Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Review of Tony O'Neill's Songs From the Shooting Gallery

Upon the first turns of the page of Songs From the Shooting Gallery, I got the feeling Tony O'Neill's world was crumbling. He came to Los Angeles to play music but his dream quickly derailed due to heroin addiction. He also smoked crack and ran from one failed marriage to the next. O'Neill supplies a view of Los Angeles that is seldom reported in the news or in the movies. He hangs with prostitutes and failed drug dealers. Throughout the book, it is unclear how he ever managed to scrounge up the money to pay for his addiction, but there are a few times in the book where he explains hustling for a few bucks like conning his parents into giving him $300 to go to the dentist. Although it is made clear, he never went to the dentist.
There isn't much in the book about where he grew up, although this excerpt explains it plainly: “in my school/intelligence/was looked upon/with the same/surly suspicion/as terrorist sympathies/or homosexual tendencies/and the only way out/of the factories/or the Council houses/were drugs/or music/and I loved them both.” And it’s good that the poet doesn't focus too much attention on how he grew up, it makes the reader imagine the worst. What would drive a man to heroin and crack addiction? In this day and age, what wouldn't?
In Another Failed Suicide Attempt, the poet remembers how he was contemplating throwing himself from a freeway overpass. He explains a 5 day meth binge, and how he just wanted the inner chatter in his mind to stop. Whoa. That’s quite the predicament. Towards the conclusion of the poem, the poet writes, "I stopped myself/because I didn't want to give my story to you.” And it appears this is the lowest point in the book. However, keep reading. You will be surprised at how much lower it can get.
In the book’s title poem, O'Neill likens getting high to praying at church and receiving communion. He laments that “the devil is in my blood,” a few lines before this. And it is clear there is a battle going on inside his mind. He loves getting high, as if it is a spiritual experience, but knows he is not doing the right thing. Or does he? It may be unclear at this point in the book. It appears he does what he does out of habit, it’s what he knows. How does one shake a drug habit? This poet tried rehab, but later explains he left rehab and immediately went to the nearest bar and drowned himself in whiskey. O’Neill later explains, for the uninformed: “there are things that break/an attempt to get clean:/bad music, stuttering Christians,/ice-cream trucks, Walt Disney…”

Later on, O'Neill quips, “You don’t live in America/you survive America.” And this is about as politically aware as he gets in this collection of poems. It’s not that he doesn't care about politics, it seems, but that he knows it’s a trap. He knows it’s a facade. He knows what a mask looks like and it is easy to see that politicians wear many of them. This poem is titled, “America (A Love Letter),” in which the poet observes that America’s youth are “sucking on death/before they have even tasted life.”
Towards the end of the book, it is unclear whether or not to feel hopeful. He writes about a friend who said she wanted to “live fast and die really/fucking old,” and he observes that she never took her own advice. We get some description of O'Neill being a regular guy: a father and a husband. It seems clear that he’s left his old life behind. If there is a slight lack of hope found in the poetry, knowing Tony O'Neill story is what restores it. On the last page of the book, there is a photograph of O'Neill sitting with his daughter on some steps. The text beneath the photograph explains he is still writing and “generally tries to keep out of trouble.”
This collection of poetry is some of the most powerful I've ever encountered. And I don’t know that it should be a function of poetry to give a sense of hope. Am I wrong in this assumption? If the poetry tells the story honestly, and leaves no stone unturned, giving opinions, facts and anything in between, isn't that enough? Isn't it enough to stand in another’s shoes and see the world through their eyes? Tony O'Neill gives you his story without holding back; you get the bright days and the dark ones. However, I would advise you to read this poetry in small doses, because it does get bleak at times. I would definitely be interested in reading more from Tony O'Neill to see what other topics he finds interesting now that he’s clean and on the straight and narrow. 

