Friday, September 29, 2017

Beats

Beats



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—
   Collecting.
And first loves,
And disappointments,
And adventures,
And poetry and song,
And Peace and War:
Loss. 

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

Prayers

Prayers




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:
Intercessors.

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.


Read more of my poetry, essays, and stories at Momentitiousness.com

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,
Incarcerations,
Memorialized massacre,
Motives peculiar still,
Whistle walking culture
Reimagined.

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.

Read more of my poetry, essays, and stories at Momentitiousness.com

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. 


Read more of my poetry, essays, and stories at Momentitiousness.com

Friday, August 11, 2017

Staring Into The Sun

Staring Into The Sun



            The leash pulls taut, slacks, then pulls taut again as my fawn pug Whitney explores the world at ankle level. Though she spends a lot of her time in my arms, carried in an embrace resembling a full-frontal papoose—rows of doggie nipples leading the way—she is in her world at the end of this retracting leash. She masters her world, zooming from bush to tree, sniffing and stopping—prancing. We round the lake at the time before dusk, about thirty-eight minutes before the sun finally sets, when the sky is still bluish, but hinting at the summer pink it likes to show off this time of year. Joggers and walkers and poets and readers pass at varying speeds; other dogs pant hello.
With one good eye—she was born with a cataract that has left her half blind—she leads me, then follows, then walks in my shadow. She doesn’t know she’s half blind; we’ve never told her and we whisper about it in her presence when friends ask about the cloudy haze that so obviously obscures her sight. She doesn’t need to know. She cannot know.
            At ankle level, with a flat nose and a long tongue, half-sight is plenty good. With four paws touching the firmament, she can feel at least twice as much as I do—even when I’m barefoot. She hears songs of creatures that I’ve never seen, she hears songs that I’ve never heard. She doesn’t need to know she can’t see in three dimensions. She tastes and smells and hears and feels her world. If she could, she would pity me. She cannot.
            Conventional wisdom, the wisdom of the third-grade teacher—conventions epitomized—foretells blindness following sun staring. The one or two times in a lifetime when one personally witnesses—actively views— a solar eclipse presents increased occasion for this cause and effect to occur. For some reason, and no one was ever able to satisfactorily explain why, it is far worse to stare at a sun obscured by the moon than it is to stare at a whole sun: conventional wisdom.
“How do we know it’s actually happening,” I would ask with a third-grader’s innocence, “if we can’t see it?” Certainly, there are those who have seen this happen, otherwise how would we know about it? Always afraid that it would be the last thing I would see, I have blindly followed the convention. I intend to see the next one, if it is the last thing I see.
            Given that the other activities that I’ve taken pleasure in and mastered since I was told that they would certainly cause blindness have not done so, my trust for the conventional wisdom—as told me by Ms. Mary T. Pengov (my third-grade teacher), my grandmother, and various other  women—regarding the causes of blindness has lost its preventive power. That women seem to be the noted authorities and purveyors of conventional wisdom on blindness and its causes is probably merely coincidence. Despite the probability of coincidence, part of me wants to believe that women have some vested interest in the mythmaking surrounding male blindness. The other part of me believes that, without a glimmer of a doubt, women—such as third-grade teachers, grandmothers, and aunts—maintain their tenuous control over the male gender through such myths. The conventions and myths perpetuated by generations of women seem to maintain this control at least as effectively as breasts and thighs: Southern fried chicken, myths of Homeric quality—an odyssey of blindness.
            As Whitney encounters and pulls toward some congregated ducks, I decide to stare at the sun. This is a beginner’s exercise, I posit, because it is a setting sun and not a high-in-the-sky two o’clock sun. Nonetheless, I stare. Whitney wraps her leash around my ankles as I stand in defiance of conventional wisdom, in defiance of the power of battered and deep-fat-fried drums and wings. Dancing spots of light form around the sun’s corona. The purpling sky is flecked with these dots errata. Cooling me from over the lake, a breeze picks up my scorching eyelashes and tickles my face. I look away to the trees that canopy the path around me. The light spots continue to dance and then they are gone. Whitney is now lying at my feet, her tail curled, her tongue tasting the air around her. The ducks are back in the water. I am not blind.
            That I can still see is both joy and disappointment. I was not ready to feel my way home, or to trust Whitney, whose frighteningly zig-zagged trail may have just as easily taken me to a duck’s nest as my own. I was not, though I took the calculated chance, ready to give myself over to blindness. I was not ready to be blind, or even half-blind. I was disappointed in only the way disappointment can be mixed with relief in knowing that the cause of disappointment would have ultimately been unwished for in its immediate aftermath.
