Via Basel: Two Views


It’s Memorial Day weekend, the sun shines, the temperature just right. Looking out from my living room I behold a magnificent view, Millennium Park and Lake Michigan, both expansive and uplifting. Down below, slow moving cars, few walkers, runners, even sun-bathers scattered in Grant Park. Every now and then, a hint of problems with police car sirens causing a minor distraction. From the 22nd floor all is quiet and well, an eerie feeling of being above the fray.

A few miles south and west, a separate earthly reality interjects, anything but calm, safe, and beautiful. The same weekend claims 10 deaths and 42 injuries from gun shootings and other violence. You can add this to the misery of Covid-19 in these communities.

One of them is Lawndale, where I have been working part time at a health clinic. In the last three months I was advised to work from home in part because of my age. I miss going there and feel the need to be grounded to the reality of life with sickness, hardship, and trauma being an integral part of it. That community so different from where I live provides a counterweight to my imagined sense of security and satisfaction.

This pandemic may have anesthetized us, the privileged, to a certain degree. The eerie silence and slow life activities masks the multitude of complex, longstanding problems festering in our midst. Yet gradually and dramatically the uncovering has begun. When are we going to realize that for us to feel safe from the virus anywhere it has to be eradicated everywhere? The same radical surgery is needed to cure other society ills, poverty, injustice, racism, antisemitism…the list goes on. So we can all feel safe everywhere.

Finally, here are a few stanzas from American Gun, a book-length poem in the repeating form of a pantoum, a collaboration of 100 Chicago poets, edited by Chris Green and published by Big Shoulders Books. May they inspire and shock you.

Many by now are dead again, the boy-men.
Their lives echo from the sidewalks
Somewhere near the black river & bare trees
sirens are converging.

Their lives echo from the sidewalks
uncontainable by poetry, as
sirens are converging
like spring in the branches.

Uncontainable by poetry
automatic rounds bloom red
like spring in the branches
when they puncture the skin.

Automatic, round blooms. Red
crescents in our palms from nails
when they puncture the skin.
Leaves of paper blow across the schoolyard.

American Gun at DePaul University Library

American Gun pdf via DePaul

American Gun at Big Shoulders Books

 

Basel Al-Aswad, father of EIL founder Christopher Al-Aswad, is a yogi trapped in an Orthopedic Surgeon’s body. His loves in life include reading, writing, hiking, enjoying nature, meditation, and spending time with his large Iraqi family, and now, semi-retired, he is exploring new avenues in medicine, education, and social engagement.

Via Basel: The List

Via Basel: Circle of Being

Via Basel: A Perspective in the Age of Coronavirus