To view/purchase Songs From the Shooting Gallery on Amazon, click here.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Miraculous Attraction

"You must be the change that you wish to see in the world." 
—Mahatma Gandhi

The secret of attraction is remarkably simple. It can be summarized in a single line from the Latin poet Ovid: “To be loved, be lovable.” A lovable person is natural and authentic, radiating the light of awareness and love that we explored in the last meditation. The second “secret” is one we have already discussed at length: You are already lovable. There is nothing you have to do make yourself more lovable or attractive other than to let go of any unloving thoughts that you have about yourself. That which you seek you already are.
In this meditation we will put our attention on the divine qualities that are closest to our heart and that we wish to attract in our relationships—including love, peace, trust, compassion, joy, passion, inspiration, thoughtfulness, and generosity.
Our centering thought this week is:
I attract that which I am.
The spiritual Law of Giving and Receiving teaches us that in order to attract or receive something in our lives, we need to give it freely and without expectation. If we want to experience more love, we need to be lavish in our own expression of love. To receive acceptance, we need to be open and accept others. This week choose one quality that you want to expand in your experience and find as many opportunities as you can to share that same quality with others.
(this meditation is part of Deepak Chopra and Oprah's 21 day meditation challenge. For more meditations, click on "Meditation" label)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Lunch Poems: Amiri Baraka

Revolutionary poet, playwright, and activist Amiri Baraka is recognized as the founder of the Black Arts Movement, a literary period that began in Harlem in the 1960s and forever changed the look, sound, and feel of American poetry

Amiri Baraka was hospitalized on December 24th. For more information on that, click here. Sending positive thoughts and prayers to him and his loved ones.


By the force of meditation arising from my efforts, 
Without doubt I will achieve self-realization. 
And when one has attained deeper experience and illumination, 
Happiness comes of itself in this life 
And Enlightenment in the next.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Paris Review's Jack Kerouac Interview

The Kerouacs have no telephone. Ted Berrigan had contacted Kerouac some months earlier and had persuaded him to do the interview. When he felt the time had come for their meeting to take place, he simply showed up at the Kerouacs's house. Two friends, poets Aram Saroyan and Duncan McNaughton, accompanied him. Kerouac answered his ring; Berrigan quickly told him his name and the visit's purpose. Kerouac welcomed the poets, but before he could show them in, his wife, a very determined woman, seized him from behind and told the group to leave at once.
   “Jack and I began talking simultaneously, saying 'Paris Review!' 'Interview!' etc.,” Berrigan recalls, “while Duncan and Aram began to slink back toward the car. All seemed lost, but I kept talking in what I hoped was a civilized, reasonable, calming, and friendly tone of voice, and soon Mrs. Kerouac agreed to let us in for twenty minutes, on the condition that there be no drinking.
   “Once inside, as it became evident that we actually were in pursuit of a serious purpose, Mrs. Kerouac became more friendly, and we were able to commence the interview. It seems that people still show up constantly at the Kerouacs's looking for the author of On the Road, and stay for days, drinking all the liquor and diverting Jack from his serious occupations.
    “As the evening progressed the atmosphere changed considerably, and Mrs. Kerouac, Stella, proved a gracious and charming hostess. The most amazing thing about Jack Kerouac is his magic voice, which sounds exactly like his works. It is capable of the most astounding and disconcerting changes in no time flat. It dictates everything, including this interview.
   “After the interview, Kerouac, who had been sitting throughout the interview in a President Kennedy-type rocker, moved over to a big poppa chair and said, 'So you boys are poets, hey? Well, let's hear some of your poetry.' We stayed for about an hour longer and Aram and I read some of our things. Finally, he gave each of us a signed broadside of a recent poem of his, and we left.”

To read the full interview, follow this link.

Friday, December 20, 2013

20 Poets on the Meaning of Poetry

Great article via flavorwire here. 20 poets on the meaning of poetry. Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandberg, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Rita Dove, Robert Frost, Edgar Allen Poe and more weigh in on their opinion and insight into what poetry does, why it is important and what it means to them.

We’ve been thinking about poet Meena Alexander’s incredible address to the Yale Political Union, in which she refers to Shelley’s 1821 essay, A Defence of Poetry. The English poet’s work famously stated, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Alexander concludes: “The poem is an invention that exists in spite of history… In a time of violence, the task of poetry is in some way to reconcile us to our world and to allow us a measure of tenderness and grace with which to exist… Poetry’s task is to reconcile us to the world — not to accept it at face value or to assent to things that are wrong, but to reconcile one in a larger sense, to return us in love, the province of the imagination, to the scope of our mortal lives.” Other poets have attempted to interpret “what is deeply felt and is essentially unsayable.” Here are a few brief definitions of poetry by famous poets.

