the 5 stages of grief


The states fall away.
One by one
A red veil falls across
The middle of the country.

I pray to New England.
I beg at the feet of Florida.
I build a shrine to California
To Oregon
To Washington.

I lay myself across Pennsylvania
My home
I gather the farms in my hands
I place the skyscrapers of Philadelphia
And Pittsburgh
On top of my head.
I hold out my hands
I balance across a tightrope.
It isn’t enough.
The red veil lays itself down.
Was it you?


I place my hands against the countertop
And lift my face to the mirror.
I look myself in the eye.
Rage screams in my gaze.

Tears fall into the sink.
I wash my hands.
They slide down the drain
With the grime of the day,
The guilt of Pennsylvania,
The anger of Florida,
The disgust of Texas.

My country is pried from my hands.
My heart breaks in two.
My brain spins on its head,
A top on the counter,
And I stare —
How will it fall?


I took a road trip
Under the July sun
And in the August heat.

I looked at the Grand Canyon
I drove through the Rockies
I hiked in Yosemite
Skipped rocks in the Pacific
Drank beer in the Outer Banks
Waded under the Florida sun.

This isn’t the country I met.
This is a false picture,
Paint splattered across
A land of beauty and color.
A land of rocks
And mountains
And water.

Of amber waves of grain,
Of purple mountain’s majesty.


I wear a mask.
I smile and say, “I’m good, you?”

I go to class.
I eat.

I run a mile on the treadmill,
Then another.

I watch TV.
I read.

I write.
I write.
I write.
I do not write enough.

I try to understand.
I fail.

I shake.
I cry.
I cry again.
And I do not cry enough.


We must never get here.
We must never accept this.
We must not allow our bodies
To near the threshold

We must not stop.
We must scream ourselves hoarse.
We must donate our time
Our money.

We must hand our microphones
To the voiceless.
We must listen to what they need.

We must lay ourselves down
Like a mountain of truth
A river of love
A sea of broken hearts
And ugly promises.

We must never get here.
We must never accept this.

-Helen Armstrong, November 2016


on the election and creativity

I’m at home, trying to breathe.

Tuesday night was a slow sucker punch. I won’t soon forget it – shaking as the results came in. Watching Stephen Colbert lose hope. Crying in the bathroom, looking myself in the eye, trying to understand what was happening. Failing. Getting a text from my mom – don’t worry! It’ll be okay!

It was a slow trauma, one I was unprepared to face. I was blindsided. This clown, this joke, this bad headline, this disgusting news story, was approaching 270. My glass of wine didn’t help. I sat shaking on the couch, wondering if I would ever be able to stop.

At Florida we lost hope. We started to bargain. By California, it didn’t matter. Our country was gone.

Or, to be more precise, the country I thought I lived in had been proven to be a fairytale. It wasn’t real. Maybe it never existed.

I fell into a fitful, shallow sleep that night. I woke several times. Each time, it was still real.

On Wednesday, it rained.

On Thursday, the sun returned. The country was protesting. There were words to write. Chants to shout. Art to be created.

This year has been tiring from the start. The sky has gained a lot of bright stars, but our world feels just a bit emptier for their absence. The passing of Leonard Cohen has been nearly eclipsed by the screaming aftermath of the election. A lot of incredible artists have left us in 2016, leaving a gap for us to fill.

Since Tuesday, the first question on my mind has been what now? What can I do, every day, to protest? What can I do to say no to this election, to Donald Trump, to hatred and fear? How can I make a difference as just one person with little money and barely any resources?

The answer lies, as it often does, in art. Words. Creativity. Expression. These are the things that I would take onto the Ark with me during a flood. They are what I would arm myself with to march into the Apocalypse. The pen is mightier than the sword, as they say, and  “no” can be my sword, I can whisper love into the world with a poem or a song.

This isn’t the end of the story. Maybe this is the beginning.

Once upon a time, there was an evil man…