June 2011


A Reply to Wislawa Szymborsky’s
A Little Bit About the Soul

Alas, dear Wislawa,
who has seen much, known much,
survived more than a little, you might
have said that facts, the world,
bloody history, relent on
holidays, or when the rain is gentle,
and we are free to run, dance, restore
balance in our lives, that the soul is
light as a crêpe scarf dropped at a picnic.
Yet it watches.

For, surely, you know that the soul
is always counting, weighing,
adding and subtracting even while
we dream or briefly lose our breath;
moving its abacus beads, adjusting
its subtotal toward our final sum.

Each grief leaves a mark, each tear a stain,
so that, in years, the soul shines like
a lacquered box. Works do little to
cleanse it, though a good laugh helps.

Surely, in your Polish soul, you know
these things.

Perhaps you forgot one morning
or evening when the poem came,
in an hour of joy. I too forget;
and in forgetting, release my mind
from shadowing my soul, as it swims
like a golden carp beside me.

It is forever, Wislawa, and already
knows how it will leave the body
when the bones call for earth,
scarcely restrained by muscle and skin;
and journeys beyond foursquare heaven,
to bathe in starlight before returning to Earth.

Is there more? Tell me when you know.
Or I will inform you, dear poet.

By Hudson Owen. All Rights Reserved

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Back in winter, I was riding on the train from Brooklyn into Manhattan, when a large black man about my age sat down next to me. He dropped something on the floor and said to the white woman sitting across from him, “When you get older, you lose things.” And she smiled. I just listened.

He got going on the Vietnam War, how he had been in combat and had been shot three times in his right hand. He had a huge mitt of a hand. He showed me the scars and said one finger had been shot off and reattached. With some bitterness, he said, “It was only the black kids that were doing the dying. The white boys were off protesting the war!” I sat and listened, saying nothing about the protests I had been in, the clubs and rifle butts that had whirled around me, the hospitals I had worked in.

He changed tone and said that after the war he had gone to college on the GI bill and had a pretty good life. He volunteered the incredible piece of information that he hadn’t had sex until he was 20. I sat and listened. I figured it was important for him to say these things and for us to listen. Mostly he had mellowed over the years; there remained only these few drops of sorrow to release.

When my stop came, I shook his hand and wished him luck, and he smiled. As I exited the train, a thought formed in my mind, that his hand had somehow attracted those bullets to it, from other parts of his body, and therefore saved his life. He had survived the war, and the years following, with both hands. I regretted I had been unable to tell him my thought about his big lucky hand. But I was glad he had told his story and I had listened.

Comment posted in response to The Great Trauma Of Your Generation, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, on The Atlantic, June 15, 2011. By Hudson Owen

As everyone knows by now, on May 27, Anthony Weiner, age 46, United States Representative for parts of Brooklyn and Queens, sent a link via Twitter to a photograph on yfrog showing his erect penis concealed by briefs to a 21-year-old woman who was “following” him on Twitter. He initially said he had not posted the image, and that his account had been “hacked.” He lied, but not under oath.

On June 6, 2011, blogger Andrew Breitbart published a cropped shirtless picture Weiner had sent to another woman, and indicated that there were more of these images. That afternoon, Weiner held a press conference at which he apologized, saying “I have not been honest with myself, my family, my constituents, my friends and supporters, and the media” and that, “to be clear, the pictures were of me, and I sent them.” He further said that he had been involved in “six inappropriate relationships over the past three years” using Twitter and other media to send text and photos. He said further that he had his wife’s continuing support, and that he did not intend to resign his congressional seat, despite considerable pressure to do so. As of this writing, Mr. Weiner has requested a leave of absence from the House of Representatives in order to obtain counseling and treatment. He is playing for time.

So what has the man done? It would certainly seem that he has embarrassed himself, his wife, family and friends, constituents and political colleagues. By his actions, he has launched “Weinergate,” an expression of the enduring legacy of Watergate plus the cruel and obvious pun on the man’s name and the chief organ of concern. There is an unavoidable humor to Weinergate, suggesting that the non-judicial nature of the offence is both low and trivial. Perhaps most irksome to the Democratic Party is that his actions have detracted from the President and party initiatives.

