“I beg your pardon I didn’t recognize you—I’ve changed a lot.” ~ Oscar Wilde

When in doubt, Oscar Wilde’s words will always work . . .

 

Saturday afternoon. Partly cloudy and mild, 73 degrees.

Apparently, I have a new follower. And she loves to comment. And she thinks I’m someone else, because apparently anyone using the moniker Lola, must be the same individual. And apparently, I have lots of time with which to run multiple websites.

Cool.

Apparently, this is who I am:

lovelolaheart

I am a writer and have lived in Manhattan for most of my life. In addition to the random musings of my blog, I am presently working on a sci-fi novel, two mystery novels and a book on my saint squeeze, the Archangel Michael.

Man, I wish that I were this busy . . . and I wish that I had as many books in the works as this particular Lola claims to have. But what is up with the Kate Middleton fixation on both ends of this, er, um, dialogue?

Anyway, apparently, Gillian, my new best friend, thinks that I’ll take down her messages. Oh, my. Not for a million dollars would I delete any of this.

Although I have refrained from reverting to editor role and correcting grammar and syntax, I must admit that I just couldn’t help but respond here and there (emphasis and/or responses in italics mine). Oh and, feel free to comment. You guys (all three to five of you) know that I love to get comments.

Enjoy.

Gillian

I want you to post this to your Kate-Hate bitches too, see below:
Although I know you will take down my posts (not a chance) on this and your other crappy websites (would you mind terribly letting me know about these as I must be neglecting them from my dearth of knowledge as to their existence), I have spent – ie. wasted – enough time perusing your self-obsessed, ultimately self-hating whining against other women who have done you no harm. I will leave you to your shameful secret web-mining and hateful group-shaming and bullying posts against Kate Middleton  and other women you have never, and will never, meet. I have a backlog of Veep episodes (I’ve heard this is a really good show) to watch which is a far better use of my time. You will never make it as a legitimate published writer – also remember this crap is uploaded forever and will come back to bite you. You should have stuck to quilling! (what an interesting word, and it implies that I actually may have some artistic talent, which I don’t) You may big-time yourself (is big-time a verb? I’m confused) at Starbucks with your laptop (man, so my other self has a laptop? So jealous), but as you judge, remember most of those “little people” around you think good thoughts, including about a woman trying to do her best to bring good cheer to others. Face it, it is more than you do in your quotidian routine life (love this phrase, perhaps I’ll borrow it). She puts forward her best inner self and actively works on her outer health and beauty too. Since you don’t, you therefore choose to hate her for it. Gosh I’m glad I’m not you! Errhh, this whole web-interaction (were we interacting? Sorry, wasn’t paying attention) has left me feeling a bit depressed that the internet now gives unsuccessful writers, who would never have the talent or resilience to get past the junior editor or press cadetship, a chance to publish their rants. This is why fascism, racism and sexism exist, intolerant and judgemental people like you…(PS. If you can publish anonymously, (um, I don’t publish anonymously; anyone wanting to can see my identity) why can’t I? Hypocrite)

Gillian (I guess she wanted to make sure I really paid attention to this comment, so she posted it twice, but I think that it would be overkill if I were to make the same responses twice.)

Although I know you will take down my posts on this and your other crappy websites, I have spent – ie. wasted – enough time perusing your self-obsessed, ultimately self-hating whining against other women who have done you no harm. I will leave you to your shameful secret web-mining and hateful group-shaming and bullying posts against Kate Middleton and other women you have never, and will never, meet. I have a backlog of Veep episodes to watch which is a far better use of my time. You will never make it as a legitimate published writer – also remember this crap is uploaded forever and will come back to bite you. You should have stuck to quilling! You may big-time yourself at Starbucks with your laptop, but as you judge, remember most of those “little people” around you thing good thoughts, including about a woman trying to do her best to bring good cheer to others. Face it, it is more than you do in your quotidian routine life. She puts forward her best inner self and actively works on her outer health and beauty too. Since you don’t, you therefore choose to hate her for it. Gosh I’m glad I’m not you! Errhh, this whole web-interaction has left me feeling a bit depressed that the internet now gives unsuccessful writers, who would never have the talent or resilience to get past the junior editor or press cadetship, a chance to publish their rants. This is why fascism, racism and sexism exist, intolerant and judgemental people like you…(PS. If you can publish anonymously, why can’t I? Hypocrite)

(Let me pause here for a moment: Gillian, my dear, I have to agree with you on this one: Lola of lovelolaheart does seem to be obsessed with the Duchess. It’s kind of weird, isn’t it?)

Gillian

Anyone visiting this page, please refer to the bitchy envious attacks against someone this woman has never met at: lovelolaheart.com, (I have to admit that I am a bit torqued that this Lola is using the word musings in the title of her blog; that’s my word; I like the internal alliteration) then see if you want to keep reading this so-called “liberal” and “feminist”. She never got over being the unattractive little pudgy girl (um, pudgy now, yes, but in school, a bit too skinny, just saying) from an ethnic background (Filipino. Let’s be clear here) at school, rather than wanting to be the posh Anglo-Saxon prefect (Prefect? As in, you know, one of those students in charge at Hogwarts? Now that would be cool). Show ALL your posts to a psychiatrist and start drinking genuinely good coffee (I happen to like my coffee, Mayorga; it’s strong and tasty) (at the Grumpy Cafe for example where you will feel intimidated by genuinely creative people) rather than spending hours in Starbucks (If I did this, it would mean that I would a) have to leave the house, and b) have the money to hang out drinking Starbucks coffee) pretending to yourself that you are a writer, sneering at the little people.

