01 May 2022

End of the World in the Big Lots Parking Lot

I had a dream the other night where Dua Lipa was giving a concert in the parking lot of a big box store that was on fire. She performed next to large shipping containers while we all sat on ratty lawn chairs. They were green and white plaid.

There's something to be said about not giving into despair even in the face of certain doom. Dance in the parking lot. Be the band on the Titanic, play until the water takes you.

As I turn the dream, and the metaphor of the band, over in my head, I realize that the metaphors for perseverance that I know seem to no longer work. In the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century we are so accustomed to playing until we can physically no longer go on that the very idea of not doing it is strange to consider. There are so many swords hanging over us that the sky is all sharp points.

The world is ending and we will still have our fun. And the waters will rise around us and we will continue until we can't and that is just true. We've been playing and the water has been rising. For decades. So what does one do with a broken metaphor when the water is still coming?

A broken platitude or metaphor becomes a zombie saying. Something that we all understand but is so divorced from itself that silence would be better. I don't believe that meaning can be reattached once it's lost. Broken things can only be assembled in a simulacrum of the original. And the new meaning will always be there as well. Maybe we're way passed sayings being helpful anyway.

In the dream, we danced and had fun while the building burned. On the Titanic the band really did keep playing. We even think we know what song was the last played.

I leap to thinking about individual vs collective responsibility. How we put up blinders to both protect ourselves and to turn off our responsibility. I lived in New York long enough that I tend to walk by people with their hands out on the street. This isn't a ding against cities, it's an acknowledgement that to live in the US today, you have to find ways to exist. Sometimes existing means ignoring those who are struggling more than you because if you stop to try and help all of them, you will go under yourself.

If there were to be an idealized takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be that we find a more concrete version of collective responsibility. A better version. One where we can openly discuss the lines between personal, individual responsibility, and the greater collective one.

This is obviously not happening.

One look at the news will point out that many, possibly most, have instead found a more insidious shade of righteous selfishness in the aftermath. A truly lost opportunity if there ever was one in modern history.

It's inviting to make a claim like "we owe each other more than this", but it's a bit of a false narrative. The collective good should outweigh the personal unless it will cause harm. Ultimately we owe ourselves to be better. But seeing that is difficult. Forest for the trees - which is a metaphor that still works. Though a metaphor where the original version was "he who sees no wood for trees" which has a totally different connotation to the modern version.

The individual isn't really capable of change at the level needed anyway. Unless you are incredibly wealthy, most individuals are only capable of small changes. The big stuff, the putting out the fire stuff, takes a group working as one. And the putting out the big fires, takes governments, the rich, and corporations. If the world around us just pops back to pre-pandemic ways, it's hard to push against that when you need an ever increasing in cost roof over your head. It's a question of scale. Where is the line between what I can do and what I cannot?

It's a gray area that is dependent on the person doing the work and the work needing to be done. And again, the good being done amplifies the more people working towards it.

An example of sorts: It has been drilled into the public that it is up to us to fix climate change. Drive less, recycle more, get a bike, use less plastic, eat a plant-based died, cut down on beef, etc etc etc. Every major drive to course correct on climate change that I've witnessed in my lifetime has focused on the personal level. And personal, small scale, change does help, just not at a scale that impacts the massive undertaking in front of us. We are way passed volunteering to clean up a roadside as a means to impact the climate.

When you learn that BP invented the concept of the personal carbon footprint and sold it to the world as a means to distract from their corporate culpability it's hard to take any of the things that individuals do to combat climate change seriously. Corporations have spent billions convincing us that we are to shoulder the weight of many aspects of modern life that are simply out of our hands.

The attitude that only we can change things, that we must because governments and corporations will not has bled throughout culture. It is a broken social contract. You can see the results in the US in the disintegration of public trust for institutions. The obvious, dangerous, endpoints that spiral out of this inward focus can be seen in events minor to international. Not wearing a mask to dumping trash on the side of the road to storming a capitol building.

The tirelessness of continuing to carry on in the face of all of this is supposedly virtuous. An attempt to stem some kind of tide. But in 2022 it feels like this concept has been boiled down into a strange parody of itself. Working 10-hour days 6 days a week with no time off is virtue. Today, going down with the ship means holding onto the computer keyboard so you can get that report out before the waves get you.

