Friday, January 25, 2008

world police?

on the blog Orientalista, written by an American woman studying Arabic in Syria, there is this popular pun. the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations was opened at Annapolis, Maryland. "P" is not a sound that exists in Arabic. so "Annapolis" sounds like "Anabolees." In Arabic, "ana" is "I." and "bolees" is "police."

"I'm the police" is not a promising name for America's latest lame excuse for peace negotiations.

the great stillness

Grass is growing out at
the edge of the sky.
“I see it out there
growin’, dawg,” said a caller
to WKSS. He was asked
to dedicate a love song.
“I’m tellin’ ya,” he said.

It’s blades are visible.
“They gotta be hundreds of feet
high,” said Mr. Floyd at the
gas station. “Jurassic
Grass,” read the Daily News.
The grass swayed
without wind.

It grows at a remarkable
rate. “We’ve disrespected
our Mother Earth,” read a
marcher’s sign. A bartender
fashioned coasters out of
old flannel shirts.

The grass is growing,
its growing. F-16s
were sent out there, buzzing.
A transmission crackled back:
“We find living atop the
blades downright pleasant.
Over.” Earth teeters
at a ceasing,
a stillness. Mr. Floyd
quit smoking. There’s
the hum of the last
refrigerator. Our eyes meet.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

kinetic operation

"They understand that the kinetic operations (the battles) are just a price for entry to get in here to do what's important, which is to earn the consent of the people toward the government," Mennes said.

The American officer was speaking of his soldiers' feelings at not receiving public credit for a battle his soldiers won. They had to keep their mouths shut while the marginal Afghan troops were assigned the Potemkin victory.

I want to know: was it Mennes or the reporter who added the translation for "kinetic operations"? I want to know: what egg head living on an abstract plane beyond earth's existence would call a battle a "kinetic operation"? It is such a vacuous phrase I could drive almost any act into it and make it fit:

Dude, that was a frightening kinetic operation. I hadn't shat in 3 long days.

The kinetic operation of my car is erratic.

eleven thousand dogs

Eleven thousand dogs shitting
on a clean white beach;
hamsters clawing at formulae
on blackboards.
People in haz-mat suits
in vats of mayonnaise, squirming;
a tickertape parade
of dead moths.

This is how it feels
to know what we know:
markets bring wage work,
steady diets, more babies,
rising food prices,
-- oh. Oh dear. Dead babies.

Its cloudy with a chance of meatballs
in rich countries.
Huge donuts run down pedestrians,
pancakes bury houses,
farm lobbyists corner congressmen.
Our bodies stifle us.

Take a walk with
a dead baby.
Its hair whispers. Its toes snap.
Its fingers won’t clasp
your finger
it won’t snuggle
to your neck.
You’ll want to
throw it away,
gag, cry,
cover yourself with dirt
scrub yourself raw.

But you’ll get used to
eleven pounds of
good eatin’.
You’ll hide it
with the right shirts.

Your gut is the dead
baby, acquired at Ruby Tuesdays
on two for one nights.
The extra you ate is what it
didn’t, on the other side of the market,
‘til it died. It nestles
around your middle,
mindless infertile blob,
sucked from its mother far away,
subsumed to you,
never to be born.

Worms fill a
crispy beer-battered
eleven thousand dogs
wolf salmon
off a marble floor.

A market is an efficient system
of signals, they say.
Manson’s brain
transmitted accurate signals
of the horrors

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

being iranian here

Try taking the name “Grinch”
at your next business convention,
write it with marker on a name tag:
wait for their eyes to find it,
widen, then hide the reaction
in supply-chain chit-chat.

No: this is not quite like
saying you’re from
Iran. For after the supply-chain talk dies
their faces redden, they avoid
looking at you, and drift off
to hiss “Grinch Baker? Did you fuckin’
see her name?” to each other.

Being Iranian in America
is deadly serious business. Try again.
Get a new tag. Change your
last name to
“Hitler.” Wait for it
now. It’s coming. Eyes widen. That’s
right: I’m Samantha Hitler.

Smell the fright. Are my
shoes made of human skin?

No. Its still not quite
right. Hitler is a ghost
of pure evil. He’s gone. Iran, though,
threatens our existence,
our double latte I-pods,
our GPS Jesus golden-haired,
the rag striped and starred,
our good-hearted folk
pushing meat on grills
marinated in Ro-Gain and Omega-3,
our vital youths slacking
and humping
in a delectable chocolate sauce.

Iran is mean. Iran will do
us in for sure. Iran’s vaunted navy
of motor boats
will round the Horn
towing ninja jihadi water skiers
and aim for Miami’s hottest clubs.
Helium birthday balloons with anthrax
will burst over Toledo.
Guinea pigs programmed to gnaw
will do incalculable
ankle damage. I know you, Iran.