To read the full article, follow this link.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Amir Sulaiman - Come To The Hills (We Must Win)

Amir Sulaiman performs a poem from The Opening. To download/stream his newest album, click here. To download Amir Sulaiman's previous albums, click here.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Previously Unheard Interview With Tupac Shakur

Tupac discusses the Black Panthers, his relationship with fame, the media, his rape charges, honor, and being real vs. being a role model in this interview from 1994 that has been animated by Blank on Blank.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Miraculous Illumination

"I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being." —Hafiz
This week our meditation focuses on the light within each of us. In many wisdom traditions, light represents spiritual awareness. It is a state of consciousness that illuminates darkness and allows us to see with the eyes of love and wisdom. As our awareness expands, what once seemed to be obstacles are now clearly opportunities. When we reach a state of pure awareness, we realize that there are no problems and therefore no need for solutions.
In our relationships, the expanding light of awareness allows us to share more love, compassion, laughter, and joy with everyone in our lives. As clarity dawns, we become light-hearted and stop taking ourselves so seriously. We let go of struggle and live in the flow of life.
Our centering thought for this week is:
My loving truth shines for all to see.
To cultivate the light of awareness, pay attention to the clues and evidence that miracles are unfolding in your life. Notice the unexpected opportunities that come your way, the flash of insight, a sudden feeling of peace or joy, a chance meeting, or a spontaneous creative experience. You may want to keep a list of daily miracles in your journal. Whatever we pay attention to expands in our experience, so as you focus your attention on miracles you will begin to notice more grace, happiness, and love flowing into every aspect of your life, including your relationships.

(This meditation is a part of Deepak Chopra and Oprah's 21 day meditation. For more meditations, click the "Meditation" label.)

Frank Zappa - The Lost Interview

Frank Zappa is often candid, eerily prophetic, funny and honest with this interview. Things about him I don't think are unique to this interview, so it is very enjoyable to listen to him talk about a variety of subjects, including: early influences, an altercation with "the elite" of his hometown, the scene in L.A. in the 60's, JFK, how Mothers of Invention started, the "threat" of artistic people, America's version democracy, the importance of education, campaign funding, communism, the fall of the Berlin wall, on meeting Jimi Hendrix, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr and Bobby Kennedy, conspiracy theories, space exploration and much more. The title on YouTube indicates there are 7 parts to this interview, but I was unable to find the 7th part, so there's 6 9-10 minute videos.







