Archive | October, 2012

La Maddalena: Cantos III and IV

12 Oct



in vain you have bent your body to the sun

for twenty years, knees growing rough

as ash bark,

your palms upturned, two blinded doves.


the gilt is gone from your skin

men no longer kneel at the fortress of your feet

or press their fingers to the stony walls of your body.


you look for meaning

in the shifting of sand dunes –

the slaughter of the fatted calf,

the brush of lips to cheek

in starless gardens –

but you will not find it there.


each sunset finds you unchanged

eyes shuttered, ribs stark and slotted

against the clothing of your feral hair,

mouth moving with the taste of a name

you do not recognize

nor have ever known.




we are not so different, you and I.

the wood-carved desert stretches before us.


we have come so far

and still we do not know where we are going.


Like this poem?  Then check out the others in the series:
La Maddalena: Canto 1

La Maddalena: Canto 2

I’m always interested to see how other people interpret the story of Mary Magdalene, so if your opinions differ from or even match mine, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.


The Tragic Ballad of Mittens and Bam-Bam (Or: Why I Might Vote Jill Stein)

8 Oct

By John Cole.

When I started this blog, I promised myself that I wasn’t going to touch the subject of politics with a ten-foot pole.  Put the words ‘politics’ and ‘Internet’ together and you get nasty images of caustic, passive-aggressive Facebook posts, ill-informed rants floating around the comments sections on news sites, and complete strangers cyber-bickering about candidates whose platforms they don’t (or won’t) understand.  And all of us have been that person, right?  At one point or another, all of us have let some post or another get our blood pumping so hot that we let go of our judgment and let fly with something stupid.  I didn’t want to be that person.  Not here.  “No,” I thought, “politics and writing don’t mix.  Not here, at least.”

Then I realized how absolutely ridiculous that statement sounds.


The consummate face of the voice of a generation.

Mario Vargas Llosa won the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature and also ran for the Peruvian presidency.  George Orwell made political statements with every piece of journalism and every novel he published.  While writing with his green fountain pen about spring and the cherry trees, Pablo Neruda also occupied multiple positions as a Chilean diplomat.  Politics and writing go hand-in-hand.  You can’t become a good politician without recognizing the power of every word you speak.  And if you’re a poet or novelist, your work has to fight for something – it has to struggle for change – or it has no meaning.

Going to a high school for government and international studies, I’d like to think I learned a thing or two about how to evaluate American politics.  But (and I am ashamed to admit this) sometimes it’s just so hard.  Getting bombarded by attack ad after opinionated talk show after smear campaign creates a slipstream of facts and fiction that can take hours to decipher.  Where do the facts start and the fictions end?  When I watched the first presidential debate last Wednesday, I pulled up Politifact on my laptop and frantically checked statement after statement as Obama and Romney’s measured voices washed over me.  Over the course of that hour and a half, my mood slowly sank as I watched the candidates squabble almost mechanically.  They interrupted each other.  They interrupted the moderator.  And half the time, they just couldn’t finish their own sentences.

This post isn’t about what exactly they said.  I’m not going to talk about whether I agree with their tax plans or Obamacare or Social Security.  Rather, I want to talk about how they said it.

Of Bickering, Bravado, and Big Bird Butchering

Call me idealistic, but I expect any candidate for the presidency to have a basic familiarity with manners.  One of the roles of the POTUS is being the chief diplomat, for chrissakes.  I’m not looking for the Webster-Hayne debate or anything, but I feel that it’s rational for the contenders to treat each other with respect.  I don’t want the dog-and-pony show of the primary debates – I want actual political discourse.  And, more importantly, I don’t want Kanye West and Taylor Swift at the VMAs.  When Obama whines “I would have had five more seconds if you hadn’t interrupted me” and Romney petulantly interjects later on with “virtually everything he just said about my tax plan is inaccurate,” I am reminded of my ten-year-old brother arguing with his friends about whose Minecraft server is better and who absconded with whose good Pokémon cards.  These are the men to whom we will entrust our international affairs.  If they can’t speak civilly to each other and to the moderator, then how can we expect them to conduct deals with other nations that may hold radically different views?

Evidently not.

That’s not the only issue I have with the debate, though.  Both candidates cloaked their meanings with vague phrases and misleading facts, spinning and framing the statements they were trying to make.  Watching Politifact’s Twitter feed, I saw article after article pop up revealing that the candidates were fudging the truth.  Obama saying that 50 million people would lose their health insurance if Obamacare were repealed?  Mostly false.  Romney claiming that Obama doubled the deficit?  False.  Obama stating that Romney’s plan calls for a $5 trillion tax cut?  Half true.  Romney retorting that pre-existing conditions are covered under his healthcare plan?  Mostly false.  “It’s like the campaigns are driving 100 miles an hour on a highway with a posted speed limit of 60, but the patrol cars all have flats,” said Mark McKinnon (a Republican ad manager for previous campaigns) in TIME magazine.  Again, none of us are looking for perfection in our candidates.  That only leads to disillusionment.  And, again, this has been going on for the whole campaign season; it didn’t just start now.  But I think that most of us would rather they rely on the strength, eloquence, and validity of their own platforms rather than tear into each other.

