wishes for sons


Wishes for Sons
Lucille Clifton

i wish them cramps.
i wish them a strange town
and the last tampon.
i wish them no 7-11.
i wish them one week early
and wearing a white skirt.
i wish them one week late.
later i wish them hot flashes
and clots like you
wouldn’t believe. let the
flashes come when they
meet someone special.
let the clots come
when they want to.
let them think they have accepted
arrogance in the universe,
then bring them to gynecologists
not unlike themselves.

snatched book


On the Train, A Man Snatches My Book
Paige Lewis

On the train, a man snatches my book, reads
the last line, and says I completely get you,

you’re not that complex. He could be right–lately
all my what ifs are about breath: what if

a glass-blower inhales at the wrong
moment? What if I’m drifting on a sailboat

and the wind stops? If he’d ask me how I’m
feeling, I’d give him the long version–I feel

as if I’m on the moon listening to the air hiss
out of my spacesuit, and I can’t find the rip. I’m

the vice president of panic and the president is
missing. Most nights, I calm myself by listing

animals still on the least concern end of the
extinction spectrum: aardvarks and blackbirds

are fine. Minnows thrive–though this brings
me no relief–they can swim through sludge

if they have to. I don’t think I’ve ever written
the word doom, but nothing else fits.

Every experience seems both urgent and
unnatural–like right now, this train

is approaching the station where my lover
is waiting to take me to the orchard so we can

pay for the memory of having once, at dusk,
​plucked real apples from real trees.


Postscript to mania


Ode to Lithium #18 – Postscript to Mania
Shira Erlichman

It’s not easy dying every second
for the sake of some mission.
What-the-Fuck-ologist, leading me
by the softest whim toward the blade.
Chicken wire undulated behind my lids
& the sky looked beat to death.
I’ve been going through my files. Who
was that? At what precise moment
did my brain tattle on itself? Everything
was a wick. Even God was worn down
by my false sirening. It’s not easy dying
without dying. Before I ever took the pills
I took so much. So much was taken. I’m
done. I’m here. A fish thrown back
to the river can’t help but swallow fistfuls
of self.

dissent as cheer


Grace Paley

My dissent is cheer
a thankless disposition
first as the morning star
my ambition: good luck

and why not a flight
over the wide dilemma
and then good night to
sad forever

desire field


From the Desire Field
Natalie Diaz

I don’t call it sleep anymore.
             I’ll risk losing something new instead—

like you lost your rosen moon, shook it loose.

But sometimes when I get my horns in a thing—
a wonder, a grief or a line of her—it is a sticky and ruined
             fruit to unfasten from,

despite my trembling.

Let me call my anxiety, desire, then.
Let me call it, a garden.

Maybe this is what Lorca meant
             when he said, verde que te quiero verde—

because when the shade of night comes,
I am a field of it, of any worry ready to flower in my chest.

My mind in the dark is una bestia, unfocused,
             hot. And if not yoked to exhaustion

beneath the hip and plow of my lover,
then I am another night wandering the desire field—

bewildered in its low green glow,

belling the meadow between midnight and morning.
Insomnia is like Spring that way—surprising
             and many petaled,

the kick and leap of gold grasshoppers at my brow.

I am struck in the witched hours of want—

I want her green life. Her inside me
in a green hour I can’t stop.
             Green vein in her throat green wing in my mouth

green thorn in my eye. I want her like a river goes, bending.
Green moving green, moving.

Fast as that, this is how it happens—
             soy una sonámbula.

And even though you said today you felt better,
and it is so late in this poem, is it okay to be clear,
             to say, I don’t feel good,

to ask you to tell me a story
about the sweet grass you planted—and tell it again
             or again—

until I can smell its sweet smoke,
             leave this thrashed field, and be smooth.

Photo by Runze Shi on Unsplash

Order up: War criminal masquerading as patriot tells all with a side of ego fries


Like a fool, I took on the errand of reading John Bolton’s controversial book, The Room Where It Happened, about his time in the Trump White House. I readily admit that I dislike Bolton and his strident approach to foreign policy, particularly for liberally advocating the use of the American war machine, and his continued insistence that somehow the Iraq War was just and correct, even after the rest of the war-supporting world has backed away from this disaster.  Likewise I may vomit if I read more about the US interfering in other countries’ politics. The US should stop attempting force regime change in South America. It’s been a long, painful and resounding disaster every time — and the latest Venezuela nightmare, as Bolton recounts it, is no exception; it doesn’t matter if the regime is “illegitimate”, as Bolton claims. It’s not up to the US to make this decision and take action on it. Unfortunately this kind of action has marked US foreign and “defense” (if you could call it that) policy since the beginning.

