I spread maps across two tables…

I spread maps across two tables
Though blind I cannot read them

This is the work of the day
And the river spreads

Clouds shaped like birds
Spread above houses I also

Cannot see–work of the day
People come and go

Wind sings the same song
It sang at Viking graves

Stones piled
Beside the sea

Work of the day
Reading what you can’t see

Maps wishes
Pressing my forehead there

Night never wants to end…

Night never wants to end, his backward death
Apes my own, yours, the death of a lonesome neighbor
Once, coming down after acid
I saw the morning star
Was a tombstone
Early it was a mockingbird
Sang a little “Keats”
Ghost limbs of poplars
Held him up
Do you remember
Before you could count
Everything was equal?
This is how it is for night
Falling like Icarus
Away from the sun
Each loss a child’s
“…yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away
The pall
From out dark spirits.”
And wild eyed let’s
Go about our business

The Shocking State of Disability in the Arts

I am presently in the process of reading arts grants. I won’t say “for whom” but let’s say this offers a wide view of contemporary arts funders and in turn offers their various mission statements. What’s shocking is the evidence that the disabled are not broadly conceived as artists nor are they imagined as customers.

Of course I shouldn’t be shocked. I’ve watched for years as numerous national literary conferences have treated the disabled like dirt. I’ve been to arts retreats–formerly known as “colonies” where the disabled artist is a curiosity and the dinner conversation is filled with ableism. During COVID-19 sequestration I’ve watched poetry festivals emerge on-line. Almost none of the feature disabled writers. Maybe the organizers think we’re already dead.

It shouldn’t surprise me at all that while checking the websites of the arts organizations looking for dough I’ve found that nearly all of their sites are disability inaccessible. Yet the words “diversity and inclusion” are plastered everywhere.

Yesterday I asked a friend why she thinks the disabled are so routinely left out of the diversity and inclusion panopticon.

We concluded they think we’re already dead. Or if not, we represent death and who needs it?

Think on this: if you’re a blind poet trying to use “Submittable” the ubiquitous website employed by the majority of literary magazines as a submissions portal you’ll discover its accessibility is deeply flawed. They’ve a web page that says they care about accessibility. But caring and doing are miles apart. Inclusion means doing.

Over the past decade, given how inhospitable most literary magazines are when it comes to disability, I’ve published my poems on my blog. The blog is accessible. Who needs the ableist clotted mechanisms of disability exclusion. As a writer who’s published with the best houses in the US and abroad I don’t need any more gold stars from “Poetry Magazine” or “Spilled Chowder Review. I sure don’t need Submittable screwing with my precious time because they can’t be bothered to make their system fully ADA compliant.

I shouldn’t be surprised.

Here’s a poem I self published some years back:

America with your history of eugenics.
With your hostility to the global charter on disability rights.
With your jails, stocked with psychiatric patients—worse than the Soviet Union. We are Gulag Los Angeles; Gulag Rikers Island; Gulag Five Points in Upstate New York.
America with your young Doctor Mengeles.
With your broken VA.
With your war on food stamps and infant nutrition.
With your terror of autism and lack of empathy for those who have it.
Wih your 80% unemployment rate for people with disabilites.
With your pity parties—inspiration porn—Billy was broken until we gave him a puppy.
With your sanctimonious low drivel disguised as empathy.
With your terror of reasonable accommodations.
With your NPR essays about fake disability fraud, which is derision of the poor and elderly.
With your disa-phobia—I wouldn’t want one of them to sit next to me on a bus.
America when will you admit you have a hernia?
When will you admit you’re a lousy driver?
Admit you miss the days of those segregated schools, hospitals, residential facilities—just keep them out of sight.
When will you apologize for your ugly laws?
When will you make Ron Kovic’s book irrelevant?
America, you threatened Allen Ginsberg with lobotomy.
Ameica you medicated a generation of teenagers for bi-polar depression when all they were feeling was old fashioned fear.
When will you protect wheelchairs on airlines?
When will you admit you’re terrified of luck?

I called you last night…

On the telephone for the dead
Which is a shoe–though almost anything serves–
Which is to say I called you with one bare foot dangling

My chair tilted, my eyes turned to the ceiling
I called you and called
To say in life we’re rushed

Ill loved misunderstood
Failing Pleiades and Mozart
Poker games inside our heads

Upping the ante I talked to myself
Dear dead father
Memory rain on the roof

One morning, years ago…

One morning, years ago
Riding a bus in Finland
I saw it: every rider

Had a forest hangover
Though their hands
Were deceptively clean

Though they smelled of toothpaste
And shaving balm
They were shivering

With cold and fright
Unlying life had rushed in
Taking the place of night trees

What happens in the forest doesn’t stay there
Mushroom spores and bird calls
Follow us home–even the moon

Differs, that old parchment face
Knows our secrets
Like some tattle tale child

Oh Auden…

Time will say nothing but I told you so 
Wystan: What is less human than time?

Herakleitos was the dark one for a reason
River singing two step fatalism blues

Time says very little
Shabby little undertaker

Handed me my mother’s effects
A hospital gown and teddy bear

Stupid alders weeping
Time has his henchmen

Turn on the tap
Drown your tears

The bear has a floppy hat
Look at the bear…

Orwell, Still Shivering….

It’s easy to forget the revisionism and deceit that often follows a great writer’s death. Raymond Williams’ endless calumnies against George Orwell, falsely accusing him of selling out the left to the British police state is a classic example. When Trump cries “fake news” its
best to remember academics helped launch it.

Poor Orwell. Who never belonged at any dinner table.

Gore Vidal: “politics is knowing who’s paying for your lunch.”

No one ever paid for Orwell’s lunch.

Orwell: “If you hate violence and don’t believe in politics, the only major remedy remaining is education. Perhaps society is past praying for, but there is always hope for the individual human being, if you can catch him young enough.”

There is always hope for the individual human being.

Orwell:

“When recently I protested in print against the Marxist dialect which makes use of phrases like “objectively counter-revolutionary left-deviationism” or “drastic liquidation of petty-bourgeois elements,” I received indignant letters from lifelong Socialists who told me that I was “insulting the language of the proletariat.” In rather the same spirit, Professor Harold Laski devotes a long passage in his last book, Faith, Reason and Civilisation, to an attack on Mr. T. S. Eliot, whom he accuses of “writing only for a few.” Now Eliot, as it happens, is one of the few writers of our time who have tried seriously to write English as it is spoken”

Beware of writers who sniff loudly that so and so is “too accessible” and further beware of those who proclaim with rococo jargon they’re speaking for the proles.

Orwell:

“…let me repeat what I said at the beginning of this essay: that in England the immediate enemies of truthfulness, and hence of freedom of thought, are the Press lords, the film magnates, and the bureaucrats, but that on a long view the weakening of the desire for liberty among the intellectuals themselves is the most serious symptom of all. ”

This shivers me. Always has. “Cancel culture” is a symptom of a weakening desire for liberty and is rather a desire only for power over the ideas of others.