contents under pressure

a book of poetry and prose by Janet Kuypers

Contents Under Pressure cover spread     This book was originally released in 1997. This original printing sold out (however, if you are desperate for the original volume, you could contact Janet Kuypers about purchasing one of her personal copies). But Scars Publications released this volume in a second printing - which now has a larger page size (6" x 9", versus the original 5.5" x 8.5"), and now has a full bleed color cover (the fabric background works really well for the background of this second printing cover).

    The original contents of this poetry book are on this page, but they are only listed in alphabetical order (not the order in which they appear in the book). Order the paperback volume (for only $14.95).

best friend

“I had a best friend once,”
I said matter-of-factly,
as I stared into the palm of my hand.
You laughed my remarks off a sarcasm.
So I waited for a silence
so that I would have the thrill
of breaking it.
“I had a best friend once--
and he raped me.”
There. You wanted to hear it.
How can you break the silence
now? I’ve taken away your weapons.
Have I taken away your compassion, too?
Tell me what good this knowledge
does you now.
Reminding me doesn’t help,
and there’s nothing you can do
to make the pain go away.
As you sit there in silence,
I wonder if there must be someone
who can say what needs to be said to me.
A best friend, maybe.
But if only a best friend
can help me now
then I would prefer
not to be helped.
I don’t ever want to find
a best friend again.

find myself

I had my own ring
but on days I’d forget to wear it.
You had your own vows
but your memory seemed to fail you.
You were foreign to me:
a frightening foreign,
an exciting foreign.
Do I know your name?
Do I care?
Let me just take off my ring,
I thought,
and put it behind
the frame on the dresser
where I cannot see it
I was only resigned to the thought:
if I forgot myself with you,
if I was lost with you,
I would only remember again
and soon find myself.

finest feeling

Drench me
in the finest furs
surround me
in the rarest silks of the Orient.
Rest me in the clouds.
I don’t care.
I still contend
that the finest feeling
is laying
with my head
on your shoulder


The stench of gasoline
makes me ill
as the song
pounces through my brain
“I want you to want me
the way that I want you:
and I’m tired of fighting
I don’t think I can fight anymore
but I have to
I can’t let you do this
these are my rights
and you can’t hurt me like this
“Then maybe I’ll just force you”
you say
I push you away
I try to stop you
and all I keep hearing
is that damn song
I can’t escape it
“I know that you need me
just tell me you want me
I want you”
I’m too angry to cry
and too frightened to scream
I shove
I move
but nothing stops you
“You are my sensation
a perfect temptation”
I wish that song would stop
I wish everything would stop
your touch scares me
and your stare haunts me
so I scratch
and scream
until the novelty is lost for you
I will not tell you I want you
for I can’t let you do this
these are my rights
and you just can’t do this to me

How could I not love you

In hysterics, we danced as we
crashed the Chinese New Year’s Ball.
You taught me how to waltz.
Blushing, I listened
to your best friend ask me
if you were opening up sexually.
I told him there was no problem.
I remember when we filled
the prophecy of your horoscope
by sharing champagne at the
fireplace at the end of the week.
We even toasted marshmallows.
Nervous, I stood in the amphitheater
and serenaded you.
I’m sure I sang off key, but
you said you loved my voice.
You gave me a long-stemmed rose
when you made me dinner,
when we went downtown,
when you came back from church.
I kept those roses.
Teeth chattering, we sat on a tire
and kissed at the playground at
It was bitter cold, but I didn’t care.
The thought of you
puts a sparkle in my eye
and I can’t help but smile
whenever I see you.
How could I not love you?

i knew i had to

I knew I had to.
And so I walked into their bedroom
and killed them.
A gun to the head:
my stepfather first,
then my mother,
awakening to her death.

As I opened the door
my room smelled like burning
as the black wax
coated my carpet.
I sat on the floor,
pulled out the book
and began to read.
“You must do it, my son,”
the voice said to me.
I know.

i see the scene

Every once in a while
I see the same scene again:
I lay in the bed
the field of daffodils
with you draped over me
folding over me
conforming to my body
like a rustling curtain
rippling in the breeze from an open window.
I do not sleep.
I couldn’t,
I would never want to.
Our contours interlock,
our limbs intertwine.
Your breath rolls down my stomach
like the breeze that brought you to me.
I take your hand,
and although you sleep
you seem to hold me
with all the intensity you possess.
And with each beat of your heart,
with your heat,
comes the cool night air in the wind
caressing me
until the light from the morning sun
awakens our silhouette.

ice cubes

I wondered if you’d have the patience
to wait for the ice cubes to melt
in time they will

as you sat next to me
head hanging down
you swirled your cocktail glass
the ice cubes crashed with one another
and beads of sweat dripped from the rim
all I could do was sit there
shoulders back
eyes fixed in the wall

I’m sorry

Did I give you too many ice cubes
you asked for them


The wretched irony becomes apparent.
You twitch and climb through the entangling web
crawl through the intricate maze
to learn that you will never reach the end
but a terrifying minotaur
only the center
the heart
where the most horrifying evil preys
the towering walls grow arms
an infinite sum of groping
overpowering arms
there is nowhere to run and hide
as the walls stretch taller touching the sky
they creak and move closer
while the arms reach and pull you
the tentacles grab you
and try to destroy you
the sky turns a deep dark black
an infinite black
there is no hope
the solid ground begins to melt
as the blades of grass become sharpened knives
the treacherous teeth of the animal below
suck you down
and consume you
there is nowhere to go but forward
as you write in agony
go forward
with the only hope
that soon the monstrous insidious nightmare
the desperation
the pain
will end

like daggers

I can’t think of anything else.
like daggers
slicing the air
the thoughts race through my mind.
I can’t help but think
of his stunning eyes
his sensitive touch
my weakness.
How he’s torn my life in two.

love poem

You are the air I breathe.
you enwrap me
you consume me
your words
your eyes tear through me
Life is not I, but we.

I want you here tonight.
I won’t fight it
I can’t hide it
there’s nothing
to subside it
I know that this is right.

I can’t wait for the time
please just hold me
please just kiss me
please just tell me
that you’ll miss me
When I can say you’re mine.

make me

You know,
you actually do
make me wanna shout.
And if I didn’t know better,
I’d say that I have the capacity
to make you scream a little,
You told me that you
have good hands.
I believed you, but I
didn’t realize how good they were
until you showed me.
You know,
I’m not so bad myself.
Show me how good you are


You asked me to the masquerade
and I willingly complied
but I’m tired of wearing this dress
for the feathers in my costume
won’t stop licking my face
and you cannot see the tears
falling behind my mask -

When you seethe price they pay
I’m sure you’ll come and join
the masquerade, you say
but the price is too high
for I don’t want to wear a mask
with you, and I would only hope
that I don’t have to.


my eyes
no longer see
I close them
my hands
are numb
I no longer feel
my heart
is cold
I cannot love


The naivity is over.
Now we must put our little toys away
and stop playing house.
This is the real thing,
and I won’t fool around anymore.
Not with you.

You threw around the words
“I love you”
as if they were no more than water
as if you really didn’t know
their value.

But this isn’t a game,
and when I get hurt
kissing it
won’t make it better.


If I have to -
I’ll put on the mask
I’ll play the game
the facade
Oh, I’ll do it -
I’ll go through the motions
I’ll live with the lies
the fantasy world.
Just to spend my nights with you.

pocket knife

I saw you there
throwing her on the floor
like another one of your toys.
I had to pull out my army knife
and slit your face;
I had to watch the
blood stream from your open wounds
at the same speed as the apologies
that parted from your lips.
It was almost hard
to keep up with your show,
but I must admit
that it was good entertainment.

You know,
I still couldn’t help but notice
that your pocket knife
was bigger than the one I bought
for myself.
An extra blade or two,
a better pair of tweezers.
And you were so proud
of your little gadgets,
and you were so sure
that it was a better pocket knife.
But I can’t help but think
that not only does mine
do the job,
but it does the job well,
and because you never use yours
it’s all just a waste.

pushed aside

I don’t feel
as if something was taken away from me.
He pushed himself through me
and he pushed everything that was inside of me
off to the side.
He just pushed me to the side,
and all I feel is a hole.
There is a void where he used to be:
it’s always there,
and I wish that
like a hole in the wall
I could fill myself up with something
patch myself up with something
so that I would no longer have to feel.
But I can’t.
Anything to repair my injuries
would only remind me that I was injured.
I only wish that
I could push myself back to where I used to be
where I should be
and fill the emptiness inside.
As I rest my hand on me
I want to push myself back to where I should be.
where I should be.
But I can’t.
And every time I move,
every time I turn, or sit,
or cross my legs,
I feel the void.
And although the burning is less intense,
it is always there.
Where I was pushed aside--

put it to rest

please put it to rest
i can’t even think anymore
i have a life to lead
and all you can do is
come to me
and remind me
don’t come to me anymore
don’t talk to me
don’t love me
the past may be vivid in your mind
but your wretched pathetic
scare me
and while i live in the present
you try to push me
and i can’t be pushed two years

ragged fucking bastard

ragged fucking bastard
torn shreds of decency
her body lays limp
as you claim triumphancy
over your prey


“We do expect you to marry someone
who shares in your beliefs,”
the man groaned
as he looked at you and said,
“and that means you too, Joe.”
But tell me this:
when you look into my eyes,
do you want to look away?

rendering me

the heat
the fire
burning my skin
stripping me
rendering me


I must admit
that there’s a definite proportion
with how good you look
and how much alcohol I’ve consumed
yes you are important to me
too important
and I think that scares me
for I don’t care what you say
but the only person
I can lean on
is myself
and I don’t want to frighten you
with my coldness
but I’ve been hurt
too many times before
and I’m sure as Hell
gonna try to stop it
from happening again
I’ve had to realize
that you can’t be my crutch
I do care about you
too much
it is unhealthy
for when we go our separate ways
and I know we will
it will kill me
I know that you love me
and I know that you want to protect me
but I need to know
if there are other people
who care for me as well
I am not an animal
in a cage
and I have a life to lead
I know I’m being cold
but it’s what I have to do
call it a defense mechanism
call it sobering up

sometimes the light

Sometime the understanding
Travels into the realms of the unknown
All we can do is hope
Because we will never find.
Sometimes the light is not enough.

the hammer falls

I wake to
the early morning.
I wear the gray shirt.
the hammer falls.
I throw it down
with a skilled accuracy.
I create a repetition
that is true to life..
hours on end
the hammer meets
with it’s enemy.
and every day
I strike with
a renewed fever.
and every day
the relentless steel
refuses to give in.
so I retire.
so I resign myself
once again
to the early morning
and the falling

the hand

the Hand
the unknown Hand
i’m frightened
i move
toward it
the Hand
the mystery
entangles me
spins my mind
i move
i need
the love
i feel
the lust
the Hand
i fear
but i
must know
i need
to learn
the pain
the cry
i scream
i need
i want
i take
a step
i’m wild
i’m no longer
i need
i want
the Hand
it reaches out
for mine.

the nightmare

The chain lock snapped
as the voices poured out
that filled my brain with death.

the bespattered remains
of what could be called
my inflated ego
clung to the curtains
that were stained with rain
and dripped from the bed sheets
onto the champagne stained

I only wanted to surprise you
as my tears dripped down ice
and my screams were only
blocked by a blank stare.

I never like that carpet anyway.

the tears

the tears
burn like fire
streaming down my face
i feel the heat

the tears
cut like knives
tearing up my skin
i feel the pain

the tears
they hurt me so much
they kill me
but i have no choice

they tried

they tried to hold me down
they tried to keep me in
they didn’t understand
“I was different”
they said
as day after day
I led my life
with the interrogation
lamp shining in my face

they tried to change me
they tried to bend my will
they wanted to break me
“We don’t like you”
they said
but every day
I faced the battle
in splendid silence
knowing that all like me
would understand me
and thank me

they tried to make me beg
they tried to make me cry
they wanted me to conform
“We don’t need your type”
they said
and I ignored them
for I couldn’t let those
who didn’t understand
and didn’t want to learn
or respect
or treat me as human
destroy me


the lust
her lips quiver anxiously
she wants
the craving
the longing
the yearning
is no longer contained
His eyes fixed
in a trance-like gaze
the erotic fantasies
the passion
the obsession
his burning
appetite is released
Her heart quickens
as her breath becomes
a pant
she is ravenous with need
His hand moves
his anticipation climaxes
his muscles tense with
the cyprian
lurid desires
the heat
the fire
they cannot hold back
he touches her

a man calls a woman

every time a man calls a woman a “bitch”
the threat of rape lies behind his hostility
every time a man calls a woman a “witch”
he reminds her of the slaughter of millions
whose independence and medical
knowledge threatened male dominance
every time a man makes a joke about rape
or wife-beating he issues a warning to women
Bob Lamm, 1976

every time a man calls a woman a “babe”
he tells her he thinks of her as a child
every time a man calls a woman a “fox”
he tells her she is to be treated like an animal
every time a man calls a woman a “honey”
he tells her she is meant to be consumed
every time a man calls a woman a “doll”
he tells her she is something to be played with
every time a man calls a woman a “bag”
he tells her she is something to be used
every time a man calls a woman a “slit”
he tells her she’s a body part, not whole
every time a man calls a woman a “screw”
he tells her she is what he does to her
every time a man calls a woman a “girl”
he tells her she can’t think like an adult
every time a man calls a woman a “whore”
he tells her she is wrong for having sex
every time a man calls a woman a “lay”
he tells her she is no good on her feet
every time a man calls a woman anything
less than woman he tells her who’s the boss
so yes, we all know who the boss is, boys
you’ve done such a good job of telling us

a socially accepted target

rape is connected
to the frustration produced
by living in this society

rape is anger
misdirected towards
a socially accepted target:

Men and Politics Group, East Bay Men’s Center, Statement on Rape

i didn’t get the promotion i deserved
i work in a cubicle
the boss doesn’t know my name
i put in too much overtime
this tie makes it hard to breathe

this traffic is always in my way
there’s all these bills i have to pay

i’m angry all the time

and the damn kids are banging
their toys when i come home
and dinner is never on time
and your looks have just gone to hell
and i hate you

i just want a fucking beer, you bitch

it’s all your fault

a woman talking about her rapist friend

He was my friend, and we had been
through a lot together, our psychological
ups and downs,

but he mixed drinks exceptionally well
at his college frat parties, and his
ice-blue eyes

always spoke the truth to me. It’s amazing
to think that the only reason we ever met
was because one day

he wore a turtleneck that perfectly
matched his eyes, and I had to tell him.
I don’t know why

he put up with my mood swings, with my
self-destructive social life and man-hating,
maybe he knew

how hard it had to be for me, being the
victim of an acquaintance rape. Maybe
normally he didn’t

care about women, never gave their opinions
much thought, just tried to get them
drunk at parties,

maybe he knew that and that’s why he
listened to me. Then for a few years
our friendship

drifted, we didn’t see each other much,
I heard through the grapevine that he was
failing in school.

Then one day, out of the blue, he comes
over and he has two black eyes. And he
says to me

that when he was in the parking garage
two guys came and beat him up, and one
of them said,

you raped my girlfriend. And then he looked
at me and said, and you know, looking back,
he was right.

I raped her. And I know he wanted sym-
pathy, he wanted to hear me say something,
but I couldn’t.

And he said, I know this has to be hard for
you to hear, but I wanted to tell you. I know
it was wrong.

A part of me wanted to hate him. A part of
me thought that if he was my friend I would
be condoning

what he did. And a part of me thought that
our friendship made him realize what he
actually had done.

I tried to be there for him. I wasn’t much
good at it. Eventually, he moved away.
I didn’t try

to lose touch with him. But it’s just that a
part of me is still trying to figure out if I
can be his friend.


ladies and gentlemen
high above the dancing elephants
and the clowns driving around
in their little cars
honking their horns

high above the lion tamers
with their whips and chairs

is our main attraction
all eyes turn to
Athena, the tightrope walker

see her gracefully step
out onto the paper-thin wire
balance high above everyone else
while all eyes are on her
all without a net

would you like to see her
do a flip? a spin? touch the rope
with her tiny, fragile fingers?

Athena will put on the
grandest of shows for you

imagine, if you will, the fear
she must feel:
with one wrong move
she falls to her death
into the mouths of the lions
in between the running clowns

come, see her perform:
watch her walk
watch her move
watch her shake

this is
the greatest show
on earth

in their homes or in the streets

some women are raped
in their homes or in the streets
by men whom we call “strangers”

some women are raped
in their homes or in the streets
by men we call psychiatrists,
doctors, college professors,
friends, lovers,
husbands and fathers

and some women are raped
in the streets or in offices
by men who merely sit there
and commit rape with looks
with smirks
with insults
with threats
Bob Lamm, 1976

you’ll never understand

have you ever felt
that everything you did
from the clothes you chose to wear
to the way you styled your hair
to the way you walked down the street
to the way you sat at your desk

to whether you looked at people
as they passed you in the grocery store
when you picked up the food for the family

have you ever felt
that everything you did
was under the scrutiny
of half the world

that a stare could haunt you
if you looked too confident
or your eyes wandered for too long
and actually caught someone’s gaze

or your skirt was too short
or you didn’t cross your legs

or if you ate a banana
or happened to lick your lips

have you felt it
well, you’re not a woman

middle-class husbands and fathers

rapists are not peculiar, abnormal men
rapists are very normal masculine men
rapists come in all sizes and shapes
all races and nationalities
all ages and social classes

many are white middle-class husbands and fathers

Bob Lamm, 1976

rapists are not all convicted prisoners
rapists are not all psychopaths
rapists are not all welfare recipients
rapists are not all foaming at the mouth
rapists are not all abused by their parents
rapists are not all sex-depraved
rapists are not all gun-toting criminals
rapists are not all undereducated
rapists are not all jobless
rapists are not all beaten as children
rapists are not all minorities
rapists are not all criminally insane

rapists are in your office
rapists are in your convenience mart
rapists are in your local tavern
rapists are in your school
rapists are in your restaurant
rapists are in your car pool
rapists are in your grocery store
rapists are in your country club
rapists are in your church
rapists are in your family reunion
rapists are in your living room
rapists are in your bed room

they come in all shapes and sizes
they’re everywhere

most accurate metaphors

rape is one of the most savage
one of the most accurate
metaphors for how men
relate to women in this society

it is a political crime
committed by men
as a class
against women
as a class

rape is an attempt by men
to keep all women in line

Bob Lamm, 1976

now there’s two ways
this can happen, little girl
you can keep fighting me,
and if that’s the case, i’ll
have to keep my hand
over your mouth and
this knife at your neck,
or you can relax, enjoy
yourself, make this easier
on the both of us

you know you want this
so stop fighting it

i saw the way you were
looking at me earlier,
the way you stared at me
the way you were dressed
i know what you were thinking
so don’t say a word

did you think those drinks
were free

how long did you think
i could wait
it’s my turn now
you owe it to me

just do as i say
and no one gets hurt

Sexism In General

As I grew up I did what I thought was expected of me. I didn’t bring up unmentionable subjects to my parents. I didn’t burp out loud. I didn’t complain. And I didn’t know why.
And it wasn’t that my parents, or my teachers, or my peers, were trying to cram a certain lifestyle down my throat. It was just the norm, what was expected, what everyone was used to.
But the more time I spent on my own, the more I questioned how I was supposed to act, what I was supposed to say, how I was supposed to dress, what I was supposed to like. I saw the way men treated women in relationships, how women primarily reacted to the things men did instead of acting on their own. I also saw women feel like they were being pushed around, like they were being treated unfairly.
And then I saw some statistics about rape. That one in four women will be raped by the time they leave college; that one in three women will be raped in their lifetime. That over eighty percent of college-age rapes are committed by someone the victim knew.
Then I thought of how women are degraded and objectified in pornography, or how they are treated unfairly in the workplace. There is a different set of rules for women to follow versus men in society, and all of those rules are designed to let women know that their place is behind men.
I looked at history. Wedding ceremonies have had the father give away his daughter - his possession - to a man she could love, honor and obey, in a ceremony conducted by a man under the rule of a male god. Virgin women have even been sacrificed throughout history to assorted gods. Ancient Chinese adolescent women had their feet bound for months so their feet would be petite, but deformed and useless for walking, because the inability to move was considered attractive to rich men. Some tribes have made it a custom to add tight rings around women’s necks, continually adding more, to elongate the neck, while other tribes pierce women’s ears and put successively larger rings inside the holes, to stretch the ear lobe down past the shoulder. Women were hunted and killed in colonial America for being witches - when they were in fact no more than individuals who practiced independent, rational thought in a society that didn’t like their women to think.
I looked at the way our parents were raised. The woman was expected to work only during war time, and then only to assist men or to work in menial tasks. They were otherwise expected to cook for the family, to clean the house, and to please the husband. The man was the owner of his castle, worked during the day to make this life possible for his family, and expected to be pampered by his wife and children when he got home.
Then I looked at the way I was raised. I was given dolls and pretty pink dresses and was encouraged to play with my best friend indoors instead of roughhousing outside with a group. My hair was long, and curled for special occasions. I had to listen to my elders, especially the male ones.
Then I looked around me. Advertising and Hollywood demanded beautiful bodies in their brainless women, who blindly followed their leading man. The workplace had female secretaries serving the male CEOs, wearing skirts and make-up and panty hose and high heels and being called “babe.” Speaking of language, even the language I heard around me - from being called a pumpkin to a tomato to a peach - made me feel like I was placed on this earth to be consumed, not to be a human being.
So I started to work for acquaintance rape education groups, running seminars, making posters and brochures and the like for women who were in pain and felt like they had no place else to turn. And the more I saw this pain on such a wide scale, the more angry I got. I’m an intelligent woman, I thought, and I as well as all women don’t deserve to be treated like this.
Although I am no longer working for any women’s groups, I still feel like I am fighting. But what I am fighting for and how I am fighting for it is different from how the average person thinks of a woman “crusader.” I am fighting for people to look at women as people first, before they assume we are less intelligent, less strong, or less valuable. I am fighting, through my writing, through the way I think, through my example, for men to think of women as being on the same level as them, to look at women as their equals. I am fighting for feminism.
The definition of feminism, according to Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, is “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” That’s it. It doesn’t mean women should get a job before a man just because she’s a woman and has had bad breaks. It doesn’t mean women have to dress and look like men if they don’t want to. It doesn’t mean pornography should be made illegal, and it doesn’t mean all women should hate all men.
In practice, it means we should have the same opportunities as men. The choice to take these opportunities is up to the individual - not up to their sex. In theory, it means we should not be looked at as inferiors solely because we are female. In other words, we should not be treated unfairly because of the choices that we as individuals make, if we have every right to make those choices.
It is because of the way that women are looked at in society that there are political economic and social disparities between the sexes. It is because of ideas, not laws. These ideas create a spectrum of sexism that starts at things as innocent as jokes and cute nicknames, moves to catcalls in the street to harassment in the workplace to unequal pay for equal work, and then moves on to things as cruel and as painful as wife-beating and rape. All of these things, severe or tame, stem from the idea that women are inferior and all of these things contribute to the inequality between the sexes. They all are manifestations of the same idea, only at different degrees.
A friend of mine told me about how in the Soviet Union, after the revolution, Stalin and the government wanted to make sure all people were equal - that women were free from their economic dependence on men - so they enacted laws to make women work and industrialize the country. But ideas about the role of women in society did not change, and in the post-revolution economic crisis, not only then did the women have to work, but they also had to stand in line for rations of bread. Household chores were still women’s tasks; the rules changed, but the ideas stayed the same. When women were asked whether they were happier after the revolution or before, they said before, because at least then they didn’t have to work as well as do their expected chores.
I’m not trying to enact any laws. I’m not trying to twist anyone’s arm. A change doesn’t occur in a free society by forcing rules down people’s throats.
What I am trying to do is make both men and women think about the conflicts between the sexes in all of their manifestations, why they occur, and what effect they have on our society. To think. And then to act.

This essay was originally the introduction to the book “(woman.)”.

the measuring scale

Here’s an addition for your
degrading terminology
of women list. In the
construction field they
(men) have devised another
form of measurement.
When something is being
lowered or fitted into place
they will often refer
to an inch or so as:
up or down about a cunt hair.
They have gone so far
as to determine that blonde
pubic hair is the smallest
increment and at the other
end of the measuring scale
is black pubic hair.

Pam, via the internet

why don’t you dissect me,
take every single part of me
and equate it with power tools,
sports and violence?
bang me, screw me, nail me,
hammer me, bag me, pump
me. shoot it in me. maybe you
can even score.

if we’re talking about
measuring scales, what about
the scale that defines the way
you treat us:
on one end is the minor stuff,
calling us “baby” and “sugar,”
whistling as we walk by, but
then move along the scale, get to
the blonde jokes, yes, they’re so
funny, then how about a pinch
in the rear at the office,
well, that’s harmless enough
and while you’re at it, porn
movies and magazines, what harm
do they do, and hey, women
have always worked at home,
so you should have all the jobs
and get the better pay anyway
and since we’re just your pro-
perty, fuck us whenever you
want, i mean, hey, you’re doing
it already in every other aspect
of our repressed, oppressed lives
so rape us, smack us around
knock us down a flight of stairs
that’s what we’re here for

god, i don’t even know how to
measure these things any more

the men at the construction site

a woman told me
that scientists did an experiment
where a woman
first walked past a construction site
with her head down

no one bothered her,
no one noticed her
everyone at the site left her alone

then, later in the day,
she walked past again
in the same outfit, with the same stride
but this time she walked with
her head up,
more confidently

and that’s when she got
the calls, the whistles
from the men at the construction site

and you tell me it’s not deliberate
and you tell me it’s not an effort
to keep women in their place

Women Without Men

Women struggle with this every day.
Oh, that such an awful way to start this off, because no men believe that women have it rough. Women don’t have to go to work if they don’t want to. Women don’t have to worry about hard-ons in public.
I’ve been struggling with writing all of this down. I want to let people that women feel like they are doing something wrong if they don’t have a man. But I think that men would laugh at this. I think men would say it’s not that bad.
I keep thinking that men will never understand this, no matter how hard I try to explain it to them.
I mean, how do men feel like they have to fit in? How do they feel like they’re less of a man if they aren’t wanted by a certain group? Is that as prevalent for men as it is for women?
Men can be bachelors late in their thirties, and it’s attributed to their desire to be free, their ability to not get tied down, while women are looked at as failures.
But how do I explain that to men?
I should ask around. I mean, do men feel like they have to fit into this image of masculinity? Do men feel like they have to try out for the football team, even if they don’t want to? And do they feel like a failure when they can’t just be themselves, when something else is expected of them?
Maybe I could explain it like this to men:
1. Think of the idea of being famous and liked only because you were the son of someone who was famous. Like, you know, the president’s son (think of Ron Reagan, for instance) or a movie star’s son, or even think of all the attention being placed on Princess Diana’s children now, even though they were princes, now they’re only getting a ton of attention now that she’s passed away.
2. Now think about being raised to gain fame or acceptance only because of who you happen to be related to, whether it be a movie star or nobility. That you don’t matter, that only the people you’re related to matter.
That if you aren’t related to someone with that kind of pull, you better marry someone with that kind of pull, or you’ll be nobody.
Or at least marry someone, because if you can’t even marry someone there’s no point of trying to succeed in any circles.
Well, could they take the leap and see that women have been taught that the only way they can become anything is to be attached to a man, the way that son would be attached to the movie star? And what kind of life is led trying to be attached to someone instead of trying to be the best yourself? And what kind of world is it that says you’re nothing unless you’re attached to someone else, that you’re not enough on your own?

