Foucault in Japan

“A benefit of the NationState
was the spread of
universal compulsory education
even though it was designed
to inculcate military values.”

This started off
the morning lecture
about Foucault
but the students
already properly socialized
into their roles
as recipients of information
properly took notes
and didn’t engage
in a discussion
of the implications,
especially not
the young Japanese girls.

“How do we live counter narratives?”
I thought to myself
not wanting my questions
to be dismissed
as part of
foreign student performativity.

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Spoon River Faith Study Group

(Written as an exercise for the Poetry in America class)

It was in the 1980s and I was living in New York City. I had moved there, after dropping out of college, to be a poet and was supporting myself writing computer programs. Through a local church, I found a group of Christian artists struggling to get by in the great big city. They gathered for various events, and I, being one of the furthest from making a living at my art, stayed in the shadows.

At one event, a woman read Elsa Wertman from Spoon River Anthology.

But—at political rallies when sitters-by thought I was crying
At the eloquence of Hamilton Greene—
That was not it.
No! I wanted to say:
That’s my son! That’s my son!

That woman now performs from a pulpit instead of from a proscenium. She posts on Facebook about her son’s great new job. He didn’t become a member of Congress, like Hamilton Greene did.

I wonder what it would have been like, if my friend had led a faith study group for Elsa Wertman, Aner Clute, Mrs. Kessler and some of the other women in Spoon River. Did Mrs. Kessler ever wash clothes for Elsa Wertman or Aner Clute? What would she have said? Would let them know that everyone has things they try to hide, but that it all comes out in the wash? Would Elsa have broken down in tears and confessed her hurt, her longing? Would Aner Clute found the acceptance and love that always seemed to elude her?

The News

“I read the news today, oh boy “
Earthquakes around Mt. Saint Helens;
is something going to erupt soon?
Further north, the tar sands burn.

Captain America: Civil War
erupted at the box office
as million paid their money
to be entertained
by conflict.

The conflict in Syria rages on
and spills across the region
as I pray for mothers of sons
stationed near the battle lines.

At home
Americans are fighting with words,
but it isn’t any less fierce,
as friends declare their candidacies
for down ticket races
because the top of the ticket
is so messed up.

An award winning journalist
gets barred from a political convention
because he writes articles
critical of the party
and a friend wins praise
for her role
in a battle of wits
with a school yard bully
running for President
on Twitter.

“I read the news today, oh boy “
Is something going to erupt soon?

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I read
“When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d”
at the dinner table
festooned with recently gather flowers
on Mother’s day
and thought of the massive lilac bushes
that grew in front of my childhood home.

When my wife was younger
she would go with her mother
to find lilacs growing in the wood
that they would pick
and bring home.

My wife’s mother
my own
by thirteen years –
predeceased sounds
so cold, so clinical,
so devoid of feeling.

One hundred and fifty one years ago
Abraham Lincoln died
“And the great star early droop’d
in the western sky in the night”.

Five years later
Julia Ward Howe penned
“Arise, then, women of this day!”
calling for a “general congress of women”
in the first Mother’s Day Proclamation.

Yet again, the lilacs bloom,
we honor and remember our mothers,
we mourn,
and call for
true equality,
and an end to wars.

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Poets Anonymous

It stared simply enough,
trying to remember
the poem about
dancing with daffodils,
and not knowing
the poetry hotline number.

Later, I saw something
I can’t remember
what it was now
and so the idea

I started carrying
a small notepad
around with me
which helped much of the time
but then
I would be driving on the parkway
and couldn’t write in my notepad
so I started recording thoughts
speaking into
my cellphone.

I read about
the lack of poetry emergencies
and thought,
“I’m relieved,
but also sad.”

What is it like
to catch a glimpse
or smell a smell
on a fine day
only to have it escape,
even if the idea
is saved
in a notebook
to be written later?

I weep for my stillborn poems,
but not carried to term
and I tell my stories
at Poets Anonymous.
“Hi, my name is Aldon
and I’m a poet.”

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