Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Armistice Day 11/11/15

(Click on the comic strip for a larger view.)

In 1959, Pogo creator Walt Kelly wrote:

The eleventh day of the eleventh month has always seemed to me to be special. Even if the reason for it fell apart as the years went on, it was a symbol of something close to the high part of the heart. Perhaps a life that stretches through two or three wars takes its first war rather seriously, but I still think we should have kept the name "Armistice Day." Its implications were a little more profound, a little more hopeful.

You said it, brother.

Thanks to all who have served or are serving, on this Veterans Day, or Remembrance Day, or Armistice Day.

This post is mostly a repeat I run every year, since I find it hard to top Kelly.

My latest post on war is "Sense and Insensibility."

Six years ago now, I wrote a series of six related posts for Armistice Day (and as part of an ongoing series on war). The starred posts are the most important, but the list is:

"Élan in The Guns of August"

"Demonizing of the Enemy"

"The War Poetry of Wilfred Owen"

***"Giddy Minds and Foreign Quarrels"

"The Little Mother"

***"War and the Denial of Loss"

The most significant other entries in the series are:

"How to Hear a True War Story" (2007)

"Day of Shame" (2008)

"The Poetry of War" (2008)

"Armistice Day 2008" (featuring the war poetry of Siegfried Sassoon).

"They Could Not Look Me in the Eye Again" (2011)

"The Dogs of War" (2013)

"The Courage to Make Others Suffer" (2015)

I generally update these posts later with links to appropriate pieces for 11/11 by other folks as I find them. If you've written one, feel free to link it in a comment. Thanks.

(British soldiers.)

Others' posts for 11/11:

"Armistice Day," by John Quiggin at Crooked Timber.

"Poppy Love," by Maria Farrell at Crooked Timber.

"The Thirteenth Anniversary of the Walk," by syrbal-labrys at Herlander-Walking.

"Bitter as Wine from Blood: A Poem for Veterans Day," by syrbal-labrys at Herlander-Walking.

"On This Veterans Day," by Paul Wartenberg at You Might Notice a Trend.

"Lest We Forget," by Shakezula at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

"Happy Veterans Day," by Adam L. Siverman at Balloon Juice.

Sense and Insensibility

On Armistice Day (or Veterans Day, or Remembrance Day), it’s an especially good time to pause and reflect. Those most eager for war are rarely the ones who will fight or pay the costs. Requiring a high threshold for war is the position of basic sanity; it’s common sense. Yet saber-rattling and posturing bravado always sell well to certain crowds, and blithe imperialism will eternally be fashionable among a particular vacuous and powerful set. What’s ignored is the human experience and the inevitable suffering of people a step or two (or many) removed.

World War I, the Great War, which sadly proved not to be “the war to end all wars,” was raging 100 years ago. One of the war’s best poets was Wilfred Owen, who tragically died shortly before the war’s end. I’ve featured his poetry before, including this piece, but was reminded of it again recently:

By Wilfred Owen

Happy are men who yet before they are killed
Can let their veins run cold.
Whom no compassion fleers
Or makes their feet
Sore on the alleys cobbled with their brothers.
The front line withers. 
But they are troops who fade, not flowers, 
For poets’ tearful fooling:
Men, gaps for filling:
Losses, who might have fought
Longer; but no one bothers.

And some cease feeling
Even themselves or for themselves.
Dullness best solves
The tease and doubt of shelling,
And Chance’s strange arithmetic
Comes simpler than the reckoning of their shilling.
They keep no check on armies’ decimation.

Happy are these who lose imagination:
They have enough to carry with ammunition.
Their spirit drags no pack.
Their old wounds, save with cold, can not more ache.
Having seen all things red,
Their eyes are rid
Of the hurt of the colour of blood for ever.
And terror’s first constriction over,
Their hearts remain small-drawn.
Their senses in some scorching cautery of battle
Now long since ironed,
Can laugh among the dying, unconcerned.

Happy the soldier home, with not a notion
How somewhere, every dawn, some men attack,
And many sighs are drained.
Happy the lad whose mind was never trained:
His days are worth forgetting more than not.
He sings along the march
Which we march taciturn, because of dusk,
The long, forlorn, relentless trend
From larger day to huger night.

We wise, who with a thought besmirch
Blood over all our soul,
How should we see our task
But through his blunt and lashless eyes?
Alive, he is not vital overmuch;
Dying, not mortal overmuch;
Nor sad, nor proud,
Nor curious at all.
He cannot tell
Old men’s placidity from his.

