Jean

My husband’s grandmother has lost many of her teeth
but she put on blue eyeliner for my visit.
She says, “the next time you see me, I’ll look very different”,
and lets out a resilient noise that I’m reluctant to name
knowing I lack the aptitude to name it well and fairly.
She is more beautiful at 90 than she was when I first met her at 88
having foregone hair dye, her hair now white, and long, not messy but uncoiffed
and not wearing an “outfit” complete with flashy cheap handbag,
There is nothing between us to distract or to dull the effect of her eyes.
Her eyes are a pale electric greenish-blue
become striking as they’ve receded into the shadows
beneath her sharper brow-bones.
Jean says, “let me tell you something about music”.
As a child, she loved a piece called Falling Waters
because, she says,
“I imagined how you would choreograph a dance to it”
so she taught herself to play it, by ear.
after two lessons, the piano teacher told the Scottish sisters who had adopted her
out of foster care, and who wanted to encourage her ability,
“I will not teach Jean.
She hears the music
she will always hear it
you will never get her
to read it off a page”.

soft tectonics

A body is a wave                                                                                                                                    a seeming-sudden lift of matter                                                                                                    and it’s immeasurably gradual dispersal

This is a soft tectonics                                                                                                                            I will not mention millions of years, no, a few decades if we’re lucky

and how boldly foolish to say “luck”.                                                                                        What is this “luck” ?

We are the only species, the only life-form to have invented                                                     such a word, such a concept.

Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say:

Sometimes the indifferent heft of Chance lands upon you and sometimes                                 it drops its weight on someone else                                                                                                  or in the wilderness, unwitnessed?

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  • painting by g.f marlier

in coming times…

I’ve been reading The Coming Insurrection, by the Invisible Committee (also recently finished This is not a program and theory of the young-girl, by Tiqqun. They are all out on Semiotexte. I really wanted this stuff to help me, give me some kind of flotation device to grab on to, some good and original ideas to inspire me, and unfortunately, it seemed like whenever I grabbed onto something, some kind of problem arose, something was bothering me. Here’s the thing. There is a tendency of young leftist radicals in the social democracies of wealthy western European countries to talk about squatting, stealing from stores, and living off of government benefits either legitimately come by (guaranteed minimum income) or through fraud (reporting false dependents, claiming disability payments when one is strong and healthy) in a sort of breezy entitled tone that’s a little difficult to swallow if you are aware of how rare and precious, and from the perspective of most of the world completely insane it is that such resources actually exist and that it is possible for a healthy strong 20-something year old person to refuse to work on principle (because it’s so demeaning, it kills the spirit), and continue to live very comfortably by drawing on the fruit of the labor of others. Are these people aware that arguably the number one cause of radicalization of young people in the poorest parts of Africa and the middle east, the main factor that drives young men in particular to join groups like ISIS and Boko Haram and convoy over ever-expanding territories plundering and destroying villages and raping and slaughtering people not unlike their own families is unemployment? Simply the fact that they don’t have any work to do, any way of earning a living that would allow them to marry, establish a home, have children in a normal, humane way?

The young French radicals of the Invisible Committee are suggesting that one should take cues from the Paris commune of 1871 and torch city hall. They have ideas on how the barricades should be built this time (the staircases from rez-de-chaussée to premier étage of the buildings should be ripped out entirely, to give an advantage to the armed insurgents, the windows boarded over with only spaces left, as in a fortress, for the ends of their guns to emerge). They encourage destruction of the real and cybernetic infrastructure of Western Europe. I want to know if they have any awareness of how much random horrible loss of life and how much grinding poverty is endured in parts of the world that have never had any of this infrastructure (largely because they were colonized, in the case of Africa, largely by France, which became very wealthy on the natural resources stolen from its illegally occupied lands and made itself into the abundant well-structured, secure cradle it is). How can you suggest destroying what you have if you know how many others in the world would do anything to have it? If you destroy something, you cannot share it. Equity is not a level of a videogame where you  choose 5 weapons and an avatar at the beginning.

