two olde farts & a young chick

foto by smith

we read with Beat-inspired London poet Jazzman John Clarke under the banner Two Olde Farts & A Chick. John is 59, Lady 34, me 61, so I thought that a fair title.

it was a marvelous evening of 9 acts interweaving music, song, spoken word, comedy and magic card tricks. so now we’ve heard and seen more creative good than bad this london loop.

here’s what lady and i recited last night:

Lady & Smith – 7 poems recited at London’s Railway Pub
Bye Buy by Smith
Alone This Train by Smith
Marriage Proposal by Smith

foto by smith



To see, I disregard
the ever present bridge
of my nose, or it drives me
to mental vertigo and
permanent cross-eyedness

If I unfocus, let still, hairs,
or maybe creatures, float into view
jelly monsters in a fuzzy picture

Vision’s a recurring thought,
a whim of ticklish accounting in
my slippery mental mudslide

Were I to amputate and dissect my eye,
would it be some onion yellow
roughage layer rubber ribbage,
isolate pages from the knife?

My horror is gone
with the daily application
of drops and lenses

But I remember when


were terrifying.

Lady K

homeless bound

foto by smith

lady and i each have 5 minutes to recite tonight alongside beat-inspired poet jazzman john clarke – we’re performing as Two Olde Farts & A Chick (john’s 59, i’m 61, and lady’s 34, so i thought the title apropos). this gives lady 4 reads and me 3, so london has been more than kind to us.

however, we are tiring of this grey chilled damp english weather. we’ve had 2 weeks of sun in the past 8 – which is a shock to my system because the 3 months previous were spent under moroccan sun. we left 100+ degree daze to come to 60 degree haze. of course the hot heat there had no cool poetry readings, while the cool readings here do have heat.

been in london 5 weeks. leave for france in 8 days. it took me 3 weeks this time to bounce back from our 6 residence changes in 4 cities on 2 continents the previous 4 weeks. the more months we’re on the road and the more moves we make, the longer it takes me to bounce back after each. i began tiring of our journey last april in spain enroute from france to marrakech. of course the painful spanish trainful to barcelona, the madrid airport food poisoning, and the multiple diarrhea attacks in morocco didn’t help me body or soul.

humans take comfort from familiar surroundings, from having a home base, a circle of known aquaintances, knowing where to buy what they need, how to get around, where what is. lady and my not having a link to the familiar has cost us enormously emotionally and mentally – even physically.

we started a ‘process’ when we sold our place, gave away our possessions, and began open-ended world travel. we more or less choose where we’re going next, and for how long, but beyond that, it’s been out of our hands because it’s always in a new place with unknown people unknown problems unknown rules. we’re in never-ending turbulant waters trying constantly to stay upright. we have little control, even less focus. we’re process, not procedure.

we began this journey knowing it would change us, refine us, strengthen us, fulfill us, charge up our creative databases. and it has – we’re just not sure yet how because we’ve not stopped in familiar grounds to evaluate where and what we are.

i’ll be good to stop our wandering after 16 months and settle down in chicago for a year or two in december (before we hopefully begin wandering all over again). i’m tired of being homeless bound.

foto by smith

the writing process, ronnie mcgrath, geoffrey landis

London boutique, photo by Lady K

I’m trying, trying trying to commit to one writing project. I jump back and forth in haphazard fashion, trying one thing after another. We have all Smith’s stories written down for his memoir, and that’s going well but now it’s his turn to work on it. (I’m also editing it.)

My various writing projects are my weight loss journey, a memoir about American childhood in the 70s and young adult love-angst. And I’ve tried some future-fi stuff but also can’t commit to anything. Everything’s in pieces and I can’t focus.

I’m in awe of people who write fiction. I think most fiction must come out of peoples’ particular expertise in an area. I just finished “Mars Crossing” by Cleveland sci-fi author Geoffrey Landis. He works for NASA, and his novel is “hard” sci-fi, which I guess means that it is rooted in reality.

I emailed him to try to get some insight on the writing process. In particular, conception versus process. Landis does write with destination in mind.

