Tuesday, May 21, 2019

MUHLAYSIA BOOKER R.I.P.

I didn't know Muhlaysia Booker personally. But her death has broken my heart in so many more ways than even the deaths of close friends and family members. Because she embodies all that I have written and demonstrated and fought to defend in the struggle for equal rights for all.

Not only was she obviously a beautiful young woman, but a transgender woman of color, the most likely segment of our population to suffer violence at the hands of mostly men, but unfortunately often with the support of some women.

Muhlaysia suffered an excruciatingly violent beating not long ago that was captured on video, which I find impossible to watch all the way through and even only seconds of watching unfortunately inspires in me a violent response, including fantasies of vigilantism, like beating the beater to as close to death as humanly possible. Now, Muhlaysia has been found shot to death (not that long after the beating, but after the beater had been released from jail!).

The police at the moment I'm writing have no suspect in custody, nor as far as I know have they announced any suspects (the beater has disappeared, which should create some idea of who might be a likely suspect). The saddest aspect of this for me is that the men beating Muhlasyia and the women egging them on were, like Muhlaysia, African-American.

The deep-seated fear and disdain and even hysteria that too many men and women have in response to transgender women (and men, but women in particular), is too often reinforced by just about every social norm as expressed in entertainment and news (how often do these murders, let alone beatings, appear in any news you pay attention to?) and everyday conversations and interactions.

Time for a broad movement to defend and support transgender women.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

THEN

a favorite photo of my first wife Lee and me just after we married in 1964,
I was 22, she was 21, and we'd only met once in person before we married,
though we'd been corresponding since we met at 18 and 17...
this was in Washington state where I was stationed in the military inland,
but friends, a college student couple, had spent their student loans on a boat we were visiting

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

ANOTHER FAVORITE OLD QUOTE

"...human affairs still continue to be the consequence of mistakes, misunderstandings, and myths."  —William Saroyan (from Days Of Life And Death And Escape To The Moon)

Monday, May 13, 2019

FYI

On this Saturday, May 18th, I'll be one of the poets reading from 3:30 to 5PM as part of The Music City Festival put on by The Free University of Orange at the HUUB, 35 Cleveland Street, Orange NJ  

Also on the same day, May 18th, but at 7PM I'll be reading my poetry, and Rachel E. Diken will be reading hers, at ANT Bookstore & Cafe, 345 Clifton Avenue, Clifton NJ

Hope to see you there (and/or there)

Sunday, May 12, 2019

HAPPY DAYS TO ALL

This has always been my favorite photo of my mom, taken in the 1920s before I knew her (I came along in 1942, the last of a brood that began n 1926 the year after she and my father married), but the same eyes I still see in my mind when I think of her, and she passed in 1966, on Mother's Day (or the night before) the way I remember it.  I had been away in the military for the previous four years so never really got to talk to her as an adult, the way I later wished I had. So many questions left unanswered and things left unsaid. But from my side, I still talk to her in my head.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

ALMOST SEVENTY YEARS AGO

my three oldest brothers and me c.1950 when I was 8
the friar (the oldest of my siblings, Tommy, soon to be Father Campion)
and the next oldest Jimmy (who we called Buddy) in the white shirt
had both been in the military at the end of "the war" (WWII)
and both had attended college on the G.I. Bill
and both were hip musicians ("reed men") and I adored them,
the third, for some reason known by his middle name Robert,
would soon enter the army, and then become a teamster and later a cop,
he was my tough guy hero as a boy,
all three long gone now,
(between them were two sisters, Joan, also gone, and Irene, still with us
and a brother, John, who died as an infant)
and then me looking angry, probably because
I wasn't looking as sharp as them, forced to wear the pants our grandmother
(who lived with us)
made for me,
and she probably made the shirt as well,
which I could not complain about without hurting her and I would never do that  

Saturday, May 4, 2019

KENT STATE AND JACKSON STATE MASSACRES

Today is the anniversary of the killing of college students at Kent State in Ohio in 1970. Eleven days later on May 15th 1970, there was another massacre at Jackson State in Mississippi. These two events were turning points in the anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights movements, emblematic of the disproportionate force the authorities were willing to use to stop young people from organizing against an unjust war and racism. I have a poster we made from these two photos somewhere in my archives that hung on the walls of my homes for many years with the message: NEVER FORGET! I haven't. [And yes, those are police bullet holes in the Jackson State photo.]


