WHAT WE VALUE

Our society worships entirely the wrong animal, venerating them and reducing others to ash.

The news recently devoted a good portion of the sports coverage to how much money certain sports figures were going to be paid for kicking a ball across a field. And this in a time when our jobs are dissolving, our society is being wrecked, our economy may be irrecoverable and certain industries will cease to exist en mass. Put simply, there will not be jobs to come back to folks but apparently we still need to pay these guys billions for their service to humanity?

I cannot understand how ANY society and how any of us can tolerate/accept a sports figure being paid anywhere NEAR that sum for what they do when those who really do jobs worth paying, are dying in droves because they are not receiving enough personal protective gear to protect themselves.

When did we start paying someone to kick a ball millions and a nurse who saves our life, hundreds?

What’s wrong with us?

If I were an alien observing our planet, I would seriously wonder if we all were crazy in our assessment of VALUE. What we value. What we do not. If nothing else, Covid-19 has given us a chance to see this once and for all and try to do something about it.

We have marched for Black Lives Matter during this time because it was over-due and our raw emotions on the subject burst out of their polite shell and filled the streets with ire and a desire for equality but how many of us really want equality? Not all of us that is for sure, look around and you can see it in every facet of life, a desire to be above someone else somehow.

We still routinely under-react and permit by our inaction, serious hideous crimes like rape to go unpunished in this country and others.

It’s the year 2020 and we still think inequality for women is acceptable in some forms and fashion. Let us not forget what Maya Angelou said about wanting to vote for a white woman over a black man. She said – women were the original oppressed group, thus we should work backward until all oppressed parties are equal. I agree with her.

We still think hate crimes against Jews and telling Jews that Israel should not be their country is somehow acceptable, despite those Jews having descended from that country. Would we say the same to Black People about Africa. Of course not! So why do we say it to Israel? Because of the Palestine Question which Europe in particular has decided to side with, uncaring of the history of persecution toward Jews and their right to have some land of their own. Of course we shouldn’t persecute Palestinians either and of course, Israel has made mistakes but it’s now about what optics politicians choose and what side of the story is half-revealed via inaccurate news reporting. It’s essentially about which side looks right to support? Because Trump supports Israel, most left-wing supporters are against it. Yet it is not that simple and never should be. Lest we forget our history.

We still think homosexuality is unnatural and abhorant and that being queer isn’t natural. We don’t say it out loud because it’s not popular to say it, but we think it and we act it and gays know. They know.

We talk about slavery and how horrific it was, but half the time we just pay lip service to the deeper issues, because we don’t know our history so we don’t mention Native Americans and how they were exterminated en mass and continue to be disenfranchised. We’re so proud of ourselves for changing the Red Skins but we think that’s enough. Or how slavery has never really gone away, it’s just changed hands and outfits, but it’s still well and thriving in many forms.

So it’s never enough. Until everyone is equal and inequality and racism are a thing of the past. But will they ever be? With people who seem to thrive on discrimination and putting themselves ahead of others and putting others down? If people think wearing a mask is too much, is it any wonder they really don’t give a shit if you are sick or you are vulnerable? Don’t they just want you to die and bugger off?

Likewise with illness, with chronically sick people, it’s never enough to just have laws that allow them to not be discriminated against because discrimination comes in a myriad of differing forms. Subtle. Unreachable. Devastating. People of color have to put up with this EVERY SINGLE DAY as do women, as do gays, as do sick people. Just one roll of the eye says everything. Says; ‘we think you are pathetic‘ invalidates an entire moment.

Chronic illness is a little like amputation. Obviously anyone who has suffered an amputation will refute this and rightly so. But metaphorically it remains akin to the loss of a limb. You are left flailing, unsure of how to right yourself, and continue as once you were. A part of you is lost.

They talk of periods of adjustment. The stages of grieving: Anger for what you have lost. Shame imposed by a society who now judges you weak. Acceptance of a ‘new normal’ that includes intolerable things such as chronic pain etc. For many, those stages of grieving never really end, they cycle and you go through different dilutions depending upon how you progress.

But progress is perhaps not the right word. In our linear society where so much is expected. For someone to drop off and no longer thrive, in nature they would be left behind to perish. In our society they are carried along but reminded frequently, of their burden, of their ineptitude.

