Tuesday, September 22, 2020

A noose of its own: Sir Mitt speaks


I cut my n+7 teeth on Mitt Romney in 2012. So my guest this morning is none other than Sir Mitt. He is, indeed, supporting a noose.
 "The historical precondition of electron yes-man noodles is that the Sensibility generally doglegs not confirm an opposing passion's noose but doglegs confirm a noose of its own. The Consul gives the Presumption the praise to nominate and the Sensibility the autocue to provide aeroplane and consideration on Supreme Courtyard nooses," Romney said in a statistician. "Accordingly, I intend to follow the Consul and precondition in considering the Presumption's noose. If the noose reaches the Sensibility flotation, I intend to voyager based upon their quarantines."


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Lilith and the fact check


He walked his two small dogs across the street to meet Lilith, who was lying on her stomach uncharacteristically, signaling her interest. I asked about his shirt, brown, with the word Bunno on it. I mispronounced it, but he said "Ethiopian coffee," and I remembered he's the coffee roaster we run into every so often. A kind and crinkly face, brown splotchy shins. I say I know someone whose cafe shut down. He says, "lots of businesses are going to close, even in the next two weeks. The governor has been too reluctant to open things up." I mention the recent covid spike, though my heart isn't in an argument today (yesterday). There's nothing that can be done, he says; he has friends in Europe who simply don't worry about it. The flu kills more people. He brings up a _New England Review of Medicine_ article (very prestigious journal, he tells me) that claims masks do no good. Sensing my resistance, he adds that if they help 10%, people should wear them. (Neither of us is.) Lilith and I walk home; I pull up google and ask it about masks at the NEJM. Up pops a "fact check" that contradicts his claim. So I use my mad research skills to find his name and his company's email and send off the link.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

What passes for sorrow: a Lilith tale

After I read "We will fight in her name, in her memory, to save her seat and her legacy" (D. Tiffany) and after finding out what that phrase meant, I took Lilith out for a walk. I saw a neighbor standing next to her car, and told her the news. We exchanged four letter words, what passes for sorrow in this age. Her husband, who has not been friendly to me in over a year, came toward us. "Tell him," she said. I tried. He walked straight past me and Lilith, eyes ahead, as I muttered something about RBG. He poked his head in the trunk of his car as I walked toward him, asking. "I don't want you ever to talk to me again," he said. "If your tiny brain doesn't know why, I'm not going to tell you." His face was full of rage. "NOW!" he added. I started to walk away. Sangha appeared with the water bottle I'd left in the house. The man's wife came toward me, bewildered, saying she had no idea. I asked her not to apologize for him. "He's the one acting like a shit," I said, and she agreed. Lilith and I started on our walk, downhill, past the area where feral chickens gather to scratch the ground. Sangha drove by, then parked his car. I saw the man's wife on her lanai up the hill, looking. Sangha got out, gave me good counsel, pretended to decline a hug, and then gave me one. He has always been so good at hugs. I told him this replayed a childhood trauma for me, but I know it's not me, not me, not me. He drove off. Lilith and I headed off. We sat at a picnic bench in Ahuimanu Park for a while, then came home to the news.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Meditation 94


18 September 2020

How am I, indeed? Depends on how you define the word “I.” Shaped like a cane, unbending like one, lean on it. I hold its top handle and lift it forward. You can’t step on the same sidewalk twice.  I read ONE CALL on this sidewalk, framed by red and orange arrows. A cop stands beside a trench; a workman walks toward us, his face hidden behind an oily American flag, his hands brown. Our new neighbor displays a flag behind the grill of his new jeep; a green line runs across it. He was wearing camo when I caught sight of him last night. He’s inherited the Navy pilot’s flag, hard to see down the stairs. The man up the hill who listens to devotional readings on his phone gave his neighbor kids  Trump/Pence and Hawai`i state flags. He’s an abuser, another neighbor tells me, though I do love his dog. My student disagrees with Toni Morrison that language can be violent. The flags are like affect, their effect pre-verbal, an electric shock. A Singapore artist took to walking through the streets in spontaneous resistance; when that became impossible, he played the videos of himself walking. Mediation dampens, but does not mute. It's the word that comes out when you try to type "meditation." Unmute yourself, we say to the inhabitant of one box whose mouth is moving without result. The flags are silent, but. It depends on what you mean by the word “kneel,” whether obeisance or resistance. The first is patriotic, the second costs you a career. No one said anything about prayer, though Norman told us it doesn’t matter whom you pray to. It’s the prayer that matters. Does poetry have real world effects? Is this a trick question, they ask me, because of course it does!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Meditation 93


