“It’s a time to fight and a time to take care of ourselves.”
As many are out in the streets demanding justice in defense of Black lives and others find ways to support the struggle at home, we continue with our series AAWW at Home, connecting you to writers we love as they tell us about efforts and causes they are giving in this moment, the art that inspires, and more.
This week, Esmé Weijun Wang, award-winning author of The Collected Schizophrenias and The Border of Paradise, reads the poem “Quarantine” by Eavan Boland (1944-2020) and signal boosts fundraising efforts from two Minnesota-based groups, Reclaim the Block and Black Visions Collective.
Tomorrow, Saturday, June 13, join Esmé alongside R.O. Kwon, T Kira Madden, and Tejal Rao for a crowd cast virtual discussion about their experiences with publishing. The event is a pay-what-you-like fundraiser with proceeds going to The Bail Project, Black Lives Matter, and The Okra Project. Pledge a donation and save your spot here.
Read a transcript of Esmé’s message below.
The following is a transcript of the video above.
Hi, so, I don’t know exactly where to look in this video. I’m going to do my best. My name is Esmé Weijun Wang, and I am a writer. I am the author of a novel called The Border of Paradise and an essay collection called The Collected Schizophrenias. And I’m very glad to be here with you today in these tough times.
How am I caring for myself and other right now? To be honest, I am caring for myself with a lot of Pepto Bismol, that is something that I’m using a lot these days, and I also very recently got an exercise tramploene. So that is something that I have been utilizing a lot.
I’ve been caring for others by checking in with my friends and sending letters through the post.
Art of music that I’ve been seeking out–I have been reading poems, I’ve been reading poems people have been sharing on social media. I am a part of a Slack group that has a channel called Poetry Pals, and we share poetry there.
A cause of organization — there are a lot of them. Some of them are just like cash apps that you can donate to for bail runners or PayPal accounts. But two of them that I have been donating to are Reclaim the Block and Black Visions Donations.
A favorite poem, this one is called “Quaratine” by Evaand Bolan.
In the worst hour of the worst season
of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking—they were both walking—north.
She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.
In the morning they were both found dead.
Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.
Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:
Their death together in the winter of 1847.
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.
And at the very end of this I just wanted to tell you all to be stay safe out there. These are tough times. And it’s also a time to fight, time to take care of ourselves. Eyes up. Let’s go.