Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ice Ice Baby

Sweater Weather
A community of chatterers says "Don't--
"Don't--Don't you deserve a rest?"
They counsel: "Listen to small pains
Now, they're harbingers, a twinge, a throb
A bulletin, if only I had known,
If only I had seen, had stopped,
It's not too late for you
To change your course--"

So I retreat to the sheets, but I don't
Stew there, they're sweet with soap scent
Still. I'll look back on this king-size
Mattress as one of the last luxuries
Before the fall. I can only take
So much dreaming, and force myself
Down that road again, squeeze out drops
Of salty ice, breathe smoke, curse the slip
That comes between my feet and the earth.

We're all bundled now against anyone
Detecting our true shapes. I squint
Against the cold and try to make you out.
Maybe my hands, gloved or numb,
Could feel your form, somewhere between
The coats and the blankets, the layers of fleece.

In a season of sweaters--
It's an old joke--but
Would you hold it against me
To crave warm skin?

That's about trying to run in winter, when everyone says tsk at your age you're courting knee replacement, you've already put your eye out and you don't even realize it yet, and also about petting a cat curled up on a pile of coats on a bed.

Anyway, two wonderful things I know: After several tests, the breast bump is benign, as I knew it would be, and I am still dead set against the overuse of sophisticated diagnostics when genetic evidence doesn't warrant it. But we'll never get (efficient and ultimately less costly) individualized medicine unless we have a system that's not tied to job or other similar factors for health insurance; the potential for genetic discrimination is too high.

And John wrote a great poem on here, check the comments under Jan. 22; I like to think of it resting there for those adventurous enough to discover it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

It's Always About Jobs

Whole lot of flapjack over New York Times Magazine article on What Women Want (in Bed). As Jezebel puts it, what women appear to want most is to talk about what women want.

It was pretty funny Sunday morning, when I was curled up in a corner in the waiting area at my daughter's karate class, plowing through my pile of newspapers as the children battled, and one of the karate dads came over to borrow a section or two, as he sometimes does. While my eyes were scanning the Book Review, I did catch a glimpse of his hand reaching out to pick up the Magazine, then pulling back quickly from the flaming cover illustration and going instead for Sunday Business. Keeping it safe.

I admire the researchers' work, and it's certainly important, but I don't know--there's so much variation in our anatomy, much more in our brains. Can you really pin down what makes ALL women feel hot? The article does make a few good points: Arousal is not consent (which should be printed on beer bottles). That women do not necessarily "need" "intimacy" and "romance" to enjoy sex. And that "making the relationship better" and "talking more about your feelings" are not always the route to better sex.

Sometimes it can be a good idea to just shut up.

I'm off to watch the second installment of Masterpiece Theater's Wuthering Heights. Talk about your eye candy. Ruins Emily's prose, but I am liking that Heathcliff.

Oh, and the answer is: freedom and worship.

(Oh, and the insurance industry is the next up for a crash, and something like 30,000 jobs lost today? I take it back, we can talk about sex, please, can we just talk about sex instead?)

Friday, January 23, 2009

"Hello, Mr. Soul, I Dropped By to Pick Up a Reason"

Yogi Tea, make up your fucking mind, come on, I pull up one chamomile teabag and the fortune-cookie like paper tag on the teabag says "The soul is projection. Represent it." Oh, yo yo yo, yogi tea, representin' all up in the house, what the hell is that supposed to mean, anyway? If it's projection, why would I want to represent a projection, if such a thing were even possible, I mean it's like a movie of a movie, right? So the next teabag says "The soul is the highest self" and I'm all, OK, which is it? WHICH IS IT? I need to know, because I'm in a haze of "flu-like symptoms" and I don't even like chamomile, and speaking of representational, I look in the mirror and I see something by Lucian Freud, or fuck, by Francis Bacon and I feel every minute of my years.

I hate Yogi Tea, but I love my new Friday yoga teacher. She plays Tom Waits during class.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Day's Sharp Sparkle

If all you know of Elizabeth Alexander's poems is the Inaugural reading, you're in for some good stuff when you go to her website. Reviews were mixed, but I liked the ambition of applying the praisesong form to everyone in America. I think I caught a contrast between the language of sharpness, thorn, glitter--the established edifices, the old guard--and the smoother sounds speaking of the rest of us, the everyday, the underneath.

