Did They Ever Find His Body? An Elegy for Christopher Dorner
I had forgotten about Chris Dorner Until Dave Chappelle’s mention. I recall secretly pulling for him, hoping he’d escape being swiss-cheesed by 400 Of his fellow cops. Did they ever find his body? I found his manifesto, living and breathing on the internet. He left behind a lot for us to read and digest. Hyperlinks . . . all over the place. Did they ever find his body? We’ve not heard from him since. We must assume he died in that shitstorm, transitioned this life. Still, the mention of him makes me want to smoke. The burned body they found was never identified.
What must we conclude when the cycle ends?
Is there cause for hope, for optimism,
A balm we can surely find in Gilead?
Or isn’t all just a wink and a nod,
Yet another slave narrative that shows
the futility of our pleas for peace?
As a teen I thought Robert Redford might
Someday be President. I mean, Bobby Seale
Didn’t really stand a chance and Redford
Was at least a man of action. But there
was no great art in his films, well, except
in that spy flick he did with Dunaway –
Who had been my secret crush forever –
Where, under duress, she said, “This is . . . unfair!”
Some might say this work/life has given us A warped sense of humor. We cast a glance At each other and smile. Yes, I was there With you in Baghdad, dodging mortar rounds On selected days, and on the tarmac Overnight in Kuwait City where we had to have a special sense of humor To survive war’s absurd insanity.
Time passes. The wounds heal. The scars remain. We write the future, it does not write us. We arrange and describe our past to fit truth’s narrative arc. It doesn’t matter That we spent nights in the Palace Fearful of those whose lands we invaded.
She said, “I’ll be your lover if you wish.” That forwardness was new to me. I paused, But dared not respond, fearing I’d foreclose My hope for a happy ending. She spoke, “I’m a hippie, it won’t mean much to me.” That’s odd, I thought, it’d mean so much to me.
A sudden death for my virginity Was averted. I still recall it, clear as day, perhaps, well, clear as yesterday. All good things must end, and my time would come To cross the line, to break the sacred plane, To taste the fruit of the tree of knowledge Of good and evil. The time, soon enough, Would arrive and my soul would be prepared.
It might be time for a shape shift moment. This kernel of time, wedged between the walls Of two more standardized realities Only points us backwards on the path Of forward growth. You can write your own poem – This one holds out hope for a revival And a different direction for our dreams.
Old ways benefited the chosen few. Their poets and prophets sing of better Days to come. They have playwrights and Netflix Producers on the job around the clock, Promising to protect the status quo. I can’t say I wish them ill. Their vision Is a museum object, best preserved, mute.
Reflections on listening to a podcast about Afropessimism (because the author’s book tour was cancelled)
Can I tell you something? A deep secret? I am exhausted by your shallowness And as of this morning at 7AM I will no longer give a good goddamn What you think about my talent and skill As a bureaucrat. What about yours? Where is your tact? Your sense of fairness? Your appreciation for the art form? I have a fairly good, if wicked notion What you are thinking when you see my face – My black face that does not apologize When undermining your hypocrisy. Fuck all this. I’m going to work TODAY. Keep six feet away from me. Wash your hands.
A lovely homemade thing From a far off distant land, Woven with yarn and lace: A cushion steadies my coffee cup A pad where the mouse can rest. How’d you know it’d be so useful? A treasured gift of grace – A token that holds a place – Folded carefully in the liquor bar drawer between the shot glasses and candles, the napkins and cork replacements. Woven with yarn and lace – A lovely homemade thing, From a far off distant land.
In the hustle and the bustle as we go our chosen way; in the winning and the losing keeping score throughout the day – in the seeking and the striving as our plans oft go astray; in the comings and the goings and the things we do, and say – in the kicking and the screaming of war’s battles, of the fray; in the plotting and the scheming of our deep naivete – Our pure love knows no decay. Stay in my arms forever.
The day Prince died (originally posted 04/23/2016)
When I heard the learn’d oceanographer (it was Earth Day, and our shining Prince had fallen), When the volume, velocity and variability of data-rich information overwhelmed the deep, When I examined the core skills of data management (data is just an artifact, a document, an object witness), When I listened to it, the oceanographer’s lecture excited our minds, with much applause from the librarians.
