Babel

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Babel

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    Love Equation

    Love Equation 3

    FULL MOON, LOONEY TUNES
    Only artists or hermits or monks choose
    poverty, any other social theory is baloney.
    Wine, women and song cost little; studio
    space next to nothing if you live in a
    ghetto. A loaf of bread, a jug of wine and
    what’s her face works for a long time, at
    least when you are in your prime.
    An artist, poet or painter, wants to work
    as little as possible at some job that takes
    them away from their pen or easel.

    “So there’s that 47%,” Mitt Romney whined,
    “that we can forget. They will vote for Obama
    and collect their gifts.”
    “There are givers and the takers – those
    who contribute and those who mooch,”
    Paul Ryan stared steely eyed at the press.
    “If you’re poor or out of work it’s your
    own fault.” Rush, the bus, Limbo roared.

    Moochers, takers, goldbricks, sure fits
    artists. But I don’t think it applies to the
    poor or anyone who’s out of work or ever
    has been. I suppose there’s always been
    junkies, and winos, and panhandlers on the
    streets, lost souls with mental problems and
    those who are, OK, just plain lazy. It can’t
    be many. But these politicians and that radio
    guy somehow forget we just got out of the
    Great Recession and what’s available are
    still slim pickings, and I can’t see how it
    applies to homeless families or those doomed
    to meager lives in the ghettos and hollows,
    and slums across the nation through
    misfortune.

    That 47% has grown. Half of the country lives
    in or near poverty now. The Affordable Care
    Act has added 6 million to the ranks of the
    insured. 45 million to go. But the
    Republican governors refuse to let their
    constituents get the expanded Medicaid,
    so that won’t happen.

    There was only one artist at the Boston
    Center for the Arts who actually got on
    disability. Helen the heavenly. Many tried.
    They got their inspiration from a character
    by Thomas Pynchon. To prove that he was
    crazy, so he could collect government checks,
    he would jump, every year, through the plate
    glass window of a department store.
    Whatever antics my friends pulled didn’t
    work. The government techs said “Nix.”
    Helen was a poet, much published. She wrote
    like Sylvia Plath on acid. She was mad as a
    Hatter, as beautiful as a movie star. Once
    each summer, on a full moon night, she would
    wear her platinum hair in tiers, don flashy
    costume jewelry, wear a black satin gown and
    walk barefoot through the ghetto. No one
    could stop her. The police would find her in
    the morning, raped and beaten. They would
    file a report. Helen would give it to her social
    worker. “I couldn’t help myself.” She would
    say through tears.
    We all knew she set the whole thing up
    with her gangsta lover.

      Shadows

      Neverman
      SHADOWS
      We wander the ghost lanes of
      our lost souls, coat collars turned
      up against the blistering cold.
      There is nothing left to gamble.
      All bets were off, for us, a long
      time ago. Time is all that’s left,
      It’s the kind one serves like a
      prison sentence.
      We huddle beside the Mission,
      smoke caged cigarettes, wait for
      it to open: prayer, meal, lights out
      at ten, spectral dreams with
      phantom men.
      Prayer? What is there to pray for?
      Tomorrow we will rise slowly,
      as from a graveyard like dead men,
      and haunt the world again.

      DEAD BOLT
      Key in the wrong door, maybe it will open
      to something better?
      I hear two doors close behind the locked one
      The sound is final, my visit done.
      I grew up near a race track, horses, dogs.
      All the races were fixed.
      There was a sign staked near the entrance
      someone hammered into the ground.
      “Jesus Finds The Lost.”
      Lost bets I wondered?
      No, the lost find Jesus, I concluded.
      Not as good as scoring money but they
      have to win something.
      I’ll end this poem with a conversation
      with a homeless person.
      “Are you lost?” I ask him.
      “I’m homeless. Can you spare some
      change?”
      “Maybe. I’m writing a poem. So far
      it has no meaning. I was hoping you could
      give it some.”
      “You want meaning from a bum?”
      “I’ll take it from anyone.”
      “You need the right key to open the right
      door. If you never find that key you’ll
      be locked out forever.”
      I gave him some change anyway.

        Random Intimacies

        On the weekend at my favorite coffee shop, I would see the same woman working, who greeted me with a smile and some friendly comment. She didn’t know my name. I didn’t know hers. She became a fixture in my Sunday morning, knowing my cup and what goes in it, she asked where I was heading, where I live, told me where she lived and that she sometimes walked to work.

        During the week, I frequent different places; the same coffee shop chain as the Sunday shop, just different locations depending on where I’m heading each day. Each one features its own cast of employees and customers, each, like me, with their own story.

        Over the months, the weekend visits that included the cheery woman became normal, just a part of my Sunday, which really was focused on my taking my young nephew for “our” time, me with my usual shots of espresso on ice, his frozen concoction. He and I knew that we would probably be served by the happy gal, and even though we never spoke directly to it, it seemed understood that she was as part of our routine as the drinks.

