LET US CALL OURSELVES ARTEMISIA VULGARIS

LET US CALL OURSELVES ARTEMISIA VULGARIS

The difference between us and them is we spend too much time mourning our losses and not enough time celebrating what we still have.

Do the bankers or the developers or the fossil fuel execs worry about losing everything? No. They’ll work themselves bankrupt and this whole world into lack if there is a chance there is some sort of profit to be had. Shit, even when they are bankrupt they’ll work the system to bail them out. I mean, look at it this way, a man who lost $10 billion and has bankrupted more institutions than should even be possible in a single lifetime, is now our president. That is “them”.

We need to have that kind of fearlessness to protect what we still have. We need to develop that kind of fluidity to let go of what is already lost in order to save enough so that we have ground from which we can rebuild it. The radical left needs to become more agile. More able to take a blow and regroup with a new defense. We need to carry multiple flags, multiple hats, and at the same time refuse becoming too structured, too able to be cornered and had. Bought and sold. Our tears only more room for their profit.

We still have the Earth. We have her to lead us. Does the Earth mourn the loss of a single flower at the end of every summer? No. She puts all her intentions into the roots and accepts the cycle of winter, knowing the shadow is necessary before next year’s growth.

We must be more like the Earth. The Earth is the only true radical, and we are hers to hold. Our roots are still yet to be cut. Until they are, we must hold strong and be like the garden weed. Be like the mycelium. A network of roots springing up through out the ground, never to be dug up or struck down as long as the Earth still holds us.

We call them the Black Snake, but what is our antidote?

We must be less like gardeners and more like the actual roots of our garden. Let us call ourselves Bindweed. Or Morning Glory. Or Artemisia Vulgaris. Turn this whole land back into a swampy meadow.

LET US CALL OURSELVES ARTEMISIA VULGARIS

THOSE KENSINGTON BLUES STILL RATTLING THROUGH

THOSE KENSINGTON BLUES STILL RATTLING THROUGH

Something about the Kensington Blues. The way the L train yo-yo’s through everyone’s backyard. Toxic grit and refuse spattered across abandoned lot lawns. Contrast between condo and dilapidated dive bar. Brooklyn style gastro pub and abandoned warehouse. City of shells quickly being filled with new hermit crabs.

The setting for what once was a community of strong guitar savants. Those who stuck around seemingly rising to nostalgic fame. And yet, in their songs you can picture them sitting by themselves in their living rooms twiddling away on some chord progression that has the harmonics and melody of this desolation of peak capital.

Over and over again the same chord like a drone. Causing the body to whirl like in a dervish. An opiate nod between K & A. Soundtrack to post-apocalypse. Wild westerns just across the border in East Kensington.

It’s three or four songs in when the Solar Motel Band really starts creating some electric friction, and Chris Forsyth is shredding his guitar cable against the fret board amassing a wash of noise that shocks the inner core, when I realize all this while how the musicians of this corridor have developed not just their own style, but a pseudo-language in which they respond to one another. The former music scene that used to reside here now dispersed, replaced, growing up with new parts, but still these guitar heroes offering up their twin stacks full of feedback. I wonder if this song now being spun is a nod to Purling Hiss or Birds of Maya or going back even further in the lexicon to acknowledge the art warehouse foundations scoured by Bardo Pond.

The language in its current evolution a pop rock that speaks to a wider audience, and yet sets it on repeat in order to break it down, piece by piece, until the whole shit has gone up in flames, and then they rebuild it. Bass rumbling through a fine walk around town, while guitar flutters between verse and solo and static and wall of frequencies both angelic and alarming. The audience stuffed into a dark, low-lit room, with an open window to the L train and Front Street as the backdrop to the stage. A “Renaissance painting” of viewers looking in from the outside.

Almost five years gone by since I left this neighborhood to the vulture capitalists, only to come back and find the artists have dug into their trenches and become even more prolific.

There are dream tones in the Kenzo Haze that impregnate even the most obstinate transplant. Perhaps the language between these guitarists is not theirs, but the land’s. Open terrain that was consumed by a wave of development, and yet still there are still these white elephants of warehouses glowing brightly under the moonlight full of such brilliance waiting to be repossessed. The great art factories of the River Wards.

It’s almost midnight and the song, at least now an hour and half long continues to hum out into the open air. It seems to say, “This ain’t the Grateful Dead. This is the Grateful Living!”

I wonder what the passengers on the L train rattling through these Kensington Blues are dreaming of tonight.

