Category Archives: Politics

#241: Stones

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What I thought was Donald Trump
turned out to be kidney stones.
I did the research, and among the
listed causes for stones, Trump
was nowhere to be found. Stress,
however, can indirectly lead to
poor health choices that might
lead to stones. I admit, I am stressed,
have spent more time worrying
about the fate of our nation
than I ever have, and believe me,
I have worried before about
the fate of our nation. Regardless
of what caused these little fuckers,
the fact remains that I have stones
and that I cannot think of a better
metaphor right now for the Trump
presidency. Oh, let me count the ways.
They can’t pass soon enough.
While they are passing, the pain
can be excruciating. They can
transform reality. They require
attention but no easy fix. Essentially,
one must try to flush them out.
One has to catch them in order
to discover what they’re made of,
and once caught, they must be
fought, minimized, blasted,
reduced, until they are so small,
they slip right out without notice
into the toilet or a stainless steal
strainer. Ultimately, as I am beginning to
understand, stones must be impeached,
the sooner the better.

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#24o: Afterinaugurationmath

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The day after my media fast,
I binged on media,
mostly on pictures and stories
of women,
women holding signs
saying things like,
You can’t have my rights,
I’m using them;
This is my resisting
bitch face;
So bad, even introverts
are here;
 I came here to
knit sweaters and punch

nazis and I’m all out
of yarn; and a couple
of my favorites:
a portrait of Bernie Sanders
holding a kitty, how real men
grab pussy, and Sir Ian McKellen
holding a simple portrait of Captain Picard
doing the I-can’t-believe-this-shit
palm-to-the-face move.
And the math was staggering:
3.3 million people estimated in 500
demonstrations across the nation.
And the aftermath was staggering:
Kelley Ann Conway insisting on
the validity of alternative facts
and that Spicer dude saying
that the Trump administration
has a right to disagree with facts, and,
finally, two days after the biggest
march in United States history,
in large part about the rights
of women, Trump signed an
anti-abortion executive order.
I guess he didn’t get the message.
And every day since
has been a train wreck.
I went home from work today
with a stomach ache unlike
most stomach aches I’ve ever had,
not more painful, but placed differently,
gnawing in an unfamiliar way,
and I actually entertained the thought
and real possibility that the first
six days of the Trump presidency
are making me sick.
These are dark times indeed
and I know Orwell is not
necessarily rolling in his grave,
but taunting us from down there.
I hear him shouting, 2 plus 2 is 5.
I told you so. I told you so.

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#239: 24 Hours, No Facebook, No News Redux (Inauguration Day, 2017)

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It’s inauguration day and I have once again sworn off
Facebook and any internet news or television media
for 24 hours. All I know is that my son watched
the thing in his 5th grade classroom today
and he said some kids and his teacher
were crying. He and a friend, he said, were
angry and felt that no one understood.
I heard a teacher in my building say that
the inaugural address was more of the same
and if that’s an accurate assessment
apparently I did not miss a thing.
My pledge to abstain from the news is
simply an effort not to give any attention
to this man who is not and never will be my guy.
And it’s disingenuous to say he deserves
a chance. He’s had tons of those and blew them all.
It’s disingenuous to say, this is how it is and
it’s your country after all so buck up and get in.
I believe the more patriotic move is to resist
what in no possible light could be considered good
or just or wise or anything noble and high,
anything other than an embarrassment.
What I am missing, I assume, is the good
news about the spreading resistance.
And why wouldn’t I want to see that?
To be honest, I do, I really do want to see that
and it’s very difficult not to climb on board
the media wagon to view the spectacle of this
historic refusal in marches taking place today
and tomorrow and the next day all over the land.
I can always catch up and I know that I will.
To stay away today, to have been completely
present for my students, and for this poem,
to be reflective without the images and the audio
and the punditry of the day, makes it possible,
perhaps, for me to sit with it in solitude
and to prove that it is finally possible to look away,
at least temporarily, until I understand better
what is most needed and how I can be there
in some meaningful way.

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#229: Sore Loser Angry White Guy