Gillian

You and your other Kate-Hate friends are all a bunch of hypocrites (I have friends?).You profess to that you are not making envious attacks, that you are concerned Kate Middleton carries out insufficient royal duties, that she is undermining the institution of royalty, that you had to work full-time as well as raise children, that royalty is waste a money and irrelevant. Yet you all (fifteen of you) (wow, fifteen? Really? Are they all named Lola? Where are these fifteen duchess disparagers?) seem to spend hours trawling the internet and blogging comments that are misogynistic, indirectly aggressive (the psych term for bitchy), derogatory and highly critical – despite claiming that you are not at all jealous. (Now I must pause here and be serious for one moment: I’ve been called many things, but misogynistic is definitely not one of them. Perhaps, Gillian, you should look through my posts for the past six years, which, by the way, also serves as a direct indicator that I didn’t start this blog to excoriate the Duchess.) So why do you care? How does it negatively impact on your life? If it doesn’t, why are you wasting your time being a “Mean Girl” to someone you never met in such a cowardly way? You would never, ever say this to the woman’s face, or her husbands, were you by chance to meet her. If you say you would, then protest publicly in your real name with a real address by writing a letter to a UK newspaper – if you don’t have the guts, then why are you wasting your time on this. Maybe you should spend it constructively doing charitable works yourself at a local women’s shelter or playing/socialising with those kids that you had to raise part-time for the hours every week you spend on this drivel. If you are unwilling to show your writings to a colleague outside any posters on this page, then you are exhibiting shame and embarrassment about this activity.(Beg to differ with you on this particular point, only as regards my actual blog: I don’t share my writings with any colleagues because, well, I don’t have any of those any more, not since going out on disability, just my meager little audience here who can attest that I am actually not at all interested in the goings-on of any royals, anywhere.) I can’t believe there are adult women, many of whom have university educations, participating in this exercise in the group-shaming of a young woman who has never committed a crime, never abused a child, never purposefully behaved harmfully towards another human-being (You are absolutely spot on here, Gillian). She wears a thong because if she had a visible panty line, no doubt the press would pick on it (TMITMITMI). She wears off-the-rack accessible clothing and unfortunately, helicopter down-draft caused her skirt to flap for less than a second. She has been photographed behaving with goodwill in an appropriate manner millions of times by now. The travel agent amateur photographers is being ostracised by the local community in the Blue Mountains now because they consider her behaviour towards a young woman generously bringing funds and publicity towards their plight disgraceful. That’s reflects the way almost all people would respond to the comments on this and similar pages you all frequent. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, was what my mother used to quote. (I’ll just let this speak for itself, shall I?) I would say this to each of you to your face. If you can’t honestly say that you would post this garbage in your own name, in full knowledge of your family, friends and colleagues, then don’t waste the world’s and your own time. If you think you need psychological help because you recognise that it is odd to demonstrate so much ill-feeling towards a woman you actually don’t know or have any interaction with, then please get it (I will certainly address this with my therapist at my next appointment, but it will have to come right after my ongoing discussion regarding my response to recently losing my last parent. Priorities, don’t you know). Publish the Blue Mountains Mayor’s comments because they reflect what most people think, not your own mean-spirited musings…. Bet you don’t even have the guts to post this or his comments Lolita (Hooray! You got my name right!). I am going to refer you and other Kate-Hate middle-aged ranters (love this) to the Daily Mail as story material. Your self-obsessed and hateful behaviour is appalling – no wonder you also have a low opinion of yourself.

Okay, now seriously, I cannot tell you how much this collection of comments has brightened my Saturday afternoon. It’s been a very long time since anyone paid any attention to my little blog, other than the few compatriots who lend me a bit of their time by commenting on my relatively inane ramblings. The last time this happened, it was the psycho stalker who was hanging about in the shadows wreaking havoc. That individual chose not to come forth and identify herself, so that makes this little interlude all the more special.

It’s funny, but whenever someone attempts to disparage me, I always think of Oscar Wilde, who, because of his lifestyle, was constantly harangued in the press, yet he chose to respond with wit and wisdom. I only wish that I could be so urbane, but as I am not, I decided to include some of Wilde’s more apropos words.

So I’m taking the following from Gillian’s (I’ve always loved that name) rather heated rant:

  • Lola (of the other site), stole my musings phraseology
  • Said Lola writes a lot about Kate Middleton, none of it very flattering
  • Somehow, that Lola, and my alter-ego Lola have merged to become one.
  • This rather unsettling intermix has resulted in a reality akin to that strange movie Inception.