We just met this awesome poet here, Ronnie McGrath. He’s also written a book — On The Verge Of Losing It — and I’m dying to ask him questions after I read it. McGrath seems to come from the other end of the creative spectrum from Landis. He said that for OTVOLI he invented his characters and let them lead him through the story.

Here is a sample of McGrath’s poetry:


We float like atoms
in the selfishness of fine rain
each to their own pair of shoes
jumping in and out of clothes
where the body is more obscene
than the slithering tongues of ice-lolly sticks.

We occupy the shells of all things mainstream
locked into the handcuffs of a virtual reality
where tradition more rigid than
the constructed robes of hymn-sheet books
throws their ancient songs at the contemporary
world of old-folks.

We swim like fish in a culture of space and time
where the surface of things
more threatening than the patient gaze of egg timers
bore holes into the unguarded pens of fiction writers.

But in the portraits of their over-development
Mona Lisa smiles
as the needle-marks derail violently
as teeth are buried
as the black-eyed peas of fisticuffs knock-down houses
as the sugar-cubes of horses kick in doorways
as the record-decks of a bass-generation

hang brothers loosely
strange fruits
and falling
in the struggle to rise
from the chains of themselves.

bohemian rapsoday

foto by smith

found these lady words on the floor –

I get my bedtime stories
from an old convict. We smoke
curly-Qs from his stone pipe.
I’m a tart, y’old fart.

lady ripped them out of one of her new poems and tossed them aside, so i scavenged them. she’s constantly tearing things out of her new assemblages as well. lady’s a hard woman when it comes to her art and poems – she sneaks up on them when they’re not looking and starts removing bits and pieces without warning. thank goddess she doesn’t have kids – they’d likely be missing arm, eye, tooths, assorted fingers, ear.

there weren’t enough open mic slots at last night’s poetry reading (they call them ‘floor spots’ here), so i crossed my name off the list to let another read. my ego’s already big enough, plus we read tomorrow. let someone else play. lady read. unfortunately those i stood aside for weren’t worth hearing. we’ve heard a lot of so-so poetry here in london – lady wonders if it’s due to a language/culture gap. we have heard some good poetry though – the featured readers lady had at her City Poetry reading last week were delightful… they put a grin on my face.

especially ronnie mcgrath. the worm lady was out of town, and he took her place. good words, good read. good human. we spent this afternoon at his place sharing his art, his 2 daughters’ art, rai music, video of his defunct group, and ani difranco. he gave us a copy of his first novel – On The Verge Of Losing It – as we left. i copied this from the jacket blurb:

Ronnie McGrath is a founder member of the now defunct musical group The London Afro-Blok, who performed for the Queen and opened the 1994 Commonwealth Games in British Columbia, Canada. he is a poet, artist, researcher and lecturer, with a string of achievements to his bow. In 1993 he was commended for his writing by ACER (Afro Caribbean Education and Resource), who also published and rewarded his writing first place in 1994. A graduate of Manchester University’s MA in novel writing, Ronnie’s formidable short story The Day Before That One is published in the very successful IC3, The Penguin Book Of New Black Writing In Britain. His other published work is a book of poems entitled Poems From The Tired Lips Of Newspapers.

can’t imagine my own blurb if i ever get a book – perhaps: “he’s run from the cops 10 times, got away 9.” anyway, now we can say we know somebody who’s been in the same room as the queen – altho when he first told us, i thought he was referring to the rock group queen (we will rock you / bohemian rhapsody / under pressure), so instead of an old wrinkled woman wearing too much jewelry, i flashed on a dead gay singer.

foto by smith



Before Day Zero, my Mother, a plucky citizen,
bought Miracle Growth at the local Home Depot.
Normally the juice is administered by the best
nursery beds in the Asterisk, but Mom had
no garden insurance. So she gave it a try
at the DIY.

She bore me on a trellis watching Martha
on TV. She wound umbilical ribbons and trimmed me
to the standards of upscale topiary.

My wood pushes through chain. Ingrown braids
barbecue mark my grain. I hang tongue for manna,
hope for rain.

