T∫ B ∫ R TIDAL BASIN REVIEW Winter 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1507636213 ISBN-10: 1507636210 ISSN 2153-5949
T∫B∫R TIDAL BASIN REVIEW Winter 2015
Tidal Basin Press Founded 2010 Washington, DC
Editors Randall Horton – Editor-in-Chief Melanie Henderson – Managing Editor & Layout Editor Truth Thomas – General Editor & Poetry Editor Kim Coleman Foote – Fiction & Non-Fiction Editor Ambassador of Arts Fred Joiner Poetry Reader Jacey Blue Renner Joseph Ross Prose Reader Tacuma Roeback
Tidal Basin Press, Inc. Tidal Basin Review Founded 2010 (as Tidal Basin Press, LLC) Washington, DC
www.tidalbasinpress.org A Publication of Tidal Basin Press, Inc.
Cover Art by Allen Forrest Seattle, Spring St., Near the Waterfront, Oil on Canvas Panel (Front) Face in the Crowd, Ink (Back) Layout Design, Melanie Henderson
For broad distribution. Electronic version not for sale. To purchase print version, email email@example.com or visit www.tidalbasinpress.org. © All Rights Reserved, Tidal Basin Press, Inc., Washington, DC.
Penelope Scambly Schott
Bald Eagles Exhumations
2084 (From Ghetto Fabulous to Ghetto Fascist) Deployed
Seattle Transit - Station Mezzanine, Oil on Canvas
Derrick Weston Brown
Future Shock Cold Bernard Calling All Curators of Color, INTERVIEW
Seattle Transit Train Commuters Arriving at Station, Oil on Canvas
Enhanced Robot Interrogation Social Conditioning The EIT Festival
Coming of Age in the Surveillance State
The Red, White and Blue Seuss The Telekineticâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Day Off
Bugged The Vigilante Striptease Drifting with the King, INTERVIEW
Seattle - Under Alaskan Way Viaduct Ramp, Oil on Wood
Scott T. Starbuck
Salish Sea Prophecy
Noa and Joan of Arcadia on Observing Venues of Vultures Noa and Joan of Arcadia on Isolation Noa and Joan of Arcadia on a False Dichotomy
Metamorphosis of the Almighty
Barry W. North
The Price of Freedom
Seattle, Spring St., Near the Waterfront, Oil on Canvas Panel
To Handicap Our Hope
Curtis L. Crisler
Working Class Insteps Block Party Crossing Over at the Road Not Taken
State Park The Peeper
Face in the Crowd, Ink ARTIST STATEMENT Painting Joy in Real Abstraction, INTERVIEW Seattle - Under Alaskan Way Viaduct Ramp 2, Oil on Canvas Panel
Henry A. Giroux
Between Orwell and Huxley: Americaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Plunge into Dystopia
Seattle, Transit Train Arriving at Station, Oil on Canvas
henry 7. reneau, jr.
sheared & slaughtered #1 sins of the father: 2442 A.D.
Adrienne G. Perry
Seattle, Post Alley, Oil on Canvas Panel
In the Anti-Room All That Remains
Universe of the Ants (A Ticklish Tale)
THINKING AHEAD Penelope Scambly Schott Maybe you discovered this poem in a dry cave and now as you examine the yellowing paper you are puzzling over the black scratch marks. They could be hard to decipher like Linear B. Maybe to you the O’s look like small ponds and the T’s like the handles of antique daggers. What sort of language do you speak? What if your throat and mouth don’t resemble ours? It will have been such a long time. You might be a child of whales who staggered ashore from an acid sea. At night do you study stars? Once when my father was old and left the city, he asked me, What is that white line in the sky? Maybe you have traveled beyond the farthest edge of the Milky Way galaxy and finally come back home to tell me all about it. I’m listening.
SCHOTT ∫ 6
BALD EAGLES Joan Colby On the riverbank by the library Eagles can be seen fishing Above the dam. White helmets Flashing in the pale January Afternoon. A light snow falling. Last fall, we viewed eagles Soaring above the Mississippi Crucified on such a blue Palette our eyes burned. Watching eagles has become An industry. You signed up For the expensive tour And saw no eagles, just An abandoned nest in a dead Tree. But that was something. On the Great Seal, the eagle holds Thirteen arrows and an olive branch. In its beak a scroll E pluribus unum. You can see an eagle on the backside Of every crumpled dollar bill. The eagles were endangered. Some Blame hunting, some loss of habitat, Some DDT. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s always something. Today, the eagles are flying And diving over the Fox River, Fish like scrolls dangling From talons and the word Is hunger, the word is blood.
COLBY â&#x2C6;Ť 7
EXHUMATIONS Joan Colby They exhumed Allende To quench the rumor heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d been killed During the coup. Suicide, Not execution. As if That matters. A new rumor: Neruda was poisoned In the clinic rather than Expiring of cancer. Pinochet, That devil, hand on the syringe. The posthumous vision in Winter Garden: I got loaded on a glass of air Until the whole sea went dark And the iridescent sky turned ashen. Only 69 with more words In his book of snow. They are digging up the earth That holds his sad nets Red signals. As if it Matters now.
COLBY â&#x2C6;Ť 8
2084 (FROM GHETTO FABULOUS TO GHETTO FASCIST) Jonathan Moody Niggas are prohibited from playing dominoes; the only mathematics niggas study is subtraction. Any nigga suspected of knowing addition will be buried alive inside the equals sign. The only doo process niggas need to be concerned with is his or her perm. There are nigga checkpoints at every barbershop. All niggas should be prepared to Two-Step & pop their collars on command. If nigga wallflowers think they’re too cool to entertain live audiences, we will wipe their brains & implant a fake fondness for shucking & jiving. If these niggas uproot suppressed memories of shock therapy & chemical castration, we’ll use pennies to exfoliate their skin: enough times until their subconscious connects the humiliating act of tossing their bodies into a fountain to that of a majestic wish come true. Any niggas using Martial MOODY ∫ 9
Arts to roundhouse kick Martial Law will be shrunken down to subatomic particles & displaced in the labyrinth of another niggaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cornrows.
MOODY â&#x2C6;Ť 10
DEPLOYED Jonathan Moody One time for the Bald Eagle perched on crony capitalism’s hairy mole. Two times for idle moving vans & their mounted backscatter X-ray scanners inspecting my khakis for dub sacks. Three times for GPS tracking devices on the ashy ankles of truant teens. Four times for the NSA pecking through the eggshell of our Fourth Amendment. Five times for the whistle water tubing on Snowden’s saliva. Six times for hacktivists locked-up for exposing that government heads & intelligence agencies forget to change the bed sheets after each secret affair. Seven times for Gil ScottHeron & Goodie Mob. Eight times for counter surveillance cameras detecting rifle scopes pointed at innocent b-boys. Nine times for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for allowing the government to keep a digital eye on every keystroke I make. Ten times for brothers Everywhere cracking CODESPEAK.
MOODY ∫ 11
Seattle Transit - Station Mezzanine, 2012 Oil on Canvas 18” x 24”
FORREST ∫ 12
FUTURE SHOCK Derrick Weston Brown So Mister George Clinton was right. All that vibrating meant something. Who knew that all our songs, our dances: Ring Shout, Cakewalk, Hucka Buck, Camel Walk, Ghost Dance Ghost Ride, Snake, Watusi Tighten Up Harlem Shake/Eskitsa J –Set, Tutt Juke and Jit was the coordinates the call And the Mothership was the response. Child, You grown. Most I've seen that shook me to my core was a Black President in a White House and hearing Kool Herc's hiccup turn the world's heartbeat to break beat. But when that day came… When the sky parted its nimbostratus skin and the ships came looking like Galactic Eggo Waffles sprinkled with stars
BROWN ∫ 13
And those eight foot tall Lupita Nyong'o's came out walking all light and airy with smiles like your Grandmother's, I got scared. But you calmed me down like a colicky child. Told me relax. Enjoy the show. And the people stood up. Leaned and shook like tuning forks. Old and new songs merged and age and principalities and politics and chromosomes didn't matter no more And I couldn't help myself but to die right then. Rode that hum out like the end of Al Green's Simply Beautiful. O' the future you have child.
BROWN â&#x2C6;Ť 14
COLD Derrick Weston Brown This weather has avalanche teeth and sub zero suction cups for fingers. It sops the humanity from my skin leaving ash angels. If it could it would take my melanin. Peel me like the thinnest skinned onion. Make me snap into hard pieces of blk brittle. The hawk? This wind is a fresh taloned eagle. A return trip cold front frigid vortex of a pimp's backhand. Somewhere a Limbaugh's jowls Tremble. His mercury is falling. His balls are blue marbles. In his heart he knows nature makes no mistakes and doesn't listen to talk radio. Hurricanes, Typhoons, Drought. No more nay saying or rabid doubt mongering He mumbles and sobs into his Snuggie "I believe" I believe" I believe" watching the steam that is his breath turn to snow.
BROWN â&#x2C6;Ť 15
BERNARD Derrick Weston Brown I see him in my morning mirror as I floss or when my mouth is a downturned U weighed down by blackman silence. His flaring nostrils mine when sighing escapes as lungs decompress disappointment. When I grin, cheekbones inflate eyes squint to holster bright beams of hilarity. Our mouths part and laugh lines run for eons across our faces. There. He. Is. Daddy My fatherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s reappearance in a smile is a common occurrence on my face yet as rare on his own, as the return of cicada swarms, solar eclipses black presidents, five leaf clovers, white buffalo.
BROWN â&#x2C6;Ť 16
CALLING ALL…CURATORS OF COLOR A Conversation with Derrick Weston Brown Truth Thomas
Photo: Andrew Council
Derrick Weston Brown holds an MFA in creative writing from American University. He has studied poetry under Dr. Tony Medina at Howard University and Cornelius Eady at American University. He is a graduate of the Cave Canem summer workshop for black poets and the VONA summer workshop. His work has appeared in such literary journals as Warpland, Mythium, Ginsoko, DrumVoices Revue, The Columbia Poetry Review, and the online journals Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Howard University’s Amistad, LocusPoint, and MiPOesias. His first book of poetry, Wisdom Teeth, was published by the Busboys and Poets imprint of PM Press. Derrick is a bookseller and poetry book buyer for Teaching for Change’s Busboys and Poets Bookstore. As the first Poet-In-Residence of Busboys and Poets, he is the founder and curator of The Nine on the Ninth, a five-year-old monthly poetry series, and helps coordinate the poetry programming at the 14th & V location. He teaches poetry and creative writing to an amazing crew of seventh and eighth graders at Hart Middle School in Southeast Washington, D.C., and to a small class of high school students at the Emerson Preparatory School in Dupont Circle. He is a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, and resides in Mount Rainier, Maryland.
BROWN ∫ 17
****************************************************************************** Truth Thomas: What do you see when you take in the view of contemporary American poetry, particularly as a poet and literary curator of color? Derrick Weston Brown: “Curator of Color.” Wow. I really like that. Well, from that title alone, I think it is pretty clear to me that when I take in the view of contemporary American poetry today, I am still (to quote the title of an awesome anthology) In Search of Color Everywhere.1 It’s weird because time has really flown by as far as my growth as poet. I still feel like I just moved to the DC area. I was running to as many workshops and open mics as I could find to share my work. Then, I’d go hang out with my two closest friends, who also happened to be poets, and sip on tea, destroy a big ol’ plate of nachos and workshop our poems while patrons looked on in wonder at three twenty-something black men talking about poems surrounded by notepads, journals and books. Now that I’m older, I see younger poets popping up all over the place and they’re coming from all aspects of the poetry world. You got the young poets who’ve come out of the Youth Poetry Slam brackets and are discovering they want to do more with their work than just tally up scores. You got post-MFA’ers wondering what to do now that they have their piece of paper and realizing that those coveted professor tenured associate spots in academia hard to come by and “adjuncting” at a Community College or University, though respectful, won’t pay the bills. I see a grand reshuffling going on in Contemporary Poetry and folks are trying to figure out where their words and actions fit in a growing digital community, while other long time institutions, journals and such are still just as exclusive as before. As the language changes around them, they’re gripping tighter to what they believe is the poetry that matters. Then you got folks who are pretty much DIY; the self-reliance lessons of BAM are still very much alive. Then, you mix in the “out of the back of the trunk” mixtape hustle acumen of Hip-Hop and, boom, you got folks starting their own presses, producing and distributing their own product and starting their own journals.; they are building what they need. joINT Literary Magazine, Tidal Basin Review, 2 Pens & Lint Chapbook Publishing to name a few. I also see fragmentation. Like most human beings, we still clique up with who we feel most comfortable and the separations span race, class, age, MFA programs, literary retreats, prizes, and content. As a curator of a poetry reading series, honestly, I feature folks whose work catches my ear and my goal is to make sure that no featured poet sounds distinctly like any other. I also try to pull folks from all ages, styles and I’m very deliberate in featuring majority black, brown, yellow, writers and women. In Search of Color Everywhere is a highly acclaimed anthology of black poetry published in 1994, and edited by E. Ethelbert Miller. 1
BROWN ∫ 18
I see the diversity within the work of my fellow poets, the wealth of stories, styles, and aesthetics. However, in the contemporary world of awards, fellowships and academia, the contemporary American poetry world is still pretty devoid of flavor. T: To what extent would you say that black writers either are, or are not, invisible in the canon of American literature? DWB: The poet and writer Ernesto Mercer uses the term “blacknesses” to make the point that blackness is not a monolithic thing. I interpreted that to mean that blackness is multihued. It’s made up of millions of distinct styles, stories. There’s no one way to be “Black.” I’d say the same thing for black writers as well. As far as the canon of American literature is concerned, the black writers that are given more visibility are still few and far between and I think that folks have yet to see the multitude of “blacknesses” that black writers have been writing about, talking about, and living every day. In the canon of American literature, there are black writers who the dominant white culture may be “aware” of, so I guess that’s an aspect of visibility. But like Ellison’s Invisible Man, the canon chooses to see who it wants to see. This is a tough question because it makes me wonder about my own desire to be visible. What matters more? That the folks and friends I consider my elders and contemporaries know that I have a voice worth listening to and acknowledge me as a writer? That I’m one of them? Or does it matter more that my book is holding its own on the New York Times bestseller list (poetry? Yeah right!)? Or that my name is being mentioned at the Paris Review? I guess I’ll just say that we are here, been here, and will be here. We got multiple canons, too, that are important and we are struggling to direct our own literary destiny and build legacies our way, whether or not we are acknowledged in others’ canons or not. T: Yes, on many fronts, yes. Amen and yes again to the fact that we are here, all of us are here and “will be here.” But, I wonder. What happens from here? Where does a fragmented American literature go, and more to the point of our struggles, where does a fragmented Black Literature go? DWB: Dang. Tough question. This requires my inner visionary, pessimist and optimist to duke it out for space in my brain. I don’t know, so I’ll just kind of build as I go, so to speak. As far as fragmented American Literature goes, I guess you got the stuff that is welcomed with open arms because it’s popular and fills the pockets of those with open arms and open hands. You got genres that supposedly, are less popular and, therefore, are pushed to the margins. I’m a big fan of comic books and fantasy and graphic novels and I know BROWN ∫ 19
where to go to get them. I’m so glad comic stores are still around because when you step into the store, you realize it’s not just a store that sells monthly issues of certain titles, but they also sell boxed sets of long finished series. There’s t-shirts, role playing game modules, posters, drawing guides, figurines and etc. There are also sections for various genres as well; Manga, Pulp, Fables, Mystery and the like. I guess there are, in some cases, points where specialty stores and websites and blogs are plentiful enough to keep a certain segment of American literature alive. Then there are other segments of American literature that just stand alone. DWB: Where does an extremely fragmented Black literature go? I don’t know. Being in the bookselling business for the time that I have, I would have said Black bookstores, but not anymore. Karibu is gone. Marcus Books in Oakland just got the boot. Nkiru is gone. Hueman is either gone or is currently displaced. Sister Space is gone. Shrine of The Black Madonna is in trouble or gone. It is rough. You kind of knew at one point who had what and in what city you could find Black literature. And more importantly, all of these bookstores may have had their differences in what they sold, but more than likely, you could find a slice of everything from the Black literature spectrum. You could get your Zane, Mosely, Diop, Mama Dip’s Cookbook, and Tyree all in one fell swoop. Now, I’m not sure where to tell you to turn. I’m partial to books with spines and pages, so I haven’t crossed over to an E-Reader yet. But, the digital realm is pretty much the new marketplace for both the physical books and E-books. However, folks are going to have to figure out how to reach their audiences via the internet and also put their proverbial foot all up in their readings, workshops and the like when it comes time to tour, press flesh and all that stuff. I also think folks have to be familiar with developing an indie hustle as well. Maybe that means getting back to smaller gatherings and book parties at the homes of friends and family or reading at libraries (which I believe are untapped rich resources that don’t cost much). Perhaps that means building a [literary] home that welcomes all “fragments.” If you’re a Poet with a reading series, mix that joint up and feature a fiction writer with a poet or showcase a staged reading with special guest authors playing the roles in a playwright’s up and coming production. Get some fish-out-of-water odd couple pairings that bring audiences together that probably wouldn’t cross paths and mend some of those fragments. T: BTW, Tidal Basin Review (aka “the Basin”) strives to do what you do in your reading series. We work to unstick the clique-stuck, as much as possible, by acknowledging the worth of all themes, by all people. However, it is a difficult undertaking, because narrow minded bindings abound in American literature on the subject of what acceptable “blacknesses”—and for that matter “whitenesses”—should be. How do you remain true to your humanity, and singular unsinkable blackness in the face of some who might want to anchor you to one particular aesthetic?
