Archive for the 'politics' Category

War

When the Caissons went rolling along it was hi hi hee and the field artillery and
the grit and blood and cheery whistles of pink cheeked soldier boys even with death one skin away. Made the greatest generation, that’s what I heard. Saw it in black n white on our 12 inch TV, grainy, mythic, thin and distant.

Do you remember the posters, propaganda films, war bonds, bandages? Me neither.

But I remember live footage, young American soldiers and little Vietnamese children, skin peeling off, eyes like raw eggs, and the shaky boy soldiers when they came home, pumped full of heroin and fear, nodding off then exploding like death blasts in rice fields because something went boom. The tail pipe, the radiator, the plane flying high over head, breaking the sound barrier. Boom. And the sweating young man, the panting child, running, striking, do we think really of the glory of war, do we really?

So they sang. Young men with burnt skin and hubris crushed out like cigarette butts. Young women with dead lovers, Asian children with missing limbs, not the pretty ones adopted in the later round of after effects.

So they sang. Songs of protest and resistance, not loss and longing. Forget love. Send me back my legs, my skin, my heart broken by violence.

Mr. Meek’s calling

It is not right to call the vice president the spare tire. Mr. Meek did not know much about politics, but he knew something about manners, good and bad, and this was a clear case of bad manners. He’d also heard the vice president called bad seed, the Dark Lord, Satan, Pure Evil, and so on. But the one that bothered him the most was the spare tire. Mr. Meek did not know much about politics, but he knew that a spare tire was one that was rarely needed, dead weight, so to speak, and this sat wrong with him. One Sunday after the morning news shows, after months of thinking about it, he got into his Ford Focus and started on a road trip to talk about bad manners. Not about politics, which Mr. Meek did not know much about, but about ways to address one another. Even if, he reasoned, the vice president were the bad seed, the spare tire, Lucifer or the King of the Damned, it was still surely not politic (in the sense of not being polite, you see) to say so and to say so so repetitively.

Mr. Meek’s road trip took him through many towns, cities, states and regions. He’d thought originally of having a rally, if he could gather with him enough people of like mind, people who did not want to batter and chew on the heads of states or on anyone else, people of mild and sensitive dispositions like himself, and so he started by interviewing people in parking lots outside of grocery stores, malls, movie theaters and quick oil change garages. He asked as many questions as he dared, but found, to his disappointment, that people didn’t want to answer many questions.

In Lima, Arkansas, he found that he was lonely, driving through the American freeways night after night, and so he stopped in a pet store and bought the first of what was to be a long line of iguanas, which he raised in a terrarium in the back of his Subaru Forrester. Each night he brought the terrarium in with him to the Holiday Inn Express or the Comfort Inn, and each morning he returned the iguana to the back of the wagon. Iguanas do not like to travel, but they do like warm window seats in the sun belt, and this first iguana, as with all the others, liked to stretch out on the back of the back seat, basking in the bright American sun. It was inevitable that she would lose the tip of her tail to negotiations with windows and hatchbacks, and this too, became a feature of his road trips, from town to town the minstrel of modern etiquette, trying to find the standard by which we might be known, whether it be rustic but well-meaning manners, or polished but insincere, or some hybrid of the two. But what he found, in town after town, was a pattern of disregard thicker in the heartland than corn had been in his father’s time. He started to think of it as an accident, somehow, like the windows that snicked off the ends of his iguanas tails over the passing years. Something had snicked off the civility in public discourse, and it was almost rude now to say anything nice. If you can’t say something nasty, don’t say anything at all, he said to himself in an over-staffed car lot in Phoenix. The iguana bobbed her head and lay down in the sun, admiring Phoenix, admiring the back seat, and iguana had no rude thoughts at all.

All alone on the telephone

There sits Zuzu, all alone by the telephone, thinking about picking it up and dialing. Zuzu is mad again, Zuzu is feeling betrayed. She picks up the phone, looks at the missed calls, checks for unheard messages. Nothing.  Bastard, she thinks. She puts the phone down and goes to the kitchen. Looks at the list she’s had laminated and put on the refrigerator door with magnetic tape. The list of things not to do. Number one on the list is do not sleep with strangers. Dammit, she thinks. Zuzu thinks maybe her list is a little restrictive, but she remembers having thought that before and regretting it later. So she calls her neighbor, Mark, who lives next door and listens to Fox News at top volume day and night. He’s hard of hearing and Zuzu knows from personal investigation that he does not have caller ID. She’s been calling him during the O’Reilly Factor a couple times a week to try and get him to donate to various liberal causes, using assorted accents and fabricated organizations. She’s not exactly hoping he’ll pop a vein, but she is happy that they both feel put out by hearing something outside of their own choir at least once in a while. He picks up. In the background, Zuzu can hear huffing and puffing and pontificating on the TV both over the line and through the wall, which is vibrating. For whatever reason, Mark never just lets it ring, nor does he hang up when he realizes it’s another one of those calls. Instead, he immediately repeats the talking points of the day over and over again until between O’Reilly and Mark there’s a resonant, chanting mantra – white man, brown woman, socialist, failure, terrorist. The rant begins to hum and buzz and throp like a sound whipping by on a train, clicking on the tracks and dragging the chattering chains through the line until she doesn’t hear words anymore, just the sound of anger. This is her one lone pleasure tonight, sitting here all alone by the telephone. Zuzu needs to find something to do.

Billy’s funerals

I am so shocked and celebrated, celibate and debauched. I knew there was a typhoon, I knew there was a storm that would make my mother’s hair curl. My mother, who goes to Larry’s to have her hair washed and set every week. Please understand.

