Thursday, June 27, 2013

For Those Who Still Can Listen



I immigrated to the United States, which means my parents would get up to go to a federal building in New York in the dark hours of the morning to stand with me and thousands of other people in a line that would take the day to clear.

‘Excuse me?’

‘I don’t understand!’

‘What are you saying?’

‘Ma’am, listen, listen!’

As a kid, I got to watch a slew of immigrants get dismissed, their language skills diminished, somehow suddenly incomprehensible to a clerk whose job it is to communicate with people.

As an adult, I worked in public assistance. We had thousands of people come through the program every week. And our only real goal was placing people, most of whom lived in shelters, and some of whom had criminal backgrounds, into sustainable employment.

And I got to watch as people suddenly became incomprehensible to those who are supposed to be assisting them. First, they were just difficult for that person to understand, then a little aggressive and then, finally, their behavior was confrontational. Because for some people, anger is all of you that they will hear. 

Growing up in New York, I saw it in my schools, at the centers, at the post office, at the bus stop and the subway information booth. I saw the eager dismissal of other human beings, the willingness to get frustrated, the sudden lapse of good faith.

‘You can’t help me! Get me somebody who speaks English!’

This crowded, petty hate that people get away with for fact that they direct it at the vulnerable. This acidic resent filtered into altercations over retail transactions and social services. This casual disregard of others and how that somehow became their failure and not your own.

I grew up around a sea of voices and they were all different.  And their silencing, their ridicule, it is about power. It is about having just enough power to diminish someone else. To diminish strangers. To diminish my parents. To diminish my friends. Suddenly, Dee speaks too rough for you. Suddenly, my dad just needs to blurt it out. Suddenly, my best friends are incomprehensible to you.

And it’s their fault.  It’s their fault because they have to navigate a world where you have just enough to diminish others. It’s their fault because it wasn’t enough that this is their second or third language, they should speak it with the fluency with which you disparage them. It’s their fault because you never bother to listen to people like them. It’s their fault because you couldn’t be bothered to take the time to navigate their world. It’s their fault because they’re so dismissible, so easy to disregard. It’s their fault because they stepped out of one neighborhood into another, because they’ve had to climb between places and communities and you live comfortably in one. It’s their fault for not appealing to your insularity.

It’s Trayvon’s fault because he left one community and forgot to pass in another. Because he thought he could just be a teenager and he didn’t see the sign that says ‘upon entry into this gated community, all black boys become a 1950’s caricature.’ It’s his fault because he couldn’t convey to George Zimmerman that he was just a boy, just a kid, walking home to his father. It’s not George Zimmerman’s fault for living a small life, one where he knows so little of people that a teenage boy wearing a hooded sweatshirt becomes a threat to his life that must be extinguished.

My parents navigated two countries, two economic systems, six languages between them.  My father went to work in the Bronx as a machinist in the dark hours of the morning and did not return until the dark hours of the evening. My mother, a professor of English herself in the Ukraine, was a waitress, a tutor and a case-worker here, at the same time. My friends have moved in and out of poverty, in and out of neighborhoods on both sides of development and decline. All these human beings have wandered into so many different worlds within blocks and paychecks of each other, and they’re incomprehensible to you now. And it’s their fault, because you had the fortune of growing up in one world and never being all that curious of what was beyond its various walls. Because you’ve decided you own that world and they’re merely visitors in it, visitors for which you have little tolerance or patience. Because the idea of other towns or other people upsets you. Because although you all live with the same borders, they are the trespassers. And they made the mistake of crossing without reading the sign about proceeding with caution, keeping any eye for the intellectually impenetrable. And they had the audacity to not just listen, like they’ve been doing their whole lives, but to speak. They got Don West even if Don West didn’t get them.  And I get you.

Consider this. Rachel had a friend. And he cared about her. And she was the last person he called before he died. They spoke on the night he perished from this earth because he got her and she got him. If you can’t consider her, if you can’t see her value or even imagine that she has value, if she makes you feel some sort of shame or resent, the problem isn’t with her, at all. If you a problem understanding Rachel Jeantel, made to testify at a trial over the murder of her friend, a murder that she had to hear, to listen to, as she rebuts a defense attorney representing the man who killed that friend, the problem isn’t with her at all.

If you think there’s something wrong with how she speaks or looks, there’s something wrong with you.

No one has ever asked me to answer, to listen to my best friend die and to make the case of why. No defense attorney has ever tried to rattle me questioning if I heard what I heard, if I could be trusted or understood. A big world filled with people living in small ones has never editorialized on my inscrutability. I served on a jury and that was stress enough. To go through what this young woman has gone through is remarkable.  To go after her is the petty, hateful purview of bullshit artists. It is the cruelty of someone who has just enough power to diminish someone else. It is the arrogance of people proud to flaunt the fact that other human beings seem alien to them. But Rachel Jeantel, by fact of her birth and her life, speaks more languages than you will ever know and hears more than you’ve ever bothered with. And the fact that you can’t hear her, that you can’t be bothered to understand, says far more about you than her. It says more about you than it does Don West who is cynically clowning for the jury and his client. It says that you are the smallest, cruelist thing of all and that you are proud of it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Have You All Lost Your Goddamn Minds?


