Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

martes, junio 29, 2010


You swim from the oil
But there's nowhere to go.
Dolphin sobs and cries.

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domingo, junio 27, 2010


A thousand fireflies
dance to distant thunder.
Bullfrogs croak, "It doesn't matter."


martes, junio 22, 2010

Local News From The Last Century

Garrison Keillor reminds us:

On this day in 1878, Walt Whitman took a steamboat ride up the Hudson River and wrote a letter to his niece Hattie. He wrote: "I came up here last Thursday afternoon in the steamboat from NY — a fine day, and had a delightful journey — every thing to interest me — the constantly changing but ever beautiful panorama on both sides of the river all the way for nearly 100 miles here — the magnificent north river bay part of the shores of NY—the high straight walls of the rocky Palisades — the never-ending hills — beautiful Yonkers — the rapid succession of handsome villages and cities — the prevailing green—the great mountain sides of brown and blue rocks — the river itself — the innumerable elegant mansions in spots peeping all along through the woods and shrubbery — with the sloops and yachts, with their white sails, singly or in fleets, some near us always, some far off — etc etc etc..."

He went up for a visit with John Burroughs, who Whitman said had "plenty of strawberries, cream etc. and something I specially like, namely plenty of sugared raspberries and currants."

Yes. And today there were strawberries for sale at the side of Route 9-G in Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, New York. And the traffic passed the stand by as if it were a mirage. The last century lingers, but it's virtually invisible from a car. The idea, I think, is to get the juice all over your steering wheel, so that it is sticky, and smells sweet, and makes a sucking sound.

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lunes, junio 21, 2010

In Memoriam

From the New York Times:

On June 21, 1964, three civil rights workers disappeared in Philadelphia, Miss. Their bodies were found buried in an earthen dam six weeks later. Eight members of the Ku Klux Klan went to prison on federal conspiracy charges; none served more than six years.

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domingo, junio 20, 2010

Dear Pachamama: This Too Can Heal

The Despacho

Beyond the anger, frustration, sadness, depression and fear of the BP oil disaster there must be something else. The Gulf of Mexico is fast becoming a deadly petroleum gumbo garnished with oil coated pelicans, life in the sea is massing and trying to unsuccessfully to escape the pollution, and there may really be nothing on a practical level that can be done to staunch the hemorrhage of Pachamama's vital fluids. We watch in horror. And grief. Is our mother dying? I awoke in the middle of the night to write this haiku:

I watch you dying.
Pelican can't fly away.
Oceans fill my eyes.

Yesterday I had the thought that we are watching the death of the coral and multitudes of the finned and swimming creatures because they are offering themselves up, sacrificing themselves to give us a message we have willfully refused for decades to hear. I want us to hear and heed that message. And they are apparently ready to die to have us hear and understand it.

But there is more. If it is true that what we give our attention to grows, and I believe it is, it is time to shift some of our conscious attention from our pervasive thoughts of grief and anxiety to another thought. This thought: this too can heal. Even this unprecedented horrendous mess Pachamama can heal. Even this unmitigated disaster she can heal. How she can do this is not important. What is so very important is the thought, the belief that this too can heal. That thought needs to take hold. Without the thought that this too can be healed, there is only focused attention on the death of the Gulf, the death of all of its creatures, the eventual death of the oceans, and the death of the planet. And that focused attention will kill all of us.

The Dhammapada tells us this very same thing, that we are what we think:

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind
And trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

Filled with anger, fear, sadness, grief, overcome with frustration, we are what we think. With only those intense thoughts there is no room for anything else. There is only death.

To mark the Solstice and to offer both our thanks and our deepest apologies to Mother Earth, Pachamama, Santa Madre Tierra, many friends gathered on Saturday. We made a despacho, an offering, the one pictured above.

