National Poetry Month: Saul Williams

I had the great pleasure of seeing Saul Williams perform. Truly life changing. “Bloodletting” was written during the Bush administration but it rings true even more today. We’re coming up on OrangeAsshole’s 100th day in office and another Congress facing a governmental shutdown. I’m wondering when we’re going to start listening to the revolutionaries and less to the talking heads.

Bloodletting — Saul Williams
the greatest Americans
have not been born yet
they are waiting patiently
for the past to die
please give blood
those crumbled tablets
were to share a story
with a burning Bush
where is that voice from nowhere to remind us
that the holy ground we walk on, purified by native blood has rooted trees
whose fallen leaves now colour code a sacred list of demands?
who among us can give translation of autumn’s hues to morning news?
the anchor man
thrown overboard
has simply rooted us in history’s repeating cycle
a nation in its Saturn years that won’t acknowledge karma
where is that voice from nowhere, the ones your prophets spoke of?
there are voices from fear
disconnected from their diaphragms
dangling from coffee covered teeth
that spill into our laps
and scorch our privates
there are voices from the sides of necks
some already noosed
dangling participles
pronouns running for sentence serving life in corner offices
and ghetto corners
their voices are the same:
dead to themselves numb to the possibility of truth
existing beyond that which can be palmed into your hand, period.
there are voices of elders
which seem to do no more
than damn us to our childish ways for in many households wisdom no longer
comes with age
so where is that voice from nowhere?
that burning bush?
that passing dove?
for i hear generals calling for ammunition presidents calling for arms and
women calling for help
where is that voice from nowhere?
that god of abraham?
can he be heard over the gunfire
the wizz of passing missiles
the crash of buildings
the cries of children
the crack of bones
the shriek of sirens
or is that his mighty voice?
your angry god craving the sacrifice of generation’s sons degenerate
your holy books
written in red ink
on burning sands
your prayers between rounds do no more than fasten the fate of your children
to the hammered truth of your trigger
a truth that mushrooms
it’s darkened cloud
over the rest of us
so that we too bear witness to the short lived fate
of a civilization that worships a male god
your weapons are phallic
all of them
that dummie that sits
on your lap is no longer
a worthwhile spectacle
his shrunken pale face
leaves little room for imagination
we have spotted your moving lips and have pinned the voice to it’s proper source
it is a source of madness
a source of hunger for power
a source of weakness
a source of evil
we have exited your coliseum and are encircling your box office demanding
our families back
our cultures back
our rituals back
our gods back
so that we may return them to their proper source
the source of life
the source of creation
our mother’s womb
the great goddess
we will cut through
the barbed wire hangers
and chastity belts
we will climb in and
incubate our spirits
through the winter
we will wait through
the degenerate course
of your repeated history
we will wait
for the past
to die

National Poetry Month: Pray For Peace

It’s Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem. Jesus, being of the Holy Trinity, knew that he was entering the city in which he would be crucified. His disciples, his flock were unaware so they greeted Jesus as a conquering hero and threw palm leaves in his wake to honor him. It’s a juxtaposition that has always been in my head, the fact that Jesus could go from hero to villain in less than a week.

My heart is heavy. I’m typing this at McDonald’s. I’m having breakfast before I head for church. I know that my breakfast will cause me to be a little late but I’m usually late.

CNN is playing on the TV near me. David Petraeus is talking about the bombing of Syria. He likens Syria to Humpty Dumpty and how he feels that Syria will never be put back together. Petraeus cautions that whatever is done, it’ll have to be a generational act. He talks about blood and treasure and I know that’s what this fight in Syria is about. So many innocent people will be killed so the country’s oil will be preserved.

The poem I’ve chosen for this morning, Palm Sunday morning, is by Ellen Bass. It is called “Pray For Peace” and it’s exactly what I’ll be doing this morning and most mornings. And what I especially love about this poem is that Ellen Bass realizes that we all have different names and faces for our idea of a higher power.

“Pray For Peace” — Ellen Bass

Pray to whoever you kneel down to:
Jesus nailed to his wooden or marble or plastic cross,
his suffering face bent to kiss you,
Buddha still under the Bo tree in scorching heat,
Adonai, Allah, raise your arms to Mary
that she may lay her palm on our brows,
to Shekinhah, Queen of Heaven and Earth,
to Inanna in her stripped descent.

Hawk or Wolf, or the Great Whale, Record Keeper
of time before, time now, time ahead, pray. Bow down
to terriers and shepherds and siamese cats.
Fields of artichokes and elegant strawberries.

Pray to the bus driver who takes you to work,
pray on the bus, pray for everyone riding that bus
and for everyone riding buses all over the world.
If you haven’t been on a bus in a long time,
climb the few steps, drop some silver, and pray.

Waiting in line for the movies, for the ATM,
for your latté and croissant, offer your plea.
Make your eating and drinking a supplication.
Make your slicing of carrots a holy act,
each translucent layer of the onion, a deeper prayer.

Make the brushing of your hair
a prayer, every strand its own voice,
singing in the choir on your head.
As you wash your face, the water slipping
through your fingers, a prayer: Water,
softest thing on earth, gentleness
that wears away rock.

Making love, of course, is already a prayer.
Skin and open mouths worshipping that skin,
the fragile case we are poured into,
each caress a season of peace.

If you’re hungry, pray. If you’re tired.
Pray to Gandhi and Dorothy Day.
Shakespeare. Sappho. Sojourner Truth.
Pray to the angels and the ghost of your grandfather.

When you walk to your car, to the mailbox,
to the video store, let each step
be a prayer that we all keep our legs,
that we do not blow off anyone else’s legs.
Or crush their skulls.
And if you are riding on a bicycle
or a skateboard, in a wheel chair, each revolution
of the wheels a prayer that as the earth revolves
we will do less harm, less harm, less harm.

And as you work, typing with a new manicure,
a tiny palm tree painted on one pearlescent nail
or delivering soda or drawing good blood
into rubber-capped vials, writing on a blackboard
with yellow chalk, twirling pizzas, pray for peace.

With each breath in, take in the faith of those
who have believed when belief seemed foolish,
who persevered. With each breath out, cherish.

Pull weeds for peace, turn over in your sleep for peace,
feed the birds for peace, each shiny seed
that spills onto the earth, another second of peace.
Wash your dishes, call your mother, drink wine.

Shovel leaves or snow or trash from your sidewalk.
Make a path. Fold a photo of a dead child
around your VISA card. Gnaw your crust
of prayer, scoop your prayer water from the gutter.
Mumble along like a crazy person, stumbling
your prayer through the streets.

Thoughts About MLK Jr’s Vietnam Speech 50 Years Later

Fifty years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at Riverside Church in New York City. He spoke out against the war in Vietnam. Now, his contemporaries within the civil rights movement were hesitant about Dr. King speaking out against the war. They thought that by speaking out against the government, against the Johnson administration, Dr. King would hurt the civil rights movement.

I was unfamiliar with this speech until a few days ago. After reading it, I’m struck by how relevant this speech is for today’s audience. Replace the word “Vietnam” with ISIL or the vague “terrorist” and Dr. King could be talking about the here and now.

I fear that, under the Trump regime, people are so focused on the threat of terrorism that we ignore the real problems. Dr. King said “I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor.”

I haven’t written about OrangeAsshole lately. Every day I wake up to another nightmarish scenario and I don’t know how to write about it. OrangeAsshole’s proposed budget would cut funding for all the things that truly make America great and funding will be funneled into the military.

Right now OrangeAsshole has us duped into thinking that undocumented citizens are out to destroy us and that we need to build a wall and restrict immigration from certain countries. It’s classic bait and switch. Get people talking about that so they’ll ignore the Russian hacking controversy.

It’s sad to me, fifty years later, the antics remain.

International Women’s Day

Today is International Woman’s Day. I keep thinking about a Tupac song called “Keep Your Head Up”.

And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it’s time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies that make the babies
And since a man can’t make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up?
I know you’re fed up, ladies, but keep your head up

Since we’re living in the OrangeAsshole regime and he seems to have little regard for the modern forward thinking woman, today was also a day that woman, if they were able to, went on strike.

I’m the only male in my connection group. I usually host it but it was at Diana’s house. I’m thankful that the women in my connection group decided to show up. We’ve been having great discussion as we grapple with forgiveness. This afternoon was a discussion about needing forgiveness. I know that I’ve hurt people and I’ve needed to ask for forgiveness. The odd thing is that the consensus was that it’s easier to grant forgiveness to another person rather than to ask for forgiveness. It plays into being vulnerable, lessons we learned about in our previous book, Rising Strong by Brêne Brown. 

What I’m loving most about The Book Of Forgiving is the choice between renewing relationships or releasing relationships. I’m at a point of my life where I’m more likely to release a relationship than I am to renew it. At forty I don’t feel like I have the time or want to make the effort to deal with other people’s drama.

Ironically, I wore red without knowing that supporters of woman’s rights was supposed to wear red. I’m at the end of my laundry cycle so my red sweater was the only thing I had clean. I’m wearing dirty pants because I split the pants I was wearing earlier taking a case of bottled water out of the back of Laura’s SUV. 

Of course if I had known I would have worn red regardless. I support women and I don’t understand those who don’t. I have a mom. I have a sister and a sister in law. I have nieces and great nieces. I had a grandmother. I have aunts. I have female cousins. I have female co-workers and classmates and friends. Some of the most important people in my life are women and I support them 100℅.

We Still Rise

All of this week I’ve had appointment television. I’ve been watching the epic ABC miniseries, When We Rise. For four days I’ve watched a brief history of the LGBT movement play out on the small screen. When We Rise was written by Academy Award winner, Dustin Lance Black and helmed by Dustin Lance Black as well as the legendary Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho among many others), up and coming Dee Rees (she directed Pariah) and the one and only Thomas Schlamme (he did The West Wing). Despite the established pedigree of those involved and the talented cast, the ratings haven’t been what I hoped. It’s something that I have questioned and I was reminded that people interact with their media differently than they once did. While When We Rise was appointment television for me like previous miniseries (Lonesome Dove, Gulliver’s Travels, V, The Tenth Kingdom, Alice In Wonderland), a lot of people were waiting to watch it all in one sitting, an ultimate binge watch.

This post isn’t about ratings though, it’s a public service announcement. When We Rise started with the 1971 Year In Pictures issue of Life magazine and ends with the 2013 Supreme Court decision on California’s Proposition 8 which legalized same sex marriage in California. With the title suggesting that the LGBT movement has risen and the passage of marriage equality via the Supreme Court in all 50 states, one might think that the fight is finished. 

I appreciated that When We Rise showed the intersectionality of the LGBT movement with the woman’s rights movement and civil rights movement and other various movements although I was disappointed that little was shown about the transgender struggle. In that vein, I wanted to make sure people knew that the fight continues, not only in my home state of Michigan but across the United States.

It was a glorious day when the decision on marriage equality came down. I celebrated in Detroit at the Spirit of Detroit statue and I later celebrated with my friends in Ferndale. But I didn’t forget the fact that I could have gotten married that night and fired the next morning because I was gay or even perceived as gay. 

There are only 19 states that have nondiscrimination laws that protect both sexual orientation and gender identity. The fight continues here in Michigan to amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include both sexual orientation and gender identity. 

When the Red Cross announces that there’s a blood shortage, I can donate blood unless I’m celibate for a year. There are so many screening steps that doner blood goes through before it reaches a patient but I’m still stigmatized because of HIV/AIDS.

We all know about gender inequality when it comes to getting paid. That’s something that we need to still fight for but it’s a little known fact that, on average, gay men make less than straight men while lesbians make more than straight women. Don’t even get me started on how a person named Mark will be called for an interview but a person named Marquil will not. 

Non-white American citizens are being harassed and sometimes killed on an ever increasing basis. OrangeAsshole has given ignorant people carte blanche. Two Indian-Americans were attacked a Kansas bar because immigration discrimination is increasing.

My trans* brothers and sisters are being treated like second class pariahs.

Yes, we have come a long way but the fight isn’t over. It’s far from over.

Ash Wednesday

I grew up Baptist so I wasn’t aware of Ash Wednesday and the concept of Lent until I started working at 8045. The notion of a 40 day sacrifice to get closer to one’s spiritual self sat well with me. My parents didn’t understand why I was suddenly going to practice Lent but I gave up sweets that first year, adding Lent to the patchwork of religious ritual I’ve appropriated throughout my life in order to express my faith.

These days I no longer give up something for Lent. I live an ascetic life because of financial hardship so to give up the little I have would make my 40 days less of a spiritual examination and more of a spiteful attack against others. Now I seek a balance of external and internal examination. I strive to practice a generous Lent with the help of 40acts.org.uk while usually choosing a spiritual text to deep dive into.

This year I’ve had three spiritual books sent my way via the Divine Wow. I had already chosen May Cause Miracles by Gabrielle Bernstein because it bills itself as a “40 Day guidebook of subtle shifts for radical change and unlimited happiness”. Then, as I was walking near the Ferndale location of John King Books I saw a copy of Oriah’s The Call and it called out to me. I’ve admitted that I’m going through a bit of an identity crisis. I’m hoping the book will help. Then, after a moving conversation with my friend, Crystal, on a lovely Sunday afternoon, she gave me a copy of Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales. I knew, through Crystal, that he’s the patron saint of journalism. I’ve discovered that Pope Pius XI proclaimed him a patron of writers as well. Since I’ve gone back to keeping a journal and I’ve started to write again, I’m curious to read this book. 

I’m also going to be focused on my wellness. I need to start treating myself better than I do and the Lenten season is a great time to do that. I indulged in some pączki including a buttercream filled pączek from Apple Fritter that has become my favorite. But waking up yesterday to another swollen ankle and having to wait a few hours until I was able to walk without pain makes me realize I need to focus on overall wellness, mind, body and soul.

Forty days of contemplation about where I’ve been, where I’m at and where I need to be, the direction I need to head paired with an ongoing study on forgiveness and awareness of how blessed I am and how appreciative I am will make for an interesting Lenten journey.

OrangeAsshole

When President Trump was elected I told myself that I probably wouldn’t watch any of his presidential addresses. His unofficial State Of The Union was tonight and I decided to watch after all. My thinking is that I’d rather know what was coming and hear it from the source than be left in the dark and let my news be filtered through someone else.

The way that Donald Trump describes the United States makes us sound bleaker than we really are. He talks about the Detroit inner city and how it’s been failed without mentioning that Detroit is going through another renaissance period. Trump talks about how drugs are pouring into this country and it makes it sound like there are drug houses on every corner and that every other person is on drugs. I’m beginning to realize that Trump exaggerates everything. 

Trump loves to talk about immigration and how Radical Islamic terrorists are out to destroy us. He neglects to mention that a white guy shot two Indian-Americans in Kansas while highlighting those in the gallery that had been harmed by undocumented immigrants. Don’t get me started about how reckless his new VOICE (Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement) program is and how similar it is to what the Nazis did to the Jews.
The immediate reaction to Trump’s presidential address is that he has now become presidential because he honored Carryn Owens, the widow of a Navy SEAL killed in Yemen during a disastrous raid. William “Ryan” Owens was killed in action along with over 20 civilians. The sad thing is that the high level person we were after escaped so the intelligence that was captured is in doubt. President Trump tarnished the memory of Owens by using his death to further the Trump Regime’s militant aspirations. 

Others thought that Trump was presidential but I think he’s an asshole. I’ve given him a little over a month to get his act together. Since January 20th he’s introduced a budget that cuts money from the EPA, the arts and all the important things while funneling more money into the military. He’s taken away protection from trans* students. His stance on immigration is atrocious. Fuck, his stance on most things is atrocious. And that’s why I’ve made the decision to take away the respect I usually reserve for the sitting president. He might be the sitting president but I no longer recognize him as my president. Three more years under the OrangeAsshole. God help us all.