I Dedicate My No Trump Vote

This piece was originally accepted by the blog http://dedicateyournotrumpvote.blogspot.com/ , a project I love, support, and am proud to have been a part of, even peripherally. Unfortunately, they were so overrun with submissions (huzzah!), it’s not going to run, but I wanted it to get out in the world in even a small way. Here it is.

I started organizing against Donald Trump back in March, 2016, when I created the Facebook page “Atlantic Couty Citizens Against Donald Trump.” Then, I was still in denial he could win the nomination, much less the election, but it already seemed vitally important to speak up.

See, I still live in the town where I grew up—Atlantic City, New Jersey—a place uniquely aware of Trump’s disasters; still, in fact, suffering them.

Back then—March, 2016—a person I grew up with, whose mother and father had both lost their jobs as a result of Trump’s abysmal Atlantic City business deals, responded with dismay at my outspoken condemnation of Trump. I said that Trump was a racist, that I could never support a bigot. That my partner, Vincent, and his daughter, are partly African-American. He responded by sending me a picture of two young, Black kids holding a sign that says “Fuck Donald Trump.” He said, “That’s hatred, that’s racism.” The thing—the problem—is this is a person I like. It’s someone I know. I like his parents. I like his little son. Once, in the sixth grade, we kissed in my parents’ laundry room. He claims to love America—an America that, to me, feels refined, and sold, refined, and sold: a fat, sweet, sick lie like a horsefly about to die.

So, I made this picture of my partner, and myself, grinning up at the camera, newly in love, and captioned it “Fuck Donald Trump For Real.” I thought about the first time we kissed. We were both exclusively single parents of small children. It felt like a new Eden, a new earth, an America I had yet to witness, but hoped existed. I thought about my love for him, his face, his stretched earlobes, his inked, beautifully, brightly scarred body. How I love his daughter. How he loves my son. How I love his liminal spaces: not Black, not quite white, an Atlantic City street kid who comes from nothing, who makes me chicken nugget omelets when I’m sad, teaches our kids how to throw their farts at one another. Who spent his fifteenth year homeless, when his parents lost their house, in an Atlantic City decimated by Donald Trump, a man who has never met a liminal space. Who would build a wall inside one if he did: A monolith splitting the minotaur in half. Who believes this shit, that we’re all one thing, or all the other? Who kisses someone with the intent to own, not open?

I dedicate my no Trump vote to Vincent, at age 15, homeless, freezing, sleeping on the soccer field in March, watched over by no one, back lit by Donald Trump’s name, twenty feet tall in bright red lights, refusing him, and refusing him sleep.

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This Is Not Analogous

Ok, so here we go again, with the same tired, essentially racist, logic-free argument. I recall a blog post that “trended” when Trayvon Martin was shot, that described in hideous detail the carjacking death of a young white woman at the hands of a young black man. “Did this make national news?” it demanded, furiously. “Are you outraged, now?” It said. Naturally, I looked up the case in question, only to discover it was so well-reported at the time it occurred, it has its own Wikipedia page; the perpetrator of the crime was apprehended almost immediately, arrested, charged, tried, and is in prison for life without parole.

So, first of all, it did make national news; secondly, who would read about that and not be outraged? Hopefully, no one. The problem with the blog post is, it fails to mention the pathetically evident comparison– the young woman, the victim? Her murderer is in prison for life. Justice was served. The outrage over Trayvon Martin began when his murderer was quite literally allowed to go free, with no arrest, and no charge, after shooting to death an unarmed minor on his way home to his mother’s home; it continued when said murderer was exonerated, and set free, only to continue to perpetrate violent crime and flagrantly and irresponsibly wield firearms– his most recent charming act was to broadcast photographs of Martin’s lifeless body on the ground on his Twitter account.

Similarly, we see this video of a student attacking a teacher, offered up as a point of outrage, and a counterpoint to the narrative that the attack on the young woman in South Carolina was a.)wrong, and b.)racial in nature, with the subtext of the attached article, and the Tweets/Facebook posts it reproduces being that society only cares when white people–particularly those in official positions of power, like law enforcement– attack black people, or the whole “reverse racism” argument, which is in itself an extension of the nonsensical argument that African-Americans get “special” treatment in this country.

