Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tinariwen


A fierce sun rains down
Rays travel from the Sahara
To reach me sleep-dazed in Baltimore
The rhythm moves circular
Like the calabash shape
Like the sun spinning wildly above
Levitation music for rebel souls
Dream a sandstorm
Ride a camel down Saint Paul Street
And wave a sword
Like a lost god

I lost everything here
And reassemble myself
Beside burning bushes
Lining toxic creeks
Beneath lightning bolts flashing
Illuminating the world of those
Living beneath the underpass

The sky turned violet
Radio in the caravan


Monday, September 17, 2018

Bohemians and the Beltway: A Tale of #MeToo In Baltimore and DC

US Senators are considering how to proceed now that a woman has come forward alleging sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Various Senators are calling for hearings to judge the veracity of the claim and to decide if Kavanaugh is morally fit for the office of Supreme Court Judge.
I find it remarkable that several not very hip and not particularly progressive US Senators are are calling for these hearings when in 2017 a Baltimore organization that sees itself as a haven of independent art had to be pressured into having a meeting and into acting on the claims of sexual harassment, stalking, intimidation, threats and much worse that had been levied by multiple women against the organization's Executive Director.
As the situation unfolded, members of the board made public declarations of support for the Executive Director, forfeiting any claims of impartiality. After finally hearing the claims of the women and after much prevaricating, the arts organization decided to put the Executive Director on probation and to demote him to a lesser position. Unsurprisingly, he violated the terms of the probation within a few weeks and exited Baltimore in a cloud of shame. The events left the city's DIY art scene irreparably divided between those who supported the alleged abuser and those who believed the women accusers. As an advocate for the alleged victims, I, personally, was left feeling shattered and jarred by the experience; the landscape feels charred.

A look at these two situations demonstrates how one's appearance and one's social identity are not always a good indicator of how one will respond to a particular issue or situation. Members of the arts organization and other supporters of the alleged abuser behaved in a way that suggests they did not find the women's claims credible. US Senators, on the other hand, have taken Dr. Ford's (Kavanaugh's accuser) claims seriously from the minute they were reported.


Finally, the situation with the Baltimore arts organization occurred largely before the #Metoo movement woke people to the prevalence of sexual abuse and how powerful men are able to get away with it for years and even decades. It is possible that the Baltimore situation would not have played out in such an agonizing and destructive way if the stories of the #Metoo movement had been public prior to events of the scandal

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Of Art Scenes and Assholes: Abusers and Enablers

Of all the assholes there are– asshole politicians, asshole academics, asshole businessman, asshole chefs and more – there is, perhaps, none more insufferable, more uniquely awful then the art scene asshole. The art scene asshole maintains the same underlying motives as all other assholes: the wish to insult, annoy, perturb, exploit, manipulate and otherwise inflict harm upon people. However, the methods he employs are - due to the context in which he operates - the most cloyingly hypocritical and, therefore, the most nauseating. Unique to the art scene asshole is that he takes advantage of all that is marginal within subcultures and which maintains an aura of the Romantic and uses this as cover to carry out his abuse of people. Because it is the realm in which the art scene asshole is at his most  reprehensible, let us take a look how he operates at in the context of intimate relationships.

From one of the original Romantics, Lord Byron, the art scene asshole takes licentiousness. He cultivates a roguish charm and invests a massive amount of his will and energy into romantic conquests. This charm, which is rooted in a craven desire for control, is most effective when the arts scene asshole is young. (As he ages, the psychic toll of his vampiric lifestyle begins to evidence itself physically and his projection of charm becomes more and more difficult).  With this persona, he seeks to project an image of virility. What is really transpiring is the propagation of misery. His lovers are lied to, cheated on, stalked, yelled at, insulted, threatened, often abused physically or sexually, are used and harassed. Once one is aware of what is actually going on, the Byronic Scumbag art scene asshole is a rather transparent figure. However, he is often able to operate for years or even decades by employing an impressive array of deflections, denials and ambiguities – in short by using psychological tactics on the members of his arts community which are similar to the ones that he uses on his sexual conquests. These manipulation tactics could best be summed up under the insipid expressions: “I am an artist, a creator, a shaper of form out of chaos. And so, if there is chaos in my wake, it is a necessary condition for the blossoming of my art.”  Again this justification appears risible as we look at it the page; however, it can be highly effective, especially when the Byronic Scumbag art scene asshole is aided and abetted by the gullible, the indifferent, and the gutless members of his arts community.

