LJ Idol Season 11: Week 14 - Barn Raising

“It takes a village

to raise a child,”

and Uncle said no child

is left behind,

but Uncle doesn’t speak Kiswahili,

so maybe

he didn’t leave a village behind

for the children.


Les bobos, boujee kids

of the bourgeoisie

play Jacques A Dit,

but Jacques told me

to follow the beat

of La Coumbite,

to

let the song

of the rake

and the hands

of the throng

break the soil

of the lands

til we till

to our fill,

so our toil

slakes our sake—

our

deeds

seeds

from

which

freedom

buds.


But in this place,

freedom rings

with the trill

of the emancipator,

from the till

of the emancipated.


In this place,

freedom echoes

on walls

of barns unbuilt,

on walls

too Red

to raise.


In this place,

freedom bursts

as an Anthemic bomb

in our lungs:


“United we stand.

Divided we fall.

Something, something,

and justice for all.

E pluribus unum.


This land was your land.

This land is my land.

Build that wall.

Build that wall.

E pluribus unum.


One nation,

under God,

Indivisible

for the visible,

or else by 50,

or else by two parties,

or else by 435 electoral constituencies.


Oh say, can you see?

God shed his grace on thee,

and crowned thy good

with otherhood.


United we stand.

Divided we fall.

Something, something,

and justice for all.

E pluribus unum.”


Auntie sings this song

at the gate,

or else

she is known to cry:


“Give me your tired,

your poor,

your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

I lift my voice to these wretches and sing:

Pull yourself up by the bootstraps!

Pull yourself up by the bootstraps!”

LJ Idol Season 11: Week 13 - Fan Death

link to the song:https://photos.app.goo.gl/TxaphcnT5XB9r2Ei9

Currently recurring themes:

a current of concurring memes

converging on emerging seams,

conversely adverse to our dreams.


It’s asbestos, as best as we know.

It’s asbestos, asbestos, we know.

It’s as best as, as best as we know.

It’s as best as asbestos, we know.


Oh, nocebo,

don’t we know,

though we go

slowly loco

re: those do-si-dos?


Inventing an inviting lie—

invention vets the alibi.

Convention’s mention deifies,

convincing victims vilified.


Our affliction’s asphyxiation.

Our affection’s asphyxiation.

Our addiction’s asphyxiation.

Our fixation’s asphyxiation.


Oh, nocebo,

don’t see those

Holy Ghosts

only those

socio-holy woes.


Oh, nocebo,

so we go

fro siroccos,

below,

so we know no ego.


Oh, nocebo, nocebo

Oh, nocebo, nocebo

Oh, nocebo, nocebo

Oh, nocebo, nocebo

LJ Idol Season 11: Week 11, Topic 2 - If the Creek Don't Rise

link to the song: https://photos.app.goo.gl/VHQDrg6sYsunNL8W9

Cry, Little Baby

If the creek don't rise
Then the banks won't flood

If the banks don't drown
Then our money's good

If our money's good
Life's a piece of cake

If life's a piece of cake
I hope it's not too rich for our blood

But baby, the creek does rise
The bitter waters climb to the skies
Today we sure better build our boat
We gotta stay afloat

So wake up

If the land don't burn
Then the stalks can sprout

If the stocks return
Then we'll go eat out

If we go eat out
We'll just get desserts

If we get our just desserts
I hope it's not too rich for our blood

But baby, the land does burn
The final fires are just 'round the turn
Today we sure better flee this town
Before it all burns down

So wake up
And take up
Some space with your cries
We won't hear you
Or fear you
If you're pacified
Yes, today
Is okay
But today isn't yours
It's mine

Cry, little baby, don't you sleep
Papa's gonna give you a world to keep
And if that world ain't green and blue
Papa's not gonna know what to do
And if Papa's not gonna give you a plan
Then you gotta be the one who can
And if you can't, it's not your fault
Here's a diamond ring and a grain of salt

LJ Idol Season 11: Week 11, Topic 1 - Wild Goose Chase

Link to the song: https://photos.app.goo.gl/MjW7RRyQUCkXpiJb6

Here's my permission slip to the petting zoo
Mommy, Daddy, sign it—that's all I ask of you
I'm down to get down with a downy duck
If I can get mine in a row, then I might have some luck

