cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (sending love)
As part of the Days of Action to support Bresha Meadows, currently in Trumbull County Juvenile Detention Center for defending herself and her family, I've written a poem. When I tried to write about the abuse Bresha endured and what she'd been forced to do, my thoughts kept veering off into escapist fantasies. The truth is, this 14-year-old girl was forced to confront a viciousness so terrifying, most adults can't look at it head-on. I certainly can't.

If you are so moved, please share my poem (with proper attribution) and a link to the #FreeBresha blog.

To #FreeBresha Meadows, and Myself

Respect demands
I tell your story straight
exactly as it happened
exactly as brave as you were
as you had to be
through years of abuse
the gun in your face
then in your hands
to protect yourself, your family.

Is it the writer in me
that burns to revise your tragedy
to send a spaceman
silver-suited from the future
to save you from the screams?
To  unleash a dragon
fire-mouthed and dagger-clawed
to defend you, or sneak
a singing sword beneath your bed
help you sever unholy bonds?

Or is it the mother in me
who yearns to twist your tale
to happily ever after
by stroke of luck or fairy dust
hook or crook?
Anything to transform
the garbage the agencies gave you
into a swift carriage to sunnier days
those rats who betrayed you
into footmen at your mercy.

Or is it the girl inside me
the one who watched Dad
drive Mom to tears
who clapped when he clapped
thinking it some game?
Who, years later, watched him corner
a new wife, his hand raised to smack?
Screaming, running,
I lured the wolf from his rampage
but still he ruled the forest.

Creative Commons License
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cafenowhere: screen cap from tv show Hannibal, the mythical ravenstag framed by broody blue forest (ravenstag)
Am I getting the hang of this? I don't know.

My most important goal is to revise a chapter of Border Blaster every week. Mid-month, I decided I could probably handle two chapter revisions per week. Almost immediately I had a week jam-packed with "life stuff," in which I got little work done. So I ended up with four revised chapters in February, five as of today.

I sent out three story subs, which was only possible because I got a couple of rejections and re-subbed those. I haven't finished any new stories. (Total to date: 6 subs; 2 rejects; 5 pending)

Looks like I only sent out one poetry submission, and it was reprints for a non-paying antho by a publisher I admire. (Total to date: 5 subs; 3 rejects; 1 sale; 1 pending) But I wrote 1 and a half new poems. It may sound silly, but I feel really good about that half. It feels like a "big" piece, not just long, but...significant.

For my activism goal, I read and reviewed Locked Down, Locked Out by Maya Schenwar. And, incidentally, got the public library to purchase another prison-related book: Dress Behind Bars: Prison Clothing as Criminality by Juliet Ash.

Tweetie has Spring Break in March, this month's schedule looks much quieter for me, and thus (I hope) more productive.

What progress have you made with your goals? What have been your stumbling blocks, and what can you learn from them?
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (garcia)
I started the new year with a completely new daily routine, embarrassing in its simplicity: sleep as late as I fucking need, get up and get fully dressed (down to shoes & earrings), have a small meal, start knocking items off my week's to-do list. I'm still trying to understand how much I can reasonably expect to get done in a week, especially given the unpredictability of depression. But my recurring items every week are to revise a chapter of Border Blaster, sub a poem, and sub a short story.

I'm up-to-date on chapters, I've made 4 poetry subs, and I've subbed 3 stories. (I suppose technically, I could also count the 3 stories I contributed to an anthology project as "subs," but it's not like I'll get a rejection, since I was invited to participate.) I've got this week's story sub lined up, but I'm running out of poetry inventory.

I also resolved to focus my activism efforts on prison reform this year, with one signficant action every month. In January, I wrote letters, which was easy enough. This month I'll read and review a book, which has had a spin-off action: I ended up requesting that the local library buy some more books on the issue.

I still fret that I'm not doing enough. "I could do so much more if I just tried," I say when infected with brain weasels. But now I also have the agendas from previous weeks in my day planner, with all those neat lines run through the accomplished items. So I know I'm doing *something*.

