Spring Time Blues

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It’s that time of the year once again
when the leaves are sprouting from the trees
bees buzzing on the budding blossoms
and the weather has me feeling awesome
until you come along.

Sometimes you’re with a group of friends
in the park or the end of my sidewalk
gawking at me as I cross.
Other times you’re coming out of a store
or lurking on the corner alone
it really doesn’t matter though
because your tone
is always the same:

“Hey baby, looking good.
I wish you would
sit on my face,
give me a taste.”
Or you make some perverted sound
with your mouth
some grotesque gesture or movement
with the intent to get my attention.

Or you yell from across the way,
“Hey beautiful, wanna make my day?”
and you expect my dutiful
reaction to be, “Awww thank you.”
And maybe I’ll throw in
a few giggles or a grin
just to prove the state you put me in.

But if I choose to ignore you
or worse yet, reject your advances
your stance is no longer sugary sweet,
it changed to anger and hate in a heartbeat.
“Bitch. You’re ugly anyway.
There’s no way I’d fuck you.”
Aww well now I’m really upset
because the whole reason I got dressed
was so I could walk down my street
and hear you say shit to me.

You think you’re a man because you stand
in the street yelling obscenities
to any piece of meat or ass
that happens to pass by
all just to prove to your friends
that you really can
get the attention of a woman.
Or may it’s to compensate for–
wait, let me not stoop to emasculate you
you’re doing that own your own, boo.
Or maybe your intention is just to work
so you have something to jerk off to
at the end of the day.

But it’s all a just a power play
and, anyway, we see right through you.
You really think your catcalls
make me want to do you?
Honestly, when you ask me
to sit on your face
you really expect me to say,
“Sure, name the time and place?!”

No, all you want to show me
is that you own me
and that I owe you gratitude
for your attitude of “sweetness.”
But get this,
I owe you nothing.
You don’t own me
any more than you own this street
or this air or this sidewalk or these stairs.

Grow up, have some respect
women aren’t objects.
You should have learned that by now
and, anyhow, what would your grandma
or mom or sister say
to hear you speak to women this way?

So next time you see me coming
and you really want to something,
swallow your words,
savor their bitter flavor
do us all a favor,
and don’t.

DSC_0547_905

An image from Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s art series Stop Telling Women to Smile.

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An image from Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s art series Stop Telling Women to Smile.

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An image from Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s art series Stop Telling Women to Smile.

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An image from Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s art series Stop Telling Women to Smile.

Save the Apology

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Since April is Sexual Assault Awareness month I am going to share a couple of poems I wrote last year regarding my experience with sexual assault and sexual harassment. This month also marks nine years since my major suicide attempt which the assault played a large role in. You can read the fully story of my assault on Our Stories Untold (OSU), as well as watch a video of me performing this poem last April. OSU is a wonderful, supportive space where survivors and allies can share stories, cry together, love together, advocate for one another, and hold institutions and individuals accountable. Love, light, strength, and courage to all you survivors and supporters of survivors. You are not alone.

* * *

“We’ll do better next time.”
“We’re so sorry.”
It’s the same apology after every
heavy indiscretion, forced confession,
by one of their own comes into the light.
After nights of lurking beneath the surface
the lip service they now pay
is a way to diffuse the “issue,”
“Here honey, have a tissue.
But please don’t ask us for empathy
or accountability, assistance,
in this instance our hands are tied
we had no idea the monster he was inside.”

Nobody wants to admit fault
when it comes to sexual assault
and the ways in which its downplayed,
displayed, smoothed over, pushed under
the rug, “Oh she was on drugs,
wore something too short, too tight
she’d been drinking that night.”
And so what if she was,
so what if she did?
Let’s stop the shaming
that is victim blaming by naming it
for what it really is:
your own fear that you may have just fucked up
or been found out
so you raise doubts
about her character and actions
in hopes that the factions
it creates will shift the focus on her
and not your bogus excuses for the abuses
she suffered at your hands.

