Sunday, November 30, 2014

This is a hat that doesn't need somebody's head
to give it a reason for being.
It adds significance to whoever wears it,
and yet it is complete all by itself
even lying alone on the table.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Old Jacket

I took a photograph
of myself once
leaning against a Virginia sweetgum tree.
I fixed the camera to the tripod, 
pressed the button...
commanded the camera so it would go off
only after I had moved around in front
to stand beside the tree 
where I stood waiting.
I remember gazing into the eye of the camera,
gazing into the shiny black eye,
watching, staring, waiting,
and I was caught in time,
hands thrust in pants pockets
and the jacket almost new
when I was forty.

I remember those years since,
now almost twice forty,
sifting through the box of pictures,
coming across it every year or two.
There I am
standing in the jacket,
leaning in the jacket against the sweetgum tree.
Who is it that stands there?
The jacket is in my California closet now,
but I almost never wear it…
collar frayed and faded,
but I pull it on occasionally
and go out wondering
am I the same man, 
the one in the photograph?
Who is this walking still
out the door 
and down the street,
out, out, out,
with my jacket,
his jacket,
the jacket in the photograph
with somebody in it.

Friday, November 28, 2014

If you want to you can say about the Brazilian Pepper Tree,
that it doesn’t belong in Estelle’s back yard in El Cajon,
but your saying it and even thinking it won’t change the fact
that it is alive and thriving in San Diego County, U.S. of A. 
I for one think its roots are planted in exactly the right place.  
Her backyard wouldn’t be the same without this fine tree
Playing with the wind… twisting and Dancing on the edge.

Some folks have a strange way of evaluating everything…
what or who belongs where in the scheme of things,
ignoring altogether the true and proven undisputed fact
of original ownership of North America, saying as they do 
that all things and even people are ours to reject outright
or use and misuse until the harvest is brought to market
before sending them back to where they came from.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Day, 2014
San Diego, California, U.S.A.

Because it’s Thanksgiving today, I’m posting the photo du jour that fits the season, “Margaret serving pecan, chocolate, pumpkin pie.”

Before the dessert was served,  we walked the dogs in Balboa Park, Morley Field.

The late afternoon sunlight on eucalyptus trees reminded me of trees in “NEW VISIONS, Art and Invention in the 19th Century,” the current exhibition at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.

Jerral Miles, Eucalyptus Trees in Morley Field, 2014

Olympia Aguado, Trees in the Bois de Boulogne, c. 1853-1856

Constant Alexandre Farrin, Trees in the Forest of Fontainebleau, c. 1865

William Bembridge, Queen Anne's Oak, Published in 1864

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I wrote last night about a rally in City Heights… I didn’t find a way to include something a ten or eleven-year-old boy said. I didn’t include it because I didn’t know what to say about it… I didn’t know what to think about it. I hadn’t processed it yet. Here’s the way it happened.  All the people on the platform were African American.  The crowd was mixed… fewer whites and Asians than African Americans and Latinos.  The guy on the platform handed the microphone around to others standing with him.  Mostly what was said by the adults was predictable, pretty much what I expected to hear as expressions of solidarity with people protesting in other cities… nothing original… mostly about keeping the movement going… That’s when the little boy motioned to the guy with the microphone that he wanted to say something.  He said two, maybe three sentences.  The part that stuck in my head, “the evil white men who are killing us…” The rally leader took back the mike and said quickly that the rally wasn’t about color or race, that we are all in this together.  I don’t remember the other words… just “the evil white men who are killing us.”  

Now I think I understand.  Whether it’s literally true or not, it’s the perception of a little boy about the way the world works.  That’s the way he sees it, so that’ the way it is for him.  I’m guessing that’s the way it might have been for Michael Brown when he was eight and ten and fourteen and probably the day he was killed when he was eighteen. 

 Officer Darren Wilson is only ten years older than Michael Brown was on the day he was shot. I wonder what Officer Wilson was thinking when he was ten years old about how the world works?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


…but a time for slow, deliberate reflection around the reality that our America is a collection of cultures… not just one.  There is no such thing as  “The American culture” and “The American Way of Life.” Those descriptives didn’t work in the past, and they certainly don’t work now.  Politicians are fools or charlatans who speak reverently of America in terms of one culture or one way of life which they say they are committed to preserving. America is obviously a collection of cultures, perhaps overall as diverse and widely dispersed as in any other nation on earth.

American cultures are coded and ranked by color.  The anguish of Ferguson is an American tragedy which has its roots in cultural communities where the primary assumption is that white people are the first and most important Americans.  Anyone who dismisses looting and burning of businesses in Ferguson as being the work of black thugs is failing to understand what happened there and why it happened… and why it will continue to happen until white people in cities and towns learn to accept responsibility for provoking rage in citizens of color by denigrating them in systems of education, law enforcement, and government. 

To express solidarity and support for the citizens of Ferguson, Missouri, early this evening I participated with my friends Maggie and Jada in a rally behind the City Heights library in San Diego.  The large orderly crowd of all ages and colors spoke, chanted, and moved taking care not to disrupt or damage the community.  Police officers consistently showed polite respect for individuals and groups.  

