REVOLUTION IN THE MIRROR: Review of My Second Self-Published Book of Poems: Political Poems for the Androgynous Soul
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
I painted the cover to this book while looking at myself in the mirror, strung-out on Adderall. It was sometime last summer. And don't get me wrong. Just a few weeks ago I was doing something similar in a bar in North Philly. Then, I took a shit. As I was on the toilet I kept hearing a banging on the door.
"I'll be right out!"
I took my time.
They kept banging on the door. But I needed time.
"I'LL BE RIGHT OUT!"
I was being rushed. Demands. To Do Something.
I felt high-er. I felt embarrassed for having to open the door right after I released my bowels.
Carefully, I opened the door. There stood four absolutely beautiful Puerto Rican women dressed from head to toe in sparkly, shining with dresses and high heels, makeup, and hair done up just right, perfectly.
Then I realized I'd been in the women's bathroom.
They all gaped at me. It probably smelled something terrible.
Humiliated, I ran out the side door to the bar. My friend was there. Still, the girls were staring at me through in the window in disbelief.
"I think I left the bag in the bathroom..."
I ran down the street like a cocker spaniel.
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See, the thing is. About growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, over in South Jersey. I saw some shit.
I saw friends die. I saw them make bombs. We were only kids.
Then, we grew up. (Supposedly.) We went to house parties and got drunk. We left and crawled into bed, drunk. When our parents asked where we'd been and called each other to confirm that we'd all lied and said we'd been at each other's houses.
My father came into the bedroom I shared with my brother. (Michael Myers.) He smelled my brother's breath.
He came to smell mine. No booze. He looked at me, suspiciously.
I was smart. I ate vanilla ice cream to cover up the smell.
* * * 6 * * * 6 *** 6 * * *
When you watch your friends die it never really goes away. When you see someone you love struggling it hurts. When you're rubbing the back of the person you love and she turns over and grins at your concern for the fact that she is losing weight from the drugs she's been taking it kind of fucks with your head.
Somehow, you move on. After years of pain. You get to a point in your life when you don't dwell on it anymore and you just have to live with it. Everything that the world is ... millions of years of evolution to keep killing each other ... so the National Guard can protect the Mall of America.
*** 6 *** 6 *** 6 ***
I've also encountered a trust-fund baby who was twenty-five years old and her father paid for her ritzy Rittenhouse Square apartment -- she had two beds -- and I had none and nothing save her. She was the craziest woman I'd ever met in my life. And I loved her.
She was prescribed Lithium. When my mother first met her she wanted to know why she was so laid back. I told her.
"Oh. That makes sense."
My mother works in the Pharmaceutical Industry. Market Street, out there by the Liberty Bell.
The girl. She also was prescribed Klonopin. I noticed that she was careless with her medication. And I took them at times when I felt like I was under too much pressure to live up to her father's expectations. Like a coward. I couldn't tell her.
She was also prescribed acne medication. One time she had a tiny hair on her chin. I told her. She ran away, humiliated.
She came back to me on the couch with her eyes fully luminescent, worried as always. I couldn't believe how beautiful she was.
That was when I knew.
I had to get my shit together.
*** *** ***
She was also prescribed birth-control. (When we dated.) A long time ago. But I still think about it sometimes.
The beauty that gets covered up with pills.
When we were younger in my hometown I grew up with friends who occasionally had political conversations. Usually, those conversations took place when we were hammered, drugged up, stoned. Hiding away from society, getting away from reality. Making and creating our own, in a strange way that didn't make sense.
I can remember talking about politics with two friends in the back of a pickup truck. Or in somebody's backyard. Before a concert. In living rooms and basements.
As I got older, I noticed something about these conversations.
That's all they were.
I guess I wanted to write a book of poems about politics because I couldn't hold it in anymore. To have these conversations, endlessly.
And that's where I ended up.
Smoking weed, my friend on the chopping block. His friend passes the joint, she's talking about how much she loves smoking weed.
It goes to politics.
EVERYTHING'S FUCKED. WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE. THIS COUNTRY IS DOOMED. WHAT'S EVEN REALLY THE POINT OF LIVING ANYMORE?
JUST WAIT TILL THESE FUCKING AMERICANS START HAVING THEIR WATER POISONED.
The city of Philadelphia took weeks to repair the water main break out on my street. It took threats to my landlord to get him to fix my heat and leaky kitchen ceiling.
Now I think about planting something on the second-story roof. I'm up on the third floor. I told my father, months ago, about wanting to put solar panels up here.
"Yeah, but one thing. It's not your property."
Could I grow some garlic and hand it out to the homeless?
When I go down to the streets, I'm usually buying beer. I live in a black neighborhood, mostly. People talk about gentrification. I say nothing. I make friends with the business owners who are from India, Pakistan, Vietnam, China, etc. They lend me cigarettes. I make friends with the people who are walking down the street whistling. There's one guy who wears a hooded sweatshirt that says "I CAN'T BREATHE".
I'm angry and full of rage. I'm delicate. Until I start drinking. I dance around. I'm a music freak.
