De rien

Saturday, 22 July 2017

I’ve lived in Cleveland for nearly 15 years now, & in all of that time, the city & its people have been, through existential trial & error, trying to taxonomize what it means to be Cleveland. All of them should have visited Steve’s Lunch before it burned.

There are a few who have me beat, but, for the most part, I’ve been to more places in more neighborhoods than people who’ve lived here their whole lives. The common denominator, when you wipe away all the branding & internet-​era posturing to reveal the rusted heart at our core, is a moderately exasperated politesse. Clevelanders are busy, we’re in a hurry, we know what we’re doing, we don’t have time for your shit, but we aren’t gonna be jerks about it.

We’ll hold the door just long enough for it to not close in your face; we’ll throw up our hands at a senior citizen who probably shouldn’t be on the road, and impatiently give them the right of way. We’ll serve up a completely unpretentious hot dog, on a cheap plastic plate that’s been cursorily washed 10,000 times in 15 years, that changes your life when the stadium mustard smears across your tongue.

Steve’s Lunch is where I went when I had $20 to spend on a night out & could buy a hot dog with my last two dollars at 3AM. It burned before I could introduce my son to the place, but we’re regular enough at Steve’s Diner that the staff knows us on sight & the Pepsi is waiting for us when we sit down. We grouse with the staff about weather & homework & bills & split a plate of fries. Steve’s is where I go when I’m lonely or in need of comfort, & where I head when all I have time for is a hot dog.

That hot dog could be dim sum; or pierogi; or ribs barbecued in a converted 50-​gallon drum & served up without a permit at an abandoned gas station. The core of Cleveland, that no amount of luxury condos or new coats of paint can obscure, is a lack of pretension. Dandelions like Steve’s are in every neighborhood; lifting their yellow heads & growling at whatever Cleveland supposedly is this week.

We’ve seen so many grand gestures & prophets of prosperity descend from the clouds to save Cleveland, using money & influence to change entire swathes of our neighborhoods. The loudest story is that we need to be saved. We do our best to obscure the fact that we serve up little bits of salvation every day.

You want another hot dog?

Two Nights Only

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Check out these great photos that Cleveland Public Library took while I was downtown this summer writing poems for their First Folio exhibit!

Free Poetry for Shakespeare

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Cleveland Public Library asked me to come do Poetry 4 Free in the Eastman Reading Garden on a couple of dates this summer as part of their celebration of the Folger Shakespeare Library First Folio exhibit.

I had fun — it’s been a couple of years since I was downtown writing poetry on the fly for folks, but I pretty much took right back to it. I wrote 11 Shakespeare-​inspired poems in 2 hours. Folks could either give me a favorite passage, or pick from a few that I had selected.

Por ejemplo:

Some folks had no idea who Shakespeare was, and others related horrified anecdotes from college. A few people just grabbed a quote and took off without letting me write a poem for them. Everybody seemed like they were having a good time.

When the Cavs Won It All

Sunday, 19 June 2016

What will I remember about today,
in this city
that takes every punch,
unflinching, on our chins;
that rises up from every blow,
standing tall, cut-mouthed
against the world?

I'll remember
that this day is like
every other day
this city working doubles
while you slept on it
this city skipping vacation
to get the job done
this city, laconic, intractable
where we bow to no king
no, not even our own
this city of redemption
where we always welcome our sons home

Today, today
is for 
                YOU 
to remember:

this city can always say it left it all on the floor
this city where every stand is a last stand
this city where we pull for each other, exchange 
blood-stained grins
and sing loudest for the unsung.

You had forgotten
what we've always known
Cleveland is the city
filled with champions
and tomorrow, 
we get back to work.

When the Cavs Won/​Lost It All

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

About a week ago I was contacted by Bill at Fox8 who had remembered my previous Fox8 appearance about my Poetry 4 Free project. His idea was to make a piece about how Clevelanders were reacting to the Cavs being in the finals & he wanted me to come up with something that would help tie it all together. I think he did a great job considering he had to plan the piece to work for victory or defeat. Clevelanders tend to be good at that kind of planning. Here’s the piece:

I also anticipated the possibility of needing two outcomes. My full poem is below. I only gave a couple of hours to it, so it isn’t as revised as I would like, but I knew it was going to be a small part of a larger whole, so I tried to structure it for both coherence and reorganization. I only had to change the first line of the last stanza to change the tone of the poem. Efficiency!

What will I remember about today,
in this city
that takes every punch,
unflinching, on our chins;
that rises up from every blow,
standing tall, cut-mouthed
against the world?

I'll remember
that this day is like
every other day
this city working doubles
while you slept on it
this city skipping vacation
to get the job done
this city, laconic, intractable
where we bow to no king
no, not even our own
this city of redemption
where we always welcome our sons home

Today, today
is for 
                YOU 
to remember:

this city can always say it left it all on the floor
this city where every stand is a last stand
this city where we pull for each other, exchange 
blood-stained grins
and sing loudest for the unsung.

You have forgotten (or) One day you'll learn
what we've always known
Cleveland is the city
filled with champions
and tomorrow, 
we get back to work.

CLE HELPER BOT

Saturday, 6 June 2015

I created a Twitter bot named @CLEHelperBot. It retweets the hashtag #WhereInCleveland. That’s all it does. What’s the point?

My thought process:

  1. I frequently don’t know where to find stuff in Cleveland. Stuff like gaffer’s tape, a decent tailor, an old-​school barbershop, a date.
  2. How do I find people who know the answers to these questions?
  3. How can I make this useful for other folks?

For the bot to be useful, two things need to happen:

  1. Many Cleveland folks need to follow @CLEHelperBot and reply with answers to the #WhereInCleveland tweets it retweets.
  2. People need to use #WhereInCleveland when they want to find something around here.

I’m trying to crowdsource local knowledge to help out visitors & residents alike. If you use Twitter & live in Cleveland, I’d appreciate your help getting this off the ground.

Public Square

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Walk to Public Square,
while you live, and sing
the victims

roughly shoved between
lath and beam - the dead women -
sealed in walls, scratching
under the floor of Imperial
Avenue. The Seymour attic decade,
three women in chains 
a half mile from my home
the raped child's rape child
on the same playground as my son

sit down on Public Square
while you live, and sing
the victims

your fingers in the holes
left by one hundred and thirty-seven
police bullets 
your body policed upon the
asphalt so hard it stops
your twelve years of life
split open by a police sidearm.

stand up on Public Square
while you live, and sing
the victims

of men
of police
men
of institutions of
men, whose words
are worse than silence.

stand up on Public Square
and tear it down.