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A HUMBLE SUGGESTION


Every month is "poetry month" to me, but in these last minutes of the officially designated "Poetry Month" I thought I'd make a pitch for buying my latest book published one year ago, Another Way To Play: Poems 1960-2017, a selection from a lifetime of poetry. If you already own a copy, buy one for a friend (here's a link to the distributor), and if you like it add a review somewhere online or off.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

JOYCE JOHNSON'S THE VOICE IS ALL

I've been a fan of Joyce Johnson since 1983 when she published MINOR CHARACTERS, a memoir about being Jack Kerouac's girlfriend during the two years in the mid-1950s when he went from obscurity to overwhelming fame. It was so insightful and fair-minded and concise, it made other books about Kerouac and The Beats seem sometimes overdone.

THE VOICE IS ALL came out in 2012, but I only read it just now after finding it in an old used book store I had never been to before. Reading it returned me to the pleasure books first gave me. I didn't want to put it down. But then, I'm still a fan of Kerouac's writing and spent a lot of my life collecting his books and those about him.

I know some who loved him once and feel they've outgrown his work and now see it as an adolescent taste. But the poetry of his prose as well as the struggles he went through in his life and the challenges he was often defeated by still resonate with me, and this book of Johnson's, THE VOICE IS ALL, explains for me why. She sets the record straight in ways that answer a lot of my own objections and caveats concerting the realities of Kerouac's life and writing.

She begins by explaining that she wrote it because she had been interviewed for other biographies and studies of Kerouac and/or "The Beats" and had not liked the way her words were misquoted or taken out of context or used to score points she disagrees with. She wanted to tell the truth about Kerouac and his work as she saw and experienced and researched it. And she does just that, and much more.

She only covers Kerouac's life and work up until 1951 (though she refers to later incidents and writing to back up some of her points) when as she sees it (me too) Kerouac found his voice, the one that changed not just the course of American literature but American culture and more. She gets to the heart of it, starting with the fact that Kerouac grew up speaking and thinking in a form of Canadian French that impacted his life and work forever.

There's a lot more I could say but I'll leave it at this: If you are a fan of Jack Kerouac's writing, read THE VOICE IS ALL.  

Thursday, April 25, 2019

THEN

One of my favorite family photos. Unfortunately our brother Buddy isn't in it, but that's my mother, my oldest sister Joan, our maternal grandmother Dempsey, my oldest brother Father Campion (Tommy growing up) and my sister Irene, with my father down front his hand touching his two most troublesome children, me about to be, my brother Robert just becoming a cop and about not to be (troublesome that is) anymore, on Snyder Avenue in Belmar NJ summer of 1953?

BEYONCE'S HOMECOMING

HOMECOMING, Beyonce's Netflix documentary about her 2018 Coachella performance that celebrates the culture and traditions of black colleges through music and dance is it. Brilliant. If you aren't impressed and impacted by the dance, music, discipline, female power, and unique celebratory spirit of the performances and movie making, your soul is in deep freeze. All hail Beyonce (and all her collaborators).

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

CAPERNAUM

This Oscar-nominated film (Best Foreign Film) got kind of overlooked because of all the attention (deserved) to ROMA. But CAPERNAUM deserves to be at the top of a lot of lists for awards as well. The story of a mistreated little boy (his guess is he's twelve though he has no papers to prove it) in a family that defines dysfunction and a world that defines neglect and abuse, yet who survives despite all.

The artistry of the moviemakers, including the actors (some of them first-timers), had me thinking it was a documentary at first, or totally improvised, but it's a well-made story that works so well it breaks your heart and then mends it a little. So well worth watching.

