We Are Ulysses

I am a facet of Ulysses –

You are a facet of Ulysses –

But a different one than I.

 

I am him after Troy –

we are almost all him after Troy –

some the mastermind of the war.

 

Ours is a sea of city sidewalks –

narrow and wide –

smooth and bumpy.

 

Shadows and silhouettes

displayed among

the halls of 10th street.

We have not landed

in Ithaca –

But we see its shores.

 

The promise of a sweet embrace –

at the end of it.

Were you into Penelope –

like we’ve read?

 

My Penelope –

at certain times –

is a figurative one.

 

It sounds much nicer if you put

a pretty name to your goals.

 

If my goals take ten years –

there may be one less

Ulysses in this city.

 

Maybe this ship gets blown out west –

Maybe far east.

Navigators out there –

could you give me a call?

 

I think this ship

has 8 seas to sail.

 

Ulysses was cruel

Odysseus wasn’t –

            Perspective.

 

There’s something leering

and weird about the

Polyphenic nature of

waiting.

 

That massive eye –

the moon –

a city bookstore –

supposedly inclusive –

but its edgy education is ostracizing.

 

With time to kill –

brilliant one –

you meander your seas.

 

They tell us you only

wanted to get home –

but I wonder. 

Women's March NYC

I am walking down seventh avenue.

I am walking towards fifth.

Toward the loud screams and cheers and chants

I hear bouncing off of buildings

and cascading down the wind tunnels of Manhattan

 

I see smiling faces, genuinely smiling faces,

for the first time in almost three months.

Faces of resistance, and hope,

people standing up for what they believe in,

knowing that they have that choice.

I see signs upon signs. I see pink hats.

I see clenched fists thrust to the sky.

I hear thousands of people yelling, and joining in.

For the first time in almost three months,

I see people proud to be American.

 

I approach fifth avenue on 55th street.

There are more people that can be counted.

Children standing on flower pots, chanting and yelling,

they are the new generation of resistance.

I see the people marching,

marching away from fascism,

marching towards a free and equal society

A firetruck crawls by, slowly,

from its speakers a song about survival,

speaking for all those who know the strength of their resolve,

four years of a demagogue, two years of an archaic congress.

 

The signs uplift, they are clever.

As I walk I am continually smiling at the genius.

Equating him to Putin,

controlled by a foreign dictator.

“Weak men fear strong women.”

“Women’s rights are fundamental.”

“We are the popular vote.”

A uterus, the fallopian tube raised in a clenched fist.

“The people united will never be defeated.”

“Dissent is patriotic.”

“Silence is consent.”

 

But here on this day there are few who are silent.

right in the middle of the throng the voice is loud.

Guy Fawkes masks make their appearance.

 

Some streets are blocked off.

The police maintaining order as best they can,

Police whistles drowned out by the cheers of the marchers.

Zip ties on the hips of police have no hope of being used,

the mass would move against them to protect theirs.

50 bike cops sit on their bikes in front of the tower ready to ride.

The street in between 55th and 56th on 5th avenue is desolate,

like the future of his presidency,

like the streets of DC before the march.

Police chiefs and captains come by to visit and see the throng.

They’re watching like the rest of the world is watching.

 

I make my way to the corner of 55th and 5th avenue.

It takes time, there are thousands of people

bottle-necked here to form the arrow point of resistance.

Cheering and happiness, rebellion and adrenaline.

Every seven minutes or so,

a cheer starts from somewhere distant,

and it ripples forward thru the protesters,

it makes the crawl up 5th avenue

and crashes into the barriers that the police erected.

In the middle of this I let out my own roar.

 

Police lead the vanguard,

moving in groups with spacing to maintain order,

it’s actually clever, and smart.

Every time they wedge in between

and form a line to move forward at their pace,

dozens of people jump in front to capture pictures,

it’s a moving sight.

 

Cultures from around the world,

representing those who could not be there.

All ages are marching, at their pace. the oldest and the youngest.

Those in the womb will someday know what they took part in,

marching for humanism and internationalism.

The real resistance begins after.

The sun shines today, for the protest.

Millions of voices are raised around the world

for those who can’t raise theirs.

We refuse to be led by a fascist demagogue.

 

 

©Copyright Rodney Bush

 

Festival

Festival

 

Don't mind me standing over here on the corner,

     watching and absorbing,

taking in this world from outside of it.

 

I don't see snapping.

I don't see sunglasses and the older man,

maybe on drugs,

or maybe coming off drugs.

Isn't he supposed to be in the corner,

sipping some colored alcohol

and slowly nodding his head?

 

Slung over every hunched shoulder: a canvas bag,

filled with books one's friend told them about.

Magazines on the latest collection,

     volumes of the subscription

you read one time in college.

All with good intentions.

All with drive, wanting

to accomplish one true and real thing.

 

Liberation in a white-topped park in Brooklyn,

on one of those afterthought type days.

