Category: War

In Search of a Higher State: A Short Essay Interview with Sari Nusseibeh by David Garyan

Sari Nusseibeh (photo by Dinu Mendrea)


In Search of a Higher State:
A Short Essay Interview with Sari Nusseibeh
by David Garyan

October 8th, 2023



“Truth is white, write over it / with a crow’s ink. / Truth is black, write over it / with a mirage’s light.” So begins the fourth stanza of Mahmoud Darwish’s piece, “To a Young Poet.” With the very next lines, however, the poet raises the stakes: “If you want to duel with a falcon / soar with the falcon.” If Mahmoud Darwish is Palestine’s poet, then Sari Nusseibeh is Palestine’s philosopher. Born a mere month before the conclusion of the Arab-Israeli war in 1949, the future thinker was in a sense defined by a moment. Since the creation of Israel in 1948, he was witnessed his homeland change. Anwar Nusseibeh, his father, was shot in the leg that same year by Israeli forces. He subsequently lost the limb.

Fortunately, neither loss nor history went on to embitter the son. Having led numerous peace efforts and spoken out vehemently against the use of force, Sari Nusseibeh has not gone down the predictable road. Instead of trying to dismantle the state of Israel, Professor Nusseibeh has spent much of his life trying to understand Israel’s true aspiration. In his view, this has been a limited success. When asked what it is that Israel really wants, the philosopher seemed not so much tongue-tied, but rather frustrated with the nation’s unidentifiable essence: “answering the question ‘What is it that Israel really wants?’ for me remains something of a mystery.” A powerful statement, especially when it comes from a man whose family can speak of a 1,400-year presence in the Holy Land.

Professor Nusseibeh is a sensible man. He understands the nature of nation-states. Competing interests—along with real and supposed threats against their existence—have prompted even the most democratic ones to take heavy-handed measures. The US’s internment of its Japanese population is only one examples of this.

Thus, Nusseibeh’s frustration with trying to understand the country that holds his homeland is, to say the least, understandable: “These are questions that continue to bother me—whether we are thinking of Israel or of other places. There are two components to these questions. Does Israel (or any political organism) have a core identity and a determined path that allows the observer to predict its future? For example, one might say—next to other essential features it has—that it is a colonial enterprise, set to possess itself of what doesn’t belong to it, and to dispossess natives of what naturally belongs to them. One could then look around for concepts associated with colonialism—e.g., expansionism—that will allow us to fine-tune our diagnosis and draw help from these in an attempt to better read Israel’s future trajectory.”

Many contemporary philosophers and activists have rightly branded the country’s actions as “colonial.” Others have even referred to it as an “apartheid state.” About the matter, Professor Nusseibeh had this to say: “If it [Israel] is bound by its core identity to appropriate the land it conquered in ’67, then of course, one could dismiss its declarations about being ready to withdraw from those territories.” That is precisely what seems to be happening. Others argue that Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza runs contrary to the colonial, apartheid argument.

When looking at the facts closely, however, another picture seems to emerge. Not only was the enterprise of disengagement difficult from a logistical standpoint, it was even more gruesome from an emotional one. Many Israeli settlers—in Gush Katif, for example—refused to leave; they staged demonstrations; many broke down in tears, and some even referred to their own forces as “Nazis.” Eventually, authorities didn’t just accomplish their goals of disengagement, they also accomplished another, more important thing: They were able to make the rest of the world ask: “But at what cost was it all done?”

For better or worse, the government had made its point: The PR campaign associated not only with that specific disengagement, but disengagements in general, remains a telling story. Yet, there are more subtle issues besides land—the question of identity. Being a philosopher, Nusseibeh understands the complexities, challenges, and controversies behind the issue all too well: “the other component to this kind of question (What is Israel?) is whether Israel knows itself, i.e., knows itself to be exactly what its core identity defines it. This is a tricky issue. How do we define the ‘subject of knowledge’ here? The only measurable way for us to define this ‘subject’ in a ‘democratic’ system is by its elected governments and their actual policies. But here we come up against a difficulty that questions our initial assumptions: for many years after ’67, Israel’s labor leaders seemed willing to cede some conquered territory back to Jordan. This changed once the Likud came to power. Unless we take this change to be a mere con, what it tells us is that our definition of Israel’s core-identity was wrong: that its identity is not fixed in this respect but is changeable … for instance, that it can claim to be able to remain itself as a nation-state, even a democratic one, alongside a Palestinian state to which it cedes conquered territory. This, after all, is the creed of a sizeable part of its population.” The fact that Israel is a place where beliefs, opinions, and ideas are not homogenous is a trait it shares with many countries claiming a democratic essence. Israel, however, isn’t just another so-called democratic state—its borders also encompass the Holy Land. And so, even the seemingly straightforward issue of what to do with land (and how to use it) is something not universally agreed upon. While ceding territory may be unthinkable today, Israel is in fact no stranger to the act.

Years after its astounding success in the Six Day War, the victorious leadership eventually ceded the entire Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. Why? To make peace. The question thus becomes: Why are today’s leaders not willing to take similar steps? Perhaps, unlike Egypt, they don’t see Palestine as a formidable enough enemy. Nusseibeh seems to hint at this possibility. In his closing remarks to the question about what it is Israel really wants, he states: “But beyond trying to answer such a question, there is a yet more vexing one: perhaps Arab (military and political) failures have inexorably driven Israel (or its elected leadership) to become the voracious animal it has. If this is true, then we need to add another dimension to the problem of identity: that it is affected by the circumstances surrounding it, and therefore by the actions (or inactions) of its neighbors!”

But what about the past? The Jewish people have suffered a genocide (the Shoah). The Palestinians have suffered a catastrophe (the Nakba). I asked Professor Nusseibeh about the possibility of using this joint historical suffering as a starting point for a new “road map” for peace. His response: “I believe that the Shoah and the Nakba are incomparable, except by saying they are both causes of deep pain affecting entire communities. As an after-effect, the Nakba stripped the Palestinian people of their land. The Shoah stripped the Jewish people of existential security. The pains are thus generically different from one another. Does one party’s pain help them sympathize with that of another party? This is hard if the first party’s pain was caused by the second party. And it is also hard if the second party believes that its solution for existential insecurity consists precisely in that which they know is a cause for the pain of the first party. That is to say, their different and somehow mutually exclusive pains make it hard to use them as the stepping-stone for a reconciliation between the two. I think this leaves us with having to look elsewhere … maybe for pragmatic considerations affecting the lives of the two communities. I think practical wisdom will be needed here. As matters stand now the future does not bode well for either community. That future is what needs to be looked into, and it is perhaps future pain that must be avoided or minimized.” Sari Nusseibeh’s response offers neither optimism nor pessimism—only a sobering reality. Where do we go from here? Is Palestine destined to become the title of the brave professor’s book—“once upon a country?” Only time will tell.


For the purpose of reference and transparency, the following questions and responses (exchanged via email during the period of April 2021 through October 2022) were used to craft the essay interview.

David Garyan: Ever since the creation of Israel in 1948, authorities there have continually instituted various measures to prevent the assimilation of non-Jews into mainstream Jewish society (mainly to ensure that Palestinians cannot participate in Israel’s political and civic process); the 2018 Nation-State Law may perhaps be considered the most outward manifestation of that policy, granting only Jews the right to pursue national self-determination in Israel, establishing Hebrew as Israel’s official language while downgrading Arabic to the level of special status, and, lastly, establishing Jewish settlement as a national value, meaning that the state can now openly promote such developments. It seems to be that Israel neither wants a two-state solution, nor even a one-state solution in which all citizens are considered equal, able to participate fully in all aspects of life—such approaches, whether we support them or not, have led newspapers like Al Jazeera and even an Israeli general to make the rather cliché yet emotionally charged parallel to Nazi Germany. While the comparison is rather inappropriate and more or less futile, it nevertheless makes sense to ask what it is that Israel really wants—and not just with regard to the Palestinians living there but also for itself, if not a two-state solution or even assimilation?

Sari Nusseibeh: These are questions that continue to bother me—whether we are thinking of Israel or of other places. There are two components to these questions. Does Israel (or any political organism) have a core identity and a determined path that allows the observer to predict its future? For example, one might say—next to other essential features it has—that it is a colonial enterprise, set to possess itself of what doesn’t belong to it, and to dispossess natives of what naturally belongs to them. One could then look around for concepts associated with colonialism—e.g., expansionism—that will allow us to fine-tune our diagnosis and draw help from these in an attempt to better read Israel’s future trajectory. If it is bound by its core identity to appropriate the land it conquered in ’67, then of course, one could dismiss its declarations about being ready to withdraw from those territories. But the other component to this kind of question (What is Israel?) is whether Israel knows itself, i.e., knows itself to be exactly what its core identity defines it. This is a tricky issue. How do we define the ‘subject of knowledge’ here? The only measurable way for us to define this ‘subject’ in a ‘democratic’ system is by its elected governments and their actual policies. But here we come up against a difficulty that questions our initial assumptions: for many years after ’67, Israel’s labor leaders seemed willing to cede some conquered territory back to Jordan. This changed once the Likud came to power. Unless we take this change to be a mere con, what it tells us is that our definition of Israel’s core-identity was wrong: that its identity is not fixed in this respect but is changeable … for instance, that it can claim to be able to remain itself as a nation-state, even a democratic one, alongside a Palestinian state to which it cedes conquered territory. This, after all, is the creed of a sizeable part of its population. So, answering the question ‘What is it that Israel really wants?’ for me remains something of a mystery. But beyond trying to answer such a question, there is a yet more vexing one: perhaps Arab (military and political) failures have inexorably driven Israel (or its elected leadership) to become the voracious animal it has. If this is true, then we need to add another dimension to the problem of identity: that it is affected by the circumstances surrounding it, and therefore by the actions (or inactions) of its neighbors!

David Garyan: Today, a word like Nakba does not capture the same cultural consciousness as Shoah. And yet, this is not a “competition.” We must look at both tragedies for what they are—unnecessary suffering. Do you see any parallels between these events, and could this shared plight perhaps serve as the foundation for a new “roadmap for peace?”

Sari Nusseibeh: I believe that the Shoah and the Nakba are incomparable, except by saying they are both causes of deep pain affecting entire communities. As an after-effect the Nakba stripped the Palestinian people of their land. The Shoah stripped the Jewish people of existential security. The pains are thus generically different from one another.

Does one party’s pain help them sympathize with that of another party? This is hard if the first party’s pain was caused by the second party. And it is also hard if the second party believes that its solution for existential insecurity consists precisely in that which they know is a cause for the pain of the first party. That is to say, their different and somehow mutually exclusive pains make it hard to use them as the stepping-stone for a reconciliation between them. I think this leaves us with having to look elsewhere … maybe for pragmatic considerations affecting the lives of the two communities. I think practical wisdom will be needed here. As matters stand now the future does not bode well for either community. That future is what needs to be looked into, and it is perhaps future pain that requires to be avoided or minimized.