So this is what I’m struggling with. How to even explain what the feeling is like to be a woman, expect to be attached to a man, to half the world. Trust me, they think you’re crazy.
Well, the thing is, yeah, it is crazy to feel that as a woman you have to be attached to someone like that. That being in something as destructive as an abusive relationship is better than being alone, because if you had to end the relationship everyone would think you weren’t a good woman. That you were a failure.
Obviously, however, women feel it. And have felt it. It’s evident in the records of domestic abuse. Of rape. And of marriages that have plodded along unhappily, because the woman in the relationship decided not to make waves. Do stick with it for the children’s sake.
It’s evident in the fact that older single women are called “old maids.” It’s evident in the fact that women try to catch a mate while men try to avoid the ball-and-chain. It’s evident when people refer to women going to college to get their “M.R.S.” degree, to find a man.
And if there are all of these factors telling women all of their lives that they need a man by their side, a man to take care of them, a man to make life easier for them, why wouldn’t they play that role? Women are read fairy tales where a damsel in distress is saved by her knight in shining armor. Women saw their father go off to work and their mother take care of them. Women got teased and called a tom boy for liking non-feminine things. Women even change their title, much less their name - from miss to misses - when they finally get to have to hold a man. Societal influences from day one nudge women into this role, to depend on men.

So then what? So then they’re abused. Physically beaten by a brutal mate. Or mentally abused, told they’re worthless, that they’ll never get any better.
And their choices are:
They can leave the man that they’ve been told all their lives they need, or
They can stick with what they have, because they think it’s better than nothing.
Does this explain why battered wives don’t leave their husbands?

Okay, I know I seem to be going on a lot of tangents here, but all of these things relate to each other. The point of this essay is that just as it’s silly and hard to imagine a man would HAVE to ride the coat tails of someone else in order to achieve anything in life, so should be the same for women. Women can succeed on their own, whether or not they happen to be in a relationship with a man or not.
But women have been taught not to think that way.
And when they do happen to stand up for themselves, they’re often ridiculed for it.
And it’s an uphill battle to overcome these influences, the teachings of society, of their family, of their mate.
But it can be done. A healthy mind, a desire to achieve, determination, these are the things that help you succeed in life.
Not in someone else. In yourself.

women’s very existence

rape is neither a sex crime
or a crime of passion

rape is not an isolated brutal crime
against women

rape is often premeditated
rape is a crime of violence
rather than sex
it is a crime of violence
against women

it is an attack by men
on women’s bodies
on women’s feelings
on women’s very existence

Bob Lamm, 1976

i still have to take showers a lot. i mean,
every once in a while, no matter how clean
i am to the rest of the world, i have to go
take a shower. i lock all the doors, i close
the shades on the windows, i put a towel
over the bathroom mirror. turn the water on,
piping hot, so steam is billowing out of
the bath tub. i finally undress, open the
curtain, put my foot in, burn my foot with
the water. i wish i could hold my foot there,
just a little longer. i turn down the water.
wait for it to cool down, then step in. then
i just put my head under the shower head. hold
it there for a while. catch my breath. get the
soap. start scrubbing. i use the soap first,
then i get the bath brush. scrub off a layer
of skin. i know this makes no sense. my skin
is red, from the heat, from the scrubbing.
but i know i’m still not getting it off, it’s
down there, the molecules are embedded
deep inside of me, and i’ll have to rip my skin
off, pull out my organs before it goes away.
but for now all i can do is take showers.

A Letter to our Political Leaders

After watching a few of our elections, I noticed that politicians were trying to warm up to the twenty-something crowd. It’s a wise decision: we’re a strong group of intelligent, new voters. And, as a rule, we’re dissatisfied with the United States’ current political system. It’s a chance for either party to take a hold of a growing and promising voter group and insure additional votes in future elections.
It would help to know what this group is looking for, though, if there’s a dissatisfaction with our current parties, and to understand this, it may help to learn a little more about this group. Although I claim to be no spokesperson for all people aged 20-29, I can give you some insight into how I think, as a member of this “age group.”
I’m a twenty-something. But classifying us “twenty-somethings” or “generation x-ers” by our age is something I as an individual finds insulting. I know that we’re Americans, but I also know that we as a group have differing opinions, and we have a right to those opinions. We can have different views on our careers, or families, our music. And that’s something I value - and I feel like is constantly being taken away from us.
Other pressure groups may want you to pass laws telling them when a rapist moves into their neighborhood, but I know that that just causes more red tape and costs us through tax revenue more dollars, when that information is public; besides, it’s not the government’s responsibility to inform, it the individual’s. Other pressure groups may want you to pass laws telling them that they need to wear their seat belts, but I know that in a Capitalistic society it’s not the government’s role to protect people from themselves, but from the force of others, and that is all. Other pressure groups may want you to pass all sorts of laws, but they are by and large laws that go beyond the jurisdiction of the American government. Other groups may want the government telling them what to do all the time, but I don’t.
Part of the twenty-something dissatisfaction (if I may speak for the group) with our current parties may be because neither party embodies a consistent set of values. Granted, our government-sponsored school systems teach students in general that philosophy is too difficult a subject for a single person to understand. And religion may not offer a practical solution for anyone that believes in individual rights, the rights this country was founded on (I mean, Christianity telling people that the meek shall inherit the earth and the self-sacrifice for the benefit of others as good directly clashes with the idea than the individual has a brain and the right to use it, the right to claim what they have earned and even become successful). But young people, especially ones who still have a glimmer of hope that there is something out there that makes sense, when all their lives their schools and leaders have kept from them that their mind is the answer, young people want their political parties to make sense. Currently, neither platform, whether Democratic or Republican - is consistent or cohesive.
If a person believes that government intervention beyond the necessities - police protection from the force of others, for example - is wrong, neither political party supports them. Republicans believe in less government when it comes to leaving businesses alone - economically the government should let businesses prosper - but when it comes to personal parts of people’s lives - choosing to have an abortion, whether consenting adults want to engage in sexual activities that are not what they consider “the norm,” the kinds of art work people make and see - then Republicans know what’s best for us, and want to tell us what to do.
Democrats believe in less government intervention when it comes to these personal issues, but when it comes to businesses and the economy, Democrats want to be able to regulate industries because they’ll hurt people, they want to be able to tax businesses because big business is bad (Why? No answer.), and they want to be able to take money away from people, via business regulations and taxation, in order to give it away to people who haven’t earned it (there’s no more realistic explanation of the welfare system - other than robbery from the people who produce in this country).
Republicans and Democrats both believe the government should stay out of their business, whatever their business may happen to be. Other people’s business? Feel free to meddle.
Even on more specific subjects both parties split their decisions moralistically. The religious right, a Christian group of Republicans, as well as Republicans in general, will tell you that it’s horrible to kill an unborn child, but it’s okay to kill someone that’s already alive and that has committed a crime (what happened to “turn the other cheek”?). If life is so sacred, why is capital punishment being pushed by Republicans? With our current appeals system, it is estimated that it takes six times as much money to kill someone as it does to keep them in jail for life. And who pays for it? We do, the individuals. The tax payers. The producers.
But the one thing both parties have in common is that they want to take away at least some of our rights. That’s why we’re do disenchanted with the political parties we have today. Republicans want to take away our personal rights, Democrats want to take away our economic rights. Taxation, the Democrats’ answer (so that people can still have goods and services while not working for them) taxation for anything other than the essentials is forcibly taking away what individuals have earned. It’s forcibly taking away people’s money. That’s the definition of robbery. And laws instilled by Republicans to protect our private lives, so that we are just like them, are not only forcibly telling us how to live, but enacting laws that also cause paperwork costs and costs in enforcing them. Who does the government pay for these thing? Taxation, again, which means: we, the individuals, pay for the government telling us what to do.
Every election, I’m sure a good number of people, people with intelligence, people using reason and logic to the best of their ability in making a decision, go to the polls wondering, “Which rights am I willing to lose?”
Well, we shouldn’t be losing any of those rights. We should have less government intervention in all respects of our lives.
I’m a twenty-something. I’m a woman, but I don’t tell the government I need quotas to get a job, because I know that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” means just that - it means I can pursue whatever I want. But it doesn’t mean the government should be handing it to me on a platter.
I’m a twenty-something. I’m intelligent, and I don’t need the government protecting me from myself. That’s not what I’m paying for it to do.
I’m a twenty-something. I’m looking for a political party that embodies not my beliefs, but the belief that people can have their own beliefs (whether or not people choose to live by logic and reason or not is not for the government to control). I’m looking for a political party that knows that individuals can have their lives (that’s the “life” part of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”), they can have the right to keep their lives (that no one has the right to take something that belongs to you, like taxation for the welfare state, or that no one has the right to try to take away your life, unlike what the government does to death-row prisoners, for instance). I’m looking for a political party that knows that individuals have the right to pursue their own goals, without intervention from the government and without help from the government (that you can’t expect hand outs, but you also can start a business to sustain your life without being burdened by overtaxation and regulation).
I’m a twenty-something. I’m looking for a political party that embodies not my beliefs, but the belief that people can have their own beliefs. I’m looking for a political party that knows that individuals can have their lives, they can have the right to keep their lives. I’m looking for a political party that knows that individuals have the right to pursue their own goals, without intervention from the government and without help from the government.
I’m a twenty-something, and I’m looking for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Can anyone give it to me?

Balancing the Budget

If we are going to try to balance the budget, the key isn’t in doing it by taxing everyone until the debt is gone. The key is accepting more responsibilities as citizens, and not expecting the government to make things easier on us.
The reason why the government costs so much money is because we continually expect it to do more and more for us. The capitalist base that this country was founded on suggests that the government is there to protect our basic rights - “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This means that as individuals we reign supreme - the no one has the right to take our life, our property or our ability to achieve what we are willing and capable of achieving.
However, as the years have progressed, our political leaders have told us that we need to be taken care of, and to appease us they have offered, as a government, to do more and more for us. And we have agreed, these things would be better if the government took care of them for us. But that was where we went wrong.
The government is bogged down with a quagmire of laws protecting ourselves from ourselves. Seat belt laws. Motorcycle helmet laws. Speed limits. Laws to tell you when a rapist moves into your neighborhood, or laws to tell you when you’re mature enough to drive a car, or drink. Although it seems to make sense that we shouldn’t do these things, that we should make responsible choices, the government is going beyond it’s basic role of protecting us from the force of others by telling us as individuals what is legally safe, which is infringing on our rights.
We haven’t offended the rights of others, for instance, if we speed on a highway. By telling us we cannot speed, the government is infringing on our rights to do what we want with our property, as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. If, because of our speeding, we hit another car and injure another person and/or their property, then we have infringed on another person’s rights and we should be punished. But not until then. The government’s job is to protect us from others, not from the possibility of accidents caused by others.
We haven’t offended the rights of others, for instance, if we choose to not wear our seat belts while driving or riding in a car. The government’s job is not to protect us from ourselves, but from others. Even if we get injured in our cars because we weren’t wearing our seat belts, we cannot and should not blame the government for not intervening - their job is to protect our right to decide whether or not we want to use these safety measures.
I won’t argue that wearing your seat belt is not a good idea, or that all 10-year-olds should be learning to fly airplanes, but I’m not going to tell anyone that they should relinquish the responsibility of making these decisions to their government. When you let the government make some choices for you, what’s to stop them from making all your choices for you? Capitalism is a clearly-defined set of rules, all surrounded around the notion that the individual human being’s rights are most important. When you start to slip into socialism, however, and let the government take control of some aspects of your life for you, they can take more and more - you’ve let them - until you’re faced with a dictatorship, with communism, and no rights as an individual at all.

The government is also bogged down with providing for those who originally can’t - and now won’t - provide for themselves. The productivity generated by a free economy has produced a great many things, for all of the people in this country and others. It has raised the standard of living for all. Considering the standards people lived at two hundred years ago, considering the number of religious wars that killed so many over the thousands of years of human history, considering the hundreds and hundreds of years the world lived in moral and economic darkness with other political systems, it is evident what people owning their own work can do for productivity, creativity and progress.
The creation of the welfare state has given people a reason to be unproductive. The creation of the welfare state has made people believe they deserve something for nothing. The government never said that every individual in the country was granted “life, liberty and a block of government-subsidized cheese.” But this attitude, the attitude that people deserve something for nothing from their government, can be seen in our homeless on the streets, with their cups in their hands, marking a post to beg from in front of people daily commuting to work. They ask for money, bless you when you pass (invoking the notion of a god and the altruistic notion to give to others, even if - especially if - they don’t deserve it), and occasionally, when they don’t get the money they want from you, they scream in protest, as if the money in your pocket isn’t yours, but theirs, and the have every right to expect a handout from you. America created this mentality when they created the welfare state, and we’re paying for it in many ways. The lack of a balanced budget is only one way we’re paying.
When the government - and the people - thought it was a good idea to help others, they didn’t realize that helping themselves by being productive raised the standard of living, created new products and services for everyone, and did end up helping others. They also didn’t realize that the productive earnings given to those who didn’t earn it had to come from somewhere - and where it came from was from the productive people’s pockets. And our productivity, as well as our budget - suffered for it.

The government is even bogged down with controlling and subsidizing many aspects of our lives.
National defense is a job for the national government, because part of it’s job is to protect us from outside threats (that’s the “life” part of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”). But supporting the arts, education, medicine - the government is not responsible for any of these things. And most of the mediums the government has some level of control over have suffered in one way or another.
The arts have come under great scrutiny because people don’t want their tax dollars funding certain kinds of art works. America’s health care is more expensive and rated worse than eleven other countries in the world. And the education system? We need metal detectors at the gates of our city schools and kids graduate from high school without being able to read.
A business couldn’t run without producing a good service or product - in fact, it would have to produce a better product, since it would be in competition with other companies. And a business couldn’t run at a deficit - it has to be able to run efficiently in order to run well. In what has been the most capitalistic society to date, we have proven that companies can run efficiently, run well, and always produce a better product. This could also happen in the areas the government still has control over.
Privatizing education, for example, may bring the standards of schooling better, because suddenly there would be open competition. It would also allow for ideas that have merit but have been suppressed to be taught, because when goods and services are in demand, the demand will be met in a free economy (versus state schools, where boards of education have to impress the higher-ups in order to get more funding, and may alter their curriculum accordingly). It may cost more at first, but if Americans weren’t paying taxes for schools, they’d have more money in their pockets to be able to meet these expenses. Parochial schools do this already. And in this example, we wouldn’t have concerns about whether or not prayer is allowed in a school, because it is not state sponsored. And there would be no debate over whether uniforms are allowable - you may pick the school of your choice to send your children to, and base your decisions on prayer, uniforms, and even ability to teach.

Boomers Beware
Who Pays the Price for Taxing the Rich?

Although ability, and the ability to keep what you’re earned, individual rights to their own property, is what made America great, people still continue to attack the rich for earning money.
What was originally a reasonable article in the newspaper about how the estate tax affect many more than the “rich” and how it should be eliminated, became yet another slam on success, ability, and everything America worked to become.
USA Toady printed an article by Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise institute called “Boomers Beware: Estate Tax Now Not Just for the Rich.”
It started by stating that the estate tax is only applicable to amounts over $600,000, which has made it in the past apply only to a small group of the very rich. However, Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age - and when they pull their tax-deferred saving out to live on, they multitude of taxes, including the estate tax, could take up to 90 percent of their money away.
Seems reasonable to want to fight that.
What I wonder, though, is why it’s okay to take it away from the “very rich,” as our government has done in the past, versus the Baby Boomers. Because you’re earned more you should be punished more? Because you’re earned more means you don’t have a right anymore to what you’ve earned?
The concept of a redistribution of wealth should be like fingernails to a chalkboard to every American. America was based on the right to work for a living, and the right to be able to keep what you’re earned. That’s why, as Americans, most here have a profound hatred for communism - because most here believe that you should be rewarded for your achievements, not punished. But placing a higher burden on the “very rich” via taxation is a form of wealth redistribution, yet many people don’t think twice about it.
The article then goes on to drop the bomb:
“Beyond the changing politics of wealth accumulation, estate taxes need rethinking for other reasons. The fact is they have not done what they were intended to do: prevent the handful of super-wealthy from concentrating their gains even more in a small elite.”
Why would the intention of a tax be to make sure the rich don’t stay rich? Why would a government want to tell the people that have the most wealth (in other words, the people that produced the most, or the best, products and services, the people that have been the most productive) that after working for their earnings all this time, they no longer have a right to all of it? What harm does someone see in someone being rich?
Other than people who hate accomplishment, hate the good for being good, other than people who are envious of talent, I can imagine no one that would think its fair to take the money away from someone who earned it, because they earned it. We don’t want the government, or robbers, for that matter, doing that to us. Why would we want to do it to someone else?
The article goes on: “Many western countries are doing away with estate taxes altogether, a course advocated by Speaker Newt Gingrich. America won’t do that; an estate tax at least makes a statement about our values and our desire to prevent too much concentration of wealth and power.”
If an estate tax at least makes a statement about “our values,” what statement does it make? And who did he talk to to know that an estate tax makes any statement about our values. Who’s values - every American’s values? That’s strange; the estate tax is anything but capitalistic - it’s very un-American.
Keeping an estate tax shows what we don’t value more than it shows what we do value. If we value an estate tax, we must not value the right to our own property, because we take money away from people simply because they have more. If we value an estate tax, we must not value the mind, reason or ability, because we are telling our producers that the welfare of poor people, of people who haven’t produced and haven’t shown ability, is more important than the producer.
And why would America want to prevent too much concentration of wealth and power? Money is power, only in the marketplace - it is not political power, or intellectual power. And the person who earned their money has the right to power in the marketplace, to be able to purchase what they want, or save what they want. That is their right.
Ornstein goes on to say, “But we surely can change a set of levies that ends up punishing savings and investment and will soon punish middle class success.” Yes, we shouldn’t be punishing savings and investment; that helps our economy as a whole and helps everyone in the nation as a whole. And no, we shouldn’t punish middle class success. But why does that mean we should punish upper class success?
I don’t know how America could have ever achieved as a nation with the philosophy that wealth should be redistributed. If so, we’d have a nation of equals, just like the Soviet Union promised its comrades. A nation all standing in bread lines together.
Yes, the estate tax should be eliminated, but for reasons that are the opposite of what Mr. Ornstein suggests. The tax is morally wrong. It’s wrong, if an individual’s rights are to be upheld, to take away their money because they happen to have more. Let’s not slip into the same mistakes other countries in history have made, by overtaxing the rich, who earned their money, and giving it to the poor, who didn’t. If there’s no incentive to work for achievements, and earnings, there will eventually be no one producing, and everyone will suffer. Who pays the price for taxing the rich? Every last one of us.

Diversity, Political Correctness, and Creativity

Are we looking for Diversity or Political Correctness?

Okay, let’s get the basics down first. I’m white. Big strike against me, from a world-culture perspective, because I must be an oppressor. But I’m a writer, which probably isn’t hurdling me into the upper class, and I’m a woman, which has it’s own set of relatively heavy baggage to carry around.
But I’ve always looked at myself as a writer, not a female writer. I’ve always judged myself, and hoped others would judge me, on the basis of my creative ability as a writer, not on the color of my skin or whether I had big breasts or which sex I was more attracted to.
But in working extensively in the north side poetry scene in the past six months, I’ve noticed the issue of diversity brought up in a few different forms. They can be pigeon-holed into three catch-phrase categories: Working Too Hard to be Politically Correct, Crossing Over into Another Culture, and Using your Diversity to Your Creative Advantage.

Working Too Hard to be Politically Correct

I was working with a group of writers touring the nation this winter. In choosing who should be part of this tour, we had decided upon myself and four men - all white. And then some of the other members of the group started asking - is this group not diverse enough? We’re all straight - maybe we need gay and lesbian representation. There’s only one woman so far - do we need more? Should we be looking for African Americans to fill out this group?
And you see, these were questions I had never thought of before. I mean, I never thought of watching someone because they were gay or straight, or white or black, or male or female. Okay, maybe female, a bit. But it never stopped me from looking for talent across different ethnic, cultural or sexual lines. And I never thought that a group of people going on tour needed to fill quotas in order to be politically correct. I mean, can you imagine a heavy metal band going on tour saying, “Maybe we should bring a rap group and a Christian folk band with us?”
The thing that might make this group work well together is the fact that we may have have somewhat similar cultural backgrounds. Our work can tie in better together. It may actually seem like a cohesive show; in setting up a show the first priority should be to make the show as a whole the best it can be, not to make sure every skin color is covered in the readers. Not that we shouldn’t have other backgrounds in the tour. But maybe looking for the best talent is the better way to go, and if the first people that become part of the group have similar stories to tell, well then, maybe that would work to our advantage.

Crossing Over into Another Culture

Primarily, I attend opens mikes on the north side, such as Joy Blue, Lilly’s, Estelle’s, Red Lion, even sometimes Weeds. Once I was invited to attend the afro-centric Lit X’s Saturday night open mike. I noticed a few things:
1. It was in a darkened basement in the back half of a book store. I felt like I needed a secret password and handshake to get in.
2. There was a $3 cover. I wasn’t aware of this until I got to the door; I usually never patronize places that make you pay to entertain the crowd, or expect cheap poets to actually pay money just to sit in a room for a while. They can do that at home for free.
3. As I walked in, I almost tripped over light cords running all over the floor; the stage consisted of a well-lit corner of a small unfinished basement room. Oh, and the fold-out chairs were filled to capacity (which goes to show that atmosphere isn’t everything). I had to stand in the back.
4. Everyone was holding either an incense stick or a clove cigarette. Versus a beer and a Marlboro Red, which is what I’m more used to seeing.
Beyond that, there were very good readings, it was a fascinating experience, and I’m glad I went. There’s obviously a demand for poetry readings and open mikes that appeal to different cultures; it was nice to have a showcase of it in one night, at one open mike. I just wish that for their benefit, they had a nicer place to read.
It’s not something I would go to regularly. I must admit, I felt a bit out of my element. Not because they made me feel that way; the people I talked to were glad everyone was there and everyone was very nice, as well as very talented. No, I felt out of my element solely because this experience was something I’m not used to. To submerge one person with one culture into another culture might be overkill. But to get just a taste of it is always a treat. That is great, to experience something different, even if only once in a while.

Using your Diversity to Your Creative Advantage

As I said, I’m a writer, and I’m female, but I never thought of myself as a “female writer.” But I’m sure that men listen to my work and think of me as a “female writer,” even if that decision is based solely on my own writing. I write about rape and domestic violence. I write about flirting with men. I write about being a woman.
In other words, I write about the things I know. That’s natural; your best work is going to be on the things you’ve done the most research on. And a writer’s entire life is research for poetry.
And yes, I’ve written both about the joys of being female and the oppression I feel in a patriarchal society. But is that what exploring diversity is all about?
A friend of mine, a talented writer that I had talked to a few times before I heard him read, read a poem in front of me on stage about growing up in a biracial family, about all the taunts and jeers and stares he gets, about how he didn’t know how to behave when he walked down the street. About how people thought of him, about how they judged him before knowing him.
And I thought, I’ve written about that when it comes to women many times.
And then I thought, but I never thought about the color of his skin before he brought it up on stage.
I noticed after that first reading that over half of the work he read on stage in my presence was about this experience, about living half-black in a white world.
I recently told him, I said, “You know, just so you know, I never thought about the color of your skin until you brought it up in your writing.”
And he looked at me, a bit surprised, and then he finally said something to the effect of, “But that’s my hook.”
I think he was pleased that someone looked at him as a human being, but at the same time, we all assume we’re all so different. And what if we’re not?

Yes, you write about what you know. But you can learn more about what you think you know as well as what you don’t know, just by listening to the stories other people in the Chicago poetry scene have to say. The voices are out there, voices on how they think they’re perceived, and about how they perceive the world.
The important thing is not to worry too much about getting the right amount of cultural diversity, but just to open up your mind and listen.

DNA Versus Emotion

As technology moves forward, there always seems to be people who wish to contradict science and push it backward.
Such is the case with the new trend in discounting the use of DNA testing in criminal trials.
In the past ten years scientists have used DNA tests to determine if someone who is accused of a crime actually committed it. Testing usually does not positively identify an accuser as guilty of the crime, but it can exclude an accuser from committing a crime. DNA evidence is hard, scientific evidence that can show that someone did not commit a crime.
And in trials, evidence - hard, scientific evidence - is what is needed to decide a verdict.
DNA testing has been very useful in shedding light on a trial. Especially in rape or rape/murder cases, DNA testing can clear someone’s name.
It’s comforting to know that as hard evidence comes in to a case, that more and more people look at it as irrefutable. That people accept science and trust evidence when coming to a conclusion about a crime.
However, the trend toward accepting this science is now being fought.
“DNA may be important, but it’s not the ace that trumps all other cards,” said Bob Benjamin, a spokesman for the Illinois Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Why not? Why is it not important that conclusive evidence that the human traces left on a victim from their attacker could not be the defendant’s? Why is the fact that hair, skin, semen or saliva left on the victim’s body could not be the defendant’s not important? No answer.
And cases are increasingly being tried even when DNA tests show that the person in custody did not commit the crime.
Virginia Governor George Allen turned down a plea for a request for DNA tests from a convicted murderer on death row. Allen stated that even if the DNA testing cleared the incarcerated Joseph O’Dell, there was enough evidence to still prove that O’Dell raped and murdered a Virginia Beach woman.
Virginia Governor George Allen turned down the plea, and O’Dell was executed via lethal injection on schedule.
Although prosecutors do not claim to discount the evidence from DNA testing, they do not discount other evidence that may lead to the opposite conclusion.
But two different pieces of evidence cannot contradict each other - one must be wrong. Which is more likely to be wrong - an eye witness account, for instance, or scientific evidence with fingerprint-style accuracy?

DNA testing is is nearly infallible if done properly. Only human error, such as mishandling materials, would cause DNA testing to come into question.
But that’s one of the strongest points DNA testing is argued on. Recall the O.J. Simpson trial, when hard evidence was refuted with claims that evidence was mishandled.
However, in the O.J. Simpson trial, hard evidence was also refuted with unfounded claims that there was a police conspiracy or the theory that this was a drug hit. And the sad thing is, it was these emotional pleas, and not DNA evidence, that won over the jury and decided the case.
And that’s the only way you can argue against logic and science - by making a plea to emotions.
If a defense lawyer’s job is to free his client, then fighting science would have to be done by any means possible - discounting the science: DNA testing is too young. Discounting the way the data was collected: the blood was tampered with. Emphasizing other contradictory evidence: O.J. Simpson was in his home during the murder. Listening to testimonials and opinions from friends and experts: O.J. Simpson loved his wife, he couldn’t do it. introducing additional theories with or without merit as to what may have happened, pleading to the jury based on the character of the defendant. Pleading to their emotions.
But remember that all of these pleas are just that - pleas - and evidence cannot contradict science.

