Category Archives: 40 in 40

Poetry as Prophecy, or: The Poem I Did Not Want to publish


Part Two of my post about my all-time musical top ten will be delayed a week or two for technical reasons. In the mean-time, there’s something that’s been on my mind.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of the Trump phenomenon. Political pundits are giving post-hoc analyses of why they so severely underestimated his chances. Harry Enten of has a good take here, backed up by similar musings from David Byler at RealClear Politics here. Both contain good points that tell a lot of the story. But I think we all should have seen this coming for two completely different reasons.

1. Reality TV. I’ve posted a few times in Social Media how his candidacy is the culmination of what nearly a generation of Reality TV has prepared America for. We are the Kardashian Nation, and we are finally getting the election we’ve had coming. It turns out that I’m not the only person thinking along these lines, see similar musings from Van Jones here.

2. The Online Comments Section. Several people have noted that Trump is like the Online Comments Section come to life and running for President. Anybody who has read a story of any social or political import online in the past few years and then ventured into the comments section afterwards knows what I mean. There have been a lot of people with dark views, maximum bile, and minimum decency out there for a long time, all they needed was the right signal to draw them out. Which brings me to…

In Spring 2014, I did an exercise that I’ve done several times, using a format inspired by Brad Henderson and Andy Jones of the Writing Program at UC Davis, to write 40 poems in 40 days in response to a series of prompts. I forget the exact prompt the particular poem I’m about to share came from, but it had something to do with taking news items from one medium and then re-positioning the lines to make a poem. In my case, I was curious to see what would happen if I took highlights from the online comments sections of a few articles and re-worked them.

I choose a couple of mainstream articles covering the usual suspect topics- something about feminism, something about race, something about the gay community, etc. I highlighted lines from the comments section following the articles that were particularly evocative, and then ran them through a few rounds of an online version of the “cut-up” technique championed by William S. Burroughs. I then took what came out of that and arranged it into lines of roughly similar length, and did a minimum of rewording and punctuation to make proper sentences out of it.

The thing about cut-ups, and why I wanted to try it in the first place, is that they have an uncanny ability to reveal subtexts beneath a text. The results, though vile, were strangely coherent and compelling. I immediately felt that I couldn’t see myself submitting it anywhere, or bringing it to a workshop. Art can be prophecy, can use personas that aren’t the artist’s own to alert us to what’s out there. But I blinked and lost my nerve, because the results can be so easily misunderstood. I now kind of wish I hadn’t, because this is what was rattling around out there. We all should have seen Trump coming.

 Poem follows below, all appropriate trigger warnings are in effect.



The Online Comments Section (Reading Between the Lines)

Just stay lose gay I’ve included

church-owned bibles for you,

or a million handy WHITE

Congregationalists will fight your

Homosexual agenda (and the blacks too)

with the right kind of pistol.

Motherhood bible-believing people

will snuff your stinking well-educated life

and will save Christians from the pressure

of Jewish sexuality (those eternal animals),

breaking your Harvard governmental

very wrong crap no matter what price.

Careful Homie Bankers, our core covenants

are stronger in history than the Hell

of your well-crafted need-based Conspiracy

and the decades-old distributed colony

of your sexual bankers, their stinking appetites

attacking students, homes and fatherhood.

You think you can actually attack Christians

with your so-called propaganda, drugs,

and worthless Jewish campaign money.

Our race-based purity principles

will defeat your efforts.


40 in 40

A little over a week ago, I turned 40. I never particularly figured myself for being the type to get hung up on age issues, but I definitely had a reaction to the advent of this milestone. In fact, turning 39 set off a year-long slow simmering mini-crisis just because 40 was approaching. All the usual things came up: Is my youth gone? Did I waste it all? Is it all decline from here on out? Should I be further along than I am in terms of career? Finances? Achievments? Will women stop looking at me now? Wait a minute, did women ever look at me? Should I get a walker and start looking in to rest homes now?

And the verdict so far…?

Eh, it’s not so bad. The other day, when I overhead a young girl telling her friend that she had $14 dollars in the bank and $16 dollars in her pocket, I felt positively giddy about being in my age demographic instead of hers’. I even had the chance to do some journaling last week and realize that what I have in my life now is everything I wished for during despairing years in my early 30s. It doesn’t all look like I thought it would then, but it’s pretty damn good.

Even the year-long marination in low grade existential crisis had its benefit: I came up with a list of 40 things I wanted to do while I was 40. Kind of a proof to myself that life, far from being over, is full of as much richness as you want it to be.

Full disclosure: I got the inspiration from fellow Mortified performer and all-around superstar Sara Faith Alterman, who did a blog about her own Dirty 30 list to mark her transition to the decade that starts with 3. I figured it would work just as well for 4. So here, without further ado and in absolutely no particular order, is my own Forty in 40:

1. Take rock climbing lessons.
2. Try hang gliding.
3. Go to Burning Man.
4. Visit Nashville & Memphis.
5. Learn to ride a bike.
6. Do a mini-Triathlon
7. Do a 10-K.
8. Finish my 9th Step.
9. Swim in the ocean.
10. Start regular yoga.
11. Go to the Fringe Festival in Scotland.
12. Take a cruise to the Farallons.
13. Go sea kayaking.
14. Kayak on Elkhorn Slough.
15. Do a silent meditation retreat.
16. Ride in a helicopter.
17. Visit a haunted place.
18. Go to the Eureka Springs Arkansas UFO conference.
19. Take a DJing class.
20. Publish a zine.
21. Get some boots. Big ‘ole shitkickers.
22. Do something to explore Native American Spirituality.
23. Finish a draft of my new novel.
24. Finish a poetry collection and submit it for publication.
25. Finish my full-length screenplay.
26. Ride in a hot air balloon.
27. Write a song.
28. Take part in a dream group.
29. Get hypnosis.
30. Go to the hot tubs at Esalen.
31. Try Rolfing.
32. Go to a service at an Orthodox Church.
33. Go to a Santo Daime service.
34. Go to a Spiritualist service.
35. Come up with a career transition plan.
36. Let it all hang out at a nude beach.
37. Visit Alcatraz.
38. Visit the Marin Headlands.
39. Have a show in the San Francisco Fringe Festival.
40. Experience a psychic phenomenon.

I’m also giving myself permission to be imperfect. In fact, I think I’ll be doing very, very well if I can get to half of these. However it plays out, I’ll keep you updated along the way!