Author Archive: admin

An Old Complaint Revisited

In 4th or 5th grade, I refused to say the pledge of allegiance. I stopped putting my hand on my heart and reciting the words, as we all did at the start of the day, turned toward the flag in the corner, speaking along with the voice of the principal on the loudspeaker. My teacher noticed, after a morning or two or three, and asked why I was not saying the pledge. “I don’t understand why I am supposed to,” I told her. I had gotten hold of a book that told the true story of Columbus day and some other of the uglier facts surrounding the “discovery” of a populated New World and the genocide that followed, and I was confused. All I really wanted was to have a conversation, for one of the adults in the school to tell me what is was we were pledging to support, what part of the story, and why so much of it had been hidden from us, at least in school. Predictably enough, none of the adults wanted to have the conversation. I remember the teacher was sympathetic, but also sent me to talk the principal, who was not. My mother…
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Despair is the First Step Toward Liberation

My last post here chronicled some of the bizarre difficulties we’ve had trying to sell our house, but only as a means to explore to how hyper-competitive our culture has become. The need to dominate, to win, to succeed, and to see the world as balanced on these very simple extremes—if you are not a winner, you are a loser—is a terrible way to live, but is also so deeply a part of the way most of us see ourselves, it is difficult to imagine a different world. It is also a culture of violence, to be sure, and a culture of male violence, which is not to say that women are not violent or that all men are, of course, but that this particular kind of violence, a violence done to others in order to dominate them, is much more common in men. I know plenty of evolutionary psychologists claim male violence is an inherent trait, that the male warrior is a role we are born to, that it’s part of our biology. But the research does not bear out that conclusion at all; I prefer the explanation that the domestication of agriculture and large herd animals, which require…
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Winning is For Losers

My wife and I have been trying to sell our house for the last 5 months. Actually, my wife and I have sold our house 3 times in the last 5 months, and each time, something untoward knocked the deal off the rails at the last minute. The first buyer had botched surgery that incapacitated him, the second had some kind of PTSD episode and refused to answer anyone’s phone calls, the third was torpedoed by an unhappy home inspector who had no idea how to properly assess an old house, and then stood on our porch and tried to scare the buyers into buying a monthly warranty, yearly warranty, and a bunch of other upsell crap—this after the house had received excellent inspections from 2 more experienced inspectors as part of the previous sales. So, if I were I believer in signs, I would say something is trying to keep us from moving. But I’m not. Still, we are left with the lingering feeling that somehow we failed, or that there is something wrong with our house. To the latter point, I should say that we really love our house, didn’t want to leave it, just wanted to go…
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Sympathy and Justice

I went to my niece’s High School graduation a few weeks ago, watched as she and 715 of her closest friends sweated to Pomp and Circumstance, and listened to speeches about the future, and superheroes. Never having graduated from HS myself, it was an interesting spectacle, and also rather sad, everyone was trying so, so hard to make it an important and significant event, while also trying so, so hard to look they weren’t trying at all. Near the end, it started pouring, which was a nice reminder of our insignificance, so we huddled under a long bridge that led to the upper tier of seats. Several other groups of people huddled with us, albeit at an appropriate distance, following the tribes-should-not-mingle rule that comes clear during minor key huddling events. 8 or 9 meters down the slope, a buzz-cutted, workout-loving father and his 3 teenish children stood, watching people dash for cover. Up the slope came a woman with some sort of movement disorder who had decided, since she could not dash anywhere, she would just walk in the rain, along with her partner, a fairly overweight man with lots of hair. The whole family watched sideways as they…
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My Not So Real Estate

We have been trying, my wife and I, to sell our house and buy another, which is, as anyone who has been through it knows, just about the most fun you can have without losing a limb. I suppose if one is stinking rich, it’s another easy thing floating by on a river of ease, but if you are stinking rich, you probably aren’t reading this. Actually, if you are not a bot tasked with dumping phishing links cleverly disguised as ads for fake Ray-Bans in the comment section of this site, you probably aren’t reading this, but in any case: we are trying to do the sell-buy two-step and it is not much like fun. The selling part is probably worse, since it involves keeping our current home as much like a hotel as possible, except a hotel where the sparse furnishings are your own, except that the furnishings are not really yours, inasmuch as you cannot treat, say, your coffee table with anything like the casual abandon that you did before, putting things like coffee cups on it, lest they spill, or books, lest they remind potential buyers of your disgusting presence in their dream home. Buying a…
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compassion towards the wicked

