White Ode to THEM.

Free writing
Over and over, the question we ask is “What happened to them?”, not “to us.”
We no longer speak to each other. No real conversations. The stubborn father who will never listen, never ever budge. Oh, woe is him. He doesn’t know he can shift.
We analyze his mindset, rarely question it. When we do, we keep an anthropological distance. We weigh the importance of his statement by the gravity of each syllable. Compartmentalizing cadence and a penchant for a strategic pause.
We refuse the words, the truth they hold. Not held by you or me, yet an immovable truth to them.
Understanding their truths, their stories is the sole way to expand and correct them. Some of their truths are vile and need correcting.
It’s difficult for me not to feel vindictive in my approach. I’m not alone in using such tactics, I am part of a genuine American legacy. Correctional facilities in my country correct very little.
It’s not easy to uproot your worldview. It’s not easy for my “highlyeducated” ass, how in the hell would it come easily to most everyone else? You betray your privilege with your frustration with them.
Every time I’m baffled, it is a privilege not to see it coming from a mile away. I begin to realize how ghastly the whole centuries-old experiment looks in the periphery. Really realize. No longer cordoned off as characters frozen in my history textbook, a magnitude of souls emerge.
I remain a soul without obvious burden. I do not carry my traumas in my coat pocket any longer. I’ve packed them away with 7-year-old crumpled pages of the Times for safe-keeping in my attic. I’m aware of them. I do not wear them.
My burdens are psychological in nature. All my physiological needs met daily, I am still haunted. However, I am fortunate enough to realize how sturdy I am, standing above a proliferation of safety nets.
Polls are best employed with the worthy endeavor of bearing street signs. Public opinion is not something you carry around in your pocket. You discover your opinion the moment someone asks it of you.
I will not presume to understand the story of them. After they speak their piece, I vow to take a breath. I concede that every breath I take is something taken. I will respond, acknowledging the memory of who I’ve taken it from.
I may think them sick to think what they think. I must remember the vile path my genes have forged. Evil sunk deep into the creases of my two white palms.
It was someone’s downfall that lifted me onto this high horse. Those vital books that continue to shape me, printed on the corpse of someone else’s sacred tree.
I am them. I do not get to push the rural white man I despise to the margins and forsake him. I am a white woman raised in suburban comfort. He is my father, grandfather, great-great-grandfather.
He’s got layers upon layers of dried blood on his hands. I will never wash his sin off mine.
Thanks to him, I am left with a choice.
I could fold these two revolting white palms together in my lap with a sigh without accountability. I should (and will) put them to work in the service of us instead.

Newsflash: Bees

Free writing, Poetry
They hide it well.
Poised, their apocalypse arrives on time as promised.
We all know the real story is far more sinister than collusion or Russian hackers (or hookers). Our collapse revolves around the bees.
And while I may scurry to a corner of my balcony upon their approach, I revere them.
Yesterday’s news brought wind of pesticides that trickle into bee colonies. It gets inside them and makes them forget to clear out their dead from the hive.
Is that laziness or reverence? Human beings, before we buried our dead, kept their bones in our living rooms.
Your father’s skull dry-rotting into a smile on the Terre Cotta mantle. Summer brings a smell about him. Insects praise his complex structures with moving mandibles.
We had reached a point of sentimental animation. The machine doesn’t move anymore but the component parts still recall uncanny movement. Something’s gone, but something remains alive and working.
It’s hard to underline the moment the light goes out. That’s because, as you feared, it doesn’t. Not all at once. We imagined that the spirit ascends. Out of proximity, we had begun to learn it’s dispersed.

May I please recuse myself?

Free writing, Poetry
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ testimony before the Senate Intel Committee revealed one thing. Well-rehearsed anger is less effective than genuine disgust.
 
With the proper training, Mr. Sessions would have been an effective extra in a cop movie. Some wide-eyed rendition of an officer bewildered by the scene.
 
One imagines a Russian spy thriller like a Tolstoy story, cold and overcast with a metallic sheen. Names are less important than looks.
 
I see our current predicament more like a movie by Fritz Lang. Blunt and nauseating at times, but always skipping along as if the world is big enough for everyone to speak.
 
Our narrative’s characters have started talking. The impending arc begins assuming real shape. When does our omniscient author intervene to tie things up? Unknowable still as of today.
 
The storm gathers to a point and swallows itself. The last page is missing, torn from the annals of history like a ruptured appendix. The quiet is numbing. The connections, maddening.
 
I had to shut it off. Despising shallow waters.
 
How obvious is all this? How predictable? Inevitable? This world should enjoy a shake-up of its senior writing staff. It’s the least we could hope for. Some grace note to tether us to someplace we can call home.
 
The United States of America is remiss by definition. What becomes of the derelict with self-denial encoded in its genetic fingerprint? I do not recall. I didn’t keep notes for most of these things.
 
As appropriate, I will disclose the documents. I’m not able to make an opinion of that without clear approval from the president.
 
