The Events of Election '08

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The Events of Election '08 is a series of orations drafted from January '08 to '09. Thirty-four were written in all, pared down to fifteen for this collection. They cover issues of the time, stories election specific and struggles universal.

The Events of Election '08 was recorded in a basement with patience. One track is about a man whose home has been foreclosed. Another's about his brother the broker. One is a baking recipe for John McCain. Another seeks to comfort Mrs. Clinton. One is a fake story about the true practice of "Sympathy Pay." Another shows how nursing homes work voting. Most are about a man trying to project his dream of things. Others in the set discuss Obama.

The finer points of Election '08 make most sense while falling off a ladder. The broader strokes net fishes by the thousands. In a world of smothering media and jar-preserved opinions, Election mimes a cardinal in a birdbath. Beads of water spray past the rim, catching sunlight in rainbow progressions. It seems the only way to capture a year like we had.

1. To the New Electorate
2. On the Economy
3. On Obama's Philadelphia Speech (On Compass Points)
4. On Health Care
5. On Consollation
6. On Feeding Your Family the American Way
7. On Sympathy Pay
8. On Ich Bin ein Obama (On Obama's Berliner)
9. On the Economy Pt. II
10. On the GOP Convention
11. On Joe the Plumber
12. On Sarah Palin's Wild Ride
13. On Absentee Elders
14. On Election Night and Day
15. On Inauguration Collaboration


“To The New Electorate”

He rose to his stage on the dead fountain's ledge, flush with mendicant wisdom.  His ear flaps kept all of this thoughts in his head, and the hat's pom-pom top gave him power.  “For your consideration,” he said in prophetic tones, “I would like to submit an anthem of understanding stirred by the memory of Carlo Marx, the undeniable mother lover in whose line art aspires.  His artifacts of romance are revered in a world where philosophers test aesthetics in second-hand dress, where DIY is darling indy yearning, where budding hearing loss is a way of life, where the Internet is a junkie's throat itch, where we work knowing it's not forever, hoping it's not forever, saying it's not forever in a world short of supporters, where the consciousness needs a leader who stands tall to the thresher, where 75,000 is Portland's pledge, where 75,000 is nothing.”

“Where the Earth moans and people perspire, where hired armies salute the flag in accordance with their contract, where faith based movements are making a comeback, for all the wrong reasons, in all the wrong places.  Where the greatest heartache remaining is the rift between the simple and the striving – where the lines have been drawn with this purpose in mind.  Where inevitability is met at the drawbridge with pitchforks and books of flaming logic puzzles, where false authority works far too well, where civil rights percolations must boil or spoil, where the wooden Wheel of Destiny is guarded by shadows alone, their darkness the rite of all passages.”

“And say we should decide,” he said from the crowd's center, “that apathy is the blonde alternative?  And what if objectivity is the slow descent to compliance?  What then?  Then the end of peace, one more Middle East notch, then a Korea too and Havana while we're at it and Darfur for the hell of it and Argentina for their ignorance and Brazil for the rain forests and China cause they're different and Switzerland because what sense is it, a neutral location in a star-spangled atlas?  You may think I speak in fables, but they relate through epics, and talking foxes seems more real than gleaming Trojan man-pecs.  Their mandate lies on the table gift wrapped in anonymity, the human face recently judged a sign of appeasement.  It's hardly surprising Bush gave up his golfing when one considers his divots.”

“I had a premonition,” he said as they grabbed his arms, “of a camera trained on a camera trained on a biker's mirrored monocle, reversing its vision and recording a world where Orwell became a mechanic.  I saw ten thousand books on how to make art with nobody laughing or blushing.  I saw farm-caged men with slippers on present for passing strangers.  I saw the end of the world on an old roll of ticker taped in the shape of a Mobius strip.  I saw women robbed of decency, men stripped of courage and children devoid of compassion.” 

“But all this was seen,” he said through the window, “through the fisheye of Diligence Dome.  So to the east I looked and saw...smiling faces, trained in ways to heal a stubborn world.  And you are those faces and I am your framer, 'cause context is all we all need.”

Then the car turned the corner from Washington Square and I couldn't make out anymore.