Monday, April 22, 2019

EASTER OUTFITS

I had never seen this photo until my cousin MaryLynn posted it yesterday. It's me in the hat, next to MaryLynn, her sister RuthAnn, and their late brother David. They lived next door so all four of us were in each other's houses or yards or lives a lot of the time growing up. This is either Easter of 1955 or 56. I was proud of that outfit because I bought it all myself on earnings from a newspaper route, made me feel like a man, though I was either twelve or thirteen.

Friday, April 19, 2019

LYRA MCKEE R.I.P.

I didn't know her, but wish I did. Another tragic victim of gun violence gone too soon. This time an Irish journalist LGBTQ activist. This shite is so unfair, it dwarfs the supposed and warped politics behind most gun terror, whether personal or group inspired. Too feckin' sad.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

THEN

As I understand it, this shot was taken by Stanley Kubrick in the mid-1940's, when I was a boy. There were many attitudes and laws and situations of that time to protest against, but it's the world I was born into and the styles (clothes, cars, etc.) of that time still bring me comfort when I see them in an old movie, or photograph like this one.

Monday, April 15, 2019

UNLEASHED (2016)

UNLEASHED (the one released in 2016, not earlier films with that title) is a perfect example of light entertainment. Writer/director Finn Taylor creates a silly romantic comedy to basically showcase the actors in it, especially the star, Kate Micucci, whose sweetly appealing character and surprising screen charisma make space for the rest of the cast to do their thing.

Sean Astin, never a disappointment in any role, is one of the actors that make it worthwhile. As are Steve Howey and Justin Chatwin (from SHAMELESS). But everyone's great in this pleasant little bit of escapism about a single woman whose pet dog and cat turn into almost ideal men.

If you're looking for a diversion from reality's disappointments, check it out.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

HEDY STRAUS'S OFFERING

Every month is poetry month to me (and Black History Month and Women's History Month and etc.), but here's the first poetry book I read that was published in 2019 and have been meaning to recommend. I didn't know Hedy Straus's work until her brother John gave me OFFERING (Sugartown Publishing) as a gift thinking I might dig it. And I did, and do.

She had me at the first stanza of her first poem ("I Am"):

I am from the sacred heart of Jesus
buried deep inside a kreplach
I am from jelly donuts after mass
on the way home from shul
I'm from matzoh
and the Irish soda bread of affliction
I'm wandering in the desert
looking for my catechism class


That poem, and others, go on to further delineate Straus's combined ethnic and religious heritage and histories and what it means to come from that as, among other things, a woman, a lesbian, and a poet, all articulated clearly, often lyrically, and most satisfyingly. OFFERING is a delight.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

ME & MY SIBS

me & my siblings c. 1943
top row third oldest, William (but we called him by his middle name Robert)
oldest, Tommy (after ordination known as Father Campion O.F.M.)
and second oldest, James (we called him Buddy)
first row my oldest sister, Joan,
my second oldest sister, Irene,
(there was another brother John who came next but died in infancy)
& me
(Irene and me the only ones still alive)

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

BATHTUBS OVER BROADWAY

BATHTUBS OVER BROADWAY is a really fun documentary well worth watching to the end. It's about Steve Young, a writer for the now defunct DAVID LETTERMAN SHOW, who developed a collector's obsession for the music written and performed in "industrials"—in-house shows and films made for companies to inspire and energize and especially entertain their workers and/or sales force et. al.

When I was acting in films and on TV for a living, it was common knowledge in "show biz" that "industrials" paid well, often better than most acting gigs. As is pointed out in one scene, a show for I forgot which corporation but let's say Ford cost 3 million to make while at the same time let's say MY FAIR LADY was being put up on Broadway for half a million.

Though plenty of stars did these shows, and several are in this film, a lot of the performers and songwriters were unknown to the general audience, which is what Young ends up wanting to correct and does in some of the most delightfully funny and/or poignant scenes I've seen in any film. I suggest definitely checking this one out.

Monday, April 8, 2019

SEYMOUR CASSELL R.I.P.

