Three Cheers for the Summer Solstice

Summer solstice, racing wheels,
Hair on fire, flames blown back.
Crown of heat cooks off the facts.

***

Paper tigers crackle:
One last snarl until ashes.

***

Winter’s melt
And springtime’s sobbing torrents
Swordfight in foamy peaks below the Falls,
Slide mud slopes across toothpick pathways and toy cars
Peopled by people.

The punishing Falls fucking dare the riverbed to come up for air.

Sunset paints the toenails of whitecaps.

I can take out the garbage at midnight shirtless and barefoot.

Featured image: Saint Anthony Falls, Minneapolis, Minnesota (via Wikipedia)

Royal blue and pauper orange

Don’t talk.
Each word bumps me
closer to your center axis,
each sentence forecasts
some long-awaited contact,
and every paragraph heats my entrails like
electricity through overburdened copper coils.

I am increasingly vigilant
but it seems you will always be
just out-of-reach:
microns are miles,
and I still don’t know you.

So I will now defy time
and jump across this sadistically tiny chasm

to your brain. There
I will become your palette,
if but for a moment. There
I will know how it feels to be

ultraviolet and infrared:
your sempiternal extremities; and

royal blue and pauper orange:
the mutually exclusive
and desperately symbiotic castes which
cast shadows on each other; and

inchworm green to sunrise yellow,
measuring the slow and careful story of your
seasons;

and all your colors in-between
and above and below
and all the rest unseen
whose hues and values deign to show themselves.

- Jan. 3, 2001

“My tears watered my mother’s corpse.”

My tears watered my mother’s corpse. She was in her nursing home gown, the blanket pulled up to her waist. Her head was tilted to one side, her mouth open, her tongue visibly swollen as it had been in her last days. I wailed long, natural wails. Such a reaction I had not expected to rise out of me.

After a minute or two the crying and wailing subsided to sniffles. I turned around, looked about the room. I caught sight of a small placard on the shelf among her meager final belongings. It read, “Love conquers all. Virgil.” It had hung in her apartment a few years. I picked it up, placed it on my mother’s breastbone, and looked at her again.

A nurse had placed a teddy bear beside her previously. I don’t know whether my mother would have approved of such a sentimental measure. She was 70 at the time of her death. Would she have deemed it humiliating, condescending, clueless on the part of the nurse? In life my mother was a Sherman tank, at times. I chuckled at what she might like to say about her current predicament. A bringer of war has no need of a teddy bear, you moron, you imbecile. You are below me. Maybe she liked the teddy bear. But what did she care now. This tawdry arrangement of limbs, linens, child’s toy, and placard was for the mewing psychological requirements of we the living. At least she had the word “conquer” now on her chest. That would be acceptable under any circumstances.

The curtain was pulled around her nursing home bed for privacy. The effect was of a makeshift mausoleum. A pop-up tent for dead people to be humiliated beneath the gaze of their ungrateful, semi-estranged offspring. You mourn me now, vile children. Your display of grief is a lie. Where were you when I needed you? We were off avoiding you, Mom. None of us could stand you. Don’t forget who turned away whom. I’m not lying. Damn you, you wretch, you train wreck, you twisted mass of nature, I grieve you.

You blind archangel. Flaming sword of Quixotic justice. Stoker of fires for hot air balloons, crucible of my armor. I grieve you.

The wailing started up again, then subsided after another minute. I hung my head. Suddenly I felt to make sure she was actually dead. I needed to be sure. Sure enough, the skin on her hands and face was lifeless. I’d never felt a dead person before, but I could tell. I listened for breath. Nothing. I sat perfectly still and watched her chest: the placard didn’t move. I was sure now. I stood up. Watched her a minute or two longer. Snapped a morbid photo. I do not apologize for this last measure; I have only one or two of her from when she was alive. Dead Mom, living Mom — I’ll take any photo I can get.

The whole affair lasted not ten minutes. I backed away slowly. Turned.

Walked out.

Towards a New Male Dignity: Why I’m Joining The Good Men Project

Update, April 16, 2014, 4:25pm: My beliefs have been called into question. Read my post “Statement of Beliefs” (or watch it on YouTube) for the truth about what I think.

I just got off the phone with Lisa Hickey, CEO of The Good Men Project (GMP), and I’m now on that website’s editorial staff. I’ve written three articles for GMP in the past, and I’m optimistic about the opportunity to write and edit with GMP on an ongoing basis. Hickey and I discussed editorial parameters, story ideas, organizational procedures and other matters. It was a frank discussion.