Why? I don’t know. One could easily construct a narrative of a nerdy Brooklyn Jew growing into an ambitious, athletic adult (he played hockey in Plattsburgh, where he attended the State University), with too much time on his hands and a favorite of young women online, in the long absences of his wife, traveling in the service of Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Didn’t he know this would happen? Ah yes, the impulsive act, followed by discovery, followed by expressions of remorse, followed by punishment. Don’t they know? When I read stories like this, I think we never learn anything, that the average dog is smarter than most people. And this is depressing. We are forever wiping swamp slime from our bodies, in pursuit of ever loftier goals and abstract accomplishments. We are forever repeating past mistakes.

Down they go, one politician after another, Democrats and Republicans, for graft, perjury, misallocation of funds, adultery. As a society, we have become more tolerant of elected representatives with less than ideal family relations. The current governor and Mayor of New York City live with girl friends post divorce. Not everyone in the body politic is happy with these kinds of politicians “living in sin,” as the Biblical saying goes. Politicians with especially messy marital lives, like Newt Gingrich, pay a heavy price for their sins, no matter if God forgives them or not.

But while we–I say “we” loosely–tolerate much in the way of deviation from the ideal according to Judeo-Christian values, including sodomy or buggery among homosexuals, we do so mostly in the abstract, that is, in words not images. Athletes and entertainers can sin and sin till the lights grow dim, make endless visits to rehab, and we will pay them to amuse us.

But not our politicians. We still have the idea that their pledges of service are connected with moderate behavior. We do not want to hear low growls and purrs and wicked smiles from our representatives as they entreat us to vote for them to represent us. We cling to the idea that we are a republic not an empire, and therefore our elected officials should comport themselves as decent human beings not as sybarites at the orgy.

Which means, we do not appreciate cockshots sent by our politicians through the social media made public. Good God! What was the man thinking!

With hordes of blowjobs and anal penetrations from the Empire of Porn beating at the gates of our declining civilization, we cannot afford erections running loose inside the gates. Which is why good works and green energy and social consciousness do not allay the fury that fellow Democrats are hurling against errant House member Anthony Weiner. Liberal wink-and-nod tolerance comes to a screeching halt when it confronts the last taboo.

If President Clinton had mailed Monica L. a photo of Mr. Johnson, and that had gone public, or worse, a staffer had taken pics of the president with his boxer shorts down around his ankles in the Oval Office, with Monica L. doing the favors (“What was he thinking!”), and THAT had been made public, well, the president would have been gone in 60 seconds, with no horseplay about his actions “not rising to the level of impeachment.” As people are fond of saying, a picture is worth a thousand words.

A public erection belongs to the ancients, the world of pagans, on chalk figures on mounds in Britain or among intertwined statuary in the land of the Kama Sutra, in Roman art. Not in the Modern or Post Modern world, derived from Judaism and Christianity, with their belief in faith, modesty (surely in public), and the work ethic. Times Square will tolerate the Singing Cowboy as long as he keeps his tight whites tight. Full frontal nudity in softcore cable programs demands a non-erect member. It can flap, but it can’t stand.

A public erection is the last taboo, even one hidden under briefs, as in the initial Weiner photo made public. An erection defines the border between public and private sex. In private sex, we expose our vulnerabilities, as well as our triumphs, to our mate. If there is not much mystery remaining in the arc of arousal-to-climax between consenting adults, there is still a knowledge of limitations and the experience of tenderness and love. The strength men and women gain from their private lives propels and armors them in the rough and tumble of the public sphere.

Our public arcs of triumph are of slaves, soldiers, conquest, war. They are monuments to the strength of Ego. A public erection lasting more than four hours, as we are warned, would be a monument to Priapus and the over effects of Viagara.

Representative Weiner crossed the line from private to public, unwittingly, or stupidly, but cross it he did. He showed us more than we wanted or needed to see of him. He showed us his engorged ego.

by Hudson Owen. All Rights Reserved.