Monday, December 9, 2013

Cathal Holden - The Emperor's New Philosophy

Paris Review's Czeslaw Milosz Interview

Though Nobelist Czeslaw Milosz considers himself a Polish poet because he writes in that “native mother tongue,” he was not born in Poland, nor has he lived there for over half a century. Nonetheless, the poems of this sensuous mystic are inscribed on monuments in Gdansk as well as printed on posters in the New York City transit system. 
He was born in 1911 in Szetejnie, Lithuania, the impoverished estate of his grandfather, a gentleman farmer. Milosz remembers the rural Lithuania of that time as a “country of myth and poetry.” His childhood world was broken by World War I when his father, Alexander, a road engineer, was recruited by the Czar’s army. Milosz and his mother accompanied his father on dangerous bridge-building expeditions near Russian battle zones. 
The family returned to Lithuania in 1918. For several years Milosz enjoyed youthful solitude before beginning a rigorous formal education in Vilnius, the capital of Polish Lithuania. In his early twenties he published his first volume of poems, A Poem on Frozen TimeThree Winters, his second volume, appeared in 1936. Milosz received a law degree from the university in Vilnius and spent a year in Paris on a scholarship, where he met his distant cousin Oscar Milosz, the French poet who became his mentor. 
The Soviet regime in Vilnius eventually forced Milosz to flee the city of his youth to Nazi-occupied Warsaw, where he joined the socialist resistance. Milosz’s anthology of anti-Nazi poetry, The Invincible Song, was published by underground presses in Warsaw, where he also wrote “The World (A Naive Poem)” and the cycle Voices of Poor People. After the destruction of Warsaw he lived for a while outside of Krakow. The state publishing house brought out his collected poems in a volume entitled Rescue
The end of the war brought more dislocation. Milosz worked as a cultural attaché of the Polish Communist government, serving in both New York and Washington over a period of years. He broke with the Polish government in 1951 and sought political asylum in France, even though it meant virtual disconnection from Polish readers. His ten years in France found him at odds with the strongly prosocialist and communist intellectual community. He wrote two novels during this period, Seizure of Power and The Issa Valley, as well as his most famous book, The Captive Mind, a study of the dangerous appeal of totalitarian thought, along with portraits of friends who had been seduced by it. An exponent of Simone Weil, he translated her essays into Polish. He also wrote two volumes of poetry and an intellectual autobiography, Native Realm: A Search for Self-DefinitionBanned in Poland, Milosz’s poetry was published in Paris by the Instytut Literacki. 
Milosz moved yet further west when in 1961, at age fifty, he began a new career as a professor of Slavic languages and literature at the University of California at Berkeley. Though an unknown member of a small department, he eventually became popular for his courses on Dostoyevsky, and to those outside the university, as a translator of the poems of Zbigniew Herbert. Milosz’s Selected Poems were not published in English until 1973. In 1978 his collection Bells in Winter appeared, and Milosz was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. In 1981 he visited Poland for the first time in thirty years and in 1992 saw his native Lithuania again after a fifty-two year absence. 
Since winning the Nobel Prize, Milosz has published many volumes of prose and poetry. His prose collections include Visions from San Francisco BayBeginning with My Streets,The Land of Ulro, and his Charles Eliot Norton lectures, The Witness of Poetry. HisCollected Poems appeared in 1988 and included portions of Unattainable Earth. It was followed most recently by another collection, Provinces. A diary of the year 1988, A Year of the Hunter, was published in 1994 and another volume of poetry, Facing the River, is due out in 1995. Milosz resides in Berkeley most of the year but spends portions of his summers in Cracow.
This interview was conducted primarily at Milosz’s home in the Berkeley hills overlooking San Francisco Bay, where he lives with his wife, Carol, and a cat named Tiny. Other portions were recorded before a live audience at the Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street YMHA in New York. The first part of the conversation in Berkeley lasted four hours without interruption, until the poet looked at his watch and then, somewhat sympathetically, at his exhausted interlocutor to ask, “It is six o’clock, time for a little vodka?”

To read Paris Review's interview with the Polish poet, click here.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Wanda Coleman - Extended Version of Poetry.LA Interview

This version of our 2013 interview with the late poet, fiction writer, and essayist Wanda Coleman runs some 13 minutes longer than the (still available) version we posted on YouTube in Oct., 2013. Coleman died on 11/22/13, at age 67, after a literary career that spanned over 30 years and included numerous volumes of poetry and fiction, most recently "Jazz & Twelve O'clock Tales" (Godine/Black Sparrow Books, 2008) and "The World Falls Apart" (Pitt Poetry Series, 2011). Her honors include an Emmy in Daytime Drama Writing and a Leonard Marshall Prize. In this 5/11/13 conversation with Mariano Zaro, she discusses her life and work. (Part of the www.Poetry.LA interview series with noted poets of Southern California and beyond.)

To view the official trailer of The Wanda Coleman Project via youtube, click here.

Langston Hughes - Dream Boogie

Dream Boogie

Good morning, daddy!
Ain't you heard
The boogie-woogie rumble
Of a dream deferred?
Listen closely:
You'll hear their feet
Beating out and Beating out a --
You think
It's a happy beat?
Listen to it closely:
Ain't you heard
something underneath
like a --
What did I say?
I'm happy!
Take it away!
Hey, pop!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Hip-Hop & Science Fiction: Gabriel Teodros at TEDxRainier

To know that another world is possible, and to bring it to life through music; this has always been the mission of Gabriel Teodros. He made a mark with groups CopperWire, Abyssinian Creole and Air 2 A Bird, and reached an international audience with his critically-acclaimed solo debut Lovework. Early 2012 saw the release of his newest solo project, Colored People's Time Machine, as well as CopperWire's Earthbound, a space opera of a hip hop ride (set in the year 2089) recorded with fellow Ethiopian-American artists Meklit Hadero and Burntface.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

MaLLy - Strange Rhythm (Review & Free Download)

In a world where cookie-cutter, see through artists strive to be normal, MaLLy dares to be strange.