You silly goose!
Look what you made me do!
My silly goose
Ain't got nothing to lose
My turtledove
Ain't you heard o' love?
My flamingo
Look out, here we go

They told me that love is for the birds
But you know I say the bird's the word
They told me, "child, don't you be absurd"
But you know I say what you never ever ever heard

My eagle
Babe you lookin' so damn regal
My heron
Betta know that I'm not sharin' you
My egret
Gonna tell you one more secret
My swallow
Go down and I will follow you

My silly goose
Baby, you're the only one I choose
My penguin
Beat the odds, got me feeling sanguine
My raven
Take the love that I've been savin'
My silly goose
Fly the coop, let your love out on the loose

LJ Idol Season 11: Week 10 - Open Topic

sour cream
on peaches

with a view
of the Ozarks

a '97 Syracuse Basketball calendar
in '98

a Nintendo 64
from his second wife

a driving lesson at 13
that we would never speak of again

a title,
"Young Man"

a story—
always, a story

a plane ticket for Paris
on graduation day

a nod,
a wink

a smirk,
a chortle

an embrace,
a kiss

a handwritten letter,
cordial and crisp

a final conversation
with his blessing

in pale sunlight
and pleasant silence

I didn't know
I knew

a do not
resuscitate

a Shiva,
too soon, too far

sour cream
on peaches

is all
I have

to be
with you

Shalom,
Grandpa

Shalom
Shalom

I miss you
I love you

LJ Idol Season 11; Week 8 - My True North

Link to video of the song: https://photos.app.goo.gl/da9TRCcvp6XDrqb67

My True North

Tried to be a rebel without a cause

Turned out to be a clown without applause

I might be too generic

For a world that's so barbaric

Too full of myself and all of this vichyssoise


Had faith in the game of hide and seek

I sought, I hid, kept my mystique

Got lost in all the losing

Couldn't choose in all the choosing

Resigned to be an olly olly oxen freak






Mais

En te trouvant

Je retrouve le nord

Et en te ressentant

Je me sens moi encore

C'est bien fort

Je suis plus à l'ouest

Gràce à ce beau geste

Cet heureux hasard

Qui nous démarre

En te trouvant

Je découvre le nord


En me trouvant

Tu me ramènes au nord

Et en me touchant

Tu touches bien plus que le corps

C'est si fort

Tu me délivre de l'ouest

Et manifeste

Que l'amour se fait

Sans se forcer

En me trouvant

Tu m'ouvres la porte au nord

But

By finding you

I find my way again*

And by feeling you

I feel like myself again

It’s such a strong thing

I'm no longer lost at sea*

Thanks to this kind gesture

This happy accident

Of our commencement

By finding you

I discover myself*




By finding me

You bring me back to my senses*

And by touching me

You touch far more than my body

It’s so strong

You free me from ruin*

And prove

That love can be

Without being forced

By finding me

You open the door to where I should go*

A silly little song

to keep me moving along

Towards your distant pull

A silly little joke

To tell myself I misspoke

But I know my heart's so full

A silly little text

To double-check you're not vexed

By me or anyone

A silly little line

To double-check that we're fine

That our story's just begun





En se trouvant

On se dirige vers le nord

By finding each other

We’re heading the right way*


*These translations are from all the instances of "north" and "west" (nord / ouest) in the song. They don't mention north or west because they're riffing off of the idiomatic expressions "perdre le nord" and "être à l'ouest". "Perdre le nord", literally "to lose the north", is something like to be disoriented, at a total loss, to lose your way figuratively, or to have lost your senses. "Être à l'ouest", literally "to be in the west", is akin to being spaced out, to not be all there, to have lost your marbles. If someone thinks you have no clue what you're doing, if you have no idea what you're talking about, if you're not grounded at all, they might say you've "lost north" or that you're "in the west".

