“Marx believed that revolution would change social relations. Instead we prefer a status quo that widens the opportunity for entry into it, but cannot be challenges except at the edges. The challenge of a developing self is to be prepared to change. We can tinker with our own edges and make ourselves more inclusive, more open, and all that is good. But we need more than that. The purpose of therapy as Freud knew, is to find a safe place for a revolution. That’s a contradiction in terms, but it is accurate. I never used to understand therapy. I thought everything could be done by effort and an act of will and on your own. Very stupid.”
-Jeanette Winterson

“Revolutions do not happen outside of you, they happen in the vein, they change you and you change yourself, you wake up in the morning changing. You say this is the human being I want to be. You are making yourself for the future, and you do not even know the extent of it when you begin but you have a hint, a taste in your throat of the warm elixir of the possible.”

– Dionne Brand

“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution!”

-Emma Goldman



i sleep with the computer, expecting someone on the other side to love me
(but behind the screen, there’s just a white wall)


My grandfather was a painter. He died at age 88. He illustrated Robert Frost’s first two books of poetry. And he was looking at me and he said, “Harry, there’s two kinds of tired. There’s good tired and there’s bad tired.” He said, “Ironically enough, bad tired can be a day that you won. But you won other people’s battles, you lived other people’s days, other people’s agendas, other people’s dreams, and when it’s all over there was very little you in there. And when you hit the hay at night somehow you toss and turn, you don’t settle easy.” He said, “Good tired, ironically enough, can be a day that you lost. But you won’t even have to tell yourself, because you knew you fought your battles, you chased your dreams, you lived your days. And when you hit the hay at night, you settle easy. You sleep the sleep of the just, and you can say, ‘Take me away.’” He said, “Harry, all my life I’ve wanted to be a painter and I’ve painted. God, I would have loved to have been more successful, but I’ve painted, and I’ve painted, and I am good tired, and they can take me away.

-Harry Chapin, My Grandfather

Free Flight

Nothing fills me up at night
I fall asleep for one or two hours then
up against my gut
I must arise
and wandering into the refrigerator
think about evaporated milk homemade vanilla ice cream
cherry pie hot from the oven with Something Like Vermont
Cheddar Cheese disintegrating luscious
on the top while
I devour almonds and raisins mixed to mathematical
criteria or celery or my very own sweet and sour snack
composed of brie peanut butter honey and
a minuscule slice of party size salami
on a single whole wheat cracker no salt added
Or I read Cesar Vallejo/Gabriela Mistral/last year’s
complete anthology or
I might begin another list of things to do
that starts with toilet paper and
I notice that I never jot down fresh
strawberry shortcake: never
even though fresh strawberry shortcake shoots down
raisins and almonds 6 to nothing
is this poem on my list?
light bulbs lemons envelopes ballpoint refill
post office and zucchini
oranges no
it’s not
I guess that means I just forgot
walking my dog around the block leads
to a space in my mind where
during the newspaper strike questions
sizzle through suddenly like
Is there an earthquake down in Ecuador?
Did a T.W.A. supersaver flight to San Francisco
land in Philadelphia instead
whatever happened to human rights
in Washington D.C.? Or what about downward destabilization
of the consumer price index
and I was in this school P.S. Tum-Ta-Tum and time came
for me to leave but
No! I couldn’t leave: The Rule was anybody leaving
the premises without having taught somebody something
valuable would be henceforth proscribed from the
premises would be forever null and void/dull and
vilified well
I had stood in front of 40 or 50 students running my
mouth and I had been generous with deceitful smiles/soft-
spoken and pseudo-gentle wiles if and when forced
into discourse amongst such adults as constitutes
the regular treacheries of On The Job Behavior
is this poem on that list
polish shoes file nails coordinate tops and bottoms
lipstick control no
screaming I’m bored because
this is whoring away the hours of god’s creation
pay attention to your eyes your hands the twilight
sky in the institutional big windows
I did not presume I was not so bold as to put this
poem on that list
then at the end of the class this boy gives me Mahler’s 9th
symphony the double album listen
to it let it seep into you he
says transcendental love
he says
I think naw
I been angry all day long/nobody did the assignment
I am not prepared
I am not prepared for so much grace
the catapulting music of surprise that makes me
hideaway my face
nothing fills me up at night
yesterday the houseguest left a brown
towel in the bathroom for tonight
I set out a blue one and
an off-white washcloth seriously
I don’t need no houseguest
I don’t need no towels/lovers
I just need a dog

