A Paradox

July 31, 2011

The phrase “unique kink in

how I think” won’t leave my head.

Perhaps that means something

I haven’t yet thought of or

it is itself the end result.

While I consider how individual

my life truly is, whether or not

my space in existence has been

occupied before and whether or not

that’s a bad thing, a dog

is chasing flies near me.

I’m sure I don’t need to explain

what the dog is thinking. There’s

a paradox between us, despite

the fact that I too swat flies.

The Relationship Vote

May 19, 2011
This piece was originally published in the Grand Rapids Herald-Review
I’ve always thought that our constitution was supposed to enshrine our rights as citizens of this state and this country. So when I heard that the Minnesota Legislature was attempting to pass a bill that would put marriage rights of gay and lesbian couples up to a vote during the 2012 election, effectively making a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, I thought that was pretty strange. More specifically, I thought it was outrageous!

First of all, and I see this as something that is very difficult to argue with, it is an incredible waste of time. As it currently stands, same-sex marriage is not legal in the state of Minnesota. The legislative session ends before Memorial Day weekend, and there is still a $5 billion deficit that needs dealing with, but instead the Senate and House are wasting their time debating and having public hearings on whether or not something that is currently illegal should be REALLY illegal.

What’s more unfortunate is that, regardless of the precedent of 28 other states passing similar constitutional amendments, our governing bodies would actively pursue the wanton discrimination of a large percentage of the population of the state, not to mention a member of the State Senate itself.

During the Senate hearing on the bill, Senator Scott Dibble held up a picture of he and his husband on the floor of the Senate on the first day of session, and he asked “What’s so different about us? What’s so dangerous about us?”

Same-sex marriage is allowed in five states in this country. So the question has to be; how has this negatively impacted states such as Massachusetts and Iowa?

But above I disregarded the 28 states that have passed similar amendments, so let’s just never mind what other states are doing. With that in mind, I would ask; how will this bill help Minnesota families?

Will it help create jobs? Will it balance the budget? Will it curb bullying in schools? The answer to those first two questions is ‘no’. There is no data that suggests that making something that’s already against the law against the law forever will have any sort of change on matters it didn’t affect anyway. But how about bullying? Anyone who isn’t aware of the high number of gay and lesbian teens who have committed suicide because of the negative ways they’ve been treated simply because they are gay (and others who were simply perceived to be gay), is either in denial or has been hiding under a rock. So honestly, what do you think this amendment is going to say to the next generation?

Senator Warren Limmer, the author of this bill, has said that the people of Minnesota have a right to vote on this issue, and that with a year and a half between now and the election, they will have the opportunity to have a conversation about it. I personally think Senator Dibble responded to this best, so I’ll just quote him:

“We’re not going to have a conversation. We’re going to have an ugly, angry, divisive campaign… And you know what that campaign is going to look like? It’s going to be about creating disinformation, about half-truths and mis-truths, and complete outright lies about what my family is all about… It’s going to create conjecture, fear, and will divide Minnesotans during this critical time in our economy when we need to be pulling people together.”

The proponents of this bill are quick to say that the people have a right to vote on their definition of marriage. First of all, I call bologna on that. There’s no choice here. The percentage of Minnesotans who think that marriage should be inclusive to all consenting adults have no box to check. The options are simply the status quo or the status quo forever. And that is beside the point that this argument is discrimination disguised as liberty. Limmer and the other proponents of this bill talk about the rights of the people to decide, but they’re deciding on the rights of others. So what about the rights of those whose personal lives are infringed with this vote? If this isn’t making sense, imagine if your marriage or your relationship with your significant other was put up to a vote by those who don’t even know you?

Our country has a history of bigotry against various types of couples, whether they be Lutherans and Catholics marrying, or whites and blacks marrying. It wasn’t that long ago that it was illegal for a black man to marry a white woman in a large number of states in this country. And people were just as adamant about that concept as they are today about same-sex marriage. So what has changed? We’ve simply picked a new group to look down upon; a new group on which to attempt to deny rights.

The argument for same-sex marriage isn’t anything new or bizarre. It is simply asking that consenting adults, who would be allowed to marry someone of the opposite sex, be allowed to marry someone of the same sex, because they found a special person that they want to spend the rest of their lives with. No one is looking for extra rights. Just the same rights as anyone else who found that person who completes them, who will stick with them through good times and bad.

As of this writing, the House has yet to vote on the bill. By all speculations, it seems as if it is going to pass. I hope it doesn’t. I think it would be a shameful mark on the state’s history; a state that has a long history of compassion and inclusiveness. And the ensuing “conversation” will only create more hate and discrimination, because our government has decided that this particular group of Minnesotans aren’t deserving of equality.

Last Night

March 13, 2011

Where are the friends I’ve seen, drunkenly fucking

to the place we commonly

refer to as regret?

Are they staying up past an inflicted curfew,

only to fall asleep on neighbor’s couches

before they’re able to become

one with themselves?

 

It happened to me, watching art films,

forgetting to masturbate.

The next mornings always come.

