Wednesday, April 12, 2017

That One Thing

That One Thing



There’s that one thing I love about you:
The way you smile when you see me after a week away,
That sly, almost shy glance away,  
That, “Hurry up and get in the car,”
At the middle-lane airport loading zone.

There’s that one thing I love about you:
The way, instead of simply kissing me in the morning,
You turn your back to me, prone,
And say, “Scratch,” and let me feel
You from shoulder blade to back-small.

There’s that one thing I love about you:
The way you give me updates on the cats’ antics,
How Luna’s been sweet-lounging,
How Gus has been fat-snacking,
How they’ve been sunning outside.

There’s that one thing I love about you:
The way you obsess about the food I eat and don’t,
Mostly out of fun and teasing,
But with the unspoken concern about
My health and that “borderline” BPR.

There’s that one thing I love about you:
The way your eyes sparkle in the twilight,
The way your lips purse when I kiss them,
The way your body arcs when I hug it,
                        Making room for other touches.
The way your feet don’t stink,
The way your hair greys at your temples,
The way you wear the same five shirts
                        That I’ve noted you look so good in.
The way you fold my laundry,
The way your butt fills every pair of shorts,
The way you never throw anything away
                        Just in case I’ll look for it someday.

There’s that one thing I love about you:
The way you let me write love poems about us,
And don’t mind that I share too much,
And don’t mind when they don’t rhyme,
And love me back with quiet approval.  

There’s that one thing I love about you:
The way you love me and the way you let me
Love you: without affected fanfare,
Without annoying pretense,
Simply acknowledging and accepting.

There’s that one thing I love about you:

            Everything.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Totem Polls

Totem Polls



Who might have imagined that the irrelevance of Hollywood would become a totem to the nation writ large in the age of Trump? When I say totem, of course, I intend to conjure images of poles: the biggest poles: polls that now accurately misstate everything from presidential popularity to Academy Award winners. We are pole-driven, metaphor-driven, partisans who have bought into cults of personality if only for the fleeting moments needed to crush other cults. In 2017, we pit irrelevant reality stars against their replacements as if one were the President of the United States and the other were the former governor of California.

Reagan turns in his grave, contented (at least) that Nancy is again nearby.

Historians and culture warriors needn’t look far to see the hollow cynicism of the left-coast encapsulated in that totem: the golden statuette snatched from one group of woe-is-me elites and handed over to the pandered-to hyper-entitled identity group du jour. If the bestowal and confiscation of the coveted prize doesn’t strike us a revenge-fan-fiction-short of the Democrat nominating process, then the value of activist twenty-first century art is lost on us. And, still, depending upon the poll, Hollywood is still more popular among Hollywood junkies than Congress is among them.

But, Ryan Gosling, though. If only he were black, bullied, and gay.

People in the cities cheered as the wrongs of last year were righted, and dramatically so. Two auditors were fired, after all, and the midnight shenanigans on awards shows mattered again. None of this, to be clear, changes the fact that the rigged Democrat nominating process helped put Trump in office. None of this, to be clear, changes the fact that LaLa Land was thoroughly endearing to old school gays whose hearts are buoyed by a traditional, romping musical featuring Disneyesque sequences and former Disney stars. If it weren’t so Orwellian, perhaps we’d call it Dickensian. Frankly, Animal Farm is better than 1984. Both, in 2017, are more relevant than Oliver Twist.

Clinton Democrats of 1996 are the Ryan Republicans of 2017. Old school, musical-loving gays are like today’s closeted Republicans who haven’t changed a bit even as the world changed around them.

If it weren’t so sad, it’d be comical. Ruling in one hundred forty character increments, the inarticulate POTUS reduces our attention span to weird abbreviations and condensed post-punctuation spacing. And, yet, Republicans follow the promises of glitter in the form of tax cuts and stimulus as a justification to look the other way on those tweets: odd personal attacks on everybody from Rosie O to Barry O.

But, ultimately, the fault for the predicament we’re collectively in doesn’t lie with the Republicans who did what Republicans do: win.

Winning, for Republicans, used to be nothing more than preserving the status-quo.

The fault lies in that totem poll that keeps picking and pushing the wrong winners: LaLa Land and Hillary. Frankly, though, the real winners are no better.