Sometimes I think we get too focused on whether or not we did the Thing we said we'd do, rather than remembering the impulse behind the resolution. Eventually, I may run out of poems to send out, and failure to sub isn't something to feel bad about, not if my motivation was "be better about getting my work out there" or "stop self-rejecting." Likewise, I am not wearing real shoes today (opted for socks and house shoes) or earrings, but I have butt in chair and I'm working. It's a routine, not a requirement. And sometimes that's enough.

For those of you who made resolutions, what's your progress been like? What have you learned?
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (christina aguilera)
I attended WisCon 38 this weekend and had a fabulous time. Some highlights:

I watched a young woman of color, a self-described fangirl, meet a hero. Shivering, eyes welling with tears, she introduced herself to NK Jemisin, who responded warmly and graciously. Though I could not hear their conversation, I saw that it NEEDED to happen. This young woman needed to meet Jemisin, needed to tell her how much her work meant, needed to have her hero-worship met with respect and thanks.

Think back on all the stories we've heard of young women approaching their favorite authors in other times and places, only to be condescended to, brushed off, or sexually assaulted. The SFF community needs to be different, and better. WisCon tries and often succeeds.

I watched the Tiptree award winner, Nike Sulway, struggle through tears to tell the audience about how many times her book, Rupetta, was rejected before Tartarus Press came to the rescue. Sulway mentioned her other life as an academic, and I imagined what it must've been like, to carry on professionally while her heart was aching, maybe breaking, on the long road to Rupetta's publication. Sulway really NEEDED to hear the silly, celebratory song written for her and Rupetta, to be welcomed into the Tiptree community, to be cheered by an entire ballroom audience.

Think about other venues, where tears would've been unseemly. Think about Sulway moving forward on her next projects with the knowledge—not hope, but knowledge—that there is an audience for her work, people who live and breathe with her characters, fans ready to devour her next literary feast. Her future will be different, and I hope, better because of WisCon.

I listened to the tremulous emotion in NK Jemisin's voice as she related her trials of the previous year, the defiant calm as she restated and refined her case, the awesome power as she called us to arms and the implacable righteousness as she urged us to fucking FIGHT—for our lives, for our art, for our future. We NEEDED to hear that speech, all of us, not just the POC in the audience. And, given Jemisin's comments right before her speech, that she wasn't completely sure what she was going to do until she heard co-Guest of Honor Hiromi Goto's speech, Jemisin needed a boost of inspiration, too.

Think about other venues, where Jemisin would've been booed and heckled, where people would've walked out, where she would have been confronted, attacked, assaulted, for speaking Truth to Power. WisCon can be different, better. In this case, I think it was.

I sat in a mostly white audience that was listening (and hopefully learning) from a panel composed entirely of black women. Where else would that happen?

But for all the good WisCon 38 achieved, for all the happiness it gave me and others, more needs to happen.

We need to revise and/or ENFORCE the WisCon harassment policy.

It is inexcusable that a known serial sexual harasser (James Frenkel) would be allowed to attend WisCon the year after abusing two women and being fired from his position at Tor as a result. [Scroll down to the Frenkel discussion in this storify, "WisCon and Harassment" (the Bergmann discussion is relevant, too, and I'll get to that in a minute). See also Lauren Jankowski's reaction to discovering Frenkel was attending.] ETA: Note that Ms. Jankowski has revised her statement since I initially posted. Please take that into account when referencing/reblogging. ETA2: Lauren's followup post is here. Thanks to Elise Matthesen for providing that link.

What a slap in the face to women who endured Frenkel's abuse to see this unrepentant offender all over the con! What callous disregard for newcomers and those who cannot identify Frenkel on sight so as to avoid him! What a thoughtless decision to allow this offender to volunteer in the consuite, thus endangering some of our most vulnerable guests!

WisCon needs to be different, and it needs to be better. There are several members on the concom who want to fix the Frenkel fail. Folks who attended WisCon can help by filling out the survey at . Even if you didn't attend this year's con, you can express your dismay at Frenkel's inclusion by emailing the concom: . (ETA: This email address is the one provided on the survey. On Twitter, I was informed by the WisCon38 account that they prefer to receive general feedback at .)

