Nepal, Baltimore and our world in general

As I've gotten older, major tragedies have seemed to affect me more. Maybe it was my experiences on 9/11 working in a stockmarket's operation center, although 50 miles from the WTC, listening to the lines of communications with the traders going out all at once that morning. Perhaps it was putting my son on the preschool bus 40 miles away from Newtown as the police announced that a whole room full of first graders was "gone". Perhaps it comes from being close to those two tragedies that the large-scale human dramas that unfold over the world seem to affect me more than before.

Right now on the other side of the earth, entire villages have been lost in Nepal in a tragedy that has claimed at least 4,000 lives in minutes (a number nearly unfathomable in American lives going back to the second world war.)  A Nepalese co-worker of mine shared stories to our work group that put the scale of the national tragedy in perspective. It reminded me of the stories like that of a friend of mine who travelled back to Haiti after the great earthquake there to assist his family. Great human suffering of a perspective beyond our "American Minds". The general apathy (don't even start with social media) toward what happened in Nepal is upsetting.

At the same time, rioting occurring in Baltimore has caused the displacement of many and danger to people in city neighborhoods. I know too many good people in law enforcement on all levels from the small town cop to inner city or federal police. Not all cops are bad people. Most are good. Check the salaries, divorce rates and health problems associated with a career as police. People choose that career for a reason which usually transcends financial gain. But just like any group of people, there are bad police. There is racism, prejudice - not just in the police force, but in all of America. I can't watch this video of Eric Garner being arrested and not get sick to my stomach. This wasn't some deep south "redneck" town; it was New York City. And the situation in Baltimore is disgusting. A disgusting death and some very disgusting reactions.

The two stories are totally different in nature; Nepal a disaster out of anyone's control and the story in Baltimore that of urban angst after apparent injustice. But from them we see the reaction of those affected as a chance to lift the human spirit. To do good in the face of bad, whether caused by evil men or the condition of being human. There is not only a chance to learn, but to act well in times like these. The way we study future earthquakes we should figure out why there have been so many urban riots since the Rodney King incident years ago and do something about it.

There is a lot of potential to be ugly. I hate seeing names like "thugs" or "animals" being used to label people around protests in Baltimore (no racist overtone there, right? Vancouver "thugs" nearly burned down their city when they lost the Stanley Cup and most Americans laughed - although in the link other Canadians did call them thugs). The things I heard after Katrina about New Orleans residents were so different than what was said about New Yorkers after 9/11, but both tragedies were as devastating to those involved. After Haiti, Americans I knew complained that we were helping Haiti too much because they would never help us (get some perspective on the world, geez, their capital was destroyed and 230,000 people died).

What can you do? Go past the ugliness. Talk to people. Talk to friends in law enforcement about these kinds of situation. Too often the police are expected to be an omnipotent and blindly just force when all the are is people with special training - it can be too much to ask, right? I'm sure you will find friends who are police that are just upset at some of the actions that have occurred in stories that have gained national attention.

Talk to people who have visited Nepal, Haiti or areas affected by the Boxing Day Tsunami. Try to get a scope of how great the destruction was, if only to become grateful for what you have and the blessing of safety and fortune to be born in this country.

Don't be afraid to talk to people of different races, backgrounds, sexuality, home-countries. Ask them if racism/bigotry still exists. The stories I've heard in my life from non-white or non-hetro or non-Christians are disturbing; they make you really question the nature of mankind. I'd say, ever black person I've ever asked if they got pulled over or followed while driving for no reason in particular - probably two thirds say yes. That may come as a surprise to a lot of you reading this. Racism exists still - and it's not just traffic stops and certainly the police in general are not the main culprits. It's best to reject any doctrine that tries to justify segregation, exclusion or bigotry rather than hide behind it.

It comes down to this - we can learn from these things and we can become better people, by making some effort to view the world through other people's lenses. Or we can keep suffering.


No time for anything but the past...

With a new job and the usual responsibilities on top of that there's been no time to write - even though I've got a ton of things that have interested me recently.

For now, just a flashback - some old writing from years ago.

(originally titled untitled e)

i could make myself wait quite awhile at the
r.r. station in westbrook before I felt a breeze
as gentle as your palms. and it would be so
uncommon to note the song that you spoke before

the best transgression I ever forgot just at the birth
of this period of tranquil disillusionment beginning
with the shake tremble foot steps I made and a throat
filled with a rasp very unique to being awake

this side-effect controls those breezes that are not
quite as forceful as your delicacy and far less memorable
than amnesia-induced by your absence. the forgetting
of all turmoil soaked in vinegar (something i care to remind)

sometimes i wonder why i even question your motivation
when i know it is just something you said last time we were
tangled (without touching) and we matched pulses in a matter
of speeches prepared by our ancestors (not that I would try it)

yes, the shuttering yawn of your wits circumference makes me
idolize. and, yet, yes, you. The one who is so willing to be alive.
this fountain of my arms reflects this non-pause of your movement.
so great! to be in love. and vested in your desire!