The Pull of Perot

This election year, along with the usual feelings of “I want to crawl into a nuclear bunker for the next month/move to Europe/become a Canadian,” I actually feel like I’d rather vote for a third-party candidate.  Yeah, that’s right.  I’d rather vote for Jill Stein.

When I off-handedly mentioned this to my mother over breakfast yesterday, she speared me with a look of horror.  “But Elizabeth,” she said, “you wouldn’t want to waste your vote in your first presidential election, would you?”

“I’m voting Perot,” interjected my eccentric ginger of a father.

And you thought Obama had memorable ears.

“Honey, Perot isn’t on the ballot.”

“I’m voting Perot,” he repeated.  “Write-ins, you know.  Write-ins.”  And he sauntered off to the living room in all his gingery, iconoclastic glory.

As much as I am loath to admit it sometimes, my father did have a point.  Third-party candidates don’t get nearly the attention and media coverage of their Republican and Democratic counterparts.  They’re running not because they were the most politically advantageous choices of their parties, but because they are passionate enough to believe that one day, if they just push hard enough, they could take the presidency.  But they face the dramatic problem of achieving the fifteen-percent threshold in polls to appear in debates.  Gary Johnson and Jill Stein (and Ross Perot, much to my father’s chagrin) weren’t invited to speak alongside Romney and Obama.  However, from what little I know about them from their debate on All Things Considered, they appear to be more eloquent, more committed to honesty, and more enthusiastic than to hem and haw their way through a bleary ninety minutes.

But I won’t be able to verify that, since they’ll never show up in a debate.

If there’s a point to all this, I suppose it’s that I’m disillusioned by a two-party system that would champion rude, untruthful candidates while shoving others who may be just as driven and intelligent by the wayside.  All my life I’ve been told that voting for anybody but the Republican or the Democratic option will result in my vote being thrown away, as if I had never exercised my right to vote in the first place.  But how can third-party candidates ever gain any traction if we all continue to believe that?

I’m starting to get a little too politicky for my own good, so I’ll wrap this up with one last thought: if I don’t see any change in the behavior of the major competitors, I may just throw my weight towards Jill Stein.

And, bless my father’s nonconformist little heart, he may manage to throw his towards his beloved Perot despite it all.

Did you watch last week’s debate?  Do you agree or disagree with any of the third-party candidates?  What do you think?  Post in the comments section below!  (In a civil manner, please.)

La Maddalena: Canto II

3 Oct

…you know when I said I’d get back to a regular posting schedule?  Well, that was a terrible, terrible lie.  However, from this point onwards, I’m hoping to post at least weekly.  But any of you who have been to college can probably attest that there’s just so much going on all the time.  And I am easily distracted.

But I am nattering on, and that’s not what you want to read about.  Here’s some poetry.

All rights to *MartaSyrko of


you spent your time writing

sapphic odes to spiderwebs and salt air.

you slept on the streetcorners of jerusalem

and collected the tears of men

in lead-stoppered bottles.


you were

a king among women,

a red-lipped wild thing:


wise as solomon, smooth-faced as david.

when you cast your hands into the air

you caught fistfuls of moon hues and metaphor,

a net dredging fish from ocean silt


until the man with ground-glass skin

and baling-wire eyes shaded your doorway,

two rough-skinned figs in his hands, offerings

which you took without hesitation.

in the torpid warmth of june he cleansed you

of seven demons, unhurriedly


while a transistor radio played on the windowsill

and grape shot peppered the alleys with broken glass.


by day your lover preached to vicious-eyed masses

while you took pine pitch

and adorned your body with it,

a stroke for every parable:

the fleshly geography of bridegrooms and mustard seeds


here a coil of black lines around the arms

there a river delta of contours

in the hollows of the spine

(for this they would call you

a painted woman).


by evening you drank sparrow-colored wine

with twelve barefoot men

and scythed your hair off root-deep

to wash the feet of the thirteenth.


then the night of the skull:

broken bread and bones,

the clamor of pharisees.

at last the rifle shot.

the earth ruptured like so many



three days tautened, rope-tight,

to months

but there was no stone to roll away.


this time you spent weeping on the steps

of the grand cathedral

waiting for your hair to grow long again.


Like this poem?  Then check out the others in the series:
Canto I

Cantos III and IV

I’m always interested to see how other people interpret the story of Mary Magdalene, so if your opinions differ from or even match mine, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.