Feeds:
Posts
Comments

The problem with writing poetry, it seems, on a website such as this, is that WordPress can’t be bothered to keep my linebreaks in my poems, and I can’t be bothered to learn to code anything, so we’re at a real impasse here. This blog is due for an overhaul anyway, so look for a new iteration in the coming weeks, possibly hosted elsewhere.

Digital Story: My Grandfather

This is a digital story I was able to create as a part of the Minnesota Writing Project’s Invitational Summer Institute at the University of Minnesota. It’s a fellowship, which I only mention because I was put on academic probation in the fall of 1996 at the same institution for being an idiot/poor attender. It feels good to be earning graduate credits now, and it feels even better to have been able to honor Gervase “Gerf” Daniels, a special guy in my life.

Sanford Florida Public Works

They’re ripping up the sidewalks,
Cardinal calls drowned out
By jackhammers, bobcats.

You can’t weaponize a sidewalk
That isn’t there.
No more crime scene photographs,
no more guns discharged.

This is a peaceful place –
And don’t we all deserve
Some peaceful ground
To stand on?

Soft and grassy,
Surrounded by gates
A worn path in place of pavers.

A word of caution:

This is our life.
People not from around here
Who make us so afraid
That we go towards them
Instead of away –

They don’t get a warning shot
This isn’t Tallahassee,
This is a peaceful place
Where we do what needs doing.

Bring on the jackhammers:
We’ll walk on the grass
If we have to.

I AM FONG LEE

(early draft – feedback is encouraged)

 

I AM FONG LEE

 

Animate an arrow on a map.

Imbued with all of the cultural sensitivity

Of an Indiana Jones movie.

 

Begin in lush Laotian jungle,

Cross continents and seas,

And split

Like the forked tongue

Of a serpent

Or a dragon,

upon reaching the Mississippi.

 

One end lands in Minneapolis,

Calls itself Fong Lee,

And falls

Outside an elementary school

On the nefarious North Side.

 

No saint, this Fong Lee,

Some say, or maybe he was,

Or maybe it doesn’t matter,

When chased on a bike

By cops in a squad car.

 

When rammed, run down,

When running like hell isn’t enough.

 

When shot

Eight times

 

And a gun recovered later

Has no prints,

No bullets fired,

But is anyway attributed to you:

Fong Lee.

 

The arrow’s other end

Lands in Saint Paul,

On my roster.

This Fong Lee is quiet,

But, at least, alive.

 

His shirt reads “I AM FONG LEE”

Comedy and tragedy,

Poetry and politics,

Shakespeare and Espada,

And who knows if Fong

Has read either man’s work?

 

This one gets the joke

Because he tells it,

But forgive his lack of laughter:

There’s nothing funny

About having to know

That some kid with your name

And migratory history

Was killed by cops

Not fifteen miles away.

 

Indiana Jones only had to contend

With snakes

And charicatures of Nazis.

This shit is for real.

 

And so, an arrow splits in two,

Dead ends,

But cannot retract.

It must remain,

A red stain on a map.

Below is the first poem I’ve written in nearly a year, largely because of the duties of teaching and parenting, both of which I love to death and both of which demand a great deal of time of a guy. As it’s been a long time, and I have always thought of myself as an outsider poet at best, I’d like to offer this first draft up to whoever is out there on the other end as an opportunity for critiquing and workshop. Please, don’t be shy, and comment wildly below.

HCP

This poem sets up on the floor

No pretense, no bullshit

Preferring a basement,

Eye level.

 

The secret handshake anyone can learn,

This poem is not interested

In selling

Or in being sold.

 

It is the lyric sheet passed out

At the outset,

Because the words fucking matter,

A butterfly pressed in your pocket.

 

This poem is the moment there by the water heater

That you realized both your privilege and your potential

 

Right

Before

The

Mosh

Part

Took

You

In

 

These are loud stanzas, and, okay,

A little abrasive,

But they know that’s not enough.

 

They are also starry-eyed,

And why not?

 

Nothing good ever came

Out of anything that wasn’t.

Voter ID

This isn’t the most lyrical poem I’ve ever written, that’s for sure, but as the debate about Voter ID rages on (it’s on the ballot as a constitutional amendment in MN this year), I wanted to get at what I think the real problem is: racism.  Communities of color came out for Barack Obama in record numbers in 2008, and I think that there are some who would cynically move to do whatever they can to prevent a repeat of this in 2012, making those same communities pawns, once again, in a game they didn’t consent to playing.  Like a lot of racism, this is of the unexamined variety — voter ID advocates would never make the connection between redlining and the proposed amendment (after all, it isn’t Obama’s skin color they don’t like, just his politics, and I have to say that I believe their sincerity in this) yet there it is, an attempt to further disenfranchise groups of people based on skin color and a socioeconomic status that is directly linked to policies of the past (e.g. redlining).  This kind of historical amnesia is very dangerous for our country.

Voter ID

 

We’re standing on maps left behind by our grandfathers,

Covered in red lines and promises of financial solvency.

We’re the architects of a grand plan all our own.

 

We’ll make a man out of straw and call him voter fraud.

Ask him for identification – what’s the harm in that?

If he doesn’t have it, we deny the vote,

Light him up as an example to others.

 

Use the maps to get it going –

We don’t need them anymore.

 

Behold, arms outstretched in supplication,

A burning beacon in the night,

A cross to light the way.

 

These are times of values.

 

Of course, that’s far too scathing a critique.

After all, we were very careful not to identify

Those most likely not to have identification.

We never said anything

About poverty,

Or transience,

Or skin color,

Or people groups voting in record numbers,

Electing the country’s first black president,

By a landslide.

 

That’s not what this is about.

We just want to make sure we know who you are.

 

What’s the harm in that?

 

 

 

 

Blog Exclusive just means that, being a sort of amateur poet (at best — the “Sickbed Sestina” featured elsewhere on this blog is six lines short of being a true sestina, evidence of how sick I must have really been, I guess), I didn’t bother to try to submit this anywhere.  Of course, as with anything else on this blog, if someone wanted to come along and offer me some money to reprint something, that’s a conversation I’d be willing to entertain.  So desperate sounding!  Anyway, the poem.  It is based on the Texas Republican Party’s 2012 Platform, excerpts from which you can read here.  If you don’t like the poem, just hang in there: it rhymes at the end.

 

The Texas GOP Weighs in on Higher Order Thinking Skills

 

A magician (or a fancy waiter with a lot of flair)

Yanks a tablecloth in one fluid motion.

Audiences gasp, convinced

The silver and china will be casualties

Of this man’s caprice.

 

But that’s not the trick,

And our man is to be commended–

Everything remains in place just so,

Only a little lower.

 

I am neither waiter nor magician,

But a teacher; even so,

I take no joy in having to explain

The more obvious metaphors.

 

So ponder, please, (though of course not critically);

I’ll cut to the candid:

“Challenging the student’s fixed beliefs”

is my life’s calling,

Not because I don’t respect them,

But because I think that someone should.

 

I am a teacher, and this is what I do.

Oppose this work,

And I am a revolutionary, too.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.