After the talk we walked to Brookland Metro, the full moon overhead brightly illuminating a city in mourning, darkened by uncertainty (our Prince had fallen like the rain). As we approached Foggy Bottom Station, I caught a faint whiff of the swamp beneath us, the sound of the river beyond slowly turning, emptying into the sea.
Ye hymns that rule the lyre, What gods, what heroes shall we celebrate? This week we lost two men I never met But truly adored. Songwriters whose lyrics filled My life, at various times, with sweetened thoughts Transferred from their words and melodies. Both served their countries first – Non sibi sed patriae – Both discovered in mid life they had a song To sing, and thankfully, to share. Both refused to sell out to the white ghost Who peddles fame and fortune in exchange For one’s soul. Bill Withers and John Prine. Rest you both in peace down by life’s river.
My nightmare is always the same – I am working in a hot, noisy engine room And I have to pee. But the watertight hatch, For some reason, is closed and locked. So I pee in the bilge. Then, when I go To pump the bilge, the pump breaks – So I have to fix the pump. But the parts I need are on the other side of the hatch. It’s a centrifugal pump with close clearances. Who the hell came up with that design? Soon it starts to stink (because I’m not The only one peeing in the bilge – it could be Worse. Let’s not even go there.) My nightmare always ends unresolved.
The prompt: a self-portrait poem in which you make a specific action a metaphor for your life
I measure the chilled, filtered water. I grind the beans manually for consistency Then place the coffee in the upper chamber. I add three grains of Portuguese sea salt (Because everything loves the sea And the sea is in everything). I turn the gas flame down low. While I wait, I check my email.
When the pot gurgles and sputters The coffee is ready to be served. I add a teaspoon of raw honey (Trader Joe’s is best) to dull the bitterness, And one dollop of half and half for presentation.
Rona, you were never a passing thing, A good time girl who tiptoed daintily Through the sweetness of our days, Leaving a faint trace of a summer memory. OH. HELL. NAW! Rona, you came upending All our ho-hum lives, taking us To new levels of thinking and being. Rona, you were never a one-night stand.
I knew you were trouble when you stuck your head in the doorway And flashed that cunning smile. My mother warned me about girls Like you. Still, instead of chasing you away, I brought you fully into my embrace.
The volunteer activities I cram into my weekends Bring me great joy and fulfillment, satisfaction. Even with the requirement to juggle things From one Saturday to the next, I thrive on it. But today, in the midst, we hope, of the lockdown, The chores that once occupied my mind are absent. So I am doing a binge on Amazon Prime selections Since we terminated our subscription to Netflix To avoid the social programming therein. What’s in store for today? A friend recommends Counterpart, Cold War spy thriller, supposedly, Though we know what that deal was. And then There is Star Trek – Discovery, not quite my cup of tea, Although I was an early saint to outer space’s devotion.
There is a sort of spiritual healing taking place in government today, thanks to Rona. Forced into party strait jackets to support various sides of the impeachment hoax, many Unwillingly, members can finally seek the unity of purpose and collegiality that heals their souls. All our souls.
The black ladies are making a quilt with large, oversized white hands. And there is a peeping Tom in the window, maybe the artist himself. Maybe some other. A black cat creeps across the floor, and a new world is forming outside.
I compare every new and pretty voice To my safe bets, Mariza and Amalia, And that’s not fair. How can the new ones meet That standard? But they try and they deserve To be heard. Fado is my antidote For the blues the lockdown brought. But the songs Of old don’t really address the anguish and the uncertainly of the present. Never mind. Folks are starting to panic, Important events and milestones cancelled Or postponed. Isolation takes its toll In time. Mariza told us she was tired Of singing all these sad old weary songs.
A new fountain pen arrived. Nice feel, heft. German import. Overstock. Priced to sell. A bit slow on capillary action At first, as new pens often are. An ink drop Spilled on my hand and down to the floor. Should have done this in the kitchen. Trouble. In paradise. Wife will be enraged. No refuge will there be from her scorn.
We are both going crazy trying to predict the unknown unknown. When will it all end? Meanwhile, I’m preparing a short talk About how the Portuguese invented The plantation system memorialized In the Cape Verdean art form: Morna.