26 October, 2011
The streets have been full for centuries.
Even if the buildings were to disappear
tomorrow, these streets would remain
filled end to end and side to side
with memories and with ghosts
and with the specters of memories.
In the dirt between the bricks
there is a memory
locked in stone and pebble
rubble and rabble
memory that filters down
and into the water
and from the water
into the dirt
and from the dirt,
it is rubbed into the soles of our shoes
and we remember again
all the things we didn't know
that we didn't know – comes to us
in dreams and in visions
and in visitations that,
if we're paying attention
will tell us the way
we are to go.
So sit down here
and tell me a story
and make it a good 'un
like the one you told me
yesterday. Tell me
about one of the places
you frequented when you were
young, and fresh the fruit was
and how the women were sweet and ripe
and how clear and how cool
the water was and what it
felt like to really sleep,
to sleep out in the open
under the stars and what it felt like
to feel safe and to feel free
to feel something different
before all the fences and wires
and wireless was all built up
back before there were gate keepers
and invisible gates
back when you were my age
and the world was something more
beautiful than it seems today.
22 October, 2011
You're in a meeting
you'd rather not be in
and I am at the bar –
drinking dollar beer,
thinking about the bars
in college when
Thirsty Thursday meant
dime drafts all night.
My friends and I, we'd
each walk in with 2 or 3 bucks,
fill a table with plastic cups of
cheap warm beer,
and watch the frat boys
strike out, stumble out
to the sidewalk to puke,
leaving behind tables
of untouched beer. After
we were sure they were
gone, we'd drink their beer,
and my friends,
who were better with girls
than me, would try
and pick up the girls.
(Drunk sorority girls
will sometimes dumpster fuck
so they can later claim
to be culturally well rounded.)
Trading shots with
two local musicians
and a well-endowed
bartender four years older
than my daughter,
I think about
the night they raised
to a quarter, and how,
we felt like we'd been
robbed and drank anyway.
Somewhere around the third hour
you stopped by the bar
to pick up the car
and everyone was surprised
when you left me there
without giving me a hard time
or seeming to judge me at all
or even the casual
“Don't get arrested”
comment that even
tolerant wives will tell
who still insist
on keeping up
drink for drink
with the crusty old bastards
with the souls of fallen gods
even as the world outside
slips into another winter
it may not return
and from which
we might not
have the will
to save it.
19 October, 2011
Here's the thing: people are like cats. I suspect that's why people hate them so much. People that tend not to like cats say it's because they're dog people (I always imagine McGruff The Crime Dog and some Planet of the Apes scenario.) Some people think cats are just too sneaky. Some think cats are to feminine and flighty – including some newly minted feminists who haven't read or thought about what feminism actually is. But As critters go, human beings are incredibly predictable in at least one way: we tend to like things that mirror the attitudes and attributes we'd rather have, instead of those we actually have. And because there is no yin without a yang, no Starsky without a Hutch, no Cagney without a Lacy, it is also true that if we like the people and places and things that represent what we aspire to, then we hate the people and places and things that remind of who (and what) we really are.
Which is why most people don't like cats. They're too much like we are.
Now, don't get me wrong. We should always aspire to be more, to be better. Of course, we're short of heroic icons in these modern times. Two of my heroes, Utah Phillips and J.L. “Red” Rountree – are both dead and have been for some time. I was introduced to the stories and songs of Utah Phillips in my early 20's, and it was through him that I began to learn about the long memory he sang and talked about – the memory of workers, organizers, unions, anarchists, pacifists, agents of change... and those those who believed in and harnessed the positive power of chaos... such as Albert Parsons, Big Bill Heywood, Joe Hill, and Ammon Hennacy. I chose as my heroes those who embody those ideals I believe are important and that I hope to better exemplify and live by in my own life. Red Rountree was maybe the last of the philosophical bank robbers. He didn't hurt people, and believed in having fun. He also had a deep grudge against banks.
But it's difficult to get around that fact that most people are like cats. Cats are moody, territorial, and dislike having their routine interrupted. I have two cats, and if their daily ritual is maligned in anyway, they simply don't know what to do. And people are the same way. We like our rituals, our patterns, our hegemonic convergence that defines each and every day of our lives. We like it so much that even if we become unhappy, we live with it.
And if we're forced to face the idea that something has to change, we look for a way to change as little as possible, lest we upset our all so sacred routine.
Which is, of course, the problem people have with the Occupy Wall Street Movement. At it's core, it represents the idea that something has be done to change the inequities that most of us life under. This means not just adding new rules. It may mean throwing the old rules out and starting from scratch. Because the problem isn't just that the rules aren't fair. The problem is that in America, the Golden Rule – “He who has the Gold makes the Rules” is the only rule that matters. It is upon that rule that Capitalism is built, and it is for that very reason that Capitalism is a wholesale failure as a social, political, and economic model. We have lived under it so long that people have forgotten that Democracy – the idea that all people are equal and deserve and equal voice – has been consumed by Plutarchy and Capitalism.
