Saturday, July 10, 2010
Loneliness, sometimes, allows us to connect with ourselves in ways we often avoid before the onslaught of fears which riddle the armor of our lives:
Alone with music of silence
I gather from the darkness
from the stinted limbs
of hope's shortened corpse
instruments in lonely symphony
plying their melodies
to connect each to a chord
of memory that spans the
sheets between here and
morning's birth but the
key of life is elusive, and
in the cools arms of night
I assemble the notes,
orchestrating final movements
before quiet settles over
my brow and I am
again holding myself
to ward off despair
Monday, July 5, 2010
As a child when I or my siblings would rail against naptime, my mother and grandmother would say that we were fighting sleep. As adults ironically we frequently take refuge in sleep, seeking escape from the peaks and troughs of our lives; nothing is more telling than the struggle which ensues in our waking moments:
I fold back the mesh
raising up out of
Sleep's warm netting;
I press my back down
listless against softness
desperate to recall dreams;
a blink, a nod, a yawn
acknowledging the inevitable
but defiant in the face;
I grasp firmly my pillow,
thrusting my legs forward
in pointless mimicry
yet all argument is moot,
squelched before absoluteness:
Morning has come, and the day begun
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Our most conventional stories portray the journey of our lives as a struggle between light and darkness. Rarely do these tales realize that the truths we seek do not lie at either end of the polarities but somewhere between all the layers of fleshy occultation. Here I employ the haiku in a less customary format to make such a case.
Shadow clips edges
promising coolly, bluntly
Glaring brightness hides
Love's unyielding penumbra
From the womb of both
past, present, future echoes
invites the birth - Choice
Friday, March 5, 2010
One cannot help but being bemused by the numerous items in conventional discourse regarding what the federal goverment should (or should not) be doing to propel the economy back to a bullish state. This confusion derives in part from the cavorting game-play of two headed beast we usually refer to as the Democratic and Republican Parties,in part from the equivocations of the Executive Branch and, completing the triumvirate, the expectations and (yes!) hopes of the public at large. It is an unholy convocation abundant in recalcitrance, rife with division and replete with unwieldy suppositions. In such inclement conditions, politicians seek out the usual anondynes and busy themselves in a flurry of bill proposals to fix what ails, that which may curry favor and insure reelection; the President and his clerics launch raucously into the gray water depths of policy, attempting to reconstitute the mantle of change which gave rise to his assumption of the regal purple of seal of office. And the public fractures into splinter groups, each staking claim that they represent the true interest of the American people. It is all a colossal spin, chocked to the gills with regret, recrimination and despair.
Lost in the helter-skelter are the simple facts of how this situation came to be and what needs are immediate. We consign ourselves to complexity, neglecting what we learned in mathematics as wee tots: all large fractions are reducible to their constituent elements.
Divorcing and divesting the emotional and psychological angst which understandably plagues the current conditions, we can stand on the precipice and see what is necessary.
First, if a free market is desired, the banks and financial institutions should have been allowed to fail. Period. No crocodile tears of remorse should have moved the iron manacles of government regulators. After all, if theory is correct, other more capable institutions would have come into being and subssumed these bastardized organizations; and all would be right with the world. Correct?
Now if we accept that there is no pure free market and these crises are cyclical - especially when commingling and cosiness between interested parties is not rebuffed by federal regulators - the government should recall its accountability is to the citizens primarily and act accordingly. Distribute money to those directly in need and still hold them responsible if in their decisions they have aided in the creation of these affairs. Did the banks engender this all by themselves? No, of course not. In fact mortgage brokers bear more than a little of the onus and the citizenry by burying their heads in the sand and borrowing on assets they did not possess were in collusion as well. Consequently, all must sacrifice.