People try to balance science and mysticism, or faith, every day. Scientists shed more and more light each day on the creation of man and this planet, but religion denies it, for instance. Once I had a conversation with a religious woman, and she stated that dinosaurs never existed and that “science was the tool of the devil.” Another religious woman told me that she sinned once and got pregnant while out of wedlock, but God saved her by giving her a miscarriage.
Obviously logic and reason won’t win over a person who blatantly rejects logic and reason, but most people - especially in the United States, where science and technology have proven that people can live good lives - most people do believe in logic and reason, even if they have been taught otherwise. So their “philosophical lives” are spent trying to come up with a balance to these two opposing beliefs - of which there can be no compromise, but people still try. Okay, maybe the world wasn’t created in six days, maybe that was just a metaphor for the order and time lime things were created on the planet, one may decide. Okay, maybe there wasn’t a man made out of sand and a woman made from his rib, but maybe God started the ball rolling in the creation of man, one may think.
It is this belief in logic, science and reason, coupled with this clinging to faith and tradition that tries to allow both sides to be right. And it is this philosophical mind set that allows people to be sways by emotional pleas away from hard, scientific evidence.
That doesn’t change the fact that the evidence is there. It just changes how you look at it.

Do People Want Justice, or Just a Good Hanging?

Periodically I see efforts by the government to take away our rights, and I feel I have to speak out about them. However, when I see efforts by people in this country, individual citizens, to take away our basic rights, I have to scream out my dissent.
I am disgusted with the backlash to Mike Farrell’s commentary about why Timothy McVeigh should not receive the death penalty.
His article appeared in USA Today, and discussed the reasons why the death penalty does not work, not why Timothy McVeigh in particular should be spared. The gist of his story was that no matter how heinous the crime committed (in this case, blowing up of a Federal building in Oklahoma City, killing the largest number of citizens in a single terrorist attack in the United States), we should not stoop to the level of the criminal by administering the same punishment.

USA Today voiced two responses to Farrel’s commentary days later.
Glen Jones of Delaware said that we should “Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.” Apparently he wants everyone to kill him, then, if he advocates the death penalty.
“These despicable acts Farrell describes are not understandable,” Jones said, “but rather tolerated because liberal peacemakers like Farrell have pressured us to so believe.” The general tide of “liberal” politics in recent years has been to sacrifice others into servitude - in such forms as welfare, charities, volunteerism and altruism - not to value people, but to make them the hand maids of whatever pressure group may happen to demand it.

Scot Ebisch of New Jersey says that the Bible says, “Live by the sword, die by the sword,” and “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” These are, however, doctrines from Judaism, not Christianity - in the New Testament, Jesus asks his followers to reject these tenets and “Turn the other cheek.” Whatever religion (or lack thereof) one may subscribe to in this country, America’s laws more closely reflect Christianity than Judaism.
Furthermore, America’s laws are designed to protect individual rights. If we allow the government to kill someone for killing people, what’s to stop the government from killing people because they are drug dealers? Or committed robbery? Or voiced the wrong opinions in public?

I know that a criminal loses some of their rights when they commit a crime. But I also know that the most basic individual right - the right to one’s own life - it not something to be taken away so easily.

I could also point out that with our current appeals process statistics show that it costs six times as much money to kill a prisoner than to keep him in prison for life, even if they are never rehabilitated. And if prisons serve their jobs, prisoners suffer more by living their days in a cell instead of receiving an injection and passing away. So why are people so determined to kill the killers? If Timothy Mcveigh had no right to choose who should live and who should die, why does anyone else in this country?
If there was ever a chance we could be killing an innocent person, if there was ever that chance, that would be reason enough to not allow capital punishment. If an innocent person is sentenced to life in prison, they may lose some time, but if their innocence is later uncovered they would at least be able to have the rest of their life back. You lose that opportunity with capital punishment. If their innocence is later uncovered they would have lost some time, but they would not have lost their life.

Get The Government Out Of Broadcasting

I would like to commend NBC’s stand on keeping the government out of regulating the broadcast industry.
After pressure from the government as well as various organizations, the major networks uniformly adopted at television rating system, like the current system the movie industry uses to regulate content and inform viewers of movies. Since the enactment of this new system, however, groups have been complaining that the rating system in place does not tell viewers enough about why the shows received that rating. Is it because there is bad language? Is there sexual content? Id there violence? A “TV14” Rating doesn’t not discern one type of adult theme from another, and groups have been pushing for an adoption of a plan similar to the current system used by the Home Box Office cable channel - one with a list that quickly shows more of a program’s content, using such abbreviations as “SC for sexual content or “AL” for adult language.
Then the government agreed that this would be a good idea. So they asked the networks to come together and come up with a plan.
The network NBC was the only major network that chose not to adopt the plan. They stated swiftly that it is not because they don’t want to tell people what the content of a given show is, but that they don’t want the government telling them to adopt a system. They also stated in press releases that they will be working on their own plan for a system that will help people better understand what exactly is on the shows they are about to watch.

I applaud the fact the NBC was willing to distance themselves from appeasing the first group loud enough to be heard, when it may not be in NBC’s best interest to do so. More importantly, I applaud the fact the NBC was willing to distance themselves from government regulation, and that they were willing to state that that is exactly what they were doing.
When individual citizens find something they don’t like about the goods and services they receive, they should not make it the government’s job to try to remedy the situation. The government is there to protect individual citizens from the force of others - not from television programming that one group of people or another might not like.
I truly appreciate the fact that NBC concisely points out that it’s not that they don’t want to inform people about programming, if that’s what they want, but that don’t want that authority to be placed in the hands of an already-too-powerful government. NBC’s press release on the issue stated, “NBC has consistently stated that, as a matter of principle, there is no place for government involvement in what people watch on television. Viewers, not politicians or special interest groups, should regulate the remote control”.
If people want to do something about broadcasting, they can request information on an individual basis or bring other individuals together into a group who have the same feelings in order to make information about programming easier to get. It is possible, as a citizen or a group of citizens, to make a difference - it isn’t necessary to expect the government to do it for you.
Give a government some power, and they will eventually take more - see any dictatorship or any form of communism and socialism as an example (even see the history of our own government - we have been slowly losing more and more of our rights here in America). Thank you, NBC, for understanding that the rights of individuals also include the rights of business people - and those rights should not be given away so quickly.

Let the Government Tell You When You’re Ready?

I have been hearing reports that a few counties are interested in putting waiting periods on obtaining marriage licenses unless the couples go through premarital counseling. Divorce rates are high, these people claim, and it is our responsibility as the people who allow marriages to make sure couples know what they’re getting into. These defenders claim that divorces cause social stress as well as economic stress, and it is their responsibility to try to correct the problem.
The counseling would come in the form of meetings that would focus on such things as communication skills, dealing with problem solving, compromising and the like. It wouldn’t be a matter of passing or failing; you would get your marriage license as long as you attended, even if you learned nothing. And what would the waiting period for a marriage license be? Three days if you take the counseling. Sixty days if you don’t.
However, there are a number of problems this idea poses.
First, the decision in one county to wait on giving out a marriage license doesn’t stop an anxious couple from going to the next county to get a marriage license. This merely makes people not want to marry in that particular county.
Second, couples can still hold out through the waiting period to get their marriage license, all without marriage counseling. Then the waiting period accomplishes nothing except putting off what the couple wanted in the first place.
Third, there is no clear definition of what kind of counseling would be done. Who decides what kinds of things need to be covered in these small sessions? The people running the sessions? What background do they have, and isn’t it possible their views would conflict with the people they are counselling?
Fourth, who gets to be the counselors? Therapists? Psychologists? Psychiatrists? That costs a lot of money. People with marriages that have worked well? With little training, they would hardly be effective. The lawmakers? I know that personally I don’t want the government to have as much intervention in my life as to tell me how to be a good wife.
Fifth, these counselling sessions are going to cost money. Therapy sessions cost $100 and up and hour, so how is this going to be cost-effective for all people to be able to utilize? The answer is that in order to make it cheaper, the additional paperwork, the counselors, the space people are even counseled in - would have to be supported by tax dollars. In other words, every single taxpayer is going to be paying money so that couples who want to get married can have cheaper counseling. Additional paperwork costs money. Additional staff members to accommodate the work costs money. The rent for space couples use for counseling costs money. The counselors cost money.
For married people and people who aren’t going to get married, or for people who are willing to wait and therefore don’t go through the counseling, this means they are forced to pay money for something they cannot utilize. I know this happens everywhere in our current tax system, but adding more to it is insulting. The citizens of the United States should not have to subsidize other people’s counselling. Counselling that the government is making them take.
Sixth, we have no idea if any sort of counselling or waiting period is effective at all in reducing the rate of divorce. In theory, all this expense, additional paperwork, and time consumed could amount to nothing. No studies have been done to test the effectiveness of this kind of plan.
Some religions offer counseling to people who plan to get married. Catholicism, for instance, requires people to go through a day-long seminars with their priest before that priest will marry them. Religious institutions have the right to do this, because people decide to be a part of an institution that imposes these restrictions. The United States government was designed with the rights of the individual in mind, and the idea of government-imposed counseling for couples who want to marry violates individual rights in two respects. One is that a couple should be able to get married, without the government forcing them to wait (the government is not supposed to apply force; it is supposed to protect its citizens from force). The other is that the government is forcing people to give up more of their money (in the form of additional taxes) and giving it to other people (the people being paid, and the people going through the counseling).
The government is not our moral regulator, nor should it ever be. And economic problems, in a capitalistic society, should be the concern of the individuals within the society, not the government. This is why these defenders are wrong when they claim that it is their responsibility to try to correct the problems of social and economic stress form divorce. The government has no reason - and no right - to intervene in people’s private lives. This includes intervening with marriage - and divorce. There may be a problem with divorce in America, but the government is not the group to solve it. We - as individuals - are.

The Illness of Volunteerism

When I opened up my copy of USA Toady this morning (April 22, 1997) I saw a chart as the illustration for the lead story. The chart stated, “Volunteerism: How Strong is the Drive?” and then asked the question, “If your place of work gave its employees the chance to take paid time off of work to do community volunteer work, how likely are you to take the time off?”
The results showed that 51 percent of people surveyed would in fact take the time off to volunteer.
But what they asked for was not volunteerism - what the question asked is would you volunteer if you were still being paid by someone. By definition, that’s not volunteering.
Ask the same group of people if they’d be willing to put in the same amount of time when it was their own time, and they were not being paid for it.
I’m sure the results would be much, much lower.
People work for a living. They go to work in the morning, come home at night, and live off of what they earned - that’s Capitalism, and for the most part, that’s America (at least that’s what this country was founded on). People, for the most part, don’t want to give away their labor - or their money - to people who haven’t earned it.
A summit to encourage people to come together to volunteer is one thing. Asking individuals to volunteer to help out the “less fortunate” is one thing. People have the right to choose what to do with their own time. Making it sound like volunteerism is the responsibility of individual companies is another.
Businesses, by producing better goods and services, have increased the standard of living - for everyone in this country (consider that poor people can purchase televisions, have entertainment and other “luxuries” that no one could afford fifty years ago). Businesses are doing a service to the world as well as to themselves when they produce. They earn a product; competition brings better products; everyone wins. It is not the responsibility of businesses to lose their workers to regular volunteer times, because they don’t owe anything to “the community.”
“The community” consists of a group of individuals. Individual rights is how this country was founded. Expecting business owners to shell out money to employees for not working - for volunteering - is just another way of extracting money from the producers. Won’t that hurt the economy in the end, which affects the standard of living for all?

The article went on, stating that there were philosophical questions with wide-scale, imposed volunteerism:
“How should the role of the government be balanced with the roles of companies, individuals and non-profit groups?” It shouldn’t be balanced; the government shouldn’t be involved. Government intervention would mean more taxes and less freedom for individuals. Companies should not feel the need to volunteer, as imposed by a government; if they want to help, they can, but should not be expected to. They do enough by producing better goods and services for the individuals that purchase them.
“Is volunteerism a politically popular but lightweight response to the intractable social problems government leaders can’t, or won’t manage?” Now we’re getting somewhere. Volunteerism won’t solve a problem if the individual you are helping doesn’t want to help themselves, or expects to be helped instead of working on finding their own solution. The government, when involved with other aspects of our lives, has made a very expensive tangled mess of red tape - consider education, for example. Pressure groups have pulled funding back and forth for education, providing not the best education, but what the right people wanted. The result? a poor educational system that the government thinks more money will solve. When more money doesn’t help, add more money, and tax the people some more.

“Volunteerism is one of the great glories in America,” states Will Marshall of the Progressive Party Institute. No it isn’t. It’s a great glory to communism, where people are supposed to make sure everyone is equal and not be able to advance with their achievements, therefore giving them no incentive to achieve. It’s a great glory to Christianity, because you’re not supposed to rise above everybody else, you’re supposed to not like the things to earn. “The meek shall inherit the earth.” No, it’s individual rights, and the right to own your accomplishments and achievements that is one of the great glories of America, and that directly opposes volunteerism. The right to produce and create and succeed is the American way - and it developed this country into the greatest country in the world. But for years now, we’ve been told that we need to help others. Since we’ve heard that cry, our country has been slipping.
General Colin Powell is working on the volunteerism summit, and he added that it is in individual’s best interests to look beyond their neighborhoods when volunteering. Why? How is it in any individual’s best interest to do work for free that doesn’t affect their lives? No answer.

Companies may be interested in participating in volunteering programs because it bolsters their image in their community, providing business. Or it may give the employees a feeling that their company cares about others, which may reduce the turnover rate. Or it may be a tax write-off. Either way, the only reasons a business should - in order to be an efficient business - explore volunteerism, is in order to help their own business out somehow. The CEO of Home Depot, Bernie Marcus, said, “We don’t do it (volunteerism) because it increases our business.” Well, then, your business isn’t running as efficiently as it should be. Where are the costs of volunteerism going? Probably the prices of the goods and services the company sells. When you don’t see a return on an investment, the loss has to be eaten up somewhere.

In 1993 Maryland Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend “pushed through a controversial requirement that all her state’s public high school students must do 75 hours of community service before they graduate,” the article goes on to say. What does that teach students? That the government has the right to tell people how to spend their time, that the government can tell people what to do, that the government can force people to do things, whether or not they want to do it? Does it teach students that volunteerism isn’t actually volunteer work, but a required activity? Does it teach them their achievements don’t matter, that other people matter more then they do? A “requirement” to do “community service” is not volunteering.

At the end of the article, there was another chart with the results of a survey. It asked people, “Who should take the lead role in meeting the following goals (providing medical care for the poor, caring for the elderly, reducing homelessness, reducing hunger, helping illiterate adults learn to read, providing job training for youth): the government, through programs and funding, or individuals and businesses, through donations and volunteer work?”
Answers varied, but people thought the government should help out in all of these areas. But how are they going to do it? With your tax money, deciding how to spend it without conferring with you. If it were the responsibility of individuals and businesses, on a volunteer-basis, at least you would know where your money was going.
But then it occurred to me: it’s not the government’s responsibility, and it’s not a business person’s or producing individual’s responsibility - it’s the responsibility for those in need to do something with their lives, to satisfy that need and accomplish their own goals. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” means that people have a right to their lives, and the right to do what they want with their lives. They can’t infringe on other’s rights to help them.

The Wrath of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is here again, and like most unattached women in the United States, I’m filled with a vague sense of panic, fear and dread. What was meant to be a holiday to express your love for the one you care about has now become (a) a contest between coworkers for who can get the best flower arrangement delivered to their office, (b) a month-long guilt session from one half of an unsatisfied couple to the other, using the holiday as an excuse to vent their anger for being in a loveless relationship, (c) one more occasion for single men to skirt the constant badgering for a commitment (they already have birthdays and Christmas to contend with, this holiday makes winter pure Hell), or (d) a day-long seminar on depression where women sit at home alone, over-eating, watching must-see-TV, wondering if they will ever find someone to love and honor and cherish them and save them from the horrible fate of becoming the dreaded “old maid.”
Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a heart-felt holiday all about love, but has instead become a commercial holiday about either desperately trying to not feel alone or desperately trying to spare yourself from getting a guilt trip from the one you’re supposed to love.
Half of the confusion, I think, is from how men and women interact on a romantic/sexual level. The other half rests on how people define love.

The Battle of the Sexes

What do women think of when they think of love? Commitment, finding a soul mate, having someone romantically sweep them off their feet. What do men think of when they think of love? Being tied down, finally giving in, getting the old ball-and-chain, or else something to fake to get sex. Speaking of sex, women generically think of sex as the greatest connection between two people, something sacred, while men jokingly refer to the act with analogies to power tools or sporting games (see the cover, which is from the art series, “What Sex With Women is Called”).
Imagine a woman, looking for commitment, having what was most sacred to her taken away because a man thought he earned it by buying her dinner.
Granted, these are brash generalizations, but the fact that these examples exist gives an inkling to the differences between men and women, and the potential conflict between the two when it comes to relationships. How is love supposed to flourish when the two halves come in with such distinct ideas and plans?

The Definition of Love: Altruism Versus Respect

Love, by a dictionary’s definition, is rooted in three different ways: from kinship or personal ties, from sexual attraction or from admiration or common interests.
Think about that for a minute. From the first way, you’d love someone because they’re your family. Not because you like them, but because you’ve grown up with them. From the second way comes the more spur-of-the-moment feelings, none of which usually last. From the third way, you love someone because they share interests with you and you admire them.
Admire comes the closest to defining respect, and as a result, it comes closest to defining permanent and earned love. Unlike a religious-based altruistic love which tells you to love people even if they are not worth it - especially if they are not worth it, a love based out of respect and admiration, as well as common interests, is a strong, earned (therefore not easily lost) love.
The altruistic “give everyone in your class a valentine because everyone deserves to be loved” doesn’t even fool grade-school children - usually someone is left valentine-less. The question children haven’t at that point figured out how to ask is “Why do they deserve it? They haven’t earned it.”
People claim to fall in and out of love sometimes with amazing turnaround, it seems, and I think the reason for that is that they were never actually in love in the first place. Unless someone you once admired and respected revealed that their life and your perception of it was all a lie, or else drastically changed their life so as not to be respectable any longer, the admiration and respect probably wouldn’t die. Real love is a strong, earned (therefore not easily lost) love.
In my lifetime I have met only a handful of people that deserved respect. Imagine how difficult it must be to find someone to respect so highly, to have common interests with, and to be attracted to - that feels the same way about you.
Imagine a woman, looking for a soul mate, someone she could respect and admire, looking for a man who wants the same things in a relationship, finding men that are looking for a mate that will do their laundry for them, that will be subservient to them.

Images of Romance in an Unromantic World

Even to those in a happy relationship, Valentine’s Day has lost some of its appeal. If you’re in a happy relationship, you don’t need an occasion to celebrate it. And flowers and candy are hardly good symbols for true admiration and respect - real love. Who needs us as consumers to spend the money on these items anyway, other than businessmen?
So what place does Valentine’s Day have in our world? It helps conjure up the language of poetry, the beauty of flowers, the romantic notions of a world long gone... and sometimes you get a heart-shaped box of candy to boot. But in our world, considering the different ways men and women are raised to view themselves and their mates, there are a lot of other issues that have to be taken care of before we can make a valentine card out of a doily and pink and red construction paper hearts and have it actually mean something.

Welcome to Corporate America
Creativity, Drive, and the Perversion of the Work Ethic

”The course of a career depends on one’s own action predominantly, but not exclusively. A career requires a struggle; it involves tension, disappointments, obstacles which are challenging, at times, but are often ugly, painful, senseless - particularly, in an age like the present, when one has to fight too frequently against the dishonesty, the evasions, the irrationality of the people one deals with.”
- Ayn Rand, The Ayn Rand Column

I am an Art Director. Impressive title, isn’t it? I supervise a staff of designers and production artists who design three monthly trade magazines, a quarterly trade magazine, promotional materials for the magazines and trade shows, and accompanying web sites. I’ve worked my way up at this company; I started here in a low-end position making less than half of what I make now. Now I do good work, and I get compliments on our product from others regularly. My name is on the masthead of every magazine. I have my own office. I work in downtown Chicago, with a relatively impressive view of the Chicago river and the Mercantile Exchange building. I’ve worked at this company for four and a half years. I commute on the train. I have a health plan and a 401(K) retirement savings. Occasionally I sit in for the editors and go to special functions and media events and get free food and drink. All in all, I have it pretty good.

Diary Entry, July 1997
I think I’m going to quit my job. I really can’t stand it here; even though I’m paid well I’m treated like crap by the owner; he resents me because I asked to be paid what I’m worth. And everyone seems to fight me on any decision to be made, even though everyone will say I am the best here at my job, they’ll still argue with me. I have really gotten to the point where I just hate it here, so much that I feel like I almost have to leave.

Oh, I forgot to mention it, though: Corporate America, as represented by the company I’m employed at, is horrendous. And I plan on giving up that office, that view, those media dinners, my name of the masthead, that salary.
You see, it goes like this: I love my work. I enjoy designing magazines. I enjoy working on Macintoshes, retouching photos, playing with typefaces. I don’t know why, but I love it. And the thing is, I know I’m good at what I do, and every single person in this company would agree that I’m a good designer, but every person in this company also tries to still tell me what to do, even though I’m the head of this department, even though they repeatedly say I’m good at what I do. This company does not let me just do my job.
Office Memo, January 10, 1997
S., I know we’ve gone over this before, but I just want to let you know when problems came up. Today C., in front of myself, D. S. and D. E., badgered myself with design questions focusing on two scans (specifically on whether or not they would be outlined). I told her that barring technical difficulties or purely a lack of time they would be done. She insisted on having them done, that these two photos not outlined jeopardized the integrity of the design, that I looked at every scan and personally told her that they would all be outlined (which I did not do). Her tone was more than condescending, it was flat out rude. If I were her secretary I would have been offended. The demands she posed were trivial and out of her jurisdiction, and they were made to not a low-ranking member of the staff, but to the Art Director, in front of her staff. Behavior like that is unprofessional and intolerable.
We have discussed and agreed that her behavior and attitude is a problem in this office. It has caused one designer to quit and it was part of the reason the associate editor quit. I suggest that something be done as soon as possible, before she jeopardizes the job position of the new designer we plan to hire next week.

The people that work here, I’ve discovered, are not rational. I’ve done my best over the years to work with them anyway, to meet their demands, to come up with a compromise that will temporarily appease them so that I can do what I’m supposed to do. But the more I’ve compromised the more I’ve realized that a compromise between good and evil always ends up with some evil. If you concede a small token to the enemy, they will continue to try to take more from you. And I can no longer let incompetent people destroy a good product.

Office Memo, June 12,1997
For months I have written repeated memos, had regular meetings and expressed an urgent concern about not only the meddling but the design incompetence of C. that has proven to be detrimental to this magazine and to this company. I have demonstrated over and over again that I am a good, quick designer, even when regularly faced with an late, incomplete and inconsistent work from editors. I have documented repeatedly that her interference in the design department has hurt the morale of the design department, has cost hours upon hours of time and additional money to this company and has ultimately sacrificed the design integrity of the magazine.
For a full year I have outlined what a problem this is. You have told me it will get better, that you’d talk to her. Apparently, however, she has not listened to memos or discussions about this problem.
In the beginning of the June issue you told her not to meddle, to let the designers do their job. For once she actually listened, and the result was not only a smoother month in getting work done but a great looking 112-page issue. I have received compliments on the design of the issue. The magazine looks good because she was not actively involved with the design, not in spite of it. This month, however, she apparently forgot what you told her. In our design meeting she picked on almost every subjective matter she could... Why are you listening to her, when she has been told repeatedly that this is out of her jurisdiction, when it has been shown that her input in these matters only hurts the final design of this magazine?
I’ve had to replace one staff member that quit because of her; I’ve had to remove one staff member from working on this magazine because they cannot stand working with her. The challenge of working well under difficult circumstances is not the problem; the challenge of working well when inexperienced people are actively trying to stop you from doing a good job is the problem. I can’t tell people they should work on this magazine when I can’t even think of any reasons why I should continue to.
Something, apparently something drastic, must be done immediately. I genuinely do not know how much longer I can work with the current circumstances. Please let me know as soon as possible if we can implement these changes and if you have any other ideas on how to solve this problem.

I know I sound like I’m overreacting here. But shouting matches are somewhat regular here, as well as multiple rounds of corrections in copy (after having three editors read something 15 times, there shouldn’t be any need for more changes, they just cost time and money). Butting in to the production department’s jobs is also a regular occurrence here. Having the goals of your department change without you knowing it. Having work redone because people weren’t paying attention. Redoing work because someone new saw it and said it needed to change, after 7 other people approved it. Welcome to Corporate America.

Diary Entry, September 9, 1997
I took a sick day today. A well day, so to speak. A mental health day. I didn’t think it would be good for me to go to work today. I really hate that place. Everyone hates everyone there, I think. J. told D. he’s sending out resumes again. D. says he wants to leave. B. was interviewing a few weeks ago.
Are we not supposed to have balls and ask for things we deserve? Are other people in the office jealous because there are actually some people with some talent in the production department, and they have the power to expose the ignorance of the rest of the staff? I hate the fact that there are so many stupid people that are able to hold a job there. And of course it then becomes my job to cater to them, because they can’t figure out what to do. I hate the fact that I have to follow other people’s whims. That’s precisely what they are - whims. People in that office don’t know what they want, and don’t trust the production department to do their job. They cost tons of money and tons of time. And the boss blames us for their ignorance.
I know I’ve said over and over again that I’m afraid of losing my financial security, that I’m afraid I might be making a mistake, that I’m worried about not having a plan, but there is no way whatsoever that I could stay there. It’s beginning to get hard to stay there now, and I still have over a month and a half before I quit. Five weeks before I tell them.

The turnover rate in the production design department, according to rough estimates only done in my head, are something like thirty percent annually. When we’re talking about a staff of seven, that means having to hire - and train - two or three people a year. If it isn’t that bad, why are they all running out of here?

Diary Entry, August 2, 1997
A co-worker quit from the company I work for today. I work in an office with about thirty-five people. Now this co-worker was in charge of our trade shows and quit two days before our annual trade show was about to begin. Apparently she was at a meeting about the trade show and someone else started badgering her and twenty minutes after the meeting she was on the phone with her husband saying, “It’s been bad enough that every day after work I cry when I get home, but now I’m on the phone crying while I’m at work.” So her husband told her it’s okay if she wants to leave, they can work it out. So leave she did. She collected her things, and just... left.
Now I only got to hear about this scene second-hand, I didn’t actually see her or even get to say good-bye to her, and that’s a real shame because I probably would have shook her hand and thanked her for doing something that just about every person in our office has pretty much dreamt about on a daily basis. I mean, when I heard about what she did I let out a low, sadistic laugh, you know, one of those laughs that comes from really deep down, because we haven’t had one of those angry quitting scenes in a while, and believe me, they’re always fun to watch. And I laughed like that because I know what she was going through and I know what a relief it must have been for her to do it.