I had seen her Hotentot Venus poems, but I didn't know some of the others, like this long poem all about what happens after you give birth. This is just one little chunk, not the most lyrical and it suffers a little out of context, but one that will make you shake your head in recognition, from the longer Neonatology, on her website.

I think the baby needs to eat. The baby’s hungry.
Look! He’s making sucking noises. Look!
His fist is in his mouth.
Why does the baby sleep all day? How
does the baby sleep at night? Three feedings? Huhn.
You need to let that baby cry.
You need to pick that baby up.
You need to put that baby down.
Kiss the baby too much, he’ll get heartburn.
What are those bumps on the baby’s face?
Why is the baby crying so?
That baby needs to eat, and now.

I found I rediscovered simplicity in language from spending so much time with my own baby. I got back rhythms and short lines. Metaphors and analogies had to simplify, too, as she got older, to explain things to her limited experience. Nature came back to me as a metaphor and teacher, because we spent a lot of time outside, that is, when we weren't hiding from snipers and "terrorists." It makes sense that birth makes you think of death; she briefly writes a parallel to her baby in her womb and a person in the hold of ship; I get stuck in the airport security line and think of boxcars. I know my own poetry can only suffer in comparison on the page, but this is what I mean--it's a piece out of a poem called TSA.

At security, they make me sip the breast milk
From the plastic baby bottle
To prove it’s not poison.
I don’t say anything.
I know better than that.
Do what they say and don’t say
Anything. They can do anything
They want. Don’t ask. Don’t try
To tell them anything. I smile—
Not too wide—and nod, even though
I can’t hear them very well. What if
I can’t understand what they want me to do?
What if they can hear
The hysteric babble in my mind, now
Rising in my throat? Yes, it’s true,
I want to say,
It’s true this is breast milk,
But it’s dangerous, so dangerous,
I shouldn’t have it here.
They tell me it’s full of my body’s toxins,
They tell me the bottle is leaching poison,
They say there’s plastic inside of me
And the plastic’s gonna get her, too.

Plastic in the water, plastic in the bottle,
Plastic in the mommy, plastic in the baby,
Plastic in your nose, plastic in your toes,
Plastic in the seeds, plastic in the root
Plastic in the stones at the bottom of the river
Plastic, plastic, in the air, plastic, plastic everywhere!
Ma’am! Ma’am! Ma’am! Ma’am!
Please keep moving! Move on through!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Nutritious and Delicious

I'm a member of the DAR. My mother put me in it. She's one too. It's not like I asked for it or ever do anything with it; it's just sort of there, creeping me out. And it doesn't get me discount tickets to Constitution Hall. I've seen some good shows there--Laurie Anderson, Black Crowes, Mary J. Blige. But it still creeps me out.

Bundled up the baby girl and took her down to the Jefferson for the witches' broom dance and to hear Caroline Casey speak. Blew me away as usual; one quick riff was on how Dick Chaney is allergic to pomegranates and we should envision him surrounded by pomegranates. I can see/feel it, all the vivid red bursting seeds bubbling around him and him thrashing, his thin lips stretched and screaming in horror at being surrounded by all that life, all that juice, all that healthy sexy fruity goodness.

A long walk back to the Metro, but DD is a trouper. DIY vendors had set up shop on all corners, about 10 per jumbotron screen. The screens were broadcasting the Lincoln concert again. People were walk/dancing around the memorial throwing their hands up to "Shout." Black people were doing that, to Garth Brooks. My goodness. I got a t-shirt for Favorite Cousin, but even though I wanted an Obama family tote bag, I'm not buying anything for me this year. My friend BAker got me an Obama lighter Friday, so I'm a happy girl.