LJ Idol Season 11: Week 7 - Feckless

The Bookbinder's Psalm

And lo,
here is the couplet
that martyred me,
that I harrowed with tepid fingerprints,
as though I could force
the tooth of the parchment
to draw blood and conclusions
from such a misnomer
of skin and identity,
from such a one as I—

as though I could darn
the ink and inklings of cognition
with the probing spindles of humanity.

And lo,
here is the refrain
that sainted me,
that I hallowed with leather vertebrae,
as though I could birth
the babe of the feckless
to bear fruit and witnesses
for such a miscreant
of thought and veracity,
for such a one as I—

as though I could forge
the man and manners of conception
with the prostrate spineless of humanity.

LJ Idol Season 11: Week 5 - "My enemies are all too familiar..."

Link to the audio of the song: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1EYqOT8WPX9wE_5Uwd9CwWJ0XAtTomGtN/view?usp=sharing

Disclaimer: The song starts softly, but it gets much louder. If you're wearing headphones, be careful of raising the volume too high.

Capsize

Frigid brine

In the gorges of our toes

With the grains, it grinds.

So it goes, we erode

As we stutter step,

Aflutter, except

Your mutter crept

On sputtered breath,


"Tell me where I should go."


Friend of mine

In the valley of your woes,

Tall, the cliffs you climb,

Though the rope, you forgo

And a subtle slip

Befuddles grip—

A scuttling trip

For ruddled lips.


This is what you should know:


I'm not the one to save you.

I've slid between the tides.

Don't look to me to anchor

Lest both of us capsize.


Friend of mine,

Of your silence, in the throes

My damn self I find—

For how long, God I don't know.

I'm a wretched wreck,

A ketch unchecked.

Outstretch my neck

To fetch a speck.


Tell me, where did you go?

LJ Idol Season 11: Week 4 - Impossible

The other day

I spoke with my grandfather—

the one

who died before my birth,

whose

voice

face

name

I don't know—

it wasn't

a conversation

so much as it was

a castigation

sieved through

the unyielding divide

of our languages

of our cultures.

My father

was one of his eight sons

and so I too

learned how to live

with one-eighth of the love

a son is due.

I didn’t learn:

why men should be this way

when the laughter is scorn or love

what was left after the colonizers

how to say “family”

who he would have had me be

where my roots were cut.


Lolo.


A week ago

I worked a crossword

with my grandmother—

the one

who died when I was…


four?...


Sometimes

I almost remember

a face

but more clearly

I see

how inertly she lay

I feel

how warm her imprint

in that empty bed

in that dark room.

My mother tells me

how much

she would have loved

to see my plays

to hear my songs

to read my words.

My mother tells me

how much

she would have hated

for me to remember

only her sickness.
I would have liked
an ally—


We scribble in

our best guesses

but the chasm

is 56 down

and 63 across.


Mimmi.


Last night

I cooked malunggay soup

with my grandmother—

the one

who died when I was…

twelve...thirteen...

whose wide, smiling face

I see

before the wig in the bathroom,

whose raspy, alto cackle

I hear

before the coughing fits,

I smell

Vicks Vaporub

with a plump and gnarled hand

on my chest—

the broth

transparent as tea

transparent as her love,

the leaves

supple as cloth

soothing as cloth

swathing me in warmth,

the sole protection

against the coldness

of the family.


Don’t leave me

with them


Lola.


Just now

I mourned my grandfather—

the only one

who is still alive

who saw me grow to adulthood—

I see

the neat, all-caps script

“SHALOM”

penned beneath

dispassionate letterhead

of a rare correspondence.


I didn’t learn

how to feel this peace,

but

I wish it for you.


Shalom,

Lenny.

LJ Idol Season 11: Week 3 - Everything Looks Like a Nail

Verfremdungseffekt


“Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.”

-Bertolt Brecht, though disputed


The inception of my ill, lusterless collegiate acting career resounded with a squealing trio of syllables dolefully mewled through the wan lips of Boy, a role vitally trivial in this nothing-if-not-earnest production of Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Woman of Setzuan—or, as other notable translations from the original German Der Gute Mensch von Sezuan would degenderize it, The Good Person of Szechwan—as directed by an obfuscating visiting professor with fashionably indiscernible European origins and therefore the de facto clout with which to guide an unindoctrinated group of American coeds into the artistically belligerent ideologies of Brecht and his school of “Epic Theatre.”


