Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886
Poem #260 from her catalog of works . . .
I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!
How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!
Once upon a time I had a teacher in a poetry class named Ruth Slonim. She was fond of quoting Emily Dickinson and every once in a while snippets of these poems pop into my head. Some I have even burned into my brain years later. But this is an example of someone who effected my life in such a way that I didn’t even realize it fully at the time. The old song goes “you never know what you got until it is gone.” She died in 2005.
I later learned that during her life, she was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Just to be nominated means she effected a lot more people than just me. She had, and still has relevance in this world. She is still effecting in her own quiet way.
The last time I remember meeting her was on a side-walk maybe 20 years after she taught me in class. She remembered me from that class, and said she had been hearing good things about my work. I mostly feel I have dwelled in hiding all my life, so when these little bumps come along, they make me reevaluate what I really am, what I think I have and have not done with my life. And things like “How dreary to be somebody . . . ” pop into my head.
The frog tune that was posted on this blog a little time back in reference to the Donald Trump horror, must come from this poem, and Ruth Slonim. “An admiring Bog” is a danger that Donald Trump never had a teacher burn into his brain as a warning. It is really a shame that the humanities of a well-rounded education never sank in for Mr. Trump. It is people like Ruth Slonim that I have to thank for adding this little angel on my shoulder, or is it a demon? Whatever it is, it is one of those lessons that never really gets over.
Photo: A bail of #1 Plastics at the Local Recycling Center
This is a critique of Graphic Library’s “Engineering an Awesome Recycling Center with Max Axiom, Super Scientist.”
Before they started paying me to pick up garbage, they paid me to catalog books. I have kept in touch with some people who still do. When they came across a copy of Graphic Library’s “Engineering an Awesome Recycling Center with Max Axiom Super Scientist” by Nikole Brooks Bethea, they knew that I would want to see it.
I have spent the last nineteen years or so helping to move garbage and recycling off a small university campus, and I do appreciate anybody trying to teach people that garbage is bad and recycling is good. As a child, I collected comics with the best of them, so I know the difference between a graphic novel and a comic book. Also, I believe both of them have a valued use as a crossover medium between literature and graphic arts. In fact, one of my early poems has a line about all my “heroes come from comic books.”
Like any form of storytelling, graphic novels and comic books do not subscribe totally to reality, but I spent many years learning to analyze literature for an English degree. It took me a bit to understand why I started laughing out loud when I reached page seven. It was Max Axiom’s definition of the problem in his outline of the engineering process that made me laugh.
The basic story line of the piece is that Max gets a message from the mayor, “Help! The city’s landfill is filling up quickly.” He zooms off to check out the landfill and see it in action. He explains to Will, the solid waste manager, how the engineering process works and what engineers do. “They create things that help people and change the world around them.” They use “what they know about science, math, and people to consider and compare many possible solutions.”
He comes to the conclusion that “Our problem is the landfill is running out of space.” For an engineer that might be the problem, but he is a little too reliant on the science and math. He has forgotten what he knows about people and there for fails to come up with the right problem to start his engineering process. The real problem is that there are too many people making too much garbage. It is possible that for the sake of the story, he decides to bury the core problem of people making too much garbage because he knows that it cannot be solved. But as the old programmer’s axiom goes, “garbage in, garbage out” (no pun intended).
Max starts with the wrong problem so this may be why he goes wrong in his information gathering process. He speaks with the mayor, solid waste and recycling managers, with a little nod to the engineers who do the building and inspections of the new recycling facility. But he does not talk to the people who operate all the equipment to make the solid waste/recycling process work. The people who drive the recycling trucks, the operators of the track and wheel loaders, the people who clean and sort recyclables even with a wonderful sorting machine. These are the people who have to clean and repair and maintain and operate it. The food and biological contamination in recycling is pretty bad, especially at central drop off points without monitoring.
Max does not talk to any of these people. They would tell him that it is not the landfill filling up too quickly. It is people making too much garbage that is the problem. And all this equipment that makes the process easier, possible even, takes its toll. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, being a solid waste/recycling collector in 2011 was the seventh most dangerous job in America for deaths per hundred thousand. It became number five in 2013. People die out there in the trash world, and the people who actually do the job will tell you it is a losing battle. The hole in the ground is going to get full and you are just going to have to get another one no matter how you slow the process with recycling.
There is a point in the story while the mayor, Max, and the solid waste manager are looking for options. She points out that “the city council doesn’t want to upset citizens.” In this instance she is nixing the building of an incinerator to burn the garbage. But I think the citizens will be upset with the millions of dollars spent on building and maintaining a recycling program as well as a solid waste program. They will certainly grumble about having to sort their garbage. I thing the original call for help should have been to ask Max how to finance a new recycling center. In the world of this story, funding is never discussed, and building an awesome recycling center costs nothing to make it happen. I believe that selling recycling product covers the cost is implied in super scientist world. However shipping out material these days eats most of the profit. The only way recycling centers survive is by government subsidies. The big sorting and recovery plants are where the profit may lie. That will be even more so with single stream or co-mingle recycling. Co-mingle may well cut out the middle person in the solid waste flow.