Everyone wants a piece of something from these days; so many people love this next president and his family and everything about him. People want to sing for him, work for him, paint pictures of him. It's such an astonishing energy to be surrounded with, after that eight-year case of food poisoning. It's as luxurious as swimming in pomegranate juice.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Look Upon My Works, Ye Mighty, And Despair

Rick Warren's just another hick Amway salesman. The Christian churches are full of these dweebs--they make nothing, invent nothing, generate nothing to help any economy but their own; they do not sow, nor do they reap; they just build pyramids like any ego-driven pharaoh. But theirs are based on air--you don't even get a bottle of detergent for your trouble.

The New Age world and PaganLand have their share of charlatans, but they are fewer, less powerful, and often they actually have to work for a living in addition to plying their woowoo wares. And one at least gets some perspective and insight from many of them--not the recycled Dale Carnegie Warren has built his bestseller and speaking engagement empire out of (and probably the most diligent form of recycling this vaunted "environmentalist" has ever done).

It was hilarious to me that Warren boasted of "giving donuts" to the gay protesters outside his church. That's just so wrong. Gay men don't eat donuts, and the lesbians have so many ethical food issues and obscure allergies that they can't eat them either. (Awww, don't hate me for making fun--I'm just one of those poor bicoastal creatures who just can't make up their minds, remember?)

It's not so hilarious that he sold a shred of integrity to the Syrians in exchange for a photo op on the road to Damascus. Bleh!

Warren's "place at the table" in the Inaugural ceremony could be an indication of how easily Obama is able to be conned, could be a cynical move, or maybe, just maybe, it will show a hateful egoist how real grownups at the big table are capable of behaving toward each other in a civil society. See? Let the Jews and Gays, whom you have proclaimed will not get into heaven, show you how it's done.

Whatever, I'm hoping to be at the table with the witches Monday, making magic for all of y'all.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Feeding the Head that Bites You

A story about people being impoverished by "healthcare costs" flared up in a major newspaper today, but why bother saying which one? It's not like it's their story or anything. It was done in "collaboration" with Kaiser Health News, a new nonprofit media foundation. The vogue thing to say nowadays is that nonprofit foundations will take over as mainstream media (newspapers) die (without health insurance for the people who lose their jobs). So I hope you like your news being brought to you directly by corporations whose mission statements proclaim they have a stake in "shaping" certain issues. Just because they're nonprofit doesn't make them holy.

At the same time, without this foundation, there would be no story at all.

I just don't like a single part of it.

The story attempts a helpful sidebar on keeping down Your Healthcare Costs, but I don't think it helps much, so I wrote my own:

1. Even though the only food you can afford is subsidized corn syrup pressed into traditional dinner-shape servings and we want you to work 18 hours a day, don't get fat.
2. Don't get diabetes, either.
3. Don't get cancer or asbestos poisoning or injured from lifting my garbage cans, day after day after day past the age of 50.
4. Fight my wars, but don't get wounded.
5. And a special note for the ladies: Don't have children, don't have sex, don't use birth control, and don't get abortions. If you do have children, don't let there be anything, you know, "wrong" with them, mmmK?
6. Never, ever skip paying a health insurance premium--how else am I going to afford my boob job, bitch?

Simple, reasonable measures lead to reasonable savings for all!

The other supposed savior of the fourth estate is online discourse, a paradise of trolls and mental dwarves laboring in the darkness. Today, they filled the comments field on this story, telling people with cancer and heart disease that they should stop being fat illegal immigrants and just get over it. (Even though no immigrants of any kind were harmed in the production of Kaiser's story, the trolls just had to bring that issue to the party anyhow.) I'm like, Jesus, there are so many comments here about a couple of white guys' appearance! So two of the guys featured weigh a few pounds, maybe that's because they haven't been healthy enough or had the cash to hit the gym lately! Is the penalty for being big death, now?

Putting it all in perspective is an escaped troll now "working" at the American Enterprise Institute, who actually gets quoted in the story. He says these people just expect too damn much (like staying alive!) and that their expensive benefits could "preempt the use of resources for other services, such as buying Viagra for the rich fucks at MY foundation, which will soon be placing a story all about the tragic epidemic of limp dicks among right-wing policy analysts in what used to be your city and your nation's newspaper. Pay to play, baby!"

