Reading Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing by Les Edgerton reminded me how to be attentive to the variety of creative decisions that determine the voice of a work. How they can be interpreted, improved and evolved from different experiential exercises. The book contains focus on various voices – pulpy, sardonic, confessional, etc. – along with “before and after” changes. Theres illustrate how a few different decisions can radically alter the ease and enjoyment level of the reading. Some of the various traps to watch out for that Edgerton cites are the “beige voice” as well as talking up or down to the reader. As all of the fictive dream – the neurological firings in your brain that are activated during the process of readings words on page or screen- occur as the results of words, best get them right. Right?!
There are, additionally, exercises contained within for identifying the ways in which honing in on voice in specific passages can radically improve the experience of the reader and how some choices can lead to it “going wrong” in one’s writing. For instance, say one wanted to get the reader to slow down. Not to scan the text; as so many are apt now to do. Well, the solution is simple. Place a number of shorter sentences back to back. This is a particularly effective practice following longer expository passages. Explaining difficult things, after all, requires the combination of lots of pieces. Much as in the same way that sentence variation forces the reader out of the simplistic subject verb object constructions.
The book is for both writers of fiction and non-fiction and addresses something that is very important as it relates to today’s media landscape – talking up, down and beigley to the reader. Explaining every and all thing can cause passages to drag on and o n. If they are known by the reader, it’s a bore, and leads to mental lagging. A good writer, Hemingway and others have stated, leaves something for the reader to want to discover. Writing in too high of a voice is the struggle that I’ve had, having an advanced academic background I can sometimes lapse into uncommon terms that are, nevertheless, quite useful for understanding today’s world. But this isn’t all about me. This is not purple prose, either, which I’ve only found in contemporary Latin American literature, is not gone in to but that’s just because it’s so rare in American fictional and non-fictional works that get published.
Edgerton’s colloquialisms, and the linguistic playfulness of the text was, I thought, a little corny at first. However it did grow on me. Plus, I recognized what he was doing with it. Not only was he describing insights into what makes a well crafted writers voice; but he was also demonstrating it! By sharing this, as well as the hat of instructor, he’s helping to show one of the Walt Whitman quotes about – I’m stacatato-cattically summarizing her : “there being multitudes that exist within each of us”. It’s true. There are!
Les’ lessons are follower by exercises to either read, write or re-write. The book is an attempt at a comprehensive attempt to teach the craft of good writing, plot, etc. but just focus on narrative voice and the voice of characters. He lists a large number of books that go into these other areas, and it’s clear with his familiar with them that a lot of experience and time went into the formation of this book.
I finished the book not only informed but also interested in seeing the dynamic that exists in his writing workshops. Having attended several writing workshops as an undergraduate at Florida Atlantic University and in Prauge, Czech republic as part of a University of Michigan program – not to mention other informal gatherings – I’ve always found workshops a productive place where people provide new eyes to help you see things you may not be aware of because you’re too close to the work, or wasn’t aware of some insight or whatever other reason that shows up when people gather with strategic and creative intentions.
I like how following this book one can apply like dissection tools onto the writings of your favorite writers in order to better place their style in history rather than a burden. Stealing can always be great art, but only if it’s great art does it get called great art – not just because it’s just an iteration of the same efforts. That last quote, ya, that’s me. Put that on a goddamn site so i can get me da stats higher.
One section of Master’s Thesis research included legal analysis with politically chilling effects upon anti-lynching and leftist movements in The United States of America from Harper’s Ferry to the late 1960’s. The way in which the law laid force upon the bodies that broke with expected behavior and the means by which police facilitated “corrective” behavior for these violations differs drastically. And dialectically. To suppress suppress either labor, racial and leftist political struggles is to repress the three progressive aspects of society that have been driving emancipatory ideas and practiced encased in institutions. Because of this, of course I read Men, Mobs, and Law: Anti-lynching and Labor Defense in U.S. Radical History by Rebecca N. Hill.
Hill’s history has a pleasantly journalistic feel to it. The main characters are of course detailed – the defendant – whomever she’s describing in that section – and the plaintiff – the State in the place that they were arrested – are both described and all their relationships therein. Who were those involved with the crime, what brought them to where they were right before they just were arrested, arraigned, transported, processed, jailed, for days, jailed, for months, jailed, for years, then brought to court, etc.etc.
