Saturday, July 22, 2017


I’m sitting in the studio I rent at the Loft Literary Center, a place boundaried by the ethics of silence and reflection.  I’m eating Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter out of a jar, and munching on crackers.  No other writers mind, because outside, down the block and across the street from the Vikings Darth Vader Stadium, in the parking lot of a bar, a heavy metal  raging scream shock damn it to hell band is playing its collective asses off for the masses.  I’m sure their volume control goes even beyond Spinal Tap’s 11, maybe up to 15 or so.  The guitar riffs are OK, the drummer is good, and the main singer—whom I’m guessing is a white guy around 40, whose long hair is starting to creep up his pate—is doing his best to channel rage.  After every song, a roar goes up from a couple hundred men.  Pretty soon, I expect to see pirates rappelling down the stadium walls to the plaza, where feral hogs will be slain by the sword and roasted whole over huge fires. 

I don’t write rage that well, and I’m trying to figure out how rage has taken over our discourse and our politics and even our families, rage not only from those who have been deprived, but from those doing the depriving. 

Interlude: the band just burst into their rendition of “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.  Touching.

I’ve been reading about how loyal Trump voters have stayed loyal, and how his bullying and coarseness and vulgarity actually make them feel better.  About him, and about themselves.  I know there are a lot of people feeling left out and powerless in parts of our country, and Trump feels like a champion.  But I wonder what will happen when that feeling doesn’t deliver, when all that is left is rage, with no action or strategy to funnel it into.  What will happen then?  There will still be music and rallies where we can shout about our power and our sense of being betrayed, but eventually that rage—real or imagined, it doesn’t matter—has to go somewhere.  God, help us.

This is a poem about a girl I knew who had reason to rage, and somehow found hope.  It was originally published in the anthology: Veils, Halos and Shackles: International Poetry on the Abuse and Oppression of Women.


For Janette

She crouches behind
the stove on the 4th floor
of a building with no elevator,
no front door, no smells
but rum, urine, frijoles,
flowers, fried fish,
t-shirts and asthma.
She breathes as softly
as her mind will let her,
with knocking at the door.                 

Who could it be?
A machete?
A tiny telegram from Tio?
An angel whose face
is on backwards?
The little peephole
is a magic pipeline:     
good things come in small packages
and bad things, too.

Her body is twelve, skinny
enough to squeeze behind
the stove, tight enough
to attract mustaches,
fingertips, maldiciones.
Her eyes are mousetraps
being nibbled.
She prays with her thumb,
her nightgown, the stuffed
bear she thought
to bring along.

She remembers
the story, from First Communion
of the five thousand fed:
five little breads,
two small fish,
given by a young boy.
“But it could have been you,
the pastor said. “It could have
been your hands
holding up the miracle.”
She looks at her hands,
browned like stove grease
from behind the stove,
white knuckled, red
in the creases,
eager to give birth.                 

I will be bread, she thinks.
I will be a fish:
A tiburón, a shark,
something that is
difficult to catch.

Be justice. Be beauty.  Be wary of your rage.


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