You bet on your friends and institutions
to come up with solutions for your absolution
and you counted on her silence
to somehow equal compliance
with what you did.
But you didn’t count on this.
You didn’t count on the power of her voice
to rock the earth to its core
to toss waves onto the shore
her emotions calling up a tide
as deep and wide as any ocean.
You didn’t count on generations
of her people to create a nation
from every corner of creation
to undergird her, surround her,
ground her in her truth and boldness,
they hold this
with her when she can
and for her when she can’t.

You may not ever admit or even say
that what you did was rape
but that does not make
my truth any less sacred or true.
I told you “no” and you chose
to silence me with your vocal blows
and the power of your body over mine.
And when I confronted you that time
to find out why you did it
your response was,
“How could I have raped you if I didn’t even finish?”
The fact that you raped me
is not dependent on you cumming
or not
on whether you enjoyed it
or not
on whether you thought
I enjoyed it.
It’s about what I consented to
and you knew
that you didn’t get my yes
which is why you choose to profess
and protest the rape you committed
in such rage and lividness.

And I hate to admit to me
that I have to see your humanity
is somehow connected to my own
but, my God, my being groans
at the thought of it.
I’m enraged and I want you to know it
and I show it because I’ve held it in for far too long
it doesn’t belong inside me
where it festers and burns
turns me into someone I don’t recognize.
Your lies will not bring my demise,
oh I’ve thought of suicide
on the worst days
and been dazed and depressed on the best
but you won’t get the rest
of me
I’m setting you free.
Be gone.

And for those who hid your actions
and caused distractions
from the truth,
I have words for you too:
I’m calling bullshit
on your counterfeit lines.
Don’t do better next time.
Do better now
so next time
won’t be allowed
to happen.

We can do better

Where Were You? (When the World Was Ending)

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Where were you when the world was ending?
When the world was ending,
where were you?
When people were dying,
their waterlogged bodies drying
out on some distant shore
while scores of others crossed the sea
all fleeing, desperately
believing,
hoping,
beyond all hope,
that leaving home,
or at least the bare bones
they used to call home,
would lead them somewhere warm,
somewhere safe,
any place to place their feet
that would greet them with open arms.

Where were you when the world was ending?
When the world was ending,
where were you?
When the sky burned red,
as red as the blood from dead
bodies clogging distant streets
whose names you would never read
whose faces you would never meet
but you would treat
as if they were monsters
or terrorists, the lists
of their sins and the sins of their kin
spill from your sanguine lips,
you hypocrites who applaud bombs,
saying those would bring calm
and peace,
ignoring peoples’ most basic needs.
Need I remind you that bombs
are no balm for these wounds,
spoons full of remains
cannot sustain hungry screams,
streams of blood
are no flood for dry mouths,
mouthfuls of prayers
cannot repair what you’ve done.
And who can say that good has won
when one and all
are responsible?

Where were you when the world was ending?
When the world was ending,
where were you?
When the cracked, dry earth
produced no water for thirst,
no food for the worst
hunger, our earth no longer
a home for us
because we failed to trust
what she tried tell us for so long.
How wrong we were to deny her
and now here we are,
clinging to her scarred remains
and all that remains are wars
for what little spoils are left
and whoever has kept score
knows we have all lost.

Where were you when the world was ending?
When the world was ending,
where were you?
When all the world’s ills
spilled onto your doorstep?
Did you step around them,
send them elsewhere,
pretend they weren’t there,
declare them not your problem,
cling to your doctrine?
Did you push it all away
until the day you
became one of them,
their problems turned out to be yours
and it was you knocking on doors
that no one answered?
It’s easy to keep the world
at arm’s length
when you feel your strength
is unmatched, unsurpassed,
and that you all amassed
will keep you from succumbing
but your time is coming,
and it won’t be until your world is ending
that you’ll finally start remembering
where you were.

boat refugees

Image from The Telegraph’s A Refugee’s Christmas Carol.