At the end of this graphic novel, there is so much recycling that they may have to build a larger recycling center. If this town is anything like the place I work, they will be waiting for a new building in fifteen years like we are.
There is a “more about” section in the back of this book also. It has a small blurb about a statistic from 2010 which says that Americans generated about 250 tons of trash and recycled about 85 tons of that making a thirty-four percent recovery rate. I do not know where this statistic came from, but the organization I work for generates 400 tons of trash a year and recovers about forty-eight percent of that. So I question how much trash America really generated for that year.
I do not want it to seem that I am totally disenchanted with “Engineering and Awesome Recycling Center”. I like it very much! It is a good starting place to learn that recycling is good and garbage is bad. There are a couple of panels that are just too real not to be appreciated. When Max is at the city landfill, in the back ground there are piles of trash with track-loads moving it. With a few little strokes of black ink above the piles, there are flocks of birds. That is just a beautiful touch that most people would not put in. It brings the dump alive. I wish that people could smell the methane coming out of the ground also.
Maybe this line of work all boils down to tilting at windmills, yet you have to remember, my heroes all come from comic books. I hope someday, some kid will pick up a copy of this book and say “Hey!” That is what I want to be when I grow up.” Until somebody addresses the central problem of too many people making too much garbage, somebody is going to need to operate those recycling trucks and front-end loaders.
First published through triod.com, 2015
This book review was written to keep me writing and publishing through an on-line clearing house of materials which was supposed to make me a couple of dollars. It didn’t. However, it did keep me going until I was distracted by the continuing horrors of the American election of 2016.
Photo: AL-foil bail at the Local Recycling Center.
The bastard breeds as well as the Son;
remember the Father never married.
Not two wrongs but a trillion . . .
Against the will of woman, we have
been raped and the children suffer.
So breed the blasphemies.
published in Wind Row, Spring, 1983.
Photo: Old Moscow, probably in Washington Territories (USA)
Dark night, cool and crisp,
softened dreams and settling mists.
Golden leaves fall so swift,
floating shadows with green well mixed.
Torrents of sounds from the drainage pipe,
thick rich earth after natures strike.
A scoured sky a joyful sight,
countless specks of twinkling light.
Endless green in the form of pine,
blackening shadows at this time.
Rising up from the cold damp leaves,
living the seasons as they please.
Growing warmth from within small homes,
people together, not alone.
Actually tearful is the night,
her soft light heart is far from sight.
published in Major Poets, Fall, 1974.
Let’s face it, I am not a major poet. So this is another “Vanity Press” publication. It was written as a literary conceit, I hadn’t been “in love” in over a year. I managed to get this published without knowing what it was being published in. I really don’t consider it a good poem. Cute maybe, but not great. Sitting on a shelf gathering dust and long forgotten. I actually stumbled upon it by accident.
“We the People” should stop working for these dicks. They would be helpless! Do you think that Donald Trump can cook? Do his laundry? Make the scotch tape for his tie? Clean his toilet? Mop his floor? Cut the grass? Paint the fence? Hell, build a wall? He sure as Hell does not know how to build and fire a tomahawk missile. And he is too cowardly to walk up the Khyber pass with a rifle. Most of the rich are very much the same.
These bastions of those that come and go, each person to
their own choice of direction, could appear as castles.
Buildings stand to their appointed corners, lattice works
of red brick and mortar, like a crown of thorns upon a brow
that hangs its head in weary pain and abuse.
Bartizans at each corner made of carefully fitted stone,
towers of the guard to watch over the voyager who rests within.
At some crossroads there have been planted trees, perhaps in
winter covered with snow and not easily seen. Their roots run
beneath the road and the traveler’s feet. The roots lie beneath
each branch of the junction giving them support, giving them life.
published in Our Twentieth Century’s Greatest Poems, April, 1982.
Just a quick comment of “Vanity Presses”. I imagine this does sort of count as a publication, it is in my portfolio towards the back. I do not think of it as a particularly good poem, but it is gathering dust on some library shelf someplace and will never see the light of day again. The company that published it, World of Poetry, out of Sacramento, CA expects to make money off of people buying this volume to give to friends and relatives, that sort of thing. I doubt that anybody else in the academic or literary community has ever seen it. This is not a publication that is going to get a writer any exposure.
To bleach away the magic
from man and nature
is to turn clay into stone,
yet even the pressure of death
turning life black as coal
can bring forth light.
Then too, given time,
the philosopher’s stone man appear and
under gifted hand and finest tools
the clay shall then have the magic
to break the light into colors,
and form the colors into a light
that shall drive back the shadows
and draw out the truth from the darkness.
published in American Collegiate Poets, Spring, 1979.
Just a quick comment of “Vanity Presses”. I imagine this does sort of count as a publication, it is in my portfolio towards the back. I do not think of it as a particularly good poem, but it is gathering dust on some library shelf someplace and will never see the light of day again. The company that published it, International Publications, out of LA, CA expects to make money off of people buying this volume to give to friends and relatives, that sort of thing. I doubt that anybody else in the academic or literary community has ever seen it. This is not a publication that is going to get a writer any exposure.