Once you saw Seymour Cassel in person—or in a movie or on TV—you never forgot that face. I first met him in New York in the 1970s as I remember it. But had seen him in films ever since 1960 when he first appeared on film in SHADOWS, his buddy John Cassavettes' (the godfather of independent cinema in the USA) first film. So when I ran into him in L.A. later I knew who he was.

He knew who I was too, and though he started right in making jokes about various and notorious aspects of my love life, we became instant friends. Every time I saw him he'd do his best to burst whatever bubble I was in about my latest  companion, using his wit and personality to win whatever competition he saw us having. And I never pretended to be half witty as he was, which I know made him happy.

Here's one example of how he used his wits to his advantage. We were both in the film WHITE FANG around 1990, though we weren't in any scenes together so were not on location in Alaska at the same time. But when I drove out to the valley one sunny L.A. day to do some "looping" for the only scene I was in, I was surprised and delighted to find Seymour was still doing his scenes.

For those who may not know, "looping" is re-recording dialogue after a movie is made. It requires some skill to match your words as your film character is saying them while you're in a sound booth watching the scene as it plays out on a big screen. I got to watch Seymour do a scene with little written dialogue, but every time his character's mouth was turned so the audience couldn't see if he was talking or not, Seymour would add more dialogue on the spot.

Whether he'd prepared this ahead of time, or just thought to do it in the moment, I was struck by the brilliance of enhancing your character with more words than were written for him. The young woman who was running the session, and was the only other person there, pointed out his embellishments to Seymour suggesting he do the dialogue as written. Though I don't remember his exact words, he somehow convinced her, in fact flustered her, into allowing him to do it and let the director decide later.

I haven't seen the film in many years and don't remember when I saw it if Seymour's improvising was cut or not. But I totally understood the sound person's confusion. Seymour could convince you of almost anything. Or confuse you. Once he and I were auditioning for the same character for a TV show and while waiting were talking when my name was called. As I got up to go in, he made some joke about me and the role I was being seen for and I was so thrown, I couldn't shake it until I was well into the audition. When I came out I gave him some shit for it, but it only made him laugh as he was called in and of course got the role.

I was happy for him when he gained wider recognition and even more stand-out roles in later years. By then he'd become a little more merciful toward my slow witted attempts to save myself from his much more nimble mind, at least in Hollywood social situations. And in fact in my last years in L.A. at the end of the last century, he became very sweet and gentle with me and made it clear he was sorry to see me go.

He was an amazing character who I feel blessed to have been friends with though unfortunately I haven't seen him in many years. I hear his recent years were challenging so I'm glad he's at peace, though I am certain his spirit will continue to make mischief wherever it is.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

ONCE AND STILL

My old friend Tom Wilson took this shot of me in 1972 or '73 when I was 30 or 31, in front of the clothes line outside the house I rented for me and my family that turned into a "commune" for other Civil Rights, anti-Vietnam War, Women's Movement, and Gay Liberation Front supporters and activists like me until it evolved into a lesbian feminist commune and I moved out (Madame Binh, on the t shirt, was an icon for some us then [click on the photo to enlarge]).

Monday, April 1, 2019

GIRL

GIRL is a controversial film and not an easy one to watch, but for me it is such an amazing work of art, I'm glad I saw it. Brilliantly directed and co-written by Lucas Dhot, the performances are all good but the lead, Victor Polster, is incredible. The fact that Dhot and Polster are not trans and it's about a young person at the beginning of transitioning has caused some understandable criticism.

But the movie and Polster's performance have also received accolades from some transgender activists for realistically telling the story of one young person's struggle with the challenges of being transgender. There's a scene at the end that some find most objectionable, and it isn't easy to watch, at least not for me, but it is one that was created to make the point of the struggles a young trans person faces even in a supportive family (a single father and other relatives who accept the transition) and society (Belgium).

The woman whose story this was based on, the dancer Nora Monsecour, approved that scene and the movie. I'm open to any input from those who have seen it.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

INTERNATIONAL TRANSGENDER DAY OF VISIBILITY

In honor of International Transgender Day Of Visibility, here's a photo of the first Transgender woman I had a crush on, Candy Darling (R.I.P.), and a more recent and still living icon of Transgender courage, power, and poise, Janet Mock.

