Protracted Thoughts on the October 27, 2014 Issue of The New Yorker

The cover this week is spot on,
“Fun and Games in Congress” the artist
titled it, with quite the cast of characters:
The Hatter is there (yes, still quite mad), dispensing
copies of the Constitution which Bozo
proceeds to deface and the Jester, motley fool
that he is, stamps with a “NO” while wielding
his gavel. Batman’s Joker is in the house
and playing with a stacked deck, the white collar
criminal looks good in his orange and black stripes
while Rich Uncle Pennybags kicks back with a big cigar.
The lady is quite astute in the art of snake charming,
knowing the real trick is to pull their fangs
before you play them a tune.
Yes, it is all fun and games until…until you read
what is inside.

Not being from, or even an infrequent visitor to,
New York, I skip over the Goings On About Town
and land in the Talk Of The Town, where one
contributor is naive enough to believe
our representative woes could be solved
by voting in a more diverse crowd,
as if women or blacks or hispanics or asians
would be less susceptible to the corruption
of power and money than the current
ensemble of rich white men.

Continuing with the political theme…Jeffrey
Tobin goes into great (incessant, protracted,
never-ending) detail on the subject on appointing
judges, which, it turns out, is perhaps the most
important aspect of politics, and one the voting public
understands the least. Oh, but the politician
understands, control of the judiciary through
the lifetime appointment of judges extends
the reach and power of the Party, and, after all,
being right is not so important when you have enough
votes to validate (rubber-stamp) your actions.

Abortion, too, gets an article. We can never miss
a chance to inject the subject into the debate,
especially just before an election. The information
is bland in presentation, and there is really
nothing new to argue, the inanities
and hypocrisies of those presenting the arguments
on both sides are enough to make one wish
for a vacuum tube to be inserted into your skull.

Ebola, of course, must get an article, mustn’t stray
from the mainstream. The dissertation attempts
to humanize the epidemic in a very scientific way,
because it is critically important for us to understand
the dimensions of an ebola particle and how it
compares to the size of a human hair. Unfortunately,
the only thing I can think about while reading
the article is to wonder if the Harvard genomics
scientist always wears the low cut top with the knee-high
leather boots and really tight jeans to work,
or only on days when a photographer from
the New Yorker is going to be there?

There was some good news amidst
the miasma: Billy Joel said he needs
to get to know more poets.

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Voices of Irony and Content

I can hear the voices as they
whisper in meadow grasses
and murmur among forest
boughs older than lore,

their song is a lament of futures
foretold where two legs replace four
and the old voices are drowned
out by clamor and chatter.

I hear them restless upon the shore,
skittering with the gulls on the sand
raised in a roar amidst the ceaseless
beat of the sea against the beach,

a barrage of anger and protest
against the onslaught of progress
and change, a sardonic sigh
accompanies the retreat of every wave.

They are the same voices I hear
echoing from the broken plaster
and rust of forgotten buildings
and overgrown playgrounds,

yearning for a time history ignores
when the energy of commerce
made for vibrant lives and the laughter
of children lit up the night.


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Of Moons and Revolutions

I do not sleep well on full
moon nights.

It may be an issue of proximity,
the push and pull of gravity
in competition, swaying the pattern
of brain waves in one hemisphere
as the tide goes out in another.
It may be the physical response,
an aching and discomfort which makes
aimless, midnight wandering
a necessity,
the added stress of Luna’s presence
bringing forth the revolution
in my bones.

Hmm, revolution…
It is somewhat…ironic(?)appalling(?)

sad(?)depressing(?)infuriating(?) that
the very youth

who (rightfully) scream
out, who stand with fist in the air,
who use their bodies as signs
in protest against authority, who incite
violence one night and peacefully
protest the next, marching arm in arm
demanding their God-given rights…

all in the name of democracy,

are the very same youth who
will surely fuck it all up once they
understand the power of the ballot
while completely misunderstanding
the nature and function of power.

I revolve the glass in my hand,
marveling at how the image of what
is swirled within always stays the same,
Condensation forms into drops,
runs down my arm, or falls to the carpet
to be absorbed.

Upon further examination,
perhaps moon is merely
the witness to another hopeless
revolution, and shares no responsibility
for my sleeplessness.


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Yellow Daises

Yellow daises grow wild beside the road,
swaying in the wind of each passing car,

radios spewing the latest bit of chaos —

ebola has moved into the neighborhood
and the welcome wagon crashed,
the knife cuts in a sawing motion
as the media ignores the reason
for another severed head,
democracy dies in Hong Kong, buried
in an a grave marked only
by international apathy,
politicians change the dialogue daily,
hoping the new crisis will lessen
the sting of the last,
blame runs rampant,
solutions continue to hide —

as the news drowns out life.

I turn off the radio, roll down
the windows and wonder
if innocence
has truly died.