No, don’t, I don’t know about begging. My mother went to Larry’s every week to have her hair washed and set. Before the storm that drug everything out of Mayhem, everything. The pet store, the garden and farm supply store, the pharmacy, the liquor store, the churches, the churches, the churches, the banks, the banks, the banks that rose with the water and washed away our sin.

I remember it, I was planting bulbs and thinking about the wisteria and the wind was rising. Mayor de Troi was holding a press conference to say we are all prepared, we are all prepared, we are all prepared to meet our makers, and she said this with a salt shaker in one hand and a lime in the other.

I’ve been writing for this little weekly newspaper for 12 years now, since I came home to take care of mom, who’s been washed away, washed by the blood of the lamb, only truthfully it appears that it was high tides and bad management that washed away everything in Mayhem, Texas, other than Helen’s big mouth and that parrot. I suppose if I’m a journalist, I’ve got a responsibility to write what I see. And so I did.

 

Billy Gumball became a man the day his mother was washed away by Hurricane Margarita. Zola always thought so, and when she came home to attend the funerals and wear the hair shirt that the prodigal children all wear, she saw him and he was not the same. They embraced, cotton meeting cotton with the familiarity of cousins, and she smiled at him.

That first funeral was numb like novacaine, like stroking out, and half of your body is missing. Half of your body is missing, and my body is my home, my neighbors, my mother, our candy shop and my celibacy. It rained and the wind blew and on my knees I met my maker and I was good and made. Then mother was dead, the parrot was sitting in the window of the candy store where the glass used to be and he was singing yo ho yo ho far away on the Santa Fe Trail.

That was when I knew I would be leaving, and when Zola showed up with her little girl and that coat with the fringes hanging down like she’s Custer only tougher, I knew we’d be going together.

Have you ever been to a funeral for an entire city? Have you ever carried your pen, your laptop, your tiny voice recorder with you to death after death to record in the mud and the stench that all is lost and somehow that is not a dramatic overstatement, but an actual statement that is more literal than anything you’ve ever said before in your life?

I had insurance. Not being dead, I was actually able to collect on it, unlike most of my neighbors, my mother, and Zola’s entire clan. We shook hands at the funeral, I gave her some lemon drops, some ginger chews, some extra hot peppermint, and some rye. In the evening, as the waters receded and the bones of my life were exposed, we drank the rye, and we planned out first steps out, away from Mayhem.

The Menstrual Chronicles

The Menstrual Chronicles, Part I

Wherein we have a problem, a need for absolution, a problem that drops oh soft and miserable onto the sand. The sand where the pilgrims wandered, the sand where the hoi polloi met in tents and barbecue stands, where the ribs were sucked clean and the fingers were washed in the blood of the lamb and in little bowls of clear water. Absolution shooting out of deep skies in lost cities in continents local and far away, as far away as Obiwan as far away as Moses as far away as Jesus as far away as Osama as close as Jerry as close as Mike as close as election day as close as daybreak, as close as faith.

The Menstrual Chronicles, Part II

We planted snapdragons, we did, one spring and they bloomed. We sang to them in the yard, all of us, with the karaoke machine hooked up to the orange extension cord that we jerryrigged with an adapter that made it foolish dangerous but we’d read in a catalog, a farmer’s almanac, a hippie guide to life on other planets that life on this planet is better when you sing to your flowers. So we did, karaoke Joan Jett and Hannah Montana and Alice Cooper and Louis Armstrong, I see skies of blue red roses too I watch them bloom for me and you and I think to myself what a wonderful world. Those were the best snapdragons and daffodils and bluebells and little wild roses that ever grew in our sucking mud clay. Then one day the plug overheated and the cord melted and there was a little spark in the early morning dew and that was the end of our snadragon concert.

The Menstrual Chronicles, Part III

Wherein we have a problem, the problem of virtue and right living, wherein we have a problem of definition and decay, wherein the blessed is the man that walketh not in the council of the ungodly, but rather becomes the reconstitution of mashed potatoes and purified water and loaves and fishes, wherein amendments play American gladiator with commandments and we all sit down and direct our prayers to several kinds of mecca, where our knees are the worn knees of supplicants and carpet layers, where the marshmallow visions come thick, fast, and suffocating.

The Menstrual Chronicles, Part IV

Cyclic, of course, like gardens and bleeding, like saviours and sinners, the devil is a dog with his tail between his legs. We set aside our discontents, said be grateful for where we live, said thank you sweet Jesus for not making me live in Lubbock or Manchester, thank you for soccer, thank you for my libido and yours, thank you for gratitude, thank you for honest mistakes,  thank you for chicken-fried steak, and once again thank you that I can have chicken-fried steak without having to live in Lubbock, A-men.

The Menstrual Chronicles, Part D

Wherein we change all the regulations and re-write the rules and then hold a few meetings and air some dirty laundry and discover that we’ve all been angry and discontented all this time and that secretly we all knew it would never ever work anyway and then we reconvene to discuss the whole mess later, after the funding’s been approved and then we all go home to watch Indian movies, Bollywood taking us far away from all this. We all go home and dream of frog princes in Bombay, their handsome black-lined eyes, their promises, and when Pavlov calls us, we wake willingly.

The Menstrual Chronicles, Part VI

I sit in the radio silence, there is static but in that moment I am meditative, calm, ecstatic, supraservient and then there is a moment, a moment unlike the others in which we watch the sea change from blue to green to black to gold. Fecundity, fidelity, fear, faith, the heirophant and the rod. It’s looking like a game of Texas hold ‘em from here. Play it close to the vest, watch their eyes and their hands and those little twitching places we’ve all got somewhere that gives away our secrets, for those who are looking.

**Take note: This is a completely improvisational, altogether unedited, 30 minutes timed writing in group. I offer no guarantees of quality or sense, it is just pen to paper, write it and let it go.


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