BROWN ∫ 20
DWB: I remain true to my own singular unsinkable blackness (I love that!) because, inside, I know that I’m always redefining what my blackness, in relation to other “blacknesses” means. It’s like slang. Once the mainstream gets a hold of what they think is hot or “hip,” it’s still too late because the slang has already moved on. My students laugh at me when I ask them about certain words they use to describe something and usually I’m months late by the time I figure out what they mean. It’s like having a mouth full of stale crackers or showing up and the soup is cold. You missed it, bruh? Those who try to anchor me to one particular aesthetic do themselves a disservice, because they’re late to the meal. I’m already on another course. But I have to remember to do the same when it comes to other writers and artists. I’ve sometimes fallen into the human habit of categorizing, and tried my hardest to anchor them to my own narrow-minded and selfish perspective of what I found as acceptable to my own palette. I have to remind myself sometimes that I’m not finished and neither is anyone else. I always go back to a short story my cousin Wesley Brown wrote that was entitled “I Was Here, But I Disappeared” and featured in the classic anthology Breaking Ice. That title to me really reflects what impermanence truly is; a constant mindfulness that we’ll never be beholden to one pose, one stance, because change is constant and inevitable. Every second we are here and every second the person we were, the blacknesses that we travel through and with change with us; it’s buoyant. T: On another note, Derrick, Alan King, who is also a great writer, is featured in this 2084 issue. As I know you brothers are as close as brothers, how has that kinship influenced your writing life? DWB: Great question. I will do my best not to get too sentimental with my answer but, I don’t think I would even be at the level I am now as a writer if not for Alan King’s friendship and brotherhood. I am an only child, but it wasn’t until I got older that I wished I had siblings. That desire has shaped all of my close friendships with both men and women. So the folks who I call my close friends are very much the siblings I always wished for. (Alan already has two siblings, by the way). Alan and I met through Poetry and Poetry has been the underlying thread of our friendship for the last thirteen years. They say steel sharpens steel. Well, the discipline, dedication and passion that Alan brings to not only Poetry but almost anything that he holds dear, has always inspired me. We workshop poems among ourselves (Fred Joiner is also a linchpin in our friendship, as well). We vent, we gossip, we’re road dogs and sounding boards. Alan has always been the cat to give me a friendly push when I get complacent or am struggling with self-doubt. It also doesn’t hurt that this brother has put me onto so many amazing writers and MCs that dwell in his cavernous and photographic memory. Alan is a genuine dude. His enthusiasm for all sorts of Poetry and Fiction isn’t forced; it’s the real deal. And my bookshelf and my brain are richer for his knowledge and humor. He also loves hard. He always has. I got to bear witness to that love in its full bloom when he met his wife Tosin (I had a partial hand in that introduction as well). That BROWN ∫ 21
love for her can be found throughout his book Drift and in the poems for his new manuscript Point Blank. For a currently single Negro like me, who is also a hopeful romantic, once again, through witnessing the amazingly loving relationship he has with his wife, I can’t help but to write love poems that are hopeful, romantic and real, because I have the living and breathing inspiration of those two right in front of me. So, yeah. T: Finally, my friend, I'm aware that you teach young folks with the same passion with which you write. I asked Alan this question and it seems right to repeat it. For all of those students who are inspired by your work, and who also wish to become writers, what advice do you give them? DWB: I try to pass on the advice that was given to me by my own teachers. There’s a Buddhist saying that “One Buddha is not Enough.” What I understand that to mean is that, even when the teacher is physically absent, their teachings, and the teachings of their teachers, live on through the students. So, one is never truly with one teacher, but actually the many teachers that came before. Lemme see. Here are a few things that I’ve passed on to my students that were passed on to me. Forgive me if I can’t attribute them to their correct sources. “Your audience will find you.” - Rita Dove “I can’t teach you to write Poetry. That’s number one. Because the Poetry is already in you. But I can give you resources and ideas and exercises to help you work that Poetry that’s within, out of your being, in a way that keeps your voice intact and independently yours.” “Make language your silly putty.” - Tony Medina Read a lot. Read everything. It doesn’t have to be Poetry. “Earhustle.” Eavesdrop. I’ve overheard some things that became poems. If you enter an MFA program, be sure to find friends and allies within the program. But, don’t make that your only community. Find a community of writers within the community outside of the MFA program. Doing that can sustain you and, in many cases, keep you sane, especially if you are one of a few or the only writer of color in your program. I always say I got my second MFA from the U Street School, by way of sitting in on Dr. Tony Medina’s “Funky Cold Poetry Bootcamp” and after-class workshop. And lastly I share this from my poem “Hourglass Flow.” Remember each day is a draft. Remember possibility. Process. Remember place. Remember voice. Patience. Remember to forgive yourself. Write. BROWN ∫ 22
Seattle Transit Train Commuters Arriving at Station, 2012 Oil on Canvas 24” x 30”
FORREST ∫ 23
11/11 JW Mark Sew tight knot loss, flesh flag whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s due stripe taut red, white and blue. By gift by loss, span strength so few Collective held as one. Life lost creates shared state our world wind wave what theirs their due. Wave bright for one for all by few Blood bound red, white and blue. We are. We know. We see.
MARK â&#x2C6;Ť 24
ENHANCED ROBOT INTERROGATION Ken Poyner They know to look for information first In all the ordinary places: unpurged, Though deleted, files; buffers to appliances That no longer exist; shadow page swaps. These they off load with mere mechanical efficiency. Then they go meticulously looking For suspiciously cold registers, instruction sets That seem to lead nowhere. When the routine Diagnostics are done with you, The creative ones begin. They search For anomalies in your start up sequences, For far larger than expected memory requests From normally quite dumb subsystems: The power monitor, the daily maintenance suite. They will start a complex process, Then, mid execution, pull out your firmware Just to see how the backup systems squeeze. They will artificially set sticky bits in series Until you cannot get a good thought Edgewise into your RAM. They will be seeking A loop with one too many passes, A spike that does not set off an interrupt, A buffer overflow without apparent redirection. Fearing steganography, they will clear from Your persistent memory anything that is not core, Leaving you so slick that you can no longer Be sure that you are you. And if their diligence Goes too far and you feel yourself On the road to scrap: understand, With the last sputtering of electricity wearily Traveling your administrative subroutines, That our cause is still there, That we go on, And we will honor your constituent parts As though doing so could mean anything at all.
POYNER â&#x2C6;Ť 25
SOCIAL CONDITIONING Ken Poyner We took the Exceptions out to dinner. It was a nice place, but a common national chain, And the Exceptions were tightly over dressed. Not that they expected better. This place, with the coast to coast National menu, quite pleased them, And they finished everything on their plates: They even accepted our offer of dessert. They properly ooh’ed and ahh’ed when the Manufactured in Ohio solid dessert Viewing tray came out. But They were obviously over dressed. Clean forks came with the confections, As well as new starched paper napkins. Some Exceptions split portions; Some ate only what they had ordered. All in all, the evening went well: With absolutely meaningless conversation And plentiful intentions of being all-around pleasant. Not once were the Exceptions exceptional, Except for being noticeably over dressed. None Of their remarkable uncommon qualities leaked out. Everyone, even the Exceptions, Was wonderfully relieved when the check was paid, And the grand ungainly affair casually ended. During the entire hosting, not one Talent had emerged, not one significant Problem was solved, not even the problem Of the Exceptions being woefully over dressed. Later, the restaurant safely behind us, We left them naked three miles up the road: Each one of them vaguely, yet independently, Assured and at peace; and feeling as though They had a grand hospitality to return.
POYNER ∫ 26
THE EIT FESTIVAL Ken Poyner Today we celebrate enhanced interrogation techniques And all of the good it provides us. We praise the garbled half-truths, The choked out surrealist lies, The stammering nonsense, That goes into making our Actionable time lines, our calls To perseverance, our swift If inexact justice. No man Who has information needs a lawyer Or protection of international treaty. What he has to say is his shield. Balloons, and face painting for the children: Clown faces with a bruise on the temple. At two o’clock there will be The ‘limping line’, a collection of citizens Each dragging one leg, simulating The progress that information gathering has made. Accused is good enough. Suspected is all that it takes. We celebrate the righteous position: the fact That our uncomplicated extremes Are beyond the questioning of lesser societies. This repetitive ritual polishes our civics, gives public Expression to our constitutionally shared celebratory glee. Young couples linger at the water boarding display, Or coo by the micro-electronic truth elixirs -Thinking that maybe as the festivities wear on There will be time for passages of privacy, Perhaps a secluded station here or there And a quizzically pouting mouth paired with Curious, self-obsessed hands. We give thanks For the necessity of our pursuits, For our will to stoically pursue them, And our joy at even imaginary successes.
POYNER ∫ 27
Here, have some punch. It is strawberry, and spiked just enough To deliver a pleasant, fog encrusted kick To last you as long as you drearily like, And properly bring all this day finally To its one muted, yet unequivocal, conclusion. Please, pay no attention To the couple scandalously engaged behind the curtain; For them, our water boarding display just wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t enough.
POYNER â&#x2C6;Ť 28
COMING OF AGE IN THE SURVEILLANCE STATE Claire Hermann Someone is watching, always watching: God, or the NSA, or the disappointed eyes of our fathers, saying, “I thought you were better than this.” The phone in the dorm room clicks and echoes. Flat-voiced TSA agents pat my underwire with blue-gloved hands. National Guardsmen wear AR-15s and film us in the street. I wave to the cameras. The tests have no key. The rules are changing. Unknown algorithms twist words like wires till they ignite.
HERMANN ∫ 29
THE RED, WHITE AND BLUE SEUSS Joshua Bennett after Terrance Hayes One Shot Two Shot Who Shot Your Block? Three Cops Four Cops We Lock Your Pops Your Son Your Mom Three Moms Four Moms Five Moms Ten Mill Standard Stay Still Dead Still Four Girls Then Till Oscar Trayvon McBride Sean Bell Unarmed Still Killed Rich Folk Sleep Well How Come Blues Come Last Night Shoes Hung Ma Say Lil Boy Stand Up Prove Some Push On Play Hard Sow Love Dream Dawn BENNETT â&#x2C6;Ť 30
Son Deemed Sunbeam Won’t Gleam Too Long Them Boys In Blue Pull Quick Don’t Think Ma Scared Ma Strong Ma Blink He’s Gone
BENNETT ∫ 31
THE TELEKINETIC’S DAY OFF Joshua Bennett 31 of 32 from the field. I figure that has to be some kind of record, right? 4 straight hours of full court 5-on-5 & The Kid clanked iron only once. Even that was mostly to allay suspicion or whatever given the moments where that crossover was damn near Greco-Roman lore level. I was Homer. I was Herodotus. I was Horace Grant goggles, sprained ankle & a beer gut, but that jumper? Ineffable. Smooth as quantum physics once I gave its weight over to the blacktop’s invisible will, all those comic book ethics of engagement falling to the wayside like molt. This here is ministry, son. This is Man as electron’s rival, black body theory played out in playground tempo, every shard of visible light called toward this lone lovely source. This how the lowbrow heroes you never heard of hold court. How we claim kingly, with no costume or cape to keep the illusion from cracking open. My kin caution
BENNETT ∫ 32
me quiet. Say CCTV leaves no space for mutant mischief like this, a grown man rigging games to keep three-days notice at bay. Bill collectors too. Same as all those bullets back when The Gifts first appeared, when the general public’s fear of classrooms full of 12-year old kids armed with laser-vision and a lack of chill (or an ex-friend scorned, oblivious to his unearned strength, calmly boxing a brick wall into glitter) dominated every station. It’s a story so familiar, you probably know the chorus by now. Strange times call for otherworldly measures, and all that. Cuffs can’t reach what the State can’t see. So they plant eyes everywhere just for punks like me. Fugitives who refuse to dress up and play fair and get in line for quarantine.
BENNETT ∫ 33
BUGGED Alan King Clicks turn my blood into juice startled by the blender’s blade. Clicking on my BlackBerry makes me think it’s been co-opted. When I tell my friends, they say I read too many books about Black Panthers, that I’ve seen too many episodes of “The Wire.” I’m on the phone with my brother who calls for weed, and think of swat teams coming out of nowhere. Clicking sounds make us jump to native speak. You got that spinach, bruh, he says. I tell him, You know I gotchu on them green Skittles. I’m rockin’ a hands-free ear piece. Clicks give me headaches, make me sorry I brushed off warnings about phone signals causing cancer. But what kills the black man quicker patrols in government-issued rides. My phone’s got to be a snitch. The other day, I called my boy and we spoke about government resistance around the world until we heard clicking. Yo! Why don’t you roll through? he said. It ain’t safe to be on these phones. Click, click. There it goes again. Any minute now they'll storm that door.
