The day after my media fast,
I binged on media,
mostly on pictures and stories
women holding signs
saying things like,
You can’t have my rights,
I’m using them;
This is my resisting
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
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.
Filed under Poetry, Politics
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.
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,
“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.
Barack Obama Speaks of Mirrors
What I see.
Damn, I am handsome
and my wife is beautiful
and my children–exceptional.
I am the most handsome
president in the history
of these United States
I, too, am perhaps
Did you see my spiel
at the White House
Damn, I was funny.
Michael Jarmer laughed
so hard he wept.
And that evening when I
took the chair away
from Stephen Colbert:
I absolutely killed it.
So I am handsome and funny.
But could I be the most
progressive, the most liberal
U.S. president of all time?
I very well could be that,
too. And that’s one reason why,
despite positive approval,
I have so many detractors,
ravenous detractors on the
right and far right and wing-nut
right. The other reason is because
I’m black. The irony is not
lost on me. Our nation’s
cloistered, closeted racism
rears its ugly head when
a black man becomes the
president, just as its sexism
will rear its ugly head
when we elect a woman in 2016,
and we will elect a woman in 2016.
Not that racism and sexism
had not already been rearing
their ugly heads–only now
it has become like a game
of whack-a-mole. It’s everywhere
and all at once. But here’s
another thing I might take
credit for, if I may be so bold:
we can disabuse ourselves
finally that we live in a post-racial
society. We can finally talk about race.
And we can finally talk about gender
and sexual orientation.
That’s not all me, but in large
part I take responsibilty.
Look at me. Handsome,
funny, liberal. People have
health care now. That’s me.
We are climbing out of the
largest deficit in American history.
That’s me. Job growth up. Look at me.
I’m ending wars, not starting them.
Sort of. That’s the tricky part,
and, I know, despite his almost
unfaltering admiration of my job
as president of the United States
of America, it’s the one thing
that worries Michael Jarmer
the most. I would ask him,
has there ever been a president
who, by some kind of executive
decision, has not killed people?
Jimmy Carter? Is he the only one?
I have to look myself in the
mirror each and every day
and I have to be able to say
that I have made the best
decision I could make toward
the best outcome with the
least amount of collateral
damage. Bad guys are dead.
Some good guys, unfortunately,
have also died. Let’s be specific:
noncombatants, women, children
are dead. And I did that.
I’ve sent the drones that dropped
the bombs. I see myself.
This is also a part of
what I see.
The title stolen from the Talking Heads tune; the subject stolen from real life. Censorship, or the urge to censor, is still alive and well.
Sax and Violins
The parent of the high school junior
objects to all the sax and violins
in the literature studied in English classes.
She objects, in the case of the sax,
not to scenes overtly pornographic
or steamy, because there aren’t any,
but instead, to the ones
that depict (no, not even depict),
that identify saxuality.
Here’s a character with an organ, for example,
or here’s a character with two,
and that’s just not right.
Or, here is a character who expresses
interest in the activity of sax
or an attraction that is, essentially, saxual.
Or, here’s a person who is saxually abusive,
and there’s no glamorization or
glorification or promotion of that hideousness,
but rather quite the opposite,
where the reader is supposed to be
appalled and disgusted.
Somehow, the fact that this particular
parent is appalled and disgusted
fails to register with said parent
as the thing that is supposed to happen,
and instead, registers as an attempt
to titillate or excite by the writers
and the English teachers who are
peddling their wares.
And this same parent objects
to the violins in a novel about
The Vietnam War, doesn’t want
her son or anybody else’s sons
or daughters, especially the daughters,
to be disturbed by images, images which
all of them are almost old enough
to experience in real life
in the next American war.
We just can’t have our young people
aware that people do sax
or that violins are everywhere
and that sometimes we find
sax and violins in the same place
at the same time.
Reality is just too terrible
and we must shelter even
our 17 year olds from the horror,
and while we’re at it,
we will do our level best
to shelter everyone else’s
17 olds into the bargain
from the sax,
from the violins.
In keeping with the April Fools theme, and in a sideways response to today’s prompt on the National Poetry Writing Month website, I offer poem number two for your consideration:
Lies My Presidents Told Me
I did not sleep with that woman,
while, technically a lie,
can also be seen as the truth, as it
depends on our understanding
of the euphemism of “sleep”
and our willingness to
simultaneously take the claim
literally, to understand both
that sex did not occur,
(after all a cigar is just a cigar)
and that there were
absolutely no naps taken
together. Here was
an artful dodger.
On the other hand:
We know there are weapons of mass destruction
and now we must go to war.
A different stripe of lie,
in that, beyond the loss
of pride or honor, the
embarrassment, or the
unpleasant but necessary
removal of the intern from her post,
this weapons lie killed and continues to kill
and there is no way
any thinking person can
make it true.