Street Theater

STREET THEATER
(artwork by Dylan A.T. Miner)

I envision a mass demonstration. Folks coming into the heart of the city. Riding trains and bicycles. Assembling near City Hall. Tens of thousands. Maybe more. Each with their own sign rallying around the cause. A cause for the world and its children. A cause for Life. Love for us All.

They begin to march.

There are trumpets, sounding the alarm. Drum circles leading the charge. Movement in rhythmic motion forward.

They march onto the avenues. Hold traffic till tomorrow. Heading straight for the Liberty Bell inside Independence Hall.

Unnerved by routine, they only settle here for a while. Then they continue further. Marching north. And then west. And then south. Into the stars. Above the ground. Their souls’ chants echo against the concrete walls. Each footstep causes a groundswell.

Eventually the whole city is taken over. The working crowd leaving their offices and joining the march. Tourists and other pedestrians going along for the ride. People swept off their feet and into the current.

It all seems smooth and victorious, except for what awaits for them just beyond the next traffic light.

Near Rittenhouse, a tank is just around the corner. It’s a big tank. One of the largest and greatest tanks. A tank greater than any other made before. A tank made of cardboard and painted black. Recyclables turned into the war machine. Its motor singing the finale of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture as it rolls forward. Its wheels at least twenty pairs of boots belonging to its drivers marching a synchronized beat.

Led by the tank is an army of clowns. Bum clowns. Circus clowns. Awkward and Weird clowns. Fascist clowns. Merry Pranksters dressed in Federalist regalia. Minstrels of mummery dressed in the cultures they’ve conquered. Clowns in White Face. Clowns in Black Face. The Blue Man Group wooping like car alarms. Scary clowns. Nasty clowns. Jerk clowns. Clowns of the sewers. Clowns of the pipelines. Clowns of the pulpit and the banks. Hundreds of clowns following the tank.

At their back is the main cheese. The King Clown himself surrounded by a dozen or more head honcho Court Jesters. A cabinet as insane as it can get. In turn, all of them holding onto multiple leads. Hundreds of strings attached to the army’s heads and legs and feet and arms and hearts. Puppet masters and their marionettes.

The two parades meet on Walnut Street. Outside the Barnes and Noble. Clowns and Lovers and a whole city of park sitters, random shoppers, and luxurious apartment residents watching the scene.

At first there is a standoff. Neither side so sure of the other. The Clowns glaring pure terror, while the Lovers can’t help but laugh. But then someone turns up Tchaikovsky’s overture and the tank starts firing shots. Large balls of confetti shoot into the air. The cannon balls synced up to the music, firing like the Russians against Napoleon did.

At first nothing. Then people start dropping. Then finally pure absolute terror and the people not already on the ground start running out of the way.

Soon, everyone has either been knocked down by the tank, or been completely scattered onto sidewalks and out of the street.

All except for a single child.
They stand there upright. Not much older than 7 or 8. A short pixie cut with rainbow streaks in their hair. A young girl holding a heart-shaped balloon in one hand, while the other is extended forward offering a rose.

Tiananmen Square. A stencil drawn by the street artist Banksy. Zuccotti Park. Tahrir Square and so many others. These images are all brought to mind in this single gesture.

The tank silences.
The clowns mime surprise and awe.
They begin to step forward, maybe to snatch the girl up, and then they stop.
The child starts whistling.
They step forward towards the cannon on top of the tank.
The gun lowers down just in arms reach.
The child places the rose into its barrel.

A GOP official from Michigan wants another Kent State? Well, this is how Love overcomes Hate.

The Clowns all fall to their knees. Even the King. They bow to this child and the girl giggles relief.
One of the clowns brings forward a bucket of paint.
The child takes the brush and walks forward to the tank to paint it.

Behind them, others begin to rise from the pavement. They too come forward and begin to paint. Soon folks are wandering back onto the street from the sidewalks and joining them from the park and surrounding store fronts. Each person is handed a paintbrush as more buckets are brought out. The once black tank, quickly turns to a canvas of peace signs and rainbows and pretty flowers and moonshine beneath golden rays.

The scene turns from one that is war torn to a community block party. Folks of all ages and nationalities and sexual identities and gender pluralities exploring what it means to rediscover their inner child on the public street.

