Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Dance

I read "1984" once a year from age 17-22 and thus feel strangely well prepared for the current epoch. The book is in many ways a study in false polarities as exemplified by doublethink, defined as the ability to hold two conflicting beliefs simultaneously. Sales of the book have surged dramatically this month, so I thought I would add a few of my thoughts about it.

 The US two party system is a false polarity and analogous to doublethink made manifest. A key lesson of Orwell‘s book unfolds as Winston is tortured, and he finds himself capable of doing everything he abhors in the Party: he betrays his love, Julia. He hates, he wishes for violence. At the intersection of good and evil is the self and between the dual universes rush wild nightmares.

 This is the oldest truth of all truths, both secular and religious: the battle is always, always with ourselves. Trump is the president we got as the logical extension of a disjointed, dispassionate, violent, fragmented nation.

The resistance is our souls fighting back.

A better future would include both day and night, balanced as they were always meant to be. What's fascinating right now is that on the brink of totalitarianism we have a choice, should we muster collective courage to make it together. We can succumb to our worst fears or we can take a leap across the raging waters into an unimaginable, better, more nuanced world.

 We already know that most dualities are false and that male-female, dark-light, straight-gay, truth-lies are so complex as to feel entirely relative to context. Facts are not culturally relative though, and nor are the SENSE OF good and evil, despite the variousness with which we codify them. Fact is the gift science and history give us, a lantern in the night. Music and art and beauty operate against dualism. They integrate us.

Good and evil are gestalts not injunctions. They are only fleetingly personified by any man. Indeed they fill the sails of key characters because we allow them to. Trump's leadership is the sum total of the worst in us and he is only going to do exactly what he said he would do.

 We must look in to the mirror Trump holds up to us without flinching and know what we are capable of. And then we must choose to fight. Fight to be understood not adored, and fight for the best in yourself.

Orwellian evil wins over the individual but it never dares imagine that collaboration is crucial to any lasting change for the best. The book is a pessimistic one but it contains every clue we now need.

Stand beside those you love and those you dislike and be kind to them as though they were lost parts of you. Because that is what we all are, lost parts of one another. And if you are tempted to watch that video of a white nationalist getting punched on repeat remember that Orwellian dystopia has, to paraphrase, a fist punching a face over and over for eternity.

Resist legally, ethically and self-reflexively. It will hurt as only cognitive dissonance can, but the reward is the best dance humans dance.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The current issue of The Poetry Foundation's journal is an Australian Poetry primer edited by Robert Adamson, with photography by Juno Gemes. I'm honored to be included.

My poem, Brooklyn, appears in the current issue of War and Peace. The print journal and online version- The Long Paddock- hot of the press... Brooklyn

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Sometimes social media is a wild place where great and subtle things can be said and done; much, much more often it is like a casino whose slot machines pay out only joy enough to keep us dimly hopeful and coming back.  I can do better. We can do better.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My dream a drink in Soho

Or to otherwise pause my perspective of time as though watching a movie or make things seem to go faster or slower so I could pull out ideas from each theme and image I see: something irreducibly great 

My dream a white tree.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Find the silence and beauty in above the noise, pressure, ambition, chaos and hostility of a world class city. If you can do that you can do anything. That is why the High Line is like a church to me.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Outside the box

Where is that famous box of corporate folklore located exactly? I would like a nice quiet place inside which to think.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

When the dog bites.

My favorite thing is when people say the things in their head. Not so much the opinions in the front of their head- the stuff they watch for- but further back, the things that are right there with them keeping them company at their vantage point... Binoculars, trinkets, idioms, night skylines. All the best comedy is from there.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Circles"

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Friday, August 1, 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014


- Flinders Street Station Photo Booth, Melbourne, Australia 1995

Friday, July 11, 2014

Taking Sides with my Asides

It is interesting to me that my poetry blog is currently dominated by the search for new music. But I like it and won't fight it.

Try listening: you might love this too.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Samsara Sera

“Hold the sadness and pain of samsara in your heart and at the same time the power and vision of the Great Eastern Sun."

- Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bigger than Us

"Did you ever stop to think that maybe we were right?
...Let's start something bigger than us "

- The Smith Street Band

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Waking

Sensing the hurts of others near and far and feeling extremely lucky to be alive, encircled by my friends' and family's love and yes, to be in Rochester, NY: a place which- after a decade of ambivalence- I am proud to call home. Sweet dreams l'il town.

The Waking by Theodore Roethke : The Poetry Foundation

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Silver Lining of Cliche

Cliches became that way because they were true so frequently that they ended up as a kind of shorthand or subscript. If they could be condensed down to single words they could be bricks
for making poems. For instance tonight I wrote with total conviction:

"What you do or fail to do makes a difference. What you say or are afraid to say makes a difference. What you dare to expect of life is the best you will get from it. Don't let acts of violence speak louder than compassion."

Here, on my poetry blog, I am aware that such sentiments may be viewed as simple-minded. Why aren't I ironic about my politics? Two reasons: 1. Irony isn't effective at getting a message across
only at obscuring the persona behind the message and 2. I mean what I say.

Poetry requires a different type of language. For poetry I need to turn this set of statements into a three dimensional object that can be used to build. A poem is one solid thing that can't be smashed or thrown. Nobody wages war with Shakespeare- the complexity of the writing, the irreducibility of it, defies cliche even as fragments of it become cliche.

Cliche, why do you scare us? Are we afraid you will stop us from thinking, prevent rigor? Maybe. It is much more likely that we are afraid you will make us feel.