It combines this description of their time and those around them with legal exegesis of the components of the case. This combined with local socio-political factors involved in such cases, such as the manner in which popular movements sought to impress their influence upon the courts, had a number of legal implications on social movements involved with race, class and/or labor struggles. While Sacco and Vanzetti are name dropped in the highly underrated, very funny movie War On Everyone with Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Pena. Anyway…
The book is organized around several dramatic cases, starting with John Brown’s trial. From this heavily police involved form of repressive behavior the the narrative goes to where the law played a less involved roll. Lynching throughout the south in the United States was a true horror that kills thousands of African Americans. Police slowed their roll on the road towards justice and would often falsify or forge documentary information, not intervene while militant bigots exercised their force upon them and, well, all around oppressed them.
Racial, Labor and Leftist social justice warriors – a term that ought be associated with esteem – sought to impress their demands that the state more justly apply it’s purported universalism, an inherently conservative position. The other says the state is unjust and wants to replace it along democratic, centralist lines rather than plutocratic ones – the preconditions for the most active ire. Labor wants the state to join its side in demanding more benefits but are not connected to the Leftists either because of lack of class conscious or lack of practical use value in linkage, a serious consideration to make considering the effect that associating with Reds could have on your work life.
While John Brown clearly engaged in the behavior he was charged with, the obverse is true of the Haymarket Martyrs. Their case spawned a holiday celebrated nearly everywhere in the world except the USA – May Day. If you’re not familiar with the case, you should look it up. What I found interesting as though Hill does not spend much time on the material evidence, of which there is none, and instead writes about the majority-immigrant leftist responses. Of course every people has a culture, but that of Chicago – the Second City, was unlike many others due to the habitus brought over from the German revolutionaries. Gymnastic, parading, militant Anarchist culture practiced by Germans and a number of other stocks from across the shore shocked the sensibilities of the local bourgeoisie.
After an incident that was, essentially, the pretext for the public execution of the Opposition Leadership Anarchist newspapers fought not just to save members but leaders. Newspapers which shared workers stories about their conditions, pay, bosses and other things now started to include writing from those inside. Rather than becoming devotional, religious character associated with sublimity their writings subverted the abolitionist martyrs sharing stories and expressions of romantic, sexual love. Anarchist newspapers published the love letters of the Chicago anarchists and their wives and girlfriends, another practice that was taken up by most socialist defense campaigns.
Hill’s history ends with the equally tragic tale of the Black Panther’s Party. With an emphasis on the Party’s organized defense apparatus raised to support George Jackson, Hill shows a man imprisoned due to political caprice rather than justice. Like The Haymarket Martyrs and Sacco and Vanzetti, his writings behind bars and public adoration of Assata were used as gristle to further help people find sympathy in their story. Having recently read their published letters and accounts – I get it!
All these and more arrests and trials forms responses with historically dependent forms of action. Organizations along class and/or racial/ethnic alliances were highly limited by place, history and the interests and powers of the state and local elite. In some cases the popular struggles were able to save the subject of their organization. Other’s no.
Hill’s history shows radicals creating interconnected networks of protest and resistance activity as well as volunteering time and donating money for massive fundraising undertakings that spanned the globe. Success in obtaining government guaranteed rights often depended on how loud and disruptive supporters could be to the normal functioning of government.
Mixed in is to this journalistic, documentary history are comments pulling together some of the themes evident in today’s world:
“Once admired as the heritage of manly individual freedom, Puritanism in the 1920s became associated with the Ku Klux Klan, along with fundamentalism, racism, capitalism, and prohibition.”
The heritage of many organizations racism persist in various ways. And yet to point this out is to become a public persona non grata. Example K:
Example on the opposite side? Trump the tee-totaller and Sacrosanct “States Rights” Sessions just did a 180 on over over a decade of federal drug enforcement policy.
These broader points build and intersperse Rebecca Hill’s account. Along with the legal proceedings, are a few interesting asides as well – such as The Red and the Black being George Jackson’s favorite novel.