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bardem Bardo

Javier Bardem just puts everything in perspective. When I do that insomniac cable movie oracle thing, he often pops up to set me straight. Usually, I get him in Before Night Falls, writing in a Cuban prison and smuggling his work out in Johnny Depp's ass. There are a lot of reasons that movie's hard to watch, not least that I feel about small enclosed spaces the way Winston Smith feels about rats. When they push Reinaldo Arenas into that solitary box, I have to hit the change channel button for a few minutes, always.

Last night, Bardem showed up in an exquisitely lit muddle called Goya's Ghosts. Goya's in my top five painters (him, Manet, Hokusai, Hans Hoffman, Remedios Varo, if you care) but this thing was just a mess, a half-baked Amadeus redux from Milos Foreman, sad to think. Bardem rocked yet another wacky hairstyle (which I can relate to, since I just got my hair colored REALLY red this go around) as an inquisitor priest turned French revolutionary turned Inquisition victim. Natalie Portman got tortured a lot, again, dag, and Goya went deaf and cringed with tinnitus, which I also could relate to (I'm losing my hearing from Meniere's and actually watched a lot of the movie on mute, because the neighbors have started to complain about the TV being too loud at night).

Not anywhere near the league of Before Night Falls, but still helpful, reminding me of a few home truths:

1) Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.
2) Things aren't really That Bad for you, dear.

Finally getting back to where my muscles are humming and feeling happy again.

My daughter declares that she is making a magic potion. "It makes everyone pretty on the inside." She is stirring a plastic container with a handful of beads and sequins inside. I want the first taste.

Photo: A Bruce Weber I stole from Vanity Fair; I freely confess without use of The Question.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Prayer On Being Made Redundant

I'm going into a year of not buying anything, which of course necessitated buying things. There was a trip to Target for two pairs of running/yoga pants and four pairs of emergency backup underwear. Despite my feelings about "things," I was pleased to see that Champion now has girl-size running skirts, yoga pants, and workout capris, with pink banding and piping. My daughter wanted one and I caved--she always needs pants, since she grows like a weed and every pair becomes capris in two or three months (while we're still taking in the waists). There's still, shockingly, a lot of talk about certain things being "not for girls" or "not wanting to be sporty" among my daughter and her friends, and if it takes a sparkly running skirt to change that thinking, it's OK by me.

Add to the consumer frenzy a couple of bra tops and a clutch of perfume samples from ScentBar--it's a lot easier to survive on a giant jug of Dr. Bronners for a year if you know you've got something good to put on afterward.

Of course I'm seeing all these books I want. I'll have to re-learn how to use the library. The last time I did this was about five years ago, and I was too busy/tired to go anywhere but the children's section of libraries.

A half-dozen signs have been steering me to Elizabeth Hardwick, so I picked up Sleepless Nights again, since that's what I'm having plenty of: "When you travel, your first discovery is that you do not exist."

I wish I were traveling. I have been getting smacked down, stomped on, talked to condescendingly, snidely, evilly, sniffed and snorted at, blown off, oh, it goes on. This world is telling me: Shut up and go away, you silly old woman. In the past few weeks I've seriously considered stopping everything but work, running and gardening, becoming a recluse but for the necessity of work. When you put yourself out there, you get put down; it's the law of averages. My spirits--eeny, meeny, sesameenie--say wait until the full moon. You'll hear something that'll tell you whether that's the way to go.

The Church of England has issued prayers for those who have been laid off as well as those left behind. I wish the Rev. Ike would put out his version.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

You've Officially Been Chopped and Screwed

In a hard day spent trolling for business leads, I discover that Wegmans plans to give out free antibiotics, but Busch Gardens has opted to stop giving out free beer.

There's something so wrong about this world. Will you help me fix it?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

"We Have Met the Enemy, and He Is Us"

Been having nightmares for a week--all set in past newspaper jobs, and I'm being relocated, told to fire people, fired myself, told to rip up sections and redo them in ways I know are wrong. Could use some sleep. Am running despite huffing uphills and cramping on the downslopes and almost sliding on my ass down the rotting timber stairs set into the trail off Connecticut Avenue. Did the Melvin Hazen today; the streams are clear and bubbling up over the stepping stones.