Friday, March 29, 2019

AND


my two oldest kids, Caitlin and Miles, in the early 1980s, our early years in California

Thursday, March 28, 2019

A favorite photo of me and my youngest, who is 21 now so I'm guessing this was about 11 years or so ago at a reading I was doing at KGB Bar (with Terence Winch) in NYC (photo probably taken by Star Black). Oh to be in my sixties again.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

AQUAMAN

AQUAMAN made a lot of money. After watching it the only conclusion I had was that Jason Momoa is so damn charmingly appealing that his screen charisma and magnetism that kept me sticking around through one of the most badly written, directed, and edited (and scored) movies in recent memory, overwhelmed good taste, or any taste.

If anyone watching this flick has any idea of who's who in any battle scene or why a viewer should care, don't let me know cause too late. I love Mamoa and hope to see him in better vehicles for his star qualities. I feel like he should switch to whoever managed The Rock to his series of predictable but at least enjoyable movies.

And what did they pay Nicole Kidman and Willem Defoe to add their star quality to this giant bungle. And poor Amber Heard, miscast and outmatched by those three. And how unwoke is having the only "black" characters be the evil criminals?! And et-endlessly-cetera. Deeply disappointing for this viewer.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

ANOTHER LIST!

My post-brain op complete absence of my compulsive list-making seems to be abating almost ten years later as this morning I woke up and involuntarily started making a list in my head of favorite women writers, here's what I came up with (and I'm sure I'm leaving out many, including friends, so please feel free to make suggestions for additions, but this is still amazing, to me), I alphabetized it too (mostly in my head as I was doing it):

Angela Lockhart Aronoff
Barbara Barg
Anne Beatts
Eve Brandstein
Lee Ann Brown
Theresa Burns
Kate Chopin
Lucille Clifton
Wanda Coleman
Nana-Ana Danquah
Ann Darr
Tina Darragh
Yvonne de la Vega
Jane DeLynn
Emily Dickinson
Rachel E. Diken
Diane di Prima
Lynne Dreyer
Maggie Dubris
Elaine Equi
Mindy Thompson Fullilove
Joanna Fuhrman
Martha Gelhorn
Barbara Guest
Bobbie Louise Hawkins
Susan Hayden
Barbara Henning
Caitlin Lally Hotaling
Deak Hotaling
Mello-Re Houston
Zora Neale Hurston
Patricia Spears Jones
Beth Joselow
Stella Kamakaris
Martha Winston King
Joanne Kyger
Lee Lally
Annabel Lee
Audre Lorde
Phoebe MacAdams
Bernadette Mayer
Lady Murasaki
Merilene M. Murphy
Eileen Myles
Elinor Nauen
Alice Notley
Paula Novotnak
Maureen Owen
Trace Peterson
Holly Prado
Margaret Lally Queenan
Muriel Rukeyser
Jean Rhys
Adrienne Rich
Jamie Rose
Sonia Sanchez
Maria Sarrano
Ally Sheedy
Patti Smith
Gertrude Stein
Hedy Straus
Cecilia Vicuna
Diane Ward
Carrie White
Rebecca Wright

Monday, March 25, 2019

CHUCK LA VALLEE R.I.P.

I knew Chuck before he was a music industry success. We met in 1983, just a year after I moved to L.A. when I was forty-one and he was just out of his teens and getting his life together after some rough years. We worked together on a play (me one of those on stage, him backstage, as I remember it—am I getting that right?). He was a striking looking young man with a wise ass sense of humor and a dedication to his friends.

I wasn't a close friend, but when we ran into each other over the years it was always a treat. The guy was funny and for real. Last time we connected I think it was over FaceBook, before I made my last trip to L.A. for a reading this past December. I didn't know about the struggle he'd been going through with his cancer and he was so sweetly apologetic about not being able to make it, I felt like a dunce for even bothering him about it.