the chill that rusts the leafs
and the rain that feeds them
i will be the candle in your bedroom when you are making love
and just as coy, i will be the wind that blows it out
just when the clocks have counted down to seduction
center of this pendulum
which revolves around life
as the sun revolves around seasons
i am the beat of all sambas
a blond haze
that wands and dulls the magic of entrances and exists
i am the sunrise only because the next day is assured
so close you will never need to search
found in every shadow you require

something sadder than death thinks

something sadder than death thinks
fragile mortal jubilance
a souvenir of flesh and ashes, stepped in
it makes your questions dissolve
alzheimer’s rat like a mind of alka seltzer
even a great mind catacomb some days
gets enough of a spark to set back years of
cavepainters master struggles
too many have equated before to hourglasses
so that the joy of smiling is replaced by the sorrow of remembering
when the turn of lips was fresh and involuntary
this is the only time you are really living
not a void

Flowers falling from dying hands

it was flowers falling from dying hands
blowing on the interstate like feathers
on a dry summer dust afternoon

it was an inconvenient, radiant, erotic, unannounced thunderstorm
in early June
which was only appreciated once it was past

it was a sneeze interruption gap in a remarkable non-brilliant career
more than a spark, less than a flame
some how a passing passion

it was a shadow in October that disturbs the trees
in their funeral attire in their dénouement
only to act as imperial lighting

it was a car full of girls driving beside mine
on a long vacation for a stretch
trading elusive peek-a-boo back and forth until I turned

it was your smile in memories and pictures
and that was the satisfaction imprint
the gentlest kiss of dust in the wind against my back

Flowers falling from dying hands (2)

it was flowers falling from dying hands
blowing on the interstate like feathers
on a dry summer dust afternoon
with windchime sunsets
in New Mexico, or
in the suburbs
the untangling of roots
an apple released like leaves would be later
I couldn’t figure the trigger
that ended this canon
it was too much like
the way you made me wonder
when you wrote “whitewash”
finding and replacing you somewhere
in all the sockets in my mind
it made a light cloth visible
and the shadow over took it
footprints forgotten by waves
words regressed to meaningless sounds
then given the breath of new meaning
somehow lingered away
like the weakening scent of orange blossoms and you
when driven away from
a peaceful passing laid in a cathedral
this was the calmest death I ever died

Flowers falling from dying hands (3)

it was flowers falling from dying hands
blowing on the interstate like feathers
on a dry summer dust afternoon
dust with hourglass potential
flowers traveling on the backs of ideals
less than adventurously
a mellow-dramatic escape
a bridge from which i leaped twice
into different bodies
this was evolution
Darwin smiles
a selection and evaporation
never quite known when you are asleep
just that you've been
the loss of guilt
an expansion of death
too subtle to make this smile
it came from what has been not what is to be
you looked at Dali's Christopher Columbus Discovers America
and you blended into one of the crosses or apostles or jesuses
as you stood away from everyone else looking
an episode that just blurred
as if i could erase the end of every sentence
but it was beyond
the relevance of those notions
a madness disease cured
the sand had been washed away

North Branford

the mid-life christ
in sunken, aging cliffs
a sleeping giant out of its prime
it was this tribe that ended
the famous supper of the gatekeeper in the land
of insanity and unquenchable haze passions
too often I was left thinking of
the monument in its place
a mediocre career like mine
the faults and cracks can be covered
grass or hardwood, always timed
so the youth are misguided
halloween angels violet potential
and once I was fertilized nearby
before I was a stepchild
not last borne native tongue
then, this was pleasance only
I followed the game where goals
were heard more than seen
to be told I was not the type
with what I’d type
always outside of the familia looking
into windows of old sports cars
even reminded by the angel catcher
the passion passage never passed
in a sordid past
again winter will be welcomed again
with the wind, snow or sun
these brothers and sisters across the land
captor of spirits
nurtured again the silent wolf of flock
where the scrapes of rocks
that trees can’t cover
don’t make me rain where I can’t reign
it is a bright field in cliffs’ attendance

reagan-loving yankee

the 80s, to the one I have fooled
they are shingles; we
were sprung from the

This is a reason to be born singing hymns
your house, older than statehoods
we, so happy to say, live in rolling starfields
one or two technobeatnick potholes along the way

and a sullen sunburn, disenfranchised tongue
(without some R’s as you go north)

we are patriots
not Imperialists
we are independents without the in the pants dance
we are smart enough not to be told we have to be guilty

we are
the oldest souls, very little
is useable to decipher us from our homes
from all-American literature
we are the theology, not the executors

we do not believe, support, facilitate
have faith within the
Ideological Imperialism

we will let you breathe your own freedom
however you cook it

On the forehead of one of many nations under
God, though He loves the poor we still
Prosper, perhaps, promises to
some devil? til the world spills

(And on that day we will cry,
first of all cries,
we are New Englanders)