that’s what little protests are made of

take a knee don’t
black an eye don’t
close your eyes to
hate and lies and

hold your head high
hold your fist high
hold your breath you
son of a bitch

we hold these truths to be self-evident: not all are created equal; not all are endowed with unalienable rights; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are allowed, but you must not be ungrateful.

be grateful you
degenerate punks
you rich, entitled,
arrogant shits

anti-white (oops)

I have a nightmare, deeply rooted in the american dream, that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: “we hold these truths to be self-evident: not all are created equal.”

not all are created equal
not all are graced with freedom
not all are given a voice
not all. not all. not all.

transience tagged

Written for Rattle‘s September 2017 Ekphrastic Challenge.
Art can be viewed here:

slowly climbing these few steps at the end of each day
takes all the energy that remains

go left
     between the seats
          14A is her favorite
          not too close to front or rear – hidden, like life

blanket, spread.
knees, tucked.
breathing, slows.
remembering, begins.

the dream

today was like every other – push the cart – gather the riches – lean, heavily, as the feet begin to drag a bit – street by street – door by door – ignore the insults – avoid eye contact – keep walking

the dream

when I was young, like Lana’s song, the stares came for different reasons – I soaked them in like epsom salts, easing the aches no one could see – I smiled like a model, thin and beautiful, worthy of everything – everywhere to go, everyone to see, everything to do, all I could be – then there was life.

transience embraced
     nothing remains beyond
          neither time, nor place
          it’s time to embark – find another place, another life

bag, loaded.
coat, buttoned.
hat, gloves,
her few possessions gathered

she departs.

behind her leaving only an eponymous tag.

‘sing, unburied, sing’ and jesmyn ward

I was honored to attend a book signing and reading by Jesmyn Ward at Lemuria Books on September 26, 2017. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but I’d never read anything by Ward before attending the event. She was on my list of authors to read, I just hadn’t made it around to her yet (it’s a terribly long list). Fortunately for me, I have now.

Blurb for Sing, Unburied, Sing (Simon & Schuster) – In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi’s past and present, examining the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power—and limitations—of family bonds. Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop.

Click to order now!

But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager. His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister’s lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is Black and her children’s father is White. She wants to be a better mother but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances. When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love. Rich with Ward’s distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an unforgettable family story.

I don’t have a real review prepared for this novel, but I did want to share just a few things. Ward’s writing is beautiful, and her treatment of material in the book is simply wonderful. The reader finds themselves riding in the car, smelling the scents (both good and bad), feeling the heat, watching the ghosts, alongside the narrators in the novel. The structure, while not unique, is managed by powerfully swapping between two primary narrators with dramatically different points of view, interspersed a few times with a third, very different, narrator. Sing, Unburied, Sing is a study of family dynamics, race, Southern culture, growing up and growing old, the drug epidemic, and more. This novel also contains, near the end, one of the most powerful death scenes I’ve ever come across in all of literature. A definite must-read novel of 2017.

Since her reading in Jackson, it has been announced by the MacArthur Foundation that Jesmyn Ward has been named a MacArthur Fellow and awarded one of the famed Genius Grant for 2017. From what I’ve seen and read, she deserves every bit of the success and recognition. Congratulations!

Turning Our Attention to the Real Threat – Mike Pence

I’ve used most of my recent essays to consider various actions and statements by Donald Trump, and the horrendous HB1523 that’s now law in my home state of Mississippi. With his preposterous public relations stunt of Sunday, I’ll now use a few words for Mike Pence.

I’ll start with a general look at Pence, and end with Sunday’s planned “protest.”

Mike Pence has always been the more dangerous of the Trump/Pence ticket.

Trump is a largely failed businessman, a public buffoon (a persona he embraced on The Apprentice), the subject of hundreds of lawsuits (both business and professional), known for sexual assault, bankruptcy, and civil rights violations (see aforementioned lawsuits)…and the biggest waffle not in Congress. Is the wind blowing? Trump is moving that direction. Anything for a buck and piece of the proverbial pie. He’s been laughed at in his hometown of New York City for decades. No one took him seriously – at least not until the presidential election of 2016.

The Republican field was rife with mediocre politicians, none fit to front a presidential campaign. In steps Trump – the hair, the spray tan, bravado and all. It mattered not that he wasn’t really a Republican. It mattered not that he had no ideas for positive growth in any sphere of American life. He had the few things that mattered, that eventually won him the electoral college (not the biggest victory there, and a solid loss in popular vote) – a political outsider who hated Obama, was supported by the alt-right, had money, and seemed somehow ‘genuine’ because bad ideas fell easily from his mouth, unscripted and salacious.

