The Wheels on the Bus: Ten for Today


October 30, 2016

After turning you over a few times in my mind, rolled you under and over my tongue six or seven times, I’ve concluded you’re here to stay. And here I thought I was coming down with something, a sore throat or swollen glands. Even mononucleosis seemed probable. I was weak, tired, and lonely, mostly. “No, I must be sick. Just sick. Nothing more.”

And outside my window, the clouds patch in blue above the heavy grays, the cumuli nimbus basis for all sky matter–water. I cry sometimes. I can’t argue. I mean the oppression of having to trudge to and from that institutional hole, seething with live broken bodies, the forget-me’s of you-don’t-have-enough-buying-power-to-matter stuffed into wall seams, writhing in discard. It makes my throat swell.

So yeah, I’ve had the sky, clouds, gaps and injustice to weigh me down these past fifty odd years. Accumulated social detritus, piled in dead-skin mountains, toppling over onto my gashed coffee table and splintered carpet borders–where the dog dug up our humanity to show us what good girls we are.

When the timer goes off, I’ll have no more of these thoughts. I’ll clean a few trays, wipe a counter or two and watch the bus riders mount a sky blue-topped metropolitan half-hearted attempt at mass transit. Only those who will end up inside the courthouse walls ride. Those, and wide-eyed children believing those wheels on the bus going round and round bring them on the ride of their little lives.
 
Til they too find out the truth. 

Under Your Gaze: Poem 11


I live under your gaze
 
in a box
 
by the bus bench
 
in the bushes.
 
Though our eyes
 
never meet,
 
not a glance my way,
 
I feel your shame.
 
Don’t.
 
Judge my story.
 
You’ll find it in my eyes.

Republished today in YogiTimes: Yoga and Compassion in Prison

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​Please enjoy my republished article in Yogi Times todaytoday. 

surviving darkness in light of a yoga life

I was a bookish girl from an early age, always about with one under my nose in my Long Island suburb. That early reading passion eventually turned to a career in teaching high school and college English. So it’s no wonder that the first encounter with yoga was through a pocket sized hand book with pictures of a woman in leotard and tights performing various poses. I imitated those pictures as best I could but remember…read more here.

The Cage of Sanctioned Poverty

 

 
What they and the entire jail system missed or ignored, though, is the futility of punitive measures. So many of these women young and old had much worse lives outside of jail. They would easily trade the abuse–constant shouting, cursing, shoving, terrorizing and haranguing–for the safety and regularity of meals and meds in jail. All of their efforts to harass, abuse, demean and dehumanize had already been done on the streets by drug addled family, friends and lovers, or poverty, pimps and official and unofficial authorities on the streets. They were impervious to the abuse. The only ones who suffered the doled out intended intimidation were the rarer folks like me who somehow found themselves swept up in a hurricane of their own misstepped making, befuddled and shocked. The rest could care less. Jail was temporary and worse awaited them on the outside.
 

Credit: http://www.salon.com

The Toppling of America: the War of Race and Poverty

In America, we have socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor (Keith Ellison). 

I saw the video of the Texas officer who pulled guns on teens during a pool party raid and thrust his body weight on to the back of an unarmed 14 year old girl in a bathing suit. The imagery is nothing short of violent and hateful. Granted, there were many people and possibly too few police officers, a common story of police officers going into impossibly overcrowded underemployed neighborhoods of the disenfranchised from society. However, the dehumanizing behavior of the officer appeared deeply ingrained, rote, and unthinking.

The systematic dismissal and disposal of the poor, disproportionately black, in this country bespeaks a sick nation.

We created our ghettos from slavery through Jim Crow laws to decades of de-funding programs to help create jobs in poor neighborhoods, and then turned away from the aftermath.  The destruction continues to grow like weeds that strangle the manicured lawn. The “problem” only gets addressed when enough people turn out in the streets (in numbers and with cameras/phones), on the internet and in the voting booths–or when important white people are affected.

Nearly 1.5m African American men are in prison and missing from society due, in large part, to a criminal justice system that locks them up and limits their options upon release (Keith Ellison).