But cursed are dullards whom no cannon stuns,
That they should be as stones.
Wretched are they, and mean
With paucity that never was simplicity.
By choice they made themselves immune
To pity and whatever moans in man
Before the last sea and the hapless stars;
Whatever mourns when many leave these shores;
Whatever shares
The eternal reciprocity of tears.

These are old and recurring themes, and this poem resonates across eras. It spoke to World War II veteran Eugene Sledge, who wrote the war memoir With the Old Breed (part of the basis for the series The Pacific and also used in the Ken Burns documentary, The War). Sledge recommended the piece to Studs Turkel during his interview for Turkel’s great, ironically titled oral history, The Good War. Remarking on the poem’s speaker, Sledge observed, "This is the only way he can cope with it mentally... and he hates to see his buddies killed."  (It’s fascinating to listen to the discussions between Sledge and Turkel because Sledge is so candid and reflective, and Turkel is so genuinely interested in other human beings.)

“Insensibility” covers a great deal of ground in a short space – it expresses a sardonic wit, explores numbness (whether voluntary or involuntary) as a survival mechanism, and ponders “Chance’s strange arithmetic,” an apt phrase for a perennial wartime fear. Insensibility isn’t the only possible response – Sophocles explored rage and madness in his 5th century BCE play, Ajax, a piece that still resonates with modern audiences, particularly those who have experienced combat. How does someone deal with such experiences? It’s not easy, and sometimes the response may indeed be post-traumatic stress disorder (the “shell shock” of an earlier era), or numbness, or rage, or depression, or fatigue, or some mix, or something else altogether.

This is an old story, but not one our country has grappled with well, especially as it plays out against actual human beings. Obviously not every veteran is a powder keg, and that’s definitely not the point of discussing this – the issue is whether we’re offering adequate help to those who need it. A set of 2014 studies bolsters past findings on PTSD and its prevalence. It can be treated, but there’s still a heavy and unfortunate stigma attached. Anthony Pike of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) observed that “An estimated 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are diagnosed with PTSD or depression, and most civilians are unaware that 22 veterans take their own lives each day.”

Reportedly, the military has gotten better at addressing PTSD and similar issues over the years. But for perspective, military spending by the U.S. has often exceeded 600 billion a year in the past decade or so, and that trend looks to continue when everything is tallied. Given all that money, perhaps more could be diverted to the general mental health and well-being of servicemen and women. Perhaps more effort could be made at addressing attitudes that PTSD or other problems are due to a lack of character (or, as we’ve explored in previous posts, a lack of religious faith).

Wars of choice are unconscionable (and we’ve explored that in depth in other pieces), but especially if one supports such a war (or really any war), it’s inexcusable not to take care of that war’s veterans. That means not serving up hollow slogans or flag-waving or jingoistic platitudes and instead providing actual help, from physical health care, to mental health care, to jobs programs. (Honestly, all of that would a good idea for the whole country, too.) The vacuous, the rabid, and the dullards might not want to discuss such things – or any of the negative consequences of war – but addressing them remains a matter of basic decency and common sense.

(Cross-posted at Hullabaloo.)

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Banned Books Week 2015

It's the end of Banned Books Week, which celebrates reading challenged and banned books. I've written more extensive posts on this in the past (the archive is here), but I did want to revisit a few issues.

The most recent list of "Frequently Challenged or Banned Young Adult Fiction" features some familiar works:

1) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”

2) Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi

Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”

3) And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”

4) The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”

5) It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris

Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”

6) Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group. Additional reasons:

7) The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence

8) The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”

9) A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group

10) Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

Reasons: sexually explicit

A past post covered The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. The latest ban, from April, is troubling if also laughable and familiar. From the National Coalition Against Censorship:

According to recent press accounts, Alexie’s award-winning young adult novel was removed from the middle school curriculum in Waterloo, Iowa—a decision made based on one parent’s complaint and in blatant violation of the district’s own policies regarding challenged materials.

Today, NCAC’s Kids’ Right to Read Project (KRRP) sent a letter urging the district to reinstate the book. Alongside allies from the American Booksellers for Free Expression, National Council of Teachers of English, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, PEN American Center, and the Association of American Publishers, KRRP points out that the “decision to remove the book was made on an ad hoc basis without following the district’s policy for reviewing book challenges, and with no input from teachers.”

The Waterloo school district entirely disregarded its procedure for dealing with challenges, based on the specious argument that the parental objection—based on profanity and sexual references—was never a “formal” challenge.

The KRRP letter argues the decision “to remove a book with such strong literary and pedagogical merit not only disserves the educational interests of students but also raises constitutional questions…. the attempt to alter school curricula in response to individual objections means privileging the moral or religious beliefs of some families over others. It is precisely this form of viewpoint discrimination by government that our constitutional system is designed to prevent.”

