Ile de Plaisir

Let us sing of heroes inducted into a land of zombies,
vampires, crooked cops, drug dealers, forces of occupation,
each room set up to teach another cruelty,

Ile de Plaisir with a forty year-old entertainment permit,
ushered through gates—red, yellow, media-soaked balloons
equipped to render interviews on the fly—

Without parents, no charge at the turnstile, young bodies
handed off to brokers or herded into camps
where matches flame spontaneously, sparks

run away to the interior with a woman dressed
in a skirt of serpents and a necklace of skulls, who sings
you are my children, and leads them away

to the bottom of a well where they drink with the thirst
of a million grills, grow fins and gills, kiss stones
until they learn how to speak. And what will they say?

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Robin Williams Plays a Homeless Man

she was going to chicken shit run out on me said we could go to counseling stole my daughter called me a lout I was the one who had a vocabulary it’s always conjunctivitis went to the unemployment office to buy a fat pig applied for an extension they told me one more extension left right I was upset working at the post office she’s Ms. Clean upset because I can’t keep the shelves filled with cigs faster than she can smoke this daughter crap is an excuse from a family where saying hello is a national holiday doesn’t say nothing getting back to that day when they dragged me here remember the day I came in a straitjacket they put me in a straitjacket in my own house in front of my daughter I was never going to see because I hit my hand through the window scared his ass the plate glass people don’t understand I died the first time when I was reading non-stop Boris Alekseyevich Gallitzen he’s the one who tutored Peter the First taught him we’re made of stars it’s one language, raisins in a vanilla pudding expanding humans aren’t built for infinity lights bombarded my head didn’t know where I was Nikolai Borisovich Gallitzin Beethoven’s patron I would’ve died except I went to the kitchen to eat my Cheerios hoodwinked by a small party of aliens from the corner of Johnson Street and El Camino ministering upwards what a Chabad past telephone poles to the top of the World Trade Tower brought me back down to earth thinking it wasn’t me who blew out the candles even Socrates asked questions you never open your mouth wondered if we shop at the same mall what are you putting on my head it’s not like a crash helmet these little dots what are you going to do with me god god stuffing my head with razors. Gillette is that you?

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Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
Price(USD): $15.00
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Email to Benjamin Netanyahu

It’s my port-a-potty but right now not feeling proud being related to Sarah, Rachel and Miriam, daughter of Lilith, member of an ancient tribe, people who believed learning was in our province. No longer light volcanic material cut out for the ages. In crumbles. Yesterday, I saw a butterfly land on a butterfly bush that seemed like such a natural thing for a butterfly to do.

Killing in the name of the Jewish state appalls and frightens me–how the six million were not proof enough perfect, failed to become a household axiom demonstrating fear and hatred are the most contagious of human passions where love is no antidote, has no clout–unable to mediate, dehydrated chicken soup rises to the top. I brush my teeth. How many more times?

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Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
Price(USD): $15.00
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Email to Ann on Data Security Week

Celebrated data security week by taking my computer to lunch, sat near the server at the counter, better receptivity. Ordered from a pull-down menu, the monkey wants to speak. Pink noodles at the gym, ebola in Liberia. Coffee and pastry, please.

Facebook friends swap out profile pictures. At least change my background. Last Monday passwords went up for auction, the highest bidder watched characters spread out in dioramas from head to Tokyo, a breach. There’s still no birth. I’d like to think the wrapping paper was green, green like Lorca’s poems.

On Buying a New Food Processor

Old Nelly broke down after thirty years of dedicated service. Motor stopped dead. Had a life-time guarantee. That’s over with. Couldn’t bring myself to toss it. Buried the blades with the bowl in the backyard. No more hummus. In the evening, heard tomato plants and earthworms being whipped into paste. Went outside and saw a spiral swallowing sparrows. Bought a new one on sale. At the kitchen table, the processor stands unassembled. Does yours still work?

Bye-bye Fried Chicken

Salmon rolls at the supermarket’s sushi counter, a gift of pressure by relocated employees from Denver who want more variety than fried chicken. Last night heard Brando on TV scream Stel-la! The watchman on the wide screen tells me about soldier suicides. Or guesses how many people can fit on the head of one mountain top without being rescued. Words cut loose, data aside, still wobbling on all four legs xoxoxoxoxo

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Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
Price(USD): $15.00
Karin Batten, acrylic, pumice, dye, charcoal, black magma, and glue

Karin Batten, acrylic, pumice, dye, charcoal,black magma, and glue

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Glenda the Good Witch at the Craps Table

Monotype by Leslie Weissman

Monotype by Leslie Weissman

There are no more brooms to burn.
No more truncated truces.
Tin men play chicken with cowardly lions,
a hostile force has taken control of our casino
floating in the Mediterranean on a raft of bodies.

