Oxnard Street Poet

Older than the sidewalk cracks and
street, settled on his flaking porch,
he remembered the Valley when it was trees.

“I’m ready to not be old,”
he said as I passed by.
His eyes were uncommonly blue,
for an old man.
He said: “They published my poem.”
I was on my way to school,
about to not stop.
“Once I get the book,
I’ll read it to you.”

*

The book cost $49.95.
He held up the flyer they sent.
But he was proud, 
so I said nothing.

*

“Hallo,” he’d say,
waving from his chair.
“Hello,” I’d say,
not wanting to be rude.
Lovely day,
awesome morning,
top of the world,
hello, hallo,
have a good day.

Joe was great-uncle wrinkled,
and I had class to get to,
I was a Senior.
But everyone should talk
to a grandpa sitting on a porch.

*

He asked if I wanted to read his poem.
The book was thick with cheap paper.
I was late but said yes
and the poem was about apples
and I didn’t have to make something up.
It was worth more than the book.

“Do you like it?” he asked.
“I want to read it to my English class.”
Joe gave me his book.
He said to be careful with it.
“I never got published before.”

*

We sat watching cars
speed down Oxnard Street,
heads moving left to right
then back again, ready.

*

Joe made coffee
and I listened to stories.
He voted for Roosevelt
and Nixon, twice —

“bet you no one’ll ever tell you that!” —

He didn’t like his grand-daughter.
He said I wouldn’t either.
“Uppity.  Ugliness is inner.”
He said if you wanted to get 
a pothole fixed in LA,
put a movie-camera next to it
and the mayor would come fill it himself.

He so near the end
talked to me so near the beginning,
said we were bookends on God’s shelf.
His hands trembled, so I carried the cups.
“That’s what age does,
shakes us loose
from the inside out.”

*

The Oxnard Street poet and
an uppity kid who learned to listen
to words warmed by coffee
and care
and age.

More poetry here.

Stories? Here.

For Now

The sun feels good in this world,
warm,
wide-windowed breeze
and your brown clone sunglasses
with golden wire frames.
I think I’m falling.

With you, my skin is tanned to sand,
porch-picnic-ready,
your mom asking “So is he
treating you good?”
When I say yes,
she gets that twinkle
so I know what she means.
I nod, shy; she smiles, 
proud of her son.

I sit in your world
and we all eat chicken and talk
about school and 
TV and
how you know when you’re in love.
(They had a lot of wine.)
Here, your parents are mine;
they don’t have to say 
I’m welcome.

Now I remember:
Mom hides fear in her smile
while dad tries hard to forget
me,
sewn up tight as he
feasts on fury.
I am a billion sand-pieces
waiting for glass.

“Come on,” you say.
“The road’s too cool
for that.”
So I wrench out of then, 
kiss this
forget that
for now.

More? Click here.

Judges against equality

First, two quotes from judges about marriage equality:

“[By] choosing to privilege a novel constitutional right over the religious liberty interests explicitly protected in the First Amendment, and by doing so undemocratically, the court has created a problem that only it can fix” (Justice Thomas, 2020).

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay, and red, and placed them on separate continents, and but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend the races to mix” (Judge Leon Bazile, 1965).

The first is Thomas’ opinion on the 2015 Supreme Court case that declared unconstitutional all laws limiting marriage to straight coupling.

The second is from a case overturned in 1967, a case in which the presiding judge used religious principle to support miscegenation (prohibition against racial intermarriage).

It is a reminder that we should be particularly suspicious of religious justifications for civil policy.

And would someone maybe remind Justice Thomas that miscegenation is just a whisper away from homophobia.

Marriage as Privilege

Thomas and Alito demonstrate something important: rights that are GRANTED can be TAKEN AWAY. And we have a word for rights that can be taken away: privileges.

Marriage as a privilege. Not as a sign of commitment, or love, but as a sign of privilege.

If I was married, I’d be pissed off. People might start thinking the value of my relationship has less to do with love than it does with a desire to belong to an exclusive club.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alisondurkee/2020/10/05/thomas-alito-urge-supreme-court-to-fix-decision-legalizing-marriage-equality/

Trump, scha·den·freu·de, and righteous anger

I’m working something out.

Until very recently, my Republican (not Conservative) acquaintances have felt perfectly comfortable mocking my liberal friends for wearing masks during the world-outbreak of “the novel coronavirus.” Their contempt fit. It made sense, given that Republicans have allowed Trump to mock disabled Americans; women; indigenous Americans; Latinos; all minorities; immigrants and the countries immigrants fled; overweight women (truly ironic, given his obesity); people whose “genes” might not hold up to the scrutiny of Minnesotan Trumpers; women in professions like journalism.

