Monthly Archives: January 2014

The More Things Change… (Draft)

When I was a boy he overlooked the city
Twenty-eight feet of grotesque cartoon smile and piano key teeth
Nose just crooked enough to evoke stereotyped images of his heritage
And a skin tone better suited for a different type of “engine”
But I thought nothing of him at the time
As he sat perched high atop Cleveland Municipal Stadium
I was too young to take note of this
Modern day Sambo masquerading as a mascot
I simply knew him as Chief Wahoo
But then again, times were different in my youth
Sambo himself, was still deemed a children’s classic
Despite being identified fifty years prior as a conduit for bigotry
Reminding me that progress is more akin to molasses than water
It does not take the path of least resistance
It clings to resistance with sticky sedition
And this case would be no different

For here we are in the age of so-called tolerance and understanding
And Wahoo’s presence is as prevalent in Cleveland
As snow on Christmas morning
Caught up in a culture of tomahawk chops
Complete with arrowheads and feathered headdress
And a racial slur serving as a nickname in our nation’s capital
A cancerous social commentary camouflaged as “honor” and “tradition”
We’re talking the type of appropriation
That would leave Miley Cyrus twerking with envy
But by and large the public does not care
How ironic that of all the issues
On the proverbial sociopolitical “totem pole”
That this would hang on the lowest rung
And as testament to the times
A recent poll on Cleveland.com showed
That the vast majority not only wanted
Wahoo in their midst
They took it a step further to state
he should be face of the franchise

And I wish I could say I was surprised
The age of communication
More like the age of isolation
And systematic classification
Where even historically oppressed groups
Can’t see past their own cause to realize
That we all have something worth fighting for
And I admit I often scoff when Southerners
Attempt to romanticize the Confederate flag
Claiming heritage and tradition
But for a brief moment I could almost understand
For at first it was difficult for me to grasp
That such a seemingly innocent image from my youth
Could be the cause of such hurt and heartache
for those indigenous to our homeland
But unlike the Confederate Flag
Which was removed atop from the State House
at the turn of the century
Chief Wahoo isn’t just an enduring image from my childhood
Rather, like a discombobulated traveler from another time
He is a part of my present
That belongs in the past

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Alien (Draft)

I’ve never been very good with words

Sure, given a pad and a pen
I can sonnet them into a symphony
But under the doldrums of daily discourse
they only discharge dysfunction
More often than not my clasped tongue
has left me handcuffed and hamstrung

This is what it is to be alien
That is to say
Have a rare gift for alienating
Transforming friends into foes
With the simple lash of a tongue
Or some less-than-poetic prose
Fumbling at phrases
As if I’d found foreign soil beneath my tongue
Seeds of confusion sprouting with each syllable
The words never seem to come out the way I intend them to

So I’ve learned to choose my words
the way parents choose names for their children
Carefully. Thoughtfully.  Patiently.
Conceding that sometimes silence is the best statement

But I’ve never managed to stay silent for long

My hair trigger-tongue
Slicing beneath ribs
With a sniper’s efficiency

And while time has taught me
that it matters much less
What you say verses what you do
I’m still trying to get a grasp on words
before I graduate to actions

I asked them

How can I make amends?

They said the only path to redemption is honesty
And honestly

My tongue ought to come equipped with gloves
For it seems it’s best at pointing fingers
Like The Cleaner hired to cover my tracks
But still the evidence lingers
So I wrap myself in blankets of hypocrisy
For fear of facing the cold hard truth
There is no lonelier feeling than being misunderstood

To be alien is to be less than human

So I’ve created self-defense mechanisms
And leave tear stains on paper
So the ink bleeds
rather than my heart
I’ve been praying for a fresh start
Hoping one day they’ll realize
ET didn’t hack the speak & spell simply to phone home
He wanted to be understood
I just want to be understood
We all just want to be understood