Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Marriage or Don't-Call-It-Marriage?

Tuesday the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, deciding that an amendment to the California constitution approved in the last election makes the word "marriage" off limits to same sex couples. However, the court seems also to have decided that same sex couples cannot be denied equal protection of the laws, thus the don't-call-it-marriages (in California currently it's Domestic Partnership?) must be precisely the same as dual-sex "marriage" (minus the name).

Today I posted a diary at DailyKos:

Don't like "Marriage"? Here's your chance!

Which dual-sex couples are going to challenge their exclusion from Domestic Partnership in California?

The California Supreme Court just ruled that same sex couples are entitled to all the rights of marriage but for the word. If we are all now equal, what is a Domestic Partnership? (In other jurisdictions the don’t-call-it-marriage equivalent is termed Civil Unions. In California it’s domestic partnership.)

There are many Kossacks who demand the government get out of the marriage business. At least, say they, the government should have all the rights of marriage available under a different name. According to the California Supreme Court, now it does (or must?). At this time you can’t file a domestic partnership if you are a dual-sex couple*.

So you’re a young het couple who doesn’t think the government should be using a loaded religious word like “marriage”, right? Here’s your opportunity to get don’t-call-it-married, ie., Domestic Partnered. In the eyes of the state (the California Supreme Court, anyway) a domestic partnership and a marriage are identical. What’s the justification for denying a het couple freedom from the word “marriage”, just like their gay brothers & lesbian sisters?

Looking down the road a bit, you’re safely dp’d, now you can ask the feds to recognize your Domestic Partnership as a Marriage. After all, it’s just a name. The California Supreme Court says there isn’t (or must not be) any difference whatsoever. Why shouldn’t the federal government recognize a het domestic partnership as marriage? Is there an argument against it?

The more people choose against “marriage” and for marriage-by-another-name the less power the word “marriage” will have? Isn’t that the golden key to this locked up argument? That’s the assertion I keep hearing. Here is your opportunity to test it! Who will step up?

(By the way, can anybody source the “18,000 same sex marriages” figure? I can’t seem to find the authority.)

*There is an exception to the current het exclusion to Domestic Partnership. If you are over 62 you can get dp’d because the federal government won’t consider you married, thus you won’t lose benefits – many of the widowed old rely on pension benefits from their dead spouse, benefits which evaporate upon remarriage. It’s another issue but WTF? Why do you lose pension benefits?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

B.H. Fairchild v. David Mills

today’s Poetry Daily poem battles today’s Verse Daily poem:

My memory crowds weeds and flowers onto its shoulders
so the old gray guy & I, shambling in our shackles,
dust in our drawers, and darkness on our scythes,
sandwiches of mincemeat, cockleshell and inebriation
in our iron pocketbooks, our boss’s jaundiced eye

a yellow pall so vile you must’ve puked it out
on the mad ball’s wilful architecture last night late, or maybe
it’s the stout shit the Portuguese left spinning in the bowl
still spinning with each piss swipe, or perhaps
despair in orbit, stripped of ghost, ready to shoulder

harmattan messages. Who knows! Do you know?
Spit! Where was I? Shuffling in chains under a looking
glass sky, water aching from my skin canteen,
poor wounded fruit, weeds all around me like letters
from collectors asking politely, like letters lizards

ape, contorted in sun-smashed meaning, a sea
of slippery clouds and cutting jokes, gold and dull
as fishermen missing their yanks and sighing with
enemy love, the drowned tears diligently drifting
out of childish knots, harried by ferries fetching ancient

promises for fresh plantation and quick twilight.
Wasn’t I going to cut something with this black blade?
Why’s it a spoon now, its yellow stripe a property line
divvying snowing from skipping, sleeping from rowing.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Talking to God

Hello, God?


Just making sure you’re there.


Yeah. Always. Then why don’t you ever talk to me?

What is this?

This? This is an interview. You never just talk to me. You know: God here. Loving you. Nearby if you need me.

What you said.


God here. Loving you. Nearby if you need me.

You just said that cuz I said you never said it.

Is this an argument?

Is it?

What is it you would like?

Why do I feel shitty? I would like not to feel shitty. I want just to feel good and happy and content and easy.

You feel that sometimes.

Not very often! I feel shitty way lots more than that other stuff.