Frenkel is not the only problematic guest attending WisCon. Another documented case of harassment, that perpetrated by FJ Bergmann against Rose Lemberg, has apparently been ignored by WisCon organizers. [see also the references to Bergmann in the "WisCon and Harassment" storify] Perhaps because Bergmann is local and a long-time attendee? Whatever the excuse, because of Bergmann's behavior at WisCon 36 and WisCon's failure to address the matter, Rose Lemberg, an editor, publisher, and author crucial to the new wave of intersectional speculative SFF no longer feels safe attending WisCon. And several of the authors Lemberg has mentored and championed, who could contribute valuable new voices to WisCon, do not feel safe attending, either. What a trade-off we have made! This is another matter to address when you give feedback to WisCon, whether via survey or email.

Other authors and editors who could offer valuable insights to WisCon programming have given up after years of their panel ideas being ignored, misunderstood, or mishandled. I believe the variety of panels has improved to include more traditionally marginalized voices, but panel assignments still need to be vetted more carefully. For example, why were the "How to Ally" panelists all white, while the moderator was a WoC? Was the "Escaping the Hair Police" panel as representative as it could have been? If you found fault with any panel's composition, be sure to include that info in your feedback.

I'm told the concom is looking to improve panel assignments, by letting those of us who suggest panels flag ones that need special attention. In the meantime, we can help ensure parity and the best-informed participants by including notes when we suggest panels: "PoC only," "needs non-US participants," "trans person should be on panel," "must be moderated by a WoC," etc. We can also name specific people we'd like to participate, although they are of course not obligated to do so. And if you fall into a traditionally marginalized group, consider volunteering to moderate or sit on panels, if you can. It's easy for folks to burnout if they always have to act as spokesperson.

A few more thoughts for making WisCon different, better, safer for everyone:

Moderators should avoid assuming gender when calling on audience members. Rather than "First the woman in red, the man in the back, then the woman with long hair" the moderator could say "First the person in red, you standing in the back, then the person in the kilt." No one wants to be misgendered, least of all at a con that purports to care about gender and trans* issues. (I was on a panel where the moderator made this mistake, and I felt bad but failed to speak up. I might need to rehearse a quick interjection for that scenario.)

Folks, don't go up to a stranger and ask them if they are "so-and-so." If you're the person asked, it's hard to answer in the negative without feeling like a disappointment. And if you're asking a POC, you give the impression that you think all POC look alike. Instead, introduce yourself, wait for the person to reciprocate, and be prepared to chit-chat whatever their response. And, for goodness sake, do not inquire as to the origin of someone's name or whether it's a family name or married name. Just, no.

And a last request: Many of the folks I've quoted or linked to in this post are DONE and DONE talking about WisCon. They've said their piece, documented it, and are not up for reopening old wounds. Please be respectful of them. Don't drag them into these discussions yet again. Instead, learn from what they've already said and fashion new solutions with their experiences in mind.

I really do love WisCon, but I would love it even more if ALL my friends felt safe, welcome, and valued there. We have made progress. We can make more.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (dolores del rio)
Like any other group, Latin@s speak differently and about different things depending on whether we are conversing with an ingroup or an outgroup.

I refer to an rather than the ingroup/outgroup, because most of us belong to multiple groups of varying degrees of intimacy. It's not always race or ethnicity that determines our level of comfort when discussing certain topics. For example, I am much more comfortable discussing the George Zimmerman case with my white friends, who share my outrage at Trayvon Martin's murder, than with my Latino relatives, who are inclined to rationalize Zimmerman's actions.

The difference between ingroup and outgroup conversations is closely linked to the practice of code-switching, which is adapting speech patterns and language use depending on context (the term has another, more technical meaning in linguistics). For instance, one tends to speak differently to one's boss or school principal than one speaks to friends or relatives. There are many reasons for code-switching. I'll discuss those reasons and provide examples in a future installment.

Developing an awareness of what your Latin@ characters feel comfortable discussing with whom can strengthen characterization and make your world more believable. In this post, I discuss the kind of topics that I, as a Latina, am uncomfortable discussing with an outgroup. This is a YMMV kind of thing. Different folks have different boundaries.

Acknowledging the disparity between ingroup and outgroup conversations can also provide tension for your story. That disparity shouldn't be the sole basis for the tension, but it can contribute. People may withhold information that, if shared, would help resolve plot problems. A character who believes herself to be in the protagonist's ingroup may be hurt and angry when she is not privy to sensitive info. New or ineffective code-switchers can make mistakes that lead to bigger problems down the road. Spies can infiltrate groups if they are savvy code-switchers, and traitors can take what they've learned from their ingroup and share it with an outgroup.

Individual Experiences of Racism

It's not happy fun-times to remember, let alone discuss, that time you were mistaken for the gardener when mowing your own lawn or the time you stopped for directions and everyone assumed you were an ignoramus who'd spelled the street name wrong, when it was actually a "cutesy" street name that appeared on the maps. Who wants to reminisce about the time their white landlord swindled them out of a deposit, knowing they couldn't afford a lawyer to argue their case, or about being arrested for beating up their sister's rapist while the rapist was allowed to go free? Who wants to recount all the injustices, all the injuries, all the deaths?

And yet, in discussions of racism, apologists and obfuscators insist that minorities provide examples of lived experiences of racism. Usually so they can whitesplain how we've misinterpreted events or misperceived reality. You see this in discussions of sexual harassment and assault, too: Someone (usually a man) insists harassment isn't a problem because they have never personally witnessed it. When given a concrete example, that person then seeks to invalidate the proof.

A similar retconning of racism happens even among well-meaning white friends and allies: "But that guy's a jerk to everyone, it wasn't personal" or "I don't think they meant it that way." Which kind of makes sense, because no one wants to think their friends were mistreated or are moving through a world that is determined to destroy them using everything from micro to macro aggressions. I know I've been guilty of such retconning myself, when a friend shared her experiences of sexism and I tried to explain them away. Now, I could kick myself. (Amazingly, she's still my friend. I guess I'm doing some things right.)

Having our experiences diminished or our perception invalidated makes Latin@s leery of even broaching the topic of racism. We are very careful about who we have that conversation with, and where and when. We avoid it privately, with certain friends, because we don't want to get into an argument or be disappointed, hurt or be hurt. We avoid it publicly because we don't want to put our pain on display or entertain the inevitable rebuttals.

So when I attended a panel where a white author declared that racism is much less worse than it used to be and is on the way out, that we in fact live in a post-racial society, I shook my head, but I did not engage him. I refused to be dragged into an outgroup conversation with someone who had no clue. I would've tagged the White People Collection Agency if possible, rather than let that dude ruin my entire convention. To him, it's a debate. To me, it's a trigger.

I've seen other Latin@s do the same split-second cost-benefit analysis when dealing with outgroup members. Latino expresses skepticism that he'd get a fair shake in some situation, because of racism: "I don't know about applying for that job, I wouldn't exactly fit in." Outgroup person challenges him: "Why not? The ad says they're an equal opportunity employer. I know the boss, he's married to a Chicana." Latino squints at the person, taking stock, and evades: "Right. Any other leads?"

I've noticed that, personally, I'm more willing to talk about anti-black racism. Partly because black women have been my teachers, partly because there's some distance from my own experiences, partly because I'm willing to go to bat for others when I wouldn't for myself.

Criticism of Fellow Latin@s

Something I've discussed before but will reiterate here is that I try very hard not to criticize Latin@s in front of non-Latin@s. (I think I'm especially protective of Latino men.) I might think a Latin@ celebrity is an awful performer or chooses terrible roles, but I rarely talk about it with non-Latin@s. For one thing, I know all too well that there are limited opportunities for Latin@s in the performing arts. If an actor takes on a stereotypical role, well, a person's got to earn a living, right? I'll assume the person finds value, monetary or otherwise, in taking on that role. That doesn't mean I have to watch or enjoy their work.

I'm less forgiving of Latin@ politicians, given my general attitude toward politics. Even so, I rarely feel it necessary to call out a particular individual. Calling out a party, a system, or a specific policy stance is sufficient. Unless it's Ted Cruz. Fuck Ted Cruz.