I'm reprinting a long email going around Paganland from Starhawk, the writer and Pagan innovator. This is one of the few commentaries I've seen that gets it. Too often, I listen to the progressive left, and their argument devolves into hate speech and anti-Semitism. As a Jew and a Witch and a pacifist who has lived with both sides, Starhawk grasps that we're all in the same boat. It makes me determined to see whatever I'm denying, whatever I've chosen to relegate to shadow, to the "other side of the boat," because ultimately that's all I can do.

This is probably the only time I'm going to post anything regarding this issue; this goofball blog isn't really the right place, but fact is I plain like her writing, and she is a gardener.

Dear friends,

All day I'’ve been thinking about Gaza, listening to reports on NPR, following the news on the internet when I can spare a moment. I’'ve been thinking about the friends I made there four years ago, and wondering how they are faring, and imagining their terror as the bombs fall on that giant, open-air prison.

The Israeli ambassador speaks movingly of the terror felt by Israeli children as Hamas rockets explode in the night. I agree with him— that no child should have her sleep menaced by rocket fire, or wake in the night fearing death.

But I can'’t help but remember one night on the Rafah border, sleeping in a house close to the line, watching the children dive for cover as bullets thudded into the walls. There was a shell-hole in the back room they liked to jump through into the garden, which at that time still held fruit trees and chickens. Their mother fed me eggs, and their grandmother stuffed oranges into my pockets with the shy pride every gardener shares.

That house is gone, now, along with all of its neighbors. Those children wake in the night, every night of their lives, in terror. I don’'t know if they have survived the hunger, the lack of medical supplies, the bombs. I only know that they are children, too.

I’'ve ridden on busses in Israel. I understand that gnawing fear, the squirrely feeling in the pit or your stomach, how you eye your fellow passengers wondering if any of them are too thick around the middle. Could that portly fellow be wearing a suicide belt, or just too many late-night snacks of hummus? That'’s no way to live.

But I’'ve also walked the pock-marked streets of Rafah, where every house bears the scars of Israeli snipers, where tanks prowled the border every night, where children played in the rubble, sometimes under fire, and this was all four years ago, when things were much, much better there.

And I just don'’t get it. I mean, I get why suicide bombs and homemade rockets that kill innocent civilians are wrong. I just don’'t get why bombs from F16s that kill far more innocent civilians are right. Why a kid from the ghetto who shoots a cop is a criminal, but a pilot who bombs a police station from the air is a hero.

Is it a distance thing? Does the air or the altitude confer a purifying effect? Or is it a matter of scale? Individual murder is vile, but mass murder, carried out by a state as an aspect of national policy, that’'s a fine and noble thing?

I don'’t get how my own people can be doing this. Or rather, I do get it. I am a Jew, by birth and upbringing, born six years after the Holocaust ended, raised on the myth and hope of Israel. The myth goes like this:

“For two thousand years we wandered in exile, homeless and persecuted, nearly destroyed utterly by the Nazis. But out of that suffering was born one good thing--—the homeland that we have come back to, our own land at last, where we can be safe, and proud, and strong.”

That'’s a powerful story, a moving story. There'’s only one problem with it--—it leaves the Palestinians out. It has to leave them out, for if we were to admit that the homeland belonged to another people, well, that spoils the story.

The result is a kind of psychic blind spot where the Palestinians are concerned. If you are truly invested in Israel as the Jewish
homeland, the Jewish state, then you can'’t let the Palestinians be real to you. It'’s like you can’'t really focus on them. Golda Meir said, “The Palestinians, who are they? They don’'t exist.” We hear, “There is no partner for peace,” “There is no one to talk to.”

And so Israel, a modern state with high standards of hygiene, a state rooted in a religion that requires washing your hands before you eat and regular, ritual baths, builds settlements that don’'t bother to construct sewage treatment plants. They just dump raw sewage onto the Palestinian fields across the fence, somewhat like a spaceship ejecting its wastes into the
void. I am truly not making this up—I’ve seen it, smelled it, and it’'s a known though shameful fact. But if the Palestinians aren'’t really real—--who are they? They don'’t exist!-- —then the land they inhabit becomes a kind of void in the psyche, and it isn'’t really real, either. At times, in those border villages, walking the fencelines of settlements, you feel like you have slipped into a science fiction movie, where parallel universes exist in the same space, but in different strands of reality, that never touch.

