Thursday, October 27, 2016

Summers, Gram-Fattened

Summers, Gram-Fattened

Sweet tea in lime green Tupperware tumblers,
            Brewed in clear vessels stacked
Beside the ceramic, hand-painted Dwarves
             Between summer-blooming
Blue hydrangea outside the kitchen window.

Hand-picked, semi-cultivated blackberries,
             Sprinkled with pure cane sugar,
Delivered on short, sometimes thorned stems,
             In a bowl from the collection she’d
Earned by redeeming S&H green stamps.

Slow-sunset-red tomatoes, perfectly-eighthed,
             Salted and gooey-seed-bursting,
Grown from seedlings in the garden corner,
             Protected from birds and deer,
By permeable steel fencing and snap pea garland.

Sour cream coffee cake leveled with a crunchy
             Double-batch of walnut topping,
Accompanied with a brimming cup of whole milk,
             In the middle of the afternoon,
Between lunch and dinner for no reason at all.

Cookie batter straight from bulging  beater tines,
             And then from the spatula, then
From the bowl itself, snuck to my lips by her own
             Bony finger with promises to keep
The secret of our playful, indulgent sneakiness.

And mashing potatoes to pulps,
And cultivating mint from cuttings,
And cinnamon-toasting,
And building hot fudge sundaes,
And sprinkling paprika on deviled eggs,
And squeezing juice from limes,
And spitting watermelon seeds,
And throwing spaghetti at walls,
And double-sifting flour.

Burning through every love-laden calorie,
            Effortlessly, beside Grampa,
Chopping, mowing, tilling, fetching. Doting
            On the best ingredient of
Every bite of every sultry summer day.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

You Know

You Know

You know, I love every minute with you,
Every minute of every day, 
And every second of those minutes,
Even when I’m a thousand miles away.

You know, I love you when you remind me
That I’m a mere mortal,
Imperfect and arrogant as I can be,
That I’m still, unjustifiably, you-worthy.

You know, I love that you are my equal,
Better in every single possible way,
The completion of every heartbeat,
Every color between black and grey.

You know, I live for the silly-stupid moments,
For the invaluable, throw-away moments:
When you complain that I didn’t use my blinker,
When you trust me to drive to Publix.
When you yell at me for bothering the cats,
When you make Luna meow at me on the phone.
When you chastise me for wasting money,
When you encourage me to get “that thing” I want.
When you point out that I was rude to a bartender,
When you politely order for both of us.
When you say I don’t scratch you right,
When you ask me to scratch your forearm anyhow.
When I embarrass you in public by acting a fool,
When you let me kiss your cheek and hold your hand.
When I tell you I love you,
When you tell me you love me back.

But there are things you don’t know,
Moments that I don’t always share:
When I am watching football games, I compare
The hottest guys on the field to you. 
They always lose.
When I’m bored on trains or planes, I pull up
An album on my phone called “Pally,” 
And scroll and smile.
When I see an ambulance drive by, my first 
Somber thought is of life without you,
It’s excruciating.
When I wonder about whether there is god,
I am reminded of how we met,
Miraculous coincidence.
When I wake up before you, while you still sleep,
I watch you breathe, 
I watch you struggle with the covers,
I watch you toss and turn,
I watch you dream,
And I just gross-cry.
When we go on walks and I’m walking behind you,
Oh, that bubble butt and those broad shoulders,
So strong, so sexy.
When I see sweet elder guy couples acting silly,
I think of us in twenty or thirty years,
Silly together.

You know, I love every minute because of you,
Every single breath is for you,
You loved me first and made me whole,

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Condomints: My Full-throated Endorsement

Condomints: My Full-Throated Endorsement

Note: The last time I gave an endorsement—for Jeb Bush in the Republican primary—the candidate dropped out of the race the next day. 

When it comes down to it, I probably have more quality experience than either of the (realistic) presidential candidates in at least one thing: oral. I’ve been performing for decades. Despite what they’d have us believe, I would contend that I thoroughly enjoy giving it more than Mrs. Rodham-Clinton does and receiving it more than Mr. Trump. I wouldn’t say that, based on this fact alone, I am more qualified for the presidency, but perhaps it could get me an internship or a cabinet position.