The ban was issued by Debbie Lee, the "Waterloo School District’s executive director of K-12 curriculum." From the news article linked above:

The concern of the parent, Lee explained, did not constitute a “challenge,” so there was no need for the creation of a review committee.

That's a cute trick. Lee wanted to ban the book, so she issued an edict and bypassed her own district's policies. It's worth noting that Lee has allowed the book for high school, but not middle school. That doesn't make her decision any less dictatorial, though – she and a few administrations made this call, deliberately excluding teachers and dissenting parents.

And what was the reaction from teachers? (You know, the people who actually interact with students on this material?)

Kevin Roberts is a literacy teacher at George Washington Carver Academy, a middle school in Waterloo. He was leaving school for spring break when he got the email [from Lee banning the book].

Roberts had recently wrapped up a unit about “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” in his eighth-grade advanced literacy class. He knew how much his 13- to 14-year-old students had related to the novel’s depiction of adolescence and struggle against adversity. He said some students told him it was the only book they had ever read they actually liked.

On March 25, Roberts replied to Lee and all the other teachers and administrators included in the email thread.

“As one who has used this book in the classroom, navigated the references to masturbation and profanity and fostered rigorous dialogue about theme and action in our community, I disagree with the blanket censorship of this book,” Roberts wrote.

Deciding what books to use in class based on whether they were "controversial" was problematic in Roberts' eyes, but what troubled him most was how the Alexie novel was removed, and by whom.

“Allowing one person to deem a book inappropriate and require all copies of that book to be returned is a breach of those guidelines,” Roberts wrote in reference to district policy. “More importantly, the choice to put this decision in the hands of one person reflects poorly on our district’s teacher professionals who deserve a voice in this process.”

Roberts’ concerns about district policy were echoed by at least four other teachers and staff members over the last few weeks in the email thread, all of whom have asked not to be identified in this story. . . .

“Saying this book was not challenged, and therefore the district policy requiring a review process is not necessary goes against the spirit of the district policy," he wrote.

Relatedly, The Washington Post recently published a piece on by banned author Jacqueline Woodson. It's thoughtful, but has a lousy, clickbait title (likely an editor's choice), "It’s Banned Books Week again. Can we stop yelling at each other about it?"

Woodson, the mother of two children, 7 and 13, hopes for greater dialogue, less shouting.

“Everybody wants to believe that they’re in the right place,” she said. “And I think that’s the same way for people who are challenging books. These people see violence or something sexually explicit, and they think, ‘We don’t want our kids exposed to that because we want to protect them.’

“I definitely can understand parents having objections. As a mom, as someone who wants to protect my children in any way that I can, I can kind of get inside the heads of people who are saying, ‘This is not okay,’ only because they’re fearful. That’s where I can begin to have the conversation. I think people are willing to talk about anything if you come to it with kindness. But there are all these conversations that I fear are not being had, and as a result, we get banned and challenged.”

For Woodson, those conversations involve asking, “Are you really protecting your child, or are you keeping your child from the tools they’ll need to deal with these issues?”

If she hears a parent say, “I’m afraid that my daughter will see something sexually explicit and will want to do that,” Woodson responds, “Okay, but let’s talk about what it means to be a teenager. Let’s talk about what it means to have hormones.”

“We, as adults, are the gatekeepers,” she said, “and we have to check our own fears at the door because we want our children to be smarter than we are. We want them to be more fully human than we are.”

She sees books offering solace to kids who feel different or unaccepted. We never know when a young person will read something and think, “Wow, I’m not as alone as I thought I was.”

This is a fantastic approach. As we've explored in previous years, certain parents get very anxious about their teenagers regarding sex, and act in counterproductive ways. (The entirely predictable increase in teen pregnancies in regions dictating abstinence-only sex education is a prime example.) Humanizing these situations the way Woodson does can help cut through some of the resistance.

A few caveats are in order, though. Not all parents truly want their children to "be more fully alive" than they are. For some parents, fear and and the urge to control override all else. The authoritarian model preaches obedience, not giving someone 'the tools he or she needs to deal with these issues.' Likewise, the "yelling" and "shouting" is almost exclusively initiated by the pro-censorship crowd, who are picking these fights in the first place. Moreover, they don't want an honest discussion of issues or a fair fight. This isn't surprising, given that the entire point of censorship is to prevent engagement.

For instance, if Debbie Lee had actually formed a review committee, perhaps she still could have banned Alexie's book, but she did an end-around the process instead. Was it because she feared losing? Was it because she was in a position of power, could impose her will and felt she was unaccountable? Related to this, was it because she felt, by virtue of cultural demographics or something similar, that she and those like-minded were clearly correct (or even righteous), so fair process be damned?