For the record:

  • I happen to think that Kate Middleton is beautiful and stylish, and her son is adorable, but other than that, I don’t really spend an inordinate amount of time contemplating the Duchess or the royals in any significant fashion.
  • I may be a bitch, but I am never a misogynist, nor am I remotely fascist.
  • Intolerant? Me? Seriously?
  • My aggression is never indirect.
  • And yes, I can be very judgmental (just ask my family), but I am never ever racist.
  • I am in no way embarrassed by anything that I write in this blog.
  • I have never made any attempt to hide my identity, but I choose not to post my full name on here because I don’t want to show up on some pedophile’s Internet search for
    “lovely young Lolitas.”
  • Someone once asked my mother if I was malnourished because I was so skinny as a child. Would that it were so now.
  • Telling me that the Duchess wears a thong is too much information.
  • Who is the Blue Mountain mayor?
  • If I ever were to meet the Duchess (not that that is even remotely likely in this lifetime), I would do the polite thing and call her “Your Majesty.”
  • I have never been called a bully, and I would need to belong to a group in order to participate in group-shaming.
  • You are probably correct in saying that I will never make it as a published writer, except for that niggling little detail that I actually have published a few poems and essays, articles, and a retrospective booklet, just not the mysterious mystery, the plot of which continually bounces around in my brain.
  • Who are these little people of whom you speak?
  • And as far as not making it past a junior editor, well perhaps you are correct; although since I worked as a senior editor that assessment may be a bit off the mark.

Thank you, Gillian. Truly. It’s been lovely.

More later. Peace.

Music by The Kinks, “Lola” (what else?)

                  

Confessions

I once shoplifted
a tin of Vienna sausages.
Crouched in the aisle
as if to study the syllables
of preservatives, tore off the lid,
pulled out a wiener and sucked it down.

I’ve cheated on exams.
Made love to foldouts.
Walked my paper route in a snowstorm after dark,
so I could steal down a particular alley
where through her gauze curtains, a lady
lounged with her nightgown undone.

I’ve thrown sticks at stray dogs.
Ignored the cat scratching to come inside.
Even in the rain.
Sat for idle hours in front of the TV, and not two feet away
the philodendrons for lack of a glass of water
gasped and expired.

So many excuses I’ve concocted to get by.
Called in sick when I was not. Grabbed credit
for happy accidents I had no hand in.
Pointed fingers
to pin the innocent with crimes
unmistakably mine.

I have failed
to learn from grievous error.
Repeated gossip.
Invented gossip. Held hands
in a circle of friends to rejoice
over the misfortune of strangers.
Pushed over tombstones.
Danced the devil’s jig.

Once, when I was barely old enough
to walk home on my own, I hid
behind an abandoned garage.
Counted sixteen windows.
Needed only four handfuls of stones
to break every one.

 ~ Lowell Jaeger

Friday leftovers . . .

                   

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

image

Okay, after spending so much time yesterday culling through bullshit that left me feeling dirty and broken and mostly icky all over, I definitely think that’s time for a bit of comic relief, hence, a leftovers post filled to the brim . . .

An overabundance, a plethora, if you will. Enjoy.

Alternate ending to Tyrion’s speech:

Just. can’t. Nope.

Omigawd . . . Alex Trebek as a rap star . . .

Oh, I love this man . . .

People are strange . . .

More people are strange . . . how do you not notice someone living in your closet?

And finally . . . this is beyond awesome . . .

                   

Music by The Doors, “People are Strange” (what else?)

“When we don’t speak up, we tacitly affirm the ‘whistle’ as a display of manhood. Thus we affirm misogyny and toxic masculinity” ~ Imran Siddiquee

Content warning.

                   

practice violence against women but live with the threat of male violence. Every. Single. Day. All over the world.” ~ Soraya Chemaly, Twitter post

Thursday afternoon. Cloudy and much cooler, 65 degrees.

I know that I’m on a bit of a tear lately, but I make no apologies.

I read a post yesterday about a young woman who was being harassed in school because of the size of her breasts. When she confronted the group of boys, she was groped. When she lashed out verbally, the boys escalated in their behavior. Ultimately, the school officials told here that “boys will be boys” and that she should just not pay attention . . . School officials took no action against the boys, told the girl she was lucky she wasn’t being suspended, and made no report. Only once the student confided in a teacher who then went to security and didn’t back down was something done.

And this really made me pause. Why should females bear the brunt of not paying attention, of ignoring unwanted advances and/or catcalls? Why is the excuse “boys will be boys” such an ingrained part of our culture? I don’t know exactly when it entered my brain that I would not rise to any catcalls, that I would simply keep walking, but at some point it did, and that is how I have always reacted. It’s a socialized female response. But you know what? It pisses me off that this has to be our response. But the truly frightening part is how ignoring such unwanted verbal attention can now morph into acts of violence. I find this horrendous.

Want to know something else I find horrendous, the incredible male backlash regarding women speaking out. Here’s an example: “: I’d like to see more women walking around with cigarette burns on their faces.”

I didn’t just make that up.

 

This, right here, is exactly why we need to continue to have this discussion.

“Women are people and you can’t own ANY people. Also, she owes you nothing. And you are not bigger for demeaning her.” ~ Imram Siddiquee, Twitter post

The clipped image above from a Twitter feed is a prime example of everything that is wrong in this discussion. I made the mistake of tracking down this guy’s feed, mostly to try to determine if his assholiness is isolated to the #yesallwomen feed, but it’s not. His feed is just filled with deliberate baiting, like his pondering of whether or not rapeable has an e, or his discussions of all of the things he wants to do to someone’s *hole. He even jokes (using the term way too loosely) that you can send him rape stories so that he can jerk off, and declares that he’ll “rip through this like some vagina.”