The reality is, a lot of criticism of Latin@ public figures is veiled racism. Latin@s will be criticized more often and more severely for doing the same things that white folks, especially white men, are allowed to do without comment. (As Chris Rock has said, "True equality is the equality to suck like the white man."*) I don't criticize Latin@s in mixed company because I don't want to open the door for that double-standard bullshit.

Perhaps the flip side of the coin: I am mortified whenever real-world villains are Latin@. If somebody makes national news by shooting up a mall or kidnapping women and that person's Latin@, part of my heart shrivels up and dies. With my family, I can commiserate about those assholes making us all look bad. My husband and I often share an exasperated, "Ay, mi gente." It's worse for Muslims and blacks, who are more likely to be targeted for retribution.

But focusing on evil Latin@s when I'm talking with an outgroup might reinforce racist stereotypes, or give people a chance to vent racist hate under the guise of righteous fury. I worry that these conversations will lead to comments about the "inherently" misogynist or violent Latin@ culture. So it wasn't until the past year or so that I felt comfortable admitting my sense of shame, or guilt by association, to my dearest friends, who are white. As much as I trust my friends, that kind of discretion is a hard habit to break.

Now, that's all criticism of famous (or infamous) Latin@s. I'll complain about my own family, because who doesn't complain about family? But I'm guarded about commenting on mis compadres. As Zora Neale Hurston said, skinfolk ain't always kinfolk (Ted Cruz, I'm looking at you). But a little solidarity ain't a bad place to start.

Sensitive Topics

We spend so much time refuting *perceived* problems—Latinos are lazy, they're all "illegals", they're superstitious, they treat their women badly--it's understandable that we're reluctant to admit real problems to an outgroup. Internalized anti-Latin@ attitudes further complicate matters. If we have a secret fear that the racist stereotypes are right, that deep down we ARE all dirty, bad, ugly, wrong, then we might go out of our way to avoid publicly addressing problems, such as domestic violence, mental illness, or sexual abuse in the Latin@ community.

Growing up, I didn't know about rape culture. I *was* wary of male relatives in the extended family—with good reason; as a teen I discovered some of them had systematically raped another girl in the family for years. My daughter will never be alone with certain family members, because I know what they did to their own kids. Only as an adult did I "confess" to a white friend that rape and sexual assault by family and "friends" were an omnipresent threat when growing up Latin@. My friend gently told me, "No, hon. It's everywhere, all races, all families." I'd heard that truism before, but never really believed it until she said it. Bad education and garbage stereotypes had convinced me that MY culture was rape culture. And I was ashamed.

Then there's the danger that if we talk openly about difficult subjects, our tragedies will become the enemies' ammunition. To paraphrase ZZ Packer, all Latinos' failures are the norm, all our successes are the exception. Admitting our community has a problem means opening ourselves up to charges that the problem is uniquely Latino and we need to be "fixed"—through eradication, isolation, imprisonment, assimilation, purges—all interventions by white saviors.

As a result, the ingroup might prefer to discuss a troublesome situation behind "closed doors." Just because you don't hear the conversation doesn't mean it's not happening. If you DO see/hear an ingroup convo, on Twitter for example, don't assume the convo is open to outgroup participants.

One Current Ingroup Conversation

A conversation I'm hearing in a lot of places right now is about racism among Latin@s. Minorities can be just as awful to one another as the dominant paradigm is to minorities as a whole. I consider this a topic for ingroup conversations because it's soooo sensitive.

As Latin@s, we need to call each other out when we adopt the prejudices of our oppressors. Fellow Latin@s are uniquely situated to make these points in ways our ingroup will understand and to refute the defensive objections, especially "I can't be a racist! I've been discriminated against, too!"

We also need to call each other in. We need to have gentle, patient conversations with one another. We need to be supportive as we each learn at our own pace and given our individual obstacles. We need to address the self-hatred inherent in our diminishment or dehumanization of the Other.