Someone passes out chalk and they start turning the floor beneath them into a whole other ecology. City streets turned into abundant gardens. Seeds of harmony blossoming. A psychedelia of awakened heart permeates in the breeze. A true rêvelution like never seen anywhere else.
The creative mind united with the heart making communal art.
A band sets up on the band stand. They play punk choruses like it’s the 1980s and everyone begins to dance.

At this point, the King Clown has let go of the leads or even begun to cut the strings and the Clowns are suddenly allowed to be truly free.

It starts with the King Clown’s Head of Interior. Then the Department of Education soon follows. Soon it’s the Attorney General. And his self-declared Head of Intelligence. They each grab at the tank. The cardboard beginning to tear. Where it tears, they rip harder, until each piece breaks free.

The other Clowns get a hint and join in this disassembly. Each taking a piece and ripping the tank to shreds.
The painted pieces are lifted high in the air. Some of them are attached to long sticks to wave in the air. New protest signs. New messages. Simple in their color and slogans. Rainbows spreading. LOVE. PEACE.

The act is almost over.
Everyone is feeling real fine.
For most of them they’re not even sure what’s happening anymore the vibe is so fresh.

And at this brightest moment, it springs up.
Hidden beneath the leftover rubble of the former tank, the BLACK SNAKE.
He emerges.
Dark and stormy.
A hiss as his head pokes high into the air.
Another hiss as he looks downwards on the people suddenly entangled in his long winding and ever-present scales.
A tail so long, it grabs up the people down the street even a mile away.

No one can move. They’re all entranced in his hypnotizing stare.

Except for the King.
The King steps forward. He’s lost his yellow wig. His fat gut. His entire wardrobe, except for the crown. Except for the crown, he now looks less like a monarch, and more like a human. He’s become an old woman actually. He’s grown long hair and tied it back. His court robes have been replaced by a polka dotted dress that reaches down to high heels. His gestures are less oafish and more heart-centered, sensitive. He holds a tall staff in his hand. To some he looks like a mixture somewhere between a wizard, a hippy, and Alice in Wonderland.

He removes the crown. Tosses it into the snake’s mouth.
The snake swallows it whole.
The elder pulls out a tobacco pipe and begins smoking.
The snake slithers closer.
Unfazed, the elder kneels down and touches the earth. People close to him can hear him humming.
The snake hangs overhead and opens its mouth wide.
With the speed of lightning it lowers its head and snaps.
The elder even quicker, places his wooden staff between the roof of the snake’s mouth and its bottom teeth.
Open mouth, it hovers around him, trying to bite, but failing.
In the confusion of it all, the elder grabs the snake’s tongue and pulls.
The snake lurches back, but the elder holds strong and the tongue pulls out of the snake’s head, bringing with it the snake’s black and gooey insides.

The girl from before reemerges. Giggling they join the elder and hold onto the snake’s tongue.
Others wake up from their trance and join them too. Each grabbing a hold of the extending tongue.

The snake still tries to get free pulling back even further. Unraveling as it pulls further and further away, letting more and more of its insides be pulled out.

Its insides go all the way back into history. They go back in time to before then into herstory.
They continue to pull out and suddenly we’re seeing the birth of it all.
Through the snake’s death, we are seeing how it all started.
The rope turns from oil slick to wooden stick to lightning strikes to molten lava.
Everything one can think of that burns and more.
A long fuse leading back into the beginning.
Before time.
Something like the chicken and the egg, philosophically.

At the end of the string is an egg.
Inside the egg is water.
The water is clear and pure.

From one of his dress pockets the Elder pulls out a bag of seeds.
He takes a single seed from the bag and holds it high over his head.
It shimmers gold in the sunlight.
Then he tosses it to the withering shell of the black snake skin beneath him.
He opens the egg and dumps the water onto this fertile earth.

From the point, where he placed the seed, grows a giant rose.

Catharsis.

Street Theater

The Momentum Continues Forward

(Scenes From The Protests At The DNC)

The protest starts at home. Quickly gaining momentum on the streets in front of our houses. Gathering community as the sun beats down heavy from above.

Someone writes “the reason we stop traffic is to share the collective experience that every person of color faces in this country. A roadblock at every turn peaking the drivers’ anxiety. Lack of control. Lack of mobility.”

Another spray paints a wall, “These are the fears we must set free.”

