Thursday, May 17, 2018

Queen Oprah

I can barely write poetry anymore.

I just want to write to remember.

I'm happy to be on the side of women overcoming their limitations
and I'm happy to be on the side of African Americans overcoming their limitations.

I'm hoping it's all going toward no limitations based on differences.
Just being. Names and categories be damned.

But in the meantime, I'm going to vote for the black woman.

Even if it's Oprah. Maybe especially if it's Oprah.

Come on Mama, let's dance.




Tuesday, May 15, 2018

perfect day, here and now

1. Took my mom and Bruce on a tour of new school, St. Francis Prep.

2. Teaching Gwendolyn Brooks We Real Cool at LaGuardia, having a revelation about the poem, a 180 degree turn, after 20 years of thinking I knew it. Then reading the best of the class's Golden Shovel poems. Kids blowing my mind with their poems. Then looking at Keats with them. Lots of one on one conversations in the room about KEATS!!! with kids that don't normally read anything. Looking them in the eye as I talk to them. Learning from them. Thou still unravished bride of quietness. Ideal class.

3. Watching both my girls, 6 and 8, erupt in peals of laughter over dinner.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

nyc date night with mom

My mom is in town so I took her to a party at NYU's Skirball called "Aunts Is Dance", a free event, with several dance performances and a Free Boutique. The idea of the Free Boutique is that you bring something to the party to give away, and in return you shop among the other things people have contributed. It's a great idea. I forgot to bring something to add to the boutique, so I ran around SoHo until I came across the Magic shop, went in and bought several 7 sided magic dice and a pack of Magic cards to add to the mix. 

On the way back to the theater I stopped to get a coffee. The barista had her back to me as I approached the counter. Then she spun around in a dramatic manner, put her chin on her hand and said, "What can I do for you, fine sir?" I said, "Wow, that's the best greeting by a barista I've ever gotten." She said, "I do what I can. I'm a professional." As a tip I gave her one of the 7-sided dice I bought. She said, "I always wanted one of these! Can I give you a hug?" Sure, so she came around the corner and gave me a big hug. "Sugar for my coffee," I said. Then the other barista, watching the whole thing, came out and gave me a card for a free coffee. Score.

I went back to the Free Boutique and picked out a gift for Gen and the girls, then we went into the space. 

The first dance performance we saw was a naked woman in a superman flying position across the bottom rungs of a ladder. It was such an elegantly beautiful arrangement that it took a moment to take in the piece's implications. She continued to work her way around the ladder and strike poses in a sculptural and evocative way.

There were several other performances in this vein around the lobby and basement of the theater, but you couldn't go into the main theater itself. On the walls were monitors showing the performance inside the theater, a lone woman dancing on the stage, to an empty audience. We were all watching her from the lobby. 

After the performances DJ br0nz3 g0dd3ss came out and everyone danced, we were inspired. 

IFC was around the corner so we went to see a movie, "Columbus," a film about architecture and family relationships, among other things, set in in Columbus, Indiana. It was so good that it made me fall in love with cinema all over again, the way great cinema can make you fall in love with life. There was just one sublime moment after another. Definitely see it on the big screen if you get a chance.  

Finally we wrapped the night up by sharing a midnight Ramen and Sapporo at a local joint. My mom had never had Ramen before. She loved it. 

A great date night with mom.  

Thursday, September 7, 2017

today

Good first day of teaching at LaGuardia Community College. 30 or more kids waiting behind each elevator when I got there, so I took the stairs. Huge building, halls that seemed to go on forever.

Good kids. Queenstastic mix of African, Indian, Nepalese, French, Filipino.  Attentive, soft spoken. And my hearing's shot too, so I had to ask them to repeat themselves a lot. It was kind of comic, especially when I would misunderstand them. "Did you say you liked Coldplay?"  "Noooo. Opia!"

I asked them their favorite movies, books and music. Half of the movies I knew. Maybe quarter of the music artists. And most of them did not have a single book they liked, or else they spouted something they were made to read in HS. Most of these kids don't read books.

