If you’re happening across this website and live in either the Minneapolis or Racine area, I hope you’ll come out to hear me read. I’ll be reading from The Fugue and talking about the artist’s role in a fascist state.
I’ve had the pleasure and honor of reading together with Roger Reeves on a few occasions here in Chicago. I think you’ll appreciate what this poem does to you.
cymothoa exigua*: the tongue as what it is not—blemish
and parasite: gimp and glottal stop: what question can be
answered with a truant mouth: can the lynched man hung
from the sails of a windmill taste the lead pipe wedged
between his lips: when the signifiers dangle, empty chum
lines in a cold creek: when the men in Waco, wearing white
straw hats, fraying at the crisp edges of their white shirts,
leave Jesse, leave John, leave Paul in ashes in the unpaved
streets to choke passing mules into prophecy: when we pinch
our noses to staunch the smell of the twice burnt black man
burning for a third time this day: when the boys, sweet
and good animals, come to what’s been left in shallow ditches:
false rib and femur, clavicle and severed hand—quite simply,
the language of sorrow: glyph of the gadfly rooting himself
into the rotting meat of the dead: when it is too late
to refuse our bodies being made urns: corn, unharvested
and heavy in its husks: when, in the marketplace, the butcher lifts
our tongue from a bed of ice, shouts: who will speak for this flesh:
when the tongue answers as all severed tongues do:
Cymothoa exigua is a parasitic crustacean that attaches itself to the tongues of spotted rose snappers and extracts blood from the tongue until it atrophies and falls off. Then the parasite attaches itself to the nub and acts as the fish’s tongue. According to scientists, the fish is not harmed in the process.
Photo of Roger Reeves from the Whiting Foundation
I missed a few days due to some matters I won’t get into. My apologies. I hope this beautiful poem by Rita Dove makes up for it.
We were dancing—it must have
been a foxtrot or a waltz,
something romantic but
rise and fall, precise
execution as we moved
into the next song without
stopping, two chests heaving
above a seven-league
stride—such perfect agony,
one learns to smile through,
being the sine qua non
of American Smooth.
And because I was distracted
by the effort of
keeping my frame
(the leftward lean, head turned
just enough to gaze out
past your ear and always
I didn’t notice
how still you’d become until
we had done it
(for two measures?
that swift and serene
before the earth
remembered who we were
and brought us down.
Photo of Rita Dove from Wikipedia.
This May and June I’ll be leading a trip to Berlin, a city I know well and love dearly. This is an opportunity for anyone in America to escape for a few weeks and engage a cultural tour while spending time in one place which we will get to know intimately.
When I planned the trip, some people criticized it as offering “too little”. What those people had in mind was the typical two week trip that tours multiple cities and whisks people from one end of Italy to the next. Honestly, I feel those kinds of trips offer “too little”. You hardly get to know a place, and before you’ve gathered your bearings you’re in some other town you’ll only recognize from photos.
I’ve always preferred travel to tourism. The difference between these concepts? Travel allows you to immerse yourself in an alternative point of view, to see yourself as others see you, and to shift from just visiting a place to feeling like you’re a part of it, even if that part is foreign or strange. It’s surprising how little it takes us, actually, to shift from feeling foreign to sensing the intimacy of a city, and few cities are as welcoming as Berlin.
This trip was originally tailored as a college class, and the website still features from of that language. I’ve decided to extend it to the general population for a variety of reasons. Participants will get to go to Berlin with a writer, a speaker of German and a person who knows European art, literature and culture intimately. It’s a great way to spend two weeks in May and June.
Check out the details here. The vendor is Walking Tree Travel. The price includes airfare, accommodations, daily breakfast, a transit pass, a museum pass, several tours, a concert and an unforgettable experience. Come with a friend.
This one from William Edward Burghardt is short and sweet and relevant:
Either America will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy America.
Chicago, my next appearance is tomorrow at Seven Deadly Sins. This is a great series. Every reader takes one of the sins, and because it’s Valentine’s Day, there will be plenty of sex and love and heartbreak.
I’ll be reading about Greed. Of course, I’ll have books to sign and sell. Hope to see you.
Cafe Mustache, 2313 N Milwaukee Ave, 8:00 PM