About Sari Nusseibeh

Sari Nusseibeh is the former President of Al-Quds University, the only Arab university in Jerusalem. He is also a professor of philosophy. He co-founded The People’s Voice, an Israeli-Palestinian grass-roots organization which advocates peace between Israel and Palestine. In 2001 and 2002, he was the chief representative of the PLO in Jerusalem, advocating a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. He is the author of Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life. He lives in Jerusalem.

Interlitq’s Californian Poets Interview Series: Carol V. Davis, Poet, Fulbright Scholar, Professor, interviewed by David G...


Carol V. Davis

August 24th, 2023

Interlitq’s Californian Poets Interview Series:

Carol V. Davis, Poet, Fulbright Scholar, Professor

interviewed by David Garyan

 

Carol V. Davis’s poems appear in Interlitq’s California Poets Feature

 

DG: Let’s begin with your personal experiences in Russia. While the recent invasion of Ukraine is difficult to justify, Russian culture cannot be reduced to these events alone. How have your travels and contacts with everyday Russian society changed the way you perceive this country—not just after the war, but also before it?

CD: I had first travelled to the Soviet Union as a college student after I started studying Russian and Russian literature, but it wasn’t until years after graduate school (in Slavic languages and literatures) that I went to Russia to live for a year (1996-97) and then kept going back. That first year I was a Fulbright scholar teaching at the Jewish University in St. Petersburg and was immersed in the Jewish community there.

I had naïvely assumed that it would not be difficult to make friends and be accepted as I am Jewish. I was at a Jewish university, I speak Russian and my kids were with me, but in fact, it was much harder than I had anticipated. I was finally able to make friends, but the concept of friendship is very different there and it was challenging. Of course, living in a country for extended periods of time gives one a chance to get to know it on a deeper level, but in Russia, despite speaking the language and not being there as a tourist, I was always considered a foreigner, an “other.” I found that frustrating. Although I traveled and lectured in Moscow and Novgorod, St. Petersburg was my home in Russia during periods between 1996 and 2014. In winter 2017 and 2018, I went to Siberia where I was teaching and writing in Ulan-Ude, Buryatia Republic, Siberia.

I lived under the Putin administration many times and under the Medvedev administration too. For years I felt free to speak openly with my friends in St. Petersburg as I have known them for decades and none are Putin supporters. I still hear from friends regularly, but no one is saying anything and we are all being careful. In Siberia I was always more careful in discussions with colleagues. Over the years, I watched as Putin closed down the free press bit by bit until it was shut completely. Even knowing all I do, Putin’s barbarity in the invasion was still a shock and I fear especially for my former students in Ulan-Ude. Buryatia is a very poor republic and an ethnic minority region, and therefore the number of conscripts has been very high and the number of deaths too. This city and region has been the focus of articles in the New York Times.

It was really Russian literature that drew me to Russia. My paternal grandfather was from a shtetl in Ukraine. I have a photo of him in a Cossack unit in the Russo-Japanese War, which is also very strange. He never talked about this experience. His Russian passport had the last name Uchitel, teacher in Russian. We don’t know how he got that as his father was a shochet (a kosher butcher). My grandmother was from St. Petersburg, which was unusual as there was a Jewish quota. She died when I was a baby. I did not grow up speaking Russian, nor Yiddish, the first language of my parents who were born in New York. I started studying Russian at university.

DG: Apart from having a direct knowledge of this vast country, you’ve also studied its language and literature in an academic setting. How have your studies influenced your perspectives on world literature, and has the so-called “Russia of the academy” always corresponded to the real-world considerations you witnessed in country?

CD: Sadly, I am much better read in Russian literature than in world literature, though I have tried to catch up. As in American society, there are so many different sides to Russian society, and European Russia, where St. Petersburg, and Moscow are, is vastly different from rural Russia, or where I was in Siberia. If Americans know any Russian literature, it is Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, and for many Russians, American literature is Jack London, and Ernest Hemingway, in both countries a very limited basis for understanding a society, people and culture.

DG: You’re the granddaughter of Jewish immigrants from Russia. Though Russia never equaled the atrocities committed by the Germans, it nevertheless has had (and, naturally, many critics, especially these days, will enthusiastically add that it continues to have) a long and complicated relationship with repression. Indeed, such actions were responsible for the deaths of imminent writers like Osip Mandelstam and Isaac Babel. How do we make sense of this dichotomy, which, on one hand, is the greatness of Russian culture and its capability to be greatly ruthless?

CD: Repression and brutality, have often coexisted in Russia with its culture rich in the arts. This has been and is true in other countries. Poets and writers in Russia have always been the conscience of the society, speaking truth to power and being held in esteem by many people. But having a great literature, music and art does not shield a country from barbarism.

DG: Your 2007 collection, Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg won the T.S. Eliot Prize. Two (well, perhaps three) difficult questions: Do you think the collection would’ve had the same chances of winning that prize in today’s political climate, and, given the politics behind prizes in general, what does that say about not only how, but also upon whom we bestow any given prize? And lastly: Would it be fair to say that such a collection—though it conjures a 19th century figure and deals mostly with everyday life—might be received differently today than it was in 2007

CD: I have thought a lot about the question of whether my book Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg, would have the same chance of an award and publication now as in 2007. I think not. The poems in that collection covered the period between 1996-2005 and mostly explored daily life. However, our thoughts about Russia are now grounded in Russia’s war on Ukraine. At the beginning of the war, some American orchestras stopped performing Russian music. While I absolutely agree with cutting the relationship with Putin apologists like the conductor Valery Gergiev and the opera star, Anna Netrebko, (and canceling their U.S. performances), I find problematic canceling all of Russian literature and art, but it’s complicated. This has been an issue in Israel, where there was a de facto ban on the music of Wagner for over a decade after protests by Holocaust survivors. And the issue still comes up when Wagner’s music is performed by major orchestras there.

DG: Your most recent work, Below Zero (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2023), is a fascinating collection of poems that transcend borders—from the New World to the Far East (in this context Siberia). Can you talk about the development/inspiration behind this work and what new discoveries you made in the process of writing it—especially as things pertain to the so-called “European Russia” you had known compared with the “Russia beyond the Urals” that you’d come to discover?

CD: All my time living in St. Petersburg I had never been to Siberia, and I was happy to finally get the opportunity to do so. I was in the eastern area of Siberia, east of Lake Baikal, in Buryatia Republic, near the border with Mongolia. It is a very poor region, an ethnic minority region, where people practice Buddhism and Shamanism. Being thousands of kilometers from Moscow you feel both how vast the country is and both how little and how much the central government controls. I also travelled to Irkutsk, a multi-ethnic city from the time of the Silk Road. I visited the Jewish community there.

DG: In a 2017 Southern Review interview you talk about the difference between being bilingual and conversing in a language: “Perhaps this is the curse of a writer. For us, being able to speak conversationally in another language is not enough. That is part of my frustration living in Russia on and off for decades. There’s always that one word, that nuance, that I don’t know how to say, and I feel that frustration acutely.” What do you see as the main differences in conversational approach between the average Russian and American? For example, we’re seen as more open and friendly with strangers, but do you see these stereotypes mostly playing out in real life or is there another, deeper reality at work?

CD: I am often asked whether I am bilingual and I would never say that I am, but I speak and write Russian. My first year in Russia, I actually taught one course in Russian with the help of students who spoke English and were patient with me and I have published some essays on American and Jewish literature in Russian but that was because friends corrected my grammar mistakes. Again I would say that functioning in day to day life in a language is different than being truly bilingual and perhaps literarily bilingual.

Part of my childhood my family lived in Europe. I never thought of myself as particularly American until I moved to Russia, but I saw how much I am a product of my own culture. For example, the first year in Russia I had a lot of computer and printer problems. Friends were happy to help me, but I was uncomfortable asking for help. I did hear complaints about Americans all the time, that we smile too much and are insincere and are too casual about friendships. America is a much more mobile society. People move around a lot, go away for university, live in other cities. In Russia, if one is fortunate enough to have been born in Moscow or Saint Petersburg, you rarely move to another city. I think that is why it was more difficult to make friends because people have friends from elementary school.

DG: If you could bring one American and one Russian writer (living or dead) to the table and have them, together, draw up a peace plan for this current political crisis, who would you choose, and why?

CD: Certainly I could choose one American, and one Russian writer to talk about the history of Russia and Russian politics, but not to draw up any kind of peace plan. While I am tempted to choose poets on both sides, I would choose one poet and one historian / writer for their perspective on  the 20th c. leading up to where we are now. They are: the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, who witnessed, survived and wrote through most of the 20th century in Russia. And Timothy Snyder, a contemporary American academic, who has a deep understanding of Russia, and who specializes in the history of Central and Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and the Holocaust.

DG: At last, when all politics and even art, unfortunately, come to fail, what we have left is food—for that’s the universal experience. What’s one Russian/Ukrainian/Belarusian (or better yet, to keep very eager individuals from triggering a food war, let’s open it up and call it post-Soviet) dish you would recommend, and why?

CD: For the food I would choose borscht, which like the many varieties of its recipes, and claims for its origins, can be spelled in translation in many different ways. The most common borscht is Ukrainian, but often it is called Moscow borscht erroneously. I grew up with the Jewish version. This soup combines sweet and sour, so common in many aspects of Jewish life, food and ritual as a combination of sweetness and bitterness. Jewish borscht uses lemon juice for the sour and raisins (and sometimes a little sugar) for the sweet. It was years later, that I finally had the ubiquitous variety.

 

About Carol V. Davis

Carol V. Davis is the author of Below Zero, Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2023, Because I Cannot Leave This Body (Truman State Univ. Press, 2017) and Between Storms (TSUP, 2012). She won the 2007 T.S. Eliot Prize for Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg. Her poetry has been read on National Public Radio, the Library of Congress and Radio Russia. Twice a Fulbright scholar in Russia, she taught in Siberia, winter 2018 and teaches at Santa Monica College, California and Antioch Univ. Los Angeles. She was awarded a Fulbright Specialist grant for Siberia in 2020, postponed because of Covid restrictions and now cancelled.

American Pandemic, a poem by David Garyan, published in Interlitq

«American Pandemic» was first published in Volume 12 of The American Journal of Poetry (January 1st, 2022). Volume 12 was the final issue of The AJP before it ceased publication. The archive remained available for some months, until early 2023, after which the website disappeared completely.

Please click here read the story behind the initiative to republish all my work.