            My first relationship with blindness took the shape of television’s Little House on the Prairie. Over the course of a couple episodes, Laura’s big sister lost her sight. Mary’s new handicap was never treated as such. She continued to teach and to love her family, and later fell in love with a blind man who never knew just how beautiful she was. Mary Ingalls grew from a blind girl into a blind woman and became a blind wife and a blind mother and eventually blind was just another attribute like two-legged, bonnet-wearing, or blue-eyed. There was something about her new countenance. It was more than essential womanness; she appeared to experience feelings and say words, to be aware of sounds and sense emotion with an inscrutable intensity. Even in reruns and in syndication, Mary Ingalls emoted in a way that I coveted.
            Blindness meant more than a new way of seeing; it meant a whole different way of sharing. Blindness was affective. I grasped my grandmother’s hand as she walked down the stairs from her bedroom to the living room. She was breaking in yet another set of glasses. The prescriptions, she explained, had gotten stronger and stronger over the years. Glasses were her pharmakon: each stronger prescription further weakened the muscles in her eyes—like going to the auto mechanic for a fourteen-hundred-thirty-seven-dollar oil change. She could no longer see well enough to drive. Walking down those treacherous steps, I could feel my grandmother, whose hand I held for support only, squeezing with different levels of pressure. Without saying a word, she sped me up and slowed me down tenderly with silent hands. She emoted differently. “Never look straight into the sun,” she’d say intently at the bottom of the stairs, a stream of non sequiturs following closely as her crooked finger pointed out the bay window.
            One year for Christmas, I received a telescope. “Look into the night sky,” the instructions read. Mrs. Pengov explained that the stars were like suns for other worlds. They were not actually smaller than the sun or the moon, only farther away: more ungraspable. Dotted upon the black canvas of night, cradled by a moon’s sliver, other worlds and galaxies invaded my eyes; other worlds and galaxies consumed my mind. My grandmother’s explanation of the stars was far more spiritual: “They are all of the people who have died and gone to Heaven.” Where science met spirit, my eyes, my mind, and my soul wandered. Why, if I gaze upon our sun, will it make me blind? Why, if I gaze upon the face of God will it make me blind? What of others’ suns? What of others’ gods? Night after night, I gazed upon those other faces and souls; I brought those far-off suns closer. They were all yet ungraspable. The spots I saw were there and I could see them without fear of blindness and yet I yearned for some plenary tangibility, some kind of physical consequence to prove my galactic study.
            The image of a telescope is relayed upside-down and flipped by a mirror just before it meets the eye. While the image, then, is brought closer, the translations of that image are richly intermediated and ultimately deceptive. Deceptive, of course, only if the intermediation happens transparently, unrecognized, which—to the eye of a third grader—is certainly the case. Doubtless, I was fooled. It is improbable that I ever saw through that telescope what I thought I saw. Isn’t that blindness: not seeing?
            Annie Dillard wrote an essay about "Seeing." In addition to the personal anecdotes that she relayed regarding the process of seeing, she told of a study that she’d read in which formerly blind people—people who had never seen—were, through the miracle of some scientific-medical procedure, given their sight. The study was absorbing because of the troubles that these newly sighted humans encountered. They could not discern borders between objects. Because these individuals had not been trained in the skill of seeing, they had never learned how to perceive colors, shadows, or depth. The language and signification implicit in the process of seeing had gone unrealized. Though the world for these people had not changed, their ability to perceive it certainly had. As if wandering up the stairs of the tower of Babel, most of these failed seers revert back to their other senses rather than undertake the cognition of a new sensibility. “Going blind,” we might infer, may not be very different from “going sighted.” The underlying problem, it seems, is that of translation: from one set of signs and symbols, in their apprehension, to another.
My eighty year-old grandfather joked last Thanksgiving, after my grandmother underwent just such an operation, that, “Cataract removal surgery is responsible for eighty percent of divorces over the age of sixty.” My grandfather doesn’t tell jokes often. My grandmother instinctively rolls her—still myopic—newly cloudless eyes. My grandfather’s deep and congested voice is punctuated by loud and gargling coughs well-timed to join our respectful chuckles. What my grandparents see in each other has little to do with what their eyes relay as pictures of each other. What my grandparents see in each other are the beauties of their respective pasts. What they see in each other is jointly lived sacrifice. What they see in each other is the need for the familiar sounds, smells, and routines that they have intertwined together in this—the overlapping dusks of their lives. My grandparents are the twenty percent.