Likewise remedies must be smart and proportionate. Neither the President nor the Congress can create jobs. The hue and cry for tax cuts to enable and encourage companies to hire more workers from the evergrowing till of the unemployed serves only large corporations. The majority of Americans are employed by small and medium businesses. What is requisite for them now is access to capital, and with banks not lending rigorously the lifeline for them is at a trickle. Foreclosures yet loom, and a legion of Americans are next in line to be thrust on the street. Why not legislate with a bit of thought and force banks to renegotiate loan terms based on current market value? It saves the banks the cost of foreclosure and retains for a tremulous public their residences without forgiving them their culpability. This should be the hour of clarity and commonsense or it will be a millenium of bitter sorrow.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
One sometimes feel it peering around every corner. Seated in a cafe, resting in a theatre or just in conversation with family, the ubiquitous presence is a pestering pressure, a constant reminder of what crouches in the shadows. We hear it in the discourse of our peers, colleagues and friends; it perambulates the corridors of our thoughts, rises shrilly from the throats of our children and admonishes brusquely in the utterances of our parents. With authority it issues orders from the professional cloak of our bosses, commanding and terrible, pillaging confidence and plundering acumen, raping certainty into oblivion. The media conveys it, tickertape-fashion, in a bubbling stream, challenging all we thought we knew and brutalizing the prostrate form so bloody and bowed as to be near annihilation. Politicians rail in polemical screeds, seeding the wells of government chambers, planting spores and fertilizing disquiet. It mocks us, pierces the soft tissue of our flesh and extracts a sanguine weal, beading our breasts with a ruddy, embarrassed glow. Ministers declaim its power from the pulpits weekly, and lash us with the brand of our sins. And when we lie abed, trying to fall into the darkness, into the feathery arms of sleep, it dogs our breaths and quickens the heart. What is this creature of such unimaginable horror? What harpy alights and savages comfort? It is judgment, the instrument we wield and deny. Our pain stems not from those external sources which we readily give causality and blame but our own internal experience and the yardstick of judgment which we use to measure it.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
describe, detail, define
the line which separates
you from me, idea from actuality;
characterize, construe, convey
the intersection dissecting
inner from outer, nature from artifice;
depict, delineate, differentiate
the borders circumvolving
one country from another, brother from brother;
construct, chronicle, communicate
the cubicle abscinding intimacy
singularity divorced from plurality
heart from the soul, spirit from body
creating distinction in some dark corner,
some inchoate cell apportioned from the collective
Saturday, February 13, 2010
You are invited to submit an application for a heady but mysterious position with the cryptic corporation known as the Concern. Against a backdrop of economic and societal collapse, the very underpinning pillars of country and kin obliterated in the Great Downturn, the Concern offers a sirenic sinecure to a select individual from amongst the hordes of multitudinous candidates. If chosen as a finalist you will be conveyed to the Compound where the irrevocable evaluation will ensue with unknowable nuances, and you may be elect enough to ascend the pinnacle, master the tasks and be saved from the ravages of an uncertain future in the chaos from which you have emerged. Such begins the play The Position currently running at the Off-Market Theatre in San Francisco.
The next layer is the shedding of singularity and identity, a stripping of the epidermis which the applicants have borne for the totality of their existence to this point. Exuvation of clothing initiates, followed closely thereafter by the imposition of an alphabetical assignment displacing given names. This reduction to bare essentials, decoction of former selfness, is reflected in the minimalism of the stage sets and heightens the emotional intensity of all subsequent action; and the scantiness has the opposite effect of making something which appears at first blush to be insubstantial - inconsequential props, threadbare dress, the controlled tension of the players - in reality immeasurably significant, transforming nugatory elements to quintessential portions of the play’s bodily composition. There is profound depth beneath the skin and it rapidly reveals itself.
The panoply of personages fuels the furnace of the transpiring events. A Faustian HR Consultant is the puppet-mistress (Lady MacBeth, did you say?) who dangles the fatalistic carrot before starving supplicants who have come to prostrate themselves in hope of the saving grace of the Concern. She advises them to make no assumptions and invites them to engage in whatever behaviors they deem fit, to give vent to passions and emotions as if on a stranded, paradisiacal island. One cannot help but summon up the ghost of Lord of the Flies in an updated adult version. All the applicants are aware of is that they are being surveilled. Will their commitment be questioned, their worthiness judged and found wanting? Hope is inglorious, not the thing which “perches in the soul” but the awl used to rip out your eyes and steal vision: hope wielded as a sword of despair over the benighted and benumbed reeling from the abandonment of government and left to the manipulative intrigues of corporations. This vacuum creates the perfect tableau for the welling up of all the baseness of human nature, and these newly minted children of the alphabet meld into their milieu with rage and savagery which ever lurks in the heart of our darkness.