Her conclusion does not lay out a platform upon which a group might be able to exercise their collective social power in order to achieve this, nor should she have to. The conditions by which that they would need to be changed would always depend upon the locals activities. What she does, however, is provide a powerful ethical imperative:
“The capacity to imagine a different world might begin with the ability to refuse to accept the characterizations of people who were willing to recklessly go against the rules of the society in which they live as wicked, misguided, wrong, foolish, or criminal. It is much harder to see the face of the “handsome sailor” on an imperfect human than it is to accept the underlying message of the modern-day nation-state that the only real heroes are the cops and soldiers who protect “us” from the rest of the world”
I began interviewing artists and writers from or based in South Florida about two years ago as I felt that there weren’t enough outlets to showcase and promote creatives and their projects that I felt were worthy of a larger audience. The idea was, in part, that through our conversations those works could take on a clearer relationship to the artists and their views which would, hopefully, engage people intellectually in a way other than the art form of choice and hopefully bring them some patronage.
Since I just self-published a book of poetry, I decided that I would take an hour and interview myself for the same end. In order to do this I’ve decided to name the author of the poetry book Ariel Voyager whereas the interviewer will be Ariel Sheen. This is to allow me the ability to have some humorous back and forth as well as for some somber reasons that will become apparent in the interview. I took an hour to write this, and it should take no more than 10 minutes to read.
So when were you first introduced to poetry?
I guess you could say at birth. My namesake comes from the British poet Percy Shelley. There’s a biography of Shelley by the same name that my father had read while in England studying with L. Ron Hubbard. Shelley signed the bottom of his correspondence Ariel, a character from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest because he so resonated with that character.
Poet from birth then, eh?
Something like that. When I first started to write regularly I was 16. I became involved in the West Palm Beach Poetry Slam community and for several years participated in performance poetry competitions.
I presume you know that your collection of poetry basically has the same title as Pablo Neruda’s most renowned collection. What was the reason for that?
Being coy I’d respond that it’s just a simplistic thematic description of what’s inside… Being candid I’d say the contemporary poetry market is something that’s ultra-niche and that if name recognition is enough to encourage someone to buy my book then so be it. The artists of today are always re-working the content of the past based on the needs of the present, so to me there’s nothing wrong with this.
So over how long a period did you build this collection of poems?
About 15 years. I think it shows too. You can definitely see some growth both emotionally and aesthetically in them.
And were these all “real love poems?”
What you do you mean by “real love poems?”
Well excepting the ones that seem to be more about social issues related to love – like Dowry Street and Hipster Pedagogue – were most of these poems that you wrote for someone, you know, while you were in love with them?
I’d say that most of them were written with someone that I was involved with in mind, but despite the title of the collection whether or not I was in love with them is a different story.
What do you mean?
Well I’d just mentioned emotional growth on my work. The majority of these poems are from my early twenties. Now being in my early thirties I would define this as a period of my life when I was emotionally stunted.
How so? And if that’s the case, then why share them?
I wanted to share them because though the sentiment behind some of them aren’t always “loving” in the sense of adoration and appreciation they’re still compelling as writing.
And how has love changed its meaning to you over time?
Care to go into specifics?
Well. It’s just that that’s a big question. Do I start talking about how as a child, the period of life when most people have that modeled for them, by saying that I had no standard presented to me as to what romantic love was?
Do I start during my pre-to-late teens, when the relationships both my parents were in weren’t based on what I would call a robust feeling of love but resignation to responsibility and desire for security? Or do I begin in my early twenties, when I set my mind on being a writer and then devoured the works of Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, Milan Kundera, and Friedrich Nietzsche? Do I detail how I felt intoxicated by the ideas and narratives they presented and how it had deleterious effects on my romantic relationships, my perceptions of what love is, what it could be and its relationship those seeking to pursue a life centered around the Belles Lettres?
Do I open in my late twenties, when the accumulated pain from that world view was pushing me to read psychology and counselling books so I could have a new view of love? That doesn’t seem appropriate either as it took a while for that to really seep in. Perhaps I should commence from more or less the past year, when those vacillations between the adolescent and mature world views finally stopped because I can say that I have a mature understanding of the term based upon reading and experience? I don’t know…
Well, that certainly gives me an idea of how your views have changed. I’d asked as I noticed drastically divergent perspectives on love in poems like A Simple Request and the Ode poem compared with ones like Those Skeletons and Silk.