Watching their interplay, after years together, is a study in the senses. My grandparents' lives are not haphazardly intertwined. They not only rely on each other for companionship, but they are each other’s eyes and ears. They are each other’s tastes and scents. They are touch. As younger couples can, early in a relationship, complete each other’s verbalizations, my grandparents share their senses knowing what the other is seeing and apprehending independent of the seemingly separate bodies they inhabit. They are society in microcosm. They see and are seen; simultaneously subject and object. They have melded into a body held in a house that my grandfather built with his own hands and that my grandmother has kept alive through her force of will.
In Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault develops a theory of the growth of civilization which is predicated upon seeing. The panopticon, as Foucault describes it, is a model in which the strictures of a society's norms and relationships are upheld through the power derived by surveillance. With one eye, a million eyes focus. The eyes both control and liberate. With a million eyes, the one eye focuses. The eyes of civilization allow my grandparents to see each other and to see the world around them in the same way. They share their senses and their souls. With their own eyes they see deeper into themselves in this political and sentimental relationship.
How can this collective eye be reconciled, then, with the freedoms and liberation of the personal eye? Indeed the most base instinct of all animals, humans included, is the survival of the self, not the herd. The most basic tenet of consciousness is the recognition of the I. When a child first sees himself in a mirror and develops a recognition that that creature at which he is staring is not his mother or father, that the being into whose own eyes he is looking has gone from other to self, that is when the I and the eye merge. That humans consciously interact with themselves through a lens of otherness is what separates them from the other animals whose selfishness is instinctive.
When she was a puppy, Whitney saw—in the reflection of a full-length sliding-glass door—herself. She barked and howled and reached out to touch it with her little black-socked puppy paw. She studied the image and finally realized that the creature on the other side of that glass was untenable and lost interest. She and her reflection parted and it is likely that she quickly forgot about that other scentless dog. The same incident has played out a few times since then—a scene in which she spasmodically greets her reflection with the same tenacity with which she greets other four-legged creatures. She did not know that she was barking at herself. It is likely that she does not know that she, too, is an I to herself. Her world—seen hazily through those cataract-covered lenses—is defined by all of the things that are around her: her bed and her daddies, the couch and the windows. She does not place herself in a context of what she sees, she merely exists within a space contented by food and kisses and belly rubs. Certainly, and this is well studied and documented, she senses smells and tastes differently and more richly than her daddies do; there are sounds that we will never hear with her. She will never act in a conscious and self-liberated way toward these sensory intrusions; the best she will ever muster is the ability to react to a series of naturally recurring stimuli.
Gabe sees sounds. He is a twenty-two-year-old DJ friend who has come of age in the digital world. He is a synesthete. He likes to be called a “producer” nowadays, which means he creates mixes of existing songs that are to be played by DJs. This is not dissimilar to the difference between a theatrical producer and director: scene setter versus front lines: forest and trees. Recently, a “production” of his was featured on a Britney Spears album.
 When I was earning B minuses in penmanship—words as empty vessels—in first grade, Gabe was glinting his father's eyes. He mastered a keyboard before he could "write." His and my interactions with words markedly differ. Our perceptions diverge; our abilities to assimilate data into personal contexts deviate in drastic ways.
This digital world has allowed—perhaps precipitated—the convolution of human senses. The ability for anyone anywhere to access information, to convert and appropriate that information—more generically, data—into different forms, and then to redund that data into codes for others to appropriate and convert is having a physical effect on the human body. No longer can humans be contented to recognize the I: meld the sense of self through the searing realization of mirror imagery. Once the eyes have done their work to dislocate and decenter a human from his surroundings, the conscious being looks for other uses for the I. I asked Gabe to describe what he sees when he hears certain sounds, mostly dealing with music. He sees the causes of sounds, the representations of a tire screeching or a horn exclaiming. He sees these causes in colors and lines and pulsating orbs. These symbols constitute another way of hearing and of seeing that the new language and discourse of digitization makes possible.
How, though, is Gabe's ability to see sound any different from the phenomena captured by Picasso in his early Cubist renderings? The vision of things as they appear to one set of eyes is not always the same for all eyes. While we can never know if Picasso's work was an experiment in possibility and simultaneity or an accurate rendering of what he saw through his own eyes, we can marvel at the reality that we can see it and wonder. Were the Damoiselles d' Avignon occurring to Picasso through an abstract context in which they were merely seen, or were they converted through some synaptic miracle in Picasso's mind that made them a part of him? How did Picasso see? What did he see? Did he see sounds—are those his reds and blues? Are those his colors and triangles and distorted symmetries? Picasso and Gabe have different eyes. Perhaps, on second sight, they have the same eyes.