Keep in mind, not all #occupywallst folks are anti-capitalists. But they do recognize that something's fucked up. And they're willing to do something about it. It's not a revolution, that's true. But maybe... just maybe... it is a kind of evolution.
The trailer court was up on the hill and off to the left at the end of Division Street. You have to drive past the cemetery on Bone Hill and the St. Alice Home for the Aged to find it. When it snows bad, sometimes the plows don't make that far up the hill until well after 10 in the morning, which means the kids who live there either have to trudge down the hill to an available bus stop, or – since the drivers on those routes aren't supposed to let kids on the bus who aren't on their regular route – trudge the extra couple of miles across town and out to the highway bypass, where the new high school is. The smaller kids don't have as far to walk, since the intermediate school is in the center of town.
But none of them walk down the hill to go to school when the snow plows haven't cleared the way for the bus. And the parents don't call to complain. And the school doesn't call to ask if something is wrong. And a truant officer never shows up to question why – except in the spring, of course. They do take special care to make sure the wild kids from Barrett’s Trailer Court aren't out enjoying the day when they could be in school being ignored by the teachers and judged by their fellow students.
And although there has been some talk about “what to do” about the trailer park and the unwanted minions who reside there – the basic premise being that trailers are dirty no-good places, and that poor people have poor habits and that because of those two unrelated axioms … unrelated except for the fact that they are both applied to the people who live at the trailer park – there isn't enough consensus to get anything done. Whenever there's a break in or something is stolen, the first thing that Police Chief Dolarhyde does is roust the trailer park kids, since they're the most obvious suspects. That it rarely ever comes to anything doesn't matter; one of the ways the chief is able to keep his job is by sticking to the obvious. When nothing is found, the general assumption is that those white trash sons and daughters of whores simply sold it to someone from out of town for drug money or threw it away.
The only time the trailer park kids get a break from Chief Dolarhyde's program of perpetual harassment is when the gypsies come through the area. And since the gypsies never stay in town, but find places to camp outside the town limits, they're considered a county problem, not a town one.
15 October, 2011
10 October, 2011
Paint the body electric
hip hop bee bop –
O, let us sing the songs of ourselves
run and hide
safe and sound
sunbathing beneath a blue sun
illuminated for the body
and the electric funk
born out of a need to dance
and a desire to stay
a little while longer.
Let us go then, you and I
and wander silent empty streets
like drunkards, lovers, and reprobates.
Let us imagine ourselves ghosts
wandering the bric-a-brac
counting the minutes of the witching hour
when even the cops have the sense
to go home and leave this place
to the rest of us that neither
need their rules nor
care to understand them.
Counting down the hours til dawn
all the midnight shadows are drawn
in, tied up, and stowed away
in anticipation of an approaching day
that most people will not notice
because they're too busy
being respectable, worrying
about what shoes to wear
on Sunday morning and whether
the sermon will go long
making kick off
one more missed opportunity.
The lines are drawing
themselves on my face –
deep lines around
the corners of my eyes
the edges of my mouth.
They each tell a tale
geologic in proportion,
private in scale. The old men,
they like to remind me
I am still young. And while
I cannot argue
I cannot acquiesce
to their insistence
that it's all downhill
This is the other side of night
that place Céline dreamed of
but never found; that steady peace
that comes with the meditation
of one painted line and the poetry
of coffee at 3 AM. Counting down
the hours til dawn and the cats are yowling
just another bunch of bums
the cops will later blame
for various and unrelated petty thefts.
03 October, 2011
Burned pipe tobacco and spent tea leaves
look amazing similar when combined
in the ash tray. I'm trying to chase a story
and chasing my apathy with scotch
and Earl Grey tea. Maybe if
that voodoo queen was correct, one of them
will tell me the future and the other
will describe the manner of my death.
I'm far less interested in the former
than I am the latter; but I have found
I have no say in the message –
merely the form in which
the message is transmitted.
And either, really would be a welcome
excuse, since writing about politicians
doesn't change the fact that they're just
politicians; small town boys and girls
who grew up and into old men and old women
who fear the future that does not include them
and who want everything to be
exactly as it was the last time they remember being
truly happy. And if I could I'd write one long article,
laying out all of their sins, and all of my sins, as if to say,
in some imperfect but decidedly specific way,
that I am tired of their games, their petty insults,
their petty behavior, and then I would just
turn my back on them let them rot on the vine
and die as the world moves on into a future that will not
include them and into a future that will someday
not include me.
But the tea leaves will not have it;
the pipe tobacco needs replenishing, the scotch bottle is handy
the music makes my mind drift, and I know that even
if I were to quit, if I were to go downstairs
the scribbled notes and the paranoia of news paper
without my byline in it would induce me back
because it is here, and only here,
that I am sure I exist.