NaPoWriMo 2021 #6 – Memories from Rope-Yarn Wednesdays

With these hands I weave my own destiny.
The threads I twist and spin together form
The basis, whether cotton, wool, or silk,
For weaving every cloth and tapestry
That results. Color and texture inform
The ultimate Design. Repetition
And precision make the underlying
pattern strong. The crosswise stitch overlaps
to reinforce borders of interface
With new threads introduced. The surface fills
with dust for a moment – I blow it off
And continue. I reach a point where I
can see the end. I may undo a stitch
Here and there for a more complete outcome.

NaPoWriMo 2021 – #4 Echochrome Dreams

Today’s prompt invites us to examine liminal spaces. I didn’t like the photographs so I did an independent search and discovered the Sony game Echochrome. This sonnet resulted.

Echochrome dreams

“Change the way you perceive the world and the path will be revealed.”

I never played Sony video games –
But I recognize a good string quartet
When I hear one – all those years of playing
Viola were not for naught. Music moves,
One learns so much from its forward motion –
Pathways that touch form continuities,
And if you jump from one path you will land
On another. The gap that’s blocked from view
Between connected paths should not be feared;
A hole that’s blocked from views may not exist –
Until you step in it, of course, and then
You fall to lower levels. Closer things
Overlap things more distant – you see more
Detail in near objects than those afar.
– April 4, 2021

NaPoWriMo 2021 #3, repeated, unpacked

Prompt was the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken.”

The cherry blossoms are
in full display today. A gift
To perpetuity from the Japanese.

We didn’t have to end
that war the way we chose.
I can’t make up for what
the people lost but still
I feel their pain.

We fought another war
that both sides lost:
A sacred cause that should have
been resolved by Jefferson,
Madison and Hamilton
over dinner in New York,
not on battlefields.

(How much might it have cost
To cut a deal? 620,000 lives lost
Is a price we cannot fathom,
a mortgage that forever haunts us,
a note that has no maturity date.)

Dogwoods remind me
of cherry blossoms,
white petals, not pink.
The tree that formed 

the cross where Jesus died –
A passing Easter thought
not inappropriate.

Too much is lost in war,
too many lives foreclosed
the fruit of labor spoiled
on the vine. I think about
their roads and choices lost.
– April 2, 2021

NaPoWriMo 2021 – April 1, 2021

Today’s prompt is the animated version of SunRa, Seductive Fantasy

Sun Ra, man,
Our prophet and guide
Saint of inner space

In painting and music –
And growing flowers –
There is no finiteness,
Only infinity, he tells us.

Shapes and seeds
Abound – a never ending
Increase in variation –
Alternating generations.

LIke a trombone’s slide
Or a trumpet’s valve
Or vibration of strings
Across a bridge.

Every moment is
An improvisation –
A riff on a theme,
Removing the top layers
And building again.
– April 1, 2021

Mid-term in the American Century Cycle

All: Congratulations on reaching the halfway point of our journey! We have covered five of the plays in the American Century Cycle and we have five left. Give yourselves a pat on the back!

You have probably noticed some things from our readings.

1. August Wilson gives us an inside peek into and a bird’s eye view of life in black America. But he also gives us a similar view into overall America. It just takes some peeling back of the onion skin.

2. Reading these plays may be whetting your appetite to see more live theater. Hopefully COVID will pass and we will be able to see more real plays soon. People have remarked that they look at plays differently after going through the cycle. I’ve noticed that now I prefer to read through a play before seeing it on the stage so I know what to expect. All that is normal.

3. If you are seeing something of your own lives in the reading of the plays then we are doing it right. If not, we are not necessarily doing it wrong.

4. A lot of Wilson’s poetic artistry is hidden in the stage directions and the settings of each play. His poetry will spoil you and you will never be able to get enough. That is ok.

5. The plays may get easier to understand as we build up an understanding of Wilson from the plays we have already read. At the same time, they may get more difficult as themes become more complex. Hang in there.

Feel free to hit “reply to all” for further discussion. Everybody’s perspective is important and significant. No one, especially not the study group leader, has a monopoly on ideas, interpretations, analyses. Many of August Wilson’s fans have not read through half his plays. Even fewer have completed the cycle. You are all joining a very special “brotherhood.”

Your midterm grade is A+!

