Arik Mendoza

carrots

Had I had an eye on my nostalgic marble, I would have parlayed my objections to the other fellow. But I forgot the shimmering tiger’s eye tucked safely in my left, front pocket. Oh, it had been there a year, eight, decades before. It had watched Juan go tumbling off over the bump on my second-hand bicycle flying with his hands spread out about to crash over the low wall into the garden below. It had cooked his hot spicy, Harlem beans for years without him, it appears. And where had the north star of Tunisia gotten us? The lost Arab Spring. The army of tanks stopped by a single man in Beijing. The stem of a white daisy stuck in the long thin barrel of a gun by a peaceful young woman. The glass marbles of the past, these have all rolled away, been swept away by a blind, invisible hand. The coarse, spent, gritty thing called democracy in America was rooted out of the world the way pigs’ snouts dig through the easy dirt looking for a dead man’s finger, a dead man’s hand, and the lost golden ring upon it ingested, too, anything at all there to mounch and mounch and mounch, to eat, to consume, to use up as though the good earth were only their own. Since Bobby died in ’68 it had been gone.

Brushing Teeth With Crest or Colgate

flag-machineIn a similar vein, telling people about your own plans to vote can encourage others to do the same.

There’s a science to getting people to vote

If enough money is put behind an advertising campaign to buy Crest toothpaste, there will be a tendency for people to buy Crest toothpaste over other brands of toothpaste. If enough money is put behind an advertising campaign to buy Colgate toothpaste, there will be a tendency for people to buy Colgate toothpaste over other brands of toothpaste. If there are huge advertising campaigns with spending budgets in the 100’s of millions of dollars to buy either Crest or Colgate toothpaste, it does not mean, in the end, that the slim margin of people who buy one or the other brand are buying a better brand of toothpaste.

What is means is that people who buy toothpaste have bought into the trope of advertising campaigns as being truthful: that such campaigns represent truthful states of reality which are represented by the products they offer.

From some of the well-known advertising classics, that would mean such things as:

—Mountain Dew will make you white river rafting with twenty-something year olds

—Cars will hook you up with long-legged, voiceless and sexy women; or turn you into one

—Norelco electric razors are so fun that shaving will feel as though you are sledding on cartoon snow with Snoopy

—Using drugs to give men erections will make couples feel a) monogamous; b) in love while walking around the pastoral circumference of Lake Geneva; heterosexual

Within the matter of purchasing toothpaste, there is the underlying presumption that “brushing your teeth is good for you.” Within this assumption, there is the counter-implication that “not brushing your teeth is bad for you.” So, one underlying advertising assumption is to advertise products that are to be perceived by people as “self-caring” vs. the bane of “self-neglect.”

Drinking sweet fizzy soda, driving a hot car, having a baby-smooth cheek, and a stiff cock for men—all of these are cast as desirable, human norms. All of these go into the shopping cart of both “having” and “living the good life.”

Imagine buying a product sold to you that did absolutely nothing at all, however. You brush your teeth with a paste that is just a clear gel. This gel, whether it is sold by Crest or Colgate, makes for either manufacturer of toothpaste huge profits, millions upon millions of dollars. In fact, all the millions of dollars in advertising put into steering the public that “brushing their teeth is good for them,” is easily and only worth it because this plowback returns to the manufacturers, the stakeholders in the corporation, and that corporation’s shareholders, as a steady if not predictable path of increasing margins of profit over time. So, a public concern, i.e., to have healthy teeth and gums, which is valid, is exploited in this scenario of bogus toothpaste sales solely for the good of private, corporate gain.

If the American Republic actually worked as a democracy, if there actually were anything approximating a democracy, many candidates for president would be available for the voting public, not just Crest and Colgate on the shelf. The other candidates that are? Knock off generic, or small market niche, or cave-dwellers brands, scarcely important.

In the upcoming election, one brand of gel might well be made up of confetti, minced cassette tapes, and arsenic. The other brand might well be made up of pulverized iron, minced brassieres, and gunpowder. Neither is good for you. Should either win, that person representing that party, the stakeholders in that party, and the sycophantic shareholders in that party’s system will all win. They will all profit big time. One, or the other.

While the belief that “brushing you teeth” is one that rings of truth, “voting is a civic duty” is a misleading falsehood. It is, like brushing your teeth drummed into people since early childhood, hard to get over, hard to get past, hard to overcome, hard to disbelieve.

Don’t vote. Don’t vote anymore than you would buy a tube of toothpaste whose use was not just pointless, but bad for you, and bad for everyone you know, and everyone you don’t know. Don’t buy Crest or Colgate, especially this time you think about shopping for toothpaste.