Look, this guy would probably rely on that age-old fallback justification—that he’s just joking, just being irreverent, that women should loosen up and not take everything so seriously. But I would bet my house that if a woman he knew were ever raped, he would go ballistic. But that incense wouldn’t come from her pain; it would come from his sense of power being taken. What men like this don’t understand is that some subjects aren’t joke-worthy. All of his male posturing is just so much bullshit.

Consider this: When was the last time you heard of a man being told to text his friends to make sure he made it home without being raped and/or abducted? How many men do you know who carry pepper spray with them just in case some strange woman tries to drag them behind a dumpster? Do any of the men in your family walk with their keys between their fingers because they were told that keys could be used as weapons?

Will we ever reach a point at which men no longer feel that they can call out sexual advances to total strangers? Will we ever reach a point at which these men realize that unwanted catcalls are not flattering, and that ignoring them is not an excuse to escalate behavior? I doubt we’ll ever reach a point at which subhumans such as the poorexcuse guy will not find it hilarious to make fun of subjects that aren’t even remotely funny.

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women.” ~Maya Angelou

I don’t know that I will see the end of this behavior any time soon, not in my lifetime, and perhaps not in my children’s lifetimes, mostly because so much of this behavior is ingrained in our society—it’s in our faces 24/7, in movies, television, magazines, advertising, billboards, songs, even on our clothing. The female body is an object, and even though that object happens to belong to a person, that person is secondary to her sex.

Her breasts are there for people to ogle. Her derriere is there for people to rub against. God forbid she might be clad in something form-fitting, something short, something tight. Doesn’t she know that by doing so, she’s putting herself out there to be objectified. You know, like a pork chop? Doesn’t she know it’s her responsibility not to cause sexual arousal in total strangers?

Think about this: Maybe she lost 50 pounds and wants to show off her new form. Maybe spaghetti straps are cooler in the summer. Maybe yoga pants are easy to throw on for errands. Just because a woman is wearing a thong, and you can see that thong line, it doesn’t mean that she wants you to comment on her underwear. It doesn’t mean that she wants you to come up and rub her butt. ‘Tis no matter. It’s her responsibility to make sure the males out there don’t get any hard ons. It certainly not the responsibility of those red-blooded males. I mean, no one ever told them that their penises weren’t the end all and be all of their identity.

Please.

We have to do better. All of us. We need to educate our children and our grandchildren, and our nieces and our nephews: it’s not okay to place another person—male or female—in a context that reduces that person to their sex.

We all have to do better.

tweet

“Dear , you deserve zero praise for not being a rapist. Aim higher. The best thing you can do is listen and support ” ~ Jay Wood, Twitter post

Consider this story by Soroya Chemaly, which appeared in the Huffington Post last September:

A man in a car pulled up next to a 14-year old girl on a street in Florida and offered to pay her $200 to have sex with him. Some people would say that’s a compliment. It’s part of being out in society, learning to deal with people, navigating relationships between men and women. Or, at least that what many commenters on articles I write about street harassment think. That or maybe they’re thinking, ‘She must have looked like a prostitute,’ and well, you know.

The girl said no. So what does this guy do? He reaches out, drags her, by her hair, into his car, chokes her until she blacks out, tosses her out of the car and then, not done yet, he runs her over several times . . . What was the Deadly Weapon referred to in the charge I wonder? Given our normatively male understanding interpretation of what is threatening, does a man pulling up to a girl like this and talking to her in this way constitute imminent harm?

This was an incident of street harassment taken to extremes.

You’re thinking,  “He’s crazy! You can’t possibly put what he did in the same category as street harassment!”  Yes, I can.

He stopped and talked to a girl he did not know and he told her what he thought and what he wanted her to do.  Clearly, he felt this was okay, or he wouldn’t have done it. This isn’t insanity, it’s entitlement. This is, in principle, the same as men who say, “Smile,” “Want a ride?” “Suck on this” and on and on and on.  And, that’s all before the public groping that might ensue.

OK. No big deal I’ve been told.  But, he went further, as is often the case.  When she said no, he just took her.  He crossed a red line that seriously needs to be moved.  “Taking someone” should not be the “red line” for public incivility and safe access to public space.

twitter pic
When you ask why I’m angry . . .

We hear about cases like this with dulling regularity and, undoubtedly, we don’t hear about even more. Just a smattering of examples:

  • In San Francisco last year, a man stabbed a woman in the face and arm after she didn’t respond positively to his sexually harassing her on the street.
  • In Bradenton, Fla., a man shot a high school senior to death after she and her friends refused to perform oral sex at his request. I
  • In Chicago, a scared 15-year-old was hit by a car and died after she tried escaping from harassers on a bus.
  • Again, in Chicago, a man grabbed a 19-year-old walking on a public thoroughfare, pulled her onto a gangway and assaulted her.
  • Last week, a runner in California — a woman — was stopped and asked, by a strange man in a car, if she wanted a ride. When she declined he ran her over twice.

are violent against women, but if we are just passive bystanders then we’re still part of the problem. ” ~ Kenny Miracle, Twitter post

I just started following a new tumblr called When Women Refuse, in which contributors share stories of women who have been murdered, raped, beaten, run over, and brutalized in countless other ways simply because they said no, because they said they didn’t want to get in the car, because they didn’t outwardly respond to some lewd comment, because they didn’t want to have sex, because they didn’t want to continue the relationship.

