Peter Meinke on house arrest, life, liberty and happiness

'At 87 I have a decent chance of dying from Covid-19 under the reign of Donald Trump.'

click to enlarge Peter Meinke on house arrest, life, liberty and happiness
Jeanne Meinke

A few days ago I got a note from Ray Roa, Editor-In-Chief of Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, saying, “Thoughts on restarting PN?” My first thought was, “Is this a full sentence?” and then “PN?” I knew it wasn’t “Peanuts,” but my mind took a couple of hops before remembering I used to write a meandering biweekly column. Sorry to say, this supposèd mind has been pretty dormant since then, as if it were under house arrest. On the other hand, we are under house arrest, and I actually haven’t anything to do: This could help fill these land-locked hours. What am I thinking about these days?

To start with, at 87 I have a decent chance of dying from COVID-19 under the reign of Donald Trump: a double whammy—nasty disease and malignant president, who likes to trumpet things like “the virus is going to disappear, it’s like a miracle—it will disappear”; which is what we’ve been hoping about him, though by now they seem linked together like mudballs.

My second idea is that despite the pandemic and Trump, Jeanne and I are OK, meaning we’re not sick or in debt. On the other hand, our country’s sicker and more in debt than we’ve ever seen it, and we’re old enough to remember polio and the Great Depression.

Our daily headlines turn us towards our fellow Americans, taught to expect “certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” as we relearned recently from watching “Hamilton” the brilliant all-Black production being shown, a bit ironically, on the Disney channel.

Well, as to Life, America ranks 46th in the world in Life Expectancy; with Trump’s mangling of COVID-19, we’ll probably drop lower. Regarding Liberty, our Law & Order president is proud that we’re the no. 1 incarcerator in the world, with more than double the number of prisoners than no. 2 Russia. And as for our last “right,” we’re ranked 18th on the national Happiness scale, and it’s clearly becoming much harder to pursue it: millions of Americans are trapped in poverty, surrounded by violence, poisoned by racism, prone to diseases, suicide, and depression. T.S. Eliot foresaw this in “The Wasteland”:  I think we are in rat’s alley / Where the dead men lost their bones. Which leads to this week’s poem.  I’m hoping my next one will be peppier.  Stay well.

Nightcap in 2020

In old bodies the mind’s
a sick mouse nibbling the dry rind 
of resentment  a shinbone
of pain  and the bitter acorns
scattered as our daily grind

We thought we’d never get this blind
with our vaunted wisdom  but find
it’s just a slick trick  a thick foam
in our old bodies

darkling the light   Who designed
this candlewick  neither kind
nor logical as we postpone
peace  sipping our nightcaps alone
like attic mice sniffing the brine
of our own bodies

by Peter Meinke

click to enlarge Peter Meinke on house arrest, life, liberty and happiness
Jeanne Meinke

Support local journalism in these crazy days. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you up to the minute news on how Coronavirus is affecting Tampa and surrounding areas. Please consider making a one time or monthly donation to help support our staff. Every little bit helps.

Subscribe to our newsletter and follow @cl_tampabay on Twitter.