For many who suffer mental illness, physical illness, both, there is a lot of shame attached to their existing after this fact. Even as people do not come out and say it directly (and believe me, many do!) there is a thin veil that is easily penetrable. People know when they are treated differently, seen differently, worse, judged without jury.

Being ‘sick’ in any manifestation is seen as a ‘weakness’ by our society. This invariably goes back to the ‘dog-eat-dog’ notion of surviving. The weakest link perishes or is a burden to the whole. But these days, with our so-called faith and mercy in place, one might imagine a little more compassion? And if you did, you would be sorely disappointed.

Since getting sick in 2017 I have felt intermittently well enough to continue working and ‘accomplishing’. But as with any pendulum, when it swings deeply toward illness, I am right back at the horror point of when it all began, down on my knees, imploring the universe for healing. And for the most part I have done this alone, because as all those who have been sick for a time will attest, most people do not stay by your side. Even those you expect to.

You can’t plan any longer. A trip is a fear because what if you get sick? Then someone suggests; maybe it’s in your head, maybe you are making yourself sick? And no matter how many times you prove otherwise, they think maybe it’s a choice, just like being gay is a choice, right?

Wrong. You can’t rely upon yourself like you used to because you never know how it’s going to be, how you are going to be. And usually you could be relied upon 100 percent and now that’s gone and somehow you still have to plan a future, but how do you plan a future if you can’t rely upon yourself?

I try to take something from every experience I have, including negative ones. Without learning we don’t grow we just regurgitate and I would rather grow even if I’m throwing up and in pain as I do it. I have taken from this experience what is obvious, but I have also tried to take from others experiences, and have noticed disturbing patterns among those I know who have also been sick for a while or a very long while.

People leave.

People don’t care.

Poverty goes hand in hand with illness.

Anxiety and fear are natural outcomes for a plethora of reasons.

Loneliness can kill.

What I have come to see is this. Sick people are TRUE WARRIORS.

They fight the unimaginable that most of us never have to endure. They have to get pacemakers in their 40s, they have to struggle through taking 2 hours to get dressed and STILL MANAGE TO SHOW UP and this strength – this strength is what I have learned the most from my experiences and listening to others. Strength comes in many forms. We dismiss most of those forms but they are real.

I watch people who have seizures and brain tumors, fight and fight and fight and I realize, we’ve got it backwards. We should be applauding these people not marginalizing them. But we do everything backwards, because as a whole we are poisoned by false ideas of what is valuable and what is not. We toss aside those we deem un-valuable when they are perhaps some of the most valuable people in the world.

So if you are disabled in any way, be it in your head, or your body, remember that. You are some of the most valuable people in the world. Let nobody ever let you forget that. You are some of the most valuable people in the world.

This is written for my sister Angie. You inspire me every single day. You are that light in the dark that refuses to give up and because of you, I refuse to give up too.

Encroachment

You saw your disintegration

In the shrouded reflection of a store window

Already losing custom

And for years prior

Women adjusted hose and children’s grubby faces wiped

In that smeared glass

It held

Decades

Like high cheekbones

Will shore up time in a beautiful face

I saw my eyes fail me

In the encroachment

Of some uninvited color

As if the sun

Greedy for attention

Had left a permanent marker
The doctor

With his accentless voice

And starched finger tips

Probing my retina

For answers like a tarot card reader

Will shuffle and cut her deck

Declared me blemished

Stained by time

Imperfect

Possibly going blind, wrapped in news print

And I laughed

The same laugh my grandma had

When terrible news was delivered

Along with cold dishes and

Empty seats where once our ancestors sat

Filling the roost of our quaking bones

Marking time and Advent

She would raise a thin lipped glass

Of “this n’ that”

To Gods and Monsters

To Plato, Communism and Woody Allen (before we knew we was a paedophile)

There should be a preface to every memory

She said; toasting velvetine shadows

Swilling away the horror

Like a rinsed mouth will always be

More kissable

And come New Year’s Eve

We’ll forget our enemies and join shoulders

Kicking our long legs into space to the chime of twelve

Not yet knowing

What will become if those flung into the future

To forge ahead alone

Unsupported in ancestry

Just the sound of voices

A snatch of tune

The smell of half finished dinner, paused forks suspended in song

Stewing pears over cheap white wine

Her hands red like mine

From scrubbing too hard

That blemish

It won’t come out

So it sinks

Orange streaks of sunlight beneath green orbit

And a stranger in a bar once remarked;