Concerning men’s rights

The first question I had for Hickey was whether men’s rights was an issue I would be able to talk about openly on GMP. The men’s consciousness movement is a fractured one. There have been heated battles between the men’s rights movement and the more mainstream, feminism-positive treatment of men’s issues that Hickey and GMP espouse. Hickey, who is sympathetic to the men’s rights movement, has been the object of much criticism for allowing feminism a place at the GMP table. I myself am sympathetic to the men’s rights movement and am not in any way a fan of feminism, but this will not be a problem. Hickey and I agreed that I would be able to talk about men’s rights in my capacity at GMP, but I will distance my writings there from the men’s rights movement by using a different lexicon than the latter uses. I’m fine with this because I have the communication skills to get my point across in multiple ways.

GMP does not mind some controversy — after all, controversy is the lifeblood of the publishing world — but too much controversy can break down trust and by extension readership. Four million unique monthly page views — that’s what GMP gets. Hickey is a smart publisher. She knows her audience. I will work within the proven editorial framework she has developed over the years, but best believe I will never type a single word I don’t believe in. I do not consider GMP to be an enemy, but rather an ally of the men’s rights movement when viewed through a distant lens: it’s one of the few publications out there that actually look at men as men. From the broader cultural standpoint, GMP helps bring awareness to the men’s rights movement even if the publication does allow the feminist ideology its due tribute as the reigning sociological force of our time. Feminism is the de facto law of the land. To ignore it is to make a strategic error in the epic struggle for justice for all people. Therefore I work within it. Hickey and the rest of the staff at GMP may or may not see it that way, not exactly, but I certainly do, and therein lies my chief motive for lending my perspective to GMP. Let my heart be known to all, and let no one have grounds for accusing me of “white knighting” or being a “mangina” or “Uncle Tim”. My words and actions, not the institutions I labor within, speak for me. If any man or woman wishes to call me out, let him or her do so on that basis alone. I invite it.

American Family, and other stories

I will also be writing personal stories that speak to a wider audience. Hickey tells me those are some of GMP’s most successful article types. I’m excited about this. I was kidnapped by my mother when I was a baby; I knew many, many men through my mother while I was growing up; I met my father when I was 20. Those and myriad other stories are the subjects of my upcoming book American Family. I will be posting such stories to GMP, told in a self-contained format you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

New and commentary

I’ll also be posting news and commentary about men’s and other issues — more your standard journalism fare, the kind of writing I went to school for, trained for, and have 15 years’ experience doing.

Satire?

Finally, I asked whether I could write satire for GMP. Hickey said that’s iffy. GMP has tried publishing satire in the past, and apparently it causes too much confusion, so GMP shies away from it. She didn’t say I couldn’t do it — just that we’ll be taking it on a case by case basis. I love satire for its subversive capabilities. It makes people think before drawing knee-jerk conclusions. It crashes the gates of consciousness through the side door, as it were. No matter — there are plenty of venues for me to write satire (see The Wrong Dictionary and Famous Fake Quotes pages on Facebook or the Satire category on this blog for examples of some of my ongoing satirical writings.)

Contributions welcome

Aside from writing, I’ll also be managing contributions from men’s issues writers. If you want to submit an article to The Good Men Project, please contact me. You don’t get paid, but you do get massive exposure (the site gets 4 million unique views monthly, as mentioned.) Familiarize yourself with GMP’s editorial slant by reading some of the articles there before you submit an idea to me. If I like your idea and I can vet your ability to write a compelling piece within the bounds of GMP’s standards and best practices — or better yet, if you show me the piece as written (don’t worry, I don’t steal other writers’ work) — I will format and post your submission to GMP for you. You get your own short bio and you can link to whatever site you want.

Why I’m interested in men’s issues

Men’s issues have been a growing interest of mine ever since childhood. My mother, may she rest in peace, always described herself as a feminist, and in many ways that was an accurate self-description, yet she also sometimes spoke of how terrible it is that men are so degraded in the media, their feelings dismissed, their abuse by wives ignored, their disposability so ingrained and taken for granted in our society. When I was in high school, a girl once told me, point blank, without a scintilla of irony, “Men are stupid” — knowing full well she was backed up by decades of male-bashing to get away with holding that repugnant belief. Five years ago, I posted a short YouTube video of me talking about circumcision. Entitled “From My Cold, Dead Foreskin“, that video garnered thousands of hits and dozens of comments from the men’s rights community. What is going on here? I wondered. Right around that time, The Good Men Project launched, the men’s rights community was blooming, and the world was starting to question its assumptions about men as men.

