Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Thinking about Ron Silliman; Not A Retraction, Just a (kinder, gentler) Sequel

Part of me still regrets naming a name
Singling out one for what other mainstreams
Do as well. [1]Okay to let out some steam   
And acknowledge my own failings in shame,
But I sound too mean like I lost the dream
That includes him too if he don’t exclude.
“Separate for strength!”s a great attitude
“We’re not anti white, just pro black” they scream
And that groove can help when you need a lift
You’ll pay for (though who gets the money?)
Pain comes out love. Even anger’s a gift.
R & I have bonded on occasion[2]
Although ‘free speech’ is not enough to be
Against institutional racism

[1] Don’t forget Shannon Barber’s great piece on Frederick Seidel “Ballad of Ferguson”
[2] R taught me some useful skills in all sincerity, for instance the kind of nuanced close reading necessary to understand the kind of dissembling used by the lawyer kings called Scotus when not called law-writing lobbyists

Sunday, May 24, 2015

For #LibbySchaaf, CNN Et Al

“The more education blacks bring to the streets the less enforce the police may issue.”---Shanequa Wiggins, Laney College

Next time you frame a protest,
A demonstration on the streets,
Show it as a classroom!
With tables and chairs and apples
For discussion!
(can’t be worse than
the schools you don’t show).
Help them carry them
Onto the streets
And set up!
Oh, sure the police may shout you out
So you may need a bullhorn
To whisper sweet nothings
Or a loud charismatic preacher.
Yes, let it be a church
That can’t be burned
(like the one Mike Brown’s parents went to)
See how similar it is to second lining
(where your daughters loved to show their tits
while staying in a post Katrina shiny hotel!)
a funeral procession in search of a license

and ask why a trombone
is somehow more dangerous
than guns ‘n’ tasers ‘n’ gas
don’t wipe that necessary talking smile
from their funeral faces
the right to peaceably demonstrate
or the meaning of peaceably demonstrate
“of course we’ll share the streets with you
So why don’t you share them with us?”

Or I’ll say sidewalks if streets make you queasy.
Desks on sidewalks. Fear of a Black Planet.
Fear of Pedestrian Traffic.
The word “Cop Car” is virtually a redundancy.
Shoot from car. One on one.
And, if many are gathered at 9PM, from a tank.
Maybe Don Lemon could muckrake, investigate
Why standard curfews say 9PM is too late
But that’s probably too much to ask
Hey, mayor, we can teach you?
Yes, there is that.
What is the meaning of license?

And, oh dear media, I’ve been talking to you.
Show these conversations
Show these brilliant intellectuals
(and screw your scoffy laugh track at the thought)
or let them show themselves
and get the hell out of the way
Yes, oh media, oh arts and letters


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Affordable Housing (For Chris Brown)

word: “affordable”
depends on average wages
(maybe it once did)

the word “affordable” does not
exist in a vacuum
and requires a holistic approach
considering employment as well as prices

If, for instance,
      The medium annual income
 of a neighborhood
is $38, 363
and a proposed housing unit
on the city’s public property
requires its residents to make
it clearly is not

But, in a global economy,
  where neighborhoods are negligible
  and blocks meant to be busted,
the word “affordable”
does not have to,
and in fact shouldn’t,
be measured
by the people
who currently live here
(even when they’ve lived here
for several generations)

To the ideal tenant,
the imagined millionaires--
so hungry to get here
but need a little helping hand—
to revitalize the city,
it’s very affordable

And while they keep the rent
At the low discount rate of
$3,100 a month
maybe one or two new folks
can be recruited
from the ranks of the $38 thousanders
who used to be called middle class
but are now the working poor…..
before the price goes up more
Ah, the American dream!

But the word “affordable”
despairs to the point of being suicidal,
bent out of shape, emptied
sick of the people speaking for it,
not letting it talk,

It misses its mommy
And its daddy
And grandma’s hands, and backyard
Back before the damn highways
Ripped the neighborhood apart
And all we got were these lousy projects
Subject to police terror
And Hud evictions if grandpa’s caregiver—
Unbeknownst to him—
Was caught with some coke.
That wasn’t what he and grandma fought for in the 50s and 60s!

Meanwhile, back in today
I gotta caress
The word “affordable”
Its need for a firmer definition
As I got a glimpse in the room
Where the developer tells of his plans for luxury condos
And the mayor responds
“call it affordable and we got a deal”

Someone’s banking on most people not looking
At the headlines
Which circulate, now, as fine print
In the era of click bait twitter titillation
and the ones who did being dressed up in media muzzles
(called ‘freedom of speech” on fakebook)

At a certain point, one has to ask the mayor:
Why do you want the rich here more than
the middle you now call poor?
A stupid question, no brainer. No doubt.
But beyond this:
How many rich do you want here?
How many rich do you think you can realistically lure here?
Do you see the new shiny revitalized Oakland
Stretching east past Coliseum City
To the heart of 98th Avenue?
Wouldn’t that be cool?