And then the overwhelming outcry of handwringing lamenters begins when the videos of violence appear, “Where are black fathers for the proper raising of their children? Aren’t they partly to blame for the perpetuation of generations of poverty, gangs and crime?” society asks when weighing  in on the current war between black men and cops that sent hordes of the outraged in the streets, in riots and throughout the media.

Leaders in Washington and around the country should have responded to the growing crisis in African American neighborhoods by creating jobs, repairing infrastructure, avoiding bad trade deals that offshored good-paying jobs in many urban areas and investing in our kids. Instead Congress and state legislatures built prisons, passed trade agreements that sent jobs overseas, gave police weapons designed for warzones and passed laws that increased de facto segregation (Keith Ellison).

Instead, leaders in Wasingon give tax breaks to the wealthy to repay their candidacy debts, enter into trade agreements that send jobs overseas, build prisons that are big business money makers on the backs of the poor and arm police with wartime weaponry.

Race is myth. When we stop talking about race, stop believing in race, it will disappear. Except for its career historically and in people’s memories as the antithesis of human freedom, the embodiment of inequality and injustice that remained far too long a toxic, unresolved paradox in nations proclaiming themselves free. In a raceless society color wouldn’t disappear. Difference wouldn’t disappear. Africa wouldn’t disappear. In post-race America “white” people would disappear. That is, no group could assume as birth-right and identity a privileged, supernaturally ordained superiority at the top of a hierarchy of other groups, a supremacy that bestows upon their particular kind the right perpetually to rule and regulate the lives of all other kinds. This idea, this belief in “whiteness,” whether the belief is expressed in terms of color, ethnicity, nationality, gender, tribe, etc., constitutes the founding principle of race, its appeal and its discontents (John Edgar Wideman–“Fatheralong”).

Slavery no longer exists–not in the grossly overt economic commonplace. But the toxic residue appears far more insidious. Wide scale racial prejudice and disdain for the poor incorporated into policy and procedures that permeate every governing institution, every manner of economic operation and opportunity, and every social organizing principle will topple a nation from its bloated top down.

A country is only as strong as its weakest members. Investment starts from the ground up–in people not dollars. The news of cops killing the disporportionately poor and weak will disappear when the majority vote for those who are willing to pay for alleviating the agony of a neglected segment of the population, deciding #Black Lives Matter.

 

 

Malice in the Mirror:  Through a Suburban Looking Glass


Who am I to play the ponderous observer, 
sitting here on the patio of a plush restaurant, 
having eaten an overpriced salad, 
imagining my calories sumptuously slide by 
in smug gustatory content, 
and getting buzzed on craft beer 
while watching suburban life pass, 
above the plashy roar of a flawless fountain? 
This is not LA. 
This is not a methadone withdrawal 
or a return to the streets 
after the sync of incarceration’s rhythm. 
This is a frightening freedom squandered by the free.
You are not free.  
You and I walk in tremulous chains, 
cybernetically sealed to another, 
the system, 
the great opaque that wants to nail us 
gripped to rusted metal and splintered wooden cross 
of slamming bars and broken people, 
dragged down the rabbit hole 
of small minded manicured degradation 
and gargantuan monstrous hate.  
I want to scream at them as they stroll by, 
selfies for two underneath the fountain:  
You don’t know what seethes beneath you, 
around you; 
everywhere there is misery abounding!  
The ignorance of bliss astounds me.  
I was there.  
I have returned there.  
What can I do to keep them a’wing, 
those born to suffer and cycle their lives 
through bars and pain and hurt, 
knowing nothing but blind beatings 
of bedraggled flightless wings, 
rejection and disengagement, 
love lost and forlorn, 
never gaining a step ahead of themselves?  
Desperate yowling dogs hound me, 
howling out my name–Impostor.  
I hear it and cower, 
hiding beneath the blankets of my lonely comfort 
of a solitary bed in the safety of my unkempt room 
like the mind of its inhabitant, 
overgrown wilderness, 
unattended, 
abandoned.  
I want to transcend but cannot muster it.  
I see the will in its distant form.  
I feel the stirrings.  
I smell smoke and I cave, 
whipped with carcinogenic wickedness.  
I cannot contain myself.  
And thus, 
I am not the wrong target 
for systematized paralyzed equalized 
misfortune of the sick and tired, 
the sick and poor, 
the sick of it all.