I work in my spare time as the editor of the literary magazine “Children, Churches and Daddies.” One of the reasons I do it is simple: I want to put together a good magazine, one people like, on my own terms, and know that it is good. I have been praised for the design of the magazine. Everything about that magazine is a result of my own decisions: what the covers look like, what kind of sections the magazine has, who the contributors are, what the type looks like, what photos are used.
I need “Children, Churches and Daddies” for my own sanity. I need to do the work I love, without anyone telling me how to do it. I don’t get that at work, and I know I deserve it. People tell me I’m good, but they still get in my way and obstruct my progress - not at getting ahead at this company, but from producing a good product - the best product - at this company. I love my work. But they haven’t let me do it here.

Diary Entry, August 29, 1997
I hate having pride in my work at this place. It is hard when you know you’re good at something and everyone tells you you’re good and yet no one will let you make decisions. I’m the highest-ranking designer at this company and people outside my department overrule decisions of mine arbitrarily - and regularly. They destroy any consistency or style something may have. And then I have to answer for it, since I’m the head of design. But I’m really not. I’m a slave to the whims of people who don’t know anything about my work. It makes me want to leave so badly.
I just hate seeing things that are good get destroyed. It’s one of the hardest things for me to witness.
There are two types of people: people who think of work as an extension of themselves, people who are productive, and continually strive to improve, to move forward, and there are people who think of work as some sort of evil necessity to help them exist because no one will give them free money for some reason. So they go through work making a greater effort to not work and act like they are working, they stay in the same job, they gossip, and they make life difficult for productive people.
One of the greatest benefits of Capitalism is that when the most productive people are allowed to work and to excel and to own and fully reap the benefits of their labor, then the standard of living is raised for all. Consider how well off homeless people are in this country as opposed to other countries, for instance. There is such a wealth of goods and services that it trickles down and improves the lives of all. When new technology is created, the ole technology becomes cheaper, and more affordable to the lower classes. Well, my point from all that is that yes, that’s one of the greatest things about Capitalism, but I must admit that there are times when on an entirely selfish level it bothers me that people who choose not to create, not to work hard, not to really contribute to society, still get the benefits from intelligent people’s work.

There’s a group of women that work in another department here at the office. Their pay is equivalent to that of a secretary here at this company, and this company has a surprisingly low pay scale. They punch in on time, they sit in the lunchroom together and gossip while eating their fast food, they take their smoke breaks in the lounge on the 22nd floor, they try to look like they have a lot of work to do so no one bothers them. They’re all overweight. They all punch out at 4:30, go home, watch prime time television, and come back the next day and talk about it as if the characters on Melrose Place are friends of theirs. They never try to get a promotion, but they are angry if they don’t get a raise. They never ask what needs to be done. They are resistant to change. They don’t like people who succeed.
And these people make my blood boil.
It angers me that they are in the same office as me, taking partial credit for the magazine I work on. It angers me because these are the people that are a detriment to progress; that is the only thing they should have credit for.

“The difference between a career person and a job holder is as follows: a career person regards his/her work as constant progress, as a constant upward motion from one achievement to another, higher one, driven by the constant expansion of his/her mind, his/her knowledge, his/her ability, his/her creative ingenuity, never stopping to stagnate on any level. A job holder regards his/her work as a punishment imposed on him/her by the incomprehensible malevolence of reality or of society, which, somehow, does not let him/her exist without effort; so his/her policy is to go through the least amount of motions demanded of him/her by somebody and to stay put in any job or drift off to another, wherever chance, circumstances or relatives might happen to push him/her.”
- Ayn Rand, The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. III, No. 26

So I’ve made this decision that I don’t have to deal with all of this trouble anymore. One coworker told me that people in the industry refer to this company as a slave camp. But it stays in business anyway. So I’ve made this decision to give up the salary, the schedule, the “plan.” You see, I’ve planned everything in my life. I’m a control freak and need to have everything in order at all times.
And I’m not going to have that kind of security, that kind of stability, that kind of plan anymore. I have a plan to quit my job, to visit Florida for a month and then enjoy my Christmas holiday for once in my adult life (you see, it’s crunch time at this company from November 1st to February 1st, so you’re putting in 80 hours a week and have no time for the holidays). I plan to tour around the States, some for pleasure, some for writing, some for doing readings at bookstores and coffeehouses and bars and festivals. And then I plan on going to Europe for a few months.
I’ve never left this continent before, and I’d love the chance. I know some people in different countries in Europe, and figure that if they help me out I can afford to do this, to take almost a year off and travel.
But am I only running away from something?
In all the decisions I’ve made in my life, I’ve tried to move toward something, not to run away from something. So what am I looking for?

Diary Entry, August 29, 1997
I feel like I’m making such a large decision in my life now. When I left college, I knew I was only going to be going to school for four years, this was the logical conclusion to my schooling, but it was still a great change to go back home, as an adult, and start to look for a job. Once you’re working, though, you make your own schedules. You can stay at the same job for thirty years, you can marry and quit your job and take care of a family, you can get another job. And the thing is, I had no idea how long I was going to be at this job. I thought I’d be here for at least six years; that’s when my 401(K) becomes fully vested and I will have made the optimal amount of money in it, then I’d be ready to go, I could quit my job right about when I was probably ready to get married and possibly move to another city. But here I am, quitting a year and a half ahead of my plan, planning to spend a ton of my money on travelling instead of working for the next year.
It’s strange. I’ve always been so insistent that I be financially secure. I’ve always planned everything. I’ve always done the most logical thing. Is this logical? I figure that I’m young and I have a savings and I hate my job, this is as good a time as any. If I get married and/or start another job, I might not have this opportunity in my youth again. Right now there’s really nothing holding me back. So this is my chance.
But it’s not like me. It’s not like me to throw away a job that makes me great money. I have perks here. I can work on other projects here. The equipment is excellent. But I’m treated like a second-class citizen here. I have four to six people who answer to me design-wise, but I can’t tell them what to do when someone from another department is overriding my decisions all the time. I can hardly be an effective leader when no one allows me to lead.
I’ve mentally just gotten tired of fighting this place. So I’m here for another two months, I’ll try to save all of my money, and then I move on.
And recoup for a year.
I don’t know what I’m looking for in Europe. I want to be alone, really. I want to see different sights. I want to see different sights through my own eyes, with my perceptions, with my perspectives. I want to be able to react to the world. Does that make sense?
I want to know I can do this. That I can.

Why I stay at my stupid corporate job:
1. I’m a masochist at heart and this company turns me on.
2. I was raised in a slave camp, and this place lets me drink water while I work.
3. He keeps telling me he’ll deny everything in court if I leave him.
4. This company is cheaper than a sedative.
5. My boss makes me homesick for both Mother Russia and my vodka.
6. I don’t have the resources to study chimpanzees in their natural habitat; had to find similar test group.
7. I’m hoping the rays emitted from my computer will eventually give me a tan.
8. Staying trapped in my office all day allows me to avoid interaction with all people.
9. I can’t think of any faster way to become brain-dead.
10. All the fat people that work here make me feel thin.
11. It’s fun to bet on who will quit next.
12. I’d hate to have to spend my days outside in the sun, say, being active or doing different things.
13. The constantly changing whims of my supervisors keeps me on my toes.
14. Because you can’t have an abuser without an enabler.
and the bonus...
15. Contrary to popular opinion, my olive complexion does not mean I’m made of money.
Office Memo, April 28, 1997
I thought you said you told C. not to tell designers how to design departments. She did (see attached).
She also told me what to do for some of the show coverage, things that (1) go in conflict with consistency in the magazine, (2) go in conflict with consistency in design of all the show coverage per our meeting Friday, (3) would make the section look cluttered. She didn’t cause problems in the meeting Friday; she’s causing them on paper now. Why?
Please let her know that these changes are unnecessary. I’ve outlined it in a memo to her; she should also know, however, that it’s not her place to be doing things like this, and she won’t listen to me. Thanks.

I’ve tried to work through this unhealthy environment. I’ve tried to swallow my pride and just do what they tell me. But I can’t do it forever; I have too much pride and I know I should be doing something more. I’ve tried to fight for what I know is right, and then my supervisors will agree with me, and then one of the supervisors will disagree and no one will want to fight it. Everyone is so afraid to fight for things here, that they just let the cycle continue on and on and on.

Diary Entry, September 15, 1997
Why would you hate someone for paying them something close to what they’re worth? He did this to P., the old editor. When P. quit, he needed to replace him with three people, and I’m sure he’s paying the new editor more than he was paying P. He shoots himself in the foot that way. He resents people for having pride in themselves. He wants weak people here, so he can pay them next to nothing. And then he treats them like crap for doing sub-standard work.
Then he gets someone on staff who is good, and eventually they stand up for themselves and ask for more money, and he gladly gives it to them, and then he thinks about it for a while, and he thinks, “You know, I used to be able to pay them less money for the same work. They’re screwing me.” And then he hates them and makes them feel like crap until they quit.
I don’t understand how someone who can run a successful business can be so short-sighted.
If this place wasn’t so whim-oriented, it would be a lot better. The owner makes changes from one issue to the next, he changes his mind about everything, he doesn’t remember what he said, he blatantly lies.
I was told that he has told A. to sit on expense checks and petty cash requests as long as she can, so he can hold off on paying out what his employees have coming to them.

The thing is, work can be something that makes you happy (yes, I’ve heard that it is possible). I produce the literary magazine “Children, Churches and Daddies” for no money; I typeset it, I design it, I write for it, I scan photos for it, I make all editorial corrections, do spell checks and make sure it gets out on time, and I do it all with more efficiency that a staff of people do here in this office.
Maybe that’s another problem. I’ve think I’ve learned all I can learn from this place. A career is supposed to be a constant progression of learning and applying what you’ve learned, but for the past year, or year-and-a-half here, I haven’t been learning, I’ve just been fighting to stay at the same point I’ve always been at.
And that shouldn’t happen. Not from the standpoint of the owner, who wants efficiency and can most easily get it by allowing his staff to produce (a happy employee is a productive employee), and certainly not from my own standpoint. I want to learn, I want to grow. I don’t want to have to fight for things I fought for a year and a half ago.

Office Memo, January 13, 1997
Bonuses and Christmas Parties
Most companies have a decent Christmas party as well as bonuses at the end of the year. HOW magazine estimates that the average production/designer received a bonus of nearly $4,000 in the midwest and nearly $6,000 nationally. Folio magazine estimates that production directors, people in positions such as myself and D. S., receive bonuses on average of over $8,000 for trade magazine work.
In 1995 we had the closest thing to a real Christmas party, although we could not invite a guest (like a spouse). This year we received less than a party. For a staff that has been overworked and is looking for some sign of gratitude, no bonus and a lunch instead of a party is insulting.
Current Overtime Compensation
Overtime is supposed to be compensated for by being able to take time off. Usually, however, we only take time off at a ratio of 1:4 or 1:3. If I work 60 hours of overtime in a given month, seldom do I have the opportunity, much less the permission, to take nearly four days off, which would be a 1:2 ratio, much less a week and a half off at a 1:1 ratio. Yet this is supposed to be my compensation for losing half of my spare time. I have had to repeatedly relinquish social and family obligations, as well as eliminate basic money-saving and necessary household chores in my life like grocery shopping because I have simply had no time to do these things that I should be doing. The sheer amount of time I have worked has also made me physically sick, and with more work always piling on, I do not have the chance to take the time off I need to to get some rest and recover from illness.
The Fair Labor Standard Act requires government employees to get 1-1Ú2 hours of comp time for every hour of overtime worked. The average (norm - expected) ratio for any company offering comp time in lieu of wages is a 1:2 ratio. The Federal government is now trying to set up a standard of one hour of comp time for every hour and a half of overtime worked (in lieu of wages). This company’s policy puts our comp time drastically below those ratios. Considering that giving an employee comp time off at a 1:2 ratio doesn’t cost the employer anything, during less busy times there is no reason why this ratio should not apply to this company.
I have consistently worked far more overtime than a worker should. Consistently I have produced quality work at a much faster rate than the rest of the production/design staff at this company. And consistently I have wondered when I’d get paid for the work I have done, if I would even get compensation for the work I did, or when I would even have a day off. I look around and see the sales staff making three to four times my salary, all while working a normal work week (when not travelling around the globe). I see an editorial staff and a marketing staff that does not put in overtime give me work consistently late, asking me to spend my spare time catching up their mistakes.
I have battled with and created a good product in spite of an inadequate staff, or an incompetent staff, or an uncooperative staff. In short, I feel I don’t receive adequate compensation in most every front at this company.

Well, if I have learned anything in the past year, it has been how to deal with the incompetency of an inadequate and uncooperative staff, which is probably a lesson I’d have to learn sooner or later anyway.
At least I haven’t given in and joined them with that mentality. Then I would have really lost.
But I know there is more out there, and I know it is time for me to learn something new. It’s time for me to shake up my routine.
Change is hard for anyone to look forward to; when you get used to something, it just gets ... comfortable. Change can be scary. I’ve been at this company longer than I’ve been in college. The pay is pretty good. It could be worse.
Yes, I suppose it could be worse. But it could definitely be better, and I know that if it’s going to get better, I’m going to be the one that will make it that way.

Diary Entry, September 15, 1997
M. just came into my office with the most recent issue. She was so excited about how it looked, and she was going on about how the printer did a good job, and she’s so pleased. And she keeps saying things like “Next year will be better,” and “We’ll have a lot more ads next year,” and “We’ll have a lot more time to work on it next year,” and I keep nodding my head and agreeing with her, but I know the issue she just handed me will be the last issue I do, at least while I’m employed here.

So now I sit here, grinning and bearing it, trying not to tip anyone off, trying not to burn any bridges. Who knows, maybe they will want to freelance out one magazine to me, have me work on it at home, on my own time. Maybe I’ll have the best of both worlds for a while.
Maybe it’s not like this everywhere. Maybe after travelling, I’ll find a company that thinks it’s a good idea to pay people what they’re worth. Maybe I’ll find a place that judges people on merit, and not on how they dress or if they’re gay or not or how well they play golf or if they can hold their liquor or how many friends they can make - or should I say fake - with the staff.
Or maybe I’ll win the lottery and become independently wealthy. Oh, I guess that means I’ll have to play first. Well, I hate throwing away money, and I know I’d have to work anyway, because as I said, I love my job, I do my own work in my spare time just to keep me sane.
Maybe I’ll get sick and tired of working for someone else and go for another change altogether and start my own company. One where I produce a product with content I care about, that looks as good as I know it can look.
Anybody need a job in a year or two?

Diary Entry, September 17, 1997
I make it through the day here by thinking about October 17th, the day I put in my two week notice. It’s one month from today. Thirty days from now I will be telling the owner and D. S. that I’m putting in my two week notice.
Thirty days from now I’ll be telling everyone in production to come into my office, so I can tell them I’m leaving. And D. J. will be pouring champagne for me, and I’ll be telling everyone about my travel plans, and I’ll be laughing and smiling.
And when S. finds out and comes to me and asks me not to go I’ll say too bad, that apparently they can’t pay me enough to stay here, and if she asks me why I’m going I’ll tell her it’s because I can’t stand incompetence and idiocy and whim-worshipping and I deserve something better because I’m talented, hard-working and intelligent.
And I bet she won’t even get that she is the incompetent, whim-worshipping idiot.
And C. will be glad that I’m leaving, because then she can take over the design of this magazine, even though she’s not a designer or an art director but an editor, and a bad one at that.
And I’ll look at J., the main saleswoman for this magazine, and I know she’ll be thinking two things:
1. if the magazine looks worse it will be even harder to sell, which will make her near-impossible job of selling crap even more impossible, and
2. she’ll be jealous, because she wants to get out of here too, because this place places constant barriers in front of any attempts to do your job and she’s underpaid and her job depends on there being a good product when editorial can’t write to save their lives.
And I’ll feel bad for J., and I’ll want to tell her to just get out of here, that working at McDonald’s has to be better than this place, you’d have to have more pride in your work any place else than here.
I keep trying to think that it’s not that the weak and stupid are able to beat the intelligent and hard-working and rational. That I’m not leaving because they beat me. That I was wrong. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s that the intelligent and rational human does not need to put themselves through this kind of abuse. I have to make a point to actively consciously remind myself of this. There is nothing to gain from battling those who do not listen to reason. Consider trying to have a rational argument with a religious fanatic - they are not coming from a rational base, so the foundation of their argument is not sound, even though they don’t question their foundation and accept it as true. And therefore they won’t listen to your argument, no matter how much reason and logic you use. They’ve rejected that line of thinking. They’ve rejected thinking.
The ignorant are different from the stupid, because being stupid is not a statement on whether you choose to be that way. Being ignorant, the way I see it (I know this is not in the definition), means you choose the option of being an idiot; you ignore the better choices; you choose irrationality over reason. You’re stupid because you weren’t educated, but you’re ignorant because you choose not to be educated, that’s the difference that I see between the two, and that’s how I use the word ignorant. Being ignorant is detestable. Being ignorant, since it is a choice to avoid rationality, cannot be rationally argued with. Reason won’t change their mind.
So if the choices are: 1. fighting a losing battle, not because reason is not on your side, but because you opponent does not recognize reason, or 2. leaving the battleground, so you don’t have to bang your head against a wall, then I guess choice number two seems to be most logical.
D. J. refers to working here as “pounding nails into your cock.” It’s extremely painful and also absolutely pointless.
Kind of crass, but well said.
So I just keep thinking, “Thirty days.”

So I now embrace change with open arms, I welcome it into my life, and I keep my eyes focused on the future, to make the best out of what I have and what I’ve learned in order to face the challenges I give myself in the year - and the lifetime - to come.

What Are Flexible Ethics?

What Are Flexible Ethics?

The Lutheran Brotherhood compiled the following statistics: Nearly two-thirds of all adults believe ethics “vary by situation” or that there is no “unchanging ethical standard or right and wrong.” Nearly eighty percent of all adults from age 18 to 34 believe ethics vary by situation, but even forty-eight percent of all adults aged 65 and up believe ethics vary by situation. Never did a majority of adults believe that there is one standard for every situation.

Now, I needed to look up the word “ethics” to make sure I wasn’t getting confused with my terms. According to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (Tenth Edition), “ethic” has the following meanings:
1. the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation,
2. a set of moral principles or values,
3. a theory or system of moral values,
4. the principles of moral conduct governing an individual or a group,
5. a guiding philosophy.
This made me want to look up “moral,” just to make sure I had this all clear:
1. of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior,
2. expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior,
3. conforming to a standard of right behavior,
4. sanctioned by or operative on one’s conscience or ethical judgement.
What these statistics say is that eighty percent of adults from age 18 to 34 believe that what is “right” and “wrong,” what is “good” and “bad,” can change from situation to situation. What these statistics say is that eighty percent of adults from age 18 to 34 believe that the principles guiding themselves and change from moment to moment. What these statistics say is that eighty percent of adults from age 18 to 34 believe that a “guiding philosophy” cannot be consistent.
I looked at these numbers and was astounded. If the philosophy an individual uses to guide their life is not consistent, it’s not a philosophy at all.

Consider it from a religious standpoint. In Catholicism, for instance, you should not have sex before marriage, or commit adultery. Religious leaders may forgive an individual if they have sinned, their god may forgive them if they repent, but in Christianity is it wrong to have sex before marriage or commit adultery. But there are Catholics who break both of these promises they have made with their religion - with their philosophy. And although the adulterers may ask forgiveness, there are Catholics who claim to be Catholics but still have no problem with having sex before marriage (as long as you don’t get caught, I suppose). But what this means is that these Catholics have claimed one philosophy and followed another. If they really believed in their Catholic ethics, they would not want to break them. It’s that simple.
And this was in no way to pick on Catholicism versus any other religious belief - or any belief system, for that matter, that an individual claims to follow but does not follow - it is merely to show that a belief system is consistent, and it is the individuals who choose not to follow it consistently.

Consider, as another example, the fourth definition of “ethic.” What if the principles of moral conduct for a group that you were in weren’t consistent, what if they changed from situation to situation? What if one week it supported you as a member of the group because you got a job at a good business, for being good at what you do, and the next week they were condemning you because a black person should have had the job instead of you? What if one week the group supports your skill in creating a new product to improve people’s lives, the next week they are telling you that your time is better spent feeding people who don’ t work for themselves? What if one week the group said they should support life and wouldn’t let a woman in the group get an abortion, and the next week it decided it should reject life and kill your brother, who was falsely accused of murder and is in prison? What if one week the group said the government should lower taxes, and the next week it proclaims that it’s the government’s responsibility to help the poor, with more of your tax dollars?
I won’t even talk about the fact that this “group” is merely a collection of individuals, each with rights that should not be violated. I won’t even talk about you as an individual having the right to your own life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
But imagine not knowing what laws will be enacted, not knowing what freedoms will be given to you and what freedoms will be taken away. Imagine not being able to gauge what will happen to your future. This is what it’s like to have ethics that “vary by situation.”
This is what is currently happening in our society today - people do not have a consistent set of values, of morals, of ethics - and it makes living a chronic state of terror.

Why do people, knowing these inconsistencies, living as if there are no absolutes, why do people continue to live this way?
Our current philosophy classes teach people that “the world is in chaos.” That “you can’t make a difference.” They question whether you can prove that you’re not dreaming through your entire life, or tell you that you can’t even prove if you are merely a part of someone else’s dream and do not even exist. They tell you to answer any difficult question with, “How should I know? I’m only human.”
People are rational beings - that’s what separates us from animals. People need to use their rational faculties in order to thrive. But they can choose not to use their mind - and the consequences are evident in the current trends in philosophy.
People, when faced with these alternatives for philosophy, turn to the religion that was forced down their throats as a child, to the same religion forced down their parent’s throats when they were children, and claim that as their philosophical system. But they don’t really believe in it, they don’t really follow it.
But they need something, their mind keeps telling them, they need some sort of system of beliefs. And so they keep telling their mind to shut out the fact that the system they chose isn’t working for them.
But what they should be doing is listening to their minds, following logic and reason, so that they can find a consistent set of answers to every question they face in life.

“Type A” Person

I was in my friend’s car once, and she was driving through the streets of Chicago, and she was letting people in who were getting in the right lane at an intersection when that right lane really should only be used for turning right but they go straight and try to cut off the long line of traffic waiting at the light. Well, as I said, she’s letting these people get in front of her, and she’s stopping at four-way stop intersections and waving other cars to go in front of her, and when she is going she’s going under the speed limit, and I’m thinking, my god, she’s under thirty years old and she’s driving like she’s twice her age and I want to tell her to get going because damnit, I don’t want to die in this car, I’ve got a lot of living to do, I’ve never jumped out of an airplane or made a million dollars or been in a lustful affair with a high-ranking political candidate, and if I am going to go out I surely don’t want to die of boredom while someone else is staying in the most congested lane of traffic when they could just as easily get into the next lane and cut everyone off in front of them when they eventually have to merge, like I would most certainly do.

And then it occurred to me, and of course it filled me with a complete and utter sense of elation, because I just love being pigeon-holed into stereotypical psychological categories: I really am a Type A person.

There’s an intersection near my house where from one direction you can either go straight or turn right, and there are two streets that merge into this one, both turning right, so the middle street has a “no turn on red” sign. And usually when I’m on this road I’m on the street that’s going straight, the left-most street, and these two streets are on my right, merging into my street. And I always catch the red light on this street, it’s like the traffic gods are displeased with my constant efforts to circumvent their wrath, so I’m always catching the red light at this street, so I’ve learned a new trick: I turn right, onto the first street on my right, but instead of doing a U-turn I turn left at the next block so I can get on that second street, all so I can turn right onto the street I was on originally before both of the other streets get to go so I can beat every one of those slow bastards to the next intersection.

I mean, yes, I’m the one that’s yelling and banging the steering wheel of my car when people on the road are idiots. Yes, I’m that person who has to race so that I can slam on my brakes at that next intersection, only 100 feet away, and yes, I am only driving a Saturn SL1, a sedan with about as much power as a 1982 Ford Mustang, but damnit, I won’t go down without a fight, I will be out there cutting everyone off, weaving in and out of traffic; I will be the one getting there before you, trust me, I will.

And even when I’m tuning the radio while driving, because, you see, I do that and put on my make-up and take notes for work and check over my schedule and if I was the Hindu god Vishnu and had ten arms I’d get a cel phone and send out faxes and eat dinner and write a novel while I was at it, but, as I said, even when I’m tuning the radio while I’m driving I only let the first second-and-a-half of the song play before I’m disgusted and change the dial to the next pre-programmed station, just to instantaneously become disgusted another six times and have to find a tape to play because all those stupid corporate pieces of shit think they should play crap over and over again in order to keep the mindless tuned in.

Well, not me, thank you very much, I don’t have the patience for that.

So, needless to say, I’ve discovered that this is a problem of mine, I wish there was some sort of therapy group for this so I could go to my weekly “Type A Anonymous” meetings, but we’d probably all be pushing each other out of the doorway thirty seconds before the meeting is supposed to start, saying, “Get out of my way ass-hole, you should have thought about being late before you tried to cut me off,” and the meetings themselves would probably be filled with people yelling, “Hey, jerk, I think I was talking, what, do you think you’re god or something, show some respect.”

God, and I know this is a problem of mine, I know this “Type A-ness” transcends into every realm of my life. When I get on the elevator in the morning to get to my office on the eighteenth floor, I try to make the doors close as quickly as possible so no one can get on the elevator with me, because you know, I really do hate all people and surely don’t want to be in a cramped confined space with a bunch of strangers. But when people do get on the same elevator as me, they invariably press the buttons for floors fifteen, sixteen and seventeen, and I start pursing my lips, stopping myself from saying, “Oh, you people couldn’t stand to walk a flight of stairs, you just had to press all of these buttons and stop me from getting to my god-damned floor in a reasonable amount of time.”

Even walking on the sidewalk in the city, I always get stuck behind someone that’s a full foot shorter than me and a full thirty pounds heavier, someone who labors to walk very, very slowly, someone who actually sways rhythmically when they walk, like a metronome, or like a person standing on the edge of a dance floor, rocking back and forth, back and forth all too afraid to actually ask someone to dance, or else afraid to go out and dance and make a fool of themselves in front of the cool people who have figured out what rhythm really is. And I’m walking behind this person, almost tripping over myself because this walking pace is just unnaturally slow, so to pass the time until there’s an opening on the left side of the sidewalk so I can pass them and walk like a human being again I start to mimic them, swaying with my walk, more for my own entertainment than anyone else’s.

Yes, more than a human being I’m a human doing, and I hate having to depend on the schedules of others in order to get ahead of them all.

Yes, I am the person in line at the grocery store with three items, shifting my weight from foot to foot, frantically scanning the other lines, the person who wants to ask the person in front of them, “can’t I get in front of you, I’ve only got three items and you have two full grocery carts full of crap like Cheetos, Pepsi, fish sticks and Haagen Daz Cookie Dough ice cream.” Yes, I am the person who has four different sets of plans for any given evening because if any one event gets too boring I can pick up and say, “Oh, sorry, I’m supposed to be at a meeting by now,” instead of having to tell them that they’re too boring or that I just have no idea whatsoever of how to relax. Yes, I am the person who coasts toward an intersection when I know the timed pattern of the traffic lights, and know that I can manage to get to this intersection without ever having to make a complete stop so when that light does change I can accelerate faster than everyone else, pass everyone by, and have the open road to myself, wide open in front of me.

