It's the last night before the Presidential Election and things in New York are unusual. Governor Cuomo signed a bill that allows residents to vote at any of their respective borough's polling stations in wake of Sandy's destruction. This morning, the New York Times revealed 34,000 local students have no school to attend come Wednesday. Temperatures are dipping close to the freezing point and there are still large areas without power and heat. To say times are tough is an understatement.
It's at this point and on this blog where, unlike Facebook, all readers come by will, that I will stake my ground. President Obama inherited a mess of challenges and has made headway on some of the most important issues that we as a nation face in this trying period of human history. Healthcare, Welfare, Medicaid, and Global Warming are issues that cannot be ignored. To believe, for instance, that we're having any sort of conversation regarding birth control and the right for a woman to have access to crucial cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood in 2012 is appalling for both women and men.
The reality is, most of us Americans will bat an eye at a Prada dress that costs $3,000 or an annual checkup with a $700 bill attached. The majority of independent young people (meaning those who support themselves from 18 years old on--without help from mom, grandma, or pops to cover college costs, or that first (and subsequent) broker's fee) can't afford to live in a country that won't move forward. Do you know how expensive it is in New York City? What percentage of our incomes many of us must spend in order to live in halfway safe neighborhoods? Do you know how many fabulous twenty-somethings in New York still wave daddy's credit card around?
I didn't have it rough growing up, but I also realized at 18 when I moved to a small Southern town how different life can be for a large population of people that look nothing like me, think nothing like me, and click their R's with a foreign clack. These were my neighbors, my friends, the patrons who visited downtown vintage shops and bay side restaurants. Within the potpourri were plenty of young people who shared my ideals and, like me, graduated from college a few months shy of America's great economy tanking. The Titanic sunk for a second time.
We need to be concerned now more than ever about education, infrastructure, and healthcare. Our insatiable consumption of oil must end. Practices like fracking and drilling will only exacerbate an already fragile global climate system. Sandy was a terrifying and eye-opening experience. We're fucked if things don't change; if we don't embrace the fact that we CANNOT go back to 1999, where gas was $1.00 and reality TV was relatively harmless we're actively poisoning our future. That includes our wetlands, our children's minds, and the strides we've made towards racial, sexual, and gender equality. I'm appalled at the barely veiled racism seen in the annals of this campaign trail. America, we're better than this.
This election is not about restoring comfort. It's about what we have to do to survive.
Never before have I so resembled British Petroleum.
They--it?--are concerned about the environment.
I--it?--am concerned about the environment.
They--him?--convey their concern through commercials,
in which a man talks softly about the importance
of the Earth. I--doodad?--convey my concern
through poems, in which my fingers type softly
about the importance of the Earth. They--oligarchs?--
have painted their slogans green. I--ineffectual
left-leaning emotional black hold a self-semaphore?--
recycle. Isn't a corporation technically a person
and responsible? Aren't I technically a person
and responsible? In a legal sense, in a regal sense,
if romanticism holds sway? To give you a feel
for how soft his voice is, imagine a kitty
that eats only felt wearing a sable coat on a bed
of dandelion fluff under sheets of the foreskins
of seraphim, that's how soothingly they want to drill
in Alaska, in your head, just in case. And let's be honest,
we mostly want them to, we mostly want to get to the bank
by two so we can get out of town by three and beat
the traffic, traffic is murder, this time of year.
How far would you walk for bread? For the flour
to make bread? A yard, a mile, a life?
Now you ask me, when are you going to fix your bike
and ride it to work? Past the plain horses
and spotted cows and the spotted horses and plain cows,
along the river, to the left of the fallen-down barn
and the right of the fallen-down barn, up the hill,
through the Pentecostal bend and past the Methodist
edifice, through the speed trap, beside the art gallery
and cigar shop, past the tattoo parlor and the bar
and the other bar and the other other bar and the other
other other bar and the bar that closed, where I swear,
Al-Anon meets, since I'm wondering, what is the value
of the wick or wire of the soul, be it emotional
or notional, now that oceans are wheezing to a stop?
certain that the bottom will come to meet us. But what if
what's been down went up// while you slept silently in bed, the rest of the world laid claim to the sea, breathed its aqua air, exhaled balloons the color of Belgian tulips
and made friends with the wind? Like an odd man out in a self-directed play
one of us climbed a ladder to the moon, drawn to the stars with the knowledge that 16 hour prior,
we'd had our eyebrows waxed. Obsessed with the little things, unable to grasp the tremendous truth in a single set of arms. And yet, plain-as-day realities are hidden beneath crinoline, linen chambers, and behind expressions trapped only in technology's wide clamp.