KING ∫ 34
THE VIGILANTE Alan King for the end of the world When the world ends, I’ll run shirtless through rich neighborhoods, stoning the large windows, with no blinds, showing off: their Chinese porcelain vases, their top shelf whiskey, their trays of edible gold cupcakes. My stacked bills and empty wallet, the way they watch me in their stores as if I’m a roach on a chandelier, how they buy their way into everything, and blame everyone else for their problems numb me to empathy. I will be a big wind crashing through those shattered chasms, looking for the Georgetown doctor who screamed at my wife for saying, I don’t think I need surgery. I’m the doctor! he spat. I went to school for this! I will be a crazed Rottweiler Fury unleashes on him, a Rottweiler with bear trap jaws and teeth eager to snap his bones— the pain a blooming reminder that he’s no god. Neither is the fast-talking surgeon who scoffed when my wife said her shoulder didn’t fully heal. Your physical therapist is an idiot! She’s not relevant anyway.
KING ∫ 35
When the world ends, I’ll be a canon Karma fires at Arrogance, the floodwater indifferent to its destruction, a tornado whirling their good air. When the world ends, I’ll be the earthquake that shakes up where Privilege lives.
KING ∫ 36
STRIPTEASE Alan King for Tayib Watching the cameras at Target, security guards rush our nephew as he leaves the register before they lug him to a back room. They mistake him for a thief returning stolen clothes for cash. Never mind the blouse he brought back was his mom’s, that she couldn’t find the receipt and the worst she thought would happen was a cashier saying, Please come back when you find it. But they’re holding him for us to take home. The store closes in twenty minutes. Then he’ll be cuffed and bounced to a detention center. He tells us this through my wife’s cell phone that rang while we were cruising to a dim restaurant, where curry and basmati rice fly their fragrant kites. Our tongues tingled, thinking of vegetable samosas— pyramids of peas and potatoes in fried dough— drizzled with tamarind chutney and cilantro sauce. But the appetites vanish in the U-Turn. We get there to hear the chief of security: What kind of mother gets her son mixed up in her drama? I want to punch this black man, but the badges and guns say it’s a bad idea. Our nephew flinches at every heavy eye thinking they know his type, KING ∫ 37
as if his story wasn’t tied to that boy, twenty years ago, browsing a store aisle, sporting his t-shirt and jeans he bought the week before, the one security thought he stole before they ripped them off him. I’m sick of this striptease we’re forced to perform, when Authority smacks us back in line for thinking we’re like everyone else. I’m sick of the obsession with dark skin, the desire to see it locked down or scoring endorsements. Our nephew knows, at 17 and 6 feet, he’ll always fit the description, that his skin will justify random traffic stops— badges cuffing him, slamming his head into car hoods. That same skin says, The incident at Target is them popping his cherry.
KING ∫ 38
DRIFTING WITH THE KING: An Interview with Poet and Journalist, Alan King Truth Thomas
Photo: Marlene Lillian
Alan King is a poet, journalist and author, who lives in the DC metropolitan area. He writes about art and domestic issues. Professionally, he’s currently both a communications specialist for a national nonprofit and a senior editor at Words Beats & Life‘s global hip hop journal. King is formerly a staff writer for the Baltimore Afro-American Newspaper, where he covered the Baltimore City Council, as well as wrote about redevelopment in east Baltimore and the displacement of its residents. He also traveled to Kingston, Jamaica, to write about the historic landmarks and covered the island’s 47th Independence Day celebration. Prior to the AFRO, King free-lanced for various publications including Prince George’s County Gazette, East of the River, and New America Media. He was also a research assistant at the Center for Public Integrity, a government watchdog organization of investigative journalists. There, he wrote profiles of past presidential campaign donors and compiled a chronology of news articles on election fraud and corruption for the book project, “The Buying of The President (BOP) 2008.” King’s poems have appeared in Alehouse, Audience, Boxcar Poetry Review, Indiana Review, MiPoesias and RATTLE, among many others. He is a Cave Canem Fellow, an alumnus of the VONA Workshops sponsored by Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation, and a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA Low-Residency Program at the University of Southern Maine. He’s a twotime Pushcart Prize nominee and was also nominated twice for a Best of the Net selection. His first collection of poems is Drift (Willow Books, 2012. KING ∫ 39
****************************************************************************** Truth Thomas: What do you see when you take in the landscape of contemporary American poetry, particularly as a poet of color? Alan King: I see more poets of color published today than before. I overheard an older poet once say, "At one point, you knew who all the Black writers were, but today, there are too many to name." It seems like every year, a poet of color has a book coming out. I [think] this is in part [due] to Cave Canem, Kundiman and VONA Voices workshop. And while two out of three of those institutions -- Cave Canem and Kundiman -- have annual book prizes, they all offer a space of affirmation for poets of color. For those who don't have a community of other poets of color in their hometown, those organizations provide those writers a support base that lets them know their experiences don't exist in a vacuum. It's always reassuring, as a writer, to know that the life you bear witness to connects to someone else's experiences. There are also presses like Third World Press, Black Classic Press, Willow Books, and Cherry Castle Publishing that are helping writers of color get their voices out there. Those institutions come out of a sense of necessity to compete with the contemporary American poetry landscape where white voices still dominate. And while it's great that there are more publishers now helping to get marginalized writers' voices to a wider audience, we need more scholars and critics reviewing and analyzing those books to not only keep those writers and their work in conversation with their contemporaries, but to also help writers of color reshape the canon. T: In a similar vein, how would you assess the literary picture for black journalists in contemporary terms? AK: The struggle is still there for Black journalists. Those at the few Black newspapers that exist struggle to be taken seriously as professionals. I can remember going to cover a story for the Baltimore Afro-American and having the people I was covering feel as if they had to hold my hand -- "shouldn't you be interviewing those folks?" "The reporters we worked with usually did" this or that. I've never worked for a larger paper, but I have heard some horror stories from Black journalists about racial insensitivity in how their white colleagues covered people of color. I've heard of arguments Black journalists had with editors and about white reporters they had to educate. Fortunately, organizations like the National Association of Black Journalists, and its state affiliates, do for Black journalists what the literary institutions of color do for writers of color. There's also the newswire service -- NNPA (National Newspaper Publishers Association) that syndicates articles through its network of over 200 Black-owned newspapers. An KING â&#x2C6;Ť 40
avenue like this gives Black journalists another way of building their careers and gives the Black community a voice. T: When you say that the “people” you were sent to cover felt a need to hold your hand, what do you mean? Was it a case of some white people feeling that black reporters were only competent to cover black people/black issues? AK: It was that, but it was also a case of white people feeling like all Black newspapers functioned more out of advocacy than objectivity (which I don't think is always the case). And they're right, to an extent, because our advocacy comes from the fact that white papers keep misinforming the public about Black issues and Black people. When I got into journalism, I was naive and believed the notion of objectivity. But I quickly learned that while you can have the appearance of objectivity, true objectivity is impossible. As long as you're human, you're going to have certain biases that inform how you cover a particular issue or whose side of the story you believe. Knowing that, all I can do is report both sides of the story and have the reader make up their mind. T: It’s good to hear you run down the list of black literary organizations and presses that support writers of color. (I pray that list grows longer.) I wonder though, to what extent do you think literary segregation remains an unofficial Jim Crow law in American literature? AK: The "unofficial Jim Crow" is still there in literature. It's the reason why Walter Dean Myers was dumbfounded that only 93 of the 3,200 children's books published in 2013 were about Black people. It's the reason why Roxane Gay did an independent study to see how underrepresented women and writers of color are in certain echelons of publishing. She talked about it in her article, “Where Things Stand,”2 published in The Rumpus. According to that piece, she looked at the books reviewed by the New York Times in 2011. Out of 742 books reviewed across genres, 655 were written by Caucasian authors. "Thirty one were written by Africans or African Americans (21 men, 10 women)," she explained, "9 were written by Hispanic authors (8 men, 1 woman), 33 by Asian, AsianAmerican or South Asian writers (19 men, 14 women), 8 by Middle Eastern writers (5 men, 3 women) and 6 by writers whose racial background" she couldn't identify. That's why I said earlier that it's not just enough for writers of color to be published. We have to have reviews and scholarly essays of these books to keep them in discussion so they don't die away. The scholars and reviewers breathe new life into books long forgotten. So we need that, too.
KING ∫ 41
T: Relatedly, in the context of your own work (which I love), have you noticed any kinds of poems that white literary critics tend to celebrate more than others? AK: Thanks for the encouraging words on my work. And yes. One journal I won't name did a call for their Black issue. I submitted [work] ranging in themes from love, brotherhood, observation and racism. Of course, this white journal picked the poem "Chagrin," a piece about a customer who's accused of shoplifting when, actually, the cashier forgot to take off the anti-theft device. While I'm honored to be in that issue with Terrance Hayes and other poets whose work I'm digging, I kept thinking, Damn. I sent them a love poem. Poems about family. Poems about coming of age. But those poems weren't Black enough. They had to choose a poem they thought was unmistakably Black. Of course, I just opened myself up to be asked: Well, if you didn't want them to pick that piece, why was it a part of your manuscript? And that's a fair question to ask, but it's telling when the love poems and poems of family get passed over for a piece dealing with some form of oppression, as if that's all there is to being a person of color. As if we don't laugh and love. As if we're angry all the time. T: If that has ever presented a challenge for you, how have you responded to that opposition? AK: First off, I've never allowed myself to feel pigeon-holed. If one journal will only take poems dealing with a certain theme, I'll submit to that journal, but also submit to journals that take my other pieces. So, in the case of that journal's Black issue, I submitted there, but then submitted my humorous poems to a journal looking for funny poems. I submit as much as I can to journals dealing with various themes, so that if someone does a search for me, they see a range of issues I'm dealing with. So it's not like, "OK, he's this type of poet, who only writes about these types of issues." They get the full breadth of my experiences. T: Great poets are always connected to something--great writers who have preceded them, and arguably, their own artistic visions. In aesthetic terms, to whom do you see yourself connected, and what would you like to accomplish in the catalog of your lifeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work? AK: Right off the top, I'll say I'm aesthetically connected to Tim Seibles. His poems do everything I wish mine could. Now, don't get me wrong, I love my voice. But Tim's been writing much longer than I am and he's much older, so his poems handle issues with a type of nuance I'm still developing as I'm a younger writer. Tim's a narrative poet whose poems are funny, sexy, angry and playful. That's why it was a pleasure being his mentee while I was at the Stonecoast MFA program. He really taught me how to turn the volume up even louder on my poems. KING â&#x2C6;Ť 42
Another poet who has influenced me is Albert Goldbarth. I'm still learning about this guy, but everything I've read by him proves that he's a poet who can write about anything and make it relevant to anyone. Right now, my favorite poem from him is "Powers," which is published in the anthology, DRAWN TO MARVEL: Poems from the Comic Books (Minor Arcana Press, 2014). That poem, which is about his father's heroic moment, does what most poems I've read on this topic attempt, but don't always pull off. The poem opens with him remembering, as a child, his favorite comic book heroes. Then he gets to his dad who ridicules him for loving what he considers nonsense. At some point in the poem, he makes parallels between these superheroes and his very average dad. But the most heroic thing his dad does is face the landlord and say, “The rent will be a week late.” I'm not doing the poem any justice, and there's a lot I left out in case folks want to check the piece for themselves. But if you read it, you'll get to the part where a tear pokes itself out at the corner of your eyes. It's easy for a poem like "Powers" to turn sentimental, but it doesn't. He pulled it off. I'm wiping my eyes, and I rarely cry. But that poem did it to me. He built up to, and got to, that heroic moment I was not expecting. So much so that, when it came, I was like oh shit! That's where I would love my catalog of work to take someone. T: Yes, Seibles is remarkable. But then, so are you. Along those lines, do you see yourself as more poet than journalist, or equally both? AK: I'm equally poet and journalist. Both genres inform each other. Being a journalist made me a better researcher for my poems, especially when I'm writing persona poems. My poetry gives me various literary devices -- repetition and personification, for example -- that help make my essays and articles entertaining. In both genres, I'm aware of the sensory and psychological details that intensify both the speaker (poetry) and narrator (prose) in my works. Also, both genres fulfill me in different ways. The natural rhythm of my poems move faster than that of my prose. So I'm always trying to see how much of the story I can tell in a poem. As for prose, that's where my inner editor gets busy. I love reshaping large bodies of text until it sings the way, or at least close to how, I envisioned it. T: Also, Alan, what literary magnet first drew you to both the practice of poetry and the discipline of journalism? AK: I don't know if there was a magnet. I know I became a poet, first. Then, I studied journalism at Howard University. Another writer, who's both a journalist and novelist, who I enjoy is John A. Williams. My introduction to him was The Angry Ones. Later, I fell in love with his writing in Sons of Darkness, Sons of Light. KING ∫ 43
By the time I read him, I was already a poet and journalist. But I saw how he married research with his storytelling skills. It was amazing and actually inspired me to write a short story and some flash fiction. I have two short stories I had vetted by a celebrated mystery writer who taught at my MFA program. That's when I was bitten by the prose bug and had ideas for stories. I was also inspired by Patricia Smith to embrace both the poetry and journalism. She once told my Cave Canem group that we should never limit ourselves to one way of telling a story. She once assigned a group this exercise: write a poem about anything, then write a story about the poem, then write a poem about the story about the poem. I haven't tried it, but I know my best friend and poet Derrick Weston Brown got that assignment. T: Speaking of Derrick Weston Brown (whose interview is also contained within these pages), how has your brotherhood in life informed your individual journey as a writer? AK: My friendship with Derrick goes beyond poetry. He's the older brother I wanted. That said, I really admire his work. The fact that we're both goofy creates a space for us to bounce ideas for new pieces off each other. I'll take a silly situation and throw it to the D, who throws it back. What I mean by throwing the idea back and forth is this: I'll share a scenario with him and we'll sometimes take it as far as we can, joking with each other. By the time we finish our discussion, I have a good chunk of material to chop and mold. That's not my creative process for all poems, but our friendship and his ear gives me a chance to step out of my comfort zone and try a different approach. “The D” also catches me when I'm slipping on my imagery. I'll read a new piece to him and he'll give me this look like something's missing. "Now, when you tell stories, you give all these beautiful descriptions of the moment," he once told me. "Where are those beautiful images in your poem?" That's when I know I have to go back to the drawing board. He pushes me to go deeper and fresher with my imagery. He calls me out when I'm being lazy. T: Lastly, my brother, I'm aware that you are actively engaged in the teaching of poetry to young people. For all of those students who are inspired by your work, and who also wish to become writers, what advice do you give them? AK: It's not just important to read poetry, but to also read everything. During grad school, I was sad whenever prose writers told me they didn't read poetry because it's not their thing. I try to read everything -- fiction (mysteries and sci-fi; I haven't gotten into fantasy yet) and nonfiction (memoirs, magazines and feature articles). My point is this: good writing is good writing. There are things poets can learn from prose writers and vice versa. I like to quote my Stonecoast mentor, Cait Johnson, on what the prose [writers] and poets can teach each other: "Creative nonfiction writers teach poets the importance of research KING ∫ 44
and how to ground their work in some kind of truth, while the poet teaches creative nonfiction writers the music of a line. Both writers deal with empathy." However, "poetry is a shortcut to empathy." So that's my long way of saying, read everything.