True Beauty

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I remember being a child
with wild and wide eyed imagination
in utter fascination with my mother
and all the other mothers
and grown women in my life
who I wanted to be like.
I couldn’t wait until I was old enough
to wear deodorant or makeup
or, most important of all,
an actual bra.
But the day when I could shave
would certainly mark the next phase
though the little hair on my legs
was barely displayed
I begged her to let me start shaving
because behaving in that way
was something grown women do
and for all I knew
a smooth body was the sign of womanhood.

I remember being in sixth grade
gazing in the mirror, elbow raised
where wisps of hair splayed
from under my arms.
Armed with a blade
a pit in my stomach gave way
to what must be done.
Just earlier that day
at rehearsal for the Christmas play
a classmate who had the part of an angel
lifted her angelic limbs
and the sin of having underarm hair
caused classmates to stare
and snicker, laugh, point,
anoint her with nasty words
that couldn’t even be heard by her
from where she stood.
By I could.
And I would remember them.

I remember being sixteen
still a novice at the dating scene
and barely comfortable in my own skin
let alone with who I was within.
I wore a bikini that summer
for the first time in years
finally overcoming the fears
of what others may say or think
of my body,
what I knew of as a commodity,
for the visual consumption all who saw it.
I remember the flush of red
when he pointed at my upper thighs and said,
“Eww you don’t shave your bush?!”
The whoosh of embarrassment I felt
pelted me like summer’s first rain
and the pain of realizing his disdain
drained me of any confidence
or self-worth I thought I had unearthed
just moments before.
It had never even crossed my mind
that anyone would find
the hair down there to be repulsive
and, after that moment,
shaving it became compulsive
my body became a source of shame
and the game of modifying
and commodifying it
took on full reign.

Growing up it was so rare
to see women proudly displaying body hair
that we would call them revolutionaries
or anarchists,
gender bending nonconformists,
or eccentric artists.
The very notion of an unaltered physical form
being so far from the norm
we had no idea what to make of it.
And maybe they were those things
which is great
but why do we associate or speculate
that unmodified bodies
represent some sort of oddity?

And I can’t forget to mention
or bring attention
to the hair adorning our heads
and the ways society has said
what is considered good hair
enough hair
too little hair
too rough hair
too slight hair
the right hair.
So we look at what’s there
and loathe what we have
and crave what don’t.

A friend asked me recently
if we have ever even seen
what our bodies really look like
without any of the plucking or waxing,
the tweezing or other means of extraction.
Have we ever taken a moment
to simply look at our bodies in utter awe
and atonement for all the
groans of growing
for all the ways of knowing
that live inside our bones,
the microphones of our voice box,
the tick tocks of our heart’s clock,
the softness of our bellies and thighs
the windows of our eyes
the sighs of our breath
and the rest of our glorious figures.

When will we get to the place
where we could not care less
if we or someone else was hairless
or hair full, careful not to assume
based on what we presume
to be the standards of beauty,
or hygiene.
It’s not our duty
to assess someone else’s body.

So at the end of the day
it’s not really my place
or the place of others to say
which way is the right way
but what I can say
is that your body is yours
to adore and explore
and what you choose
to do with it is up to you,
not society or propriety
or prying eyes of girls or guys.
It’s what makes you feel good
and that should be understood
as true beauty.

Drawing of a woman in a skirt with leg hair

Courtesy of artwhoring’s Instagram page

Drawing of a woman shaving her face

Courtesy of New Women’s Movement tumblr page

An Open Letter to My Period

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Menstruation,
the red current,
that time of the month,
dripping with red honey,
painting the town red,
riding the crimson wave,
a visit from Aunt Flo,
whatever name I call you,
I want you to know,
I hate you.

Now, now before you start crying
(no, seriously, I’m still drying
out from your last visit)
I must insist you hear me out.
It’s not about you personally,
It’s me.

Fuck it, I can’t lie, it’s you.
I remember the first time you showed your face,
it was in health class of all places,
and I rushed out to the bathroom
feeling utterly doomed and dismayed
too ashamed of what someone might say
to ask for a feminine product.
So I stuck a wad of toilet paper
in my underwear
and staggered back out there.