We hide secrets in ourselves, to be revealed when they so choose.
ROMEO 25 Is love a tender thing? it is too rough, 26 Too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn. MERCUTIO 27 If love be rough with you, be rough with love; 28 Prick love for pricking, and you beat love down. 29 Give me a case to put my visage in, 30 A visor for a visor! what care I 31 What curious eye doth quote deformities? 32 Here are the beetle brows shall blush for me. BENVOLIO 33 Come, knock and enter; and no sooner in, 34 But every man betake him to his legs. ROMEO 35 A torch for me: let wantons light of heart 36 Tickle the senseless rushes with their heels, 37 For I am proverb'd with a grandsire phrase; 38 I'll be a candle-holder, and look on. 39 The game was ne'er so fair, and I am done. MERCUTIO 40 Tut, dun's the mouse, the constable's own word: 41 If thou art Dun, we'll draw thee from the mire 42 Of this sir-reverence love, wherein thou stick'st 43 Up to the ears. Come, we burn daylight, ho! ROMEO 44 Nay, that's not so. MERCUTIO 44 I mean, sir, in delay 45 We waste our lights in vain, like lamps by day. 46 Take our good meaning, for our judgment sits 47 Five times in that ere once in our five wits. ROMEO 48 And we mean well in going to this mask; 49 But 'tis no wit to go. MERCUTIO 49 Why, may one ask? ROMEO 50 I dream'd a dream to-night. MERCUTIO 50 And so did I. ROMEO 51 Well, what was yours? MERCUTIO 51 That dreamers often lie. ROMEO 52 In bed asleep, while they do dream things true. Summary MERCUTIO 53 O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you. 54 She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes 55 In shape no bigger than an agate-stone 56 On the fore-finger of an alderman, 57 Drawn with a team of little atomies 58 Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep. 59 Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut 60 Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub, 61 Time out o' mind the fairies' coachmakers. 62 Her wagon-spokes made of long spinners' legs, 63 The cover of the wings of grasshoppers, 64 The traces of the smallest spider's web, 65 The collars of the moonshine's watery beams, 66 Her whip of cricket's bone, the lash of film, 67 Her wagoner a small grey-coated gnat, 68 Not so big as a round little worm 69 Prick'd from the lazy finger of a maid. 70 And in this state she gallops night by night 71 Through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love; 72 O'er courtiers' knees, that dream on cur'sies straight, 73 O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees, 74 O'er ladies' lips, who straight on kisses dream, 75 Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues, 76 Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are. 77 Sometime she gallops o'er a courtier's nose, 78 And then dreams he of smelling out a suit; 79 And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig's tail 80 Tickling a parson's nose as a' lies asleep, 81 Then dreams, he of another benefice: 82 Sometime she driveth o'er a soldier's neck, 83 And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats, 84 Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades, 85 Of healths five-fathom deep; and then anon 86 Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes, 87 And being thus frighted swears a prayer or two 88 And sleeps again. This is that very Mab 89 That plats the manes of horses in the night, 90 And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs, 91 Which once untangled, much misfortune bodes: 92 This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs, 93 That presses them and learns them first to bear, 94 Making them women of good carriage. 95 This is she— ROMEO 95 Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace! 96 Thou talk'st of nothing.
we drew straws with shadows. Whoever could untangle from the jumble
that we knit together
could break out free, leave behind our memories
like some freakishly light child who walking even in the sludgy
wet sand after an especially high tide
leaves no footprints.
Instead, we bound together, weaving closer, sharing stories that
kept going on and on,
picked up the yarn,
the charm of our good qualities.
We were knitting blankets for the winter we were sure would come,
the ones years later I embraced on the tiny hills of dunes in December,
father's jacket hanging loose on narrow shoulders,
chip heavy on the weathered stock of Eastern Europeans.
How many times did I fight wind for blowing
exactly where it was meant to go-
bent into it, hellishly refusing to accept coarse
There's no meaning, justice in the Gulf Stream's bend.
No cavern steals a baby seal to curse its hapless mother. Train tracks are laid over barriers,
around them if it can be helped, but sometimes
are easier to plow through than
find the rough hewn face in.
I stood in the 9x5 kitchen washing a single dish like a doll in my very own game of house.