I’m already guessing that at my funeral, when the long procession of cars is creeping toward the cemetery, I’ll be opening that casket up and whispering to the driver of the hearse, “hey, what do you say we floor it and blow everyone off in line? We could probably grab a beer at the corner bar and still be able to beat everyone to the grave site,” because, as I said, I’m a “Type A” person, and I’m going to make damn sure I do as much living as I possibly can, I’m not going down without a fight, and wherever that god-damned goal line is, I swear, I’ll beat everyone to it.

prom ‘97

... or doing things right

My mother just gave me a bunch of her cocktail and formal dresses that she wore when she was young. Floor length dresses, usually with some beadwork, all really spectacular, unique formal dresses, and I thought, wow, these are really great, I’d love to wear these dresses, and then I thought, wait, I have nowhere to wear these dresses, and then I thought, wait, no one I know of would have any place to wear these dresses, these are dresses that look like they should be worn to award ceremonies in southern California and there’s nothing like that going on around here in Chicago and if there was, I’m sure I couldn’t afford to go to it. So then the thought struck me, like a sequin that caught the light and glared into my eye from the shoulder of a floor-length one-shoulder satin dress with matching stole: I could have a formal party. Host it in my living room. Decorate the whole place. Well, then, since it was mid-May and and I couldn’t get a limo rented for a friend’s birthday because they were being used by a bunch of sleazy seventeen-year-olds wasting their parents’ money, it occurred to me that ten years ago this year I went to my own prom, and then the vision struck me with even more clarity. I was to have a prom party.

Prom ‘97, it was, I had to decorate and make it prom, except more fun, because we’re older now and probably have a better idea of how to actually have fun. So, where to start, where to start. Needed streamers, hanging down from door frame to floor in every door way. Needed lighting... Got my white christmas lights out from storage in the basement and strung lights all around my living room and dining room, on the tables, on the walls. Needed balloons, so I got 75 large silver balloons, blew them all up and let them cover the floor. Bought a crystal punch bowl, made a punch that would force people to eventually have fun, got a ton of food for the buffet, sprinkled glitter and streamers and confetti all over the place, even got a disco ball.

Needed to make favors, remember at formal dances you’d get little booklets with the name of the prom and the location and the theme song and the class president? Well, had to make those, and they should match the invitations, and come to think of it, there’s usually a photographer with a backdrop in the corner of the dance floor so you could get your portrait taken... Hmmm... I’d have to borrow the grey portrait backdrop my sister made by painting over one of those maps they have in elementary schools, that roll down over the chalkboard like a projection screen and put it in one of the bedrooms so my friends could have their portrait taken.

And my friend Brian was even coming into town for this party, because in high school nine years ago I asked him to prom and he turned me down and we’ve always sworn that if we could do it over again, we’d go together. So I thought I’d surprise him, and since I sing I got my four-track recorder out and taped my voice over a slow George Michael song, kissing a fool, because we were both dorks in high school and both loved George Michael, and anyway, I sang over this song and was going to have us dance to it together.

So people start showing up for my party, and I’m playing big band and swing music, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Harry Connick Jr., The Glenn Miller Orchestra, because you see, I have taste now and wouldn’t play the kind of crap you’d hear at say, your prom or a wedding, like “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Michael Bolton or “At This Moment” by Billy Vera and the Beaters or “Truly” by Lionel Ritchie or Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston or Natalie Cole without her dead dad’s voice in the background. And people are complimenting me on my punch, that it tastes really good, but I don’t dare tell them that it’s absolut vodka and absolute citron and rum and banana liqueur and a little whiskey and some left over red wine from my last party, all with a splash of orange juice and Ne-Hi fruit punch soda. And Scott is already starting to spill his drink on the floor and bump into people and it’s only like eight o’clock so I’m thinking, this is going to be a good party.

And then Helen comes in with Steve, her fiancee, and she’s got a new eyebrow ring, and I say, wow, did that hurt, and she said no, it hurt more to look in the mirror and see this big metal circle piercing through the flesh above my eyebrow, but no, when I got it done it didn’t hurt at all. And minutes later I hear my roommate talking to her, saying that there’s a theory among psychologists and such that if someone gets into multiple piercings or piercings in unconventional places or tattoos, that’s a sign that they were abused when they were a child. So my roommate is asking Helen, “So, were you abused as a child?”, and I try to cut in to halt this social faux pas, and Helen responds with “No, not really.” So I think, okay, I need to know what that means, so I ask, “What do you mean, not really?” and she answers, “Well, my parents were Columbian and I went to a Catholic school. It’s a wonder I’m not a serial killer.” And I think, okay, maybe Helen’s fiancee won’t try to start a fight with my roommate after all, maybe things are actually going to be okay.

And more people start showing up, Rachel strolls in wearing her old prom dress, and her and her friend made wrist corsages out of broccoli and spinach leaves. And Dave shows up, that sweet thing, with corsages that match a few of my dresses for me, and I decide to change into dress number two, I mean, there are only so many occasions where I’d have the chance to wear more than one formal dress to a function, I might as well take advantage of it, and everyone seems to be having a grand ol’ time, and we start taking pictures and then I decide that Brian, the prom date that never was, should dance with me.

So I turn off all the Christmas lights so that all that’s going is the disco ball and I play this goofy George Michael song and start dancing with Brian, and he’s laughing hysterically that I remembered that he liked George Michael all those years ago and that I actually sung over this song, and we’re dancing together, and then the says, “Oh, wait a minute. If this is supposed to be prom, I better act like I did at prom,” and then he pushed me away and acted all stiff and started doing the box step and stepping on my feet, and it just made me laugh harder and harder.

And then I decided I needed to have everyone vote for a king and queen of prom, so everyone whispered in my ear who they thought should win, and I picked two women and two men so it wouldn’t be such an elitist thing, and one of the kings won only because he got nearly as many votes for queen as he did for king. So when I tallied it all up in my very drunk head, all while wearing dress number four, I picked up the Burger King crowns I picked up last week just for this occasion and crowned the winners, and told everyone we should all dance.

So by the end of the evening we changed the music in the stereo so we were listening to the Bee Gees and Abba and Duran Duran and old early eighties crap that we could just thrash around to, and we were singing to all the songs and jumping around, and it was two in the morning, but we didn’t care, because we were all at prom and having a perfectly good time.

And I thought about Brian dancing the box step and stepping on my feet, acting all stiff and scared because the high school prom was a time for awkwardness and uncomfortableness, and I thought, yeah, we really are more comfortable now. Everyone should have a prom when they’re old enough to enjoy it.

Open Forum, 1997

JASON: We wouldn’t like dogs nearly as much if they didn’t coincidentally look like they’re smiling when their mouths are open.
JANET: Personally, I like the fact that dogs usually have their mouths open and their tongues hanging out. Not in a sexual sense, mind you, I just mean that I like the fact that dogs versus people can stick their tongues out and have it be no problem. I mean, when I see a dog with it’s tongue hanging out because it’s panting, I just stick my tongue out to the dog, because, you know, that dog is probably the only creature that would let me stick my tongue out without thinking that I was crazy. Does that sound strange?
GREG: Okay, now I’m really uncomfortable, cause I have many issues with dogs, due to being “treed” by a rotweiler as a tot and I’m feeling like you’re doing this just cause I’m a cat person, cause I think that people are like cats in that they have issues about parents (i.e. they view as a bit of a parental/pride leader, i.i.e. they are forever in adolesence much like MANY of my exes), and they are often conflicted about showing affection purr purr then runaway (much like MANY of my exes) and you’re trying to intimidate me ahahahahahaha!
JASON: I read about how recently, a man got arrested for child pornography. He was caught with a folder full of pictures of naked adult people (from actual pornographic magazines), and he had scotch-taped photos of children’s heads over the heads of the adults. He was tried for child pornography, he was found guilty, and he is serving a fourteen-year sentence. It makes me wonder. If I accidentally leave the bathroom unlocked and someone walks in, can I get arrested for flashing? Has our society gotten out of control, or are our bondaries good in our society right now?
JANET: Well, as I’ve always said, there is too much government intervention, see, that’s the beauty of Capitalism, but don’t tell Greg that or he’ll start bitching and bitching. Okay, it’s time for big bother to come in and take care of all the people who can’t take care of themselves at the expense of the people that WORK for a living.
JASON: (forcefully taking the laptop and interrupting): Yeah, but what about the subject I brought up? You’re obviously much more political about sexual/personal/body/gender issues than I. What do you think of this subject?
JANET: The fact that the government is telling this person that they can’t think about some subject that is illegal is what I’m talking about. Soon writers who writes about, or think about writing about, mass murders, will be arrested. Do we want to keep our freedom, or lose it, inch by inch?
GREG: Actually it’s worse than that. This guy had a roommate who was disgusted by his actual and fake child porn and posed (on his own) as an underage child and then turned the guy in so he was sentenced to JAIL for molesting a non-existant person, which has little to do with any economic system - in fact it has to do with concepts of personal freedom that have everything to do with everything but money save that those with cash makes the rules (the only economic reality I consider valid). I think it’s appalling that we now have postmodern sin. More than that non-existant sin, like conceptual sin, conviction of intent, which is almost more dangerous and vile than Salem (which is still our system of societal regulation and dangerous whether the the economics are capitalism or sumpin’ else).
JASON: But how do we reconcile our very liberal, very leftist views of the world with the fairly disgusting things we have to hold up to defend these views? We have to support 2 Live Crew to support free speech. We have to defend a guy who wants to fuck eight year old girls in order to protest government regulations. The ACLU has to throw free legal representation to the KKK to uphold their philosophical principles. Sometimes it actually occurs to me to be a little more conservative person than I am right now, just so I don’t have to constantly support and defend these things that, although I philosophically have to support because of our society and the right I believe exist for all of us, I personally can’t stand --make me sick - make me disgusted that I’m actually supporting them as a valid form of free speech. Janet, you must have some kinds of conflicts in your life. How do you deal with them?
JANET: First of all, the personal conflicts you see in protecting rights can be completely replaced with rights of the business person in the conservative party for protecting rights. The conservarive party was originally concerned with protecting all rights, but it developed that the conservative stance lost the protection of “personal” versus “business” rights, which has developed into our current dysfunctional/incinsistent two party system. Anyway... Yes, I see “personal” conflicts in letting people produce pronography that degrades women. But I’d prefer a system of government that allows me to protest that pornography than a system that allows no thoughts to exist, even if those thoughts were of pornography and protest to pornography. I’d prefer a system that allows me to show the world that I’m worth more than some servant to be used for men’s whims, I’d prefer that to banning ideas altogether.
GREG: Moving to a slightly humorous bent...if we are to regulate or rate dangerous speech, how much do we put in warnings before you are giving away the plot. And to make a huge leap, I would personally protest (with my dollars) any movie that has a trailer that gives away every key plot/laugh point in a film. The only thing worse is those damn TV movies that show upcoming scenes at EVERY commercial break (like all Hallmark specials). I think the Entertainment Industry needs to be made aware that we will go see a work of art without fully knowing what it will be. Now, I may be speaking from the disadvantage of someone who remembers every 10 second bit of film I see and piece together the rest. Do you know how many films have been ruined for me by giveaways? I think there should be a restriction to 30 secs of excerpts in previews, by law.
JASON: These are good points. I WOULD rather have the freedom to protest something than just simply banning something I don’t like... because the next thing that someone doesn’t like might be mine. Can we move to something personal?
What is the thing that scares you the most, personally? Not your phobias (haunted houses, spiders, enclosed spaces). What is the thing that scares you the most?
JANET: Losing control.
JASON: The thing that scares me the most. Something just flew across the room and I couldn’t tell what it was. Losing my mind. Losing my rational mind. Getting old and getting senile and losing myself and not realizing that I’m realizing it. That’s what scares me the most. Why does losing control scare you so much?
JANET: The worst times in my life to date were the times where I had no control over things that were happening. If I have control over things in my life, then I can safely determine what is happening in my life, and I can always state that I did what I felt what I needed to do at any given point in my life.
If I choose to give control to someone, well, that would be a choice of mine as well, and I would also be able to choose at any given point to take control back. But having no ability to control what I should be able to control - like going senile, i suppose, for instance, that scares me. Why do you ask?
JASON: I’m not sure.
I have never felt before like I’m OUT of control. It’s interesting. I make a lot of ‘poo-poo’ points about sexuality issues, gender issues, but there are certain things that stand out in sharp clarity in my own life ABOUT these things: one of them is right now, that I have never felt out of control of my own life, and I think a big reason is that I was a male growing up and you were a female. Every time I think someone is making up some sort of ungrounded criticism about some sort of issue in this country, some sort of solid example is brought up to remind me that it is NOT a made-up issue.
I was raised as a middle-class, middle-america, white straight male nerd. My thoughts, my ideals, my ideas, my philosophy, all reflects this. I don’t apologize for it, just like I don’t expect anyone from any other type of class, race, gender, or orientation different from mine to apologize for theirs. But I get a lot of shit about it. It’s something I work on.
JANET: You’re right. Although I’m not one to point out these kinds of things in such a crass way, I wanted to say, “oh, you haven’t had to ever relinquish control? Well, you’re not a woman.” I know that’s bad, but on some levels it’s true. And on another note, I’ve never said I was “out of control;” that sounds like I’ve gone crazy. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about feeling like you were in a position to relinquish your control. That’s much worse than being “out of control.”
And it’s okay that you’re a man, it’s not like you should feel like you should have to treat people differently or people should treat you differently, just because you’re a man, just like I shouldn’t go through that just because I’m a woman. But I wish there was a way I could show you how it feels, in that “sexist” sense, for instance, to be forced to relinquish control.
Actaully, it’s worse than going senile, because your mind is doing that to you. What I’m talking about is losing control, not because of your mind, but because of outside forces.
JASON: You can immediately tell in this typing-obsessed society of ours who the people were who were forced to take a typing class in 9th grade and learned the way their hands were supposed to curl around the keys on the keyboard and whose hands stay pretty still (in relationship to their wrists) when they’re typing, and which people just sort of picked it up as they got older and realized they were going to have to type more and more, the people whose hands go spinning wildly back and forth, left and right way beyond the keyboard, six inches beyond either direction. I’m not saying that one of these ways is better or worse. All I’m saying is that there was a certain point in American history where this wasn’t even an issue. The only people who knew how to type were in the steno pool. Now EVERYONE needs to know how to type, and and a lot less of those people actually get typing training.
You DO show me what’s it like to be a woman. You DO make me feel like what it must be like. Or do you not realize that that is what your writing does for me?
You’re right, I don’t feel like I need to apologize for the upbringing and genetic material I have. A lot of people in the poetry/literary scene certainly feel like I should apologize, though.
One of my most famous pieces, one of the most popular, was inspired by a black poet named Reggie Gibson. I really, really wanted to mirror his motivation, mirror his... ooh, how do I put this? His inner being. I want to do the things in the literary world that my heroes who are not straight white males do, that make me such big fans of them. They write from the gut. They write about their upbringing, they write about their race, they write about their class, they write about their parents, they write about all these things in the LAST thirty years of their life that make them what they are now.
And there’s something that I don’t think a lot of women/black people/gay people realize, which is that there ARE no cultural identities/common experiences/political points that a straight middle-class, suburban white male can make about where he came from. And so, I write about what I know. Which is why I write about hating Windows. And falling in love with art girls. And PacMan and Punky Brewster and all those other things. THIS is my cultural heritage, because I have been raised to be ashamed of every single white man who ever came before me. It’s a tough burden to bear. Even though white men still have control over the business industry, even though the straight white male still gets the good jobs and gets the power and money and decision-making power, that is NOT me, yet I still have to bear the brunt of them. It’s difficult, you know?
JANET: You know, I can tell you’re a NOVELIST. This started off as a one-sentence thing, you know?
I am glad my work “works” on some levels. But I wonder how much you really “understand.” That’s not a slam, just a thought.
I think it’s difficut to be whomever you are, no matter what category it is. Is it worth it to understand the plight of people who aren’t like you?
JASON: To me, it’s very much worth understanding the plight of people who aren’t like me. A big priority of mine, something that is very important to me, is understanding people and relating to them on an individual basis. That is, liking them or not liking them based on who they are as an individual human being, not as a member of a class or sex or race or gender. The more I understand about class and sex and race and gender, the more generalities I understand, and the more I can consciously not judge someone based on those things, but based strictly on their individual traits. On whether they’re a good person or a bad person.

A dream about murder.

I had a dream last night, it was different from my usual dreams, usually I dream about stuff that seems pretty real, somewhat mundane and at most usually frustrating. But I don’t know if it was the wine I had at the Thanksgiving feast at Rachel’s down the block, or if I heard some strange story on television earlier, but I dreamt about murder.
Dave and I were staying at a hotel, I don’t know where the hotel was, but it was on a body of water, I think it was a lake, not an ocean or anything. And I remember at some point, it was dawn in the dream, I went for a jog, I noticed two good-looking men outside while I was on my jog, and then I went down the hill to the water. I wanted to jog along the water. But they had it roped off - I don’t even know who “they” would be, but the area along the water was roped off, maybe until full daylight, maybe then lifeguards would be there to protect the people. But the point is, I couldn’t jog along the water, so I sat down at the bottom of the stairs by the water’s edge, right in front of the ropes, and watched the water. And a woman came along down the stairs, and sat down next to me to watch the water, too. I remember thinking that I didn’t like her being so close, I like to keep a sense of personal space, but then it occurred to me that there wasn’t much space for her to go since the whole area was roped off. And the thing is, I don’t even like to jog.
Oh, so anyway, I don’t even know why I went for a jog or at what point in time in my dream this jog occurred. But I know that in the dream I killed someone. It occurred before my dream technically started; I don’t remember anything about the murder, I don’t know if it was me alone that did the killing or if Dave was there with me, all I know is that I killed a guy, I don’t know why I killed him, but I killed someone in another room in the same hotel, someone who I didn’t even really know. And the thing is, I was wearing fake nails during the murder, or at least that’s what I inferred in the dream, because I thought I lost one of them at the scene of the crime and the main part of the dream was me in the bathroom removing all of my fake nails because they might implicate me in the murder.
So I was removing my nails, they were plastic nails glued on to my real nails, and they weren’t even painted, they were still just white plastic. And as I was removing these fake nails I was dropping them on the floor because I was ripping them off so frantically, I didn’t want anyone to be able to link me to this murder. So when I got them all off, I was still worried that I had a little glue left on my real finger nails, so I was trying to scrape that off, and then I was trying to pick up all the fake nails off the bathroom floor. They all fell just to the right of the toilet, and were on the tile floor, and I remember as I was picking them up I also picked up a dust ball and a used piece of clear tape. I remember thinking that was odd, because usually hotel bathroom floors are clean, they’re cleaned every day. So anyway, I kept picking up the nails, trying to make sure I got them all, occasionally dropping one of them back on the floor because I was so hectic and so nervous. This made the whole procedure take up most of my dream.
Once I had all of the nails, the only thing I could think about was how to dispose of the nails, and the rest of the dream became a frantic effort to figure out how I could get rid of them so that they could not be traced back to me. I thought that I could just flush them all down the toilet, but then I thought that there might be a chance that one of the nails wouldn’t go down and would just stay at the bottom of the toilet and I wouldn’t notice it and think I was home free but in actuality I’d be leaving a huge piece of evidence in my own hotel room linking me to the murder. Then I wondered if they’d have a way to sift through the sewer water from the hotel, so then I thought that I shouldn’t flush any of them down the toilet, but go to various public rest room around town and flush a few at a time.
Then I started to worry that if the nail I left at the scene of the crime took more than just the glue with it, that it actually took some of my nail with it, then I would have left DNA evidence at the scene of the crime and there would be nothing I could do.
And then I started to wonder if I actually lost a nail at the scene of the murder, or if I was just overreacting.
And then I wondered if anyone had even found the dead body yet, all this time laying there on the floor of their hotel room. And then the phone rang and I woke up.

All These Reminders

Look, over here, in my living room.
You left an empty bottle of beer
on the end table. The cap, too.
And come here, follow me, over here,
in the kitchen, look in here, see,
you left some of your food in the pantry.
A box of spaghetti, some canned
tomatoes. And come here, in the bathroom,
I know you probably won’t notice this,
but here, this towel, it smells like
you, is smells like your shaving cream.
And I could swear my crumpled bed
sheets are still warm from you.

Why did you have to go. Why
does this have to seem so hard.

Okay, look here, the remote for the
television is on the arm of the chair,
where you always leave it. And the cocktail
table, it’s pushed forward on one side
because you’d always rest your feet
on it. Everywhere I look around me,
I see something that you affected.
I look in the kitchen. I look in the
dining room. I look in the mirror.

Why did you do this to me. Why
couldn’t you have made a clean break.

There’s still some of your messages
scribbled on scraps of paper next to
the phone in the kitchen. And look,
the pillow on the couch is bunched
up because you could never get
comfortable with it. And over here,
the phone books are out on the
kitchen counter, you never put them
away, and here they are, still sitting
out, I’ll have to put them back in the
cabinet. and look here, why do I
still have all of your love letters
stuffed into a drawer in my desk.

When you left me, why did you
have to leave me all these reminders.

an outline to the apex of rites of passage

It was one of those rites of passage. A Bah
Mitzvah of sorts. But this was bigger, much bigger
than shaving for the first time or getting your period.
This was the chance for all young high school men to
lose their virginity and a chance for all young high
school women to dress up, feel like adults, look pretty.
Everyone felt the driving need to go through this
rite of passage, to not be left out, to be a part of the
group. Either way, you got to take a day off of school.

But like every rite of passage, the high school prom
is probably more traumatic than fun, because no matter
what, you feel like you have to go, and the entire time
you have to look like you’re having fun. Especially for
the photographers. You have to have a perfect record
of your perfect life so you can upstage everyone else.

With every aspect of prom, there was always a
conflict, an expense, or an irony. I mean, this is
supposed to be one of the best times in your life, and
it’s wrought with confusion. First, find a date. Has to
be someone socially acceptable, otherwise it would
be less embarrassing to just not go. Then, go
through the trauma of asking your prospective date
to actually go with you, or if you’re a woman, wait
to be asked, which is almost more cruel.
Then, see which of your friends are going,
organize what group you’ll go with to your prom.

Then you have to start working on the details.
For men, this meant transportation, the cheapest
tuxedo, what kind of corsage to buy, something that
pins on, something they wear on their wrist, or
something they carry, like a bouquet. Oh, and don’t forget
the most important part: enough liquor and/or condoms.
Note how suddenly the prospect of multiple hookers
performing anything you’d ever want is both less expensive
and less of a hassle than this quote-unquote “date.”
For women, the details meant picking out the right
dress, the right shoes, the right purse, the right
jewelry, the right perfume, the right make-up, the
right hair style. Note how you have to then coordinate
your clothing with your date. So much like real life.

Then, beg your parents to let you wear the dress you
picked out, or keep the make-up and hair style the way
you wanted it. Beg your parents to let you borrow their
sports car. Beg you parents for enough money to pay for
the limo, the flowers, the clothes, the film for the camera.
Beg your parents to let you stay out past curfew, how
about 6 a.m., just this once. But, come on, it’s prom.

Then the Big Day arrives. Ditch school, because you
know, getting you hair done can take hours, and you
want to spend some time in the sun, so you don’t look
as pale as a ghost for the pictures. Then, after getting
ready for an inordinate amount of time, meet up and
take the pictures. Urgh. This usually entails the man
picking up the woman, taking pictures at the woman’s
parent’s house, then going back to the man’s parent’s
house and taking more pictures there. It’s almost
worse than a wedding.

Then finally arrive at Prom. Take more pictures.
Talk to as many friends as you can there, compliment
their dresses and tuxedos. Find out what everyone
else is doing after prom, see if anyone is doing
anything better than you. Note how many women are
repeatedly pulling up their strapless dresses so they
don’t fall out of them. Note how many men are already
drunk, and look, it’s not even dinner yet. Take lots of
pictures with your instamatic camera. Let’s do a group
shot. Oh, let me take a picture with so-and-so.

Then eat. Try to figure out how to eat your salad
without using your knife. Check to see how little all
the women are actually eating. Note how many women
go to the bathroom in groups. In any case, whatever
you do, don’t stop feeling awkward. But keep smiling.

Then the dancing. Try to remember what your father
taught you. Try not to look stiff. Try not to sweat.
Dance in a box. Right foot forward, feet together,
left foot left, feet together, right foot backward, feet
together, right foot right, feet together. Or go for the
high school standby; wrap your arms around each
other and sway, occasionally making out in the middle
of the dance floor. Note how many women have
their lipstick smeared across their cheek, or on their
date’s collar. Note how many bow ties have loosened.

Then collect your things, say your good-byes, take a few
more photos and head out for the after-prom activities.
Possible options include a late dinner, a four-hour boat
cruise, a walk along the lake, a bonfire, bowling, a hotel
party, or the back of dad’s sports car. Note how disheveled
you look by six a.m.; try to clean yourself up in the car
before you get to your driveway, in case your parents
are waiting for you. Don’t make out for too long as you
say your good-byes in front of your house.

Then, get in the house as quietly as possible, drop all your
clothes into a pile in the middle of your bedroom floor,
and collapse on your bed. Here’s a helpful hint: drink a glass
of water and take a vitamin and some aspirin before
crashing; it will help with the hangover. Try to get
some sleep before the day-after-prom amusement park
trip, and keep in mind that even though prom is over,
your friends will be rehashing it for at least a week.
This is the ritual. Now go to sleep.

And I’m Wondering

I’m wondering if there’s something
chemical that brings people together,
something that brings people to their
knees, somethings that sucks them in

And I’m wondering if you’re sensing what I’m
sensing, is it just me, am I making this up
in my head, or when I glance up and catch your
eyes, well, are you actually staring at me

And I’m wondering if it could work out this
time, if we’d have one of those relationships
that no one ever doubts, especially us,
because we know we’ll always be in love

And I’m wondering if you’d find
my neurotic pet-peeves charming
like how I hate it when someone touches
my belly because I’m so self conscious

And I’m wondering why you had to tell me
when we happened to be sitting next to each
other that the fact that our legs were almost
touching was making your heart race

And I’m wondering why I felt the need
to take your cigarette and inhale, exhale
while the filter was still warm from
your lips, there just seconds before

And I’m wondering if a year or two from now,
after we’ve been going out and should have
gotten to the point where we are bored with
each other and sink into a comfortable rut

if you saw me making macaroni and cheese
in the kitchen using margarine and water
because I’m out of milk and I’ve got my hair
pulled back and strands are falling into my

eyes and I’m wearing an oversized button-down
denim shirt and nothing else, well, what
I’m wondering is if you would see me
like this and still think I was sexy

When I glance up and catch your eyes from
across the room, when I see your eyes dart
away, when I feel this chemical reaction, well,
what I’m wondering is, can you feel it too

And what I want to know

I’ve been dreaming of you lately.
Usually, in my dreams, I see you
for just a short while,
then you have to leave.
Maybe you tell me you miss me.
Maybe you kiss me.
Last night, when you left me once again
I drove after you
to the airport so I could say
goodbye to you one more time.