This isn't to say we can't dialogue about our racism with other groups, or that only Latin@s can point out our mistakes. But I can't imagine much progress on this front until and unless the Latin@ community digs deep with some serious ingroup reflection and rehabilitation.

*The whole video is worth watching, despite the cheesy background music, but the basis for that particular quote starts at ~4:36, when Rock talks about Jackie Robinson and equality in baseball. This tumblr entry helped me track down the Rock quote and provided the ZZ Packer quote and link:
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (Default)
The Iowa Senate has erupted in shouting matches twice in the last week.

Once, over state money going to fund abortions for women who qualify for Medicaid. "Are you willing to take over $1.5 billion of federal dollars away from the health and safety of every woman, every child and every family involved in Medicaid in this state?" Sen. Jack Hatch (D) asked, which makes me think the Republican proposals were equivalent to the Texas debacle that forfeited HHR monies. To which the Republicans said (paraphrasing now because the actual statement is too vile to use here), "How many babies are you willing to kill?"

Then, yesterday they yelled about whether aging sex offenders should be allowed into nursing homes. This was an especially volatile debate because an elderly woman is suing the state Department of Human Services for allowing an 83-year-old sex offender into a nursing home, where he later raped her. Lots of accusations from the Republicans about Democrats throwing "Granny" under the bus. (Apparently ignoring the fact that *all* nursing home residents are vulnerable to sexual predators, not only the women.) 

I think the first instance is much ado by overreaching politicians over a scenario infrequent to begin with. The second instance is much more troubling to me, because it is *not* an infrequent threat. Our prison populations are aging, their sentences are running out, and most of these offenders will not have been rehabilitated and will not receive transitional support for their late-life care. Where will they go? Who will take care of them? Must nursing homes now also police some residents to protect others? The issue is complicated and important and emotional, and screaming about it in legislative overtime won't solve a damn thing.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (bruised)

In Florida, a 12-yr-old boy is being charged as an adult for first-degree murder. If convicted, his mandatory sentence will be life in prison.

Life in prison.

He'd be the youngest "lifer" in America.

Cristian Fernandez is charged with the murder of his 2-yr-old brother, David. Earlier this year, he broke his brother's leg, supposedly while wrestling. There seems little doubt that Cristian mortally wounded his baby brother while the boys were home alone. No one is saying Cristian is innocent.

But should the legal system be treating 12-yr-olds as adults? Should they be in the adult prison population? How are they to be insulated from the vicious abuses permitted in prison? By being shunted into solitary confinement?

The system has failed Cristian and his family innumerable times. His mother (charged with aggravated manslaughter in David's death) was 12-yrs-old when she gave birth to him. His biological father has been absent since serving time for sexual assault of Cristian's mom. At age two, Cristian was found wandering naked in a hotel parking lot while he was supposedly in the care of his grandmother. The grandmother was charged with possession of drugs and neglect. Both Cristian and his mom went to foster care.

Last year, Cristian's stepfather committed suicide in front of the boys to avoid abuse charges for beating Cristian. When David's leg was broken in January of this year, Cristian's mom lied to hospital staff that it was a playground accident. She told Cristian to lie also. Nevertheless, the children were left home alone in March--David still in his cast--and Cristian beat his brother. His mother came home, found the boy unconscious, and appears to have deliberated for six hours before taking the still-unconscious child to the hospital. A doctor said David might've been saved if he'd received care more quickly.

By charging Cristian as an adult, the state of Florida forfeits this boy's life. Rehabilitation becomes a non-issue--why rehabilitate someone who will never be released? Is that even possible? How can anyone withhold from a 12-yr-old child, whom two forensic psychiatrists have determined is "emotionally underdeveloped but essentially reformable despite a tough life," the slimmest hope of redemption? Especially when no one has done right by that child, ever?

There is a petition on demanding that the decision to try Cristian as an adult be overturned. (see the last link above)

There is a Facebook page devoted to Cristian's case.

This is Cristian.

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (gun)
Protest Poetry

I like this particular section of this poem because it has SF elements but works as a mainstream piece, and because it is anti-war from a different angle: less proselytizing than Socratic.

excerpt from
Notes on Detention

by Jason Schneiderman (2009?)