When I was on the West Bank, during Israeli incursions the Israeli military would often take over a Palestinian house to billet their soldiers. Many times, they would simply lock the family who owned it into one room, and keep them there, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days—--parents, grandparents, kids and all. I’'ve sat with a family, singing to the children while soldiers trashed their house, and I’'ve been detained by a group of soldiers playing cards in the kitchen with a family locked in the
other room. (I got out of that one--—but that'’s another story.)

It’'s a kind of uneasy feeling, having something locked away in a room in your house that you can'’t look at. Ever caught a mouse in a glue trap? And you can’'t bear to watch it suffer, so you leave the room and close the door and don’'t come back until it'’s really, really dead.

Like a horrific fractal, the locked room repeats on different scales. The Israelis have built a wall to lock away the West Bank. And Gaza itself is one huge, locked room. Close the borders, keep food and medical supplies and necessities from getting through, and perhaps they will just quietly fade out of existence and stop spoiling our story.

“All we want is a return to calm,” the Israeli ambassador says. “All we want is peace.”

One way to get peace is to exterminate what threatens you. In fact, that may be the prime directive of the last few thousand years.

But attempts to exterminate pests breed resistance, whether you'’re dealing with insects or bacteria or people. The more insecticides you pour on a field, the more pests you have to deal with—, because insecticides are always more potent at killing the beneficial bugs than the pesky ones.

The harshness, the crackdowns, the border closings, the checkpoints, the assassinations, the incursions, the building of settlements deep into Palestinian territory, all the daily frustrations and humiliations of occupation, have been breeding the conditions for Hamas, or something like it, to thrive. If Israel truly wants peace, there’'s a more subtle, a more intelligent and more effective strategy to pursue than simply trying to kill the enemy and anyone else who happens to be in the vicinity.

It'’s this--—instead of killing what threatens you, feed what you want to grow. Consider in what conditions peace can thrive, and create them, just as you would prepare the bed for the crops you want to plant. Find those among your opponents who also want peace, and support them. Make alliances. Offer your enemies incentives to change, and reward your friends.

Of course, to follow such a strategy, you must actually see and know your enemy. If they are nothing to you but cartoon characters of terrorists, you will not be able to tell one from another, to discern the religious fanatic from the guy muttering under his breath, “F-ing Hammas, they closed the cinema again!”

And you must be willing to give something up. No one gets peace if your basic bargaining position is, “I get everything I want, and you eat my shit.” You might get a temporary victory, but it will never be a peaceful one.

To know and see the enemy, you must let them into the story. They must become real to you, nuanced, distinctive as individuals.

But when we let the Palestinians into the story, it changes. Oh, how painfully it changes! For there is no way to tell a new story, one that includes both peoples of the land, without starting like this:

“In our yearning for a homeland, in our attempts as a threatened and traumatized people to find safety and power, we have done a great wrong to another people, and now we must atone.”

Just try saying it. If you, like me, were raised on that other story, just try this one out. Say it three times. It hurts, yes, but it might also bring a great, liberating sense of relief with it.

And if you'’re not Jewish, if you’'re American, if you'’re white, if you'’re German, if you'’re a thousand other things, really, if you'’re a human being, there’'s probably some version of that story that is true for you.

Out of our own great need and fear and pain, we have often done great harm, and we are called to atone. To atone is to be at one--—to stop drawing a circle that includes our tribe and excludes the other, and start drawing a larger circle that takes everyone in.

How do we atone? Open your eyes. Look into the face of the enemy, and see a human being, flawed, distinct, unique and precious. Stop killing. Start talking. Compost the shit and the rot and feed the olive trees.

Act. Cross the line. There are Israelis who do it all the time, joining with Palestinians on the West Bank to protest the wall, watching at checkpoints, refusing to serve in the occupying army, standing for peace. Thousands have demonstrated this week in Tel Aviv.