The title of MaLLy’s newest offering is “Strange Rhythm,” and it is fitting. MaLLy is strange. His cadence is strange. His style is strange. The music is strange. When telling your personal truth and relaying stories from different perspectives is seen as strange, it seems that MaLLy doesn’t have a problem with being labeled or labeling himself as such. 

In the opening track, “Dead Art Painting,” MaLLy warns: “Bitch, this is my house.” And it becomes clear from the jump that the emcee is claiming his territory. Is the house a metaphor for the track, the album or, even deeper, a metaphor for Hiphop in general? Towards the finale of this track, MaLLy raps, “His best advice was roll solo ‘cause these niggas ain’t your friends.” And that may be a bit of foreshadowing, pointing to the fact that there are no other featured rappers on this release.

The unorthodox beats found on “Strange Rhythm” compliment MaLLy’s flow nicely. My favorite beat is found on “Every Promise,” with a distorted vocal sample hidden behind hard drums and an uncomfortable synth. The beat is a bit frightening, while MaLLy raps, “Who am I? A Saint or a sinner? I came out of the dirt clean, I never show off, that’s for beginners.” And by this point in the album, it is clear MaLLy doesn’t have to try hard to impress. He does it naturally. It is clear that this comes easy to the emcee, and the relaxed yet immediate cadences indicate this.

MaLLy possesses exceptional story telling ability that is show cased on “All Of My Life (Part 1)” where the rapper tells a tale of love and the pursuit of the almighty dollar. What happens when a young woman wants money, power and respect, teamed with a young man thirsty for money, power and respect as well? At the end of the track, the story is left open ended, instead of reaching a conclusion. I get the feeling there’s going to be a Part 2, as the title indicates this is only Part 1.

An emcee of MaLLy’s caliber is allowed to brag. On "Guillotine," he displays his swords, with lines mixed with braggadocio chest pounding and questioning of his own intuition. MaLLy goes from admitting his lack of knowledge to stating his goals with his raps to explaining why he is superior when compared to other emcees. He covers all this ground in only a few bars. The song continues to inhabit the grey areas of the self and the world, rather than a rigid, black and white view of reality that is often present in rap music today.
This is a man with many facets, and it is clear that he will present all of them to you without flinching; he’ll give you the whole picture, rather than bits and pieces of the self that lesser qualified emcees tend to present.

The downside of this album can be seen as either good or bad, depending on your perspective: (aside from K.Raydio singing the hook on “Wonderful World”) there are no features. While MaLLy is more than capable of carrying the weight of crafting an incredible album, it would be nice to get some juxtapositions thrown into the mix. Just for variety, it’d be nice to hear MaLLy’s verses complimented with other perspectives.

All in all, “Strange Rhythm,” has great replay value. While concise, it is a good introduction to folks (like me) who have never previously listened to MaLLy’s music. I’m looking forward to hearing if “All Of My Life” has a sequel. I’m looking forward to hear what direction he takes the music in the future. If I had to sum up this album in one word, I choose “strange.” MaLLy tackles topics of love, loss of love, faith, failure and triumph all in 8 tracks. The title of this album fits the content very well. If that’s your thing, you will enjoy this release.

Some highlights:

“what goes up comes down, life is so precious. Ate a cloud for breakfast, we all separate and they desperate”

“love who you is now not what you was”

“the stakes is high, to the wackness, you know that I can’t comply”

“down to earth but still sky scrapin’”

“got a demon on my back on both sides today, with the angle of an angel prayin’ it won’t stay”

“everything I said was fly”

To download "Strange Rhythm" for free, via DJ Booth, click here. To stream "Strange Rhythm," via SoundCloud, click here.

Miraculous Spirit

"Love is the great miracle cure. Loving ourselves works miracles in our lives." —Louise L. Hay
Miraculous Spirit
This week we will continue our journey of miraculous relationships by expanding our experience of love, equanimity, joy, compassion, and other divine qualities of spirit. Now our meditation will focus on choosing to be the presence of love.
Many people think of love as an emotion that comes and goes. In one moment we feel intense love and in the next we feel nothing at all. We may then become consumed by doubts about our relationships or we get caught up in an anxious search for love, striving to attract someone who will finally give us the love and approval we've longed for. As we’ve explored, love isn’t a capricious emotion but a state of being. It is an experience of unity with all creation. In every moment we can choose to be the presence of love and let that love guide all our words and actions. This choice will transform all of your relationships, including the one with yourself.
Our centering thought for today is:
I love and am loved unconditionally.