An exercise in revealing the cognitive dissonance not just of one man but of the entire political process. About 100 pages in, Bolton criticizes Trump for taking Kim Jong-un at face value, highlighting Kim’s “ploy” of stating he had domestic hardliners to contend with… as if Bolton and so many Americans aren’t hardliners in the exact same mold, thinking they are “right and will prove it with might”.

What makes these deluded war criminals with long records of human rights abuses so sure they are right – and somehow the other is wrong? They are both players in the same destructive game. What is inherently morally superior about American military insanity? Sure, Kim Jong-un embodies lunacy – but Trump equals it and continues to get worse. Is the US and its leadership any safer or better, especially when, as Bolton himself argues, there is no one at all at any level of government who can rein in Trump’s most dangerous impulses? No – we have seen time and again that the system of checks and balances everyone relied upon to keep Trump (and previous leaders) in line is weak and elastic. A corrupt lunatic with the will to behave recklessly can (and does) manipulate these so-called checks and balances without consequence.

In this rambling, boastful, 500+-page “cover-my-ass tell-all” diary, in which Bolton attempts to take Trump to task and frame the US as “the good guys”, he does little more than paint himself and the revolving door of Trump appointees as accomplices who, at best, wanted to contribute to “righting the ship” but instead helped to cover up criminal malfeasance and foreign ties by veiling Trump’s activities as incompetence and delusion rather than the dangerous and self-serving profiteering they really are.

Furthermore, his rambling elevates the opinions (all in reported speech, so we don’t really know what was said, but much of it is used to praise himself) of people like Jared Kushner who have no qualifications whatsoever. Do we care if Kushner supposedly told Bolton, early on in Trump’s presidency, that he would have been so much better at running State than Rex Tillerson? Still, throughout the book, Bolton confirms multiple times what the American public has learned, watching helplessly from the sidelines: profoundly unqualified Kushner is doing a lot of stuff (staffing decisions of key personnel and cabinet-level positions, Middle East peace, the immigration debacle, China trade, coronavirus research and response, etc.) he has not been elected or appointed to do, and it’s been a disaster each time. Ivanka has also been extensively involved; Bolton cites Trump’s Tweets proclaiming that “Ivanka would be a great UN ambassador” — which would have been like jumping from frying pan (Nikki Haley) into fire (Ivanka).

It’s repetitive: on some pages he refers more than once to doing the same thing, e.g., “I was focused on Iran”. Yeah, we get it, buddy, you’re fucking obsessed with Iran. Where’s your editor?

It normalizes the aberrant: Despite highlighting the abnormality of everything about the administration, Bolton’s “revelations” are afterthoughts. During and even before his tenure, he witnessed and recognized the circus-ring environment he was entering. Bolton was either arrogant enough to think he could fix things or somehow wanted to take part in a grander-scale cover up to, for example, push through his own agenda hidden behind the constant stream of Trump scandal. He would not be the only one to mistakenly believe he could tame the deluded Trump puppet; many have misjudged Trump’s depth of depravity, his infantile behavior and toddler-like temper and attention span. But he’s also the worst kind of dogmatic political operator, who has opted to profit from sales of his book rather than comply with a House subpoena to testify in Trump’s impeachment hearings. (He has claimed he would have testified, if compelled, before the Senate. But that’s kind of stacking the deck, isn’t it?)

It attempts to write a biased and blindly hypocritical version of history: Bolton parrots the idea that Trump was “vindicated” on the charges of collusion, which is, in effect, untrue and a rewrite of history. Trump may not have been removed from office, but he was convicted of obstruction of justice and abuse of power and impeached. The lack of a smoking gun on collusion does not equal “vindication”. He may be perfectly correct that the impeachment was rushed and plagued by flaws that ultimately made it a failure. But Bolton’s own book outlines different charges that he should have, as a self-proclaimed “patriot” supposedly looking out for the nation’s best interests, disclosed and testified to. But what can one expect from a man whose book reads like someone alternating between sour grapes and a strange need for praise; Bolton reports repeatedly that he was ‘delighted’ when Trump listened to his advice; in a normal administration, this would be… normal. Not a moment of head patting and tail wagging.

