Photography © Jack Marty


Letter to Congress, Late 2020

Dear Members of Congress:
First, I commend your attention to the way we Americans
refer to “houses of Congress” as though you are neighbors
who say hello when you walk your dogs,
invite each other for a socially-distanced drink
and decide things, like checking on elderly neighbors who live alone.
In reality, we COVID captives watch as you
continue to knife brothers and diss sisters red and blue.
So this post-close election I write to implore
you to pause and try something new.

You might begin by noticing in meetings that Zoom gallery view
displays you as randomly arranged rectangles–not aisles, not isles.
Also note that some Republicans are blue-eyed
and some Democrats occasionally wear red.

Some mornings, when you get to your desk,
picture a colleague in your mind’s eye,
a blue face if you think of yourself as red
and a red one if you identify as blue.
Ask yourself if they look the faintest bit blue or red in the face
and if they do, inquire into the causes, which might include
(if red) a ruddy complexion, sunburn, a fever or angry mood;
(if blue) pale skin, office lighting, sickness or a downcast hue.
Now smile as though you are looking at them kindly,
a real smile, like when you greet a friend.

When you are ready—but please soon—
pick people in your committees who voted the other way
and at the outset of meetings, ask after their loved ones.
Next, remember occasions when you and another person
cooperated to show a kindness or even lighten a life.
This memory suggests you can work together when you choose to.

Finally, I offer a bold idea for the new session next year:
Convene a bi-cameral, bi-partisan team to plan a post-COVID,
all-Congress relay–one long line of runners crossing the country
with arms outstretched to carry and hand off
batons painted red white and blue–
at every state border, a welcome sign.


Merryn Rutledge: “Full-time writing is my third career and a return to roots as a word lover, poem maker and creative writing teacher. Scholarly writing was fun while I ran my consulting firm, but now I enjoy writing and publishing poems and supporting fellow writers in the Boston area, where I also happily share space with tall pines and the nearby ocean.”

Jack Marty takes photos when he feels like it. He thinks long bios get in the way of the work. That said, he just wants to say that this photo was taken in January 2020, following increased tensions between America and Iran.