Coffee, a simple breakfast, trying

hard to not spill on yesterday’s clothes.

I read a biography of someone I admire

who has seen worse than I have.

 

These are things that happen to me

when left alone, where I attempt to

part my thoughts with a comb so

I look good for pseudo-hipsters

aiming for a pure democracy.

It’s apparent I’ve been influenced.

How about you?

How about your parents?

What is the driver of your machine?

When you figure it out, process your databanks

with this in mind and cry, yes cry,

 

at how little of yours is yours, and

you’ll soon forget that it was you

who invented forgetting to masturbate.

There is no obscene trash;

it’s all been recycled.

 

And maybe, by the time you finish your coffee

in your clothes that smell of sleep

& missed opportunities & sleep,

you’ll remember that the night before

was never just yours,

and you’ll take solace in this notion.

Then forget any of this ever happened so

you can ask yourself again the next day,

perpetual novelty for the mind to boost

an intellectual ego gifted to make

the same mistake gloriously, just

to feel a little life every now & again.

Gas Station Employment

March 13, 2011

At a Super America convenience store

in South Minneapolis, 2007, nighttime

thugs & hustlers with modest aliases during the day

shot junk in bathrooms and brawled

by the coffee and donuts that shift workers

bought prior to morning.

 

Call 911; a routine that blurs eyes

behind bullet-proof glass,

hiding money in case the brawlers need a fix.

“You got somethin’ ‘gainst niggas?”

cause I was some hick honky

glowing in the night.

This was the curriculum for my

urban education.

 

It wasn’t all trouble, though.

Subtle requests to join clandestine three-somes

& purchasing handmade crafts

from Mexican immigrants who speak

enough English to find bathrooms

and peddle their goods.

 

It was a corporate oasis in the midst

of those making it anyway they know how.

Criminals on both sides, we would

lean against the cigarette racks, sitting

on milk crates & drinking coffee

hoping for the sun to peek out

from St. Paul.

 

Am I better acquainted with the man

who threatens me after I caught him

stealing energy drinks, or

with the faceless name who signs my pitiful paycheck?

The name, which I forgot,

fired my ass for drinking the coffee without paying.

I’m a thief in the night.

Fear me, as Super America does.

Who Wears the Jacket

March 1, 2011

I’m the only one in my head right now so

I’m comfortable enough to go to sleep.

The jacket is draped along the bed

unworn by me or another. The lights

are off. Save one. It’s keeping me comfortable.

The books on the shelf are unread as

in they’re not being read. Does it speak back?

Do they possess the tell-tail signs of

having given their knowledge away?

Am I alone in my head? The voices

of a thousand poets tinker at synapses

making me question my reasonableness

in myself.

I saw a painting by Jasper Johns

and I questioned my patriotism.

I am not my only voice

so I will not sleep well. I suppose

the jacket had a previous owner.

Short comings

February 7, 2011

I usually prefer when people

stop crying for me when

they’ve witnessed my shortcomings.

Really, it just makes me feel worse. That pity.

Makes me worry about myself. We

don’t want this. I function

much better when I take myself

out of my own equation.

Myself + 1 = 1, lest we muddle math

with personality.

Though I wonder if perhaps, just this

once, I’m wrong.

Can humanity be quantified?

Can humans be qualified?

Are these even questions

we’re allowed to ask?

That time I was caught

kicking my dog while

chocking my kitten

by the neighbor, I

cursed the neighbor out.

“Why don’t you mind your

own damn business?”

I yelled as a knowingly

convicted man would.

I have to ask… I have to…

but what is the measure of

my humanity at that point?

I might have an answer

to that question, but I’ll

take it to the grave.

This truth will go with

the dead flowers, whether

it belongs there or not.

Thoughts of a Sentimental Man

January 31, 2011

There’s a cat in the other room

scratching furiously at the door,

obviously looking for someone to

converse with.

If I were a sentimental man,

I’d use this locked-up cat

as an analogy for my heart,

trapped & desperate  to get out.

This melodramatic scene

at best would get me laid

if I told it to the right girl

in just the right situation,

waxing sentimental poetic

under a full moon.

This poor girl. Falling for

such cheap tricks from

a sexual predator.

The analogy could then

be used to describe her,

trapped in guilt

for allowing herself to

be so easily taken advantage of.

The cat in the other room

is quiet now. Obviously

at peace with the loneliness and guilt.

My Political Life

September 12, 2010

I called upon the Democrats.

I called upon the Republicans.

I called upon the Greens and the Independents.

I called upon the fuckin’ Tea Party.

I called upon Americans who wave a flag out of habit.

I called upon men and women so I would seem more inclusive.

I called upon the corrupt, who ate their own souls.

I called upon the corrupt, who tried to buy my neighbors soul for dessert, and got a good deal.

I called upon blacks and Hispanics whose culture I co-opted without credit, but ignored this fact and wondered why they didn’t respect me.

I didn’t call upon the Native Americans.

I called upon Democrats and their followers who couldn’t recognize righteousness.

