The PVP Diaries #63

The people you meat

Two days ago I an around telling everyone “tomorrow’s my dad’s birthday!” I know my wretched memory, and it was my way of making sure that I don’t forget. Yesterday, I forgot. Sorry, Dad! I hope you got some cake. I’ll get the kids together and we’ll FaceTime later. Right now, one of them is sleeping under a cat on the couch, and the other is having chocolate chip cookies and cinnamon toast for breakfast.

“He who loves men, loves their joy.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

We had another one of those “-1” death days yesterday. I’m not really sure what they’re doing out there. But I do know that masks are now required by law in Washington state. It’s a “public health order,” anyway. In his presser, Inslee said something about it being a misdemeanor to not wear one indoors in public, or anywhere outdoors that social distancing isn’t possible. Enforcement is likely to be scant, of course, what with the ever-present mantra of “our police have more important things to do.” LIke pulling body parts out of suitcases. I, of course, have no idea how many people, if any, are guilty of the big hypocrisy, but there is an unmistakable coexistence of the calls for enforcement of mask wearing, at the same time as calls for the defunding of the police. One commenter wrote that we should be “quizzing” people about the masks they’re wearing.”When was the last time you washed that?” That sort of thing. Yes, that’s the world I want to live in.

Gonna put this in here for posterity, too, because I hope that reading this in 20 years just sounds ridiculous: I’m not paying much attention, but there’s enough white noise to infer that the city of Seattle is starting to get a little sick of the whole CHAZ experiment. Apparently there’s been a few shootings, and of course there’s no police allowed. The mayor or the police chief or someone said “It’s time for everyone to go home.” There’s a slow, collective facepalm developing in all the offices that opted to let this particular situation go unchecked. Yes, I’ve seen the conservative websites saying that CHAZ is all violence, drugs, and mayhem; and I’ve seen the liberal websites saying it’s a summer of love. That’s all very predictable and meaningless. None of it fully true or fully false. We no longer have the luxury of being able to understand the world through information.

I admire the clumsy struggle to get things right, but weep for where we end up in the process. Every sign-waving protester wants to be the next Gandhi or MLK, but those guys were like Gordon Ramsay in Kitchen Nightmares – once their work was done, the restaurant may not have been perfect, but there was simply no longer a call for that level of intervention. A little unspectacular management is enough to keep the ship afloat, but we believe that anything short of mutiny is slavery.

We could do with a few precincts worth of Mother Teresas.

Mother Teresa and Mr. Rogers. My family gave me “Kindness and Wonder” for Father’s Day. I’ve only read the introduction so far, but I’m a sucker for messages of joy, so I have a feeling that I’ll be tearing through that book with some zeal. And saying embarrassingly cheesy things here on the blog.

Joy

As long as we define ourselves
			by all that we’re against



we’ll have to go on wondering
			where all our happiness went.

Phase 2. I took The Boy to a real, live soccer practice yesterday. They have it very ground down and structured – I couldn’t watch because spectators aren’t allowed inside of the complex. We have to wait in the parking lot, or come back later, or have kids old enough to drive themselves. This morning I’ll be taking The Girl to a soccer practice of her own, 45 or so minutes to the south in Auburn. I’ll say this: It was nice, last night, to go somewhere outside of West Seattle. Outside of the very few places I’ve been for the last 3 months. It really is staggering and defeating to think of how limited my movements have been. Half a dozen trips to Home Depot? It’s a mile from home. I’ll take this trip to Auburn and back, breathe a little on the highway with the windows down, read some B.K. in the parking lot, and come back at lunch time for a very likely stop at the Habit Burger drive thru.