They just aren’t eloquent. They just aren’t listeners. 

As much as I like to give and receive by the mouthful, I prefer—with sixty-nine percent certainty—to use my hands just as often. I love to give speeches to anybody who’ll listen, but am more widely regarded for ejaculating my  words—broadcasting my ideas— in print—visually: poetry and econometric models: columns, essays, and books. 

But this isn’t about me, and words are words regardless of their method of transmission. 

It’s clear that Hillary hates giving spicy speeches—she wonkishly shares this low energy discomfort with Florida’s  Bush—and it’s also clear that Trump hates listening to others—he arrogantly shares this discomfort with Russia’s Putin—whose advice may be sage. Regardless,  we are left to rely mostly on the words the candidates speak and less on the written record that surround them. History, we’ve discovered, is only relevant when it can be recounted through the candidates’ (and their respective surrogates’) interpretation of what happened more than three days prior. 

Thus, we have been subjected to a tasteless, in-the-gutter campaign of “he said, she said.” And, then there’s the, “she said that he said,” and it’s absurd obverse, “he said that she said.” In this odd world of oral obfuscation and misrepresentation magnified by a press that it seems can’t read its own record, words have become nearly empty moanings. 

Except for the most die-hard partisans, most of us find ourselves suspending our collective gag-reflex as we consider who we are most inclined to vote against as we triangulate—thanks to third party hangers-on—a strategy for voting. 

A vote for Trump means, more than anything, a suspension of belief that the brusque and inarticulate words that come out of his mouth will somehow find their way into policy. A vote for Trump—the optimistic activity of voting in the affirmative—implies, not just walls and misogyny, but also that members of a polished and articulate Republican establishment will choke out Trump’s chicken-little speech to promote responsible conservative fiscal and trade policy. As much as a vote FOR Trump expresses conflicting goals of different traditionally Republican groups, it could just as strongly be interpreted as a vote AGAINST Clinton and what can rightly be perceived as irresponsible taxing and spending, misguided international resets and pivots, and assaults on basic constitutional freedoms. A vote AGAINST Clinton, given the current paradigm, could be read as a valid protest against corrupt political institutions—pay-for-play, political kickbacks, and bureaucratic irresponsibility—for which she can be seen as a perfect representative: entrenched in a system that she’s helped to create. 

A vote for Clinton means, more than anything, an acceptance that the polished and on-message words that come out of her mouth—despite three decades of political posturing—will somehow find their way into policy. A vote for Clinton—the optimistic activity of voting “aye”—implies, not just opportunity through immigration and glass-ceiling shattering, but also that members of the divisive fringes of her party will be quieted to promote responsible and tenable social policy. As much as a vote FOR Clinton expresses conflicting goals of newly empowered wings within the Democrat party, it could just as convincingly be interpreted as a vote AGAINST Trump and what could rightly be perceived as irresponsible taxing and spending, misguided international resets and pivots, and assaults on basic constitutional freedoms. A vote AGAINST Trump, given the current paradigm, could be read as a valid protest against the worst characteristics of capitalism—cronyism, bankruptcy, aggressive litigiousness—for which he can be seen as a perfect representative: profiting from a system that he’s helped create. 

They’re both bullies—using their words (or the carefully scripted words of their surrogates) to belittle political opponents. They both exploit otherness—one by insulting minorities, the other by taking their votes for granted. They each overstate and exploit fear—one of international terrorism (ISIL and Muslims), the other of internal terrorism (KKK and cops).

Both suck at oral.

And now it’s my turn, to puke out the words that I’ve been choking on for a while. Past columns have intimated a deep, thrombotic dissatisfaction with one candidate and the inevitability of the other, stopping short of endorsement. 

Acknowledging that the words I’m about to share will probably leave me with, if not some communicable affliction, at least an awful lingering taste in my mouth, it’s time to give my full-throated endorsement. If only I could wrap my rascally words in latex to protect my larynx from future recurrence. 

Whether you imagine it as flavored lambskin or a handy package that includes receptacle-tipped rubbers with fun-wrapped breath-savers, we’ve reached the point in the election cycle—less than a month out—where I am in need of a “condomint.” No, that’s not a typo, I’m looking for more than ketchup or A1 or Ranch dressing to cover the flavor in my least unacceptable candidate.

