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.