Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Two Poems for Valentine's Day

I. Meeting

From across the room you spy
The red carnation on my chest,
And walk toward me, smiling.

As you approach, you see
That it’s the bloody wound
Where my heart has been torn out.

I return your smile, your greeting,
I seem just like the man you know.

Before you I will stand,
Still bleeding.
My heart is in your hand,
Still beating.

II. The Dark

If you really want to go back
Into the dark,
Come back into my heart.

There’s a cold dark empty space there
That will fit you
Like a glove.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

My Cocoon

I have spun a cocoon around myself,
Not so much to protect me from the world,
As to bind me and confine me
With my pain.

It looks a lot like me, this cocoon. But:
In those eyes there is no light;
In those gestures, no power;
In that face, no motion.

My cocoon goes to the gym.
My cocoon goes to work.
My cocoon goes to the store, and
My cocoon goes home.

My cocoon does not go to parties.
My cocoon does not go to bars.
My cocoon does not go to dinner with friends.
My cocoon sits home alone.

And where am I? Inside,
Tightly curled around the jagged shards
Of my broken heart. Burned by the fire
That once warmed that fragile vessel,
That once drove my every step,
That once powered my spirit to soar.

Will that fire transform me?
Will that fire consume me?
Will I emerge, a new being,
Ready to fly?
Or will I die?

My cocoon looks just like me, but
In those eyes there is no light;
| (Because I sent the light away,
In those gestures, no power;
| And focused all my power on the one,
In that face, no motion.
| The only one who made me move.)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

My "Cut and Run" Strategy

The GOPpers keep accusing us on the left (Democrats and southwards) of having a "Cut and Run" strategy. Surprisingly, though of course they intend this as a complete lie, there's actually a grain of truth to it. I'd like to present a "Cut and Run" strategy here. I think it comes off best as a bumper sticker:
CUT out the crap and RUN the country

no wonder the Republicans are against it
Like my "Cut and Run"? Feel free to spread it.

Monday, October 02, 2006


From Jim MacDonald (a US Navy veteran) at Making Light:

You are not required to obey an unlawful order.

You are required to disobey an unlawful order.

You swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Constitution states (Article VI):
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
Here is article 3, the common article, to the Geneva Conventions, a duly ratified treaty made under the authority of the United States:
Article 3
In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.

The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.
Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions is straightforward and clear. Under Article VI of the Constitution, it forms part of the supreme law of the land.

You personally will be held responsible for all of your actions, in all countries, at all times and places, for the rest of your life. “I was only following orders” is not a defense.

What all this is leading to:

If you are ordered to violate Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, it is your duty to disobey that order. No “clarification,” whether passed by Congress or signed by the president, relieves you of that duty.

If you are ordered to violate Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, this is what to do:

1. Request that your superior put the order in writing.

2. If your superior puts the order in writing, inform your superior that you intend to disobey that order.

3. Request trial by courtmartial.

You will almost certainly face disciplinary action, harassment of various kinds, loss of pay, loss of liberty, discomfort and indignity. America relies on you and your courage to face those challenges.

We, the people, need you to support and defend the Constitution. I am certain that your honor and patriotism are equal to the task.

This post may be quoted in full. A linkback
* would be appreciated.

UPDATE: "If you are passing the word to military personnel, tell them about the GI Rights Hotline. 800-394-9544 (the overseas number is 215-563-4620) or" —from Making Light commenter "Adrian."

Monday, September 04, 2006

Crikey, what a dumb way to die

Steve Irwin is dead.

He was snorkeling off the Great Barrier Reef, and a stingray stung him—through the heart. That's a freak thing, and unbelievably unlucky (a couple of inches in any direction, and he'd be alive). I don't believe in instant, painless death unless the first thing to go is the brain, but as deaths go this was quick.

I didn't really watch his show. But I saw commercials for it every now and then, and I thought he was pretty cool. Some of my friends are very upset right now.

I propose that in his memory we adopt 'Crikey!' as our expression of dismay, especially those of us who live in countries where it's not a common word.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Why Iraq Is Not a Quagmire

A quagmire, literally, is a swamp. Soft, marshy ground that gives when you walk on it.

Vietnam was a quagmire. Most of the country was a damn swamp. It was also an extremely difficult war situation, and it was difficult to get out of. We were stuck, literally and metaphorically, in a swamp filled with enemies, with no obvious path out.

Iraq is certainly an extremely difficult military situation, and it has no easy path out. But the literal aspects are notably absent; there's nothing wet or even damp about Iraq (well, in the north* south there were marshes but Saddam drained them to wipe out the Marsh Arabs). And exiting Iraq is not so much a difficult path to find as a situation where all exit strategies have hideous humanitarian cost.

I have an alternative to propose.

Iraq is a tar pit.

This is nicely resonant with the dusty-dry environment there, with the oil-rich nature of the area, and with the fact that the soldier slang for the deployment zone is 'the Sandbox'. A tar pit can look harmless at first: if it's covered with dust, it can resemble stable ground until too late. Also, in a tar pit everything you do, no matter what, makes you sink faster and faster. Unlike a quagmire, it's actually inescapable—unless you get outside help. Without that help, all your struggles, no matter how dramatic, are part of an inexorable process with only one possible conclusion: your unpleasant death.

Iraq isn't a quagmire. It's a tar pit. Spread the word.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Adventures in Anaphylaxis

Well, so I'd stopped at the grocery store on the way home this past Thursday evening to pick up a couple of things. Walked down the Candy/Gum/Nuts aisle, looking for some dry roasted almonds. No such thing was to be had for love nor money, at least not in that store. So, in the first of several regrettable decisions I made that night, I grabbed some hazelnuts.