“On the Economy”

I cracked a little today when we packed up our house.  I took the deep green shutters with the crescent moons off the front windows because they're ours and the bank can't have them.  People tell me lonely footprints means God's carrying you but why he'd take us through this neighborhood I can't understand.

At night, I do inventory in the lumber aisle and count my lives gone by.  When I close my eyes, the smell reminds me of my Grandpa's industry and the porch swing he devised.  These are truly stolen moments, for recently they've taken to calling thoughts “cigarette breaks.”

The best three hours and fifteen minutes of my day end to the sound of fake nature on the radio.  I hold my wife till she's forced not to shower, her skin in large measure her dowry.  Our naked communion speaks sleepy sonatas.  Our naked love-aching must do.

By day, I paint.  I paint white walls whiter, tan walls tanner and gray walls the eyes of my sighs.  Most people think there ain't no trick to what I do.  Most people ain't never watched paint dry with thoughts of an unswept mind.

My brother lives in the deceased recesses of the American motive, trading pints of blood on margin.  The S&P is his horoscope and the FED his baiting dealer.  I'd send him a post card if I thought it'd impress him, but the Dow broke its promise and he's probably dead.

On the bus, I wish dreams from air.  I wish there were a land where everyone would have homes.  The whole world one perfect, uninterrupted neighborhood, every street a lane, every tree old growth and regal, every neighbor your friend and solemn ally.  I wish I could go to banks where I've had a savings account since I was five, where I could open an account for my son, where I could save for his education, where you might catch a gust of reflection at your banker's evening wake.

A bank where I could walk in and pay my mortgage payment every month with pride.  A bank that would understand late payments, make honor shake collaterals and know me by my virtues.  A bank who shows me in their eyes (that) they differentiate between “being delinquent” and a delinquent.  A house-filled universe free of shame and pain.

My family goes to church on Sundays.  My brother turns out alive and tithes with the grace of one upwardly mobile.  My mother sings to a smokers beat and our father looks on from heaven.  My wife's scuffed flats keeps the service somber.

Our beloved shutters lean in our bedroom: defeated, depleted, unspoken.  My wife dreams of little children and I note the bankbook's progress.  I write in its margin the last abstract act of my life:

“Freedom is only truly free when rife with possibility.”

“On Obama's Philadelphia Speech” (on Compass Points)

God damn America
God damn America, the reverend Wright said, fiery and
measured to the workings of the world.
God damn America, his soul snared to a hate-taut tether,
shocking us with the fruits of black reality.

Did you think old men still heal?
Do you depend on reptilian regeneration?

The maimed and heart-sick elude redemption in times as these, dear friend.
Locked in absolutes,
trading soul's ascension for 1's and 0's,
a Red Scare reissued in classic Black and White.

God damn America, what are you afraid of?
I know it can't be hatred, for I've seen your late night hobbies.
It's complexity that frightens –
the ship sailing free of its bottle.

But the world is a complex place, dear friend,
for those that wish to view it.
Some don their hate like wrestlers capes,
while others in lottery drew it.
Some hum along lightly to Hate's handsome tune,
hypnotic in broad thoughtless flow. 
Then retractions precisely as jingles still linger –
to quote Mrs. Clinton, “Not as far as I know.”

Some see hate strange-like, abstract and in hues.
In visions of dominoes lined up in pews.
Of rusty nailed boardwalks and tetanus feared beach bans,
robbing the nation of truths found in sun tans.
The burden of vision falls hard on the freckled.
They preach to land dwellers of sea treasures speckled.

America, the understanding I have is that we're lazy and fat.
We have no grasp of foreign languages
and our knowledge of the tabloids is unhealthy.
I found myself in a debate today
with a woman we'll call light switch.
She told me that if anything,
the blacks were the racist one's in this country,
then she turned to feed her mother pudding.

I can't spot the delta, dear friend,
but I know the river runs far.
Bottles bob forever downstream.
Ships move free with the stars.

“On Health Care”

I arose one morning
to find potential harms
standing 'round my bed in grim expression.

They pointed spears
as I buttered my toast
and chased when I sped my bike faster.

And my duty was plain:
to rid myself from future misfortunes
distasteful to casual ears.
To buy into a system
once run on vocation,
now fueled by insatiable fears.