In my dreams you’re always with me.
In my dreams you’re always leaving me.
In my dreams I run after you.
Just to say goodbye again.

And what I want to know is
when are these dreams going to stop.

And what I want to know is
are you dreaming of me too.

I daydream about you in the mornings
while my legs are still tangled in my sheets.
I close my eyes, so I can feel you there,
curled up against me. Why -

why do I have to get out of this bed.

And what I want to know is
if you saw me hit by a car
my lifeless body lying in the street
would you hold me up against you,
would you hold my limp arms
in your coarse hands.
Would you rock me to sleep.
Would you cry.
Would you not want to say goodbye.

And what I want to know is
if you saw the car speeding toward me
would you instantly run to me
because life is no longer life
without the one you love.

I know what I would say.
I know my answers.

And what I want to know is
if I will live like this forever.
And what I want to know is
if I’m going to suffer this alone.

And what I want to know is
are you dreaming of me too.

Andrew Hettinger

I never really liked you. You never revealed
yourself to me and why would you: you,
who never had anyone, you, who always
had the bad breaks. Everyone looked at you
as different. Where would you have learned
to trust. Who would you have learned it from.

I never really liked you. I met you through
a friend and he explained to me that multiple
sclerosis left you with a slight limp and a
faint lisp. Faint, under the surface, but there,
traces of something no one would ever
know of you well enough to fully understand.

I never really liked you. You never revealed
yourself to me and I never wanted you to;
you scared me too much. You, plagued with
physical ailments. You, with a limp in your walk.
You, with a patch over your eye. You, who
stared at me for always just a bit too long.

They told me the patch was from eye surgery
with complications and now you had to cover
your shame, cover someone else’s mistakes,
cover a wrong you didn’t commit, cover a
problem not of your own doing. The problems
were never of your own doing, were they.

I heard these stories and I thought it was sad.
I heard these stories and thought you had to be
a pillar of strength. And then I saw you drink,
straight from the bottle, fifteen-year-old
chianti. And I saw you smash your hand into
your living room wall. This is how you lived.

The house you lived in was littered with
trash. Why bother to clean it up anyway. It
detracted you from the holes in the wall, the
broken furniture from drunken fits. This was
how you reacted to life, to the world. You didn’t
know any better. This is how you coped.

I never really liked you. You would come home
from work, tell us about a woman who was
beautiful and smart that liked you, but she
wasn’t quite smart enough. And I thought: We
believe anything if we tell ourselves enough.
We weave these fantasies to get through the days.

I never really liked you. Every time you talked
to me you always leaned a little too close. So
I stayed away from the house, noted that those
whom you called friends did the same. I asked
my friend why he bothered to stay in touch.
And he said to me, “But he has no friends.”

This is how I thought of you. A man who was
dealt a bad hand. A man who couldn’t fight
the demons that were handed to him. And
with that I put you out of my mind, relegated
you to the ranks of the inconsequential. We parted
ways. You were reduced to a sliver of my youth.

I received a letter recently, a letter from
someone who knew you, someone who wanted
me to tell my friend that they read in the
newspaper that you hanged yourself. Your
brother died in an electrical accident, and
after the funeral you went to the train

station; instead of leaving this town you
went to a small room and left us forever.
Strangers had to find you. The police had to
search through records to identify your body.
The newspaper described you as having “health
problems.” But you knew it was more than that.

And I was asked to be the messenger to my
friend. The funeral had already passed. You were
already in the ground. There was no way he
could say goodbye. I shouldn’t have been the one
to tell him this. No one deserved to tell him.
He was the only one who tried to care.

I never really liked you. No one did. But when
I had to tell my friend, I knew his pain.
I knew he wanted to be better. I knew he
thought you were too young to die. I knew he
felt guilty for not calling you. He knew it
shouldn’t have been this way. We all knew it.

I never really liked you. But now I can’t get
you out of my mind; you haunt me for all the
people we’ve forgotten in our lives. I don’t like
what you’ve done. I don’t like you quitting.
I don’t like you dying, not giving us the chance
to love you, or hate you, or even ignore you more.

My friend still doesn’t know where your grave is.
I’d like to find it for him, and take him to you.
Let you know you did have a friend out there.
Bring you a drink, maybe, a fitting nightcap
to mark your departure, to commemorate a life
filled with liquor, violence, pain and death.

I never really liked you, but maybe we could get
together in some old cemetery, sit on your grave
stone, share a drink with the dead, laugh at the
injustices of life when we’re surrounded by death.
Maybe then we’d understand your pain for one brief
moment, and remember the moments we’ll always regret.


My sister-in-law gave me a Midge doll set
when she married my brother. Midge came complete
with a wardrobe of designer floor-length dresses,
with sequins, and tulle, and three-quarter-length gloves.

But Midge, an older model, had short red hair
styled like a housewife, not like Barbie’s, long and
blond and flowing. And Midge could never sit in a chair
because her plastic legs were rigid and couldn’t bend.

For my sixth birthday I received a P.J. doll,
one of Barbie’s friends. P.J.’s hair was blonde, like
Barbie’s, but it was shorter. And here eyes were brown,
like mine. Not eyes to dream of. Eyes like mine.

When I finally got you, Barbie, I treated you like
some sort of goddess, you with your disproportionate
figure and perpetual smile. When you never eat,
you can stay thin. You can always be happy.

I took plastic kitchen shelf liner and caulking glue
and lined a shoebox so you could have a bath tub.
I taped a straw around the back of the tub so you
could have jets and extra bubbles when you soaked.

My father’s pool table was your lake; a second
shoe box served as your speed boat. You took all
your friends for boat rides along the green; Ken,
the Donny and Marie dolls, P.J., even Midge.

But I couldn’t be like you, I had to eat, and I could only
stand on my toes for so long when you stood like
a dancer perpetually. I couldn’t always smile. I was
only a little girl. And I was cursed with brown eyes.

What did you teach me? I pressed you next to Ken
under your pink and white bed sheets, but your plastic
bodies made a loud noise when you came together.
Your legs never intertwined. Your smile never changed.

And now, all grown up, I visit my parent’s house,
and they tell me I have boxes of toys that could be
thrown away. Kitchen accessories for the Barbie
camper, beaded dresses I made myself. And I think:

I could give these toys to my niece, so she could play,
so she could learn. And then I decide: no, these dolls,
these values, these memories, they belong sealed
in cardboard boxes, where only time can take its toll.

bizarre sexual stories in the news

from the los angeles times:
two gay men, during sexual activity,
decide to push a live hampster into
the anal cavity of one of the men.
however, after they realized they
couldn’t get the hampster out, they
tried to figure out what to do. the
man without the hampster inside
him decided to light a match to see
if he could see where the hampster
was. so man-without-hampster is
perched underneath man-with-
hampster, and lights a match right
under man-with-hampster’s anus.
at that time man-with-hampster
passes wind, and it causes a small
streak of fire to jump out and singe
the man-without-hampster’s eye-
brows and facial hair. however,
because there was gas in the anal
cavity, the fireball then shot into
the man-with-hampster, circled
around the hampster, burning the
inside of the man-with-hampster.
Furthermore, the gas change and
pressure shot the hampster out
of the man-with-hampster’s anus
and into the man-without-hampster’s
face, breaking his nose.

Bring Her Back

I’ve seen her this way
so many nights before:
she’s on the recliner
during prime-time television
and she just can’t stay
awake any longer
and she’s sound asleep
and the television’s blaring

and so many times
I’ve tapped my mother
on the shoulder
to wake her, or
I’ve raised my voice
to bring her back

but this time, this time
I had to kiss her on the cheek

my little way of telling her
I loved her
every day
for the rest of my life

Burn It In

Once I was at a beach
off the west coast of Florida
it was New Year’s eve
and the yellow moon hung over the gulf
like a swaying lantern.
And I was watching the waves crash in front of me
with a friend
and the wind picked up
and my friend just stared at that moon for a while
and then closed his eyes.
I asked him what he was thinking.
He said, “I wanted to look at this scene,
and memorize it, burn it into my brain,
record it in my mind, so I can call it up when I want to.
So I can have it with me always.”

I too have my recorders.
I burn these things into my brain,
I burn these things onto pages.
I pick and choose what needs to be said,
what needs to be remembered.

Every year, at the end of the year
I used to write in a journal
recall the things that happened to me
log in all of the memories I needed to keep
because that was what kept me sane
that was what kept me alive.

When I first went to college
I was studying to be a computer science
engineer, I wanted to make a lot of money
I wanted to beat everyone else
because burned in my brain were the taunts
of kids who were in cliques
so others could do the thinking for them
because burned in my brain were the evenings
of the high school dances I never went to
because burned in my brain were the people
I knew I was better than
who thought they were better than me.
Well, yes, I wanted to make a lot of money
I wanted to beat everyone else
but I hated what I was doing
I hated what I saw around me
hated all the pain people put each other through
and all of these memories just kept flooding me
so in my spare time
to keep me sane, to keep me alive
I wrote down the things I could not say
that was how I recorded things.

When I looked around me, and saw friends
raping my friends
I wrote, I burned into these nightmares with a pen
and yes, I have this recorded
I have all of this recorded.

What did you think I was doing
when I was stuffing hand-written notes into my pockets
or typing long hours into the night?
In college, I had two roommates
who in their spare time would watch movies in our living room
and cross-stitch. I never understood this.
In my spare time, I was not watching other’s stories
or weaving thread to keep my hands busy
I was sitting in the corner of a cafe
scribbling into my notebook.
I was sitting in the university computer lab
slamming my hands, my fingers against the keyboard
because there were too many atrocities in the world
too many injustices that I had witnessed
too many people who had wronged me

and I had a lot of work to do.
There had to be a record of what you’ve done.

Did you think your crimes would go unpunished?
And did you think that you could come back, years later,
slap me on the back with a friendly hello
and think I wouldn’t remember?
You see, that’s what I have my poems for
so there will always be a record
of what you have done
I have defiled many pages
in your honor, you who swung
your battle ax high above your head
and thought no one would remember in the end.
Well, I made a point to remember.
Yes, I have defiled many pages
and have you defiled many women?
You, the man who rapes my friends?
You, the man who rapes my sisters?
You, the man who rapes me?
Is this what makes you a strong man?

you want to know why I do the things I do

I had to record these things
that is what kept me together
when people were dying
that is what kept me together
when my friends went off to war
that is what kept me together
when my friends were raped
and left for dead
that is what kept me together
when no one bothered to notice this
or change this
or care about this
these recordings kept me together

I need to record these things
to remind myself
of where I came from
I need to record these things
to remind myself
that there are things to value
and things to hate
I need to record these things
to remind myself
that there are things worth fighting for
worth dying for
I need to record these things
to remind myself
that I am alive

Catching a Muscovy

One year, Doc Wiggins
decided he wanted to shoot
one of the Muscovy ducks
and have it for Thanksgiving.

As far as ducks go, the
Muscovies are pretty ugly -
the males look something like
turkeys, and in Southwest

Florida, in this heavily pop-
ulated area, they are so
used to people that they will
walk up to you, expecting food.

Well, one year, bless his heart,
Doc Wiggins decided he wanted
to shoot one for Thanksgiving
dinner, so I taught him how to

use my rifle and we went to a
nearby lake. Then Doc started to
worry. “What if my bullet ricochets
off the water and hits something

else?” So he was in a bit of a
panic, trying to figure out what
to do. So I told him just to sit
tight a minute, and sure enough,

a Muscovy walked right up to him
and looked at him. So Doc looked
at me, then the duck, and just
picked it up and brought it home.

civil war

the confederates are winning the battle
but I know the north will win the war
and all they’ll get is a ravaged battlefield

a civil war is raging inside me
but I’m tired of fighting from within
when all I want is a revolution

climbing trees.

(written with D.J.)

you see, I was a girl, I didn’t climb trees,
but I always wished for a tree house,
one with a ladder so it would be easy to get to the top.
So I could see the world from a different view.
So I could feel like I have conquered.

Big trees, more fun,
that’s what I’d think.
Then when I’d get to about the height of a roof,
our garage as a matter of fact,
then the fear would set in.
Not fear of falling from where I was,
but of going higher.
Higher, then too high.
What is too high?

One of my co-workers decided one day that he
wasn’t going to try anymore. That no one cared
if he did a good job, so he just wouldn’t bother.
And I thought, your coworkers shouldn’t be the scale
you judge yourself on. You should be your
scale, you should be trying because you need
to know you can be better than what you are.
Then I thought, maybe he never climbed trees.



now that we have the information superhighway
we can throw out into the open
our screams
our cries for help
so much faster than we could before

our pleas become computer blips
tiny bits of energy
travelling through razor thin wires
travelling through space

to be left for someone to decipher
when they find the time


got into work the other day
and got my messages out of voice mail:
mike left me his pager number
and told me to contact him with some information
tom told me to call him at the office
between ten thirty and noon
jason told me to check my email
because he sent me a message i had to read

so i first returned tom’s phone call
but he wasn’t in, so i left a message with a coworker
and then i dialed the number for mike’s pager
listened to a beep, then dialed in my own phone number
then i got online, checked my email
read a note from ben, emptied out the junk mail

realizing i didn’t actually get a hold of anybody
i tried to call my friend sheri
but i got her answering machine
so i said,
“hi - it’s me, janet -
haven’t talked to you in a while - “
at which point i realized
there was nothing left to say -
give me a call, we should really
get together and talk”


sara and i were late for carol’s wedding rehearsal
which was a bad thing, because we were both
standing up in the wedding
and we were stuck in traffic, and i asked,
“sara, you have a cel phone, don’t you?”
and she said “yes”
and i asked, “well, do you know carol’s
cel phone number, cause if you do, we can
call her and tell her we’ll be late -”
and she said, “no - do you know it?”
and i said “no”


I was out at a bar with Dave, and I was explaining to him
why I hadn’t talked to my friend Aaron in a while:
“You see, we usually email each other,
and when we do, we just hit ‘reply.’
when you get an email from someone,
instead of having to start a new letter
and type in their email address, you can
just hit the ‘reply’ button on the email message,
and it will make a letter addressed
to the person who wrote you the letter originally.
so he sent me a letter once, and
it had a question at the end,
so i hit ‘reply’ and sent a response,
with another question at the end of my letter.
so we kept having to answer questions for each other,
and we just kept replying to each other,
sending a letter with the same title back and
forth to each other without ever having to
type in the other’s address. well, once i got an email
from him and there was no question at the end,
and so i didn’t have to send him a response.
so i didn’t. and we never thought
to start a new email to one another.
so we just lost touch.”

and then it occurred to me, how difficult it had become
to type an extra line of text, to type in
his email address, because that’s why
i lost touch with him

and then it occurred to me, no matter how many different
forms of communication we have,
we’ll still find a way
to lose touch with each other


now that we have the information superhighway
we can throw out into the open
our screams
our cries for help
so much faster than we could before

but what if we don’t want to communicate
or forget how
too busy leaving messages, voice mails,
emails, pager numbers
forgetting to call back

what if we forget
how to communicate


i wanted to purchase tickets for a concert
but i was shopping with my sister
and wasn’t near a ticket outlet
but my sister said, “i have a portable phone,
you can call them if you’d like”
so she gave me the phone, and i looked
at all these extra buttons, and she said,
“just press the ‘power’ button, but hold it down
for at least four seconds, until the panel lights up,
then dial the number, but use the area code, because
this phone is a 630 area code, then press ‘send’.
when you’re done with the call, just press ‘end’, and
make sure the light turns off.”

so i turned it on, dialed the number,
pressed ‘send’, pressed my head
against the tiny phone

and the line was busy
and i couldn’t get through


i checked my email address book recently,
and the people i email the most
are the people that live in the same city
as me, all of whom i know the phone
numbers of, all of whom are only a local call away.
in fact, one of my friends lives a block-
and-a-half away from me,
on the same street as me, but
i still email her as much as i call her,
even though i could just walk over to her house
and have an actual conversation with her.


i was suntanning outside on my patio
with a friend
on saturday,
and we decided we wanted to order a pizza.
we brought a cordless phone
outside with us
so we would know if the phone in the house rang,
so i picked it up
and dialed.

and the phone needed to be recharged,
the batteries were wearing down, because
there was so much static
that i was worried the pizza man
wouldn’t even be able to
hear my voice.

while waiting for the pizza man
to pick up the phone, i said,
mocking static on the line,
“hi, i’m calling from the
space shuttle,
i’d like to order a pizza
for delivery.
call mission control at houston
for a credit card number.”


i got a program for my computer

it’s a phone book program,
and it sorts people by name or company,
lists their phone number,
and has a complete file for them
where you can store their birthday,
their address, past addresses and phone numbers,
faxes, email addresses, there’s room for
any information you want to store about them

and i love this program, i’ve created a file
with all the phone numbers i’ve ever needed,
i always add information to this file,
i keep a copy of it on my computer at home,
on my computer at work, on my laptop,
even on a floppy disk, in case there’s a fire at
work and my hard drive at home crashes

but it always seems
that every time i desperately need
a phone number
i’m nowhere near a computer

any computer


i wanted to get in touch
with an old friend of mine from high school,
vince, and the last i heard was that he went to
marquette university. well, that was five years ago, he
could be anywhere. i talked to a friend or two that
knew him, but they lost touch with him, too.
so i searched on the internet, to see
if his name was on a website or if
he had an email address. he didn’t.
so i figured i probably wouldn’t find him.
and all this time, i knew his parents lived
in the same house they always did, i could just
look up his parent’s phone number in the phone book,
and call them, say i’m an old high school friend
of vince’s, but i never did. and then i realized why.

you see, i could search the internet for hours
and no one would know that i was looking for someone.
but now, with a single phone call, i’d make it known
to his entire family that i wanted to see him enough to call,
after all these years. and i didn’t want
him to know that. so i never called.


now that we have the information superhighway
we can throw out into the open
our screams
our cries for help
so much faster than we could before

but then the question begs itself:
is there
to listen

contempt for man

Often, the interests of production
prevail over concern for the dignity of workers,
while economic interests take priority
over the good of individuals and even entire peoples

In these cases,
pollution or environmental destruction
is the result of an unnatural
and reductionist vision
which at times leads to a genuine
contempt for man

    Message of His Holiness POPE JOHN PAUL II, January 1, 1990

the interests of production
they are for the dignity of the workers
who are these products for
what are these people working for
who’s standard of living does this production raise
when everyone works for themselves
when they are interested in production
that’s when they have dignity

and economic interests are for the good
of individuals and entire peoples
economic success allows these people, these workers
to buy the things they want
to have rights over their property
to be economically free
and hey, i guess that gives them more dignity, too

if a corporate giant destroys the environment
every worker, every person who buys the product
has the right to stop
has the right to purchase something else
forcing the corporate giant
to work with a technology
that accommodates the environment
(see, that’s what technology is all about, progress)

if these individuals don’t place
the human as the individual
on the highest pedestal
and make these choices for themselves
if they let a god
or a government
or a company
make these choices for them
if they think that humans
aren’t smart enough to make these choices

well, then, they are the ones
with the contempt for man

Couldn’t Take it Home

I went out deer hunting once with some buddies
of mine. Now, I’m not a big fan of deer meat, but
I went for the sport, I’m a pretty good shot.
And I saw when I went over a small wooded hill
a small lake amongst the trees, and right at the
edge of the water was a deer. So here was my chance.
I pulled out my shotgun, aimed, pulled the trigger.
Direct hit. It was still moving, so I walked
toward the deer. I hit the spinal cord, and the
back half of the deer was parylized. The thing was
dragging itself with its front two legs, trying to
crawl away.
I knew it was in pain. I looked at the deer. I pulled
out my .22 pistol and shot it in the head, and
left it there. I couldn’t take it home. My buddies
asked me why I left it there. Everything felt wrong.
I told them I didn’t want anything to do with it.
Leave it there. Leave it.

Diane Talking About her Trip to Mexico City

So I decided to take a trip to Mexico City.
I decided that this was going to be the
trip I take by myself, this is going to be the
trip where I reclaim my independence.
This is going to be the trip where I venture
out, take on the world, all without help
from a travel companion, from a man.

So I went there, and really, it wasn’t as
frightening as I thought it would be.
I needed to learn more of the language,
but otherwise I got along just fine. Oh,
I got lost once, and men in cars kept
offering to give me rides, “hey, baby, you
want your own private taxi?” and I’d have
to move away from them, but one guy
told me which bus I wanted, so I was fine.

But the man that ran the hotel thought it
wasn’t safe for me, and he asked me
if my parents loved me, if my family
loved me, if anyone loved me, anyone
at all, because if anyone did, why would
they let me go on this trip alone?

And then as I was touring I went to an old
church where the was a saint, and they’re
considered a saint because their body
doesn’t decompose. It’s not like religion
in America, because they had to put this
saint’s body in a glass case because all
the people who came to see him would
pick off part of his face as a souvenir.

And then as I was touring I went to a
nunnery, a place where supposedly all the
bad young girls were sent to to live out
the remainder of their days. And
they showed me around in the tour,
and they said, “Here are the crosses that
the young women had to carry when
they walked around in circles in the
courtyard. And these, over here, these
are the crowns of thorns the women
wore.” And I looked at the crosses, the
crowns, and there was still blood on them.

This is how things were, I guess. And they
looked at me as strange because I was
taking a trip alone. No one in Mexico City
understood why I’d want to do this there.
No one understood why I’d want to be alone.

down the drain

i hear the water running
what a waste
it sounds like Lake Michigan
going down the drain


(written with D.J.)

I can feel it gliding down my throat with a huge push of water
like your body, sliding, up against my skin, warm and wet,
wet like the feeling and taste of your tongue intertwined with mine.
I feel it swirling down my throat, intoxicating me, head spinning
almost nauseated by the mere thought of the taste rather than
the actual sensation and I swallow the poison; let it cover me
from the inside out. There is no pain, just a feeling of regret,
what have I now lost with this one trigger I pulled? My life flashes,
and what I expect to be a monument of achievements is an abyss.
I realize there’s nothing left to fear, because there’s nothing to remember.


He threw her up against the wall. Her mind was spinning; after all this time she never thought she’d have her arms around him again, save the embrace when they happened to be in the same city on business and were saying their cordial good-byes at the airport. He kissed her. She instinctively pulled at his shirt; two buttons bounced repeatedly on the hardwood floor and spun to a silent halt. He pulled her hair, pulling her head back. Her mouth opened naturally, slightly. She wrapped her arms around him, depending on his strength to keep her standing. He held her tighter, kissed her, knowing she needed this. Her emotions swelled, grew stronger, pulsed, until she couldn’t hold herself up any longer. She knew, after all these years, that he was the only one she could love wholly, the only one she loved everything about, from the slope of his nose to the way he never knew current events to the way he worked too hard to the way he loved too much. She knew this was everything. She knew this was life. She fell into his arms.

emergency room stories

As we sat in the car, trying to waste
time and break the long drive’s silence,

one of us remembered a story about
a man who had to go to the emergency

room. he was wearing a raincoat
and nothing else, because he impaled

a poodle with his member. Now, that
was a new one, we said, and all struggled

to think of other sexually perverse
emergency room stories we heard. Like

men coming in with dead hampsters inside
them, you see, they let them go up there

when they’re alive, because the hampsters
squirming around while they’re being

asphyxiated seems to do it for some men.
But then, of course, the question begs

itself: how do you get the carcasses out?
Hence the emergency room, I suppose.

So we talked about other stories, like
women with light bulbs or vegetables

stuck in obvious places, then one of us
says they heard that a man came in to

the emergency room once with a dildo
stuck somewhere, but the punch line is

that he claimed to have fallen on it.
then i told the one about the woman who

had a raw hot dog stuck inside her, and
all i could think was, how horny would

a woman have to be in order to use some-
thing as flaccid as a hot dog? then someone

said, maybe it was frozen. then someone
else asked if that would be like putting

your tongue to something frozen and
having it stick. and we laughed.

False Suicide

“A woman called the station once,
said, ‘My daughter has been depressed
lately, has been talking about killing
herself. And she’s an early riser, and
hasn’t returned any of me calls. Could
you go over there? I’m afraid something
terrible has happened.’ So we said we’d
go there, and we got in the squad car and
went to the woman’s house. All the doors
were locked, and we started looking through
the windows, and I saw her on the bed, stark
naked, with her tongue sticking out, quite
dead-looking. Now, this is kind of strange,
because women usually commit suicide
dressed well. In all my years I ain’t
never seen a woman commit suicide
naked. Well, me partner kicked the front door
down with one kick, and we went back to
the bedroom, and I grabbed her hand to see if
rigamortis set in yet, if she was cold, if she
was stiff. And when I grabbed her hand
she jumped up and screamed, and then she
saw another police officer and she started
to calm down. And we said, ‘Your mother
thought you might have killed yourself.
She said you were an early riser.’ And she
said, ‘Damn mother,’ under her breath.”

fire alarms

we were driving through
Sequoia National Forest

up a winding road
along the mountainside

and along the road
a sign in the forest said
check your fire alarms

and we looked at each other
and laughed, and joked

because there are no fire
alarms in a car to check

fulfill their deepest vocation

Necessary emphasis should be placed also on
those ordinary women
who reveal the gift of their womanhood
by placing themselves at the service of others

For in giving themselves to others each day
women fulfill their deepest vocation

    Letter to Women, Message of His Holiness
    POPE JOHN PAUL II, July 10

of course, according to your religion women
should be your servants, they should answer to you
women can’t be priests, or fulfill their dreams
women have to rely on men to protect their rights

of course, god was created in man’s image
and, according to you, woman came from man
just so she could churn out all his kids
and that’s probably why you ban birth control, too
keep pressing your thumb down a little harder
so that no one can get out of your control
you, being the man, the ruler, the leader, the pope.

Gary’s Blind Date

A friend of mine had a roommate named Gary
and Gary was a man
who was always down on his luck

So on one particular occasion,
after Gary had a dating dry spell,
my friend decided to set Gary up
on a blind date.

Now, he said, this girl
is beautiful, she’s funny,
you’ll think she’s great. trust me.
Pick her up Friday night.

And Friday came, and Gary,
feeling more and more apprehensive,
said, but I’m not feeling well. I’ve
been sick all week.

And my friend said, now I don’t want to hear
any excuses. You’re going.

So Gary got ready for his blind date
and drove over to the girl’s house.
She lived with her parents,
so when Gary rang the door bell
the girl’s mother answered.

“Oh, you must be Gary, please,
come in,” she said.

Once Gary got into the house,
the mother said,
my daughter’s still getting ready.
Would you like to wait?

and Gary, still not feeling well,
asked where the washroom was.
She directed him to the newly remodeled basement.

Gary walked into the brand-new bathroom.
New fixtures. Thick, white,
wall-to-wall carpeting.