Given that I am a conservative, Christian, and that I have nieces. Given that I believe in free trade. Given that I believe in equality, equity, the Constitution, and rule of law. Given that I believe in an optimistic Reagan- (Bill) Clinton vision of America. Given that I value education, science and that I value ideology tempered by pragmatism. Given that Michael Bloomberg, Jeb Bush, and John Huntsman are not options. Given that only one candidate, at least, acknowledges the existence of these topics. Given that only one candidate doesn’t completely obliterate these ideals:

Not Trump.

Ok, fine, I’ll write it since I’ve been expressing it orally—in the absence of another, less regrettable orifice from which to express it—long enough. 
My condomint-numbed, full-throated, endorsement: 
I’m with her. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

American Simile

American Simile

Like trying to build a city below sea-level. 
Like building a cathedral in Gomorrah. 
Like attempting to clarify the Mississippi. 

Like swimming across the Crescent bend,
Through unnavigable currents and 
Swirling Charybdis, siren-called. 

Like building levees through craters,
Damning  wards and raising parishes,
Saving quarters, praising insolence. 

Like un-erecting bronzed statues, 
Washing away memories of sins,
With muddy, hurricane force. 

Like forgetting the high water marks,
Bricking, un-mortared, over low water marks,
Filling drains and pumping up.

Like building commerce on piracy,
Like fearing the wake more than the vessel,
Like building cannon-less bastions. 

Like fighting addiction with drugs,
Like fighting violence with guns,
Like fighting affliction with incarceration. 

Like passing drawn flowers for lies. 
Like passing bent palms for truth. 
Like passing through with vengeance. 

Like pretending it’s a city on a hill. 
Like remembering it’s a city on a hill.
Like making it a city on a hill.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Locker Room Talk

Locker Room Talk

“Hey man, looking lean.”
“How’s your daughter?”
“Dude, it’s chilly out there today.”
“Brady looked good this week.”
“Personal best on squats this morning.”

“Hey bro, don’t be mean.”
“Hows your wife?”
“Been raking leaves all day.”
“Vacation starts Monday.”
“Been nursing a sore knee from running.”

“Hey amigo, thanks for the spot.” 
“How’s your mother?”
“Been raking her leaves too.”
“Plans for Thanksgiving?”
“Cancer’s officially in remission.”

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Five Ways to Observe Columbus Day

Five Ways to Observe Columbus Day

It wasn’t long ago—relative to the age of the universe—that Christopher Columbus defied the horizon and set off in search of a passage East. As we’ve learned in the dominant, perpetuated myth about this series of events, he accidentally discovered a new continent. Ever the salesman, mildly good at sailing and terrible at navigation, he convinced his fellow sailors they were in India and misidentified the exotic people he encountered with a misnomer that sticks to this day.

Columbus’s return to Europe heralded a great discovery that set off a wild fury of exploration, exploitation, and imperialism. The “new world,” neverminding that it had been inhabited by humans for over ten thousand years, became a plucking ground for riches, resources, and renown. Europeans that followed Columbus’s expedition brought with them diseases and conquest that ravaged the indigenous peoples of what would later be named “Americas.”

Over the next 500 years, this America would grow to be the richest, most powerful nation on Earth. This America would become the shining beacon of hope for the world. This America has become a successful experiment in democracy, liberty, multiculturalism, opportunity, technology, and generosity. Americans fought, sacrificing lives and riches, for the protection of these ideals around the world.

Before we were the heirs of Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton, we were the heirs of Christopher Columbus.

Over the next 500 years, this America also built upon the atrocities pioneered by Columbus. The precedent for exploiting the indigenous people of the Americas was repeated over and over again. Land was taken. Riches were appropriated. The staples of a once-thriving civilization—herds, fertile land, sacred spaces—were either destroyed or confiscated. The heirs of Columbus, now calling themselves Americans, enslaved, murdered, and marginalized whole groups of people in their march toward becoming this shining beacon of hope for the world.