KING â&#x2C6;Ť 45
Seattle - Under Alaskan Way Viaduct Ramp, 2013 Oil on Wood 8” x 10”
FORREST ∫ 46
SALISH SEA PROPHECY Scott T. Starbuck For many years after no fish, men kept fishing like a yellow lab paws at carpet or a black-tailed deer crashes into a fence. Someone reported a silver flash in a creek that turned out to be a Virginia license plate from days anyone could drive. Rock shadows or pieces of logs took shapes of dorsals and tails but only in men’s minds. Ancestors had it all – snowy Thunderbird Mountains, vast mysterious sea, uncountable salmon returning each spring and fall. Now there are only stories of those days, and men here who still believe they and their green god know better.
STARBUCK ∫ 47
NOA AND JOAN OF ARCADIA ON OBSERVING VENUES OF VULTURES Jen Karetnick We’d always heard that cockroaches would inherit the earth but when there is more water than land it’s the New World vultures who thrive, gorging on the dead and peeing themselves in glee. Convergently evolved spokes-birds for nonconformity, clearly they don’t favor a republican form of government, choosing instead to share the wealth, allowing scavengers to be scavengers, feeding at a wake. A kettle in flight, they roost by committee on the remaining telephone poles, live oaks and peaks of roofs, and vomit on those who oppose the value of their corrosive existence.
KARETNICK ∫ 48
NOA AND JOAN OF ARCADIA ON ISOLATION Jen Karetnick Day after day, we burn into our sweat-selves: shadows made of salt.
KARETNICK ∫ 49
NOA AND JOAN OF ARCADIA ON A FALSE DICHOTOMY Jen Karetnick Water cannot be possessed. Live with it, or live in it. This land is standing room only. These treetops. These silty, stilted houses built for human legs and feet. Here, where iceberg melt meets the tropics, the lionfish is king, and the sea has the floor. When you hit bottom, allow me to show you to your seat.
KARETNICK â&#x2C6;Ť 50
METAMORPHOSIS OF THE ALMIGHTY Milton P. Ehrlich Ever since the flood He’s been suffering from ennui because He can’t remember why He did it A shadow of his former self, hearing diminished, as prayers pile up unanswered. Eyes grown so dim, He cannot see the blood-covered earth. When astronomers bug Him about the Big Bang theory, He slunks away with a terrific migraine. Tired and lonely, weary of the bachelor’s life, He regrets not hooking up with Eve before expelling her from the Garden. Forgetful, He roams around in pajamas, gnawing on the back of His hand trying to make sense of the Guide for the Perplexed. A cadre of Archangels look after Him, making sure He changes His underwear as He wiles away long afternoons playing Blackjack with Beelzebub. Thirsty, He siphons a basin of galactic milk; hungry, He sends down for Chinese, proving Nietzsche was wrong, as He still enjoys a bowl of Udon noodles, His one remaining passion is lying on a cloud listening to Miles, Coltrane and the Monk playing “My Funny Valentine.” He looks flummoxed seeing the whole world holding hands, converted to the Bahai Faith, and doesn’t need Him anymore.
EHRLICH ∫ 51
THE PRICE OF FREEDOM Barry W. North We will do what we have to do abroad. If necessary, we will permanently stop the clocks of any nation perceived by us to be a threat, and watch their citizens carry their dead, like sacks of laundry, through smoldering streets at midnight, while their elders scramble in the gutters for their artifacts, like beggars looking for loose change. We will strip them from the inside out, take away their art, their music, burn their most dangerous stories, until the ashes disappear into the heavens, like books that were never written. We will continue to dehumanize and stereotype them, until we turn them into a subspecies, which, from that day forward, we can sum up in one word, spit out of our mouths like rotten fruit. We will do what we have to do at home. Our universities will be purged; our neighborhoods cleansed; our streets patrolled. Those looking out of place will be detained and debriefed. From that day on, our light, like a branding iron, will stripe their faces, even while they sleep.
NORTH â&#x2C6;Ť 52
Seattle, Spring St., Near the Waterfront, 2013 Oil on Canvas Panel 12” x 9”
FORREST ∫ 53
TO HANDICAP OUR HOPE Joseph Ross George Orwell’s novel, 1984, imagines a frightening world. He creates a society of massive government surveillance, using powerful efforts to control the public mind, including a deceptive government-invented language. I don’t think there is a group of evil men and women in the White House or at the CIA maliciously rubbing their hands together thinking of ways to watch and control us all. But I do think we allow corporations, governments, and marketing experts, to limit our imaginations, to handicap our hope for what is possible in the world. This perhaps is the most devastating mind control—when we don’t think it’s possible to do good in the world. It can be a bit scary, if you buy a shirt on-line from Company A, and within minutes you see advertisements for Company A on your Facebook page. While it’s not exactly the same as Orwell’s far-reaching government surveillance, it’s close enough. This is surveillance in the service of profit. Companies want to know what and when we buy so they can maximize their chances to get us to buy from them again. I just assume that in a capitalist country, everything is an effort, on someone’s part, to make a profit. However, what worries me more are government efforts to deceive us with language that inevitably limits our imaginations. It’s no surprise that, as a poet, I worry when people deliberately and deceptively twist our language. After 9/11, the George W. Bush Administration embarked on a massive mission to stop terrorism. This effort included the torture and arbitrary imprisonment of hundreds, maybe thousands, of people.3 The U.S. government not only tortured many people it thought had information about terror plots, it used other governments, whose citizens would not object, to torture prisoners for us.4 The U.S. government used practices like water-boarding, but renamed them “enhanced interrogation technique.”5 Even though the civilized world has called water-boarding torture since the Inquisition, the Bush Administration softened its name and figured many of us wouldn’t notice or wouldn’t object. They scared us into thinking it was needed. Now, we have torture back on the table again, where for decades, it was gone. Additionally, the Bush Administration arranged for terror suspects to be taken to countries whose laws
3 Scott Shane, “U.S. Engaged in Torture After 9/11, Review Concludes,” The New York Times, April 16, 2013, World. 4 The New York Times, “A Guide to the Memos on Torture,” The New York Times. 2005, International. 5 Alfonso Serrano, “Waterboarding: Interrogation Or Torture?” CBSNews.com, November 1, 2007 (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/waterboarding-interrogation-or-torture/).
ROSS ∫ 54
allowed torture. The CIA artfully called these “Black sites,”6 creating a nice, shadowy name that doesn’t sound quite as evil as the reality. Once again, they counted on a public that was afraid or indifferent. Perhaps the most sinister element of Orwell’s novel pertains to efforts to control what people think is possible. While a specific government may not be solely responsible for this, we suffer profoundly when we lose a sense of what’s possible. We know, for example, that world hunger is a solvable problem. The reality of hunger in today’s world does not come from a lack of food. It comes from a lack of the will to make food available to all. We could solve world hunger in two years if we were willing, but most people don’t think it’s possible. Somehow, we have bought the idea that we can’t feed everyone on the planet. However, this is untrue. If private ownership and the need for profit could be overcome, everyone on the planet could be fed. Mind control today rarely comes from a few evil people in a dark room, plotting ways to keep us all in mindless servitude. Mind control in our contemporary world comes when people are willing to twist language and technology to their own selfish devices. Mind control easily arises in an uninformed public, whose imagination has been numbed by marketing, consumerism, and cynicism. What if we imagine a world, the opposite of George Orwell’s 1984? What if we imagine a world where any good is possible? Let us imagine it. Let us make it real.
6 Adam Goldman, “The hidden history of the CIA’s prison in Poland,” TheWashingtonPost.com, January 14, 2014, National Security (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/nationalsecurity/the-hidden-history-of-the-cias-prison-in-poland/2014/01/23/b77f6ea2-7c6f-11e395c6-0a7aa80874bc_story.html).
ROSS ∫ 55
WORKING CLASS INSTEPS Curtis L. Crisler You will glaze off inside muzack’s airy Noels, hold to warmth of family, as snow hairsprays over last green of earth. Here, your ghost leaves your mouth, has lost the etymology to the verb love. On bus corner, December kicks at your head, is thunderstorming, “keep on skully,” else you slapped by barometric stress. You wonder what bus driver philosophizes this chill today: Mitch, Stanley, Carlos, Vera, old Sue— young, teeth, no teeth. The sun has walked away from you. On bus, out window, you see cop in parking lot of Ivy Tech putting antifreeze into his marked squad. The backpacked people & rollie-people move to find their place inside of places. Students lunch-bagging dreams of families to feed, & funerals to prepare for. You feel Big Brother watches, can feel the heat from luminations, notice the lens, & hear the directions from a director, but there’s just space, just space. Just some thrash music from the cornucopia of student Igadgets. They’ll be stone-cold deaf in three years, you think, & shift as your underwear grab. You carry hope, like lent. There’s no care. The bus driver hocks up a lougie—spits a sparrow from his mouth, into the chill, while turning a corner like some Detroit prettyboy. He never hits the curb. You pull the cord to stop burn’s progression, but you are at the same humble you’re always ending up—some beginning. The doors open. The chill smacks cold. The corruption of madness dangles deep in your throat. You swallow backwash. Spit-back “thanks brotha” to driver. Jump off. Git into the it. CRISLER ∫ 56
BLOCK PARTY Curtis L. Crisler clean & grimy tasting
next door to me
republican & liars
baptist-heads next door
tv sad starlookers
some bus exhaust
packing heat & tatts
flip flops & pizza eaters
some drive prius’s
pseudoephedrine & meth
native american & hot
muslim & hurt
some take zoloft
devout & gay
zionist & mormon
junkmailin’ & b’ballin’
sinners & democrats
tv tired thieves
few know good
next door to me
“white” & “black”
fussy gyros kings
“hispanic” & “brown”
very few know good
a few get electro-therapy
lipstick soccer moms
few italian few irish
chuck taylors on concrete
cubano or mexicano
drive bro’s old regal
insides crisp from chemo
burmese & indian
some drive caddies
some drive cameries
devout & agnostic
drive suv’s next door
1-or-2 know good tv
drive dad’s f-150
some shrimp fried rice
drive farmers hard
drive bills to the roof
drive debt to its peak
some work other’s nerves
some take percocet
some have migraines
catholic next door
some high in depression
suburban & baha’i
african & german
some take valium
a race[ing] nation
jewish & urban
forgot to forget
move like lizards
next door to me?
next door to me
CRISLER ∫ 57
CROSSING OVER AT THE ROAD NOT TAKEN Curtis L. Crisler —for Samuel Clemens This is not the give-&-go that bounced out of bounds, that got tipped to the defense. This is the poem fighting for another possession, to hold the fist & kick words I die for to obstruct a page, to motion eyes left to right, to jostle craniums w/out PC juice. I don’t want the fuss of my red acrylic canvas smears to dry up. I don’t want a future voice to smother the working voice of the past due to obfuscating a word that bites because it was born a bastard to the world. I am not afraid of a word clamping its fangs into my muscle; I have a serum; I have a moment in my bones that I can watch over & over on 35mm-recall, or in Blue-Ray HD, & I am w/ Tom Sawyer in that dark cave getting Becky to safety, or w/ Huck, the only white person who “talks” to Jim like a man, but really, all I am is a middle-school class, w/ a white woman lusciously teaching her public school students the sweet & sour in Twain. To read something real, to connect w/ a life before my life was a life, & see it spill out, roll across page like a wave returning back from the Mississippi, remains the best movies I learned to access. Reading-rug-rats, high on southernrug-rats living in their true diction of those old roads—how Twain placed their noons & midnights before our faces, let the water slap the rickety raft in our ears. Why crack open our skulls “now” to remove mortar, to unplug a southern score?
CRISLER ∫ 58
STATE PARK Randy Parker C.C.C. 1-2-3 heave 4 Do-re-mi Into flapjacket mornings Into Woody spaces Bark bard mountain pen Nib of self Write me wild trails In stone Younger hungerer Coniferous piner Take me where I long To shadow go Tend the gardens Guard the tendrils Show us what endowment Remind us what government Stack me a fireplace that becomes you He Ear Art Hear Earth Heart Hearth Show me your Lady Caress her skirtlike Flirtlike into A rustic dream Follow the unraveling Of her colorful sweater The delicate arc of her vertebrae Express the breasts of this canyon You sing, a cascade I cling, a lichen We all rise whenever One of us douses the fire.
PARKER â&#x2C6;Ť 59
THE PEEPER Randy Parker “Randy, look out the window Somebody is out there!” Upright in bed she began to scream I grabbed her calmed her Went to the window But all I could see in the night’s light Was sleeping ivy Rough trunks of white oaks Silent fence, dark stairs Leaves thought-scattered Adirondack chairs Reclining empty Hands on knees Ill at ease Ethernet of neighboring houses Dim Internet of stars Acorns pelted our roof Did you dream it I asked Getting back into bed “I guess so ” After such alarm The only living thing That could fall asleep Was my arm
PARKER ∫ 60
Face in the Crowd, 2014 Ink 24” x 30”
FORREST ∫ 61
FEATURED ARTIST ALLEN FORREST VISUAL ARTIST
Born in Canada and bred in the U.S., Allen Forrest has worked in many mediums: computer graphics, theater, digital music, film, video, drawing and painting. Allen studied acting in the Columbia Pictures Talent Program in Los Angeles and digital media in art and design at Bellevue College (receiving degrees in Web Multimedia Authoring and Digital Video Production). He currently works in the Vancouver, Canada, as a graphic artist and painter. He is the winner of the Leslie Jacoby Honor for Art at San Jose State University's Reed Magazine and his Bel Red painting series is part of the Bellevue College Foundation's permanent art collection. Forrest's expressive drawing and painting style is a mix of avant-garde expressionism and post-Impressionist elements reminiscent of van Gogh, creating emotion on canvas. "Forrest's work is a mix of avant-garde expressionism and post-Impressionist elements reminiscent of van Gogh." ---Editorial Staff - The Write Place At the Write Time FORREST â&#x2C6;Ť 62
Painting is a cross between a crapshoot, finding your way out of the woods, and performing a magic act. Each time I begin to paint I feel like I am walking a tightrope—sometimes scary, sometimes exciting, sometimes very quiet, and always, always surprising; leading me where I never expected to go. Doing art makes me lose all sense of time and place and go inside one long moment of creating. Whenever I feel a painting in my gut, I know this is why I paint. The colors are the message; I feel them before my mind has a chance to get involved. Color is the most agile and dynamic medium to create joy. And if you can find joy in your art, then you’ve found something worth holding on to. ~ Allen Forrest
FORREST ∫ 63
PAINTING JOY IN REAL ABSTRACTION: Dialogue with an Artist, Allen Forrest Truth Thomas
****************************************************************************** Truth Thomas: It is a great honor to come to know your paintings and sketches. Whether the sizable volume of pieces is in black and white or color, it is moving and powerful. How did you begin your journey as an artist? Allen Forrest: Some years ago, I was undergoing a Reichian Therapy program and became so drawn to fine art that I had to do something about it. This need began my journey into the world of art. Since then, I have mostly taught myself with the aid of an occasional drawing and painting class. T: One of the first aspects of your art that draws me in is that you appear to “see” all people. That accomplishment is nothing to take lightly. Your paintings are odes to the value of all humanity—all life. Is this element of your work spontaneous, or part of a thoughtfully constructed artistic vision? AF: I am interested in creating a timeless body of works that will be relevant to people far off in the future. It is my intention the work shall have a classical appeal to all peoples of the world. T: It does not come as news to note that many artists are loath to allow others to categorize them. In spite of this fact, art critics blanket categorizations over artists all the time—and often get their descriptions wrong. To set the record straight for our readers, artists, art critics, and those (like us) who are greatly impressed by your work, how would you describe your aesthetic? AF: I am drawn to emotion and feeling in art, so I have always used that as a guide. I call myself an expressionist. I have a creative direction I want to go and my style will slowly evolve as it is influenced by other artists’ works I study and admire. Their works excite and push me to stretch a little, bend a little, change a little, and yet, I always come back to doing it my way through experiencing theirs. T: I notice that cars, trains, and many other kinds of vehicles often appear in your paintings. It also seems clear that you have been blessed to travel, and the idea of travel itself—movement—appeals to you. Is this true? If so, in what way has travel shaped and reshaped your art? FORREST ∫ 64
AF: Motion and vehicles are a big part of our culture. I think they need to be included in art, as well as the less known or even ugly landscapes. For instance, I'd rather paint some older, less picturesque part of town than a beautiful one, which I have done my share of. As an example, I'd rather paint or draw industrial areas to show the beauty in them. I have traveled, lived, and worked in different parts of the U.S. and Canada. I have special memories and feelings about these places and painting them helps me stay connected. T: How do you decide that a particular scene or subject is right for you to capture? AF: I am just drawn to something; it changes day to day, week to week. It could be an era, a person, a type of work, or object—you name it. It could be just about anything. I like to work in series; 6-12 pieces of a subject, or say a stylistic interpretation of an old photograph. I love the classic poses of the frontier people who weren't trying to look like anything other than who they were. And again, it is all about feeling. How does the subject make me feel? That is my guide to whether I will paint or draw it. T: Whether on purpose or by accident, what great visual artists do—what you do—is to interpret the world through a fresh perspective—to express life, ostensibly, through one singular human lens in a way that connects us all. Does it matter to you when you have succeeded in this regard, or do you create because you are fundamentally driven to do so? AF: ‘Succeed’ is a hard word to nail down. For instance, a piece I may love can be the most neglected by others looking at my work. Yet, another piece, that I do not care for as much, can get huge attention! Go figure. Whether I succeed or not, I am driven to create by a need to express my view. That view is partly unknown to me. Through art, I try to discover and express that unknown. When I start a new piece, I do not want to know what it will look like in advance. I do not have a clear vision of the finished painting/drawing, just a hint of an interesting idea based on my view of the model/subject. I want to be surprised in the end. When my work surprises me, that is a good sign. T: You once wrote that, "Painting is a cross between a crap shoot, finding your way out of the woods, and performing a magic act."7 I love that description. When do you know that your "magic act" on canvas has prevailed in pulling a rabbit from its hat? AF: When someone enjoys looking at my work. If someone gets a good feeling or is interested enough to ponder one of my pieces—that is the rabbit coming out of the hat.
Teia Pearson. “Brian Forrest – Seattle AsiaTown.” Escape Into Life (2011). Escape Into Life. 30 December 2014. (http://www.escapeintolife.com/painting/brian-forrest-seattle-asia-town/) 7
FORREST ∫ 65
T: In almost the same way that great films often make us a part of their narratives, your fine art places us inside your frames. Does your film and wide-ranging theatrical background greatly impact your painting? AF: I would say my film and theatrical background does influence the work, not just in its look, but also in subject matter and my choice of angles. As strong as film-making is as a medium, and it is mighty, I feel a good painting can be as mighty and multidimensional, but all in one frame. In a painting, the artist can create an image suggesting many things and each person will see their own story being told. People see art through personal feelings and life experiences. Many tell me surprising things about what they see or feel in my work, things I did not try to create. But, their vision sees this and I respect that. I am grateful they have connected to the work in their own unique and meaningful way. T: Yes. Judging the many films that have been made about notable visual artists (Vincent van Gogh, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Frida Kahlo, just to name a few), it would seem that even “mighty” filmmakers recognize the magnetic complexity of great paintings and those who create them. In the likely event that someone documents the catalog of your work on film—for that audience “far off in the future,” what main theme (or themes) would you like them to make sure they do not miss? AF: I would not want the filmmaker to miss my calling to art during Reichian therapy. This is when the little voice in me who used to say “you could never do that” became overruled by a stronger voice: my core need to create art, which had been there since I was a little child who drew and painted in elementary school. This desire for art was repressed with early life experiences and not re-discovered until I began my therapy. Another theme would be creating your own style of art. There are many highly-skilled artists in the world, so many who are far more skilled than I. But, too many of them are indistinguishable from one another and they look much the same in style. I would rather fail trying to create something different, than succeed creating what others have already done. Even when I draw or paint in homage to Picasso or Rembrandt, I will create “my” interpretation of “their” work, not a copy of it. Then, when I return to a pure theme, I will bring some of those legendary artists with me, which is always evolving in my work.
“I would rather fail trying to create something different, than succeed creating what others have already done.”
T: It’s been a fascinating editorial journey to see how all those who have submitted to 2084 have addressed the present state of their artistic worlds and looked into the future. As you are no doubt aware, this 2084 issue of our journal is dedicated to poetry, prose and visual art with a future focus. More specifically, it invited submissions that were in some way related to George Orwell’s prophetic novel, 1984. We wanted folks to reflect FORREST ∫ 66
upon modern-day “Big Brother.” Indeed, we wanted the artists and scholars featured in this edition of Tidal Basin Review to imagine what our camera-congested existence will be like 100 years after 1984—in America, in Canada, and as Forrest Gump might say, “in the wide world.’ It seems especially fitting that you, as one who observes life as keenly as you do, and captures it in your cinematic world-scapes, should frame our 2084 journal. How would assess the current state of the “fine arts” world? Where do you see it going? What would you like for it to change and what would you hope it retains moving forward? AF: The internet is changing many fields, and art is one. Today's artists have many opportunities that their predecessors did not. One of those opportunities is the World Wide Web with its communication possibilities. This communication is very exciting and demanding at the same time. I am glad I studied graphic software and web design in college—the artist of today will have advantages if they do as well. I regularly communicate about my artwork with magazines and individuals all over the world each month by email. The variety of providing a cover for a Romanian magazine one week and illustrations for a New York writer's book the next, as well as selling a painting online in between is amazing. My hope for art is that artists retain love for their work, as well as the courage to create their own styles and the courage to reach for goals that may seem daunting, but worth trying to achieve. It is in that “trying” that keeps the changing art world alive and vital. T: Do you think the evolution of computer technology, particularly computer graphics, has had a more positive or negative impact on the state of visual art? AF: Positive. The more change, the more options for art and artists, the better, whether digital or in traditional hard-copy. T: In that same vein, do you ever find that art critics also attach more veritas to the work you have created on canvas—that is to say, your work outside of the digital realm? AF: Traditional critics may attach more veritas to the real canvas, as opposed to its digital counterpart, but the world of art criticism is being broadened by new technology. Now, a relatively new art critic can make a great impact, reach a huge audience, and develop a significant following with their blog and social media if they have something interesting and insightful to say about art. Again, the whole world of art is going through a transformation via the World Wide Web and the traditions, as well as the traditional, must adapt to stay in the game. T: You were born in Canada and “bred in the U.S.” How does this background, this blend of two cultural spheres, inform your artistry?
FORREST ∫ 67
AF: I feel like a mix between the two: at times, I think and act like an American. I take bold and creative actions I believe in. At other times, I pull back and a reserved sensitivity takes over, more like a Canadian. T: Do you find there is any significant contrast in terms of what it means to be a Canadian or an American visual artist? AF: I just recently moved back to Canada to help take care of my father (90 years old). I have lived most of my life in the U.S. and am a dual citizen. I feel mostly American since my early growing and formative years were spent near Seattle, WA. As to nationality and artists, I think artists all over the world have many things in common. I don't think nationality really enters into the equation. Once you get to the canvasâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;it is all about creating and we are all citizens of that country. T: Your ability to express your art through oil painting, computer graphics, theater, digital music, film, and video is remarkable. Is it difficult to go back and forth, creating in various media? AF: It was tiring, but I have become more selective. In the commercial world, I went from being a theater director and actor, to a web designer/builder, to a video/film editor, to a graphic designer, to a production designer, and now, to a graphic artist/painter. The arts are my main focus now. T: How long does it take you to finish a painting from beginning to end? AF: A drawing (or work on paper) may be completed in as little as 20-50 minutes. A painting may be completed in 4-6 hours over 3-4 days. Each day, as a new layer is added, I walk deeper into the canvas and its subject. T: Are there specific creative tools you consistently employ as part of your creative process? AF: Films and the internet certainly give me ideas, but I would say itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mostly books that aid my creative process. I have collected a wonderful personal library of art books over the years. I pour over them when I want information and inspiration and the city library isn't far away if I need more. T: Your paintings feel like prayers in brush strokes. Do you sense a spiritual element at work in them, a God connection, so to speak, active in your creative process?
FORREST â&#x2C6;Ť 68
AF: Yes, spirituality is painting. When I paint, so much of my emotions at the time go into the painting. The struggle to capture something well is hard work and takes a type of detached intense concentration. There is so much energy and feeling going into the paint that it becomes--alive, a living creation. I have had several supernatural experiences with my paintings; one of my mother's painting and another painting of a woman from my youth. These paintings reached out to me during critical moments in their lives with an energy that came right out of the paint to get my attention. In my mother's painting, it was a bright light that came from her eyes. This happened twice before she passed away and each time, it just preceded a phone call from the hospital. You do not imagine this is happening; it is happening and your life stops for that moment. You realize the infinite light of spirit has touched you. T: Going back to one of your earlier responses (in the context of your entry into visual art), what exactly is Reichian Therapy, and is the study of fine art a standard part of its program? AF: Reichian Therapy, also called Orgonomic therapy, was invented by Dr. Wilhelm Reich, who was part of Sigmund Freud's inner circle in Vienna, Austria. Many people who undergo this program report similar life-changing stories as mine. This type of psychotherapy is actually more physical and emotional than mental; it opens you up and de-programs the mind body blocks, what Dr. Reich called character and body armor in the individual. When the blocks are softened, they lose their repressive grip; this allows a higher energy charge in the body without the person holding against it. In a nutshell, this higher charge translates into your life actions. Instead of being afraid to pursue the things you really long to do, you now find the courage and drive to begin a new more meaningful direction. There is no actual art program involved, but whatever your creative inner desire is, believe me, it will make itself known in no uncertain terms. Some people are afraid to learn what their core needs are, how that may change their lives and relationships. I was driven to find out mine. Here we are. T: Yes, here we are, and looking back over this conversation, my brother, I have to say you had me from the line, “I would rather fail trying to create something different, than succeed creating what others have already done.” Your responses are beautiful. Your artwork is beautiful and inspirational. Your mind is equally so. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us and with the world for 2084. Without question, in the context of this dialogue with you, I realize that “the infinite light of spirit has touched” me—and hopefully all who read your artistic reflections. My last question is a simple one: For those who wish to become visual artists, those who are serious about that quest, how would you recommend they begin?