I’m serious.
Write “Hi, I’m from Iran,”
and you will not get a normal
conversation or undarting eyes
no matter how plain or bald you are.
Our media is good, Iran. It
gets the job done. Its been
there, done that.
The name “Iran” has been
made a yellow Star of David
sewn onto the identities
of Iranians here
without touching their clothes,
or skin, or troublesome legal issues.

If you were Iranian in
America you would be happy
to change this devil’s mark
for the name “Grinch”
or “Hitler.” Or "Manson."
The next time a Wall Street analyst says
I’m from Persia
smile and say you’re sorry
they’ve been marked, say
if you were made executive
assistant under-deputy secretary of domestic
affairs in the State Department
you’d pull the levers of power
for them, you’d let Ahmedinejad
come over for ping-pong
on Jerry Springer,
you’d let “Survivor: Iran” on the air.
You’d let the banal
be seen. You’d
let the fear machine
stall at the light
and get out. You’d throw the key

You’ll see, Iran. Ameri-can.

twilight men

You look vibrant today
said old Mister Gazzola
to his server of seventeen, Nicole.

Its not every day
you’re called ‘vibrant’
I teased her in the kitchen right after,
It might not happen again.

He’s an asshole she
said dumping nibbled ruebens
and wadded napkins in the trash
and dropping the plates in racks
I hate him. She is pink-faced
and hard.

Later at a meeting for Obama
volunteers, concise strangers,
one among us spoke doodlingly
and rabbity-toothed.
He admitted not owning a car.
People nodded
with tight and smiling

I remembered him. I had seen him
in the waves in August
floating near the Korean wife
of a friend. You’re
beautiful he said. She was bobbing, pregnantly,
she was just months in the country,
smiling Thank-You
not knowing how to parry
what she did not know was a trespass
on property.
I stepped in:
he disappeared,
skinny body up the beach.

In the meeting he emitted reedy
honks and toots of breath
We did not let our looks be seen.

Is beauty to scorned men a sun
sunk on horizons further and emptier than normal men’s?
Sinking deeper than hope
it grows great.

To dare speak its light,
to presume a devotion,
they are brushed off --
freaks, pilgrims,
lost men,
to linger in
their early night
where obstinate suns
refuse to set.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

in a pig's eye

A recent edition of the New York Times reports on a Massachussetts man who robbed banks to buy lottery tickets. He was convicted. One term of his parole was that he not gamble or purchase lottery tickets. He won 1 million dollars in the lottery! All his robbery was for naught! The state threatened to take away his winnings because he had violated the terms of his parole!

The man's lawyer said that when he heard of this possibility, "I said, 'In a pig's eye.' We've got bigger fish to fry than a guy rubbing scratch tickets."

He will keep his winnings. But now he has to pay the 65.00 each month to cover the cost of parole supervision. Previously, he had been considered indigent, and not obligated to pay.

I had not heard "in a pig's eye" before, at least not that I clearly remember.

Obama worries

At a meeting of town volunteers for Barack Obama held today, both the organizers used the adverb "terribly." And that worried me.

"I am terribly excited about Obama's candidacy," said one, and the other said something similar.

What worried me was the clear class identity perceptible in the use of this word. Not that there are no highly educated supporters of Hillary Clinton. But I have not spoken to a single working class Obama supporter since I began volunteering for him a few weeks ago. Every person I have volunteered with or met at meetings I could imagine using the adverb "terribly." And that fact has me terribly worried.


The teenage girls I work with in an institutional kitchen use this word to refer to something excellent. "This cheese cake is bangin'," for example. To "bang" is to fuck, as in "gang bang." If this seems to embody contemporary vulgarity, let's not forget that the word "to rock" also started out as slang for sexual intercourse. And that was 50 or more years ago. Still, I do cringe a bit when I think about the cheesecake, and then recall the still-fresh origins of this word. "Bang" is harsher, I think, than "rock," which can be done gently, after all. Also it seems to me that "bang" carries more intonation of coercion (rape) than "rock," although I don't know the history of "rock."

Under a regime of time that is fully controlled by the market, one cannot be surprised that the search for adjectives that register on the consciousness of other people turns toward bodily sex and violence. So really what such words say to me is not "chaos" or "loss of morality" so much as "stasis" and "frustrated longings for chaos."

Monday, January 14, 2008

oh new hampshire

this is one of the many doors i knocked on in new hampshire for barack obama. click on the photo to read the hospitable message on the sticker. and above the sticker, warm and fuzzy snow men and santa clauses. a little symbol of american schizophrenia.