I called upon Republicans and their followers who manufactured and sold righteousness in easy to store containers.

I called upon those whose righteousness judged me.

I called upon the hypocrite who actually lives in all of us (so don’t pretend).

I called upon liberals, conservatives, and whatever you call people in the center, and I forgot what the definitions of each were.

I called upon the gay and straight, and waited.

I called upon the Christian and Muslim who secretly wanted to kill each other who then just came right out and said it because it was never actually a secret.

I called upon those who complain about life’s inequities with a passion.

I called upon life’s inequities.

I called upon those who wish for change.

I called upon the ones who pretend to see change in the same box they’ve always lived in.

I called upon the Asians whom we deny are a superpower, then denied their influence.

I called upon the socialists and communists, who are evil, but I called them anyway.

I called upon the fascists who no longer use that name.

I called upon the system that perpetuates itself.

I called upon the system that we hope to change but don’t understand.

I called upon the system that won’t change.

I called upon myself, but ignored the call.

I called upon myself and hung up, thinking it was a prank.

I called upon the Independents again and laughed at the strange name.

I called upon the angry, then got exhausted.

I called upon the exhausted, then got angry.

I called upon those who call to battle and left a message.

I called upon the rest of the religious, who called back the next day wondering if I had accepted Jesus Christ, Mohammad, Buddha, Shiva, Lord Xenu, or whoever as my personal savior and completely ignored what I had asked.

I called upon deaf ears and finally got an appropriate response.

Where Have All the Artists Gone?

May 14, 2010

I read an essay the other day that posed the question “Why aren’t more poets politically involved?” So I said, “Yeah, why aren’t they?”

This reminded me of a time back in 2004 when I was still a student at the University of Minnesota and I went to a reading by Robert Bly, who shortly thereafter was named Poet Laureate of Minnesota. Bly has a long history of political engagement, most notably as a conscientious objector to the war in Vietnam (to note it lightly). Between poems, he was quick to wonder out loud to the audience the same question as the essay I mentioned.

Where are the poets writing grand verse in opposition to the war? During the 1960s, you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting at least one! (Paraphrased, not actually what he said.)

And you know, he was right. First of all, he was there during the ‘60s, so he certainly knew well enough what was going on. But today, there’s an awful lot of silence. There has been for most of the years the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been going on.

And of course, it’s not just poets. It’s artists of all mediums and genres. And whereas there has certainly been dissent against the war, not nearly to the scale that was seen against Vietnam.

I see this as a problem, and not just because I’m not for the wars. Have we become so complacent with the world we’ve developed around ourselves that we can’t see beyond our noses to what’s happening in our name both at home and abroad? I see this as more than just dissent. I see it as conscious involvement in something greater than one’s self. And that goes for whether you’re for or against the wars; whether or not you feel they’re just.

So my point is basically this: There seems to be fewer people nowadays who stand up and make their case for a cause they feel is worthy by using art.

I see two reasons for this.

One: Poetry and other forms of art have slowly taken a back seat to other forms of media that are far more accessible in the modern age of telecommunications.

And two: It only ‘seems’ that there’s silence.

I know for a fact there is no shortage of artists in this country who take notice of various political action by our government and compose pieces appropriate to their outrage. But unless you’re part of one of these inner art circles, you’re not very likely to hear about it (see reason ‘one’ above). But that doesn’t mean that Bly or the author of the essay I read yesterday are completely wrong with their assertions that there’s a lack of political involvement amongst artists today. For better or for worse, the art culture evolves to represent the modern culture. As it turns out, the ‘60s were a time of heavy popular political involvement, therefore it was represented in the art scene. Today, it’s less so.

But there has been a resurgence.

Over the last few national elections, there have been record numbers of people, especially youth, who are making it to the polls to cast their vote. The same modern means of telecommunication that has been squashing art forms in the national popularity contest has created a new informed population, and many don’t like what they’ve seen. If the numbers at the voting booths are any indication of political involvement, then there are plenty of people who want to stand up and make a case for their cause.

So what’s the problem? Did I just refute the original argument?

Not really. The point still stands that there’s not much political poetry out there that gets any attention out of specific circles. As a poet and writer, I’m a bit saddened by this. I have read a number of fantastic contemporary poems having to do with modern political issues (the wars, etc…), but people don’t take them as accessible, so they get drowned out in the flood of information we all get daily.

Maybe it’s for the best. Maybe not. Either way, it’s the evolution of things. Maybe I’ll just go watch a movie instead.

Apartment Items Concluded

May 12, 2010

For those of you who’ve paid attention to this blog, I’ve been posting a series of poems called “Apartment Items.” The series consisted of 50 poems and an adjoining essay about the series. I’m proud to say that tonight I posted the final poem in the series, titled Daily Poetry Calendar.

The poems truly exist as a series, feeding off of one another in order to duplicate an essence of my former living space, so individually they don’t say much. Now that they’re all together on my blog, I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

And don’t forget to check out the essay. It’s an informative piece that gives some greater insight to the concept behind the poems.