Gary sat down on this new ivory throne,
still sick. But when he looked over
there was no toilet paper.
He couldn’t just stand up, he thought,
this isn’t just a regular trip to the bathroom,
I need something
to clean myself off with.
He couldn’t use a towel.
So he took off his pants
and used his underwear.

But he couldn’t leave the underwear
in the small, open trash can in the corner
of this newly-remodeled
bathroom, he thought.
So he
dropped them
in the toilet

and flushed.

Which caused the toilet to overflow,
causing the newly-remodeled bathroom
to look
less than new.

So here was Gary’s dilemma:
he left his underwear in the toilet
and defiled this family’s brand-new bathroom
all without even getting the chance
to introduce himself
to his date.

What are his options, what are his options.

So he did the only thing he thought
he could do in this situation:
he climbed out the small
bathroom window

When he arrived at his apartment
so early from his date,
his roommate had to ask.

And after that, he never
set Gary up
on a blind date

gift of motherhood

part one

We need only think of how the gift of motherhood
is often penalized rather than rewarded
even though humanity owes its very survival to this gift
Certainly, much remains to be done
to prevent discrimination against those
who have chosen to be wives and mothers

    Letter to Women, Message of His Holiness
    POPE JOHN PAUL II, July 10

“he started in on me again last night,
he had too much to drink, and came home,
drunk, and started yelling at me. he
got home at ten-thirty but wanted to know
why his dinner wasn’t warm. and he wanted
to wake up the kids and play with them,
but i told him it was a school night and
they needed a full night’s rest. i swear,
i can’t tell anyone else this, i have to
keep telling everyone i fell down the
stairs and i burned myself when i was
cooking dinner and i tripped over one of
the kids’ toys or a vase from the book-
shelf i was cleaning fell and hit me in
the face. i’ve come up with a lot of
excuses, i know. but what would the kids
do if i lost him? how could i work and take
care of them? how would they be able to
go to college? i know i keep making up
excuses, but i have to. for the kids.”

gift of motherhood

part two

We need only think of how the gift of motherhood
is often penalized rather than rewarded
even though humanity owes its very survival to this gift
Certainly, much remains to be done
to prevent discrimination against those
who have chosen to be wives and mothers

    Letter to Women, Message of His Holiness
    POPE JOHN PAUL II, July 10

“so i was sitting in on a meeting with the
other managers, and we were talking about
presenting our project at the upcoming
trade show, when our boss said, oh, none
of us will have to go i’ll just hire some
dumb - and then he looked at me, with my
long blonde hair - some model to demonstrate
it instead. and this is the same guy who has
a photo in his office of a woman in a
negligee grabbing her crotch, i mean, it’s not
even a tasteful photo. i wonder what he’d
think if he came into my office and there was
a playgirl magazine sitting on my desk?
one of my supervisors even kept asking me
to go out and get lunches for everyone, or to
fax stuff for him. i finally had to tell him no.
i said, why don’t you ask john? he’s been here
less than me, you could ask him to do it.
but he never did. i look around, and i think,
i’m the only woman here. why is that?”

Golfing with George Eastman

I played a round of golf with
George Eastman
Now, George was going on,
bragging about his game,
and at the first hole
my shot was pretty straight
and his veered sharp to the right.
And he started swearing
and cussing, me and the
other two guys thought he
was going to pop a vein
or throw a club at us. And
every hole was the same:
George wasn’t playing well
and with every shot he’d
get more and more violent,
more and more volatile.
And finally, at the last hole,
he lands his golf ball right
into the water. And he stops.
Perfectly calm. No jumping.
No swearing. No throwing of
of his golf clubs or stomping
on the ground. George just
shrugged his shoulders and
walked toward the water. He
dropped a new ball down. Not a
sound. Maybe this was the
one, we, thought, the one point
when he realized how useless his
anger was. And we watched. And
George Eastman looked at the
ball he dropped between his feet,
and then just started stomping,
and screaming, and waving
his golf club above his head, even
more violent than before, as
if the poor golf ball did some-
thing wrong. And back a the golf
cart, the three of us, at a safe
distance, stood there and laughed.

here is me

i have a secret
i have an awful secret
and i can’t tell anyone

you see, my life
would fall apart
if anyone knew

everyone thinks
i’m some one different
but here is me

hiding vices

”The way I see it

the Bible is so popular
because of its many confusions

in which it is possible
to hide any vice
or combination of vices.”

John Leroy Coffin, Springfield MO, 1997

i met a man once
who told me
that he prayed to God every night

now, i knew better
and he was no Christian
maybe born one, maybe baptized

but i knew he had
notches on his bedpost

and so i asked him
how he could justify
being a Christian
and having sex before marriage

and he said,
“it doesn’t say in the Bible
that you can’t
have sex before marriage”

and so i checked
and the closest thing
i could find
was “thou shalt keep
thy marriage bed pure”

and i wondered
who misconstrued
the words first

how are you

    The phone rang. Woke me up. I picked up the phone, stumbled out a hello. “Hi, it’s Sara.” Oh, hi, Sara, how are you? “Oh, fine,” she said. “How are things with you?” Oh, fine, I said, work’s been busy. “Oh, I know,” she said, “I was the maid of honor in Carol’s wedding, and tacked on to work I’ve been swamped.” Speaking of work, I said, I’m late. “Oh, okay,” she said, “talk to you later.” Good-bye. “Bye.”
    Got into the office. Waved my copy of USA Today at the receptionist’s desk. “Hi, Janet.” Hi Lisa. “How are you?” Fine tired. And you? “Oh, fine, it’s Monday.” And I checked my mailbox and headed for my desk.
    Sat at my cubicle. Larry peered in. “Hey, J.” Hey, Lar. “How are you?” Fine. And you? “Same ol, same ol.” And he walked away.
    Phone rang. This is Janet, I say. “Hi, this is Don Olsen.” Hey, Don, how are you? “Oh, fine, how are you?” Oh, fine. “Look, Janet, there’s a problem with the order you placed with us last week...”
    Got home. Checked messages. “Hey, Janet, it’s your sister. How are you? Give me a call.”
    The machine beeped when it was done. I picked up the phone to call her back, then I realized I had nothing to say. I hung up the phone. I walked into my bedroom.

I never took a life until I took my own

three poems

“the leader”

I never took a life
until I took my own

because you see, I
never took my own life
in my own hands before

And how can you really
control someone else
if you can’t control
yourself? and when I
figured that much out,
well, then, taking the
rest of them was easy

Everyone loved me
everyone wanted to follow
me, and everyone thought
I was something great
I must be a god

How does she have
it all together
how does she know
what to do
why does she seem so happy
what’s her secret

No one understood
that they have to take
their lives
from the people
who try to run them
for them

And if they understood
this little fact
then no one would have
understood how to
take their lives back

and how do you explain
the color blue
to a blind man?

“the martyr”

I never took a life
until I took my own

I never had the power
to pull people in
to make people react
but when I decided
it was my time
boy, I left a legacy
behind, I became
a hero, and oh, the
masses loved me then

They scratched my name
into their arm
with a pin, a knife
or a fountain pen,
they cried in my honor,
they went to my grave site
and left roses, scratched
crosses on my
tombstone, drank with
me and left half-empty
flasks on saturday nights

But it’s funny how
they only loved me,
held me as their idol
after I slain myself,
after I was gone

“the lost”

I never took a life
until I took my own

I never wanted
to be on this earth
I never wanted
any part of it

I never had the courage
to kill the killers
I never wanted
to play their game

but I guess I have

I never wanted to
take a life
but I should have
control over my
own destiny and if
I don’t want to be
here, well, I should
have that right

and this one thing
I’ve done
is the first thing
I’ve ever done for
myself in my life

The line “I never took a life until I took my own” was a title of a poem by Ray Young.
“How do you explain the color blue to a blind man” is from the poem “Doctor” by Janet Kuypers.
Scratching my name into their arms with a fountain pen is a reference to “The Headmaster Ritual”
by Steven Morrissey.
Scratching crosses on tombstones refers to a ceremony often conducted on Marie LeVeau’s
tombstone in New Orleans.

i’m thinking about myself too much

all of my life it
has all been about you
what do you need
what do you want
how can i help you
what can i do for you
and now for once
i start to live
and now you tell me
that i’m thinking about
myself too much
and i think back to
all the time i’ve
spent with you
and all the care
i’ve given you
and now you tell me
that i’m thinking about
myself too much
and i’ve cooked for
you and i’ve cleaned
for you and i’ve made
sure everything in
your world made sense
and now you tell me
that i’m thinking about
myself too much
and all i can think
is that you’re only angry
because i’m thinking
about me at all

in the projects

    I saw a woman in the projects, by the apartments you were looking at. I was driving toward the lake, stuck at the intersection in traffic, and she walked across the street, in front of my car. She was wearing a blackjacket, falling off of one shoulder. She was wearing a black and white striped shirt. She was carrying a clear plastic cup in her left hand, like the kind you get in a bar. It was filled a quarter of the way with beer. And she walked across the street, holding her beer at the end of her straight left arm, and the sleeve of her jacket almost covered her hand. And her eyes darted back and forth, as if she knew she wasn’t supposed to have open alcohol in public but she’d do it anyway, not caring for the law, but still being cautious. And I thought: I’ve done that before. We both have things we’re running from. What makes her, in the projects, living off the government, any different from me, in the ugly new houses, living off someone else’s ideals.


you think i’m going to come
running back to you again, do you,
you think i need you so desperately
that all you have to say is that
you do care about me
and that you don’t want me to
leave your life and that you
don’t want this to be goodbye,
well, you told me good-bye once
before and i took you back
but now you’ve done it again
and you think it’s all so easy
and you think it’s all roses and
candy and i’m not going back to you
and what you did isn’t good for me
and i know i sound like a psychai-
trist now but you have some
issues you need to deal with
and i can’t be your counselor;
i need someone to counsel me
and if you need help you can’t
help me, and i’ve figured that
much out: you can’t help me

Japanese Television

as reported in the New York Times:

one new television show in Japan
boasts young women in bikinis
who attempt to smash aluminum cans
in between their breasts

another television show in Japan
brings a young boy on stage
to tell him his mother
has been shot and killed
to see how long it takes him
to cry

I wonder what they’d think
of Rosanne
and Married With Children

joe putz-a-vucki

my mother told me
about one of my father’s clients
ed kazinski
he had a stutter
and you couldn’t mistake his voice

well he called the house one night
and my father was out with the boys
and so my mother decided to play a trick

she told ed “my husband is out
with ed kazinski
and he won’t be home for a while”

and ed stuttered, tried to make an excuse
cover up for my father
and said, “uh, well, tell him
joe putz-a-vucki called”
and he quickly hung up
the telephone
thought my mother didn’t know his voice

later he told my father
he covered up for him
and my father said, my wife knows

your stuttering voice, silly
everybody can recognize your voice
she was just playing a joke

and by the way
who is joe putz-a-vucki

ed told my father
that putz-a-vucki was polish
for “under the sidewalk”
and it was just
what came out
of his mouth
when he didn’t have time
to think

Knew All Along

So my friend Joe owned this bar, and Joe
was a great guy, but he had this thing against guys
with motorcycles. He didn’t want motorcycles in his
parking lot, he didn’t want anybody in leather or
heavy motorcycle boots in his bar. So I thought one
day I’d get him for thinking like that - so I
came up with a plan. It’s like this: the bar is laid out
with an entrance to the left of the main entrance. So
I decided I’d ride a motorcycle through his bar, with a
full leather outfit on and a helmet so he couldn’t see
who it was, and I’d go in through the main entrance
and exit at the entrance on the left. So everything was
in place, I was in the parking lot, then at the front
door, ready to go. Then someone opened the door for
me, and for some reason when I went through the
front door, I couldn’t turn my wheel, and I ended
up running right into his juke box. And so I tried
reversing my way out of it, and I ended up running
into Joe;s cigarette machine. And his wife was behind
the bar screaming for Joe to come out - Joe was in
back and missed all of this - while I managed to man-
euver my way out the door on the left before Joe ever
got out there. And Joe put out rewards for information
about who did this to his bar, and he swore up and
down about motorcycle riders. And I couldn’t tell him
that it was just a joke, that I didn’t mean to break all
of his stuff, right? So finally, after four years, I told
him at a party it was me. He said, “I knew all along.”

Knowing Kevorkian

Oh, I knew Kevorkian
he used to be a pathologist
he used to do autopsies
for my precinct

what I remember about
was that he’d go out
with us, for drinks, you know

and he’d get a gin martini
but he would always have
just one, and he’d never
join the conversation

I never thought he had
anything to say, never thought
he’d have a cause
well, I guess he did

Kurt Irons
(it’s just a girl)

Kurt Irons
while drinking
drove a stolen
into another
and killed
a woman

according to
Kurt Irons
by the arrest
by the fact
that he was

Kurt Irons
was quoted
as saying

it’s just a

it’s a girl -
but a

Lambs to Heaven’s Gate

They tell you the meek shall inherit the earth.
Then they lead their lambs to the slaughter
as I do, to the ones who will follow.
You see, the meek wouldn’t know what to do
with their inheritance. They know nothing
of property, ownership, power. I teach them
not to understand these values but to fear them.
To sacrifice. To stay meek. I’m the one
who tells them how to dress, how to walk,
how to kill themselves. All they need is a reason
as long as they don’t have to think it through.

People will believe anything if you
tell it to them the right way. Give them a few
tokens and they’ll create icons out of you.
But not everyone can guide, can lead the lost.
Give themselves to the followers who need them,
with nothing in return. Like the stars,
which seem so small, so meek from here
yet are unfathomable, uncontrollable.
Like the shepherd, quietly guiding his flock
but holding a stick all the while. I’m the one
who guides them, who guides them to their destiny.

Lessons from the Simpsons

I will not bribe principal Skinner.
I will not send lard in the mail.
I will not hide the teacher’s prozac.
I will not hang donuts on my person.
I will not aim for the head.
I will not barf unless I’m sick.
I will not conduct my own fire drills.
I will not snap bras.
I will not fake seizures.

I will not prescribe medication.
I will not bury the new kid.
I will not sell school property.
I will not trade pants with others.
I will not drive the principal’s car.
I will not pledge allegiance to Bart.
I will not belch the National Anthem.

I do not have diplomatic immunity.
I am not deliciously saucy.
I will not torment the emotionally frail.

I will not sell land in Florida.
I will not grease the monkey bars.
I will not hide behind the Fifth Amendment.
I will not sleep through my education.
I will not teach others to fly.
I will not bring sheep to class.
I will not eat things for money.
I will not instigate a revolution.

I will not call my teacher “Hot Cakes.”
I will not yell, “Fire” in a crowded classroom.
I will not Xerox my butt.
I will not yell “She’s Dead” at roll call.
I will not call the principal “spud head.”
I will not charge admission to the bathroom.

A burp is not an answer.
“Bag Man” is not a legitimate career choice.
Coffee is not for kids.
The principal’s toupee is not a Frisbee.
Goldfish don’t bounce.
Five days is not too long to wait for a gun.
Tar is not a plaything.
Spit wads are not free speech.
Mud is not one of the 4 food groups.
No one is interested in my underpants.
The cafeteria deep fat fryer is not a toy.
The Pledge of Allegiance does not end with “Hail Satan!”
Organ transplants are best left to professionals.
Underwear should be worn on the inside.

I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty.
I saw nothing unusual in the teacher’s lounge.
This punishment is not boring and pointless.

At the beginning of each episode of “The Simpsons,”
Bart is serving detention and writing a message on the black board over and over.
The message changes from episode to episode.
This is a collection of some of the messages he has written.


i was wondering when nature’s rights were
substituted for human rights, somebody tell me

because, I mean, I care about the environment and all
I like trees, and I’m a vegetarian

but I was in a car with an environmentalist once
talking about the national forests, how they

were largely destroyed in the early nineteen hundreds
by loggers, but are protected now, and this environmentalist

said to me, “kill the loggers”
and the thing was, he meant it

he said he didn’t, but he did, and I wonder if he realizes
what he’s willing to sacrifice for what he thinks is right

i wonder if the loggers would agree with him

losing my best friend.

(written with D.J.)

our yard was a small size
since we lived in a Detroit suburb.
That’s why Doc got sent away
to a place I never saw
with a faceless man I never knew

I’ve never been able to face death;
no one ever wanted to talk about it.
Where were they taking him?
I didn’t want him to go,
I loved him,
and I knew he loved me too.
He loved me the most.

My father thought it was best,
and I suppose financially
it might have been,
but at what point is it
that you become an adult,
refer to love as a childhood thing
and value money
over a child’s heart

I was playing at my neighbor’s
when I went to the fence
and saw the man pulling the van
out of my driveway,
with my dog.
and Doc was yelping.
And I didn’t even
get to say good-bye.

That was my dog.
and that was my childhood.

Love Has Tendrils

love has tendrils
long, fluid, arcing, curling, pulling
but under the water
I have slipped away
one too many times

escaped the pull

never strong enough
to pull me in
were you

i keep searching
for those endless arms
to wrap themselves around me

to choke me
to kill me

until I rise yet again
gasping for air

loved you the most

I heard last week that you died.
I called your office to ask you a question
and the receptionist had to tell me.

Of course I didn’t hear it from your family.
How would they know to call me?
They, who don’t even know my last name
and think I was a heathen and no good for you.
They, tied to you by blood, never knew
I wished for that tie to you too.
They never knew I put you on a pedestal.
They never knew I made you my god.

I went to your funeral today. I wore a veil
over the brim of my hat and stayed in the back
while they lowered your casket into the ground.
When everyone was at your grave site
the minister talked about the ones you left behind:
your parents, your brother, your sister.
What he didn’t know was that you left
me behind too. The one that loved you the most.

I knew I could never have you in my life.
But I needed to know you were alive, so I could go on living.
And the minister spoke of how your family would miss you.
And I thought, what about me.
What do I do with nothing to love.

make people think

I don’t want to draw
I don’t want to write
but I don’t want to do nothing
I want to make waves
I want to annoy people
I want people to know that I’m smart
that I’m strong
that I’m in control
I want to affect people in one way or another
I want to change people’s minds
I want people to think I am great
I want to make people think

marilyn monroe’s sex life

some people would have
called me a slut
I prefer a vixen

Personally, I don’t think
I was doing anything wrong
I had it all
men adored me

most men would have done
the same thing I did
played the field

I wasn’t even looking for sex
just companionship

I had the fame
I had the wealth, the looks

why would I want one man
keeping me in place
what if I wanted to see
a bit more of life
through the eyes of other people

why am I resented for that

so I start seeing my ex again
and another ex
and a new guy
and another

you know, most men
would normally love to have
a no-strings attached relationship
with a woman

why couldn’t that happen with me
why is it people
become obsessed with me

am I really that famous
that perfect

I have rejected some of them
so many times they had to
pick up their ego from the floor
but they keep coming back
telling me they love me
wanting me to choose
wanting me to love them back

why do they think I want anyone

I know I brought this
upon myself
I wanted to go on this wild trip
but I didn’t want to carry any baggage

I thought I could make the men
carry it for me

and it seems that my bags are getting
and it seems that the bags under
my eyes won’t go away anymore

the bags are getting heavier
they’re so heavy

more than we should have

when i think of him i usually think about the drinking

actually, i never think of him as drinking
come to think of it
i just think of him as drunk
i can’t even remember seeing the drinks in his hand
but his perception of the world is always altered

but someone reminded me tonight
of when he would work outside in the the cold Chicago winters
and he would come back with his moustache frozen
and there would be little icicles hanging
down toward his mouth

and then i thought of
when i waited with him once at the airport
because we were picking up someone
and we sat in the shrimp cocktail lounge
and he drank, and ate, and i waited

and as we left
we tried to pay the expressway toll with pennies
but some of the coins fell onto the street
and we had to throw more change at the machine

we paid more than we should have
i’m sure we did

more whiskey sours

i need more
more money, more orgasms
more clothes, more cigarettes
more whiskey sours, more heroin
more love

never did the same

we’ve put each other through hell, i know
we’ve tried each other’s patience
we’ve goaded each other on
we’ve pissed each other off
we’ve jerked each other around
but i’ve noticed two things, one
is that whenever you were unhappy
i turned on the charm, i tried
to make your day, i tried to
make you laugh, and the other
thing that i noticed is that
you never did the same for me

new to chicago

I’m still new to this city
I know, I know, I’ve been here for years
but I haven’t gone to the Sears Tower Observatory
since my Junior Prom

but when I walk by the First Chicago building
the beams along the north side
sloping up, parabolic pillars curving up to the sky

when I walk by the First Chicago building
I walk up along the side
and lean up against one of the sloping pillars
press my body against the cold concrete
feel the cold against my chin, my breasts, by thighs

and look up along the curve, stretching up towards the sky

you know, these pillars look like race tracks
and I could see something come rushing down that curve
a matchbox car, a race car
a marble, a bowling ball
a two-ton weight

I see the seed, the power, and it
almost makes me afraid to look up

and every time I walk by the First Chicago building
I do the same thing, I do this little ritual
and it feels like the first time

odd how things turn out that way.

husband-beaten wife
in a panic
the cops showed up

she shot an officer
to be left alone

the cop wore a bullet-
proof vest
but the bullet hit his arm

ricocheted off a bone
right into his
heart and killed him dead

on the california streets

we were walking along Santa Monica Boulevard
we passed a young homeless man, and he asked
could you spare a hundred thousand dollars?

and I thought, of course he won’t get it
but of all the places in the world, this is the only
place where he could get away with asking for it


Years ago Chinese women
bound their feet with cloths
forcing them to remain
the foot of a child

The smaller the foot
the higher the class
the more helpless the woman
the more she needed a husband
to care for her

It was normal
for the daughter to cry
and cry
at the thought
of hurting her feet so
of being unable to walk

Of crippling herself

But the mother knew better

The girl would never find
a suitable husband
if her feet
were like those
of a servant

At least
a working servant

are like swatches of cheesecloth
slowing wrapping
layer upon layer
upon layer

The tears falling land
in her lap

a pattern
as the daughter sobs
and rocks back and forth


It amazes me
that the the first definition of pioneer
is a person or group that originates
or helps open up a new line
of thought or activity
or a new method of technical development

and that the second definition of pioneer
is merely
one of the first
to settle in a territory

To pioneer is to open or prepare for others to follow

You said you all were pioneers.
What did you know of these uncharted lands?
And more importantly,
why did you bring your old and tired
ideas with you?
How, with all of that spiritual baggage,
could you plan to start anew?
And what were you running from?

Yes, pioneers, you were all so brave.
So bold. Running away to a land
that promised not to give you more
but promised to not be where you were
running from. Running away, taking all
of your old edicts with you, all of your
old theories, hoping a change of scenery
was all you needed to make everything better.

How can you start anew
when all you do
is move your problems to a different place?

Yes, pioneers, you were all so brave.
So bold. But you, Laura, you were only
a little girl, what could you be
crusading for? Were you following
your heart, your mind, were you searching
for the truth, did you know what it was
you were looking for? Or were you even
looking for something at all? Were you merely
trying to survive it all, blindly following
your powerful father, your powerful god?

What were you a pioneer of?
Did you feel the cold slap of wind
from the barren plains
and think that this was freedom?
When you ran outside and played make-believe
wearing your little dress, little ribbons in your hair
did that cold gust of wind on your calves
circling around and above your knees
make you feel free from the journey
your elders forced you to take?

When slaves were bought and sold
when women were purchased for harems
they had no say over where their masters roamed
they merely had to follow
and keep their mouths shut
and did you feel that way too?

To pioneer is to open or prepare for others to follow

To you, your daddy was a pioneer
but think about it again
think about how alone you felt
in the plains, making up stories
to pass the time
how sometimes you would go out to the fields
and run, and run, and run
hurdling forward until you couldn’t
see your little house anymore
and was this your moment of sanity?
Was this what kept you alive?

I know we’ve all felt that feeling before
after being on vacation
or just being somewhere else
and knowing you have to leave
you have to go home
and be the person everyone expects you to be

be the fearful little girl
instead of the alive little girl

And I know each and every one of us
has felt that feeling while going home once
wondering if it was possible
to just never come back

And you would run, and run, and run
hurdling forward until you couldn’t
see your little house anymore
looking for something new
then always finding
only more and more plains

You were too young to create something new
to truly be a pioneer
so you knew you’d have to go back
you couldn’t keep running
and you’d have to accept
the world that was handed down to you

And after running through those endless fields
I’m sure that slow walk back to the house
because you knew your mother
would be calling you back for dinner
I’m sure that slow walk back
was all the more painful

When I was little I would save up all my change
and tell my mother I was going for a bike ride
in the neighborhood

And I would sneak over to the local ice cream parlor,
even though I shouldn’t eat sweets before dinner

And did you sneak off to the general store
for penny candy

Was this your freedom, was this your rebellion?
Was this your decision to accept your own ideas
and not those of your mother, your father, your god?
Was this your attempt to get away from following?
Was this your moment of sanity?
Was this what kept you alive?

To pioneer is to open or prepare for others to follow

Was this what made you a pioneer?

pop a pill

take with meals
take three times a day
take with food or milk
take on an empty stomach
take a half hour before eating
take at the same time daily
do not operate heavy machinery
do not drink alcohol
do not mix medications
may upset stomach
may cause weight gain
may cause weight loss
may cause dizziness
may cause drowsiness
may cause headaches
may cause ulcers
do not skip medication
if problem persists consult your doctor
are you in pain

probably not

there were peanuts in the ashtray
there were supposed to be peanut shells

there weren’t supposed to be peanuts in the ashtray
i wonder if someone will pick them out

probably not


I don’t like to watch movies. Since when did America decide that people need to escape so desperately? Yes, switch off the brain for a few hours because work is such a bitch, trying endlessly to find a infinite number of ways to make it look like you’re actually working when actually you’re screwing off, so you need to unwind with pictures and sound but not actual interaction or dare I say activity, unwind with pictures and sound of an overly-muscular leading man decorated with ammo belts blowing away a faceless enemy, because we all want to actually kill, don’t we?, and this is just a way to live out our sick little fantasies, so we watch this leading man decorated with ammo belts blowing away a faceless enemy, punctuating the scene with a less-than-witty one-liner. Oh, sorry. Was I ranting?

run faster

why me
why do I keep doing this to myself
why do I keep coming back

I beg for attention
and I don’t know how to stop
and I don’t know how to be alone

so I keep giving you
one more chance to make it perfect
one more chance to save the damsel

but I’m not a damsel
and I’m not being rescued
and I’m not feeling any better

because even though I hate you
I’ll never let go
so you’ll just have to run faster

russians at a garage sale

at our annual garage sale this year
all these old couples came walking by

they were from the russian neighborhood
they could barely speak english

they would pick up an iron. “how much?”
“four dollars.” “fifty cents?” “no.”

it was a warm indian summer day
we were all clad in shorts and sunglasses

they would point at the iron, a toaster,
a blender. “all for a dollar?” “no.”

and all the old couples wore raincoats
and scarves wrapped around their heads

they would pick up a wine glass. “how much?”
“twenty-five cents.” “how about ten?”


when the tail comes off of a salamander
the salamander grows back a new tail

and at twelve, we were amazed
with this little morsel of knowledge

and wanted to catch
a salamander

so we could pull off its tail
and see for ourselves

and i find it amazing and wonderful
and frightening, and disturbing

that our quest for knowledge
is greater than our compassion

Scars 1997

I wear my scars like badges.
These deep marks show through from under my skin
like war paint on an Apache chief.
Decorated with feathers, the skins of his prey.