Soon the police mobilize and provide a backdrop to what is basically a neighborhood gathering in the streets. The protest has all of the elements of a block party. Music. Festivity. Speakers stand on the back of pickup trucks delivering words of engagement. Piecing together separate experiences into a unified narrative.

As the march begins to move, the surrounding neighborhoods add into the flow. The numbers continue to grow. Diverse faces dominate the scene. Each with their own unique identity. Voices carry the waves of celebration. This is what democracy looks like.

At another intersection, the ranks come to a halt. Helicopters circle above. No news station. Only surveillance. We hold space for the over 600 murders by police that have been committed this year. 600 seconds for each and every human life that was lost. Chants echo up the walls of city projects and university housing. Passionate speeches rise above the general celebration.

Protesters sweat tears in the hot sun. Everyone is anxious to keep moving. 

Three brothers walk among the lines and take quick snapshots of people’s faces. College students, community members, peaceful folk come together to promote a better life. Something the government doesn’t want to allow to walk free. One wears a hat from a local precinct and is constantly on his cell phone reporting back to HQ, taking orders. They all wear earpieces. 

A large group carries the coffin of the DNC. Painted red, white, and blue it signifies an end to ignorance. The scene reminds one of photos from the funerals happening daily in the middle east. Huge processions in towns across Syria, marching with their dead. Out in the open. Risking attack by suicide bombers or drones controlled by pilots in Washington. 

A sister holds a microphone and delivers a vindictive speech to the police. She calls for reorganization and people led watch groups. She calls for justice. She calls for increased accountability.

A brother selling water senses urgency from the growing traffic jam. So far everyone has been patient letting people have their peace. He helps guide these trapped cars down another direction. The order of anarchy taking over the streets.

Further South, another protest is going on. Twenty hate-filled bible thumpers are outside a trans health clinic holding signs that say “God hates fags”. Surrounding them are a group of fifty angels spreading their wings to block their message. Around them are another four hundred protesters shouting and singing and dancing, carrying flags full of sarcasm and parody. Full of jubilance and love. The initial ugliness of the spectacle has been transformed into something of peace and wonder.

Again up north, the march begins to move. A poet is overwhelmed with men with livestreams wanting an interview. What is he protesting? What is his message? He tells them there are better people here for them to question. This is a protest for the welfare of black lives, so perhaps their focus should be giving black voices a right to speak. To be represented. He thinks to himself, people who look like him have already spoken enough throughout history. It’s time new voices get to be heard. It’s time to start listening. 

He directs the interviewers to the brothers and sisters carrying the coffin. He directs them to the sister carrying a cardboard sign with the fist of activism. He points them to the older woman walking behind the group talking to a police sergeant, asking him civil questions directed by the larger community. The poet steps aside and watches them interview an older brother who says he was out here on these same streets as a young man in the 1960s. He says he doesn’t understand why he still has to be out here fighting for the same thing.

The signs read “Black Lives Matter”. “Jail Killer Cops”. “Stop Racism”. They read “End the Prison/Military Industrial Complex”. There’s a sign with the frowning face of Hillary Clinton that reads “White Lies Matter”. There are the faces of Malcolm X and MLK. There’s the faces of Maya Angelou and Muhammed Ali. There’s the words of Claudine Rankine and Michelle Alexander and James Baldwin and Nelson Mandela. The signs read “Free Mumia”. “Free the Move 5”. “Free Hugs”. “Free Water”.

A medic bikes through the lines handing out water bottles. Another bikes through with homemade sandwiches and bags of trail mix. A third bikes through with a trash bag, collecting people’s bottles and other throwaways. A medic treats a protester with a skinned knee. Another makes sure no one is feeling light headed or other symptoms of heat stroke.

A sister who is legally blind is marching with us. She’s got a beautiful smile and she says she doesn’t need her eyes to see through the bullshit. Blind since her youth, her family is still here with her now supporting her through her fifties. She says her family is everyone in this parade, giving her a helping hand, and fighting for salvation.

Things reach a peak around route 76. Hundreds of police in riot gear hidden a block or two over in each direction, just in case the protesters try to take their march onto a highway. On Broad Street there suddenly forms lines of uniformed police to provide force without too much of the militarized image of fear present a few blocks away. Or maybe Philly just ran out of money to buy more riot suits.

