Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Living in America

The chipmunk on the wall
is staring at me
aggressively shaking it’s tail.
I am the interloper.

All winter and spring
it has gone unmolested,
foraging for food,
digging tunnels
jumping over the walls

Now, almost summer
it encounters me,
sitting on the patio, feet up
senses swimming in the sounds and smells
of almost summer in America,

Knowing that on this day
so beautiful, yellow-green
and full of sweet life
everywhere in the world
people just like me
scream and die
scream and live.
Shocked by electricity

I accept the pleasure this day offers me.
I will hold it in a drawer in my memory.
Someday, in the midst of terror,
the drawer will fly open, wide
taking me back to this day
of almost summer in America.

A Circumstantial Education

I was encouraged to explore, to read, to question.
I was encouraged to explore, to read, to question, and to come to conclusions.
I was encouraged to explore, to read, to question, and to come to the conclusion that this was the best of all possible worlds and I was lucky to have been born at a time so free from the disease and hardship that was a mere generation away.
I was encouraged to explore, to read, to question, and to come to the conclusion that this was the best of all possible worlds and I was lucky to have been born at a time so free from the disease and hardship that was mere generation away and to have the opportunity to be anything I wanted to be regardless of class, race or sex. Bzzzzz.

In the fourth grade John F. Kennedy is killed. In the eighth grade Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy are killed. I sit at my bent plywood and Formica desk unmoved while others sob watching the black & white TV. Even the nun’s are crying. We read “The Diary of Anne Frank” in the seventh grade. What a tragedy! Such a young girl! How poignant! Later I find out about Goodman and Shwerner and Chaney and Medgar Evers and Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. Later I find out how hard it is to accomplish something good when powerful people don’t want things to change. Reading alone in my bittersweet orange room with it’s flowered curtains and fishmobiles hanging from the ceiling, I am beginning to not understand how Hitler, charismatic as he may have been, did what he did all by himself. Bzzzzz.

I ask the librarian in my high school for a map of Vietnam and she says, “You girls should be thinking about parties and dances. You should be having fun, not worrying about things like war.” I am angry with her for not understanding: this is my party, this is my dance. In the Museum of Modern Art there is a poster that is a photograph of a pile of dead Vietnamese bodies. The caption asks, “And babies too?” and answers, “And babies, too.” I come to the conclusion that “Never again!” really means never again in exactly the same place in exactly the same way. Bzzzzz.

I pull down the cardboard box in my closet with old issues of my “Catholic Child’s Treasure Box.” Laura Nyro is singing, “Buy and Sell” on my pink and purple record player. I turn to the story of Wupsy the Guardian Angel and Sonny John the African pagan baby that is his first charge. The head angel tells Wupsy not to stop Sonny John from getting too close to the open fire. Sonny falls into the fire and is badly burned, but because his mother Ntaka Ntaka thinks he is going to die, she allows him to be baptized so he will go to heaven. Bzzzzz.

I explore the public library for things that I should read. I find “Treblinka”, “While 6 Million Died”, “Who Financed Hitler”, “The Crime and Punishment of IG Farbin”, “Blowback”, “Wanted, The Search for Nazi’s in America”, “The Deputy”, “They Fought Back”, “The Wall”, “Fascism and Social Revolution”, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” I question the role of German capital in the rise of the National Socialist Movement. I question the role of International capital in the rise of the National Socialist Movement. Standing in the stacks, my arms piled high with evidence. I question the role of Social Democrats in their capitulation to the National Socialist Movement. This is an old argument. Communists know one truth, Social Democrats another. The issue is in the past, but not in the past. Read Bogdan Denitch on Kosovo. Read Michael Parenti on Kosovo. Draw your own conclusions. I question the role of the US government in the aftermath of the National Socialist Movement. In 1995 Serge Stetkievich, an engineer at the company where I work, sees me reading Christopher Simpson’s “Blowback”, points to a picture of a Nazi in the book and says “I worked with him after the war.” My stomach feels odd. I look at him. “ We had no choice,” he says, “It was them or ….” He stops after seeing the look on my face. I come to the conclusion that Hitler did not accomplish the murder of 14 million people all by himself. Bzzzzz.

