Tag Archives: Icons series

Pushpins And Thumbtacks

Think of a map on a wall 
that shows where everything is and should be.

Thumbtacks hold it in place,
pushpins mark the important points on the map.

Every Confederate statue is a pushpin.
Mount Rushmore is a pushpin.

One World Trade Center is a pushpin.
Every picture of the smoking towers is a pushpin.

The words “Wall Street” are a pushpin.
The words “Main Street” are a pushpin.

Barbie is a pushpin.
Ken is a pushpin.

Pushpins are pink,
Pushpins are blue,

hamburgers and hot dogs
are pushpins, too.

Donald Trump is a pushpin
who thinks he’s a thumbtack
surrounded by pushpins
he’s pressed into the map.
They almost act like thumbtacks,
there are so many of them,

but don’t let them fool you:
they’re still just pushpins.

The military is a thumbtack.
The police are a thumbtack.
The justice system is a thumbtack.
The prison system is a thumbtack.
The labor of prisoners is a thumbtack.
The disenfranchisement of former prisoners is a thumbtack.

The educational system is a thumbtack.
The healthcare system is a thumbtack.
The food supply system is a thumbtack.
The deep decay of infrastructure is a thumbtack.

Pop culture is a series of brightly colored thumbtacks
placed in such a way that they look like pushpins.

Standing Rock is a thumbtack.
Flint is a thumbtack.
New Orleans and Puerto Rico are thumbtacks.
Michael Brown? Eric Garner? Sandra Bland?
Native women missing near the man camps of the oil fields?
All the people dead or missing for their bodies and souls
that did not fit the map?
Fresh blood on old stains that have been on the map so long,
we think they’re supposed to be there;

fresh blood in endless supply
seeping out from under the thumbtacks,
making it clear that they were pushed in to stay.

You see the map anew and realize 

it’s not only wrong, but that it’s designed, in fact, 
to get and keep people lost 
and to conceal certain information and features 
that exist but which are not shown on the map.

You reach up to the wall 
and start pulling pushpins out of the places 
that are deemed important by whoever put up the map.

The places THEY want to highlight, 
the routes THEY want you to travel, etc.

You start tossing some aside, 
put others back in different spots.

If there is a color code to the pins, 
maybe you subvert it 
or discard certain colors, add new ones, etc., 
so that they no longer represent 
what the mapmakers wanted.

You stand back and look at your work…
and it’s troubling, isn’t it?

It’s still their map.

You reach up and pull the pushpins out you just put in,
because they play a role in keeping the map
securely in place.

Then you start pulling the thumbtacks themselves, 
the ones that define the borders,
the ones that hold the map up.

You pull them one at a time at first
until you get enough slack to get a hand on a free corner 
and you rip the whole thing off the wall. 
You crumple it up and burn it in the fireplace.

And then you go outside:
bloody, singed, exhausted.

Maybe you are alone,
having lost everyone and everything,

but it’s been so long
since you saw the actual territory 

that you don’t know what’s actually out there, 
and it’s time to find out.

The Origins Of Leveling Up

Level up
Build your brand
Get on your grind

Hustle and disrupt
Stay on your track

Never let anything
distract you from your goal

Get paid
Get paid at the highest level 
Get paid what you’re worth 
You are worth what you are paid
You are worth exactly what you get paid
You are obviously not leveling up
if you aren’t getting paid

To be rich is to level up
Heaven is riches
leveled up and up again

If you’re not rich you’re not worthy 
Every day is a new chance
to be worthy of your worth

You level up when you’re worthy
You are level and up and worthy
Worthy of a higher level
No one can make you feel unworthy
without your consent

You consent to be unworthy
You consent to be unleveled

Get back on the grind
and get on it

Get paid get level get lifted
Get worthy

Get paid or get got
Get paid or get out

They said it long ago
as they stepped off the boat
and granted themselves a continent

and that’s how we got
to where we are today

Talk Show

Coming up later on the show:
disembodied heads
and the people who love them,

but next up, a glittering prize
reveals the ugly truth of the game show
called America. 
We’ll be right back. Stay tuned!

The screen darkens.
I’m staying tuned, staring
at where the talk show just was.

Dying to know if the game show
is as rigged as it looks? I know I never win.
I didn’t know a glittering prize could talk. Can’t wait

for what it has to say. And what is it about
floating, babbling heads? No bodies,
just jabber, idiot’s wisdom that may not

be wise at all, but it sounds good coming out of
those gravity-free mouths.
I wouldn’t say I love them exactly,

but they make me feel
loved. Make me feel listened to
though they do all the talking.

Make me feel like although I never entered
and I don’t understand the rules,
I may have already won.

Ghost Apples

Look at you lamenting
the disappearance of apple pie.

Sitting around all day cussing
the bad apples you have to work with.

Muttering about the past, the crust,
the way it used to be.

No one talks up old-fashioned apple pie 
like someone who thinks

the only good apple
is a ghost apple.

Those good apples, you say,
made great pies.

You can till taste them 
if you try.  We need to bake them

again.  Need better apples.
Need a sturdier crust.

Make apple pies great again,
you say. Get rid of the bad, bad apples.

I’m a good apple, I promise, one
fallen far from your tree,

and I don’t want to be
part of any pie although

I’m as American
as you know what.

Keep longing, keep
imagining old-fashioned flavor.

Those ghost apples will leave you
hungry, famished, starving,

strangling on dry crust.
Meanwhile, I’m doing fine

on a diet
of what’s in front of me,

not on what’s long gone
and left behind, 

and there’s not a bad apple
in sight.

I Sing The Body Selected: Paul Bunyan

I sing the body selected for its utility;
today, I sing the body of Paul Bunyan.

No one knows the truth about
Paul Bunyan, secret hero
of the self-made mythos;

born as vague folktale,
dim origin story explaining nothing;
originally only seven feet tall
then grown by design to enormous size
as slim basis for an advertising myth;

rugged, near deity, holy logger,
ravenous for trees and food, good-natured
giant, honor bound to his azure companion
Babe the castrated behemoth;

Paul Bunyan is having none of it anymore.

In this long-ago opened
once-forested land
there’s nowhere to be
huge beyond simple explanation.

In this wide stretched
mythos of exceptionalism
there’s no room for his real story
as it should be told.

Paul Bunyan puts down the axe,
releases Babe to wander, sits down,
wipes his face on his shirt
and says:

done. I’m done.

I didn’t make myself into this,
I did not write myself this large
and never did I mean to be so alone.

There were camps, you know,
There were teams and squads and
communal effort and internal struggle.
There were many of us

but they chose me. They made me into a story
to sell lumber, paper towels, a useful tale
of Big Whiteness conquering,

and now I don’t recall who I really was.

So I’m done.  I’m done.

I cede the flannel to whoever
their next lonely self-made man might be;

I cede the flannel
to you, Kurt Cobain, secret hero
of all my logging, all my
clear cutting, all my
footprint lakes and axe-drag
canyons.  I leave it to you,
another young man alone,
your being soaked through
with myth and image
as was mine.
Drag your axe
through the world and leave
a deep, wide scar.

This will kill you
but they will all soon enough love
what they think you were.

I cannot tell you it will be worth it
even if you lose yourself in it.

That’s just how things get done
these days. That’s just how
the place runs. It needs
its hardworking lost men.
It needs them to be alone
when they vanish
into history.