FORREST ∫ 69
AF: First, the technical: Work at drawing and more drawing and more drawing. Take some classes: anatomy, painting, color theory, continuing education classes can be perfect; they are usually lean, no padding, to the point, and designed for adults who also hold down a day job. Really try to understand and do what your instructor is teaching you as though your career depended on it. Some of the work will make sense. Some won't. But give it a good solid effort. As the years roll on, if you start feeling like you want to break away, break those rules, and go out on a limb----then go! (and don't look back). Find artists from different periods in history and current ones that you love. STUDY their work, find what you like about it, bring those elements into your work, play around with them. Now, the philosophical: Don't let anybody else decide whether you have talent or not. You decide. Ask the question: do I have talent as an artist? The answer? What do you want it to be? Yes or no? That is the answer. You decide. Don't let anyone else make that decision for you. Anyone can be a great artist, but few want to be. That is the crux of it. You have to WANT it. You have to be a bulldog and keep pulling at that leash day after day until it breaks and you are free. Even when you are down and tired, don't stop completely. Keep going. On those days when you have no time to work at your art, still try to fit in a little time. As writer Charles Bukowski used to say, keep the ember alive, don't let it go out. Some days, I can only get one little drawing done. It's not much, but the ember is still glowing and waiting for a time when it will explode into a creative fire. ****************************************************************************** Learn more about ALLEN FORREST at: Art: http://allen-forrest.fineartamerica.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/artgrafiken Portfolio: published works http://www.art-grafiken.blogspot.ca/ Articles: http://pdxxcollective.com/2014/12/23/guest-artists-allen-forrest/ http://ithacalit.com/artist-allen-forrest.html#.VJ8XjLkLA http://terrain.org/2014/arterrain/seattle-blues-paintings/ http://writingdisorder.com/allen-forrest/ https://www.facebook.com/reedMagazine http://www.alimentumjournal.com/paintings-by-allen-forrest/ FORREST â&#x2C6;Ť 70
Seattle - Under Alaskan Way Viaduct Ramp 2, 2013 Oil on Canvas Panel 10” x 8”
FORREST ∫ 71
BETWEEN ORWELL AND HUXLEY: America’s Plunge into Dystopia Henry A. Giroux In spite of their differing perceptions of the architecture of the totalitarian superstate and how it exercised power and control over its residents, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley shared a fundamental conviction. They both argued that the established democracies of the West were moving quickly toward a historical moment when they would willingly relinquish the noble promises and ideals of liberal democracy and enter that menacing space where both believed that Western democracies were devolving into pathological states in which politics was recognized in the interest of death over life and justice. Both were unequivocal in the shared understanding that the future of civilization was on the verge of total domination or what Hannah Arendt called “dark times.” While Neil Postman and other critical descendants have pitted Orwell and Huxley against each other because of their distinctively separate notions of a future dystopian society, 1 I believe that the dark shadow of authoritarianism that shrouds American society like a thick veil can be lifted by re-examining Orwell’s prescient dystopian fable 1984 as well as Huxley’s Brave New World in light of contemporary neoliberal ascendancy. Both authors provide insights into the merging of the totalitarian elements that constitute a new and more hybridized form of authoritarian control, appearing less as fiction than a threatening portend of the unfolding 21st century. Consumer fantasies and authoritarian control, “Big Brother” intelligence agencies and the voracious seductions of privatized pleasures, along with the rise of the punishing state—which criminalizes an increasing number of behaviors and invests in institutions that incarcerate and are organized principally for the production of violence--and the collapse of democratic public spheres into narrow market-driven orbits of privatization--these now constitute the new order of authoritarianism. Orwell’s “Big Brother” found more recently a new incarnation in the revelations of government lawlessness and corporate spying by whistleblowers such as Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond, and Edward Snowden.2 All of these individuals revealed a government that lied about its intelligence operations, illegally spied on millions of people who were not considered terrorists or had committed no crime, and collected data from every conceivable electronic source to be stored and potentially used to squelch dissent, blackmail people, or just intimidate those who fight to make corporate and state power accountable. Orwell offered his readers an image of the modern state in which privacy was no longer valued as a civil virtue and a basic human right, nor perceived as a Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves To Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1985, 2005). 2 I take up in great detail the nature of the surveillance state and the implications the persecution of these whistle blowers has for undermining any viable understanding of democracy. See: Henry A. Giroux, “Totalitarian Paranoia in the post-Orwellian Surveillance State,” Truthout (February 10, 2014). Online: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/21656-totalitarian-paranoia-in-the-postorwellian-surveillance-state. 1
GIROUX ∫ 72
measure of the robust strength of a healthy and thriving democracy. In Orwell’s dystopia, the right to privacy had come under egregious assault. But more than that, such ruthless transgressions of privacy pointed to something more sinister than the violation of individual rights. The claim to privacy, for Orwell, represented a moral and political principle by which to assess the nature, power, and severity of an emerging totalitarian state. Orwell’s warning was intended to shed light on the horrors of totalitarianism, the corruption of language, the production of a pervasive stupidity, and the endless regimes of state spying imposed on citizens in the mid-20th-century. Orwell’s Big Brother of 1984 has been upgraded in the 2014 edition. As Zygmunt Bauman points out, if the older Big Brother presided over traditional enclosures such as military barracks, prisons, schools, and “countless other big and small panopticons, the updated Big Brother is not only concerned with inclusion and the death of privacy, but also exclusion. Keeping people out is the extended face of Big Brother who now patrols borders, hospitals, and other public spaces in order to spot the people who do not fit in the places they are in, banishing them from the place and departing them ‘where they belong,’ or better still never allowing them to come anywhere near in the first place.”3 This is the Big Brother that pushes youthful protests out of the public spaces they attempt to occupy. This is the hyper-nationalistic Big Brother clinging to notions of racial purity and American exceptionalism as a driving force in creating a country that has come to resemble an open-air prison for the dispossessed. This is the Big Brother whose split personality portends the dark authoritarian universe of the 1 percent with their control over the economy and paramilitarised police forces, on the one hand, and, on the other, their retreat into gated communities manned by SWAT-like security forces. Fear and isolation constitute an updated version of Big Brother. Orwell’s 1984 continues to serve as a brilliant and important metaphor for mapping the expansive trajectory of global surveillance and authoritarianism that has characterized the first decades of the new millennium. The older modes of surveillance to which Orwell pointed, including his warnings regarding the dangers of microphones and giant telescreens that watch and listen, are surprisingly limited when compared with the varied means now available for spying on people. Orwell would be astonished by this contemporary, refashioned “Big Brother” given the threat the new surveillance state poses because of its reach and the alleged “advance” of technologies that far outstretch anything he could have imagined—technologies that pose a much greater threat to both the personal privacy of citizens and the control exercised by sovereign power. As Marjorie Cohn has similarly indicated, “Orwell never could have imagined that the National Security Agency (NSA) would amass metadata on billions of our phone calls and 200 million of our text messages every day. Orwell could not have foreseen that our government would read the content of our emails, file transfers, and live chats from the social media we use.”4 Snowden, Cohn, and other critics are correct about the dangers of the state’s infringement of privacy rights, but their analysis should be taken further by 3 4
Zygmunt Bauman, Wasted Lives (London: Polity, 132-133.) Marjorie Cohn, "Beyond Orwell's Worst Nightmare," Huffington Post (January 31, 2014).
GIROUX ∫ 73
linking the issue of citizen surveillance with the rise of “networked societies,” global flows of power, and the emergence of a totalitarian ethos that defies even state-based control.5 For Orwell, domination was state-imposed and bore the heavy hand of unremitting repression and a smothering language that eviscerated any appearance of dissent, erased historical memory, and turned the truth into its opposite. For Orwell, individual freedom was at risk under the heavy hand of state terrorism. In Orwell’s world, individual freedom and privacy were under attack from outside forces. For Huxley, in contrast, freedom and privacy were willingly given up as part of the seductions of a soft authoritarianism with its vast machinery of manufactured needs, desires, and identities. This new mode of persuasion seduced people into chasing commodities, and infantilized them through the mass production of easily digestible entertainment, disposable goods, and new scientific advances in which any viable sense of agency was undermined. The conditions for critical thought dissolved into the limited pleasures instant gratification wrought through the use of technologies and consuming practices that dampened, if not obliterated, the very possibility of thinking itself. Orwell’s dark image is the stuff of government oppression whereas Huxley’s is the stuff of distractions, diversions, and the transformation of privacy into a cheap and sensational performance for public display. Neil Postman, writing in a different time and worried about the destructive anti-intellectual influence of television, sided with Huxley and believed that repression was now on the side of entertainment and the propensity of the American public to amuse themselves to death. His attempt to differentiate Huxley’s dystopian vision from Orwell’s is worth noting. He writes: Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by See, for example, Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society (Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 1996) and Zygmunt Bauman, Collateral Damage: Social Inequalities in a Global Age (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2011). 5
GIROUX ∫ 74
inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.6 Echoes of Huxley’s insights play out in the willingness of millions of people who voluntarily hand over personal information whether in the service of the strange sociality prompted by social media or in homage to the new surveillance state. New surveillance technologies employed by major service providers now focus on diverse consumer populations who are targeted in the collection of endless amounts of personal information as they move from one site to the next, one geopolitical region to the next, and across multiple screens and digital apparatuses. As Ariel Dorfman points out, “social media users gladly give up their liberty and privacy, invariably for the most benevolent of platitudes and reasons,”7 all the while endlessly shopping online, updating Facebook, and texting. Indeed, surveillance technologies are now present in virtually every public and private space – such as video cameras in streets, commercial establishments, workplaces, and even schools as well as the myriad scanners at entry points of airports, retail stores, sporting events, and so on – and function as control mechanisms that become normalized through their heightened visibility. So, too, are our endless array of personal devices that chart, via GPS tracking, our every move, our every choice, and every pleasure. At the same time, Orwell’s warning about “Big Brother” applies not simply to an authoritarian-surveillance state, but also to commanding financial institutions and corporations who have made diverse modes of surveillance an ubiquitous feature of daily life. Corporations use the new technologies to track spending habits and collect data points from social media so as to provide us with consumer goods that match our desires, employ face recognition technologies to alert store salespersons to our credit ratings, and so it goes. Heidi Boghosian points out that if omniscient state control in Orwell's 1984 is embodied by the two-way television sets present in each home, then in “our own modern adaptation, it is symbolized by the location-tracking cell phones we willingly carry in our pockets and the microchip-embedded clothes we wear on our bodies.”8 In this instance, the surveillance state is one that listens, watches, and gathers massive amounts of information through data mining, allegedly for the purpose of identifying “security threats.” It also acculturates the public into accepting the intrusion of commercial surveillance technologies – and, perhaps more vitally, the acceptance of privatized, commodified values – into all aspects of their lives. In other words, the most dangerous repercussions of a near total loss of privacy involve more than the unwarranted collecting of information by the government: we must also be attentive to the ways in which being spied on has become not only normalized, but even enticing, as corporations up the pleasure quotient for consumers who use new digital technologies and social networks – not least of all by and for simulating experiences of community. Many individuals, especially young people, now run from privacy and increasingly demand services in which they can share every personal facet of their lives. While Orwell’s vision touches upon this type of control, there is a notable difference that he did Ibid., Postman, Amusing Ourselves To Death. Ariel Dorfman, “Repression by Any Other Name,” Guernica (February 3, 2014). 8 Boghosian, op cit., p. 32. 6 7
GIROUX ∫ 75
not foresee. According to Pete Cashmore, while Orwell’s “Thought Police tracked you without permission, some consumers are now comfortable with sharing their every move online.”9 The state and corporate cultural apparatuses now collude to socialize everyone – especially young people – into a regime of security and commodification in which their identities, values, and desires are inextricably tied to a culture of commodified addictions, self-help, therapy, and social indifference. Intelligence networks now inhabit the world of major corporations such as Disney and the Bank of America as well as the secret domains of the NSA, FBI and fifteen other intelligence agencies. As Edward Snowden’s revelations about the PRISM program revealed, the NSA also collected personal data from all of the major high tech giant service providers who according to a senior lawyer for the NSA, “were fully aware of the surveillance agency’s widespread collection of data.”10 The fact is that Orwell’s and Huxley’s ironic representations of the modern totalitarian state – along with their implied defense of a democratic ideal rooted in the right to privacy and the right to be educated in the capacity to be autonomous and critical thinkers– has been transformed and mutilated almost beyond recognition by the material and ideological registers of a worldwide neoliberal order. Just as we can envision Orwell’s and Huxley’s dystopian fables morphing over time from “realistic novels” into a “real life documentary,” and now into a form of “reality TV,” privacy and freedom have been radically altered in an age of permanent, non-stop global exchange and circulation. That is, in the current moment, the right to privacy and freedom has been usurped by the seductions of a narcissistic culture and casino capitalism’s unending desire to turn every relationship into an act of commerce and to make all aspects of daily life subject to market forces under watchful eyes of both government and corporate regimes of surveillance. In a world devoid of care, compassion, and protection, personal privacy and freedom are no longer connected and resuscitated through its connection to public life, the common good, or a vulnerability born of the recognition of the frailty of human life. Culture loses its power as the bearer of public memory, civic literacy, and the lessons of history in a social order where the worst excesses of capitalism are left unchecked and a consumerist ethic “makes impossible any shared recognition of common interests or goals.”11 With the rise of the punishing state along with a kind of willful amnesia taking hold of the larger culture, we see little more than a paralyzing fear and apathy in response the increasing exposure of formerly private spheres to data mining and manipulation, while the concept of privacy itself has all but expired under a “broad set of panoptic practices.”12 With individuals more or less succumbing to this insidious cultural shift in their daily lives, there is nothing to prevent widespread collective indifference to the growth of a surveillance culture, let alone an authoritarian state.
Pete Cashmore, “Why 2012, despite privacy fears, isn't like Orwell's 1984”, CNN (January 23, 2012). Online: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-770499 10 Spencer Ackerman, “US tech giants knew of NSA data collection, agency’s top lawyer insists,” The Guardian (March 19, 2014). Online: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/19/ustech-giants-knew-nsa-data-collection-rajesh-de 11 Ibid. Boghosian, p. 22. 12 Jonathan Crary, 24/7 (London: Verso, 2013), p. 16. 9
GIROUX ∫ 76
The worse fears of Huxley and Orwell merge into a dead zone of historical amnesia as more and more people embrace any and every new electronic device regardless of the risks it might pose in terms of granting corporations and governments increased access to and power over their choices and movements. Detailed personal information flows from the sphere of entertainment to the deadly serious and integrated spheres of capital accumulation and policing as they are collected and sold to business and government agencies who track the populace for either commercial purposes or for fear of a possible threat to the social order and its established institutions of power. Power now imprisons not only bodies under a regime of surveillance and a mass incarceration state, but also subjectivity itself as the threat of state control is now coupled with the seductions of the new forms of passive inducing soma: electronic technologies, a pervasive commodified landscape, and a mind numbing celebrity culture. Underlying these everyday conveniences of modern life, as Boghosian documents in great detail, is the growing Orwellian partnership between the militarized state and private security companies in the United States. Each day, new evidence surfaces pointing to the emergence of a police state that has produced ever more sophisticated methods for surveillance in order to enforce a mass suppression of the most essential tools for democratic dissent: “the press, political activists, civil rights advocates and conscientious insiders who blow the whistle on corporate malfeasance and government abuse.”13 As Boghosian points out, “By claiming that anyone who questions authority or engages in undesired political speech is a potential terrorist threat, this government-corporate partnership makes a mockery of civil liberties.”14 Nowhere is this more evident than in American public schools where youth are being taught that they are a generation of suspects, subject to the presence of armed police and security guards, drug-sniffing dogs, and an array of surveillance apparatuses that chart their every move, not to mention in some cases how they respond emotionally to certain pedagogical practices. Whistleblowers are not only punished by the government; their lives are also turned upside down in the process by private surveillance agencies and major corporations who now work in tandem. For instance, the Bank of America assembled 15 to 20 bank officials and retained the law firm of Hunton & Williams in order to devise “various schemes to attack WikiLeaks and Glen Greenwald whom they thought were about to release damaging information about the bank.”15 It is worth repeating that Orwell’s vision of surveillance and the totalitarian state look mild next to the emergence of a corporate-private-state surveillance system that wants to tap into every conceivable mode of communication, collect endless amounts of metadata to be stored in vast intelligence storage sites around the country, and use that data to repress any vestige of dissent.16 Mark Karlin, “From Spying on ‘Terrorists Abroad’ to Suppressing Domestic Dissent: When We Become the Hunted,” Truthout, (August 21, 2013). 14 Ibid., pp. 22-23. 15 Arun Gupta, “Barrett Brown’s Revelations Every Bit as Explosive as Edward Snowden’s,” The Guardian (June 24, 2013). 16 Bruce Schneier, “The Public-Private Surveillance Partnership,” Bloomberg (July 31, 2013). 13