Some of them read back out loud the signs in front of them. “Justice for Sandra Bland”. “Stop killing us”. “Poets for Peace”.

The line swells around the convention center where delegates and public officials meet to decide future policy that will affect all the folks out on the streets. They’re so afraid of the people they represent they have to hire hundreds of armed guards to form a barrier around them. Faces in the windows stare down in momentary silence.

A brother drags the American flag behind him. It is withered and burned. Defaced by years of oppression. The toll of oppressing those that everyone who is not white, straight, male, or rich. New flags are being carried to replace it.

The march hits City Hall and combines with other parades. There are Bernie or Busters and folks with huge green flags fighting to save the environment. There are rainbow flags and signs supporting equal rights to everyone. The backdrop of the city echoes with the growing group’s chants. All of these issues coming together under one unified voice. 

Words of peace and community are delivered from the pick up trucks. Words of anger and disgust. They come from sisters who have lost brothers and fathers. Gunned down in the streets for merely walking. 

A twelve year old brother climbs a street light and waves his banner. “Resistance is Justified”. A photo of Trayvon Martin. A photo of a young man not much older than himself. This is his first protest. It won’t be his last. 

Brothers and sisters towards the back take a break from the sun. They sit in circles discussing their futures, shaded by skyscrapers. They hold space for all of the unnecessary life that has been lost around the world in the name of the country they call their home.

Above a sun dog appears in the clouds. The sun is reaching its westerly horizon. Rainbows in the clouds. It seems to be heaven’s blessing for the peace that is being reached by all the colors of the rainbow represented in the faces below.

The march has already walked five miles over four hours. The march continues the next five walking towards the DNC where decisions are being made without the ratification of the people who actually live out here in the real world. 

A son gets a text from his mother, “Give them hell! Keep them honest!”

A daughter gets a text that says, “Stay true to your heart. Love is all around!”

A sister with crystals boldly talks to the various bike officers patrolling and barricading the march onto the street. She reminds them to keep things peaceful as the crowd chants behind her, “Fuck the Police!”

They don’t need reminding. They’re greatly outnumbered and perhaps somewhat intentionally. They’re sweating and have no foreseeable relief coming their way. Their only choice is to not antagonize the crowd. To de-escalate by not being. Perhaps returning to an ideal form of policing called peacekeeping.

Some members from the march ask them questions. “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?” Some ask them questions that can actually be answered. There is the beginning of what seems like a communal dialogue amidst all of this tension. Police recognizing the folks they are supposed to protect. Recognizing the family out here today in solidarity. Brothers and sisters addressing them and trying to get them to evolve. 

One officer says to the brother behind him, “I just like talking to people”. His calm smile has been attracting all sorts of conversations. Community policing as opposed to militarized riot patrol.

The sun begins to dip. Pink skies take over. Everyone is battered and tired. Fire hydrants have been set off by the city to keep folks cool as the heat starts to get to them. Jazz bands play in parking lots and other outdoor spaces with tents and amplification providing cultural ambiance to the situation. 

A brother that looks like Allen Ginsberg carries a huge bag of anti-war pins. A sister asks if he needs help carrying it. No, he’s too set on making it all the way to the end, but they strike up a conversation about an end to war. A call for world peace. 

Several clowns, faces painted with smiles join the parade. They march on stilts ten or twelve feet tall. Their signs elevated above everything else, so even the helicopters can see what this is all about.

Behind him Vermin Supreme carries a boot on his head and says absolute absurdities over his handheld loudspeaker. Brothers and sisters laugh and take photos with him. He’s a little national icon of how we can choose to rise above some of the very real injustices our country serves us. He inspires so many smiles with simple gestures. A break from the heartbreak.

Almost there, the parade collides with another marching north. There are ten thousand people on the streets. The sound of it is empowering. People holding hands. People shouting cheers of self awareness. Power is in the hands of the people. Someone says, “it only takes seventeen people to flip a barricade”. Someone else lights an American flag on fire. Several other bonfires begin. Large groups forming prayer circles around all of this havoc. Songs of a return to humanity. 

The burning flags wave above it, casting away a system that does not work for anyone, but the rich and privileged. The people finding each other now in the dark. Together they give birth to a new, truer democracy.