Canyons may crumble without prior notice. Department of Justice will not be open on federal holidays, and why not? It’s not wrong. Even if it was wrong it still wouldn’t be.
 
The irritated General waves down a helicopter on the roof of the U.S. capital building. It’s his dear friend Sergey Kislyak, and he’s brought a thoughtful basket of warm biscuits!
 
Underneath these biscuits lies the key to this whole puzzle. It is warm and sterile, solving all our inquiries like an unnamed bank teller in the last scene. He smiles as the culprits withdraw their allowance before closing the bulletproof slider.
 
All comes together without a single speck of dust. We’re in on it. Not everyone is. This brings us into the fold in a way that the subject will never understand. Why should he? He’s lucky the series is still on the air. The coming film promises the end of his career.

Under Oath

Free writing

In the wake of Mr. Comey’s testimony on Thursday, my political-awareness-barometer hit an all time spike. The night before, I read and reread his prepared remarks in their original PDF format, crafting various haikus to highlight the more absurdist moments. It’s nice to envision Comey sitting with his laptop open on his lap, facing a Word document with the potential to topple a precarious, quite clearly vicarious administration. Maybe he fixed himself a nice, stiff drink or a hot pot of coffee.

When he first sat down before the committee, I thought maybe he would cry. Certainly not out of fear, but something immense percolated underneath his sternness. His eyes darted rapidly in a barely perceivable way.

“They will be back,” he told us. He was sure of it.

Of all the bombshells, one stood out like a dead bird of paradise in a reopened coal mine. In all their discussions, Trump didn’t bother to ask Comey about the Russian cyber attack against the country he is currently leading. He was far too concerned with the hooker-laced dossier to notice. This omission goes beyond neglect. The only viable conclusions remain that the President did not care that the U.S. had been attacked because (1) such things generally fail to concern him, or (2) he was an active participant in said attack, thus needed no breakdown of events from intelligence officials. Either of these options is dismal at best.

Whatever the outcome, at least we can derive a little peace from the persistent nature of truth, and the good will of some, resisting burial. I do still firmly believe in an impending uncovering of a grand truth. Maybe not the whole truth, but enough truth. Nixon later expressed regret that he didn’t destroy the tapes. Perhaps Trump has already taken the initiative that Nixon did not.

The scope of this upheaval, however, stands alone in the annals of American political tradition. There should certainly be sufficient evidence soon to move beyond political theater into the realm of prosecution and impeachment. I’m almost sure of it.

 

 

 

The Twittersphere Dispatch

Free writing, Uncategorized

I woke up with a sewing needle lying on my bedsheet, not three inches from my eye. I’m not sure how it wound up where I found it. Regardless, I’m struck more seriously by the Twitter feed I left agonizing over attacks in Tehran, Qatar losing touch, a vanished Burmese military jet and it’s over 100 vanished passengers, a new FBI director announced bright and early this morning.

Sleep finally came after that tidbit, around 6 a.m. my time. I woke up at 11, to a total of 777 updates in the feed. Last night was my first attempt at building a reliable and informative Twitter feed in hopes of one day joining the national conversation. I’ve been unusually hesitant to join this specific social platform for years. Facebook entered my conscious behavior, exerting influence at the onset of my high school years. Since then, I’ve stuck with it intermittingly, never one to post without due cause. I have also since become active on Instagram and Snapchat. MySpace was slightly before my time.

Twitter always appeared to me as the lowest form of mass communication. Perhaps it was the strict 140-character limit that led me to this bias. More likely, it was the quality of the earlier user accounts, touting ill-sourced and ludicrous conspiracies against President Obama. I witnessed a revolution on this medium with the Arab Spring, along with the rise and transformation of an underdog Democratic candidate into the first black President of the United States. Quick change served as the catalyst of this medium. Crowdsourced input broke the traditional news cycle. Anyone could make the news and all news was digested in blocks of the same size. A story from the Times takes up exactly as much space as one from a personal blog written by a dissatisfied constituent or a citizen under siege. We entered into a new informational age of conflation.

By the time I first attempted to utilize Twitter, I was still unconvinced of its efficacy. My earliest explorations had tainted the prospect of using the platform as a daily source of news. Twitter began patrolling spammy accounts and bots in efforts to bolster legitimacy. The result was a cleaner feed, not necessarily one with higher quality content. I just couldn’t stick to it, something seemed cheap about the whole place. Politics appeared as a game of insults and biased reporting. Baseless theories proliferated and actual journalism was tasked with keeping up and breaking through. The system did not allow for the cream to rise to the top. Important news pieces were left dispersed and suspended in a tall glass of muck.

My persistent political involvement had sharply dropped off in the year following Obama’s inauguration, an event I am lucky enough to remember attending in person. Before this milestone, I can recall a busy girl pouring over news bulletins and press releases. Breakfast was accompanied by no shortage of newsprint: The New York Times brought us the world and Newsday brought us the town. The evening news was a communal engagement in my family. We scoffed, we chastised, and most importantly, we discussed. When discussions reached a point of relief, we sought channels for action. My father began a charitable collection at our church for active military personnel in Iraq and Afganistan, called “Operation: Gift Box.” He was inspired by our Pastor’s husband Mike, recently reunited with us after a tour in Iraq and gearing up for another deployment. Mike brought back vital news from the front lines, less strategic and more emotional. It was the little things, he said; An insufficient amount of toothpaste, a dismal selection of snacks, nothing new to read.

