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In 2006 then Senator John Kerry made a comment that was insulting to our military. While addressing students at Pasadena City College, he stated, “You study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.” (Hillary Clinton Joins Criticism) I was so upset by the underlying, negative assumptions Kerry’s statement made about those who serve in the military, that I quickly came home and removed my “Kerry 2004” bumper sticker from my car. Those who know me, know that this is no small gesture for a woman who still has her “OBAMA 2008” sticker proudly displayed on her station wagon.

Lately, however, it seems politicians have learned nothing from Kerry’s “botched joke.” Just last week, while trying to justify the cruel budget cuts suggested by the White House, politicians were throwing insulting assumptions all over the place. The budget director explained, “When you start looking at places that we reduce spending, one of the questions we asked was can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs? The answer was no. We can ask them to pay for defense, and we will, but we can’t ask them to continue to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.” (Single Mothers Shouldn’t Have to Pay) The National Endowment for the Arts was also included in that assumption.

I am here to take offense at that assumption. I was a single mother for the first five years of my son’s life. During that time, although cash was quite limited for us, we visited art museums, I enrolled my son in arts programs. Both of my children are artists. They’ve taken music lessons and sculpting. My son took VLACS Economics, so that he could take Advanced Art and still graduate high school on time. Both my son and daughter intend to go to film school. I am a poet and a writer. I’m writing this now and I wrote a poem this morning.

Art is an integral part of our lives and just because we were poor for a while didn’t mean that we forgot about the importance of art to the human experience.

Today, the National Endowment for the Arts is more important than ever. Six giant corporations are the gate keepers for publishing most of our music, films and literature. They also control what and who gets promoted. The current climate in the United States is not one where someone who is an artist can easily make a livable wage doing such. The NEA offers grants and programs that allow artists to flourish. They offer schools  the opportunity to pay artists to bring their experience into schools. They help to fund educational programs like Poetry Out Loud.

I don’t know of any mother, single or otherwise, who wants her children to grow up in a culture that doesn’t value art and artists. I am offended that any politician would suggest such a thing. I vote for my tax dollars to go to artists and to PBS and to Meals on Wheels, before a single dime of it builds a bomb. No matter what those who currently hold power may tell me to be scared of, I am much more afraid of living in a world that doesn’t value art and artists than I am of the terrorists they constantly tell me to fear.

And, while we’re on the topic of insulting and down right ignorant assumptions, what parent, single mom or coal-miner,  hasn’t relied on Big Bird? As my students often say, “When you assume, it makes an ass out of you and me.” Maybe we should have an artist design a bumper sticker with that phrase on it.

 

 

Hull of old memories,

Bebop and slow dances,

Soda-shoppe sundaes

After school, you-

DJ’d them all

With a quarter request

And the push of some buttons.

Records dropped

45 rpm and the long arm

Lowered itself onto each

Groove like a gentle

Lover. Scratching

Melancholy moods

And soft air.

Where your records are now

Melted ashtrays, ornaments

Hanging on diner walls, and

Skeet targets,

Digital music – so pure

And perfect, convenient –

Will never be

As romantic as

Standing arm

And arm above

The Wurlitzer choosing

Our favorite song.

~June 7, 2016 – Poem almost every day

Not a word written. 50,000

behind. I missed the roar

of 3 million fingers

racing on the keyboard –

 

my competitors; my companions.

No thick manuscript –

200 pieces of fresh copier

paper – speeding through

 

that printer finish line.

Regret. But there are others.

Novels complete

or hanging mid-sentence.

 

People I’ve birthed,

waiting for climax, dénouement,

a conclusion. Ever stuck

in rising action. Do not

 

regret that no new plot

twists developed on the screen

and page. (There were

 

plenty here on the ground.)

Make sure former characters are

well-rounded, not flat.

Get back to writing that.

The original Geekz. Graphic poem by Bill Pelon. Check out his work at http://www.graphicpoetry.net/index.html

The TwinGeekz Artz Project (TGAP) was initiated in 2005 by visual artist, Michael Sean Piper, and musician, Jim Tyrrell, as a means to jumpstart our creative selves. The idea for the project was born out of a number of influences including a trip to the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL (and a look at Dali’s Master Works) and Chris Baty’s National Novel Writing Month.

The premise of TGAP was simple. Artists working a in variety of media would commit to completing one work of art per week for one year. The first time through we had seven artists working with visual art, music, poetry, graphic poetry, short prose, and Haiku. All seven of us completed the project.

Our third time through, TGAP 3 had grown to include 17 artists and several guest artists as well. You can view that work here: http://twingeekz.wordpress.com 

Talk is bubbling up about starting TGAP 4, possibly in January of 2015, so I thought I’d revisit some of my work from past years in the meanwhile. Today, I’m going to share my first four TGAP submissions. Each of these poems are as they appeared during the project – for better or for worse.

Week One:

Editing

In that booth

My voice dropped out –

The diner vinyl

Fleck silver-red

And the formica table

Clothed in drafts set

Its steel legs between

Us (And you

thought you’d

divide mine with

words) – Because

For that year, Mentor,

I’d written on the spur

You’d created;

The  crafty critiquing,

The ulterior intent.

Week Two:

Allusion: Episode III

My son, 13,

Swaying somewhere

Between man

And boy, (as

Others snort

Heroin at school;

Become inadvertent

Parents; get

Blown to fragment

In Iraq) rolls

A toy spaceship

Across the floor,

Between notes

From girls, rolled

Up socks, stuffed

Pandas. As I

Spy, he reaches

For Anakin;

For Padmé.

Week Three:

Incantation: Allusion Episode V

Han Solo in the Carbonite;

Han Solo in the Carbonite;

Han

So

Lo

In

The

Car

bon

Ite.

Somewhere, Beowulf endures,

(as I’ve loved you

trapped there

since 5th grade)

Yet you’re still

Stuck, Myth Maker.

As the Evil Empire breaks

Democracy; changes

Rules to suit their game;

And flexes its oily self

To push you back under –

Grendel’s arm hangs, but,

Han Solo, Woodward

And Bernstein have become

Unferth; in the blurb

of a media eye,

Truth is dead.

Week Four:

Snap. Crackle. Pop. Run for Cover

The young man –

Sticky from pancakes –

With crisp black hair

And drab olive-green fatigues

Boards the bus,

And will never return.

The dog-tags that

Tinkle and he climbs

The two-steps up,

Will return around

The neck of something

War created. The practical

Joker (who hanged dummies

from trees last Halloween; had

his hands on the fuzzy, violet

cardigan in the Olds) was left

Behind, dead in some jungle,

Clutching his Purple Heart.

And the shell-filled

Man here with terror

His companion and eyes

That stay mostly open

As he sleeps, can’t see

The girl in her

Yellow satin nightie.

Across from him,

Eating Rice Krispies;

Smelling him

Polish his boots.

Goodreads

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