letter to a woman who makes her way

You’ve gone a luminous blind.

Your paper street: more potholes.

You hide your meaning behind a parasol, spinning it (white flurry blur).

In this forest of misconceptions,

Although I guide you to the nearest blackberry bush,

While you are sustained, the sunlight is hid from us

By these high conifers; the words

We say have no echo.

I’m not even the diner waitress I used to be: “How can I help you?”

Said like, “You know where that coffee pot is, you refill it.”

You say to me, blackberries don’t grow near pines.  We starve then.

God’s around us, Kami in the fern shadows showing us everything is

Sense or green, past “known”, the puzzle tumble of Midnight’s Children.

You explain something for over an hour.  And we walk.

I escape your eraser-scrubbed logic (you’ve made a hole in the paper) or

Something more helpless: let’s say misfired synapses–

Something chemical rather than free will at work,

Showing itself for a series of selfish decisions.

I desist or damn us both, cut out

The overwrought way I speak, dressage instead of western–

At least you were interested in the intricacy. However,

It’s no use pretending I’ve gotten either of us

To the door of a friendly apartment,

In a city where the lights are on all hours,

Where a door will click; we let ourselves in,

We can get a glass of water

Or sit in a chair. No. We walk all night.  Finally,

I take off my coat and lay it down

There, over earth.  So? it’s dark. And birds loop

Nearby, watching.  Crow feathers like crow feathers, darker than the sky.

The Rosebud Diner

The Rosebud Diner, circa 1994

Jessie was a waitress who would flirt with your ugly grandpa and make you refill the coffees. She’d say, “You know where it is!”in a dolly-with-cancer teeny voice.

She caught the flat top of Lucky Sevens with a quarter during the lull between lunch and dinner, racking up just enough dollar winners to go on playing daily, plus it was a new type of scratch-off. The new ones hit more often.

The Diner is still with me, but no longer on the Commons.

Jessie preached and I learned how to smile-talk to strangers, make friends, judge assholes, and acquaint myself with a job, choose between beer and nicotine or getting myself, with optimism and diligence, to the next truth–truth as simple and repetitive as the coffee steady perking in the pot—weekdays falling forward, building up who I saw in the mirror, and in the warm eyes of whoever it was I was falling in love with at the time, depending on whether I took or ignored the dull steps towards dreams—the diner was where to rest and talk about any other kind of bull, but this.

Louise had a clippy British accent; she was an actress yet neat as a pin and unlovely. Michael, her husband, made me a bookcase, embellishing the edges with florettes which mirrored each other.  He was a Paul Revere. It was too small for most of my books, but oak, as promised.

Danny the owner ran the place from the kitchen, ladling batter from a stainless steel bowl, frying three-dollar all-you-can-eat French toast all day which people completely abused, passing one plate around to three or even four sullen (then capering then angst-ridden then saucy)  punk rock twenty-year-old Commons rats, leaving a one-dollar tip folded into a triangle or a crane.

I had to ask three months in a row to work there. Something about The Rosebud matched my idea of myself, cramped, smoky, with its yellowing seats and speckled tile; it was the shabby gathering place where Danny’s daughters each managed to find enough issues (a new word then) and enough of a motherless run of the place to keep Danny muttering indefinitely.  They kept the grind from being one.  Danny respected and liked me even years later for calling in a favor at Darien Lake Theme Park and getting him free tickets for his family– which he had to trust me about, the comp’d tickets waiting at the gate three hours west of Ithaca.  Even though I was often late and sat as often as I stood, he never let me go.

Mister Kool (his nickname was Spades) was the dish and mop man, Billy was the prep cook. Both had a keen sense of how to work smooth and sure with their hands and both considered it not-their-real-life.  They had a band called Wejah Stone.  Get it? I was often comforted by Spade’s methodical sweep of the restaurant each evening, he knew what the fuck he was doing, or I was such a slob a solid sweep was impressive.  Also, he only smoked two cigarettes a day, after sweeping.  Baffling.  Billy made me rare bacon, each day a little more rare as I liked it, until it was more or less just warm and raw.

You all showed up.  Jewl and Czech, vixens with skin tight black and red like anarchy was suddenly sexpot glorious, stopping in for coffee they dolloped with whiskey and a Camel Filter chainsmoke (I never saw them eat food). . .Kieren and Smog nearby, balancing six packs on their spiked leather shoulders and shoving the plates of gravy fries around the table like a ceramic Nascar race.

Moody DT playing Magik with the cards he and Sidhartha stole from 3DLight.

Marcus and his grrl, Jet, actually came to eat the food; Marcus may have had cheetah spots on his skull, and Jet a short spiked stopsign red haircut, but they had prince and princess manners wherever they went.

Kraven with his commentary that made everybody wince and grin, in that order.  I never met someone so sure of his perceptions yet so uneasily resigned to the tough, muscular frame he inhabited. He never ate the food either, but he was often there.