I spent March unshaved, protesting against myself and writing a manuscript about a trip with my father to climb the Caribbean, Pico Duarte. 10,000 feet. I finished it and submitted it. It cost me money and time. That's what I need. Infinite time and space to wrestle with my demons. To become the person I'm meant to be.
I feel like a messenger from outer space. Some distant galaxy. I don't belong here. I can remember being born and being pissed. For the last thirty years, I've barely trusted anybody because of it, least of all myself.
I edited these poems while drinking beer and listening to the Grateful Dead.
I did a spoken-word "album" for my first self-published book of poems. I submitted an ad for it to be in the American Poetry Review.
I've been painting, too. Write and record my own music, still. Why? I don't want to write about sports. I don't want to pay or look pretty for the war machine.
So, on April 1st. I shaved. Washed my hair. (Hadn't washed it for over a week.) Took the day to work on writing, catching up on emails. Leads for earning money with my writing.
When I felt satisfied, I cleaned my apartment. Sorted my bills. Did my laundry. Wrote a 600-word op-ed and submitted it to the Philly Inquirer. It's about my mother's love and how she made me see myself better by setting a good example all her life, getting up every day and going to work.
I'm forgetting that most people want me to be just like them. I'm forgetting that most people are just like everybody else. I'm forgetting that I'm a spoiled toad. I'm full of piss and vinegar. Seething with vitriol.
I wrote an email to apply for a political writer position.
I'm a savior/martyr in my own mind.
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The book begins with a poem about Afghanistan. How many empires have failed there?
you can't sprinkle the Earth with bombs
and expect Walmarts to flower like a shareholder's paradise
The criminals and what they did to Libya. The criminals and what they've done to Iraq. The criminals and what they're doing to Yemen.
The CIA watches everything.
Why are we the ones to decide what happens in Syria?
the androgynous soul means letting go when
you can't when
you don't want
you have to
Smoking a joint and listening to Beethoven.
if Kurt Cobain were a frozen bird
he'd be swooping through this apartment
where the sun brandishes a blue sky
I'm not married
I can't stand commercials
water is water
and the coffee in my cup is god
Training militarized police to crackdown on protesters in the Honduras.
Less reading. No sex.
They keep bombing everything and everybody.
while back at home nobody gives a fuck
because it isn't shoved into their faces from their TV screens
and since I was a tiny little sperm heading for the egg
with my twin brother
I've acted pretty badly
for whatever reason, I identified with these persons
floating in limbo
are they supposed
The President is a liar. Totalitarianism in Egypt.
to see a human being
Terrorism in Saint Petersburg. I'm writing about death.
Two weeks without writing a poem.
While stoned, I watched through my laptop on the internet North Korea's military parade.
I was supposed to be afraid, I guess
but I wasn't
it seemed laughable to me
the entirety of this mess
that was created
before I was born
here we are
The god damn mother fucking Sunday paper.
There's hell to pay. (I spelled Finish wrong.)
it's always been hell
to meld with a planet
I didn't want a part of
the fucking of somebody else
was none of my
so now I'll roll a little
and wait for Brahms
I don't want to listen to the mayor of Laredo.
I don't want to pretend
I wish she was
and that's the line between politics and
a thin scrimmage
between what you want and
what you'll never
unless you fight these bastards
I haven't written a poem for weeks
at least it feels that way
all I do is work now
like everybody wanted me to
and that's the nexus of everything -- to work
"you gotta eat"
that's what I always used to hear
when I was dumb and full of spittle
and in this economy of
who the hell is gonna do
The precocity of youth.
the political hellscape is too tough to analyze
even for a modern-day Thoreau
everything is juxtaposed atop insanity
there is no center jurisdiction for health and happiness
it's all guesswork
the FBI is peppered with fallacies
the Commander in Chief is aloof and TV-obsessed
his daughter is a grinning Stockholm Syndrome of dandruff
and his sons would probably sue the shit out of me if they could
Sorrowful bones. A good lay solves everything.
The world of tomorrow. What can I do about it?
I stopped reading the papers
they're stranded and just sit there -- like I used to do
my heart was in 3.14 million little pieces
spread out from South Jersey to Southern California
now the papers sit on the chair nearby
as I open the windows in the morning and
tell myself: another gorgeous day!
and I'm proud to live in a city
in Philadelphia magazine
in the Philly Inquirer online content, yes
that's where the action is
The President is a dipshit.
my feelings attuned to the reverberations of
the revolution that's slowly entrancing the city with
I got safely home with four tall cans of beer
I sat down to laugh to
I danced with headphones on
it was a Wednesday night
and I was
We have work to do.
there are beer cans here and bottles too
my paintings on the wall and a picture of
and stupid drawings I made when I had nothing to do
and I was everything all at once
I can hear things existing outside
they're all open
and I think about my neighbor, can he
why do I care?
I can't stop this fluttering heart
and I'm imagining myself as the lone observer
who is invisible to most
and I think: what a gift
a phantom in
letting everything enter into my skin
we have to be alive, otherwise
what's the point of