Afternoon at the Library


Usually at the library I checkout and return books. Because my grandson is taking art classes at a nearby college for three hours in the afternoons, I go to read and observe.  The same older men show up everyday.  Some, acquaintances or friends, quietly chat. They look scruffy with dirty, stringy hair.  Are they homeless?  Does the library provide an air conditioned refuge?  They read, look at magazines.

One man in a tan Alaska cap takes notes from a large book.  He appears well groomed, clean, with a sculpted, small beard. Another alternates reading and checking his cell phone.  At a separate round oak table a man sits in a dark heavy coat–it said 102 on my car temperature gage when I arrived.  He never looks up, concentrates on the black laptop in front of him. The white earbuds stand out against his heavy dark beard.  His fingernails are dirty.  A white haired man approaches the round table I occupy and asks if he can sit there.  I reply, “Sure.”  His dark skin shows the heavy creases of outside work and age.  His fingernails are clean. He focuses on filling out an application for a commercial driver’s license.

In the several days I have stayed here to read and wait, I have seen only one woman where they allow adults to sit.  Do these men, day after day, come here because they have no place else to go?

Sunday Poem–“Hair”


No females in my family had long hair.

Dad did not like it,

said it showed male domination

over women.

Once when grown and gone

from home, I began to grow mine

out, experiment.

When he saw it, he told me

he thought it unbecoming.

I cut it.

Mom said she had long hair

when she was young.

Her dad forbade her to cut it.

In her twenties she chopped her golden locks

off, flapper style, then hid her head

in a scarf, afraid.

 

Note:  This poem is from the family section of my book, “On the Rim of Wonder”.

 

 

 

 

Quote for the day


Sadly, this quote seems appropriate given the events in Virginia.  I had hoped we were beyond this but apparently not.

 

“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you picking his pockets.  Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you”.  Lyndon Johnson, 1970.

Is This How Patriarchy Began? by Carol P Christ


Is violence more likely when men spend a lot of time away from women and children?

In my widely read blog and academic essay offering a new definition of patriarchy, I argued that patriarchy is a system of male dominance that arose at the intersection of the control of female sexuality, private property, and war. In it, bracketed the question of how patriarchy began. Today I want to share some thoughts provoked by a short paragraph in Harald Haarmann’s ground-breaking Roots of Ancient Greek Civilization. Haarmann briefly mentions (but does not discuss) the hypothesis that patriarchy arose among the steppe pastoralists as a result of conflicts over grazing lands. As these conflicts became increasingly violent, patriarchal warriors assumed clan leadership in order to protect animal herds, grazing lands, and the women and children of the clan.

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Toxic Masculinity: “Masculinity Must Be Killed” by Carol P. Christ


Very thought provoking. I definitely will look for the pamphlet by Abdullah Ocalan.

Carol Molivos by Andrea Sarris 2A few days ago I watched the movie An Unfinished Life starring Morgan Freeman, Robert Redford, and Jennifer Lopez. Though it was recommended as a sensitive psychological drama, and though on the surface level it criticizes (male) violence against women and animals, on a deeper level, it confirms the association of masculinity with violence, suggesting that violence is the way men resolve their problems with each other.

At the beginning of the film, Robert Redford, who lives on a ranch in Montana, picks up his rifle with the intention of shooting a bear who mauled his friend Morgan Freeman. This act of violence is stopped by local authorities who arrive to capture the bear. However, the bear is not removed to a more remote area, but rather is given to a local make-shift zoo where it is kept in a small cage. At the end of the movie, Redford frees…

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Human Trafficking


Slaves today outnumber all the past,

more than thirty million.

Eleven year old girls,

locked in motel rooms, never see light,

told you’re a whore, worthless, until

they believe it.

Respectable hotels, brothels in disguise.

Senegalese boys chained in hovels, fake

madrassas, sent to beg on streets.