Republicans let Trump run wild, and eagerly took up his cause. They refused to wear masks. Not wearing masks became, as I recently read, the equivalent of a MAGA hat, a sign of political opposition to “lib-tards.” Grandchildren in arms, mask-less Republicans patiently explained to me that “people die.” They wanted their stores opened! They wanted to Restaurant! Grandchildren not in arms, they screamed at essential grocery store employees about their rights, about produce workers trying to take away freedom. In the privacy of their Facebook worlds, they posted images of Jews being loaded onto trains in Germany with captions that read, “Now I know how this happened.” Because public health = deep-state final-solution.

They promoted Civil War. “Locked and Loaded” read many Twitter feeds, particularly in the South or anywhere David Nunes and Kevin McCarthy stepped foot in California (they don’t come to LA or San Francisco very frequently).

So. Now. Something’s changed. I wonder what.

President Trump has COVID – 19. He and his wife. Potentially, Sean Hannity. Chris Wallace. His primary political opponent. Anybody whose come to his mask-less events. Other legislators. Reporters. Those he ridiculed for caring about other people’s health.

True to form, there has been an avalanche of “appropriate commentary” from liberals who just recently considered him an Enemy of the State. “I wish him a speedy recovery.” “Let’s not engage in schadenfreude — he’s a man, first, and we shouldn’t wish sickness on anyone.”

How moral…and how correct. We shouldn’t…be happy.

Republicans wouldn’t be so moral, I don’t think. Remember when Ruth Bader Ginsberg died? According to the Washington Post, the President’s aides didn’t tell Trump before a rally performance she had passed because they were afraid he would tell his adoring crowds and they would cheer. On my own Facebook feed, one of my acquaintances suggested RBG’s death was an act of God, and wrote “Thank God she’d dead.” If Biden had COVID, Republicans would be prepping stakes to put him out of his misery. Just imagine Tom Cotton carving a stake, and see how real that image is.

But this doesn’t matter, not really. Judging my actions with a Republican yardstick is…not wise. Even though Trump has now been struck by the very disease he discredited, and pointing out that irony in ways subtle and gross would give me much pleasure, there is something stopping me.

What?

Those very people who support this walking disgrace to the Presidency stop me from being happy. This is what I’m working out. His supporters/enablers/complicitors (which is evidently becoming a word) are probably hurting. And maybe scared. They now have existential proof that not taking nature seriously…is a serious mistake. Their icon and idol will probably get better, as he’ll have much better care than Black America has had with respect to COVID, but that doesn’t compute in Red America right now. It hurts to have your gods de-godded. As Gustave Flaubert said in Madame Bovary, you have to be careful in dealing with golden icons; the gilt surface rubs off very easily.

Consider Trump rubbed clean. That’s got to hurt those who trusted the plating.

Which is why scha·den·freu·de is wrong. The word means, literally, “harm-joy.” Taking joy in some else’s suffering. Let’s be clear here: schadenfreude rarely occurs outside an atmosphere of hypocrisy; getting happy at the suffering of an ethical person doesn’t usually make much sense. But “watching,” say, the President of Liberty University get strung up in a sexual threesome (ooops, audienced twosome) makes sense when you remember that the Falwells have been carving moral judgement into bludgeons for decades.

Honestly, there is hypocrisy here in Trump’s case. There are lies and misinformation, and Trump seems to have been felled by his own world-view (or weltanschauung): he’s a man, men are strong, etc., etc. But I am not happy he has been infected, and not because he matters to me. Consonant with public Republican pronouncements, not every human being matters; remember, they were the ones who want to storm-open the economy because “PEOPLE DIE ANYWAY.”

No. I am not happy Trump is sick because I still have some affection for some of his supporters. I don’t want to see them in pain. I’m working through this. But as it stands, schadenfreude is out. I hope Trump gets better. It does feel wrong to want anyone to suffer, even those people who have caused so much suffering. I don’t know. Like I said, I’m working through it.

But on another point, I’m crystal clear. While I’m not happy he’s sick, I am very very angry that he has caused so much suffering, reflected rather than assuaged our country’s divisions, given shout-outs to ProudBoys even as he mocks a candidate for wearing a big mask. Trump doesn’t deserve my joy that he has a potentially deadly disease. I know what it’s like to have people look on disease and wish it on others (Republicans during the AIDS crisis); I never want to cause that kind of pain, and a small part of me still believes in redemption.

