Hold It All

Make Lists Not War

Dear Cami,

One index of a profitable reading experience may very well be in the marginalia we make.

For instance, I read Ed Sanders’ collection of poetry Let’s Not Keep Fighting the Trojan War eight years ago. I went through and collected my inked scribbles in the margins in a list:

I read for topics, for intriguing titles, for examples, for my own Emersonian rejected thoughts, such as …
“My political causes are hopeless”
Val’s life
We’re all gonna die
My brilliant non-career
13 years in a theology department
I could do better on Kerouac than he did in “A Visit to Jack’s Memorial Park”
Come up with an entire book of Lists Read the rest of this entry »

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Our Only Salvation Lies in Words: On Arenas’s Before Night Falls

All dictatorships are sexually repressive and anti-life. All affirmations of life are diametrically opposed to dogmatic regimes. It was logical for Fidel Castro to persecute us, not to let us fuck, and to try to suppress any public display of the life force.
-— Reinaldo Arenas

 

Reinaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls: A Memoir

Powerful and gripping memoir by homosexual, writer, dissident, which awakened me to Castro’s crimes against naysayers and gays.

Herein are great passages about the beauty of Cuba, its beaches and the sea, the countryside, the animals, the rivers, the trees, as in “And the sky’s radiance was not constant but an unending blaze of changing hues and, stars that burst and disappeared (after having existed for millions of years) just to enrapture us for a few moments.” Or, “I always thought that in Cuba the only thing that saved us from absolute insanity was that, being surrounded by water, we had to chance to go to shore and swim.” Arenas appreciated the created order throughout his life and seemed not to take it for granted. Could not his sexual voracity also be an element of the Via Positiva? For it is all about pleasure and enjoyment and splendor, he seemed, after he came out, remarkably free of guilt and anxiety (from this anyway) and self-hatred. So: “To get to a beach was like entering paradise because all the young people wanted to make love, and there were always dozens of them ready to go into the bushes.” Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Cami Kasmerchak: I Know Some of the Best People

And I want to tell you about them. There’s Buffalo Meg who is from Buffalo, New York and has a pitch to convince anyone she meets to move there. There’s Hannah Frank who is addicted to adventure and fearless in the face of the unknown. There’s Brandon who I still don’t know what he does for a living, but our emails are a collection of the existential crises we encounter on the daily. There’s Maggie who is an expert on RuPaul’s Drag Race trivia and constantly shakes her head at the lack of pop culture I know.  And there’s Laura who is writing her first book, embracing her inner quiet, and reclaiming Milwaukee as her home.

Sometimes it boggles my mind how I have crossed paths with such inspiring, compassionate, and strong individuals who I have the honor of calling friends. I love sharing stories about them, what I have learned from them, and what makes them eccentric in all the best ways. Jim Rohn says, “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” Even though I don’t always spend the most time with my favorite people because we live in different states (and countries sometimes), I am excited to share my reflections on what their friendships have meant to me, how friendship is an ever-evolving term for me, and hear from all of you about your friends too!

Join us
Sunday 10 June
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Cami begins sharing at 6:45
At the home of Andrew Wimmer
5712 Arendes Dr.
South City Saint Louis
63116

A Friend Sent Me This Poem (We Inter-Are)

March 14
by Katie Murphy

It’s Amazing, Isn’t It?
I can be, at one moment, sitting at my table in the morning,
Annoyed at my boss for being an incomprehensible moron,
Pissed off at a coworker for talking down to me yet again,
Worried because my checking account balance is lower than I’d like,
Lonely because I am missing certain people dreadfully,

And then, my eyes are welling up
with the beginnings of tears,
And I’m drinking a delicious
coffee drink that I made,
And I’m listening to the different
birds chirping outside my house,
And I’m noticing how good it feels
to stop and not think of going,
And I’m reveling again in the sun and
shadows on my wall,
And isn’t morning light
the most beautiful of all,
And I’m reading your short chapter
about Hedy and thanking God and the universe
letting me meet Katie Consamus,
who could convince me, in rural France,
to log into my SLU banner account
and change my life.

Where the Tortured and the Torturer Shook Hands

How many of our most famous novelists, for instance, have bothered to take the two-and-a-half hour flight from Miami and see for themselves what’s going on here?
—Lawrence Ferlinghetti

 

I first read Seven Days in Nicaragua Libre in the mid-eighties; Ferlinghetti and I had both visited Nicaragua in 1984 (I on a Kentucky Witness for Peace delegation). I looked at the book again ten years ago, when Becca Gorley and I were reading from the City Lights Pocket Poets series. At that time, I was, still, trying to write something about our times in the West Bank and Gaza, and Ferlinghetti’s account was one of several books I read for provocation and inspiration. Many things, you can’t force; Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine was self-published in summer 2015.

A man of the Left, Ferlinghetti saw Nicaraguan history this way: “What has happened here, rather, is the overthrow of a tyrant (Somoza) supported by the U.S., and the attempt to overthrow the economic tyrant of colonialism in which Latin America has been for centuries the cheap labor market for North American and multinational business.” Many U.S. citizens may suffer amnesia about this appalling history but Latin Americans have a long memory. Read the rest of this entry »

When I Am a Supreme Practitioner of Self-Care

Having a rejuvenating ninety-four minutes
On the phone when all alone
With Bella Levenshteyn

Recognition Mantra for Driving on Highway 40

They are just like me  
They too want to go as fast as possible
And not die
On the way

I Like To See “Selfies”

They are a bell of mindfulness
Reminding me of one of my favorite songs

From the Beatles’ Let It Be
George singing “I Me Mine”

Powerless

The following is an excerpt from part 2 of The Book of Mev.

 

By mid-December, Mev had grown very quiet.  I’d estimated she was knocked out for 20 hours a day.  Was she asleep?  Did she dream?  Was she in aggravation?  Or was she just so doped up and out from all her medications?  What went on in her consciousness?  

I found it incredible to realize that less than two weeks before had been the Visitation Academy Award ceremony, at which Mev appeared with grace and dignity and that, in the near future, it would be Christmas.  I was always polishing  my penchant for understatement:  It sure didn’t feel like Christmas, even though our neighbors were kind enough to get us a tree and encourage other neighbors to bring ornaments.   Read the rest of this entry »

Something I Had in Common with Philip Roth

As I sat there and watched him struggle to go on living, I tried to focus on what the tumor had done with him already. This wasn’t difficult, given that he looked on that stretcher as though by then he’d been through a hundred rounds with Joe Louis. I thought about the misery that was sure to come, provided he could even be kept alive on a respirator. I saw it all, all, and yet I had to sit there a very long time before I leaned as close to him as I could get and, with my lips to his sunken, ruined face, found it in me finally to whisper, “Dad, I’m going to have to let you go.” He’d been unconscious for several hours and couldn’t hear me, but, shocked, amazed, and weeping, I repeated it to him again and then again, until I believed it myself.

After that, all I could do was to follow his stretcher up to the room where they put him and sit by the bedside. Dying is work and he was a worker. Dying is horrible and my father was dying. I held his hand, which at least still felt like a hand; I stroked his forehead, which at least still looked like his forehead; and I said to him all sorts of things that he could no longer register. Luckily, there wasn’t anything I told him that morning that he didn’t already know.

–Philip Roth, Patrimony