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Excerpts from "Traps"

Stages of Resistance
Lenora and her daughter Amelie at the Women's march in washington. Lenora holds a sign that reads "Rescue Choice" with a picture of two police officers leading away a suffragette.
Lenora Champagne with her daughter, Amelie Lyons, at the Women's March in Washington, January 2017.

This piece is part of a blog salon, curated by Caridad Svich, called "Stages of Resistance." The series welcomes reflections on themes related to making work for live performance in political and aesthetic resistance to forms and systems that oppress human rights and censor or severely limit freedom of expression. We are in increasingly hostile, volatile times around the world, and this salon hopes to serve as a space for considered, thoughtful, polemical articulations of practice and theory on the subject of resistance, the multiple meanings of political art, and the ways in which progressive, wholistic cultural change may be instigated through artworks. Stay tuned for more articles and reflections through May 2017!

The following passages are excerpted from a longer work, Traps, which will be performed as a solo in public spaces, followed by conversations with the “spectators,” whoever they may be, about the traps in their own lives.  To clarify, a trap is being considered as a place or situation that holds us in suspense and makes action, or clarity about what is to be done, challenging.  This project has received support from NYC-DCA/ Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

Traps V.  (October 2016)

How to stay warm this winter? What to do when the apocalypse comes? What if we have a bully for president? Will the world survive?

These kinds of questions are plaguing me lately. I can’t get my head clear to do writing. I can’t write my way through it, either. I look up from the computer and the crisis is still here.

As far as I can tell, it isn’t going away anytime soon. The barking dogs have been awakened, and we have to watch out for them. You don’t want one coming too close. And they tend to travel in packs, although lone dogs can do serious damage.

I have trouble imagining peace and prosperity; I just wrote peach. I like those colors for the kitchen: Peach and Prosperity. That could be a good combo.

I made a good gumbo the other day. I used two chickens and two big cast iron pots for eight people. I put the chickens in the pots; not the people. The people ate the chickens.

I thought about raising chickens, but they have many natural enemies. Dogs, for one.  Chicken hawks and Foxes. Enemies on land and in the air. Plus, I stepped on a baby chick accidentally when I was a kid. Its guts squished out.

I would like to raise chickens successfully, and to be able to harvest my own organic eggs. I’ve been told that big farma is raising the prices on eggs and calling them “cage free.” The chickens are out of cages, but still overcrowded, so they’re attacking and eating one another. So that cage free egg may have been laid by a cannibal chicken.

I need access to organic free range eggs to 1) ease my conscience, guilty because a creature may have suffered unfairly so that I can eat and 2) because my dentist told me that the best way to fight osteoporosis and osteopenia is to eat crushed egg shells that have been toasted in the oven. I haven’t tried it yet, but I figure I better start soon, maybe before I can organize raising my own chickens.

Meanwhile, my cat is getting older—she is sixteen now—and sunshine is streaming through the windows. It was gloomy earlier, but now I feel better.

What I’m really looking forward to: the big Supermoon on November 14. I love those big harvest moons. It’s supposed to be grand.

Sometimes I walk into a bookstore and I turn around and walk right out. Nothing “speaks” to me.

Now I’m making a list of books I want. Eventually I’ll read them, but it may take a long time, since I’ll be busy taking care of those chickens.

I figure retiring to the countryside may be the best way to avoid the larger reality, because I’ll have my hands full just gathering enough kindling for the fire. 

Even in the country, I won’t have a gun. If a bear tries to beak down the kitchen door, I’ll clobber it with a baseball bat. I have to get one of those.

But there is no escaping reality, really, and ignoring it is not a satisfying long-term solution. Instead, I’ll have to inconvenience myself, haul over to the next state and knock on doors; I’ve already tried phoning and only reached five people out of 35. I long for the days when marching in the streets made a difference, but we’re way past that. What to do and how to do it? Who are my neighbors? Who are my countrymen?  It’s a mystery without a ready solution.