compassion towards the wicked – is cruelty to all beings. –Maimonides Like most people, I was very surprised when Donald Trump won the US Presidential election. I trusted that the number of frightened, hateful, motivated citizens was smaller than it was, that the number of people who thought his election would bring about chaos or even the apocalypse was smaller, that there were not enough people to collaborate in giving a craven infant of a man access to nuclear weapons. And I was right, there were more people who thought he should not be President than thought he should, many more, but I also did not count on the assistance of the FBI director and the Russian government and voter suppression in gaming the system for him. All of which is old hat at this point, as Trump’s first week is over and he seems bent on provoking a constitutional crisis, and I am pretty well sick of hearing about the son of a bitch. But being sick of him matters not a bit, as there are people already suffering because of the decisions he has made, people who do not have the same advantages that I do, and so…
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You do unbend your noble strength to think so brainsickly of things

From last year’s model…   Pieces of Silver On the fifty-seventh Thursday of the month, we host a flotilla of sad-eyed immigrant children from the next township over and inculcate them with the values of the merchant class, the evolutionary principles under-girding the sort of life   they want, as their parents have not attained it and never will, hence the sad eyes. Each gets a gift bag stamped “share, with love,” containing a single, sturdy, high thread count oatmeal cookie, a scratch-off ticket, and a small note: “sharing is for pussies.”   Laugh at your own risk, sneer to drown the sound of your craving, we know better. We know where the profit fairy flutters to nest, we know how to look slim and golden, even after the hunt, even after your little Bakunins have done their sloppy best and delivered you to us. (From Kindness in Never Small, 2015)

Another poem from my next book

Another suddenly topical poem, from my next collection. Please join me at Rust Belt Books this Saturday at 3pm for beer and cupcakes and books books books! I Can Hear Her Bones Growing, or Cracking America always tries too hard, chewing with her mouth open, walking her huge, stupid dogs right down the middle of the street, letting them shit just anywhere. Like a trumpet solo in C sharp when C would do just as fine, thank you, like the idea of soloing in the first place, like Miles Fucking Davis, trying way too hard, trying to be cool while the veins in his neck and head swole up like a garden hose after the tap gets flipped and the water flows. She tries too hard and then says things like, “better to have tried too hard than not tried at all,” as though she was Caesar, prescribing the bounds of logic with a sweep of the hand. Laughing too loud, snorting, the guffaw is an American invention. I can’t do much more than say I love you, you big, goofy, toothsome girl, and how strange it is to feel older than one’s parent. I only hope that yours are the…
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Poem from upcoming book….

I have a new book launching Nov 19, and will have parties in Buffalo (Nov 19th) and Rochester (Dec 3rd) to celebrate. Here is a sample that seems relevant: Now It’s Personal The streets were rivers of stars and lovers and the rain came and cooled the hearts of both. Cafes and doorways flooded as the streets jumped their banks. Skulls shrunk, mouths swelled, the chatter was all of angels: angels of marginalia, angels of the engine infernal, angels of my first time, all the cherubim and seraphim of a world bone-drenched by heaven after heaven, heavens plastered on warehouse walls, heavens honking from passing cabs and radios perched on hot dog carts, heavens crackling through the space between satellites.      And as the streets turned to steam the chatter turned and spun itself into a husk the shape of a body, and a man rose from the crowd and donned the husk, showed his teeth, then spoke to the stars and lovers gathered below:      This is my shape, this is my skin, you called and I am here.        The ones who believed believed it was always thus, while the skeptics were not invited to return.        Rooks along the roofline counted…
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The Word “Broken” is Broken

After the recent DDOS attack that launched via the “internet of things,” I read that Anonymous might have been responsible. Turns out they were not, but it did remind me that Anonymous existed, and led me to their web page. The first item on that page was titled “The American Political System is BROKEN,” and to a screed about how the US should get rid of the “two-party system” and change to instant run-off voting. This led me to 3 conclusions: Anonymous is a group with radical means but not a radical agenda; Anonymous does not really understand how instant run-off voting would affect the two-party system; Anonymous, like so many other entities, uses the word “broken” when they do not understand how something works. It is the third item that concerns me most. I’m sure many of us have sat with a child and tried to show them how the toy they believe is broken actually works; I’m sure most of us have been that child. It is this meaning of the word—that is, the wrong one—that pervades the media universe these days. At the very least, people use “broken” to mean “a very complicated problem,” which is another…
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