Monday, August 31, 2015

On The Whine Train

You could find stats to show
That there are more
loud whites and quiet blacks
than quiet whites and loud blacks,
yet the myth of the loud—
and often “too loud”—black persists.

As I watch whites and blacks
Interact regularly,
I’ve never seen a loud black
Criticize a quiet white,
Or a silent black try to silence
A loud white,
But I have seen the quiet white
Criticize the loud black
And, to a lesser extent,
The loud white
Unless that loud white
Is criticizing the loud black

And of course I’ve seen
Tense shared silences between them
Not too different from
The tense shared silences
Of white on white interaction….

“So watcha gonna do about it?”
(enter the #LaughingWhileBlack hashtag
the media’s new nuance in the #BlackLivesMatters reality show)

At the YMCA, a white man whispers to me
That black folks are too loud
As if I’m to join him in a silent battle.
If I must take sides, I side with them
The loud blacks who help drown out
The white noise, the loud blacks
Who take me in as a loud white.
It isn’t, and is, about race

When an old Eagles fan brings up
Wife beating and drugs in their first mention
Of James Brown,
Bring up the dead wife of Jackson Brown
And beaten Daryl Hannah….

Beware the quiet sensitive culture worker
Beware the temperate climate of the Bay Aryans
(remember there’s a faultline hidden beneath)
Speaking softly and increasing funding to the Siren Songs
Patrolling others neighborhoods in body armor
To clear them out for……you?
And once they’ve done it,
The prices will rise so the sirens quiet down
So you don’t have to gum up your ears
While you listen to James Brown
On your tiny, tinny, iphone speakers
Safely contained….
(they’ll accept loudness
if they can take the generosity out of it)
Don’t it make you wanna scream?
Let out the tension, dance out the devil
Trade in your car for a walking city?

Or are you so far gone
In the violence of your silence
That you’ll give yourself high blood pressure
Just to make sure others aren’t laughing
Or praising, complaining, signifyin’
A little too loud, or that people
Aren’t giving back to the earth
In death by refusing the privilege
Of the overpriced casket worm?

 3. On The Whine Train

The worst form of noise pollution is
A white person trying to hush a black
Sometimes with guns, sometimes with the music biz
Sometimes with curfew and laws that attack
The noise of festive BBQs in parks.
It’s fine to be loud at the Super Bowl
Where they can contain, cash in on, your sparks.
In the south, whites are just as loud, don’t you know?
But these northern Wasps demand their quiet
They’ll even hire poets to sell it
With free verse “organic” form named riot….
Oh, I know so many on the whine train
Solar cars rise from the ashes of Soul Train

4."Say It Proud, I'm Black And/Or Loud"
Wine snobs just like you…But not really, better of course, but not so rude as to throw it in your faces. Has it ever occurred to you that such loudness is generous, it makes more feel more comfortable, more engaged, more responsible. It lets many in. You can’t win them all, and I respect your silence, though some may dare to invite you (and it seem a “razz”), across the wall you put up. We respect your wall, but there’s an art to it. Don’t they teach you that at Esalen or Google, or Russell Simmons even?

If silence is what you need, find silence in the sound like the way a major league pitcher has to drown out the sound of the crowd (this could be an exciting challenge for you to try the next time you’re out, if you go out). That’s a way to create too; even if we think ours is better…Our loudness doesn’t steal anything. Prove otherwise, please. Define your “peace of mind” and don’t leave out the loud sirens in others neighborhoods you pay and/or ask for. Your fear of sound is no more noble than others fear of silence. Maybe even worse. You may be here to hear more birds. We are too—and to harmonize with them, feel them in us. Sometimes that’s gotta be loud. Coz there’s two kind of silences: sprung tense silence and post-earthquake happy relief silence (though civilization is structured to define that as disaster as long as it’s illegal to build a cheaper kind of structure that sheltered the native Americans in this “$800.000 house or homeless” sink or swim society we’re stuck in). Even if all else were equal in the “war” between corrupt stress-inducing selfish silence and generous loudness, the law of numbers, of “majority rules” should give the 11 the edge over 1, especially 1 who cannot ask without scolding

The problem with your idea of silence is that you’re gonna hear voices anyway—do you have absolute faith in those voices ability to structure their reality for you? That could be a new, fun meditation….for you to keep from eavesdropping on our conversation you claim against your will, as if we’re raping you or something….
Meanwhile back at the Y, I try not to let white people know about my prejudice against them. This is not white loathing…just that there’s work to be done….

August 2015

For backstory, see

Sunday, August 9, 2015


Billy Beane Bobblehead

The Oakland A’s have put the “I” back in team
And it’s the “I” in “Billy” as in “Beane”
Money Ball! Sabermetric Ball! Austerity Ball! Plutocrat Ball!
You could also say Stupid Ball!
But that’s only if you’re judging it
From the quaint perspective
That believes winning a world series is the objective.
If he was really so stupid,
He wouldn’t have been named a minority owner of the team
Granted more power in the organization
And a guaranteed contract through 2019.

In the meantime, rooting for Billy Beane
Has become kind of like rooting for all those banksters
With their multi-million dollar golden parachutes
At taxpayers expense, especially after the crash of ’08.
Ah, American as Apple Pie!
The 21st century kind with corn syrup for sugar.
& Hot dogs & Chevrolets no longer made in the USA.