THOSE KENSINGTON BLUES STILL RATTLING THROUGH

The Urban MYTHOS

THE URBAN MYTHOS

The Zen Lunatic sits at the center of the garden and pulls at the mugwort. His motions are deliberate and fluid demonstrating how he is one with his surroundings. This little patch of Earth amidst the concrete chaos surrounding it. Attentive to detail, over the years he has carved out this niche for the concrete to rewild.

As he pulls at the roots, he talks about the herbs and medicinals and wildflowers that surround him that most people would consider weeds. He talks about the dead nettle and the red clover and spring mint and of course the mugwort.

“Last year, I really whacked away at the red clover and I don’t think it was too happy with me. It just didn’t flower that much, even where I wanted it to.”

“But I thought we gathered the red clover last year.”

“No. That was two years ago.”

“Oh, I thought that was last year.”

“No. That was two years ago.”

“Oh.”

“This year I’m just going to let it do what it wants to do. And I think we’ll both be happier”.

He motions me over to where he’s standing and points at the pathway in front of us.

“I think the plants have finally figured out where they’re supposed to grow. They’re growing in these borders around pathways and then where people walk there’s more of this groundcover type stuff that lays low to the surface.”

He kicks at the ground to show how low lying the plants are where there is a pathway from people consistently walking on it over the years. Then he shows how the ground is sinking in some places.

“I want to build a multi-level terrace around here leading down to where this tree is growing. But I might need a team for that. I could probably do it myself, but it would take a while.

“That’s something that always impressed me about this land. It has so many interesting contours and subtle slopes for the plants to navigate.”

I snap a photo of a pair of red Air Jordans hanging from the telephone wire glowing orange in the golden hour of the setting sun. It’s interesting to me how the background of the photo is what makes the photo. The shoes alone describe the setting, but they need pieces of the setting like the one-liner tags sprayed on the concrete wall in the lot across the street and the water tower a few blocks away beside the back sides of several dilapidated rowhomes to describe perfectly what the shoes represent.

I snap another photo of the new Comcast tower downtown framed by two abandoned row homes and a whole bunch of wild space from where we stand. I talk about how I could post these photos on Instagram but I don’t think the audience there understands the language they work in.

“It’s like an old language that I was used to when I first moved to Philly that you could find all over the place in publications like Megawords, but I don’t know if anyone pays attention or knows how to read that language anymore.

“Like the language is saying this is blight and that is the ivory tower of corporate powers that profit off the poverty here. But there’s also beauty here. Like the land is rewilding out here. It’s free. It’s a jungle. It’s a type of landscape the people that live over there have no understanding for.”

He leads me over to the mugwort border wall near the entrance in front of the Aztec sculptures that greet all who enter.

“Look at this pathway here. The garden grew this one all on its own.”

It’s a natural zig zag in the clover and mugwort. It’s like a giant snake slithered and sidewinded through the garden recently. I look at the dragon sculpture next to me glowing red and orange with a beard made of flames.

“Hey, man! I think it’s that dragon. He came to life and slithered through the grass.”

“Yeah, man. It’s like the garden grew a tail.”

The Urban MYTHOS

POETS FOR PEACE, TOUR NO. 8: DAY 2 – RECAP

POETS FOR PEACE

Tour no. 8

Day 2 – Blacksburg, VA: recap

on the road with Marian McLaughlin (@marianmclaughlin) and Erin White (@movedtomove)

Morning ceremonies at the James River in Richmond. Reflecting on all the generations present at the reading the previous evening. Everyone from Erin’s parents and her father’s bandmates to the youthful presence of a 6 month old, wailing along to the Appalachian chords of his father playing the banjo.

We offer several marigolds to the James. A decree of peace to meet these tidal waters’ flow. Spring warmth at our shoulders. The future ahead of us.

The drive to Blacksburg is long, but gorgeous. Blue mountains. Green gables. Magenta redbud blossoms. Gradients of ecology expressing ecstasy. Virginia is for lovers.

The Hahn Horticultural Garden offers a backdrop of tulips and crocus. Coy pond trickling by. Lights and magic as the sun begins to fall behind the horizon line. There’s a report from the front lines of a movement stewarding the land in opposition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline. We hear the statistics of climate change. There are natural made scents passed around to go along with the poems. Poems about personal experience and bouts of sadness. About maintaining the sovereignty of the body. About a love so passionate it makes all the woes of modern society go away. The birds singing to the sun’s retreat. Collaborations between poets and nature.

