Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Friends Moving. :(

I loved my friend.
He went away from me.
There's nothing more to say.
The poem ends,
Soft as it began-
I loved my friend.
— Langston Hughes

Just one edit, Langston: I love my friends, even when they've gone away.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Timebomb on a Bustier

Thanks, @SheenaSays!

Money Mistakes of Newlyweds

Conventional wisdom says that financial troubles are the cause of most marital strife. Research is thin on the correlation, but this Kiplinger article "Six Money Mistakes of Newlyweds" gives advice that applies to any realm of a life-long union: don't keep secrets, communicate, work as a team, and don't sweat the small stuff.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Countrymen

Usually, my poetry performances are debaucherous affairs, but I took a more serious tack this last reading at Java Monkey. These poems are from my recent feature, and together, they describe how I have experienced this country: the beauty and energy as well as the violence and xenophobia. To truly love a place, like America, I think one needs to see clearly its virtues as well as its faults.

This one's about the beauty:

This one's about some violence:

This is about my grandmother, and by extension, me:

This is a crowd favorite, but it's angry, or at least loudly disappointed:

This is about hip hop. What is more American than hip hop?

Thanks to everyone who came out! Sorry it took so long for me to post the vids! All the books I cited during the reading are in the Amazon box in the sidebar
Peace and poetry,

Monday, May 11, 2009

Why Zinkhan Doesn't Matter

A couple weeks ago, I went to a funeral on Friday and cooked for a friend's wedding on Saturday. If I were a better blogger, I would have live-blogged the emotional derecho from my phone. But I had no updates, only choking silence.

On April 25, a UGA marketing professor, father, and husband gunned down his wife and two friends at point blank range at a reunion picnic outside the Town & Gown community theater in Athens, Georgia, a couple blocks from my office. One of the dead is Ben Teague, beloved of Dr. Fran Teague, perhaps the greatest English teacher I've ever had. After 40 years together, they were still madly in love, as anyone could see when they were together at the Globe, where I would run into them every so often. I wished with every black part of my heart that the murderer would be found alive, resist arrest, and be gunned down himself.

This weekend, the shooter's body was found, an apparent suicide, and I know now that it really never mattered whether he would be found dead or alive, wounded by himself or law enforcement. The dead are still dead, and neither anger nor "answers" would change that. Life is never as long as we think it will be, and death itself "be not proud"(John Donne). Ben's memorial, Call to Celebration of Ben Teague's Life, was modeled like a variety show he might have directed, complete with a Master of Ceremonies requesting that cell phones be turned off and even a program:

Ben Teague's life, rather, his loves - poetry, plays, composers, and friends - put the fun in funeral. (Thanks for that pun, @kentscheroo.) If Ben's life were not so full of love, there would have been little need for a memorial service -a ritual to comfort the living- much less a hilarious and wildly entertaining one. It matters not that we live or how we die (though I admit, violence adds another aspect I could neither anticipate nor pretend to understand just yet). It mostly just matters that we love. Love is what his funeral had in common with the wedding. Without love, the wedding would have been merely a place to see and be seen. Really, what is anything, if not an occasion for love?

Ben played "Here Comes the Sun" every time his college radio station came back on the air after some KKK folks would set the building on fire. (Guess that's what people did back then. KKK kids would set buildings on fire, and college radio kids would play the Beatles.) Turns out, this song is actually quite famous, but I heard it for the first time when I sang it in the grand finale, when every guest stood up to sing in unison (lyrics in the program), remarkably on key through tears and laughter. At a moment when I had no words of my own, it gave me great comfort, so I'll share it with you here in case you've never heard it either:

P.S. The Teague's ask that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Town & Gown Players, 115 Grady Avenue, Athens GA 30601 or to Care International, 151 Ellis Ave NE, Atlanta, GA.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Grown Women Crying

Have you noticed that most women cry when angry, particularly if she's fighting with someone she loves? I thought it was just me, but it turns out, this is universal. To set the record straight for non-women, women are not crying to make the other party feel pity and relent. We're crying because we're angry that we have to be angry, and the torrent of emotion upon emotion releases a crying reflex. When we're that angry, we can't stop ourselves from crying any more than you can stop yourself from blinking. Hope that's helpful!

P.S. Dear readers, I'm giving Google ads a try. If you see a totally inappropriate ad on the page, please let me know, because I don't know ahead of time what ads will run. I really appreciate the help!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mental Illness: Part I

When your friend gets a cold, you make her tea and bring her soup. When your father drops a chainsaw on his foot, you call 911 and put the severed toe in a plastic bag in a bowl of ice (never the digit directly on the ice). What do you do when someone hurts in their soul from mental illness? I’ve interviewed nearly a dozen friends dealing with mental illness in themselves and loved ones to find out how best to support your loved ones when the ish hits the mental fan. Here's the first in the series of posts.

Don't try to "fix" the problem, because you can't.
While everyone else is saying, "Things'll get better!" because they're supposed to say things like that, the friend that acknowledges, "Dude, that fucking sucks" is a friend indeed. Imagine, you feel the Feds are out to get you, but since you’ve been diagnosed schizophrenic, you tell yourself they probably aren't. You see cars coming at you even though you're outside your apartment and nowhere near the freeway, so you will yourself to keep walking. But you know with certainty that this situation sucks, and there is no cure - but then everyone around you tells you that everything's actually going to be ok! Wouldn't that just make you crazy?

It's painful to see someone you love suffering, and you feel compelled to do something, but this is not the time for platitudes and cheery kitten cards. Things that cheer up most people don’t work for someone in the valley of clinical depression. Remember that mental illness is an issue of the brain muscle, not willpower. Resist the urge to barrage your loved one with suggestions to solve the problem. Chances are, he or she has already thought through many of your suggestions, as they're merely sick, not stupid, so let the doctors do their job.

Do educate yourself
People who are fortunate enough to get their mental illnesses diagnosed have one of two stories to tell about their loved ones’ reactions: either they felt abandoned (by a parent, for example) who refused to acknowledge or learn about the illness, OR they felt loved when a beloved went out and read every book on their diagnosis. The most genuine gesture of support you can give is to educate yourself about your love's diagnosis.
More do's and don'ts of supporting your loves with mental illnesses to come. Meanwhile, I'm still taking stories and ideas. Peace!


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