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I am
a sore loser
angry white guy.
I’m sore, yeah,
not because my candidate
lost, but because THIS guy
won. And I’m angry, not
because the guy that won
was not my candidate,
but because THIS particular guy
is an inarticulate, stupid,
immoral, ignorant, sexist,
racist, homophobic, bullying
man-baby.
And never before
in my adult lifetime,
in all the other elections in which
my candidate didn’t win,
could the winning guy
be accurately described this way,
as an inarticulate, stupid,
immoral, ignorant, sexist,
racist, homophobic, bullying
man-baby. Not even George W.
fits the entirety of this description,
before now, likely the worst president
our nation has ever seen.
Yeah, I’m sore and I’m angry
because this guys scares the shit
out of me and I can’t believe we live
under a system in which a guy like this
is a possible president, let alone
the Elect, let alone the real deal
come January 2017, despite the fact
that his opponent won the popular vote
by about 2 million citizens. Apparently,
President of the United States of America
is a job you can do with zero qualification,
because he has zero qualification, unless
being an inarticulate, stupid,
immoral, ignorant, sexist,
racist, homophobic, bullying
man-baby is now the job description
of the leader of the free world.
This is how democracy “works”?
I fear that this is how democracy
eats itself. No, he’s not my president.
Even after he’s officially inaugurated,
anyone of good conscience must be able
to say, no, he’s not my president, again, not
because our candidate lost, but because this guy is,
as I have said, an inarticulate, stupid,
immoral, ignorant, sexist,
racist, homophobic, bullying
man-baby. Sure, call me a sore loser
angry white guy. I’ll own that one
for now, until I can figure out how
to channel this pain and anger into
something that might mitigate or
even possibly help reverse what I can’t help
but feel is my country’s impending doom.

 

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#228: On the Day After the Election

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Having wept myself to sleep the night before,
I got up and went to work in the school house
where we met in small teams in the library
to plan or do curriculum work or talk about
assessments, where instead I chose to color
with crayons at the table our new librarian
set up for art. It was the only thing I could do.
I colored inside the lines with several different
shades of blue and some pink here and there
while I tried to keep myself together.
Talking to anyone, to any friendly face,
I had to work hard not to break down.

I was thankful when students arrived inside
my room. They gave me a focus, a place to
channel my energies, an opportunity to make
some kind of difference. My 9th graders,
unusually subdued and cooperative, dove with
some enthusiasm into a Sherman Alexie novel,
a novel about race, culture, and class divide,
but a novel, too, about hope. Arnold Spirit Jr.
realizes it feels good to help others, and I could
feel that thought resonating inside the room.
Later, my seniors came in for a study of
A Room of One’s Own, and rather than talk and
have to face the reality of this particular irony
head on, I asked my students to make art,
to talk about what was going on in Virginia
Woolf’s head by drawing it on the page.
Students must have paused for a long time
at the passage about the cat without a tail,
the cat pausing, “as if it too questioned the
universe,” as Woolf realizes that, suddenly,

“Everything was
different”
and
“Nothing was changed”
and yet, “the change was there”
not in substance but in sound.
What did men hum before the election?
What did women hum before the election?
And now what, after?
We carry on. We cling to hope.
We agitate and advocate for what we know is good.
We color, and we do what I found today
to be most healthful, finding comfort in
kindness from others and the kind attention
I could give, a hug I received from my son,
and solace in the words on the page.

 

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#226: Orlando, Florida

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A large crowd gathers for a vigil in honor of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in Orlando, Fla., on Monday, June 13, 2016. (Charles King/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

In my classroom,
alone, my senior students
out already and a small,
manageable list of things to do
to wrap up the school year,
I’ve got more time than
I’m used to having
and I find myself often
thinking of you, Orlando,
and looking at photos
in an article, “Thousands
Attend Vigil to Prove
That Love Wins.”
Keeping busy might be
an antidote to thinking
and feeling, but I’m not
quite busy enough, so
today I think and feel.
Each photo I look at
chokes me up and I have
to look away to prevent
myself from sobbing.
I don’t know why I feel
it necessary to prevent
myself from sobbing
because if anything warrants it,
this does, and if anyone
walked into my room and saw me
the sobbing would be explicable.
A thought occurs:
through all of these horrific
tragedies, even after
Sandy Hook, I don’t remember
or am not aware of any
of my colleagues losing it
on the job. It’s almost a
kind of unwritten contract
that we agree to take care
of the children in our care
and are last in line in our own need–
or, again too busy to think or feel,
preparing 87 minutes of wall to wall
activity for 3 different classes and
having sometimes 200 kids
to somehow assess, we can’t afford
to slow down for grief or anything
like that. And no one would take
a bereavement day for strangers
on the other side of the continent.
I apologize for this, Orlando,
because in a perfect world,
or even one slightly more perfect
than the one we have, we would
all take bereavement days to grieve
for strangers, or, we would keep working,
finding some way to grieve together
because that would be the most
important work we could do:
grieve, stumbling somehow into hope
and compassion and love, and then
figuring out together how to prevent
and stop madmen from acquiring
automatic weapons in order to
murder more Americans.
It seems to me that this is
the kind of schooling, the kind
of education we need now–
and it’s not like we need to
learn how to do it, because
we already know. We have the
knowledge and we have the power;
we simply need the will. That is all we
need, Orlando, Florida, people
of the United States of America:
we need the collective will
and it is done.

 

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