My father sought to address these gaps in the military budget, with his focus always trained on empathy. “Love the soldier, hate the war.” It was a small effort, but significant enough to garner a marginal amount of local press coverage. On the side, I accompanied my father on night outings in which we plastered anti-war messages across town. My father taught me that even those without a platform can create their own. Before Twitter, he recognized that the world isn’t so large that your contributions go wholly unnoticed.

A good message is worth fighting for.

In January of 2008, my politically-minded liberal father succame to a particularly invasive form of Melanoma. The women in my family, my mother, aunt, and grandmother, were each lost in a sea of broken hopes. Instead of despair, we channeled our frustration with the world into our desire to see it change. Barack Obama represented so much to our family and still does. When a family loses a battle with cancer, it can seem like every fight is a useless expenditure of one’s time. Yet this is backward. Every funeral should eventually serve as a call to action. Reexamine your loved one’s life and route out any unfinished aspirations for the world they left behind: yours.

This does not, nor should not, take place in the funeral hall or place of worship surrounded by mourning friends and family. Each person in attendance should have the right to draw their own conclusions from such an event. Don’t force an understanding. Let it come to you when you least expect it. Let the world’s dispatches remind you of work left to be done. Imagine the world they would have created had they survived. If your beliefs align with theirs, imagine they are next to you while you watch and read the news. Keep an ear out for their voice in your head. What would strike a cord with them? What would pique their interest and spur their civic action? Let them lead the way and speak out.

The comfort of the Obama administration has left us all a bit nonplussed. The world is as scary a place as it was to me in 2008, without the compass of a living father to guide me. It’s been nearly a decade since he left us. Sometimes it seems like it is increasingly impossible to be an informed citizen. I find myself picking and choosing the most pressing headlines in an undying search for subtlety. The pace of breaking news is not conducive to critical analysis. It used to flurry outside every once and a while. Now the most trusted outlets begin each day bracing for another avalanche. I can no longer avoid Twitter. Serious writers cannot afford to miss the opportunities for engagement that it provides. I appreciate at least that the site encourages you not to “like” a person but to “follow” them. I will follow Donald Trump in the sense that one follows a local traffic report on the radio: reluctantly scanning the airwaves for colossal wrecks and slowdowns.

Roy Peter Clark Saves the Day (Again).

Free writing

A consequence of extreme inaction, I recently sought the guidance of a psychiatrist to recalibrate my mind. I left with a new label: Adult ADHD. The medication is of enormous help most days. A trained apathy toward reading had slowly evolved post-graduation. An uncertain future was neglected because it was too inexcusable to stomach. I sought the approval of men, one man in particular, who indulged too heavily in provocative arguments. I often lost my train of thought. Writing, a singular joy in dark times, became a task scheduled for another day. The basic mechanisms of reflection and critical analysis were rendered costly wastes of time. I took to drowning out the impenetrable walls of incoming information, news briefs, Senate hearings, etc. via YouTube videos, clippings of a whole story that’s too big to print. I forgot to reach inside myself for answers.

The time for action is upon us, heavy and persistent. Every wasted hour feels like a year of my intellectual life. It’s time to turn my powers toward the necessary work that must be done. Research is vital. Hip hop is helpful. Grateful citizens engage and their work is consecrated. Consciousness shouldn’t be an obligation. Heritage isn’t hermetically sealed. Your actions are no footnote. The chapters lie haphazardly before the splendor of my genetic fingerprint. Who plays the long-awaited grace note in amorous reprieve? She sits tensely unabated. Just who is this girl when she’s at home? An unlit fuse? No. Too simple. Perhaps a cantankerous headline will reveal it. Maybe the ceiling will give and nature will reclaim it all. Unlikely. The foundations resist all manner of flood and fire. Our institutions align everything in their wake as if by magnetism. What creation of man is enough to cause an upheaval?

I arrive late to the dock searching for suspicious curios and cases. Everything is already unpacked or at least rifled through. I strain my vision for a point of focus. What am I really trying to say? I am not taken by surprise. This here is a blessed treaty with myself. Unphased ducklings spread their candor over their moment when it comes. Seasoned sentimentalists question cartels over milk, honey, and heat rash. The district attorneys change the locks on their desk. Church attendance sharply decreases or increases, based on the quality of the communion wafers. What value is placed upon the verifiable in our nature? Which impulses, improperly stoked, eliminate the action potentials which unite us in shared understanding? America is not an impatient child, asking its mother to cut the line. It’s not easy for us to hear the word “no.” We learn to swallow our missteps and own up to those we have wronged. Our progress is not a footnote. It is our pulse.