Summer throwing out a last ditched effort

to placate the hot-obsessed.

 

The intellectually adroit engaging

in bookish conversation

about the perception of millennial

sexuality in the digital age.

Far from Michelangelo

 

Talking of the ever shrinking platforms

for new work to be read aloud.

Or the struggle for the survival of

the reading scene in the village.

A quaint scene set to

promote a common cause.

 

What kryptonite seeing a beautiful man

perusing tent after tent of books,

and engaging with publishers,

holding the latest copy of the Paris Review.

Endless fun to be dreamt.

 

Don't mind me

     Imagining the eventual orgasm

followed by an intellectual dialogue

about Pushkin or Beattie's new collection.

 

Filled totes and satisfied eyes.

They were hungry searching for an interesting cover.

 

How interesting,

a crowd,

a gathering of erudite souls,

all together for the mutual purpose

of literally judging a book by its cover.

 

The hilarity of that isn't lost on me.

 

 

©Copyright 2016 Rodney Bush

Parenthetical

Parenthetical

the cold wood of the slatted bench I'm sitting on

and straining every corner of my brain,

masochistically trying to remember

the little details about you,

is little help,

and little comfort.

 

the touch of your slender shy searching hands with long fingers as you ran them through my thick mess of hair.

            sometimes grabbing a fistful

            and tugging me around a bit,

            playfully.

(I remember what they did, but not how they felt)

 

your impish grin.

it's cheeky appearance

when you uttered a simple five-lettered “Hello.”

(I remember when it appeared, but not what it looked like)

 

your face with twinkling eyes when pure

emotion and love surged through you at me,

and you couldn't contain it

(I know why I felt it, but not what it felt like)

 

your smell.

that one cuts.

I can't remember it.

I only know that it was yours,

and it made all my sense tingle.

my eyes flaring open or rolling into my head.

my nostrils perking wide

at the familiar stimulation.

(I remember the reaction, but not the scent)

 

your voice in its light tenor.

once using it to say happy light things.

I tragically recall the last time

that I heard it in person you were crying.

you were saying goodbye.

I do remember that.

 

it's the good stuff,

the happy stuff,

the eternal stuff,

the guilt-free stuff

which is escaping me.

in an ethereal way,

like smoke in the wind.

like mist on a warm day.

(I remember my love for you, but not your love for me)

 

 

Copyright 2016 Rodney Bush

Normalized Totalitarianism

Normalized Totalitarianism

In my twenty-eight short years on earth I can’t remember a time when it was more important to write, or speak, or stand up for, what is right for the good of humanity. Not what is more profitable or what is going to get you more likes or keep you in more favor with evil, but what is right. We are seeing a rising number of posts on social media, and in mainstream media that are shedding light on the twisted ways of the government that will assume power in January. The truth of what this government will look like is coming out and being now fully understood by the public. In the days after the election the disappointment in Manhattan was palpable. You could sense the voracious hunger in the people to stand up against this tyrannical figure. There were protests held outside his buildings, the people marched down 5th avenue and yelled their frustration and fear. There was an outcry online, and physical crying on the street. I heard story after story of people sitting silently on subway cars crying silent tears. I witnessed this myself a few times. People were upset and terrified for the rights of their friends and families that they feared would be stripped from them over the next four years. It has now been a month since that election, and while the undercurrent of revolution and fight may still be within the people, I feel largely that so much of the world has decided to work with the future government, to accept it and try and adjust their lives to fit the unspoken “requirements.” They have normalized it.

I feel I must state clearly that I, a singular artist in Manhattan, refuse to accept, adjust, or embrace the government that is coming to power in January. That I must do this is a travesty, but since much of the country is laying down and taking it, I am letting the world know that I won’t.  Many Democratic, and socialist heroes of mine, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for example, while still speaking out against ignorance, have cow-towed to the ignorant majority. They’re now trying to find a way “to work with the President-elect.”

It appears that much mainstream press is unwilling to speak out against the regime that’s coming to power. They publish articles shedding light on the policies, atrocities, and hate crimes happening yet they do not condemn them. They are trying to curry favor with the new government by playing it neutral. Dante in his Inferno reserved a special location for people who remained neutral in times of more crisis. “These are the nearly soulless whose lives concluded neither blame nor praise. They are mixed here with that despicable corps of angels who were neither for God nor Satan, but only for themselves. The High Creator scourged them from Heaven for its perfect beauty, and Hell will not receive them since the wicked might feel some glory over them.” That translation is by the brilliant John Ciardi. I’m not a religious person even, but when an erudite soul, like I assume Dante was, writes a religious punishment for those who play it neutral, I feel that one should listen. The publications that are remaining neutral belong in that circle, for they have joined with evil. I know that press is supposed to report unbiasedly, but I feel that this has gone beyond just reporting the evil, there is now a moral and ethical imperative to prevent this growing fascist dictator. These neutral publications have joined with a man, and the movement he symbolizes, in running the country as a game show, on the platforms of racism, misogyny, bigotry, lies, and discrimination. George Orwell wrote in an essay during World War 2: “for there is no such thing as neutrality in war; in practice one must help one side or the other.” That is where we are now, we are in a time of moral war. On one side is ethics, morality, equality, love, peace, and good. On the other side is tyranny, racism, greed, and evil.

