Thursday, November 23, 2017

Windows, Panes, and Portals

Windows, Panes, and Portals

Backdrops for occasions,            
Momentous and less-so, 
Life-affirmations and                    
Daily tedia complicated:              
Changing seasons:             

Wet Springs to high springs:                  
Seeds, births to fall leavings,      
Suns, clouds and moons’ phases:                     
Risings, settings, obscuring passings.  
Buds and blossoms.                      

These panes and portals:
New pains and new blessings,   
Befores before afters,                  
Glare-blinding, wind-cracked and clean-streaking,
Glass for reasons.

Out which we’d glance                
At Christmastime,              
Warmed at the hearth,                
Or Easter or just ‘cause,              
Into which we’d peer                   
On each arrival                                           
To see the season’s scents         
Before they were caught
On seasons’ breezes                     
From the kitchen’s heart.           

Out which we’d glance                
At blooming mounds,                   
Flowers planted                             
On our last visits;               
While washing dishes                   
After splendid feasts,                   
Or hand-snapping fresh beans, 
Or licking beaters                          
From cookie and cake,                             
Batters sweetly mixed.    

Out which we’d glance      
While local news               
Or Fins football--               
Or college football—                    
Chattered amongst cheers.        
We’d playfully dote                                  
With Grampa soft-snoring,                     
Full-belly hard-earned,                             
After long-days’ works,                
And a life well-worn.         

Out which he’d glance,                
To watch her tend            
Flower beds, and               
Us climb trees, or pick                 
Blackberries, or build                   
Palm-forts, while he rolled         
Tobacco in papers             
And listened to “The                    
Rest of the Story,”            
While box fans rattled.    

Out which she’d glance,              
To watch him chop                       
Hardwood and build                     
Fences and feeders                       
For her flowers and                      
Critters and robins;                       
Stole away for catnaps,               
Or to fix her hair,               
Or her gloss so she                       
Was always perfect.              

Glass, framed and righted:         
Letting light in and out.               
Muffling playful shouts:              
For spectacles, for dew-to-misting,
For being seen.                  

Perfect for greetings,                   
As if on movie screens.                
Perfect for long good-byes,                    
Sorrowful and longing and final
Soundless endings.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Future Facts

Future Facts

Tearing the October page from the calendar—black, witch-hatted cats giving way to Pilgrim-cloaked tabbies high-fiving turkeys—I’m reminded that an image of three cats dressed as wise men in front of a red-stockinged hearth is just thirty days away. I know it’s coming, just like I know that hurricane watching will give way to sleeping with windows open; oak leaves will clog gutters and the culture war flashpoint, ‘happy holidays’ versus ‘Merry Christmas’ will clog checkout lines at Bath & Body.

Even without a scientific study to legitimize it, my intuition tells me that this will be the balsam-scented season of ‘future facts.’ These are not merely facts that have yet to be created, they already exist and merely require discovery. On the surface, this makes sense. The sun was the center of our solar system before that fact was discovered. Gravity, it seems, held people from floating away from the Earth long before it was named. I know that Christmas-kitty December is coming before I even turn the page on the calendar.

Science has given us a methodology for the discovery of facts: observe, hypothesize, test, measure, conclude. Folks engaged in true science argue that this is a thoroughly iterative task: that the work of science is most valuable when we conclude that the hypotheses based upon our casual observations are proved false. A bias toward confirmation has confused many in the lay-community to think that science only works when our hypotheses are affirmed. Contrarily, in the academic world, once an experiment has confirmed a presupposition, this occurrence is treated with such circumspection that scientists insist on its repeatability as affirmation.

Innocent until proven guilty, common law asserts. The court of public opinion, like bastardized science, is not beholden to such standards.

Theorists have shown empirically that the very act of observation can affect results. In the models upon which investigative experiments are built, a bias toward a conclusion affirms the observation.

The media and politicians, and even some politicized scientists-turned-activists have become peddlers of these future facts. They speak the language of science, but have conflated hypothesis with prediction. They’re so invested in driving narrative—narrative, nowhere in the scientific method—that conclusions have overpowered the gathering of data. The mere act of investigation stands as near-equivalence to proof. Witness that, according to a new WaPo-ABC poll, forty nine percent of Americans think Trump committed a crime. Without a shred of non-circumstantial evidence, they tell us to wait for future facts.