NaPoWriMo 2021 – #1

Romare Bearden – The Piano Lesson, 1984

The black mirror invites my inspection –
A scaled representation of the whole.
The wooden metronome in its foreground
Reminds one of rhythm and time’s passage,
The pendulum’s swing until the winding
Dies. The young girl, black like the mirror, plays
As her mother directs. The mother’s face,
More blue than black, leans in attentively.
A non-flowering plant rests in a vase.
A paintbrush seems out of place. It could be
A missing conductor’s baton. The sun
Bursts through the window as a slight breeze blows
The curtains askew. A ceiling lamp and
A table lamp compete to light the room.

Wilmington’s Lie – a bifurcated review

Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy by David Zucchino

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

February 8, 2021 — There is something I find slightly Moby Dick-ish about this book and I am only a quarter of the way through. Short chapters like Moby Dick that provide glimpses into the context of the history as it unfolds remind me of little packets of energy. The focus on the “obsession” in the narrative, zooming in and zooming out, provides additional context.

I am a NC native, so it all has special meaning for me. And so many of the surnames remain in “circulation,” enhancing my own curiosity. I heard the story before in my youth, but as I mentioned to a friend, it was whispered about. Hushtones.

And there is a bit of irony in how i acquired the book. Our docent group (LOC) does “enrichment” visits and tours and one was to the NPR studio and offices just up from the UDC metro station. We ended the tour in a room that housed a library of books that writers and publishers donate to NPR. The tour guide told us to take whatever we wanted of the collection (I guess they needed the empty shelf space) and Wilmington’s Lie was on the shelf right in front of me. So I grabbed it and it grabbed me almost simultaneously.

I am reading this book slowly at bedtime. A couple of chapters a night. Hope to be done by the end of the month. Will finish this review then. See ya!

March 22, 2021

Took me a while but after several interruptions I finished the book. Painful reading, very painful as I identified not with the victors, but with the slain, the humiliated, the disenfranchised. A lot of research went into this book, making the unpacking of events clear and intentional. I applaud the author for painstaking research and examination of all sides of the issue.

Reputations were made in the effective execution of the 1898 coup against an elected government. Reputations were equally lost, destroyed. A narrative to explain the deeds of the victors was created, sustained by university scholarship, the state press, and the state education system. Fingerprints are everywhere and well preserved. We are especially indebted to researchers who chose this as their dissertation topic, with special recognition to Helen Edmonds of N.C. Central University, who wrote about a hidden topic with lucidity, clarity and courage in 1951 when it was not exactly sexy to do so.

Over time I have sided with thinkers who say blacks should have never left the south. Cast down your buckets where you are, Booker T Washington and others intoned and advised. But in 1898 Wilmington, what choice did people have? Stay and die, or flee and live? There was no in-between. I wonder will I ever be able to return to North Carolina to live? After reading Wilmington’s Lie, my heart may never be in returning, much less forgiving. In my hometown everything is named for Charles Aycock, well not everything, but the reputed best junior high when integration came was Aycock Junior High and the performing arts venue we all attended as children and as adults was Aycock Auditorium on the campus of UNCG, which fully integrated before most venues did. And to think Aycock was one of the leading propagandists of the Wilmington Lie and a leading proponent of separate but (un)equal education in North Carolina for over half a century.

I do recommend reading this book, especially for present-day Democrats and leaders in the cancel culture.

View all my reviews

March 7, 2021

The Death of Poetry

Note: I am taking a course, “The Decline of the American Republic” and reading a book by Bruce Ackerman with the same title. In our first meeting last week we discussed the importance in a republic of living free from fear. I came face to face with my truth that I am living with some fear in this cancel culture. I think each person must make his or her own stand in their own way against this feeling of fear that surrounds us. #stopcancelculture. End note.

My poetry blog has been empty
For over a month. I still write
But can’t publicly post since
Being identified an enemy of the state –

At least so they tell me because
I question the legitimacy
Of a presidential election
That had a pattern of fraud.

Now I must censor myself
If I want to stay out of jail –
There’s no longer freedom of speech
In the home of the brave.

Poetry is dead in a land where
Diversity of thinking is not allowed.
Place poetry in a pretty box.
Lower her gently into her grave.

January 31, 2021

It’s Sunday morning and there is a light but steady snow falling, more like floating down in Foggy Bottom. Normally I’d draft in the notebook then cut and paste into the blog. But today I am free styling, composing directly into the blog. Has nothing to do with the weather. Roads remain clear. I did all the shopping yesterday, just in case.

The Sunday morning talk shows are all covering the coronavirus vaccination programs and the proliferation of Biden executive orders. I’ll not go into details since the information police are patrolling and I am too old to go to jail. Censorship is complete and you’d better not say anything critical of Biden-Harris under penalty of cancellation. Not the country I fought for nor the government I served. This is America. The new America.