So I went down to the cinema
where the action movies played,
hopin' to figure their talent
for makin' sick things okay with music.
I asked the teller, a flannel feller, what he
reckoned would be a good score for malaria.

His glaze cried manager
and I complied, buying a billet
in the name of wellness.
I found the boss
stacking wood and pounding flapjacks,
asked him the best montage
for Hepatitis C.

His beard quilled anger
but I stood on regardless,
not wanting to ruin my mother.
I gambled he'd know
what sound effects go
with cancer or terminal others.

“Listen here, son,
these cords don't sort themselves
and I'm powerful tired.
Take this reel to Viewing Room B
and leave us your license
for measure.”

The reel was masterplan dogma
stashed safe in a shortbread tin.
Viewing Room B,
a one seat affair,
Biology class projector.
I slipped the copay into the slot
and watched the grainy underside.

It started red.  Red, clay red,
fallout red, fear for the innocent red,
and the music began: Scott Walker seraphim
flanked by screeching wheels
and cruel percussion; Flashing images;
logic vouching for madness;
children weakened to wilting, laying on tile floors;
automated TouchTone condolences,
star for settlement,
pound for denial,
three to repeat all your options;
Elderly neighbors lost
to the maw of vernacular,
forced purchase on Institution's shores;
Amber prescription world views
halting the march of history; clothing the masses
in company tee shirts;
waiting room magazines stopping the bleeding;
doctors prescriptions incentives for getaways,
a trip to the Caymans,
a Percocet paradise;
A legal fist clenching convictions,
sapping Hippocrates' boast;
a black rotting hand on a slow dying beggar,
wrapped in a world of denial.

And then the dollar, the dollar,
the saving green dollar,
topped with a ten gallon halo,
riding to town on a horse named
Sally, gelded for free
with leftover deductible.
A trick shooter collar with burnt mustard tubing,
offering Pied Piper solutions –
blind insurrections against values
our fathers held dear.

A money transaction
to chase away fears
the ancestors cured with compassion.

When it was over, I signed what they gave me
and tried to forget.

“On Consolation"

Hillary, Hillary
I rival your sadness with empathy,
Well-meaning lost traveler on sympathy's path.
Compromise wasn't easy at first, laying down
Youthful hopes in the face of impossible odds.
Stripped of vigor, a bureaucrat is formed -
Freshly buffed and barcoded.
When aspirations turn to lax inclinations,
Hope's aperture wanes.

Hillary, when he broke the deal, Hillary,
When he broke the seal Hillary and robbed you
Of humor.
When he did this, to press on or back out, Hillary?
To grit teeth or admit defeat?
'To hell' or to home,
Where you lie thin in bed,
Study bloodletting scars with careful fingers,
Waiting for Death's fortunate orders.

No.  To survive,
To persist and prove indomitable.
To strive Hillary, a true champion of bravery, Hillary.
That slick frat bastard, Hillary!
You should have been Clinton I!
You should have risen to rank
Before history's dress mark.

Hillary, to hole up in Harlem with Mr. Repugnant.
To stomach his oily legacy,
A world turn myopic by successors horrific.
Hillary, you were the champion of the establishment, Hillary.
You were the trough of the wave and I'm sorry.
A new generation is freshly educated and ready for practicum,
Galvanized by acts of atrocity passed off as homily.

Hillary, the Buffalo Bills, Hillary.
The Minnesota Purple People Eaters, Hillary.
The Nineties Knicks, Hillary.
The all time also-rans, Hillary,
Striving for sense after failure.
Few people have the chance to grow so much
So late in their lives, Hillary.
The question is simply this:
Does plasticity become you?
Can tabards be hemmed into tunics?
I pray these words for you, Hillary,
To join the olive grove sandaled and free,
Breezy and angelic,
Having won what no contest could purse you.
I will hope for you.

“On Feeding your Family the American Way"

It took up the back of a Betty Crocker Box, its copyright from circa '58:

Here's a seasonal treat the family will clamor for every even autumn.  John McCain will serve 4-6 broiled, 6-10 baked and the huddled masses one town hall at a time. 

