Lincoln’s Birthday

posted in: Memoir, Poetry | 0

Unlikely links to Lincoln, with work by Joel Savishinsky, Betty Orr and Christine Lincoln.
7 minutes


In 1970, Congress passed a law that beginning in 1971, Presidents Day would be celebrated the third Monday in February. If you’re of a certain age, though, you probably remember that we used to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday February 12th. To celebrate it this year, we’re going to read a few pieces with some connection to Lincoln.

Joel Savishinsky said that after he retired, he moved to the Pacific Northwest and came to appreciate the region’s forests, islands, mountains, and coasts. He also came to realize how much garbage washes up each day on the shores of our seaside parks. He said, “The resulting awareness, heartbreak and anger prompted this poem, as well as my involvement with several environmental organizations.” Here’s “High Tide: The Wrack Line at Lincoln Park Beach, Puget Sound.”

Here’s what we’ve given the world and
what its broken heart pumps back
to our shores: the bright bauble of
plastic floats, the birds strangled in
nylon string, blind fish and small shards
from the sand-smoothed glass of neglect.

My grandchildren pick through the ocean’s
insults and offerings without distinction,
indifferent to the fault line between art
and artifice. They have not reached the age
of discrimination. Or despair.

The storyline of the wrack line,
high tide’s seaweed weave of garbage
and wreckage, is the tight sheath
wrapped around the clogged vessels
of my own broken heart.

From Passager’s 2022 Poetry Contest, “High Tide: The Wrack Line at Lincoln Park Beach, Puget Sound” by Joel Savishinsky.

Betty Orr said she was born and has lived happily ever after in Lincoln, Nebraska. Here’s her poem “These Are Not Words.”

Their scratching is motion
like faraway birds against the sky,
evanescent, wavering in the light.

Or stones in a waterway
changing the sound,
redirecting the flow.

They are the gusts of wind, rattling your windows,
pasting leaves in momentary pattern,
whirlwinds of doubt,
spindrift of hope.

These are not words.
They are wings beating for lift . . .

Betty Orr’s poem “These Are Not Words” from Passager Issue 55. Betty said, “Words have been and are my ladder, my lasso, my lifeline to resonance with love and life.”

In 2009, Passager published a collection called Keeping Time: 150 Years of Journal Writing. Here from that book is an excerpt from Christine Lincoln’s journal.

Tonight I decided to take my walk in utter darkness. I loved it. There is something delicious in being completely surrounded by blackness. One by one I turned off all the lights except the brightest. I waited until I was standing near the middle of the room before switching off the last and brightest lamp, throwing the room into darkness before my eyes had time to adjust. It was so black I could see nothing, not even my own body, and even though I know this house as intimately as I know the lines on the palms of my hands, I was instantly disoriented.

In the darkness possibilities grow. Where before, I was surrounded by the familiar, I am thrown into a place where someone could be lurking in the corner of the room waiting to pounce. The floor could have caved in without my knowing it; if I take a step forward I might fall to my death to the basement floor. In the darkness fear fills me. It starts in my belly like tendrils of some living thing, growing, spreading into the tops of my legs. I am rooted to this place where I know I am safe, unmoving in the darkness.

. . . And then something happens. The same darkness that at first frightened me now begins to comfort me. It offers me its freedom. It tells me that I am free here in the darkness because I am hidden. I am vulnerable and yet I am concealed. I can tell when I leave the living room because the carpet drops off beneath my shoes and I am walking on hardwood floor. Still slowly through this river of darkness. My footfalls against the hardwood sound like the beating of a heart. Da-dump, Da-dump, Da-dump. A heart beating in the darkness. The darkness is a womb. This darkness is an amnion. It is a place of unlimited potential, an incubator of ideas. The place of fear, yes, but also imagination and creativity. A place of protection and freedom and life.

This darkness is an amnion.

An excerpt from Christine Lincoln’s journal. Christine said, “I have always kept a written journal of one kind or another: a diary when I was a pig-tailed girl, a mother’s journey when I was pregnant with my son, a dream journal, a spiritual journal.” Now, she said, she keeps a creative journal, taking those things that have happened, the joy and the suffering, the sorrow and the fear, and transforming them into something beautiful. By the way, you may recognize Christine’s name: last year, she guest edited Passager’s special journal issue about trauma.

To buy Keeping Time: 150 Years of Journal Writing or to subscribe to or learn more about Passager and its commitment to writers over 50, go to You can download Burning Bright from Spotify, Apple and Google Podcasts and various other podcast apps.

For Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne, and the rest of the Passager staff, I’m Jon Shorr.