 

American Pandemic (The President’s Prayer)

For although you may have absolutely no choice in some matters, this does not mean the things you must do in these moments are absolutely right.
—Wilde 3:16

Dear Lord, today we give
thanks for no longer
having to fear the rapists
living next door to us—
at least those who,
out of their own volition,
did trust in the miracles
of science and go down
to the nearest vaccination center,
where shots
of AstraZeneca are done—
approved, of course, by the CDC and EU,
for its benefits
lie precisely in the fact
that it has killed
a trivial amount
of people,
and was made
by a British-Swedish company,
unlike Sputnik,
which, regrettably,
also, did ice
a similarly trivial amount,
but was, of course,
made by the Russians—
a dilemma, indeed,
for if the rapist
had simply chosen
Slavic vaccination,
it would’ve prevented
him from entering indoor
venues like movie theaters and schools,
much less having access to Europe,
where this vaccine,
along with the Chinese Sinovac,
are still under rolling review,
all for your own safety, of course.
Dear Lord, though we must keep walking
through the valley of the shadow of death,
we will fear no evil;
for Thy Protestant and Catholic
vaccines will protect us,
while the heathens of the East—
Orthodox Slavs and Chinese communists, that is,
will be barred from entering
the Schengen Area
for having disobeyed Thy command,
and taken jabs
from the forbidden list of vaccines.
For we know that your only
begotten Son, Jesus,
cares not whatsoever about all Christians,
nor even those recognized
by the United Nations,
but only those G-7 (formerly G-8) Christians,
who by their burden of upholding
democracy, human rights,
and women’s rights,
(two different things altogether,
as women aren’t humans),
did follow the true path of Thy Son
when they expelled Russia
from this hallowed community
after its illegal annexation of Crimea.
Lord, we ask that you give us
patience and strength
in this time of uncertainty—
for our other neighbor, Bill,
living with his lovely family
just four houses down,
are followers of Jehovah’s Witnesses;
despite having frequently made generous
donations to charities fighting poverty
in Sub-Saharan Africa,
they remain unvaccinated due to their beliefs—
thus posing bigger threats
than the very rapist living next door,
who, in fact, holds a bachelor’s degree
in pharmacology,
and this he received from Tufts,
meaning he has rightly
been ordained as a monk of science,
with fervent faith in all the hottest biology.
Indeed, our dear Lord,
it helps neither Bill,
who once rescued two children
from a burning building,
nor his pleasant family
that often volunteers
to pick up trash in their neighborhood,
to be good, yet unvaccinated Christians.
For the Lord so commanded:
Thou must let all vaccinated
fornicators into heaven,
for if they present
the Green Pass,
and it is valid,
every sin and transgression henceforth
shall be forgiven by the glory of God.
Let us rejoice, sweet Jesus,
and let the miscreants inside!
For it is at once righteous to do so,
but, alas, also legally necessary,
for Lord Fauci,
in all his infinite
scientific glory
and wisdom,
hath ordained that full
vaccination bestows
full immunity
against any sexual misdemeanor,
and perhaps even felony,
but only so long as blood
tests can show
the presence of antibodies;
heathen Bill, however,
can neither be allowed
to keep his job,
nor attend any community functions,
and his satanic family
shall have to wear medieval
masks of shame wherever they go.
Let us pray, dear Lord,
that blasphemous Bill
and his infernal ménage
continue being good Christians,
for their donations
and community service are important,
but let us, nevertheless,
wholly distance ourselves socially,
for they cannot be spoken
to until they receive the sacrament of vaccine.
But let us all the while, dear Lord,
invite the rapist—
provided he agrees to wear a mask
and continues, like before, observing
social distancing rules,
because, indeed, the sacrament of vaccine
works not miracles every time,
something the pharmacologist offender,
or more aptly, offender pharmacologist,
knows very well;
and so, in the name of Jesus, our Savior,
let us pray for that gentle predator,
for he has become
the epitome
of responsibility,
and a shining example
of good fellowship
towards Woman (and also Man,
but only in rare homosexual cases—
for let us not, dear God, tolerate
those who discriminate
against a misfit
that prefers chasing men),
for he knows not only
all the hip sciences,
but also totally trusts
every hip doctor and science,
even when they say
opposite things.
Let us hence rejoice
and place our faith
in that rapist,
for he truly cares
about the safety of others,
even when he’s raping them,
for he will not lay hands
on any unvaccinated souls—
no matter how strong
his urge to do so may be,
and in this way, our heavenly Father,
we didst finally see
a prominent drop
in not only COVID infections,
but also cases of sexual assault;
these latter numbers, howbeit,
are neither relevant nor crucial,
for we’re not so concerned
with them these days,
mostly because developing
vaccines against battery,
even the sexual type,
is scientifically impossible.
And so Lord, we ask that you bless
and watch over
the sexual deviants,
(but only the inoculated)
for before Johnson and Johnson
they were blind,
but now they can see,
and protect also those who took
Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca,
and especially young women
who took AstraZeneca,
since they are most at risk
of dying from it,
but let us, oh Lord, have faith
and renounce our fright—
for these fair maidens
are now vaccinated
and no longer need Thou;
truly, they hath nothing
left to fear,
for we know
that all the world’s problems
disappear after full vaccination,
two weeks after the second dose, that is.
Have no mercy, howbeit, on those who took Sputnik,
for pride, tyranny, and wickedness cannot last,
but the righteous shall live by Western-approved
jabs and that holy democracy worthy of us all—
the one which accidentally bombs
civilian targets in Afghanistan,
but only under a Democratic administration;
a Republican democracy where civilian
targets are accidentally hit,
can, absolutely, not be tolerated.
Our Father who art in heaven,
we need good, honest democratic
leaders who blow up churches and schools
in the name of Saint Schumer,
of whom the public does approve
no matter what he commands,
and if there be doubt,
it shall excuse his failures
as honest blunders;
the same mistakes
just across the aisle, however,
must properly and justly incur the wrath
of all left-leaning news networks out there,
because that is what it means to be fair,
balanced, and objective, in the name of Christ Almighty.
We ask, also, in this time of uncertainty, dear Lord,
that you promptly hear the grievances aired
by the LGBTQIA+E=mc2@admissions.caltech.edu community—
for on numerous occasions
they’ve demanded that bombs
dropped on civilian targets
proudly display Pride flags on them,
otherwise protests will erupt
across the whole country.
We pray, as well, that all who deny
the scientific thrust behind
these rockets be labeled
provocateurs and Republicans—
meaning anyone from Afghanistan
must display proof of bombing,
preferably with QR codes,
before we can consider them refugees,
much less admit them to this country,
which, supposedly, isn’t a Christian one,
but whose presidents have all been Christian.
And so, in the name of all that’s holy, dear Lord,
please forgive us for putting
sanitizer dispensers
inside your churches,
and wearing masks,
for it’s nothing personal
against you or the miracles
you’ve worked on this earth;
it’s just that washing your hands
frequently absolves us of all sins—
for if Pontius Pilate only had some Purrell
that day he was to condemn
your only begotten Son,
there would be nothing
he would need to answer for today.
Dear Jesus, please know
that if and when you decide
to have your Second Coming,
all the vaccinated rapists,
murderers, and pillagers
will be free to attend the event,
which is scheduled to be held
at the LA Convention Center,
or perhaps Madison Square Garden,
depending on parking—
strictly observing, of course,
all the social distancing
protocols recommended by the CDC.
And if the people
ever decide to crucify
you once more,
something they are bound
to do sooner or later,
proof of vaccination
will no longer suffice;
given the more exciting nature
of this particular spectacle,
negative PCR tests (valid for 48 hours)
and cavity searches will be required
to access the crucifixion site,
for when it comes to safety,
no right or freedom
is sacred enough to uphold.
Oh, hallelujah, dear Lord,
we pray that the planet
and every hallowed
thing you created,
in the name of the Father,
the Son, and Holy Spirit,
simply go to shit
while our chosen leaders
sit there and figure out
how to save us from COVID;
for there are maps, statistics,
and analysis, sweet Jesus—
so much scientific scripture
capable of showing us all,
and very precisely at that,
how fucked up things have become.
Do you not see, my brethren,
that the US registered
148,202 new cases today,
which, on a fourteen day spectrum,
represents a twenty-nine percent increase?
Have the numbers and colorful graphs
not made an impression, my dear brothers?
For if we can’t quantify something,
the problem isn’t worth solving.
And is it not such a tragedy
that we have more vaccines
than anyone knows what to do with?
For in Pelosi 2:3-4 it is so written:
When Moderna ran out,
Fauci’s mother turned and said to him—
“They have no more Western vaccines.”
But that Son of Science so replied:
“Woman, why do you involve me?
My hour has not come yet.”
And after having ordered the syringes
to be filled with Sputnik,
the patients were given those injections
and all were then amazed
they had turned into Pfizer.
The Son of Science did this—
the first of his many signs,
in Cana of America,
and it revealed his glory,
and his disciples believed in him.
So now we must jab them all,
starting with dead people
and unborn fetuses
that can no longer be aborted,
for if daily quotas are not met,
the UN will come raining down
on our asses like a goddamn fucking
firestorm with their resolutions
that have never been legally binding
anyways, hence why be afraid?
And so, feel free to keep committing
your war crimes, my fellow African dictators,
for though they might say
and even shout a lot at the UN,
fear not, I command, fear not—
for everyone sitting
in those plush chairs
will be much content
to have heard the pretty sounds
of their own voices,
only to have done nothing at all
about the problems
they so enjoyed discussing;
at most, they shall show
“deep concern about the rising
tensions in the Middle East and Africa,”
but this too shall pass,
and with some persistence,
you’ll be free to plunder again,
without those pesky
colonizers (Europeans, that is)
scolding you for being colonizers.
And so, my brothers,
forget the rising levels of racism,
greed, and unhappiness,
for there’s no science
behind them anyways—
no graphs, maps, or tables
to show us the daily increase
in anti-Semitism, apartheid,
or even xenophobia,
for all the lab rats
working in democratic countries
have yet to develop vaccines
against these pandemics,
but if there’s no jab
to solve the problem,
then there’s no problem
to begin with—
nothing worth inspecting
any longer.
Just to be safe, howbeit,
keep distancing yourself
from Blacks, Asians,
Latinos, and anyone who isn’t White,
including Arabs and Persians
with American passports,
some of whom may look
and act “Caucasian,”
but don’t be deceived, my brothers,
and remember the famous Bible passage,
Shakespeare 3:16, Act I, Scene III:
Libyans and Iranians
can cite US passports
for their own purpose.
Also never forget
the Civil Rights Movement,
and which color of skin
was then barred
from entering buildings
and using facilities,
even before the Green Pass;
but let us, dear Lord,
remain vigilant as ever,
for unvaccinated Whites,
especially the poor ones,
now pose the same threat
as vaccinated Iraqis
and Afghans with US passports;
alas, should the unjabbed
Whitey, however,
happen to be quite wealthy,
then we must consider
this proof of vaccination,
because gaining COVID
from Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
then dying from it
bestows both status
and upward mobility
upon the dead one,
while catching COVID
from a homeless drunk
then dying from that
is simply a tragedy—
upward mobility
without any fame.
Oh, dear Lord, we pray to heaven
that you get with the program at last
and allow just fully vaccinated
souls into your kingdom;
it would also be nice, sweet Jesus,
if you could demand
that the certificates be shown
in digital form,
with QR codes and cavity checks
and the whole nine yards, really,
for so many have already
been tempted by Satan,
and bought fake certificates
on Telegram and WhatsApp—
a clever business model
with great revenue streams,
something deeply upsetting
for the bureaucrats of Big Pharma.
On the other hand, dear Lord,
Big Tobacco may have cause
for celebration, as some studies
have shown that smoking
may help prevent COVID—
indeed, it doth appear as if nicotine
interferes with ACE2 receptors,
thereby preventing the virus
from entering cells.
Hallelujah, our Father in heaven!
We pray in the name
of your only begotten Son
that all the smokers in Kentucky
will now rise up and initiate
protests demanding mandatory puffing
measures at work, schools,
and hospitals,
but especially hospitals,
for no freedom,
and this we swear,
is sacred enough
to give up in the name of safety,
even the freedom to breathe.
Starting next week,
mandatory proof
of smoking shall
be presented
at the entrance
of every gym, restaurant,
and nursing home.
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, fellow brethren!
And as with vaccines,
connoisseurs of Russian cigarettes
will absolutely
be prohibited from entering
any indoor venues,
until the proper clinical trials
can be carried out;
the CDC has already
scheduled rolling reviews
to see if cancer sticks
made by former communist heathens
pose the same health risks
as those made in the free world,
because only the cancerous kinds—
the ones with arsenic,
liberty, and lead inside them
have been known to interfere
with the aforementioned ACE2 receptors.
So far, the CDC has only approved
the democratic cigarettes of Marlboro,
Newport, and Camel against the coronavirus—
in clinical trials, they’ve shown
a smashing 99 percent effectiveness
in killing people before they contract COVID,
much lower than the despotic
brands of Russia,
which have far less additives
and kill only 89 percent of subjects,
but these are just the results
of one medical study funded by Republicans;
the very same study funded by Democrats
showed that Russian cigarettes
kill people on contact,
with vaccinated Americans
from ages 0 to 100 being most at risk;
the State Department hence recommends
that anyone holding a US passport
avoid traveling to places
where this tobacco is sold—
if you absolutely must travel,
buy forty packs of Marlboro
and smoke two a day while wearing
a mask fully covering nose and mouth.
Our dear Lord, we ask in the name of Jesus
that you please forgive
all the fornicators,
thieves, and lawyers,
but especially lawyers,
for any wrongs
they may have committed,
be they sleeping with monkeys,
stealing relics from your churches,
and, naturally, defending
those who slept with monkeys
and stole relics from churches,
but solely if said miscreants
who’ve lived total lives of sin
agree to accept Science
as their only true Savior,
and receive the holy
communion of antibiotics,
and when, with glory, those sins
have been thoroughly cleansed,
shall they proceed, at last,
with the deathbed vaccination,
for the Church of Democratic Science
teaches that only sincere deathbed inoculations
can prevent the spread of COVID at funerals,
while the Church of Republican Science
asserts that COVID was manufactured in a Chinese lab
and hence can threaten only Chinese funerals—
ever since the Great Schism of Science in 2020,
questions surrounding the afterlife
remain a disputed issue in both disciplines,
all because the Church of Democratic Science
and the Church of Republican Science
couldn’t agree on the issue
of whether it was acceptable
to use unleavened jabs
for the sacrament of full vaccination;
other disputes revolved around the fact
of whether scientists could marry
or had to remain celibate,
devoting their whole lives
to the study of reproduction,
rather than reproducing themselves.
And so, it looks as though the teachings
of Democratic Science
and Republican Science
will remain at odds forever.
Dear Lord, we ask that you punish
those scholars who sell indulgences—
fake vaccination certificates, that is,
for it will take a Reformation of Science,
initiated by the one and only
Martin Luther, MD, PhD, PsyD,
with no relation to the former
Augustinian monk,
to create yet another split,
and this time in the Church of Republican Science—
it shall come to pass that doctors
will have no right
to exercise power over people
in jab purgatory,
that is those who may qualify
for vaccination exemptions,
but must show extra proof
of valid medical contraindications
to receive that holy Green Pass.
The Church of Democratic Science
sees all this as heresy,
arguing that patients
must prostrate themselves
before doctors and ask
for vaccination penance—
only this way can they be
admitted to the Stanley Cup Finals,
and also Super Bowl LVI.
The World Series, however,
is a totally different ballgame—
being America’s Pastime,
it does, unfortunately,
require not only prescribed
vaccination penance,
but also a full baptism
with either Olay or L’Oréal—
also known as a “shower”
in scientific literature;
any rituals conducted
with Russian water
and their heathen
communist products
will not be recognized as democratic,
and may result in excommunication,
but also being burnt at the stake.
For we know, dear Lord,
that Psalm 51:7
tells us to purify our sins
strictly with Purell, but perhaps also Lysol—
only, however, if there’s a shortage of Purrell,
for that is surely the superior product,
and then we will be clean;
wash us, our heavenly Father,
but just with brands
approved by American
board-certified dermatologists,
and we shall be whiter
than Russian snow.
Let us pray, dear brothers,
that neither the ACLU,
nor the Woke Apparatus
of Twitter bring
charges of racism
against the Old Testament,
and perhaps even the whole Bible,
for, certainly, African-Americans,
along with darker skinned Latinos
and Asians, have no way of cleansing
themselves to the level
of Scripture-approved
shades of White—
at most, they shall be known
as “Two or More Races,”
or “Some Other Race,”
with the US Census Bureau
very much highlighting “Other,”
for that is how powerful
and prestigious
American body washes
remain on the world stage,
so help us God.
And let us remember,
today and for all times,
Fauci 3:5, where it is so written:
Trust in the Science
with all thy heart,
and do not depend
on your own understanding—
something, dear Lord,
which is good and true,
but certainly contradicted
by Biden and Harris 14:15,
which doth proclaim:
“The simple believe anything,
but the prudent give thought
to their steps.”
For it is the spiritually unvaccinated
who remain separated from Science,
and thus tempted by Satan himself—
for, today, that devil
is not really the Devil,
but rather the embodiment
of the Christian religion,
for in Buttigieg 16:23
it is so written:
Fauci turned and said to Jesus,
“Get behind me, Satan!”
You are a stumbling block
to my Science;
you do not have in mind
the concerns of vaccination,
but merely human concerns.
And so, from this day on,
Christianity became the Devil,
for it was not concerned
with just biology and the body,
but merely human concerns.
For yes, we all know, dear brothers,
that only the communion of vaccination
can absolve us from our sins.
And as the disciples
gathered for the Last Supper
at the White House,
Fauci said: “Take these masks
and wear them, for they are my body—
made in China, of course,
and though America
is on the brink of total collapse,
we can be sure these masks
will protect us from every economic,
social, and natural danger.
He then gave thanks to China
and offered his disciples
the syringes, saying:
“Each of you inject,
for this is my blood,
which seals the covenant
between the President
and his people,”
thus it was written
in Biden and Harris 26:27-8.
And so Washington
did truly rise again
from death,
and took its vaccinated
body—with PCR tests and everything—
that which appertained
to the perfection
of Man’s American nature,
wherewith it ascended into Heaven,
and there will sitteth, until the government
returns to judge all unvaccinated Men
(and also Women, of course,
for we must certainly discriminate
against unvaccinated Women as well)
on the last day.
In the name of the Father,
Uncle Sam, and American Spirit.