America cannot celebrate Columbus for the former without rightly acknowledging other appropriate celebrations alongside Columbus Day. Here is a list of five alternative observances that can be paired with celebrations of Columbus’s legacy.

    National Monday off Day: Let’s be honest. The more distantly past and personally disconnected we are from an event or celebration, the more space there is to re-interpret it. In many ways, Columbus Day is as special as a national “day off” as it is a specific celebration of Columbus’s important place in our history. We have a few of these federally prescribed holidays each year. Governments and banks close to provide a welcome respite from toil and labor. While on the surface it may seem a cynical approach to a holiday, it foils nicely with Labor Day which occurs a month earlier, and in a rather postmodern, twenty-first century way, celebrates the idea of celebration itself. 

    Myths and Legends Day: The story of Columbus being the first European—as was taught to us in fifth grade history—has value, not in its verifiable fact, but in what it stands for. Likewise, the notion that all people thought the world was flat is equally laughable as a statement of “fact.” European Christianity taming savages? Such myths and legends around Columbus’s voyages do stand as symbols of a new era of exploration, discovery, and experimentation that highlight Europe’s emergence from the middle ages. Rather than discount the value of these events based on the verifiable “facts” uncovered by recent historians, we can acknowledge that we need myths and legends to coalesce around to better understand the “stories” of us.
    Indigenous People’s Day: This is a fitting pair to Columbus Day and has actually been adopted as a holiday—in some places called “Native American Day” or “First Peoples’ Day” by many cities, states, provinces, and countries around the world. The number of municipalities embracing this day is growing rapidly. First designed as a protest fueled by the modern historical reassessments of Columbus’s legacy, it can also be a day of reflection and atonement for the deplorable actions of Americans who—in their quest to control the full continent—mistreated Native American nations, decimating their cultures and sovereignty.  We could also treat it as a positive celebration of the rich cultures and enduring legacies of the continent’s first citizens. Further, it can be a day to reflect on the effects of such remarkable Native Americans as Black Kettle, Osceola, and Buffalo Bird Woman.
    Immigrants Day: Celebrations of Columbus’s “discovery” of America took place as far back as 1792. The history of Columbus Day as a national holiday actually has its roots in American Immigrant communities who were—during the 1870s and 1880s—poorly treated, mostly because of their unpopular Catholic faith, but also because they looked and sounded different. Eventually these groups would gain acceptance and be subsumed into the mainstream culture of America’s melting pot—or salad bowl, if you prefer. Even today, as different immigrant populations from new and exotic parts of the world arrive on the shores of our nation, as they seek asylum or freedom or riches, a reminder that we are a nation of immigrants wouldn’t hurt.  Like many other minority groups throughout American history, visibility is a great first step toward understanding and integration. Such a holiday would be a perfect reflection that, at some point in our lineage, we are ALL immigrants.     
    American Atonement Day: Americans set aside a full day to give thanks for all of the bounties that have been heaped upon us. Thanksgiving is as necessary and culturally-ingrained a holiday as Independence Day. We rightly observe Thanksgiving as a secular celebration of something beyond us and before us for which we should celebrate with gratitude. Built, still, upon myths and legends and how we’d like to view ourselves in the prism of our collective history, Thanksgiving reflects upon a passivity that led to our success as a nation. A national day of atonement—An American Yom Kippur—would be a well-placed point from which to view those regrettable things we, as a nation did, even as we were being blessed in other ways. Quite aside from dwelling upon slavery as a national horror, quite aside from dwelling on our historical treatment of Native Americans, immigrants, gays, Catholics, Muslims, the poor, the disabled, and other groups that have not fully realized the bounties for which we can give thanks, we can dwell on how we may have fallen short—on an individual as well as collective level—of “earning” our pieces of the gifts of America’s potential. Were we to dwell upon these things every day, we would be paralyzed in grief. Setting aside a day for reflection on how we have failed, even as we have achieved so much as a lead-up to Thanksgiving would be a timely and sanguine preparation for the holiday season.

Columbus Day is no less relevant today as it was two hundred years ago. It has accumulated more meaning and, when paired with these additional reflections, gives Americans a greater and broader view of who we are: worth celebrating, worth grieving, worth accepting that we still have much more to discover.

Read more of my poetry, essays, and stories at