And how about those enabling arts community members? They are a truly regrettable lot and yet their power is enormous; for their support is required in order for the Byronic Scumbag to continue his rampages through his victims’ psyches. Let us speak first of the gullible enabler. Interestingly, the gullible enabler seems to exist more prominently within arts communities than within other social constructions or organizations. A strange creature, this person seems to believe it is noble to always disbelieve that a prominent local artist could indeed be a maniac. They declare, ”This sounds exaggerated. I know he has problems, but this doesn’t sound like him.”  Or even more pathetically, in terms of gullibility, well vapidity, really, they declare, ”But he has an addiction! He’s addicted to…” drugs or alcohol or he is a sex addict… “and this is why he behaves this way. And he has promised that he is undergoing recovery, so, holding him accountable and removing him from positions of power in the arts community is just really going too far!” This level of gullibility and idiocy would be screamingly hilarious if it did not translate into permitting the Byronic Scumbag to continue his exploits.

The indifferent enabler is a second type. This person misguidedly employs a ”live and let live” attitude toward the Byronic Scumbag’s behavior.  They may say: “Who am I to judge? Relationships are complicated. Best not to get involved. Let them sort it out. Boys will be boys. He’s just a ladies man. Women should know better not to date him” etc., etc. ad nauseaum. Meanwhile, the Byronic Scumbag thinks: Mission accomplished. I can keep this shit train rolling.

Which brings us to the gutless enabler. The gutless enabler actually knows of the gravity of the crimes committed by the Byronic Scumbag, but chooses to remain silent or even publicly defend him in order not to lose positions, opportunities, grants and more generally access to power. The GE oftentimes dons the mask of the gullible or the indifferent enabler, but it is for purely tactical and selfish ends.  Personally, I can have a difficult time discerning when an enabler is truly gullible and refuses to believe in a person’s wickedness and when the person is actually truly cynical and only pretending to be a gullible fool.

I hope this has been a helpful primer on an insufferable and dangerous personality type, as well as a useful guide on this person’s willing enablers. And if you are unfortunate enough to have such a person flail their wrecking ball through your or your friends’ lives, I hope you will be able to speak out and hold the abuser accountable.



Sunday, August 19, 2018

the north pond


i walked east
across the city–
hot dog stands, taquerias, 
lovers kissing, painting crews–
and arrived at the north pond.
the wings of the city opened
and closed above me,
shadows passing across
the sky-reflecting water.

resting on the elevated tip
of a submerged log, a turtle.
i’d been in the hospital -
my mind was still
depressed & slowmoving.
the turtle sensed this
and we spoke to each other
across twenty feet of  water
and sunlight and lichen.
something was transmitted
to me in green and blue.

The wings of the city
rose up and carried me away.



Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Rover


i’m a rover
i roam the sides
of the city rivers
concrete gullies
gushing water
i must not touch

I sleep beneath
the underpass
in a suit of silk
and dreams
and i walk
among the cars
queued up to alight
upon the highway with
its monstrous heights
and slow belching lows
each coin each bill
and each kind word
I collect is
currency i carry
To the 7-11
to trade for peanuts
and cigarettes

i’m a rover
i cut across
the boulevards
and lanes of traffic
into the bramble
And disappear
like winding mist
nobody finds me
unless i want them to

i’m a rover
plucking the string
of a yo-yo
i sing to the line
of sparrows
that descend upon
the desolate park
at sunset



sometimes a moon

sometimes a moon
hovering between blackbirds
on a telephone wire
and a group
of low-hanging clouds,
thin and layered
like craggy cliff stones,
looms so close
that it leaves
the panorama
glimpsed out the back
bedroom window
looking south
onto the alley
with its line of
mechanics’ garages,
the new orchard
planted in the vacant lot
and becomes its own scene
a solo actor
suspended in the celestial


Friday, June 1, 2018

view from north & howard


was a rainy morning
and from
the street corner
the bridge ran
out of sight
a gray gothic
steeple rose
above the trees
that sprouted up
from the train tracks
running beneath the bridge
a red brick building
once a factory
now a warren
of art school studios
stood beneath hovering
slate colored puff clouds
blanketing the sky
coalescing and dissolving
listless and shaky
in the maryland dawn
i sought the grace
of the white light
that opened in ovals
within the glowering sky
the grace of the spectacular
vectors of light
that appeared
in the belfry
of the church steeple