Yes, well, those were all for different people at different times in my life. The latter two from when I was a teenager and was obsessed with the British Romantics. The former I wrote when in my early twenties and believed that selfish, amoral behavior was the manner in which to embody love for oneself (thanks Nietzsche!) and also up the quality of adventures that would be grist for future creative works.
So then Menagerie, which is clearly about your ex-wife… Was that one of your mature poems about love?
Heh, not really. I wrote Menagerie two plus years after our divorce while single. Towards the end of our relationship I’d been reading a lot of books on communication skills for couples, how to overcome fear of vulnerability, how to forgive, how to develop emotional intelligence. You know, the things that schools don’t always do because parents are supposed to but don’t always do. With this in mind I decided to write what I wanted the relationship to be like since the actuality of our life together was so divergent from what’s expressed therein.
That’s, well, kind of sad.
What happened, yes. But it was my fault for marrying someone that didn’t genuinely love me in a mature sense, let alone herself. To be fair I don’t think that she was alone in that. I certainly was dealing with some issues then that deserved correction. After all, we were engaged after two months of dating and two months later moved to Barcelona on a whim.
As for the poem, a couple of my friends expressed similar sentiments so I get it. But I think at this point in my life that it’s important to really understand the workings behind such an attraction and unraveling as it helps people to process the experience and guard from it’s recurrence. I’ve known far too many people that have found themselves suddenly single and broken mentally and emotionally and seem unable to move on. It was just a coping mechanism.
Interesting. So you writing as an exercise in catharsis.
Not just me, but scientists as well. Writing and other forms of creative outlets have a purgative effect of the negative energies we feel.
True. Which is a good transition for the next poems I want to ask you about slash check if my periodization of your poems is correct. That means your last two poems Un/Binding and The Ascent of Icarus…
Are the only genuinely recent poems in the collection. They are in part about my refutation of the character/caricature I’d adopted by identifying with such literary masters.
I knew it! So you still think of them as masters?
Absolutely. I can appreciate their craft while being critical of their content. They informed my world view at a deep level for a long time in a way that I can’t deny.
Can you tell me a little bit more about those poems? They’re the only ones that seem to exist as a pair, they speak with the greatest urgency, they seem to display the maturity you’ve been talking about and they’re the only poems that have an element of time in them – excepting what’s clearly an addendum on Notes.
Well, I re-connected with a former lover from my early twenties about two months ago. My muse from that period of my life. More than that, really, as I’ve not had another one since and despite several “serious” relationships. She was the only one that I felt truly understood me on a spiritual level – which speaks rather poorly to my choices for romantic companions as they were chosen more for presentation rather than personality.
Anyway, we’d first met when I’d started to fall under the spell of those writers that I talked about before. Yet despite this she elicited in me a willingness to be vulnerable – a quality I’ve struggled to embody as it makes me feel uncomfortable – and we shared what I felt to be a profound intimacy. I’m normally very intense and high energy, but when I was with her she calmed me down and I felt at ease. It wasn’t just that we had some similar issues in our upbringing, but where all of my other lovers have sought to make me their project – a lawyer, a professor, a therapist, a politician – but she just accepted me as an aspiring artist on a journey.
Which is ironic as after graduating from FAU and I sought adventures like those I’d read about in On The Road, Off The Map, The Thief’s Journal, Journey to the End of the Night, You Can’t Win, Tropic of Cancer, Sexus and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I traveled abroad in Europe for a long while and in the mean time she moved several hours by car to pursue a new career.
So that’s the story behind the line “I proffered naught but hope a decade plus ago/That when we next see each other again it’d be like it was”
Yeah. I’ve since looked at my journals from the time so know for sure that I rationalized my breaking off contact with her as a combination of “I’m doing her/us a favor as the distance between Jacksonville to Fort Lauderdale makes this unsustainable” and as I was hurt I was no longer able to see her. I thought I was being mature at the time and moreover realize now that then I started to shut off those parts of myself down that I’d later see as necessary for a healthy relationship to work. For a long while self-sabotage, unfortunately, was a bad habit of mine when dealing with emotions I didn’t know how to properly process.