Lord of the Flies came up as one woman's favorite book and I asked her if she bought the premise. She said, "It could happen." She mentioned the controversy surrounding the new adaptation, explained the book is meant to be a criticism of masculinity, but the boy roles are all played by girls in the adaptation, so it's not true to the book. Then I asked if the gender switch was conceived by a man, and she said yes. "Sounds like maybe the dude's got issues?"  Good discussion.

Another student said he only read articles. Like what? "Like recently an article on DACA." A hot button topic. My guess is a few of these kids are personally affected. "And on Irma too." We talked about the hurricane that was, as we spoke, devastating the Carribbean, how it is the largest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. One student spoke up and said, "There are two hurricanes behind that one too." Again, I had the sense that more than one student had families that were being affected. There was a moment of tense and solemn silence in the room.

After introductions I had them write a Golden Shovel poem, Terrance Hayes' invented form named after a Gwendowlyn Brooks line, wherein he takes a short poem and embeds each successive word into the last line of a new poem.  I used the Brooks poem the form was named after, "The Pool Players. Seven at the Golden Shovel." I look forward to reading them.

Then we read and discussed Hayes' own Golden Shovel of the same poem, which lead to, among other things, a discussion of the terms "catharsis" and "synaesthesia," which none of the students had heard of before.

As I was writing the poem on the board, with my terrible handwriting, I told (myself) them the story of serving Muhammad Ali roomservice and how he showed his greatness by taking a full minute to perfectly sign his check with hands shaking from Parkinson's disease. How I was still learning that lesson. Badly.

Finally I gave them their assignment, to pick a song they like that seems to say something important and write 5 or 6 sentences about what the song is saying, what it means, trying to locate an argument if they can.

Not that you asked.







I had them

Students super polite and listening. My hearing is worse.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

quip

QUIP
(for Man)
So many dirigibles of musical windwaves
wallowed in the breeze tonight
sunnyside up like poet trees
hands of wood
wooden wands
wandering the ways
for centuries in the future
of already eternity
(In this space several verses were lost,
which ended
I believe
with
I'm moving away from myself)
I'm all the way on the spectrum,
or was, or can be, in a dream last night
I was clapping along to Zenen Zeferino
and Julia Del Palacio, both of whom I am
in love with, I mean those names alone
make me swoon.
And Oh My Goddess
Paolo Javier was there
By far the youngest ever
Queens Poet Laureate
a wizard with words
His second child still on the way
He graced our play
with his name
Paolo Javier
Say it all night
Radio Jarocho too, the way Julia
said it, rolling the rrrrs, rrrradiohairrrrocho,
the blue dress, the voice aloft & loose
in the wisps of rain on the last refrain
we couldn't believe it was true. Through.
Richard Joo was there and Quinn O'Sullivan
Marco Battisto and Diana Dimutru
The representatives were out in force
Jaime Sweetman rocking that sweet Liverpudlian brogue,
plus Argentinian, Indian, Morrocan tongues too, to name a few.
So many blessings in diguise, especially that moment
when the sound went awry -feedback on the monitors- and Julia
decided to take the band off the system,
walked off the stage and into the crowd
circled everyone around her and played sans sound
the sudden intimacy, everyone clapping,
every one completely under the spell of the evening
as if the feeback was just for that
And then, there it was, the coup de grace
The rhythms of Julia's feet
dancing with Amoa's djimbe
Amoa from Akoko Nante
the band that played previously
came back up for the encore
the two cultures riffing rhythmically
back and forth in perfect synchrony
Amoa from Akoko Nante
Say it with me
Say it outloud
Amoa from Akoko Nante
Julia Del Palacio
and Zenen Zeferino
More pleasing words you will not find