Jake who I would conversationally betray as easily as the sun comes up and nearly as often, cheerfully as if nothing could ever hurt him and besides, he was impossible to age correctly but young! I called him the Tao of Ithaca to make up for it.  He refused to let me buy him food when he was poor.  We were all poor.

My dear friends Melany, Trix, and Briana would stay for hours to keep me company, bringing in wonders from their travels to delight the world with: cameo jewelry unearthed from a Goodwill, bowling shoes rediscovered as fuck-as-punk awesomeness, remnant tiles purchased from the hardware store to make a quilt on the floor of a trailer.

Johnny Rotten’s doppelganger, I met later.

You were my dearest fiends on the Commons:   you smiled and listened carefully, and glared and scorned the collegenitalia…you snarled and wept and drank and spat and caught the spit from below (too romantic) and screamed and sang and boozed and shot up and ran away and hurt the normals and busted down doors and wrote songs and had eviction parties, bring your own hammer.

I loved the end of my shift, I loved my cigarette breaks, and if you’d asked, I was on the edge of the life I knew belonged to me: I was the living at the plastic hem at the top of the carton of milk, dry-flecked, dusty and blue.  It’s true I made melancholy into a condition I’d rouse from only with angst and lucky whining about my fate.    Fast years… best . . . spattering against me only when I’m walking, though I mostly (truth, now) drive.

Silence as symbolic violence

I read a summary of Bourdieu’s symbolic violence today, and held my tongue as a result.  I do have power I didn’t used to have;  mostly it is being seen as a cardinal aspect, pushed against, vivid, steady jutting rock the waves jump fiercely against instead of the water or air around the stone which used to be my part.

People get mad for instance, and scowl, or cite me as an example of a success we can all be proud of as one of the pretentious poor who have made something of themselves by following normative rules, plodding toward something, and catching a lucky break at the end of all the schooling, actually.

So maybe I do have symbolic power.  I get all these props and glances and prestige points, because I am a lawyer.

Symbolic violence according to Bourdieu would be if I used this prestige and other forms of symbolic power against people with less of this symbolic power at their disposal.

I oversimplify, and humbly admit I have read little.  This caught my eye:

For Bourdieu, neo-liberalism is deeply complicit in numerous types of symbolic violence. Not only does it ‘betray’ and abandon of all types of social workers (Bourdieu, 1998: 3), but the ideals of individualisation and self-help serve to hide the role of neo-liberalism in the creation of suffering and ‘[make] it possible to ‘blame the victim’ who is entirely responsible for his or her own misfortune’ (ibid.: 7). Thus, both social workers and those receiving help are denied much of the support they need and exposed to a logic which claims that their worsening situation (meaning tougher working conditions for social professionals) is their own fault.

I don’t know about all that.  I have a great respect for social workers, and try not to blame the victim of an economic and property system that fails both the poor and the disorganized and frankly, the always-disenfranchised–  the best examples are people who live in the city of Rochester rather than the suburbs.  Example one: the street corners have cameras in the city, so that if you roll through a red light, you get a ticket and a screen shot and video footage follow-up sent to you  In the suburbs, cameras like that are largely nonexistent.  In the city, your insurance rates and electric bill are higher than in say Fairport or Spencerport, because the rate of auto theft is higher in the city and because the suburbs have their own electric companies. Neither of these facts are fair:  you live in the poor neighborhood and you pay a penalty for being poor in both cases.  Maybe the best example of the disenfranchisement of living in the city proper is that when you get a traffic ticket, you go to an ostensible court where there is no district attorney and no plea bargain process in place.  Everyone talks to the Motor Vehicle Bureau- appointed ‘judge’ and listens to a police officer recite what they did and then they pay the fine and get the points.  There are no reductions to other charges and no negotiation strategies.  Yet, for the same traffic ticket in the suburbs, their attorney would deal with a district attorney and there would be an offer to a reduced charge based on mitigating factors.  The disenfranchised, for living and driving in the city, are punished.  This is the context in which social workers and others try and help the poor, disorganized, disenfranchised poor.

When the system is accepted (paying the insurance rate, paying the RG&E extortion rate, paying the ticket in front of a not-real-judge who should not be credited with due process legitimacy) it seems relevant if the disenfranchised, the poor, and the disorganized are additionally pressured to understand that if they would only work harder, they would be free of all of the injustice they face.  The people that work to help them, who do nothing about systemic flaws, (not so much out of any desire to harm the clients as because they feel a pressure to obey agreed-upon contractual terms, whether impliedly or actually agreed-upon, and because no one quite knows what to do about system issues) are not worthy of contempt, so much as a keen look at why the persistent overarching flaws are seen as impossible to change.

