HOW TO SURVIVE A DICTATOR
→ Call your mother-in-law who lived through the Third Reich. She may tell you to keep a chicken, collect firewood from the graveyard, or burn the stamp collection for warmth. All of these are valid. → Brush up on Russian curse words. → Never, ever have his name in your mouth. It is not worthy of your tongue or lungs & will cancer the air around you. → Understand nothing will be easy. Understand nothing is normal. → Find a way to forgive a family member’s vote. Note: this may take your lifetime. → Bring back spell-casting & voodoo dolls. → Extend a hand. Make bread. Make love. Laugh deeply & whenever possible. → Teach your children the word gaslighting, to smother its flame. → Be the voice of the targeted, beaten, slain. Both teach & learn from other generations. → Contain scattershot bitterness & disillusionment—be an arrow: aim for true center. → Keep moving forward, but lie down & rest, often. Practice radical self-care on a global scale. → Retrain your eyes to love the color orange: nasturtiums, saffron dust across the palm, sunset at dusk as it marries the sea. → Remember fascists, too, eventually die; hate cannot be sustained indefinitely. → Praise the stars that your parents are gone & will not suffer this. → On the darkest days, steer blindly towards small joys: a leaf’s thread-thin veins, the charm of finches at the feeder, a rock in the shape of a heart. → Be ready. To become. Whatever. Is necessary. → Memorize this list—then set it afire.
Kelly Cressio-Moeller’s poetry is forthcoming in Radar Poetry and Poet Lore. Previous publications include Crab Orchard Review, Gargoyle, THRUSH, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and ZYZZYVA among others. She is a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best New Poets nominee and an Associate Editor at Glass Lyre Press. www.kellycressiomoeller.com