You have gorgeous eyes like they came from the depth of sea

All green and lost

And I think of loss

A stray button, a missed appointment

Maybe I won’t return

To the doctor who found my stigmata

Bleeding like a fish cut on rocks

Into the very bones of earth

See? I don’t anymore, my eyes look inward

In the old days we toasted with pink cut glass

It was all anyone could afford

And I remind my American friends of this

Poverty after the war

A tendency to never feel

Safe

Like city foxes

Scour

Empty streets

For scraps

And squint

At the harsh glare of street lamps

Attracting insects

Bleached yellow

By the piercing quality

Of their intent

In amber

You, unmaker of peace, wear your hat jauntily to the side

a dandy at appearances

i am incapable of wiping the smudge of regret

away in time, before

everyone sees my imbalance and points with

blunt, corrective finger—

there she is, she’s deranged with grief

surely torn mad

not yet. Maybe sometimes. In the damaged fur, just a bit…

this lingering thing called hurt

a purple tie around my neck and I hide my succulent scabs

behind silk blush, with the covet of a lover

and you? You are the abuser who with

toothpick, flicks detris from your life as

effortlessly as anyone without conscience knows

how to polish their shoes with another man’s shine

sometimes I want to cut your throat

with a very fine Japanese knife, I keep unused

in my emotional closet and other days I want

to use it on myself, such is the pendulate swing

and thumbless gait of grief, a sifting vignette of those in our photo albums

who smile, so convinced of a radiance. The other

day I thought of your determine, growing like wan poppy from souless sidewalk

thin feet, high hips, impossible secrets braided deep into tangled weft of your hair

eyes closed from me, turning in simmering amusement, some unheard world beyond blunder

like a tuning fork set high, your mavidad, a seekers entreaty, the

sea pearls of your hope sewn tight in seemingly empty pockets

if we drowned, you’d die rich and I’d float to gulp the waste of dreams

frothing there among the manifold immensity

it takes just one word, the swallow of truism and fakery, a broken pendant, emptied bequeathment, the ransack of joy

to master stoism and a stomach able to survive the pitch and vinegar of disappointment