 

About David Garyan

David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He received a master’s degree in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage from the University of Bologna. He lives in Trento.

Dear Russia, a poem by David Garyan, published in Interlitq


(DISS)INFORMATION

This poem consists of three «acts,» of which the first two were published in Volume 6 (January 1st, 2019) of The American Journal of Poetry. The entire poem subsequently appeared in (DISSINFORMATION), published by Main Street Rag.

Please click here read the story behind the initiative to republish all my work lost with the disappearance of The American Journal of Poetry.


 

(ACT I: Red)

A Metaphor is Fake News

A simile is like fake news.
Metaphor

Humans are torn pages from books—
arranged by gods who can’t read.
Humans are metaphors:
figures of speech that assert people
are other people to enhance
writing or gossip.
Black people are white people.
White people are black people.
Humans are like similes:
figures of speech that compare
unlike people to make descriptions more colorful.
White people are like black people.
Black people are like white people.
Metaphors are humans:
philosophers who say one thing is another thing;
madmen who say one thing is another thing.
Similes are like humans:
they compare two unlike things
and say they’re similar, like madmen;
they compare two unlike things
and say they’re similar, like philosophers.

****

Humans who drop bombs
are the ushers of democracy.
Humans who drop bombs
are like the ushers of democracy.
The bombs will always fall
because we weren’t guilty
of inventing gravity.
Even the cosmos was born
from an explosion—
we’re only to blame for the literature.
Human nature is an old violin
strung with saints’ hair
and played in a chamber of skeptics.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
Hope is acute, like an insight,
yet hope is also acute, like an illness.
Hope is obtuse, as in narrow minded;
hope is also obtuse—more than 90 degrees.
But how many different triangles
do you need to prove that three angles
always add up to the same despair?
Hope is the freedom to draw three sided squares.
Hope is like the freedom to draw four sided triangles.
Dear humanity, our philosophy is a million
blank papers inside red
envelopes falling on Damascus.
Our crisis is an Inuk
who sees palm trees in his dreams.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
We have walked a long way
on the treadmill of reason
to avoid making pilgrimages.
Please, America, don’t invent
missile-proof houses and deploy
humanitarian forces to build them
in war zones so everyone can live
happy lives under your air strikes—
just stop dropping bombs.

****

Humans can’t tear away from screens.
The “like” button is a simile for danger,
but the real world is danger.
Danger is a person who thinks
he’s safe at home.
The person who thinks
he’s safe at home
is a public library that doesn’t lend books.
If you never leave the house—
a bookshelf holding lots of knowledge
can still fall and cause problems.
A bomb is a book.
A bomb is like a book.
A book is like a bomb.
A book is a bomb.
Our crisis is an Inuk who sees
palm trees on the screen;
scholars say this can’t be a crisis
because it all depends on how we define
crisis. Is it good? Is it bad?
It’s all relative and they urge
people to think with extreme caution:
When the Inuit see palm trees on the screen,
they aren’t really seeing palm trees
because you can’t, in fact, claim to have seen
things when you’ve only seen them on a screen.
Have you truly seen the horrors of Vietnam
after watching them on TV?
Would you claim you saw the Mona Lisa
after looking at pictures on the internet?
Seeing isn’t seeing.
Seeing isn’t like seeing.
Yes, the Inuit can’t be terrified
of palm trees on the screen
because they have no right
to claim they ever saw them.
Hence, Alaskan Natives
shouldn’t be afraid of giving up their land
because we need more space to build
bombs, planes, and factories.
We need more global warming because
the population is growing and Antarctica
is still too cold for palm trees; Denmark
is making good progress,
but Arctic Norway is still frozen.