I have a scar over my left knee.
It’s left over from a bout with poison ivy
I had after climbing a mountainside.
The four-inch long slice curves around my leg,
almost perfectly defining the muscles in my thigh.

I have a scar on my right shin.
I slipped on a patch of rocks and cut up the lower
half of my leg and filled it with gravel and dirt.
Joe poured hydrogen peroxide on my leg
and wrapped my wounds with paper towels
because the cuts were so wide spread.
An hour later I was on my way home,
so I could tend to my wounds in greater detail.
Tend to my wounds in depth.
Now all that is left is a two-inch line down
the side of my leg. Although it wasn’t a very
deep cut, it looks like it went straight to the bone.

I have a circular scar on my left calf,
from getting off a motorcycle and sliding
my leg over the scalding hot exhaust pipe.
It has been seven years since I gained that scar,
and with each year I see it fade away just a little.
I can still see it, but the memory is slowly slipping away.

My cat scratched me on my wrist once
when we had to give her medication.
Cats don’t like taking pills, or having ointment
dabbed on and liquid poured over their wounds.
When giving her pills, we’d grab all her paws,
pull her head back by the nape of her neck,
pry her jaws wide open so the pill will fall back
and she is forced to swallow it.
But sometimes she’d move too much
and a paw would slip out of our grasp.
And now, over the bone on my left wrist,
a long thin scar stares at me defiantly.

I tell people that if they wake up
with bruises and cuts they don’t remember,
then they must have had fun the night before.
But each marking, each scar is a story,
is a memory. It is a way to remember how you lived.
And it is with these marks that I gauge my living.
It is with these marks that I feel decorated.

see you crawl

come on, boy
i want to see you come crawling back
not because i want you here
but because i want to see you crawl


i’ve been self-destructive before
and you liked me then

maybe i should go back
go back to those days
when it didn’t matter who i was with

why would it matter
unless it was you?

service of others

Mary called herself
the “handmaid of the Lord”

Putting herself at God’s service
she also put herself
at the service of others

    Letter to Women, Message of His Holiness
    POPE JOHN PAUL II, July 10

coffee, tea, or milk
what could i get you
would you like fries with that
do you need another beer
here, let me take care of that for you
i did your laundry this morning
i hope your eggs aren’t too cold
let me wash your feet

shame on me

you are stubborn, moody,
angry and hateful
you want to hate
and you want to hate me

and i keep thinking that
you couldn’t even think
your way out of a card-
board box, you ass-hole

but i still tried, i wanted
to make it work with us
and the highs were too high
but the lows were too low

and i’ve tried, i’ve worked
and i’ve slaved for you
and i wanted to know
this couldn’t fail

but once again
you’ve proved me wrong

fool me once
and shame on you,
fool me twice

and shame on me

She Was a Woman

She was a woman who thought too much.
She was a woman who had dreams.
She was a woman who accomplished everything she set out to.
She was a woman who wore a crown of thorns.
She was a woman who was punished for things she had not done.

She was a woman who was strong.
She was a woman who was beautiful.
She was a woman who was beaten down.
She was a woman who was angry.

She was a woman who would walk into a coworker’s office,
stand on a desk and do the twist,
just to relieve corporate boredom.

She was a woman who worked twelve-hour days.
She was a woman who cried at Kleenex commercials.
She was a woman who fought for her rights.
She was a woman who should not have been born.

She was a woman who believed in nothing but herself.
She was a woman who begged to be loved.
She was a woman who deserved more.

She was a woman who picked flowers
from her neighbor’s yards in the middle of the night.

She was a woman who belched out loud.
She was a woman who laughed too hard.
She was a woman who swore too much.
She was a woman who grew up too fast.

She was a woman who would turn up the stereo
and dance alone in her living room.

She was a woman who read philosophy.
She was a woman who needed a reason.
She was a woman who always saw the irony.
She was a woman who demanded perfection.
She was a woman who was always looking for something else.

She was a woman who would jump on hotel beds
every time she travelled and booked a room.
Because it was hers. Because she could.

She was a woman who hated how she looked.
She was a woman who wanted to be better.
She was a woman who hated to lose control.
She was a woman who planned everything.
She was a woman who always had to feel secure.

She was a woman who never played drinking games,
because she never needed an excuse to drink.

She was a woman who showed off her legs.
She was a woman who raised the pitch of her voice
when she was asking for something.
She was a woman who talked to her cat in a baby voice.
She was a woman who could not eat something she could not kill.

She was a woman who wrote letters to the editor.
She was a woman who went to the manager
when the service was bad.
She was a woman who liked making waves.

She was a woman who wrote poetry.
She was a woman who could drink most men under the table.
She was a woman who loved dirty jokes.
She was a woman who seldom crossed her legs.

She was a woman who worked on eight different projects
at once, and still managed to get them all done on time.

She was a woman who never asked for help.
She was a woman who always had the answers.
She was a woman who admired ability.
She was a woman who did everything to extremes.
She was a woman who wanted to be alive.
She was a woman who was never satisfied.

She was a woman who was always trying.
She was a woman who was always.
She was a woman who was.
She was a woman who
She was a woman.
She was a
She was.


(written with D.J.)

Grocery shopping. Clothes shopping. Car shopping. Casket shopping.
sometimes it sustains us, sometimes it relieves us,
sometimes it kills us.
Sometimes it gets our minds going into a mode where
we want to shop for everything, including people.
Have to get the right price. Have to get the most for your money.
Have to get a bargain. That’s the American Way.
Bigger, better, faster. Baseball. Hot dogs.
Apple pie and Chevrolet.
Do your job, get your paycheck,
buy the luxuries, upstage four friends.
Buy your friends.
As an incentive, you’ll get some enemies for free.

So you have your friends you bought
and the enemies you’ve earned
and the luxuries and paychecks
but what else does it get you
when it’s all over
and you’re lying in the ground
like the next person,
with the casket you bought.

sorry flowers

i bet you think a box of candy is
all you need to make everything better
and you’d still say i need to lose
some weight, sure, feed me candy, okay.

i love “apology candy” as much as i
love “sorry flowers” and people at the
office keep saying i must be a great
girlfriend because i get flowers at the

office but then i tell them that they
are “sorry flowers” and that the
worst kind of flowers are “sorry
flowers” because you’d rather have no

flowers if it meant that you two
were happy all the time. and no one
understands what you’re talking about.
and neither do you. so good-bye.


i think of statues of greek gods
they were what people could aspire to be
they were something to strive for

and i’ve had no inspiration
other than my own mind
and i’ve created my own images
to keep me going

and i’ve succeeded
i’ve done it all
i’ve got the fame, the fortune

and now i look around
and all i see is destruction
i see the ruins of a fallen age

and i just want to see that statue
it’s so vivid in my mind
and i know it has to be out there somewhere

but i’ve been working so hard so long
that i forgot about the light at the end of the tunnel
and now i don’t know where to look

Take The Pain

When I’m laying down in the sun
I close my eyes only so slightly
And the sun beats down and burns my face
And it penetrates my eyelids and scorches
My eyes. I strain to keep from squinting.
I struggle to keep my eyes just lightly closed
To survive the scorching light, the burning.

Do you understand this struggle, do you do this
To see how long you can take the pain

You know, when I struggle like this under the light
I can feel my lips beginning to part
And I almost expect you to reach over and kiss me

There’s a fine line between pleasure and pain

When I’m laying down in the sun
I close my eyes only so slightly
And I take the pain

Thank you, women who work I

Thank you, women who work
In this way you make
an indispensable contribution
to the growth of a culture
which unites reason and feeling,
to a model of life ever open
to the sense of “mystery”

    Letter to Women, Message of His Holiness
    POPE JOHN PAUL II, July 10

Thank you, women who work
because you take on the responsibilities of men
while still having to be mothers, wives
good little daughters a feminine creatures

Thank you, women who work
because you are the ones we can blame
when the family falls apart

Thank you, women who work
because you make a point to do more
than your fair share
even though
no man would do the same for you

Thank you, women who work
for you know you have to prove yourselves
over and over and over again
and that it still isn’t enough, so
keep up the good work,


Thank you, women who work II

Thank you, women who work
In this way you make
an indispensable contribution
to the growth of a culture
which unites reason and feeling,
to a model of life ever open
to the sense of “mystery”

    Letter to Women, Message of His Holiness
    POPE JOHN PAUL II, July 10

Thank you, women who work
because you are supposed to be the ones
who rely on superstition, on
faith, more than men

Thank you, women who work
because you need to rely on something,
you’re the inferior sex, remember?
rely on men, or rely on religion
either way, we’ll make you dependent

Thank you, women who work
because that sense of mystery
we attribute to you
is really the sense of hopeless fear
our religion instills on people
who don’t want to think for themselves
and turns people to us
because they have no other choice

Thank you, women who work
with your influence
we can get rid of this whole
reason thing altogether

the bathroom at the Green Mill

you know, I’m so used to
walking into bathrooms at bars
and seeing “I love Scott” and
“I think I love Paul, but I think I love girls”
scribbled on the stalls in ink
but I went into the bathroom at the
Green Mill on the north side of Chicago
which hosts the Uptown Poetry Slam
while a black woman read poetry
about oppression and plantations and slavery
(which sounded more like a speech,
but I won’t get into that)
and I walked into the bathroom, into
a stall, I closed the door, and I saw
some writing, and I thought, oh,
I bet this writing actually has something
to say, I bet there’s poetry up on these walls

and I sat down, and I started to read
and I saw “I love Scott” and
“I think I love Paul, but I think I love girls”

and I started to think that I’d actually
like to meet the people that write these messages
and I’d like to ask them,
“Hey, are you still with Brian? Because
when it said “Jeanie and Brian Forever”
on the bathroom stall at the Green Mill
I wanted to know if it was really true
if I can still believe everything I read
and if there was a happy ending for you”

and then I put my lipstick on in the
bathroom at the Green Mill in Chicago
heard the black woman’s voice resonating
throughout the bar, thought for a moment
about what was on the walls and walked away

The Deep End

love seems so appealing
love is the bottom of the deep end
love is what makes the kiddies
walk to the edge of the diving board
take a deep breath
hold their little noses
and close their eyes
and brace themselves

and jump in

but none of them stay under too long
because they know
even at an early age
when enough is enough

The Last Time

The last time I remember shooting an
animal was with my
son. We were in our back yard, and I saw

a chipmunk moving around off in the
distance. Now, there
are tons of chipmunks and squirrels and

raccoons near our house, the chipmunks
mess everything up,
eat everything in sight, they’re like rats.

So I pulled out my rifle, aimed at that
vermin at the edge
of my property line. Shot it. Killed it.

My son, no more than twelve or thirteen
at the time, was
halfway toward the chipmunk, walking

through the yard. And he just stood there.
When I walked up
to him, he turned around and looked at

me and asked, “Why?” And I had no answer.
I couldn’t give him one.
And that was the last time I shot an animal.

the one at mardi gras

i was at mardi gras last weekend
and i got a bunch of beads from parades
(no, i didn’t lift my shirt for them) -

and a friend of mine had a balcony
on bourbon street, and so we were on it
on friday night, and the swarms

of people stretched for over a mile. it was
a mob, no one could walk and the crowd
just kind of carried them along. and all

the men expected women to get naked
for them for beads, and from my balcony
i would see every few minutes a series of

flash pops, coupled with a roar from the
crowd, and i knew a woman lifted her shirt
for the screaming masses. i refused, however,

to strip for drunk strangers, when i knew
they all expected me to, being on a balcony
and all. so men would look up at me and stretch

out their arms, looking up inquisitively, as
if to ask either for me to give them beads
or for me to strip. and since i wasn’t stripping

and had plenty of my own beads, i decided
to turn the tables and see if men would accept
the same conditions they asked of these women.

when they looked up at me for something,
i would say, “drop your pants.” they would look up
at me, confused, because the women are the

ones that are supposed to be stripping, but
in general i got two responses from the men:
either they would look at me like i was

crazy and walk away, or they would shrug,
as if to say, “okay,” and then they would
start unzipping their pants. then they would

make a gesture to turn around, as if to ask,
“do you want to see my butt?” and that’s when i’d
yell, “the front,” and then they’d turn back

around, with their pants and their underwear
at their knees, and start moving their hips
(which i never asked for, by the way).

so over the course of the evening i
managed to get at least twenty men to
strip like this for me, and i was amazed

that there was this society, this micro-
cosm of society, that allowed this kind
of debauchery in the streets, a sort of

prostitution-for-plastic-beads form of
capitalism. so i was reveling in this bizarre
annual ritual when this man, average to

everyone else, wearing grey and minding
his own business, decided to look up at me. so
i asked him to drop his pants, and instead of

disgustedly leaving or willingly obliging
he crossed both hands on his chest and looked
up at me, as if to ask, “you want to me do

what? you naughty, naughty girl.” and he
smiled and looked up at me, and it occurred
to me that i finally found someone in this

massive crowd that thinks they way i do.
now, new orleans has a population, from what i
hear, of about one million, but during mardi gras

there are about nine or ten million people, and
all i could think was that of all these people
here, i finally found someone who wouldn’t

blindly do what i asked, but at the same time
wouldn’t think i was crazy for asking.
of course as i looked at him i also happened

to think that he was stunning, by far the best-
looking man i had seen that entire night, he
looked like he had style, like he was self-

confident, but then again, i’m near-sighted
and was on a balcony drunk at mardi gras.
we hit an impasse when he wouldn’t strip

and neither would i, so his attention was
eventually diverted to other balconies. but i
noticed for that next half-hour that he never left

from under my balcony, and every once in a while
he would still turn around and look up at me. oh,
boy, i was thinking the entire time, i know

this is no way to start a relationship, hell,
i’m sure this guy lives nowhere near me, and
i haven’t even had a real conversation with him,

but he’s damn near perfect. and all that time we
were screaming and partying at mardi gras,
he would still occasionally turn around and

make sure i was still there. and finally he
looked at me, signalling that he had to move
on with his friends, and i held up my index

finger to make him wait and then i threw
a bunch of beads at him. part of me threw
them because he was a good sport, putting

up with my taunting and still not giving in,
but a part of me threw them because i
saw in him the strong values and the sense

of self-worth, the sheer love of life, the
desire to be alive, that i possessed all along
and have always longed for in someone else.

the things warren says

I know about this guy,
he sucked his eyeball out
with a shop-vac

he went to the hospital
brought the shop-vac
with him

he was okay, but they
couldn’t put his eve
back in:

it was all mangled, and
besides, it was covered
in potato chips

The Way You Tease Me

What I think I like the most about you
is the way you always leave me wanting more.
When you kiss me, and we start to pull back
I want to cock my head and kiss you again
but I never know if you’ll let me.

What I think I like the most about you
is the way you roll your sultry deep voice over me
like a wave of heat on a summer afternoon.
You use a pause to tease me with your words
until sweat dances down my hairline and tickles me neck.

What I think I like the most about you
is the way you slide your arms around my waist
and make me just want to collapse in your grasp
and run my hands up and down your back
until I hear you moan and sigh.

What I think I like the most about you
is the way that absence makes the heart grow fonder
and when we touch you say we should take it slow,
take our time, enjoy every moment
and you know, you couldn’t be more right.

What I think I like the most about you
are the things that make me think I have to fight for you
are the things that make me second guess myself
because nothing’s ever easy, not you, not me,
not relationships, not sex, not love.

What I think I like the most about you
is the wondering, is the waiting, is the teasing.
That’s what I like. This high-charged guessing game.
The flirting. The first touch. The first everything.
Thinking about the possibilities. Yeah. That’s what I like.

they see independently

Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge
the person, because they see persons
independently of various ideological
or political systems
in their greatness and limitations
they try to go out to them and help them

    Letter to Women, Message of His Holiness
    POPE JOHN PAUL II, July 10

do they see independently from reason, too?
do they see people devoid of ideas, ideologies?
do they help their own murderer?
do they help the people who won’t help themselves?
do they not judge a person then?
do they not value one person differently from another?
what then is love, respect, if it is not earned?
what good are these women really doing
if their help is expected and not earned?

this halloween

this halloween i got a costume together
i wore a black page-boy wig,
a vinyl dress and matching vinyl boots

it was strange for me
i’m not such an outgoing person

and every time i was left alone at a bar
someone would hit on me
usually someone ugly
but i didn’t tell them to leave me alone:

i gave them a fake name, a fake number

and looking back, what made the difference
was not wearing the revealing clothes
but wearing a wig, changing my identity

and it’s not that i’d do it again
but i must admit
i really like being someone else
just for a little while

this is my dilemma

should I go to you
this is my dilemma

should I just
not care anymore
should I just
act the part
should I just
not care anymore
should I just
let you take me
should I just
not care anymore
should I just
kiss you

who cares
suck me in
take me in
who cares
throw me around
it’s okay
I’ve been thrown
around before

I’m used to this
I’m used to this routine:
back and forth,
and then forgetting

forgetting the feelings
forgetting your name

do it to me,
if you want

go ahead
feel free

I’ve felt it before
I’ve lived it before
I’ve known it before
I’ve lived it before

and no emotion is new
to me anymore

so should I
this is my dilemma

too much light

too much light makes the baby go blind
and too much light makes the moth

rush into the flame

and die in a final

glorious blaze of glory

and I have seen the light
and I have seen it

what is my choice:

burn in the flame
to burst quickly
to die young
or to slowly slip away
to die slowly
day by day
to let people in darkness
pull me in
inch by inch
until the light
kills me

Two Minutes With Ayn Rand

I don’t believe in things that aren’t proven,
that we have no evidence of, but sometimes,
sometimes, I still think about what I would do
if I had two minutes to talk to you

when someone asked me what I’d say
I said I’d rather hear you speak
I’m sure the words you would part unto me
would mean infinitely more
than what I could say to you

and if I could talk to you
I wouldn’t know what to say

But I know I’d have to tell you
like so many of your fans in the past
that I thank you
for showing me
that there are logical people in the world
that man can live by reason
that reason is a virtue
that selfishness is a virtue
that I have a right to what I earn
to what I create
to what I know to be true

I would have been still searching blindly
for philosophical answers
to the meaning of life
if you never told me
that I am worth something
that I am my own end

and it’s nice to know
that even when I’m surrounded by these
unthinking masses
that there are people who hold their minds
as the highest value
out there somewhere in the world

and the fact that they exist
helps me through my days

but you knew that
you wrote about these heroes
over the years
and how could you manage to write
gripping, thousand-page novels
about heroes that a rational mind
can’t help but love
and did you really find that hero in real life?

Because I’m still looking.

You’ve created these heroes
but are they just created
does anyone else understand
these values as I do?

Yes, thank you
for giving me the answers
I’ve been looking for,
but tell me that someone else out there
found the answers too

so maybe, if those who posed
this unreasonable illogical ethical question
in the first place, if they could give me
another two minutes
so you could do some talking
maybe then you could explain to me
how to get through the days
when no one understands you
how to accept less than perfection
when you’ve seen the purity and the clarity
of the thinking mind

warren stories

i heard this story about this fat woman
who sat naked on a pork chop bone once

and didn’t notice when it lodged itself
among her folds of fat. years later,

when she felt a sharp pain, and the doctors
couldn’t figure out what it was, opened

her up and found the pork chop, and realized
that her skin just eventually grew over it.

Watching My Father Die

my father had cancer
the doctors told us
he’d be dead in six months, but

after six years of pampering
and caring for him
we wondered how long this was going

to last. Not that we wanted
him to leave us, of course,
but did the doctor know what he was

talking about? but then
his condition started getting
worse, in the last two weeks especially, and

I just saw him in so much
pain I didn’t know what to
do. After seeing him in so much pain, after

these two weeks, one night I
even prayed for his death to
come. Just to save him. Just to make his

pain go away. And the next
day, he was dead. After all
that time, the pain was over. Just like that.

watching you eat a donut

(with Lance)

How do I approach this? I remember the lines:
“the optimist and the pessimist,
the difference is quite droll:
the optimist sees the donut
and the pessimist sees the hole”
And I look over, see the consumption of
the wholeness, the nothingness.

I prefer nothing because there’s
a whole lot of nothing
breathing nothing
nothing between the spaces
one naught two naught three.

But there’s always so much to read
between the spaces, between the lines.
You see, it’s all a matter of
what you choose to look for.
What you choose to look for. What you choose to find.

I look at the world and see nothing
I stare into nothing and see the world
I look at nothing and see memory
and all the faces caressed with eyes.

I run my fingers along the table, caressing
the granules flaking from the pastry
between two fingers. Like grains of sand,
tiny beads. Caressed. Consumed.
This is nothing. This is everything.

Water on the Street

George Eastman
was dumping water
from his outdoor hot tub one day
and the water
was running
down the center
of the street.

Now, from a distance,
it looked like
George Eastman
may have been
watering his lawn;

but people were only allowed
to water their lawns
on certain days of the week.

So when I saw the water
and then I saw
George Eastman,
I said, “Hey, you know -”
pointing to the water

George Eastman
interrupted and said,
“I know what you’re thinking, but
I’m not watering my lawn. I’m
dumping out the water
from my hot tub,
and I’m dumping it into the street
because I don’t want the chemicals
to hurt my lawn.”

Well, I didn’t even mention the
sewer grate behind his house
he could have dumped the water into.
I just said,
“Well, if it will hurt your grass,
what will it do to the asphalt on my

George Eastman
started hemming and hawing
as I drove away.

ways to spend your money

I spent a week in Los Angeles recently
visited Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Brentwood
I saw the Hollywood sign
and Marilyn Monroe’s hand print in concrete
took my picture with Tom Jones’ star

but the one thing I noticed
was that among the shops
that lined the streets of every neighborhood
there were quite a few pet spas
“pet spas,” i thought, “pet spas”

What do we say

What do we tell our youth
when we let them out on probation
for violent crimes
because there’s no room in our jails

What does it say of us
when a painting of a clown
by John Wayne Gasey
sells for millions

What does it say of our self-esteem
when hundreds of women write letters
to Charles Manson
asking for his hand in marriage

What does it say of our media
when it glorifies these
dark heroes

I want to know how your mind works
I want to know why you did it
I want to know how you feel about politics
and love
and marriage
I hope you’re not suffering too much
I love you

What rights do we really take away
from those who take our rights from us?

I hope you’re not suffering too much

Richard Speck, convicted of killing
eight nurses, was videotaped in his
prison cell by cell mates with his
male lover, counting hundred
dollar bills, snorting mounds of
showing off his hormonally-
induced shapely breasts

When a member of society commits a crime
they relinquish the rights
they have taken from others

in theory

One man in prison filed a lawsuit
against the state
for serving peas to him too many
days in a row
One man in prison filed a lawsuit
against Ann Landers
because she published his letter
where he wrote he killed his wife
One man in prison filed lawsuit
after lawsuit against the state
solely because he felt a great joy
in uselessly spending
the taxpayers’ money

What do we say to all of this
What do we say

where I belong

well, I have found
that I must
be the hound
cause my hands
and my feet
they are bound
to the ground
and I struggle
to sing
just one sound

so thank you
for singing this song
for showing me wrong
is where I belong

I’m in a haze
yet I’m filled
with this rage
by the intricate maze
on this stage
and I’m dazed
as I page
through my wage
on the blaze

and thank you
for singing this song
for showing me wrong
is where I belong

I smell the mace
so I cover my face
in case
in my haste
I can trace
the harsh taste
is my pace
in this race
is it all
just a waste

yes, thank you
for singing this song
for showing me wrong
is where I belong

who you tell your dreams to

we were driving down the freeway
you and me in the pick-up truck
and your girlfriend in between
where you could move the gear shift
and it would mean so much to you

and you saw something that you thought
was beautiful, and you said, “look
at the lines, look at how it was made”
and you were inspired by the beauty
of an everyday object no one else noticed

and your girlfriend, riding in the middle
said “that’s him, people think he’s crazy”
and i thought, “no, it just depends on who
you tell your dreams to” but i couldn’t
say it in the truck i wouldn’t say it

Why do you

Why do you make us wait for you to come back?
Why do you allow suffering?
Why do you aim all hurricanes at mobile home parks?
Why do you let us destroy ourselves?
Why do you obstruct people from gaining knowledge?
Why do no major Hollywood film companies collapse in one of your earthquakes?
Why do you let innocent people die for crimes they didn’t commit?
Why do you let the guilty go free?
Why do you fight against progress and technology?
Why do you fill this earth with so much pain?
Why do you not come down here, right now, and show us your face?
Why is it that the less intelligent people are, the more religious they are?
Why do you treat women in the Bible as possessions?
Why do you allow pro-wrestling?
Why do you insist we have faith in you and make us denounce our brains?
Why do you think we’d think you exist?

why i’ll never get married

at work we’ve been looking
for a new employee
we’ve sifted through resumes
we’ve interviewed a few

and some were good
some were very good
and we took some time to decide
and then we called our #1 choice

and they said they wanted
more money than we offered
so we said our goodbyes
and we called our second choice

and they said they couldn’t work
at such a small place
so someone at work said
we should interview some more

and that’s when i knew
at the rate we were going
we’d never find anyone
and no one would want us

you and me and your girlfriend

we went out for drinks together
you and me and your girlfriend
to a restaurant in Malibu
with a balcony that hung over the water

had a perfectly lovely time
you and me and your girlfriend
talking about life, catching up
and you suggested that we go out on the balcony

and I thought that would be charming
for you and me and your girlfriend
but we hadn’t paid our bill yet
so your girlfriend told us to go on without her

we stood outside, leaned on the rail
you and me
listened to the water crash on the rocks
below us and we talked

but now it was not about catching up
you and me
it was about ideas, dreams, plans
and before I knew it we were out there

for nearly an hour, and I said,
“what about your girlfriend?”
she was waiting for us all that time
and you said, “oh, yeah” and didn’t move an inch

you are

you’re pretty as a picture
you’re as sweet as candy

you are like a brilliant light

you have pearly white teeth
you have chiseled features
you have piercing eyes

you have a heart of gold
and a sandpaper voice

you’re postcard pretty

you’re as meek as a lamb
you’re clean as a bone
you’re as faithful as a dog

you have a steel will
you’re as strong as a bull

you’re drunk as a sailor
you’re like an idiot

you’re like a broken heart
you’re like a zombie

you feel more

it’s like this:
run your hand
back and forth
in a line
parallel to
the ground
that’s the world
you see
it’s that line
now raise
your hand
a few inches,
maybe six
above that line
and run your hand
back and forth
and that is you
you’re above it all
you’re better
than them all
you can do more
you succeed more
you feel more
and then,
you see, you
raise your hand
a few inches,
maybe six more
above that line
and run your hand
back and forth
and that is
who you love

and when you feel
you’re above
them all
how will you
find someone

Copyright Janet Kuypers. All rights reserved. No material may be reprinted without express permission.