Last night I dreamed of a young girl,
chanting “he loves me, he loves me not”
as she plucks the petals from
yellow daises growing wild beside the road.


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Skin – A Soon to be Deemed “Racist” Rant, More Like a Tirade

I have been in contact — skin-to-skin — with those
of a darker shade than I,

it felt like…skin.

It was not the passionate embrace of intimates,
or the caress of long known love,

nor was it an assault — violent expression of hate,
fear and ignorance– there was no instinctual
desire to attack,

merely a touch, unconscious of color.

Bear in mind, I do have my prejudices, oh yes,
and hold tightly to them, even when
I may be wrong.

I form an immediate opinion when I see a black man,
hand holding his pants up by the crotch,
wife-beater t-shirt and a do-rag,

I have similar thoughts about the Hispanic with tattoos
on his face and a lowrider in the yard,

it is much the same with the white woman with four kids
living in a trailer, smoking cigarettes and not
working, refusing to marry the baby-daddy

’cause the food stamps would stop.

Are you pissed off yet? Have you decided on the name
you will call me? Racist? Bigot? Judgmental?
It’s ok, I can be a judgmental SOB.

But here is the thing: my judgements are based on actions
and ideas, not color, and I certainly do not believe
there is some inherent superiority imbedded

in my somewhat-tan-but-still-white skin.

However, there is a reciprocity required which is often
overlooked: you do not get to judge me either,
or, at least not based on my skin,

I do believe there is content of character at issue,

and while mine may indeed come into question when
I display my prejudice against those I do not
know or understand,

you do not get to call me racist if I question the decisions
or actions of a man of color, simply because
the words came from a white man.

The color of my skin does not grant me any right
of superiority, but neither is it a valid reason
to censor my convictions,

that would be racist.

I have hugged the neck of a black woman and kissed
her on the cheek, shook hands with Hispanics,
Asians, Arabs…

all just felt like skin.


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Vacation Days – A Progression

Day One

The burdens followed over
the many miles, down each road,
through every traffic jam, waiting out
each stop, arriving with us and joining
us in our room, refusing to loose
their hold on the one who served them.

They wavered a bit, shimmering
behind the veil of the humid air,
recoiling somewhat when faced
with the glare of beach sand
and the onslaught of crashing waves,
but would not release their control.

Day Two

Shoulders retain the tension
stored for so long in those
muscles, eyes — unaccustomed
to natural light — in a constant
squint, ever present people
an irritant, routine disrupted.

The sand…it is everywhere
and on everything, a gritty nuisance,
matched only by the heat
and the encroachment of waves.
The screech of other people’s children
stabs into my brain.

Day Three

The morning is lethargic,
no alarm to jump-start adrenaline,
coffee still follows, but it takes
the form of leisurely activity
instead of an addict’s need, sipped while
watching clouds instead of screens.

The walk to the beach is not
so long today, the sting
of the sun on skin begins
to feel…normal. Amidst the background
noise of Jimmy Buffett, seagulls
and surf, I find my family.

Day Four

is joy
to be found
in children’s voices,
lifted in delight
at the sight of seagulls,
trilling their own sort of song
chasing the birds across the sand.
Laugh and join with them in their pursuit,
remember what is often left behind.

Day Five

There is comfort to be found
in the sand, something symbolic
in the way it clings to skin,
how it is cooler underneath
than on the surface,
the subtle color variations at the tide mark,
how it slips from beneath your feat
when you attempt to stand
before the tide,
and how the dune flowers bloom
in the gritty soil.

I place my chair
at the water’s edge,
let the waves wash over my feat,
a part of the ocean
instead of an opponent.

Day Six

The waves come and go,
in constant trade with the shore.
Leave more than you take.


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Dropping Bombs

“Let’s eradicate this cancer,
drop your bombs
and wipe it out!”
The nurse smiles at his
enthusiasm, amazed at his positive
attitude — stage four,
telling jokes very day — as she
inserts the needle and releases
the poison hope.
She was working third shift
in the ER last night — earning extra
money to pay for her Son’s
treatment — when they brought
the boy in, maybe seventeen,
needle marks between his toes.
He kept mumbling “one more
bomb, just one more…” until
his eyes rolled back. His parents
never suspected he had experimented,
much less graduated. She cried
in the car between shifts,
pausing between sobs each time
the jets passed overhead,
reminding herself to be strong.
He had called Wednesday night,
warned her it would be a while
before they talked again, time
to get to work.
Around Mosul and on both sides
of the Syrian border nervous eyes
scan the skies, wondering
if political promises will come
to fruition.
I was walking the dog
in the front yard when the nurse
across the street pulled in
her drive, gave me a weak smile
and wave as she hurried into
the house.
The bomb the dog left
on the lawn seems to define
the whole damn mess.


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