Caught up in Hallow’s Eve’s witch-hunting, they will find something. Witch hunts prove themselves. Judge Hathorne (from The Crucible), Ken Starr, and Former-Director Mueller, once set loose upon their investigations, root out lies, deceit, and criminality. Perhaps those lies, deceit and criminality—as in the case of the Manafort indictments—are merely a retread of five year-old facts uncovered and equally unrelated. Perhaps, as in the case of Papadpoulos, an overwhelmed novice does his best to cover up otherwise innocuous, though ridiculously suspect, activities.

Future facts are not limited to Trump’s (or the Trump Campaign’s or people who once sent an email to Trump’s campaign) collusion with Russia. Nor are they, as fact-futurists from the Republican Party are working to predict, limited to conspiracies that merely await disclosure of their own witch hunts like UraniumOne and golden-showered dossiers.

Then there are future facts that intersect with the man-made causality of climate change, carbon emissions, and the Right’s skepticism toward the self-affirming models that link them. Another favorite flashpoint in the war over scientific Methodism—an orthodoxy that approaches religiosity—occurs where tax cuts and economic growth converge.

As to questions thoroughly unknowable, where thirty and forty year old, long-suppressed and unverifiable memories that exist in the recesses of victims’ and perpetrators’ memories, the facts may never escape he-said-she-said-ism to ever become anything other than perpetually future.

Ultimately, those witches will sink or float—or swing. Future facts will either find the cathartic light of day or will drown in the cauldrons of their own making. The lines between fake news, alternative facts, and future facts are as thin as the veils of hypocrisy and partisan posturing that alternately demand and dismiss them to their own logical ends.

We may find that Trump is guilty of the collusion that set this witch hunt in motion. For some, this would be a political—if not actual—coup. For some, it will be a self-fulfilling prophesy. At the end of this experiment in faux-science, our republic is undermined, our institutions are hollowed, our standing in the world becomes a laughing-stock, and the infidelities of our Proctors replace the civic good toward which even the most imperfect among us can aspire.

I, like you, am ready to tear another page off of the calendar. Sometimes we just need kitten-pics to right the wrongs of time, future facts notwithstanding.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

This First Jubilee

This First Jubilee

Closing out this first Sabbath year,
The first seventh year,
Our year of rest,
When we left our broad fields fallow.
I am renewed.
With you, I am new.

We grew our life so strong so fast
Even un-re-sown,
Culled without rest:
First jubilee, yeastless leavens,
Each day rising.
With you, I am new.

Magic beans and tall winter wheat,
Gardened side by side,
In all seasons,
Un-toiled ground uncultivated,
Weeds yield bounties.
With you, I am new.

With rocks and clay and sandy soils,
I’ve disappointed,
Times uncounted,
Overwatered and under-shone,
Tracked mud on thatch.
With you, I am new.

Grew, grow, we’ve grown, and growing still,
You’ve made me better,
You’ve inspired me,
Forgiven and fertilized me,
My deep wellspring,
With you, I am new.

Rich harvests and bountiful feasts,
Hue-rustled autumns,
And new-seed springs,
Steamy summers and cooled winters,
With moons and tides,
With you, I am new.

Seven thorough twelve-months counted,
Future unfinished,
Whole love, complete;
Completer with each tomorrow,
Our jubilee:

With you, I am new. 

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Friday, September 29, 2017



Far off, drums hum to a cadence,
A droning warning of danger:
A call to synchronicity:
Beats to temper the erratic 
Reactions to fear.
Tribes unite in purpose:
Beats bringing hearts to a
Common pulse. 

Far off, boots pound to a rhythm,
Straightaway into danger,
A call to heroic sacrifice:
Feet to fellows fallen:
Marches to monuments
Risen in bravery:
Beats to mere taps of a
Common pulse. 

Far off, bombs burst, rockets glare,
Remembrances of danger,
Delivering destruction,
Pocking scorched bunkers,
Mortars and bullets’ beats
Upon grounds and chests
Fallen, dust to dusted:
Common Pulse. 

Nearer, hearts' beats:
Signaling fetal life, murmuring—
   Fully dependent. 
Signaling maternity, embracing—
   Suckled consonance.
Signaling filial pride, protecting—
   Doting, pushing.
Signaling fraternity, team-building—
And first loves,
And disappointments,
And adventures,
And poetry and song,
And Peace and War:

Nearer still, our hearts beat on:
Thubbadubba, our own.
Thrumming, swelling, ours together:
Fighting, excelling, villaging.
Thubbadubba, strong beats our own,
Roaring: stronger beats together.
Melodic strum, lyric thunder:
Common pulse. 