        As life goes, someone alerted me that the woman had gone into a coma associated with advanced cancer that I never knew she was struggling with. She was expected to die within 48 hours, which she did. The wave of sorrow that hit me was as unexpected as hearing the news: after all, I didn’t even know her name, so why that would trigger anything but mild feelings of distant sorrow for her, or her family perhaps, was a surprise. I thought about the times I conversed with her husband outside the shop, introducing our respective family dogs. I found out her name, and that she and her husband had three children along with the dog, and that they lived in the house that years before had offered their yard to a float that didn’t make the grade for the local Independence Day parade. I saw the collective sorrow of her colleagues, who went through the pulling of espresso shots like robots with tears streaming down their faces. And I cried while trying to talk to my nephew about life and death and people and random relationships that form while we’re not paying attention.

        So back to a different shop, where groups formed around some random guy who held spirited conversations with whomever was around. He brought his big furry dog every day and tied him to the shop’s fence while inside he was holding court and waxing philosophical, or political, or social, psychological, whimsical. I knew the dog’s name, but not the guy’s. Nearly each of the days that I started my morning at this particular place, I could count on seeing them there.

        One morning, I was barely out of my car when the man rushed to me and shouted from ten feet away, “MY DOGGY DIED.” And he broke into tears. I felt compassion, and listened as he sobbed and spoke to his loss. I realized that my reaction was not just obligatory, but heart-felt. Curiouser and curiouser.

        I offered a hug, instinctively as an animal lover but also because of this strange nothing of a relationship that still made me teary-eyed as I went into the store. The employees at this store, who also know my drink and my cup but not my name, asked how my morning was going, and looked deeper as they may have noted the tears..

        I collected my drink, headed back to my car, and began my day post-coffee-shop. I would think about the guy and his dog, and the cheery woman at the other shop who died and left a hole in her friends’ and family members’ lives, and it got me to thinking how strange it is that we become intimate with people whose names we don’t know, whose houses we have never been to or would likely ever go to, whose families and friends we didn’t know, whose histories we have no part of yet with whom we are inextricably linked. Via espresso. Via location, interests, common steps we share.

        If I am a microcosm in the vast planet of people, I would venture that we all carry our own unique set of intimate relationships that we don’t necessarily or immediately recognize. It is the random quality that makes it easy to relegate those moments, events or relationships to the mundane or unimportant. Yet the way we touch others or are touched come in surprise packages. In a collective sense, as part of the teeming intricate concept that defines humanity, we are ultimately and simply not alone.

          The Hunger Games

          Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
          “No Names” play the hunger games
          (not movie stars, not athletes, nor
          heroic challengers). Forget about Hollywood
          and its glam girl/glam guy health club figures,
          who can hurl spears, throw knives, shoot
          arrows, with the aid of their doubles, and
          face down trouble without out a blink,
          because,
          after all,
          victory is written in the script, or there
          would never be a popcorn selling sequel to any
          of this idiotic Rambo bullshit.

          Down and out ghetto dwellers are the real
          hunger sufferers.
          Slum, barrio, hood, backstreet inhabitants,
          trying to put a meal together, pay the rent,
          are the actual hunger games combatants.

          Crouched in fear, as the latest purge draws
          near, the child, mother, sister, brother,
          father, uncle, aunt, grandparent, waits
          for the next cuts in Medicaid, unemployment
          compensation, whatever else can be withheld
          or eliminated from the less fortunate of the
          nation: food stamps, educational grants,
          raising the minimum wage to something a
          family could live on for a change, as well as
          that distain for the hard times that come
          to those living in a slum – crime, fires,
          random dangers, sweltering summers, deadly
          winters, denial, destruction, as if poverty was
          a justified punishment.

          No name, no face, no voice, no choice –
          no heroes in this hunger game.
          OK, now and then an Orwell, London, Spinoza,
          Van Gogh, Gauguin, innumerable other
          luminaries ahead of, or out of sink with, their
          time, who are famous now but were, and
          sometimes stayed, starving nobodies. Like
          Nietzsche who lived in a cheap room and died
          in an asylum without a nickel or a friend.
          (One could go on and on about these genius sad
          sacks who, through no fault of their own and no
          dearth of effort or talent, couldn’t feed their families
          or pay the rent).
          Like Pissarro, my art teacher’s favorite painter,
          who would have died impoverished and unknown
          if he hadn’t become, by chance, a key witness in
          the famous Dreyfus treason trial and painted,
          in his 19th century French witness protection
          program, Paris street scenes from the second
          story window of his government supplied cheap
          hotel room (actually more like a prison cell
          because they would not let him leave it until
          the trial was over) – a viewpoint that had
          (oddly) never been done before and instantly
          caught on, and made him, in his last years, a
          small and totally unexpected fortune –
          everyone had to have one – just people who
          suffer misery and pain and shame, and oddly
          from many, blame.

          Today the summer sun sparkles across the
          land, oceans, rivers, lakes and ponds.
          A soft breeze blows. White clouds float.
          Tree leaves rustle. Life is beautiful in the
          other America – like the dazzling shapes
          and colors in a picture book: the majestic
          purple mountains, the amber waves of grain
          Those who live here are the winners of the
          hunger games. They never had to play them.
          Bad luck has never visited them.
          Yet.

          Then there are those who forget or are
          egocentric enough to actually think that they
          pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, or
          have bought into the Hollywood-style illusion
          of heroics. Especially if they can, in this
          Romantic view of things, use it to puff out
          their own little chests.
          What saps!

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