Americans, just say, “No.”

Isiah Smith

blue-wall

Nobody had asked me what my opinion had been. Nobody had been around to. Though I had snuggled up beside the nearest sandpile, and was reading a note left there by another stranger, before last summer it seemed, I couldn’t imagine ever talking. My boots had become unlaced, too, and filled with several tiny stones apiece, bits of blue I had stumbled upon four miles or so north of the Mexican border, ninety miles south of Tucson. Even there, when I had dined with people, I had been put to their side, served alone outside the purview of ties, dresses, and light but good morning laughter over sausages, eggs, and steaming muffins. Any words, like table crumbs, had been smoothed away and I was forgotten. Now that my heart had been emptied of blood, and my mind had become a near vacuum of human desire, I was as ready as the Rose of Sharon to bloom in Jehovah’s own desert somewhere in a land I had never seen, beside a boulder near the foot of mountain where nothing before had taken root.

Samuel Whitethorne Block

red-fall-leaf

The house flies I had killed I felt worse over than the people I had hated. The sea urchins whose spines had stabbed my feet, I felt less anger towards than those who’d done me wrong. The zoo camel that spat its disgusting tasting spray into my face once in Central Park, I had forgiven more easily long ago than those who had in their own ignorance hurt me. I think the universe had itself exploded, and I was still playing with a loose sack of glass marbles spilling out somewhere I hadn’t seen, hadn’t imagined, could not believe. The smallness of it all, the dwarfed pettiness of human emotions and human motives—the misdirection, the misguidance, the maledictions that poured forth were, they all were in the end, no less amazing than anybody’s once believing in Peter Pan’s Neverland.

Come As You Are..

Whatever friends I had had, they are useless. And whatever lovers I had had, they are useless. Whatever children, useless, too. I am an old leather boot: supple, creased, well-worn, well-traveled. The rest of time is to take the steps taken, the places been, momentous arcs that will have had no span. To guide a yellow or a purple thread through the eye of a thin enough needle, and do a little sewing then. It requires what most people don’t: sadness, and solitude, and a sort of lonely patience for the moon. Not in a mythic sense nor in a romantic one. The sort that sees even shadows on the face of the earth as borrowed from somewhere. The sort that has heard the thrush in the woods, that has watched its faded still eye sitting on a low tree branch.

Staked Green Tomato

staked green tomato

All he did one day is putter around the place. He cleaned out the stovepipe by unscrewing its pieces and shoving down a stiff wire brush. He tied up the tomatoes against the wooden stakes with torn up bedsheets. He swept the kitchen floor, and was surprised at how much dirt and hair there were. He folded the music on the piano. He thumbed the wet bristles of his toothbrush. He sat on the back step and heard the crickets and katydids. He sat on the front slab of stone and cursed the cars speeding by in his heart. He thought of rust. And he thought of the density of hematite, how heavy it was in the palm of his hand. And the smell of the cow’s wet hay at the end of road where he ran just after dawn when it was first light enough to see everywhere.

Jump Here!

cracked wallNow this old piece of lie, so the story goes, so the story went, it went something like this. She’d walk there and he’d walk there and then they’d get to this point on the concourse or the causeway or what have you, and as they were approaching, and this was years back, mind you, he’d go to her: “How many days would you remember me if I jumped off right here?” And she’d go something like 58 days, or a week, or 29 hours, or some such reply. And it was all in good, suicidal fun, you see. It wasn’t expected of him to jump for anything. After all, the one that had been on the brinks, the one that had been in the bin, wasn’t him. The one that loved life, why, everybody you had talked to always knew it was him. Her? Well, enough said there. There was enough medical documentation in the files to keep the Easter Bunny happy till Christmas. Of course nobody’d suspected that he’d had such a deep down mordant sense of humor that went quite that deep. But when you look at the crack in the cement, and you come to realize that through freezing and thawing, through freezing and thawing, expanding and contracting the way water does year after year, season after season, it does things to a story-teller’s own mind. See, they’ve got a mind like no other. What they think is funny, like D. B. Cooper with the made-up middle initial like that, is not as funny as it is to other people to whom story-telling is not an art but just a thing to pass the time with, you know, make a marriage go on with destroying each other in a few years. For most people, stories are just like going to the movies. They’re just entertainment. But to other people, why, they are as earnest as coyote’s eyes glowing in the dark. They’ve got a special kind of intelligence, not like IQ-wise, but another kind a lot more seeing and a lot more important than that. They can see themselves in the hunt of things, just way the coyote slipping past the last cool air of dawn most certainly smells if it cannot exactly see its own natural destiny whilst in the midst of being that very destiny. So, too, is the earnestness of the story-teller. And the way it goes, she had said forty-four days. “I will remember you,” she had said, “forty-four days after you jump.” So it got to thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine, and when it was forty-four, that was pretty much the end of it.