Traps VI.  (November 2016)

I was right to worry. 

The bully won. He didn’t get the most votes, but he got more in more states. 

I wake up every night thinking about new horrors. 

It’s not easy to find hope, but sunshine and tiny lights at night help.

We have our bus tickets for the big march. I hope we don’t get stuck in traffic and miss the whole thing. 

We’re moving backwards, not forwards. To the darkness, not the light.

We have to get things moving in the right direction again. With our own bodies and breath.

Traps VII.  (Winter 2016/17)

She wakes up to the cat scratching at the door. Don’t take the paint off!

In the bathroom mirror, she notes a big, red scratch mark on her neck. From when the cat lept from her arms yesterday. She had been trying to make up to it that the daughter, the cat’s favorite human, was away.

She staggers into the kitchen. It’s snowing! A white blanket covers everything.

And is still falling.

Before coffee, she eats an orange. She considers that orange is supposed to be a word that doesn’t rhyme with anything, but she can see it has the French “ange” within it. A French angel resides within this tiny, glowing fruit.

And it’s so sweet!

Now she’s absorbed the French angel. It’s inside her.

Will the world now look different? Transformed? Is hope possible?

She hopes so.


Traps VIII.   Winter 2017 (in the country)

I don’t know what to say. I feel like I want to write on paper, but I didn’t bring any with me. I brought my computer, because I wanted to keep up with what was happening in the world.

These days one can hardly keep up. Events (or at least executive orders) are happening faster than one can check the email. They are all ridiculous, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Those of us who care are on the spot, demonstrating. Other people, far away in the Midwest, seem not to have a problem with any of it. I thought they were friendly people, who cared about their fellow men? (and women?) Silly me.

Of course, I’m married to one of them. He’s a good guy, at least from my perspective.

I find myself focusing on my daughter and her future, but I wonder if I’m avoiding facing what it will mean to and for me. And my students! We must let the young people in. It’s their chance to develop and grow and get progressive views. How is it that the progressive views get stuck in the cities and the blue states? They need to spread out not just nationally, but internationally.

This isn’t really writing, it’s reflecting. It’s me sitting on the porch next to you and sharing my thoughts. And that’s not my idea or image—it’s the guy in Hudson, who works with social justice, who thought of it. And I thank him for it.

I’m glad we get to come upstate. It helps me. During this difficult time. Tomorrow, I teach. I hope I have something to offer.

It will be good to be home, though this is home, too.

Traps IX.  (Spring 2017, back in the city)

…….How fortunate that I have a lot to live for! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, this morning it was a regular Disney scene in the garden, with two squirrels chasing one another across the grass, skirting the daffodils, into the forsythia. It’s Spring, and the earth is open to the sunshine. 

How fortunate that the air is clear and clean and good to breathe, and the water is fresh and drinkable, and the grass is green—how fortunate to be able to see grass and earth and trees and creatures in this urban concrete landscape. I am grateful that nature is visible, accessible, that we are not cut off from it, just somehow protected from its most brutal force.

Speaking of brutal force—I find myself escaping to nature and clinging to signs of Spring as a way to escape the daily reality of what is happening in America. Friday night I woke up to the words “Neil Gorsuch” in my consciousness, and realized that you can get the girl out of the city, but you can’t get concern for the Country out of the girl. I make phone calls and write checks and go to organizing meetings and show up at demonstrations and marches but can’t help feeling discouraged as everything I believe in gets chipped away by the Republicans. That man is supposedly the head of the country and his caprices keep the headlines busy but what is being carried out is a conservative Republican agenda and it will be difficult to stop it until we have more Democrats in the Senate, at the minimum. The political situation makes writing more difficult, because of a sense that activism is the only legitimate use of time that isn’t spent making a living. We spend time when we make money, and the exchange isn’t always worth it. Our work is the valuable thing to us, and few of us who are writers or artists make a living from our work. At least I have a job that feels as though it has some value……

To be continued……