Journal Excerpts: Ten Days

October 30, 2016

So now we have to go through it all over again: Here’s why nuclear winter would be bad for humanity…. Everyone would starve. Gorbachev is weighing in: think carefully….Terrible to think that this is where we are now, while reading how the crowds chanted “Gorby!” [as the USSR fell] in [Svetlana Alexievich’s] Second-Hand Time: The Last of the Soviets.

The new wrinkles in the email scandal offer some distraction — Clinton on the attack against Comey; next thing, the FBI director will be [said to be] working for the Russians. But overall, it’s only terrifying and awful.

I can only think that Fragile Ongoing means minimizing one’s anger and contempt at those who support HRC, and addressing policy in the light of principle. Eliminate nuclear weapons. Observe international law. No to escalation in Syria. No to the regional war in the Middle East/North Africa. Support the biosphere. Fight global warming. Cut the military budget. Bring to an end the Empire (by what means?).

November 3, 2016

You can’t even really call it “history” anymore.

Cyclist on park drive: “Doesn’t matter. He’s old. He said he had a procedure.” — then gone.

Syria + the Left @ Verso space in DUMBO last night. Jam packed. The labyrinthine neighborhood a metaphor for the maze-like loft building + the panelists talking past each other. Max [Blumenthal], Loubna [Mrie], Zein [El-Amine], Murtaza [Hussain]. Loubna + Murtaza wanting — understandably — acknowledgment + support for the democratic opposition — claiming to want de-escalation, an end to the fighting — but also saying Assad must go, Assad must be held to account, + refusing to face up to the question of who or what is going to make that happen, how.

November 4, 2016

I woke at 5, thinking of the horror of 3 degrees C. temperature rise that a headline I saw yesterday says we’re on track to achieve. These early wakings are when I find out what’s on my nightmare radar — so I guess nuclear war has receded a bit, if only a bit. “She’ll never do a no fly zone….” Maybe the weak end to the campaign (“holds onto slim margin” is what we hear today) will slow her down some. Jesus. At the union reps’ phone meeting yesterday, everyone went around for a “check-in” that turned into statements about voting: who had already early-voted for HRC, who was resigned to it or proud of it, etc. RW saw fit to recall how she’d been tempted to vote for “a 3rd party candidate” in 2000, but apparently thought better of it. One of those disciplining conversations. I said nothing, thinking there was no requirement to announce my position. Afterwards, though, I felt strange about it, like I’d let them shut me up. KR was there — the mistress of soft power discipline.

For me, there is, of course, the concern with justice, with ending suffering + even with promoting joy, pleasure, all that could be — but it quickly gets all mixed up with my indignation and hatred at lying, double standards, group think….I hate being told to shut up about what’s wrong with in the world, almost more (sometimes) than I hate what’s wrong in the world.

November 6, 2016

I know that I myself find family, and people in general, inexpressibly wearing + wearying. (Shall I be one day like these suffering ancient souls, and turn my face to the wall?)


— the morning call to M, often listening with partial attention to her slow, methodical, sometimes repetitious comments. (Not usually repetitious in the factual sense, but…repetitious in theme, repetitious in mood. How my poor sainted father suffered in the Depression: that sort of thing.)


— the posturing of People in Groups, and my relationship to same. (I went to a BLM + BDS event at 55 Walker St.: Fri. night, packed w/ young folks, speaking: Robin [D.G.] Kelley, Jasbir Puar, a Palestinian artist called Amin [Husain], and a young “Black queer woman” student artist [whose name I didn’t catch]….The sense, overall, of something new-old happening. What is it? The roar of a wave that can roll right over the old TINA. Yes: that could even drown the whole world of TINA [i.e. There Is No Alternative, the Margaret Thatcher slogan].

But. (There’s always a but — .)

I think somehow the but is putting this in the context of the election — Robin mentioned Angela Davis + a young woman in the audience very respectfully, almost hesitantly, mentioned Davis’s endorsement of Clinton.


— What Robin K. calls “community care” — the reframing of “self-care.”

Because, yes, we must care for community: but the village will kill you as much as it will sustain you.


the election is all still There. The legions of Clinton supporters — the pathetic messages from one’s union.

“Leave the dead to bury the dead.” Isn’t it fascinating that this old Jesus Christ quote pops into my head as a text to support my decision to vote for the Green Party candidates? (However, I have even less hope for GPUS than before, now that I’ve received in the mail, without a cover letter, 5 or 6 Green Party stickers of inexpressibly lackluster design — presumably as reward for my $10 monthly sustainer contribution.)


the human circus, human dance on the edge, impossible effort to keep up with the young — .

But: that there are young….

Poor world. Poor vital brawling hopeful tortured torturing world.

November 7, 2016

Trying, this morning, to get past my general sense of nausea at things. My [writing project] — unlikely to garner me unalloyed satisfaction, but taking up enormous amounts of time + energy. The election — if electing HRC won’t ally [sic — supposed to be allay] my deepest anxieties, then perhaps the de-stressing of most of the electorate that I’m in contact with will at least offer a contact tranquilizing effect, however temporary.