So, what of this panopticon? Surveillance is a unitary process meant to weed out these errant eyes. In the digital age, then, when the eyes can hear, the panopticon will be turned upon itself and re-defined. The interface becomes the unifying feature of the discipline model: the shared eyes of my grandparents, consciously eschewed in favor of the separate eyes of Picasso and Gabe; they meld along the lines of individuality. The limits of our bodies are no longer defined by those things that we see as separate from ourselves. The shadows and limits of the language of sight begin to seek out the unity that is at once convoluted. We, concurrently, see ourselves as distinct from a politick that we have created and yearn for the connections from which to escape.
This paradox of sight takes shape—is made real—through the interface of the computer. Watching fingers dance upon a keyboard in the periphery of the data that appears on a screen is not so different from a visit to New York City or perhaps Las Vegas. What we see is intimately intertwined with what we feel and hear and smell.
Feel, here, in the symptomatic sense: like romance. We like the feeling of romance. Romance intoxicates: it surpasses the senses in such a way that the senses are instantly cognized by the body and translated into immediacy. A tangential narrative conducted in the moment can be described only in terms of senses. When a new set of symbols that link the increasingly natural senses of taste and sight and orality, when we can describe a bright sound or a garnet feeling, we are given the tools to expand consciousness nearly exponentially. With a new discourse comes the liberation that Picasso anticipated. The power of the interface is transforming the eyes and the skill of seeing. New York City and Las Vegas are early incarnations of this transformation of the human body. The panopticon turns upon itself and liberates the senses. Indeed, the cities take on their own souls with their own senses and their own discourses and languages. They are, themselves, seers and seen. My grandmother never warned me not to stare into the neon lights. I was never given the opportunity to hear the neon lights until I visited the City. Other sins and blindness-causing activities certainly abound unseen.
Intimately linked with the progression of civilization has been the progression of language systems from the oral to the written. Walter J. Ong, in Orality and Literacy, posits that, "Because it moves speech from the oral-aural to a new sensory world, that of vision, it transforms speech and thought as well." The current movement is transforming all of the senses, indeed it is breathing life into our context: our cities and our space.
The eyes of a city are myriad. They are connected and disconnected. They are individual and they are one. The eyes gaze upon their objects and beg to be seen. Blue eyes and brown eyes and green eyes, the hazel eye, and the occasional gray eye surrounded by eye shadows and lashes seeking themselves in shiny storefronts and mirrored glasses: in exchange for blindness.
The nature of blindness, like sight itself, has been transformed. Again, the interface, even in the absence of its visibility, has changed the songs of Homer into the precise and gripping words of Borges. In a pre-literate age, the exactness of historical fact played a secondary role to the melodic ebb and flow of epic. When finally captured by the written word, the Homeric tale was stultified by linear narrative force. In a postmodern—ambitiously post-literate—sense, Borges has undertaken the translation of the written word into that same melody. Surrounded by a million books in the Argentine National Library, the blind seer worked to manipulate the signs and symbols of a written language that was rapidly escaping him. Homer, surrounded by an aurality, limited by the cluttered memories of Heroic Man battling fallible gods, feeling his way from one performance to the next, spoke to his world from behind a veil of limitation. He could not see the grimaces of his audience, the pained pity with which they greeted his handicap. He was not surrounded by a library of ideas, including his own, which were frozen by the eyes which he could not see freezing him. For Homer, there was but one language. For Borges, that same language was one of many. The nature of not seeing the word has changed along with the word and the depth of that word's meaning. Indeed, the whole of human knowledge that evaded Homer's eye was a much smaller set of data than that which Borges missed.
I think I know: blindness is a sense as much as sight. The I comes from a collective distance from the self; from an individualized proximity to the politick. If we are liberated from the eye, we can join this paradox. We may join in this consciously and with full knowledge of our own internalized surveillance. Hence, I stare at the sun and seek out the eclipse. I shall refuse the device that Mrs. Pengov insisted we build, a device that provides an evidentiary narrative of the moon's passage before the Sun. Gabe will hear this passage, and evidence: a factual post representation, uncluttered by the millennia of linear training. Picasso saw this eclipse; he may have caused it. I shall covet Mary Ingalls’ affective blindness to it. Homer may have named it and my grandparents shall never know it—they will not know it together. Whitney will either eat or sleep or play through it and I:

