’t. No one’s prepared when the wind sweeps through. You have to grasp this country at the shoulders – look into its eyes. Past the wriggling, past the laughter; past the anger, past the fear. Look into its eyes till you see your acceptance, and in that moment you’ve changed the world.
My Lord gives me strength. He heals my sorrows and brightens my joys and I will do his good work to the end of my days.
I am a twenty-four year old American in the center of Times Square and I stand here long past Two-Seventy. I spent the day hanging posters for a website no one will visit – a tall, lonely shadow for the tourists to exhibit. Champagne skies ignite around me with chants of his fairy tale name, and Romance buys some street meat and settles in next to me.
Untold thousands staring at subtitles on the television scene, huddled together, wanting to be together for the electric buzz of so many people switched on at once. Standing in the world-torch of 42nd Street, desperately hoarding the moment in the scrapbooks of their senses. The smell of subway water and the touch of other bodies, the passing cars creeping through clogged arteries and the folks that call their mothers.
I daydream historical screenplays from 2108 where cell phone photos seem like tin types and YouTube uploads are flip book hindsight. And maybe my children will ask me, too, or maybe just somebody’s child. Ask me what it was like that night? “It was great,” with a nod and a smile.
They will never puncture this moment, never know its true flavor. And we will seem like pleasant fools at the nursing home table, drawing droughts from our memories to keep ourselves warm and saving the whiskey for another birthday.
But I’m not aged or infirmed or even depleted. I am twenty-four years old and these bones are lengthy and proud, with a box full of horizons yet to sort through and a disposition cloudless of doubt.
“Young and stupid” I grinned aloud, and the nearest five people grinned with me.