Sunday, November 22, 2015

Seasoned, Stuffed, and Thankful

Seasoned, Stuffed, and Thankful

For gardens and knowledge from Chaos.
For virgin birth, grace, and forgiveness.
For crayons, bagged Legos, and telescopes.
For summers with Grampa.
For those first words uttered.

For Sunday school and Bible studies.
For history class, chemistry, and proofs.
For algebra, experiments and faith.
For spring breaks and homework.
For essays and scripture.

For puppy loves and soft broken hearts.
For first loves, for missed love, for this love.
For all the trysts, loves, and trusts in between.
For cool winters’ kindlings.
For cuddles and carols.

For piles of musty leaves to play in,
For crisp blue skies and migrating jays.
For annual family convergences.
For fall gold reflections.
For Bodies Electric.

For this excess to scatter and share.
For dearth and lack and despair: hunger.
For all the pure and bad reasons I am.
For all seasons I can.
For more words, for more ways.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015



Full disclosure:
1. I’ve been a contributor to the Jeb Bush campaign for president since before he announced. Since 2000—when he was in his political prime—I have been chomping at the bit for his turn in the White House.

2. I’m a lifelong Miami Dolphins fan. 

3. I have had dreams about Rob Gronkowski that have nothing to do with football.

By all rights, Jeb should have been the Bush to beat Gore in 2000, the man to guide us through 9-11, the man to lead education reform and administer a “No Child Left Behind” that actually lived up to its name, the man to prescribe answers to Social Security and national healthcare,  the man to combat Al Queda and prevent a two-front Middle-East quagmire, the man to reshape the Supreme Court, and the man to reign in the Fed’s decade of easy money. He was smart enough, conservative enough, and just wonkish enough to make things like procurement reform (how the government buys stuff) and trust fund solvency sexy—or at least relevant.

But he wasn’t that Bush at that time.

In the fifteen intervening years, America and the world have changed considerably. The challenges of W’s administration have become the seeds for the reactive crises over the next seven years. Technology, Occupy, Iraq, the Great Recession, and the Tea Party have reshaped American politics in ways that make the simple, “common sense,” solutions that worked in 1996 seem juvenile. 

And then there’s Fantasy Football.

In the most telling moment from the third GOP debate, Jeb was asked about his Fantasy Football team, to which he answered, “I'm 7-0 in my fantasy football league. Gronkowski is still going strong." In fairness, he followed this up with a tepid warning about the lack of regulation over the new form of online gambling, but what he obviously considered an applause line overshadowed the serious response that he was obligated to make.

This is where he lost me, when I came to recognize that he is not necessarily the man for these times. 

How can a self-respecting Floridian (former governor and citizen of Miami!) cheer against the Dolphins? Because that’s what fantasy football does, it dismantles the real-world cohesion of what is arguably the ultimate team sport into disparate and unaccountable constituencies whereby disinterested third parties ignore away the humanity of the athletes in exchange for their monetized value in a fictitious universe devoid of all those reasons that we, as Americans, should love competitive sportsmanship. 

He chose Gronk’s stats over the Fins on the eve of the Thursday showdown between the Patriots and the hometown boys from Miami (Gronk is on my own sort of fantasy league, but that is not particularly germane to this specific political discussion). While I applaud Jeb’s recognition of modern pop culture and of its intersection with the complexities of technology, his response more resembles demagoguery than deep understanding. 

Of course, this is all metaphor for something much more troubling. 

First of all, he hinted that there was a space for government to ensure the fairness of the billion dollar betting industry that has grown up around fantasy football. He, in effect called for bigger government and protections for people that are stupid enough to gamble online. Where’s that personal accountability that is the mantra of modern American conservatism? 

Secondly, if we consider the logic behind the “fantasy” mentality, we find bubbles around the constituents of a team. In fantasyland, a tight end operates independent of his quarterback, both of whom succeed or fail in a vacuum that discounts defense and special teams and coaching: the rest of a carefully constructed corpus that, at the level of the NFL, succeeds and fails together. 

The United States economy does not operate in a bubble independent of foreign relations. The value of our dollar is tied to the success of China’s middle class, oil fields in Central Africa, and to navigable channels exploited by trade partners as ice sheets melt and re-form in the Arctic. The permeability of America’s borders remains tied to the availability of promising jobs to our north and south. The wealth of the most successful Americans is protected only to the degree that the other ninety percent is able to maintain their own standard of living. Civil rights and education and the arts can only thrive in a nation where the most basic human rights are protected. None of these constituent realities can be taken in isolation; a full respect for the interplay of each of these issues within a single cohesive and overarching policy provides the only truly acceptable approach to this nation’s issues. 