I'm not advocating for giving up. But the energy needs to be refocused onto those who can actually effect change at scale. The billionaires, the governments, the corporations.

Obviously there is a movement to correct some this going on - at least in the workplace. Unions are once again rising in the US, and wages seem to be going up in a real way for the first time in decades. People are talking about work life balance in ways that aren't about optimizing their time off. Real discussions are happening. But it is hard not to be cynical about what will occur in the next 18 months as the US and the world moves further out of pandemic mode. Toxic patterns that have been hard-wired are hard to break and we've been here before.

Underestimating the power of the wealthy and corporations to reaffirm their dominance even in the face of immense tragedy is a losing game. Every single one of the band members on the Titanic died that night. Only 3 of the 8 bodies were found. And the company that did the booking for the White Star Line sent a bill for the lost uniforms to the grieving families. Public outrage led to those bills being voided, but they should never have been sent in the first place.

Corporations should not be considered people under the law. Their money should be out of politics. They should have limits on the demands to their employees. Billionaires should not exist full stop. Governments should not be afraid of saying these things, or of acting on these issues. And all the above should be the ones being asked to make the largest sacrifices to protect the world around us.

I'm all for shaming the devil. So let's fucking dance. Let's focus on the small things we can do. Let's pick up a bucket and toss some water on the fire in front of us. But let's also think about how and when the fire started and who is responsible for putting it out completely.


15 May 2020

Poem : Begrudgery

I remember laying near the open window in my bed in Brooklyn. The rain falling on the sill and onto my face. It was heaven.

This poem isn't necessarily about that. It's about now. But it's also about then.

And about relenting.





          Let the rain

in the window                 let

          it fall on our faces

It’s night and corona is on fire
across the world



          is the point


allowing ourselves to dream

          We could

manage a world into being
with our sheets



14 April 2020

Poem : Sumi-e

This isn't a poem about Japanese ink.

Due to COVID-19 I've been working from home since March 13th. In that month I have not been able to really get in to writing.

It feels stilted. Tiring. Less important to me on a personal level.

On Friday, my company had to lay off 50% of their employees. About 250 people. I was "lucky" enough to keep my job. And I am grateful.

I am grateful.

This was written on Saturday the 11th. It is not about COVID or layoffs or even really about not being in to writing at the moment.

It is about feeling like I am a dry brush waiting.



It dips itself — the handle — it — has something — filament a golden hair — within that it must — express — as grapes underfoot — it dips itself — the well of creativity — see it knows — something we do not — has that inside its head — it is a blankness waiting — it dips itself — like honey or a pool of warm water — the image began eons ago — creativity is an ink waiting for the dryness of a horsehair — to have a thought of its past life — have wells of past selves to unmoor — a cliff face waits to fall into the sea all of its life —

30 March 2020

Poem : Cockshut

Civil Twilight in Manhattan
Twilight is my favorite time of the day.

It is so cleanly between two things. So present in its liminal nature. It feels like water starting to tide. This is probably why it has a history of being "magical" or "important".

In Hinduism it is advised not to eat in this time period as the Asuras are most active at this time in their battle with the Devas. To gain power from mutability seems incredibly useful.

There are three kinds of twilight: Civil, Nautical, and Astronomical. Civil twilight is the period after sunset when things are still fully distinguishable by the naked eye, it is also called the blue hour. Nautical twilight is the period after Civil twilight when sailors can still distinguish a horizon to take measurements for position at sea. Astronomical twilight is the last phase, it is when astronomical readings can begin. When the faintest stars begin to show through the skyglow.

Cockshut is a very old English word for twilight. It literally means - the time chickens go to sleep, when they shut up.



Everything is the color of things going to sleep

and that one vein in your arm that pulses under the pillow.

In the whitespace between rooms              a filament
                                                     a gap

passes unnoticed — one single silk thread of breath.

Opposite of a rooster call — a moisture

                             sliding down a single finger of grass.

The walls grow pine needles — cooling              cooling

gently —              now —              not              so gently.

23 March 2020

Poem : Colour-de-Roy

Bolinus brandarus
Purple has a history of being a royal color.

This is mainly to do with how hard it is to make purple dyes.

It's hard to make purple dye because the first real source for the color was snail mucus.