I walked Maggie and Jada to their car and then went back to my car to go home; and as I was driving away from the area, some of the people who had been in the rally behind the library poured onto the street and headed in the direction of University Avenue.  Later when I got home, I learned from a TV report that the group had marched west on University and tried to block traffic on Interstate 15.  Ah, well.  What can I say?

Monday, November 24, 2014


Great Grandmother, everybody said, was a Cherokee Indian,
and I believe it because one look at some of the people in my family
will tell you that we aren’t descended from anything pure and easy.
The Cherokee lady was married to a cowboy who spent some time with her
but most of his time herding cows across the plains of Texas and Oklahoma.
The other recent names on that side of the family are Dutch and English.
My Mother’s father looked as if he belonged in a Rembrandt painting.
On the other side of the family the names are French and English,
but the language those folks spoke was pure American hillbilly
straight out of Arkansas where people take pleasure in being Southern.
We are the mongrel American family, the one that includes everybody,
that came from everywhere and will go and be whatever is needed
to keep this country the place that belongs to nobody in particular
and to everybody who has the good fortune to be born or taken
without hesitation under the wings of the Great American Eagle.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

O.K., O.K., right from the start, here's what you should know about this BLOG post:
It isn't supposed to make sense.  If it begins to make sense to you,
stop immediately and get in touch with someone, anyone, whom
you have known at some past time to be usually sober.
Whatever you do, don't do what that viagra warning
says you are supposed to do if you have
one of those conditions for four hours 
that you've taken the viagra for 
in the first place.


What a shame it is when an otherwise intelligent kid
doesn’t learn that everything needn't be understood.
That story about Rapunzel and the handsome prince…
her wanting him to come up, so she let down her hair…
He grasped it and climbed up to where love was.

If it has to be literally true to be worth knowing about,
Rembrandt, Titian and Klimt wouldn’t have bothered
mixing the paints after thinking how it must have been
when Danae opened her thighs to Zeus’ golden shower.
We got Perseus, didn’t we, out of that afternoon delight.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

STILL LIFE: A day for ordinary stuff… like taking pictures of flowers... what may be the last roses of summer and a pyramid of poinsettias in a shopping center… and a shelf with a few very old things brought back from the years of living in Singapore... things like a thousand-year-old simple but elegant vase from the Song Dynasty in China that had found its way to Malacca in Malaysia where I found it...and a small Qing Dynasty porcelain pot that I bought from an Indonesian fisherman more than fifty years ago, a vase that was once blue and white but is now beige and white because it had been buried for centuries, probably in a grave…and a soapstone figure of a horse from China and a covered bowl from Thailand that looks older than it is… and some stone eggs, also from China... and a picture of an intriguing section of bark from another eucalyptus tree. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

In the half hour before I checked in for my volunteer job at the Museum of Photograph Arts in Balboa Park, I got the pictures for today's BLOG post... beginning with the stunning Morton Bay Fig and ending with the Theatre at the Casa del Prado.  Altogether the photos make my poem for today.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Lion in Front of a Karate Studio on Garnet Street in Pacific Beach


The old body just sits there waiting
for ignition, knowing what is possible
but unable to make the first move.
Is it age and knowing too much
that brings the impotence...
               Ain't that the scariest word in the dictionary?
the unwillingness to make the first move
to get the machinery going
at the beginning before reassurance
that it will all turn out
o.k, o.k, all right already?
                Jump Start.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Today’s BLOG post isn’t a rant.  It’s an appeal to thinking people in America to revisit with open minds the role slavery played in the development of the American nation.  If you are a regular listener to NPR, you probably have already made a mental note to yourself to find out more about the thesis of a new book, The Half Has Not Been Told, by Edward Baptist in which he argues that capturing people, principally from Africa, and bringing them to the United States and subsequently subjecting them to harsh treatment as slaves in the cotton fields “was integral to establishing the United States as a world economic power.”  Baptist said to Jeremy Hobson, “Slavery continues to have an impact on America in the most basic economic sense.  We don’t want to hear that at its root, the economic growth (of the United States), depends to a large extent on slavery.” 

Today I’m going out to buy Edward Baptist’s book.  I’ve read Jeremy Hobson’s review in NPR’s “Here and Now,” and I recommend it:

Short of turning this post into an actual rant,  I will stop by pointing out that capitalism as it has been and continues to be practiced in America favors the richest citizens at the expense of people at the bottom of the economic ladder.   The political tug of war between our two major political parties over a proposed minimum wage law is a remnant of the slave market.  One party insists that the marketplace is a better guide to nation building than a government dedicated to the welfare of all the people.  The federal minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.20 per hour.  In California on July 1, 2014, the minimum wage was set at $9.00 an hour.  On January 1, 2015, in San Diego the minimum wager will jump from $9 an hour to $9.75; it will reach $11.50 by 2017. It is common practice for many employers to limit employees to no more than 30 hours a week to avoid paying benefits such as vacation time, retirement, and health insurance. 

Today slavery takes other forms in the American marketplace.  Take a look at a report (Wage Theft Cases Yield Results) by Tiffany Hsu and Marc Lifsher in the Business section of the November 19th L.A. Times.

Maybe it’s time to reread Frank Norris’ 1901 novel, The Octopus: A Story of California.