****

Our crisis is an Inuk
who sees palm trees in real life.
The scholars are now confused,
but lawmakers aren’t afraid yet.
The Russians sold Alaska for pennies on the dollar,
and Alaskan Natives will give up winter,
just like they gave up their land—
from palm tree to shining palm tree.
Winter is simply bad for business.
Winter is a job-killing regulation.
Winter is a ski resort,
and ski resorts are like the arts in public schools.
We must cut the arts to make sure
kids get more math and science.
Statistics and science show that our kids
are behind in statistics and science.
Math and science are nuclear bombs and, therefore, important.
Ski resorts aren’t nuclear bombs and, therefore, of no use.
We must cut winter or America’s assets will freeze.
1) The greenhouse effect should be outsourced
to all Arctic spots on the planet.
2) Still, we can produce
good global warming right here in the States—
Americans are tired of overpaying for heating.
More jobs, more nukes, more take-home pay.
3) We must sign the North American Global Warming Agreement (NAGWA);
global warming should freely move
across the borders, but the Inuit must be restricted.
We all know the price of global warming
only depends on the free market.
We all know fossil fuels aren’t the problem.
Black Tuesday didn’t affect the USSR
because they had no free market,
yet fossil fuels burned and burned.
Russians without warm clothes
confirmed that communist Siberia was the coldest
place without capitalism.
If fossil fuels caused global warming,
the Cold War could’ve never happened—
gas, coal, and oil powered the arms race
but the political climate only got colder and colder.
So, to sustain global warming, we must remove
all Arctic tribes;
then, we must establish free markets in Siberia
that retain warm relations with other markets.
If Russia hacks global warming again,
communism will rise and flood the market.
Everything will be free,
except the freedom to leave—or travel abroad.
Remember how good it was? The food was free
because there was no food to buy;
you could always travel abroad—
if you never wanted to come back.
When the jig was up and the walls fell,
a curtain of global warming descended across the continent.
“Don’t be coldhearted,” they said. “Put food on the shelves,
then make sure no one can afford it. Give them freedom
to apply for visas, then reject all applications.”
A good capitalist knows that poverty
is more humane than hunger.
A good capitalist knows that actual walls
tear people apart, not lines on a map.
Lines on a map are good metaphors for walls.
Lines on a map are like good similes for walls.
Borders are abstract and walls are concrete;
together they form great poetic devices
that keep people apart.
A wall is a dam that restricts the flood of migrants.
A wall is like a dam that restricts the flow of migrants.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
Hope is a white wall with a white door
to which you don’t have the key,
but if you find the door and pick the lock,
armed guards are waiting on the other side;
they’re paid well to watch the border.
Your only hope is to bribe them.

****

Our crisis is an Inuk
who can’t say “snow” in his language.
A palm tree is a Christmas tree.
A palm tree is like a Christmas tree.
Rich people buy palm trees on Christmas;
the poor must settle for cacti.
If a Christmas tree fell in the USSR,
where no one could celebrate Christmas,
did it make the sound of “Jingle Bells?”
Gravity says yes, because gravity never dies.
Gravity never sees the gravity
of the situation.
Gravity doesn’t call for help
when there’s no one to hear it.
Gravity is a person who falls
off buildings without a parachute
and doesn’t make a sound.
Gravity refuses to slow down with age;
it’s wise—like an old professor.
Bombs still fall according to gravity’s laws,
but now they’re bigger and stronger.
Never fear—gravity knows what to do with bombs;
if such physics don’t suit you, take your pacifism
to the moon and let’s see how long you’ll last—
no one dies because no one’s there,
and bombs don’t fall because lunar gravity is lazy.
Gravity is the cruelest thing on earth.
Everyone who jumps off a building
gets treated exactly the same.
Gravity must be controlled by the Communists.
The Russians have hacked into America’s gravity.
For some reason, the rich no longer fall
slower when they jump off a building.
Nyet, tovarish polkovnik! Everyone gets the same ration!
America will solve the world’s gravity problem
with her entrepreneurial spirit—
luxury parachutes for the rich.
The ACLU is outraged.
Everyone should have the right
to fall off a building without dying—
life, liberty, and the pursuit
of falling off a building without dying.
America will help Africa end its gravity problem.
We’ll drop ten million emergency
parachute kits over the land
using our state-of-the-art parachutes,
which must be returned ASAP.
Gravity doesn’t cost America a thing.
Gravity is like global warming; we can use
as much as we want and it will never run out.
A good capitalist knows that gravity
isn’t responsible for falling wages
or rising temperatures.
A good capitalist knows that gravity
is only responsible for the fall of the USSR.
The gravity in Antarctica is the same
as the gravity in Syria, but Antarctica
needs air strikes
to become a summer resort,
while Syria is already too hot.
Gravity knows that every city must fall.
Gravity doesn’t care that New Orleans
will be the second Atlantis.
Gravity is a foreign threat to America.
America must invade the Democratic People’s Republic of Gravity
to make the world safer,
but New Orleans must sink—
we’ll never forget! Semper Fi!
We’re not savages like the Ancient Greeks—
we’re ushers of democracy.
We’ll let New Orleans fall,
but our history books will know where it sank.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
Hope is a dead metaphor.
A dead metaphor is melted snow.
Melted snow is water.
Water is profit.
Profit is about staying above water.
Dear members of the United States Congressional Capitalist Party (USCCP):
California will soon be Atlantis 3,
except the Sierras and Cascades.
Dump your underwater homes
before the market literally floods.
People in Nevada are partying like its 2999.
Let’s take full advantage and stimulate the economy.
Let’s sell ocean-front houses to Nevada and Arizona.
Californians have enjoyed
this luxury far too long.
Idaho has bought rain checks
from the feds
to get property rights.
By nature, the flooding
should’ve surged to Utah,
but Idaho lobbied Congress
to divert the water at taxpayer expense.
The other states get free
potatoes in exchange.
Europe thinks 49 states struck a great deal—
Idaho taxpayers won’t live to see
the coast, but the other states
get their potatoes now.

****

Our crisis is an Inuk
who stops hoping for snow.
Hope is an extended metaphor
in an unfinished book.
An unfinished book
is a quiet volcano covered with snow.
Snow is a boomerang that doesn’t return.
A boomerang that doesn’t return is an avalanche.
An avalanche must follow gravity’s laws.
Gravity says real snow falls from the sky.
Real snow is an artist who draws
perfect circles by hand.
Frozen water that doesn’t fall from the sky
is a flawless circle drawn by a compass.
Real snow isn’t a copy of the Mona Lisa,
even if the copy looks better.
Real snow isn’t like a copy of the Mona Lisa,
even if the copy looks better.
Real snow doesn’t fall
from snow machines.
Real snow is the blank canvas
under the Mona Lisa.
Real snow is like the blank canvas
under the Mona Lisa.
Not every blank canvas is real snow.
Not every blank canvas is like real snow.
Our crisis is an Inuk
who knows all of this.

****

Our crisis is an Inuk
who has forgotten how snow feels.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
Hope was the last snow on earth
melting in the hand of an Inuk
who couldn’t forget the word “hope.”
The last snow on earth
melting in the hand of an Inuk
was a sign of bad luck—like 13 black cats crossing
the path of 13 people who just broke 13 mirrors.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
What is it?
What is it like?
Hope is an unfurnished mansion given
to someone who can’t afford furniture.
Hope feels like anthropologists do in a war zone.
Hope is a physicist who jumps off
a building and prays for gravity to fail.
Hope feels like unrequited love
from a person you’ll never meet.
Hope is a metaphor for things you shouldn’t expect.
Hope is like a simile for things you shouldn’t expect.
Hope is a plate full of freewill seasoned
with foregone conclusions.
Freewill is like a person at a buffet,
who’s free to eat past his limit,
and still has the freedom to make his body feel hungry.
Hope. Hope. Hope.

 

(ACT II: White)