Liberals, you need to get your goddamn shit together.  The President lost a debate. He didn’t lose Texas. For four years, this President has faced off one of the most obstructionist parties in modern American political history. He did this in the center of an economic collapse. He has delivered on too many promises to count, even in the dead heat of this. He’s been running ahead in an election where the opposition was fairly incompetent, where the leading opposition candidate told half the country to go fuck themselves with a stolen rusty tire iron. He has one debate where the opposition is competent, and that’s it. You’re done. You have bad polling days, and you’re done. Let’s just call off the election and use that time to apply for foreign passports. I mean, holy shit, what a bunch of spineless bastards you turned out to be.

I’ve spent the last few days talking to you motherfuckers, and I have several questions, beginning with: did you motherfuckers watch the same debate as me? Cause for the last few days, I’ve heard people saying ‘why didn’t he point out that Romney was lying?’ He did. ‘Why didn’t he tie the economy to education or healthcare?’ He did. He made much of the same case for his Presidency as did Bill Clinton. He just didn’t do it with the bullshit flourish that is Clinton’s specialty. But shit, for the last four years, he hasn’t done the flourish. He’s been tired almost every day. He’s been tired at every press conference. He’s been tired at every speech and every state of the union with the exception of a handful of incidents. And all of a sudden, you’re surprised he comes off tired? Fuck yes, he’s tired. For four years, for four years while you were antsy that he was playing the adult in the room, while you thought he was being too nice, he fought daily for every reform at every impasse. Bill Clinton, for all his talents, didn’t do what Barack Obama did. Not for the uninsured. Not for the poor. Not for college students. Not for women. Not for the children of illegal immigrants. Not in a recession. This President has wound down two wars. He gave the kill order for Osama Bin Laden. He has promoted genuine efforts at democracy in the middle east, in a region that is in the middle of a revolution that came under his watch. While everything he does gets fucked daily by the tidal wave of shithead that is the Republican Party, the Israeli Prime Minister, the European economy, probably the whole of the Middle East, some douchebags with Youtube accounts and the state of Arizona, we ask if his heart is in it? Really? If he really wants to be President? For four years, we sat at his left flank just pissing and moaning while he delivered what none of his predecessors could. He did this against a party that is objectively crazy. And now, one debate, and the question is, is the President’s heart in it?

What happened to chess? Yeah, fuck chess, we had a few bad poll days, time to go beat our own brains in with an ice pick. You know what? Fuck the President’s heart. I know his heart’s in it because while you and I have been fucking around amongst ourselves, bullshitting into the ether as to what it would mean for the campaign if Obama came off like an angry black man for a second, he’s been there bleeding for us and our progressive policies every goddamn day. You know whose heart isn’t in it? You know who needs to take the blame right now? You know who is letting everybody down? We are. We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for, and we surely are a huge pile of superstitious assholes. For four years, this President has made good on his promises even with the shit-storm that has become the political process in America. And he deserves, if not our support, then our resolve. So stop fucking panicking because you had a bad poll day. You know how many bad poll days the President has had? You might know better than he does, because he’s been too busy trying to keep Iran and Israel from becoming the dust and ash filled lands formerly known as Iran and Israel. So, for fuck’s sake, get your shit together. This is our President. He needs us. He needs our support. He needs our resolve. He needs us to beat Mitt Romney, because that asshole, despite what he said in the debate, would do exactly the damage that George Bush did, and we literally can’t afford that.

We can’t afford more wars. We can’t afford more debt. We can’t afford more tax breaks for wealthy fuckers. We cannot afford more jobs lost, more pensions squandered, more homes drowned in debt just so one more asshole can make his buck at the margins of legality. We cannot afford losing healthcare reform. People with preexisting conditions who might lose insurance, people whose parents are going to get old and need care and housing, they can’t afford it. Our generation and our children can’t afford the debt we’d accumulate under Romney. They can’t afford the spending cuts that won’t happen, the wars that will, and every promise that he’ll break as quickly as he made it. We can’t afford this collapse. And if it happens, it’s not on the President. He did poorly in a debate. If that means he loses the election, it’s on us. Because this man hasn’t been quiet. He has fought for us and our principles and our policies every day, and if he loses this because of a debate, then it means for all our talk, we weren’t ready to fight for him.

Get your shit together. Because you can’t afford not to, because you are better than this, because you need the resolve of the last four years. You have been beaten the fuck down by all the monstrosities there are. Now is not the time, a month away from an election between a man who has helped us fight and a man who would continue to bludgeon us, to panic. Now is the time to stand, with the fire you need to get through this pulsing through your corroded arteries and your over-extended gut, with the conviction of your principles, and fight for this President the way he’s fought for us. Not because he's got this, but because he might not. Because now, he might need you. Because we might need you. So please, calm the fuck down, get your goddamn shit together and fight for this because for once, it means something that you do more than talk shit.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fuck It


Fuck you.
Fuck the state you’re from.
Fuck its college football team.
Fuck every jock that ever got to feel you up under your shirt.
Fuck the three hundred people in your high school’s graduating class.
Fuck your community theatre, the fake Irish bars on your main street,
and your local zoning ordinances.
Fuck your family’s affordable house,
painted in muted and inoffensive tones.
Fuck your white ethnic food festivals.
Fuck your enormous supermarkets.
Fuck the diner massacre that happened thirty years ago
that’s only notable because it’s rare.
Fuck your exacting economic segregation.
Fuck your above ground pools.
Fuck Arby’s.
Fuck the regional band that continues to exist
because of your terrible taste in music.
Fuck your big happy dog
and its big happy owners.
May it never know rent control.
Fuck your outlet mall.
Fuck the love that made you,
that let you believe you could hack it
in a place that mattered
despite having neither the stomach or spite
required.
Fuck Miller High Life.
Fuck your big goofy smile, your sun-soaked freckles
and your common decency.
Fuck your lack of appreciation for bitter jews
on our worst days.
Fuck your competent road workers
and the short waits at your DMV.
Fuck your kindness.
Fuck your originality.
Fuck you for being different
because you used to be exactly the same.
Fuck small-market baseball.
Fuck your non-existent public transportation
and your clean air.
Fuck your stubborn, persistent
skepticism,
your inability to reduce things
to the cartoons they are.
Fuck your warm voice
and the truth it drops,
meticulously laying out what is,
what isn’t,
and what you goddamn well should know by now.
Fuck you,
that I am caught off guard
and for a moment, unashamed,
resentful of the halfway kitsch
my neighbors trade in,
that I would hear you rattle off
every mundane sliver of language,
that my heart would beat a building down
to hear it.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Brothers On Another Planet