An essential part of learning to love yourself is to focus on being fully present and accepting of your current experience. Today take time to become more conscious of what your emotions are and how they feel in your body. Just be with your feelings with the awareness that whatever you are feeling is okay exactly as it is. This supportive gesture is like hugging and holding yourself in a loving and nurturing embrace—a practice that helps you metabolize your present experiences, promotes healing of old emotional pain, cultivates trust in yourself, and strengthens your ability to give yourself compassion and kindness.

(This meditation was part of Deepak Chopra and Oprah's 21 day meditation challenge, for more of these meditations, click the "Meditation" label)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Ordinary Madness of Charles Bukowski

"I do not like the human race..." Terrific documentary on the life of Charles Bukowski. If you're an aficionado, you'll recognize some of the older scenes. But there is a lot of great stuff here!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Poems

Taken from The Poetry Foundation's Poetry Off the Shelf podcast. Brad Leithauser reads 2 poems that reflect gratitude. The following commentary is quite unique, where he connects gratitude with mortality and love. Leithauser reads poems by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge and Witter Bynner.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Guante & Big Cats - Winter is Coming

Twin Cities artists Guante and Big Cats release this free download in perfect timing. Guante does the raps, Big Cats provides the music.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Wanda Coleman, November 13, 1946 - November 22, 2013

For an article written by Mike the Poet upon her being awarded the Jean Burden Award back in May of this year, click here. For an article in the LA Times about her passing, click here. For a video interview and footage of her reading her poems via S.A. Griffin's blog, click here. For more footage of Wanda Coleman reading a poem from Bathwater Wine, click here.

Rest In Power Wanda Coleman.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Linda Gregerson On John Donne

Poet Linda Gregerson talks about her affinity for John Donne. Via Poetry Society of America. To read the full article, click here.

 When my grave is broke up again
        Some second guest to entertain
        (For graves have learned that womanhead:
        To be to more then one a bed),
             and he that digs it spies
     A bracelet of bright hair about the bone,                  
             Will he not let's alone,
     And think that there a loving couple lies,
     Which thought that this device might be some way
     To make their souls at the last, busy day,
     Meet at this grave, and make a little stay?  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Bun B Interview at Breakfast Club

Bun B of UGK is interviewed by Breakfast Club Power 105.1 in New York. Topics discussed include: showing love to younger artists, UGK's song with Jay-Z "Big Pimpin", UGK's legacy, the term "O.G.", Pimp C's disagreement with Young Jeezy, the possibility of Bun B becoming mayor of Houston, the Houston rap scene, publishing a children's book, the meaning of Trill, the difference between older artists and younger artists mind states, Pimp C's upcoming EP, not focussing too much on the past, his influences and inspirations plus much more.

Imagining a World Without Money

Visionary and self-taught architect, Jacques Fresco explains his ideal world that incorporates a resource-based system. No money, or other form of bartering exchange. A world without money is more than just imagination; it is very possible. Jacque Fresco believes if we decide to do this today, all things about this world can be achieved within only 10 years!
Look at our world and all the unnecessary suffering at the hands of the monetary system. Money is a flawed system that is holding humanity back. Just watch this. I'm sure you will all agree.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ash Beckham's TED Talk

Ash discusses the current state of homophobia in our culture challenging even the word "homophobia" itself. There is no fear, just loathing. Hating things we don't understand, people we don't know or anything that is different than our day to day. 
"Homophobic" people are not scared of anything. We all have a responsibility to live our lives as active activists not passive ones when it comes to protecting our fellow humans from hate of any kind.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Michael S. Harper - Debridement

(This poem is taken from Michael S. Harper's poetry book, Images of Kin: New and Selected Poems. For more Veterans Day Poems, click here)


Black men are oaks cut down. 

Congressional Medal of Honor Society 
United States of America chartered by 
Congress, August 14, 1958; this certifies 
that STAC John Henry Louis is a member
of this society.