Would-be censors often skip over a key dynamic this passage touches on:

And yet Woodson readily admits that she has removed books from her own children’s shelves — at least temporarily. She remembers one title in particular, but declines to name it, with a young narrator whose English was poor. “My kids were mimicking her language in a way that made me, as an English major, crazy. The character was also very, very rude to adults.” So she had “the conversation” with her daughter: “Is that kind, what she just did to that teacher?” And her daughter sagely responded, “No, but that’s fiction. You don’t do that in real life!”

The book went back on her shelf.

We've discussed this in previous years, but no one's ever really challenged the rights of a parent to make decisions about their kid's reading. (The wisdom of such decisions, perhaps, but not the right.) Would-be censors aren't merely saying, "I don't want my kid to read this, and my kid should be exempted." They're saying, "I don't want my kid to read this, and no other kids can be allowed to, either." These two actions are significantly different. In the context of school curricula, discussing whether a particular book has merit and whether it's age-appropriate is important, of course, but mechanisms exist for doing this (such as curriculum meetings among teachers, or the public review process Debbie Lee circumvented). There's a line misattributed to Mark Twain that nonetheless makes this point quite well: "Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it."

Students can almost always handle material much better than their fearful parents believe, too. As it turns out, Woodson's daughter was assigned The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and she told her mother, “That book is so good I cannot believe it was assigned.” With a good curriculum, that shouldn't be a rarity. With a heavily censored curriculum, it's the rule.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Talk Like a Pirate Day 2015

As is traditional for Talk Like a Pirate Day, I'll be using a English-to-Pirate translator on a scalliwag. This year, it's Sarah Palin and her latest childish, taunting word salad. The original can be heard or read here. (Rachel Maddow played it and said, "Tell me what it means.") Rendered into pirate, it's:

So up thar in Alaska, across t' way Russia. You know thar be a name for this takin' advantage o' America. There be a Russian name for that. And it be called 'fortushka.' And that means Obama's window o' opportunity. So as Obama leads from behind t' skirt o' his starboard-hand man, Valerie Jarrett, then it's up t' Congress t' close that window. He may propose. You dispose, Congress. You gotta be in it t' win it because we want peace. With unapologetic mighty red, white, and blue, will have peace.

That might actually be more coherent.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Labor Day 2015

Happy Labor Day! I've featured this one before, but this is a great rendition of one of the best tunes for the day. It's from the Pete Seeger 90th birthday concert.

My most in-depth post for Labor Day was this 2011 post.

If you wrote a post celebrating the day, feel free to link it in the comments.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Experiential Pagan's Book Reviews

Over at Experiential Pagan, syrbal-labrys has started a series of book reviews. She has an interesting and personal take on Go Set a Watchman, the Harper Lee book recently released with some controversy. Regardless of the book's origins and publication history, it's sparked some good discussions. (The review is hard to excerpt without spoiling it, so I won't.) Syrbal-labrys also provides a short review on Angela Carter's work. Check 'em out.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Independence Day 2015

Happy Independence Day!

The history of the United States of America contains some shameful chapters as well as moments that merit legitimate pride. It's far better to view the country as a work in progress instead of something unimpeachable. I've often featured E.J. Dionne's framing of these dynamics from 2006 in "A Dissident's Holiday." An excerpt:

...The true genius of America has always been its capacity for self-correction. I'd assert that this is a better argument for patriotism than any effort to pretend that the Almighty has marked us as the world's first flawless nation.

One need only point to the uses that Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. made of the core ideas of the Declaration of Independence against slavery and racial injustice to show how the intellectual and moral traditions of the United States operate in favor of continuous reform.

There is, moreover, a distinguished national tradition in which dissident voices identify with the revolutionary aspirations of the republic's founders.

As usual, here's a mix of videos. First up, here's the Declaration of Independence, read by an interesting and somewhat odd collection of actors:

This piece incorporates some great quotations, many pushing for social progress:

I've featured the Muppets before, but here's their new piece:

Finally, it's hard to top Pete Seeger singing his pal Woody Guthrie's most famous song:

Have a good Fourth! Feel free to link any appropriate pieces in the comments (and I may update the post as well).


Digby has a piece up at Salon about The violent history of "real Americans."

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Courage to Make Others Suffer

On the eve of war in Washington, journalists and others gathered at a cocktail party at the home of Philip Taubman, the Washington bureau chief of the New York Times. . . . Judy Miller was one of several Times reporters there, and she seemed excited. Another journalist present asked if she was planning to head over to Iraq to cover the invasion. Miller, according to the other guest, could barely contain herself. "Are you kidding?" she asked. "I've been waiting for this war for ten years. I wouldn't miss it for the world!"