Through some form of Facebook magic (Thanks Zuckerberg!) she popped up on my “People You May Know” feed. I liked one of her photos and we started talking again that evening, making plans to see each other two days later.
In the lead up to seeing her I was more nervous than a drug mule at a pat-down check point at the border. Over and after lunch all was great between us and the day after next, as I did not do so in person, I confessed my shame over my behavior on the phone and told her that she’d grew into the woman that I always thought she would – which was true.
She said something to me that cut me to the core. She said that the way I treated her years ago made her believe that she was “just another girl” to me. I told her there and then she was wrong, but didn’t go into the details about it that I have here. Instead I wrote those two poems with hopes of getting to know her again.
It sounds like you still love her.
I mean, yeah. I do. Shortly after the new year I even found myself going through old notes to find a passage I’d copied from a book I’d read not too long ago that touched on what I was feeling:
“Romantic love offers not just the excitement of the moment but the possibility for dramatic change in the self. It is in fact an agent of change… Romantic love takes on meaning and provides a subjective sense of liberation only insofar as it creates a flexibility in personality that allows a break-through of internal psychological barriers and taboos… It creates a flux in personality, the possibility for change, and the impetus to begin new phases of life and undertake new endeavors. As such, it can be seen as a paradigm for any significant realignment of personality and values.”
But I’m also aware enough of my thoughts now to recognize that an element of this attraction is my idealizing of our past, wanting to make amends and, most importantly, that her interpretation of what we shared has a very different emotional inflection than my own.
So what do you think will come of it?
Oh I’m doubtful anything will other than a gradual falling off. Were any of my former lovers to contact to me with such a story as the one I’ve told above I couldn’t honestly see myself giving them the opportunity to demonstrate they’ve changed. Now there’s major, major differences between them and her and of course, and the phrase “Sometimes second chances work out better than the first because you’ve learned from your mistakes” certainly comes to my mind, but I can’t downplay the truth of how hard it is for someone to shake away a negative view that’s been accepted as true for so many years. That’s brain chemistry. Years of specific neuropathic associations. I may be forgiven, as she’s told me that I am, but those make my desire to test the waters have to work extra hard against that well worn track. Plus, our physical distance makes an easy re-acquaintance impossible. I may be willing to make the effort to see and be with her, but whereas ten some years ago that was what was wanted I feel that now it just comes off as, well, weird despite my having no real desire to stay in South Florida and have because of the uniqueness of my job the ability to move wherever I’d like. Ironic when you think about it…
Finding irony amusing instead of fighting for what you want? That doesn’t sound like you. It sounds like you’ve given up! Isn’t love worth fighting for?
I think love conquers all, yes. But that’s not what we have now. Maybe there’s some mutual fondness over long past memories and pleasure in conversation, but beyond that I’m can’t honestly say there’s more to it. I’m a romantic, for sure! But I’m also a realist that can see that while something more would make for a great story, it is, however, unlikely.
How does that make you feel?
There was a time when I would have fixated on it and felt pain for not getting what I want. But I know that this would lead to another round of depression and self-medication and I’m so over that cycle so I’ll take a longer view and take comfort in the memories and the unforgettable reminder not to lower my standards as to the qualities that I should be seeking in a partner that fits my particularities.
Ok. Interesting. Look at you Mr. Mature. Let’s move on to some other poems. I was wondering about the poem The Hipster Professor, The Leftist Demagogue and the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. That poem, which has many of the qualities of a short story, seems so be referring to real people rather than placeholders for common academic stereotypes. Am I right?
Yes, those are real people! The Leftist Professor was Simon Critchley and the Hipster Demagogue was Micah White, who would later be one of the two co-founders of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. I met them both at an academic conference at SUNY Binghamton several years ago.
Besides being critical of them, you seem to be somewhat critical of yourself there.
Yes, well, that’s because I was. I’d wrote a draft for that poem years ago and when coming back to it was of a very different mindset. That said I still think their politics are shit.
How do you think that love ought to operate on a social level?
