Jarrett Fuller

Brooklyn, NY © 2020 Jarrett Fuller.


When Hope and History Rhyme

History says, Don’t hope
On the side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles.
And cures and healing wells.

Call miracle self-healing,
The utter self revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
And lightening and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.
It means once in a lifetime
That justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.
—Seamus Heaney, The Cure of Troy

I took the above photo on Saturday morning at Sunset Park in Brooklyn while walking with my family to the farmer’s market. A minute later a woman started running through the park yelling “We won! We won!” We all took our phones out; suddenly the whole park saw the news. Spontaneous cheering could be heard in every direction, the horns from the passing cars surrounded us.

Over the last twenty-four hours, I’ve found myself returning to the lines from Seamus Heaney’s poem — the one the new president recited at his acceptance speech: It means once in a lifetime that justice can rise up and hope and history rhyme.” I didn’t expect relief to be the first emotion I felt but that’s the only way to describe it. Walking home from the farmers market, I felt happy, lighter, like I could breath a little easier. This country has let us down more times than we can count but every once in a while, it surprises me. I looked at my daughter and thought this new administration will be the first she remembers and I nearly broke into tears. I felt — for the first time in a long, long time — hopeful.

Rebecca Solnit writes in Hope in the Dark:

I say all this because hope is not like a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. I say it because hope is an ax you break down doors with in an emergency; because hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal. Hope just means another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed.

Another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed. “Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope,” she continues, “To hope is to give yourself to the future, and that commitment to the future makes the present inhabitable.” Hope is not magical thinking. It’s not blind trust that things will work out. It’s putting in the work to ensure the world that we want is the world we get. I know we will be let down again and again and again. But this election is not the end, it is only the beginning. There’s always more work to do.