I haven’t even gotten to the system flaw underneath the economic system and the contractual system wherein the terms are predefined, unfair to the disenfranchised, and where no option exists to adjust the terms or to reject the contract at all.  That flawed underlying system is property law.  All mortgages, rental contracts, and hotel stays are based on it.  You can’t consider yourself out of the system even if you don’t own a house.  Even most of the homeless are housed: in shelters, transitional housing, hotel rooms, jails, emergency rooms,  etc.  They aren’t out either.  What all these contractually-based domiciles are based on is the First in Time principle which denies human status to Native Americans.  Whoever-got-there-first-claims-it is the principle.  But, the only ones who counted in such a footrace were Englishmen.  But that’s…that’s ridiculous! you might bluster and complain.  Well it surely is.  In Pierson v. Post, a poor hunting metaphor is also used to defend the concept.  Two arrows shot at the same deer, and one hunter arrives at the kill first.  Thus, the deer belongs to him.  He arrived “first in time.”

What hunter would ever countenance such a rule?  Why only Englishmen, and not the people who resided already on the land, and cared for it?

Symbolic violence is also apparent when one is silent, when one knows of the flaws in the roots of the law, and says nothing  I don’t know that I can do anything about it other than pass on the words.  Possibly the solution is to refuse to play a game, collectively, with such rules.  I suppose that would be an organized anarchy:  to refuse to pay the ticket, the insurance, the electric bill, and the rent, not one at a time, but en masse.  The worry is a fine, a lock on the tire, the house grown cold, eviction.  But would such a fate occur if it were not one who refused, but all?

I don’t know the answer: …it is easier to picture the fine, the lock, the cold house, and the eviction for each and every one [than believe a collective solution results in a fair justice system, reasonable energy prices, housing that is not rooted in metaphoric lies and the betrayal of Native Americans], and easier to accept despondently and quietly that contractual, criminal justice, and property law is made of stone instead of paper.  I wonder, though, where good people turn their energy, to try and work change. Perhaps it is holding one another up: soup, clothing, shelter provided on a cold night.  Possibly it is continuing to ask questions: why is the overarching system we work within acceptable, if the results are deplorable?

There are no corporate ‘loopholes’ in the tax code

There are no corporate ‘loopholes’ in the tax code.  It’s much worse than that.

“Closing corporate tax loopholes” is a phrase bandied about by lots of progressive, liberal, Working Party members, and Democrats concerned about corporations getting a break on their taxes.  I recently saw the phrase in a story about property tax relief, in a comment arguing that Cuomo’s plan for a property tax credit fails to close “corporate tax loopholes…” to pay for the idea. (see http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/local/2015/01/14/cuomo-proposes-property-tax-credit/21778177/)

Here’s the thing:  There are no “corporate loopholes”.  Not really.  Rather, the way the tax code treats corporations is fundamental.  A loophole suggests an ambiguity or inadequacy in the tax code that is used by corporations to avoid paying taxes.  There is nothing ambiguous about the treatment of corporations in the tax code.  It is written in full understanding and total support of the notion that the corporate form exists almost exclusively to limit liability and diminish the burden of paying taxes.

According to IRS Publication 542,

“Rules on income and deductions that apply to individuals also apply, for the most part, to corporations.  However, the following special provisions apply ONLY to corporations:

  1. Capital expenses can be deducted as start-up costs, and the rest can be amortized (gradually write off the initial cost of the asset).
  2. Income from qualifying shipping activities can be excluded totally from gross income, if the corporation elects to be taxed at the highest taxable rate on its “notional shipping income.”
  3. There’s an energy efficiency deduction for corporations that used more efficient energy systems on commercial property, like heating and cooling systems.
  4. Corporate preferences are granted for mineral and timber depletions. Here’s the language:

Depletion is the using up of natural resources

by mining, drilling, quarrying stone, or cutting

timber. The depletion deduction allows an

owner or operator to account for the reduction

of a product’s reserves.

See http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p535.pdf Chapter 9, Depletion.

  • That’s right! Corporations get a deduction for sapping the Earth of natural resources, apparently because the IRS is concerned the corporation won’t get endless use out of its victim, the planet.
  1. A corporation can deduct up to 70% of dividends received when it owns less than 20% of the company giving the dividend to shareholders. If it owns more than 20% of the company issuing the dividend to its stockholders, it can deduct 80% of dividends from taxation.
    1. When a person gets a windfall as an individual, typically he pays MORE than usual in taxes.  Not 70-80% less….
  2. If the corporation received a below-market loan, and uses the proceeds for its business, the foregone interest could be deductible.
    1. Let me break this into definitions: a below-market loan is one in which no interest is charged, but which is considered as a loan where the borrower is required to pay interest at the federal rate and to pay an additional payment of the foregone interest.
    2. Foregone interest is the interest that would be payable if interest accrued on the loan at the applicable federal rate, minus any interest actually payable on the loan for the pay period.
      • This reads, to me, like this: borrower got a killer deal, but the fine print said “but pay the taxes on this” and the IRS tax code smoothed the wrinkled brow of the Corporation and said “Shhh. don’tchu worry about it, baby…”
  3. Up to 10% of taxable income can be shifted into charitable contributions.
    1. Capital losses are not only deductible; they are flexible as to the year they are claimed.  So if the loss is greater than the gain, and it can’t all be claimed as a deduction in one year, the part that is not deducted can be claimed in another year. (Go time travel transaction, go!)
    2. The best sentence in Publication 542? ..the one that makes the priorities of the IRS tax code clear, and what type of tax payer gets special treatment?…..
      • The tax laws give special treatment to some types of income and allow special deductions and credits for some types of expenses. These laws enable some corporations to significantly reduce their regular tax.  The corporate alternative minimum tax (AMT) targets these corporations and attempts to ensure that they pay at least a minimum amount on their economic income.”  See http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p542.pdf at pg. 17, Alternative Minimum Tax.
      • This reads to me like: “Hey, um, the law gives you rich folk special treatment and we noticed that so um, respectfully, that is, we’re going to try to ask you to pay at least a tiny bit of tax, if that’s ok with you…unless your gross receipts were only 7.5 million.  And then you-all are exempt.”
  4. Credits also exist for corporations. They include (this is not an exhaustive list)  a foreign tax credit, an electric car credit, general business credit (included on this list is ‘investment’, ‘reserved,’ (doing something with income, not doing something with income) …and a laundry list of ways income can be spent:   increasing research activities,…low sulphur diesel fuel production…refined coal production… distilled spirits… agricultural chemicals security…).  See http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f3800.pdf 2
  • In other words, the general business credit list is filled with special interest porkyporky pork (social policy) pork.  It all means lower taxes for the corporation

The above is not an exhaustive list of the benefits the tax code confers on corporations. It is irksome to hear politicians talk of closing “loopholes.” If they care about individuals being on equal footing with corporations, they will stop acting like the law is ambiguous and confusing and as such, and by way of that ambiguity, is helpful to corporations.  I am not a tax attorney nor an accountant, and I summarized some of the grosser benefits of the tax code for corporations in less than 12 points.  The tax code is not ambiguous.  The tax code is simple, clear, and unfair.

Know Your Rights 101

Terry stops

Terry v. Ohio 392 US 1 (1968)

Police can briefly detain if reasonable suspicion that suspect is involved in criminal activity

Pat downs

A limited search of outer garments (pat down) is permissible if police have a reasonable and articulable suspicion that suspect is armed and dangerous.

Standard of proof: totality of the circumstances

Suspect information requests

Under Terry and also under Hibel v Sixth Judicial Dist. of Nevada 544 US 174 (2004), requiring a suspect’s name, address, explanation of conduct is allowable,  if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the suspect has committed or is about to commit a felony or misdemeanor.

If the suspect is then released, with no charges filed, any info collected cannot be electronically databased.

Invoking the right to silence

You still have the right to remain silent, but now, you must SAY you are invoking your right to silence. In 2013, in “Salina vs Texas” the Court held that: “Petitioner’s Fifth Amendment claim fails because he did not expressly invoke the privilege against self-incrimination in response to the officer’s question.” In other words, you must now specifically invoke your 5th amendment right to “remain silent” or your silence can and will be used against you in court.

Photos and video

Taking photos and video in public spaces is allowable, if you are lawfully present.  You have the right to photograph anything in plain view.

If you are on private property, you must obey the property owner’s wishes (castle doctrine) about photography, or be subject to trespass.

Police may not confiscate video or photos unless they can show exigent circumstances (possible destruction of criminal evidence while they try and obtain a warrant: for example, such as taking a cellphone so video can’t be deleted).

Destruction of video or photos is never allowable and may constitute evidence tampering and interfering with a police investigation.

If while taking photos and/or video, you interfere w/police operations, police may lawfully ask you to cease activities.

The right to contest an unlawful search, commonly called “standing”

If you are in a vehicle or in a home of someone else, and a weapon or drugs are recovered, all persons there may be arrested for the illegal evidence.  If you believe the search was improper (no probable cause and no exception) you must have “standing” to complain about the search and invoke “fruit of the poisonous tree” to get the evidence declared inadmissible.  Some attorneys will say only the owner of the car/house has such standing.  Your attorney may be able to get you standing based on an improper “seizure” rather than an improper search.  If you are handcuffed or are under the impression you may not leave and you are being detained, then you may have standing based on the illegal seizure.

relationship advice

The burnished tan ten speed coasted with a tick tick tick tick tick tick tick down the double hill of country road near Nesbitt’s Pond, and almost directly across Pine Hill.  I got to the road after a languid flat gray road leading to it, one which demanded a rest stop or die of dullness—so I stopped and stepped through the ticklish field grass and cornflower raggedy stalks, crickets and grasshopper leaping in arcs around me as I bent the grass with my bike.