Hubris, by Michael Isikoff and David Corn (via Jon Schwarz).
“I must say, I’m a little envious,” Bush said. “If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed.”

“It must be exciting for you . . . in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You’re really making history, and thanks,” Bush said.

– A 2008 videoconference between Bush and U.S. military and civilian personnel.
In a post-Sept. 11 world, I thought the prudent use of violence could be therapeutic.

Richard Cohen, looking back on the Iraq War in 2006.

There's a breed of pedigreed dolt endemic to Washington, D.C. They determine their opinions socially, not empirically; what "everybody knows" trumps facts any old day. Their notion of tough, hard-nosed realism invariably entails that other people should suffer, from the blithe imperialism that cheers on unnecessary wars to the 'sensible centrism' that insists that unnecessary cuts to the social safety net are absolutely imperative. (The occasional safely contrarian view offers some novelty and the gloss of independence without truly challenging the establishment framework.) They remain cheerfully cloistered from the effects of their pronouncements about what the less privileged should be doing (and should be having done to them).

Among this crowd, going to war – or rather, sending others to war – is not a matter of careful deliberation; it is a matter of fashion.

Supporting and opposing war are not automatically respectable and equally valid positions; requiring a high threshold for war is the position of basic sanity, akin to a doctor making sure that amputating a limb is actually necessary before proceeding. A truly unavoidable conflict can be argued for with evidence and reason. If instead a war advocate lies, or constantly shifts rationales, or routinely exaggerates and fear-mongers, or slanders the patriotism of skeptics, or seems eager for war… it's cause for grave concern. Human beings will die in a war; death cannot be undone. Inevitably, not only supposed villains will suffer. Someone who can't be bothered even to pretend to treat war with the appropriate weight should not be trusted.

With a new presidential election cycle starting, we've seen many politicians, pundits and supposed journalists make revisionist claims about how the Iraq War started. It's crucial to remember that it wasn't an honest mistake nor was the case for war honestly made. Fighting against memory hole efforts are Digby, Paul Krugman (one and two), James Fallows, Josh Marshall, Greg Sargent, driftglass (one, two and three), Steve Benen, David Corn, Duncan Black, Matt Taibbi, the Columbia Journalism Review and The Daily Show, Balloon Juice, and I'm sure many more I've missed. (It's worth noting that the revisionism started almost immediately, and generally went unchallenged.)

Some war advocates had reservations; far more were largely uncritical of the Bush administration's case for war. There was a disturbing (if sadly unsurprising) trend of treating war skeptics as unpatriotic or even traitors. The key problem with belligerently cheerleading war (at its worst, gleeful bullying), wasn't that such people were socially obnoxious, although they were – it's that they helped create a climate where authority wasn't questioned, and skepticism was pilloried. They increased the chances of an unnecessary war. They increased the chances of unnecessary death and destruction. Avoiding those consequences – requiring a high threshold for armed conflict – is the entire point of war skepticism. It's not a game. Likewise, the reason to point out that the Iraq War was sold dishonestly, and that war advocates were wrong (or dishonest), is not for social bragging rights, but to prevent unnecessary wars in the future.

All of this should be completely obvious, but among the political class, it isn't. Far too many war advocates then and now treat such decisions as an issue of status and face, an abstract, intellectual game or "a low-stakes cocktail party argument" (to borrow a phrase from Jamelle Bouie). A few former war advocates have learned something profound, but for most of them, a true self-accounting would be too painful (and deep reflection has never been their nature anyway). Cloistered dolts rarely suffer for their careless decisions. And for many advocates, whether delusional or coldly clear-eyed, war was and is profitable. In Greek and Shakespearean tragedies, the instigator often suffers the effects of his own hubris, and it can lead to reflection, redemption, or at least recognition – for the audience if not the character. In politics and warmongering, hubris characteristically entails that someone else pay the costs.

(For more, see a 2013 post, "The Dogs of War.")

Thursday, April 30, 2015

National Poetry Month 2015

April is National Poetry Month. As usual, I'll link the wonderful Favorite Poem Project.

For this year, I wanted to feature a lovely poem that I wasn't familiar with before this year. (At a memorial service for my favorite professor, one of his daughters read it.)

Monet Refuses the Operation
By Lisel Mueller

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

Feel free to link or post a favorite poem in the comments.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Blog Against Theocracy 2015

Over at Mock, Paper, Scissors, Tengrain has a stellar roundup for 2015's Blog Against Theocracy.