We are coming up to the 4th of July weekend, and we are in the 6th month of the Donald Trump administration of the USA’s government. I have never watched the “Apprentice”, it always struck me as distasteful teaching people to exploit misery to make money. Let’s face it, real estate happens for the same reason lawyers and doctors are needed, somebody is in trouble legally or medically. People need to sell real estate because they need the money. Humans do not have a whole bunch of redeeming qualities when they smell money.
There is a school in modern witchcraft that believes karma comes back in your own lifetime. It does go against the vein of thought in traditional beliefs of karma. It does not allow for closure in a single life time. Human scale is not cosmic scale. Still, I have been waiting for Donald Trump to get his comeuppance for quite some time, since the 1990s probably. It amazes me that the IRS has not called him to the carpet for some of this stuff. Do they really audit him and report suspicious action to the Justice Department or FBI for investigation? I always thought they did, maybe none of us have to worry about legal karma in the USA if Donald Trump is an example. Perhaps this is why there are so many supporters of Donald Trump. They all want to grow up to be tasteless hogs like him. There are no consequences if you have enough money.
This is probably one of the worst qualities of human society: the rich lording it over the poor. They have the money to make the rules, and they have the money to buy the gilded cage we all work in for their pleasure. Not that the concept of property owned by society works any better. The scum always rises to the top. Most of us are too worried about our own daily lives to pay much attention. It is work to pay attention. It is work just to push that rock up the hill and watch it slide back down again on the other side. Our masters are good at convincing us that the rock really needs to be up there; it is our moral imperative. The rock must be up there no matter what. God wants that rock to be up there, and I am only telling you this for your own good, or the greater good if that self-interest does not work to keep you pushing.
Independence Day, the American Revolution . . . all that blood, sweat and tears for people who never played liar’s dice. They never sat across a table, drunk or sober, and learned to call bullshit. They never learned to read the byline on a newspaper, let alone on an internet address. They never grew up to realize that sometimes the people you trust the most can be wrong. They never learned that the best you can hope for is a job you can tolerant that pays enough to live. If you do not like it, find another one. No matter what you do, nobody gets out alive. Your immortal soul is between you and God (She, he, it, they) not the Federal, State, County, City, or church of your choice. In the “real” West, Trump would never have made it out of his twenties. Somebody with a gun would have called him out in the street, but he would have run.
Nobody likes the Federal government, but it is a necessary evil because there are State governments, and nobody likes State governments, but again necessary because of City governments. Nobody likes governments much in general, but all I have learned over the last sixty-two years is they are necessary because of people. They just are no damn good, and even the good ones do not have the wisdom to leave well enough alone. Again, it is up to your God to judge, not you. I do not care what your priests, ministers, mullahs, shamans tell you. Wait, shamans have enough sense to know they are ignorant and that if you truly think you know God’s mind, you are deluded or lying. God only likes equal partners, not sheep.
So happy Independence Day to the people of the world! Get a little R&R this weekend. Come next week, because tyranny is expensive and bloody exhausting, humanity has to go back into the trenches so our children’s children may make it off this rock and finally learn to tell the difference between truth and lies, and if they do not know, do not react as if they do. Wisdom is sometimes learning to do nothing about something that is not that big of a problem. All Trump knows how to do is borrow money, default, and borrow money to pay it off. So I guess he fits right in with government in general.
It was a short journey;
the preparation work took the longest.
The last epoch was a wink of Ra’s eye;
Verne and Goddard, Wells and von Braun, Steam Punk and NASA,
they did most of the heavy lifting.
Communication was lost in the corona.
first posted through triod.com, 2015.
Through the maples, red and green,
the early morning light intrudes
into sprinklers and onto lawn beneath
with color of hazy milk or semen
escaping into the swirl of bath water,
mist in the channel of beams.
The cube of lawn is bordered by
concrete walks, and the walks by
red brick buildings: some recent, some not.
Each summer it is the same.
Everything is maintained in motion.
Between the Spring and the Autumn,
new learning and old, there is
the geometry of intersection.
Black cat on freshy cut lawn,
feral and short haired,
watching and listening with tilted head
to the sounds and motion of the bunch grass
and foxtail hiding pleasure and pray.
The breeze moves both weeds and fur.
Grey and black asphalt streets,
smeared oblongs of checkerboards
from trenches and patches.
Autumn and Spring bring fresh
bue, white, and yellow parking
lines for parents and children.
Winter blurs them.
Surplus items: severed and stuffed heads,
we did not kill them and have them preserved,
but somebody did. Somebody donated them,
was it a naturalist or a hunter?
We just inherited them in some move.
Bear and caribou, reindeer and elk,
skulls and hides, teeth and feathers
gathering dust in the corner,
too creepy to keep,
too sensitive to sell.
These four pieces were originally published on triod.com in about 2015. They are separate pieces, but as an experiment I decided to see if the four of them could become a gestalt. Let me know if it works, thanks for reading!