Lady K

Note: This is not actually about my mother!

bring out your dead

foto by smith

one of my favorite monty python scenes is where they call out “bring out your dead.” we’ve got a bit of bringing out to do.

159,000 people die each day world wide. that’s 1 million deaths weekly, 4.8 million dead a month, 58 million dead each year. that’s a lot of bodies to burn & bury. disposal of the dead is very much alive.

in the u.s. alone, each month 3,500 die in automobile accidents, 42,000 from cancer, and 73,000 from heart disease. during my throat cancer radiation, the doctor told me 85% of americans die from 3 Cs – cancer, car, cardiac.

but, 133 million are born each year. since there are 6.6 billion people alive right now, we grow by 2%, while we die at 1% – that leaves 100% growth in 100 years. hmmmm, we gotta start killing off more folk. or maybe we should just start eating the dead – that way we could turn all those graveyards into something useful, like more golf courses for the uneaten rich.

meanwhile among the living here on the sidewalks of london, we frequently smell cannabis as we walk along. we smell more public grass here than anywhere in the 9 countries and 3 continents we’ve seen so far – including amsterdam where it’s legal. while talking to a guy on the sidewalk, i saw he had a hand rolled cigarette and said “excuse me for being brazen, but is that grass?” he said no, ask that musician over there. in poland, it was a musician also… france a group of x-gens in the park… marrakech a guide… essaouira a store merchant… the u.s. another musician. ahhh, the music of the spheres.

in england, possession of cannabis is a class c offense… police are instructed to confiscate, but not to arrest. stuff’s been around a long time… according to wikipedia, “evidence of the inhalation of cannabis smoke can be found as far back as the Neolithic age” – 6,000 bc – which makes 8,000 years of use. beer has been around 12,000 years. humans been getting down, decadent & dirty for 1,200 decades now. you’d think with that much practice we’d start getting it right.

foto by smith

the tower of gender in poland parlance

foto by smith

now that we’re in the last 6 weeks of our 14 month world wandering, i must be summing up because i find scenes from all the different countries suddenly flashing in my brain.

poland was the first totally non-understandable foreign language place we stayed, and it fascinated me because each of their words have feminine, masculine, or neuter endings… and they often don’t make sense. i rewrote this from last september.

the tower of gender in poland parlance
chicken pheasant and turkey are masculine
duck goose feminine
beef ham veal sausage feminine
rabbit tongue masculine
minced meat thankfully neuter
(so it can’t reproduce)
mussels oysters shrimp feminine
lobster masculine
asparagus masculine
carrot feminine
raisin feminine
while the grape it comes from is neuter
(go figure)
nuts masculine
so’s spice and sugar
(so so much for gals being sugar & spice
with the naughty bits nice)
brassiers masculine
(i’ve taken enough off over the years
so this could be)
kiss masculine
love feminine
pain masculine
pleasure feminine
land masculine
earth feminine
air neuter
fire masculine
fire-extinguisher feminine
(two sexes have i
one to laugh and one to cry)
money masculine
payment feminine

foto by smith

“The War on Democracy”

“The War on Democracy”

John Pilger’s documentary film not only focuses on the recent awful imperialist activities of the US in Central and South America, but on new encouraging developments in Venezuela and Bolivia. Venezuela has improved the standard of living of its people. There are still problems, but under Chavez there is now universal health care and free primary education. The film also covered the coup against Chavez, to which the US elites were sympathetic and offered support.

In La Paz, Bolivia, indigenous people were successful in re-nationalizing their water, which had been privatized to Bechtel.

We watched a special showing of the film in London yesterday, after which Pilger made an appearance, answering questions from the audience.

During the viewing, the audience murmured in disgust in response to the US officials who were interviewed. When the film stopped, many in the audience wondered what they could do. The words “boycott” and “Americans” hovered in the buzz.

One audience member asked Pilger, “Is your documentary going to be released in the US?” Currently, the answer is no.