A despacho is a prayer bundle in the Q'ero tradition from the high Andes of Peru. It is made up of many symbolic elements: sugar for sweetness, lima beans for nutrition, raisins to honor the ancestors, alphabet noodles to honor learning, red wine to honor the feminine, white white to honor the masculine, and on and on and on. There are so many ingredients. There is a clam shell to symbolize the mamakocha, the oceans and waters of our planet. There are cotton strands to symbolize the clouds. And stars. And the sun. And Pachamama. The despacho in many ways is a complete, mythic universe of offering. To it, each participant in the ceremony adds personal and community prayers. In this case, the prayers were especially for the healing of Pachamama from the Gulf disaster.

Many of the prayers were like this one by Masaru Emoto:
Now let's give energy of love and gratitude to the waters and all the living creatures in Mexico Gulf by praying like this:

To the water, whales, dolphins, pelicans, fishes, shellfishes, planktons, corals, algae and all creatures in our Gulf of Mexico:

I apologize.
Please forgive me.
Thank you.
I love you.

Or like this one I wrote:

Dear Pachamama, Mother Earth, Santa Madre Tierra, Gaia, Sweet Mother, I am so sorry for what we have done and are doing to you and your creatures, our brothers and sisters, the creatures who live in and near the sea. We don't know how to stop the oil, and we don't know how to save all of these beings. Please understand our remorse, our regret, our shame and accept out deepest apologies for destroying this part of this wondrous, blue pearl planet. Please forgive us.

After all of the many prayers are placed in the bundle, and the bundle is tied up, the despacho is burned in a ceremonial fire. This, the tradition says, releases the prayers to the heavens, but we all know that the prayers reach their destination as soon as they are thought. Whenever they are thought.

I know that I will not be able to keep my focus on the possible healing of the Gulf and our planet. I know that I will again become infuriated. At BP. At the government. At Obama. At the BP CEO. And Louisiana's politicians. At Missisisppi's governor. That's just human. My hope is that I will be able to turn away from strong negative feelings to hold gently in the palm of my hand the possibility of healing for the Gulf and our beautiful, blue planet. And for all of us.

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viernes, junio 18, 2010


I watch you dying.
Pelican can't fly away.
Oceans fill my eyes.



miércoles, junio 16, 2010

Pachamama, I Beg You Please Forgive Us

This is deeply troubling. And beyond sickening. AP reports:

GULF SHORES, Ala. - Dolphins and sharks are showing up in surprisingly shallow water just off the Florida coast. Mullets, crabs, rays and small fish congregate by the thousands off an Alabama pier. Birds covered in oil are crawling deep into marshes, never to be seen again.

Marine scientists studying the effects of the BP disaster are seeing some strange — and troubling — phenomena.

Fish and other wildlife are fleeing the oil out in the Gulf and clustering in cleaner waters along the coast. But that is not the hopeful sign it might appear to be, researchers say.

The animals' presence close to shore means their usual habitat is badly polluted, and the crowding could result in mass die-offs as fish run out of oxygen. Also, the animals could easily get devoured by predators.

"A parallel would be: Why are the wildlife running to the edge of a forest on fire? There will be a lot of fish, sharks, turtles trying to get out of this water they detect is not suitable," said Larry Crowder, a Duke University marine biologist.

Dear Pachamama, Mother Earth, Santa Madre Tierra, Gaia, Sweet Mother, I am so sorry for what we have done and are doing to you and your creatures, our brothers and sisters, the creatures who live in and near the sea. We don't know how to stop the oil, and we don't know how to save all of these beings. Please understand our remorse, our regret, our shame and accept out deepest apologies for destroying this part of this wondrous, blue pearl planet. Please forgive us.

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Solstice bullfrog choir
summons a tiny moon.
Why would anyone sleep?


domingo, junio 13, 2010

A Poor Workman Blames His Tools

So far we've had two mega goalkeeping errors in the first days of World Cup. England's Green let in a shot because he didn't follow a rule that even middle school goalkeepers know: get in front of the ball and smother it. Don't try to catch it from the side. Ever. The result was a 1-1 draw between the US, which was really stung early in the first half, and England, which for all its star power doesn't play like a team. The tabloid press in the UK today was really ugly.

