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Karren LaLonde Alenier

Resisting Versus Surviving

by Karren LaLonde Alenier


As the wife fed her cat crab-

meat, the cat that attempted

to walk the ceiling but failed,

the husband tackled the decline

of American civilization—barbarians

populated his tales. If a man cried

out, another lopped off his tongue.

In private, she said TV and

McCarthyism killed the invention

of new games. He just ripped

the caterwauling telephone

from the wall.

            At a dinner party of all

women except for him, when she

was asked to comment on the world

situation, she excused herself, left

what was tasty and steaming

on the table, curled regally

on a divan like a feline, fell

asleep under an open


            With its slow white

flakes, snow covered her. Horrified

at her absence, weren’t these women

her friends, he shook her awake—

what game is this? She whispered,

Resistance To Doom. I had to

make room for hope.


Now that the United States has a president intent on deconstructing democracy as we have known it, the Steiny Road Poet is learning how to resist and what action to take. First, however, she wants to make note that most people would rather avoid problems that seem too big to address.

The poem above is from Steiny’s most recent book The Anima of Paul Bowles. In this poem “The World Situation,” Jane and Paul Bowles go to a dinner party in 1950 as the Korean War begins. It is about five years after World War II has ended. Paul has already published his brutal novel The Sheltering Sky and his short story collection The Delicate Prey and Other Stories. Congressional conservatives, led by Wisconsin Senator Joseph MCCarthy, are dismantling free speech and black listing American citizens for being spies and Communists. It is the time of the Cold War. Jane, always the gamester, refuses to participate in a bleak conversation about war.


February 8 through 11, 2017, Steiny attended the AWP Conference and Book Fair in Washington, DC. While many of the 12,000 conferees wore buttons reading RESIST, wrote postcards to their congress representatives, marched on congressional offices, or stood vigil outside the White House the final evening of the conference, there were those who professed to be bored with politics.

What did Gertrude Stein do during World War II? She moved to her country home in Southern France and planted a garden. She thought she would be free from the politics of war there. And so she was for a couple of years, in that area of France then known as the free zone. Eventually, Stein realized she had to resist or die. So she supported the youths hiding in the hills who refused to be conscripted by the German army and these renegades blew up Nazi supply routes, which helped the Allies in part to liberate southern France.


Because Steiny grew up in the shadow of The Diary of Anne Frank, where a teenage girl was locked into a hidden apartment of an office building that formerly belonged to her father’s business holdings, Steiny always averred she would not sit idly by while an evil element of organized government was threatening to exterminate her, family members, and other people like her.


Yet it is not enough to merely resist, such as attending an occasional protest demonstration like the record-breaking Women’s March on Washington that occurred the next day after the 2017 inauguration. People must educate themselves. People who want to save American democracy must deeply read the United States Constitution. People must join a group of like-minded but hopefully more knowledgeable people to work on such projects that deal with voting rights and gerrymandering. Steiny hopes to eliminate gerrymandering in the nearby state of Virginia.


“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” 
― Anne Frank, Anne Frank's Tales from the Secret Annex

Yes, those of us who are despairing about what to do must rebuild hope.

“Where there's hope, there's life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.” 
― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

However, we cannot take what is happening lying down. We must stand ready to act.



by Gertrude Stein


Once in English they said America. Was it English to them.

Once they said Belgian.

We like a fog.

Do you for weather.

Are we brave.

Are we true.

Have we the national colour.

Can we stand ditches.

Can we mean well.

Do we talk together.

Have we red cross.

A great many people speak of feet.

And socks.

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Scene4 Magazine — Karren Alenier

Karren LaLonde Alenier's most recent book is The Steiny Road to Operadom: The Making of American Operas.
She is a Senior Writer for Scene4.
Read her Blog.
For her other commentary and articles,
check the Archives.

©2017 Karren LaLonde Alenier
©2017 Publication Scene4 Magazine


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March 2017

Volume 17 Issue 10

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