Each of these stories is mind-numbing individually, but collectively, they make a statement that is hard to turn away from: Women/girls who have the audacity to say no, are continually punished for doing so, and in many cases, their reactions/actions are dismissed by authorities.

Here are some of the stories that have been posted on When Women Refuse just in the past few days:

imgur

I think I have to stop now. I have a pit in the bottom of my stomach. Look, I have no answers, only suggestions. I only know that in a world in which so very many things are wrong, in which so very many things are heinous, that indifference to the very real problem of how women are treated is preventable in so many ways. No, we cannot cure rapists, but we can work on the essence of rape culture. No, we cannot eradicate misogyny, but we can do better in educating our sons and daughters.

We have to try, don’t we?

I mean, we just have to.

More later. Peace.

Music by Arctic Monkeys, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”

                   

Rape Poem

There is no difference between being raped
and being pushed down a flight of cement steps
except that the wounds also bleed inside.

There is no difference between being raped
and being run over by a truck
except that afterward men ask if you enjoyed it.

There is no difference between being raped
and being bit on the ankle by a rattlesnake
except that people ask if your skirt was short
and why you were out alone anyhow.

There is no difference between being raped
and going head first through a windshield
except that afterward you are afraid
not of cars
but half the human race.

The rapist is your boyfriend’s brother.
He sits beside you in the movies eating popcorn.
Rape fattens on the fantasies of the normal male
like a maggot in garbage.

Fear of rape is a cold wind blowing
all of the time on a woman’s hunched back.
Never to stroll alone on a sand road through pine woods,
never to climb a trail across a bald
without that aluminum in the mouth
when I see a man climbing toward me.

Never to open the door to a knock
without that razor just grazing the throat.
The fear of the dark side of hedges
the back seat of the car, the empty house
rattling keys like a snake’s warning.
The fear of the smiling man
in whose pocket is a knife.
The fear of the serious man
in whose fist is locked hatred.

All it takes to cast a rapist to be able to see your body
as jackhammer, as blowtorch, as adding-machine-gun.
All it takes is hating that body
your own, your self, your muscle that softens to flab.

All it takes is to push what you hate,
what you fear onto the soft alien flesh.
To bucket out invincible as a tank
armored with treads without senses
to possess and punish in one act,
to rip up pleasure, to murder those who dare
live in the leafy flesh open to love.

~ Marge Piercy

                   

Two other related poems, both worthy of reading but long: “Rape Poem To End All Rape Poems” by the Rutgers University slam team, and “Rape Joke,” by Patricia Lockwood

 

RIP Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Maya Angelou

“When the language lends itself to me, when it comes and submits, when it surrenders and says, I am yours, darling—that’s the best part.”

Maya Angelou’s first memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was the first book that I read for my Women’s Studies curriculum. It was powerful and haunting, and it made me a life-long admirer of the poet, author, memoirist, historian, and activist.

                   

When Great Trees Fall

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

Caged Bird

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.
But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

                   

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“So much of the world exists | without us” ~ Gregory Djanikian, from “So Much of the World”

 

                   

Two for Tuesday: Seasons of knowing

Spring

Let’s take a walk
In the city
Till our shoes get wet
(It’s been raining
All night) and when
We see the traffic
Lights and the moon
Let’s take a smile
Off the ashcan, let’s walk
Into town (I mean
A lemon peel)

Let’s make music
(I hear the cats
Purply beautiful
Like hallways in summer
Made of snowing rubber
Valence piccalilli and diamonds)
Oh see the arch ruby
Of this late March sky
Are you less intelligent
Than the pirate of lemons
Let’s take a walk

I know you tonight
As I have never known
A book of white stones
Or a bookcase of orange groans
Or symbolism
I think I’m in love
With those imaginary racetracks
Of traced grey in
The sky and the gimcracks
Of all you know and love
Who once loathed firecrackers
And license plates and
Diamonds but now you love them all
And just for my sake
Let’s take a walk
Into the river
(I can even do that
Tonight) where
If I kiss you please
Remember with your shoes off
You’re so beautiful like
A lifted umbrella orange
And white we may never
Discover the blue over-
Coat maybe never never O blind
With this (love) let’s walk
Into the first
Rivers of morning as you are seen
To be bathed in a light white light
Come on

~ Kenneth Koch

                   

Touch Me

Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that’s late,
it is my song that’s flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
and it’s done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.

~ Stanley Kunitz

All images are by German artist and engraver Hans Purrmann (1880-1966)

Music by The Wind + The Wave, “Time after Time”

#yesallwomen: A different kind of Memorial Day

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“Being born a woman is an awful tragedy. Yes, my consuming desire to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, bar room regulars—to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording—all is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yet, God, I want to talk to everybody I can as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night.” ~ Sylvia Plath

I began this post in response to Friday’s mass murder in Santa Barbara, California, in response to the statement that the killer wanted to pay back women for rejecting him, in response to yet more violence as a result of one man’s warped reasoning that because he was rejected, he needed to take it out on society.

Yet the more I read, the angrier I became, especially when reading the yesallwomen hashtag responses. I became angry because for every thoughtful comment sent, there were comments complaining about how unfair it is for nice guys, about how unfair it is to lump all men together into one category. Yet again, it became all about men.

Yes, men were killed on Friday. I am not in any way trying to diminish their deaths. Rather, I am trying to respond to this one man’s contention that he somehow felt justified in what he did because no one wanted to date him. Because he was still a virgin. Because no woman would give him a chance, as if it was his right in this world to have sex, as if it were truly all about him.