So. I’m appealing to you, oh Author of the Universe, All Powerful, Omnipresent, help me out here.


No? Fuck you! You can do anything! Anything! And you don’t want to allow me a smidgen of good feeling?

OK. If you insist. Peace.

Huh? I don’t feel any better.

No? Let me try again.

It’s not working.

Oh? One more try.

… Yes? … This is just frustrating.

That’s not a good emotion?

I’m asking you to make me feel better and you’re making me feel frustrated?

I tried. What more can I do?

You’re not God! If you were God you could fucking do anything! My happiness could effected without the slightest effort.

I see.

Is God out there? Helllloooooooo!

What is it?

Are you God?

As ever.

Are you the same guy who’s been yanking my chain, claiming he can help me out with my mood then doing nothing? Or are you really God, the Author of the Universe, etc?


Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!

Do you feel better?


Come on. You know you feel a teensy bit better. I can tell.

Don’t you have a volcano to belch?

Monday, May 11, 2009

NaPoWriMo Project Thoughts, part 5

I didn’t expect any reaction. I get so few comments on this blog. But, you now, I’m ever hopeful! No good at publicizing myself or my poems but it’d be nice if somebody read!

When I see other people answer the question: Why Do You Write? – they usually say something about how people reading them gives them incentive. Well. People don’t read me. (Except, OK, two or three people. I know, it’s like when someone walks into a concert hall and looks around and there are five or six seats taken and the person who just walked in says, “Nobody’s here!”) So I’ve gotten accustomed to putting a bunch of effort into writing that, so far as I can tell, goes unnoticed. Why would my April project be any different?

I did wonder if using the names of the people killed would make LuvSet show up in searches for those people. I didn’t think LuvSet had a high enough profile to bring attention, though. And I was right. For 29 out of 30 days, that is. Where else you gonna get a prediction 97% accurate?

During the month, the site’s stats bounced around as the search engines briefly brought visitors looking for information about person X or Y or Z. Just about all these visitors quickly moved on. K says the poems didn’t strike him as much different from a news report. They were all pretty bare.

So what about that one day somebody noticed? On April 2nd I edited down a news item about an elderly man strangling his ex-wife. I got two comments – both hating on the piece. One scolded me for not knowing whether the dead woman “loved flowers, or that she loved babies, or that she gave her whole heart to her family.”

I didn’t know anything about the dead woman. That was so. I didn’t know anything about any of the people I was writing about. Learning biographies was not part of the project.

This commenter accused me of making the dead woman “an irreverency.” I hadn’t thought of the series as irreverent, but rather a form of prayer. A meditation on transience. A daily pause to reflect on unexpected death.

Should I have used the real names? If I hadn’t I doubt anyone would have found their way to LuvSet looking to find out about the stories I appropriated. It’s not like I was looking to build an audience that way, anyhow. It did make me uncomfortable – the thought that someone might come across a loved one’s name in this peculiar context. I figured I’d let that play out, though. Probably nobody would, right?

I don’t know whether the commenter knew the dead woman. She doesn’t say. She’s offended for the dead woman or for her relatives or for the very idea of talking about this woman in this manner. Something like that.

A day or two later another commenter showed up, somebody claiming expertise in Death. Her scolding was more sophisticated than commenter #1 and more vicious (& started out with an hors d’oeuvre of self-promotion). Commenter #2 called me (in a particularly clumsy coinage) a “Death Vulture” and accused me of “prey[ing] on celebrity … for personal financial gain.” As she herself quickly acknowledged, there isn’t any money in poetry blogs so the “financial gain” accusation had no traction. And far as I could tell the only celebrity the dead woman had was conferred by the sensational nature of her death – that is, that she was an old woman strangled to death by an old man. The police lieutenant said such a death was “somewhat unusual.” So my exploiting her celebrity? Seems a bit of a stretch.

On the other hand, it hardly came as a surprise that some people were upset by a death. Nor did it surprise that those people would scold me. Commenter #2 did something commenter #1 hadn’t. Commenter #2 (after slagging me) asked me to remove the post.

