For people who are able & willing
To this evil, venal system preserve
Though it is the only planet killing
For people who are able & willing
To this evil, venal system preserve
Though it is the only planet killing
Park Bench Philosopher
Park bench philosopher/
Discoursing on life’s meaning/
His certainty binds him/
To the bench he sits on/
Long ago he chose “to know”/
Everything his own way/
Evicting human doubt/
Bound him to that park bench/
Would have long-ago freed him/
Instead (to impress some girl?)/
He chose “omnipotence”/
He sounds like a professor/
To those who will listen/
Those who know, however/
See a bug trapped in amber/
The sap is his creation/
Sticky discourse of self/
Importance eludes him/
In his fabrication/
From within sticky lies/
He builds isolation/
A fortress as concrete/
As the prison’s he describes/
As his butch bona-fides/
Riker’s Island Vacation/
Though he’s never traveled/
Far from the green park bench/
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Here are ten Haikus from my tweetstream from last night. It seemed so important to say this when I should have been living yesterday. I guess I’m amazed at my sensitivity. I think I should be more grown-up. Nonetheless a bitter, angry, bigoted old woman has allowed me to fuck up my day and night. And, though I tried to have a more thoughtful response, all I was capable of was these hot spurts of self pity.
2. If you come home here/
This’ll be your dinner tonight/
Cold Korean soup/
3. It breaks my pink heart/
That unhappy people can/
Steal my happiness/
5. The most valuable/
Real-estate in all New York/
Rests between our ears/
7. Of course, I still want/
All the Accommodation,/
And face no demands/
9. ‘Tis unfortunate/
That I carry enemies/
& keep my friends out/
Spring Structure View Lament
As I stand on the hillock behind my house looking over the gentle slope that rolls down to the stone wall that separates the cemetery from Woodside, I am filled with sadness because of the warm breezes that blow down the back of my neck. In the darkening sky I watch the empire state and Chrysler buildings jump to life I lament the warmth that I’ve been crying for all winter long; this the first winter of our puppy, Lucky. As the buildings get to full voltage on the horizon on the other side of the stone wall, graveyard and river the skies fall dark. Through denuded branches the empire state glows two flavors of pink in a spring cross-marketing promotion of breast cancer and brassieres. The Chrysler building arcs a bright deco-rococo filigree in the center of the mountain of Manhattan skyline. The brilliance of the verge of sky and city on that warming cold spring evening seen through the branches flogging the sky pulls at my heart. Soon the warmth will stimulate the branches and coax out the flush-lush green that will blot it all out. In a week, two, or a month I will stand above that brown stonewall topped with concertina wire and see nothing but trees and leaves. The obstruction will be celebrated far & wide. From the 7 Manhattan-ites will remark “how bucolic” it looks with all the trees & Tudor buildings. I will cringe thinking about all of the views the foliage has suffocated.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
The picture of the building is cracked
Irregular lines and shadows of lines
Scribble in every direction, track
Crossing out the columned stone station
Cops quickly passing a crenellated
Columned, staired stone castle
The cracks are crooked boughs
Of December trees, up and out gasping
Long branches reaching for sun long gone
Zig-zagged boughs couldn’t dodge trucks
Cracked and reversed lay bare winter pain
Now I can see how summer shade is struck
The spring brings out cover to hide
The old “house.” The green pollution smears
The leisurely passing of what’s inside
The strength of the skeleton structure
After Winter Falls
After Winter Falls
Through snakey black trees
A hard world emerges
Out the grey windows
Folks, kids, dads, and moms
Love and hate and pain
Streets of hOpetemism
The course of city life
People living out
City life as humans
Spring buds out green life
Tinting strong lines green
Blotting out the lives
That run past the windows
Buds to leaves become
Hinting at the branch
That holds leaves up, out
Over and along
Bulbous leaves foam out
Green from everywhere
Lush plush green of lies
Life of lives to hide
Where to begin? I was up and at the polls before they opened and there were 20 people there waiting at 5:45 am. By the time they opened the polls in Woodside, where I vote (at 6:08, don’t get me started), there were 100 people there. Excitement lit up the foggy pre-dawn darkness.
The machines were cranky as they started and the people in the 47th district had to wait until the most experienced blue-haired old lady came and jiggled a lever on the back just so to get the machine back into order. I was seventh in the 47th district, 007. You’ve seen the picture.
Teaching and grading papers all day there was a strange air of camaraderie and hope. Spike’s dad put it into words as we watched our kids practice soccer last night before the results were in: “It’s like Nine-One-One, everyone has feeling of secret connection.”
Indeed, as the kids played soccer at McCarren Park two Hasidic men came up with their gloves and joined the Latino guys who were playing softball in the warm November evening. Only in New York do you see Orthodox Jews shagging fly balls with strangers.
As Mason and I drove back to Queens NPR called Pennsylvania for Obama, and one of the wags said: “I can’t imagine a path to the Whitehouse for McCain that doesn’t include Pennsylvania.” Before we got over the Greenpoint Bridge they were calling Florida for Obama, and Mason took my cell and excitedly texted Linda that news (and Dole’s SC Defeat). I came home and ate with supreme hope.