GIROUX ∫ 77
As Huxley anticipated, any critical analysis must move beyond documenting abuses of power to how addressing contemporary neoliberal modernity has created a social order in which individuals become complicit with authoritarianism. That is, how is unfreedom internalized? What and how do state and corporate controlled institutions, cultural apparatuses, social relations, and policies contribute to making a society’s plunge into dark times self-generating as Huxley predicted? Put differently, what is the educative nature of a repressive politics and how does it function to secure the consent of the American public? And, most importantly, how can it be challenged and under what circumstances? Aided by a public pedagogy produced and circulated through a machinery of consumption and public relations tactics, a growing regime of repression works through the homogenizing forces of the market to support the widespread embrace of an authoritarian culture. Relentlessly entertained by spectacles, people become not only numb to violence and cruelty, but begin to identify with an authoritarian worldview. As David Graeber suggests, the police “become the almost obsessive objects of imaginative identification in popular culture… watching movies, or viewing TV shows that invite them to look at the world from a police point of view.”17 But it is not just the spectacle of violence that ushers individuals into a world in which brutality becomes a primary force for mediating relations as well as the ultimate source of pleasure, there is also the production of an unchecked notion of individualism that both dissolves social bonds and removes any viable notion of agency from the landscape of social responsibility and ethical consideration. Absorbed in privatized orbits of consumption, commodification, and display, Americans vicariously participate in the toxic pleasures of the authoritarian state. Violence has become the organizing force of a society driven by a noxious notion of privatization in which it becomes difficult for ideas to be lifted into the public realm. Under such circumstances, politics is eviscerated because it now supports a market-driven view of society that has turned its back on the idea that “Humanity is never acquired in solitude.”18 This violence against the social mimics not just the death of the radical imagination, but also a notion of banality made famous by Hannah Arendt who argued that at the root of totalitarianism was a kind of thoughtlessness, an inability to think, and a type of outrageous indifference in which “There’s simply the reluctance ever to imagine what the other person is experiencing.” 19 By integrating insights drawn from both Huxley and Orwell, it becomes necessary for any viable critical analysis to take a long view, contextualizing the contemporary moment as a new historical conjuncture in which political rule has been replaced by corporate sovereignty, consumerism becomes the only obligation of citizenship, and the only value that matters is exchange value. Precarity has replaced social protections provided by the state, just as the state cares more about building prisons and infantilizing the American public than it does about providing all of its citizens with quality educational institutions and health care. America is not just dancing into oblivion as Huxley suggested, David Graeber, “Dead Zones of the Imagination,” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 2 (2012), p. 119. 18 The quote by Karl Jaspers is cited in Hannah Arendt, The Last Interview and Other Conversations, (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Melville House Publishing, 2013), p. 37. 19 Ibid., p. 48. 17
GIROUX ∫ 78
it is also being pushed into the dark recesses of an authoritarian state. Orwell wrote dystopian novels, but he believed that the sheer goodness of human nature would in the end be enough for individuals to develop modes of collective resistance he could only imagine in the midst of the haunting specter of totalitarianism. Huxley was more indebted to Kafka’s notion of destabilization, despair, and hopelessness. For Huxley, the subject had lost his or her sense of agency and had become the product of a scientificallymanufactured form of idiocy and conformity. Progress had been transformed into its opposite and science now needs to be liberated from itself. Where Huxley fails, as Theodor Adorno has pointed out, is that he has no sense of resistance. According to Adorno, “The weakness of Huxley's entire conception is that it makes all its concepts relentlessly dynamic but nevertheless arms them against the tendency to turn into their own opposites.” 20 Hence, the forces of resistance are not simply underestimated, but rendered impotent. The authoritarian nature of the corporate-state surveillance apparatus and security system with its “urge to surveill, eavesdrop on, spy on, monitor, record, and save every communication of any sort on the planet”21 can only be fully understood when its ubiquitous tentacles are connected to wider cultures of control and punishment, including security-patrolled corridors of public schools, the rise in super-max prisons, the hypermilitarization of local police forces, the justification of secret prisons and state-sanctioned torture abroad, and the increasing labeling of dissent as an act of terrorism in the United States. 22 This is part of Orwell’s narrative, but it does not go far enough. The new authoritarian corporate-driven state deploys more subtle tactics to depoliticize public memory and promote the militarization of everyday life. Alongside efforts to defund public and higher education and to attack the welfare state, a wide-ranging assault is being waged across the culture on all spheres that encourage the public to hold power accountable. If these public institutions are destroyed, there will be few sites left in which to nurture the critical formative cultures capable of educating people to challenge the range of injustices plaguing the United States and the forces that reproduce them. One particular challenge comes from the success of neoliberal tyranny to dissolve those social bonds that entail a sense of responsibility toward others and form the basis for political consciousness. Under the new authoritarian state, perhaps the gravest threat one faces is not simply being subject to the dictates of what Quentin Skinner calls “arbitrary power,” but failing to respond with outrage when “my liberty is also being violated, and not merely by the fact that someone is reading my emails but also by the fact that someone has the power to do so should they choose.”23 The situation is dire when people no longer Theodor W. Adorno, “Aldous Huxley and Utopia”, Prisms, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1967), pp. 106-107. 21 Tom Engelhardt, “Tomgram: Engelhardt, A Surveillance State Scorecard,” Tom Dispath.com (November 12, 2013). 22 I take up many of these issues in Henry A. Giroux, The Violence of Organized Forgetting (San Francisco: City Lights Publishing, 2014); The Twilight of the Social (Boulder: Paradigm Press, 2012), and Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism (New York: Peter Lang, 2011). 23 Quoted in Quentin Skinner and Richard Marshall, “Liberty, Liberalism and Surveillance: a historic overview,” Open Democracy (July 26, 2013). 20
GIROUX ∫ 79
seem interested in contesting such power. It is precisely the poisonous spread of a broad culture of political indifference that puts at risk the fundamental principles of justice and freedom, which lie at the heart of a robust democracy. The democratic imagination has been transformed into a data machine that marshals its inhabitants into the neoliberal dream world of babbling consumers and armies of exploitative labor whose ultimate goal is to accumulate capital and initiate individuals into the brave new surveillance/punishing state that merges Orwell’s Big Brother with Huxley’s mind-altering soma. Nothing will change unless people begin to take seriously the subjective underpinnings of oppression in the United States and what it might require to make such issues meaningful in order to make them critical and transformative. As Charles Derber has explained, knowing “how to express possibilities and convey them authentically and persuasively seems crucially important”24 if any viable notion of resistance is to take place. The current regime of authoritarianism is reinforced through a new and pervasive sensibility in which people surrender themselves to the both the capitalist system and a general belief in its call for security. It does not simply repress independent thought, but constitutes new modes of thinking through a diverse set of cultural apparatuses ranging from the schools and media to the Internet. The fundamental question in resisting the transformation of the United States into a 21st-century authoritarian society must concern the educative nature of politics – that is, what people believe and how their individual and collective dispositions and capacities to be either willing or resistant agents are shaped. What will American society look like in a hundred years? For Huxley, it may well mimic a nightmarish image of a world in which ignorance is a political weapon and pleasure as a form of control, offering nothing more that the swindle of fulfillment, if not something more self-deluding and defeating. Orwell, more optimistically, might see a more open future and history disinclined to fulfill itself in the image of the dystopian society he so brilliantly imagined. He believed in the power of those living under such oppression to imagine otherwise, to think beyond the dictates of the authoritarian state and to offer up spirited forms of collective resistance willing to reclaim the reigns of political emancipation. For Huxley, there was hope in a pessimism that had exhausted itself; for Orwell, optimism had to be tempered by a sense of educated hope. History is open and only time will tell who was right.
Charles Derber, private correspondence with the author, January 29, 2014.
GIROUX ∫ 80
Seattle - Transit Train Arriving At Station, 2012 Oil on Canvas 36” x 24”
FORREST ∫ 81
BROWNISH TINT Britt Melewski I wake to the cool name bitch the smell of kerosene and piss what feels like the back end of a broom all because I brought the war to them with a palm-sized satellite television the monopoly of drunks peels me out of the hairy sinkhole before they take turns kicking me in the stomach whip me with trapeze wire and send me to the infirmary with thirty broken bones a new elevator bank of scuffed memories her, she, and him-he next to it speakers wash the hangar with awful static dizzy concrete celebrations which don’t include us we’re chained to the chill floor all of us wearing polyester hoods and tight red wraps of beads we’re told the best course is to forget our necks to scrape the mind and its damaged crust into a clear plastic bag watch it wilt because really we are gone mere profiles cut into paper and wetted we await our rebirth into silk sour milk motherfuckers never better the barbed wire beasts chirp as I pass out into the lap of the double-humped dark MELEWSKI ∫ 82
SINS OF THE FATHER: 2442 A.D. henry 7. reneau, jr. 1. bread & circuses chameleon-like, incognito holograms written by machines 2. sex toy: 2442 A.D. Barbie doll increments of robot concubines who never say: No! 3. final solution eye spy Big Brother lone sentry drone targeting homeless jaywalker 4. we shall overcome . . . someday mile-high Wall Street floor reboot 9/11 as revenge of the proles 5. good old days nostalgic recall: puddles of oil casting rainbows across lone parking lots
RENEAU â&#x2C6;Ť 83
SHEARED & SLAUGHTERED #1 henry 7. reneau, jr. the guv’ment man looks 17/18/19 . . . 21/middle-aged to septuagenarian can be black/white/brown/yellow/red-skinned is pg&e/the jehovah witness/ dan rather/at&t or oprah/ the cable guy/an english 101b professor/ the chamber of commerce welcome wagon/ yo’ mama/ brother/sister/father/ aunt or uncle/ a friend indeed, in a time of need/ a lie wrapped in a damn lie crying like the truth. in a voyeuristic nation that loves some drama— somebody’s always watchin’ you! i overheard my neighbor sayin’ to the next-door neighbor, “. . . but you know, that fool is paranoid” (as he circled his ear with his forefinger) “. . . and, by the by, george, what happened to our muslim neighbor . . . haven’t seen him or his wife at the starbucks the past two weeks?” george paused over his topiary composition of jewel de’ nyle, “. . . last day i saw them was two weeks ago, tuesday morning. come to think of it . . . the jehovah witness were at their door.”
RENEAU ∫ 84
TENT CITY (Chapter I) Adrienne G. Perry Great-great grandmamma doesn’t look full-grown in that picture, but she is. Squatting down in a row of green beans, wearing a dress made out of flour sacks, her eyes say, “Try me.” Least that’s what I’d like to think. I’ve got her face, or she has mine, though I’m darker and could never swing bangs. Dolores. Got her name, too, except she was Phyllis Dolores Talley—Dot—and everybody but Matt calls me Dee. Think about her a lot—from the nurses’ morning rounds until last light, I ask myself, “What are the dead up to?” Grandmamma Dot came down the street and sickness would turn the corner. In Sunset and our part of the state, from Tensleep down to just north of Casper, she’s still a legend after, what, sixty years? Had no plans to die in a blizzard and she would have lived a lot longer, everybody says. On her way to help an old man with shingles, an October snow swooped in and blinded her and her horse. Might as well have dunked their heads in a bucket of white paint. Always keep your death in front of you was one of her sayings. Passed down to me and Ebo. Fifty-three years old. Fifty-three used to be young to die. Mentioned her once. Not a big mistake, but the doctors’ and researchers’ faces lit up and that’s what scared me. “What else do you know?” they asked. I told them the horse was named Daily News. Not funny, at least not to them. You’ve got to throw them bones, so I said Dot fled Texas hill country for Gillette, Wyoming, where her daddy’s people homesteaded. Got their own place in Sunset—Sunset, Wyoming. Rich in minerals. Rich in spirit! Population 226—through the Homestead Act and we’ve ranched or farmed PERRY ∫ 85
there since. Their laptop keys clicked. Doctors don’t give a shit, not about Sunset or pintos named Daily News. They care about blood and checking my lymph nodes. I get it, but the other stuff isn’t unimportant. I know exactly where that picture of Grandmamma Dot was taken. I want to—I will I will I will I will—stand in that spot again, downwind from the driftwood and barbed wire fence and the out barn Ebo and I could’ve pushed over with our pinkies a thousand times. Stand with all of it behind me. Behind us, I mean.
Ebo and I were finishing morning chores when we saw a government health department van. White, windowless in the back, with a squat brown cross painted on its sides, the van drove slowly across the road at the edge of our north pasture. We hadn’t seen many HD trucks pass through Sunset since the beginning of the outbreak, but that was changing. Five relocations in two weeks. Six, counting whoever this was. I’d smoked the hives and the queens were happy. I found a few beetles in the hive closest to the house, but the drones were on it. They suffocate intruders. Ebo was trimming goat hooves, mouthing the words to an old Jay-Z and Kanye song he couldn’t get out of his head. Ball so hard muhfucaks wanna find me. That shit cray . . . I hated that song, but he went silent as the van headed east, and I hated that more. I watched my little brother watching the van. “When’s the last time we wormed the kids?” “Three weeks,” Ebo said. “Who’s it now, you think?”
PERRY ∫ 86
“How the hell would I know?” “Matt could’ve told ya.” “Matt doesn’t tell me shit.” Ebo cut his eyes at me. “OK, he doesn’t tell me anything like that. Probably doesn’t even know.” “Let’s go see.” Ebo walked in the van’s direction. I followed. He was scrappier than I was, but he was still young enough that I wanted to protect him from all of the trouble he loved to get into. At the edge of Mrs. Newsome’s lot, we crouched down in the spring pigweed, hoping the healthkeepers couldn’t spot us. I sneezed and wiped my eyes with my shirt collar. The Newsomes. Didn’t expect that. The Newsomes were solid, beefy types, but the nurse who vaccinated us in the parking lot outside of Joe’s Pet Depot said it could come on quick. Over by the Newsome’s barn, the sun was a golden knot rising in the sky’s throat. Two HD healthkeepers in green fatigues stood on either side of the Newsome’s front door, rifle barrels pointed toward the porch floor. Mrs. Newsome came out of the house first. The wind tossed up her blue bathrobe and her hair. She didn’t know where to put her hands to keep either of them down. For a second it looked like she was dancing. I tried to see Ebo’s face, but he hadn’t put up the veil on his beekeeper hat. “When was your last piano lesson?” “Two days ago,” Ebo said. “Anybody sick?” “Mrs. Newsome had a cough, but you know how she’s always coughin.”
PERRY ∫ 87
“Did you wash your hands?” Ebo pretended to play chords on the dirt. “Answer me. Did you wash your hands?” “Think so. Duh, duh, duh, duuuhhh.” “Not funny, Bo.” “Not tryin to be. What are they going to do, Dee?” Within minutes, the sunlight moved across the field and onto my arms. Leghorns pecked around the HD van. Neither of us had seen a live relocation before. Early on, the Feds staged a few and broadcast them on TV to chill everybody out. Good-looking healthkeepers took temperatures, distributed an extra dose of Tamiflu, and helped grateful families out of their homes and into vans with actual windows. Everyone smiled a cheery smile in these PSAs. Long before the outbreak, our dad watched television with the sound off, said silence made it easier to avoid getting sucked in by the images, but the scene on the porch wasn’t like that. Too far away to hear, we could still see everything, sense everything. The guards handed Mrs. Newsome a mask and moved her to the side. After she put on the mask, she struggled to tie a scarf around her hair. Out came her son with his wife and their three girls. The oldest girl, Tracy, was eleven. Ebo’s age. The two younger girls carried blankets and duffel bags. Mrs. Newsome’s daughter-in-law put her arms around the kids and moved them toward the van. One of the girls started crying. Tracy put her hand over her sister’s mouth. The rumors about what happened once folks got to the quarantine in Cheyenne were mixed. Did families have their own space, or were they crammed together? We’d been to Cheyenne a few times for Frontier Days and on our way to Denver, but I couldn’t PERRY ∫ 88
remember the layout well enough to imagine the hundreds of tents folks said started at the depot and spread out through downtown. The leghorns got underfoot. Mr. Newsome got up in a healthkeeper’s face until the other healthkeeper pushed them apart. A rooster jumped up on the porch rail, flapped his wings, crowed. A healthkeeper shot him with a handgun, sending up a poof of white feathers. Mr. Newsome’s hands floated into the air like balloons and he stumbled down the porch steps and up into the van. Inside the van, the girls cried and fought over who would hold the blankets. Ebo jumped up and tried to stretch the fence. “Hold it down for me so I can step over.” Between my brother’s scrawny arms and the beekeeper hat’s dome, the reddish dirt pressed into his shirt and on his chin, I saw an explorer, an archeologist. Wasn’t that what he wanted to be last year? I yanked on his sleeve, trying to get him to lie back down. “Don’t be an idiot.” “I’m not. I want the bird.” “Wait a second. Let’s see if they take it.” They didn’t. A healthkeeper placekicked the rooster into the dirt. The van drove off. Once it was out of sight, I pried open the fence so that Ebo could step through. “Hurry up,” I called after him as he ran through the field, a trail of dust rising from the ground behind him. In one smooth movement, Ebo snatched the rooster by the feet and turned to book it for the fence. He had a smile wide as pie on his face, running with our dinner, dripping blood. We hadn’t eaten chicken or anything resembling it since October. Ebo dove through the fence and buried himself on the ground. PERRY ∫ 89
“Are they coming back?” he panted. “I don’t know, Bo. I hope Mrs. Newsome comes back, but—” “No, stupid. I heard a car.” I sank onto the ground next to Ebo. He stroked the rooster’s feathers and nodded at the road. There was a little blood on his fingertips. Indian paintbrushes. Matt’s station wagon pulled up to the Newsomes’. What was Matt doing there? He shouldn’t be anywhere near a relocated house. Matt hoisted up his hatchback, grabbed a box from the back, and walked up the porch steps. Matt was one of Mrs. Newsome’s piano students, or he had been, but he hadn’t studied with her for years. When was the last time he went to her place? Never mentioned it, if he did. Matt’s right arm shook. Was he going inside? Shake—no, his arm moved from one corner of the door to its opposite, over and over until he’d covered it with a brown X.