At a certain point, the midsummer night’s dream is awaking. Marian McLaughlin providing the chorus. This is the type of place where magic is upon the eve. We like sprites glow purple and pink, as the moon rises above to light the scene.

POETS FOR PEACE, TOUR NO. 8: DAY 2 – RECAP

Poets For Peace, tour no. 8: day 1 – recap

POETS FOR PEACE

Tour no. 8

Day 1 – Richmond, VA: recap

on the road with Marian McLaughlin (@marianmclaughlin) and Erin White (@movedtomove)

An ease of being settles upon the car as we leave the congestion of DC and enter the South. We write haikus into the car register, noticing the redbud tree blooms and the state mantra, Virginia Is For Lovers. Romance is on the horizon with the fabric of nature waking interweaving with the road.

Richmond is a green city with trees growing out of ruined mills and the James River flowing through providing relief for the 80 degree temperatures. Our host for the evening @earthfolkrva is a giant farm in the middle of a residential area of Southside. The residents are out working the land and already the land is rich with herbs and produce. We have several stages to choose from between an old farmhouse built in the late 1700s or the backdrop of a vintage camper. We decide to use the white facade of the garage for projections as the sun goes down.

Fellow Earth Folk arrive, and soon the night kicks off with a special charm. The White family is there and Erin’s father has brought his bluegrass band to set the mood for the get together. Appalachian lilts that set the spark to light the bonfire, as golden light reaches the trees from the sunset and all the birds above cry out from their roost sharing an excitement towards the evening’s warmth.

Erin and I perform haikus with accompanying movements and behind us a pack of Coydogs start to howl and wail their approval. This little patch of forest. Maintained by noble stewards. There is talk of the land and its original inhabitants. Meeting grounds between the Powhatan and Algonquin. The exchange is scored by Marian McLaughlin’s odes to the change we are seeing to the planet in our lifetime. Receding wilderness and extinction of species.

The open mic begins and in the voices I hear how synchronous it is the folks who have gathered here. True Earth Folk. Fellow Earth Lovers. Truth Seekers and Fairy Kin. Their words describe the experience to be one with nature. Wild Folk fearless before Late Stage Capitalism. The spirit they offer to the land is enough to save it for future generations.

Poets For Peace, tour no. 8: day 1 – recap

WE’VE GOT THE POWER

philly01

 

WE’VE GOT THE POWER

The lights dim and you can hear the soprano sax in the stairwell echoing a rambunctious discordance. It provides background to the dull hiss of the noise track the DJ’s cued up and everyone who talks over it.

A musician walks out with a kora, handmade from the driftwood of the Delaware River.

Another musician walks out and starts kicking the keys of an upright piano, the not-so-subtle signal for the crowd’s dull din to slow.

Sounds of the saxophone descend the stairwell and enter the darkened hall. Held by a hooded figure, an African Lion in a cloud of fire emblazoned across the breast of the player, who is busy summoning the heartbeats of the ancestors with squeals of lightning struck out by his every puff of thunder.

The room is shook to pause. Everyone frozen as this chieftain rounds the room and takes his throne. From there he begins to strum the winds to storm. The kora like a sorcerer’s staff bending under the weight of all the years casting spells. He does this till everyone is properly stewed and mind’s are blown.

Then the golden soprano sax is again drawn. It lights up the room all on its own. Staccatos and frequencies that jar the audience to life.
The whole crowd snapping fingers, shouting, “Yeah, man! Go!”
Kicking legs, toppling drums. Piano again kicked to riff some dreams to be born. The whole sound cosmic. Like Sun Ra re-embodied. But this ain’t the Marshall Allen show. This is the midnight after hours post-show. Desert to a five course meal. It has some of that same soul and takes it further with elements of magic exposed by the light of the moon.

The sparks fly upwards. West Philly atmosphere grows. All those healing tones. And everyone knows…these moments fill the spiritual impact of all this city’s potholes. Chemistry for the heart chakra.

Zip! Zoop! Doo bop! Beep! Bam! Boom! Go Man! Go!

The machine can cut at the life chords. Stomp on this city’s residents’ souls. Pound away at them with all that concrete gloom and doom. Tear away at the pieces that are dearest to hold. But no one’s got the power to make the legends grow old. They’re not dying, no. They’re growing more power, full! Feeling the call. Blasting those spiritual hymns and tones. The jazz that’s needed to take us home. Back to our hearts immemorial!

Reminding us, we’ve got the power! We are the power of storms!