Dear Russia

We found the word “hangover”
in your dictionary
and it was awkward.
How dare you have such a word
in this cold language?
What were you thinking?
Who gave you permission
to feel any pain at all?
Who allowed you to be human?
How dare you stray
from CNN’s stereotypes?
Our neutral stations worked
so hard to air them for you:
Russian aggression, corruption,
no soul, KGB, communist, alcoholic;
this is what you are, Russia,
because our networks said so
and they’re not run by the state.
Your children aren’t children.
Your suffering isn’t suffering.
Your diseases aren’t diseases.
Your disasters aren’t disasters,
because you’re drunk all the time
and you don’t really feel a thing.
Russia, you did what only America
is allowed to do in Guatemala,
Chile, Iran, and the Congo.
Russia, nothing you do
will ever be good enough—
nothing you say
will ever be believed,
because Russian promises
are like history books
written about tomorrow.
Your twenty million Russkies
didn’t die to win the war.
You didn’t take Berlin.
You didn’t even put the Soviet flag
on the Reichstag.
You didn’t liberate Auschwitz.
You didn’t suffer the Leningrad Blockade.
You didn’t send the first
person to space.
How dare you invade Afghanistan first?
Russia, stop meddling in America’s greatness.
Your blood type is American Negative
and we can’t use it.
You’re a threat to our imperialism.
Please, leave the bombing of hospitals to us;
we’ll show you how it’s done in Syria.
Russia, Vietnam was a tie and you know it.
Russia, all your women are whores;
they slept with countless foreigners
at the World Cup—
mostly gullible Americans.
All your women are desperate
for Green Cards and they were taught
to seduce Americans in preschool.
Russia, you’re so dirty no one
wants to live with you—
they don’t even want to visit
for a week or so.
Your birth rate is declining
and we’re happy about that—
less little Russians to grow up
and hack our elections that are bought
and sold by the rich.
Russia, you must know that Al Gore
lost in 2000 because you hacked
the Supreme Court.
Russia, a Harvard study has shown
that more Russkies drown
at the end of Vodka bottles
than all the people who go swimming.
Russia, why are you so barbaric?
Why do you insist on frowning in subways?
Why do you keep bears in the living room?
Why do you treat your women too much like women?
We think you should let your women
carry logs across the forest
and fix tractor engines
so we can discuss this cruelty on the news.
Why are your men so damn masculine?
Why do they insist on providing for the family
and raising their kids in traditional ways?
We want something more exciting
to talk about on MSNBC.
Russia, we want you to be
what we think you are.
Russia, you must start seeing
your own culture through our eyes.
A recent Yale study has shown
that all your citizens are direct
descendants of Ivan the Terrible.
No, Russia, Tolstoy couldn’t have inspired
Gandhi’s nonviolent movement.
Dostoyevsky was simply insane
and Chekhov died in Germany,
so, in our opinion, he wasn’t even Russian.
My fellow Americans,
let’s unite and do our best
to forget the electoral college
until it favors us to remember,
because Russia gave us Trump,
even though he lost the popular vote.
Russia, you made us use
the nuclear bomb.
Russia, we blame you for McCarthyism—
Philip Loeb’s suicide was all your fault.
Dalton Trumbo should’ve never
worked in this town again,
but we’re so glad he didn’t kill himself
because the blacklist really posed no threat.
Oops—sorry, Philip.
Don’t get mad, Russia.
We’re never responsible for anything
because we’re a democracy
and communists can’t do anything right.
Russia, all your grandmothers are spies;
all your children are future spies;
all your IT majors are hackers;
all your athletes are drug-addicts;
all your teachers are party hacks;
and Trump has way more soul than Putin.
Russia, we won the Cold War,
but this isn’t enough for us.
We want to cripple you—
leave you with nothing.
We won’t let you build pipelines to Europe—
your economy must suffer.
How dare you try to invent anything?
How dare you try to fix
the lives of your citizens?
We love seeing your starving children
and victims of alcohol poisoning.
Russia, we enjoyed watching you in the 90’s.
Why can’t you have another Yeltsin?
We miss it when you urinated
on airport runways and got so drunk
that you couldn’t even meet
the Irish delegation.
Why can’t you be more childlike and innocent?
Relations were so easy for us then.
Don’t you remember?
Russia, NASA is doing just fine;
we haven’t gone to the Red Planet first
only because we fear that our astronauts
will defect to the communists
and never come back.
Our experts think you need
a capitalist revolution.
Russia, the CIA can fly Trump to Zurich,
and we can also pay for the train to Petrograd.
Paul Manafort wants to come as well.
Russia, trust us when we say
that we’ve never spied on you
or interfered in your affairs.
Don’t you believe us?
Russia, sorry for promising
not to expand NATO past East Germany—
we’ll never lie to you again.
Watch out, Russia!
We’ll use whatever means are necessary
to bring democracy—
even if people must die.
Russia, unlike you, we’re good
at apologizing for every crime,
and we apologize in advance
for all the crimes we still must commit.
Russia, we never apologized
for shooting down Iran Air Flight 655
because America is too democratic
for Iran’s forgiveness.
Our corruption is better
than your corruption.
How dare you let police officers take bribes
when ours can shoot unarmed black men?
How dare you have state news
when we have Sean Hannity?
Russia, we shot down Flight 655
for the freedom of others.
We gave black people syphilis
because it was good for science.
Project MKUltra was a huge success.
Russia, we fought the Nazis,
but we needed Wernher von Braun
to land on the moon first.
Russia, you must understand this:
We simply wanted to be better than you
but we enjoyed the Cold War far too much.
Russia, we honestly do miss Yeltsin a lot.
Remember the time he got so drunk
at the White House and tried
to hail a cab in his underwear
so he could get a pizza?
Russia, you were so little then
and we loved playing with you,
but we haven’t enjoyed seeing
you grow up at all.
You’re to blame for Edward Snowden.
We could’ve continued spying
on our people and lying about it,
but you had to go and ruin it all—
now we can’t even prosecute him
to feel better about ourselves.
Russia, for the sake of convenience,
we’ll forget that you favored
the colonies during our Revolution
and supported the Union during our Civil War—
not to mention WWII,
which according to our historians
started in 1944 with D-Day,
and ended with the Allies taking Berlin.
Russia, we want you to know that history
is all about interpretation
and we believe Hitler would’ve used
Operation Barbarossa against the US,
but he was too lazy to cross an ocean;
we have plenty of peer-reviewed sources
that confirm this theory, so there.
Russia, you don’t want to go to war
with Harvard and Yale.
Our professors will soon be able
to carry guns—
what can your professors do?
Russia, don’t try it!
You’ll never find the word “aggression”
in our dictionary, even though we
love our military and guns to death.
Russia, Curtis LeMay was a fine American
who could’ve been a war criminal
if Japan hadn’t lost.
Russia, we would’ve loved
to see you and the Nazis kill
more of each other,
but we never wanted Hitler to win.
We now regret Truman’s words,
but only because we won the Cold War.
Russia, we had to kill the noble Patrice Lumumba
because he asked for your help.
We just want people to know
that we’ll support any tyrant,
so long as he’s not a Red.
Mobutu Sese Seko, Luis Posada Carriles,
Manuel Noriega, and Suharto
are just some of our closest buddies.
We backed the Mujahideen
because they hated the communists,
but now we’re fighting them ourselves
because they’ve turned against us—
honestly, what the fuck are we doing?
Russia, we got bored of fighting Saddam,
so we killed him to make space for ISIS,
because our military is just that awesome.
What have you done recently?
Russia, we’re sorry,
but we’d rather have ISIS win
than let you take some credit in Syria.
We don’t need any help
defending the world from the terrorism
we started in the 70’s and 80’s.
Russia, we pull ourselves up
by our own combat boot straps.
Russia, we blame you for Hurricane Katrina
because Bush was too busy
looking into Putin’s soul.
The financial crisis of 2008
was all your fault because we wanted
to show the power of capitalism,
but we overachieved.
Frankly, Russia, your president
should stop taking his shirt off
to seduce our women.
Don’t you know we have puritanical
values that say you can grab
her by the pussy?
Russia, we would appreciate
a McDonald’s inside the Kremlin.
You won’t understand American Exceptionalism,
but if we had to explain it logically,
it’s like a Russian nesting doll
that keeps getting bigger
each time you open it.
No, Russia! Nothing is impossible
if you believe in the American Dream
and work very hard to bury yourself
in $200,000 student debt while working
sixteen hours a day and taking care
of three kids all alone.
Russia, we just had our first black president,
so all black people can now be presidents.
We’re still working on white women,
then Latinos, then Latino women,
then maybe white people who weren’t born here.
Russia, there’s a logic behind all this.
Russia, you poison journalists,
but we prefer to scare and ridicule them
until they simply kill themselves.
Gary Webb, Steven Kangas, Danny Casolaro.
Russia, you’ve been a capitalist
for less than thirty years—
we understand and forgive you,
but, for God’s sake, when you take bribes,
please call them donations—
you’re embarrassing us.
Russia, we feel ambivalent about Bobby Fischer,
but we want you to know
that Ronald Reagan was a good president
because he brought down the Berlin Wall
and reluctantly gave the Contras
cocaine to stop communism,
and he also brought down the Berlin Wall.
Russia, you still haven’t learned
that nothing we do can be wrong
if we simply call it the right thing.
Torture and poverty are fair game
if people are economically disadvantaged
and we’re using enhanced interrogation;
if you add these words to your dictionary,
maybe we can reset relations.
Russia, don’t waste your time;
you’ll never find “Native American Genocide”
in our dictionaries and textbooks—
Natives must stay on reservations,
but you’re more than welcome
to peruse the DNC servers
because we want to sanction you badly.
Russia, you got no brand,
and you got no style.
Even Obama said you don’t make
anything that people want to buy.
We got Special K terrorism—
you just have the generic brand.
Our schools and nightclubs
get shot up each week,
but our free press covers the mess
by respecting the Constitution—
your state news gives
the criminals no fame.
Russia, we tell people they can freely
practice their religion,
then we discriminate against them—
you simply discriminate
without telling people a thing.
Russia, stop trying to be a knock-off America.
You’re a false Adidas.
You’re a fake Gucci handbag.
All your kids want to be American.
Russia, give us your kids;
we want to adopt them
and improve the life of every child
so we can blame you for neglecting minors,
or turning them into hackers.
Russia, we’ll parachute your children
all over America and call it the “American Airlift.”
Russia, we’re not bothered by the fact
that most American literature
actually worth reading
has been about resistance,
protest, and the empowerment
of oppressed individuals.
Russia, we’re more than comfortable
with our Langston Hugheses,
Amiri Barakas, and James Baldwins.
Russia, your dissidents go straight to Gulags;
we simply ignore them for as long as we can.
Dear Russia, unfortunately we’re
running out of time. We must go now.
It hasn’t been a pleasure hearing from you.
Please write as soon as something bad
happens—Mueller’s investigation
is getting real boring and the next election
is still two years away.
We’re looking forward to hearing
about the next poisoned journalist real soon.

Yours truly,

The United States of America

 

(ACT III: Blue)

Money

Capitalism is like a priceless coin given to a pauper who must throw it into a well and wish for two priceless coins instead; we call this the American Dream.

—Oscar Wilde

Bankers like to call it capital, funds, currency, and liquid assets, but they never talk about money because money is dirty, and dirt must be laundered. Money is a person who falls into pools of gasoline and still runs inside burning buildings to save children. Those with a lot of money never touch money, but they often marry for more money; this is called an alliance. Alliances are wealth, riches, and affluence—no traces of cocaine here. Alliances are born when privileged seeds successfully penetrate the nest egg and create fortunes. Money is to happiness as chemo is to cancer. Money is a Buddhist monk without patience. Money is a beggar who knows that money has no inbred value—only alcohol makes you tipsy. When the grocery stores are empty, money is a prostitute with syphilis. When the grocery stores are full, men sleep with money under their pillows. When the state runs out of baby milk, women hide money in their bras. When the market is full of baby milk, men hide money in their underwear. Money calls itself bread and dough, but even money knows that metaphors don’t rise in the oven and similes have no nutritional value. Money is a donation in a democracy and a bribe in an autocracy. Money is a strong defense in constitutional courts and a strong favor in the hands of corrupt judges. Americans say your money is taxed in capitalist countries and stolen in socialist countries; Europeans believe that Americans will sell their soul to the highest bidder. Money is the promise of cold cash to a thief and a pledge in the church. Money is a trust fund to grandchildren and Gs to a drug dealer. Money is bacon to a family and gold to the government. Money is the chameleon who stands out at the party. Money is a magnet for magnates. Money is a fat cat on a cheeseparing diet. Money stabs you in the back because it’s always greener on the other side. In a world full of lies, the phony claims of genuine money can always be taken at face value. Money is a woman who never lies about her age, because money is a woman who never gets old—even when she gets wrinkles. A long in the tooth 100 is better than a fresh 20. A fresh 20 is just as experienced as the cosmopolitan one. Money is the sign language for economists who are deaf to the corruption of capitalism. With the right money, Russian or Mexican brides can be mailed to your door. Money is the glue holding abusive marriages together. Money may not buy happiness, but a gun can buy you plenty of fear. God created people, but Sam Colt made them equal; then capitalism made people unequal, but the AR-15 made them equal again; then Walmart made people unequal once more, but Walmart started selling AR-15s and everything was fine—for now—until Walmart stopped selling AR-15s and we have problems once more. Money is racist towards other money. 18 Mexican pesos only get you 1 US dollar even though Mexicans work harder than Americans—pesos have more color and dollars are still mostly green. Emmett Till was beaten and shot in a town called Money; after the killers were found innocent by a jury of their racist peers, they sold their story to Look so they could brag about the murder. Look, America—look what we did; the transaction is now complete. In the US, you can make money on Jeopardy! Double Jeopardy! and even double jeopardy. In the US, there is such a thing as a free lunch, but only if you’re not hungry—also known as a tax break for the rich. There is Purchase in New York; Sellers in South Carolina; Cashiers in North Carolina; Cash in Arkansas; Coupon in Pennsylvania; Dollar Settlement in Michigan; Country Club in Florida; City of Industry in California; Enterprise in Alabama; Prosperity in West Virginia; Jackpot in Nevada, and Rich in Tennessee. There is, however, no Poverty anywhere in the US, except, for some reason, in Poor, Tennessee.