It’s not.

Look people, we must do better. All of us. And in that vein, I wrote the following:

Please take a look at Twitter’s #yesallwomen. It’s not about hating men. It’s not about generalizing. It’s about how women deserve to be safe, about how women should not have to be afraid to go someplace alone, about how most men are not fully aware of how sexism infiltrates almost every aspect of a woman’s life, about how no one is entitled to sex, no matter how nice they are. How many men do not realize how degrading a catcall is, but think that it’s somehow flattering? How many men think that it’s no big deal that women routinely get their bottoms rubbed on public transportation? How many women grow up thinking that their opinions don’t really matter? How many girls are told to be pretty but aren’t told to be smart?

How many women do you know who have been subjected to catcalls that made them visibly uncomfortable? How many women do you know who have had a boss hit on them? How many women do you know who have been told how sexy/hot they are and are expected to love those comments even from a total stranger? How many women do you know who have tried to ignore comments only to have the comments escalate to implied violence?

When was the last time you were called a frigid bitch because you refused to be flattered by unwanted sexual comments? When was the last time you were told to smile because it would make you look pretty? When was the last time your daughter was told that her clothes made the boys uncomfortable?

How many men do you know who have been the victims of some form of sexual harassment? How many men do you know who have been denied equal pay because of their sex? How many men do you know who are afraid to go out alone at night?

Consider this: In all probability, a woman in your family has been a victim of sexual discrimination in the workplace. In all probability, a woman you know has been the victim of some kind of sexual assault. In all probability, a woman in your circle of friends has had to fend off unwanted advances from some man who mistook her friendliness for a come-on.

Consider this: I am one of those women.

Please don’t give me the “not all men are like that” excuse. Consider this analogy (which I found to be perfect): You have a plate of cookies. Some of them are filled with laxatives that will make you very uncomfortable. Some of them are normal. One of them is filled with cyanide. Do you take a chance and eat a cookie?

For women, almost every situation that they encounter is like staring at that plate of cookies. Sure, some of them are delicious, but how do you know which ones will cause you pain? How do you identify that one really bad cookie that just may kill you?

What does it say about us when we have men in power who say things such as this, yet we still do nothing about i?

“This, then, is the root cause of violence against women: power—the need for power, the need to control others. The only way to stop the violence is to change attitudes in our society, to educate our families so the cycle of violence can be broken, to educate our society not to condone or ignore violence within the family or elsewhere.” ~ Ms. Hayden (first name unknown), from 2nd session of the 27th Yukon Legislature (December 5, 1990)

Consider just this one line of argument: Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will molest/rape/kill them. That’s the difference in a nutshell.*

We all have to be better at this. I was on the forefront of feminism in the 80’s, pushing my way into areas that were traditionally male. I insisted on being called Ms., even when I had to explain why. I still believe that feminism is not a dirty word. Simply put, feminism is the belief that all people are entitled to the same rights and liberties and can be regardless of gender. It’s the idea that men and women should treat each other as social and intellectual equals. It’s the idea that gender is not destiny. It is not the idea that women are better than men. It is not the idea that all men are scum.

Yet I have a daughter who openly says that all women are bitches. It mystifies and confounds me. When I ask her not to generalize about such things, she argues with me, stating that as far as she’s concerned, all women are indeed bitches.

I have two sons in whom I have tried to instill the idea that all people are people, that all people deserve to be treated with respect. I don’t know how well I have done.

This is not about me. This is about us, all of us, women and men. We have to do better. We have to be aware of our words, be aware of our actions. I’m not talking about women always having to be aware of their surroundings. I’m talking basics. We have to be aware that sexism filters into every single aspect of our lives 24/7. We must pay attention. Consider this: our society allows people to tell rape jokes, yet women who have been raped are made to feel that they should hide that fact, as if somehow they are responsible for the violence against them.

We must do better.

I should not have to look in my rear view mirror constantly to make sure no one is following me again. I should not have to talk myself into going to my doctor’s appointment because I’m afraid that someone out there is going to follow me again. I should not have to worry that the stranger who decided to follow me will show up again at some random time, and that perhaps this time, he won’t just drive away.

We must do better.

Click here to read Vox article, “Eight facts about violence against women everyone should know.”

“I have emphasized today that I am a feminist because, as I said before, that seems to be the new “f” word, because there is great pressure on women to deny that they believe in women’s rights, that they believe that women should have the right to choose. There is great pressure to not say that—they may believe it within themselves—but not to say it within society, and there is fear. If I, at almost 60, cannot in safety, and without fear of being attacked, state my beliefs, how can young women do that, young women who need the approval of men? We all need one another’s approval. How can these young women stand up and declare who they are? That is the issue: fear and power, fear of saying who you are and the need for power.” ~ Ms. Hayden (first name unknown), from 2nd session of the 27th Yukon Legislature (December 5, 1990)

And finally . . .

From red blood black ink:

“They won’t remember the names of the victims, but they’ll sure remember his.

We have made violence into a media phenomenon where we will revere those who cause chaos. It takes work and dedication to be famous unless you have the strength to pick up a weapon. You ask a kid who shot JFK and they’ll sprout conspiracy theories about Lee Harvey Oswald, but you ask them what JFK even stood for and they won’t be able to respond. We don’t erase the right ones: we remember Ted Bundy but can’t name his victims. It’s broken and backwards and we reward violence with exultation instead of making sure their name is forgotten.