It was an Army Colonel who couldn't bear
to watch the mine diffusing robot work
anymore, its spidery legs reduced to one
as it dragged itself towards the last mine
that it would be able to set off. The Colonel
declared the test inhumane and stopped it.
The robot's inventor was surprised, as this
is what the robot had been designed to do.
The robot had not been intended to survive
the test. Perhaps the robot stepped 
through the same door into humanity
that every victim steps out of. Perhaps
we should find that door.
Guess what happens if you can't sleep?
No, seriously, guess.
The poem references the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, where something like 172 people are still held captive and subject to vile abuses, like sleep deprivation. Hence the question in the fourth section.
Schneiderman uses various rhetorical devices in the rest of his poem to make his points, but the robot test in the third section really speaks to me. Where is that door? What mine shaft of a person's conscience allows hir to assign or deny another person their humanity, or another entity their personhood? In the robot test, who is really being tested? Note that the inventor is surprised, not annoyed or chagrined. There's really no emotional/moral valence to that reaction, because in the next  couple of lines we get an invisible agent: this is what the robot had been designed--by whom?--to do (note the subtle difference between inventor and designer); the robot had not been intended--by whom?--to survive the test.

Who are the agents of action here? There's a faceless military superstructure with expectations that the colonel, and we, can defy. We can witness someone else's suffering and stop it; we can imagine inflicting abuse and reject that option. We can think for ourselves. We shouldn't have to be reminded. We're not robots. Are we?
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (bruised)
Protest Poetry

Yesterday's anti-war poem was written from the perspective of a parent facing down the prospect of her child--any child, in fact--being drafted and sent to war. Today's poem is, on the surface, less protest than resignation and horror. It is the nigh-unimaginable anguish, delivered in such unsentimental fashion, that inspires me to wage peace.

Things I Hope You Still Don't Know
 to my son

by Ruhama Weiss
transl by Barbara Goldberg and Moshe Dor 

That someone in the world wants to kill you.
That there's not much we can do.
That it's not a given we'll always have a place to escape to.
That I was about your age when I learned a house doesn't really provide safety.
What helps me fall asleep.
That maybe you will not reach my age.
That it's possible you will kill children.
That what we saw today on TV was not pretend.
That the history I know does not offer comfort.
That you have no idea how scary it can be.

Because this is a poem in translation (the first of several to come) from a language I do not know, I  hesitate to perform a crit. But I notice a devastating symmetry: one line delivers an awful truth, the next line makes it worse; repeat; the "What" deviation suggests the trusted adult has already been poisoned or broken by this life under siege; the awful truth and its worse sibling; repeat; a final deviation that implies we can't yet imagine the scope of the horror. Thus the poem proceeds from inner to outer, personal to public, near to far.
For me, the worst moment is contemplating that my child may grow up to be a killer of children. Something deep in my gut just curls up in refusal at the very thought. It's so wrong. It can never come to pass. I won't let it.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (asskicking boots)

Allergies kicked my ass yesterday, so now I'm a day behind. Eh, 's all good.

Protest Poetry

I'm leery of calling Lennon's "Imagine" a protest song, because it's not about any one thing. It's more of a manifesto, I guess. I think of protest poetry as targeting a specific problem. But "Imagine" makes a good segue for the the three poems I've chosen as protest poetry, all of which are anti-war.

an excerpt from "Animal Origins"

by Joanne Dominique Dwyer (2009)

At sixteen my son smells of pot and cigarettes;
of pine sap and wolf cubs.
Yet he's rolling and spraying on
all kinds of products to hide his scent--
as if to camouflage his existence.