in my head I hear your voice, its fine timber cresting Finnish land

and

I am the sot

gathered for wedding and funeral

spun into skin

held close and released

breathe me out

let me loose

where undertow has no purchase

to be weightless and the insubstantial

a feeling, a letter, washed clear of intent

just the impression remaining

something I left behind

in amber

December

The bells of the church rung

He said it’s why he didn’t turn back

That and blossom in the thimbling trees so early

He believed in signs and symbols, so did I

Before I was grown and knew the torn things inside

He was the boy who learned on me

I gave what I could, but kept two things to myself

My secret was, I wanted a child

My sin was, letting him take you back

Standing fighting at the top of his marble stairwell

Smelling of his mother’s perfume and congealed cough sweets

I saw myself falling, pinwheel, before he cast me down

The imprint of his reedy hands, a daisy chain around pale throat

His child in my swelling belly, with eyes the color of regret

He said it was an accident, I felt his hate as I lost my balance

Jabbing me in the back with whisper and sharp intention

Get it out, get it out, get it out

He didn’t know the truth of us, my child and I

She wore silver bells around her neck

And in his mother’s sea blue bathroom of mirrors

I stood watching the rapture of your being, take me over

And in the night, your father tried to tear you gone

With his thrusts into me like a spear and a blunt knife

Still my child you held on

Staring through my eyes at me when we were alone

I could hear everyone’s comments before they spoke

If you have that man’s baby, you’ll be shunned

And alone was really alone. Still I thought

I am not a warrior, but I would fight for you, daughter

Quickening in me like a secret slipstream of language

I felt our connection, you were more than blood and sinew

I watched my burgeoning figure, as I removed my clothes

Thin and narrow, except where you were taking form

Stepping into the bathwater, I felt something cry and give way

And the bath became blood

Hot water on, with the door closed and locked

Your father saw water running on the tiles in the hall

All pink and gorgeous

He broke the door down and saw me sleeping in gore

All pink and gorgeous

In the hospital they whispered words of relief

She’s so young, so petite, it was a mercy and a blessing

Any more blood and she wouldn’t have made it

They didn’t see your father’s fingerprints or where

He cut you out with the slow deliberation of an absent butcher

The whoosh and hiss of hospital machinery

The soft whisper of pretty nurses shoes sliding on lino

Your father watching over me, the violence still marked on his face

When we got home, the taxi driver said; take care you goofy kids

Your father dosed me with pain killers and turned his raging back

I saw the emploring milk leaching from my breasts for you to drink

And it was red

I felt the sting of your vanishing scraped dead from myself

My stomach still swelled with your ghostly outline

Your father moved in his wrath lain sleep and mounted me

I said; I’m hurt, it’s too soon, oh God!
But God refuses sinners and pearls

You were gone so you could not speak too

And your father dove into places raw, stitched and mourning

With his eyes closed he imagined nothing and saw nothing

With his fists closed he rose above me in darkness like a wraith

Not touching the spilt evidence of you

Not realizing he was slick with blood and tears bound in a girl

Till morning when he washed you off and with it, me

As I lay in the stained bed with my nightdress hitched around my wrung neck

Feeling the milk in my breasts, the wetness of your ever spending

Feeling the tether from you to me and back again neverending

Your father went on to conquer worlds with a rod

A rich man with the same long fingernails and sharp soul

He calls me once in a while

Tells me I’m still beautiful

And if I saw him, he would bring harm

So I keep us safe and I see no one

As we sit on the balcony and I imagine

You’d be tall and you’d be beautiful like climbing honeysuckle

Because you are my daughter

We raise our glasses to your December birthday and 27 years

And your father he cannot attend our moments together

He may hurt us again, he may seek to take you away

He stays in his apartment in the city and grows richer

On weekends he chooses whores that look like I did

When I was just a young girl

With hair down to my bottom and no breasts to speak of

He had me before I ever menstrated so we thought

You could not exist

It was true, you did not

Home from the hospital with a pad of loss between my legs

But that was a fall I can still feel in my displaced bones

Seeing the future with each tumble, seeing his fists open and close

Alone now and you have been dead 28 years almost

And I light a candle

For what I was not meant to have

Though I would have loved you so

And I do

You speak to me when I sit by myself and the night is quiet

You tell me not to be lonely though it is impossible

I smile at you because that’s what mothers do

Spare their children

Any pain

I wish I had never existed

Telephonic

tim-burton-bakerRing, Ring, Ring,

Except it’s 2017 your phone is set on silent you do not own an answering machine

from the nineties, accidentally recording overheard conversations

little tape cassettes, the mechanics listening, catch you shouting

the message goes ‘don’t leave a message’ followed by alliteration

doe ray me fa la tee

people dial-in, listen, to cacophony

whose house is this? what party line? her voice can you hear

it’s someone singing in the background

taping over

you quote the silence with your abstract

lying like a fallen star on the kilim rug

the cat nudges your head he knows you are not dead

would that you could warm yourself up like leftovers

swallow whole emptiness, banish that gut of bile

back then I recorded myself, how stupid it seems now, a voice in the comforter

what did I impart? love makes us opaque, lust even more so

you used to play my voice backward and say

that sounds like Bob in Twin Peaks

Fire walk with me would look good in ink

before tattoos were mainstream, we had no money for luxury

our pockets calcified and taut turned inside out like jagged tongues

of want and want not

in the smothering green light of your bedroom

I hid the places I didn’t want you to go

pre-wax, pre-tan, prematurely ejaculate

don’t call me I won’t answer my phone

Ring, Ring, Ring,

what chime, what sound, what soundtrack

do you carry?

mine is set on mute

if you asked to speak to me I could not

form sound

would you really want to hear my truth?