Organizing some material on my laptop for the August Wilson study group that begins the first week of March. This year we will be reading the plays in the order written, so beginning with Jitney. In the background bull riding is on the television. I look up every now and then. Brazilian and American cowboys getting thrown by bulls. Not sure I understand the points system for competition. The Brazilians seem quite good at it.

Next Sunday is Super Bowl 55!

p.s. February 10 post.

January 26, 2021

Last night I finished Walter Mosley’s The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

I just finished Walter Mosley’s masterpiece. Over ten years late to it, I confess, but it was worth it. Not my first Mosley book, but by far my favorite.

We all grow old, if we live long enough. It is possible to outlive one’s support system, spouses, siblings, even children, and find oneself in a strange and harsh reality surrounded by dreams and ghosts. Such was the case of Ptolemy Grey, somewhat. He lucked out when Robyn entered the picture. We should all be so lucky. I think about my lifelong friends, my sister and her progeny, and my elderly relatives. Think I will call my uncle up on the phone tonight. He is 91. And my first cousin, who is close to 80, I think. I wonder how will I organize the distribution of my treasure, my library, my financial assets that I will likely never consume, my CD collection with music from every country where I have been assigned?

Ptolemy Grey provides insights into those and other end-of-life considerations. Strangely, I laughed out loud at the very end, frantically turning the page for more, only to discover those pages intentionally left blank.

Expertly written. Can’t wait for the movie.

Just put in touch with a young colleague referred by the DC chapter of my undergrad alum association. It made me wonder, what does one say to the young ones coming along? I mean, beside the normal advice, “Don’t let a fool kiss you, and don’t let a kiss fool you?”

To a person entering into a bureaucratic career, and that includes the military, corporate America, or government service, my first piece of advice would be a declaration that you are starting off with all the tools that everybody else has. But you need to look into your tool bag and determine what gives you the competitive edge. For example, I grew up in a very political environment at church, and learned early about treachery and trade-offs. Then, at a tender age, I learned to navigate my way around an all-white boarding school where, as a scholarship student, I was considered somewhat inferior. You only prove your worth through hard work, grit and determination

To that I would add to take that edge and go for the tough assignments, the out-of-the-way locations, the jobs that your peers don’t seem to want. Given the circumstances, you only have to survive, not that the achievement bar is lowered, but the survival rate becomes the critical measure. You can be a superstar later and in a better place.

Be curious about things, about standard procedures and protocols, about why things are done the way they are done. Don’t be afraid to lift up the hood, to see how the whole machinery runs. Along with curiosity, carry around a healthy dose of skepticism, not in-your-face skepticism, but I-wonder-why skepticism that dovetails with your curiosity. If you have weak bosses, they will feel threatened and may even try to retaliate. Live through it and save your best resources in a safe place in order to be ready to return to the fight another day. And as my father would say, don’t take no wooden nickels.

Keep a journal. Record your thoughts, your reactions, your responses. Not as a weapon, mind you, but as a chronicle, a plotting of points from which you may make a mid-course correction if and when necessary. Along those lines, don’t try to trade on your identity, whether as a member of a minority group, or your sex, or your ethnicity, or any other physical characteristic. Don’t trade on it. You know what I mean. And heaven forbid, don’t bring your personal life to work, i.e., don’t try to sleep with the girls at work if you are a man, nor with all the boys at work if you are a woman, or any combination or permutation thereof. It just doesn’t work and people around you will whisper just loud enough for you to know it.

At some point you will hit your stride. Keep your wits about you. If someone higher up notices your talent and makes you an offer, consider it, even though it may take you off your intended track. It may be a good thing, and people who “pick” may be more inclined to “take care” of you. Consider all the ramifications. Discuss it with your spouse or significant other. Speaking of which, try to keep in touch with an outsider, a college professor, a high school teacher, a clergy-person, someone who is not beholden to your system who can give you a different perspective on things.

Finally, don’t stay in a situation too long. When you have things “running like a sewing machine,” it is probably a good time to examine your options and plot your next move. When I went off for long-term language training in preparation for a three year assignment, one of my mentors told me that a year and a half would probably be long enough to get all the problems solved and move on. Turned out he was right. I once contemplated making a lateral move to a different organization that I was extremely excited about. At the last minute I was offered a vertical step if I remained, and, driven by ego and ambition, I took it instead of the lateral. Turned out to be a mistake.

That’s about it for now. Would I change some things if I could go back in time? Probably. Do I have any regrets? Absolutely none.