That is where anger comes in. Trump does deserve my anger. He has done horrific things, many of them to people who cannot fight back. He deserves the anger of a nation he lied to. He deserves our anger for becoming an icon of modern civil war. (Make no mistake, Republicans: he is not a mirror, as you claim; he is mirroring America’s divisions, and like a funhouse game blowing us out of proportion.)

My anger is healthy. Anger is necessary. Anger is redemptive. I’m angry this stupid man was allowed to inflict his moronic ego on the nation, which means I’m also angry at Trump’s enablers. I wish him a speedy recovery. But if I’m honest, I wish him that recovery so that I still have the chance to make him — and his supporters — pay for what they have done to the country.

Trump’s illness is a chance to remember our humanity. His recovery is a chance to exact justice. That won’t happen unless my liberal friends remember that it is completely necessary to be both humane toward and angry at a man who got burned by his own wildfire.

Victory

“Stand back, stand by.”

I am about to know

I have loam and rock for a back
and blue-grey sky for a head

honor an orange sun yellow
and gaze purple into ink

rest in love
as I have done all these years,
wake to heartbeats
and sleep with all sighs.

Then 

when unripe Boys rape in dirt
and shoot dark;

masturbate dry pricks
blood-smear voided genitals

kill this body
gorge on dull meat
eat our kind
burn our memory;

then

my arms Earth and Sky
my companion-Sun
my love this man

envelop me
pierce this hell
carry me home.

More poetry HERE.

from Thee Psychick Bible

When they realize that times and morality have changed, and this time NOT in their favour, they become afraid, like small children who start to scream because their mother says “No,” although they are very well able to express themselves. They become ultraparanoid, in need of extreme polarities, a black and white way of regarding the world. And there is violence and death, as always in times of change.

Carl Abrahamsson, 1989

FR-eee!

W-R-O-N-G
is a sound.
Go ahead and make it,
SoundMaker.
W-R -- do you feel the 
gravel in your chest?
Vibration?
O-N -- 
almost an OHMMMMM,
almost prayer,
right?

R-I-G-H-T
is a sound.
Go ahead and make it,
SoundMaker.
Different, eh?
Frequency rests
someplace else --
R-H-I, closer to 
my head.
Distant. BRI-ght.

Now say
P-O-O-P!
Or L-O-V-E.
OR...

SoundMaker,
SOUND!
Stop thinking
letters.
G-OH
into the FEE-lds
and FO-wrists
and BRIE-thhhh!
Sound FRE-eee to LoverSound.
I'll be waiting
to SOW-nd with you.

Want more words? Click here.

AfterQuestions

God keeps me alive
because I have questions
for “after.”
Serious questions.
Questions I know he can’t answer.

Like:

Why is my nose crooked?
Really?  You couldn’t give me something straight?
Anything STRAIGHT?

And why not save us from 
ALL of the Falwell’s — 
let’s go further —
all fundamentalists?
(If you say Free Will
I swear to you I’ll throw 
Crohn’s Disease
in your face.  
Free Will.  
Shit.)
They’re ruining the world
and my upstanding view
of pool boys.  Please!

And as long as we’re here,
not that I’m complaining,
— I’m totally cool in that department —  
but how come
skinny-skater Bodie
was given that dick?
Can you just answer me that?
Was it a reward?
Maybe recognition for his
Exceptional Contribution 
to Human Progress?
I’m sure he’s saved 
hoards with his Board —
it all seems just a little…
peculiar.

More:  

Did you have to let
America have the nukes?
You knew what we’d do,
and there were Canadians nearby.
And why did you let Republicans
happen?
Why are people in Bakersfield
so proud?
Henry Fonda for On Golden Pond?

(Free Will, again, right?)

And there’s this skater named Bodie,
maybe I mentioned him?
Why?
Just why?

See you in a bit.

More Poetry? Click Here.

Stories? Click here.

Mine

He’s a poster.
He posed for it,
flexed.
Baseball player
who’s won —
wife, kid, God, arms.

Good.
Yes.
I wish him well...

and then plod
up my empty street
soaked in past
and full of dark.
The house is on the right.
A light is on.
He waits for me.

Posters aren’t made of me.
My triceps don’t act like that.
Fans?  No.
My shy love
and this quiet plot,
beautiful,
mine and silent and 
home.

I’ll choose mine
every 
time.

More Poetry? Click here.

A story or five? Click here.