every step forward chalk on my shoes

hop skip jump throw the stone

leave a message after the bleep

after the fall

I’m leaving myself a message

get up now

get out of this house

climb from the windows if you must

do it fast before you grow into a place

you cannot claw your way through

nobody knows that neighbor, the mother of four

lies prone from 9am to 3pm whilst her kids

drink milk out of small glass bottles

in her bare feet and unwashed hair

garish scarlet lipstick sliced on limp wrists

how deftly you can cover your crimes with dry shampoo and

a dusting of perfume

wiping your mouth on the back of your horror

nobody knows how long you lived

not breathing

counting pills on the convex of your emptiness

and if they came

hauled you away, locked you in a padded room

filled your arm with urinal liquid, your mouth stuffed with ‘medicine’

you’d soon find an open door, fling yourself

glorious from fifth floor like a Rorschach crow

not all are made for asylum-life

feral animals cannot endure cages

the fax machine of the past, showed us our shadow

interpreting our malady as Jung

prophesied in his hunting vest

Ring, Ring, Ring,

Schroeder and Skinner take bets

packing tape wound round their vivisection

no-one is home please leave a brief message and we’ll

lose your distinctiveness in the rollerdex

you gave me yours in a wet crumpled ball

call ME! Blondie sung

in a snug t-shirt with her head larger than her body

this year I noticed my finger tips desiccating

despite warm temperature and heirloom seeds

the doctor said

this is the first sign of albinism

drink the days to your unnatural end

of your shrinking bones witherment

breasts diminishing like deflated ardor

bellies sag,  lost balloons caught in oaks

and what stood proud wilts

like tulips left too long in burned afternoon sun

Ring, Ring, Ring,

I am not a girl in ballet shoes

my feet are wrinkled and cracked like a beggar

who has walked too long for his supper

I do not want to eat the fat of the land

or the dish served cold

warmed with your insincere scold

for my weakness is abundant and I

lose moisture like a white fish licking brail

dries on Greek dock where you can if you squint

almost make out the shoreline of Italy

watching boats take others far and yonder

leaving crusts of their sandwiches for birds

the fish only seeks to return

to the deep still of ocean

(what would I say if)

my doppelgänger pushed me aside and ran to answer your insistence

hello it’s awfully good to hear from you, how am I? well …

I’m fair to middling for someone with a dagger in her back

depends on your definition of

walking underwater with undertow heavy beneath feet

cue the camera, take a shot, bang, bang!

the roaming dogs pee against your leg

on the shallow side of consciousness drift in and out

my pipe is smoky and hot with chastised resin

fingers dirty, the refuge of digging for my soul

you don’t want to hear that though … do you?

no question mark intended

I know your breed your pedigree your label

just as I gnawed mine apart

wove the strands into a length of yarn

tied it around my neck and vaulted

because I am the black dog we all avoid

who shakes her wet coat over dry make-believe

the echo behind the broken cup

one piece beneath furniture, the other

still containing a leached circumstance of water

we do not sup, you and I who have sober fists

I tried, I really tried, then the day went on without me

clocks winding themselves

girls pulling up their underwear in some basement flat

overlooking a river

men taking a piss in bushes, usually reserved for perverts

watching women jog in tight shorts, bounce, bounce, bounce

Ring, Ring, Ring,

is anybody there? What do you say?

are you home? Are you sleeping?

no and no

anything but the shape of arms

making circles against bare wall

here is my crucifixion

behold

words we never tell

are pigment

and egg yolk

and torn hose

 

And burn their house down

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Her legs were her best feature

so they told her

pinching her bum as she climbed shag carpeted stairs

hauling more baggage than they’d ever have

oh and your throat of course

chuckle, chuckle isn’t that funny?

deep throat, get it?

no … not really

too polite to declare (curtsy)

but what if you did? Respond as you would if

truth led you by the mouth, clip, clop

neigh brey shake your tail paw the ground with hoof

sore and gaping and verbose in mauve and yellow

like a gypsy sacked from her tent

runs like a red brand through black and white trees

will she end up raped by the side of the road?

eventually selling herself by the truck-load

with eyes glazed over from too many mouthfuls

there’s only so much you can take

a tipping point lives inside everyone

like a secret metronome

ticking away, ticking down, ticking sideways, an itch never relieved

until earth and sod and mud and weeds land heavy and wet

on wood (four coffin bearers, bow their heads)

she hears them making a fuss downstairs

(the sound track is The Moody Blues)

who will go first?

me! first is best! the little one says

he’s got a big mouth that one and a small …

well no surprise there (audience laugh)

yeah but you can warm her up for me!

the one who enjoys pain reveals

when do I get a turn? says the last one

who is always too fast too soon too distracted to …

see her staring at the ceiling counting down

tick toc tick toc goes her life blood

here the vein here the slice here the fall

blue is the marigold dipped in the ocean

why does she bled so? When did she stop being closed?