A man has killed seven human beings and already people are flocking to view the video he made on why he did it. His manifesto is already being passed around the internet. He is already hero status to certain kinds of lowlife scum.

And I won’t remember him. I refuse to learn his name. I refuse to watch his rant on why anyone would deserve to die and I refuse to discuss who he used to be or all the warning signs we didn’t see or what his favorite activities were. I’d much rather learn about the victims. I will not make him my celebrity. I will not let him be a part of history.

I am sorry for us today. I am sorry for every person who is scared to be called a feminist because it might result in death. I am sorry for all of us who just want to live our lives without being a victim. I am sorry that survival is considered beating the odds. I am sorry for the keys between my fingers and the glances behind me and the extra layers just in case and the heavy purse and the fighting stance and every method I have of preparing myself for the war we’re not allowed to talk about – I am sorry they do not make us that safe, that there is nowhere we can be safe unless it is alone. I am sorry for every girl who is blaming herself for the death of seven others just because she turned down a boy. I am sorry that she thinks she is guilty when there is nothing to feel guilty for.

I am sorry for the people who have lived such closed and restricted lives that they think rejection is the worst possible fate a person can go through. I am sorry for every boy who thinks that unless he loses his virginity, he’s not worthy. I’m sorry for every man suffering from mental health issues who is yet again watching as he is labeled a danger to society. I’m sorry that the quickest way we have to excuse these people is to call them crazy. I’m sorry that our society has structured it so you cannot run from what these people do. I’m sorry for every boy who likes holding hands and has a quiet soul and just wants to plant gardens and I’m sorry that they’ll tell you, “A man needs sex and violence,” I’m sorry that they’d lie to you like that. I’m sorry that if you’re a man, your shadow smells like a graveyard of our bodies. I’m sorry you’ll feel defensive because you don’t want to be known as one of them – I’m even more sorry that the more I hear “he was just so normal and such a nice guy,” the less likely I am to be trusting of you. I’m sorry that murderers don’t carry around large signs warning me off, I’m sorry that there is no way for me to determine if you’re cruel or not. I wish there was. It would save me a good deal of effort.

I am sorry for us. I am sorry for the way we feel safe for a moment only to have the ground wrenched out from under us. I am sorry how they will make this another pointless debate about gun restriction. I’m sorry for the fear every college girl suddenly feels as she sees the reactions – “he’s a hero,” “this is why every man deserves a pity lay,” “now maybe you understand the pain of the friendzone” – because for some reason, even though girls rejected a boy who would become a murderer, it’s still somehow their fault instead of a symbol of how disgusting he was. I’m sorry that girls like me want to be strong but can’t be because we’re small or quiet or filled with panic. I’m sorry that we have ways to get around turning guys down because we’re terrified of what will happen. I’m sorry that we watch while we’re told that men are like animals and will turn wild if we don’t wear the right clothes, if we don’t say the right words, if we don’t let them use their fists to tear apart this world – but at the same time, we’re told that men are the only ones fit to be leaders. I am sorry we have been raised as rainbow fish surrounded by sharks and then are told we are imagining the world wanting to swallow us. I am sorry that our skin smells of blood, that our backs are creaking with the weight of the stories we hear, I am sorry we live as whispers passed between each other, I am sorry the scars so often go unnoticed. I am sorry we will be silenced. I am sorry this poem will mean nothing in two day’s time because his actions will still ring louder than any response we could have. I am sorry we have to watch as he is defended. I am so, so, so sorry, and there is no way to fix it. People are proud of hating feminism. People are proud of a murderer. People are proud of what he did.

I am sorry for us today. I am sorry, and we are not safe.”

Rest in peace. None of you deserved this. /// r.i.d

*The actual quote from Margaret Atwood was cited as this:

“Why do men feel threatened by women?” I asked a male friend of mine. So this male friend of mine, who does by the way exist, conveniently entered into the following dialogue. “I mean,” I said, “men are bigger, most of the time, they can run faster, strangle better, and they have on the average a lot more money and power.” “They’re afraid women will laugh at them,” he said. “Undercut their world view.” Then I asked some women students in a quickie poetry seminar I was giving, “Why do women feel threatened by men?” “They’re afraid of being killed,” they said. (from Second Words)

                    

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Sunday afternoon . . .

I loved this story from National Geographic:

Picture of Marine Corporal John Dolezal posing with Cchaz, a Belgian Malinois

The Dogs of War

Out in front of America’s troops, combat canines and their handlers lead the way onto the most dangerous battlefields on Earth.

By Michael Paterniti
Photograph by Adam Ferguson

Here is Marine Corporal Jose Armenta in his tent on the night before getting blown up in Afghanistan. He jokes with Mulrooney and Berry and the medic the guys have nicknamed “Christ.” He feeds and waters his dog, Zenit, a sable-coat German shepherd. He lets Buyes, who will be dead in three months, ruffle Zenit’s fur, for the radioman is crazy about the dog.

Then he takes Zenit outside in the waning light of this dusty, desert otherworld to train.