I will stare into the sun with unabashed and sinful pride. I will consciously practice my blindness with the same efficacy as I instinctively practice my sight. I will sing the lyrics that I smell and taste. I will taste the words. I will stare into the sun as though it were a mirror and as though it were a library and wait patiently for the liberating darkness for which I'm sure I will ultimately un-wish.


Read more of my poetry, essays, and stories at Momentitiousness.com

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Big Data

Big Data



Cheers to the lost words and sadness’s loss and to losing loves.
Cheers to amnesia and memories uncorked and swirling here.

Speaking with the data manager, his logic’d
            Query: “Can you send me a screenshot
Of what you don’t see that you claim now
            Was there yesterday? Or data dump?”

Was it ever really there or was it imagined: self-made?
Was it a dreamy concoction: a sugar-rimmed cocktail?

First I looked at the database, SQL’d for
            Timestamps against blanks, then nulls.
Without returns, without results, neither
            Zeroes nor ones nor bread crumbs even.

Of course it was there. I saw it, used it, for Crissakes.
I tasted it, imbibed. I swallowed every solid drop of it.

So I went to the server manager, asking anew,
            “May we restore from the backup, back to
The last time the data was present and usable?”
            “We can, but that wipes out everything since.”

What about others’ memories, their solid interactions?
Their sobrieties and drunkenness, intervening cravings?

“Go back to the source, rebuild it, re-enter it.”
            “But those transactions are partial-purged.”
“Go back to the master data. To the constants.”
            “But do we have tolerances for inexactness?”         

But I want it here now, like yesterday, without the pain.
But I want it here tomorrow, without the tedious work.

So, I found it, hard copies, ink on paper, tales
            Retold in the warehouse, on picking slips,
On work orders, invoices and cleared checks.
            I found it, alongside misprints and short-pays.

It was here, and never left, an unfolding story still told.
It is here in heart and soul: indelible and poetic: lovely.

“What did it cost? To hunt down that lost data?”
            The CFO asked, “Was the data even material?”
“Relevant, yes. The auditors can decide that.”
            “I had a reason for losing it, so you know.”

Drink up this moment, us together: sullen, inebriated, heavy.

Cheers to the found and finding, to the mysteries made clear.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Bastille Day, 2017

Bastille Day, 2017



Seven years in, give or take,
As the prison of indecision
Crumbled behind the  rush of
Circumstance, we quietly
Made history, taking love by storm.

Revolution, again.

Unceremoniously, special in
The urge toward ceremony,
We donned comfy clothes:
Boutonnières for gym shorts,
Veils and corsages for sneakers.

Let them have crust-crumbs.

Proof of commitment codified:
Built on the affection of daily
Realities, un-shackled, upon the
World’s postured guillotine,
Without bakers’ unbaked cakes.

Now-freed, simply us.

All our favorite things in one day:
Steaks and gin martinis,
Our best friend as present witness,
Publix, of course, to get
Necessities for us and the child-cats:
Chips and frozen pizzas,
Cleaning supplies and toothpaste:
Liberty and brotherhood and
Public displays of affection.

Construed collusion.

Digital, copious congratulations:
Overwhelming co-conspiracy,
Declaration of Rights of Man,
Rights of men-made evolution,
Toward righteousness, unleashed

Constitutioned: trued.

Read more of my poetry, essays, and stories at Momentitiousness.com








Monday, July 3, 2017

What Grampa Knew

What Grampa Knew


From what I’ve been able to piece together, 
Grampa saw things that a sensitive boy—
I cried way too easily even as an
Adolescent, when Babe, his aged doberman,
Was put down (and squirrels that ate from
The bird feeder, and bunnies that ate the 
Carrots we planted each spring)—
Like me could never reconcile
With the complexities of life and 
Death and their makings and takings.

Bullets of battle amongst buckshots of mercy.