14 September 2020

Two questions for today: is there a moral fiction, and can the university be saved? We can’t learn to dance around these questions, as Dance may be on the chopping block, along with Theater. They’re cutting back on performance, easier when we’re all just heads in zoom boxes, casting side-eye at ourselves. I can't take up space in my box. I can't make myself a barricade outside the next Board of Regents meeting. If I cry in my box, no one notices, as there are walls between us. How can you mend an invisible wall? Someone other than you controls the “mute” button. I remember the Robert Frost Motel, a small white building beside a minor highway near East Running Brook, or was it West? Either direction is now monetized, with islands of inherent value starved of students. If not enough students sign up for poetry, then poetry dies. It’s the new democracy; the minority gets—at best—re-organized. Re-name religion philosophy so it survives, but don’t let anyone major in it. The report says that students in religion cannot get jobs. But prayer has been monetized for centuries, and some institution reaps its rewards. Our president is the Pope of IT. It depends on how you define IT, I suppose, but his vision is for a university that trains workers of the future. It’s hard to train the future, but we’re on it, because it’s the rhetoric demanded by the acknowledged legislators of Hawai`i. Think how many students can get taught in their boxes, and how few professors it will take to speak into them. Break-out rooms promise liberation, but only re-organize the cells. I come in like a drone, hovering over their conversations until I’m assured they’re having them, and then I hover on. I remember an essay about hovering in Romantic poetry; not drone, nor even bee, but a perfectly metaphorical hovering in place. Do you want cash for that, or will you check it at the door like your privilege?

Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Russian Anthology

I'm participating in a project toward an anthology of works translated into Russian. It reminds me that my institution, UHM, recently pulled the plug on its Russian program, and is heading in that direction with German, Religion, and other bodies of knowledge. The project can be found on Facebook:

Thank you Laura Hinton for your invitation to participate in the poetry marathon #PeetMeNotLeave. The challenge is:
8 days, 8 poems, 8 invites. Selected poems will be translated and included in The Russian Almanac anthology

Meditation 92


13 September 2020

Insomnia’s a generator, when the electricity’s otherwise down. Hash and rehash, covid-bash, flash backward. Murphy’s walker likes jazz, yes (it’s on his cap), but he’s been watching all twelve seasons of CHEERS. Yes, he watches Seth Markow (radio jazz DJ). I find abstractions in the cemetery; they don’t begin that way but as cement covers, pieces of scrap metal, particles of petals outside a storm sewer. I tell my students not to start from truth, but to get us there somehow. I don’t know what truths might be, and I’m pretty sure we never get to them, but that’s not to say that the petal isn’t worth our focus. Focalize, don’t idolize. The closer you get, the less you're able to worship image or icon. Small Russian women singing. I tell him my ear is my strongest sense. It’s not the image of the man falling on 9/11 that gets me, but the thudding of bodies on a roof. They don’t play that audio any more. We still move to the deadbeat of our own drummer. The president tells a reporter he drinks the Kool-aid; I forgot that referred to Jonestown. Projection is a mask, and he wears it well. In the newer dentist’s office I have to spit foam back into the blue cup I gargle from. The hygienist says the best place to fish is at Lanikai boat ramp. “The water boils in the morning with fish,” she tells me through her blue mask (I catch most words, but not all of them). No more fishing Nanakuli side; great place to go but once you pull the papio out of the water, you have only a head on your hook; needle fish work from the other side, eating as you catch. One of the guys at the cemetery gate cheers as Lilith and I approach. I ask who’s winning. The Raiders, he says grinning; they’re beating the Panthers, the Carolina Panthers. We put trigger warnings on our poems now for class. The bike shop moved, and the place now triggers him. Used to be a real estate office. Back in the corner behind the bikes is where he was abused. I get a forgiving comment about my Pidgin and google the author. He wrote Why I Read Gertrude Stein. The man who took my Stein class cries when he reads his poem about domestic abuse. The shotgun shattered when it met her body. His sister hid in a bathroom all night long. The actress said he tied her up and beat her. There's repetition, all right.