Our Roman Fathers

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I wrote this 250 word audition piece for a client and thought it topical, worth remembering, given the times.

Our Romanesque Fathers

The American Founders, well-versed in history, embraced ancient Rome, even taking Roman pen names like Washington’s Cincinnatus and Jefferson’s Cato. America’s symbol, the eagle, and the Capitol’s architecture are likewise borrowed from Rome. However, the Founders’ greatest influences are the lessons learned from the Roman Empire’s founding and demise. The U.S. Constitution was written with an eye toward both.

To Protect Against Tyranny

Like America, Rome emerged as a city state from war and tyranny. Its mythological creation from feuding Romulus and Remus, characterizes its founding, one geographically destined to emerge as powerful but warring with its strategic placement near seafaring passageways. The Punic War expansion both forged and destroyed the Empire.

Looking to Rome, the Founders inscribed Roman virtues–liberty and freedom–into America’s constitution, but wisely included safeguards to protect against a government subject to human weaknesses, like intoxicating power and greed. The U.S. Constitution conceived a Roman inspired tri-part government, a combined democracy, monarchy and aristocracy. Divided power among its branches ensured against tyranny, of which Rome served as warning.

For Survival of a Nation

The Founders learned from Rome’s eroding largesse and excess to foster, preserve and protect their budding nation. They knew Imperialist Rome’s downfall lay in its expansion wars, leaving unemployment, migration, venality, religious intolerance–and ultimately, tyranny.

The American constitution, both reactionary and visionary, founded a nation upon ideals–which defines its exceptionalism–not merely on geography, ethnicity and history. Rome served as its map, just as the U.S. Constitution mapped the American nation forward.

Story Line

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It’s the same old story told and re-told,

Thin smoke, a fire sparks newspapers sold;

“We’re up in flames; this place is doomed.

Who will scrape our souls from the ruins?”

 

Truth be souled, we scale our weakened edges,

Lurching through time, jumping off its ledges

In silken ticks, slick with moist memory mold

Like a baby’s crown bridging gaps grown whole.

 

Since the plates never cement, never solidify 

Merely surrender the quest just to realize

How little matters matter in the big scheme:

Unceasing cessation’s sensation’s our dream.

 

So forget about alarm bells and anxiety spells,

Smoke, pills, drink and dare-to-extreme thrills

To awaken sensate waves alligated to a vision 

When real proof appeared at the first incision.

 

At the flash, burn and expulsion, too hot to stay

A core so full of inevitable dispersion to always.

That’s life, I’m told, living between fire and ice   

My story and yours, again, and rolling the dice.

 

Chaos, our freedom, this overlaid order a fraud,

Some call it nature, some karma and others God.

I call it “whatever” or “ok”, often I call it a day,

To rein and saddle numbered hours’ silly anyway.

 

The ending never arrives, the plot never unfolds,

That’s the same old story told, retold and untold

Since the steadfast mute, reveal no master divine

Across the divide no dying secret passing the line.

 
Image: http://www.designedforlearning.co.uk

Small Favors

  
Small favors, thank goodness for them, like finding a dollar on the sidewalk

or pulling up just in time to nab the last parking spot.

Still underpaid and broke, struggling, the dollar shines like a 

ribboned gift nevertheless.

And yes, a spot probably opens up for those who wait, 

but all drivers treasure time.

Larger small favors look like winning the raffle at the company picnic

or an impromptu sparkling conversation out of the blue while 

perusing the nonfiction aisle at the bookstore.

Unsuspecting, like those bracelets.

My beloved’s gift, the one I wore til it broke as I shed the last

shred of clothing, naked before a lover’s gaze,

my panties catching its piney speckled beads

and shattering its thin knotty hold on my ankle.

The wood bead’s dull clink on the ceramic tile motel floor. 

While the other, a punishing thick relentless reminder, black 

plastic prisoner’s promised ring, cut into pieces, stabbed in shouting outness,

that one that wrongfully shrunk skin and tamped tibial boxes, receding like

the mote of my motivation, and then gone, freed–but only fake freedom.

I cut it at its malignant root, vengefully scissoring its mad fastening.

And the final ring to replace the broken ones, a gift, simple plastic beaded 

black, silver and white, sweet, puerile and true to salve the wound

and psyched out phantom circle chain.

A charm, a trinket, a child’s delight, and one small favor thoughtful and big–

infinite to me. 

 

In Gratitude…#Nanowrimo completed: 23 days, a novel

  
Seems befitting that on this weekend of gratitude, I conclude this huge though not impossible endeavor with the following:

While reintegrating to my life by inches, loving the smallest favors first like the grip of a long handled toothbrush or the pleasure of a private shit and shower, my own bed with more than two inches of mattress and a box spring in the quiet of my home, ragged as it was and is, snuggled inside the lefthand loop of a cul de sac; then appreciating bigger things like the love of a family that has been loving me–hard–more than I let myself feel, all this time. 

My family, blood and adopted, came through for me in a way that shocked me, even though it could not have been more predictable. They wrote, visited, and watched; they stood by and pitched in. They witnessed helplessly as I crumbled and paid enormous sums to secure my freedom, cried for me in my grief but did not pity me nor make themselves the heroes; they took care of me. 