It took me several years to figure out how to stop you,
contain you, and I still can’t help but blame you
for every time I’ve checked the back of my pants for stains
for every basketball game you interrupted
for every eruption when I thought you were done
for every one of my underwear you destroyed
for every joy you turned to perpetual fear
for every tear your cramps brought full force
for every intercourse opportunity you blocked,
shall I go on?

Period, you embarrassed me one too many times
like when I first tried to insert a tampon
on that camping trip with my family
and, calamity of calamities,
I had to tell my mom I couldn’t get it in.
And instantly she asked me,
and I quote,
“Are you putting it in the right hole?”
Period, she asked me if I put it in the right hole!
How many holes are there?!
Do you know how terribly embarrassed you made me?
Even more than when she
made me talk about the birds and the bees!

Now, let me calm down
because somehow
someone will try to use my distressing
as an excuse to accuse me of PMSing.
And the only thing I hate more than PMSing
is someone accusing me of it.
It doesn’t matter if I actually am
because, dammit, that nonsense
is sexist and I will not stand for it.

And speaking of things I won’t stand for,
men who refuse to get me tampons from the store!
“Oh you’re embarrassed to be seen
with my feminine hygiene products?
You poor thing,
and here I thought I had it rough
having to shove said products up my crotch
about twenty times a month.”

And speaking of monthly,
you have to know how unfair and disparaging it is
to bleed out of my vagina
once a month for decades
on the off chance that I may one day have a baby.
Why can’t you just be like a kitchen sink
that I just turn on when I think
I want to become pregnant?
But no, that would be much too easy
and appeasing
and we both know you’re a tough woman.

But so am I, Period.
And I guess I owe some of that to you.
You taught me that blood
is a flood stronger
than most any force on earth.
You taught me that I am the earth
because the blood from my womb
is connected to the tides and the moon
and the wombs of other women.
When we live in close proximity
we begin to bleed in community,
a sisterhood of beauty,
synchronized and dignified
and ready to supply the next generation.
Women are the arbiters of creation,
and ain’t that some kind of power?

And, Period, I have to thank you
for reconnecting me to my body.
Oddly, I’ve separated the physical
from the emotional
from the mental
and it’s been detrimental to my health.
But you’ve brought me a wealth
of knowledge by showing me
that all things are cyclical
and that my cycle links me to something biblical
and holy.

You taught me that while I bleed
freely from my nether regions
enduring legions of cramps
and waves of nausea and tears
with fears of leaking on my clothing,
I can go out without anyone knowing
the fountains flowing within me.
That’s why women are a mystery,
a form of poetry,
we hold the secrecy,
of a thousand moons
within our wombs
and still do what we need to do
making it true that women are master jugglers
and multi-taskers.

And I have to ask,
why do we even call you Period?
There are a myriad of other punctuation marks
like comma or semi colon or parentheses,
any of these are much more fitting
because you are not an ending,
you are a beginning.

And I realize that you’re a force
that cannot be ignored,
a metaphor for the woman I want to be,
freely me, uncontained,
unconstrained, unashamed, untamed,
naming my truth and plotting my course
with a force so unstoppable,
it’s not possible to control.
Yes we find ways to hold you up,
like with my beloved Diva Cup,
but those are only temporary measures,
that you’re sure to get around
and find your way through.
And I guess what I’m trying to say to you
is that maybe the reason I fight you,
why I insist I don’t like you,
is that I am more like you
than I want to admit.
There, I said it.
I guess when it comes down to it,
we’re like sisters, you and I.
And that means we’ll fight and cry
and try as I might to deny you
you’re part of me.
After all, you and me, we
are related by blood.

 

Red ocean wave

The Rush, The Whisper, The Reckoning

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It never looks the same
yet it remains the same
at the same time.
At times it starts slowly
the way fog preys upon the night
creeps over the deepness,
undetected,
until by daylight
it’s collected
everything into its damp, dark clasp,
grasping greedily for more.

