Dinosaur Jones

In the chaos of the Trump administration–and at the moment impeachment inquiry and Middle East policy dominating the news–it’s hard to pick one bad move from another out of the pile (at least for those of us whose brains have not been bleached by the post-truth phenomenon). One bad move that came early on was the decision to ban seven words from all CDC communications: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based“. One wonders why these were singled out. That is, having made the decision to ban words, why these? And what goes into the decision to ban words in the first place from a government agency the function of which is to serve the health and well-being of the American public? Are these words dangerous? Why?

The decision itself smells bad to many of us: poets, scientists, healthcare workers, and those of us who have been wounded by people who use language as a weapon. Can public officials not be trusted to choose their own words? Who is to decide? And if it is deemed necessary to ban words in one federal department, then why not another and another? How far should it go? When should it stop? Who has a say?

As a poet nothing is more important to me than the freedom to choose my own words. Any attempt by authority to limit my use of words feels like the thumb of oppression. My first inclination is to use the “bad” words. Moreover, it is hard for me to imagine how science is served by banning words. It felt natural for me to craft a few poems using the banned words when I first heard the news. One of the poems, Wild, has appeared in The CDC Poetry Project. Another one, While The Offering Stales in the Calm, is published by Brill in the collection, Scientists and Poets #Resist. A third poem using the banned words appears below:

Dinosaur Jones

I don’t know why I feel so vulnerable so much the fetus when I been makin these rounds so long, don’t know which one of us hitched their wagon to who, just that the breaks don’t work too good on this thing and my ol’ foot’s getting worn out what with the starting and stopping and I wanna transgender too this ol’ stinking coat don’t fit me no more and as far as I’m concerned it’s all over but the yabba dabba doo, time to go, to let it all go, I’ve been working on this for years actually and you’ve been complicit, certainly, too old to deny it yes but why let that stop you it never did before, the pileup proves it: in the living room in the kitchen in the hallway mounds and mounds up the stairs and down out the walkway to the Do Not Enter Garage, heaps against the evidence-based the science-based against good ol’boy Dinosaur Jones the whole host of hooded hoodlums, heaps of a lifetime of detritus crowding out souls that still somehow seek the light like an old bone sticking out of the pile, given away and sifted long ago, all that diversity of entitlement, that dog day’s done, you can try pokin’ it with your sore foot but you’ve looked and looked all away so it’s not like as if you look now that dog get up and run like I shoulda did before all those good long years made me too damn slow and stupid now that I got to n’ I can’t move.

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A note on Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Buñuel is more comfortable with the so-called subconscious (or dreaming mind) than any other artist in any genre that I am aware of. In film only Lynch and Tarkovsky come close. Everyone else is light years away. In flavor however he is quite different. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is a comedy. I have yet to find any humor (or even joy) in a Tarkovsky film. And while Lynch is capable of humor, it is a darker, heavier and not very funny kind of humor. Discreet Charm is light and funny and this in itself is, in my view, a sign of Buñuel’s comfort with the dreaming mind.

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A “double exposure” poem

Finger Pointing with Fire Ants
(a double exposure)
after Greg Williamson

The way the classic sign painters did it
However the message is read
As real paint, not a widget
Not black but allover red
In a can in a swirling movement
Color functions as fire is fed
By your index in alarm to the pavement
Catching your breath you stop dead
Question that pointer sunken in it
Will it cause the fire to spread
Recoil that finger flip it
Before your blood is bled

On the double exposure form:
One of the best parts of Greg Williamson’s delightful book, Errors in the Script is the section of “double exposures”, a poetic form of his own invention. The challenge is to juxtapose two images in alternating lines such that the poem can be read three ways.

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Writing Is Reading

The Words
after William Logan

The question he could not have anticipated,
why do you read a book you don’t like?
short-circuited the patterns he’d formulated,
stuck a stick through the spokes of his bike.

What he’d considered a simple machine 
appeared to be the same blood and ash
as even his earliest dream.
And so he threw the book in the trash.

Like all his days before, he rode out again. 
He looked upon the same and not the same sky. 
As though for him came the call of a jay

though if it were mockingbird he couldn’t say.
He saw no reason to ask it why;
it would do. He wrote the words then.

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blood and ashes

Two Men Standing
(blood and ashes)

There was a third man, a first man, a failed first, a forever failing first. You’ll find him in the blank space to my right, on that pedestal of dirty laundry. He’s gone, was rubbed out, was never there, never born but killed over and over. You killed him, who made me. Are you beginning to get your eyes yet? Can you see the emerging man to my left? Do you see what he has, what he lacks? It’s a miracle he can stand. Note, however, he is anchored to my foot. His hand, Ah, his hand! Pink, infantile! He does not need finishing. No man does. We do not ask to be finished. We only ask, I ask, to be given the hands to do the proper job of a man. I ask you, no, I demand it of you, whose eyes reflect mine.

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flying away

The Quitter
for Andrew

When ears up in pricks
you lie your head down
like a filthy habit
and can find no rest
it’s time to listen
to the giant sucking sound
of tiny wings
to soften the blows
upon an art
to death

Oldly new
already full
already ready
overworked muscles
regain memory
by first letting go
then letting air in
as a snot-nosed child
following a mourning dove
to sing

Half a glass
the other waiting sky
you’ve had your fill
until you’re dry
in the gap
forever opening
you narrowly find
to quit
is a beginning

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Hey guys, what time is it anyway?

Accurate information matters to this man. Photo ©GSTREET

In recent weeks I have felt the need to take a vacation from my mind and that has meant getting away from writing. As an escape I found myself falling down the rabbit hole of watching a lot of YouTube videos on mechanical watches. I haven’t stumbled upon a single video made by a woman. They’re all made by guys and for guys and they’re all addressed as such. Invariably they start with the greeting, “Hey guys!” They all follow the same pattern and they all use the same words, such as: beater watch, strap monster, robust (movement or construction), everyday watch, dress up or down. Because of this self-referentiality, some of the more entertaining ones make jokes about other watch enthusiasts, such as the true believer in quartz watches who makes sarcastic asides about those who love mechanicals. In fact I’ve now seen so many of these that I could make a parody watch video.

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