He never talked about the War itself,
He just nodded, as Gram did tell, from her
Perspective: how it affected her
And how it affected them, and how she 
Presumed it affected him in light of her.
They moved, shortly after marrying,
When he was in flight school; he almost 
Made her a widow before leaving the states.
She went without nylons and butter
And without the man she adored.

Redacted locations amongst love letters.

I could never know what Grampa knew, and 
Would never presume to. I could never
See what Grampa saw, and would 
Never want to. I could never give what Grampa
Gave, to his wife and daughters—my mother
And aunt—because I could never have
As much to lose. And this he did before
He even knew us: even as he already 
Loved us. Even as he loved things he’d 
Never know: drones, microchips and Twitter.

Safety for democracy amongst complexes. 

I know, through deductive listening, that
Grampa was stationed in the Aleutian 
Islands, and that he survived a chlorine
Gas incident that stole his lungs and 
Haunted him into his final years. I know that 
He was incredibly handsome and brave,
And that he loved his family more than 
Anything and he loved America just as much.
I know that he never complained about, or
Regretted, his sacrifices or his pain.

Liberty confirmed for an unpromised progeny.

Grampa knew an America I can’t ever know, 
Imperfect though it may have been. 
He knew a world I should never know, 
Because of what he gave for ideas much 
Larger than him, for a wife who buttered
Bread with oleo, who painted lines on the 
Backs of her legs to simulate panty hose,
For daughters who’d come soon enough,
For his friends’ kids, for me, and for people
He’d never know: for an America

He could never recognize: 
He’d never know:
But that he’d love:
I know he loves. 





Sunday, July 2, 2017

Intersections

Intersections



Over the past year, we’ve tread the intersection of Kaley and S. Orange as it’s become a crossroads swollen with mourners: with meaning. It meets the intersection of Christopher and Seventh. It meets the intersection of Pride and unity, where the Rainbow Flag meets an ongoing aggregation of initials. It meets the intersection of politics and partisanship and guns and economic equity. Then, we’ve stumbled onto the perplexing three-way intersection—between love, hate, and anger—that’s emerged—like Seventeenth and Market and Castro—where an uncomplicated city’s grids are disrupted by geography or happenstance and become engorged with blood and kisses—and martyred spirits.

Even as we make these intersections into hallowed spaces, each carrying the foot traffic of omnipresent ghosts, we are obliged to recognize that history is a gift from the past to the present—another intersection where the crosswalks are overwhelmed by facts and their pedestrian interpretations. The past lives alongside the present:  history, more than merely a series of events leading up to the now, recollects and reanimates in the context of myriad intersections. Today’s history is palpably different than yesterday’s. That same history, based upon where we’ve stood—or danced—further complicates our understanding of all the swirling interpretations available to us.

To believe that history is set in stone, we might also believe in a flat Earth, a vengeance-riddled-Jesus-less Bible, and an un-amended Constitution. Indeed, the setting in stone of history—memorialization—is tantamount to crucifying it. Bronze and marble statues are sinister constructs along the pathways to the future. And yet, memorials become their own events, reflective pools of both their subjects and the reflectors who erect them. Witness the decades that intervened between the Stonewall riots and the dedication of a National park to memorialize them. We are called to understand the historical events that link them, that fill their meanings: castigation, oppression, resistance, visibility, pride, equality. The challenge, as we stand in the square today in that building’s cool shadow, is to simultaneously feel the full morning sun. We are called in these places and moments to bathe in the ultraviolent light of history. Further, we are called to share this space and the history of the now with those for whom the narrative is different.

We are also called to do the difficult work of understanding those for whom memorials, in spite of their originalism, have become engorged with discomfort: even as alt-narratives intersect with events like London terrorist attacks, domestic assassination attempts, elementary school shootings and Jim Crow lynchings. With each passing moment, a stone monument—or a hallowed space like the 9-11 museum or the Pulse building—is touched and transformed by new spirits, intervening events, and new narratives. Likewise, we must negotiate the traffic around icons whose original intent was hateful and for which decades of spite and apologism attempt to recast their meanings into something not so hateful and not so spiteful.