Sometimes it sneaks up on me
the way a chill rises up the spine
one vertebrae at a time.
It arrives without warning or a heads up
and before I know it I’m down
and out, unsure of how I got here
or there or how I even got out of bed.
Instead my head is inundated,
saturated with the ever hated
echoes of worry, doubt, fear,
tears threatening to resume
the familiar trails and mazes
they’ve blazed down my face.

Sometimes it takes the form of a gentle whisper
stirring beneath the surface
of my conscious mind
finding its strength and power
with each hour that it feeds upon my own.
“You could end it all now,” it sings,
brings a calming peace with each
breath, it etches, sketches
“suicide, suicide, suicide”
into my very bones,
coincides with my own
desires to take that blade
and score my flesh, pores,
the voice implores me to consider it
like I’ve considered it so many times before.

It shows up as the distinct memory
of that time someone called me
those God-awful things
the wound still stings, aching,
the pain keeps pulsating
I feel like a small child
swirling slowly on the swings
wishing for wings
anything to take me away
to keep reality at bay.
Dazed and confused
intent on making dusty circles
with my shoes in the dirt,
the hurt rising in my throat
like a boat on the ocean
the emotions hard to control.
And the familiar refrain
replays in my brain:
“You are nothing,
you are nothing,
you are nothing.”

It comes and goes in spells,
inexplicable wells
of sorrow and grief
no remedy or relief
can begin to assuage.
Instead it pervades every inch of my being
seeing any opportunity to pounce
any ounce or thread of hope pulled
until it completely unravels.
It travels the routes of my veins
making a dark map of the pain
as it moves inward and outward,
words cannot begin to pinpoint
where it began
and when it will end.

And then just as quickly as it comes
it goes, departing like the ghost
that it was.
It’s finished its haunting,
its taunting for now.
The fog begins to lift,
drifting once again into the abyss,
making space for the light to resume its place,
dry the tears on my face,
replace the aches and groans in my bones.
I reach down into the dirt
to retrieve my weary wounded soul
hold it softly between cupped hands
that land at my heart’s center.
All the while whispering,
“You’re safe now,
you’re safe now,
you’re safe now.
Come home.”

My People

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I’m starting to share some of my older poetry on my blog now. (I say “older” but I didn’t actually start consistently writing poetry until about a year ago so “older” is relative). I wrote this poem last April, largely in an outpouring of love for the Nook for Rhyme Crooks poetry group that gave me life and confidence to start writing and performing my own spoken word pieces but also out of love for beloved communities I’ve been a part of throughout my adult life (looking at you West Philly Mennonite!).

My People

My people are full of questions
never satisfied with first impressions,
or yes or no answers,
advancers of accountability
they see room for improvement,
movement, evolution, revolution
in any and every institution,
searching diligently for solutions
to life’s most complicated problems.

My people are imperfect
and a bit of a mess
sometimes letting the stress
of life get them far from their best
but never down for long.
My people are strong
even if they don’t always feel it, reveal it.
My people hurt and bleed
too full of compassion to be freed
from the pain that comes from
loving someone
or some thing so much
that just a soft touch
or word can bring on the water works.

My people feel
and they feel deeply
from the tips of their toes
deep breaths through their nose
the emotion flows
from their innermost parts
where it imparts wisdom
and direction.

My people are of the dirt.
Mud cakes their knuckles, fingernails,
trails from their boots
molds around their souls,
holds their bare toes.
My people don’t shy away
from what others may say
is too messy or raw or unrefined
they are defined by digging deep down
into the ground,
knowing that from the earth
all life is birthed.
My people put in work.