I visited the old barn to see the hound dogs tied up inside (distinguish this from the new barn, where the farmer and the workers went multiple times a day because of the heifers inside).  The hounds were sad and bayed roooo roooooo at company and snuffled at my knees as I walked up to their little pens and dirt circles.  They pulled on their rope collars but they didn’t jump.  Horseflies circled my head in loud droning nastiness-having woken up with a swollen eye a few times I knew they bit horribly and swatted at them (of course the trick was to cool off.. only when my head was sweltering hot did they hold onto a halo path and orbit so relentlessly.  After petting the poor loud hounds one last time I stepped out of the soft dust-mote light of the barn back into the blind white sunlight.

Back to riding the ten speed and learning that to nudge the gear forward made the bike harder to pump but propelled it further along.  I learned, too, how going uphill, it was better to shove the gear back, with less forward momentum, but with an easier time pumping the pedals in a lightweight loop.

Occasionally I’d hit the top of the hill where it crested and forget to switch gears, and my feet would not be able to keep up with the ease of turning the pedals coupled with the ease of pedaling downhill.  You can coast in any gear.

Yet, soon enough some part of you will demand more speed on top of the speed the hill naturally hands you.  Then, in the wrong gear, your feet can spin around and around at the lack of resistance and fall all over themselves. Such times, I ended up looking about as silly as a Tom and Jerry right before Jerry gets away:  zoom-zoom-zoom-in-place.

The only worse luck than looking foolish was if I also managed in the same way to monkey with the chain and jammed the pedals altogether.  Then I might also tumble and gravel-pock my kneecaps.  A jam didn’t happen too much but when it did, chances were just about even I could maneuver the frozen bike over to the grass by the side of the road and fall on the springy grass. Usually even if it scared me full of adrenaline I’d rise quickly, and fix the chain, or if I couldn’t do that, walk it under the sun the whole way home.  This isn’t about the cool indoors where I’d stand by the sink and dunk my head in the tap and sip, but that’s generally what would happen after that.

beyond the beyond

“sad” is made

of the thought

beyond the one beyond the door

of what is felt

“melancholy” is the extra

crimson parasite vine

on a September poplar,

it quietly sways in the wind,

squeezing the tree

into dead.  the calm,

roundeyed worldview seems owlish

and is not easy—example:

there is a silver bowl

with a sand colored dowel

where my son dropped it

after making the bowl sing

along its edge.  it makes a sound

like clarity. it makes a sound

that soothes the seared edge

of caring like this— “I” care

“I” fear.  “I” feel so, very much.

So difficult to bleed back

into the spectrum

of colors, as a tiny mote

near green, trying to imagine

what’s beyond the beyond

ravishing, tacky azure.

Having Kids at the End of the World [1]

Part One:    Conclusion

My kids may not end up with the human hiccup habit of bearing children.    My kids will see, in their lifetime, Vancouver under water, San Francisco, buckled and destroyed after earthquake, their own lives threatened by food rations, hurricanes and floods, billions dead of starvation in worldwide swaths of deserts, most animals forever extinct, and the prominent base of the food chain woofed out—acidity in the seas changing plankton levels, depleting available fish, the very basic protein for most of the planet, not just the birds and not just other fish but bears and otters and seals and penguins and people. 

This is not news to the scientific community.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body of international scientists, has been releasing reports on the reality of climate change for years.  Some of their specific findings are summarized here, in terms of climate change and the atmosphere, the oceans temperature, glaciers, sea level, and the carbon cycle.  This isn’t a summary of a summary of an article you can find on the internet yourself.  It is about climate change, but from the cleared and heart-beating throat of a member of the audience, while policymakers and the very wealthy make the big decisions that affect how fast and how much greenhouse gases will increase inexorably the heat on the planet until all of us are dead. 

I don’t have much pull.  You don’t either.  We may as well breed and drive our cars and eat fast food red meat and run the AC and recycle so we’ll feel OK about the rest.

Recently I talked to someone who recalled the time I was opposed to having kids, could never imagine it for myself and tried to imagine a world where you too were limited to one or two at most.  I changed so much, and he was puzzled to the point of being ethically despairing on my behalf.  Didn’t I care for the animals people were entrusted to guard the existence of? Didn’t I see how my need to breed was not aligned to that guardianship?  Didn’t I know how much the population was growing?[2]

Why did I have kids?

What is my ethical and moral obligation since I did choose to procreate?

Is there room on the map of responsible guardians of the Earth, for parents?

Yet animals breed.  Am I so very different?  Have I not invested so deeply by the very fact of my having offspring, so that now I feel bound to act for the community as well as on behalf of my limited reach?  Have I expanded my own vision to such a degree that I have squared with the fact that I have personally made the use of greenhouse gases, via my family’s demand for energy, that much worse?