So, here’s Republicans’ best kept secret. They are only successful in bringing about prosperity and optimism when they have a worthy foil in the form of Democrats. Republicans need Democrats to keep them honest, to raise up the issues that need solving so they can solve them: healthcare, unfair brown incarceration, the chasm between the top and bottom one-percents. Republicans need Democrats to do their jobs like A child needs a blanket, like a trapeze artist needs a safety net, like Charlie Brown needs Lucy to hold the football. And yet, the Democrats have reached deep into academia to reinvent the issues that they wish to solve with the same failed policies that have dragged America into a cynical malaise. Like most things academic, they look good on paper and sound good in echo chambers. To the rest of America, outside of Hollywood, Cambridge, Castro, and Orlando—in the great flyover underbelly of heretofore forgotten America—the moving goalposts around race, sexual identity, and gender have rendered rational discourse untenable. We are forced into ridiculous arguments about Oxford commas and urinals.

Democrats keep making good, hard-working, dismissed, voting people feel stupid because they haven’t read the latest obscure treatise on…

And we wonder why we have Trump? We wonder why we can’t have a rational discussion about anything. We wonder why we are reduced to hysterical reactions against an inarticulate, petty, obtuse, rabble-rousing, Constitutionally illiterate demagogue. It’s because the Democrat party has been decimated—even as it looks back at one of the most successful presidencies (and its own cults of personality) in the twenty-first century.

Because practically nothing that the Democrats are putting forward in 2017 makes sense to the dismissed rabble. 

The Democrats haven’t merely failed America. Democrats have failed Republicans who would be far better-serving if they weren’t brow-beaten into submission by a POTUS who disarmingly claims genealogy from Teddy R and Reagan.

One hundred forty gosh darn characters at a time!

The failure of Democrats is not merely in corrupted ideology—putting stock, panderously doubling down, in bankrupted unions’ unvested funds—but in their ability to connect with a group of voters whose demands are few: “hear us, see us, treat us as equals.”

Democrats:
Instead of ridiculing-as-ignorant, patiently educate.
Instead of dismissing as inhuman, lovingly embrace.
Instead of cornering a debate between LaLa Land and Moonlight, articulate an artistic, sustainable vision that reaches beyond the boundaries of the insulated university and into the opium-riddled, gun-toting, healthcare-deprived, hard-working—Hanes underwear wearing—politically-deprived-now-empowered assholes of America. Democrats, go back to your roots!

The enemy of good is perfect. Democrats have become their own enemy: our own enemy. Republicans are forced to wander, unleashed.
America wanders.

What America needs is a party to inhabit and champion a radical center, a series of increasingly sustainable options.

And the polls foretold it all. And, in the old-school announcement,  the winner is:

Bigly winners and small-trigger-fingered-totemly poles:


Friday, February 24, 2017

P Grabber

P Grabber




Whip it out
Whip it good.
Hey Mickey.
Hey Minnie.
Forget wide-stance-ing and stand here,
Next to me while I pee, standing up.
Or maybe I’ll sit in solidarity.
Solitary.

Executive,
Disordered,
Undoing
Overreach.
Reaching around the boundaries,
Circumventing rule of law,
While awaiting SCOTUS:
Pandering.

Counting parts,
Counting votes,
State punting,
Bullying.
Defining systemic abuse,
Denying others’ humanity,
Making jaundice: yellowed, 
Hello eyes.

Boys and girls,
Boys to girls,
Boys to men,
Soul brethren.
Where we crouch: counters,
Stalls, or buses,
All matter.

Now hold this,
Hold presses,
Hold your tongue,
Pass a law.
Or go on mean ass’s record.
Your majority speaks volumes,
Against minorities’ interests:
Win-losers. 

Grab power.
Grab pussies.
Grab hatred.
Grab, my butt.
Or just stand there and count secrets,
Grab needle-ding-dongs from haystacks,
When Congress could sympathy-side:


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

You Can't Hide Those Thawing Eyes

You Can’t Hide Those Thawing Eyes





Eventually, the snow thaws
            And the ice melts—
            Sometimes in spring,
Sometimes, the first time in
            Late February.

            Ice-glassy grass crunches underfoot.

And we shed our parkas
            And our duck boots,
            And our scarves,
And settle for light sweaters
            Over colored tees.

            Winter weights yield to springing steps.

Less burdened, now time to pause,
            Lingering longer
            Over brave blossoms,
More aware of small signs of
            Rebirth’s rebirth:
           
            Bats crack, sleds brake to balls bouncing:

            The peat again,
            Ripples on ponds,
            Pastels on lapels,
            Figures in clouds
                        That favor friends’ smiles.
            Green shoots on elms,
            And flaneurs,
            And bikers,
            And buggies,
                        Emergent in victory:

Parades on old routes re-uncovered.
            (With some extra beats this time through).

And eyes again, of passers by,
            Over still-pink noses,
            Catching ours—
            Confederates—
Sparkling on brisk breezes:
            Crisp in defiance.
           
