(usually the most vulnerable, the least lovely, the least privileged)
with mean goblin games to drive them crazy
she missed the chance to possibly die,
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
– Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise”
Where do we go from here?
That seems to be the question on the mind of nearly every liberal and progressive since Election Day. Trump’s victory has the left in complete disarray, and despite the terrific show of force that was made during the Women’s March, there has yet to emerge any clear cut strategy for dealing with the Trump Organization that doesn’t involve politics as usual in Washington. The Democratic Party meanders somewhere between mindless navel-gazing and meaningless internecine squabbles, gradually acquiescing to the Trump Organization and the three-piece jackboots of the Republican Party as they rapidly flush large chunks of the federal government down the latrine, flooding the country with piss and shit and fear and despair. Hillary Clinton is in exile, sales of George Orwell’s 1984 are through the roof, and Capitol Hill is looking more and more like the Reichstag with every passing day.
What’s a revolutionary to do?
There’s an argument to be made that trying to reform the Democratic Party from the ground up through things like the 50-state strategy is the way to go. But persuading major coalitions like the DNC and the DCCC to reverse course away from the corporatocracy is like trying to stop a steam train with a penny on the rail; you’re only going to be flattened into something unrecognizable by the rush of so-called “progress.”
Non Judgement Day is coming
by Tony Nightwalker LeTigre
Last night with transit time to spend
Checked out the skate park under Burnside
Guy wanted to sell a deck for five bucks!
“The bearings alone are worth fifty bucks,”
Said a kid, as we together wished
Between the two of us,
That we could cough up five bucks.
Ogled the old Towne Storage building & remembered
(or imagined remembering) her telling me,
Back in the days of our QuArt collective,
About some friends of hers squatting there
In one of the upper floors, & how she thought that sounded
Like “the most amazing thing imaginable”
It took me a while to appreciate what she meant by that
And she may never have even told me that,
‘cause it becomes harder to tell strands of reality apart
From the bright strings of yarn of my own invention
(plus garlands of tinsel I find lying around)
with which I so assiduously weave them
The skatepark looked incredible
Like the portal to another, & better, reality
Where there are tons of punks & no pigs
& I imagined it expanded tenfold, a hundredfold,
A galaxyfold, to the size of Golden Gate Park
(after dark), & beyond—
swelling like the universe in the moments after the Big Something,
swallowing up hellfire & calamity & conformity in its implacably awesome maw,
leaving us with all the time in the world
& the most fabulous place imaginable to play,
for fucking ever.
Can you imagine that shit?
Let us not be so busy preparing for doomsday
That we neglect to tend
The bright gardens of our best (non)judgement
“Are there more cops than usual on the street today?”
I asked a streetscarred fellow on the sidewalk—
“About the same as normal,” he said,
Failing to confirm my paranoias.
He asked if I had any weed to sell
No, sorry, I said—he turned away in blank but expected disappointment—
“but I have some to give away,” I added, bringing him back
In surprise—things like this don’t happen as much these days
Or do they happen about as often as they always have?
“I want to make art again & not just talk about,”
I told Luke, having (almost really) made up my mind
to start again in Philly
we walked, my friend & I,
On Peacock Lane, & saw the lights
she made me a delicious mug of cocoa
With real love & style, it took ten minutes,
Adding a dollop of coconut oil in last,
& dousing us with lavender,
As we smoked a last chance bowl
—cause I go sober in two days!—
& ate the amazing fudge & peppermint bark & similar
Gourmet confections created by her multitalented mother
I told her about the friends at my last house
answering her questions, “why aren’t you still living there?”
With a plagiarized description from Kate Bornstein
About how he & I briefly united like a binary star system,
Only for our polarities to shift, expelling us
with white hot force
to opposite corners of the universe
How they tried to find work for me
as a floor installer
as a Vibrant Valley worker
as a sort of escort
(“you wanna dole out that cock?”)
None of this bothered me,
Any more than it excited me
“So what should I be?”
I asked one evening over those dinners he knew how to cook
He meditated a moment
“You should be a monk, Tony”
he finally said.
Thy Name Is Woman
Man called her; woman
Wish to be known as hypocrite
Actor beyond reach Aristotle
Smile a; femme fatale; wealthless he
Worthless; appearance anxiety a
Stigmatized ; into feminism
Blind a ; leads a blind into a danger
Mountains embrace two no breast fours
Peep into male naked; a pretends
Snare a; calls pure love it venom
Tomb a; where no rest in peace
Tranquillizer a; between thighs
Full of hair a; fifty gram meat with
Happy New Year! Many folks are glad to throw off the miasma of 2016 and thrust headlong into a new calendar year, while others hesitate, nervous about the vast unknown that is 2017.
