Friday, November 12, 2010

Night with the Revolutionary Poet's Brigade at the Beat Museum

We had a great evening at The Beat Museum! Though I don't often write political, somewhat rant poems, this one was born out of an article Miguel Robles posted on his Facebook wall last week or so.
FYI: "pinche," is a Mexican slang word (again, complements of Miguel),  in this case meaning fucking.


                        Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce says the bill (SB 1070) was his idea.
                        He says it's not about prisons. It's about what's best for the country.
                                                “Prison Economics Help Drive Arizona Immigration Law”
                                                by Laura Sullivan

NPR claims that you made a deal with the private prison industry
to help pass and draft the law. Demanding documents from anyone
on the street could lead to endless arrests, keeping new prisons filled for years.

Your website slogan says:
For faith, family and freedom above all else.
            What kind of faith do you follow that banishes others?
            What kind of families can there be if innocent parents are jailed?
            What kind of freedom does racial profiling bring?

            “They’re illegal,” you say, “and they have no right to be marching down
            our streets. They have no constitutional rights.”

If only all the “illegal” people were marching down the streets—
marching in protest, demanding to be treated as fellow human beings.
But they’re too busy working, simply trying to survive, unlike you
Mr. Senator who, from your pictures, appears to have no want of food.
And Senator Pearce, I also hear that you want to start charging
undocumented parents school fees for their children born on US soil.
Indeed, this might be better than holding bake sales to make up for the dismal
amount state governments spend on public education in the first place.

Oh yeah, and why don’t we just go ahead and erase the 14th amendment
from the constitution as you’ve suggested, Senator Pearce, then everyone
can be a citizen of nowhere in particular; we can all just live together here
as equals since even the Native Americans emigrated to this land at one time
when there were no man-made borders or arbitrary green cards—
if anything, being the first generations born here, they should be asking
everyone else for papers. Where did your family come from?

You are all about laws Senator Pearce, but laws are just made-up rules.
                        R is for Rules, a letter we should deport from your name,
                        or R is for Raging Racist perhaps?
Without the R we’d be left with Peace—
none of your pinche prisons needed.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Some Poems I read at Bird and Beckett Nov. 1, 2010

Hi Poetry lovers. I was one of three featured readers this past Monday at Bird and Beckett, a great bookstore in Glen Park. The Giants won right before I came on and some of my lines were interjected with sounds of hoopla from the street . . . classic surreal San Francisco night as we alternated listening to the open mic poets and the baseball game on the radio which had static, of course, just like in the old days of hearing my Dad's Yankee games. Too bad I'm not a baseball fan or it would have been all the more poignant.

If You Die Tomorrow
                                                February 12, 2010

Just told a good story to a small group of friends
leaving them with laughter on the corner
of Geary and Grant as we went our separate ways.
I’ve got the buzz of a strong Peet’s Tea Jasmine
Fancy Green going on that makes me want to walk,
simply walk all the way home, down Market
to the end of Valencia where I live.

After a day of rain it’s a mild February Friday night,
Valentine’s Day weekend and Gung Hay Fat Choy.
The streets glisten watery still with that soft sound
car tires make on wet asphalt—conjuring up
the urban-romantic mystery of film noir.

At Powell there’s a guy singing about Jesus,
and another selling heart shaped balloons for 3 bucks,
and tourists, of course, waiting for the cable car.

Walking a long walk home alone on Market to the Mission,
I leave the bustle behind, entering into the stretch
of ragged drug and drunk decay—the forlorn blocks before
the illuminated fountains of Civic Center.

I pass by a group of men loitering near a Muni shelter.
A burly guy yells adamantly at a bony guy
standing at a distance with a shopping cart.
            If you die tomorrow what is there
            to be angry about today?
            If you die tomorrow what is there
            to be angry about today?
The bony guy mutters heatedly, stuffs something roughly
into a grubby bag, then growls back words I can’t quite
catch. The first man’s voice persists:
            If you die tomorrow what is there
            to be angry about today?
            If you die tomorrow…

I leave them as my stride increases—
not from apprehension but from a sudden amazed
exhilaration that each moment in this city potentially
possesses a message from a masquerading sage.

I cross in front of an abandoned storefront.
A young man lurks in the shadows of the entryway
and gently calls out to me.
            Got good weed baby . . .
            keep you happy all night long.
His tone allures like strains from a solo saxophone.
            Got good weed baby.

I keep on as a wild grin comes over my face.
But I am happy . . . baby . . . without the weed.
If I die tomorrow I am happy NOW—
walking down the grungiest section of Market Street—
happy in the clean-air liberation of the after-rain.

                        in response to Arizona law SB 1070

A visiting artist without benefits, I am teaching third grade students
at Cleveland Elementary School in the Excelsior district
of San Francisco, how to fashion animalitos in clay.
I show them samples of the fanciful figurines that I bought
from boys with small baskets in San Cristóbal de las Casas.

            “It’s like making pupusas!” One girl exclaims,
patting the clay between her palms.

I explain to these eight-year-old children in the bilingual class
that the little boys from the highlands of Chiapas do not
always get to go to school. They must work instead, selling
animalitos to help their mothers, who bring them forth from the local,
gray clay then embellish them with designs in siena, negro, y blanco.

            “El horno,” one boy told me, “once it blew up near our faces . . .
que fuego!”

After the clay, the students make drawings of their animalitos—
bold horns, curved tails, legs made for running.
The fantasy characters amble about on paper, sin fronteras,
freely crossing deserts of make-believe.
I see the young boys again of Chiapas
swinging their baskets full of their mothers’ spirited expressions;
playing pranks on each other, lively in the streets . . .
laughing despite the familial duties they have.

I want to share with them these animalitos that their primos
have made, the children of their tías y tíos, happily creating
in this weekly hour of art, here on the other side—
                                                el otro lado que en realidad no existe.

            Obama is spending 600 million to tighten border patrols while funding
            for education, for the arts, for social reform is left to languish here in el Norte,
            the supposed promised land.
            Arizona—who exactly is under siege?

Art is life without boundaries cradled by our communal consciousness:
the lesson is not about drawing straight lines.
All children are artists before discrimination tries to trap the animalitos
romping brilliantly in their minds.



The redwoods are women,
wrapped in the secrets
of coastal mist.

The sequoias are men,
emboldened by the rise
of rocky terrain.

In the blue between
the Pacific and the Sierras
their soaring spirits merge
and make love.

                        Sequoia National Park

The dry needles of the pines
are raining down on me.
They make a lovely, faint
clattering sound.

A thunderous noise to the ant,
I imagine—
like the roar
of this river falling . . .

 as if a giant sequoia were toppling.

                                    March, San Francisco

The pale underbellies of seagulls
against a dark rain cloud.

Like a rover without refuge
barefoot, I walk the beach.
If this storm breaks
I will be soaked—
                                    what of it?

The ocean is a continuous offering
of its soul to the shore.
Here I am full of impermeable wealth,
a sand dollar held in my hand.