My people are ones who know the struggle,
exist in the struggle,
resist in the struggle,
whether it’s theirs to juggle
or in someone else’s bubble.
My people know that the fight
is never just ours or yours or theirs
to bear alone;
the struggle is our own.
It may look different for me
than it does for you
or those two
it doesn’t really matter who
because we’re all in this together
to weather the storms of this system
that we exist in
fully cognizant that simply having good intent
does not mean the outcome may not get bent
or cause harm,
that’s when we ring the alarm
of accountability and honesty.
And, honestly, it comes from a place of love,
knowing that the work goes above
and beyond what any one person may do.
It’s not just about me
and it’s not just about you.
It’s about coming together to form us.
So when I talk about my people
and all the things we may be capable
of doing and being
I look out among all of you
and it’s my people I’m seeing.

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The featured image for this post is a drawing by a professor of mine of me first performing this poem.

 

More Than Enough

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Taking a break from angry, post-election poems to share a love poem.

* * *

I remember all those years ago
watching you come and go.
My sisters and I would disappear
when we’d hear
the slam of car doors in the driveway,
signaling that you and your friends
were on your way inside.

But you were my brother’s friend,
a dead end, forbidden fruit,
and, besides, you were older,
super cute, Supertones,
and way out of my zone,
too cool to take notice of your friend’s
school-aged sister.

But imagine my surprise,
the summer when you were 29,
I went to my brother’s going away party
partly for the chance to see you,
hoping you’d be there,
and there you were.
And, my gosh, you looked as good as ever,
as clever and witty and unwittingly
charming and disarming me.
What a mystery you were and still are.

I almost blew it so many times
right from the beginning
my spinning mind
and lack of finesse
combined with utter awkwardness.
I thought I didn’t stand a chance
but you gave me that second glance
and there’s been no looking back.

And it turned out
you were just as awkward–
now, before you say another word,
remember that first kiss
when I could smell the Listerine
on your breath
and all those books fell on our heads
the second my lips touched yours?

That’s what made me sure
you were just my type of crazy
and maybe we could be something.
Between you breaking coat racks,
and getting attacked by unsuspecting
furniture that obscures your walk,
and all that talk about smoothness
when you can’t take Communion
without making a mess
like the one you made that time
when you spilled the frozen fries
on the grocery store floor?

But I’m the one who slams her phone
in car doors
and moves through life like a boar
in a china cabinet,
and you never let me forget it.
I’m the one who can’t use a kitchen knife
without slicing her fingers,
the one who lingers
too long in the passing lane,
and complains way more
than she should.

But, my love,
we make one heck of a team,
don’t we?
And, baby, I still think
you’re way too cool for me
but now I see you’re just as clumsy
and way more nerdy
and I love that about you.

I love your deep belly laugh,
the way it catches you by surprise
and the way your eyes
can never stay open in pictures.
I love your steady presence,
the scent of your skin,
and I hate how you always win
when we play games but,
at the same time,
I know I wouldn’t want to lose
to anyone else.

You got me to read Harry Potter
and listen to podcasts
and acted like you liked the books
I suggested even though
you never finished them.
And when I’m depressed
or upset, way too out of control
or barely holding it together,
you help me weather it all.

You, with your feet on the ground
and mine in the clouds,
we’ll meet in the middle
and that’s how we’ll walk this path,
giving a little
and laughing a lot,
and even if we’re all each other’s got
that will always be more than enough.

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The Master Puppeteer

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The puppeteer and his puppet
up late drafting executive orders
to close up the borders
deport “foreigners,” build fortresses
to insulate the nation-state,
to silence the scientists
and anyone who insists and claims
that climate change exists,
to reverse the stoppage of pipelines
and cut funding for maternal lifelines
across the globe and here at home.
Forget the system of checks and balances,
the balance of the scale tilts in our favor
as long as our erratic behavior
distracts from our grab of power.
Quick, sign these at the 11th hour
then slip behind the closed doors
to carry out even more
dangerous and secretive orders.

You see, behind the smoke screen
of the angry, knee-jerk tweeting,
the master puppeteer
jeers and smirks as this president,
his new apprentice and student,
implements his sinister policies.
Distract the masses in the cities
with all these atrocities
and, as they take to the streets,
gut State Department offices
and force officers to resign.
Assign me to the National Security Council
not an ounce of lead in your pencil
will touch the page
without my sage advice and wisdom.

