Friday, February 9, 2018

Strategies are for Losers

Reacting to their unexpected victory in 2008 (wait, we can win even if we nominate a negro, as long as he’s good looking and appeals to young people and convinces the functionally disenfranchised brown underbelly of America to ask their bosses for a Tuesday off in November??), the Democratic Party has spent the past decade trying to solve for x: what is the demographic equation that will produce a stable top-of-the-ticket majority regardless of circumstance. This was a logical long-term strategy, pressing advantages that were reliable enough to have birthed a cottage industry of dubiously-sourced axioms

While the Republican Party was busy cooking the books on the local level, doubling down on their own demographic aces by redrawing state legislative districts to exaggerate the rural-urban divide, the American left was trying to gerrymander its platform

Double, double, toil and trouble,
Cities bloom and suburbs crumble.

Fillet of the gentrified,
In the ballot box decides.

Eye of immigrant’s reform,
Wool of darker babies born.

Women’s reproductive rights, 
Kids these days love smoking joints…

Unfortunately, young people let them down because they were corny, Black folk let them down because they were pasty, and white women let them down because racism. Here’s a backup plan: stop counting on Birnam Wood and try selling yourselves as Robin Hood.

Robin Hood. You know, that guy who is really popular for shooting the sheriff but letting the deputy hold onto his dignity. This isn’t too complicated: most everyone is down with stealing from the rich and giving to the poor as long as you’re honest about it, wear green, and can do a few cool tricks with a bow, an arrow, prison reform and renewable energy infrastructure. I don’t know.

            Just a thought.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

greatest hit.

Even if I'm a one-hit wonder in my own hometown, it's a real thrill to see my poem "quadroon" go up at The Missouri Review. An added bonus: they ask you to explain where your poem came from, which in this case is awfully near & dear.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Death of the author

So there's this poem I wrote about a neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio.
It's called Columbus. But that doesn't really tell the story. Three of us
went in search of words on a too-warm day. I just compiled them.


Marty welcomes us to a neighborhood we already live in,
with her loving husband, autistic son. Repurposed

churches of unknown purposes are draped in Christmastime
relics, dripping with last fall’s rainstorms, none of which were biblical.

Her muffled words are covered in breezes, the grass
flutters, with no mind to the direction or whims of the wind.

We slow her floating, full of childhood dreams, with hope:
I want to live here. Can we chat? We would never bore, only

talk merrily over these dismembered holiday spirits.
Spring cleanings are clinging to the compost pile that welcomes

standing in front of a broken tree swing. Missing a seat,
links, and more. The broken extension cord,

an unworthy fix, already heavy with
unplugged, untangled, Christmas lights. Families

lived here once upon a time, she says.
A lunch box rests between two beer bottles, a childhood

shrunken into a few mottled square feet. Warped
foosball table without legs, abandoned bleached wood,

illuminated garbage. Hula hooping Mother Mary watches over,
her pinwheels all that shine behind the little sea foam house.

A slow saunter over dirty caterpillar bug boxes leads us
to three addresses on one door. Transient numbers,

tacked on by transient occupants, sharing
communal Styrofoam savings accounts that follow them

yard after yard. She thinks things out there need to change.
Our generation. Loosely defined, she gestures

at the house across the street. A towering magnolia
has finally caught up to the height of its decaying landlord.

Histories of taste are visible in the duplex’s peeling paint. And she,
she is dressed in 1-2-3-4-5 count five shades of green,

her legs are tanned, she puffs on unlit ashes. Her wedding happened
during Thanksgiving Dinner: they traded books and exchanged I-do’s,

she doesn’t like cake, they’ve never lived together. They write
notes about their love. She thinks we could do better.

Our generation. Do everything outside the box and you’ll be just fine,
she says. We stand, with a vintage vantage of bowling balls and

sunbathing torsos (pale as December) chipping department store plastic
into the garden with every storm. Some flowers are living, others

wilting. The brownest is partly covered by a dusty watering can. Do everything
outside of the box; you will be just fine. The struggle is

finding the edges, and the bravery to jump them.
We leave with one of the dirty caterpillar bug boxes.