Glances held scintillas longer.

And us again, alive and vibrant,
            Winking and blinking,
            Like treasures;
            Windows to hearts
Full of exuberant life:
            Cannily familiar:
           




Monday, February 13, 2017

Interregnum

Interregnum



The time between kings,
Between emperors,
No Cincinnatus—no hero here nor near,
No Caesar Julius—no betrayer nor Ide’s-fixed.
            Or is there, immortalized, Shakespearean sonnet:
                        Passed? Passable?

Between kings, between queens:
            Secrets and intelligence,
                        Hushed and sinister.
            Vice’s quiet successions,
                        Prince and princess lost.
            Commons, Lords, and Billionaires,
                        Hapsburgs to Rothschilds.

Ticking off the days,
Ex’s in squares:
Saints and Saviors:
Jesus’s Day,
MLK’s Day,
Washington’s Day,
Patrick’s Day,
Resurrection’s Day,
Earth’s Day,
Memorial’s Day,
Independence’s Day,
Labor’s Day,
Indigenous People’s Day:
Square circles, round pegs,
Pounding on tribes.
Memorials in knots.

The time between time,
Between digital blinks.
No calendars—no seconds to discard.
No doomsday minutes—no clock rolling back.
Or is there, waiting beyond midnight bombs:
                        Atomic border busters?

The time between bookends:
Vote-counts and Inauguration,
            Queued up to used up.
Thanksgiving and Valentine’s,
                        Filled up to fueled up.
Veteran’s Day and President’s Day,
            Victors to winners.

The time between elections:
The formers and the futures,
Lilacs to poppies,
Crises and Smooth transitions,
Parties to protests,
Children and autocrats look on:

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Co-opting Love

Co-opting Love





Third grade can be tough for husky-gened boys with dual penchants for strawberry-scented redheads and other boys. Elementary schoolyards can easily become home base for meanness and reductionism, two proclivities that inhabit most eight-year-old bosoms. Those same third graders easily immerse themselves in the rhetoric of love: in the clear and unambiguous enunciations of who is and is not deserving of one’s love. Implied in such proclamations is ownership of love, that it is somehow off limits to those not included in the normative society of lovers. In my 1983, love and hate coupled and grew alongside the concepts of “opposites” and “revenge” with as much ferocity as long division and times tables. 

In the intervening three decades, I’ve learned that “opposites” are odd constructs and that there are far more nuanced spaces available between love and hate. Such space has revealed that the opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of hate is indifference, a far more sinister foil. Hate should stand on its own in a different dialectic made for mean third graders (or for presidents with a similar level of maturity for whom “revenge” also endures in its pettiness).  

And then we all grew up and, by the time we reached adolescence—or our early twenties, at least—we realized that everybody was capable of love. Everybody was capable of being loved. 
In my early twenties, I found my first love—a ginger boy, bucking two third grade trends at once—giving form to the theory of everything that flowed from the wellspring of affection. If I could turn a redhead (or maybe, oppositely, be turned) anything was possible: romantic love had become real and accessible to all—even me! 

We’d learned that love could be many things: brotherly, romantic, affectionate, Jesus-like and unbounded. One word, many things. But a strangeness happened on the way to equality. Love was co-opted as a political term—stripped of its intrinsic joy: a slogan meant to divide rather than multiply. 

While a whole new generation was reaching out for validation, love became re-acquainted with hate, but in a sinister way. There was, as if in third grade again, no space between the two. If one could not love, we were re-trained, one must hate: the childish dialectic made for powerful memes and demagoguery. 

Pulling on heartstrings is a partisan tool nearly as popular as loosening federal purse strings. In, perhaps, the most wonderfully powerful precedent for gay marriage advocacy, an activist honed in upon Loving v. Virginia in which the 1967 SCOTUS declared, “Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man’, fundamental to our very existence and survival.” They were right and concurred unanimously, nine to zero. The Supreme Court struck down bans on interracial marriage as the template for rights-fighting. Whether the surname of its star was an accident or not, “loving,” became the battlecry that has echoed ever since.

As well-intentioned, yet horrendous-in-practice policies like Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell and Defense of Marriage gained traction, the push from the activist-Left was to claim “love” as a rally.  “Our love is legitimate: Redefine marriage. Else, you hate us.” 

Unanswerable and true on their faces, brilliantly conceived examples such as  “Love is Love,” “NoH8,” and “Love Trumps Hate” emerged across the decades as slogans meant—not only to be incontrovertibly true—as partisan mindfucks. 