****

Every morning gives people the chance
to live one more day—
no, every morning gives people the chance
to buy one more thing.
To buy is to live;
to buy things you don’t need
is to live well.
Buying Ferraris when no one’s
looking takes all the fun out of capitalism.
Driving Ferraris when no one’s
looking takes all the fun out of driving Ferraris.
It’s about higher standards of living;
it’s about buying things you don’t need;
it’s about selling stuff no one wants to buy—
the more you buy,
the more money others can spend;
the more money others can spend,
the more useless stuff they’ll buy.
If you can’t join the party,
happiness levels go down
because someone isn’t selling their stuff,
and they must sell to be rich,
or, at least, to be happy.
You must pay for a better quality of life.
Bananas are a good source of potassium,
but organic bananas are better sources of potassium
only because they cost more.
The US needs more millionaires;
millionaires prefer to buy organic bananas
that have the same potassium content as normal bananas.
Millionaires don’t send their kids to public schools—
private schools cost $15,000 a year
and they’re almost better than
the free public schools in Finland.
The basis of our happiness is unhappiness—
the root of the word “unhappiness” comes
from the Americanese word “competition,”
which means “happiness” in English,
because we must always be richer
than our neighbor on the right,
but if we’re richer than our neighbor on the right,
our neighbor on the left might be richer than us
because his house is a meter taller
and we can’t have that—
to be happy, we must sell our house
and buy a larger one,
even though we can’t afford
this bigger happiness.
A wise man once said: “You reap what you sow.”
A wise American once said: “Take out a loan,
because what you can’t have today,
you’ll pay for tomorrow.”
Watch out, world.
America is a Christian nation.
We pardon the turkey and Turkey
because we must celebrate Thanksgiving
and drop bombs on Syria from strategic air bases.
The day after Thanksgiving, we celebrate
Corporate Thanksgiving, which comes
from the Americanese word “Black Friday.”
We give alms to the poor so they can
afford 120 inch HD TVs.
The word “alms” comes from the Americanese word
“discounts” or “promotions.” The poor
must arrive very early after endless
eating, football, and maybe prayer,
to beat the literal and metaphorical shit
out of each other and take
what’s rightfully theirs.
“Beating the literal and metaphorical shit out of others”
comes from the Americanese word “capitalism,”
which means “growth and prosperity” in English.
If logic could be mass-produced and sold,
it would be designed by Apple in California
and assembled in China.
America is the biggest exporter
of American logic to foreign countries.
American logic is cut-throat capitalism
coupled with affirmative action.
American logic is telling Native Americans
to go back to their country.
American logic is “all men are created equal”
when slavery was still legal.
American logic is a democracy
in which the majority can still lose.
“Hypocrisy” comes from the Americanese word “logic,”
and “logic” comes from the Americanese word “exceptionalism,”
which means “better than your sorry ass” in English.
Yeehaw, partner!
In America, there’s no inequality—
our economy remains strong,
and we still have far-right scholars
on our payroll who’ll gladly define
“inequality” on our terms.
“Inequality” comes from the Americanese word
“opportunity,” meaning a white person
and a black person can work hard,
but the white person is still better.
America, it’s all Americanese to me;
we used to have “separate but equal,”
but unequal opportunity is now given to everyone,
and if everyone gets equal unequal opportunity,
then all people invariably become equal.
According to Americanese philosopher, Confusion:
“I think I have more money than my neighbor—
therefore, I’m probably rich.”
America, is there anything you’re not willing to sell?
Your stores are full of stuff I don’t want,
and void of anything I’m looking for.
Why must everything be sold with fear?
I don’t want to buy toothpaste
because my mouth stinks—
I want to buy toothpaste
because the toothpaste itself smells good.
Why can’t you let me decide
whether I’ll kiss the girl, or not?
If I showed you pictures of naked European socialism
and sold you weight loss pills for capitalist fat,
would you like my marketing strategy?
I know, America. I know.
No one likes to see how much they weigh
on the scales of injustice,
but it’s time you had a look.
Does your invasion of the Middle East
smell like shit to European neighbors?
No problem—install long-lasting Febreze
air fresheners on all your tanks
and those righteous Europeans won’t smell a thing.
Do you have trouble picking up French women these days?
We’ve got you covered, America.
For a limited time, buy the complete works
of Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre
and we’ll throw in a French dictionary.
Cure yourself of American stupidity—
date not one, but two French women at the same time,
and maybe learn a second language along the way.
No, America; if you haven’t been
with more than one French woman at the same time,
you haven’t done the “ménage à trois.”
France forgives your stupidity and your puritanical roots.
We’re sorry, America, “ménage à trois”
doesn’t come from the Americanese phrase,
“two’s company, three’s a crowd,”
and, honestly, we think this phrase is stupid.
America, we gave New York the Statue of Liberty
to symbolize your independence,
and New York gave the Statue of Liberty
to Las Vegas, which symbolizes America’s free
and depraved economy.
If everyone in Vegas went home a winner,
the city would be one dreary place.
Vegas: What money you win here, stays here.
Las Vegas comes from the Americanese phrase
“to drown one’s sorrow in a desert where the closest
body of water is Lake Mead, about 30 miles away,
but you’re more than welcome to use one of our pools—
The Management.”
America, if you or someone you know
is struggling with a capitalism addiction,
please call the 24/7 Bernie Sanders Hotline—
don’t wait until your economy can’t even afford a phone call.
We speak democratic socialism, progressivism,
communism, and even welfare capitalism.
It’s like Mao said: “This is a people’s campaign.”
Mao. Mao. Mao.
The great Americanese philosopher, Confusion, once said:
“The Mao money we come across,
the Mao problems we see.”
Money is a deck of cards full of jokers
who never laugh in their portraits.

****

American Money:

The dollar’s deadliest sin
is renouncing the 7 deadliest sins.

“Pride” comes from the Americanese word “humility,”
which means in English: Make a ton of money
by screwing people over, but be very grateful
for the opportunity to do so.

“Greed” comes from the Americanese word “charity,”
which means in English: Make insane amounts of money
as honestly as you can and donate about 1 percent
of all you have to save on taxes.

“Lust” comes from the Americanese word “chastity,”
which means in English: If you’re going to marry for money,
try to make it a sexless marriage so no feelings are hurt.

“Envy” comes from the Americanese word “kindness,”
which means in English: The US is the most competitive
country in the world and also the friendliest country in the world.

“Gluttony” comes from the Americanese word “temperance,”
which means in English: Put as much food as you can on the table,
then buy gym memberships for your family
so they can work off the extra fat.

“Wrath” comes from the Americanese word “patience,”
which means in English: Tell your kids they’re free to follow
their dreams, then get very mad if they don’t follow your dreams.

“Sloth” comes from the Americanese word “diligence,”
which means in English: You better buy that gym membership soon
because your scale can’t handle four digits.

****

Soviet Money and its children:

Communists are dirt poor,
and, therefore, have no sins to renounce.

“Pride” comes from the Communese word “self-reliance,”
which means in Stalinese: We don’t have any money;
we don’t want any money, and we don’t need
any help from our rich neighbors;
all foreign help is an anti-communist plot.

“Greed” comes from the Communese word “corruption,”
which means in Stalinese: We don’t need an equality
where everyone is paid the same; we need an equality
where everyone is paid nothing.

“Lust” comes from the Communese word “commitment,”
which means in Stalinese: Lenin was so committed
to the revolution that he never had sex with his wife.

“Envy” comes from the Communese word “suffering,”
which means in Stalinese: We must take all possessions from people
and they’ll stop being jealous of each other.

“Gluttony” comes from the Communese word “appetite,”
which means in Stalinese: Those who starve today
will surely want to work for their bread tomorrow.

“Wrath” comes from the Communese word “wrath,”
which means in Stalinese: Anyone who tries to derail the revolution
will be shot on the spot.

“Sloth” comes from the Communese word “traitor,”
which means in Stalinese: Workers who demand to be paid for their work.

****

Communists and Capitalists make peace:

Money is the bible of capitalism
and the false religion of communism.

Money can’t turn water into wine,
but it can turn blood into blue blood.

Money is to red, white, and blue
as red, white, and blue is to green.

Money is to Reds, as Reds are to Whites.

****

Money is a flashy watch that says there are 80 seconds in a minute. Money is a woman that lies about your age. Money ages like cheap clocks traveling at the speed of light. If you push them off a building together, George Washington will hit the ground exactly when Benjamin Franklin does, even though Washington is much wealthier. Money is the simplest arithmetic problem and poverty is the most difficult equation to solve. Money was the world’s lingua franca even before the Swiss got their francs. Money is a fully automatic weapon without a safety switch. The right to bear money didn’t come from the Americanese doctrine of capitalism because even communists must buy things, but the right to throw people into a cage full of money and have them kill each other for it is a uniquely red, white, and blue tradition because only Reds kill their citizens over freedom of speech and other dissident activities. “The right to throw people into a cage full of money and have them kill each other for it” is an Americanese expression that comes from the phrase “profit motive,” which means in English “only do what’s best for you even if it means fucking everyone else over.” Since communists were always short of money, people were thrown into an empty cage and told not to kill each other until they built a worker’s paradise in which workers wouldn’t be paid. “Worker’s paradise” comes from the Communese word “Gulag,” which means “full-time employment” in Russian. A wise man once said: “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” A good communist once said: “The best things in life are free; therefore, capitalism is pointless.” The word “happiness” comes from the Communese word “work,” which means in Russian “the freedom to work 16 hours a day because you got no other choice,” which is actually a poor translation of the Aryanese philosophy “Arbeit macht frei,” which means “you’re fucked” in German. Some people are born into money; some people are born into poverty but they were really born to make money; some people are born into money, but they were actually born to squander it all; some people are born into poverty and they were born to stay there; some people are born to make a little honest money and take one vacation a year, but they aren’t born to start a family, or even marry; some people are born to make lots of dirty money, to get divorced 7 times, to have a family with each spouse, and to have 7 honeymoons in the Caribbean; some people are born to make a little honest money, to marry, and to have kids, but they aren’t born to see the world because they were born behind the Iron Curtain; some people were born to escape the Iron Curtain and make lots of honest money, but they were also born to miss their families and give birth to children who never saw their grandparents alive; some people were born rich behind the Iron Curtain because they were children of government officials, but they were born to value freedom more than money—so they spent all their money buying their way to freedom; some people are born to immigrant parents who come to America with nothing and give their kids only two choices: doctor or lawyer; some people are born to become good doctors and lawyers and some people are born to obey only orders and parents; some people are born into poverty, and, therefore, see the corruption of America; some people are born into poverty, and, therefore, see the corruption of communism; some people are born into American money, and, therefore, try to make society more equal; some people were born into Soviet money, and, therefore, tried to make society more equal; some people are born to steal because they’re born to be good at it; some people steal because they’re born to be hungry; some people also steal because they’re hungry for power; some people steal because they’re born without regret; some people steal because they’re born without choices. Money, you’re a witch’s concoction of suffering. You can buy hot cups of coffee in the winter, and cold lemonade in the summer—but only if you can afford it. Behind the Iron Curtain, money could neither buy a hot cup of coffee in the winter, nor a cold lemonade in the summer—even cold lemonade was scarce in the winter, and hot coffee was enjoyed in the summer. Money, would you like me to drink hot lemonade and cold coffee? Since you’ve already made cold coffee sexy, why can’t you work your marketing mojo on the hot lemonade? Money, you’re hot lemonade on a hot summer day. Money, I don’t want to be married 7 times, even if I can have 7 kids and see the Caribbean 7 times. Money, I want a divorce, but I also want half of everything you have.

