this, that, and the Other

identity, alterity, and everything in between

Category: the City

Either way

you piss standing

and we say

 

this is the order

of things. Certain

 

as cigarettes

between our

 

drying fingers.

But peel back

 

and sooner

or later it

 

happens: and

touching—tender,

 

eminent—we

squeeze

 

out the rest.

A few words on Occupy Wall Street

The Occupy Wall Street movement has, at times, been painted as an incoherent, unstable, and a ‘mob-like’ movement. Social movements are, after all, easy to dismiss when it seems like just a bunch of deluded people running amuck. Others have lamented how unclear the political goals of such a movement are, what sort of clear point this movement is trying to make. Yet others have denounced the lack of revolutionary gusto (violence?) involved in these protests. Some have complained about the inescapability that we ultimately just have a bunch of people being exploited by a few complaining to those few to hurry up and stop it already. Some have even pulled the few knows best, that’s why they’re the few card.

What I find irritating about these critiques is that they are fucking old. Seriously. Really, really old. If you think for one moment that these are not the very same critiques levied against the Civil Rights movement (sit-ins, March on Washington, Chicano movement, etc.), Women’s Suffrage, Gay Liberation (pride marches, Stonewall ‘Riots’) and more, than you have another thing coming. Gay Liberation didn’t exactly have a particular proposition or bill that the whole of the movement was behind—namely because no such bill or action existed. This is what we mean by oppression, by exploitation, by silencing. These various movements weren’t about voicing complaints within the systems in place, but rather about establishing that the voice they had wasn’t represented at all, that they were being systematically silenced. Peaceful protesting is precisely that—PEACEFUL PROTESTING–NOT a revolution—and for all those in the blogosphere thinking that’s the only way to get things done, wake up and smell the history of countless peaceful social movements.

Granted, Occupy is not exactly a Civil Rights movement like the aforementioned. Totally, I admit this. But I think the same general urge to have a voice, to give voice to things unsaid, the desire to create a condition that things can be said in, is the same. This is what protest is—not the actual political activation itself. Systems are not yet in place for this to happen. Just as deciding, “no, it’s okay to have a space where people can be open about their orientation” doesn’t exactly enact any policy or legal advances in and of itself, it creates the condition for this political discussion to happen (see Stonewall ‘Riots’). Occupy Wallstreet is currently ‘successful’ precisely in that all these silly people critiquing it are critiquing it.

Does this ‘success’ mean everything is fine and dandy though? Of course not. The task before us, to right inequality, seems impossible. But you know what, The March on Washington and other such protests seemed impossible too—when able white men have all the power, why in the world would they decide to give it up? Because those being abused by that power want them to? Pshhh. But you know what amazing, miraculous thing happened? People talked. They critiqued. They discussed. And sooner or later the old generation of asshole bigots died and younger (hopefully) less bigoted people and activists and peaceful protesters took their place. But this only only only ever happens if these concerns get voiced. No exec or owner or principal of some business is going to even consider being ‘fair’ to his or her workers and consumers and such until people are fucking pissed about inequality.

How does a group of people who are oppressed by other people complain to those people and in so doing gain liberation? What steps have to be taken? What policies should be proposed? What programs should be axed? I haven’t the foggiest. But you know what, it happens. It’s amazing. Perhaps I am shot through with peaceful ideological fluffiness but I have this crazy belief that if enough people voice their concerns long enough and loud enough, things can change. People can change. And this doesn’t mean we aren’t left with shit to clean up—racism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia and so many other –phobias and –isms are alive and well today it makes me sick. We are still slogging through this shit day by day. Occupy is doing a similar thing with the great inequality throughout the U.S. of America–it’s trying to get things underway and get people talking. Trying to hold those in power responsible (geewhiz almost like it’s a democracy or something!). So, it’s time to be aware that inequality in the States is terrible right now. It’s time to realize how it affects people. Time to finally start changing things.

Untitled

Sometimes I have little to say–or rather want to say little–about my poems.

Untitled

This morning
the usual

perturbances:
headache,

old clothes,
the throb

and clutter
of waking

life. But
who knew

the scratches
on the porch—

scuff of
pigeon

brawling,
the possum’s

climb, two
late night

cats, sprawled,
made love.