They’re happiest like this. Jose has Zenit sit, which the dog does obediently, and then Jose jogs 50 yards down and hides a rubber toy, a Kong, up against a mud wall, covering it with dirt. On Jose’s command, Zenit bursts forward, zigging in search of it, tail wagging. It’s an intricate dance. Voice commands met by precise canine action, always with the same end goal in mind—to find the toy. Tomorrow, on patrol, the objective will be finding not a toy but an improvised explosive device, or IED, one of the Taliban’s most brutally effective weapons against American troops here in what many consider the most dangerous province in one of the world’s most dangerous countries. And no dog can find every bomb every time.

MARINE CPL. DASHNO VILLARD WITH BANK

For the past three months Jose’s been stationed at Patrol Base Alcatraz, at the edge of a town called Sangin in Helmand Province, without a “find.” Despite his optimism—the man always beams a disarming smile—the lack of finds is beginning to wear on him almost as much as the 100-degree heat, which feels even hotter rucking 75 pounds of gear.

As a Marine dog handler, Jose is a perpetual outsider, assigned to platoons that have been together for years, tight-knit combat brotherhoods that regard newcomers, especially dog handlers, with a high degree of circumspection. His job is to accompany that platoon, to clear a path through hostile territory for his fellow marines. But as thankful as they may be, Jose knows it’s natural for them to wonder: Is this guy any good? Will he fit in? How will he respond in that first firefight?

At this moment in August of 2011 the stated mission in Sangin is to secure the 320-foot-high Kajaki Dam, to keep the Taliban from blowing it up and flooding the Helmand Valley. The marines of Third Recon, in groups of a dozen or so, take turns disrupting the enemy, mapping active pockets of Taliban fighters. Jose and Zenit are asked to accompany practically every mission. Each time he and Zenit go out beyond the wire, they’re walking point along with a marine carrying a metal detector, making themselves the first targets as Zenit scours the area for any whiff of nitrate that might signal a buried IED. As exhausting as it is, Jose always says yes.

NAVY MASTER-AT-ARMS ERWIN MONTOYA WITH CRASH

Maybe there’s a little chip on Jose’s shoulder, or maybe he feels there’s a lot to prove—to himself, to the marines of Third Recon, and to his family back home. Maybe he’s just doing his job, or maybe he needs just one find to allay whatever doubts he harbors about his—and Zenit’s—ability to do the job. In this place especially, the threat is palpable. Sangin is littered with IEDs and teeming with enemy fighters tucked behind thick mud walls. It’s where British forces, before pulling out of Sangin altogether in 2010, lost more than a hundred troops. It’s been a graveyard since for many Americans, and a place where numerous U.S. troops have received disfiguring injuries.

This is what a dog handler tries not to dwell on: the risk associated with the need to find bombs and with the possibility of missing one. On base you sometimes hear them go off in the distance, set off by a goat, an unsuspecting villager. Sometimes frantic locals will rush a bleeding kid up to Alcatraz for medical help. And the recent news about two fellow dog handlers, Jeremy and Jasco, in his deployment, has been bad. Both were blown up and lost their legs. Jose is clear about this: He’d rather die than lose a limb or some vital body part. He’d rather get waxed than be half a person. What you do to take your mind off the fear is just what Jose does now, as he has done for the past two years: You train your dog, do your job, leave the rest to fate.

The next morning, August 28, Third Recon knows that the Taliban have been busy. Alcatraz sits on a rise out in the cornfields, not far from a wadi, and intel has it that IEDs have been planted everywhere. “We knew someone was going to get hit on that mission,” Sgt. Ryan Mulrooney will say later. “Every day something was getting blown up. We knew going in there that it was a pretty risky movement.”

So for the first time since deploying to Afghanistan, Jose puts on his “blast briefs,” underwear made of Kevlar material to limit genital injuries, and he mounts his helmet cam hoping to document his first find. Then he puts an IV in Zenit to keep him hydrated in the heat.

AIR FORCE STAFF SGT. KATHELENE MERCADO WITH BARTJA

The team moves out at 10 a.m. in ranger file, and Jose guesses it’s already 120 degrees. The marines work down the hill slowly, and when they hit the 611 highway, Jose feels a surge of adrenaline. His mouth goes cottony as he commands Zenit, orchestrating the dog’s every movement. The team veers through the corn to avoid the road, until they hit the wadi that runs parallel to the highway, eight feet deep and ten feet wide, empty of water.

Jose guides Zenit from bank to bank. Mulrooney, working the metal detector, calls out, “I think I got one here.” Jose approaches, looks at the humped, loose dirt with a wire showing, fixes Mulrooney with a smile, and says, “Yup.” The team leader is notified. Jose moves on, spies another device, and calls it out. Sensing a pattern, he sends Zenit to the far side of the wadi, where the dog freezes, tail wagging, nose suddenly working overtime. The change in behavior marks the spot. After nearly a hundred days out here, it’s their first IED as a team.

In his mind Jose throws an invisible high five and lets out a silent whoop. Trainers say, “Emotion runs through the leash.” Jose knows he needs to remain calm, to keep Zenit focused, but how can he not be excited? The team leader is notified again. Jose and Zenit continue down the wadi in the deathly heat. The sun blisters down on the men in formation slow-walking in each other’s footsteps, using shaving cream to mark safe spots. Just like that, three in a row. The riverbed is full of explosives—but where’s the next? With that question, Jose’s elation gives under the weight of duty. He and Zenit are the ones responsible for finding out.

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