Finally, fantasy football turns people into numbers: into stats: into wagers and bets. It discounts the hard work of team-building and the value of the collective “we.” America is not simply quintiles. America is not simply debt ceilings. America is not simply test scores. America is not simply unemployment rates. Rather, America is a complex set of interdependent citizens: teachers and plumbers and insurance agents and software engineers and unemployed car-builders and underemployed college dropouts and professional football players and fantastically successful entrepreneurs and, yes, wealthy quasi-royal families. 

America is a team made up of great players, middling players, and third stringers. We cannot simply dwell on the greats, or give passive nods to those players that the fantasy draft stuck us with. We have to figure out how to make the team we have—not some fantasy—continue to win.  There is nothing ideologically conservative about imagining away the complexities of American society. Fantasy is not a solution.

As fantastic (!) as a nation of Gronks might be, a tight end does not a nation make.

So, chiming in from the straight-talking end of the stage during the same debate, New Jersey’s Chris Christie—far from a sure bet to win the GOP nomination—responded in a way that I wish Jeb had: “Are we really talking about getting the government involved in fantasy football? We have - wait a second - we have 19 trillion dollars in debt, we have people out of work, we have ISIS and al Qaeda attacking us, and we're talking about fantasy football. Can we stop?"

Yes, Chris. I think we can, because, Jeb!, we have much better and consequential—truly fantastic—things to do.

Read the article in Watrmark:

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Bleeding Borders

Bleeding Borders

The human body’s largest organ: skin.
A casing for our bones, blood, and muscles:
Hearts and guts and minds and brave, cherished souls:
Innards in-held and faux-fleetingly safe.

Cities and states, skin-like casings:
Uncut sausages and cakes and puddings:
Nations from war, flame-fraught in dark kitchens
And fatted on lambs and equality.

Paris: as American as Gotham,
London, Benghazi, Moscow: satellites
Beaconing like Voyager: gold records
Beyond Milky Way’s borders: unbounded.

Like refugees and immigrants, banished
From their homes—expatriated by war.
From ancient map-lines hazardously drawn,
Nations from fictions; nations from nothing.

Explosively, souls released from their skin:
Spirits fly high, unbounded: borderless.
Shattered homes, tanned hides, beheaded, expelled,
The ins turned out and the outsides turned in.

Pounds of flesh, megatons, desert-extracts,
Flowing along tributaries: long-since
Dried Canals. Dammed, damned on gun-powdered hands,
Defenseless, cursed with nothing to defend.

Ideas as weapons, stateless enemies  
Without their own borders, seek caliphate:
No tank, nor drone strike nor Kevlar too strong.
No wall high enough, no skin thick enough.

Organs hum in memoriam: lost skin,
Notre Père: Allahu Akbar: Praise God.
Gods that pre-date each others’ own, prophets
Against the flesh of heavens’ fantasies.

Libertines all, Parisian all: shadows
Of the guillotine’s razor sharp memory,
Jail-stormers and Rights of Man declarers,
Alighting the world with fraternity.

When borders touch, skin to skin, hands in hands,
Embraced in sweating sorrow, moats from tears,
Blood from whines, spirits join with the fallen
Angels and ascending devils, fire-bathed.

Mourn, humanity, for bleeding borders,
For those whose caskets we flag-pall, for those
Poor huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,
For those on Lady Liberty’s roster.

Dress, humanity, your bleeding borders,
In red, in white, in blue: torn, bandaged skin.
Press chest to chest and erase the boundaries
Between organs, heartbeats, and grieving kin.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Dreaming in Form

Dreaming in Form

I only dream of you.

I only dream at home,
With you right by me,
Lying, curled-alpha, with the cats:
Snore-purring in bleary slumber.

I only dream at home,
Awake, asleep, naps.
In our shared dawns, nights, noons, and dusks: 
Nostalgia casing overtime.

What we once celebrated in its newness
We now celebrate in its familiarity: 
In repetition.

Hugs, kisses, and naked stuff.
Dinners and lunches.
Trips to Publix.
Long bike rides.
Top Dollar.
X’s and O’s.

Hellos and see-ya-laters.
Chili and pot roast.
Judge Judy.
Teasing Luna.
Treating Francis.
Basil, mint.
Big Brother. 
Garth Brooks, Trisha.

As much ours as sunshine, firm ground and fresh air:
Ours by adoption, owned jointly, bred domestically:
Partnered uniquely.

I only dream at home,
Our base together,
The safest place I’ve ever known:
The only place I’ll ever need.

I only dream at home,
In recollection,
In hopes for today’s tomorrows:
In the nowness of everyday.

My dreams come true with you.