My biggest move so far has been a drive South to Burien last week, 10-15 miles. I was on the quest to retrieve the meat we ordered months ago. A quarter of a cow – 100 lbs of beef. It comes from a farm somewhere in Eastern Washington, and I picked it up in an odd little spot: an Australian meat pie company. It was not a glamorous operation, not a very “foodie” type of a place. Too spare for even any hipster love. I screamed my name through a mask and over the hum of refrigerator compressors until that became too frustrating for both me and the guy trying to hear me, then I pulled the mask down and said it again. Worked the first time. The police did not come. But the beef did:

Beyond the obvious joy of an abundance of beef, there’s the pleasure of having cuts that I might not normally think to buy – London broil, tri-tip, that sort of thing. There’s also short ribs, soup bones, lots of good stuff. And one very large brisket that I can’t wait to spend a day or two cooking sometime soon.

Things keep happening, even if they aren’t.


Happy late birthday, Dad!

The PVP Diaries #59

“A man who lies to himself is often the first to take offense. It sometimes feels very good to take offense, doesn’t it?”

– The Elder Zosima, The Brothers K.

Here’s a reprint for a day that’s simply one too many:

Soft Armor

Guard against the joylessness -
the shout
the sloganed cry.
Guard against the chanted curse
and truthful-seeming lie.

Guard against the joylessness -
against the sheepish fright.
Guard against the mirthless marches
that wilt without the light
(a truly righteous Army thrives
even out of sight).

Guard against the joylessness -
the hunt
the blue bird’s noose.
Guard against the flashing placards
that turn a lynching loose.

Guard against the joylessness -
against the textbook heart.
Guard against the low momentum
of the classroom’s faded arts
(the ivory’s crumbling fastest
at the over-polished parts).

Guard against the joylessness
my son,
my girl child,
by suiting up in Mother’s grace
and by wielding Father’s smile

The Butler Rises

 

I’ve always had a hard time writing to a specific theme. I could come home from a hockey game and write a better poem about baseball than hockey. All of this to say that I don’t think I have a specific Mother’s Day poem in the archives. I do have this, written in 2012, when the kids were still 1 and 3 years old. I was only just starting to get good at this dadding business, and their mother’s work travels left them very much longing, and I with my hands very full. I was still working full time then as well, so it was a whirlwind. We celebrated her returns:

The Countermeasure

Mama’s coming home today!
In anticipation, the pancakes fly
From the children’s plates
To the dog, through the sky.
Mama’s coming home today!

The sun makes noise to celebrate!
In obeisance, the butler rises
To quiet the household’s gears
With oils, and compromises.
The sun makes noise to celebrate!

Mama’s coming home today!
In preparation, a runner’s sent
To deliver the angels’ praise
For surviving, and keeping up the rent.
Mama’s coming home today!

………

She hasn’t traveled for months now, and that is what we celebrate. Here’s to a world waking itself up to travel, and a love that never leaves home.

 

 

The Danger of Overstatements

Fake News!

Let us say that only Everest for the mountains
and the Sequoia for the trees
and the blue whale for the animals
(and if we must split land and sea
then it’s the elephant for me)
can be what we call giant.

I have seen the giant pacific octopus
and wished that it were bigger.

GO AHEAD

Happy to be full of it, sometimes

The last thing I ever want to do is the thing that everyone else is doing. For the purpose of this entry, that thing is playing the victim. Claiming specialness. I am not special. I am not a victim. But I am willing to observe, politely and mildly, that there is a bit of an extant sentiment in society that is, shall we say, ever-so-slightly in opposition to men. There’s lots of things we’re not supposed to be, depending on who you ask. But it’s all the same thing in the end, really. The thing we’re not supposed to be, is us.

So what. My entire childhood and adolescence were based on doing exactly what I wasn’t supposed to do. Big deal. Still, here I am: one of these men – at least in terms of biology and mentality – that we don’t seem to want much of. I write occasional poems in support of others like me because after three years in college, I learned more than anything that the most important thing to do is to celebrate and support with the greatest fervor those things that are the most like ourselves. The liberal arts world in college is a world based on the elevation of things of your own kind, and denigration of things outside of your own cultural circle. And also tolerance. Do what you will with that little contradiction.