I count the day until he turns eighteen
and imagine myself smuggling him across a border;
burying him under blankets.
I would douse and dab and spritz
my body with any animal's genitals
and the oil of one thousand crushed violet petals
to distract the border guards.
Truth be told, I'd don or swallow
any noxious Fifth Avenue fragrance,
skin or spear any endangered animal.
Rip open my womb and stuff 
him back inside if I have to
in order to prevent my son--
or yours--having to go to war.
The sense detail in this section is incredible: rich and immediate (and eventually) merciless. I especially love that she starts with scents, which are sorely underrepresented, and conjures textures from them. Can't you just smell this teenage boy?
Dwyer does some interesting things with unnecessary semicolons and truncated sentences, but the em-dashes really seal the deal on the conclusion to her poem. I can imagine most mothers getting that visceral and ruthless about protecting their own children, but knowing the narrator will do that for anyone's child? Wow.
Tomorrow's poem will also be from the perspective of a parent, but take a very different approach.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (lightbulb)

It's no accident that the author of yesterday's lyrics has done a cover of today's lyrics. These lyrics function as a proper poem, in addition to being the words to a song. The song may be much better than the poem, but the text can stand alone.


by John Lennon

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one 


I must admit that, as a natural atheist--never inclined to believe, always had to work at it--the song grabbed me the moment I first heard it. I felt such immense, sudden relief. Like I'd been holding my breath and not even realized it. What if, indeed!
The original Lennon version of the song is perfect. It needed nothing else, in my opinion. When A Perfect Circle covered it, however, it became something new. Dark and bitter and perfect in a new way. The video + song is devastating:

ETA: Upon re-viewing, I must say the first minute of the video is excruciating, with graphic footage of war injuries and death. There's another video that only uses the music and a still of the band logo: 
And now I'm thinking about other lyrics that function as poems. I'm thinking that "Hotel California" does, and probably most songs that tell a story do: Devil Went Down to Georgia, Jeremy, most Springsteen songs. Which is interesting, because poetry is not automatically associated with narrative, yet for a song (in English?) to work as a song and a story, it almost has to employ literary poetic devices.
Other examples? Counterexamples?
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (gun)
"Any advertisement in public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It belongs to you. It's yours to take, re-arrange, and re-use. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head."

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (abby)

Ritzy Periwinkle:

This is my 8" Bic Buddy Custom "Ni Una Mas" in honor of lives lost in femicides in Juarez and surrounding cities in Mexico. The back says "Ni una mas madre hija hermana"


Are the femicides in Juarez, Mexico, over? Have the cases been solved? Or are they simply overshadowed by the cartel violence that has given the city its infamous status as Murder Capitol of the World?

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (Default)
At the risk of becoming [personal profile] rachel_swirsky's minion--altho I can think of several worse fates--I would like to point out that Rachel is participating in the Clarion West Write-a-thon, which runs from June 21 to July 31. Why should you sponsor her?

This is a nifty way to support diversity in SF/F, and Rachel's sweetening the deal by offering handmade earrings to those pledging at the $25 level or higher. I have a pair of her earrings, and I love them, almost as much as I love her lush, perceptive writing.

ETA: Oops! Here's a link directly to Rachel's pledge site.


Jun. 9th, 2009 10:29 am
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (silver teapots)


Stacie Ponder, aka Final Girl and one of my hardest girl-crushes, is having a special sale of her stick-figure art cards to help fund production of her horror movie, Ludlow, which is now in the editing phase. I love these happy little homages to The Thing, Michael Myers, Scream, Werewolf Woman of the SS, and all movies sick or schlocky.

[ profile] shadesong pointed out a new offer posted at the Give to Get community. Make a donation, get beautiful jewelry.

Rape, and What, if Anything, We Expect of Men

[ profile] cereta calls men out, and readers applaud her critique but also share stories of the unsung decent men in their lives. If we don't talk about what makes a boy or man "decent," rather than just providing a laundry list of "don't you ever"s, how can our sons and brothers, friends and partners learn by example?

A spinoff link from that discussion, regarding a "group sex or gang rape?" controversy unfolding in Australia; and then commentary suggesting consent should not be the gold standard for sexual relations. I think about some of the things I was willing to do to avoid a "real" rape, and I agree that "consent" is not all it's cracked up to be.

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (Maggie with Coffee)
So now I must counteract not only this idiocy:

Gay-Marriage Opponents Hold Soggy Rally

but also this stupidity:

Amazon Deems GLBT Themes "Adult".

*sigh* It's going to be a long day.


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (Default)

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