Добрый день Юрий Гагарин
только помните, что вы стоите на планете, которая развивается, вращающихся на девятьсот миль в секунду, поэтому он считал, солнце, которое является источником всей нашей мощью.
Солнце, и вы и я, и все звезды, которые мы видим, движутся в миллион миль в день.
В внешнего спирального рукава, в сорок тысяч километров в час, галактики мы называем Млечный Путь.
Так что помните, когда вы чувствуете себя очень маленьким и небезопасно, как удивительно вряд ли был ваш рождения.
И молиться, что есть разумная жизнь где-то в космосе вызывают там трахаются все здесь, на земле.
Ваш брат,
Нил

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sympathy For Mitt Romney


“I didn’t know any Negroes, America was still pretty simple, still pretty uncomplicated. I spent some time in Washington later and we had a Negro maid, but we didn’t know any Negroes. It was only after I got to Detroit that I got to know Negroes and began to be able to evaluate them and I began to recognize that some Negroes are better and more capable than lots of whites. Whites and Negroes, in my opinion, have got to learn to know each other. Barry Goldwater didn’t have any background to understand this, to fathom them, and I couldn’t get through to him.”

-Governor George W. Romney
The Making of the President 1968 by Theodore H. White, Page 42

As Governor, George Romney was one of few Republicans to be an adamant, active supporter of civil rights. In a losing campaign for President, he toured poor neighborhoods and spoke with the downtrodden multitudes. He believed, in his heart, that if other men had seen what he had seen, they would understand and come to the same conclusions. If he could speak clearly, if he could let the truth erupt out of him unto the ears of the multitudes like pages out of someone else’s graduate thesis, he could explain to people who did not see. George Romney learned that this was not always true; that some people’s ignorance is fortified and persistent unlike little else. To see, they must see and nothing else short of that will do.

Mitt Romney grew up with a father whose failure was that he did not become the Republican nominee for President of the United States. His father was a lobbyist for a multitude of businesses, but he was a compassionate man who could not disregard the poor. He was a man who could not disregard the refuse and the dissidents. Mitt Romney is not the same man. Mitt Romney, speaking to the National Associated for the Advancement of Colored People, delivered a stump speech where he talked about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a federal act addressing a plethora of issues in the medical insurance industry based in large part on Mitt Romney’s own act at the state level as Governor of Massachusetts. Remarking, to a different audience the next night, on the jeers his call for repeal caused, he prided himself on his integrity in delivering the message of his campaign and the Republican Party: “I want people to know what I stand for, and if I don’t stand for what they want, go vote for someone else.”

Where his father, after seeing the plight of the poor, sought to support their agency and personhood, to take their case to the general public, Mitt Romney made no such mistake. Where George Romney looked at rich white men and told them that seeing what he saw would make them understand the need for sweeping reforms against institutional discrimination, Mitt Romney looked at the demographic hardest hit by the recession and told them that he could give a damn if they saw what he saw. Mitt Romney looked at the multitudes, and he realized, as his father did with Barry Goldwater, that these people just would not see reason: they did not live like Mitt Romney lived and so if they did not understand, they would not understand and they may as well cast their vote for a Democrat.

Mitt Romney was not wrong. How could, after all, a poor person see Mitt Romney’s life? He was born to a father who lobbied on behalf of businesses. When Mitt Romney was a pre-teen, his father rescued an Automotive Company in a model that would inspire his conviction later on in life. When Mitt was sixteen years old, his father became Governor of Michigan. His father was an absolute success, and Mitt, from the day he was born, lived a life of privilege. It was from this vantage point that he opposed student protestors at home. Think of the bludgeon of lessons Mitt Romney learned. First, when he lived abroad in France as a destitute missionary, he learned the limits of his persuasiveness. He saw, firsthand, the French student movement and wildcat strikes with which many American schoolchildren to this day are poorly acquainted. He lived in a nation that had come to hate much of what he understood that he should value. Then, Mitt returned home to find his father’s failing campaign bleeding out with the end of his support for the Vietnam War, the recrimination of the mass media on his Mormon faith, and his staunch advocacy of poor blacks. For the first time in his life, Mitt Romney saw clearly what was in the winners and the losers. His father had sided with and listened to the losers. George Romney had gone into the ghettos where most would not wander. He had been transparent about who he was and where he came from with both his finances and his church. All it earned the elder Romney was the buffoonish disregard of his own party; the party that would go on with Richard Nixon to claim the Presidency. This was his father’s collapse. He threw his lot in with the wrong people, and Mitt Romney would never make that mistake. Mitt Romney was not one of the losers.

