6/19/2007 at 12:40
I love rock.
Always have. Other music too; but rock- guitar, drum, bass driving for an ending that sounds like orgasm and wracks your body into its shape- has a special place in my heart.
No, make that my body.
How many people actually listen to rock? Not sure about a lot of what passes for it now- but I wouldn’t know anyhow.
I don’t listen to it. I pump it through my veins.
The underpinning of a primal beat that shakes the soles of your feet, wringing the tempo of your heart faster and faster, racing endlessly, helplessly, to keep up;
a plucked and drowning rush of guitar, taut and smoky, flushed and screaming like the highest, twisting, throbbing pitch of sensation on a hot summer night;
the bass a steel- and bronze-clad gladiator furiously cutting apart every synapse with deep melodies wrung from cold metal;
the twining, writhing shock of keyboards, guitars, synthesizers, crackling with enough raw force to light a city;
the mind-destroying power of the sounds from a 14-foot-high Marshall stack mating, meshing, slamming into you over and over;
the beat setting the pulse of your body, the bassline pushing into you until you can’t tell it from a lover, the melody tangling with them to pour over the whole of your body like liquid flame;
lyrics whispering myth, poetry, lust, magic, wooing, shrieking, cutting the universe to pieces in a bacchanal of words;
standing sweaty, burning, shaking, throbbing at the end of a song, your body abandoned to music that has ravished it from top to toe, has taken you so thoroughly that there is almost nothing left.
When was the last time you listened to rock?
Labels: prose poem
6/18/2007 at 12:19
Okay, I’m more than a little bit freaked out.
I like Mariah Carey. More than I did, anyway.
And it has nothing to do with her music.
I’m perennially annoyed by the lack of “interracial” (interethnic, in my parlance) coupledom in popular media. When you do see it, it’s always in reference to some work like “Othello” (helLO, people- tragedy), and it’s always being vetted out of film adaptations of less tragic and more popular novels. (For example, when the decision was made to cast Denzel Washington as the male lead in "The Pelican Brief", the script adaptation cut the romance between his and Julia Roberts’ character. Why? The producer thought it would be- and I quote- “too distracting”. Distracting? What an unimaginative euphemism. And as though Denzel Washington could be anything but.)
And it isn’t just that. There are all kinds of examples of celebrity name changes in order to reflect a less “ethnic” feel (Alan Alda=Alphonso D’Abruzzo, Demi Moore=Demetria Guynes), and precious few who refuse. I always respect those who do. For example, Salma Hayek, one of the most physically perfect women who walk the earth (and she ain’t a bad actress either) was refused roles for years because her name sounded “too Mexican”, and she wouldn’t change it.
What does this have to do with Mariah Carey?
Carey’s mother is Irish American; her father, African American and Venezuelan. Carey has always discussed her ethnic heritage openly- for which I respected her in the first place. Children of interethnic marriages often have a very hard time with the adverse public reaction to this, especially celebrities- if their names draw fire, then their parentage draws outright racism. But she goes further than mere openness - I haven’t followed Carey’s musical career, which is why I didn’t realize that she very openly and publicly celebrated her parents’ love for one another- and the obstacles they overcame in remaining together- in a music video which actually has her parents in it.
Normally, soppiness of this kind makes me roll my eyes. But the final scene of Carey’s video- shown after we’ve seen the story of two young people very much in love with each other, and the girl disowned by her family for it- in which she is singing to two people seated at the front of the crowd, is genuinely moving when you realize that they’re her parents, and that what you’ve just seen is their story. Beautiful.
This woman doesn’t have a problem acknowledging where she came from, and that’s the first and most important step in knowing who you are. Kudos to her for that.
6/17/2007 at 18:34
I don’t look for my ghosts.
But they find me anyway.
I’m never sure how to deal with men I’ve cared for once we find each other again; that’s because I never stop caring for them. Friends, romances, lovers- to have my love in any form is to become a part of me, bits of myself morphing to something new when they join to a person’s spirit, remaining in their new shape when the bonds are cut. Bleeding, scarring, healing. Staying.
I am me. Overwhelmingly, overpoweringly, sometimes-too-muchly me. But I carry also pieces of those I’ve loved, brands and scars and strange, wonderful patterns left by all of them.
And because I bear them with me, in some way I will watch those people inside myself, my eyes following them down every street they walk upon, always. I will never cease to wonder if they are safe and warm and happy, never stop wanting them to be laughing and content.