I hadn't eaten dinner before going off to my evening appointment (which come to think of it was I guess the zeroth regrettable decision of the night), and I was hungry. I used to get the smallest jar of macadamia nuts and eat them on the way home, but in a curious piece of real-world foreshadowing I started to have some slight swelling of the mouth after eating them, so I decided to avoid them.

Now I've eaten hazelnuts before. As recently as May, I made a delicious nutbread with hazelnut flour, and ate it with no ill effects whatsoever. I certainly had no reason to expect what came next.

I tossed a hazelnut into my mouth and chewed it. Yuck, I said to myself, that isn't as good as I remember. But, having nothing else and a bit of a walk home ahead, I kept eating them. When I'd eaten no more than a handful total (I expect it was about 12-15 nuts) the right side my mouth, and the inner cheek on that side started to swell. Oh well, says I to meself, says I. Looks like hazelnuts are off the list, too. And I stopped eating them. When I got home, I threw away the rest of the package.

Savor those. They're two of the only smart things I did all night.

I also rinsed out my mouth. But over the next hour or so, my mouth, then my entire face, continued to swell more and more. And lopsidedly, too: I tend to chew nuts more on the right, because I used to have a bad tooth on the left (since fixed, but the habit remains). I started to have trouble swallowing. My tongue was a little swollen too; talking wasn't working that well either. I texted my boyfriend, saying "My mouth is so swollen I can't really talk. Let's chat online." (Yeah, I really capitalize and punctuate in cellphone text messages. So?)

Did I mention that I decided that since I had swelling, and aspirin is an anti-inflammatory, I should take aspirin? Two 500-mg tablets. Just bloody brilliant, really.

Despite my stated preference, my boyfriend called me and said "You should go to the emergency room." I pooh-poohed this idea, saying I'd just wait for it to go away. Besides, I informed him, if it gets bad I can call my friend who lives downstairs and we can always go to the ER then. "Call her now," he said, and his tone added "just in case." Reluctantly, I agreed. I mean, just to make him happy; he worries. At this point the swelling on the right side of my face was the size of a grapefruit, but I knew (I mean, I just knew) it was nothing serious.

As is generally the case when you just know something, I was wrong. Did I mention that my boyfriend is the best boyfriend in the world, and not only this one, but all possible other ones? Don't think I did. Now you know.

So I called Susan (my friend downstairs) and told her what was going on, and said "just in case I need to go to the ER later, I thought I'd give you some advance warning."

"Are you breathing OK?" she asked, knowing that I have a history of asthma.

"Oh, yeah, I'm fine. Wheezing a little, that's all."

"We're going to the ER right now. I'll be right there." Now I listen to Susan when she says things like that, because I've learned over the twenty-plus years of our friendship that, while I sometimes can be sensible when she isn't, the balance is very heavily in the opposite direction. In addition, neither of us is any good at being sensible about our OWN stuff.

So we walked to the ER. (What? It's only five blocks.) Got there, and after a little initial trouble finding anyone at all to talk to, got down to business. Susan knew to use the magic words "trouble breathing" to jump any queue, but we didn't have to; there was really nobody there. Thursday just not a big knife-fight night in Hoboken, not Hoboken actually has big knife-fight nights.

At this point I was still expecting them to say "OK, so you've got a little swelling. Sit over there until it goes away, and if you keel over we're here." Nope. They frogmarched me straight into the back, and one of them inserted an IV while another gave me a sub-cute of epinephrine. They hooked me up to a blood-oxygen monitor, and the reassuring "100%" it displayed calmed things down a bit. (Working out really pays off; I can stop breathing for a while, as I used to when I had sleep apnea, without my blood-oxy going down at all.)

They put a couple of things into the IV, which they left inserted in case they had to put more stuff in in a hurry. Not messing around, these people. The doctor came in and listened to my lungs, and said he could hear the congestion. At this point my face was so swollen that I was tasting blood; my lip had split. Susan kindly informed me that I looked like a caricature of a stogie-chomping editor from a 1950s newspaper movie. I think I probably looked more like one of the misshapen mutants from 1970s post-holocaust horror movies. My left cheek was the size of a baseball; the least a cantaloupe, maybe a honeydew.

The boyfriend called me. (Did I mention...oh, yeah, I did. Best.) I wasn't going to answer the cell in a hospital, so I asked Susan to take my phone outside and call him back. (She told him the key points, yes Christopher is fine, no he can't talk on the phone, etc.; he said "yeah" a lot. He's kinda shy with total strangers when his boyfriend is in the ER; who knew?)

Anyway, to make a long story somewhat less tedious, after a couple of hours I was visibly improved, breathing clearly, less swollen. They gave me a scrip for the steroids I'm on now ("My Olympic hopes are dashed!" I said to the doctor, back of hand to brow), and sent me home.

See, I'm a hypochondriac. But since I know I'm a hypochondriac (I read the symptoms of hypochondriasis and immediately knew I had it), I tend to act like things are nothing until I can't ignore them any more. This has led to, for example, my letting an abcess on my arm grow from the size of a quarter to an angry red patch as big as my palm before going to the doctor about it. In this case that behavior could well have been fatal. If not for the good sense displayed by my boyfriend, and his cleverness in realizing I wasn't going to take his advice, and getting me to talk to someone I would listen to, and to Susan's no-nonsense approach, I might well have just gone to bed that night...and not awakened in the morning.

Let me take this opportunity to touch my forehead to the floor in honor of both of these people. It's good to be loved.

My face is still puffy. I look kinda jowly; I think I look ten years older. I'm hoping my face will spring back into shape soon. But I've learned some lessons: 1) Don't fuck around with nut allergies. Get thee to an ER. 2) Aspirin, far from being useful for allergic swelling, makes the reaction worse. 3) I have the bestest boyfriend in the world. 4) Susan's damn good too. 5) Don't fuck around with nut allergies.