Dirty caterpillar bug box
Warped cardboard overflowing from blue bins
Abandoned foosball table without legs
Emma cheeks gums and rocks to treasure later
Broke Styrofoam, an essential object to every corner of every yard
Muffled beats covered in wind
Spider web dream catcher in front of tattered curtains at the Keathley’s
Dried up cigarette butts on a patch lawn
Clumps of disintegrating leaves caught in roots
Bright cranberries on rotting hay
Illuminated garbage
Bleached wood
X and Ycoordinates find the telephone pole
Never-ending green circles
Tiny purple blossoms growing with telephone wires
Elmo doll caught in a roof crevice
A tidy seaform green house
The Virgin Mary watching over swirling windmills
Skeletons and wooden models within a dilapidated sunroom
The scent of marijuana mixed with sidewalk crack weeds
Hot pavement is uncomfortable


Auxiliary stairs, linear
Rectangular eyes closed
Drunken revelers recycling
Ballet fingers
Runway of my day
Repurposed churches of unknown purposes
Where does that plug go?
Tupperware lid with no adjacent mac and cheese
The stairs and porch are not parallel. They will meet at a distant point in the neighbor’s lawn
As all lawns stretch forward together
With communal Styrofoam
Three addresses; one door
Transient numbers tacked on
Fitting for transient occupants
Slow saunter under silent planes
Worn hands, worn steps
Hula hooping with Mother Mary, whose synchronized pinwheels are all that shines, somewhat secret
Japanese flag imprint on a rusted clothes washer
Prepared for blue grass nights and vaginal euphemisms
Wire torso suntanning
Shamrock motifs
Pretty decorations
I want to live here, can we talk?
You are full of childhood dreams
And we would never bore.
Or shuffle in the sunroom
But talk merrily over disemboweled Christmas trees
One red blossom on the lawn.
The passing of time
We lingered until the mystery was solved.
Emma found gum and rocks for later.
She wrote her own descriptives on the porch


Blue bin turned over since fall. 
Rust is a primary color in some states.
Dark mulch, looking more tended to than the roots it covers.
The one out of four street signs without graffiti or stickers.
Barcode still clinging on to the drain pipe.
The flies swarm, connect, then separate.
The grass flutters, with no mind to the whims of the wind.
Spring cleaning is clinging to the compost pile.
Broken tree swing missing a seat, and more.
Unplugged Christmas lights, and a broken extension cord, with the tree already in spring bloom
A lunch box rests between two beer bottles.
77 ½ , the address not unique enough on its own, the mailbox duct taped pink.
A nerf toy amongst littered beer bottles on an unkempt lawn.
A towering magnolia has finally caught up to the height of its decaying landlord, cardboard windows block the view of April’s blooms.
Three different histories of taste are visible in the duplex’s peeling paint.
Dreamcatcher loosely defined, a fish hanging from a bike tire. 
Virgin Mary statuette flanked by America-colors pinwheels, spinning a waved hello to non-believers, some who’ve surely passed over the threshold, through the doors.
Pacman Master is busy, his detractors can’t keep up with their whitewashing paint. 
An ancient native face hides, sunken in, underneath 1-8-0-3.  A washboard completes a broken fence in front of the totem.  Indistinct creeds and centuries.
A shaky sunroom overlooks it all, with a vintage vantage of the bowling balls and sunbathing torsos, pale as December, chipping.
In the garden, some flowers are living, others wilting.  The brownest of which is partly covered by a watering can. 
Christmastime relics, none of which are biblical.
Marty welcomes us to a neighborhood we already live in.
Marty has a loving husband.  And an autistic son.
She thinks things out there need to change.  Our generation.
She suggests the Wexler Center.  She wants the world to be different. 
She is dressed in 1-2-3-4-5 count five shades of green.
She smokes a cigarette, it’s gone out, she puffs the unlit ashes.
Her legs are tanned.
She speaks of bureaucracies as if they are evil.  She then describes a bureaucracy as if it is golden.
So hard to define who is different, who is right or wrong, when you reject the theory of normality.
She has an iphone.  And dislikes wedding cakes.  Her wedding happened during Thanksgiving dinner.  They traded books and exchanged i-do’s, they never lived together, they still don’t, they write notes and talk about love.
Do everything outside of the box and you’ll be just fine, she says.  The struggle – finding the edges of the box, and the bravery to jump them.