Have I brought children into a world in which they must sacrifice their own genetic urge to reproduce, just in order to keep the sea at bay, the red pandas alive, and the hurricanes from washing away the coasts?[3]

These are the questions I come to the table with.  It makes me feel as if I were sitting with my hands outstretched along this table, waiting for the table legs to “knock” from a mystical source of power.  I seem to be accessing the topic of climate change, that is, from a mystical place, even though the table (scientific fact) is the same everyone else sits down at, too.  I ask questions I can only answer with passion and storytelling, magic and wild unreasonable hope that asking such questions matters. 

I had children because my blood was feverish. Because, I imagined driving them to see the flocks of migrating Canada geese in a future September in the grassy wetlands of western NY, a dream I demanded become more than just a vision.  Because I wanted them, damn it!  I’d made great strides in caring for myself—physically and spiritually, if not economically.  Now I wanted to bring children into being and show them what I’d found of the startling tenderness of being alive.  I wanted to say Look!  All my guardianship tendencies seemed to suggest I’d make a good Mom.  My gentleness and patience would be my lightposts.  I set out to become pregnant with my first child.  I loved her so densely that when she cried I rocked her and tried to match my own heartbeat to hers in the sway of the rock; tried to empathize so deeply with her worry as an infant over the one-day crisis of being awake and not hungry, that I sang to her in made up words I thought would comfort her (which did). My second child was more not-planned planned.  I mean, if you don’t have a not-plan, by default you have a pregnancy plan if you are having intercourse, and I was.  By then I was exhausted too with all the abortions I’d had, and thought seriously that my daughter would need later on, when her Dad and I were dead young of all the rash choices we suffered consequences from, a sibling.  After a glazed depression of getting used to raising two, the second child became one I felt such terrific tenderness towards that I could not contain it.  My breathing would break when I watched him rest or play or eat. Today, not babies or toddlers anymore, they surprise and delight me.  I love their curious brattiness.  Every test against a limit proof to me of how intelligent and strong they are, how well they’ll do even in a world where submissive respect is required at many turns, and where their contempt for god is treated as a shortcoming in the same educational and sociological classroom of their peers and teachers where they learn respect for authority and how to think in forty minute increments.  They aren’t taught much beyond the three R’s (reduce reuse recycle) about the global conditions they are in.  I teach them of stardust in their bones and brains and tarot to access dream symbols older than them, and astrology to remind them of their place in a wider menagerie of planets and beings. Global warning has not come up.  This is what I want them to know.  Five features of climate change that were true before they were born, which powerfully demonstrate that the second half of their lives will be fraught with perils they have not been prepared to understand or meet.

Part Two: Rules

The atmosphere

First, the atmosphere is warming up, globally.[4] I hear people scoff on the streets and e-streets:  “But in my neighborhood, this year, compared to last, it wasn’t warmer!  These simple experiential narratives are naïve and presumptuous.  Why would a few years tell any story at all?  Even laymen ought to know the span of time is statistically insignificant—-not just insignificant but laughably so.[5]

Ocean temperature:

The ocean is warmer on its surface, over long periods of time, but especially since the 1970’s.  Scientists have been careful to explain that it is likely to have warmed much sooner than that—data shows this  “likelihood” since the late 1800’s.  It is difficult to know why the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change wrote so carefully about what was known about ocean surface warming.  Is it because the data is not clear, or because too much naysaying and doom and  gloom upset constituents and policy reports followed the tenor of the squalling public, worry being a tough thing to eat?  Still, language as carefully calm as can be, the message remains the same: the ocean is warmer than it used to be, especially near the top of it.[6]

Cryosphere:

The glaciers are shrinking. .Glacial loss of mass is continuing all over the world.  On this point, international scientists have not equivocated or turned down the volume of their information.[7]

Sea Level:

The sea is rising.  Never before has the rate of the rise of the sea been so obvious or so high.  Not only is it rising, it is rising faster than ever before.[8]

Carbon and other biogeochemical cycles:

CO2 Levels are now SO HIGH it is now ethically necessary to stop talking quietly, calmly, and carefully.  Painstaking research and writing is important, yes. But given the facts found, also let me transmit: I’m in goddamn pain about it.

The IPCC writes:

“The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Carbon dioxide concentrations have increased by 40% since pre-industrial times, primarily from fossil fuel emissions and secondarily from net land use change emissions. The ocean has absorbed about 30% of the emitted anthropogenic carbon dioxide, causing ocean acidification.”[9]

What that means is that carbon dioxide and the other emissions which make up the greenhouse gas that forms a barrier between the ability of the sun’s heat and radioactive power to bounce harmlessly back into the sky, has made the sky sick like never before.  All the heat we don’t want wrecking the delicate balance on the globe, is trapped here because of CO2. The first to be affected is the most delicate on the food chain: the coral, the polar bears, and the plankton so necessary to the rest of the ecosystem.[10]

Part Three:  Explanation

To explain what exactly any of that means, let me tell you what I failed to understand at first.  I failed to understand how such a fraction of a warmer climate could impact the world much.  And, I failed to grasp the grave trouble we are in, because our discussion right now is: “Is climate change real?” instead of a discussion beginning, “What is the ethically extreme yet right thing to do, on a global scale? (Hint: protest climate change in large numbers in NYC September 21, and protest again on Monday, September 22  What is too much to bear?  What is the greatest good for the greatest number, without letting go of the value of some individual autonomy?  What are we willing to do to survive?”  We are, you see, having the wrong fight right now.  I saw this while watching an episode of Mad Men, and thinking on the tradition in America of the free American man and his cigarette.