Congress is like putty in our hands.
See how they stand with us now
when they vowed during the election
to go in another direction?
They have no will or backbone
and will condone any Republican
simply so they can keep their positions.
And Democrats too,
they know they have no power to stop you
so instead of casting a symbolic vote
against your nominees
they’ll do as we please for the ease of it.
Continue to instill fear of defiance,
either their silence will equal compliance
or they’ll soon change their tune
and start singing your praises.

Keep attacking the media and the press.
It’s best to misuse fiction and fact,
this tactic will keep the masses confused.
Keep using conservative and far right outlets
to spout alternative facts
so our base remains on our side,
pacified and fired up at the same time.
Continue that tried and true strategy
of turning the masses, angrily
against each other.
Smother dissent and disagreement
and cement our grand achievement
of reviving white power,
gazing out from our ivory tower,
on these great divided states
we have successfully created.

These first weeks will be the test
to see if people continue to protest
and object our policies
or if maybe they will ease off
and stop calling their representatives
and senators,
get discouraged, feel unheard,
stop spreading dissenting words,
stop urging their fellow citizens
to stand in every way they can
and get with our nationalist program.
Once they stop their futile demands
we will maintain a strong command,
as long as the master puppeteer
can continue to commandeer
the puppet in his hand.

puppet_strings

Lady Liberty/Here You Are Free

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I can’t stop writing; I cried writing this.

. . .

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Or, on second thought, maybe not.
Take these tired and poor
and shut the door in their faces,
put them in their place,
it’s certainly not here.
Those refugees you speak of,
what regions do they come from?
Are they brown-skinned and Muslim?
Were they born into war-torn countries?
If they are these types of refugees
we have no use for them here.

You see,
our fear drives us these days
makes us behave in ways
our white ancestors did
when they tried to rid this land
of its rightful inhabitants
the indigenous people
who we still treat as less than equal
whose very existence makes us recoil,
“Let them drink oil!”
we cry, because the genocide
of old never really ended,
it’s simply extended in more covert
and sinister methods.

And the institution of slavery
we embraced for hundreds of years?
That’s still here too,
it too morphed and changed
the chains now more sophisticated,
the method now metal cages
and we still blame the rage
of black and brown faces
on their race and biology,
never acknowledging the racism
wrought within our economy,
psychology, institutions, foundations,
the very soul of this nation.

And let’s not forget the internment camps
that held thousands of Japanese Americans
for no other reason
than the “treason” of looking like the enemy.
So we took children and families,
and herded these like cattle
waging a battle against our own,
against the flesh, blood, and bone
of our fellow Americans
who emigrated, like us, to this land.

And now we look at the Mexicans,
which is what we call all Latino men,
women and children
because we do not actually care
where they came from
or what their nationality is
only that they exist in our midst
and we don’t think they should.
And if we could,
we’d deport them all
“Let’s build a damn wall!”
Make it as tall as the sky,
as wide as the southern border,
restore this nation to its proper order.
What’s more American than that?

And all the while lady liberty
screams in pain,
turns her face away from these shores
and implores us to reconsider.
We are better than this,
though past and present say otherwise.
But the tides are changing,
can you not feel them?
The cries of hate and lies
are at this moment being defied,
can you not feel them?
The people are marching,
can you not feel them? !

Throughout the tides of history
there has always been
and must always be
a strong undercurrent
of resistance.
For instance, the abolitionists
fighting for the end of slavery,
the Freedom Riders and their bravery,
the war resisters, pipeline protesters,
civil and gay rights leaders,
bleeders and sweaters and criers
who laid their lives on the line.
And the current time
beckons us to be on the right side,
the side of justice and mercy,
of love and acceptance and liberty,
of righteous anger and humility.

Pick up your torches,
you statues of liberty,
flood the shores of your city
open her doors wide
so all may come inside.
And together we will cry,
“Give us your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
Welcome refugees, here you are free.
Here, you are free.”