Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Class War

What happened?  All the years away and I never saw it coming.  My workmate said, “Everything I was told as a child was a lie”  Work hard?  Where does it get you?”

            Good question.  I am probably working more hours than I have in years and it isn’t leading anywhere.  There are no raises, no opportunities in sight.  This is what has happened in America in the years I was gone and is beginning to occur in Europe too.  You can work full time at McDonald’s and be told to apply for food stamps and to eat more slowly so you feel full.  You can be like the adjunct professor who wrote that his salary was so low, he sometimes resorted to selling his blood.

You can be like a workmate who said she can only afford the interest on her school loans so she’s hoping they’ll be forgiven when she retires. 

That leads us to the second statement my workmate said was a lie, “Education will make a difference.”  It always did to me and to my immigrant parents.  It’s still what I tell my students but am I wrong?  How much debt does it take?  Can you study something you love?  What is waiting for you when you finish?  The job as a security guard at Walmart?  That ever present adjunct job?

When did the decision get made to squeeze out the middle class so that profits for the famous top 1% can be scandalous?   How wealthy are the wealthy? I taught English to an insurance exec in Barcelona who said he had enough for his children and grandchildren and didn’t need to amass more wealth.  That seems reasonable but not very common.  How far are we from the grim future of the Scifi novels?  Already studies show the wealthy are less likely to show compassion.

More questions than answers.  How do we live in a more compassionate society?


One of my poems from “A Remedy of Touch”

Love this Place


Am I to love this place,

no bridges arch

over a glittering city.

No gargoyles keep watch.


To love this place

where steel mills lay fallow,

hunks of metal shade

gutted homes.

Past the Michigan Avenue

Baptist Church,

my mother and father

enter home on their wedding day,

She dreams of white

And thresholds

 to be carried across.


Love this place,

drip drop of ice

slides off eaves, 

like so many promises.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Phones, refugees, and a poem

I’ve been actively looking for a job which has kept me from posting anything.  So far, no success- at least not for a job I really want.  So will I be facing a very long freezing cold winter here?  Looks like it….


The first time I witnessed cell phone excess was in the 90’s.  I was in Rome in a restaurant next to a table of 20 somethings.  They barely gave the waiter enough attention to place their orders, still holding onto their phones almost through the entire dinner.  Now, it’s commonplace.  In Rite-Aid the clerk told me she felt invisible since customers barely acknowledged her.  Last weekend I went to see the Balle Fokloric de Bahia.  Now this is a fabulous dance troupe with great musicians and drumming that keeps you moving to the music.  Or not.  A woman in front of me was glued to her cell phone even though the drummers and dancers came up the stairs into the audience.  Well, maybe that got her attention.

   I’m guilty of the cell phone connectedness.  It gives me something to do with my nervous fingers.  It helps me block out all the crazies on my daily public transportation.  I hope I know the limits of my escapism before I miss something wonderful or important.


The deaths of two refugee students last week led me to this…. and my own parents’ escape from the war.



Buy gold

Buy it now.

When you flee

the home exploding,

the burnt landscape,

trade it for a loaf of bread.


Remember poems,

as many that

fill the confined

calendar days  

of prison.