This is what makes for ugly press:

And then today, as if yesterday's goof weren't enough a wake up call, Slovenia, a country the size of Houston, beat Algeria on a goalkeeping error. And, instead of just eating crow and moving on, the Algerian coach had this to say:

Algerian coach Rabah Saadane said the new World Cup ball was a challenge for goalkeepers.

"Everyone saw what happened with the ball, and what happened yesterday with England's goalkeeper," Saadane said. "You have to adjust to the flight of the ball."

Yeah. I saw what happened. Here it is:

Coach, that's not a problem with a ball. That's called goalkeeper spacing out. Nice try though.

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viernes, junio 11, 2010

BP Spills Coffee

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jueves, junio 10, 2010

Good News: Hudson, NY, is NOT Itawamba County, Miss

At last, a different meme and a small victory in the culture wars.

Today's Hudson, New York Register Star has the counterpoint to the horrendous Itawamba County, Mississippi, prom stories. It seems that two gay friends have been elected prom king and queen by the student body at Hudson High School. I'm applauding.

Join me in Columbia County, New York.

The Register Star reports:
The Hudson High School prom made history this past Saturday when openly gay best friends were named prom king and queen.

Seniors Charlie Ferrusi and Timmy Howard won their respective crown and tiara by a landslide Saturday and said the support they received from their peers and school administration has been fun and humbling.

“It’s a really big step for Hudson but also for the gay community in general,” Howard said Wednesday. “To have this happen in our city is pretty exciting.”

Ferrusi said he and Howard started thinking about running about a month ago. While there were some students who were in opposition to their idea many more approved and the boys decided to go for it.

By prom night the overwhelming majority of students cast their votes in the open ballot race. They won by such a wide margin the school didn’t crown any runners up.

Earlier this afternoon, the Superintendent of Schools and the High School Principal gave a press conference (sorry no reportage yet) in which they supported the boys' election and said that was all there was to it. It remains to be seen how the School Board might respond.

I'm really proud of the Hudson High School students and staff. This is so much a better story than one tinged in homophobia and hatred. Join me in applauding.

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martes, junio 08, 2010

Waiting and Waiting

domingo, junio 06, 2010

The Buried Current

...on the way to another city, I see broad white highways. They are frozen rivers. On those still river beds the silhouetted figure of a fisherman absorbed in himself appears, from time to time, like a fly on a glossy tablecloth. The fisherman halts at that long frozen sheet, picks out a spot, and drills the ice until he has an opening through which the buried current can be seen. He can't catch anything right away because the fish have fled, frightened by the iron that made the hole. Then the fisherman sprinkles a little food to lure the runaways back. He drops his hook and waits. He waits for hours on end in that hellish cold.

The work of writers, I say, has much in common with the work of these Arctic fishermen. The writer has to look for the river, and if he finds it frozen over, he has to drill a hole in the ice. He must have a good deal of patience, weather the cold and the adverse criticism, stand up to ridicule, look for the deep water, cast the proper hook, and after all that work, he pulls out a tiny little fish. So he must fish again, facing the cold, the water, the critic, eventually landing a bigger fish, and another and another.

--Pablo Neruda, Memoirs

sábado, junio 05, 2010

Day 47

Once again, my hair's on fire.

These are the salient facts. The BP oil leak continues unabated. Oil has transformed the Gulf Coast into the largest man made ecological disaster in history. It may be impossible to stop the leak. Even if it's possible to stop the leak, it may take months and luck to do so. Neither the Government nor BP apparently has the resources to stop the leak quickly. Flying over the leak and visiting the Gulf Coast and making repeated speeches about the leak and trying not to look completely helpless or to cry on camera is apparently all that Government can do for us. There has not been an all out, dramatic, gigantic mobilization of human and other resources to capture oil or to contain it. Oil has arrived and more is expected on beaches in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. There's no end in sight.

