Do you like leggings?

Yes, I do.

Do you wear leggings?

No, I don’t. (to be sing-songy sung)

Anyhow, I wish I did wear leggings because they are fun to design over at Redbubble where I have recently set up shop under the name of Fortuitous Photos. Why that name, you might ask, and I’d answer that Lucky Shot was gone.

For years, I’ve used my photos to design notecards, pillows, cutting boards, various utilitarian products as gifts for family and friends. Generally, these one-of-a-kind items are expensive and totally lacking in quality control, not to mention frequently weird. When I visit my daughter, I have to wonder why she has a cutting board from her Hawaiian vacation consisting of a half inch of a beach scene and the rest of cloudless blue sky or a serving tray featuring the enormous head of a giraffe with a disgustingly protruding tongue, or a garish peacock feather pillow. What was I thinking? She has been more victimized than gifted by some of my creations.

Now, however, the whole world can partake of these moments in time. I can put the images “out there,” and they will live or die, according to their desirability. Great freedom in that. However, while feeling no responsibility for the images themselves (because on the site, the customer is choosing them), I do feel the heavy burden of making sure that the product is of good quality. That means I’m making a lot of Redbubble purchases myself and tweaking accordingly, that is, removing products that don’t work. I suspect I will be my own best customer.

The impetus to go public with my photos was provided by my 21-year old grandson, immortalized in the “One Blazing Glance” song cycle. Here’s what happened: My most recent holiday gift was Dump Trump memorabilia (cups and tote bags) from the 2017 Women’s March in Albany. My grandson suggested that if I wanted wider dissemination of this photo (which I was indicating I did), I should try marketing them on the internet.

 I did a lot of research and decided to start with Redbubble, under the name, as above, Fortuitous Photo. The images I’ve added to the site are trending away from the brash and weird toward delicate florals. I expect I will be adding and subtracting images to the site frequently because it is so much fun and my taste is rapidly evolving. I may even get brave enough to someday wear one of my wearables— if not leggings, one of my divinely inspired orchid chiffon tank tops.

In the meantime, if you are in the market for an amazing Dump Trump tote bag ($22, shipping included), contact me at fortuitousphoto@gmail.com. Quantities limited.

Are the Old Ways Passing?

In many ways, yes. Granted, the problems (might or will- take your pick) always be with us, to paraphrase Jesus, in John’s Gospel. Perennial problems of freedom, justice, equality. Over the centuries, individual cultures approach these universal biggies in the language and images of their particular time and place. Not to belabor the obvious, but cultures change, and ours has changed mightily in my lifetime. 

As I’ve said here previously, I think in categories I learned decades ago, while my mind was eager and impressionable. These categories stuck because they made sense to me at the time (they were certainly better than anything else I’d heard) and because in subsequent reading, I sought out writers who think using similar terminology. A rarer and rarer breed. 

I’m not complaining. Really. If I casually inject a classical allusion into a poem, especially one which, to my mind, works on multiple levels, I must be willing to live without the readers who feel shut out of that poem. It’s a big world with lots of readers and lots of writers. Fine. The only lesson to be drawn is that with the erosion of mythological, historical, Western Civ-type allusions and their ability to blast open huge philosophical and age-old moral quandaries, political poetry has lost a major tool.

Preaching over. Now, a what-on-earth-are-you-talking-about example. My gratitude to Lori Desrosiers, editor of Naugatuck River Review, for recently publishing “Take with a Grain of Salt— cum grano salis.” Lori does an outstanding job curating narrative poems, many of which begin in a moment, of equal narratable and surreal potential. 

For example, on a recent visit, my dear sister-in-law Kathy (wife of Phil Casey of Scuppernongaree fame—Like them on Facebook) asked a simple-on-the-face-of-it question, where did I keep my salt. Since the dedicated salt cellar location in my kitchen had not yet been established, this question set the universe spinning. On a bad day, I’d berate myself, “What kind of an idiot doesn’t know where her salt belongs?” On a good day, I’d quickly pronounce, “Here,” and point to any old vacant spot. But on a truly excellent day, I’d take a mental sidetrip and realize how incredibly interesting and multi-layered a question that was—and how telling that yet another domestic event led to questioning morality in the public sphere. 

Take with a Grain of Salt
    cum grano salis

After frying her morning egg
the Turkish way—rolled cigar-like,
my sister-in-law cleans my counter,

Where do you keep your salt? 
Oh, I answer, stick it anywhere.
My mother kept her salt

next to the cinnamon she’d mix
with sugar for special-day toast,
far in front of the summer salad

paprika. My grandmother kept
hers on the counter, next to the gas
stove where she browned Sunday’s 

pot roast. I don’t know if my great-
grandmother had a special place for salt, 
but according to all accounts, 

she herself was salt of the earth. 
I have one daughter whose salt
never wanders and another whose

salt floats free.  Women in our family
are worth their salt in the kitchen. 
Roman soldiers were paid in salt

from which we get salary, necessary
perks and lucre. None of the above for
Cincinnatus. Our George Washington 

thinks that’s cool. Back to the farm after war. 
No, to power, to dictatorship. No to salt, 
not even to rub in an enemy’s wounds. 

 

Who Said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it?”

George Santayana, in The Life of Reason (1905), and some thirty billion people afterward. My poem, “Highly Fungible,” published today at the rock-star NewVerse.News site, might suggest that I follow suit and see our current political situation as akin to Rome’s infamous decline from robust halcyonic Republic to debased, doomed, vulgar Empire. Yes, and no.

First, it’s the prerogative of political satire to ignore substance in favor of style. Over-the-top style. How else to ferret out deeper truths? But, political satire is different from cultural analysis. It will take years for a serious critique of current political phenomena to develop.

Still,  I don’t want to leave on the public table the notion that I think we are witnessing another round of Fall and Decline. In some ways, Trump (supposedly) offers antidotes to what brought Roman society to a halt: for instance, the “bread and games” mentality and the corrosive Roman patronage system. Trump wants to bring jobs back that will allow people to work and participate in rebuilding the economy and renewing the social fabric. He says over and over that he is funding his own campaign and that he will therefore not be beholden to special interests. Very nice. UnRomanEmpirelike, and strangely reminiscent of Bernie Sanders.

Trump may be a great person. Certainly, his wife, children and many friends and associates think he is. Certainly, he seems sincere in wanting to make America great again. And dare I discern some altruism somewhere? Who can judge? But I think we can judge what he represents as a Candidate and speculate that he is reifying a nasty element in our national psyche, and, conversely, that the current political scene is bringing out the worst in Trump. So henceforth, here, when I speak of Trump, I am talking about this crazy projection of a leader that he purports to be, and I am leaving the personal Trump to discover between him and his Maker if there is ever need for forgiveness.

With that in mind, I would say that Trump represents late-stage Patriarchy. White, of course. (And I have no evidence that it’s late-stage; I’m just hoping.) When he is on your side, the sun shines, shines, shines. It helps if you are similarly endowed. Or the Beautiful Wife of a Success Story. We all like Success. And the rest of us can weather the various storms by Following the Rules.  Or else. If he’s not on your side, then yes… the playground bully and the abusive husband hurtling home. Watch out. The Romans wrote the book on patriarchy. A seductive, appealing version of patriarchy sometimes, but nonetheless a ruinous system for half the world’s population. Actually, all the world’s population, but that’s another soapbox.

The final word on this political season is a long way from being written, but one cliché that I embrace without equivocation—we are indeed living in “interesting times.”