“RJ in California” and a bit of a poetry lesson to boot

I think all poetry should speak for itself; however, sometimes we find uncanny poems or poems that take up a foreign world with them, whether that be historical (classic or epic poetry), pseudo-mythic (Blake), literally foreign (haiku, Baudelaire, etc), or simply embedded in a poetic tradition we are unfamiliar with. So, in the hopes that people we use this poem as a starting point to learn more (and in the process learn more about the poem) I thought I’d share a little of its historical roots and what I was thinking.

Famed Beat poet Allen Ginsberg wrote a fabulous little pseudo-ode to Walt Whitman entitled A Supermarket in California (read here or listen to him read it here). This poem is one of my favorites, contrasting Whitman’s pseudo-prophetic conceptions of America in Leaves of Grass with the America of the late 50s. Following this poem as a sort of poetic guideline, I decided to wright a similar ode to another one of my favorite poets (another Californian nonetheless) Robinson Jeffers, contrasting his depressing and isolationist depiction of 50s and 60s America with recent times. The poem, hopefully, takes an ironic (in the classical sense) approach to America, as did Jeffers–portraying ways in which the America of today is exactly what Jeffers predicted and yet not at all what he predicted. I suppose that’s the irony of prophecy, you first have to believe it prophecy before you can see it fulfilled. Anyhow, I was thinking of Jeffers’ later poems like The Continent’s End, the conclusion of my poem referring directly to his. Enough dilly-dally–hope you enjoy!

 

RJ in California

 

poor Jeffers, grown old and

dying in Carmel, late 1950’s,

a wife and daughter buried

among the first Tor stones,

 

a clean shaven, sharp jaw,

pale eyes that never say anything

nice about anyone, brow wrinkled

by the America of post-WWII

 

apocalyptic decadence:

John, if I could play the part

of Ginsberg and go with

you now down half dim

 

lit streets, past the bright

and silver hybrids and side-

walked sycamores to the corner

supermarket, walk with you

 

down aisles of produce,

vegan mayonnaise and

tofurky corn dogs, chatting

of Parmenides and avocado

 

and the oh so many undone

by death since your simpler

days of political genocide, villains

in black boots and mustaches;

 

would we waltz down aisles

of vine-ripened just-in-season

heirloom tomatoes, hand in

hand on such a late and lonely

 

night? would we drink from

recycled bottles of a worker

run factory past the scores of

clustered yellow cyclists and

 

middle-aged joggers toward

the tides at Carmel Bay? would

we look back on the bay as we

scale the steps at Hawk Tower,

 

seeing Charon polling no ferry

along Carmel State Beach, but

casually ticketing the parked cars

and putting out beach fires?

 

the thing and the natural world

“there is a difference in operation
and thus somehow a difference in value” you think
as you pass by the stripped leather office seats
alongside a mismatched dining table;
the owner Buddha-like eyes beyond the
polka-dotted beach umbrella and lunchboxes and boxes
of old cassettes as if to say, “come, look,
these are the extensions of my body, turned inside out for you,
do try the a.m. transistor radio or this
slightly worn through papier-mâché mobile
made and worn for you, or this, a hanging
crucifix here is time used up for you,
these records replayed to the vinyl bone
and split like memory are spread out just for you,
here how they crackle when played,
and this buddy holly bobble head doll
is language, my prayers and swearing taken up
and felt and smelt and put down and taken up
and put down again somewhere behind the silverware
and stained linen tablecloths which were my mother’s,
just for you” and your eyes seem to say right back to hers
“no thanks, I have plenty of stuff in my garage, I even
rented storage space down the street so I really doubt
I could use possibly anything more, but then again,” you falter,
“I wouldn’t mind thumbing through that box over
there, after all, I have an insatiable love for buddy holly.”

entitlement

no mere symptom of photography
the eyes think themselves father to the world–

every color to be jotted down and indexed away,
each body to be memorized in curve and motion,
set in stone like Jacob’s dream;

and although the machines of our time reflect
our tendencies: humidifiers, carburetors,
or timed coffee pots, these

cannot be reduced to “tendency”
anymore than mind to language
or desire to rose petals.

“a lust for life” or “masculine temperament”
no excuse for those whose eyes never sat so low
to see what St. Francis saw,

keeled-over singing the songs of birds.