“Don’t ask me anything about the
medal. I don’t even know how I won

Debridement: The cutting away of dead
or contaminated tissue from a wound
to prevent infection.

America: love it or give it back.

Groceries ring
in my intestines:
grits aint groceries   
eggs aint poultry
Mona Lisa was a man:   
waltzing in sawdust   
I dream my cards
has five holes in it,   
up to twenty holes;   
five shots out of seven   
beneath the counter;   
surrounded by detectives   
pale ribbons of valor   
my necklace of bullets   
powdering the operating table.

Five impaled men loop their ribbons   
’round my neck
listening to whispers of valor:
“Honey, what you cryin’ ’bout?   
You made it back.”

Four M-48 tank platoons ambushed
near Dak To, two destroyed:   
the Ho Chi Minh Trail boils,   
half my platoon rockets   
into stars near Cambodia,
foot soldiers dance from highland woods
taxing our burning half:

there were no caves for them to hide.
We saw no action,
eleven months twenty-two days   
in our old tank
burning sixty feet away:
I watch them burn inside out:   
hoisting through heavy crossfire,   
hoisting over turret hatches,   
hoisting my last burning man   
alive to the ground,
our tank artillery shells explode   
killing all inside:
hoisting blown burned squad   
in tank’s bladder,
plug leaks with cave blood:

there were no caves for them to hide—

In the Projects
Slung basketballs at Jeffries   
House with some welfare kids   
weaving in their figure eight hunger.

Mama asked if I was taking anything?   
I rolled up my sleeves:
no tracks, mama:
“black-medal-man ain’t street-poisoned,”
militants called:
“he’s an electronic nigger!”

“Better keep electronic nigger 'way.”
Electronic Nigger?   
Mama, unplug me, please.

A White Friend Flies In from the Coast
Burned—black by birth,
burned—armed with .45,
burned—submachine gun,
burned—STAC hunted VC,
burned—killing 5-20,
burned—nobody know for sure;   
burned—out of ammo,
burned—killed one with gun-stock,   
burned—VC AK-47 jammed,   
burned—killed faceless VC,   
burned—over and over,
burned—STAC subdued by three men,   
burned—three shots: morphine,   
burned—tried killing prisoners,   
burned—taken to Pleiku,
burned—held down, straitjacket,
burned—whites owe him, hear?   
burned—I owe him, here.

Mama’s Report
“Don’t fight, honey,   
don’t let ’em catch you.”

Tour over, gear packed,   
hospital over, no job.

“Aw man, nothin' happened,”
explorer, altar boy—

Maybe it’s ’cause they killed people   
and don’t know why they did?

My boy had color slides of dead people,   
stacks of dead Vietnamese.

MP’s asked if he’d been arrested   
since discharge, what he’d been doin’:

“Lookin’ at slides,
looking’ at stacks of slides, mostly.”

Fifteen minutes later a colonel called
from the Defense Department, said he’d won the medal;

could he be in Washington with his family,   
maybe he’d get a job now; he qualified.

The Democrats had lost, the president said;   
there were signs of movement in Paris:

Fixing Certificates:   Dog Tags:   Letters Home
Our heliteam had mid-air blowout   
dropping flares—5 burned alive.

The children carry hand   
grenades to and from piss tubes.

Staring at tracer bullets
rice is the focal point of war.

On amphibious raid, our heliteam
found dead VC with maps of our compound.

On morning sick call you unzip;   
before you piss you get a smear.

“VC reamed that mustang a new asshole”—
even at movies: “no round-eye pussy no more”—

Tympanic membrane damage: high gone—
20-40 db loss mid-frequencies.

Scrub-typhus, malaria, dengue fever, cholera;   
rotting buffalo, maggoted dog, decapped children.

Bangkok: amber dust, watches, C-rations,   
elephanthide billfolds, cameras, smack.

Sand&tinroof bunkers, 81/120 mm:
“Health record terminated this date by reason of death.”

Vaculoated amoeba, bacillary dysentery, hookworm;
thorazine, tetracycline, darvon for diarrhea.

'Conitus’: I wanna go home to mama;
Brown’s mixture, ETH with codeine, cortisone skin-creams.

Written on helipad fantail 600 bed Repose;
“no purple heart, hit by ’nother marine.”