He won – the perfect foil to Obama, from his ineptitude to his grammar to his love of Twitter.

And as foreseen, he’s been awful – bumbling through foreign affairs, failing to appoint competent people to crucial positions, trading nuclear war barbs with North Korea on Twitter, assaulting everyone from the LGBTQ community to the 1st Amendment to all women everywhere.

For all the failures, contempt, and maliciousness of Trump, Pence is far worse.

Pence is an experienced politician – he knows how to get things done politically. Why has Trump failed to pass any kind of significant legislation? One big reason is his political neophytism.

To ‘experienced politician who can get things done,’ with Pence we add also ‘man hell-bent on forcing his morals and ideals on a nation.’ Trump has no real ideas or beliefs – Pence does, and they are largely horrendous.

A few select examples:

  • wants to outlaw all abortions and overturn Roe v. Wade (once signed a law saying doctors could be prosecuted for abortions and requiring the burial or cremation of aborted fetal tissue, wants to “send Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history where it belongs”);
  • his anti-women stance is shown even more in his refusal to meet with any woman aside from his wife alone, greatly reducing the chance that any woman would be hired for a job that required working very closely with him;
  • wants to defund Planned Parenthood;
  • is strongly against guaranteeing and protecting the civil rights of the LGBT community in America, since it’s against his Christian values, and worked as governor and in congress to limit the rights of the community;
  • has supported “conversion therapy,” saying on his website (in 2000) that “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” right after stating “Congress should oppose any effort to put gay and lesbian relationships on an equal legal status with heterosexual marriage;”
  • would like even harsher immigration “reform” than we’ve seen out of Trump;
  • would be a nightmare for public education. As governor of Indiana he pushed for vouchers and tried to repeal Common Core, in addition to voting against “No Child Left Behind” as a congressman;
  • doesn’t believe in climate change;
  • opposes all efforts to reform gun laws;
  • opposes the free press at least as vigorously as Trump, having even tried to create a state news outlet while governor of Indiana (Just IN).

There are many other problematic stances and beliefs this man holds, but the small sampling above should suffice to demonstrate my main point – Trump is incompetent and therefore somewhat dangerous; Pence is experienced and therefore far more of a threat to America, and possibly the world, than Trump could ever be.

Anyone willing to use public office to force their own personal beliefs on others treads awfully close to authoritarianism, a trait we’ve seen with Trump and would see magnified many times under Pence.

And then we have Sunday. Mike Pence attended the Colts/49ers game in Indianapolis with his wife…until he walked out to protest football players exercising their 1st Amendment right to free speech. We soon found out, via Twitter, that Trump and Pence had discussed and planned this action beforehand, presumably to bring additional attention to a topic they’ve focused on more than hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

If he didn’t want to “dignify” the event, then he should have never attended the game. He knew with 100% certainty that players would take the knee, since the 49ers are the only team to have at least one player kneel at every single game since Kaepernick started the movement in 2016.

Sunday’s walk-out was a political stunt [press were even instructed to wait outside as Pence would be leaving shortly in protest], posturing to bring attention to a lie – a lie perpetuated continually by the administration – that the protests in the NFL (and expanding to other sports as well) are all about disrespecting some nebulous “America” ideal. In fact, both Trump and Pence and all of their advisors know that the kneeling players are bringing attention to the actions of police nationwide, particularly in minority communities. [More on this administration lie here.]

In addition to continuing to support a racist mischaracterization of professional athletes, Mike Pence wasted a significant amount of taxpayer money on this asinine trip, to the tune of approximately $250,000 (flights from Las Vegas to Indianapolis, then on to Los Angeles, plus the security and other apparatus traveling with a VP).

Even after the recent attention on wasteful travel practices in this administration, Pence felt it was somehow justified to blow through our hard-earned money to garner a few political points for his boss by assaulting the 1st Amendment and furthering an agenda that looks ever more authoritarian.

Mike Pence knows what he’s doing. Between his lack of charisma and his 18th century ideals, he knows he never could have been elected president in the 2016 election. But he’s placed himself in a position now of great power, and with the most inept person to ever sit in the oval office as his boss, the chances of his ascension to the presidency are greater than he could have ever hoped or imagined.

Just keep in mind, America, that Pence as president will be just as difficult, if not worse, than the mess we find ourselves in today with Donald Trump.