My hair's on fire. I'm not really able to be with the situation. The Gulf has turned into an oil gumbo with dead animal croutons, and my emotions are a boiling, raging, oil stew. There is no real relief, no real change in sight. There is no comfort. Even thinking about impermanence, which can be an ally at times like this, doesn't help. Because there's my ever present dread that while the current situation cannot continue forever, it just might become much, much worse. What would that look like? It would be the death of an ecosystem.

At the moment there seem to be only two real possibilities. These are not disjunctive. Choice one: pick up my shovels and drive to the coast. Do whatever I can to be of help there. Choice two: ceremony and prayer. Beg Santa Madre Tierra, Pachamama, Mother Earth for forgiveness and healing.

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miércoles, junio 02, 2010

You're Never Gonna See This Ad In The US


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martes, junio 01, 2010

When Is The BP Perp Walk?

It's no secret. I, who have devoted much of my professional life to defending people accused of horrendous crimes; I, who generally feel that nobody should ever go to prison; I who have spent decades fighting against state killing; I confess. I want to see BP executives indicted, perp walked in New Orleans in handcuffs before a howling media, convicted by juries and locked up. Locked up for a very long time. Like Bernie Madoff.

I don't care particularly what federal and/or state crimes the BP and drilling folks have committed. I want them to be given a full and fair trial in a federal court, and I want them imprisoned. For a very long time. I want them to be an example that this kind of environmental destruction will not be tolerated in a civilize society. There, I've said it.

And the good news for me, and for you if you feel this way is that apparently the current administration has finally decided to move in the direction of criminal prosecutions. It only took 53 days of spillage and a world record, man made environmental catastrophe. Goodness, even WFAN Sports Talk Radio in NYC today was complaining about BP and the spill and federal oversight. So finally, today, at long last, the administration is at last starting to pursue the criminals who have attempted to murder an entire ocean and all of the life in it and surrounding it.

You have some choices in how to think about this crime. You can think of it as a crime of greed. You can think of it as a crime of recklessness. You can think of it as a crime of stupidity. You can think of it as a mix of all of these. But regardless of the motivations, regardless of how one characterizes it, it's a crime.

The New York Times reports:

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Tuesday that federal authorities have opened criminal and civil investigations into the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

"We will closely examine the actions of those involved in the spill,” Mr. Holder said after a meeting with state attorneys general in New Orleans. “If we find evidence of illegal behavior, we will be extremely forceful in our response." snip...

Earlier Tuesday, President Obama vowed to pursue criminal inquiries into the cause of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, as the crisis he called “the greatest environmental disaster of its kind in our history” threatened to engulf his second year in office.

“We have an obligation to determine what went wrong,” Mr. Obama said, appearing in the Rose Garden after meeting with the two men he has appointed to lead an inquiry into the cause of the spill, former Senator Bob Graham of Florida and William K. Reilly, a former Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

“If laws were broken, leading to death and destruction,” Mr. Obama said, “my solemn pledge is, we will bring those responsible to justice.”

If laws were broken. If we find evidence of criminal behavior. What a joke. If only these attempts to sound tones of restraint and impartiality and fairness could be the last vestige of federal dithering and misinformation and indecisiveness. For 53 days we've all watched as the Gulf of Mexico is ruined, we've watched while BP has demonstrated beyond cavil that it has no clue whatsoever how to stop the leak, we've watched them lie and fabricate and evade and lull and protect their sorry behinds.

I personally have no intention of reading all of Title 18 of the United States Code, and all of the other possibly relevant federal statutes, to figure out specifically what laws have been broken by Transocean and BP and their regulators. Sadly, unlike other cases, it's that clear to me: if global corporations can befoul an entire ocean and it doesn't violate several federal laws, the US Code isn't worth a cup of warm spit.

I've been hoping for almost two months that a criminal investigation would be launched. I look forward to the arrests. I look forward to the perp walks. I look forward to the courthouse steps statements of innocence. Bring it on. I can hardly wait for a jury to speak and for a New Orleans judge to impose sentence

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