JM stepped up for me and suffered like the brave and strong he never knew he was, taking up the mantle where I had dropped it. He came through for all of us, doing whatever he had to, and he proved to himself he was strong, something he needed to know but couldn’t since he had never needed to before. That was my job–ensuring that no one needed to be strong. I coddled them as organizer, unifier  and fixer. Now they took up the reins and showed themselves worthy of the task. And I received.

Finding the Cost of Freedom

  
Find the cost of freedom

Buried in the ground

Mother Earth will swallow you

Lay your body down.  CSNY

Randy would not be the first or the last gay man I fell for. I never pieced together the hitchhiking he did from work instead of taking the bus, and the expressed hopes to pick up someone “interesting.” I’m guessing now that he got paid on the side for his lovely looks: from delicate hands to his big style and classy flare. Anyone else with more exposure might have known, but no one in my town growing up was gay–except my sister’s best friend and the drama department at school, to my knowledge. It was the late 70s and no one was gay–openly. I just never suspected that men could be anything but interested in me as a female, someone to stick a dick into at the very least. My worldview was small, provincial, like the state I grew up in despite its savvy sensationalized reputation world wide to the contrary, no doubt based on one city, a small piece of real estate relative to the entirety of the state with its miles of farmland and country roads.

It was after these first 6 months or so on my own, working, going to school, quitting school and trying to make a life nearly on my own, a lonely pursuit of angst-filled growth and delirious abandon, when I concluded that I wished my parents would have reigned me in more, made the effort; my limitations were few and the responsibility of that freedom was overwhelmingly burdensome. I was lonely, and my life felt like one huge scary spin of outright disregard for my own safety–even to a 17 year old alley cat on a crash course to world wise self-sufficiency.

 
credit: http://www.thewolf.ca

Power to the People:  Happy Memorial Day (a flag wave to free speech)

Flag waving

  
Credit: James Gort

I am not fond of patriotic measurement. Those who denounce others for lack of patriotism are often too busy waving flags to find time to write their Congress people about the injustices around them: the disproportionate number of black youth in prisons, the war against the poor, and the cycling of drug addicts in prisons on the wheel of blind ineffective policies and inhumane disdain for the weak and poor, to name a few. The ignorants of history get my guts gurgling. 

Peace-loving by nature, I do bite when rankled. My teeth sunk into an unsuspecting victim on Facebook (where else more appropriate?) on an ex-student’s thread after the post question asked why everyone was getting so riled up over PacSun’s new design: an upside down flag. The first responder raged about disrespect for the flag. I smelled that one coming.

Also inherently pedantic and boorish, I tried to positive spin the symbol as patriotic while teaching a history lesson about the founding fathers of our nation finding it so important to democracy that citizens of a nation DO speak up and out for what they believe are best policies and interests for the country, whether those sentiments are critical or supportive of existing ideas, policies and laws. However, the tepid response held that a positive critique helped more than a negative one. 

She misses the point.

When PacSun disseminates t-shirts with upside down flags, it may be merely smart marketing to the rebel, the cool folk, the hipsters or youth generally, those with piss and vinegar in them about something–and not necessarily the country’s welfare. However, the symbol should evoke the ultimate patriotic act: expressing dissatisfaction with the nation’s behavior. 

What could be more patriotic than to care about the nation enough to speak up? To want changes? Apathy or blind complicity wreaks destruction to a democracy grounded on a bustling marketplace of ideas. 

How else do our nation’s law and policy makers know how to represent us if not for speaking out (yeah, I know…lobbyists, special interests and favors) at least in principle, on Constitutional constructs. Flag waving signals symbolic respect, approval and support of a nation, in whole or in part. Protests, letters to the district Congress person, flag burning and iconic imagery and slogans of dissent, such as upside down flags, literally and symbolically disapprove a nation in whole or in part. 

Patriots of a nation act, speak and opine. Shallow patriots wait for holidays to post sentimental gestures, gratified that they have done their part. Traitors silence speech of others, censor opinions they disapprove, the very acts from which the founding fathers of this country sought to protect its citizens. 

Plenty is upside down in America now. The downward facing flag speaks legions to me, one citizen among many who feel the same. Those who disagree speak freely in cafes on the streets, at the dinner table of their homes,  slouched at their desks on their electronic devices and behind the screens of anonymity on social media. 

And that’s the beauty of it–the freedom to express disagreement, exchange ideas and learn something–in a nation that not only tolerates but requires it for its very existence.

On this Memorial Day, remember American history. The antidote to tyranny lies in the people–who are the sovereignty in this nation–assembling, whether in private or public, to meet with other minds in order to keep the government in compliance with the needs of its rulers–the people. 

Power to the people, and their voices, echoing from the battle field groans of dying soldiers to the exclamation points typed on an IPad to punctuate a Facebook debate.

Anchor’s a Weight

An anchor rests upon my left foot, 
center of the crown atop metatarsals 
while the shank steels up to my knee 
to measure the length of tibial boxes.

 

  
Its weight causes a limp in my walk.
  

 

Anchoring my bones,
it weighs against my walking away
and ties me to the hull 
where I see pass by
ocean life abounding 
color and coral free waves 
of undulating weed and water
to please my senses five.
  
Though tethered to a ship,
I am free to enjoy, observe,
swimming gleefully 
in surging seas.
  
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