Four-way Looking Glass

forest mist slice

To us there is a difference between the fallen and the brave. We may sort out the backs of the dead. We may separate the coats, gray from blue. Time and borders and affiliations sift about and spill over as they do and must. This is all seen in red and white, too. I had, picking strawberries, hunted about the overgrowing vetch which had blown over from afar, from another farmer’s field last season, for something succulent and sweet to eat. So it seems. So it was. So it had been. And even down the low narrow line in the forest, I had witnessed the doe in the mist, her head lowered while the world itself was framed by constant death. The butternut tree had fallen, and the beetles had undone to rough yellow the bark of the standing ash. While for some, all human records of these are deemed memento mori, I had not been able to agree. Not from my standpoint, not from the toss of space where I had landed. For me, all had been some visions of life. Chaff and wheat. Fool and sage. Villain and hero. And so on. The usual dualities never applied. Never were. Never had been. There were just gradual mixtures of dusts in the heavens, in earth, and somewhere in the seas, too.

Homeward Bound Forever

stone cut stepsI can’t have said who the people were, who they had been. They had separated themselves, distinguished themselves, naming themselves that before all others and all other things. There had been traces, remnants or remains—it can be hard, difficult, sorting out broken pieces of stones, shards, the rubble of earthenware—just as sometimes war and nature precede the overlapping moments when the future’s eye turns backwards upon the sands of Egypt, and so on. Walls that seemed to have been forever were in fact only erected a short time ago, not even two hundred years. A hundred fifty, perhaps. And before that, who knows! Who knows what plains, and deserts, and oceans had been before all this.

There had been some world, long before language. Twelve thousand years. Sixty-eight thousand years. 2.5 million years. All these funny numbers! As if mapping out all human history (and all human pre-history) would make some difference. Instead: when the driving rains come, the black carpenter ants will seek high ground, scurrying and hunting for refuge anywhere they can perhaps find it in your house. And when the driving rains have stopped, the same ants will, too, recede as though they had never been, and find the low ground again somewhere outdoors. All this, like child’s play upon the shoreline of a beach, the wet holes dug in sandbars, cities on the lower cusp of Africa, as well as the tiny village of Kirkenes at the tip of the upmost world, will be washed away and filled in. What the people had known was this, and all their days was a sort of profound and elemental mourning, in full scope, in full knowledge of what had been, who had borne their own witness of it all like eyes within the bubble of a growing but rather thin-skinned universe.

Hugh Salzmann

picnic in field grainy

Few things had given me pleasure more pleasurable than to watch all my mercies and all my crimes be in passing or be plowed away. The singularity of my pettiness, the careful slip-off tools of my trade, amused me as much as were I had been both Sultan and Scheherazade. I had been pleased with myself to no end, stashing my gear in a hole so deep and so forlorn I might myself someday be loath to pull it out into our diurnal world ever again. And between the careful stirring of pure black oil sunflower seeds with another mixed sack of wild feed by hand, blending them together in a five gallon bucket for the hungering winter birds, in addition to my woolen apparel befitting the country habits of a simple but comfortable squire, I was as inculpable to all eyes as the blighted Mexican nobleman Archibaldo de la Cruz. Even the thought of sirens at my drive had not increased my resting pulse more than one or at most two beats. No, it had been a great beauty born to watch my footprints become erased by both nature and machine which had otherwise provided the absolute clues to my perfidy, chronic and perennial, those now forever vanished snowy boot marks leading thither and back. The kind hammer’s tapping in of an elderly lady’s postal number having fallen off its little roadside plaque across the way from my home during the past springtime, with a hardware purchase from a package of shining brass escutcheon pins, needing only three, not counting the one I had dropped and lost on the ground, it was the perfect cover, and an exercise in patience, a plotting of neighborly character that had already gone back three years’ time. And galloping lunatic downhill through the white soft woodland powder, I imagined all sorts of terrible things that were to have become my life had the faraway sirens I had overheard in the village’s distance become nearer and nearer. Most anarchists worth their salt are the true aristocrats of the great Earth; I am no exception to this rule. We love to create inexplicable chaos against authorities that would, like a pack of well-trained dogs, hem us in, if caught; and truly love the untouched bounty of the land which nature freely bestows upon us all—all women & men, all lovers & ex-lovers, and all erring children who wander on their own, as is their birthright. At length, my own true protection, my own safeguard against eventual capture, more than my vast caution, had been my steady recollection that beneath my own well-kept fingernails was just ordinary dirt.