My heart goes out to his family, and to all who knew him. May he rest in the kind of joy he brought to the world.

[PS: Here's a link to the Billboard obituary.]

Sunday, March 24, 2019

REPRIEVE

This is what I was needing, not the words but the voices, two of my favorites.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

ANOTHER LIST AT LAST

As some of you know, my blog posts were mostly lists for years because of a compulsion I had since childhood to constantly make lists in my head from morning til night, especially when trying to fall asleep (as well as in conversation, my poems, etc.). But I came out of the brain operation, ten years ago this coming November, with not just the compulsion gone, but I couldn't even make a list if I wanted to or was asked to, at least not without the help of the Internet or my bookshelves etc. But the other night, probably Saint Paddy's Day, I found myself falling asleep and making a list of my favorite Irish movies, and in triplets. I'm sure if I used the Internet it would reveal other favorites, but these are what came to me:

The Commitments
Once
Sing Street

The Wind That Shakes The Barley
Jimmy's Hall
The Secret Of Roan Inish

The Field
The Snapper
The Guard

Friday, March 22, 2019

ONCE


This was always a favorite family photograph. The colors and floral patterns of that moment, and in my shirt. [Click to enlarge and see better.] That's my oldest brother, who we called Tommy until he became a Franciscan friar and took the name Campion, standing to my right. And next to him in the white tee shirt my second oldest brother Jimmy, who we called Buddy. And leaning down in front of him is William, who we called by his middle name Robert, the third oldest and a cop at the time. Sitting in front of him his wife Marie, we called Sis, and to her left Buddy's wife Catherine and their first child Cathy. Behind her is my mother Irene, known as "big Irene," and next to her her mother, my Grandma Dempsey. Down front in white and the pixie haircut, my oldest sister Joan. And behind her my sister Irene, known as "little Irene." And sitting on the edge of the couch my father James, who most called Jimmy, circa early 1950s. All are gone now except me, my sister Irene, still going strong at eighty-one, and Sis, still going strong at ninety. Time. Sigh.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Today is the anniversary of Brendan Behan' passing, a writer at the top of my favorites since I first read him in 1960. Behan died of his alcoholism on this day in 1964. I was in the military at the time and used the excuse of one of my favorite writer's death to go on a drunken binge that lasted a few days, but thankfully later that same year I was led to a solution for my uncontrollable drinking so didn't suffer the same fate.

Here's a brilliant tribute to Behan and his life and work by Terence Winch on the Best American Poetry blog:

Monday, March 18, 2019

ONCE UPON A TIME

Here's a photo my dear old friend Bobby Miller posted on FaceBook earlier of me in he says 1987, though I think it's closer to 1978, anyway he includes it in a series he calls: "The Handsome Talented men series"!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

HAPPY SAINT PADDY'S TO ALL

Something I heard today that I wanted to pass on (and I'm sure I'm not getting the wording as well as the speaker but you'll get the idea). A woman referred to that line in the typical "Irish blessing" where it says "May the wind be always at your back" then she added, "but if it isn't may you know how to adjust your sails."

Saturday, March 16, 2019

W. S. MERWIN R.I.P.

I met W. S. Merwin in 1967 when he came to the University of Iowa to do a reading to promote his new book LICE. I remember Marvin Bell, a poet teaching at the famous Iowa Poetry Workshop, introducing Merwin as "the prince of poetry" and thinking, the man does look like a prince. Merwin was movie star handsome, but came across whenever I was around him as humble and more interested in you than himself. 

Like later that night after the 1967 reading, there was a party at some faculty member's house in "downtown" Iowa City (then only a few square blocks of bars, businesses, and some domiciles), a group of students were on the back porch passing around a makeshift pipe made from an empty toilet roll with a joint in it. I was still relatively new to Iowa City and coming from four years in the military and some street experience during those years and before that in the 1950s and early '60s, so was still too wary to toke weed in public with strangers.