Of late there’s been a large influx of phantoms into my life- echoes and apparitions from lives I’ve left behind. I’m not sure why, or why now; it’s rather like a purge of some kind, a great outpouring and loosening of past ties that leaves me feeling at once bewildered at the odd coincidences of the universe and more peaceful about my multivariate takes on romance.
There are a few more restless spirits among them, some I may never hear from again, or know where and how they dwell. This exorcism, this freeing, is for them.
Michael, when you wrote that you shouldn’t have left, that I was one of the most beautiful and intelligent women you’d ever been with, I wonder if you knew how much that meant? Simple words for you, so easy to type. So revolutionary for me, such a relief after the incredible humiliation of being dumped in the middle of a passionate and public kiss. You were the first person who ever broke my ego- and some part of it was still smarting until your message. (Do you still listen to Frank Sinatra? Did you keep the green-mohawked stuffed dog? Do you still sleep with a laser-sighted gun under your bed?)
Joe, you’re one of the joys of my life. What I had with you, no matter how brief and sweet, forged a connection so strong that I couldn’t then imagine not knowing you. Your chasing me down after all this time- keeping after me till I called you back, till we talked and laughed and yelled in outrage until dawn- reaffirmed my faith in that bond, and in the correctness of my own judgments of intimacy. You were the first man to point out to me, with grace and humor, that I didn’t always see some of the things closest to me. You were the first man to always pull me ever closer to you without doubt or hesitation, even as you slept. I treasure your friendship and I have no questions for you; you answer them all.
Walter, what we had was so overpowering that sometimes it still frightens me to think of what we did for each other, what we gave up for each other. No matter how badly broken our compatibility, the commitment and dedication we pursued give me enormous faith in my ability to stay with anything, no matter how trying and painful. You also gave me an understanding of exactly what friendship with someone you’re in love with means, and all the edges where those pieces should fit. You, of all the men I’ve loved, taught me the most about myself and about the world. And if the lessons were painful- well, then, I thank you all the same; I needed to know. (Does she make you happy? Do you still jump trains when you’re drunk? Does she give you the sense of anchoring in your mortal body that I couldn’t?)
Don, you are one of the best human beings I’ve ever known. And that, among all the shining stars of my acquaintance, makes you nearly blinding. Of all the men I’ve known or loved, you were the one who combined everything I ever thought of as ideal in a man- tenderness, intelligence, curiosity, acceptance, warmth, humor, desire, even-temperedness, a passion for justice, unshakeable loyalty- to the greatest degree and extent. You showed me the best of what a relationship can be, and I’ll always be grateful to you for it. (Are you happy making wine on such a large scale? Is there any jazz that feeds your soul in Oregon? Do you still dye your hair purple when you’re feeling low?)
Vance, sometimes when I think about you I want to laugh- at you, at me, at the idea of us together. For such an ill-assorted pair we made things work for an astonishingly long time, and because of the sheer joy we found together you were the first man I ever trusted enough to let in completely. I don’t know how it was that we managed in such a complete disconnect, but our romance taught me something about the power of simple happiness to keep a couple together. (Are you still driving trucks? Does it make you as happy as making people beautiful did? Were you ever honest with yourself about what happened between you and your family?)
Paul, you were the first time I had a glimpse of what the word “charisma” means. You were intelligent, talented- not necessarily handsome, but so charming that you could have had the birds off the trees if you willed it so. I needed to be able to understand people like you- expansive, entrancing, effulgent- to be able to comprehend how a person could pull so strongly that one was more glad of small pieces of him than of the entirety of someone else. From you I learned the markers of the artistic temperament, and the skills with which to cope with it. And we found so much meaning and deep loveliness in our short time together that, despite its ending, I’ve never been able to bring myself to regret it. (Do you still act? Did you ever manage to catch a pwca? Did your eyes ever stop their endless whirl and settle on a single color?)
Craig, my dear boy. You taught me so much about loving another person, about nurturing that love, about maintaining the ties that bind so closely. You also taught me about the dangers of wanting to own because you love, of the sense that the people who mean the most to you are yours rather than their own. You were always something different than you wanted- something that didn’t fit your corporate industrial wealthy-father image, something that everyone who loved you valued, except you. (Do you accept your fascination with the Moody Blues and ELO now instead of keeping it a guilty secret? Do you still drive American heavy metal with alarming panache? Are you still hiding the wealth that is you under Armani and Serengetis?)