If the first half of Mitt Romney’s biography taught him resent for the losers, for the intransigence of the leftist elements, and spite for his father’s lack of conviction, the next half of his life would teach him clearly the base constant value of his life and the base value of the winners: wealth. If the measure of a man is money, then Mitt Romney is one of the greatest men that ever lived. You have to understand, of course, that profitability on a personal and corporate level really is the measure of a man in the life Mitt Romney went on to lead. Money is, for all practical purposes, what makes a man good. More than trying to be a winner, Mitt Romney was trying to be good and goodness was wealth. Think of a soldier. You may approve or disapprove of war or particular wars, but many of us understand that these young men and women grew up with a value of protecting their country through combat. They grew up in towns that taught them that when you become of age, the best thing you can do is join the military. It is honorable, it is decent, and it is brave. It is what it means to be a good person.

Mitt Romney is that soldier, but his war is money and he wages it by gutting the innards of crumbling structures, removing the long-festering mold and corrosion of pensions, benefits and employees. Working for Bain, Romney waged this war daily and his colleagues were his compatriots. They understood the value of this country. They would not turn away from it. They would never join the loser, who sat in spite for not being on the right side. If only that spiteful lot could all see what the executives saw, which of course they never could. Mitt Romney, to get to sleep at night, needed to reinforce that everything he did was for the best, that there was actual risk he was taking, that the people that lost jobs were redundant or at best, the incidental casualties of a war of correction. He spent his life opposed by regulators and Democrats, the representatives of the losers, who of course had no idea what the fuck was actually going on out there. If they could only be shown, they would know, but they’re too scared to see and too stupid to understand.

Everyone around Mitt Romney believes they are a good person. They have money because they are good people. They do a service to America and American interests by salvaging its businesses. Mitt Romney is a winner, and when Bain takes over a company and people lose their jobs, it is an unfortunate outcome of an overall success. When a business goes under and Bain keeps its fees, it simply cannot be helped. It is the natural ebb and flow of business, an act of the gods of growth, beyond the hyper-mortals even at Bain Capital. All these losses must belong to someone else who doesn’t understand why they deserve it out of the same inadequacy that led them to this failure. They belong to the father who lost his pension and now has a life of poverty at best ensured in old age, and no provisions to pass onto his children. If he were good, he could get back up like Mitt Romney’s father did after the failure of his Presidential campaign. He could get back up like Mitt Romney himself did after constantly being bludgeoned by the losers in stacked election races. Mitt Romney knows this. Mitt Romney knows that if you want more “free stuff,” you should vote for the other guy. Mitt Romney earned his bonus money. He earned three years of wages as CEO of Bain from 1999 to 2002, years when he himself has said he barely even ran the place. That’s how good Mitt Romney is: even a little of him costs a hundred thousand dollars a year.

So now he stands in front of every audience and lets them know what his values are. You still don’t understand? Of course you don’t, because you don’t see. You didn’t grow up rich. You didn’t stay rich. You don’t have rich friends. You didn’t go to France to spite the people living there when you were a young man. You didn’t have a father who was a lobbyist, a business owner, a Governor and then a potential Presidential nominee. You didn’t have Edward Conard talking to you and explaining how well everything is going, and how this is just the system as it is, as men like Edward Conard and Mitt Romney have lobbied to make it, and so the masses who do not understand are betraying that system. You have no idea what good is. You think good is someone at the margins who works their whole lives at a job that, in scale, is meaningless, to put food on the table. But Mitt Romney knows that man’s life was built on the back of Mitt Romney’s labor, his children’s thirst quenched by the sweat of Mitt Romney’s brow, their stomachs filled with the keep that men like Mitt Romney have afforded them. Mitt Romney knows because he has seen it himself, not in the ghettos or crumbling homes of people whose inadequacy surrounds them, but in the glistening board rooms Mitt Romney bought, sitting with the other Masters of the Universe. He has tried to reason with you, but learned long ago how unreasonable you are, and how futile it would be. You will never understand what it is to live outside the bubble of your marginalization. You will never know what it is to be powerful, to have agency over the lives of millions of people. And it is from this crevice, this crack in a street that Mitt Romney knew he shouldn’t have paid for, that you stand in ever-sinking spite of his greatness.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Snake Culture


If you’re going to mess with people’s traumas and fears, you should understand them first. Like, I’m scared of snakes, but I don’t run into snakes that often. But what if I lived in a different world. What if I had to cross the street just to avoid groups of two to four snakes hanging out together, not even because I was scared that they would bite me, but because I just didn’t want the hassle of their hissing. Then I got on a train and these snakes kept brushing up against me even though there was plenty of room on the train. Then I go to work and my boss is a snake and keeps making inappropriate comments about how their venom would feel inside of me while paying other snakes in my department more to do the same job that I do. After a day of this shit, I go home, getting fondled again by living leather shoes on the train, crossing the street to avoid the hissing, to see my partner, who I love but is a snake and their best friend, also a snake, chilling in my living room, eating a mouse and watching national geographic. The three of us go out to a comedy club filled with snakes and the comic on stage is a snake and they tell this snake-bite joke and I don’t like it at all, and my partner and their best friend don’t understand why the fuck I’m so goddamn sensitive because snake-bite jokes are hilarious.  

Sunday, July 8, 2012

O-piate


If Apple made cocaine,
your habit would be a subscription too.
And like every addict,
you say, I could stop if I wanted to;
I just don’t want to.
And after all, it’s not harming anyone
but you.