“Over there!”


Ah, yes. My precious line. My one and only. My exalted debut. A fine precursor and premonitor of excessive semesters and tuition dollars spent in the noble training of how best to roll one’s body across linoleum floors, how to keep one’s jaw open at all times, and how to breathe from one’s toes while maintaining indefatigable eye contact with one’s scene partner and repeating repetitions of repetitions of repetitions of sounds that were once words but have since become righteous nuances of subtext.


Over there. Over there. Over there. Over there. Over there? Over there! OOOOver there. Over theeeeeere!! Over THERE?? O. VER. THERE.


I don’t blame Brecht for this. But he may have wanted me to. Brecht knew the power of blame.


The repetition shtick is Meisner, anyway.


The line in question comes in the first scene of the play, wherein a fleeing Boy is roughly apprehended by a passing Policeman, and from Boy’s loose garments comes tumbling a tantalizing haul of breads and pastries. “Where did you get these?”, Policeman demands. “Over there!”, Boy cries.  You see, this play isn’t, as the Greeks would have had it, about noble heroes of the ruling class navigating painful fates bestowed upon them by the gods. It’s not about sweeping you away in larger-than-life sagas and giving you emotional release. It’s about how society is the antithesis of human goodness. It’s about blaming you.


The titular Good Woman, Shen Teh, a struggling prostitute, is the only person in all of Setzuan that will offer her home to wandering, travel-weary gods. For her hospitality, her goodness, the gods grant her a hefty sum of gold. Shen Teh uses her windfall to convert her home into a lucrative tobacco shop. Quickly, the instantaneously richest person on the block finds herself inundated by estranged family members, beggars, and thieves, all looking for a slice of the action. Shen Teh can’t stop herself from helping them. She’s too good. Her unending charity will soon destroy her means of self-subsistence, her tobacco shop. To survive, she dons a disguise and creates an altar ego, Shui Ta, her “cousin”. He is cruel, unfeeling, and unmoved by the pleas and demands of the villagers. His ruthlessness, cunning, and unfailing focus on self-preservation see to the transformation of the humble shop into a powerful tobacco factory that exploitatively employs the surrounding villagers. Shen Teh is undone in this binary, these antipodal halves of self. To be? Or to be good, and not be? That is the question.


Brecht offers us no resolution. The play ends by Shen Teh breaking the fourth, invisible wall of the proscenium by putting the onus of reconciling human nature squarely on the audience’s shoulders. How can goodness exist in society, if society dictates that goodness is to the detriment of survival?


Here is where Brecht’s “Epic Theatre”, his art, stings. You don’t get to escape your shit in a flight of fancy. You don’t get to hold up a mirror and see yourself as a virtuous hero. You’re not afforded the luxury of empathizing with the characters. Here comes the hammer. Shatter the mirror. Fuck your catharsis. You must question the characters. You must question yourself. You must question the world. You must change the world.


Brecht had Nazi Germany to fight.


Maybe this is why Scorsese says that Marvel movies aren’t “cinema”.


Today, we don’t want art to be a hammer. We don’t want to be consumed in Rothko’s towering canvases of color. We don’t want Cage’s 4’33 to remind us of our suffocating need to fill the void.


We don’t want art to be a mirror. We don’t want to watch that documentary. We don’t want to see the world’s water crisis, the limitless waste of the global agricultural system, the mass extinctions leading to failing ecosystems, the cost the global poor pay to keep us comfortable, the societal destabilization as governing bodies claw and clamor for resources to preserve “us” and not “them”.


We don’t want to fight our fight.


We want art to be sleeping pills. We want Marvel. We want Taylor Swift. We want Game of Thrones. We want to be soothed. We want to escape. We want to forget ourselves. We want to forget the world.


Me? I’m not a good person. I just need to get by. I can’t do anything for anyone else. The hammer’s too heavy. I’ve already been bludgeoned. I want to forget the years I wasted. I want to forget the person I should have been. I want to forget how stupid my problems are. I’ll take the sleeping pill and start binging the next season of “The Great British Baking Show.”