Mythology tells us that Heracles was walking on the beach when his dog found one of these snails and began to chew on it. The dog's mouth filled with the purple saliva. This color became what is today called Tyrian purple.

The snails were bolinus brandarus. The spiny dye-murex. The snail has a mucus that it uses to paralyze its prey. It is also a defense mechanism. To get the stuff for dye you either crush the snail or you milk it. You milk a snail by poking at it until it secretes the mucus.

Then you make robes for your king or queen.



The dog you made us get runs off down the beach
despite being called over over over he refuses to come back

We got him because of his sad face
because of the two small scars across the front of his nose

Little square bites of gray in the blonde
Tyrian purple

I say you made us get because you made us go
to the shelter to the hill the shelter sits on

I like the dog fine I wish he’d come when you called him

The beach has tuned itself into a throb of seaweed
after a storm the sand is raw and untouched

Over the small hill the dog is tearing at the earth
shaking itself in a tug of war

He has eaten a spiked shell has lodged it in his mouth

A hundred arrow-sharp spines piercing its mouth
now stained purple the eyes filled with purple saliva flooding purple

All around him horseshoe crabs line themselves

Their heads inland and scorpion tails out to sea
each and every one of them dead

They wanted something somehow in their blind eyes they knew
it was just over this or that scrub of bleaching grass

They died crawling from one world into another

17 March 2020

Poem : House-lew

A crow eating a shark.
"Safe as houses" is my favorite phrase.

It is Victorian English. It basically means that your investment or business venture or the thing you are about to do is a solid bet. Because what could be more sound than buying property?

Houses are supposed to be "safe". Many of us across the world are social distancing these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For many, houses -- home -- that place, is not "safe". And even if it is. Houses feel less and less secure.

COVID is an acronym: COrona VIrus DIsease. Corona in Latin means garland, wreath, laurel. It is for the shape of the virus -- a circle covered in gem-like crown-like embellishments. It is a thing to be placed on your head. An honor. So safe sounding.

In ancient Greece laurels were presented to athletes, gods, or the dead.

COVID is sideways to corvid. Which are ravens, crows, jays, magpies. The most intelligent of birds. Mystic creatures who represent war, death, divination, news tellers. The Haida of western Canada and Southern Alaska believe the raven created the earth, this home.

The Haida wear masks showing animals transforming into other things. Meaning becoming another meaning.

So if this house has ceased being safe. We must evolve to find a new one.

The poem below is about death. It's on my mind.



In the burntout crumbles of bunker — sounds of fluting — veil cathedral hand to eyes —

If you peek — you will see in glory in fire amen — the thing we all hide
from — locked doors and all that — a ghost in the pantry of the stomach —

It rumbles about with unrolled gem wings — finds north but turns west because
it wants to be the setting sun — we — safe as houses — we — are fine — yes —

In the moment when the heart collapses
perception becomes a slip
falling to the ground
in a bedroom somewhere in Kansas

The ribs release their long-caught bird
cold hungry everything safe then unsafe

It’s a rattle — curling of the body as wood sheets over flame —

In the aftermath — sound a lily makes when opening in the morning — the tube
a missile leaves behind — when going off — to finish what was started —

15 March 2020

Poem : Train Scent

train-scent is the scent left behind when you drag something on the ground to train a dog to follow the scent trail.

This is a poem about rough sex and apps and cruising in a bodega late at night.

Not that I know anything about that.


Train Scent

Those gray sweatpants — pink crop top sweatshirt
perfect rubber ball — your ass
is an orange to peel

You drop small gifts on the internet — a leaking
plastic bag on a walk from the bodega to your apartment
You send me a video you took with your phone underwater
the rippling — the hands outreached

Choking me — when you remember my name
I choke — swarm of dark olive green — pouring
bile into the floorboards
At the edge of the lake — after running for miles
over the endless curtain wall of dry leaves — yellow
a burning zoetrope you move across

There you become a man in sweats on a jog
you turn into the 1980s
There — you know the spot to hit
after being followed from store to door

A spot to drop clothes — pretenses — care
place to become roiling water in a pot on the stove
steam resting the itch in the back of the throat
On the tongue — scent of black pepper and body
sour within — wrapping — a shell of pinkness
sniffing around a penthouse for ass

You drop small gifts — across my clavicle
there an obvious scent an obvious color