Texas parents of three daughters, forcing them

into prostitution for drugs. Everyone knows;

no one can catch them.

Famous men running sex slave rings, immune

from prosecution.

Young women who think all men watch

pornography; it’s normal.

Innocence promised, endlessly betrayed.

People as commodities.

 

 

 

 

 

Apocalyptic Planet-Part Five: Civilizations Fall


Whether it is my innate ambition, something my parents instilled in me, or something else unknown, I try to learn something new every day.  Craig Childs starts this chapter of his book by talking about a Phoenix landmark.  Back when I travelled to Phoenix regularly, I knew this place as Squaw Peak.  Now its name Is Piestewa Peak.  The name change is probably a good thing.  I never knew before reading this how dreadfully pejorative the word squaw is.  Basically, it means Indian bitch as well as other things related to the privates of women.  All languages seem to possess an accumulation of dreadful words geared to putting women down one way or another.  Slang words for the private parts of a man rarely mean anything pejorative, at least not that I know of.  The new name, a Hopi name, a blessing word, is a word that calls water to this place.  Not a bad idea in Phoenix or most of the Southwest for that matter.

The name Phoenix fits.  Underneath modern day Phoenix, an ancient city lays buried, a quite sophisticated city with ball courts, temples, irrigation canals.  This city existed at least a thousand years ago.  Its inhabitants grew corn, cotton, beans, and agave.  Farmers, hunters, carvers, all sorts of artisans and merchants apparently lived there.  Now they are called Hohokam taken from an O’odham word meaning “ancestors”, the “ones who have gone”.  We find forgotten cities all over the world, Palmyra, Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat.  What causes these sophisticated civilizations to fall?  If you read a bit, look further, you find common themes:  environmental decay, resource depletion, conflict, disease, social problems.  Angkor Wat fell because it could not maintain its complex irrigation network.  Ur in Iraq fell because a drought caused its port to dry up.  Usually, the demise of particular civilizations occur over time, e.g.Rome.

Childs notes that human patterns often follow animal patterns, or at least mammalian patterns.  For example, when over population occurs, behavior changes.  Parental care and cooperation become replaced with aggression, violence, competition for resources, dominant behaviors.  These types of behaviors are particularly detrimental to females and the young without whom the society (or animal population) cannot replace itself.  Generally, in animal populations, when this occurs, reproduction slows for several generations and the imbalance corrects itself.  For humans, it is not so simple.  Hohokam bones indicate mass starvation and malnutrition.  Other civilizations, e.g. the Anasazi, seem to have disappeared without a trace.

Today, most of the world’s largest cities have immense infrastructures that keep them going, miles of underground sewage tunnels, water mains, etc.  Here in the US in our oldest cities, much of what we take for granted is very old and deteriorating.  New York City and Chicago have water main systems that some experts claim are near collapse or at the very best badly in need of repair.  Doubtless such conditions exist in old cities throughout the world, most of which are much older and larger than the majority of cities in the US.  Yet, they continue to prosper.  Have we passed a point when civilization cannot fall?

Childs completes this discussion by describing his visit with his wife to Guatemala.  They visited all the best known Mayan sites, visited with natives.  His wife managed to get invited to a Mayan fire ceremony, a renewal ceremony.  History books tell us the Mayan civilization is dead, ended.  But it is not.  The Mayan culture still exists.   At least six million still live in the Central America.  What would have happened to Mayan cities if the Europeans had not brought epidemic diseases and better fire power?  We will never know, of course, but no matter how many civilizations rise and fall, change continues and humans continue to inhabit the earth.

The new question is this:  can this planet we live on sustain the ever increasing numbers of humans who inhabit it??

Snowbound


This prose poem recently appeared in the latest “Story Circle Journal”.

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They’re young; they’re handsome; they’re mine for six months.

