Sunday, March 29, 2009

Santayana's Blue Period

--- for Patrick Marblo, born 4 April, 2001

On the day you were born, 24 American spies were captives on Hainan Island in the South China Sea. Their spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet that crashed, and killed its pilot. No one anywhere knew how this would turn out. An embargo, or worse, a war? Imagine how their families worried about them, as your mother would go nuts if it had been you, as the Chinese pilot's mother must have rung in agony, the bell of her heart peeling in her chest, the sound of her keening unheard, mute in the American press. You should ask yourself what those Americans were doing there, 10,000 miles from home, what freedom they were defending there. Consider how the word defense is contorted when it refers to military action on an enemy's doorstep, and what the word 'freedom' means when neither you nor I have any right to know exactly what information those spies were after, and how, or why. Some will say they were protecting our freedom but you should note it is only our freedom to be ignorant of the activities of the rulers of our own country.

On the day you were born the Nasdaq stock market had lost nearly 70% of its value from the preceding year and people were very concerned about an impending economic collapse. Before that the Nasdaq had gone up and up and up, as if it were in earth orbit and no longer had the ability to fall. Companies that had never turned a profit were worth many millions of dollars and the only people you could hear on radio and tv were telling you how the internet would revolutionize everything. Many people disagreed with this but they were not let anywhere near the radio or tv for fear that stock prices might go down. Mass media had become the marketing branch of the electronics and computer industry. From this you should note that the fact that everyone is saying something, especially if they are rich and famous people who have a financial stake in what they are saying, does not make it true. Also note the implication that rich and famous people do not become so merely by telling the truth.

On the day you were born a 10 month old Jewish baby was injured by a Palestinian mortar attack, and 77 Palestinians were wounded by a 'retaliatory' Israeli helicopter rocket attack. Lying there barely sentient, you could make very nearly zero sense of this; I could make little more. For the record I think you should pay very close attention to the use of the word 'terrorist', and how often people speak as if 'arab' is just a contraction for 'arabterrorist'. When one group of people uses rockets, tanks, and helicopters to fire on another group of people who have only slingshots, stones, or are completely unarmed, I propose that you think of the people with the tanks as the true terrorists.

On the day you were born the thousandth victim died in an epidemic of meningitis according to reports from the Burkina Fasan capital of Ouagadougou. Most people I know couldn't begin to tell you where Burkina Faso is, or what Ouagadougou. I have always thought that just the sound of the word Ouagadougou was kind of funny. You should ask yourself if people's lives are worth less because they live in a place that sounds funny to your ear. Before answering this you should consider whether or not Washington might sound funny to a Ouagadougan.

On the day you were born a man named Jason Massey was executed by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas. Despite the fact that all civilized and educated people condemn the death penalty, executions happen nearly every day in America. Note that you were not born into a country ruled by the civilized and educated.

On the day you were born your mother was reminded that human blood is not always red, but rather is blue when deprived of oxygen (note the blue of the veins in your wrist.) The particular source of this reminder was the color of your face when you were but seconds old; the placenta had wrapped twice around your neck and you were born blue in the face. What I take from this is how very precious human life is, how it seems to be made more so by being always so very close to death. You, are, what you choose to make of this.

I wish I could say it was a day unlike all others or at least the end of an era; no more provocative and pointless spy missions, no more bubbles of irrational exuberance in the business world, no more provocations and massive retaliations, no more disdain for unfamiliar peoples, no more savage state-sponsored revenge. The most notable difference between the present and that fateful day of your birth however, in my estimation at least, is the way that your face is no longer blue.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Names must be both
different, and the same. Without
difference, we'd meander
through the city streets of a placeless
homonym, a single zip-code
where everyone's phone rings
simultaneously, while over undecipherable
food, we'd puzzle how to share
the multi-million page bill
from Mastercard. Without
similarity, the characters
of the alphabet would need to outnumber
insects, and the excuses of politicians.
Then we'd be absorbed in the tongue-
babble sound-mimicry of
toddlers struggling to master the endless
palette of phonemes in a lifelong preparatory drill
for a skill that had outlived all

As for this dif-sameness
of naming, it costs
us a pas-de-deux of nuance and
ambiguity. Creates a world
that confuses
foot doctors, the unabridged
legacy of educational method, and the sexual
abuse of children. Where diamond
weights pass for rabbit food, or the purity
of gold. Chintzy or chancy,
whimsy, fancy, mansion or shanty, rhyme
impossible or endlessly

Even if reach
may exceed metaphor
as might may right,
or capsize,
we, in the same both
hear and name
near and there.

