Saturday, January 22, 2011

Consolations for a Cleveland Winter

What would I do with all that
prodigal sunshine,
day after changeless day, and the way it
bleaches unliving colors
to pastel? Far better to
dwell here,
in wired concrete igloos,
parked in the arctic precincts of a
supposedly temperate
climate, where the dense gray
perpetuity of cloud
supersedes shade and curtain, where
no luminous nuisance trespasses in the sky,
opacifying the lenses of your eye with the
glare of film noir third degrees.
Where you can sleep for weeks without missing a single
shadow. How reassuring,
not to have to worry about the cat
exploding in the unvented four-door.

And then, there are the economic benefits;
the costly, sloppy stickiness of the
sunscreen you won't be needing,
the money unspent on the darklensed
fashionstatements you won't sit on
entering the car, the superfluity of
bikini waxes beneath layer upon layer of
goose down, wool, velcro, Gortex and Thinsulate.
None of the wastefulness of frozen-drink
parasols: instead, the allegory of marshmallows
melting in hot cocoa, the music of
whistled steam gossiping about the impending
arrival of scalded pots of tea.

Who would knowingly trade the
palping rapture of cashmere
coiled in gentle neck-snug, for the
goo gunk of tropical crotchfunk, and
pitstench? And then there’s the boon
to marital fidelity, the erotic temptations
of fishnet nymphettes
preempted: the very thought of provocative textiles
foreclosed by the horripilant chill-threat of
bristle-hair gooseflesh. No apocalyptic water bugs
skittering eerily from
unknown places, just a preternatural
feeling of brotherhood
for the lonely burdens of prehistoric
glaciers, and sympathy for the fate of naked
graveyard statuary.

Far better to start each morning with the discourse of
shovel's-edge rasping flagstone or blacktop, even
the cranky percussion of twostroke engines chuting
geysers of crystal into driveway-lining
ridges of freeze-dried sky-squeeze.
Listening to the sizzle-hiss of woodfire, its
narrative about the liberation of stored
sunshine, how preferable this to the trademarked
thrash-ratchet of idling middle-aged stockbrokers.

Needless to say,
mountainside fiberglass waterslides
rank a very distant second to
the doorstep thrill-ride of each morning,
as, improvising your way along the
newly arrived canyons of spontaneous
car-devouring roadcrumble, you
fishtail through slushstreeted
rush-hours. And there can simply be
no moral comparison between the
generosity of the snowplow rock-salt
that leaves the entire northeast
corner of the state saltier
than a frozen-margarita rim,
and the isolating managedcare selfishness
of tinted-power-windows and factory-air.

There is nothing in the radiant scorch
of hot sun on tanned skin
to make you desire anything
but escape; nothing that
remotely begins to compare with the way that,
numbing your extremities, a Cleveland winter
lectures about how you have stopped
feeling, and long
to feel

Friday, January 14, 2011


(Generally speaking, cliches are to be avoided like the ... H1N1.
But especially when you mean something as a song, they're actually better than originality. I hear the following as a song, and to hear my own dubious attempts to capture this, you can check out Chomsky in Chains, the podcast.)

Been a war every day of my forty-four years.
Been a war every day of my life.
Been a war to show everyone killing is wrong.
Been a war to prove killing is right.
Been a war to keep dangerous secrets.
Been a war to make some secrets known.
Been a war of defensive invasions,
in the name of protecting our homes.
In the name of protecting our homes.

Been a war to make everyone sober.
Been a war to get everyone high.
But the truth is that war is a banker,
selling peace for a lucrative lie,
trading peace with a lucrative lie,
while the Tomahawks litter the sky

And I been wondering why-hy,
murder's wrong but murderers rule,
spend one day honoring Martin,
three-hundred-SIXty-four like he was a fool,
and I been wondering why, why, why,
peace is always being denied,
peace is a classified secret,
but we treat war like it’s our national pride.

Been a war while the guns have been firing.
Been a war while the guns have grown cold.
Been a war for the wealthy and greedy,
to take the whole world for their own.
Been a war for the lies that they're screaming.
Been a war to cut out the truth's tongue.
Been a war to profit the rich and the old,
fought by the poor and the young,
lose their lives for a lucrative lie,
while the Tomahawks litter the sky

And I been wondering why-hy,
murder's wrong but murderers rule,
spend one day honoring Martin,
three-hundred-SIXty-four like he was a fool,
and I been wondering why, why, why,
peace is always being denied,
peace is a classified secret,
but we treat war like it’s our national pride.
And I been wondering why.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

New Year's Day on Mars

When, in the year 1000,
the year 1000 was celebrated,
it marked only a century or two
of reckoning dates from the birth of Yeshu
(the Aramaic correlate of the Greek 'Jesus'.)
it was not the year 1000 of course
since Fibonacci had not yet (until 1202)
introduced the Arabic numerals into Europe
(which he at least, having studied in Tunis had
the good grace
to call
the 'Hindu' numerals.)

It was the year 'M'
that being in Roman numerals
the symbol for 1000,
the Latin for 1000 being 'mille'
from which
the English
'mile', 'million', and 'millenium'.

Although it was a Roman
numeral, and the Aramaic speaking Yeshu a
Palestinian subject of the Romans,
that Roman numeral was not the Roman year, which,
reckoned A.U.C.
(anno urbis conditae, from the founding of the city)
was 752 at Christ's birth
(ignoring an apparent four year error),
and so the year M would have been
1752 according to the
whose numerals,
designated it.

On a recent trip to Thailand
(which they,
ungenerous to English sensibilities
insist on calling Muang Thai),
I discovered that the Thais,
having generously adopted a twelve month
solar calendar beginning on our January first,
still date their calendar to the birth of the Buddha
(the number of their year being 543
greater than ours ( and dare I mention
the twenty years
gone missing
from the Indian

The Muslims,
by many accounts the most numerous
religious group in the world,
start their calendar with the flight (hegira)
of their great prophet Muhammed
from their most holy city, Mecca,
in fear of his life (not,
of Jews, Christians, Romans, or Persians but
of fellow Arabs from the same clan),
about our year 622
(with the exception that the Muslim calendar
gains a year
on the Gregorian
once every 22 1/2 years.)

Jews in the East had
for many centuries
used the Seleucid calendar
that began in 312 B.C. when,
in the ninth century,
European Jews began dating
'anno mundi',
to the beginning of the world,
or 3761 B.C. in Gregorian terms.

What was God thinking when,
in his infinite wisdom,
he decided
to make the period
of the earth's revolution
a non-integer multiple
of its rotation?
Perhaps he meant it
as a WPA for astronomers.

It was left to the infallible
Gregory XIII (although this does beg
the question about Gregory's XII and XI)
acting on discrepancies found
800 years earlier by the Venerable Bede,
to set things straight
by declaring
the day after October 4, 1582,
to be October 15, 1582.

Ten days,
up in smoke.
Amazing the things
you can make happen,
if you happen to be Pope.

But perhaps this too is a bit
simplistic, since Protestants,
being what they are,
against a Pope's having the gall
to be accurate.
And so whereas
the appropriate days disappeared
in Spain and France,
they took two years to vanish
in Luthered lands.

The British government,
being what it is,
cherished recalcitrance
until, in 1752,
September 2nd was followed by
September 14th,
throwing in the change of New Year's Day
from March 25th back to January 1st.

Recent cosmological data suggest
that the universe is
3 thousand million years newer
than previously thought,
only 10 thousand million years old.

2000 approaches though 1000 never happened.
It reminds of the singer Prince ---
'Tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999'.

Why not?

It is.