November 9, 2016

Last night, I thought of Akhmatova as I was trying to fall asleep, sometime after 1:30 — “that life is brutal and coarse; that God in fact has not saved us.” I had said to W. sometime after 11:00 — no, it’s not that I’m feeling guilty for voting for Jill Stein, or posting negatively about HRC on Facebook, for god’s sake! It’s that I can’t face the thought of a Trump presidency and the prospect of all the wailing and gnashing of teeth that’s going to go on in my vicinity for the foreseeable future.

I had thought I knew what to prepare for, and would have at least the spurious relief and joy of the Clinton supporters to buck me up, providing a little false cheer — better than nothing.

I said: it’s not that she didn’t win. Regardless of what you think about the dangers of a Clinton presidency, there’s this: how is it possible that I live in a country where so many millions of people voted for that man?

I fell asleep worrying about M, dreading having to call her this morning….

I thought of 9-11. Maybe not since then have I had such a feeling about a public cataclysm (and a surprising one, unlike the Iraq invasion): the feeling of the mind sliding away from it, not wanting to begin to come to grips with what one knows is actually happening. Picturing the coal-fired plants steaming away.

But then. Another feeling — that my bluff is being called; that if I really believe Clinton was as dangerous as I said (and I did) that I should face up to how heavily my response is influenced by the received wisdom of Nearly Everybody.

Most optimistic thought: this is the end of the Long Clinton Period. Perhaps we will enjoy some sense of freedom from the cloying lies of the Obama years….

November 10, 2016

At a time like this, one can see very clearly. Not anything as grand as “the big picture” — but all sorts of details from far and near, picked out in exquisite and terrible relief.

…I explained to X. his feeling about the election results: “Schadenfreude doesn’t feel as good as you expected it to.” He was experiencing guilt over having fantasized that Hillary would lose, when he never thought it possible.

There was a romance to making my [evening] class happen — pulling it off, getting through a teaching observation to boot — even though I’d had so little sleep….After the class, going out into the rain-littered streets, Union Square still partially barricaded from the anti-Trump demo that had taken place earlier.

I remember my reaction to the start of Gulf War I: “After all our work — if this happens — ! Everything is destroyed.”

The day or two before the election, and election day itself, were so beautiful: that tree-bouquet feeling in the park woods. And I did think at the time, i.e. before the returns came in, of the line from my post-9-11 poem: “the beautiful days have done us no good.”

Superstitions. W. telling me how he thought maybe his having to throw out his old slippers was an omen: “out with the old” (Democrats).

My automatic folding umbrella flew open in the bathroom just before class. Did this mean something?

Lincoln Road is populated by a whole clan of black cats, so that one is constantly in danger of “black cat crossed my trail.”

Michael Moore is the sage who predicted the election result. But he is the fool who prescribed Hillary as — not the bitter pill antidote, but actually a healthful nostrum. Idiot savant.

Mentioned as likely Trump cabinet picks: Giuliani, Chris Christie.

November 11, 2016

Shock waves.

If the one yesterday was my anger at the lies of the “low, dishonest decade [just past],” the one this morning is (again) about how bad it is, is going to be.

Climate change.

Trying to take in how threatened various targeted groups feel: how justified that is, and also in many ways how parochial. (What makes you think, America, you are exempt? said a piece I read yesterday by a young woman w/ an Arab name — in other countries, people deal with worse authoritarians every day — because of America’s policies.)….

It’s the Reagan election in 1980 that I flash back to. “How will we live with this?” (For one term, we thought.)

The feeling of being dirty, b/c one didn’t prevent it.

This beast is so large. How not to ignore the trunk, the tail, the ears, the tusks, the toenails — how to maintain a sense of all of them at once. (In one’s scrambling after Why.)

As if life had fragmented — as with any great grief. On one hand, pieces float up from the old order: E’s call + chat in aftermath of her return from St. Vincent, for instance. On the other: the new factual order, the new idea-order.

November 13, 2016

W. came and stood for a while at the open bathroom door; I was in the shower. After a while, he said, “How have we made it this far?” (Maybe the words were a little different; the sense was, how is it possible?)

I didn’t want to hear it, though it is my own question. So I waited a bit and said, “Who’s ‘we’?” [Knowing very well he meant: human beings.]

“You know,” he said….

Suppose that everything I love is inextricably bound up with everything I hate?….

It’s very unpleasant to be in the present. But — not to reckon with what is occurring, and the inadequacy of my own resources in the face of it — let’s face it, the way that an honest reckoning deprives me of the satisfaction of being in the right — would be a betrayal, a dereliction….So, reluctantly, I conclude: time to be a grownup.

My special challenge: dealing with my corrosive anger at those who’ve just discovered there’s no Santa Claus. (But then: I too was lulled by the evil empire’s [quasi] human face, was I not?….)

“I want America to come to an end.”



Photo by Joanna Eldredge Morrissey.

Photo by Joanna Eldredge Morrissey.

Jan Clausen is a poet, fiction writer, and long-time feminist activist. Her most recent publication is the hybrid text Veiled Spill: A Sequence  (GenPop Books, 2014). Her 1999 memoir Apples and Oranges: My Journey Through Sexual Identity will be reissued by Seven Stories Press in 2017. She teaches in the Goddard College MFA in Writing Program.