Sunday, May 29, 2016

Gemini Ink Writing Lab - Week #12 - Revolutions

Engaging the Active Imagination: Writing as Activism

Writing prompt
  • Revolt or revolve? Write the vision for your perfect revolution and the aftermath to follow

The proposition for the Revolution, in three currents, is laid out as follows:

The first, assimilation. We find ourselves seated at the cook's table of hegemony with beggar's hands outstretched, politely asking to be passed the bread, wine and cheese. We are asked to deny our cultural origins and our vocabulary is replaced with the phrases "civic duty", "tax payer", "economic development", and other opaque sprinklings of pretentious propaganda. After our tongues grow tired with obligatory lip service, we are graciously given the so-called opportunity of donning the uniform, alliances are weaved behind closed door and we find ourselves seated atop the wooden dais in the center of the council chambers. We pledge our allegiance in our formal regalia and command the future of living, breathing communities with one click of the electronic buzzer. We frame the ladders of bureaucracy upon our bedroom walls and when we lay to rest at night even our deepest dreams can't recall what it is we were fighting for. There is no more struggle. We've made it. There is no one left to help besides ourselves and we can't look back.

The second, resistance. We put our families well-being in danger with the act of devoting our lives to the cause. No sleep is given. We march into city hall with our pitchforks and livestock and pro-bono civil rights attorneys and we step up to the podium for the measley three minutes we're allotted and we shout so loud our lungs burst. The high court looks on, no, the high court looks over us to peruse the remaining items listed on the day's agenda. Most of the court is not present, for reasons unbeknownst to us. There is no dialouge to be had. After a few from our camp regain composure we look around to see the sick and the dying and the journalists paint the picture of the spectacle. We've become the court jesters, smeared in the cunny papers of the daily news. The phrase "justified outrage" is nowhere to be found in these reports. A new issue arises the next week and we appear and we reappear and we reappear. At this point we're given the award for perfect attendance but still our demands remain unmet. And we're so exhausted we can't lift a finger to spark the staging of the next plot during dinner time meal.

The third, infiltration. We arm ourselves to the teeth with knowledge. We revive the ancient texts set ablaze by the Spanish, the English, the French, the Dutch, the Portuguese in the conquista and the reconquista. We bring to the light the cultural cleansing and criminal atrocities committed in the name of the empire. We play by their rules only in the mask of the persona so as not to reveal our secret identity. We wear proudly...

Friday, May 13, 2016

Gemini Ink Writing Lab - Week #11 - Death

Engaging the Active Imagination: Writing as Activism

Writing prompt
  • Write what you would lay to rest

Poem: Summer's Afternoon Dirge (draft)

In a house of wailing,
the walking stick taps out
a rhythm on the chapel floor,
drowning the sound of wounded cries.

Weeping, we march down the aisle
to offer our phraseless laments
deemed no match for the sorrow
seated in the front row pew.

Death sought standing room only,
and our blessed hands dipped
in the fountains of holy water
could not console.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Gemini Ink Writing Lab - Week #10 - Time

Engaging the Active Imagination: Writing as Activism

Writing prompt
  • Write the details of your story once upon a sacred time
Photographers call it the blue hour, those moments when daylight begins to fade as the sun completes its descent, casting a blue shadow over the swaying tress in the park across the avenue. With no particular reason other than to celebrate the passing of our sacred time together on an unusually cool weekday evening in the South Texas spring time, my father and I pulled two lawn chairs from the overly stuffed garage and sat, lighting up cigars and serving each other a glass of neat scotch, the way him and his old friend Ben Blum used to do. "I've been thinking about him lately, " my father said. It had been some months since Ben's passing at age 96, my father communicated with him through letter writing up until week of his death.

This occasion, of a cigar in one hand and a 15-year-old Irish scotch in the other, became ritual for us by way of Ben. We now celebrate every major occasion in this fashion - my father's birthday, father's day, Thanksgiving, Christmas. "Why not tonight?" I asked, pushing my father to engage in this sacred ritual with me. As Mircea Eliade writes, the only way to pass through the transition of profane to sacred time without danger is through the act of ritual. There we were. We had now entered the realm of my father's memory, dreams, and stories.

In this class I've heard that depths go unknown. And since I believe that to be true, each puff of cigar smoke seemed to breathe the life of wonder into my father's stories about Ben, about Philadelphia. Nearly 30 years my father's elder, they met at a marksmanship club on the outreaches of inner-city Philadelphia in the 1980s. Like my father, Ben was an avid reader. I wondered what a man who fled Odessa, Russia with his family across European mainland, then sailed by boat to arrive at America's shores, then traveled to the west coast and back by train, would enjoy reading. "Anything he could get his hands on," my father said. Marine biology, comparative religion, the New York Times, Scientific American magazine - the man kept a den of books, of literature, of cigars and rifles and pistols and reloading equipment and mechanic's tools and scotch. Yes, he would cast the bullets for all the ammunition by his own hands, trained in metal working, of course. After his return from World War II, he worked at the same garage in his neighborhood up until his retirement. He competed in shooting matches well into his 80s and early 90s. He ate Italian hoagies from Abner's and spinach pie pizza and broccoli fries from Lou Fanti's pizza parlor.

Again with Eliade, these moments of sacred time continue as a succession of eternities. As it should be with old and dear friends and loved ones, these stories pick up right where they left off, each time with some new unheard, untold story unfolding. I wondered if anyone in Ben's family tells these stories about Ben the way my father does...