For The Wasted Wildcats


Subversion is manufactured like cans of paste
used for the application of wallpaper on buildings
whose pipes and beams are stenched by
mold and corrosion; the unmaintained
foundations of the insatiable.

If everything bores you, perhaps you’re a capitalist.
If you’re doing what they pay you to do,
do something else.
If you’re doing what you’re supposed to,
Then you aren’t doing anything at all.

Be graffiti on a bank wall.
Do not be the high art of radicals
whose lips are chafed from service.
Do not be consumed by their expectations,
for these do not accept you.
They measure only your success
in preserving the stability
of borrowed power.
Be unreasonable,
for only the unreasonable
have demands worth making.
Stop running, comrade,
the old world is all around you.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Don't Drop Your Imagination

This world pretends it is made of plans, vacations that must be saved for,
compensation that must be provided and cash settlements for those injured in earnest due to negligence or fraud.
But it is not that.
It is trying to distract you
from all the truth worth knowing, worth holding,
so that your imagination may shatter on that distraction
like a soft-shelled egg on a concrete floor.

This world builds cubicles and bills and advertisements and receipts.
It conjures up television sets which replay the lives of those it holds sacred,
but it keeps those in false hands that are not fit to carry you.
And its sets, as all sets, must be broken down to see what is beyond them.
Your are not your role in this multi-camera nuisance.
You have to keep with dignity the things the world
dismisses as myths so that it may better lie to you
of what it knows and what is certain.

It says that you are a simple person in a plain cotton shirt.
It tells you what parts you have and when to collect payments.
It wants you to forget what you have as a child dreamt
so that it may sweep the forgotten with its bitter stride
into the spaces between refrigerators and kitchen counters,
never to be found again, mounting tenant liabilities on deposits;
abandoned even by the cleaning crew who note it dubiously if at all.

This world pretends that all it has to give is public parks
with benches the homeless ruin by existing on,
amusement parks with long lines of sweaty tourists
and their anxious absent children,
or golf courses for bankers and brokers to spend leisure on
when they're exhausted from the swell of their constant criminal regimen.

But this world has space and rockets.
This world has epic skies
and dogfights in the clouds.
This world has atoms exploding
and turning the history of a town
into debris.
It has mystery in dark corridors.
It has suspicious characters
forcing creeks
into
the wooden
staircases.
This is not a small plastic mayonnaise container
and you are not a simple frog.

This world keeps universes hiding on circuits, in wires
and through cables at the bottom of the sea.
It keeps beasts in oceans
lower than your tallest mountains
that wander the floor undiscovered in majestic beams
of disgusting color
with flimsy teeth, and crooked eyes
and coarse, cutting scales.

This world says it is cancer and subscription services,
that there is no cure,
only constant treatment and insurance premiums.
But I feel the pulsing fear of the matador,
the exposed skin of motorcycle outlaws,
the inventions at fairs that are not for sale,
that are there only to speak
to the visions young children hide from in old age.

This world wants you in its shelters,
on its public assistance,
in the aggravated subways howling under broadway junction,
certain of violence.
But you are not the human resource case,
or the mercy of your social workers
or the casualty of a cop minding his pension.
You are of revolutions.
You are of skin by the millions roaring against each other in the heat of justice come.
You are of the quaking earth.

This world gives you its Republicans,
its abortion clinic protesters,
and its corporate tax attorneys.
It crowds the possibility of escape
with blocks of non-profit internships
where you learn what it is
to type and hate good things done poorly.
And it says freedom is the shallowness
of its conference rooms,
of its privatized pensions,
of old men picketing healthcare
and reaching in their bitter incontinence
for the gutters they confuse for stars.
But it has not been long
since imperfect beings rallied together
and laid claims of substance and love
like thunder
through the barren, narrow minds
of killers in uniform.
It has not been long since
we remembered the dead true smoke of stars
carried within all those
who run with their shoddy hobbled feet
among the bulls
in marathons of courage.
It has not been long since we dreamt of deserts and seas,
of Ivanhoe and Moby Dick,
and known grace on earth and in flesh
whose tales grew larger than the myths we built
so they could have somewhere to begin.

It has not been long since we were bigger
than this world told us we could be.
And it will try to tell you it has no space
for giants,
that its mountains do not move,
that all the statues have found pedestals
and history is now dull, uneventful
anecdotes.
But is lying.
Carl Sagan has been dead for a minute,
but a minute is not long enough to forget.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Freedom of an Hour Lunch

This work narrows the imagination so I don't know anything about castles now except that, like museums, they hold rich people's things so that the middle class has something to look at and aspire to on the weekends and the poor have another place to be kept out of all the time.

But I mean to say that I don't see dragons any more; not real dragons. I see lizards that are considered real dragons by nature programs in the sense that they actually exist, but I mean real dragons in the sense of the fake kind. You can't take them seriously and receive a paycheck for clerical work. You can only do one thing and I receive a paycheck for clerical work.

So, it has been years since I've envisioned dragons, moats, princesses or idiots traveling hundreds of miles with their loyal steeds on quests of doom and destiny. I work for a living and respect women, in that I expect them to slay their own dragons.

This work narrows the soul. I rarely think about starvation in countries without resorts that are therefore not listed among desirable getaways in the advertisement banners of city papers.

I think love is what happens when two functional people can stand each other as opposed to filling up wells of disappointment and resent for one another. I do not think that love is when two borderline psychotics with selfish impulses and no discernible character traits bludgeon each other with vacant declarations insisting in full measure upon the divine providence of their mutual depravity.