The Invisible committee wants to establish communes, which they distinguish from Milieux- stay away from the activist Milieu, they don’t do anything. But the communes, the communes are going to really do something (because they’re called “communes”? Again, what’s with the 1871 and/or Bolshevik nostalgia in the European left? We have some solid information on how that worked out). Which brings us back to the refusal to work. The only really useful suggestion I could find in this book is pretty old-hat by now (ask anyone putzing around a community garden in any American city or town): try to participate in exchanges of goods and resources at a local level and under-the-table as much as you can. If possible barter so you can keep currency and the state out of your business entirely. Learn how to grow your own food, raise poultry and livestock, and fish. Pickle, preserve, smoke, salt, can, and dry food. collect rainwater, build hydroponic systems, locate the sources of potable water within walking distance of your home. learn homeopathic cures for illnesses and how to set a broken bone. Get yourself some solar panels. Prepare to, if necessary, go off the grid.

Which brings me to the “tax” bill that the Republican Congress seems to currently be very close to ramming into law. I believe it really does represent a new low (pretty amazing that that continues to be possible) for this country. The bill will cut billions from Medicare, defund Obamacare and get rid of the ACA mandate, which will functionally kill the ACA within 2 years if it stands- and send whole health and health-related sectors of the economy into death spirals. We will be back to 20 million+ without health insurance which for most people translates to “without health care”. We already have staggering rates of infant and maternal mortality in this country (akin to what is seen in the quote unquote third world, which just to be clear is that same part of the world without employment or infrastructure due to decades of Colonial occupation and wealth extraction). These disastrous health outcomes are of course far higher in immigrant communities and black communities due to the White Supremacist ideology the American State was built on and the systemic racial injustice it sustains its programs with. Starting with Ronald Reagan (yes, we’ve seen this movie before, folks), they defunded education- remember when urban public schools had art and music classes and reasonable class sizes, and printer paper, and toilet paper? Yeah, me neither (born in ’81), but apparently before Reagan that was a thing. They defunded state subsidized residential hospitals for those suffering from chronic mental illness- guess what? in New York City alone, between 1983 and 2017 the number of homeless individuals seeking a shelter bed on any given night has gone from around 10,000 to more than 60,000. Many of those who have become homeless and drug-addicted in the past 50 years are people with serious mental health issues who are self medicating with street drugs and barely surviving outside. In the past, they would have been cared for in State subsidized hospitals. Also, speaking of infrastructure, the infrastructure from coast to coast in this country is crumbling and the federal government is choosing not to spend our tax dollars to repair it. Puerto Rico still has a minor fraction of the power and clean drinking water and food and medical aid it needs. It still isn’t safe to drink the water in Flint, Michigan. There’s already been an oil spill from the pipeline they Jammed through Sioux country in Standing Rock SD. What I’m trying to say is, I don’t know about France, but here in the U.S we are already close to living in a third world country. We don’t need to blow anything up, because it’s already imploding. I’m actually looking forward to the day when, like slum-dwellers the world over, we can openly acknowledge that we are ruled by a deeply corrupt and greedy wealthy elite, That our “democracy” is a sham, and strike the bargain with them that slum-dwellers the world over strike with mafia regimes: We won’t ask you for anything, just leave us alone- leave us to our backyard vegetable patches and our home-made alcohol, leave us to our chickens and goats and our black market economy and our bit of electricity tapped from your grid. build a wall between yourselves and us. We won’t pay you any taxes, and we won’t complain that there are no state-funded schools for our children to go to- we’ll educate them ourselves. We won’t look at you, and you won’t have to look at us. All we ask is that you leave us the fuck alone to scrape what life we can from the dirt and the trees. Just that. No guaranteed minimum income, no universal healthcare. The babies will be born into the hands of sliding-scale or barter-friendly midwives and may or may not live and the mothers may or may not live. Our friends and relatives will sometimes die for fucked up, seemingly preventable reasons. We won’t squat your empty houses, we just ask the right to exist and build a rudimentary shelter out of scavenged materials that won’t be bulldozed after a couple weeks or months. I would like to ask the Invisible Committee why they can’t see that the best possible future for us is just the right to live, unbothered and untaxed, in a slum?

