—which shouldn’t need translation—this button (faded, pale green with white lettering) dates back to the ‘80s, when I was a student at San Diego State University, and Aesop’s Tables, in the corner of a strip mall just off campus, was where an assortment of left-wing literati and hangers-on gathered over glasses of Retsina and plates of hummus, pita, and olives until the restaurant got booted to make way for new construction, and the owners had these buttons made up so we could commiserate and rail at social injustice.
—the seminar leader passed out small gray buttons with white lettering, all caps, no apostrophe, to stress the futility of wishful thinking in lieu of action or acceptance—“fonly I’d married Bert instead of Bart, fonly I’d started saving when I was 20—her topic was fundraising (fonly someone would donate a million dollars) and she also handed out toe tags to remind people to look alive, and though I don’t remember anything she said, the button is a talisman.

—I don’t recall the origin of this one with the universal no (non/nyet/nein) symbol, a circle with a diagonal red line through it, and though I’m not inclined toward whining and wailing, this is one of just three buttons I’ve kept out of hundreds—a collection from decades of progressive activism: Bread Not Roses, Draft beer not boys, This is what a feminist looks like, Voice for Choice, U.S. Out of Nicaragua, Jane Wyman was Right—and now I find a timeless thread running through these residual relics: shit happens, we can’t wish it away, and there’s no use grumbling.

Alice Lowe

Alice Lowe is proud to have her third published piece in Burningword. Her flash prose has also appeared this past year in Hobart, JMWW, Door Is a Jar, Sleet, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Headlight Review. She’s had citations in Best American Essays and nominations for Pushcart Prizes and Best of the Net. Alice writes about life and literature, food and family in San Diego, California and at www.aliceloweblogs.wordpress.com.

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