That’s a bigger question than one I’m ready to answer now. For now I’ll say that I think love relates not just to the people you choose and who choose you as a romantic partner but is evident in social values as well. In Heaven’s Mansions I try to show how selfish it is to build beautiful spaces meant to be enjoyed and wall them off. In Dowry Street I try and point out the absurdity of a society that keeps so many people close to poverty that they’re willing to turn a sacred ceremony into a means of supporting themselves. These are aspects of love, at a larger scale than exists between two people, that I think are worthy of recognition and discussion. I write about this in more detail in some of my more explicitly political poems.
Do you have any other creative projects in the works right now?
No, because after all of the above came to your awareness in a manner that you couldn’t avoid, you killed me.
True. Though you have to admit it was a long time coming…
True. So at the end of this interview let me then ask you, do you have any other creative projects in the works right now?
In deed I do! I’m taking a break from the serial novel project I’ve been spending the past year or so doing character and historical research on to work on a comedic screenplay in hopes of it being adapted to film one day. Golden age of film and all.
A comedy? Wow. That’s quite a divergence from your rather serial novel project.
Yeah, well, I need a change from working on what I hope will be as impactful as Atlas Shrugged and I’ve had enough people tell me I’m funny that I think I might be able to get paid real money should I get it in the right hands.
Well, I wish you, and thus me, the best of luck in your endeavor.
We are not the same, but I thank you nonetheless! Bye Felica!
That desire felt by imperialist Europeans when
First discovering a resource rich region
With a population still primarily organized along tribal lines
And no modern military apparatus
Is nothing next what I felt when I first laid eyes upon you.
My heart burns hotter for you
Than the napalm dropped
On civilian non-combatants and crops
Of Vietnamese and Cambodians
So that the U.S. could maintain
Military and economic influence
Near the regional centers
between with the world’s largest populaces.
Oh so unlike the hundreds of bodies
Of indigenous Guatemalan villagers
Tortured, killed and dumped in mass graves
By soldiers trained
At the School of the Americas
In order to protect U.S. investments
And overthrow yet another democratically elected
Avowedly socialist government,
I’ve never tried to hide my feelings for you.
Such as the Wall Street Journal,
Washington Post and New York Times
All publish to serve the interests of the capitalists that
Control the world’s countries through their political cronies –
I have never said a word that could be construed as a lie
So when I say that I love you until the end of my life
You know that this is true.
Whenever I am around you
I feel like I am glowing –
A sensation similarly reported by those children
That have spent time playing on and around
The Russian tanks destroyed by the US’s
Depleted uranium shells in Iraq during
The first Gulf War –
And my life anxieties disappear
Like environmental activists in
South and Central America and Africa trying
To bring attention to the dispossession of indigenous peoples
And the destruction of their means of subsistence
For the benefit of foreign oil and mineral corporations.
Though you’ll never depend on me
In the same way that many
Third world satraps of US interest do –
For I cannot provide you with loans, guns, tanks, bombs
Computers, training, helicopters to throw dissidents out of,
Lists of people to be dealt with and other such spook stuff –
I hope you know that should things ever get rough
I will be the rock on which you can rely upon.
Returned to One
Those Skeletons Made You
Spark (v. 3)
A Simple Request
The Hipster Demagogue, The Leftist Professor and The Manic Pixie Dream Girl
Ode to the Beauties that Have Sheltered Me
The Ascent of Icarus
Weasels are wily creatures
Mischievous, devious and cute –
Sleek, svelte, soft, supple and as
Sweet as passion fruit.
Though moles live in holes in the soil
Favoring light like someone who drank
Too much the night before
They are for all except for the farmer
Also impossible not to adore.
Kittens too imbue their viewers with a
Overwhelming sense of aww
Hence watching short scenes of their antics
On the internet is a routine that many do.
A corollary to the wealthy’s quest
For high ROIs are status granting possessions
Some enjoy collecting animals, those ones more unique
Than those I aforementioned.
Albino tigers, stripeless zebras, miniature giraffes
Hyenas that coo and cry like babies instead of laugh
Or some beast that goes to show the degree of power and
Control one holds, that one is patron – like Pablo’s lions and hippos.
So too are the features of another appreciated,
Though it’s a creature that’s quite common
The one that it’s impossible to escape encounter with
As it’s the one which all life is based on – yes – woman.
Abroad lusty oil sheiks and sultans operate harems
Elsewhere hourly encounters are judged as success’s true emblem –
Prized are high cheek lines, dimples on the lower back
A full but fit figure and skin that can take a hearty smack
The list goes on and on and has as many
Variations as can possibly exist
Depending on the person
And their particular fetish.