And, last but not by any means least, David. You were- still are, I hope- astonishing. From a family background and parents I wouldn’t have wished on a tree squirrel you made of yourself a profoundly whole, happy, decent human being, and even now I marvel at your ability to have done that. Your humor, your constant and genuine laughter, your gentleness and lack of egotism- so rare in a teenage boy- impressed me so much. I never really had a chance to tell you what it meant to me that the bond we had was intact so many years after we’d dated, that your rare qualities of spirit were still shining in you. (Do you still hustle people at putt-putt? What happened to that truck you swore you’d always drive? Do you sometimes drive over that dam and remember?)
There are many more- I’ve had, after all, a dating life that stretches over 18 years- but these are the most important.
And if you, stranger, recognize yourself in passing- know that in some way I loved you, and still wish you your heart's happiness.
6/13/2007 at 21:02
UPDATE: 03/27/2015. I've removed the text of Ms. Holzer's remarkable "Inflammatory Essay" from my blog; ignorant though I was of the relevant law when I posted it, I should still have known better. She is its creator; it is hers and hers alone, and I should have respected her right to exclusive control of its dissemination.
(Note that this action is not due to any request or notice I've received. I simply remembered this post, and am acting to correct my own errors.)
I am in a truly savage, violently incendiary mood.
This disposition fits my appreciation of Jenny Holzer.
Holzer is an American conceptual artist, one of the few I actually like. Her métier is- surprise!- words. Words in public spaces, actually.
I’ve been following her work since my first sculpture class in undergrad, but my favorite among all her pieces is still the very first one I ever read.
And I’m going to share it with you, because it’s very, very close to describing exactly how I feel right now.
6/12/2007 at 16:03
The utter lack in this country of any kind of thoughtful, nuanced stance on abortion has always troubled me.
Many of the so-called "pro-lifers" with whom I've spoken (many of whom don't, apparently, care about the lives of people once they're born, given the majority of their numbers' stance on war and capital punishment) are utterly revolting. Their smug self-righteousness, their theocratic fervor as they dictate what should and should not happen to the lives and sanity of the people whose medical care and future lives they are trying to dictate, offends every instinct for empathy and autonomy that is in me.
By the same token, some of the pro-choicers offend me just as much. Many I've talked to demonstrate the same self-satisfied superiority, the same sense of arrogant self-righteousness that the "pro-lifers" do; though I agree with their assessments on personal medical autonomy and on the dangers of illegal abortions I hear almost no acknowledgement from them that science is fuzzy on when human life begins, that this issue revolves around questions of ethics that are complex and subtle and not amenable to the 10-second platitudes so beloved of the politically active.
So these are my choices: on one side a complete lack of any compassion for the patients involved, although claims of religious love and salvation are overwhelming; on the other a lack of consideration for deeper ethical questions. And on both sides, a complete dearth of emotional and intellectual honesty or consideration for scientific fact.
My position on abortion has always been closer to the pro-choice than "pro-life" position; but other than my staunch support for keeping abortion legal and available I refuse to side with either camp. I think that medical decisions are best left to the person whose body they affect, and as a future doctor and decent human being I have no desire to see women come into my office dying of sepsis or menthofuran poisoning, losing function and perhaps their lives because they tried to abort themselves with a coat hanger or pennyroyal.
A short side note on this- one of the most revolting things about the "pro-life" position is the way they scoff at this latter concern. I assure you that had any of them seen the figures on the number of women who display injuries consistent with this type of action, or helped a desperate 16-year-old girl from a conservative family get medical attention for "bleeding" that just wouldn't stop, their scorn and contempt for the well-being of people caught in terrible situations would show in an entirely different hue.
The other reason I fall more on the side of the "pro-choice" lobby is more particular to medical ethics, specifically: namely, the fact that an ob-gyn who is seeing a pregnant woman has an obligation to the woman- who is her patient- first; and only then to the baby. Lacking any kind of medical instruction or directive, when forced to choose between the life of a woman and her unborn baby, a physician will always choose the woman- she is her patient. I agree completely with this in principle and practice; there is no sense or ethical superiority in letting a breathing, self-conscious, functional and fully developed person die for the benefit of a life that is as yet none of those things.
At the same time, the proclamation by some pro-choicers that the fetus is only a mass of tissue, that this is not a morally problematic and very painful decision for the majority of the women who undergo it, is not only blind to the facts but demonstrates a lack of empathy and kindness, as well as of comprehension of fundamental ethical issues, that is staggering.
