Thursday, September 18, 2014

I Bet This Would Sound So Much Better Translated Into Italian

Did my grandmother know
The reason they called America the promised land?
When she came to this land of opportunity
As a mail order bride did she think
She would be partaking in white privilege?
That the history of plantations and reservations
That made the fat of the land could trump
all the anti-Italian comments
she’d get from second generation Irish
Getting their chance to dish it out
As once they had taken it?

I sincerely doubt it
I don’t think they sold it that way
Just like today Apple doesn’t brag
“Laptops made by authentic Chinese Slave Labor!”
But here she was
In the land of the free & the home of the slave
Just in time for the great depression
And that mythic time of working class togetherness

85 years later, at least one of her grandchildren
believes it might be better back in Italia
not cursing her for ever leaving
still loving much about American culture
and being a product of it, but feeling cut off
not just from Napoli but from the Eritrean blood
clearly evident in our nose and build
despite it being airbrushed from the family tree
that only goes as low as the trunk. White/European.
One of her daughters married a black man named Ting
And they called her a black sheep.

I dream of the Mediterranean. If the Roman Empire
Ever had a soul, it was she. No mere middle passage
But straddling continents as if they could be equal
Bubbling beneath the official imperial reality
I crave that blues cruise more than Crete.
On maps, at least, is seems more cozy than
The Pacific or even the Atlantic, and warmer
And all this before a concept of Europe
                                   Gerrymandered us
But Italy was never as close to Norway or England
As it was to Egypt or Tunisia
Especially when Alps were much harder to cross
Than the sea was….

And I think of Hannibal and his elephants
Deep within our blood, not some imperialist
Aenied screwing over Dido
And that, dear judge, is why I say “other”
When you ask me about my people
Or better leave it blank, given your options
But my blue eyes betray me.
I do not entirely hate Europe.
It seems less Eurocentric today than the USA
But every time I see a map with Europe on top
I turn it around so South Africa is
And we haven’t even gotten into Asia yet
(unless of course you notice
Europe is just part of Asia in drag
Whatever that means)
And I wonder how long I could live near
Vesuvius or Carthage only speaking English.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Pretty Instrumental, or an Abrasive Piece of Avant Noise?

The ideas are more physical
Than what he calls the heart
And the soul of sleep is deeper
Than the heart of sex

I need to sleep with you more than fuck you
But you can wake me and I’ll fuck you if you feel insomniac.
Beyond the horse of lust and the carriage of marriage
is the surrounding between,
the metaphor of love
in and out of words
Where our love can be
And tend as we began pretending.

Oh, I tried a little pre-tenderness.
I tried it out for sighs
(he met a girl by moaning
you know how that can happen).
But you soothe me with your power
And your ideas send shivers through my spine
Way better than any highway he calls the heart.

I love the heart,
The anthropomorphic heart named “thumpy”
You drew for me on envelopes
Back in my daze,
The heart with a smiling mouth and legs
Three dimensional meaning 4 and 5
Transcendent and achingly cute.

Yes, it always stirs longing
And why not call it visionary
And touching, rhythm
And blues. Why not call it
Soul (with the temptation
To get caught up in John Donne’s
Famous metaphoric conceit?)

But one can also call it dope
Afraid of how extremes can meet
Like heartbreaking optimism
(if not optimistic heartbreak, good grief)
and not confined by a Self,
a person, a corporate person….

If the corporations want the word person so bad,
Let them have it.
We don’t have to judge ourselves by their standards
As, say, three/fifths of one, barely passing
Slaves or consumers.
The word person is so 20th century.
We’re still debating on a new one.

I like the word “lovers” or even luvvers
(if not to pass for process-oriented
with no body but a talking face
(without even a head or shoulder
to lean it on)

3. ++++++++

Oh grandma, grandma,
Hear my cry, hear your plea.
It’s okay to close your eyes now
Or open them to death
But I hope we get to talk
at least one more
last time,
And I’m too embarrassed or afraid
To tell you this
Like I almost forgot to end a conversation
With “I love you”
When talking to your daughter my mother
On mother’s day in 1992
The last tine we spoke

But that don’t mean I have to be a person
To have this talk
And we don’t have to be coffee
To be money, in love

Free radicals are scary
Opposites attract
The story of the outsider and the insider
Is just the clothes, the middleman we crave
Between thinker and doer
Introvert and extrovert
Informing the one off band or movement
Inside the loving intimate married couple

And yes she could soothe me
By letting me soothe her
And calm me so I’m quiet
Without being clammed up, blocked up
Before the music lets us
Loosen up, and tighten up
At the block party

And the only reason the host
Scolds us for lacking personal grounding
Is because she thinks the music’s foundation
Is more like quicksand if it’s not decorations
In contrast to the Great Books
That are supposed to be
Our off-stage soul…
Ah, your absence springs a leak?
Should I drown, or should I sip?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Between Nostalgias

Between Nostalgias

Oh, metal, metal, do you really need metal
Yes, it’s still there, just a little more hidden
Like the people who make it,
invisible in other countries slave labor camps
But yes there can be enough of a future
For there to be a present.
The guy who runs the little shop
Selling $350 jeans (low-end)
and some that brag about being made in US prisons
is no joke, but he’s a nice guy
and little shops are one of your causes
and you know he’d prefer to sell cheaper
to regular folk if there were any left.

Oh money, money. It’s still there, not really hidden.
You could straddle rich and poor and navigate mood swings
Reverting to a dirty warehouse to save money
and convince yourself it could be a community
But so glad you had her clean apartment
In the neighborhood you could no longer afford access to
And that Ashbery line comes back,
“business was punk at the opera”
But the sun is slowly shining
And you’re passing for normal, trying on pants.
You can do this. Baby steps to Normandy,
I mean normalcy. But the cops
Shoot in the back of surrendering heads. “Despite”
Their training. “Oh, it’s just a coincidence,
A few bad apples” one says
While imported anarchists throw rocks
At a great black owned coffee shop with $5 tuna sandwiches
And a piano they sometimes let me play
But today it turns into conversation

“What kind of bread do you have?”
“Just wheat……the good kind.”
“Yeah, much better than white, just like Malcolm said.”
“Yeah, same with sugar….rice….and coffee…”
“….what’s supposed to wake you up….ends up putting you to sleep”
“that’s pre Mecca Malcolm X”
“Yeah, he was really growing before he died…”
“that’s why they killed him”…
“same with Martin Luther King….”
“Yeah, everything on the tuna?
“…what’s your name?”
“I’m Chris, are you here every day?”
“Until I start at Laney….”
“I teach at Laney….”
“I’d love to take your class….”
“I probably learn more from my students than they learn from me.”

We might love you enough to let you say the truth,
But we’ll edit it out coz we love what you say just after it better.
In the classroom, the spirit of the students
Is enough to check, to tell it slant, to quote Caliban
On the fine art of cursing. Love. This is. Love. A Job
I cheated on my girlfriend with. Staring in her eyes
Trying to shut my mind off from thinking about Gregory
Who had just been shot and was worried I’d flunk him.
But so was music. In love, to divide is not to take away
But it takes a fast bike, baby, to live a double life

I used to go up and down College a lot
Back when I had a life among the people of the light
And it wasn’t back in the days the busses were ten cents
Before inflation was just a sneaky way to give you a pay cut
By making you think you got a pay raise.
And I almost see a city again
From the point of view of a bike….