Make me rich (no really, please make me rich)
And see how this collection disease affects not me
How wholly I am pleased solely by you –
My moley, my weasel, mi tigre, mi badger
My best-friend, my lover, my wife, my forever –
Your brains and beauty, strength and duty,
All fit me just like a key and
Provide for me all that I could ever need
Like manna sent from heaven.
The post-conference party’s second wave had arrived and soon
I notice familiar sly hand gestures, so tag on to the end
Of the exodus from the Christmas light lit living room to
The dilapidated upstate New York porch packed with old couches.
My mouth is soon on the blunt after a friendly inquiry
And we get to talking about the sessions we’d seen,
And what it will mean for the Social Justice Movement in America
To have a Black President as The Man in power for the first time ever.
The mixed race political theorist that the other students
Call Heideggerian-Anarchist behind his back, or so my friend
Tells me, performs a longwinded paean to Possibilities
That I, a historian, counter with a less sanguine assessment.
Having been pulled under the wing of someone that’s
Made a career of saying such things in glossy magazines
He counters my empiricism with arrogant idealism –
I almost respond with blows, but think “decorum”, hit it again then go.
I float past those spastically dancing to the irregular beats
And lyrics with love-lost themes on the uneven living room
Back to the seat that I had just occupied only to find that
It’s now been taken by the event’s keynote speaker.
His scarf brushes again and again against the band
On his ring finger as he gesticulates high to low
In and out to emphasize whatever he’s explaining
To the manic pixie dream girl sitting next to him.
There’s a red string braided into her unkempt bleached
Orange hair, she wears a chain necklace with boho baubles,
Has a glass of five-dollar-a-bottle champagne in her hand
And a neighbor looking up at me with a fuck off stare.
I lie through my teeth and give compliment to his speech
That claimed an understanding of Ancient Greek Tragedy
Should inform how we frame resistance to contemporary policies
And that seizing the state is no way to stop neoliberalism.
Given this gem of status in front of his hopeful conquest
He repeats in his West Herts accent the same jest he opened with
About how glad he was that while the TSA did cause delay,
X-rays can’t yet reveal worldviews and so he was able to make it.
Turning to assess her reception he smiles seeing her do the same,
Unaware that she came from VT to see me and is mine, for now;
His face again frowns as I bend down and say just loud enough for
The three of us: I’ve grown tired of this, let’s go back to the hotel
Let’s forget all the things we think we know and just go
At each other like the animals we are for as long as
Our bodies will last and she says: Yes, let’s.
And this is why I love her, in my own way.
Death Stands Just Outside My Window
In the tree outside my bedroom window
Overlooking the preserve, not ten feet from me
A dozen black vultures
Jerk and twitch their veiny black necks
As they hop, fight and squawk
Over the body of an opossum
With a black tire mark
Over it’s spine and back legs.
I’m not sure if it’s their beaks pulling at furred flesh
Or a dying breath that had it the words I’m sure
It would wish for,
But its mouth seems to twitch at each touch
Of beak on body.
As I watch them caw and compete for the corpse
Another vulture alights on the outskirts
To see if it too can get in on the action and then
A green gator of maybe seven or eight feet
That must have been sitting,
Watching far longer than I,
Or maybe that just moved so slow
That not a one of the murder of carrion crows noticed it
Leaps from the brackish water
To the side of the embankment with jaws open.
I’m not sure if it mistook their numbers for its safety
Or was simply to hungry to care,
And was thus reckless,
But as the bird is pulled into the water by the neck and wing
It seems jut to accept what is, it doesn’t even scream.
Death stands just outside my window,
In intention and in accident,
With resistance and acceptance –
And as a cloud passes that dims the grim scene
For a moment I see my mirrored reflection in the glass
That reminds me that I too am locked in such a struggle to survive
For I too am matter and energy existing across space and time.
I’m not yet sure what that means to me
Nor that absolute certainty
Is a beneficial currency with which to trade
In the time left until I fill a grave
But looking at this scene I perceive I too am Death,
Speeding down the highway and waiting at the water’s edge
In my own way.