During the day I got an email on my phone from a friend from the 70s who had lived with me in Boston and known me in my messenger days. We had been through a fair amount together and he contacted me out of the blue as a way –I assume– to reach out of his white New England life and celebrate with a dear old friend (of color). I had similar calls and emails from Australia, Ireland and Northern California.
This impulse, this digital coming together is, for us progressives, like coming out after a storm. The last 8 years have been hard. Personally, I have felt “occupied” like I did as a young non-white man in Boston in the 70s.
So these contacts made because of the HOPE of the Obama campaign feel especially good. To be reminded of the good and decent whites who were my dear friends during the horror of bussing in Boston in the 1970s, the people who reminded me that I was a man, a friend, a person of value “un-adjectivized” (not a black man) has begun the thawing.
Before Mr. Obama’s election I was still in my shell. I was a bit jaded and cynical about friends from the “way-back-machine” contacting me and asking me to drink the Kool-Aid. I didn’t want to HOPE because I didn’t want to be disappointed. I have been stand-offish. But their naïve enthusiasm was touching. It reminded me of going to anti war marches and Pete Seger concerts with my parents in the 60s. I don’t think that the 60s, in light of the Republican avarice we’ve lived through from 80 onward, were all that great.
SO last night, and all day yesterday I felt like we had finally become a nation again. I felt the possibility of Human Companionship. On September 11th, 2001 we all receded to our livingrooms to watch our lives and country on television. We got the “Dulce et Decorum Est” romantic version of America. All of those grand Ken Burns PBS documentaries seemed more real than playing baseball or listening to jazz. I feel like our nation slipped into a massive communal state of DuBoisian double consciousness, alienated from ourselves by our image of ourselves as something else.
When Spain was attacked on March 11, 2004 the nation came outside together. After 9-11 we went into our living rooms and isolated. They re-established their humanity in the most basic way. I have been jealous of that European land for these four years. Yesterday we came out. We came out in the millions. We got a 9-11 mulligan and we chose to participate instead of isolate. The contacts from Europe, Australia, California and Vermont are contacts from our higher place. America can stop fearing. We can HOPE again.
One of my colleagues has called this the moment that America becomes Post-Colonial. We have stepped (a little bit) beyond the colonial and imperial traditions we’ve inherited and begun to live up to our constitution. The whole world is breathing a sigh of relief because we can choose someone who has a vision of a greater America that doesn’t have the 1945 and 1992 unipolar American power in mind. “We don’t have to subjugate/ in order to be great.”
America has returned to the dream by electing Mr. Obama. From Dakar to Dushembe, from the steppes of Mongolia to the factories of Viet Nam there are people who are seeing the America of FDR, JFK (neither of whom were angels), the America of hope and individual opportunity, the America of the Great Society, the America of freedom to be (not to earn), for the first time.
GOD BLESS AMERICA
Mason’s Cameraphone Portrait
The kids have been on my mind lately, as much as I have anything on my mind. Chandler, Mason and Lennox are growing and developing in wonderful and exciting ways as they refuse to go out into their new neighborhood and make friends.
Mason was confident after the Hunter Entrance examination test. He was excited and amped up after being such a good young man, following instructions and orders, making it through a Board of Ed (Bored of ed?) hazing gauntlet. Sitting the exam with over 1000 kids, he was gripped -I think- by his growth since he moved to NYC as a suburban Cali boy. He is a great kid and wanted to talk all about it, though he is narratively challenged; most of the explanations and anecdotes he shared didn’t make too much sense.
Chandler called me the other day to explain where the car was as they led me down and out by a few minutes and her instructions were more confusing than the IRS instruction booklet. Her directions had a bout six sentences, none of which told me where the car was, though I could have followed them and gone “out the door to the left, but not all the way to the left, the one with glass, but not just a window of glass, but the whole door.” I would have found it if I had walked out either door because the car was right in front of the building, but the instructions were one of the first times she spoke to me since my Friday Transgression where I failed to pick her up after school.
Lennox has taken to qualified sycophancy. “Dad, you’re the best cook in the world,” she says earnestly looking up from her chocolate chip pancakes. As she finishes chewing that bite she continues, “and I’m not saying that just to be nice, I really mean it.” Variations on this like, “you’re handsome,” “you don’t look like you are 48,” and other such heart-warming-trifles come out whenever she is warm, well fed and well rested. And each compliment, with sincere eye contact, slightly raised brows and her trade-marked too-little-teeth-smile, she always adds the caveat , “and I’m not saying that just to be nice, I really mean it.”
In this little qualification or explanation she is showing her awareness that her utterances might be manipulative and be discounted as such. It’s like she’s read pillowbook and doesn’t want to be grouped with R***r, “the unreliable narrator.” This meta-awareness is a sigh of her new self-awareness. She has obviously seen someone use sycophantic flattery and loose credibility somewhere in Kindergarten or after care when the flattery was challenged. She sees the resultant cost of being tagged an “unreliable narrator” so she uses this catch phrase to inoculate herself against the harsh judgment of the adult world. Even as she puts on chapstick and holds her lips in a self-conscious kissable partition so as not to “remove the gloss” in a pure naïve princess innocence, she is also aware of truth, accuracy and perception as perishable commodities that must be nurtured, supported and protected. I wish her father was as good at reading quotidian political situations.