We know the days of baseball teams
Made up of homegrown local heroes
Has been gone as long as the Negro Leagues,
but Billy Beane takes it to a new level
Proudly boasting: two decades of teases!
“Nipping team chemistry in the bud since 2001!”
when the research and analysis of his method
proves he didn’t need “La Potencia”
since it don’t matter if your career batting stats
barely poked their head above the Mendoza line
if you can sweet talk your way
out of the outfield into the front office
to exploit the peasants’ need
to have something local to rally behind
and the city officials’ need to keep the team here
even if they have to sell off the affordable housing requirement to do it

Would you buy a Billy Beane team jersey?
Will they give away a Billy Beane bobblehead?
Yet, Billy Beane can be made useful
In showing just how America is run
Like those colleges and universities
With swelling Human Resources middlemen
While teachers go homeless and class sizes are too large.

And, if the team manager
Is analogous to the mayor,
We can how his strings are pulled,
And hands are tied, by GM Beane
As say Libby Schaaf’s are pulled by the BIA
(the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area),
to name but one example
of the boss you can’t vote for
where the real game and intrigue lies
beneath the game they tell us to care about

proof of oligarchy’s anarchy
beneath the mask of democracy
proof of the impotence of sports call in shows,
or political talk radio and “free speech” on facebook
coz the business of America is business
& I suspect America will look more and more
like Moneyball, like Plutocrat ball
driven by the fear that a baseball team
could rise up and unite against its GM
who wages his war with a smiling, if geeky, face,
speaking softly, but with a bigger stick
than any designated hitter….

We’re stuck with him till at least 2019,
And I hear Gil Scott Heron’s voice alive and well….

“Four more years of that?”

Monday, July 27, 2015

Before Qilombo: A 2313 San Pablo Story

Before Qilombo: a 2313 San Pablo Story

I see people lining up for food
In front of the community garden
Next to the warehouse space
That I know is doing great work
In building a movement
Since I attended some of their
skyped discussion groups—
“From Ferguson to Oakland”
back before New York,
before Cleveland,
before Baltimore,
before Texas, Charleston, Texas
became corporate media spin sensations.

The space holds itself
To the heroic precedents
Of its name: Qilombo
and I should’ve gotten
in with them when it began
but I had left Oakland
to become homeless in LA
after the community center
for sustainable cultural revolution
I tried to start
(with loans I still haven’t
paid back to an ex girlfriend
and to David Berman)
fell apart because
I choose the wrong partners…

I chose great musicians
With whom I could create
The most healing, the most
Potentially socially healing
Music I’d ever been a part of—
A music there’s alas no record of,
A music that needs to come alive
That creates and is created by a scene
Who often will sacrifice many things
To have regular access
To this feeling of possibility
That some reduce to “freedom,”
The power the fuels responsibility
Although, I learned, not for others…
Sympathy for the junkie, empathy
With the junkie. The junkie
Can’t be blamed for not being able
To keep his word. I am to blame
For not making it clearer
That I’m a physically cripped guy
Who couldn’t construct the place himself
If the others were going
To take 8 months to do
What they said they’d do in 2
And by the 6th month a flood occurred
Due to illegal slumlord neglect
So we had a common enemy
That could unite us
But people turned against each other
(and not just coz one guy’s rabbit
ate another guy’s dog---names changed
to protect the innocent)

And, before the vision could
Begin to come to fruition,
We abandoned the sinking ship
With no bailouts but debt.
A few of the walls and
The unstained piano remained
And I saw it’s still there
The last time I visited Qilombo
In the corner.

Qilombos’s not really a musical spot,
But more of an activist spot,
A meeting place, not so beholden
To that youth grunge culture
As the kind of spots where I found
Convenient access to social healing
Deanceable, and/or loud body music
Except for Philly’s Killtime, back in ‘89
Where we could sleep and practice
And discover the best meaning of living room
As if a concept of home
That could even be for keeps
A place where activists
And musicians meet
As equals, as balance
Like at Amina and Amiri Baraka’s
Glorious basement events!

I do not know enough
About Qilombo yet
To know if it could be that,
Yet I believe in my heart of hearts
That musicians and activists,
As equals, as balance,
Is precisely the coalition needed….
The coalition prevented…
Still the burning need
To bring them together
So it’s not just white punks
Getting all defensively jealous
Of the raptivists when they see them
Stealing the show, or at least
Getting the white girls dancing

I wonder if my mistake
With the warehouse
Was to start with the musicians,
The Dionysian force of community
That sees activists as fuddy-duddies,
Rather than the activists
Who don’t see music as much
As a basic need as food
Or non-musical forms of conversation…
Just like I tried to
Bring the demands of my black
Students at Laney and the Black Panthers
To the Occupy Wall Street movement
And tried to bring the demands
Of the Save KUSF movement
To their 99% declaration…

Oh, failure! Failure!
That’s the sinking feeling I get
As I pass Qilombo
Giving out food in front
Of the community garden called Afrika Town,
But I should make it a point,
An August resolution,
Since I couldn’t kill this dream,
To get closer to them,
(& not to get my hands on the piano;
it’s theirs now! Glad it’s gone to a good cause!)
to silently listen to what their vision is
and to let them know I could follow
and that I’m available
if there’s anything I could do
when I get some time off
from the frontlines of the struggle
in my job teaching “college writing”
(speaking the oppressors’ language
the better to curse in it, to survive).

Qilombo has proven wiser than me
In bringing people together for a movement.
If music can’t do it, food can!
But, still, it’d be easier to get back in shape
If there was a little funk edutainment
Like the Panthers had the Lumpen
(and if they need a little funk trumpet
while plotting revolutionary demands, 

I’d be honored to be able to help).