I didn’t remove the post but I redacted the names? I took out the names because the names were bringing a lot of visitors and I decided LuvSet being a destination for people looking for information about this killing was not what I wanted. I may return the names to the poem in another version. I may redact all the names in the series. We’ll see.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Don L. Emblen, 1918 – 2009

My English teacher from Santa Rosa Junior College died last month. “Of heart failure on April 24th, at the age of 90,” says the latest issue of The Reader’s Rejoinder, a monthly newsletter/zine Don has been putting together for about the last 20 years. He added me to the mailing list a couple years ago after he proposed doing a chapbook for me on the fine letterpress he kept in his garage-studio. I was delighted. The chapbook never happened, either because he wasn’t able to get to it, or because I was a lousy correspondent (I blame myself).

Friends are going to publish one more issue of The Rejoinder, a memorial to Don.

Visit an earlier post to see Don Emblen at Petaluma Poetry Walk 2006

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

NaPoWriMo Project Thoughts, part 4

What can I say about death? Nothing new, I’m sure.

Does one have to say something new in order to have justification for saying anything? It’s a cultural thing. Originality just messes up the great patterns handed down from wiser ancestors. Some would say.

I don’t know. Does everybody get a unique life, let alone a special death? Are we archetypes recapitulating ageless patterns? If we think we’re doing something new, we’re fooling ourselves?

Considering that rockets don’t go to the moon every year and when I was a kid old ladies weren’t flipping open their Star Trek communicator-look-alikes to make sure the nephew was coming by to switch out all the light bulbs to those energy saving compact flourescents, I guess everything doesn’t repeat itself exactly as it always has. Those thousands of years of hunting-gathering? They probably were pretty uniform - from the perspective of living memory, anyway.

So what’s news? That an elderly man strangled his ex-wife? That another suicide bomber blew herself up in an Iraqi cafĂ©? That a lightning bolt took out a biker on his way home from a charity event? That an earthquake in Italy killed kids in classrooms?

Monday, May 04, 2009

NaPoWriMo Project Thoughts, part 3

From a story by Julio Cortazar:

“… a writer can argue that if his inspiration comes from reality, and even from the crime news, what he is capable of doing with it raises it to another dimension, gives it a different value.”

Sunday, May 03, 2009

NaPoWriMo Project Thoughts, part 2

Was it plagiarism?

Did I write them?

I didn’t add much. Mostly I edited down the original news article. I would rearrange. One of the things a news writer tries to do is put the most important facts in the lede – the first sentence even. That deemed most important comes highest in the article. Partly this is so readers can get all they need without reading to the bottom, partly this is so editors can snip off the last few paragraphs when they have space limitations. The space limitations problem is less salient with news on the internet, though brevity, punchiness, is probably more important than ever.

So did I steal or did I write?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

NaPoWriMo Project Thoughts, part 1

I’ve long wanted to do a project based on the news. I’ve thought about working with a front page – whether the front page of a physical newspaper or what’s on the home page of newspaper’s website or newspaper equivalent like Google News.

On April 1st I decided to do that. Rather than work with the welter of information on a news site’s front page I chose to limit the resource. Going with a wish to notice deaths, to bring them out of the ordinary news feed, I went to Google News and typed “killed” into the search box. I copied the first story that came up into MS Word and edited it down, four words to a line, four lines to a stanza. When the story didn’t fit perfectly, I looked back at the source page to see what other (unrelated) story I could use to fill up the form – reintroducing some of the context of the original “ordinary” news feed.

After I posted the first poem I saw that I’d used five words in the line that mentioned the number of persons killed, so I thought that was an interesting addition and tried to retain that in future poems.

Is a compound word one word? “A five-year-old child” – three words or five? Usually I decided that would be five or edited to avoid compounds.

K says the form was invisible to him. He didn’t see that there were a particular number of words per line.

Friday, May 01, 2009


April was National Poetry Month. April was National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). During NaPoWriMo poets commit to writing a poem a day. Been there, done that, I thought. I learned some things from it; one of the things I learned was that pushing myself to produce a poem every day meant not enjoying the writing of bad poems. Now it’s true that pushing myself to write has produced good or interesting results, but day after day? Best not.

Then the last day of March I got an invite to join a NaPoWriMo group. The morning of April 1st I wrote a piece based on a news article. That piece became the template for a piece I would write (or craft or edit) each day of April.

Was this a successful project? Did it do anything?

I’m going to be thinking on the blog for the next few days about the April series.