Take one God-fearing, honest American, pack in uniform outfit and marinate.  Inter overnight; the McCain will learn precious insight into the human soul and become textured and puffy by morning.  You must then walk your McCain around the neighborhood for friends and family to admire, leaving McCain in the baking tin.  It will gain confidence from their praise and its good judgment will take it far.  Legs should develop in three weeks and then it's just a matter of waiting.  In the meantime, watch old home movies with your family or play a game of Chinese Checkers while you wait.

While you're stroking your husband's leg under the table, watching your children play Othello, McCain will be undergoing a wondrous transformation in the brick oven of Arizona.  He'll take office as a straight talker patriot in a world fed on Eastwood's and Rambo's.  An authentic soldier, minced to a soupy collection of facts processed to easily fit beside daytime talk show gastric bypass miracles.  By this point, all of McCain's intoxicating integrity will have cooked off and you will be rewarded with the pungent, musky aroma of determination wafting in your kitchen.

Open the oven and remove the innards, as you won't be needing them anymore.  Stuff the cavity with cranberry sauce and oyster crackers and then pray Iraq stays silent.  If you hear gunfire, close your eyes and hum a breezy tune.  It will be ready soon now, have the children set the table.

McCain will finally rise in January after America chokes on its own defecations.  He will pop out of his baking tin and thank you for your dedicated service to this country, then construct a missile defense system aimed at all Korea.  Put away Othello and settle down to a meal of government issue war rations, suctioned to tin cans, garnished with flag pins.  The children will think it normal soon.

“On Sympathy Pay”

“There's nothing out there that legally forces us to pay them,” says U.S. Capt. Johnathan Tracy, “It's gratuitous.  The point behind the policy is to build friendly relations.

Order, order....let's begin.

Claim # 33187, civilian male, 34, accidentally shot in head during Baghdad firefight, wife seeks sympathy pay.  Victim was out after posed curfew.  American soldiers are not responsible for the safety of Iraqi civilians in high risk situations claim denied.

Claim # 33188, girl, age 7 loses hand to American negligence, mother seeks sympathy pay.  Soldier responsible confirms story from Psych Ward in Germany, hand is non-dominent.  Court finds in favor of plaintiff, compensation $350.  On behalf of the U.S. Government and the American public, I'd like to extend our deepest regrets and sympathies.

Claim # 33189, three member family, husband aged 28, wife aged 22, son aged 4 killed in American and British marketplace raid.  Father of husband seeks sympathy pay.  Proof that American and not British bullets were responsible for the deaths is at best tacit.  Claim denied.

Claim # 33190, farmer seeking payment for loss of cattle, eight hundred killed in botched bomber run.  Farmer destitute, without livelihood and seeking sympathy pay.  The court sees fit to compensate for half the cattle at $2 dollars a head for a payment totaling $800.  On behalf of the U.S. Government and the American public, I'd like to extend our deepest regrets and sympathies.

Claim # 33191, father 44, son 20, daughter 18, daughter 8 killed at roadside checkpoint by American gun fire.  Son and daughter, 18, killed instantly.  Husband and daughter, 8, pronounced dead in hospital three hours later.  Surviving wife and mother seeks sympathy pay.  Family made civilian status known before shooting.  Soldiers corroborate story.  Court finds in favor of plaintiff in damages totaling $8,800.  $3,500 for husband, $2,800 for son, 20, $2,500 for daughter, 18.  After investigation, military officials concluded that the death of daughter, 8, was preventable and caused by hospital negligence, not American troops.  Compensation is denied.  On behalf of the U.S. Government and the American public, I'd like to extend our deepest regrets and sympathies.

Claim # 33192, woman, age 21, burned by American incendiary device.  Plaintiff suffered second and third degree burns to neck, cheek and scalp after polyester veil melted to her face.  The veil was handsomely embroidered and presented to her by her grandmother on the occasion of her wedding.  The fiancée was unharmed in the accident and has since left the plaintiff.  Plaintiff dreams of unborn children and awakes to fits of sobbing.  Plaintiff seeks sympathy pay.  Plaintiff is niece to Ugla Abid Saqr, the two of clubs on the Iraqi playing card most wanted list.  The United States government refuses to negotiate with terrorists.  Claim denied.