I question the role of the American Communist Party in encouraging unions to make “no strike deals” during WWII when American capital is making money hand over fist as they have in every war since the Civil War. “After the Soviet Union was invaded we had to support the war to save the Soviet Union! Communists were among the first to fight fascism in Spain. We had to continue the fight!” Yes, the fight against fascism but separate from Capital. What is Fascism but the skeleton of Capital? Underneath the fat of war boom and the fancy clothing of electoral politics the bones are the same. Oops! Here comes Joe Mc Carthy and HUAC. Hello, Film Noir. So long, film rouge. Goodbye, Ethel. Goodbye, Julius. Bzzzzz.

I explore the thoughts of other people.
“Those students don’t know how good they have it.”
“They wouldn’t be able to demonstrate if they lived in Russia!”
“They’re supposed to getting an education, not demonstrating, having sex and taking drugs!”
“Communists are torturers!”
“Hitler was a mad man!”
“Quadaffi is a terrorist!”
“Saddam Hussein is another Hitler!”
“Milosovic is another Hitler!”
What was Truman? What was Johnson? What was Nixon? What is Kissinger? What is Bush? What is Carter? What is Clinton?
“The Viet Cong are Communists. We have to save those people from Communism!”
In James Michener's book, “Kent State,” parents of some of the students on the campus say that if their sons and daughters were throwing rocks and bottles at the National Guard, they SHOULD HAVE BEEN SHOT. How many tons of bombs, naplam, agent orange dropped to save these people from Communism and to save them for what? Bzzzzz.

I return to college. My husband wants me to be a teacher. I explore Paolo Freire and Jonathon Kozol. I read in “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” “with the establishment of the relationship of oppression, violence has already begun. Never in history has violence been initiated by the oppressed. How could they be the initiators, if they themselves are the result of the violence…there would be no oppressed had there been no prior situation of violence to establish their subjugation.” If you teach this way no pair of Nike’s, no designer jeans will satisfy. I can’t take the loyalty oath. I can’t lead the pledge of allegiance. Who will hire me? I decide I can’t be a teacher. Bzzzzz.

I have a class called, “The Philosophy of Peace.” We have to write a peace plan. We have to divide and share the world’s resources. The instructor is a Catholic into liberation theology. He infuriates me. Is that what he thinks is causing the problems of the world? No one has come up with a fair enough PLAN! I do a slide show with my term paper. I show the “plans” that have been trampled in the dirt, buried under the bodies that fell on top of them. He has never seen these things before. I want to scream. Bzzzzz.

Preparing for the Columbus Quincentennary I read about the conquistadors slow cooking a Native American over a fire pit. They tell him not to worry for he will soon be in heaven. “Are their Spaniards in heaven?” he asks. “Yes, of course, many Spaniards,” the soldier answers. “Then I don’t want to go to heaven,” says the Indian. Bzzzzz.

My children are teenagers now. I explore what happened in Italy after 1945 with American tax dollars, covert aid and approval. I read William Blum. I explore what happened in Germany after 1945 with American tax dollars, covert aid and approval. I read William Blum. I explore what happened in Indonesia in 1965 with American tax dollars and direct aid and approval. I read William Blum. My head fills with truths until I can’t hold it up any longer. It grows like a baloon, but it is as heavy as stone. It flops down. I try to pick it up. It flops to the side. It will not stand straight on my neck. I am officially a freak. Bzzzzz.

I march. I rally. I speak. I read. I write. Does it make me happy? Does it make me rich? I search for truth like a blind man reading in stone that’s been worn down by time. Like Anthony Newly and Leslie Bricusse with no star to guide me and no one beside me, I go on my way and after the day the darkness will hide me. Every bookeverypoemeverymovieeverypicture of the crimes of my country is in my head. The pile is bigger than 14 million. All colors, all races, all sexes, all ages across time. There is one thing in common, the color of our blood. That is a fact. There is no denying it. Bzzzzz.

I don’t want to lose this anger. ‘Reconciliation’ is a word that makes me want to vomit an ocean of blood. “Conflict resolution” is a phrase that makes me want to step on the heads of the snakes that hiss it. I sit in my living room so I can see all the colors that surround me. It is the color of acorn squash. The stairway wall is paprika. The dining room is gazpacho green. Nina Simone is singing “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” on the CD player. I explored, I read, I questioned and I came to the conclusion that everything that happens today is directly related to what happened yesterday. I am lucky to have been born at a time when people were turning the world on it’s head and shaking out the dirty secrets for all to share and see so I could run and pick them up, hold them in my hands and let them burn like fire in my pockets until I find their truths.