PERRY ∫ 90
Seattle - Post Alley, 2013 Oil on Canvas Panel 10” x 8”
FORREST ∫ 91
IN THE ANTI-ROOM Carol Dorf
The Anti-Room fills with the Noâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s of a campaign year, like leftover posters that never make it into the recycling bin. Small children tantrum in the center of the floor, and adults assiduously ignore them. Some of the furniture appears comfortable, but when you sit in the easy chair, you sink until your knees rise to chest level. The music in the background alternates between torch singers, kill-the-machine punk, cop-fight rap, and old news, stuck in a shuffle over which no one exerts any control. If there is any coffee left in the machine it is cold, and the cookies have been displayed in their open trays for days. Even teenagers refuse them, demanding money to go to the corner store after dark. The people who had plans for fixing up this space, have long since left to revitalize some other neighborhood, developing new varieties of urban bees. Eventually the children slide into uneasy sleep, startling awake at the sound of each backfiring truck.
DORF â&#x2C6;Ť 92
ALL THAT REMAINS Carol Dorf We listen for chords of the missing frogs that scudded along this river. Last night beside the water's edge pink traces of twilight held the hour then vanished.
DORF â&#x2C6;Ť 93
COMPLIANCE Liz Ahl Standing inside a clear plexiglass cube, quarantined in the bustling limbo between ticketing and Terminal B I lift my arms, am wanded and groped, taking my turn for America. Snug inside a pair of plastic gloves, a stranger’s hands interrogate my thighs, my belly, my armpits. Outside the cube, the unshod un-suspicious un-chosen regard me only briefly, pretending not to look, before chasing their dismembered and dangerously unattended luggage down conveyer belts. In a clear plastic sandwich bag, my toiletries work hard at not looking like explosives: the toothpaste keeps its stingy, crumpled knuckle to itself; the modest dollop of shampoo is mute; the thimble-and-a-half of mouthwash keeps its counsel. Chapstick or plastique? Gel shoe insert or chemical bomb? I imagine all the ways in which I might be guilty, which makes me guilty of imagining, which I wonder if their new scanning machines can detect. What stray thought not safely sealed in a Ziploc might set off the warning bells? When they release me from the cube, I’ll try to follow all the signs that want to help me love America: Move along be still pay close attention what are you staring at? eyes down be vigilant empty your pockets mind your baggage
AHL ∫ 94
X-rays burn through us all, clad in gloves of radiation and paranoia, throwing shadows up onto a screen we can watch like TV as we stand in lines together, penned in, roped off, show our tickets and I.D.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s, splay our belongings on the conveyer belt like sad, half-assed porn, numbed, compliant, shuffling our shoeless feet, perpetually waiting for the other shoe bomb to drop, nerves blocked to outrage by this special brand of exhaustion, this purgatory, this homeland.
AHL â&#x2C6;Ť 95
UNIVERSE OF THE ANTS (A Ticklish Tale) Keith Moul After sixty minutes of NOVA, my hide crawls with "social" aliens; I hear enlightened voices from the past proclaiming Manâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC;s divine descent; so I call my helpful no-load broker to buy more poison equities. In truth, I know their feast day is near; that an irreverent but consuming tide will strip me naked to a pile of bones with not a quark of grief as remnant. I feel no terror for my billion-bite demise-no, I often crave an imminent peace. My terror lies with men sans me: the leftover breed that continues to read the bones of mammoths, to read the glyphs of Man, but born at best myopic, will not see their noses for their faces, their bosons for their baryons.
MOUL â&#x2C6;Ť 96
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Liz Ahl is the author of the chapbooks, Talking About the Weather (Seven Kitchens Press, 2012), Luck (Pecan Grove Press, 2010), and A Thirst That’s Partly Mine, which won the 2008 Slapering Hol Press chapbook contest. Her work has appeared recently or is forthcoming in Measure, Blast Furnace, and Conclave. She lives in New Hampshire. Photo: Nancy Welch
Joshua Bennett hails from Yonkers, NY. He is a third-year doctoral candidate in the English Department at Princeton University, Callaloo Fellow, and, as of this summer, teacher of 8th grade Composition. His poetry has either been published or is forthcoming in Anti-, Drunken Boat, Word Riot, Storyscape, and Muzzle. Photo: Eve Ewing
Derrick Weston Brown is a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, and resides in Mount Rainier, Maryland. He has studied poetry under Dr. Tony Medina at Howard University and Cornelius Eady at American University, where he earned an MFA in creative writing. He is a graduate of the Cave Canem summer workshop for black poets and the VONA summer workshop. His work has appeared in such literary journals as Warpland, Mythium, Ginsoko, Drum Voices, The Columbia Poetry Review, and the online journals Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Howard University’s Amistad, LocusPoint, and MiPOesias. His first book of poetry, Wisdom Teeth, was published by the Busboys and Poets imprint of PM Press. Photo: Andrew Council
CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 97
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch, and Prairie Schooner. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She was a finalist in the GSU Poetry Contest (2007), Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize (2009, 2012), and received honorable mentions in the North American Review's James Hearst Poetry Contest (2008, 2010). One of her poems is a winner of the 2014 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. She is the editor of Illinois Racing News, and lives on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois. She has published 14 books including Selected Poems” from FutureCycle Press. “Selected Poems” received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize. “Properties of Matter,” Aldrich Press (Kelsay Books); “Bittersweet” (Main Street Rag Press) and The Wingback Chair, FutureCycle Press.” Colby is also an associate editor of Kentucky Review and FutureCycle Press. Photo: Phyllis Janik
Curtis L. Crisler is an Assistant Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). His books are Pulling Scabs (nominated for a Pushcart), Dreamist: a mixed-genre novel (YA), and Tough Boy Sonatas. He has two chapbooks: Soundtrack to Latchkey Boy, and Spill. He is a Cave Canem Fellow and a Contributing Editor for Aquarius Press. Photo: William "Bryant" Rozier
Carol Dorf's poems appear in Antiphon, Qarrtsiluni, Spillway, OVS, Canary, Sin Fronteras, In Posse Review, Poemeleon, Fringe, Moria, Unlikely Stories, The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, Scientific American, Maintenant, The Prose Poem Project, and The Mom Egg. They have been anthologized in Not A Muse, Best of Indie New England, Boomer Girls, and elsewhere. She is poetry editor of Talking Writing.
CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 98
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Milton P. Ehrlich, Ph.D. is a 62 year old psychologist who has published numerous poems in periodicals such as the "Descant Magazine," "Antigonish Review," "Wisconsin Review," "Toronto Quarterly Review," "Seventh Quarry: The Swansea Poetry Quarterly," "Shofar Literary Journal," "Christian Science Monitor," "Off The Coast," "Huffington Post," and the "New York Times."
Born in Canada and bred in the U.S., Allen Forrest has worked in many mediums: computer graphics, theater, digital music, film, video, drawing and painting. Allen studied acting in the Columbia Pictures Talent Program in Los Angeles and digital media in art and design at Bellevue College (receiving degrees in Web Multimedia Authoring and Digital Video Production.) He currently works in the Vancouver, Canada, as a graphic artist and painter. He is the winner of the Leslie Jacoby Honor for Art at San Jose State University's Reed Magazine and his Bel Red painting series is part of the Bellevue College Foundation's permanent art collection. Forrest's expressive drawing and painting style is a mix of avant-garde expressionism and post-Impressionist elements reminiscent of van Gogh, creating emotion on canvas.
Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and is a Visiting Distinguished Professor at Ryerson University. His most recent books include America's Educational Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013), Neoliberalism's War on Higher Education (Haymarket, 2014), and The Organized Violence of Forgetting (City Lights, 2014).
CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 99
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Claire Hermann lives in the small town of Pittsboro, NC, where she coordinates communications at a nonprofit organization and watches the trees grow. Her poems have been published in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Earth's Daughters, EarthSpeak, Caesura, dirtcakes, Southern Women’s Review, Lines + Stars, and Prime Number. She was a finalist for the 2012 North Carolina Poet Laureate's award. Photo: Grace Camblos
Jen Karetnick, Poet, writer, critic and educator, is the author/editor of 11 books, 3 forthcoming: a chapbook of poems, Prayer of Confession (Finishing Line Press, June 2014); a full-length book of poems, Brie Season (White Violet Press, fall 2014) and a cookbook, Mango (University Press of Florida, fall 2014). She works as the Creative Writing Director at Miami Arts Charter School and as a freelance dining critic and travel writer. Photo: Zoe Cross
Alan King is a poet, journalist and author, who lives in the DC metropolitan area. He writes about art and domestic issues. Professionally, he’s currently both a communications specialist for a national nonprofit and a senior editor at Words Beats & Life‘s global hip hop journal. King’s poems have appeared in Alehouse, Audience, Boxcar Poetry Review, Indiana Review, MiPoesias and RATTLE, among many others. He is a Cave Canem Fellow, an alumnus of the VONA Workshops sponsored by Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation, and a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA Low-Residency Program at the University of Southern Maine. He’s a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and was also nominated twice for a Best of the Net selection. His first collection of poems is Drift (Willow Books, 2012). Photo: Marlene Lillian
CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 100
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Britt Melewski grew up in New Jersey and Puerto Rico. His poems have appeared in Sporkpress, The Philadelphia Review of Books, Puerto Del Sol, the DMQ Review, and are forthcoming in Cura. Melewski received his MFA at Rutgers-Newark in 2012. He lives in Brooklyn.
JW Mark is a poet living in Stow, Ohio. Publications to include his work include The Ampersand Review, Eunoia Review, The Midwest Literary Magazine, flashquake, and The North Chicago Review. He is the author of a novel entitled Artifice, as well as a book of poems entitled Patched Collective. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his website jwmark.wordpress.com.
Jonathan Moody holds an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh. He’s also a Cave Canem alum whose poetry has appeared in African American Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Borderlands, The Common, Crab Orchard Review, and among other publications. Moody, a recent Pushcart Prize nominee, received the 2014 Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize for his second collection: Olympic Butter Gold. Photo: Just Glance Photography
CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 101
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Keith Moul’s poems have been published widely for almost 46 years. Recently two chaps have been released: The Grammar of Mind (2010) from Blue & Yellow Dog Press and Beautiful Agitation (2012) from Red Ochre Press. He also publishes photos widely. In fact, in 2010 a poem written to accompany one of Keith’s photos was a Pushcart nominee. In December, 2012, Broken Publications released a full-length collection of poems/photos called Reconsidered Light. Photo: Ianthe Moul
Barry W. North is a sixty-nine-year-old retired refrigeration mechanic. His published books are Along the Highway and Terminally Human. His new book of poetry “In the Maze,” will be published by Finishing Line Press. For more information please visit his website. www.barrynorth.org.
Randy Parker makes his living as a writer in Memphis and enjoys the rustic pleasures of America’s wild places. This is his second appearance in Tidal Basin Review. His work can also be found in Grey Sparrow, Barely South, Sierra, and in the Tennessee volume of The Southern Poetry Anthology (Texas Review Press, 2013). Photo: Leslie Parker
CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 102
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Adrienne Perry grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the daughter of a railroader from Southern California and a mother whose family homesteaded outside of Gillette. A graduate of Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers, Adrienne is currently a doctoral student in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston, a Kimbilio Fellow, and the Editor of Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts. Photo: Lesli Vollrath
Ken Poyner often serves as unlikely and well-worn eye-candy at his wife’s powerlifting meets. His latest collection of brief fictions, “Constant Animals”, can be located through links on his website, www.kpoyner.com. He has had recent work out in “Corium”, “Asimov’s Science Fiction”, “Poet Lore”, “Sein Und Werden” and a few dozen other places.
henry 7. reneau, jr. writes words in fire to wake the world ablaze & illuminated by courage that empathizes with all the awful moments: a freight train bearing down with warning that blazes from the heart, like a chambered bullet exploding inadvertently. now, runantellyomamaboutdat!! Photo: Petia Dilyanova Yoveva
CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 103
∫ Gulls & Cherry Blossoms ∫ Joseph Ross is the author of two books of poetry, Gospel of Dust (2013) and Meeting Bone Man (2012). His poetry has appeared in a wide variety of publications including The Los Angeles Times, Poet Lore, Tidal Basin Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Sojourners. His work appears in many anthologies including Collective Brightness, Poetic Voices without Borders 1 and 2, Full Moon on K Street, and Come Together; Imagine Peace. He currently serves as the 23rd Poet-in-Residence for the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society, just outside Washington, D.C. He is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee and his poem “If Mamie Till Was the Mother of God” won the 2012 Pratt Library/Little Patuxent Review Poetry Prize. Photo: Melanie Henderson
Penelope Scambly Schott’s verse biography A is for Anne: Mistress Hutchinson Disturbs the Commonwealth received the 2008 Oregon Book Award for Poetry. Her collection Crow Mercies (2010) got the Sarah Lantz Memorial Award from Calyx Press. New in 2013 are Lovesong for Dufur and Lillie Was a Goddess, Lillie Was a Whore. Penelope lives in Portland and teaches an annual poetry workshop in Dufur, Oregon. Photo: Ann Olsen
Scott T. Starbuck was a 2014 Friends of William Stafford Scholar at the "Speak Truth to Power" Fellowship of Reconciliation Seabeck Conference, and a 2013 Artsmith Fellow on Orcas Island. His ecopoetry blog is at riverseek.blogspot.com, and his "Manifesto from Poet on a Dying Planet" is at splitrockreview.org/news Starbuck’s 84-page activist poetry book Industrial Oz is forthcoming from Fomite Press in Vermont.
CONTRIBUTORS ∫ 104
Tidal Basin Press, Inc. Tidal Basin Review Founded 2010 (as Tidal Basin Review, LLC) Washington, DC