Claim # 33193 female, age 15, sexually molested by American soldier.  Victim led into alleyway with fun-sized Snickers bars, forced up against dumpster and groped underneath shirt.  Once the victim was sufficiently confused emotionally, soldier penetrated victim's vagina with right middle finger, grinding up against victim until ejaculation on victim's shirt and hair.  Soldier vowed violence should victim talk, then gave her the remaining Snickers.  Victim physically unhurt in exchange, father seeks sympathy pay.  Sympathy pay?  For what?  This has nothing to do with the Foreign Claims Act.  There are no injuries here, no fatalities.  No loss of livestock.  Claim denied.

Claim # 33194, the former empire of Assyria, aged to antiquity, has for five years witnessed the slaughter of its bloodlines for purpose undiscovered and vendettas undeserved.  In the sandy dryness, grudges are well-preserved and spit is a resource reserved for exclamation and death pacts.  It suffers under a grief of its own distinction, and will never seek sympathy pay save through the dividends of prideful men One Nation has driven to darkness.

There is no joy in Baghdad while occupiers walk the streets, writing off their accidents for pennies on the dollar.  When money hangs in fetid air like lilac consolation, when armies pay their conscience debt in monthly installations.  There is no joy in Baghdad, only forever out of reach tomorrows.

On behalf of the American public, I'd like to extend my deepest regrets and sympathies.

“On Ich Bin ein Obama” (On Obama's Berliner)

“Hope does not wait for election results,” he said without speaking the words.  “A title like President contains no real relevance when 200,000 are sworn.

“Now I know some years earlier you've felt this before, rallied by acts most horrific.  So you lent us your hearts and in true Yankee style we maxed them out before breakfast.  You'd think with such capital we could have done something like annexed some nations by now.  But we bet all on black – one Iraqian error – so now you both hate us with nothing to sate us.

“Of course, I'm not judging either way.  I'm just a good-looking word man with flexible game plans and hope is the soup of the day.  Had fear proved more able I'd likely be elsewhere, hunting the urgency down.  But these guys are hopeless in more ways than one: hopeless in outlook, hopeless in tact.  The urgency clings like burrs to their back and opportunity like this comes a lifetime or so – I'm a desperate climate farmer, with diction I sow.

“So.  Let me tell you a story of your own family history, in soaring tones they love in the states.  Indulge me the concept of change in your language and embrace the humming that swells in your chest.  They tell me I have no foreign experience, with the straightest of faces they almost seem serious.  But it's easy to be serious when ignorance holds you back.  When the closest you've been to Thailand is the corner noodle shack.  When Africa is nothing more than a landfill for sorrow.  When Muslim's are the Krauts of past, the Chinese of tomorrow.

“Let me turn you on in ways that have nothing to do with sex.  Let's dance like we know what we're doing and see how far it gets us.  I can't claim that the ice caps will suddenly harden, but at least we won't leave this world restless. 

“I suppose some of you find me arrogant to speak like I've already made it.  But see,

Everyone's called to their personal Jesus.  I've just been called to relate it.”

“On the Economy, Part II”

Dow, Dow
I'm watching the Dow
Down, Dow, Down

Down past the fingernails tearing slivers of cuticles off fingers of customers, 401Kers calling at all hours and me uncertain and itchy and scratchy blind to the flowers.'Cause where's the time
for such trivialities in a market such as this in a market such as this in a market where nothing exists but the cut corners of felt tips piled high on the floor and AP photos of traders gone hoarse screaming nothingness to prove confidence to the folks at the base of their respective pyramids.

I drink Red Bulls cause it gets me off on numbers and I got two kids and they both got no father and I got a fuck up brother who sells box store lumber and I'm dumping that stock – he should be sacked within the hour.

I got a big fucking house insured by AIG I got a wife who thinks that sacrifice is cutting grass for free.  My friend at Merrill Lynch called crying, tried to sell his season seats to me.  I'm the only guy left in the whole damn office not getting by on pedigree.

I buy twelve packs of night guards and boil them for the week like my grandpa did on Sunday nights with hard-boiled eggs.  He has a tin-handled lunch box and a Minnesota smile.  When his wife died it took his pathetic mattress savings, he worked until the day he turned into a child.

I read the New York Post because it makes me laugh and validates my assertion that appearance is everything.  This is not narcissism but self-actualization, and a job helping others might as well be a goiter.