Christopher Bernard kicks off this issue with a review of San Francisco’s 13th Floor Theater Company’s show Next Time I’ll Take the Stairs, which seems to be a cacophony of amusing tales by fanciful characters all stuck in an elevator. This reminds our editor of our own publication, and I now introduce several other contributions by fellow ‘passengers.’
Rui Carvalho describes a graphic novel by André Oliveira (writer) and graphic designer Joana Afonso. The piece, Living Will, fits in with the New Year theme as it’s about an older man mourning his lost spouse and resolving to restore what’s broken or incomplete in his life.
J.J. Campbell’s poetry brings us a mixture of vulnerability and determination, fragility and resilience, loss and hope. Like Andre and Joana’s character Will, his speakers are worn down by loss and deprivation of various sorts, unsure about themselves, but never quite give up on fixing their situations.
J.K. Durick gives us his take on manhood in older age, describing a group of men who talk together, attend to their physical comforts, and reminisce about the past. In his prose poem, written as a story-like character sketch, we hear the men’s vague recollection that they wrote pieces and accomplished something in their younger days.
Jaylan Salah interviews Spanish film director Giovanna Ribes, who made an appearance at the Cairo Film Festival, about her new movie The Family: Dementia. This black and white piece, infused with the director’s personal memories, conveys the gradual deterioration of an old man’s mind, the sensory experiences that ground him to physical reality as long as possible, and the tension his condition provokes in his family between remembering him how he was and interacting with him as he has become.
Tony Nightwalker LeTigre, past editor of this publication, contributes a personal essay exploring the intersection between his unconventional lifestyle and his political activism. Sometimes survival itself can be a revolutionary act.
Tony also continues these themes in a collection of poetry, prose, lyrics and artwork entitled ‘Old Town Tony’ describing his experiences outside mainstream society in Portland, Oregon.
Jaylan Salah interviews Lebanese film director Selim Mourad, creator of This Little Father Obsession, a tale of a young gay man’s coming to terms not just with his own identity in a traditional society, but with what it means to be part of a family and to find older masculine role models and interpret the role of fatherhood in a way that makes sense in his life.
Donal Mahoney recollects his friendship with a Muslim colleague, how they were able to laugh and joke with only the regular awkwardness of social faux pas before the world political situation imposed another level of separation into people’s lives. Like the protagonist of Selim Mourad’s film and Tony Nightwalker LeTigre’s essay, Donal and his friend Mohammed are ordinary people figuring out their lives, in retrospect in their case, within a broader background framework of political and social relationships and tensions.
Mahbub’s poetry, when taken as a group this time around, probes the power and capacity of individuals to impact the world where we live. Are we little boys playing in an outsized world not made for us, or helpless pawns in someone else’s political game, or lonely hearts lamenting our lost loves? In any case, we are mortal, our time here is limited. Perhaps our best option is to appreciate what we can enjoy, starting with that contemplative moment in the evening when the light is perfectly slanted.
Vijay Nair’s poetry calls our attention to something we all must resolve as a species in coming years: the global shortage of clean drinking water. Already many people walk miles to gather water each day and get sick from waterborne diseases.
Michael Marrotti’s new poem evaluates and ultimately defends the work of his neighborhood rescue mission, where he volunteers to assist the homeless. His poem suggests that perhaps limitations on freedom might actually benefit those who have lost control over their lives. And that some efforts, although imperfect, to assist those in need, can be better than nothing.
Christopher Bernard also calls out the social injustice he sees wreaked upon the world by the election of Donald Trump to the United States presidency. Perhaps in opposition to the aesthetic of a young nation that sees itself as exceptional and values innovation over tradition, and its new leader, who sees himself as personally important and personally able to restore the nation to greatness, Bernard situates his commentary on Trump within a historical and cultural literary context. The United States, and all of its leaders, are only part of a broader world history, and so far all great empires have risen and fallen.
Joan Beebe also reminds us that as humans we are part of a larger whole, the world of nature. The natural world has seasons and cycles, where we live and die, rise and fall, and take our turns impacting the world. While we’re here, we can care for each other, as Joan does by sending her love and best wishes to a relative serving in the armed forces. Joan also celebrates a lovely and adventuresome vacation she and her husband took through the American Southwest.
Like Mahbub’s speaker, she takes simple joy in experiencing natural beauty, which may be one of the best ways we as mortal, fragile creatures can find happiness.
Whatever floor life’s elevator brings you to this coming year, whether your fortunes rise or fall, or even if the elevator gets stuck and you end up camping out there for awhile, may you enjoy reading this issue. Happy New Year!