Flowers grow in tear gas canisters,
bees drink sweat from our brains
huddled in a square-foot garden
goatskin bags filled with dust,
overcast clouds and rain.

But hold on, Dorothy.
We’ll get you home.
There’s this thing called compromise,
the way lovers scoot
to make room for each other.

After all, women are life insiders,
know how everything begins and ends.
So click your heels. Shake your bootie —
Play an all out rainbow defense—
Roll one for the Lollypop Guild!

Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
Price(USD): $15.00

 

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Morning Glories

"...that was that, we could do no more—had to trust to sun and water and time..."

Morning Glories

Morning Glories

My first garden grew in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx where every spring my mother would order morning glory seeds from the P.S. 48 school catalogue, seeds that came in brown paper packets that arrived with our original order, names checked off—while other seeds didn’t do well, the morning glories never failed us. First we soaked the coarse black seeds overnight in a glass of water, (I wondered how she knew such things), and if I were lucky, the next day we’d plant the seeds in a cheese box that I had procured in advance from Mr. Kurtz’ grocery store at the end of our street. Those were the days when cheese arrived in a rectangular block and were sliced to order—thin, medium or thick—wrapped up in wax paper, folded and sealed, never knowing if Mr. Kurtz would heed my request, which is where I began to learn about the power of knowing what to ask for—brought the box upstairs to my mother and then we filled it with dirt—don’t remember where we got the dirt—prepared the garden bed for our morning glories, a box about a foot long and four inches high, made an indentation with the back of a soup spoon for the seeds that were swollen and cracked after soaking, pressed them into the prepared row and covered the seeds up, then placed the box outside the kitchen window on the fire escape—and that was that, we could do no more—had to trust to sun and water and time. Each day I got up, walked past my two sisters who shared a separate bed, and tip-toed out to the kitchen where I would go to the fire escape that served as a patio and a landing platform for sparrows. One morning I looked outside the window and saw the soil beginning to erupt, and even though I knew better, used my finger to disrupt the soil so I could see the sprout, bent over with its head still encased in a seed hat, until it tossed it off and emerged from the soil, growing long and spindly, with its own intelligence seeking a white string we had saved from a bakery box and thumb-tacked to the window frame—each day I’d investigate how much the morning glories had grown, for they were no longer seeds but seedlings and then plants, and in which direction they leaned. We had to thin out the seedlings, decide which one were most likely to survive in a Bronx cheese box garden, able to produce large blue blossoms growing along side our window.

 

Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
Price(USD): $15.00
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Change the Louisiana State Slogan

It seems odd that the Louisiana state slogan on its license plate is Sportsman’s Paradise. I am not a sport in the way that the slogan implies (hunting or fishing), nor am I a man. With such a gender specific state slogan, Louisiana has eliminated half of its population. But it’s not all about being politically correct. The slogan is probably aimed at folks coming from outside Louisiana who wish to spend a weekend sitting in a duck blind slathered in mosquito repellent, a marketing ploy aimed at bringing dollars to a state whose governor has refused federal money for Medicaid expansion and who also has excelled at dismantling the public health system. But this isn’t about Governor Bobby Jindal. No.

Take a look at a few other state slogans: Alabama, Sweet Home Alabama; Georgia, Peach State; Florida, Sunshine State; Kentucky, The Bluegrass State, and Mississippi, Birthplace of American Music. I’d like to recommend that the Louisiana legislature develop a more inclusive slogan. If nothing else, consider the benefits of increased revenue from new license plate sales, T-shirt designs, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, and other paraphernalia.

But a change may be in the offing whether anyone wants it to happen or not. Scientists and environmentalists for years have been studying the Mississippi River, which verily is the lifeblood of the Sportman’s Paradise. In the olden days when the river ran free and wild, it created six thousand square miles of wetlands and luxury housing for oysters, shrimp, and wildlife. Louisiana contains twenty percent of America’s coastal wetlands and forty percent of its salt marshes. However, each year twenty-five miles disappear together with the livelihood of its fisherman and their families. State agencies addressed the original problem of flood control by building levees to harness the Mississippi. In doing so, they created another problem: the river can no longer dump alluvial soil and replenish barrier islands. Instead all those nutrients get wasted off the continental shelf. Of course, it will take money to address the issue, but otherwise the state will sink into the Gulf of Mexico as marshes, starved of needed nutrient material, are unable to rebuild and subsequently
die. Another issue has been the increasingly salty waters of the bayou due to pipeline channels built by oil companies carved throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

For the time being, can we call Louisiana The Bayou State, or maybe if real monies are dedicated to addressing the issue, Coastal Restoration State? Now that would be something.