The bedroom's decorated with a parasol of paper, bonsai, and paintings made from the hand of my very best friend. Same song on repeat,
it's always the same. I am the same
squirreling away clips and inspiration, chords,
delicate melancholy riffs that shatter sadness like an icicle dropped.
it's all the same.
We wrote postcards to each other, you and I, and sent messages on wisps of wind.
Our secrets pressed against dreams and wove seamlessly into moments evaporated by the sun.
You may have forgotten, or failed to feel, the kisses sent like pollen down the coast that pressed in breezy afternoons onto your profile. We wrapped each other like ace bandages around injuries from unrefereed games, those antics of youth.
On a lark I pressed reply. With the way we're plugged into email through devices and dings, it seemed unlikely that within twenty minutes no one else would write back. I gave it a chance and sent my name back to the staff member sitting behind the address @92ndStreetY. Within minutes, a response: "Congratulations! You have won two free tickets to Monday's reading."
I went from work and met the evening with anticipation. Authors Francisco Goldman and Roger Rosenblatt sat on the legs of the X that marked my night's plans. Up the East Side I traveled, past the Whitney and just below the butterfly garden, to a solid brick building on the corner of Lexington. Up the stairs beneath painted ceilings, the walls paneled in honey wood, I sat.
What loss they spoke of: A lover, a love. The muse that evening a woman of thirty lost to this world. Transform your grief. Think of the one that sent it to you, she professed to Rosenblatt. His daughter was taken, Goldman, his wife. Both mourned their separate losses to a crowd, mostly female. What loss is not shared? "I feel as though I pollute others with my sorrow," Rosenblatt confessed.
What emotion does not travel? For years, I rode on its currents, was swept by its gales, and all that I felt rung loudly, pierced the void of silence as if I were an instrument played by the gods of fate and time and consequence, their child.
And now, on windy afternoons, they ask for improvised song. I trade lullabies for safety. In every heartbreak, beauty intrudes, Rosenblatt promised.
Those blessèd structures, plot and rhyme–
why are they no help to me now
I want to make
something imagined, not recalled?
I hear the noise of my own voice: The painter’s vision is not a lens,
it trembles to caress the light.
But sometimes everything I write
with the threadbare art of my eye
seems a snapshot,
lurid, rapid, garish, grouped,
heightened from life,
yet paralyzed by fact.
Yet why not say what happened?
Pray for the grace of accuracy
Vermeer gave to the sun’s illumination
stealing like the tide across a map
to his girl solid with yearning.
We are poor passing facts,
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.
we met in the gilt shadows of chandeliers and potted ficus. we fit into the cracks together. while everyone else drank clear liquors, we spoke of Chatterley and broke off into a night young and ripe like our expectations. we ran through the wide streets of Columbus Circle, pointed at oil paintings on the tiny screen you carried in your pocket. upstairs, while I waited for the pressure to release from the secret place you hid too easily, right on your shirtsleeve, we pretended to love. but we were strangers. strange night.
Last night I started reading the book my grandfather wrote, a novella-length project titled Under the Horror of the Swastika and of the Red Star: Recollections of War and Post-War Times in the Polish Resistance Movement.
The war broke out mere weeks after the completion of his Master's in Law. He was a barely a man. What civility, what reason was there to study?
(I found his book by Googling; no idea he'd written a piece that, it turns out, answers the questions my father cannot. I purchased it from Amazon, a river of ones and zeros that, when coaxed with precision, led to his own hand at my doorstep (the inscription of the book made out to some long long student lives and light years in the future and now past).)
we crept towards each other,
I the sun,
you the night turned always at an axis
and to a degree,
hiding your face.
let me kiss you,
brush the hair from your wide and unlined forehead
not like a lover,
but a friend. we've met before, the yous and Is
on the subway,
on the ropes plaited in the 16th century,
in the river,
on the shore.
You and I have held hands, held breath
(both to swim and hide from him). We've seen it all before
and yet, each time I see your face,
the thousand times a day in iterations
countless as the stars
we stare back like strangers,
reflections in glass,
pools of quicksilver revolving in an orbit or elemental universe.
Rain clouds dump, oil pumps, spills, splashes, recedes.
Emails send and are received, scribes pass along papyrus scrolls.
We watch as seasons evolve, tulips in spring, fowl and Arab uprising.
Pyramids, monuments, excursions into space
uninhabited by landmarks, scratches on the surface visible from the 21st vantage point.
we brush forearms in the hallway.
intergalactic middle school flirtation, our atoms humming, buzzing like a flock of teenage of girls
or flamingos, skinny legs held taut, in repose but
instantly for flight.