January 2007


I can’t remember
seventeen syllables if
they meant my whole life.

Parked in front of a
perfect square of green jell-o,
looking through the glass.

I hear the purr, feel
it in my palm gliding on
crackling fur, recall.

Over her shoulder,
past her sunlit chestnut hair,
the clock says, time’s up.

A bird thumps the plate
glass, falls into the flowers,
dead, blood and feathers.

No one notices
but me. Maybe it didn’t
really happen. Now.

Condensed rivulets
coursing inside the plate glass
soak the moldy drapes.

As patriotic Americans, Sarah and I exercised our free speech rights this past weekend in Washington.

There was stiff competition for my favorite sign, but these two stayed with me:

And finally, the most clever sign or banner was the backbone you can see to the left of the Capitol, which reads “Impeach, Indict, Imprison.”

What are you doing this weekend? Do you think escalating the war in Iraq is a bad idea? May I suggest a visit to the nation’s capital Saturday? Assemble on the National Mall, between 3rd and 7th Streets, at 11 am. Rally 11am-1pm. March will kick off at 1pm. If you’ve never helped fill up the Mall, it’s an experience I highly recommend. Sarah and I hope to see you there. For more information, see the United for Peace and Justice website. Give your legislators something to think about while they’re deciding, as Chuck Hagel put it, whether they might not be better suited to selling shoes than leading the country if they can’t manage to speak out now. Democracy and freedom begin at home.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m looking for an 80’s sf novel to replace Neuromancer in the literature class I teach most summers at Virginia Commonwealth University. I’ve just read Haruki Murakami‘s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World and liked it almost as much as his Kafka on the Shore, which I plan to teach in an urban fantasy class. Hard-Boiled etc. is actually a science fiction novel with a cyberpunk trope, though a decidedly odd one, published in 1985. Science fiction, IMHO, can use all the odd it can get. Like Gibson and Blade Runner, which I plan to show, it draws heavily upon Raymond Chandler. Set in a Japan seen through the eyes of a character steeped in American culture, it makes an interesting companion to the cyberpunk west steeped in Japanese culture which is the mainstay of American cyberpunk. Anyway, it’s now on the shortlist for the slot.

In a shocking development in the Scooter Libby trial, Carl Rove’s teddy bear revealed that he was framed for the crime of leaking the identity of Carl’s Malibu Barbi as an U.N.C.L.E. operative during a sleepover at Scooter’s house. He said “My head was stuffed with so many important affairs of state, I didn’t know what I was saying. Carl made up the game to get even with Ken for telling G.I. Joe all his guns were made of plastic.”

From a Dream in Freiberg

And the voice comes through old,
Injured, chronically healing from new wounds—
Saying “listen to me?
—but I don’t.

What if he asks questions I
Don’t want to answer, don’t want
To hear, old questions, new
Questions, questions nobody’s
even thought of yet.
He’s only got the one answer,
And I’m not ready to hear it.

“So how’ve you been?? I say.
“You’re not listening to me,? he says,
and he’s so right, so right,
so I write.

It’s only that I thought once you were dead
You had nothing further to say on any subject,
Even you, even me.

So I only remember the voice,
No words but “listen to me.?
I am. Believe me. That will have to do.

I can scarcely believe it. Just as I was about to write about Frank Hargrove, the Republican lawmaker in Virginia who told black Virginians to “just get over” slavery, John Warner, our senior Republican Senator comes out against President Surge and says he’ll vote for the Senate resolution opposing escalation. Opposing the Prez isn’t just for the left anymore. Way to go, John!
As for Hargrove, he made a factual error in his claims. He said that none of the lawmakers now sitting had anything to do with slavery. Ever hear of Jim Crow, Frank? Slavery: The Sequel? I’m younger than Hargrove, and I remember the Whites Only signs and all the other trappings of American apartheid. Slavery didn’t end with the Emancipation Proclamation.  State-supported oppression lasted well into Hargood’s adult life.

January 15th, and this snake is on the move, and so were we. It was a four day weekend in Virginia. There’s something called Lee-Jackson Day here the Friday before Martin Luther King Day, so that nobody gets the idea that Virginia is over its racist past. It was spring here—all the trees budding, daffodils blooming. We rode all over town on our bikes Friday and Saturday. When friend Denny Dobbin came to town, we took him on the 10-mile loop hike around the James River, starting at Oregon Hill, crossing over at Belle Isle, up through Forest Hill Park for a Mexican lunch, then on the buttermilk trail, across the Nickel Bridge, the northbank trail below Hollywood Cemetery, and back to Oregon Hill.

Denny recovering:

The James looking toward Hollywood Cemetery from Belle Isle:

I suppose I should want to talk about the President’s bold new plan for Iraq, but it’s all too depressing, isn’t it? So I figured it’s time for another godstory. The character of God owes a lot to a certain kind of sentimental movie version of the miraculous done so well in the 40’s by guys like Frank Capra. My adolescent religion was watching those things on tv every afternoon. Those stories owe a debt to Dickens, whose A Christmas Carol is a touchstone of sentimental magic. So here’s my Capraesque-Dickensish godstory:

Julia Prays to Forget Evan

Julia loads the dishwasher, wipes all the counters and splashboards clean and everything on them, scours the stovetop and the sink, vacuums and mops the floor, and watches it dry. She kneels to get a stubborn spot in front of the stove when, all of a sudden, she feels the overwhelming need to pray. It’s that or sob again. She hates that.

The tile floor under her knees is hard and cold. She’s eye-level with the digital clock on the stove, which hasn’t been reset since the thunderstorm three nights before. It blinks hypnotically: 12:00 12:00 12:00 12:00 12:00 12:00 . . . (more…)

Well, here we are waiting for a way forward from our forward-looking leader.

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