The fact is that, whether or not the scientific definition of life is clear, the majority of women who make the decision to have an abortion feel as though they are forced to the decision; are unhappy with all the choices they have; and find it to be a painful and devastating experience. The cavalier treatment of a decision so important to the people who make it, by those who claim to care deeply about the issue, negates any claim of integrity by those who exhibit such disdainful behavior.
In short, I fall in the pro-choice camp mostly by virtue of the profound respect I have for a person's right to choose the course of their own medical treatments and their own lives.
And I respect the difficulty of the decision for the women I know, and the others, who've made it- the devout Catholic schoolgirl sobbing through the entire procedure; the weary, worried mothers who cannot support any more children but love them deeply, all of them, and feel that they are losing one through Fate or a mistake; the desperate, nearly frenzied victims of rape and incest who keep their heads turned to the side, staring at the wall as they take the pain, refusing to acknowledge that this has anything to do with them, as this new violation becomes another choice which has been taken away.
What is wrong with us? Are we thinking about the people whose lives this affects- do we even look at the degree of human suffering involved in these decisions before offering smug, glib platitudes for one side or the other?
Labels: bioethics, politics
6/04/2007 at 18:35
Encountered yet another spectacular piece of idiocy today- why is it that whether at home or in Carbondale, the rate is constant?- and broke a cardinal rule of mine: don’t lose your temper at someone over something that they honestly believe.
I don’t believe that denying medication to a child is a parent’s right. Give me patience, because I’m a civil libertarian in everything except this: what parents have a right to do to their children.
Deny them any worthwhile sex education, increasing their chances of both STDs and underage pregnancy? Unfortunately, yes.
Deny them a decent science education, excluding huge chunks of the information which shapes the world they live in, opting instead for some inadequate explanation of human progress which leaves them in the cold when it comes to any meaningful interaction with the world around them? Tragically, yes.
Denying them medication which could save their lives?
I don’t care what moronic conception of the universe you have, what you think is “morally right” or what will get you “saved”. The right to physically harm somebody- never mind a helpless human being- ends when the tips of your fingers do.
Off yourself. Be my guest. Die of easily treatable pneumonia (and deprive generations of children of your talents). Succumb to a form of cancer that’s curable. Kick the bucket because a wound develops gangrene from an easily-remedied infection. Every instinct howls in protest at this, but it’s your right.
But you have no right to kill your child in this fashion.
Forget the state’s legitimate interest in keeping its citizens alive. Forget that freedom of religion includes only the right to practices that do not physically harm other human beings.
You cannot- should not be able- to deny your child medical treatment because by so doing you are wreaking havoc you have no right to wreak on another innocent and vulnerable human being.
Because that child lives inside a different skin than yours, and has the right to maintain its integrity.
Because it treats the child as an object, a chalice with which to prove one’s faith, not as a living, breathing human being.
Because it’s wrong.
Just how far are we from the days in which Abraham whetted his knife next to an altar on which his only son lay bound?
I don’t care what gods or demons, what imps, spirit, sprites or brownies you think will come to save you. I don’t care what magic you want to try. I don’t care if you spend nights and days on your knees or in the lotus position. I don’t care if your living room is decked with “healing crystals”.
Humans are cured from ailments not by their right to be so, not because the universe provides ambient healing for them. Humans are healed because they want to live longer, better lives, because they fight the vast abyss of ignorance to pluck from the maw of the universe information that can help all of us.
If we are to be treated, healed, made better- if the world is to be made better- it will be by our hands, our work; our faith in the worth of each other, and our fierce defense of that worth in the face of deliberate ignorance and fatal egotism.
Not by a bearded god who looks unmoved at the anguish of children.
And those of you who do the same- you don’t deserve the keeping of another human being.
Labels: bioethics, politics
6/01/2007 at 00:59
Drove around Devil’s Kitchen Lake a few nights ago, windows down (always down) in the warm, misty shadows, turning vistas beckoning and scrolling before me.
Around the next curve I saw pinprick flashes of light over a tall-grassed meadow, the air randomly phosphorescent at a thousand evanescent points of suddenly-not-dark, and hit the brakes, pulling into grass tall enough that it stood at chin level when I opened my door.
I climbed onto the car roof, into dusky air alive with a luminance dancing and flitting like weightless, flickering stars. I sat for an hour as the sky sank to black, watching them.
Then I drove home. And I fell asleep with the pirouetting sparks still whirling around me, thousands of lightening bugs, close around and above, calling for mates in a lustrous dark, in vapor-ribboned air that smelled of rain.
Labels: prose poem
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