I am aware of what kind of man I am. I only very occasionally build things, but I have an embarrassingly impressive array of tools. That kind of cliché. I fold laundry more than I hammer steel, I wash dishes more than I turn wrenches. My hands are not hard or large. I am tall but not imposing, and I am (he meekly admits) terrified of confrontations. My God, I think back over all of the fights I have craftily avoided in my life and I am not proud. But it’s still in there, that core thing, that masculinity that is called toxic nowadays. I know our need of it, and bristle at the mockery directed its way.

I am not here to argue against that. It strikes me as hypocritical in some ways. The masculinity I own and revere does not raise its voice to protest. It works and produces and creates and lets that action speak for it. It follows the cardinal rule of the writer in that it does not tell – it shows. I am here not to complain but to be a fan. To write up my support for the hard things that we are, and for the shittily unrefinable parts of our nature that I would not run from a fight to preserve.

Having said that:

GO AHEAD

Be dirty and don’t hide 
your large hands that could 
                    split timber.

They flip thin pages, too,
rattle pans and
feed their fighting heirs.

GO AHEAD

Be mean and lift the heavy thing 
and don’t mind making a little 
                    show of it.

Your beambroad back
can bear it and
won’t tremble in the least

GO AHEAD

Be hard, clumsy and cruel
and let the sneer of the timid 
                    mock itself.

You hardly can part 
from that look that
feeds you its forsaken strength

GO AHEAD

Be bare-knuckled and nude
because we need most what
                    no one wants.

The world knows and 
keeps a place 
for the things we expel.

 

2016 (Asking After Your Brothers)

Questions…

They say in the aftermath 
	the evil’s come out
but the evil out there 
	lives in their mouths.

So it’s something to look around
face to face, hue to hue
listen to someone being accused
	...and know...
	...and know...
the opposite’s true.

I think you dig me, Mr. Hughes

And when you said you -
a Kentuckian -
were brothers with an African
that was fine  

and I mean that the good way you would mean it
back in your place and time,
not sarcastic like we do in mine.

But I wondered (this one's harder
	...I know...
	...I know...)
could you have reached your other brotherhand
to secure a little kinship
with a white man?

Talk about fine!

The Street Sweeper

One more for Morocco

 

An angled Arab in a jellaba
as long as the Berber sun and with
tea-stained teeth the color of burnt sand,
stands unlooked at by foreign shoppers
because they all know that eye contact
is a contract that even a shy smile
cannot unbind. They see rugs, cheap jewelry.

The Arab tells a bowl of fish heads
here are more tourists. Another man
pulls a palm frond as bent as his back
over meat scraps, breadcrumbs, and poverty,
sweeping the King’s official decrees
and doubts of his Mohammedan descent
secretly beneath the dusty stones in the souk.

He stands and says bonjour to the kids
(the first guess is always for the French)
But the Americans say assalam
and the students and the Arab find
a few forgotten teeth to frame their
halfshared tongue. They eat the shopkeeper’s
small deceit in the heat of Moorish June.

The price of a dented teapot comes down quickly.

A cat mews and woos the noon-hot bowl
of fish heads but is sent running and spits
its hisses at a moped whose engine
ascends to match the unseen muezzin
his patient call having made its pact with
the long-gowned crowd, reaching unlikely speeds
beneath thin streets and stubborn burqas.

Honey drips long, making bees too drunk to fly.

Under the new moon of Al-Andalus
white women weigh the lure of the beach
against what risk they know exists and try
not to be fooled by trust earned in the sun.
A dutiful and deep-eyed olive ibn
is scraping the caramel crust from abu’s table,
closing shop in time for one more prayer.

The Final Bone

Earlier is better.

You can read the cold
in the austerity of porchlights
and the white soul of maple bark
that makes a shy shiver
when it guesses which star
might love it back.

But I am all halogen high beams
in this poor morning.
The final bone of an unwelcome skeleton
that won’t leave its ghost alone.

And here in the city –
with none of the long-sung
undone thunder of somewhere
less given to the living –
I am stung by lone red lights
and the odd mid-block walker
made bold by the madness
of his addictions.

Still.
He moves on.
I do all the stopping.