For more information, read Bayou Farewell by Mike Tidwell.

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Stormy Weather

Sundial Ridge, Redding, CA

Sundial Bridge, Redding, CA

A storm begins as a harmless patter,
a shuffle on the pavement,
an occasional trip-trap
coming down
at the same tempo,
target practice
increasing in accuracy
until its velocity
becomes more insistent,
a spring downpour,
the ahhing of earth
absorbing moisture,
then rain plays a trick,
comes down in lashes,
a punishment for hours
and doesn’t stop,
the ground can’t take it,
spills over in sobs,
becomes the background,
what we live with

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William Dickey’s Desk

William Dickey
An oak roll-top with locking lever
to keep out snoops,
antique with a brass plate,
George H. Fuller in San Francisco–
four drawers on the left, three on the right
cubbyholes for envelopes, stamps, paper clips,
upstairs in your Chenery Street apartment,
a Rainbow Grocery of good taste
where for lunch, you fed me
black olives and chunks of salty feta,
cheese and crackers, wine.
I met your lovers—
Tommy who liked funerals and flea markets,
and Len standing in the five o’clock shadow
of your dreamboat Warren.
But after you died from HIV
Len was the one
who emptied your desk,
lemon-oiled the oak,
moved it to the safety of a house
in the upper Mission
where he cooked pasta
and gave me poems by Akhmatova,
talked about interviews
with Sylvia Plath’s mother,
before he hung himself in the garage.
Then there was the desk.
That beautiful desk with inset panels,
dovetail joints and carved pulls,
stranded amid boxes and crates, disassembled
in the back of a pickup
and delivered to my condo,
my Strega Nona serving
stories and poems—
each time I open a draw, there’s
a yellow post-it reminding me
sometimes you can’t find what you need,
someone must take you there.

Find more about William Dickey

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Making Friends With the Lawn

Yellow Flowers

Yellow Flowers


You have to understand I didn’t come from a place where people had lawns.

Courtyards maybe, even patios where a person could grow tomatoes during the summer months, but swaths of green lawns, not really. Of course, my Aunt Clara from Port Chester, New York, had a lawn with two large azalea bushes and roses that were arranged in a horseshoe. While I admired her lawn, I was spared any knowledge of its maintenance.

For many years, lawns didn’t enter my consciousness. The people I knew who had lawns, more like parking strips, were mostly interested in planting perennials and allowing them to fight it out with the weeds.

Not until I moved south did I discover real lawns. The first week following my move to Sterlington in northeastern Louisiana, I woke up to hear a grating noise. What could that be? I’d left police sirens and ambulances far behind in the city, a sound I secretly was beginning to miss. I stepped outside to see a man sitting in a four-wheel vehicle zipping up and down his front yard. He steered past his mailbox and crew-cut the grass like an army sergeant. His vehicle was similar to the one I remembered from the movie, Forrest Gump, except this man did not have the same congenial attitude.

I came to learn that depending upon horsepower, four-wheel (or not) steering, blades, and cushy seating, lawn tractors can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000, which might have accounted for the man’s dour look. Now I knew that my Uncle Jack in Port Chester cut his grass with a push lawn-mower, a distant cousin to these behemoths. Why would anyone want to spend so much money? My neighbors often seemed like retirees riding around in golf carts. But then the lawns in this neighborhood were enormous, rolling past southern oaks and growing on either side of driveways. While the sound of city sirens came and went, lawn tractors could easily drone on for hours like a worrisome mosquito buzzing in my ear.

Lawns were work. Not only did people have to cut them, but just like in Ecclesiastes, there was a time to scatter seeds, a time to fertilize, and a time to spray for bugs. It seemed endless, a weekend ritual of cutting grass, grass that always grew back. It was like Sisyphus rolling a rock up a hill, and then it rolling back down again. Wby?

I didn’t begin to appreciate lawns until the second summer that I lived in the south. I’m not sure what changed. I think the sound of the lawn tractors began to fade into the background. The noise wasn’t quite as irksome, and in the summer months I began to see green scarves wrapped around houses and offering a sanctuary for crepe myrtles, red bud trees, and day lilies. I found that people riding their lawn tractors liked to wave whenever I walked by. I found turtles making their way across the lawn to lay eggs, a trembling prairie of marsh grass in the runoff behind the house. I waved back.

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