You need me as much as any soldier fighting for commodities.  Part Houdini, part P.T. Barnum, I'm the one that keeps us from the economic slave chains.  I'm that strange, back-tracking digit on the Union Square debt exhibit.  I'm the rounded off dollar in your $999 sofa.  I'm Simony's successor and Usury's underwriter, and the only way you'll see me pay is massive hydrogen reset.

Some nutjob was walking Wall Street yesterday, strange look in his eye, ranting about context, waving a sign as everyone passed.  It said “Peace on Earth is Art free from Commerce.”  Yea?  Well who said anyone was searching for silence.

“On the GOP Convention”

It’s hard to stay formless or write anything timeless when witnessing minds such as these.  The impulse is towards logic, a footnoted dossier cataloging each purple word.  But that’s the blog’s harvest, and besides it’s not honest to the way I see my words to be.  I won’t be caught clutching raffle tickets in this Post-fact society – won’t be caught dead waving paper as a plea.

Monday and Tuesday were washed out by Gustav, the first levy test since Katrina and Rita.  They faired well to the swells but no physical force could stand to the winds blown on Wednesday. 

A low-pressure front from the Great Northwest descended upon the Twin Cities.  Hurricane Palin, a true politician in a way that evokes snappy suspenders and fresh while gazebos and..touring Alabama with a sow named Winnie that took the blue ribbon at the fair in Montgomery.  You know, folksy.  Down home.  Made of winking gimmicks and obfuscated scandals.

And thus the repercussions of reality T.V, where the substanceless are valued for arcane vulgarity.  So now McCain has his Paris or his Britney or whatever so you can add to the tally of blind hypocrisies that bend and sway like impossible Jenga..and the minions upon millions chanting “Drill, Baby, Drill” while the English program adjuncts nervously strum passports cause in the world of academics institutions must define us and their only chance at idealism locked in the jaws of a Maybelline Pit Bull.

The impact was dramatic on the flow of mass opinion.  The Republicans were feeling their own special sense of hope, like a preacher finding Jesus in a crossbow. 

And out McCain came to hero’s montage.  McCain: who could make the Ancient Illiad blush, McCain: a nightly news kicker metastized, McCain: doomed to Pal-in comparison.  John McCain is not the sum of his speeches, but the quotient of proclaimed character.  The algebra lies in dividing your sighs by the number of flag pins in Texas. 

And as John McCain wrests the mantle of change from a struck and stunned Obama, the campaign decision is further refined for all that view character central.  Between these two men, which one can fulfill our ceaseless desire for eternal future?  A man self-fashioned from black and white mavericks or one whose full spectrum exceeds all tan bandwidths?  A man like Humphrey Bogart or a man with no pop counterpart? 

The man who relies on experience past or the man whose surpassed all known experience?

“On Joe the Plumber”

Joe the Plumber, the moment of Debate '08 that will live on like Slinkys and Pet Rocks.  Do you watch MTV when you masturbate, or have you moved to computers?  Do you live in your grandma's old house?  Do you cry at the anthem of the Minor League ball game, after too many drinks to lessen the pain?

Joe the Plumber, do you hate Mark McGuire?  I think we both do, deep down somewhere.  Sometimes I cringe when your Pop references the good old days of DiMaggio's smile.  So we leave your dad's and go down to the driving range – I rent a four wood and you bring Big Bertha.  We hit golf balls into the black autumn night and drink tallboys between buckets of balls.  You seem distant, but it might just be the alcohol or that golf club you just snapped.  No one wants to die alone, Joe the Plumber.

You drop me off in the truck and drive the long way home.  You briefly think about driving to Missouri to see her, but gas prices make you think better.  The saddest country songs always hit you just a mile up the road. 

I'm sorry about the back taxes, the publicity swarm and the pressure.  I'm sorry I brought your tools back like that.  I fucked up and left them outside again, but if we go down to the bar I'll make it up to you.  Or we could go to the mall and watch Obama junkies, cranked out on their own expectations.  Changing the world never paved any driveways, never settled my heating bill down.  I want a paid off house and a son I can drink with; I don't need peace or racial harmony.  Problems solved lead to problems earned, Joe the Plumber.  My shoulders are grooved to the problems I keep.