We feel in cliche first before we can grasp our lives in all of their complexity. I feel very strongly that gun law needs national reform in the U.S. I feel that for a while and then eventually the force of that feeling topples me with more feelings. Thought doesn't leave the room. Thought isn't embarrassed. Thought says: "finally we have something to work with."

My passionate speech gets rewritten slowly for its new audience and in the process it changes and so do I. I no longer have a message, I no longer want you to vote my way. It's something I am making and must finish, that is all.

The words come slowly. They start with an electric blue sky and the smoky white trail of a light air plane. I give this thought.

Monday, June 2, 2014

How Many Miles

I enjoyed reading My Craft or Sullen Art: Poetry and Songwriting, by Joe Dolce in Meanjin.

Dolce makes a great point about the critical blindness that can afflict the best of us when contemplating iconic musical figures like Bob Dylan.

Two musicians

... sisters both still in their teens.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Bones Of Night

Images are not numbers. Freud
tried translating them. They are
notes towards themselves.

A walled city represents its own
interests. I want to go in
but I don't trust -- its symbol

is the horse, no, an upended
flask of water. I've been there
once creaking like an old door.

Soundly to venture forward
into desire. This film
I think I've seen, but it changes

memory. I dream an entire
film. A recurring dream. Always,
I am some actor, falling into trees.

My mind churns up such thoughts
to bother me on weekends.
Distract me towards the sea, or

to you. My mind on the whole
has betrayed me. Love is strong.
Sunny villas, much running water.

The grasses hush together
in greenness. This stolen city means
so little. I will write it flawed and beautiful.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

There are few things harder to parse than the minor acts of injustice and betrayal perpetrated by good people. Tonight, riding my bike home, I meditated on this and it finally dawned on me: these acts do not make sense because they are thoughtless. Injustice, for good people, is a kind of wave or gestalt that overtakes them when they are weak. The only answer to such wrongdoing is to feel rage - raw rage- at the fear, not at the person and to refuse to, yourself, be afraid. To respond any other way is bound to hurt someone else, if not today, then soon.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Last week I rode
Last week I rode my bicycle past
a construction site

Where a crane was high above
a sculpture
to cut a tree

And the worker for the city
called out
called out in a stutter

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Community is: you are just as scared as I am, but you know you cannot figure it out alone. You can't solve it so you hold onto the hand of the next person, grip really. Then they do the same, and the person next to them. It's like Matisse's painting "The Dance" some days.

But mostly it is like walking through the sky, not daring to look down.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

I long for the day when civil rights are viewed the way that oxygen is: shared, essential and no less necessary to those whose morality is in doubt than they are to those with whom we sympathize. If the air is toxic nobody can breathe.The UN's website maintains the full text of this terrific refresher course in justice.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Running Out of Choices

Climate change - it's total impact on food prices, human costs from natural disasters, and in the context of a global economic slump- is, arguably, the instigator of a fearful zeitgeist, globally, that I think is being misdirected into all kinds of conservatism. We must direct our fear, instead, into action to offset and slow climate change and defend against climate disaster.

It is an interesting point in history. Just as the threat of nuclear war caused an uneasy truce to the arms race, I think climate disaster will ultimately result in a similar detente. What we are seeing now is the spinning wheels of fear.

Sexism is just one of the showers of sparks from those wheels.

Change is the only constant. This is not new. Some are already adapting to change.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Beauty stays longer

Beauty stays longer in some places, some faces, but none of us can lay claim to it forever except through forgetting ourselves and living.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Across the Wire

It is hard for me to understand how anyone could believe that guns make us safer. But when I walk around our neighborhood and see the probably-armed, probably-black teens who are committing most of the thefts around here, I almost, for a second understand the visceral ugly fear that would have one buy a gun and risk more lives rather than stand up and ask why all this is happening, stand up and make things better for that kid and every kid so that both the crime rate and gun violence are reduced. The argument that sickens me the most is that one must have a gun to "protect one's family". Protecting one child at the cost of another is not noble, not brave, not "patriotic". It's a rearrangement of miseries.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Nagging thought: Being an ordinary, nonviolent very young man in the U.S. today may be harder than anyone ever knows. The violent end of this age group spectrum is, to an extent, the canary in the coal mine. 

Here is a different point of view, one that I found refreshing: we need more courses in gender studies in community colleges.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Lesson

Grabbing the edge of the next step and swinging one's body up then scrambling to climb. A twisting set of steps with 5 feet high gaps between each one. Too high up to go back down, too low still to see what's up ahead.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

"There's no such thing as other people's children."
- Hillary Clinton

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The word that's been on heavy rotation in my mind since my daughter's birth is "Generative". To have the power and will to make something new. After becoming a parent there is no denying one's power and one's will.

Such an awareness removes many limits to let strange objects loom in the headlights, in the rear view mirror.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Determinism is the other side of anger. If you know your rights and fight for them, there is no need to be angry.

Friday, January 25, 2013


To circumscribe another by defining them, rather than assessing their actions in good faith, is to limit the possibilities for myself. I want you to have the right to your silence, even as I struggle to speak. I want you to know that you are worthy as a human being. I want you to be given fair and equitable treatment before the law, and I want you to be healed when you are sick and to know that your children are safe. I will want these things for you no matter how many times you repeat rhetoric like a child rocking on their haunches, or add swagger to pirate words. I want you to see the afternoon sun reflecting and for your streets to be clean. I want the air to smell like a delicious thought. I cannot live alone; my family cannot live alone; and so I want your family to prevail so that we gain courage from your continuity.

I will fight for your dignity, and in doing so I will build a wall around the things that I love, not a high wall, not a mean wall, but a strong wall, and your dogma and your hate and your violence will never touch us even as your best self comes and goes.