your instructions

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In 2008, vow to be more creative
And less work-a-day.

* * *

It was coming ‘round time for the annual solstice puppet show in Portland and my friend Moe gave me a call.

She said, The people, they need instruction going forward into the new year. Will you give an astrology reading before the show?

Now, I’ve asked Moe for a favor or two in my day. And my friend Moe has never refused me. Well, I guess she has. But she’s always been very polite about it, so it’s not like I could say, Why don’t you go ask one of those bitches who didn’t just give birth?

So I said, All right.

I’d give the new year’s astrology reading.

But then I awoke the day before the show and I said to myself, I said, I AM NOT AN ASTROLOGER. I mean, if Moe wanted an astrologer, why didn’t she call Rhea Wolf?

I…

I mean, what am I?

I closed my eyes.

I said, God, What am I going to tell these people? They need instruction, going forth.

And when I opened my eyes there was this sort of impish woman standing in front of me, with grey hair. And when she opened her mouth I swear she sounded like she was from the Bronx.

I squinted my eyes, because you know I don’t see so well. I said, God?

She said, No, Grace Paley.

I said, Grace! You’re not God.

And she said, Jesus Christ, Ariel. God’s busy. But I brought you the instructions. And she handed me this piece of paper.

This is a famous poem, she said. Maybe they’ve heard it before. But it’s high time they heard it again. Only this time, tell them they oughta listen.

Because in these times of dire beauty when truly everything we do matters, these are your instructions.

* * *

Responsibility

It is the responsibility of society to let the poet be a poet.

It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman

It is the responsibility of the poet to stand on street corners
giving out poems and beautifully written leaflets
also leaflets they can hardly bear to look at
because of the screaming rhetoric

It is the responsibility of the poet to be lazy to hang out and
Prophesy

It is the responsibility of the poet not to pay war taxes
It is the responsibility of the poet to go in and out of ivory
towers and two-room apartments on Avenue C
and buckwheat fields and army camps

It is the responsibility of the male poet to be a woman

It is the responsibility of the female poet to be a woman

It is the poet’s responsibility to speak truth to power as the
Quakers say

It is the poet’s responsibility to learn the truth from the
Powerless

It is the responsibility of the poet to say many times: there is no
freedom without justice and this means economic justice and love justice

It is the responsibility of the poet to sing this in all the original
and traditional tunes of singing and telling poems

There is no freedom without fear and bravery there is no
freedom unless
earth and air and water continue and children
also continue

It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman to keep an eye on
this world and cry out like Cassandra, but be
listened to this time

* * *

In 2008, vow to be more creative
And less work-a-day.

Vow to be a responsible poet.

If the bald eagle
can make a come-back

why not you?