community literary arts I remember my brother and I staying over at a friend’s house–we were eleven or twelve. Our friend had gotten a skateboard sticker, like a PowellPeralta sticker. It was the size of a sand dollar. He put it above a light switch in the kitchen. We went to bed at some point, and his dad came home from the bar at around 3am and went into the kitchen to get something to eat and saw the sticker. The next thing we knew the door to our friend’s bedroom was kicked in and his dad flipped on the light and marched right over to his son’s bed and punched him in the face. Michael and I jumped up from the floor and he kicked me in the chest and threw my brother into the closet and then just turns around and says “Goodnight faggots,” and turns off the light and leaves. That wasn’t a surprising moment, and it wasn’t the first time something like that happened. 11: There are also a few poems about your childhood friend Caleb, about his violent tendencies. Can you tell me about him? MD: I knew a few boys like Caleb. We were all skater kids together, and a handful of them eventually went the ways of their older brothers, or older sisters. Getting into drugs, alcohol, or becoming members of a predominant skinhead gang in Southeast Portland called the East Side White Pride. The figure of Caleb in the book–there are several poems each called “Wonderland” that sort of trace it.
I believe, is to bankrupt white supremacist groups as a way to undercut their power, and to deal with the title of white power. I’m not just hinting at the murder of this young man, but how white power survives through white families that are just living by the atrocities that are perpetuated in their community by keeping their heads down, ignoring it, or not even thinking about it. So that little dinner scene is about that. It really is a way not to talk just about that murder briefly, but my own family’s sort of larger complicity with that sort of violence. 11: There are some poems in this book named after punk bands from the 80s–Minor Threat, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, Bad Brains and Black Flag. What was the significance? MD: The poems in here that were named after punk bands are the last poems I wrote for the book. They are my version of the nature poem. Each of them is about nature, and I wrote them because I was looking at the book where it was at that point, and these memories of childhood, and this kind of ambient violence and these relationships between parents and children. But that wasn’t all my neighborhood was. It was hard to remember that. There were trees, there were birds–it’s Oregon. It was kind of interesting that my trauma memory around some of those experiences as a kid don't include nature. I have to work hard to remember the maple tree in the backyard. Because you’re not really thinking about the maple tree, you're thinking about the stitches. I wanted to write these nature poems, but the neighborhood couldn’t be this one kind of neighborhood where these things occurred in my life where there was no nature. Also, nature cannot be without the neighborhood. So I thought about the musicality of nature, the bird song, the sound of wind through trees. Then thinking about music, and the first music that really moved me that I could really relate to, was punk music. » - Scott McHale
11: Your poem “White Power” just blew me away, especially that first line. Can you tell us about it? MD: There was a young man who lived not far from our neighborhood, Mulugeta Seraw. Some East Side white skinheads basically targeted him and murdered him. It wasn’t the first time East Side White Pride had anything to do with murder, but it was the first time they really got caught for it. And in many ways, it was the beginning of the end for them. Southern Poverty Law came in from the south and represented the victim’s family. Skinheads were beating people down all over the country. They came because they found a connection between East Side White Pride and the Klan. And one of the many goals of the Southern Poverty Law,
They took an Ethiopian soccer player and split his head open with a baseball bat. Trees were standing around, cars were driving by. My mother was making chipped beef and toast. We never borrowed milk from the neighbors though sometimes we had no money for milk. My sister thought any man taller than me was her father.
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