Two seventeen year old South Americans.  The Brazilian has never

seen snow.  It snows two feet in less than twenty-four hours, wind

shrieking along the canyon rim, drifts piling four feet high, roads

closed.  Even the snow plows give up.  We’re house and barn bound.

Horses need food.  We all pitch in, climb through drifts, shovel.

Schools never closed are closed; offices closed.  No lights on the road.

Two days later it takes us an hour rocking back and forth in the green

Off Road 4X4 truck to go the one eighth  mile to the main road.  After school

and work we leave the truck near the road  and trudge down the long hill

to the house.  By flashlight we struggle  back up the next morning, trying

not to fall.  Even boots fill with snow.  That evening, the boys insist

we drive all the way down to the barn.  I start to fix dinner.  They tell me,

“We’ll be back in an hour.  We aren’t going through that again!”

They shovel tracks for the truck all the way from the barn to the main road.

I miss them, especially in winter.

The Farrier


He looks like the typical cowboy

with no cowboy hat.

A cowboy hat would get in the way

up against a horse.

Pale blue eyes,

grey, handlebar mustache,

pack of Camels

he chain smokes,

Australian shepherd, Chili, by his side.

After the trimming

he sits and talks to me

for two hours.

He tells me a story

he told me the last time.

I listen as if it were the first time.

People call him from Oklahoma City.

They want a shoer.

He tells them,

“Too far unless

there’s ten head at 85 a head.”

They agree.

He gets there with Chili,

a pup then.

He starts to tie her up.

“No need;

let her play with our puppy.”

He does.

They invite him out.

It is New Year’s Eve.

“The dive they took me to

was real rough, real rough,

so rough I’d worry about

my safety even with two 45s.

They had a friend singing there

somewhere in Southeast Oklahoma City.

Real rough.

Next morning I’m ready

for the other six horses.

There’s none.”

He packs up,

comes home.

Chili won’t eat,

won’t play.

He sits and waits at the vet.

It’s parvo.

She’s had the vaccine

but not enough time.

“The people in Oklahoma City

lied about the horses

about the parvo.

Chili stayed on IVs for five days.”

Today, Chili’s a dog dynamo,

no longer a puppy but

with puppy energy.

She and Isabella play

constantly for the two hours.

He says,

“You must be rich to build this place.”

I laugh.

“Rich, I’m not rick.

Lucky maybe,

no, not lucky.

I don’t believe in luck.”

A person makes her own luck.

Smart helps, sometimes.

For All the Lonely, Lost Young Men


At first, I planned to simply post a poem by this title, a response to the bombing in Boston and the young men who orchestrated it.  Then I decided that a few comments seemed more appropriate.  These comments come from a realization and conversations with a couple of colleagues at work noticing that all the perpetrators of the bombings and mass killings have been young males.  These young men cite various causes from the anger of being disenfranchised and bullied to religious fervor of a certain type to insanity.  All acknowledged anger over something, a rage so profound they felt driven to act, at least for those to whom authorities could talk.  Most appeared to be alienated from their culture, friends, or family, young men who failed to fit in.  Although we must condemn their horrific acts, perhaps it would also prove more productive to ask, “Why?” Unless we know why and address the causes, these events will be repeated somewhere at some totally unforeseen time.  And many innocents will die again and again.  Perhaps equally disturbing is the fact that we are not alone.  These types of events repeat themselves in one way or another in many other countries in the world.  Additionally, I realize that many people feel the solution lies in revenge, punishment, justice as they see it.  For those, many of the sentiments I express in this poem may seem too simplistic, too kind, too naive.  I teach high school.  I work with all types of young men daily.  I see their fear, anger, loneliness even if fleeting and only momentarily.  We can make a difference; we can reach out.

Look at yourselves

filled with

fear,

anger,

hatred.

This world may not embody

the perfect place

of which you dream;

do not despair.

We care.

Do not shoot me.

I care.

Do not throw bombs at the innocent;

They care.

Do not hate the different.

They care.

Do not despair.