Before I get to today's poem, there are two items you should know about.
Do you remember a month ago when I told you about the dozen or so elders – all retirees older than 60 - who were occupying a median strip in Ravenswood, West Virginia?
They were protesting against their former employer, Century Aluminum, which had reneged on its promise to provide lifelong health coverage. Here is a photo of them from their Facebook page.
Yesterday, TGB reader James Files left a comment to let us know that Occupy Century Aluminum has finally prevailed. This is the initial announcement on their Facebook page Wednesday:
Occupy Century Aluminum FacebookThanks sooooooo much for your help!!!!!! We just won our battle and we are getting our health care back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am so happy! Will let you know more later. Thanks.
And here are the follow-up Facebook posts with some of the details of the occupiers' success. Their pride and joy justifiably overfloweth:
”Late this afternoon, with the help of the USWA's Tom Conway, the unending support of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and Senator Jay Rockefeller and many, many members of the West Virginia Legislature, the retirees were able to come to an agreement with Century Aluminum for restoration of benefits for the retirees.
“There are several other pieces of the puzzle that must come together before they will be effective, but we are confident that they will happen. The retirees are overwhelmed that the 'little people' could dance with the big boys and win the justice we were seeking.
“It is an amazing story of how all can unite behind a common cause and if you TRULY believe, you really can make a difference. The good Lord was our leader and he showed us the way because we were on the right side of this fight. The lesson to be learned is this, All things are possible if you only believe.' Never, ever give up, no matter how long the journey.”
“...Soon, our occupy site will disappear, but our spirit will dwell here forever. God bless the greatest group of retirees I could ever have been blessed to meet and soon, maybe they can now be retired with the dignity they so deserve!”
They camped in tents on that median strip for three months during the depths of winter cold, ice and snow. Let us all keep that and the retirees of Occupy Century Aluminum in mind when we think it's too hard to write another letter to Congress, pick up the phone or do whatever else is necessary to make our voices heard.
You might want to stop by Occupy Century Aluminum's Facebook page to leave a note of congratulations.
We can also celebrate today the defeat in the Senate of the Blunt Amendment I told you about yesterday by an embarrassingly close margin of 51-48.
Undoubtedly, both Senate and House Republicans will have another go at allowing employers to limit health care they provide to their employees, but they will be up against some hard statistics. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey reports that 63 percent of Americans overall support the mandate to cover the cost of birth control.
And now – some elder poetry. In the comments on last week's poem, reader Dee asked for the sources of these poems.
There is no specific place. I have a file on the computer of poems I've collected from around the web for many years. I consult my collection of poetry books. I search such phrases as “poems about aging.” Sometimes readers or friends have sent me links to such poetry.
There is no rhyme (pun?) or reason to it, Dee. It's all serendipity.
Today, it is Czeslaw Milosz, the Polish Nobel laureate, translator and Berkeley professor who died in 2004 at age 93. The poem is Late Ripeness written when he was nearly 90.
Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year,
I felt a door opening in me and I entered
the clarity of early morning.
One after another my former lives were departing,
like ships, together with their sorrow.
And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas
assigned to my brush came closer,
ready now to be described better than they were before.
I was not separated from people,
grief and pity joined us.
We forget—I kept saying—that we are all children of the King.
For where we come from there is no division
into Yes and No, into is, was, and will be.
We were miserable, we used no more than a hundredth part
of the gift we received for our long journey.
Moments from yesterday and from centuries ago—
a sword blow, the painting of eyelashes before a mirror
of polished metal, a lethal musket shot, a caravel
staving its hull against a reef—they dwell in us,
waiting for a fulfillment.
I knew, always, that I would be a worker in the vineyard,
as are all men and women living at the same time,
whether they are aware of it or not.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Eating His Hat