On Joe the Plumber from Mike Varley on Vimeo


“On Sarah Palin's Wild Ride”

You know, I never knew I was mainstream media.  But there I was, ready to speak glowingly of Sarah Palin's folksy triumphs and...something just...came over me.  I felt imbued with the malice of a thousand Katie Couric's, schooled in “gotcha politics” and Charlie Gibson facial tics.  I had the cunning of a Gwen Ifill follow-up and the wisdom of the Sunday Times crossword. 

At that point I knew I could not betray the corporate liberal dollar that feeds my seven houses and thirteen Oldsmobiles.  I must kneel to its might and lie through my teeth in hopes that one day the terrorists win. 

Sarah Palin is dangerously unqualified to drive a mini-van.  She has teams of third-graders fact check her slanders and cheats off Ruthie Pinkus when the teacher tests state capitals.  Her winks are manufactured in a Chinese auto plant; her glasses shield her face from outright stupid.

Her touted energy policy of “Drill, Baby, Drill” is such a coded message that it makes my pipeline spill.  The mayor of Sitka, a town three times Wasilla, is also the neighborhood mailman, and you can fact check that. 

She's been straight talking with a suspended maverick license for over three years.  Each time she signs a bill to law the lidless eye of Putin falls upon her.  It's not that she's so Right to Life as much as Right to Judge.  And every time she's labeled folksy, somewhere, Pete Seeger cuts a cable.

How galling are her platitudes on leadership as common sense.  This nation doesn't fit inside a Farmer's Almanac.  It's hopelessly human and ever delinquent and never would agree to be treated less than that. 

Sarah Palin, I'm trying to wrap you up in nuance, but Christ what a force of will you are!  You imbue simple objects of steel and puck with fervent, pulsing meaning and pursue self-fulfillment with chemical certainty.  There's nothing understated about excellence and no one separated from honesty.  The only coefficient is the public's forced perspective. 

“On Absentee Elders”

We lined them up three rows deep in the nursing home lounge where they watch DVD's.  Election Wednesday for Absentee Elders, sitting there wheelchaired in silent company. 

Patton's army of registered voters, honor bound to a process they no longer understand.  The ethics of voting in the nation most human: should those whose rights are worth calling to question be allowed to answer for the rights of others?  The answer is tucked into Gladys' afghan, along with the soup spoons she stole from her meal tray.

The election board arrives to make it all official – a supposed PH-balance of conservative and liberal.  Changing intonation for their candidate of choice, unable to pronounce the name Bob Barr.  Seeking out the residents they know will vote their way, for after all these invalids are former corner neighbors.  It's sloppy and it's shady and it happens in your city.  An untold wealth of voter fraud for Rove to shelter and pity.

Magnifying glasses the size of a skillet to see the tiny words on on the paper print ballot.  Shawls, lap robes, bed pans, floral printed mu-mu's.  Glasses bought by Medicaid, unsightly, bulky hearing aids, fingers warped by trials never meant to be described.  Hair the color of poster paint or gray as Scranton April, or bald and Excemaed, flaky reminders of indignities received like communion.  The grace of the aging, a stiff-jointed sureness, resides in their liberal usage of silence.

What motivates them?  War bonds, GM cars and Uncle Sam Madonnas.  A tireless courage that saw them through wars, their success earned them television – their success snuffed the source.

And now they do what they can: check marks like lightning bolts you draw in grade school skies, shivered from their medicine that stalls the full moon tide.  And they wheel themselves out like they've been to confession, or donated patriot blood.

Nowhere is it written that you can't be old and proud.  There's valor in the simple act, backed by lives of actions loud.  May we be so fortunate, may we be so blessed, to ride our wheelchairs high.

On Absentee Elders from Mike Varley on Vimeo.


“On Election Night and Day”

I am an old, black woman from Macon, Georgia on a sworn mission from God.  I know that sounds strange, but it's true.  My Lord rubbed my feet soft at the dawn of the morning and told me I had good work to do.

Mr. Peterson took the day off from cooking and drove a van to pick us old folk up.  'Course, it used to be Little Richie Peterson, but he's a fine young man now; baby names don't suit him.

We got to the school where my own children went.  It's a terrible place of crucified dreams.  My Lord gives me strength.

I pulled shut the curtains and stood in that booth, afraid I'd do something wrong.  I read and reread the instructions to make sure everything was right.  My Lord gives me strength.