Maybe I’m kidding

Maybe I need a woman
a woman be so well you know so wifelike
so more or less motherly so listening so much
the universal skin you love to touch and who the
closer she gets to you the better she looks to me/somebody
say yes and make me laugh and tell me she know she
been there she spit bullets at my enemies she say you
need to sail around Alaska fuck it all try this new
cerebral tea and take a long bath

Maybe I need a man
a man be so well you know so manly so lifelike
so more or less virile so sure so much the deep
voice of opinion and the shoulders like a window
seat and cheeks so closely shaven by a twin-edged
razor blade no oily hair and no dandruff besides/
somebody say yes and make
me laugh and tell me he know he been there he spit
bullets at my enemies he say you need to sail around
Alaska fuck it all and take a long bath

la-ti-dah and lah-ti-dum
what’s this socialized obsession with the bathtub

Maybe I just need to love myself myself
(anyhow I’m more familiar with the subject)
Maybe when my cousin tells me you remind me
of a woman past her prime maybe I need
to hustle my cousin into a hammerlock
position make her cry out uncle and
I’m sorry
Maybe when I feel this horrible
inclination to kiss folks I despise
because the party’s like that
an occasion to be kissing people
you despise maybe I should tell them kindly
kiss my

Maybe when I wake up in the middle of the night
I should go downstairs
dump the refrigerator contents on the floor
and stand there in the middle of the spilled milk
and the wasted butter spread beneath my dirty feet
writing poems
writing poems
maybe I just need to love myself myself and
I’m working on it

-June Jordan

Some days are just about coming to terms with your past, the things you did and didn’t do, how you treated folks and allowed them to treat you, the weight of regret, remorse, and reparations that will never be payed. The suffering we as humans endure, inadvertently. Inflict and then forget we ever did. Our capacity for selective narrative of the past, as much of an invention of our own making as the dreams of an imaginary future we aspire to have with one another. There are holes, punched in our memory by the knocks of life. Times we even went to the police station, then let the cops talk us out of reporting. And the times we sat there for hours, regurgitating every inch of skin touched, every place invaded, every out-of-body flight made to be elsewhere when it was being done to us. Watching from a safe spot on the ceiling, or the grey fabric upholstery of a parked in the dark car. Trying not to smell, not to let the drops of sweat end up in your eyes, unable to wipe them off, your hand held down on the moist back seat of the car. Or the bed. Or the bush behind your parent’s back yard. Someplace formally safe. Someplace that will never be the same, after the fact. A shrine to the devil, materialized. A shrine to your devil, materialized. A shrine you’d have to incorporate into the story of your life. After running hard. Running into the back yard of your heart. Into that place kept hidden from the optimist’s eyes and lies. That part god you once believed in never came to touch. There will be no healing. The body won’t forget, not even when all the cells divide and rejuvenate. Not after four or seven years, not even after all bone matter has healed and been made anew, because you will not forget. You, the essence of you, will never forget that safe bet you took, the free ride or the game of hide and seek that should have been fun for a 4-year old kid. I can still hear the swings creaking in the wind. Still smell this hand-held stink. I didn’t blink. I just kept my eyes open, waiting for it to end. The pool of tears washing over my irises like a flood. Nothing happened, he whispered.
Nothing ever did.

Man shouldn’t be able to see his own face – there’s nothing more sinister. Nature gave him the gift of not being able to see it, and of not being able to stare into his own eyes.
Only in the water of rivers and ponds could he look at his face. And the very posture he had to assume was symbolic. He had to bend over, stoop down, to commit the ignominy of beholding himself.
The inventor of the mirror poisoned the human heart.

— Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet