Surprised

poem, art, photo by Elizabeth

WHAT SURPRISED ME MOST…

beneath surgery-bright restaurant lights was the unspoken 
collusion of employees and patrons to ignore the bone-defined 
man as he tapped thin-paned glass to beg for food.

He shoved skeletal hands toward his gaping mouth as if to fill the gnawing 
we could not imagine while digesting pasta and merlot rather than 
our muscles to survive as this man’s body had, his hollowed face 
pled as he mimed across the chasm of language, culture, class. 

After the waiter returned our leftovers, snug in Styrofoam, 
I took them across the restaurant, my legs heavy beneath 
reproach’s hypnotic weight from those unwilling to squander 
etiquette’s rules that insure our warmth while others freeze.

Through my breath outside, I saw him accept a dollar from two 
spike-heeled women as they scuttled from a bar across the street,
yet money’s a tool for future trade, no immediate relief for a churning gut. 

Drunk with hunger, he wavered in the crosswalk till a horn startled him
to the curb. Waving, I caught his eye, offered the bright box. Our eyes 
locked yet he wouldn’t move, suspended in a code more compelling than 
starvation, a code older than the south and dangerous as asphyxiation. 

Cloaked in privilege, I left our paltry leftovers on the bus stop bench 
and returned to the interior’s glare, each of us visible through glass walls. 
He sprinted across the street, gulped what would have been tomorrow’s lunch, threw away the box, and returned to the window beside us. 

He smiled, waved, tried to thank me, but I saw him only peripherally, 
embarrassed to accept gratitude for so little before he walked away.

Thank you to the editors of decomp magazine who first published this poem.

11/9/16

p1690437
photo by Elizabeth

I’ve been saying Fuck fear! to everyone today, especially myself. The surrealistic results of last night’s election were shocking and fostered images of increased violence, economic disparity, disenfranchisement, senseless cruelty and suffering in our country and beyond our imaginary borders…yet while out with our dog, I marveled at the stars sparkling as they have and will for eons.

So many compassionate people with social and historical understanding are scared, yet fear is how slave owners and terrorists, bullies and rapists, gangs and militias have gained and maintained entirely too much privilege for too long. Fear paralyzes. Fear wraps us in numbing behavior, PTSD and isolation. I’ve spent too much of my life focused on moving out of fear to embrace it now because our young nation is struggling with issues of entitlement and humanism; ideals of capitalism and democracy; definitions of freedom and propaganda. Fear locks the brain in a simplified fight or flight state that prevents us from perceiving others through the complex lens of empathy and layered perspectives.

Fear, like anxiety, is a mighty force. If I let it root, I’ll be paralyzed in ways I’ll be too blinded to even see. Instead, we can choose to rise above harsh circumstance and heal must be healed through love and connection so we can make our way to 2020 as intact as possible as a nation and a world. We can do this with the deep listening, caring and intelligence that we are capable of providing ourselves and one another.

May all be happy, safe, healthy and at peace.

Dig

Rodin’s The Three Shades’ shadows, poem & photo by Elizabeth

DIG

Caught between Kerouac and Marilyn spawned in me the language, fearless pain as my mother, wrapped in mink, walked the edge then past as I watched then ducked smashed shards and men wanting to be sucked, degenerating the innocence of life and saints and promises made;

and where is Christ, the Buddha, ohm mani padme ohm when thousands of children die each year in America alone at the hands of their parents caretakers life-takers, when fathers teach their daughters the art of Kama Sutra, how in all this to distinguish any act as wrong, when killing millions in moments preserves the American way and what of generations born in winds of mushroom clouds,born without limbs or eyes to napalm women,what harm in being sucked by unlined skin—

the brain numb too short a time, too soon the blackout ends, too soon Marilyn raises her skirt, her breasts, her legendary grin, too soon barbiturates and lithium and caffeine caffeine—can’t sleep, won’t sleep, bring in the kid—she won’t remember anyway the feel of heels and calloused palms, slip between her unfledged lips like snow, like angel wings, then retreat to the oblivion of drink. What’s sex in this rhythm of hate and fear, in the mutual acceptability of mutual destruction? The Buddha uncrucified cannot exist.

And I know these people, this violence spawned of invisibility, sexuality hiding fungal lingams of death, sublimating the need to think of consequence when consequences surround us not of our own making—why control ourselves when we ourselves have no control in this atomic-Ku Klux Klan-raping world of sawed-off shotguns in the hands of eight-year-olds who need a fix, a blow, enough to know they are alive, enough to dull the tense despair of being alive

but this is my world too and the bombs of mutual annihilation have not yet dropped and I do remember the jazz-nuanced hipster world that spawned me behind Marilyn’s angel grin concealing desperate dreams turned nightmare horrible, and I

we carry these in symbols of anorexic models and crucifixions to bars and steaming baths and schoolyards filled with meth and smack, bliss only in the mind, the body sharp-edged and clutching.

Yet under these streets flow fresh-water streams—chip away with hammer and nail, dig through phlegm-stained concrete with fingers till whitened bone shows through, dig for water to wash us clean, past wanting more cars, more clothes, more love than we feel, dig for truth beyond lies that tell us drugs and sex, shaved heads and tattoos, fast tech will save us for only we can save ourselves yet if each self is saved we will save the world.

Thank you to the editors of Squaw Valley Review Poetry Anthology 2012 for first publishing this poem and to the community and poets who make Community of Writers such a rich and fulfilling experience.

Exit Through the Gift Shop

photo by Elizabeth

In the summer of 2009, a friend drove me past this sign, which I had to jump out and photograph while she drove around the block.

Turned out to be a happening for an artist involved with Exit Through the Gift Shop , a documentary that focused on Banksy: underground and overground hero, artist, thinker and social critic. He is illusive, creative, technically stunning, brave, quick and smart. While some argue that he is the best graffitist, Banksy has many peers.

Throughout the world, usually by night, graffiti artists draw attention to the greed and propaganda that relentlessly pushes products, images and manufactured lives into the primal part of our brains. Six repetitions is often enough to bypass our critical thinking skills so that we think something false is true. Yet these people and corporations cry foul when graffiti reveals the real cost of their words, images and products.

Exit Through the Gift Shop not only exposes ruthless greed, but also graffitists’ sensibility and artistic craft, courage and brilliant social commentary. This film explores both some of the best graffiti and guerilla art waged and why Life Is Beautiful!