— From EF —

I use the word tribe often. When we do our annual bardic trek across the country, I feel a bone-deep warmth in once again being in contact with those who are our tribe, those who are spendthrift in living within the world of the word, whose geis herds them always into the service of communicating and bonding. I love being at Larry Robinson’s Oral Traditions Salon, savoring the knowledge that this packed living room brings together those who love poetry enough to have committed it to memory, in service of sharing, celebration, and community. The more we give, the more we have.

And then I look at another tribe, one whose forces are rising to celebrate a master spokesman in pursuit of political power. It’s clear that they, too, are jubilant in their communion and feel the energy of bonding.

But when I’m talking with an audience after Lear or swapping intoxicating poetry in the salon, I don’t have any sense of a wall that defines me by exclusion. It doesn’t require the concept of a hated other. I am not strengthened by what I reject, and I don’t look for affirmation for judgment against others.

Tribal affinity approves of whatever is held in common, whether it be dietary customs, sexual behavior, religious views or what’s fun to do on a Saturday night. But then how does it define the other? What explains the fact that in India, where five women a week are disfigured, it is still easy to buy sulfuric acid? What’s the tribal attitude that allows the seller to fill a Sprite bottle and accept payment with no questions? Maybe the same habit of mind that encourages packing an AK-47 while ordering a burger.

Our society, at least some of it, has accepted an astonishing avalanche of change with regard to gender identity and erotic affinities. Not long ago, homosexuality was something that dare not speak its name. Did the medical establishment of 1930 not know that, at many times in human history, there have been tribal customs that regarded same-sex erotic habits as normal and necessary? Are we condemned to serial amnesia?

Many people have been passionately involved in making life better for all, not just for a limited tribe, and a few have been skilled enough at politics to have gained access to power. They have risen into the light. There are others passionately involved in bolstering the exclusionary boundaries of their own tribe. Their roots are deep. May they not prevail.

— From CB —

I am leery of ladders.
Ladders I climb only when I have to
to scoop leaves from the eave-troughs
to pick the highest apples
to focus lensed instruments onto the stage
where we play stories, to give them light
and otherwise the six-foot stepladder and
the long extension both
stay folded against the shed
resisting the rain.

I see Jacob’s ladder
dreamed on a pillow of stone
angels ascending, descending
ignoring the escalator.
In flight from having conned Esau, the dream
cheered him up and offered significations
wrung from the beards of sages.
He took heart from the angels’ ladder
despite its waver and tilt.

Now I mount a ladder
no apples nor leafstuff nor incandescence
a dream of ascending, descending
the year at a fearsome tilt.
An empty sky, no promise.
Only this crazy urge to climb.

— From the Fool —

They all do stuff like “The Ten Best Movies” or “The Ten Best Stupid Things” at the end of the year, so I thought I better too. But my memory is pretty short. Mostly did I feed the cat, or do I still have a cat? So I googled “The Ten Best News.” Here it is.

  1. Some people got shot.
  2. Some candidates said really crazy stuff.
  3. More people got shot.
  4. They decided that Iran wouldn’t build an atomic bomb, but we could, which we did, I guess a lot of, to keep up with the styles.
  5. We decided Cuba existed, which we didn’t remember before.
  6. More people got shot, so everybody wants in on the act.
  7. Some guys decided that people could get married, although there was disagreement.
  8. There was real bad weather so they signed an historic agreement not to cause it unless they had to.
  9. People got shot because they were cartoonists or doing a Bible lesson or the wrong color or called the cops or went to a clinic or put up their hands in a threatening manner or just for the hell of it.
  10. They killed Cecil the Lion and took pictures of Pluto and got gas prices down and invented new gizmos and China got worse and Syria worser, but I’m not sure what happened to us.

That was a whole lot of stuff to plow through, but then I went out to the ocean, and a bunch of birds were sitting out on the waves, just floating there. For me, that kind of reduced it all down to mashed potatoes. The clouds above the ocean looked like mashed potatoes. I loved when my mom made mashed potatoes and gravy. Maybe next year we’ll get nicer news.


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© Bishop & Fuller 2015


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