The Position provides an excellent exposition on what happens when the boat is only big enough for a few. The actors are crisp, polished and focused; the direction is unrelenting and the story so compelling that you are inexorably drawn in and almost forget to breathe as the contestants vie, each in their own way, for the shining medallion. As with London’s People of the Abyss and The Iron Heel, the characters possess a freshness which means any of them could be your neighbors, your friends or family, and are equally crushed under the weight of their devastation and ambition. Yet surprise remains in play. Even the Concern cannot anticipate everything which may occur; and where there is frailty in human nature there is also adamantine strength. In the end, one comes to know that the meat factory is constantly in motion, the gears always ready to grind fresh meat and make ubiquitous burgers which we readily consume as we ourselves are being consumed.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Greek tragedy, universally and almost by definition, centered around the disquieted lives of the wealthy and nobly engendered. When one considers the works of Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides all of the protagonists (and antagonists) are either in the direct descent of royal lineage or closely approximating some familial relation to such status. This was a central concern for Arthur Miller when he was penning Death of a Salesman: that tragedy, like all other occurrences influencing the human condition, extends its province to the affairs of conventional men and women. In Luis Alfaro’s Oedius El Rey, he “millerizes” – yes I am engaging in that pastime of making a verb of a proper noun - Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and reweaves the panorama of this ancient drama, retaining and distilling its essence; casting it with renewed vigor in the midst of Latino culture and thereby making it a staged version of a fanfare for the common man.
With minimal props and inventive directing at the Magic Theatre in Fort Mason, Oedipus El Rey debuts with flourishes which invoke the classical elements - a chorus echoing the Grecian tradition of strophe, epode and antistrophe, the hubris of mankind, the oracular vision – but add a new system of poetry steeped in the Chicano tradition – the Sphinx becomes a bruja, the elders of the community curanderos. It is a transfiguration which embodies the age old question of kismet and destiny. Whereas this is answered unerringly in the original (Oedipus is fated to his doom from birth), Alfaro revivifies it for his audience. This Oedipus may or may not come to his doom through freedom of will. Much less shrift is given to the avoidance of predestination and much more imbued in the arrogance of men drunk on power. And there is multiplicity in that also: all of the inmates of the prison from which Alfaro’s Oedipus emerges have self-styled themselves gods and demigods, and this blustering audacity – the acts they commit from its wellspring – is their undoing. Certainly fatalism is part and parcel of the tragedy but the striking note in Alfaro’s symphony is solipsism and the isolation this indulgence visits upon those who partake of its libations.
Above all, Alfaro makes it approachable. Even if one is not acquainted with Sophocles and has never heard or read the tale of his Oedipus, this El Rey is knowable. Creative touches in direction further amplify and balance out the amazing voice of the writing with significant attention to details; from the synchronicity of the chorus and the oracles to the light-hearted wedding ceremony to the confrontation between Creon and Oedipus to the passionate love-making between Jocasta and Oedipus, the play breathes and pulses. (An aside – The singing of “Always and Forever” brought me back to those halcyon high-school days and I found myself singing along).
Critically, there is one other theme which surfaces and is tied like a flower in bouquet to the whole of the production. Respect for one’s elders, and their life experiences is found wanting in the soi-disant god El Rey. Because he will not listen, he will not hear, he is the author of his own fate and the captain who takes his ship into stormy waters to circle endlessly without berth or port, literally and figuratively blind. Alfaro reinforces for us what we know, even when we choose to forget: Destiny is what we make through our actions and choices.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
I caught wind of one the arguments being proffered by the lawyers defending California's notorious Proposition 8. It runs something like this: the primary purpose of marriage is for the procreation of children. The judge in a pretrial hearing indicated that he had performed as his last marriage a ceremony for a couple that were 95 and 83 years young, and inquired if this should not have been done. Of course the answer is obvious and even the lawyers advancing the foolhardy notion were quick to assert that he should have married this venerable couple. Besides the fact that in no point in the history of marital relations in this country has ANYONE ever been asked whether or not they intended to propagate or spawn anything beyond the unifying love of two individuals, logically you do not need to marry to beget. Is not the basis of the law suppose to be logic? Naturally, the reason for such a moronic statement is to find some narrow corridor to disqualify gays, much like the past notion that was utilized to indicate that Blacks were not quite human. I pray that Justice is not so blind as to be infected with this idiocy.