The state of the movement

There is still much work to be done, much writing to do, before men are seen as human beings by the public and by the institutions we labor within. Women have their issues, yes, but I think it safe to say there’s already plenty being said and done for that demographical half of the population. Two days ago I stopped into the Barnes and Noble downtown Minneapolis to see their gender studies section. I wanted to know how many books about women could be found there versus the number of books about men. The ratio was about 25 titles to zero. That’s right, zero. The Second Sex, The Feminine Mystique, Vagina by Naomi Wolf — all were right there in brand new editions. No Warren Farrell, no Christina Hoff Sommers, no Helen Smith — not a single book about men on the cultural studies shelf. Sure, you can find them all online or at any halfway decent public library (the Hennepin County library is kind enough to carry all of two dirty, use-worn copies of The Myth of Male Power), but my Barnes and Noble excursion is a fine anecdotal example of just how little our culture thinks of the male sex.

“Oh, the poor men,” a former associate of mine once scowled, in commenting sarcastically on the legitimacy of the men’s rights movement.

I rest my case. It’s that kind of attitude we’re working to adjust. People aren’t even willing to admit the founding assumptions of the men’s rights movement, namely that men have sentience and that men are discriminated against in our society in very real and immediate ways. The Good Men Project speaks to just that callous audience — the ones who think everything is fine and dandy for men, or that if it’s not, it’s only because “patriarchy hurts men too.” Ostensibly, GMP is about teaching men how to be “good,” which is what that audience wants to see. Fine. Let’s teach men how to be “good”. As for my contribution to that goal, let us teach that good men should have self-respect and dignity. That good men do not roll over and take abuse. That good men represent themselves favorably wherever appropriate: in the courts, in society, in the home. A good man is one who realizes his value to women and other men. He must treat himself well and not put himself in needlessly dangerous and thankless situations — not just because self-respect is the bedrock that allows him to treat others well, but because good self-treatment is a worthy and honorable end unto itself.

Honesty is paramount

The cards are on the table. My agenda is known. I want The Good Men Project to succeed on its own terms within the editorial parameters it has found to be a successful framework for bringing awareness about men to the public. I stand with Lisa Hickey in her personal and professional reasons for launching and operating that website. Her methods are shrewd, her intentions honorable. She presents herself honestly. I’m proud that she wants me aboard and I’m happy to join her.

Let’s see where this ship takes us, shall we?

For a good time, pay attention to men’s issues

I like the topic of men’s issues. It’s not exactly a popular topic. You might think men are all the media ever talks about, but generally speaking, the public doesn’t care about men as men. I don’t condemn that lack of public interest, but the fact that it is a neglected topic makes it all the more interesting to me, and it ought to be interesting to you as well. You might be surprised by what you can discover when you start looking at the male side of gender issues.

An article of mine appeared today at The Good Men Project (GMP), a left-leaning website devoted to men as men. It’s not a men’s rights advocacy website by any means (see A Voice for Men if you think you have the cojones to listen to and assimilate what they’re saying over there) but GMP does bring attention to the topic for a somewhat wider, more prime-time-friendly audience.

There’s a men’s issues angle to my upcoming book American Family, in that it chronicles my kidnapping as an infant by my mother from my father (got all those prepositions?) and the forces that fated it all. What my mother did was illegal and the courts looked the other way because she was a female who claimed distress. There are of course many sides to this story, and I am not giving anyone the benefit of the doubt based on gender. Women do not get a free pass with me, nor are they automatically suspected of foul play. Same goes for the men. What my book will offer is a clear-eyed view of my own past — as clear-eyed as I can be, anyway — based on my own memories, interviews with living witnesses to the events, hard research about social forces, psychology, and otherwise — along with years of critical thinking and meditation on the story. I want to get this right. My purpose in writing American Family is to help others come to a modicum of peace with similar elements in their own life stories — while telling a gripping story in and of itself. It’s a tough project. Subscribe to this blog to be the first to read it.

And that’s just one of the many pies I’ve got my fingers in these days. Thanks for reading.

Writer, Tour Guide, Educator, Explorer