WE’VE GOT THE POWER

POEMS FOR THE PIGS

I jump into the fray again. This time unintentionally. When I show up to Santa Fe, I find out the republican governors from all over the country are meeting at the conference center to discuss conservative policy. Somehow I didn’t get the memo. There are protestors on every street corner. But it’s nothing like Philly in 2017 when the GOP showed up a week after the inauguration.

We protested for over a week, with snake marches leading to organized marches, leading to dance parties, leading to tens of thousands of people surrounding the hotel all those pigs were hiding in. Inside, the traitor in chief probably told everyone that his supporters had come to celebrate his victory, but outside the energy was livid. The marches didn’t really lead anywhere, but that was the beginning of so many activist groups finding alliances in the streets. It was a time to see each other and find hope in the multitudes that love was still possible even in tyranny.

In Santa Fe, things are a little more low key. Mostly Women’s Marchers sans pussy hats holding signs that outline that Santa Fe is a sanctuary city and accepts refugees. No action, but frankly, it’s just exciting to see so many signs walking through the streets, mixed in with the usual amount of summer tourists, heading towards relieving a group who’s held a corner for a few hours or stopping to take a bathroom break. The retired mothers of the city taking their time off to push through some progressive messages to the backwards Man, himself.

They stand outside the El Dorado hotel picketing the buses full of governors’ aides that pull in. They stand outside the Cathedral of St Francis de Assisi catching the evangelicals who want to see architectural history. Anywhere where the buses drive through, they are there to greet them.

I set up my typewriter in the plaza next to a group doing a silent vigil for the children at the border separated from their families. They hold signs with simple mantras like “Free The Children” and “Everyone Welcome”. In front of them there are a dozen or more baby shoes. The symbols there are heavy.

Meanwhile, I write poems for children about dreams of mermaids and family road trips. The dialogue being translated through poetry. It doesn’t escape me how there’s no difference between these children who get to live out their freedom and the ones currently locked up in cages, maybe never seeing their parents again.

An afternoon turns to evening and I change my location several times, till I find my prime spot for the late night dinner crowd, and that’s when it happens. I’m not quite paying attention because there’s so much going on. But out of the corner of my eye, I see one of those huge busses pull over and a dozen or more suits get off of it. They are surrounded by police and secret service, who seemingly appear out of nowhere. Suddenly, the streets around me have been cleared.

It’s Mike Pence who stops and reads my Dream Poet For Hire sign. He’s chatting to Susana Martinez, who I guess is giving them all a tour of her state’s capital.

“Write a poem about me and my wife,” he says.

Obviously, I’m boiling over with malice, but I’m the Dream Poet and with my mask on I put on a good show entertaining his midwestern interest.

The poem writes itself, keys mumbling away. It talks about how love can’t be defined by time or place, age or gender. It’s a spark that speaks beyond the limits of our patriarchal understanding. Love thy brother, love the human race in all of its manifestations, love thy mother, love this planet and all the ways she holds us in nurture. Love is love is love and hate for the love between two men or two women or two people who choose not to define themselves within a binary does not erase the divine essence within that love, something that is so magical it inspires all of us to keep living through the madness.

I fill the page and read it back to him. His icy eyes look at me with a smile that says he knows I gonzoed him, dropping the bill in my case anyway, and slipping the poem in the breast pocket of his suit jacket. He moves over for the next one, which happens to be Governor Martinez.

“Write a poem about immigrants,” she says.

Again, I smile and put on extra airs. The poem coming full throttle. I write about the state of New Mexico still being a foreign country. How families are just moving between their ancestral homes. I write about the Pueblos. How this is their land and our borders hold no power. I write about the railroads, about the white settlers, about the slave owners. I write how an elected official in a state that is still Mexico, and before that stolen land, better reflect on who she represents. Amnesty for all refugees, I write. Open the borders.

There’s a silence after I read the poem and I think I’ve gone too far. But again, there it is the bills dropped and the poem stowed away somewhere safe.

Next it’s one of their aides.

“Oh, you write haiku, I see. Write a haiku about Washington DC.”

Sinkholes everywhere
the swamp sinking as it drains
swamp things go kerplunk.

Someone asks, “Are you related to Brett Kavanaugh?”

“No relation. The Kavanaugh’s are a proud clan of peacemakers. No way he’s really one of them.”

And then that’s it. They get bored and move on. And I’m left there wondering if it really was even them, or perhaps just another tour group of Texans.

POEMS FOR THE PIGS