My news feed has two separate stories about this video. One says “Why didn’t this video go viral?” The next says “This video went viral.” Ignoring the absurdities inherent to that, let’s examine the contents of this video, and point out the weak analogy between this and the one of the cop assaulting a young woman in South Carolina. The video below shows a student attacking a teacher. This is terrible. Wretched. Appalling. This is a world I know plenty about. I graduated from an urban high school fraught with violence, lived for years in two major cities, and taught in uptown Atlantic City for three years. I had a student pull a knife on another student in my classroom, and I’ve been verbally assaulted more times than I care to recall by various students. That said, my experiences on the whole in all of these places, with people of all colors and creeds and ages, were extraordinarily wonderful.

This video is not analogous to the video of the cop attacking the young woman in a South Carolina classroom. It does not prove that we somehow need cops “like him” in our schools. I want to be clear about this– I did not say we don’t need any law enforcement, or security, in schools. Our police force at Stockton does a phenomenal job. We are so lucky to have them. And the few times I’ve ever needed security in my classroom, they’ve been awesome, and I’ve been grateful. But the officer in South Carolina violated the ethical code and the official policy of his job. He is not to be viewed as some sort of necessity, or panacea, to scenarios like the one below. He is to be viewed as someone acting entirely outside of the law, while at the same time being invested with it. He is corrupt. The student below is also outside of the law, but he’s just that– a student. A kid who fucks up, big time. He is not an example. He is not an analogy. He is not to be put forth as a reason to keep officers like the one in South Carolina around.


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Jamaal As Target Ad

Since what ends up as fable so often starts
in a rapture, since my cat performs a Jubilate

Agno as I lay my son to sleep, since Venus
shines hot and distant in the distance of his nightly window,

moving; not twinkling: distant
fireball—ok, understand, I’m using distant

here to mean more than its flat twin lines, I’m wanting it
to discourse on its own, I’m wanting

its echos, its hall of mirrors, I’m wanting it to self-immolate, burn
the motherfucker to the ground, please, please, close the distance

between the rapture and the rapture’s distance: vamoose.

I cannot get the phrase I do so love you
from my head, or into this poem—I do so

love you, I hear, stalking the halls, stacking
the dishes. Woolfian. Circular. Infantile. Assonant.

All those hard Ks stacked. Rapturous. Some
little. Some love. Some language. I do. You do. I do so. Ach.

Do. It’s true: every night, the morning star comes out, and I am
in a rapture over you & you: you two. Tarfia. Jamaal. This single

posted Facebook pic. This clue: he’s perched on a couch, back-lit. Who knew

this couch—any couch!?—could couch such light, could clutch
such plush still life, such luscious thunderclaps, such snapshots, picture

perfect? The camera used to be a crapshoot. Now, we filter out
the crap. We filter in the light you never knew

was there—Vesuvian, this light!—a crater, shocked, a man
preserved, it holds you up, it keeps you in your place, surrounds

your light, sheds light you didn’t know
you had around a chic loft you dreamt up sometime back

in 1995—here, the Turkish rug with braided fringe, the inlay
grins, the white threads gleam, here, the hardwood floor

exalted in its best imitation of a hardwood floor, there
the wainscoting, existing independent of one’s knowledge

of the word wainscoting—all by itself! Just like that! An image
able to survive free of naming, free of language, free and full

with light, light, light in practical danger of becoming a draft
of a poem about Monet’s Water Lilies also from 1995, that someone

Kobe!’d into the wire mesh waste bin that does not appear
in this pic, Insta, edged out, instead, of course, as a matter

of lucidity and hot-white fact, by a shelf of exquisitely chosen,
exquisitely loved books: Tolstoy, Baldwin, Plath. And centered

like math: Jamaal, beloved, be-laughing, be-snapped, we presume
by the woman with the green eyes, the gold ring in her nose.

Distant poets. Distant planets. Pin-up lives. My life—your life—
in all its prose: at least six fat fruit flies going ham on the dried

up bbq sauce on the plate stacked on the five other plates stacked
in the leaky sink in the house I rent in my hometown with the vinyl

siding. And meanwhile, my son sleeps beneath Venus–
and meanwhile, I’m riding the horse of this otherness

out into an open field of glamours I have yet to meet
and meanwhile, Tarfia’s doing the same, as she vacuums

the brand-new paisley print rug from Target with a pleasant, seamless hum.