Old Town Tony & the Second-Hand Smoke Shop
By Tony Nightwalker LeTigre
A friend asked where I’m going to go now that I’m houseless again in winter.
(Winter hasn’t officially started yet, but in reality it started December 8th. That’s the morning I woke up cold in the unheated Rat House from icy winds. You know what’s amazing? December 8th is also the exact I remember noting last year as the day the weather turned shitty!)
What am I going to do? I’m going to do what I’ve been doing for five & a half years now: find a new place to stay, for as long as it lasts. In the meantime, I’ve got a rainproofed tent to sleep in. It needs to be rainproof, otherwise last night I would’ve got soaked. I’m not sure if this mummy bag is filled with down, but if so, it might lose its insulating ability if it gets wet. Keeping it dry has been a challenge.
But it’s not the first time I’ve faced this challenge. I made it through last week & I wasn’t even in a tent, I was straight up sleeping in the open air, & if you live in Portland, you know what last week was like. It was rough. It sucks when things close when you’re houseless, ’cause then you don’t have anywhere to go to warm up even during the day. You’re basically confined to your sleeping bag.
Selim Mourad was one of the friendliest faces I’ve encountered during the 38th edition of the Cairo International Film Festival. His energy, oozing with excitement and awe at the city –Cairo, the capital of Egypt- didn’t mirror the heavy subject matter which he chose for his first long documentary This Little Father Obsession which translated –impressively- into a different Arabic title The Austrian Emperor. The Arabic title was derived from a scene where the father comments on the son not having kids –because of his homosexuality- with a casualness that could be implying more than it intended; that he was not the Austrian Emperor, so why should anybody care whether he had children.
Mourad made a personal film that documented a transitional stage in his life, as well as his family’s. He was just coming out to his family when they had to sell the ancient family home for money to survive. So there was an act of creation and another of destruction; where did a 28-year-old gay Lebanese man find his footing?
“I hate labels. I can’t be saying that I am making a “gay” movie. It is a film where the director happens to be gay. My family history is the main plotline through which my sexual identity happens to contribute to the course of action.”
The Family: Dementia Review
A Valencian Family Drama that Defies Storytelling in Color
It was a pleasure during the 38th edition of Cairo International Film Festival to get a chance to sit down with Valencian director Giovanna Ribes to talk about her film The Family: Dementia. This powerful drama paints the deterioration of a man’s memory and behavior against the backdrop of familial tension. One of the greater aspects of the film is how Ribes allowed her male characters to show vulnerability as opposed to their female counterparts, who have more composed actions. Three generations of men come to interact in a well-planned narrative with a scratchy, rough style influenced by neo-realism that contains artistic, magical realist interjections.
The grandfather Roger –played brilliantly by Pep Cortés- suffers from dementia. He ages amongst family members who struggle to accept him as he is while his memory slips away. The most sympathetic –and adorably clueless- is the grandson Roger and he is the only one who succeeds in taking the old man for who he is. Ribes takes us into the heart of a real family. Her narrative is inspired by reality. To her, art has no impact if it is not personal. Ribes’ drive to become a director didn’t turn out to be as easy as I thought. In my eyes, it would be really easy for her to become an artist. Her sensitivity shone through her clever eyes and her compassionate gestures. Through her words, the process was gradual:
“I belonged to a family of circus performers and bullfighters. They were artists in that sense. Growing up, I was tired of the discussions and the arguments which their lifestyle generated. I just wanted to be normal.”
Mom died in a battle; at last
Occurred at a remote aquifers
A battle field, since long;
For a crock of water
A battle aided; none munitions
Threw it into the potable,
That made Croaky noises;
A bucket tied with a coir rope
Milk run after Mexican breakfast none;
Marched miles across all deserted;
Sandals no foot under sore mustered
Neck in crick head on pot mosh
Folks pooled a pond around
Flowed from; pot in no Hydrus
Village an armada in dropped chaos;
Verbose a multitude conquered with
A rift no among them harvested;
A rift in solid waterless reaped
Mesopotamia an uncivilized cradle
Our Tigris and Euphrates
Gone with the wind all rocks rolled;
Cloud of water vaporized: weird
Waste land all asexual parasites
Arid nowhere holy hydrosphere
Erosion everywhere an ergative water
Erupted war ergo world again third
His conch in all oceans above decibel;
Hegemony he a Hawk ruled the roost
When in east heard chanting:
Gage cha yamune chaiva
Narmadhe Sindhu Kavery
Jalesmin sannidhim kuru:
Vijay P Nair
Water scarcity leads us a third world war soon……
Long Before ISIS