There are Palestinians who advocate nonviolent resistance, who have organized their villages to protest the wall, who face tear gas, beatings, arrests, rubber bullets and real bullets to make their stand.

There are internationals who have put themselves on the line--—like the boatload of human rights activists, journalists and doctors on board the Dignity, the ship from the Free Gaza movement that was rammed and fired on by the Israeli navy yesterday as it attempted to reach Gaza with humanitarian aid.

Maybe we can'’t all do that. But we can all write a letter, make a phone call, send an email. We can make the Palestinian people visible to us, and to the world. When we do so, we make a world that is safer for every child.

Please feel free to repost this. In fact, send it to someone you think will disagree with it.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Tree Is Nice

All these people did was write a poem, and look what happened:
--$50 to Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (membership plus $15 on top)
--$15 to Friends of Roan Mountain (Tennessee, Dave's cause)
--and 10 Euros to Kick It Out, a campaign against racism and homophobia in football (soccer), cause that's where Dave's t-shirt is coming from.

The winner is DaveTree, who is not only a professional poet, but studies tree DNA. It was inevitable. I hope I got the line breaks right. Winner first, rest as I found them:

Note to Trees

Trees, it's almost Thanksgiving
and as promised you're coming
naked--along with all your
relatives hauling acorns beechnuts buckeye
nuts moldy maple wings and such.
Leave them at the door.
Don't start in on gifts to the poor
squirrels and other fluffy rats,
and don't ever lapse into that annual rant after
several glasses of wine, death is
the mother of beauty. Death is a motherfucker.
The place cards are set
yet once more--be on your best
behavior; don't forget who this day is for.

John does his usual start-snarky-then-pull-your-heart-out magic:


I think that I shall never see
A chance to fuck under a tree.

A tree whose branches have caressed
A bodice ripped, revealing breast;

A tree that keeps a secret for more than a day,
And shades us from the sun when clothes fall away;

A tree in whose bark we’d carve our names
Who never chooses sides or blames;

Upon whose roots our flesh has lain;
Intimate with soil and pain.

This willow dream made by fools like me,
It’s close to God, to fuck under a tree.

Amateurzac puts one in mind of Fargo. Tan that hide, my friend!

A Cautionary Tale

The most beautiful tree
I will ever see in my life
Was the mulberry that grew in the backyard
With a thick, powerful trunk;
Broad deep-green leaves for shade
In the 100-degree summers,
Delicious fruit that made
A perfect purple mess in the spring,
Shadows and memories playing year round;
Roots, deep and ancient.
I cried and cried and cried
As it went through the wood-chipper
Screaming with metal and agony
One branch at a time.

Rachel speaks to an eternal paradox:

Every time my hands touch paper I touch a tree,
Sucking up the dark water,
Encasing space
Felled, stripped and pulped
Stretched out before me your white corpse
Shaved into thin sheaves
Waits for new born words

Mark is full of brotherly love, despite everything:

The trees around Philly
reach and find only me
their fingers have fallen
their digits have stopped
i smile as i read
and i know she is getting better
with her poetry
it is exciting to witness growth
as so much around me withers...
she was here and she was as still
as i
the trees around here
cover only me.

Rionn Fears Malechem (hmmm) wrote two, at my demand:
Trees are strong, and trees are fun
Trees get bigger in the sun
If I could climb a tree and sit
I'd get right back down, in a bit.


On reaching out, I pause
rather like a tree
paused, reached out
If I had bark I'd be its double,
Although less certain of purpose

Liz moved deftly from the universal to the particular and back again...

Debating between quitting
or screwing off so thoroughly
that my boss has no choice
reminiscing about my own
American Girl Dolls.
One, Molly, a family tradition
One, Addy, my own savings
led to my grandmother's dismay
remember when there were only 3?
From 8 stories up
the trees of Takoma do their autumn trick
for my enjoyment and distraction.
memory, dolls, trees and motivation...
something's gotta give!

Thank you from the bottom of my roots. The contest will return next year, if I have anything to say about it.