In a section on China, which has its own bombshells, I marveled, shaking my head in disbelief at how Bolton could seriously write passages like the following without gagging on the hypocrisy: “We also spread awareness of how treacherous China’s Belt and Road Initiative was, based on “debt diplomacy,” luring countries with seemingly advantageous credit terms, then getting them hooked financially, from which Third World nations especially couldn’t extract themselves”

It raises questions; sometimes not the ones Bolton would want. Many times he refers to being sent classified documents to his home. Maybe these were sent and secured properly, but after the firestorm about Hillary Clinton’s emails and private servers raged (and continues to be reignited as a diversionary tactic), we’ve seen many members of the Trump administration flagrantly violating these security policies (Bolton himself refers to an Ivanka-related unsecured email issue) – and no one cares. (Let’s not even think about the secret and secure info people like Ivanka and Jared have access to without having been vetted properly or failing to be granted appropriate security clearances.) The chaos Bolton is careful to describe sets the backdrop for exactly the kind of conditions in which security is compromised without a second thought, whether or not he himself engaged in insecure communications.

It’s all a trumped-up dick-measuring and ass-kissing contest. Most of politics between would-be/wanna-be strongmen is about dick measuring and posturing. Bolton’s descriptions of and participation in these games says very little about the Trump administration and a whole lot about the unsophisticated nature of geopolitics. Leveling the term “peacenik” at as wide a swathe of people as Rand Paul and Ilhan Omar, there are very few things Bolton seems to disrespect more than people who prefer peace, or who simply aren’t warmongers first and foremost.

It’s also a portrait of the thankless job of shoveling elephant shit at a three-ring circus. Bolton and everyone else in the White House seems to have worked mostly toward chasing a rampaging elephant, cleaning up after the unabating daily messes the elephant makes.

If you’ve been paying attention at all, and haven’t drunk from the poisoned Trump Kool Aid well, no one reading Bolton’s book will be surprised by any of the “revelations” about things Trump has said or done. Bolton comes across as contemptuous, as one would, of Trump and his “policies” (which amount to little more than backroom deals and schemes that will work in his personal favor). We know this already. Instead, you have to question the gutless wonder of a man who chronicles the shitshow for fun, self-aggrandizement and profit. I come away from this wondering: If Bolton knew it was so dysfunctional before he worked in the administration, why did he join? If it was so terrible and impossible from the inside, why stay? He repeats his relief about moments when the infamously short presidential attention span prevents him from having to speak or voice his opinion (“a second bullet dodged”). If he was so essential and important – and Trump supposedly listened to him (that’s what the media – falsely? – reported about Bolton), why does he hide behind these moments of reprieve? And then why continue to protect this criminal administration, outright stating that “obstruction of justice appeared to be a way of life” for Trump, accusing the Congress of having too narrow an impeachment focus while having in hand — and concealing — damning evidence unless he sought a ringside seat to carry out his own quasi-treasonous act of self-importance at the expense of the entire country?

negative return


Negative Return
Karen Wild Díaz


grant me an afternoon sadness
turn, tiny wheel of ardor, turn!


the lost look of sadness
synecdoche of a love returning


torrid fist straight to the chest
when it arrived in the stomach
opened itself into ten fleshy petals
and held me back


i had a watery prairie
modest pool
of calming dark rings, rain-damp hair
moving slowly
to doze aware
of the tornado


fierce warmth enormous eyes
pure expressive faces
all mortgaged realism
concentration of thought
assimilated to swarm
…wander into familiar


nothing as predictable today as the body:
with warm compresses, with gentle caresses
my breasts draw near the fire
test the embrace in the silence
of this stiff ruggedness you will make defoliate me
I return: dressed
by your fingers


all was revealed that evening
an order never existed
swirling like a sea
feigned a drowning
suddenly stopped on the surface
we saw at last the bodies
but we were going:
profile, back, end of the album.

stiff sparrows pile up on the balcony
and i will not place them in a crate
to carry them away



negativo del regreso


dame tristeza a la tarde
gira, diminuta rueda de ardor, gira!


la mirada perdida de la tristeza
sinécdoque del amor que vuelve


puño tórrido en la boca al pecho
cuando llegó al estómago
se abrió en diez carnosos pétalos
y me contuvo


tuve llanura acuosa
modesto estanque
de serena ojera, cabello llovido
movimiento lento
donde dormitar consciente
del tornado


tibieza feroz ojos enormes
rostros de expresivo puro
todo realismo hipotecado
concentración de pensamiento
asimilado a enjambre
..deambulé contra paredes


nada tan predecible hoy como el cuerpo:
con tibias compresas, con caricias dóciles
acerca mi pecho a la lumbre
prueba abrazar en silencio
de esta rígida rugosidad harás que me deshoje
regreso: desde tus dedos


todo se supo a la tarde
nunca existió consigna
arremolinado como un mar
se simuló un ahogo
de pronto detenido en superficie
vimos al fin los cadáveres
pero nos estábamos yendo:
perfil, espalda, fin del álbum.

se apilan en el balcón gorriones tiesos
y no quiero meterlos al cajón
llevarlos fuera

Lunchtable TV talk: The woman’s hidden path: Transformation by need or desire


In the same way as Crime and Punishment is ostensibly about Raskolnikov, its women are the compelling draw of that make me continue to think about the story, years after last reading it. What influence do they have, what sacrifices have they made — and why?