As a US citizen, I wanted to apologize to the audience for the behavior of our government, and I had this feeling like I wanted to appeal for help, because I feel helpless right now. Yes, many progressives sighed a premature breath of relief when them Dems won Congress. It must have been by overwhelmingly massive numbers because the Republican Party is certainly prone to perform massive vote fraud. But once the Democrats got in, they turned out to be totally unresponsive to the mandates by which they were elected, which were to end the Iraq War and impeach the criminal President and Vice President. I think those citizens of Bolivia and Venezuela feel much more empowered than we do here, now, in the US.

I wondered if many in the audience were sympathetic to Democrats. Pilger’s film only mentioned the misdeeds of Republicans, but the School of the Americas (which taught torture to Central and South American death squads) was also active during Clinton’s administration. And Clinton committed de facto genocide in the ’90s. His bombing of power plants to purposefully disable water treatment facilities and severe sanctions lead to the deaths of a million Iraqis, half of whom were children.

I feel helpless, and I want this to change, and I want to do something about it. How to vote in the next presidential election is a big problem for me. I don’t see how in our system of “winner takes all” democracy, third parties can win. As for the Democratic Party, it’s apparent that it’s now become a shill for corporate interests.

In Europe, many countries have proportional representation. According to Wikipedia, proportional representation (sometimes referred to as full representation, or PR), is a category of electoral formula aiming at a close match between the percentage of votes that groups of candidates (grouped by a certain measure) obtain in elections and the percentage of seats they receive (usually in legislative assemblies). It is often contrasted to plurality voting systems, where disproportional seat distribution results from the division of voters into multiple electoral districts, especially “winner takes all” plurality (FPTP) districts.

Proportional democracy means that if 15% of voters are socialist, 15% of the representatives elected to parliament are socialist. The makeup of parliament represents the makeup of its constituents. In addition, different parties can form coalitions with one designated leader.

But we do not have proportional representation in the US. Third party votes are likely to be dissipated unless they can form some coalition to have one designated candidate on the ballot to represent common interests, and I haven’t heard any talk of this happening.

Lately my thoughts lean towards reforming the Democratic Party, infiltrating it from the inside.


Killing Fields: Genocide in Iraq

School of the Americas

The Threat of US Fascism: An Historical Perspective

gender bender blues

foto by smith

my friend r.a. washington blogged about a site that analyzes your writing and decides whether you are female or male – gender genie.

i tried my non-fiction story of mom dying as i held her hand – the gender genie says:
Female Score 2091 words, Male Score 1402 words
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: female!

i looked down at my testicles in dismay and tried again with my self portrait bio:
Female Score 778 words, Male Score 715 words
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: female!

finally i tried my resume:
Female Score: 0 words, Male Score: 0 words
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: unknown!

took a tv test given by barbara walters and tom snyder back in the mid-1970s which measured your male/female personality ratio. walters and my lady friend came up highly masculine, i came up feminine, and snyder wussied out and refused to divulge his score… sounds like a mama’s boy to me.

so i guess you all best start calling me mz smith.

got to see (but not meet) one of our heroes – John Pilger. went to his movie documentary The War On Democracy, and he answered questions afterwards. too many audience questions for us to get one in, and too many fans crowding around after for us to shake his hand and say thanks for exposing the mass murderers also known as the last 11 american presidents. the united states of america has murdered more people in the past 70 years than any other nation on earth – maybe more than the rest of the world combined. we’ve tried to overthrow 50 governments since world war 2, and have actually bombed 30 countries since then – many repeatedly. the u.s. is the major terrorist on earth – also the major arms supplier. if you want an eye-opening book, pick up pilger’s Tell Me No Lies, a selection of world wide government exposes by a variety of journalists since ww2.

saw links to these expensive items on yahoo: $100,000 watch… $7,000 flashlight… $3,000 perfume… $400 jeans … so much money in the hands of the so few. and of course the worst number right now is $9,000,000,000 a month for the iraq war – a sum that could feed and give health care to the entire world’s wretched.

welcome to the dark side, with absolutely no moral light at the end of the tunnel. mankind be bad and getting worse.

foto by smith