Just imagine the tax revenue
A city of 416,000 millionaires would have!
Just think of its well policed excuse for night-life!
You’d be the envy of so many other mayors
Like the city of my birth, Reading,
Voted the poorest city in America as of 2012
(while little brat Taylor Swift
runs around denying it)

Imagine all the poor people in Oakland
Will be able to afford
The new improved high-rent standards
Set by the luxury condo developers
And venture capitalists.
Maybe this could be better for everyone!

It would show, beyond the shadow
of a doubt, it would vindicate,
the higher wisdom of trickle down economics
over the pesky regulated economy
and hands outs of the New Deal and Great Society—
Yes, like a flood in which all boats can rise!
Manna from our Job Creator who art in heaven

But if you’re not going to regulate
this “market rate” housing,
you’d have to recalibrate wages
so that they finally keep pace
with inflation (that sneaky
way of offering a pay cut
to those you’re “officially” giving a raise to)
that sometimes goes by the name
of gentrification
when it’s not called land grab
or ethnic cleansing….

And if you could pull this
We could agree with you!!
We’d be your biggest champion!!
Your policies are doing exactly the opposite
Even if you deny that racism
(and, yes, economic racism)
has anything to do
with the 47% black population
dwindling to 25%
and falling even lower
through that wide gulf
in the social safety net…

We need—
          more than ever—
you, oh mayor
to step in and protect us
           from the wage-cost-of-living discrepancy
that creates the wealth gap,

and work on both fronts—
salary caps for greedy duopolistic developers,
rent control,
and create jobs for the public good

if, for instance, you’re hiring
a teacher at a state run community college,
that teacher should be able
to afford to live in the community she works

she’ll be able to do her job better
and the citizens will get more bang for their buck
(same for the janitor)

and even if all of this is
an offensive
to the free-market apologists,
doesn’t it become
a little less so
once I acknowledge
that we’re talking about
public city owned land—
one of the last bullworks
against absolute privitization
that you could use,
for instance,
to make your proclamation
of a Black Arts District
more than an empty symbol,
or a badge of absolute

(first stanza is a haiku)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Kenny G Piece (needs title)

“What Can Brown Do For You?”

I don’t want to give this Kenny G. clown
The pleasure or privilege
Of letting him think he’s pried the knife
Into the wound and twisted
making the life that injustice couldn’t kill
Writhe with deeper (exasperating) agony
(while language says “lighten up”)

the glories of deep gossip
the art of the tweet
the ways ideas circulate on instagram
what you can say on a facewall post
buzzing with electrons of urgency
may make one turn to poetry
as if you can organize it in poetry
like a truce between Bloods & Crips:
“Give Us The Hammer And Nails
And We’ll Rebuild This City.”
(now that’s a found text:

But to even out the field
and bring the conceptual mind SO HIGH
(as high as the sons of gold handlers and smiths)
to the “ungrammatical profundity”
of a showered, sweating, living, even laughing
mother like Yuvette Henderson
not enough of a thing for the idea—
The noble art of still lives
Alchemy algorithms
That fit in perfectly with the instagram agenda—
Your ass
“to make nothing happen
on the condition nothing makes something happen”
an odorific octagon (of oppression)
the voice that loves to pronounce dead
(no ideas but in thing thugs)
but you’re even worse at freestylin’ than me

Maybe she can teach you the higher beauty
And ethics of the battle-rap you call bullying
The kids playing around making fun of a cop
On the one night they let the subway stay open past midnight—
To die for a smidgeon of the freedom and safety
You take for granted, but don’t even test
While priding yourself on an envelope push beyond “clowning”
(of course, “I’m just judging me, projecting on you”)

Your standards dance in my consciousness
Like steel scaffoldings in a Politburo’s deep freeze
(zero? Below zero?) so cold it burns the skin off
like nails in coffins of propriety
(perhaps a tender offstage aside
in your allegedly powerful coroner vox)

and even granting those stress-inducing standards,
leaning on their “transparent” scaffolding anchor
to gaze at the broad chokehold
of the ground zero sky, WTC towers going down
from the bloody eye of the concept
while the spirit that enlivened them
goes underground, diffused
like an oil spill with dispersants
realizing it doesn’t need a building
to be impersonal anymore and take the “I” out of tirade
as you mimic the “frictionless flow” of capital
(as satisfying as fruitcake, or fracking…
like a bikini bottom that matches the burqa
or backward baseball cap of geo weather engineering)

Yes, even by the standards you stress,
Within your time-tested terms,
of “found texts” and “uncreative writing,”
I wonder
why you couldn’t have chosen, say,
a highschool student paper
or perhaps the application form
that so charmed the college admission board
into accepting Michael Brown--
as a fascinating specimen for your schtick?

Maybe such texts would be too hard to find….
Would require some digging….
Befriending his parents, who don’t hate all whites,
Or even talking to the kid on the sidewalk
You apparently have to walk sometimes
Who might remind you of him…

I bet you’d still find a way to make this gesture
Strike oil, steal gold or otherwise offend
But at least you could counter
The stereotype of the voiceless black beast
Or even celebrate the beauty in the beat
Jordan Davis got murdered for….

April 2015 (Poetry Month)