Went down to the Piraeus…

Head for the water

If you have questions

Keep the dead in mind

Our railway car

Was filled with babies

Mothers and babies

They all had questions

The conductor—

A Greek version

Of Alfred Hitchcock—

Had questions

 

When I was a child in Finland

I had an imaginary friend

Who rode beside me

On streetcars

When it was time to get off the train

I’d gently wake him

 

Even a soul submerged in sleep 

is hard at work and helps 

make something of the world

Donald Trump Dreams of the Titanic….

Seek not the favor of the multitude; it is seldom got by honest and lawful means. But seek the testimony of few; and number not voices, but weigh them.

—Emmanuel Kant

Last night I dreamt I was at the top of a tree. By daylight I can say it was an oak. We embellish the details in dreams. A man dreams he’s a great man because he was on a mountain and like Jesus he spoke to a crowd.

In the morning he forgets the people below him were in Hell and of so course his interpretation loses all value. He walks the world seeking approval from the wrong tribe all the while telling himself he’s favored. The current occupant of the White House is such a man.

Of course I’m presuming Donald Trump has dreams, or at the very least he once had them in childhood. Maybe he has a recurring dream. Perhaps once a week he dreams he’s on the Titanic pushing people out of lifeboats.

Ableism in the Academy, Thoughts on Moliere

Ableism, the experience of it, requires the French adjective écœurante —for disability discrimination is simultaneously heartless and sickening. I recall the professor of English at the University of Iowa who told me my blindness would preclude me from being in his “famous” graduate class on Charles Olson. Another professor snickered when I said I was reading books on tape. When I protested the chairman of the English department said I was a whiner and complainer. I wept alone in the Men’s room. My path forward to a Ph.D. in English at the University of Iowa was stymied. This was a full six years before the ADA was signed into law. Who was I to imagine a place at the agora’s marble stump?

I had an MFA degree from the creative writing program at that same university and I just went ahead and wrote books and sometimes appeared on radio and television and I wrote for big magazines and over time I received tenure at The Ohio State University. Later I went back to teach at Iowa despite my earlier experience and these days I’m at Syracuse. I’m a survivor of sorts. I’m a blind professor. The odds were never in my favor. Somewhere along the way I began thinking of Moliere in my private moments and I laughed because after all, every human occasion is comical and Moliere recognized the comedic types one encounters in closed societies better than anyone before or since.

It doesn’t really matter what institution of higher education you’re at, if you’re disabled you’ll meet the following Moliere-esque figures. The heartless and sickening ye will always have with ye if you trek onto a college campus. You’re more likely to spot them first if you hail from a historically marginalized background however, the ecoeurantists are more prone to blab at you if you’re disabled, especially behind closed doors. Ableists love closed doors. All bigots love closed doors.

The “Tartuffe” is an administrator, usually a dean or provost who will tell you with affected gestures that he, she, they, what have you, cares a great deal about disability and then, despite the fact a disabled person has outlined a genuine problem, never helps out.

The “Harpagon” is also an administrator, but he, she, they, can also be a faculty member. The Harpagon is driven by rhetorics of cheapness. It will cost too much to retrofit this bathroom, classroom, syllabus, website, etc. If the Harpagon is a professor he, she, they, generally drives a nice car.

Statue du Commandeur: a rigid, punctilious, puritanical college president—“this is the way we’ve always done it. If we changed things for you, we’d have to change things for everybody. Yes, it certainly must be hard…” See:

The Geronte: when his son is kidnapped he says: “Que diable allait-il faire dans cette galère?” (What in the deuce did he want to go on that galley for?” In other words, he brought this upon himself. “Really, shouldn’t you try something easier? I could have told you.”

These are the principle types of ableists. I invite you to add your own.

The one thing they have in common besides a privileged and thoroughly unexamined attachment to the idea that education is a race requiring stamina and deprivation, is that they all genuinely believe accommodations are a kind of vanity.

 

Dogs, Hats, and Faith

As the new year dawns I’m doing my best—that is, I’m drinking coffee. And since I went to bed last night at 9:30 (at the insistence of a small dog who thought it was the right thing when the outside temperature was 5 degrees Fahrenheit) well because of this I’m wide awake sans hangover.

To be fair the dog didn’t make me go to bed. It’s good to distrust people who say dogs make them do anything other than feeding them and taking them outside. I went to bed early because it seemed like a good idea.

I’ve been taking antidepressants for over twenty years. They help me stay “in the game” but they also make me tired at night and that’s just the way it is. By taking Celexa I live on dog time. Early to bed, early to rise. I’m Ben Franklin with pills and dogs.

What are dogs and antidepressants for? I imagine they’re about hope. Even facing the aborning year which cannot be promising, what with the looting of the planet, corporatized warfare, slavish and corrupt politicians of every stripe, human trafficking, the new slavery, which is old slavery tied to offshore banking—I’ll stop in a moment—even with the assault on the poor, the infirm—here I am again tossing my moth eaten chapeau onto a fountain of hope knowing one of my two dogs will retrieve it.

Dogs teach us to put our wet hats on again.

They teach us to avoid rising to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training, as Archilochus would have it and which I’ve always taken to mean “get on with it brother.”

The wet hat has some toothmarks.

Lots of people sneer at hope. It is for one thing akin to faith and nothing gets kicked more often than faith, even the faithful do it.

I agree with Maxine Hong Kingston: “In a time of destruction, create something.”

Dogs say wet hats are better than no hats.

Dogs say you can indeed get there from here.

Dogs say even wearing that hat you’re not as bad as you appear.

Or they say, well, you might be as bad as you appear—so throw your hat again and we’ll bring it back. You can try for a new look.

A hat damp with hope is still a hat.

A damp hat is expectation halved, still wearable.

The hat your dog brings means you have a plan.

A Brief Poem Written at the End of a Bitter Year

What did they think at the edge of the world?

The type of thing written in poems…

One should say, think, where money was useless.

Where the crossbows failed.

The end of another year in a talkative country.

I think of Donald Trump as an “interprandial pooper”—

From Hipponax, one who leaves the table to defecate

So that he may again eat more.

At the edge of the world

Where the poor have only flags of parody….

 

Thoughts on My Saint’s Day

Life is given humans so we can imagine the eventual posture of our corpses—a paraphrase of Pentti Saarikoski. I’m haunted by my father’s body, its lying face down on the floor of the retirement complex, the face blue from heart failure, hands still clutching the New York Times. The man died with the intent to read. Death was sudden. That is, as they say, about as good as it gets.

Forgive me. My holiday mood is altogether dark, inchoate, tiny fishes of doubt and fear and aversion swim inside me. I don’t seem to be able to help myself. Last night I prayed as I lay down. I asked to be made kinder and stronger. I am aware this isn’t hip.

Strictly speaking I’m not hip. When I was very young I thought the postman was the coolest person alive. Wanting to be like him I walked up and down our rural street ringing doorbells and handing out out old copies of, you guessed it, the New York Times.

I am not sad. The fishes in my bloodstream are too mindful for sadness.

Today is St. Stephen’s Day. The fishes inside him were something.