So, I don't think about what it was like to be a teenager. You can't love for the first time each time as though it is the last time if you budget sixty dollars a month to take a train and a bus to a desk you sit in front of while your mind struggles to wander. You can only do one thing, and I travel but not very far.

This work clarifies the struggles between management and workers. Management has more than they deserve and workers have less than that.

I do not indulge fantasies of fighting revolutions in well-heated countries wearing local variations of caps, dancing with women that smoke harsher cigarettes than myself, and plotting overthrows over espresso with artists whose paintings I can barely understand.

This work clarifies that the revolution can start without me. I will be very late if I arrive at all, and can only be counted on to write sternly worded, cautious criticism of its most perilous moments at the appropriate political interest forums.

I am a cog in a cog. I don't understand Bob Marley, but I only ever pretended that I did. I say I have mountains inside of me, and I fully expect a select few to fawn over these aforementioned rocks as I recklessly, needlessly, helplessly and repeatedly squander unknown reservoirs of talent at a job where thinking makes it worse.

This work has made me certain of the many things I would rather not know.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Definitions for Modern Hating

Racism: The act of upsetting white conservatives, congressional representatives and radio hosts by pointing out their bigotry and prejudice. Not to be confused with 'racism,' which is an antiquated word for slavery that has lost all meaning since the American Civil War which was fought entirely over states rights.

Eugenics: Any government bill which provides medical coverage for Americans.

Marxist: A person who has read enough books to know what Marxism actually is.

Slut: A woman that exists. 

Muslim: Terrorist.

American Muslim: Potential Terrorist.

Poverty: A fable created by Theodore Kennedy in the 1950's to lure America into the purchasing of butter vouchers. 

God: White Jesus.

Planned Parenthood: Al Qaeda.

The Race Card: Mentioning race ever.

War: A necessary evil that we have to send people to do because otherwise Hitler will rise from the dead with his squadron of Islamic Dinosaurs.

Abortion: A scourge on all humanity that only exists because women can't stop whoring and just obey their white christian masters.

Israel: Yes.

American Jews: Not so much.

Woody Allen: Definitely not.

Freedom: The right to oppress those more vulnerable than yourself, including women, minorities, immigrants and the poor.

Public Schools: Small buildings where overpaid liberals tell children it's okay to be faggots.

Sex: An awkward act that should only ever take place between two dull, unhappy people for a maximum of three minutes in the dark every third Wednesday or as the husband requires.

Rape: An appropriate and not at all callous analogy for taxation.

Public Unions: Fascists.

Special Interests Groups: TANF families.

Corporations: The only people willing to stand up on behalf of the American people against the rest of the American people.

The Poor: Millions of Americans doing fine working cushy jobs at retail automotive part outlets and warehouses.

Money: White Jesus.

More to come...

Monday, March 19, 2012

For You, Who Used to Be

When you were born,
there was a bullet waiting
in a bigot's gun.
The first time your mother held you,
the first time you saw your parents argue,
the first girl that bothered you
on the playground
before you knew what you two were supposed to do
with each other;
that bullet was always waiting,
like a guardian angel,
to kiss you when you fell
to covet grace before you and violence most of all.

Your math teacher scolding you in eighth grade, disappointed,
telling you homework was to be done at home
and she knew you knew;
what would she say different
if she saw you in your box?
A box promised for a grown man
that fits a boy instead.
When you wrapped your tongue
around another
and felt a clean hip under the ends of a t-shirt
before either of you knew or cared about where
the right t-shirts were bought and what socks to wear them with.
Would she have loved you different
if she knew?
Would bad beatless music have done
or would she change it to your favorite song
on a mixtape you would have listened to
together
on a road trip you got to go on
because your parents knew.

The bullet always knew it was waiting for you.
It was waiting to mark your last step.
No doctor said you could die
from walking, but you did.
A seventeen year old boy dead
by a bullet out a bigot's barrel
and the police chief said he knew,
in his heart,
the goodness of the truth.
And he went home
and fucked his wife.
Not for the last time.
He called up his friends and got hammered on cheap beer;
not for the last time.
He went to work and got a paycheck he didn't earn;
not for the last time.
And the bigot,
he gets a camera crew
because he knew
you were up to something
so he followed you.
And he was scared, but not because he saw it too.
He had carried that bullet.
And he will hear human voices again
and see girls again
and remember youthful scolding’s again.
And he will know what it is
to watch a seventeen year old boy fall,
robbed of everything
he had been told and felt
in earnest absence of the coming fact;
A boy whose parents never got a chance
to love him like they knew.

But it was not the hand
of Fate
or God
or righteous thunder
that struck you.
It was an ignorant man who feared you,
who never thought for a second about
why
he was fucking with this kid
who probably hadn't even fallen in love yet,
who never thought for a second of his parents and his cousins
and every time they would mention his name in absence.

I'm thousands of miles away.
We will never have a conversation.
Nothing I wish for you will happen.
This bigot will walk each step in earnest fear.
Those cops will commend themselves
until they face public shaming
and so they leave the defiant commendations
for their family rooms.
And other boys will die just like you,
like it was destined,
like it was not law or ignorance,
bigots or incompetence,
but a bullet waiting.
But it wasn't.
They were supposed protect you
and they robbed you
and you can't be put back
where you go.
You go in a box too heavy for you
that fits you too early
and the police chief,
in his heart,
says it was waiting for you.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Do Sheep Dream of Political Machinations?

Mitt Romney is definitely
not made from discarded
parts of electric cars,
nor is he
a Model T-1000 Ford.
That would make him
a robot
and Mitt Romney is
not a robot.

