Look, this weekend, maybe I haven’t a lot to say. There’s been a lot of gabbing and I think we spend too much time talking like we know what’s what when we’re feeling a little shocked about something. There are cleverer people than I am talking about ‘terrorist attacks’. I can’t be the only person who thinks that word 'terrorism’ is desperately in need of a retirement to that class of political hot-words rendered meaningless through overapplication along with the likes of 'fascism’).
Folks talk about the need to call terrorists the folks who bomb black churches in the American south, or who vandalize mosques, when we already have a perfectly good term which should be applied to those vile cases: hate crime. The expansion of the term terrorist should be opposed by us all, lest we all be called it for some reasons. Surely the below poem which deals partly with flagburning could be construed as terrorism someday soon, if we don’t oppose this expansion. Terrorism is the sort of term that is meaningless, because we only want to use it when it’s applied to us. I heard folks talking about Paris like it was a unique sort of thing (ah, unique is a word the OED already recommended against using 60 years ago) when folks kill large number of folks frequently throughout the world.
Reducing our critical and political vocabulary to a set of buzzwords is something our governments and mass media is interested in, because it allows stories to be explained quickly and easily, in good guy/bad guy terms. I don’t have to explain that the world doesn’t contain good guys and bad guys, do I?
Sundays are good times to sit down, maybe with a stiff drink, maybe with that big glass of water you skipped earlier in the day. I recommend some stretching. It was my birthday this weekend and I’ve done a lot of seeing people, and have been neglecting seeing myself. That’s often how it goes. I invite you to sit down with whatever you want to drink and read the poem below. As always, if you want to talk about it, there’s a comment field, and please send me an e-mail if you need to chat. I love you.
at some point we’re working on
opening ourselves up
and there’s another worry:
we make ourselves fully permeable.
you know how it works:
sitting in the piles of clothing,
printing off lists of things,
here and there. work to edit.
we open up our guts and pull out flags to burn
we have to keep ourselves warm as winter comes
and as a chill takes us over.
for my birthday, well, a lot of people freaked out
about folks getting killed in paris and only some
people noticed that people were killed in beirut too.
we don’t want to rip up the flags
and march on the capital because
the power vacuum might be filled by
which are putting french flags
all over everything
reinforcing the narrative of war.
this seems like an obvious point to make,
i won’t stay here long.
let’s try to breathe.
walking home from work on friday
flashing through my head:
everyone i know falling down.
“guns guns guns
the tigers are playing tonight
i never miss a game”
i try to breathe.
and i try to laugh.
we can still laugh.
i get home and on my computer
there are a lot of tri-colour flags
and headlines about islam.
last night at my birthday party
someone read from
chronicles of majnun layla
and i cried.
forgive me for being indulgent;
i don’t like to think about my friends
dying and i suppose there are many
friends i haven’t met yet; i want us to be safe.
forgive me for being indulgent
in something obvious
on my birthday,
try to breathe.
This post was originally written on November 15, 2015 for Latitude 53, while I was their Writer in Residence.