In response, confused families of men and women—now “traditional” families instead of merely “families”—fought to maintain the tradition of love that their kind had owned for millennia. Loving made sense, but the new evolution of love raised discomfort and ire—they called it hate. Legislation like Prop8 in California and the spate of similar initiatives concurredly (sic) confirmed the reaction. There was no room among the lovers for incrementalism. Love and hate became more like dodgeballs aimed at the least agile in the schoolyard: mean and haplessly cast in vengeance.  

By aligning love with a political stance in an unapologetically dialectic paradigm, the ability to freely and openly love eroded: for everybody. Without love, civility quickly followed.

When gay politics adopted love and marriage—the great political horse and carriage—as its betrothed rallying cries, how could anybody respond rationally without seeming callous or heartless? If love, it turned out, is owned by one’s political foes, what does one have left? Or right?

And so it was that the right,  guided by an odd mix of laissez-faire and Christianity was denied its partial ownership of its signature, Jesus-inspired emotion. That expression of adoration between a mother and her child, between a husband and wife, between a messiah and the forgiven was appropriated. More specifically, it was confiscated. “Loving” became a rhetorical 
banner draped over everything we, as Americans, had left.

Unlike “democracy,” “rights,” “constitutionality,” and even “equality” itself, “love” snuffed out its opposition, smothering it under oxygen-capturing, flaming rainbow flags. Proclaiming one’s love became as rhetorically charged as welfare checks and Obama phones. And in this new CO2-rich atmosphere, where things were not only (ostensibly) warming but combusting, if one did not endorse gay marriage, they were filled—in a third-grade way of bifurcating a simple, unnuanced world—with “hate.” 

At the same time, the right—for so long lording jealously over love’s body of rhetoric—seemed to nail it up on a cross of dramatized schoolyard martyrdom. The best they could muster was “Love the sinner, hate the sin” which neither fit well on bumper stickers nor resonated outside of orange juice commercials, Papal proclamations or fundamentalist pulpits. Eventually, red-faced and tea-partied, the right waved its white flag: “Fine, we didn’t want it anyway.” 

Had that “loving” rhetoric been contained to the specific issue of marriage—where the link between icon and actuality was less tenuously related—perhaps the conflagration around hate could have been contained. Instead it spread like a drought-fueled wildfire across issues and candidates and political enemies. 

Having lost the power of the soundbite within the twenty-four hour news cycle, love became a whispered secret among  traditionalists. “Of course, I love. I know what love is. I love my son and my spouse and my neighbor. I get that you love. Don’t we all love?” Then, sheepishly:  "Will we see you at Thanksgiving dinner?"

“No,“ they were told. “You don’t love like we do.” And further, “You hate.” YOU HATE US. 
Now owned as a political word, it could not be claimed without retorts of hypocrisy to drown it out. 

And that is how the right lost love. 

Once deprived of love, the right was left, clearly and unambiguously, with anger, and hurt, and resentment. And so, when a firebrand straight-talker emerged as a political leader, even though he spoke about trade and immigration and straight-talking itself, a slice of America heard a strategy for reclaiming its piece of love. 

In the interregnum—well, between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s—the right was left behind. Family feasts were boycotted and then the inauguration. Strangely enough, love, now owned by the left, was transferred into its own anger and resentment in the wake of the democratic transfer of power. Already divided and  isolated, the right turned the fraction of love that remained toward itself; it confirmed the narrative that had been forced upon it. 

Love has been squandered, rhetorically and actually. 

In order to save it, may we redistribute love? Populists and progressives—even traditional Conservatives—should agree on this. Even once off-limits, strawberry-scented gingers in their forty-somethings can agree. Love does not need hate to define itself, it only needs love. This Valentine’s Day, let’s decouple them and stop acting like a bunch of third graders. 

This Valentine’s Day, let’s return to multiplication tables and deny division. Let’s simply love and let love.  









Friday, February 3, 2017

Is When Now

Is When Now?



When is a ban not a ban?
When is a pause not a pause?
When is a visa not a visa?
When is a citizen not a citizen?

KanKan.
Kittens.
AMEX.
Martians.

When is a lie not a lie?
When is a threat not a threat?
When is a fact not a fact?
When is a truth not a truth?

Misspoke.
Just joke.
Altern.
Misheard.

When is a wall not a wall?
A comrade not…
When is an order not an order?
A general not…
When is a stay not a stay?
A get out not…

When is a terrorist not a terrorist?
When is a refugee not a refugee?

Just plans.
No lands.

A vote?
A count?
A crowd?
A report?

When is a lunatic not a lunatic?
When is a president not a president?

No plans.
Just lands.

When is when?
When is now?
Is when now?
When is enough