Mitt Romney does not run
on a 3.1 format floppy disk
which teaches him
'sad,' 'happy' and 'money.'
Mitt Romney is
a people.
Mitt Romney has
specific, contextually
appropriate feelings.
Mitt Romney is not friends
with people that own Skynet.
Skynet is not real.
Mitt Romney is real.

Mitt Romney has a family.
Would a terminator
have a family?
Yes,
but only to kill them.
Mitt Romney
did not kill his family.
Thefore,
Mitt Romney
is not a Terminator.

Mitt Romney has
many friends.


None come to mind.

Wait, Ron Paul.
Ron Paul is Mitt Romney's
friend.
Would Ron Paul be friends
with a cybernetic being?
Yes.
Yes, Ron Paul would.
Unless it was
a gay abortion doctor
or
a black person
pre 1992,
Ron Paul would
totally
be friends with a cybernetic organism.
But Mitt Romney is
definitely
not
a cybernetic organism.

Mitt Romney was not,
nor has ever been
a refurbished ATM machine.
He did not
corrupt your deposit,
Charles.
Mitt Romney did not take
1,473.84 cents
and grind it
up inside of himself.
Why would Mitt Romney
do that,
Charles?
Mitt Romney is not
an old, malfunctioning
ATM machine
on the corner of
Avenue A and St. Marks
between
the dates of September 13, 1996 and July 21st, 2002.

Mitt Romney does not have a serial number.
That is just the number of dogs
Mitt Romney has killed
BY ACCIDENT.
Mitt Romney is
definitely not
a Terminator ATM machine
that performs rigorous clinical trials
searching for effective ways
to kill
the most dogs.
Bain is not a front
for a canine euthanasia
dispensary.
John Connor did not
get resurrected
as a Water Dog.
That was Jean on Baywatch.
Mitt Romney does not
believe that John Connor is now
President Obama's Portuguese Water Dog Bo
because
of an episode of Baywatch
that was automatically uploaded to his motherboard when
his modem malfunctioned.

Mitt Romney can go
near large amounts
of water.
He is not
afraid
of spills.
Mitt Romney does not
require substantive cooling to prevent a reboot of his system which would force him to run on Windows 95 safe mode for a week
until
his 'campaign' manager
'consults' him.
Mitt Romney is not
404
Error
File Not Found.
BLUESCREEN.
I see you're writing a letter,
Charles.
Would you like me to assist you with some templates?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Good

I'm trying to be good, but I don't know what good is.
Is it being my parents?
They're nice people, but they got a fucked up marriage
and both of them inside of one person is just too much tension for good to be worth it.
I'm trying to be good, but I don't want to buy things
I don't need just to point and say 'see, those are
my things,'
but I've got clothes and TV's and books I don't read
because they're not there to be read,
they're there to be seen
to sit and to say that these things
that I didn't make belong to me
because I paid out of wages
that I got at a job where I don't sew, act, or edit
that isn't a factory, a set, or apartment.
But they tell me it's good work
or at least that it's honest;
that I'm being productive,
but I think they mean harmless.
I'm trying to be good, but my country
keeps changing
the names of the people I'm supposed to be hating
and its hard to keep track
of which of my neighbors
needs killing and saving
and maiming
which banners we burn
and which we keep waving.
I'm trying to be good, but there's too many graves here.

Friendship

There's only a few people like you
they're your friends
and you don't see them as much as you'd like to
and you work as a clerk for the state
just to sit at a desk just to get
to see these friends that you meant but never got to
because you're always working
and it's good work but you'd leave
if they let you
and they're good people but they go home
and forget you
cause they've got friends too.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I: Portrait of a Stupid Little Shit

I am born crying, unemployed and without friends. I am too dumb to speak. My accomplishments are slim. I have few discerning qualities except for a discolored mark just above my ass. This remains true for some time although I haven’t looked for the mark in years. My mother almost dies giving birth. The coroner’s report reads ‘green eyes, brunette, female.’ She’s in the hospital for a month. I am at home, sick but not particularly tiny. What would her life amount to, dead on the table, for me? The doctorate in liberal arts she earned while pregnant with my brother: would that be nothing now? Her colleagues decry the loss of her gift and genius. The obituary reads ‘mother of two, loving wife, revered professor, dead at twenty-seven. Opening in the language studies department.’ Our family and the unattached come and weep, looking at me aggrieved of what I had stolen from them. They don’t look at me that way now, but they should. I still get sick, but now it’s because I’m a pussy with low potassium levels and a lack of competitive spirit. What happens to dad? My widowed father raises me and my brother with love; occasionally evading taxes. He moves to the Bronx for machinist work and remarries to a Puerto Rican policewoman and her more engaging family. He stays in a crumbling apartment in Odessa and drinks himself to death in front of and eventually with us.  The first thing I almost do entering this world is kill my mother and by extension, destroy the lives and futures of my father and brother. My brother is made a junkie by fourteen in a Ukraine without a proper secondary school system. He, unlike our friends and relatives, looks at me inscrutably as though this has happened. He lacks the primary confusion of the others as it comes to who carries the blame. Beginning at three years old, I start dumping his cars into my oatmeal. At eleven, he asks me if I’m a homosexual because I don’t appreciate a nice set of tits. He buys me horror games I’m too scared to play and then plays them in front of me with my friends. At fourteen, I tell him he pushes me at basketball because he failed at it and has to play soccer for a corporate league instead. At sixteen, I refuse to eat breakfast in the house he keeps with his new wife because they’ve hidden my big breakfast spoon. From seventeen to twenty, we don’t talk that often and afterwards, we never really understand each other.