Publications in times like this should be risking death fighting against a totalitarian regime, rather than pandering to the whim of a demagogue and a mostly ignorant majority. Christopher Hitchens said: “People in the mass of the aggregate often have a lower intelligence than their constituent parts. The word ‘demagogue’ would be meaningless if this were not so.” In this list of sad weak publications, we can now add TIME magazine. As I’m writing this today they have just named Donald Trump as TIME Person of the Year. They have bestowed this banal honor to Hitler, Stalin, and Vladimir Putin. They have perpetuated and made alright the platform of a demagogue and the totalitarian state he represents. There is a growing social media brouhaha about the cover photo having a resemblance to Hitler, and the letter “M” being the horns on his head. Subversive or not, they bestowed upon him a title that so much of America will not find as ironic as the intelligent minority. The televised media is also pandering to the lowest common denominator, making a reality show out of our lives and out of our political system. The election night was a joke of flashing moments on screen with bright colors displaying “ELECTION UPDATE” whenever anything small happened, or actually when nothing happened, they just wanted to keep the viewers and keep the ratings.

            This has happened before in England in the 1930’s. Neville Chamberlin and Adolf Hitler. In the wake of the Great War Europe had become complacent. When Germany elected a fascist demagogue to power, England barely registered it. The same old men were in power and doing nothing. Germany had invaded Poland before they even realized there was something to be worried about. Orwell writes:

 

Everywhere privilege is squandering good will. In such circumstances even propaganda becomes almost impossible. As attempts to stir up patriotic feeling, the red posters issued by the Chamberlain Government at the beginning of the war broke all depth-records. Yet they could not have been much other than they were, for how could Chamberlain and his followers take the risk of rousing strong popular feeling against Fascism? Anyone who was genuinely hostile to Fascism must also be opposed to Chamberlain himself and to all the others who had helped Hitler into power. So also with external propaganda. In all Lord Halifax’s speeches there is not one concrete proposal for which a single inhabitant of Europe would risk the top joint of his little finger. For what war aim can Halifax or anyone like him, conceivably have, except to put the clock back to 1933?

 

If this is familiar and doesn’t frighten you a little, then you’re not reading it correctly. the same lack of action, the same complacency, the same blind eyes turned to the self are happening all over again. Hitler surrounded himself not with working men, but bankers, rich cronies that were yes-men. They were puppets and corrupt right-wing politicians. Let’s think about that. Trump promised to fight for the blue-collar worker and the middle class, he pandered to their interests by talking about over-throwing the establishment that he benefited from. How could the majority of white voters have been so blinded by these blatant lies? Trump is now filling his cabinet and proposed government with rich cronies, bankers, and buddies that will go along with his corrupt platform and make the rich even richer. They will bolster the government and its policies with religion, the most poisonous of political enemies. Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education? She is a billionaire religious fanatic who is uneducated, never went to college, and wants to make education a profitable industry. And so further falls the intelligence of America. Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary? He is a rich hedge fund manager who is fueled by greed and will only work for the rich population’s interests. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General? He is a racist old white man who is driven by greed, ignorance, and religion and will bring archaic thought and disgrace to the highest lawyer in the country. The world is laughing at us, and we’re continuing to play the clown as though it is our profession.

How can we be ok with the fact that these two demagogues are so incredibly similar and yet normalizing it? Bookstores are stocking their entrance shelves with books about the Third Reich and the rise of Hitler. It’s the first thing shoppers see when they walk through the door. Magazines publish him on covers making his face more and more common and expected. It dulls the perception of him. It’s not even a phenomenon, it has simply happened before. And we’re perpetuating the sad reality that normalizing evil drags the country to the depths of totalitarianism.

I will continue to write and work and speak out against this sad state of America. I will be a rebel. Chris Hedges said it best:

 

There will be rebels. They will line in the shadows. They will be the renegade painters, sculptors, poets, writers, journalists, musicians, actors, dancers, organizers, activists, mystics, intellectuals, and other outcasts who are willing to accept personal sacrifice. They will not surrender their integrity, creativity, independence, and finally their souls. They will speak truth…They will keep alive what is left of dignity and freedom. Perhaps one day they will rise up and triumph. But one does not live in poverty and on the margins of society because of the certainty of success. One lives like that because to collaborate with radical evil is to betray all that is good and beautiful. It is to become a captive. It is to give up the moral autonomy that makes us human. The rebels will be our hope.

 

We must never stand still. We must embrace the beauty in our culture, or we will lose it. We must fight bigotry and hate with love. We must go forward not backward. I still believe in this country, and will never stop. We must rise up.