In the 1950’s, scientists began to warn Americans that cigarettes were bad for you.  For the next twenty or thirty years, this became a debatable issue.  Well, were they? Or were they merely noxious and troublesome, not deadly carcinogens?  Nowadays, cigarette smoking is down, everyone agrees they are bad for you, they cost more in many states, and there are smoking cessation programs, ads, and products everywhere.  This process took sixty-four years.  Even now, they are not banned, they are not illegal, and higher costs of cigarettes have never been clearly or honestly linked to the externalities of smoking (the high cost of heart disease and cancer on the country’s health system).  This is the path climate change scientists can predict, if nothing changes.  The trouble is that we don’t have sixty-four years to nudge the needle a little bit on CO2 emissions, for example.  We have thirty years:

National Geographic writer Michelle Nijhuis wrote in April 2014,

“Last fall, as world coal consumption and world carbon emissions were headed for new records, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its latest report. For the first time it estimated an emissions budget for the planet—the total amount of carbon we can release if we don’t want the temperature rise to exceed 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a level many scientists consider a threshold of serious harm. The count started in the 19th century, when the industrial revolution spread. The IPCC concluded that we’ve already emitted more than half our carbon budget. On our current path, we’ll emit the rest in less than 30 years.

The National Geographic story continued to talk in doggedly hopeful terms about clean coal programs.

Changing that course with carbon capture would take a massive effort. To capture and store just a tenth of the world’s current emissions would require pumping about the same volume of CO₂ underground as the volume of oil we’re now extracting. It would take a lot of pipelines and injection wells. But achieving the same result by replacing coal with zero-emission solar panels would require covering an area almost as big as New Jersey (nearly 8,000 square miles). The solutions are huge because the problem is—and we need them all.”[11]

Part Four:  Application:

The way these five areas of climate change play out, is in my kids’ little snowflake paths.  It’s that in thirty years, my daughter will be forty, the age I am now.  My son will be thirty-seven.  By then, if we don’t start burying or decreasing carbon emissions at the same rate that we pull oil out of the ground, our carbon budget will be spent. 

There will be no more talk of regulating emissions, making it costly to pollute the sky and spurring investment in innovative ways to regulate the emission of carbon the way we do with sulfur and nitrogen.  There will be no push to use solar panels on every home, or to use efficient electric cars.  There will be no carbon capture programs.  There will be no mass migrations back to city spaces to use resources like subways and buses economically as a sustainable community.  There will be no seed bombs or mass tree seedling planting days.  There will be the rising sea. 

There will be few species left and the people left may not have, anymore, the extraordinary wealth required to pull on the bit in the mouth of climate change and make her slow her pace towards destruction to a cantor. 

Instead, the resources left will be used to find a way to slurp down the remains of fresh water and carry it to arid ground.  Diversity will be in history books instead of scientific ones.   Nuclear power will give the last of the humans at the end of the world something to heat their homes with in the brutal dry winters and a way to air condition in the terrifically hot and lengthy summers.  No one will talk about sustainability.  It will be time to talk about survival, but it will be a quiet conversation, because no one will have paid any attention to the ways to make it happen.  The warming of the seas, the lack of food, and water, the heat in the skies, the shrinking glaciers—will be news to everyone left standing.

We stand at the precipice at the end of the world.  There is no “unless” anymore.  Only near-extinction of our species will slow the demise of the Earth—and by then, the soil gutted of her blood and the bones of millennium of creatures pulled up in oil and coal  to keep the heat on and the cars on the roads, there will be no going back.  The temperature will not revert back and it will take a million more years for the glaciers to re-form in a way that sustains the ocean temperature and salinity.   There will be no such thing as polar bears or penguins.

How does one prepare one’s young people for this future they must endure or die from?

How does one fight against the reality, scooping water in teacup hands in the midst of an avalanche of water, throwing it back in the face of destiny and saying “No, it won’t be, this is what we do to stop it.”?

Finally awake, I shred my hair and shriek.

I tell you to wake to it too.  Today a man in India is pulling chunks of coal out of a mine with his bare hands. With the same foolhardy desperation, I tell you, tattoo the faces of your children with laments for the end of the world, even if almost everything changes.  Nothing less than everything will work.