Sunday, January 23, 2005


I am a zombie during the day.
The tasks laid before me are the pegs I use
to pull myself through time.
There is no purpose to what I do.
There is no reason for doing it.
It is not done with thought or with pleasure.
It is a necessity to keep the mortgage paid and food in the refrigerator.

Outside I am starting to shrivel from lack of life.
Inside I am rotting.
Invisible maggots eat at my veins and flesh-maggots of boredom and self induced paralysis,
Contained by the skin they rumble and squirm unseen
slowly, relentlessly devouring me.

I look for a purpose. I look for a reason to be. I find only emptiness.

I watch the sky for a sign of change.
Clouds move swiftly past my eyes.
Thin straight clouds. Puffy cottony clouds.
Clouds that look like eyes that have been crying all night.
Clouds that look like mist.
Underneath there are glimpses of blue.
In the distance there are hills still red and green and gold with autumn leaves.
But houses are swallowing them up. Green lawns. Beige aluminum siding. Perfectly shaped trees.
I listen for the sound of change on the wind, but there is only empty, hollow wailing.

Grayness is a mist over everyday.
All colors are shaded, less brilliant.
The air has no odor.
The birds sing as if on cue.
It’s as if a protective dome was already over us
and everything is already artificial.
Is that a lemon or an illusion of a lemon?
Is that a piece of chicken or a memory of a piece of chicken?
My eyes slide sideways from person to person
to see if anyone else is thinking these thoughts,
but their faces betray nothing unusual.
Only the grayness is real.
I try to grab it, but it eludes my touch.

My nerve endings wave in the air-
thin, pale pink tentacles
waiting to catch the slightest scent
but nothing passes by.

The absence of the hint of change is frightening.
It is also the absence of hope.
Silence rings like a death knoll.
Like the footsteps of a behemoth.
Like a million soldiers marching.
Like a tidal wave crashing over the earth

Nowhere to hide.
No safety. No disguise.
I cannot wear my disguise anyway.
It doesn’t fit.
Whatever mask I wear doesn’t matter,
because I cannot disguise my eyes.
What I know
blazes like neon, squeaking out of the cracks between my closed lids.
My mouth cannot smile at the things said as jokes.
My mouth cannot make small talk.
My mouth can only utter the monosyllables:
“No, no more. Stop. Stop.

Which little country
will be today’s Guernica?
And which will be tomorrows?
Whose children and old people will be laying in the street in shreds ?
Whose fathers and son’s will be turned into killers?
Whose daughters will be raped?
Whose mothers will turn to stone?
Whose lands will be made inhabitable?
Whose water will be polluted?
For centuries. For Centuries. FOR CENTURIES.
What year is this? In what country do I live?

I know, I know it all and yet I do nothing.

If I walk outside the sun shines on me, not knowing I am guilty.
The breeze touches my face gently, not knowing I am guilty.
If it rains on me I go inside.
If it’s cold, I turn up the heat.
If it’s hot, I turn on the air conditioner.
If I’m hungry, or even if I’m not-I eat.
What will it be today?
Spaghetti? Salmon? A sirloin steak?
Or is it breakfast still- a bagel, some oatmeal, pineapple yogurt?
There are no floods here. No tornado’s. We’re too far inland for a hurricane.

This is how I know there is no god.

In the evening the moon sits high above the city trees
with one bright star below and to the left.
What does it mean? What does it mean?
I cannot hear. I cannot smell. I cannot taste.

If I could eat the moon
it would taste cool and sharp.
My tongue would slide along one whole shiny side and then dig sharply in
and scoop out
a tiny,tingly piece
of cream.
And the cream would
Slide down my throat
like liquid ice
and line my belly with sparkle.

If I could lick the stars
they would taste crisp and sweet.
Their sugary coating would come off on my tongue.
I would leave them sticky and wet
and giggling as I passed by
tickling their sweet star stomachs with my tongue.