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In Praise of Clean Panties, My Mother

Who even now might walk
through my front door with my own son
in tow, having kept him
for the night, having schlepped him
to church to praise the small ways
he points at the blood-tipped palms of Christ
and tells her “Jesus lives here, Mom-mom.”
Who even now might interrupt this chain
of thought, continue on the path of interrupted
chains of women linking word to airy word,
taking the much of misty thought
to make the word the thing itself. Oh holy absent
Father, oh Dad who even now drops coats and socks and Coors Light
tops along the halls she cleaned again before the sun
was all the way into the sky, I could ignore this
urge, once more immerse myself in making lines of absence, steeped
in theory, steeped in everything I’ve crammed
into the chains of cells still crammed
between my years, but

this morning ,that poem is a lie. This morning
I have folded 30-something pairs
of splashy, splotchy cotton, tinged with lace
or stamped with Superman’s bright S, the black
of Batman’s calling card, my lover’s daughter’s Monday,
Tuesday, Friday
, her father’s undies, weird
with prints of French fries, scrambled eggs, the folds
belie the cock and ass I love to squeeze
before the children scamper in each blessed, living day.
I fold. I put away. Every other person in the house
relaxes, plays. My mother’s blessings rise
like daily bread, like how I might begin, somehow
to pray: Oh Temporary, Holy Bodies’ detritus, the faded stains
of those I love between my wifely hands– may I fold
another load of crumpled clothes
before I dare to bitch or moan
about my mother, my lover, my children, my life.

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There Is A God I’ve Wanted All My Life

The way you feel describing objective truth.

The way the shadow
of two bald blue branches
on your son’s pale nighttime
wall creak in and out
Like pincers, like rusted tweezers
Like a wishbone, like a horror

Like the dreams when you try to dial
a number, always the misfire
stupid little fuck, like your brain
has fingertips, come on

It’s Disneyworld in 1985: the 3-D glasses
your face is white cardstock
red cellophane, facing a witch’s
black mask coming at you, off
the screen– and who knew something
that wasn’t there could be there and possess
such trajectory; like that dream:

Two teen girls laughing & laughing, you can’t believe
the laughing, you can’t believe your life
went on with you hardly there at all:

It’s like you were objective truth, out there, someone
Was stabbing at you, grabbing at a mask that came for you, empty
Of all matter & resolve; the only reason

to believe in any of this is you believe in none of it at all.

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Hang In There, Baby

It’s hard sometimes, not being the king
of France, or even of a smaller, more tropical space, it’s hard
not having the whitest house, or whatever we’re all fighting for.

Like feminism.
I’m sorry to take this turn, especially in a poem
that began with such fierce comic promise, such
absurdity. Absurdity! Hahaha. It’s hard to make a joke and see it
to its pithy end, easier, for instance, to ask
What’s the ethos, in this poem, of the color blue? And you
would have two choices: wrack your brain for an answer
that doesn’t exist or admit you don’t know. And then
I’m forced to choose, too. Listen. We don’t have
to have that conversation. We don’t need to fake it
all the time. Because we have to do it, anyway, and here,
in this open space, leaving me and drawing me out, a magnetic field
of hope in a hopeless cosmos, I’d like the opportunity
to be both the able body and the theory-heavy mind, I’d like
to be Virginia Woolf tethered to her desk, hand moving
across the paper, and the idea she’s after in the ether, just barely
getting nailed down. I’d like to be the single breathing woman.
I do not want to be the trend.
I do not want to be the woman who acted according
to the norms of the way women acted then. Because no one
is equal. Because I will be boiled
down to my essentials. The early bird gets the worm, but no one
gives a fuck about the worm, coiled dead on the asphalt
like a length of forgotten garden hose, or falling from my nose
like some ghost, like the one who keeps pulling my hair and fetching
my breath at night, like that smiling gaggle of fools who don’t know
what they need, who know what they do, who, smiling, chat at length
on the verandah about the azure drapes, sip something
lovely, full of rose hips and poison darts.

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Send us your best ephemera, your mouse bones, your numbers seventeen, your wrap-around boyfriend wrapped around that other girl, the sweater he left at your house, make it sing, that sweater, make it recall the single glass of water you wanted but never got, when there was still hope for water, send us the time you yelled HALT to your son as he approached the bed with chocolate on his hands, the time you fell asleep thinking how that was a metaphor for the human need to classify and divide, the human belief in walls, which aren’t walls at all, since everything, if you think about it, touches everything else, submit that other time, when you still held faith in limits, not liminalities, send us your spaces, open and digital, crunching someone else’s numbers, a Pop tart between the teeth, the lone cricket leg on the bathroom floor, your pregnancy round as a harvest moon shedding light on a corn field full of your engaging ghost, your empty host, your very best, which will be certified upon arrival, sent back unopened, unafraid, left for dead, and pure.

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