Is that revolutionary enough for them?

new poems 11/29/17

  A dream
Storm-stopped
en route to Nantucket
I could board a ferry but
I can see from the jetty-
waves as high as a prison wall
The thunderous churning
sends up phosphorus white spray
and whispers fictions.
I decide to inquire at this small public house
in what once was a whaling village
where the bus deposited me
and I’m pleased to learn there is a room they rent by the night
in the tavern tradition
to pilgrims, wanderers, the lost, the storm-stopped.
I have plenty of money and feeling serene
and grown-up, I climb
a narrow buffed pine staircase
to a warm dry cubbyhole under the slanted eaves
one small window facing the ravenous, ore-black Atlantic
one wool blanket on a narrow bed.
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fish-eye
It’s what they call a fish-eye picture
lens curved to create an illusion of expanse
something, yes, of the detached surveillance,
the idiotic lingering of a fish
drumming its fins against lapping water
in dim, silty shallows.
There you are: tan coat, unlocking the door of your silver Prius.
It’s obvious (from the irritated look on your face
and your intense focus on the clicker) that it’s never occurred to you
you’re being watched.
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Shame
A diseased forest
sweeping arms of spent trees
their obscurity born of nature and inertia, not intent-
they permitted no pathway,
no companionship.
Any message chipped in their moldy skins
any mound of stones
was grown over, sucked down into the muck before it could meet
the eyes of an Other who might understand, advance, take heart, encouraged.
The sour smell of abandonment hung close to the ground
a stifling breathable fog.
The sun in those days was just a myth
or an ancient, pre-verbal memory
if someone somehow had been able to tell me
it still
was there
in flamboyant indifference
traipsing above the impenetrable canopy
I would have thrown back
my soft skull
and laughed.

fleet week

Look for blue angels                                                                                                                 over the bay                                                                                                                          early in October.                                                                                                                  Look for wave-worn sailors                                                                                               craving vast rolling softness                                                                                                     in the piss-stained streets of the Tenderloin.                                                          Santa Rosa’s burning to the tips of the tree roots                                                            calls are coming in from all over San Francisco:                                                         “my bedroom/living room/building is full of smoke                                                              but I can’t figure out what’s burning”                                                                 “Ma’am/Sir calm down calmate it’s 200 miles north of you                                         don’t worry it won’t effect you”.                                                                                                          An artist is creating an exact replica                                                                                 of the Golden Gate Bridge                                                                                                             to put next to the Golden Gate Bridge.                                                       My friend says “Good, maybe Sharkzilla will get confused and bite that one instead”

and                                                                                                                                              I had a dream last night that my cousin who thinks the U.S should bomb North Korea off the face of the Earth is actually a really nice guy

at Hearst Castle

Luminous tiled pool of cerulean glass and gilt

German couple with selfie-stick, expanse of Pacific ocean blown out behind them

One black guy on the tour, wearing plaid shorts and matching shoes-                                     He’s the one who says “trident” when the guide asks “what does Neptune carry?”

Heavyset girlfriend with cat-eye frames to ponytailed burner/burnout journeyman boyfriend: “We should win the lottery and build a pool like this”                                              He responds “Yeah”.

My mom: “I wonder who polishes the silver?”                                                                     Another white lady about her age standing nearby: “Yeah, I don’t want that job.”

weathering

Planning for winter storms
in the first week of September.
it will rain, and the wind will come in, furious
from the open ocean
rattling my home
before it runs into the hills
to hide its face.
Burgers watches as I pull old nails
hammer in new nails, shift the hanging
clay pot of sweet basil (flowering, going to seed)
to face North, not West,
move the Thai basil (tiny purple leaves, brittle twiggy stem)
to the stairs beside the lemon tree, dill, and fruitless strawberry
then she closes her yellowgreen eyes to doze
in the dirt beneath the one small, slowly ripening tomato
that emerged from the shady cave of the porch this summer.
Weird summer, summer of fires in forest
and suburb, tear gas hanging over the cities
summer of (Home Depot tiki) torches aloft,
vehicular homicide, and the open stating of allegiances to Devils
naiively assumed, in many blinkered quarters, to be extinct.
Now comes the Fall of hurricanes and floods
of rot and rubble.
in the wake of isolated and celebrated examples
of survival
of countless refusals to connect the dots, to repudiate
ill-begotten theories of coincidence, synchronicity
accident or innocence
it will be claimed that benevolence is a noun, and not a verb.
So I’m shifting everything around.
the Rosemary fell from a ledge, and I righted it.
The jade holds our instruments upright-
guitar, banjo, ukelele-
but can’t keep them in tune.
In the months ahead,
Whiteness willing
we’ll still be here, but under blankets
refusing the full shelter of the indoors
singing loud and drunkenly.
our imperfect harmonies
will contest the wind.
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*painting by Liam Golden www.liamgolden.com