And so it is with flags and monuments (and even words, ultimately re-appropriated, like “Queer” and the “n-word”) that salute a meaning-engorged past. Andrew Jackson was a war hero and populist who fought valiantly to preserve American freedom. He was also a slaveholder and responsible for atrocities against America’s first people. Robert E. Lee was a decent man and military genius whose ideals forced him to fight against a nation he loved—ideals like states’ rights and, yes, the institution of slavery. The confederate flag is at once a symbol to some of freedom from tyranny, to others of perpetual black oppression, and still others of remembrance for ancestors whose blood was spilled in a losing war for rundown homesteads and meager existences.



Each individual brings the totality of their own experience to memorials; to expect that a single narrative could possibly underwrite a memorial is to misunderstand what memorials are. To assert a single narrative is to disrespect, not only the intersectionality of history, the souls and ghosts that enliven the history of the now. Further, it casts a long shadow on the trajectory of history’s future. When the value of the individuals for whom a memorial imbued with painful narratives is minimized, when the valid read by a disempowered minority of a horrible legacy is cast aside—when the statue of a confederate soldier, for instance, is given a place in the public square where all members of a community should feel valued and respected—the “owners” of the dominant narrative have overstepped their bounds.

When a single narrative comes to dominate to the exclusion or to the disempowerment of individuals, the value of the memorial requires revisiting. Does the memorial foster meaningful, constructive, and engaging discourse? Does the memorial stand as a current assertion of the power that actively—historically—worked to prevent the less-empowered from participation in meaningful, constructive, and engaging discourse?

At some point, discomfort—a fair and vital raison d’etre for a memorial—stumbles into oppression and alienation. In these cases, however popular it may be among the (implicitly) tyrannical majority, a memorial may need re-location to a more appropriate contextual space—or removal from the public square entirely. Such a litmus test—discomfort versus oppression—should stave off “slippery slope” rhetorical rage.

We, as an American people, know how to do the right thing: to respect and honor the best among us while also recognizing and lamenting the imperfection of the best among us while also respecting and honoring the least empowered individuals among us while also recognizing and lamenting the imperfection of ourselves in light of how we fail to respect and honor the least empowered among us. This encapsulates the inner and external discourse that should accompany a visit to any memorial.


We know that, at least for now, Pulse is a valid and valuable memorial to all of us. We also know, deep in our collective, pulsing American heart, that memorials to slavery—if slavery is the oppressive narrative celebrated by a single neighbor—must go. We know that, perhaps, even Stonewall and the MLK and the Vietnam and the Rainbow Flag may overstay their welcomes in the public square. We must commit to ensuring that our memorials maintain their value, that they—like our Constitution and our DNA—are allowed to continue evolving lest they dead-end alongside the divoted stone intersections that we paved over long ago. The road to a better tomorrow runs through the prism of the now, coloring the past with a usable and empowering—sometimes discomfiting—memorial to us all. 


Sunday, June 25, 2017

I Heart New York

I Heart New York


There was a time when I, like Manhattan,
Thought I knew it all: that I knew nothing:
Or, at least, not enough. 
When I realized, like Manhattan, I could be
Bought for sixty Dutch guilders by
Foreign mercantilists. 

I, like Manhattan, have built green spaces
Amongst a hard series of concrete and 
Brick and marble and gold.
Infrastructure—tunnels and bridges and roads—
Pour people and effluence through 
My vain: arterial greed. 

I, like Manhattan, am reckless flurry,
A tempestuous never-stopping tax-and- 
Spending, series of facades.
I make my dreams in aggregate, taking
Solace among other invisibles—
Countless among shining stars.

I, like Manhattan, am a soul nation,
Federal in my insulated arrogance, 
Stately as a city on hill.
I am crashing towers, tall then felled, 
A neighbor to Liberty’s torch,
A mecca to Times, and times past.

I’m P-Diddy and Whitman and James.
 Speaking in verse and writing resistance. 
I’m TR and FDR and Eleanor,
 Bully and fearless and proud: pulpiteer.
I’m Rockefeller and Eastman
 Standardizing and image-taking.

And I’m the other boroughs
 And their people.
And I’m the Atlantic seaboard
 And its people.
And I’m the midwest and plains,
 And their people.
And Pacific And Indian.

I, like Manhattan, am all places:
Paris and Port Orange, Tokyo and Baghdad.
I, like Manhattan, am all stages:
Paleozoic and Revolutionary, 
Industrial and post-structured. 

I am New York:
I am America:
I am Earth:
Cosmos. 

There was a time when I, like Manhattan,
Thought I knew nothing, but knew it all,
Or, at least, just enough, 
When I realized that I, like Manhattan, could be
Sold for twenty trillion dollars to 
American oligarchs. 