I hate these sorts of books. My girlfriend hates them. We read fantasy adventure stories now because they are more imaginative, playful and frankly, engaging. America is filled with writers of technical manuals for farm equipment posing as honest brokers for the depressed. They tie themselves to grief like they’ve taken insurance out on life’s failure as a security. They are Bosnian, Jewish, Ukrainian. They remember the last earthquake and pogrom but forget my birthday. They smoke cigarettes and have troubles in relationships that do not come down to fucking too many people and forgetting their names. They are the bags of neurotic triggers that sit quietly festering in chairs, being grated on by the mundane until they spill over and ruin the hardwood. There are jokes, but it ends sadly. I spend literally minutes pretending I am different. It just doesn’t sound like the truth.

I could be fat with sideburns in a wife-beater and striped red Adidas two-piece track-suit. But I’m not. I could make abstract paintings in tribute to Diaspora in my mother’s loft, but I can’t paint and she doesn’t have a loft. I wear pants with details and shirts that fit unlike an immigrant. I put product in my hair and am aware of its inadequacies. One of my life-long fantasies is to avoid sweating. I take train rides with other alcoholics on lines I do not want to recognize trying to come home to Brooklyn before it stops being dark. I drive across the country in a Penske truck going to California and discover that there is in fact a country and one day when I am old and finished and it is as close to death as I am, I will come back to visit. I drink moderately priced scotch as though it were cheap scotch until I can’t afford it at which point I drink cheap scotch as though it were undrinkable. We have Humming Ale in the fridge. It’s a seasonal beer to be had in place of lemonade by people who stand in place of children. I organize the refrigerator every week placing fruits into plastic bags because that seems reasonable and fulfilling. The top shelf has hardly any room so that is where I put the eggs and yogurt. I know, why would you give a fuck? It’s not going to come into the story. I just want you to know how to find things in my refrigerator. I promise I’m not developing quirks to justify irresponsible and inexplicable actions later.

The obituary reads ’green eyes, fat, dead in a red Puma track-suit after a techno show.’ It’s nonsense. You know why they do that, don’t you? It’s a rhythm. You hear it repeated to the point of familiarity and it imparts you with a sense of wisdom. But you’re not smarter for it. You learn nothing. You find a good gag and you think it’s a great book, but it’s not. It’s just a decent gag in an awful book and what you really like is gags in other mediums. If a comedian sounded like Hemingway, you wouldn’t think he was amazing. You’d think he wasn’t funny. But if a writer sounds like your grandfather’s drunken retelling of a joke he learned in the war, you’d tell your friends to pretend to read him. I wouldn’t describe this sentiment as bitter.

I pack lunches like actresses did on film from the fifties up until the eighties. I should research to make sure those are the exact dates, but I’m not that invested in shaping that as a portion of your reality. I have the lunches ready in a red bag in the morning to give to my girlfriend when she leaves for work. I am proud of myself for this menial achievement. I have made one hundred and sixty four lunches since we got here. That isn’t the actual number because I’m not a psychopath. People ask me what I do for a living and I ask them why they’re not divorced yet. Or I walk away. Mostly, I walk away. I used to work in public assistance. I got called a ‘white faggot’ forty times in one day. It still gives me trouble to think that not everyone has this experience. You’re supposed to find it unique. I wouldn’t describe this sentiment as whimsical.

There are protests in Oakland because some people believe policemen should not shoot tear gas and rubber bullets at college graduates and the policemen disagree. I don’t protest because I think I’ll be disappointed when I’m not confused for Martin Luther King. I smoke cigarettes because they remind me of my best friend. I keep company with a lesbian because she reminds me of my best friend. Lenny Bruce’s wife left him to become a lesbian and he never forgave her. She never forgave him for all the times he made her go down on other women. Lenny Bruce was a despondent Jewish comedian. Historically and culturally, therefore, he was correct. However, the question happened to be whether or not you die sad. I am Jewish. I enjoy being Jewish. I enjoy being a despondent Jewish writer sitting at the table with family pretending to engage my humanity when otherwise reasonable relatives talk about Palestinians with terminology most people apply primarily to bugs and fungus eating their houseplants. I like the idea of being an old Jewish grandmother with my other Jewish friends gossiping about Jewish things. That last line was overwhelmed by the coveting of cultural Judaism.

I enjoy suggesting other people are anti-Semitic to mess with them. I am sad, however, that this often substantially reduces the plausibility of sex. I am uncircumcised, which means you know more about my penis than anyone else you haven’t seen naked. Men cannot help writing about it or writing about its absence. They cannot help saying that they cannot help it. Woody Allen used to tell a joke about getting in trouble because the papers said his ex-wife had been violated, and he said that knowing her, it probably wasn’t a moving violation. Woody Allen was a despondent Jewish comedian. George Carlin was raised Catholic. He was not a despondent Jew, but he was still correct. George Carlin was probably circumcised. I know that’s not important. However, the question was ‘is George Carlin circumcised?’ I promise, knowing George Carlin has a penis and being informed of the speculative nature of its curvature won’t play any role further on in this work. It is an irrelevant potential fact. I am not George Carlin. At my age, George Carlin was part of a comedy duo. I am taller than he was then and he’s dead now. We all have our small victories. I just don’t want to die in a red two-piece Adidas track suit with white stripes.