In many of modern television’s biggest draws, women characters embody and drive the growth, change, multidimensional development and complexity of the story, sometimes even within stories in which the men’s experience is the story. The women’s transformative journey isn’t given the same fanfare as men’s… but it’s arguably a more dramatic, if understated, journey. Not unlike everyday life.

The show that got me thinking about this transformation was Better Call Saul. We know — both from Breaking Bad and from the development of the lead, Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman — that Jimmy/Saul is going to go through professional and familial upheaval, and given what we learn about his early life, return to his “Slippin’ Jimmy” origins on a grander scale. The quieter transformation, though, happens more slowly, with Jimmy’s counterpart, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn). Built incrementally over the entire series, Kim’s transformation has been hinted at, as she occasionally joins Jimmy in some of his minor pranks and cons and seems to enjoy it. But her conscientious, driven, all-business demeanor imply that Kim is always going to be on the right side of the law. Yet time after time, when most would expect Kim to be the voice of reason, she retorted with something unexpected. Despite these surprises, it was never as though Kim acted completely out of character, jarring a viewer into finding the journey unrealistic or unearned. Instead she became more multilayered and complex as a character, which is not what I anticipated when the show began. In fact when Better Call Saul premiered I dismissed Kim as a secondary, possibly temporary, on/off love interest kind of character (I should really have known better, considering the creators of the show).

With Kim, as with all things in her life, she is controlling her transformation and choices, never letting the out-of-her-control circumstances make the decisions (or so it seems). Some of television’s latest and greatest shows offer glimpses of women at crossroads and turning points, as well as points of vulnerability, projecting creative and unexpected evolution for their characters. (Some of these transformations are the best — and only engaging — parts of the programs they appeared in.) A few of my picks include the transformation of Sarah Paulson‘s character, Alice, in Mrs America; Merritt Wever‘s spontaneous grab for a life that almost-was in Run; Kathryn Hahn‘s role as Eve Fletcher, as Eve moves from single mother to empty nester trying to figure out who she is, particularly sexually, in Mrs Fletcher; Shira Haas embodying a young Hasidic woman running from everything she knew to discover an entirely different kind of life in Unorthodox; almost all of the women in The Deuce experience transformation – some quite involuntarily but others, in particular, Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s Eileen/Candy, Dominique Fishback‘s Darlene, and Emily Meade‘s Lori, look to find voice and agency in a changing city in tumultuous times. Similarly, all the of the women in the underrated show Queen Sugar (Rutina Wesley, Dawn Lyen-Gardner, Tina Lifford and Bianca Lawson), have transformed completely — many times — and continue to evolve — as the show continues. It probably goes without saying but needs to be said that the women of Pose are television’s most transformative and inspiring group of all.

This is what women are uniquely good at doing — not just transforming, but adapting to changing realities. An unfortunate example from real life is Norma McCorvey, remembered best as Jane Roe, the plaintiff in the landmark case Roe v Wade, which made abortion legal in the United States. After the precedent-setting ruling, McCorvey became an anti-abortion activist, but nearing death, she confessed that she’d never actually changed her mind — but instead had been paid for her anti-abortion activism. This is chronicled in a new documentary called AKA Jane Roe. Sometimes the journey involves inconsistency that benefits the individual — never mind the social impact or ethical position.

As in real life, television’s transformations often come about less willingly, driven by circumstance and need. In the Canadian Pure, a Mennonite pastor and his stubborn rigidity and black-and-white view of the world continue to cause trouble and harm to his family, but his wife Anna (Alex Paxton-Beesley) adapts to the situation at hand with greater skill, being able to operate in greyer territory. Skyler White (Anna Gunn) in Breaking Bad represents a slow but sly turn to “the dark side” as it becomes clear what she is being forced to do. Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) in The Good Wife is forced to return to work after being humiliated by her husband’s infidelity and malfeasance. He goes to prison, and she begins to practice law. Somewhere along the line, her naivete and sense of being overwhelmed are supplanted by wily dealing and shrewd calculations about her future. Ozark‘s Wendy Byrde (Laura Linney) follows a similar path, reviving her past as a political operative/adviser and applying it to altogether more nefarious enterprises. In many of these cases, it appears as though these ambitions have always lay dormant and get triggered unexpectedly.


Photo by Chandra Oh on Unsplash