The march nears another highway. Here there are garbage trucks blocking the on-ramps. Enough disruption so again the parade can’t shut down anything but what’s intended. The highway is shut down anyway by the police. 

Underneath the overpass the march reaches new volumes. Everyone looks around realizing how many are out on the streets with them. Their own voices echoing back to them. A choir of animal sounds, bird calls, hoots and hollers. “These are the voices of the disenfranchised”, they say. It sounds like people finding their woods and celebrating their humanity. “We ain’t taking anymore of this bullshit. People are dying and time is running out.”

Provocateurs run rampant. Red-black flags carried by faces hidden behind bandanas and Guy Fawkes masks. The march starts to break up into smaller factions, each holding round circles around fires and chants for peace.

Awaiting the march are several buses full of riot police, almost inconspicuous in the shadows, except this same tactic has been seen at other large gatherings. The initial gang of bike police that have marched all this way are relieved and form a barricade that flanks the parade. Legal observers, in yellow shirts, line the sidewalk, chattering anxiously, waiting for all hell to break lose. It seems like this is the end of the line. The police are preparing to cage the protestors in and beat the shit out of them.

But somehow everyone remains civil on both sides. The fifteen foot tall fences around the Wells Fargo center are rattled by masked protesters jeering at the the riot cops that stand in full kevlar behind them. But behind those provocateurs are circles of hippies humming, playing guitar and holding hands chanting magic just like what’s been seen during the day. 

A new offshoot mobilizes and marches through Roosevelt park to rally all the people camping in their tents and sharing Food Not Bombs. A kind of symbolic sentiment, with this Obamaville growing revelrous in a park commemorating the father of the New Deal policies that over the last 70 years have rapidly been stripped away piece by piece, leaving the poor poorer than they’ve ever been. 

That same group fighting for Bernie Sanders, a candidate who promised to do nothing more than reinstate and expand those policies that were so normal over, half a century ago. And seemingly with no repeat of internment camps for refugees or other forms of racist othering like what was found during FDR’s presidency.

The People shout, “This is what Democracy looks like!” They shout, “Another world is possible!”

Things begin to subside. Both police and protesters begin to go home. News spreads that the roll call has been called. Hillary reeps victory. Bernie symbolically bows out, right before the final delegates place their votes. There’s rumors that the roll call was staged for TV, as it probably always is. Delegates already cast their votes in the morning at breakfast. Twice. Enough time to bully people around. Enough time to guilt trip them into changing their votes.

At the convention, hundreds of Bernie delegates walk out as a form of protest. Some of them join us waiting outside. The TV fails to show any of this, except for later they show the empty seats. The commentators talk of the Bernie or Bust folks, as childish. They expect everyone to bow down and accept this corporate bought reality. They call for unity. 

They forget that not too long ago in this country’s history, conventions were a scene of strong-armed brawls between the separate opposing factions within the larger two political parties. They forget this country began with revolution.

Outside the people haven’t forgotten. But they all question why there aren’t more of them. They each expected the millions that voted for Bernie to be out here with them fighting for the right to exist. They forget that the system we all participate in has been working to weigh down all of our lives over the centuries. People stuck at jobs. Struggling to raise their families. Fighting every single day in their normal lives. Stuck in the machinery. No time or energy left to fight back at the end of the day. 

At the end of the day there are all kinds of protest and this is only one form of it. Walking from one end of a city to another is no different from raising garden beds on abandoned lots or becoming a teacher in the inner city. It’s no different from making time in the day to celebrate living or organizing alternative communities. At the end of the day, a whole generation is emerging that opposes the last one, and the dregs left over from the one before it. 

With the momentum of the front lines. With people engaging in their civil liberties. With folks from similar and separate backgrounds finding common stories in the streets. The momentum continues forward.

(photos are of artworks and installations at the Truth To Power exhibition on display in Philadelphia, as well as scenes from the protests against the Democratic National Committee.)

The Momentum Continues Forward

The Syzygy Journal issue no. 2

bloodmoon

Today some of my traveling haikus were published among the literary stars of the Syzygy Poetry Journal issue no. 2. This special collection has a theme of the eclipsing blood moon we just witnessed only last week. Perfect for an Aries warrior poet… You’ll find me in the constellation Lampyridaen. Enjoy!

Check out the collection here: https://syzygypoetryjournal2.wordpress.com/

The Syzygy Journal issue no. 2