12/31/07 05:35:55 AM
Where has the year gone? Has it gone into the trash heap or the archives; I’m not sure which. Into the archives is another beautiful year with a wonderful family. We’ve just moved into an apartment which seems to fit us better. We, for the first time, are in a home big enough for all of us (the second bathroom is key).
Here is an outline of the biggies I can think of this minute:
We love our new house and are looking forward to finishing moving in. Three bedrooms and two baths is the right fit for us. Mason has his own room and it is big enough to send him to. 🙂 Chandler and Lennox are working out the wrinkles in their new quasi-cohabitation. Generally permission is granted to cross the armistice line; especially since Lenna got her princess netting and pink rug. It is strange to be in a modern building and the view, as I look over the BQE and east into Woodside and Rego Park and watch the sun rise as I write this the sky and the contours of the land are enthralling to me. I love watching when the LIRR rolls out of Woodside on the way to Jamaica: a long silvery snake a half a mile on.
I am still so in Love With Linda that it scares me. She is the model for everything beautiful and desirable in my life. I wish I could be with her more and, paradoxically, more like her. I am blessed to be chosen by her to spend these days together with her.
Chandler continues to thrive at the TAG school she’s in. She has a lot of homework and does it without complaint, though she looks at the confections of Cable TV as the just and right compensation for her work. At least is is mostly Disnified Pre-Tween Confections, though she will be a teenager on February 23rd.
Mason and I survived the soccer season (he’s quite good) with me as coach, though he declined to play winter league indoors. Mason’s way with words continues to amaze Linda and I mostly because he is not the squeaky wheel. Out of -or out from under- the hubbub of the family Mason will make a wry comment that puts everything that we are all elbowing to the front to try and frame just so into context. He does so uproariously and seemingly without effort.
Lennox is growing up so fast in so many ways. Just like with her sister we are often fooled into thinking that she’s older because she’s so damned verbal. She is also sassy in a way Chandler can only dream of (and rue). So when she puts her hand on her splayed hip and rolls her eyes as she wipes stray locks out of her eyes explaining “whatever, duh!” we lose track of her age (5) and size (just right). We start trying to reason with the sarcastic teenager that she apes rather than the Kindergartener that she is. Needless to say we miss having Kindergarten across the street, but we’ll see how this move will effect our lives (passive aggressively I think the earlier wake-up and travel will be good for the family).
I loved my Fall 1 Classes and I am really enjoying the Lit Elective classes I am teaching. The Contemporary African American Fiction and the Black Lit Survey have been soul-expanding (as much as teaching a class can be). I love the students at LaGuardia CC. Teaching them is a dream come true. In many of their faces and papers I see myself struggling intellectually to come into my own. It is a humbling flashback when I see the same misunderstandings that I made in someone else’s paper. It is a merciful reminder of my current domestic bliss when I see the sturm und drang of youthful courting around campus. I look forward to working on my own intellectual and academic development this next year.
The horror of Amir Hassan Reed’s murder this year has put a lot of things into perspective. I am so grateful to be alive, which I generally take for granted. I take life, mine and my beautiful family’s to be a given that shall continue along, but it “Ain’t Necessarily So.” I had taken it for granted that I would wake up to the same cast that I went to sleep with. It is rare that such a Cause Célèbre visits our lives, and I had often wished that my life would intersect with drama and fame. Sigh, I wish that I had marked my door with blood so this angel never came. What I found most annoying and titillating was the comments left on the SFGate site articles: people who knew the least seemed to make the strongest comments. This puts all of my “Willie-Neckbone-Expertise” into perspective: the more I think I know, the less I know.
I turned 48 this December. I remember in 1974 thinking that it would be the year 2000 when I was 40. It seemed so abstract and distant (and of course I took it for granted that I would live that long). Well until this year I’ve held up well. During the spring my Achilles tendons started to act up (and I didn’t go to the doctor). In the Fall, playing soccer with Mason I tore up my ankle (and I didn’t go to the doctor). This December my ankle got infected and I went to the doctor. I will go to physical therapy soon because I really miss my morning runs through Sunnyside, Woodside, Maspeth and Long Island City. I’m feeling trapped by my infirmity in spite of the fact that I did go for a bike ride yesterday. Linda is sick this morning so I don’t think I’ll have that luxury.
I still haven’t written the great American novel, but I have been working on a story. I haven’t published my dissertation, but I hope to. I want to do more original scholarship rather than just “willie-neckbone” out opinions on things I know little about. So I will continue to do as the Sanskrit Proverb suggests:
Look to this day
For it is life
The very life of life.
In its brief course lie all
The realities and verities of existence,
The bliss of growth,
The splendor of action,
The glory of power —
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision,
But today, well-lived,
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.
Happy New YOU, Love Stafford.