We must:

  1. Regulate the sky pollution. . . Regulate and tax all of the pollution, but especially CO2 emissions.
  2. Carbon capture programs must be required at every coal plant in the world.
  3. Reduce all forms of energy waste.
  4. Use solar and wind power in every home, public structure, and school.
  5. Use brand-new, thoughtfully designed, carefully managed nuclear plants, to buy us time.
  6. Endure poverty, as a global community. End consumerism, which saps us of the ability to see reality and live authentic simple lives where need is more important than want.
  7. Recycle everything, and purchase only those things made from recycled materials.
  8. Use local currencies as often as possible.
  9. Reduce the use of cars, via gasoline tariffs.
  10. Educate everyone on population, breeding, and the heavy toll having children take on the environment.
  11. Dismantle fast food empires.
  12. Encourage or demand worldwide use of vegetarian or low-meat diets.

I do believe despite such a list of demands on behalf of my children, that it is possible to write authentically: Look! My darlings! I know you’ll come across this, maybe five or six years from now, old enough to read your Mom’s blog and find the thing that kept me up at night, from love!  Look! It is too late.  It is.  Lift your heads.  Be brave, my loves, and begin to work towards survival on the street at the end of the world.  After all, you must.

[1] I’m a poet and attorney.  I have learned how to dig for the absolutely authentic lie (the metaphor, often) and I’ve learned to write in a formula to parse those words meant to capture complex legal ideas whether they be civil, contractual, criminal, or property law conceptions.  Maybe  they are the ethical underpinning of these realms, often couched in Constitutional law language.

The study of law has taught me little of how to grapple with climate change, except in terms of how I’ll present where I am with what I know.  CREAC is an elegant little formula to present an idea simply.  It goes

Conclusion, Rule, Explanation; Application; Conclusion.   I have two kids; skin in the game, see?  It isn’t as a scientist that I come to write about climate change.  I come to the discussion as a human being whose young charges I had the audacity to produce are devastatingly impacted by what I am trying to talk about.

[2] The population of the planet has increased dramatically…from 1 billion in 1804 to more than 7 billion today:  http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/#pastfuture.

[3] Of course, the red pandas are as done for as the polar bears—it is too late to change that fact.

[4] Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850 (see Figure SPM.1). In the Northern Hemisphere, 1983–2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years (medium confidence).

[5] “[T]rends based on short records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends. As one example, the rate of warming over the past 15 years (1998–2012; 0.05 [–0.05 to 0.15] °C per decade), which begins with a strong El Niño, is smaller than the rate calculated since 1951 (1951–2012; 0.12 [0.08 to 0.14] °C per decade).”  http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/report/WG1AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdf at page 5. Retrieved September 1, 2014.

[6] “Ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90% of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010 (high confidence).  It is virtually certain that the upper ocean (0−700 m) warmed from 1971 to 2010 (see Figure SPM.3), and it likely warmed between the 1870s and 1971.”  http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/report/WG1AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdf at page 8. Retrieved September 1, 2014.

[7] “Over the last two decades, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass, glaciers have continued to shrink almost worldwide, and Arctic sea ice and Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover have continued to decrease in extent (high confidence) . . . .”  http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/report/WG1AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdf at page 9. Retrieved September 1, 2014.

[8] “The rate of sea level rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the mean rate during the previous two millennia (high confidence). Over the period 1901 to 2010, global mean sea level rose by 0.19 [0.17 to 0.21]. . . .”   http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/report/WG1AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdf

 at page 11 Retrieved September 1, 2014.

[9] http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/report/WG1AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdf at page 11. Retrieved September 1, 2014.

[10] “Among this diverse group of organisms, phytoplankton (which are central to biogeochemical and ecological services and play key roles in both regulation of atmospheric CO2 through photosynthesis and in the maintenance of upper trophic levels) have already been observed to respond to warming. Thus, marine phytoplankton biomass and productivity have been shown to decrease in response to warmer sea surface temperatures, although this diminution has been attributed to the indirect effect of the temperature-driven stratification on the isolation of surface waters from cool, nutrient-rich deeper water.”  See Warming will affect phytoplankton differently: evidence through a mechanistic approach. Emma Huertas1,*†, Mónica Rouco2,†, Victoria López-Rodas2,† and Eduardo Costas  Retrieved September 5, 2014 at http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2011/04/19/rspb.2011.0160.

[11] See http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/04/coal/nijhuis-text Retrieved September 3, 2014.

Bitches Be Trippin (or, ‘staring at a blue tribal tapestry settles my unease long enough to type’)

I accept the day like a polar bear
floating on his back on the sky
in the cobalt dusk. I shudder
like a pearl colored petal,
veined with tenderness as the rooftop gutters
cascade yellow lava, freezing honeysuckle
into volcanic forever-black.
I drive, breathe, demand you:
an electric feeder circuit
swinging by the sides of the bed.
I build my timescape
as if my imagination were sifting
from a soft gray bag of cement.
I open the throttle at my heart;
I clack furious and tacky and loud
as an over-cleaned keyboard. I am the malachite
with smooth stripes of elegance
rippling the green (I think
I mean love). I am sweet and endangered
as the panda baby born near Chernobyl this morning.