If I could hold the ocean in my arms
singing it to sleep with a muses ancient song,
I would cradle it like an infant newly born
and sing my sorrow for its injuries.
For years and years, I would sing,
voice high and soft and voice low and deep
and voice velvet with sorrow and voice silvery with light.
Rocking gently back and forth dipping my fingers
in the water of its mouth,
stroking its limbs and singing.

If I could find comfort in this world,
I would let the air undress me
and caress the soft flesh of inner arms.
I would let it whisper in my hair, breathe in my neck,
flutter around my lips like a million butterflies.
I would stand perfectly still on the top of an empty hill
arms outstretched and let it flow and swirl and stream
and glide under, around through me.
Then exhausted, I would lay down in the grass and sleep.

Monday, January 03, 2005

I am not Orpheus

My husband was recently diagnosed with small cell lung cancer and is about halfway through chemotherapy and radiation. This is a part of how I am trying to deal with it.

I calm no beasts with sweet and gentle strumming.
I do not charm or mesmerize with song.
The thorns on roses harden when they hear me.
And beasts sharpen their fingernails on my tongue.

Death hovers like a yellow gas above us.
Swirls around your eyes and chest and head,
Clings like slime to each second of each day,
Sleeps like a black cold slab in our bed.

Not with a thousand notes can I
Make ghosts cry or stay the pain of the eternal damned,
Pluck Persephone’s longing for the life she abandons half a year,
Bring forth the Furies tears with stroke of hand.

Bloody stars tumble from my open mouth,
Pour from my eyes, embedding in my skin.
Fill my heart as hard as rock.
Clog my veins until they blaze within.

I will not plead. I will not beg the gods,
Perform and wait for their approval.

I am not Orpheus.

Follow me out of this dark place.
No matter how faint your step,
No matter how light your breath,
I will not turn my head.

For Diane Wakoski a Golden Sunday to Erase the Blue Monday

Gold of the river of honey sliding down her throat
and pooling in her belly.
gold of the hay
that covers farmer’s fields in day
gold of her tongue
that savors the slice of mango
and slides across the skin.
gold of the tiny hands with ruffled cuffs
cradling the emerald heart
encircling her neck like a snake
at the market/melons firm under her hands
and the sun dancing over her head a
wash of silken threads.

Golden Sunday, Sunday at 7:00 and
Sunday at 12, Sunday at 5:00 and
Sunday at 11:00. Sunday sped by the quiet
city park. Sunday together
an amber stone quietly glowing.

We are alive: humming with sound.
We cannot be contained. Our bodies prisms
break into shards of light and dart around the room.

Sunday is the last day of the weekend
and we think of it all week.
we pray for Sunday to come
so that we can be together
all day.

You paint my body gold on the grass
in the shiny glaring day, you paint me
with sunlight and the petals
the petals
the petals
the petals of your lips separate
the day, exposing the feathers of swans
and my face, the gold of saffron
and my neck, the gold of marmalade
and my breasts, the gold of apples
and my arms, corn-gold
and my stomach, honey.

there is tension dropping from me like acorns
there is anger dropping from me I do not need-like thorns

or nettles swept into the gutter.

Reason passes me in a shirtwaist dress
and apron.
Her broom is plastic and filled with
cake mixes and Tang…
She wears pink
spike heels
and hairspray. Her hair is so hard
it’s almost gold.

“Reason, “ I said.
“Excuse me,” she said.
“Mrs. Reason,” I said.
“Excuse me,” she said.

So I saw there was no sense confronting her in the

Reason passed me in the kitchen in a pink
shirtwaist dress. She was a housewife
I could tell.

So gold bees buzz by my open eyes.
Gold coins plop into my lap.
Gold light hums in my
veins and sends satin
slipping into my pores.
Gold nuggets fill
my sweet mouth and gold fibers
enmesh my heart. Gold balls roll
and tumble in my hands.
Gold life fills my soul.

If I could dance one more dance
with light crackling around my feet
I would dance with my legs on fire
the golden heart pulsing that yellow bright beat
and my hips
would flicker with liquid flame
burning in my womb.
life multiplying
in my body. At last my blood
molten and swimming into the air.

It is golden.
It is golden.
It is golden.