Friday, September 1, 2017



When we pray, we call upon an almighty God,
Call on Him: Yahweh and Jesus,
With reverence and awe,
From our brave hearts.

When we pray, we call upon empowered prophets,
Call to them: Rasul Allah and Buddha,
With knowledge and hope,
From our centers.

Popes and Patriarchs,
Mothers and Marias.
  Goddesses and gods:

When we pray, we call upon tenant powers,
Call on her: Nature and Earth,
With respect and bounty,
From our bodies.

In church or square,
In home or
  In isolation:
Alphas to Omegas.

When we pray, we call upon ideas,
Call to them: Science and Alien,
With wonder and logic,
From our deep thoughts.

When we pray, we call upon our selves,
  In the humility of our smallness,
  In the faith of the vastest unknown,
  In the sublimity of our surroundings,
  In concert with our neighbors,
     To their gods,
     To their prophets,
     To their powers,
     To their ideas,
And their neighbors.

When we pray, we call upon prayers,
Call upon: eaches’ and others’,
With bended knees, prostrate,
From our every’s things.

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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Slippery Slopes

Slippery Slopes

In the year of ratification--the first slip--
Toward more perfect union:
1789: “We’ll count them as three-fifths,
Human, just so long as we can keep them:
Trade them, own them.”

Just don’t let them be whole people.

Ushering in an era of good feelings--slip two--
Structured, equivocal, stalemated:
1820: “Maine and Missouri may enter,
Compromised, we’ll keep ours, you keep yours:
Protect and harbor them.”

Just don’t let them be free people.

Proclaimed emancipated, free--slip three--
Black, Blue bruised; grey, bloodied:
1863: “Slaves are free from confederates’
Shackles, to wander the wilderness, still second-
Classed, sub-citizens.”

Just don’t let them be equal people.

Reconstructed nation, union--slip knot--
Strange fruits dangle,
Jim Crow’s century of
Intimidation paved with
Bags of carpet:
Suppression, exploitation,
Un-shared cropping, serfdom,
Infrastructured injustices,
Memorialized massacre,
Motives peculiar still,
Whistle walking culture

Just don’t let them feel safe in our midst.

Separated and supposedly equal--slick-slipped--
Boxcars and balconies and schoolyards:
1896: “Segregate for their own simple sakes’,
Let them build our cities, fight our enemies:
We’ll hollow out, ghettoize.”

Just don’t let them taste liberty amongst us.

Barrier-break, integrate, educate--sixth slip--
Universities, city squares, classrooms:
1954: “We’ll abandon our buses and chalkboards
To them, we’ll incite them and watch
Them burn from our burbs.”

Just don’t let them rise up a King to martyr.

Dreaming in resistant peace,--slip seven--
Technicolor spirituals exalt:
1968: “We will break civility’s heart, quiet
The hymns, reassert our mastery of
Others’ pieces, peace-purses.”

Just don’t let them reside in our Whitest House.

Post-race mirage, well-heeled half-sy--slip eight--
Doomed to succeed, to spite:
2008: “America held hostage by the future,
By the fierce urgency of now,
Remind them who they are, who they aren’t.”

Just don’t let them slip into our everyday.

We see the slope, and we slip a little farther,
A little nearer the past, begging for healing
From three-fifths wounds still infected,
From brothers and sisters circumspect:
A little nearer that day, strong and whole
From mounts and cliffs made level:
From the rash where slopes become:
Ninth-slip-teeming, fertile meadows.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

All That Freedom, And a Bag of Chips (eh?)

All That Freedom, And a Bag of Chips (eh?)

“We don’t need two bags of chips,” I scowled, “but, I reckon they’ll keep.” Who was I to turn down a Publix BOGO sack of Ruffle’s. I expected full well that they’d be devoured in time for the next week’s grocery trip; all we had to do was pay full price for the first bag. We started with the All-American Classics then scoured the shelf for the gimmicky “get-one.” Four curious eyes zeroed in on the maple leaf-decorated ‘All-Dressed’ flavor. Since our autumn visit to Toronto, we were open to things that our northern-nation neighbors had to offer. We joked, right there in the snack aisle, about poutines-as-fake-nachos. We laughed about how a kilometer was only two-thirds of a mile and how a loonie was only three-fourths of a dollar. Even their easy-on-the-eyes leader is a scaled-down version of our own odd, party-sized POTUS.  