“Vascular repair, dissection, debridement”:
sharp bone edges, mushy muscle, shrapnel: stainless bucket.

Bodies in polyethylene bag: transport:   
'Tan San Nhat Mortuary’

Blood, endotracheal tube, prep   
abdomen, mid-chest to scrotum—

“While you’re fixin' me doc,
can you fix them ingrown hairs on my face?”

“They didn’t get my balls, did they?”
50 mg thorazine—“Yes they did, marine!”

Swans loom on the playground   
swooning in the basket air,
the nod of their bills
in open flight, open formation.   
Street-poisoned, a gray mallard   
skims into our courtyard with a bag:

And he poisons them—
And he poisons them—
my pass is a blade   
near the sternum
cutting in:
you can make this a career.

Patches itch on my chest and shoulders—
I powder them with phisohex
solution from an aerosol can:
you can make this a career.

Pickets of insulin dab the cloudy
hallways in a spray.
Circuits of change
march to an honor guard—
I am prancing:   
I am prancing:

you can make this a career.

Makin’ Jump Shots
He waltzes into the lane
’cross the free-throw line,   
fakes a drive, pivots,
floats from the asphalt turf   
in an arc of black light,
and sinks two into the chains.

One on one he fakes   
down the main, passes   
into the free lane
and hits the chains.

A sniff in the fallen air—
he stuffs it through the chains   
riding high:
“traveling” someone calls—
and he laughs, stepping
to a silent beat, gliding
as he sinks two into the chains.

Debridement:   Operation Harvest Moon:   On Repose
The sestina traces a circle in language and body.
Stab incision below nipple,
left side; insert large chest tube;   
sew to skin, right side;
catch blood from tube
in gallon drain bottle.
Wash abdomen with phisohex;   
shave; spray brown iodine prep.

Stab incision below sternum   
to symphis pubis
catch blood left side;
sever reddish brown spleen
cut in half; tie off blood supply;   
check retroperitoneal,
kidney, renal artery bleeding.

Dissect lateral wall
abdominal cavity; locate kidney;   
pack colon, small intestine;   
cut kidney; suture closely;   
inch by inch check bladder,   
liver, abdominal wall, stomach:   
25 units blood, pressure down.

Venous pressure: 8; lumbar
musculature, lower spinal column   
pulverized; ligate blood vessels,   
right forearm; trim meat, bone ends;   
tourniquet above fracture, left arm;   
urine, negative: 4 hours; pressure   
unstable; remove shrapnel flecks.

Roll on stomach; 35 units blood;
pressure zero; insert plastic blood
containers, pressure cuffs; pump chest   
drainage tube; wash wounds sterile   
saline; dress six-inch ace wraps;
wrap both legs, toe to groin; left arm   
plaster, finger to shoulder: 40 units blood.

Pressure, pulse, respiration up;
remove bloody gowns; scrub; redrape;
5 cc vitamin K; thorazine: sixth
laparotomy; check hyperventilation;
stab right side incision below nipple;
insert large chest tube; catch blood drain bottle ...

The Family of Debridement
Theory: Inconvenienced subject will return to hospital   
if loaned Thunderbird
Withdrawn. Hope: Subject returns,
Foreclosure for nine months unpaid mortgage;   
wife tells subject hospital wants deposit,
Diseased cyst removal:
'Ain’t you gonna give me a little kiss good-bye’
Subject-wife: To return with robe and curlers—
Subject tells friend he’ll pay $15 to F’s stepfather   
if he’ll drive him to pick up money owed him.

“This guy lives down the street,
I don’t want him to see me coming.”

“It looked odd for a car filled with blacks
to be parked in the dark in a white neighborhood,   
so we pulled the car out under a streetlight   
so everybody could see us.”

Store manager: “I first hit him with two bullets   
so I pulled the trigger until my gun was empty.”

“I’m going to kill you, you white MF,” store manager   
told police. Police took cardload, F and F’s parents for   
further questioning. Subject died on operating table: 5 hrs:

Subject buried on grass slope, 200 yards   
east of Kennedy Memorial,
overlooking Potomac and Pentagon,   
to the south,
Arlington National Cemetery.

Army honor guard
in dress blues,
carried out assignment   

with precision: