Monday, January 15, 2018

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Most folks today like to believe that they'd be on the side of Dr. King back in the Civil Rights era, but people conveniently forget that he was the most hated man in America when he was assassinated. The vast majority of White Christians thought he was a dangerous troublemaker, and of course, in a way, he was a very dangerous troublemaker.

But that's exactly what he needed to be in order to be faithful to his Christian calling. He called out and openly confronted America's racist history and continuing racist policies, both domestically and internationally. He also tied racism and classism together and recognized that the underprivileged and poor came in every shade of color.

Dr. King was a man of peace and non-violence to be sure. That was his trademark. But he was no passive actor in any sense. His commitment to justice for EVERYONE was fierce and unyielding. He struck the rhetorical ax to the root of evil policies across the board, from the backwoods lynchings to the Vietnam War. He was unrelenting in his holy calling to call evil by its name and overcome it with the power of love.

But you can't cure a disease if you refuse to acknowledge that it exists in the first place. We still are unwilling to do that, and so Dr. King's message rings as true today as it did fifty years ago. We must NEVER stop dreaming his prophetic dream.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Swallow the Pain and Exhale the Love

Everything sings pain into my soul

Everything slings arrows at my soul

It's easy for me to use excuses I use

to use, to use.

Musing on misuses of my soul

Inclined towards the pain

and away from the scars

away from the stars away

from the scars starred

in my scarred terrain

of pain.

Exhale the pain

and exhale the love.

Be Not Afraid.

White Man's President

Donald J. Trump allegedly called Haiti, El Salvador and Africa "shitholes" or "Shithouses" in a small meeting last week in the Whitehouse with several Republicans and one Democrat in attendance. Needless to say, this is shocking by any normal standards, but we gave up normal standards the day we elected a man who bragged about grabbing women by the pussy and getting away with it repeatedly because he was rich and powerful. We gave up normal standards when we elected a man who repeatedly has not only made openly racist statements throughout his life, but was successfully sued, along with his openly racist father Fred Trump, for racist housing policies in 1973 in Queens, NY.

I think what shocks people is the simple candor of his unapologetic racism (and misogyny and Islamophobia, etc...) and how his own staff have essentially become inured to these daily tirades directed scattershot at friends and foes alike. More than a few of his staffers now feel as though they're acting as babysitters instead of serious advisers to a sitting President. That's a truly terrifying prospect, similar to, but I would say is now much worse than, what the final days of the Nixon Whitehouse was like in 1973/74 when he was drinking heavily and having conversations with oil paintings on the walls. Thank God Donald Trump doesn't drink! Though I do suspect he's, considering his advanced age, taking a bevy of medications to help him get through each day. But that's only conjecture on my part based on his physical appearance and obvious erratic behavior as seen by everyone.

Now, my own ethnic background, strangely enough, is quite similar to Donald Trump's. My father's side is entirely German like Trumps's father's side. My German immigrant grandmother bought into the ethno-nationalism of Nazism and held to it till her death when I was a small child, very similar to Fred Trump's own Klan affiliation and arrest in the 1920's in NYC. But in my family's case, thanks be to God, my father became extremely progressive on most fronts (though he was terribly abusive towards my mother, I think in reaction to his own antipathy towards his mother, and I later learned that he inherited his mother's Antisemitism), was very pro Civil Rights, regularly had black college students over for dinner at our house in a VERY white neighborhood of Staten Island (terrifying our then racist neighbors that he was thinking of selling our house to a black family), tutoring Hispanic people in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in English. In other words, I grew up loving JFK, MLK Jr., Bobby Kennedy and listening to the protest music of the era as a daily part of my childhood.

But I could have grown up very differently. I could quite easily have become the mirror image of myself under only slightly different circumstances. It appears Donald J. Trump grew up under those slightly different circumstances. As noted above, his father was a well known racist (even Woody Guthrie wrote about him and his racism!), Trump was extremely unruly as a child and had to be sent to a military academy, where the extremely regimented and authoritarian environment was a perfect fit for his very bright social intelligence. He learned how to be physically and emotionally coercive towards underlings and that obviously served him well for several decades more. He may be incredibly unintelligent on actual knowledge and policy, but he's borderline genius when it comes to coercive rhetoric and emotional abuse. By the way, these are ALL classic predator qualities and that should concern us all.

Trying to understand racism and the many other extremist "isms" out there has been my life's work since my late childhood. What makes someone become a racist, after all? My exposure to this world began very early on, in my mid childhood when I learned that almost all of my white neighbors were racist and Antisemitic. I later came to call my neighborhood/town in Annadale, SINY the "Selma, Alabama of NYC" and it's sadly still largely the same to this day. But I was blessed by a combination of disability and disfunction which saved me from my environment, and I think my own story is a kind of mirror image of Trump's story in Queens, NY. The combination of my several ailments with my family disfunction forced me into interacting with people (kids) of color at a VERY early age. Though we lived in a upper middle class white neighborhood, my parents being separated forced my mom to bring me to the clinic instead of our family physician, and as y'all know, the public clinics are never in the good part of town.

The clinic I had to go to on a monthly basis (I was REALLY sickly as a kid) was across the street from the West Brighton projects, a notoriously dangerous public housing project on the North Shore of Staten Island. But through these constant visits I regularly interacted with other children who looked and talked VERY differently than me. They were black, brown, Asian, Latino/Latina, etc., and I loved playing with them each and every time. I even told my mom at one point that I wished I was black, much to her astonishment, because I liked how my black friends behaved with me in stark contrast to my white child neighbors, who mostly bullied me because of how different I was. Even as a child, I knew what it felt like to wear the skin of the "other", whether that meant skin color explicitly, or being targeted because of having long hair when every other boy had a crew cut, or not behaving in a masculine enough way for the other boys in my elementary school, etc...

I've never met Donald Trump, and by God's grace I never will, but he has lived an extremely public life, and so we can learn quite a lot from his public pronouncements, his many affairs while married, and his rare moments of speaking honestly about himself. The one moment of honesty, again extremely rare for him, was back in the 1990's when he admitted that he didn't like to think about himself reflectively, because he didn't think he'd like what he saw. That alone is unbelievably telling about his self perception and I would aver his deep seated self hatred, which, in denying (which he must), he can't help but project that self hatred outward towards anyone who looks or thinks differently than him, whether they be a wife, a child, a business associate, a self perceived enemy, and even an ally who doesn't serve his immediate needs of the moment.

How will this all end? With his impeachment by a new Congress next year? By his own staff pulling a 25th Amendment on his failing faculties? By us getting involved with a nuclear war with North Korea and potentially other nations, with millions left dead and dying from radiation poisoning? I would love to see him change and become a better man and turn this administration around and be more ethical on multiple levels, but I simply don't see ANY evidence of it anywhere. This Trump Regime, as I call it, is not only putting the American Experiment at grave risk, it's putting our planet's future at risk.

I watched most of the Sunday morning political shows this morning and it was remarkable to see almost all of them struggle with acknowledging the simple truth that we have a white supremacist/racist president and that the vast majority of the GOP is silently complicit as he rolls back almost every civil rights advancement made in the last 50+ years.

Barack Obama was our first Black President. Donald Trump is our first White President.

It's time we own this folks. It's time we own it.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Girls In Bellevue.

A Buck Short

Clearing into the fields.

You are my mine field.

Shielded, we are.

Ridiculous, we all are.

Dollars, billed far too late.

By A Slim Margin

I was never your stranger
I was always you friend,
Frequently frequented.
Aspirated, frequently freaky,
always strange.

It's OK.
I understand.
You don't need a rhythm
or rhyme.

Time.

Rhythm.

Mime.

It's who I am.

Ignighted

Totally darkened.
Disparate.
16th Street.
Seeing and being unseen.

The Contours of Your Face

Gwenn

You were visually stunning.

Our last night together

will always mean everything to me.

I can't forget you.

You are my blessing and my curse.

A hint of heaven and a hint of hell.

Gwenn.

Minor Key Goddess

Why do I listen to you so?

Slippery lyrics, lilting, not so softly

against the hard edges of reality.

The cracks are obvious

or at least they should be.

Hellacious reality isn't the totality

of rhymes which don't have much reason.


But the Minor Key sings out to me

so strong and yet so weak

elegantly strange, absent

yet always present.


Tonal qualities resonate,

minor key hinted at

every single time.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Intro To My Version

Introversion is my language
I talk too much and eat too little.
Just ask my seminarian friends
about the piles left on my plate
at the end of our communions.

Yet, at the end of the day
I escape to my den, sometimes of iquity,
and listen to the languages
of ubiquity, of voices beyond my own,
Strange, yet strangely known.

Shallow Waters

Standing on the edge
looking at the safe swimmers
I slipped, I slipped.
Slimy rocks, covered in stagnant waters
I went under, water filled my mouth.
Hands reached down, reaching down to me.
They pulled me up, he or she I do not know.
All I know is that I breathed again
Terrified, but alive.

Water surrounding me
The Dismal Swamp is what we called this pond
I never did learn to swim.
I still fear these tepid waters
filled with loss and life.

Blades of Grass

Sometimes the soil beneath my feet
is as hard as sun drenched soil
like souls devoid of rain pained by
calloused soles unfed by rain for years.

Yet on other days I speak
of soil drenched with blood
seeping and seeking after
after my sinking soul.

It's all the same after all
the infertile soil standing
unsteady after the fall.

It's all the same after all
the infertile soil standing
unsteady after the fall.

But the grass still grows
soil notwithstanding
tall, my feet standing a top of them
crushing the blades beneath my soles.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Sometimes My Skin Bleeds from the Inside Out

The scratches come from within. They always have.

That itch? Yeah, you know the feeling. That feeling that never fully goes away, no matter how much you try to drink it away, it stays, it lurks in the corners of your psyche.

You.

That fucked up complicated reality that's who you are, who I am. Who we're trying to be.

Shh, I say, constantly trying to quiet the voices shouting in silence, trying to explain who I am to my many fractured self. Trying to...I don't know sometimes...

I want to know me. At least I think I do. At least I think I do.

Monday, December 11, 2017

IF?

IF?

Such a short word. Such a seemingly unimportant word. Two little letters, asking a truly monumental question across the ages. This utterly simple word "IF" is made up of two little letters and yet it asks the deepest and most dangerous question of all.

"What if?"

Questioning basic ascertains is a dicey game. Questioning the assumed certainties is always dangerous. It opens you up to accusations of infidelity and even heresy, no matter the prescribed orthodoxy, religious or secular. Asking "if" amidst the self assured assumptions of the masses can, and often does, put you in the cross hairs of the Thought Police of whatever Orthodoxy you're questioning.

I was an ideological pilgrim looking for some sure epistemic footing. My familial and religious as well as epistemic background was utterly chaotic, a truly Hebraic "אי סדר" or "Tohu Va-Vohu". Out of the swirling mass of spiritual and emotional gyrations which were my youth in my mental and emotional childhood, I sought after certainty, utter certainty. I needed absolute metaphysical certitude.

Therefore epistemic and religious fundamentalism became my home for well over two decades. I needed it. My world was filled with quicksand and I needed something a bit more solid, both physically and philosophically. And for many years it served me well. I needed that certainty. It helped me navigate many difficult years in my life.

It gave me ground to stand on. Again, I needed that. I bounced around different fundamentalist churches in NYC and later in West Michigan. They ALL had their "certainties" one and all. Whether Baptist, Reformed or otherwise, or Nazarene, or Plymouth Brethren or OPC, they ALL knew they KNEW the TRUTH. And, in a sense, they did. But, like us all, they, and I, look at the truth from an acute angle, we saw this truth, but rarely from outside ourselves.

Part two happens soon...

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Sweet Tea

Your voice is sweeter than sweet tea.
If I listen to you any longer
I just might get diabetes.

Just listening to your twang
and the lilt in your voice
and my Appalachian heart
ain't got no choice.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Emotional Intimacy

John.

In every case your name has been the same. John M., in the men's homeless shelter, in the bunk next to mine. You were my beloved, even as we both walked forward towards what it meant to be human in very different ways. We were straight, thought most of our friends thought we were gay. We trusted each other. That's what mattered. The stoop of the Catholic church was our sanctuary. Sidewalks were our pew. Both outsiders in very different ways, we looked into each other and saw each other deeply. You trusted me and I trusted you.

John.

I taught your Friday classes. I tended your plants and fish. Your descriptions of how to take care of them sometimes ran into ten pages! You let me drink your cheap beer when you were out of town. You were SO meticulous in how you dressed and your jokes were almost ALWAYS inappropriate, but always hilarious. The Greek and Roman plays performed at your house were always amazing. And yet you were always the consummate professional. Though the jokes were ribald, you personally never crossed the line. You played your cards close to the chest until the day you died.

John.

I noticed how beautiful you were the moment you arrived. You were surprisingly feminine in oh so many ways. Your eyes, your lips, your gentle laugh. It didn't hurt that you're a cross breed gorgeous human being. I'm so glad we got to know each other as friends, sharing honestly with each other. Though it was painful for me, I was glad you found her as a mate. She's one I too was attracted to, and for good reason. She's straight up gorgeous. After all, I do love the lady parts notwithstanding my history of male emotional intimacy.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Religious Runaways

The runaways from religion and the escapees from churches are sometimes the very people God says are cool with God.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Redemption is Extremely Nigh

I tried sleeping that night, but to no success. My betrothed husband kept guard outside, successfully. He always did the right thing, protecting me against every enemy, near and far. Joseph is a good and decent man. If nothing else, he always protected me. His hands were hard, but his heart was soft. I will always love him for that. He's a good man. I love him for that.

An angel showed up and overshadowed me, telling me that I'm now pregnant. On this Advent Day, God showed up as Jesus of Nazareth.

Here's Mary's Redemption Song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJXKfbAE5vo

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Saturday Night Poetry

Listening to Jason Isbell as the walls cave in all around me, invisible to everyone else, and mostly too to myself. Self reflection leaves me in a reflecting pool of narcissistic drownings leaving me gasping for existential air. Depressive visionaries have always enraptured me from days of old. These old disabled friends always able to sing into my own special disabilities seen and unseen. Freaks, queers, oddballs, every one, even me. This, strangely enough, has always given me comfort.

Some poems don't rhyme and that's OK.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Endless Days

Pogo stick springs singing and springing into the air
even as fall falls into the darkening night of autumnal night air.
The rhythmic sounds resounding reminding me of endless days of yore
when daylight never seemed to end until the dinner bell rang.

Potatoes, mashed by hand. Meatloaf, me and Karen helped to knead with mom's help
on top of the kitchen table with our little kid hands.

She told us to take out all of our aggressions on that ground beef with relish.
We were broken and we knew it. Making dinner by hand was our therapy. She knew it too.

The endless days ended long ago
but it's nice to hear echoes of that distant land
in the sounds of a bouncing Pogo stick.