“Canada’s #1 Flavor,” proclaimed the bag. Even if only half as good as ‘Cheddar and Sour Cream’ then we’d find value. We bit. 

Anybody who’s taken an Intro Economics class remembers learning that, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” In mine, we discussed “free lunch” programs that were meant to ensure that every student had equal access to the sustenance needed to keep young, hungry minds learning. 

But, the cafeteria cooks earn salaries. 
But, the school food buyer pays suppliers. 
But, electric bills and administrators are covered. 

While that “free” meal may not require a down-on-their-luck family to reallocate their shorted valuable resources, the cost side of the societal profit and loss statement is not empty. Of course, as a village, my astute professor reminded us, we also understand that we all gain by feeding education. Economists quantify meal assistance benefits by cause-and-effecting lower incarceration rates, higher lifetime earnings, and more responsive citizenship. 

We also learned, perhaps in Econ II,  that there are certain resources—goods and services—which, in their creation, cannot be efficiently rationed. Public goods, such as national defense and interstate  highway systems are immediately available to all citizens because the infrastructure necessary to enforce payment for the benefits-of-use outstrip the revenue they’d generate. No rational person pays, without gimmicks or coercion, for something they can get for free. Society cannot, and shouldn’t want to, prevent a non-paying neighbor from reaping the benefits of protection by the strongest military in the world or from driving on I-75 from Detroit to Tampa. 

We won’t address deficits here. 

To the extent that the pay-per-use barriers—think Lexus lanes, college tuition, and insurance premiums—can be reduced and the incidence of enforcement can be spread more widely, certain goods and services can take on the deceptive appearance of public goods. Our Canadian neighbors have bought into a paradigm in which, through the dilution of incidence across the entire populace—taxes—an individual’s costs for certain valuable goods approach zero. To many who can take advantage of these private-turned-public resources, they seem free: without sacrifice or value. 

Economists remind us that such freedom is a myth that leads consumers to misappropriate resources away from valuable providers of the goods and services which should have the most value. Witness the effect that “free” education has had on teacher salaries in America and what “free” healthcare has done to the earnings of doctors in Canada. Both systems—driven by the conversion of private services into public goods—undervalue the most consequential professions in the world: teachers and doctors directly affect our quality and quantity of life.

And so, with their dreamy, silver-spooned head-of-state and their systemic redistribution of resources from the wealthiest to the less wealthy, our Canadian neighbors upend not only the market-valuation of life-quality, but also slow the capitalization of innovations that might support their long-term sustainability. And all of this would be reasonable lest we oscillate our understanding of freedom from economic terms to the historical-poetic.

Freedom is also liberty; liberty isn’t free. 

Like any other public good, we cannot efficiently limit freedom’s consumption. Our enemies, both within American borders and without, have reminded us that freedom is the ultimate public good. We enshrined freedoms in our Constitution so as to remind us, with every human interaction, that freedom is our most valued national product. America’s history is one of fighting for freedom, for valuing the cost of freedom in terms of, not merely dollars, human souls. In 1867, Canada gained its partial independence from a monarchy that it still serenades. By 1867, America had twice fought in bloody and protracted wars for independence against a tyrannical Britain and reified freedom in a Civil War that preserved the union and ended slavery.

In 1867, America tasted Whitman’s, “Freedom - to walk free and own no superior.” Freedom, in America, is valued—not because the incidence of sacrifice was small—because it cost so much. 

America may not have perfected freedoms all at once, but has never misunderstood their eminent pricelessness. Americans have coveted and protected freedom, sometimes to the deplorable exclusion of our fellow citizens. The denial of freedom to other Americans over time, while gut-wrenching to own, highlights the extreme value that Americans have placed on freedom. We do not take the extension of liberties lightly. 

As we continue to expand freedoms and rights, we do so with organic deliberation, calling upon the forces of culture to right the systemic failings to which a prudent society has reacted sometimes excruciatingly slowly. Perhaps, in 2017, freedom means more than simply liberty from a tyrant king or plantation owner. Perhaps, in 2017, it means widening the safety net, reducing barriers to health and education. Perhaps, in 2017, freedom means extending the right to love and marry and choose one’s own gender-identity. New rights alongside historical freedoms are fought for and earned and protected each day anew. In America, freedom is right-valued.

Third-full bag of stale, bland potato chips: free, to anybody who wants them. 

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