I knew one person there, the poet Robert Slater, and he passed the toilet-roll-pipe to me and I just passed it on to Merwin without imbibing. We talked poetry and anti-war politics which I was very active in and I felt respect and appreciation for the guy. Five years later, in 1972, I was living in DC but visiting New York with a fellow activist in the "gay liberation front" that I was working with, and entering his apartment building in the West Village, we ran into Merwin, who lived in the same building, and as my friend introduced us, Merwin said "I remember you Michael, we met in Iowa City on that back porch where you were the only one not taking a toke from the marijuana being shared"—or words similar to those—and I thought wow, this guy has an amazing memory, and was struck again with his humility and generosity of attention.

I only saw him a few times over the years, but admired the man and the poetry. He had a good long run with many rewards and accomplishments, but will still be missed by poetry lovers everywhere.

Here's a wonderfully poignant later (2005) poem of his I love:

THANKS

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is




Thursday, March 14, 2019

SOME WOMEN I LOOKED UP TO IN MY FIRST YEARS

The women in this photograph taken during WWII were the main influences on my early years. Starting on your left, my Irish immigrant grandmother Lally who lived down the street, my Great Aunt Allie who would move in with us a year or so later, my sister Joan, (next to her our cousin Rod who lived next door and behind them our two oldest brothers Tommy and Buddy), my grandma Dempsey who would move in with us not long after this (in front of her our cousin Mickie who lived down the street, my sister Irene, our third brother Robert and our father in the fedora), my mother (with me in her arms) my Aunt Peggy who lived down the street, and Aunt Mary who lived next door.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

I'M NOT HERE and JUANITA

Did another double feature yesterday, this time two unexpectedly unique films, starting with I'M NOT HERE, a 2017 film I missed, which should have had a best actor nomination for J.K. Simmons. It's a small film, mostly confined to an old alcoholic's apartment—directed, edited, produced, and co-written by Michelle Schumacher. Most of which she does very well for my taste.

It won't be for everyone, and while I was watching it there were times when I thought it wasn't for me. But despite how uncomfortable some scenes made me, in the end it satisfied me, and not just for Simmon's performance. It may seem a little heavy handed in its use of the philosophic/quantum physics quandary of the Schrodinger's cat challenge, but ultimately, as I keep flashing on the film throughout my day today, fitting the pieces of the puzzle together and feeling more and more impressed, it worked for me.

JUANITA just came out on Netflix, and I've had access to that lately so jumped at the chance to see the always extraordinary Alfre Woodard. And JUANITA—even with an amazingly delightful cast—is all hers. (But just to mention two of the outstanding other performers, LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Ashlie Atkinson, the latter played the KKK wife in BLACKKKLANSMAN and is so transformed here I didn't recognize her).

Woodard also produced JUANITA, along with her husband Roderick Spencer (full disclosure, I've known them since my L.A.days), and Spencer also adapted the screenplay from a book by Sheila Wilson. Directed by Clark Johnson, there were times when I could have jumped for joy just with the unique use of a variety of filmic devises.

JUANITA is a delight, a story unlike any you've ever seen, though with elements you have. For one, the leads in JUANITA and most of the supporting actors are either African-American or Native American, and the combination of those distinct groups filling up any movie—let alone dominating the story and scenes—would be a bonus, but in one as fun as this it's a kind of movie heaven for me.

Don't miss this one.

Friday, March 8, 2019

MATERNAL LINEAGE

My mother, her mother, and her mother
in the 19teens before women could vote,
though they were all politically active.

AND THIS

Some more photos from the February 17th wrap and fundraiser (for Rachel E. Diken to finish the documentary on my poetry and life) party (taken by Daniel Purkis):

my two oldest children, Caitlin and Miles
Katy, Gabrielle, and Cynthia
John and Matt (two drummers)
Abi
Michael
my niece Jennifer and me
Lilian
Lori and Erin
Karyn and Norman
Violet and Wendy
Eric, Rachel, me, and Annabel
my youngest Flynn
Flynn and me
David, Norm, and Richie
Don, me, and Akrim
Tatiana and Rachel
Susan and Matt
Karen and Lisa
Richard, me, and Mary
Jeanne and Sue
David and Rachel
Jeff and Norma