Going to Work

This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.
I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.

Toni Morrison
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Addiction/Cravings

A Month Without Coffee is an interesting look at addiction/cravings, specifically about coffee, but applicable to other substances. And I think about food at contemplative retreats, monasteries, etc. A key phrase is “flavor signal”. Substances with a strong flavor signal like great coffee and even more, great espresso can be very difficult to give up. The author suggests deconditioning by going from espresso to good coffee to so-so coffee, then quiting coffee (or other addictive substances).

I’m trying to lose weight and finding it very difficult. The same diet that ten years ago lost a pound every week or two is not working. Part of this may be age and medical issues. Part of this may be that I have upped my cooking over the last year. Making blah or mediocre food/coffee/espresso doesn’t seem like a good idea. May be it is.

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Reading Outside of Your Lane

Reading Outside of Your Lane is a blog post on how to approach reading a novel about a person or people outside of your usual fare. The author writes transgender historical fiction. This is needed advice as literature opens up to writers who are none of: straight, white, American, men. It is also helpful advice to keep in mind when I encounter such people in person. Reading, I can look up unknown words, slang, and phrases on the Internet as I go. At poetry readings and open mics, I’m not sure whether to do that. The feature/speaker may consider it rude. I dislike making mistakes in public, but sometimes that’s what required to learn.

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Playing for Change | Song Around the World

Playing for Change is a channel on YouTube. There is a core band based in the USA that is on some songs. Most, especially those with the Song Around The World subtitle, are assembled from recordings made around the world. They are covers, mostly pop music (e.g. Knocking on Heaven’s Door, Honky Tonk Women). Performers range from street artists to established Western stars (e.g., Keith Richards, YoYo Ma). The musicianship is amazing, makes me weep.

The technology intrigues me. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many choirs and bands have gone virtual. Someone makes the basic recording and all the singers and musicians record their part (audio and perhaps video) while listening to the recording. Then the recordings are all mixed together. The organization has been doing this for a decade, long before the pandemic hit.

This is a fundraiser for music education with an eye towards social justice.

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“Praying in the Doorway” on Amethyst Review

Amethyst Review published my poem, “Praying in the Doorway.” This is my second publication out of the US (they are based in the UK).

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Prescient

Rest, but pay attention. Refuse to cooperate with anyone who is stealing your freedom, you personal and civil liberties, and then smirking about it. I’m not going to name names.

Anne Lamott – “Plan B”

Writers sometimes appear prescient (seeing the future). It’s not because they seeing The Future, but because they are speaking a truth that is not just about a specific event (i.e. facts). Anne Lamott wrote quote above about George Bush. Trump fits the smirking bit even better than Bush. That smirk irked me. The knowledge that he deliberately did things that irked people who did not vote for him kept it from infuriating me.

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Chemo Mindfullness

Poetry Pacific published my poem, “Chemo Mindfulness”, written a year after I finished chemo. They are based in Vancouver, Canada. This is my first publication outside the United States.

The May 25 issue of Amethyst Review, based in the UK will publish “Praying in the Doorway”.

Boundless, the Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival anthology, containing my poem, “The Cat Has Passed On,” is also published this month.

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Sundown published in Voices de la Luna

Voices de la Luna has published “Sundown” in the February 2021 issue. It’s not accessible through their Website. I’ve included the text below.

  Sundown
 for Javier Zamora

I read where you received
a soccer scholarship
to Katherine Branson.
It was a girls’ school
in my day. My father
liked their thrift shop.

Now I live in another state.
I know people who attend a school
they cannot afford on scholarship.
They are welcome
until the game ends,
until the sun goes down.

I want so much to believe
my home state
has no sundown towns.

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Joyce Harjo on the Gifts of the Pandemic

A theme that runs through this interview with Joyce Harjo, U.S. Poet Laureate, is home. We moved to Austin, TX because my wife wanted to go home. California was losing its appeal (cost of living, forest fires, and our direction diverging from the communities we were in). Sitting on the porch of the B&B we were staying in, drinking hard cider and chocolate cookies, Austin felt good.

It has been twenty one years and it is not feeling so much like home any more. Summers have always been rough. This past winter was not easy, though we did better than most. A fire station and two nursing homes are on our electrical circuit and so we had no rolling blackouts. The contaminated water for a few days was a problem.

The political climate has worsened. The Texas Legislature seems determined to prove how small minded and mean spirited they can be to people who aren’t rich, white, and powerful. They are also trying to ram through permit-less gun carry in spite of the opposition of the police. It is unlikely they will do anything to improve the reliability of the electric grid (or the water and sewer lines). It doesn’t feel much like home any more. Hearing some one else struggling with home, is heartening and inspiring.

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Can’t Get Enough

The “You can’t get enough of what you don’t want/need” principle bit me again last night. My wife and I frequently share a Perfect Manhattan when we go out. Usually we sip it all through appetizers and dinner, occasionally leaving a bit. Last night, the bartender was busy and rushed it. I drank it too fast, mostly on an empty stomach and was a less than excellent driver going home. Sharing a great Perfect Manhattan is enough. A mediocre one is not enough until it is too much.

Interestingly for both of us, most margaritas are this way, even very good frozen ones. I’ve had two truly great margaritas, both on the rocks. Maybe they were enough, I didn’t get a second and don’t recall wanting one.

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Food Odyssey

Inspired by Gary Nabhan’s “Why Some Like It Hot”, I’m embarking on a search for what genetic factors are affecting my health, what my ancestors ate, and how I might change my diet to improve my health. From my reading and my experience, two principals have emerged so far:

  • Slow release carbohydrates – whole grains and starches.
  • You can’t get enough of what you don’t need – at first this sound nonsensical, then paradoxical. It contains wisdom I’m still mining over 20 years after I first heard it. Simple example: when I traveled I drank the hotel’s coffee, many cups full. At home, I drink good coffee and 2-3 a day are enough. 2-3 cups of hotel coffee leaves me wanting more. Now I carry Starbucks instant coffee. It’s good enough, 1 cup at breakfast is enough and I’ll have another cup or two of good coffee during the day.
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