Named, unnameable and naming
neither anto-, hom-, nor synonyms
awkward, we juggle as if
nearonyms, recognizing alike
surprises. Embody in-
consistency, distance in proximity
convey both fact and impossibility
of conveyance.
Like authors
who create sound and meaning
never entirely
the same with difference.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

James Gang

Jesse, Lebron, William, and Etta James.
James Brown, Paul Brown, Jim Brown,
Marlon Brando, Florida Marlins,
Richard Florida, Keith and Renee Richards,
Richard Keith, Rene Descartes,
Cartes Blanche, Blanche Dubois,
W.E.B. Duboise, DW and Andy Griffith.
Andi and Roddy McDowell, Sam
MacDowell, Sam Mayday Malone,
Malone, New York, Mary Doyle,
Doyley Carte, Gilbert and Sullivan.
Higher Ed, New Hire, Nude Painting,
Newt Gingrich, Gingham tablecloth, red tablewine,
Red Foxx, Michael J. Fox,
Fox News, Fox Chase,
Chase Manhattan, Salmon P. Chase,
Salmon Run, Milk Run, Iran Air Flight 655,
USS Vincennes, USS Stark, David Stark,
Pete Stark, Peat Bog, Bog Man,
Isle of Mann, Mann Act,
Thomas Mann, Death in Venice,
Benicio del Toro, Che Guevara,
Gael Garcia Bernal, Martin Bernal,
Black Athena, Hugo Black,
Hugo Boss, SS uniforms, Boss Tweed,
Tweetie Bird, Charlie Bird Parker,
Robert Parker, Maceo Parker,
Burt Lancaster, Cynthia Plaster Caster,
Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes,
Hugh Downs, Downs Syndrome,
Syndrome X, Malcolm X,
Malcolm Ten, Tintin,
Rin Tin Tin, Howard Zinn,
Zen Buddhism, Pali Canon,
Bali bombing, Balm of Gilead,
Gilligan’s Island, Fantasy Island,
Voted off the Island, Vote early
And vote often, often a bridesmaid,
Brideshead Revisited, All out Waugh,
Elinaw hates Waugh, Leo Tolstoy,
Crimea and Punishment, Raskolnikov,
Rasputin, Vladimir Putin,
Put-in Bay, San Francisco Bay,
Sydney Harbor, Sydney Greenstreet,
Easy Street, Easy money,
Chicks for free, I want my MTV,
I wanna hold your hand, the hand that rocks the cradle,
Tim Robbins, Baskin Robbins, the Emperor
Of Ice Cream, the naked emperor,
Hans Christian Anderson, Mr. Christian,
Captain Bly, Captain Queeg, Humphrey Bogart,
Lauren Bacall, Key Largo,
Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner,
The Importance of being Earnest,
Oscar Wilde, I knew Oscar de la Renta when he was just
Oscar Renta, Veal Oscar,
The Academy Awards, Plato’s Academy,
Platonic relationship, Nambla,
Allen Ginsburg, Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
Badr corps, Marine Corps, Semper
Fidel Castro, Reinaldo Arenas,
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men,
Cormac MacCarthy, McCarthy Hearings,
Bobby Kennedy, Arthur Miller, Rebecca Miller,
Daniel Day Lewis, Cecil Day Lewis,
Cecil Rhodes, Rhodesia,
Rhodes Scholar, Bill Clinton,
Bill Bradley, Bradley assault vehicle,
Omar Bradley, Omar Khayyam, Khayyami Vice,
Jalali calendar, Gregorian calendar,
Gregorian chant, Rule of Saint Benedict,
The good words of St. Benedict’s dictionary,
Benedict Arnold, Arnold Palmer,
Palmer raids, Mario Buda,
Mario Andretti, Barney Oldfield,
The purple dinosaur, the purple pill,
AstraZeneca, Astro the Jetson’s dog,
Hanna-Barbera, Hannah Montana,
Miley Stewart, Miles Davis, Willie Davis,
Davis-Bacon, Kevin Bacon, Matt Damon,
Casey Kasem, Ben Affleck, Jesse James.