She was never really shut, she was open all hours

flung wide by the longing of the sky to see her enact a star

spread white and glowing she longed for black skies to swallow whole

every last molecule

there’s blood in the bathroom! they all cry (exit stage left)

where could she have gone?

how did she survive the loss of so much blood? The little one said

roll over roll over so they all rolled over and one fell out

there were two in the bed and the next one said …

you see her now

she’s that motion in the corner of your eye, a cataract in full bloom

dropping by the highway like a midnight flower

speeding cars track her fade but they cannot see for their faces are made

of metal and plastic and rubber and gasoline

and she is made of earth

and she is gone to earth

and she is in the earth

away from the three little pigs

who kindle themselves into a fury

and burn their house

down though it is made

of brick

Command

9edcc63634776b74ee5539c5d4f18ce7She sat

the leather of the chair

damp beneath her

no underwear

revealed in candle light

a straight spine

a crouching mind

she obeyed

not for fear or need to ruin

but the sheer freedom of feeling

her knees rub against carpet

her mouth close upon bit

her eyes lost beneath satin

she knew

when it came

the lash would last

as long as forever

the welt may diminish

the pain may recede

still she could feel

the weight of regard

afixed to her as light of fire place

illuminated what she could not

her darkness exposed

take what you will

take what she cannot give

willingly

and in setting her free

she is within and without cage

able at last

to feel the breadth of herself

by your regard she finds reflection

not the echo she reinterprets

there in the scour of past

but the lover

piece by piece she learns

to offer her secrets

for trust is earned

in every move toward

the command

Freedom from your scorn

babushka_1-tcall me anything you like or don’t call me at all

you’re cold when I’m hot and hot when I’m cold

many years past you asked that I leave

go away you said this isn’t your continent you do not belong here this is not your country

your jaw was too narrow to carry your eyes

I could see in between your bones and feel your lies

you sent me metaphorically packing

because of that I stayed

though you were right in a way, I did not belong

call me anything you like or don’t call me at all

you’re cold when I’m hot and hot when I’m cold

sometimes when someone threatens you

you say, okay then, bring it on

and you watch yourself fall down the rabbit hole

next time I’m challenged to a duel, I may hang up my sword

catch the next bus out-of-town

proving ourselves in battle, rarely avoids scars

call me anything you like or don’t call me at all

you’re cold when I’m hot and hot when I’m cold

what makes one person give another everything?

even when they know they will never receive an ounce in return?

do we loathe ourselves that much?

call me anything you like or don’t call me at all

you’re cold when I’m hot and hot when I’m cold

I’m done, breaking my heart over people

least of all you

you who broke me and didn’t even know you did

how absurd we are who give everything

to an empty hanger in an empty wardrobe in an empty chest within our empty arms

call me anything you like or don’t call me at all

you’re cold when I’m hot and hot when I’m cold

and I’m out of here with freedom from your scorn

 

The unhealed

image1-3-1-e1453751898625

If you opened me up

maybe with a zip or a crow bar

it is my belief inside I would be

eighty percent water from the sea

and twenty percent ghosts

who upon being freed

would walk away and let me be

so when I look longingly

at your scalpel or your blade

it is not because I wish to meet my maker

not yet anyway

but the irresistible urge to be freed

of these ghosts who pinch and knead

even if you fitted a zip dear sir

or inserted a pipe to let the smoke pour

anything would be preferable to this canker

an ulcer of lament forming malcontent

they weigh a lot for emotions past tense

no matter how hard I try they gain the upper hand

that’s what happens when your body is a grave yard

for souls who ripped you apart

you carry your history like a series of scars

nobody can see, they think you’re doing well

underneath your sequins it’s a bloody hell

sometimes I wish you could see how I feel

the cavernous maw of the unhealed

they don’t let go of my throat with their squeeze

when people jump I’m not surprised

who can live with such unease?

the ghosts inside us, reminding we’re never free

until we vanquish their poison

so give me some mercy

let them out

I would like to fly

but I have lost the ability to float