 

About David Garyan

David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He received a master’s degree in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage from the University of Bologna. He lives in Trento.

 

7 Poems from (DISS)INFORMATION, by David Garyan, published in Interlitq


(DISS)INFORMATION

The poems «Dear Psychiatrist,» «Smoke and Mirrors,» and «If You Could Be Anyone in the World, Who Would You Be?» first appeared in Volume 5 of The American Journal of Poetry (July 1st, 2018). They subsequently appeared—along with these other poems—in (DISSINFORMATION), published by Main Street Rag.

Please click here read the story behind the initiative to republish all my work lost with the disappearance of The American Journal of Poetry.


 

Dear Psychiatrist

My life is a supermarket full of choices,
but what I want is not in stock.
When I share secrets,
it’s only the most boring ones—
especially during our session.
Writing this on a blank page turns me on:
“This page is intentionally left blank.”
I resist peer pressure
with my inability to make friends.
All my ideas are pure 100% orange juice from concentrate.
My stream of consciousness
loves slippery slopes,
and this attitude will only get worse.
Cocaine is what I consider rush hour traffic.
I buy shoes that are three sizes too large—
just to leave a bigger carbon footprint.
When I go to a Gentlemen’s Club,
I never meet anyone who doesn’t embody its name.
My dream is to build a thousand landfills
full of nothing but reusable water bottles.
I envision a perfect world, in which Equal Opportunity
won’t discriminate against Opportunists.
My specialty is interest free loans,
where I never forget the favor
and always expect something in return.
My brain is the septic tank
of a mental institution.

 

 

Smoke and Mirrors

I like the good old days better, because I wasn’t there to experience them.
—Ozka Wild

Ah, everything was so much nicer back then.
You could smoke in a restaurant.
You could smoke on a plane.
Even children loved second-hand smoke.
Everyone and everything smoked.
Your friendly neighborhood doctor smoked.
Your friendly neighborhood doctor wrote opium
prescriptions to kids who wouldn’t fall asleep.
Firemen smoked while driving Ford Pintos
that were rear-ended by other Ford Pintos
because real men should never be afraid
of explosions and fire, especially firemen.
Fidel Castro smoked. So did Joseph Stalin.
Hitler smoked everything that wasn’t German.
Truman only smoked Japan.
Buddhist monks smoked
themselves to protest the war in Vietnam,
while Nixon blew a lot of smoke
and never made the peace,
but maybe it’s finally time to rejoice:
Smoking rates are at an all-time low.

 

 

If You Could Be Anyone in the World, Who Would You Be?

Not Charles Bukowski—his liver;
this is my wish, really.
I thought about other options,
actually for some time now,
and nothing sounds quite as appealing.
Albert Einstein—or his brain—would be nice,
but that involves a lot of thinking
and I don’t have the energy for it.
A friend, some time ago, proposed
the fists of Muhammad Ali;
it was a good suggestion, I admit,
but that entails dealing with constant soreness,
not to mention, hitting
people all the time. No.
When I declined the face of Marilyn Monroe,
my girlfriend got angry, becoming insecure
about her own features.
Maybe it’s because I’m a private person;
people’s constant attention would bother me,
and, also, living longer than 36 is a must.
Old Hank’s liver will just have to do—and it’s not
a compromise, really. Think about this: I’d be happy
all the time, and I wouldn’t think; I’d never knock
someone out (maybe only to sleep). Plus, I’d
be responsible for making the rest of Buk’s body
happy, so he can write about what it is he writes about.
Nobody likes a sober Charles Bukowski,
and the next worst thing is a Charles Bukowski
who can’t process his liquor.
See, I’d be very important;
like Marilyn, I could live in Hollywood,
yet last so much longer: 73 years, to be exact—
that’s more than twice as much.

 

 

Freeway: Clearly a spondee

The stress
falls on both syllables:
free
and way,
because the 101
is never
free
during rush hour,
and that’s the fastest
way
to my job in Encino.

It’s like being thrown off a boat,
and given two choices:
sink or swim.
But only one choice
is a real choice,
because I can’t actually swim.
So, I pretend to have freewill
and make the decision to sink.

Yes. In a                free country,
I can do things my way.
I can quit my job and be happy,
but if I quit my job,
then I don’t eat, and if I don’t eat
then I can’t stay alive to make more choices
that I’m not free to make.
So, Kant? How do I freely quit my job,
and, at the same time, choose
not to starve?

 

 

Behind the Background

No one knows my name
in a city whose name
everyone knows.
To escape,
I only go to the bars
where people drink
to get drunk—
where bartenders
are always busy enough
not to remember
their regulars.

In a city whose name
everyone knows,
my face is swimming pool
no one has jumped in for years.

In a city whose name
everyone knows,
my eyes are traffic lights
that never turn green.

In a city whose name
everyone knows,
my arms are roadblocks
to dead-end streets.

Why doesn’t anyone know
who I am in a city whose name
everyone knows?

Someone is always awake
in a city whose name
everyone knows.

Something is always open
in a city whose name
everyone knows.

Something new always happens
in a city whose name
everyone knows.

You can always tell old friends
“I’m busy” in a city whose name
everyone knows.
I want someone to remember
me in a city whose name
everyone knows,
but I forget to remember
that I’ve also forgotten
many friends
in a city whose name
everyone knows.

 

 

The Post-Modern Man

In Spanish, for instance, a cheetah is always un guepardo (masculine) and a zebra is always una cebra (feminine), regardless of their biological sex.
—Wikipedia

The post-modern man is a masculine
pronoun in the passive voice—
no longer the grammatical
head of English,
but more prominent than the Queen.
Donny never makes chief decisions;
women in power give him directions,
then decisions are made in his name.
Donny doesn’t fix the car these days;
he leaves it with Sharon, the mechanic,
then tells Suzan, his wife:
“Problems have been solved.”
Donny is a real man; he wants results
by any means necessary.
He doesn’t care who pronounces his verdicts
or who fixes his cars,
so long as judgments are pro-Donny
and he isn’t seen in a mini-van.
Donny likes the 21st century;
he can freely take out the trash
and change Junior’s diapers
because he’s no longer the subject
performing these actions—
Donny is simply a man
being shaped by his wife,
and modernity says it’s okay
for the diapers and trash
to be handled by Donny,
especially when he fears
being labeled a sexist.
Donny is on a moral crusade
against oppressive linguistics;
he wants to close the gender gap
in every tyrannical language,
particularly Russian,
but also Spanish.
How can moloko have a masculine ending
when it’s women who breastfeed?
Isn’t it time we let the cebra decide
what her real gender is?
After all, she can already choose
whether she’s black or white.
Donny’s had enough—
no more Russian misogyny
and Spanish machismo;
the fight for equality won’t stop
until the first sex change operation
is performed on the mother tongue
of Russians and Spaniards.
Donny is outraged—and rightly so:
He makes more money than Suzan,
but he accepts this because Donny doesn’t really make
more money than Suzan; more money is simply received
by Donny and he can do nothing about it.
Give him a break, for God’s sake—
Donny’s no expert in Foucault, or discourse analysis in general.
How much power does one man really have?
Donny thinks he can change things by voting;
he’s an informed voter—
he only cares about the issues.
Donny never votes for Republicans,
unless they happen to be women.
The act of being active in politics
is wholly embraced by Donny,
but he’s totally powerless;
he can’t keep his own promises,
but he’s voting for people who promise
to keep his promises for him.
Donny’s has no agency over the law;
the law acts upon him—makes him who he is.
Donny does all he can to follow the crowd,
but he’s one crowd away from changing his mind.
Words like “humanity” and “manmade”
are thoroughly avoided by Donny;
he believes the weaker sex must be rescued
with excellent lexis,
but only on three conditions:
first, chivalry stays;
second, beach volley ball remains
the sole women’s sport men enjoy watching;
third, men are still expected to pay for the date—
so they can still expect something in return.
Donny’s attitude is a driver in a Hummer
who prefers to go where he’s told,
but Donny would never be a chauffeur,
unless the taxi was being steered by him.
Donny’s mind is a sports car
with an old navigation system;
he never gets lost in familiar places—
the computer always leads him astray.

 

 

Where Have All the Vikings Gone?

Agnes says she wants a real man,
someone who’s tall, assertive,
with broad shoulders, and knows
what he wants in life—
a man who can hold his liquor
and watch sad films without crying.

Her friend, Astrid, asks what’s wrong
with her husband, Lorenzo.
Agnes says he never wants to wash the dishes,
or watch Cinderella with his daughter;
he never wants to change the diapers,
or hire a babysitter so she can have a career, too.

Astrid laughs and says that Agnes
is looking for Marco Polo’s ship
in landlocked countries.

Helga says she wants to be swept
off her feet like in the movies,
but she’s tired of soft men
who can’t even pick up a broom—
much less carry her home from the car.

Helga waves her arms in frustration;
she’s tired of weak, indecisive men
always asking her “Where should we go on a date?
or “What movie should we see?”
She wants her man to be a man.
She wants him to have a plan.
She’s desperate for passion.

Helga’s friends, Bjorgh and Tilde,
ask how Helga’s date went with Konstantinos.
She says it went horribly.
Konstantinos wouldn’t split the check
and insisted on watching The Pirates of the Caribbean.

Helga wanted to pay for the movie;
Konstantinos refused: “It’s not right—in my culture, men always pay.”
Bjorgh and Tilde laugh.
Helga says she believes in equal rights:
“He thinks I can’t pay for myself? How rude.”

Tilde smiles and says that Scandinavian men are the best—
they’re gentle, sensitive, and always do what you tell them.
“Exactly,” Helga says. “They’re not romantic at all.”

 

About David Garyan

David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He received a master’s degree in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage from the University of Bologna. He lives in Trento.