I stayed up past midnight for the first time in maybe twenty years.  The way he talks fills me like warm bread.  Sometimes I smile just at the thought of him.  I'm proud as though I grew him in my garden.

I bought the paper for my husband gone on up to heaven; I put it on his chair and felt his love beside me.  Some things aren't worth celebrating alone.  Some dreams only find you once you're sleeping.

They said the nation wasn't ready and it wasn't.  No one's prepared when the wind sweeps through.  You have to grasp this country at the shoulders – look into its eyes.  Past the wriggling, past the laughter; past the anger, past the fear.  Look into its eyes till you see your acceptance, and in that moment you've changed the world.

My Lord gives me strength.  He heals my sorrows and brightens my joys and I will do his good work to the end of my days.


I am a twenty-four year old American in the center of Times Square and I stand here long past Two-Seventy.  I spent the day hanging posters for a website no one will visit – a tall, lonely shadow for the tourists to exhibit.  Champagne skies ignite around me with chants of his fairy tale name, and Romance buys some street meat and settles in next to me. 

Untold thousands huddled together for the electric buzz of strangers in sync.  Standing in the world-torch of 42nd Street, each hoarding the moment in the scrapbooks of their senses.  The smell of subway water and the touch of other bodies, the passing cars creeping through clogged arteries and the folks that call their mothers. 

I daydream history textbooks from 2108 where cell phone photos seem like tin types and YouTube uploads are flip book hindsight.  And maybe my children will ask me, too, or maybe just somebody's child.  Ask me what it was like that night?  “It was great,” with a half-lidded smile. 

They will never puncture this moment, never know its true flavor.  And we will seem like pleasant fools at the nursing home table, drawing droughts from our memories to keep ourselves warm and saving the whiskey for another birthday. 

But I'm not aged or infirmed or even depleted.  I am twenty-four years old and these bones are lengthy and proud, with a box full of horizons yet to sort through and a disposition cloudless of doubt.

“Young and stupid” I grinned aloud, and the nearest five people grinned with me.

On Election Night and Day from Mike Varley on Vimeo.


“On Inauguration Collaboration”

Teach the father
Heal the mother
Bless the child
Bless the soul

Teach the father
Heal the mother
Bless the child
Bless the soul

With the coolness of a Buddha at his opening miracle, he stands before the masses primed to preach the new stone tablets.  The flag pin stuck in his side, once a branding, now an angelic beacon across television history.  A sunshine flashing, shining example to keep your mind open and your options ample.

Teach the father
Heal the mother
Bless the child
Bless the soul

“Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.”

Teach the father
Heal the mother
Bless the child
Bless the soul

I wear a suit to meet you 'cause I'd never live it down if my mother knew I wore no suit to see you.  You're tall in person, but we're pretty much the same height. 

We sit down.  I say, “Pardon me not praising for your all your charities – this precious, special, gift of grace you've bought us.  But we need to get to the heart of it, before your next green-friendly, ribbon cutting business.  I can tell that you're serious – and I'm here to show you I'm serious, too.  Write me an email; we'll figure a time when schedules merge.  We'll start by fixing college football's playoffs.”

Then I hand him a letter and walk away.

Teach the father
Heal the mother
Bless the child
Bless the soul

“We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”

Teach the father
Heal the mother
Bless the child
Bless the soul

“The time for old ways is over, there's no straighter way to say it.  We've whitewashed this stadium so many times, there's more steel showing than plaster.  I won't miss the days of Mookie and Buckner, where happy mistakes were the best we could muster.  I want a new playing field where people trade smiles regardless of other team's uniform styles.  I want a new set of set of rules where bunting's illegal, 'cause no one should ever be made to feel feeble.  I want hot dogs for all and cold beer for many, and I want the Sign of Peace at the Seventh Inning Stretch.  I want--” Just then the Shea sky jet engines erase all conversations.

Teach the father
Heal the mother
Bless the child
Bless the soul

“And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass, the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve, and as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself”

I teach my father my secret joys but only in my dream state.
I heal my mother when the clock projects a sermon much too late.

Bless the child's steady progress.
Bless the soul's delight in congress.

On Inauguration Collaboration from Mike Varley on Vimeo.