Monday, April 24, 2017

April 25

The days go by, and so much is so banal: getting things done, watching something stupid on TV. But then there are those moments, where your daughters tell you that you are the best dad ever, or you’re holding them, or making them laugh and it is anything but banal. I’m thinking this morning about something Sofia asked, “How did God form?” Something she said she’d been thinking about for a long time and had a feeling she would be thinking about for a long time to come. I posted this on FB and a rastafarian friend responded that God was energy that had always been here and always would. That makes intuitive sense, but also just makes the head spin faster. How could something just always be? It makes being alive so poignant somehow, the more you think about it. And I’m thinking about it extra hard because I’m listening to an esoteric book, “You Are The Universe,” which talks about many things, including different theories for how the universe formed, and especially how many perfectly precise “accidents” had to occur for us to be here, to form anything at all, to form DNA for instance, and how odd it is that we can reason all of this out. It just leaves you with a sense of awe. Hard to get any housework done when you stop and try to take in eternity. You feel so impossibly small and impossibly large at the same time. Like at some level the universe points to you as a culmination. And sometimes I feel like that, like I’m grooving with everything. But also I’m an idiot who can barely function in life, not to mention infinitesimally small in comparison to this city, let alone the planet and the billions of stars beyond us.

***

One member of my family was complaining about another member of my family, and I’m listening, and I’m wondering if all of this complaining is necessary. Suddenly I remember a line from a Trevor Hall song I heard recently, “Don't you carry stones in your bowl of light.” I like that idea, that any resentment or upset you carry is like carrying stones. But immediately after I had that thought a line from the song I was listening to, the Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, jumped out at me... “[there is] a time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together.”

Amazing timing. I’m a writer, so always fitting words together, stitching them into meaning, and it’s hard to ignore the precision of the timing of these words in a moment like this. I’m having a thought that is a judgment, “this person is complaining and these complaints are like carrying stones.” And the radio immediately answers me with, “there’s a time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together.” I’d never even considered these lyrics before. What the hell does casting away stones and gathering them together even mean? But now here they were, a clear and direct response to my thoughts: don’t judge the complainer. Maybe it’s time to gather these stones together? Maybe it’s time to do something about the problem?

It’s a good example of how quick witted and full of wisdom the universe can be if you are listening.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

TO BE SAVED FOR (FROM) THERAPY

panic attack?

not sure what this is?

not sure about anything.

my heart is beating fast. i'm afraid.

can't tell if this physical or spiritual.

the two conflate. can't tell if I'm afraid because of my heart. or that I can't feel my face or that I feel as if I"m dying, or if I feel as if I"m dying because I'm afraid. Afraid of losing of my family. 

Afraid of being irrelevent. Afraid of the anger of Genevieve. Afraid of disappointing her.  Afraid of being pathetic. Afraid of not mattering. 

Am I dying because I'm afraid or afraid because I'm dying.

Unbearably painful words from the woman I love. I honestly am not sure I could survive without her. People always think that and they're fine. But my body is rebelling. My face is numb. My shoulders. My heart is beating too fast. 

It ry to slow down my breath. No good. better. a little better. 

i open the computer and a cat sound is let out, from a cartoon the girls were watching, and I'm freaking out again. I'm not sound. I'm not solid. I'm not together. My wife is killing me, although it is not her, it is me, because I'm the master of my feelings. 

I need to write her a long letter telling her where I'm coming from. 

We are in dire straights. 

Like Mark Knopfler. 

Not funny.

I feel slightly better. 

I need to get stronger.

I need a job.

I need to feel self-esteem. 

I need to be loved.

My daughters love me. 

My wife hates me.

She opposite of loves me.

And I'm so sad for her. I love her so much that I'm sad for her for not being able to love me. 

I disgust her. And the part of me that she makes feel disgusting hates her for making me feeling that way. I'm responsible for how I feel, but how do I not crack under the gaze of her disgust. How do I just sit there and take it? 

My body is asking for something, but I don't know what I can do for it. Besides meditate. Besides somehow finding a real job, one that can support a family. 

I can't be the stay at home dad. the stay at home mom.