Baltic Classicism

We stood on a quay talking of illness,

Of a friend’s discomfort, the long solo of our age

Now people have the luxury of slow death.

A wooden shack leaned on the sea wall

Like something one finds after walking

All night—the house in a Russian tale,

Its windows open to admit souls.

Anyone can talk of dying, the measure

Of tongue and footfall, of boats in darkness.

But groaning, incapable as men are

We talked in the rhythms

Of singers from Tallinn:

Men who stayed up all night,

Turning their sleighs into coffins.





11 O' Clock at Night

Half in the manner of St. Augustine and half in the sotto voce of Linus Pauling who hoped to live forever the clock hints of lives unfulfilled. The northeast window takes it up: these asides and hand wringings until dull matter reflects our wishing like a Mexican mirror. There’s nothing we can do to hurry ambition. Tonight my good friend Dr. S goes to bed thinking about post-molecular medicine. All day he has seen children who are going blind because there are pin-point spots in their respective genes. We are so close to curing blindness. We have advanced one hundred years in the past decade. We need only five more to restore sight. The FM says the world is ending. Everywhere evidence mounts for the end of culture. The great laboratories will be overrun by looters like the libraries of Mesopotamia. And while the winter stars rise fat and imperfect war merchants are planning the destruction of hospitals with American taxes. We are so close to making the young firm; the old see; the broken mind calmed; the old Rosicrucian marriage of light and dark; the very promise of matter; soul clap its hands; going to sleep is like rolling up a scroll, hiding it among stones for the ones who surely will arrive. Tonight I say they will come: the builders and doctors; the mathematicians and young artists from the orchards. 11 O’clock at night & we have work to do. Let it be said we stood upright in our age.


The Inheritance

I met a man recently who was twice divorced and recounting his woes he allowed that when his first wife left him he inherited her cat. As I endeavor to pose as a moderate man I withheld my approbation for privately I saw that the possession of a cat was simply another straw on the camel’s back. I kept mum. I held my measure. I made no moue of disgust. Oh but inwardly I thought of the injustice of the matter. In fact I thought of the terrible affliction that’s represented by leaving a cat to anyone–whether you like that person or not.I shall stand firm with this view no matter the tidal wave of feline hysteria that will assuredly come my way. Oh yes.



Yes, I'm a blind customer.

So it was a rainy day in Iowa City and I was late for a meeting and I ran through the wet streets with my guide dog and we got to the fancy coffee and take out food emporium just a little late. The people we were to meet had gone. Speaking for ourselves the guide dog and the man were drenched. I made my way to the coffee counter hoping to discern whether there might be another seating area where my friends might be waiting.Now here’s the strange thing (or one of them) about being blind. You can sometimes see just enough to know you are being dissed.

The girl behind the coffee counter stared at me. She just flat out locked her eyes right at me and she

did so as if I was a mannequin. The counter was high enough that I suppose she might not have seen my guide dog. But a customer, sighted or not should be addressed I would imagine. Was her silence a reflection of the fact that I was standing there and not making eye contact save that I was holding my head up and first in line and surely that ought to be enough for a minor acknowledgement? Yes? I decided to seek out the manager and to politely suggest that blind people are customers too.

Ah but the manager upon being ever so politely summoned was also rude. “Yes,” he said, standing suddenly in front of me.

“Hello,” I said, I’m Steve–what’s your name? He told me he was Jim but not without some radiance of malediction.

So I told him I’m not certain that the folks at the coffee bar know how to be polite to a blind person–and before I had a chance to continue he turned on his heels and muttered something about having a talk with them and he walked away as fast as he could.

So needless to say I’m not shopping anymore at the Bread Garden in downtown Iowa City.
IN my world view, two strikes and you’re out.


Sound Familiar?

The news that Barack Obama is willing to support amnesty concerning illegal wiretapping of American citizens by the communications companies,(see: (presumably  as a piece of real- politic to gain the White House) reminded me of this bit of prose by Allen Ginsburg, written almost fifty years ago in July, 1959. 


“The stakes are too great-an America gone mad with materialism, a police-state America, a sexless and soulless America prepared to battle the world in defense of a false image of its authority. Not the wild and beautiful America of the comrades of Walt Whitman, not the historic America of William Blake and Henry David Thoreau where the spiritual independence of each individual was an America, a universe, more huge and awesome than all the abstract bureaucracies and authoritative officialdoms of the world combined.

Only those who have entered the world of spirit know what a vast laugh there is in the illusory appearance of worldly authority. And all men at one time or other enter that Spirit, whether in life or death.

How many hypocrites are there in America? How many trembling lambs, fearful of discovery? What authority have we set up over ourselves, that we are not as we are? Who shall prohibit an art from being published to the world? What conspirators have power to determine our mode of consciousness, our sexual enjoyments, our different labors and our loves? What fiends determine our wars?

When will we discover an America that will not deny its own God? Who takes up arms, money, police, and a million hands to murder the consciousness of God? Who spits in the beautiful face of poetry which sings of the glory of God and weeps in the dust of the world?”

Picking on the Wrong Guy

You can imagine my surprise and corresponding disgust when I saw the story about Brian Sterner this morning on the Today Show.  Brian, who is a quadriplegic, was arrested by the Hillsboro County Sheriff’s Department for outstanding traffic violations.  A sheriff’s deputy ordered him to stand for a frisking and when he declared that he was unable to do so, the deputy dumped him out of his wheelchair.  Apparently she didn’t "believe" him.  I’m certain that by the end of the day this video tape will be everywhere in the mainstream media.  As so it should be. This is absolutely appalling.

The video clip below shows Mr. Sterner being dumped on the floor, then "frisked" while lying there.  Eventually he is picked up off the floor and "dumped" back into his chair.

Brian is a disability rights advocate and a doctoral student at the University of South Florida. He teaches courses in disability studies among other things. I was particularly struck by his insistence on the Today Show that his mistreatment at the hands of the sheriff’s office represents a police abuse crisis that affects everybody.

In short: Brian Sterner wasn’t abused because of his disability! He was abused because he was essentially in the hands of the constabulary.

Of course having a "reasonable accommodation" that they can take away surely adds to the enticements of cruel and unusual punishment.

I wonder what Judge Alito, our nation’s newest expert on the acceptability of water boarding would say about this?

Alito would likely say that since Brian Sterner was not yet technically "in the jail" he wasn’t yet being punished–he was having a "pre-correctional opportunity".

At any rate, as I said to my wife after the Today Show interview: "I think they picked on the wrong guy!"



View Scott Rains’ numerous follow-up links on the Rolling Rains Report