Sunday, June 11, 2017

Pulsing and Still

Pulsing and Still



History alive! Among us,
Even as we memorialize—
Statues carved in marble,
Statues carved in blood.
Made real in the absence of life,
Made hard in the absence of new context.

Memory alive! Among us,
Even as we are distanced—
Making hallowed spaces,
Making martyrs’ births.
Controlled by burning persistence,
Controlled by the endurance of meaning.

Memory alive! Among us,
Even as we co-struggle—
Movements against descents,
Movements from stillness.
Built on fathers’ mothers’ spilt seeds,
Built on volk’s fables and silk-woven webs.

Johnny Rebs to Lee’s leavings.
Rainbow promises to Stone walls.
Stars and bars to courthouse squares.
Slave quarters ring Liberty’s bells.
Hero chiefs from Trails of Tears.

Beating hearts to stilled Pulses.
Travesties to guilt collected.

Guns and bayonets and atom bombs,
In the name of greater goods,
Democracies to mobs,
Rules of law distended,
To lives that matter,
To life.

Memory alive! Recollected,
Even as we make history,
Staging for the personal,
Staging for re-telling.
Gathering space for stolen souls,
Gathering for the resolution of memory.

One year, then millenia.

Fifty-two weeks of mourning,
An endless morning, daybreak of terror:
Dawn of lives cut shorter,
Dawn of nightmares unleashed:
Ageless in each stolen beat,
Ageless in the living memory.

Memory alive! Among us,
Alongside quarters and ghettoes,
Spaces made with spirits here,
Spaces filled with histories’ nows.
Rebels, ever recalcitrant.
Rebels, terrorists resurgent.

Memory: a life! Come back!
Forget hatred’s agency:
No, never forget pride’s legacy,
No, never forget pride’s promises.
Resist history’s stale betrayals.
Resist the crumbs of opiated numbness. 

Memory again: beat again.
Memory again, beat without ceasing.
Memory again, spaces and ghosts:
     And broken hearts,
     And hearts alive,
     And among us, still.
          Pulsing and stilled,

              Pulsing still. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

And Yet It is Not Consumed

And Yet It is Not Consumed



Birds and bushes, many wars, one in hand,
Kuwait, Iraq, all of that which is Oriental,
Blood from stones, oil from veins,
Sands like banks, dunes their timelocks,
Gushers like flaming flowers bloom on horizons.

Oh, but for the good old days.

Burning Bushes, engulfed from afar
And yet they were not consumed, blessed
As they are by peace promises,
Pieced together like people-puzzles,
Linked by democracies, mortar-pocked.

Beat down lands, milked and honeyed.

Bookended Bushes, one era ceased by
Adonian stone’s revelations: prophecies:
Two-headed Clintonian interregnum,
And yet they were not consumed,
Masking crusades behind translucent hijabs.

Virgins in heaven awaiting.

Shifting Sinais grow, stones to Mounts,
From Pharaohic captors to Sultan-Saducees,
From Mexican Gulf through Little Rock-Hope
To Potomac to Kennebunkport and
London, Bombay, Shanghai to Persian peninsuli.

Upon tankers and among clouds.

Two doves in a burning bush, grounded:
Two stones thrown from afar, patriot penury,
Setting free, empowering the stateless
From their scorched earths’ denied,
Starving desperadoes exchange terror for crude.

Leagues of Nations and two states.

Timeless walls destroyed, countless stones
Growl feverishly, pitched about toward new
Walls erected against refugees and
Devils in their midst, unleashed
By our own Bush-Stone tweet-state fictions.

Blowing trumpets toward Jericho.

Second-Bush, second-stone-and-’racks’:
Well-intentioned springs and falls, misfired;
Well-intentioned nonetheless, though
Intentions don’t un-fire missiles,
They don’t un-consume conflagrations.

If only we could take them back.

Now wandering domestic distractions,
Devils in our midst, homemade and imported,
Devils at our helm, grafted upon Bushes,
Molotov rocktails through glass:
Ceilings and houses almost shatter and truly  leak.

Collusion through acquiescence.

Deals, like art, are fictions and fables retold,
Sewing strife upon divided fields, security for
Liberty, draining swamps to rake muck,
Upon the bedrocks of an imperiled Republic,
Institutions in flames, alas brinking consumption.