Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday with Walt

March 26, 2017 is the 125th anniversary of Walt Whitman's death. I found out, recently, that he actually isn't dead at all. He just stopped somewhere, waiting for us. We need him again.


This is my daughter The Spare. She's more photogenic than me. We went into Camden today to a special reading at his tomb. And he was there. He gave us a few verses of his work. I think he would have said more, but it was a bitter cold day for the end of March. Death does not seem to have fazed him at all, which should be a solace to all of us.


Some people took videos of the event -- alas, I forgot my phone (I used Spare's to take this photo). Perhaps in a few days someone will upload a video so that you can all see the great, gray poet speaking to us.

In the meantime, here's a little bit:

Love the earth and sun and animals,
Despise riches, give alms to everyone who asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labor to others,
And your very flesh shall be a great poem.

This week I will be teaching my students about Walt Whitman. They only know him as a bridge.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Vulture Psalm

A vulture psalm.

If you're feeling sick
It's really a bitch,
But you ought to have health care
Even if you're not rich.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

An Open Letter to the Jackass with the Donald Trump Bumper Sticker

(Apologies, y'all. I've been watching a lot of really, really terrific spoken word poetry. I'm not a poet, but I did steal the "open letter" concept.)

An Open Letter to the Jackass with the Donald Trump Bumper Sticker

Yes! I saw you in the east bound lanes of Route 70 Thursday afternoon! You pulled up parallel to me, honked your horn, and held up your TRUMP bumper sticker that you must have had handy on the passenger seat next to you.

It was handy because you had no passenger. No one to fill the empty seat in your snowy white Cadillac Escalade. No one to hold your tiny hand or your TRUMP sticker. Lonesome boy!

I couldn't help noticing that your Escalade, while painted snowy white, had a thickish coat of gray grime. You know why, jackass? YOU LIVE IN NEW JERSEY, the Smokestack State! Your tags give it away! Who buys a white car in New Jersey? My guess is, a racist.

And now I have another rhetorical question. Why isn't the TRUMP bumper sticker ON YOUR CAR? I have my RESIST sticker right where everyone can see it. That's how you knew to flash me your TRUMP.  You saw RESIST and pulled up beside me.

Holding your bumper sticker in your hand. In your Escalade. Where you were alone.

Could it be that you aren't proud enough of your candidate to put his name on your SUV? No, wait. It's not that. YOU LIVE IN NEW JERSEY. This state voted so blue that you can't tell the sky from the ground. This state is so blue that Elvis sings about it at Christmas time. It's so blue  it needs Prozac. This state is so blue it could be a Viking's eyes. In this state, Dorothy and Toto go to the Sapphire City. NEW JERSEY IS THE FREAKIN PAST TENSE OF BLOW.

So while I can tootle around in my decrepit Saturn with my RESIST bumper sticker proudly displayed, You, jackass, run risks putting TRUMP on your Escalade. Your prissy truck could get keyed at the mall!

But wait. There's more.

You moved into my lane and got in front of me. You have a Cadillac. And yet when we got to the exit for Snobville, I was the one who exited, and you kept going down Route 70 toward Cherry Hill and its eight large synagogues. Was that your destination? Jersey tags, you must live in the area. But you don't live in Snobville. I do! Tra la la, Snobville went 65% for Hillary Clinton! I used to hate Snobville, but since those election results came in, I've been quite happy in my snobby home.

Stupid conspicuous consumer in your ugly high-end gas guzzler! Drive on. Alone. Right to the end of the road ... and then into the ocean. Because you should be shark food.

Anne Johnson

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Riveting Conversation

Hello again! It's me, Anne Johnson, and this is "The Gods Are Bored," a sort of deity diner. Yes, the bored gods are becoming restless and snarly again and are itching for me to return to my agenda. Today, though, I had a fascinating conversation with myself that I thought I would share with you.


Me: Anne? Anne?

Me: Huh? *yawn*

Me: Remember last September when you swore up and down that you wouldn't come home and flop down in your barca-lounger like some sloth on quaaludes?

Me: *mumble mumble yawn*

Me: Remember you said that you were going to embark upon vigorous housework and other heart-strengthening activities the minute you walked through the door? I do vividly recall that you vowed to visit Decibel's resting place twice a week or more.

Me: Leave me alone, Me! I'm exhausted!

Me: Whose fault is that? Go to bed at bedtime!

Me: I do, dammit! It's just the getting-up time that's ridiculous. Especially now, with daylight savings time. Feels like it's the middle of the night. *yawn*

Me: Whine Whine Whine! Look at this house! It's a mess!

Me: Well then, you clean it up.

Me: Me? Why? I'm tired too! I stayed up late too!

Me: Uh huh, you sure did! And let's not forget why you stayed up late. You were looking at fairy clothes again! You don't have a brass farthing for a new fairy outfit! Why are you even looking?

Me: Get off my case. I've been wearing the same shirt to Fairie Festival for ten years!

Me: And there's not one damn thing wrong with it. Besides, the coffers are low. You've been marching, remember?

Me: I'm too tired to remember anything!

Me: You should have thought about fairy clothes when you bought that Union Thugs t-shirt. News flash: Why don't you wear that to the Fairie Festival?

Me: I suppose I could glam it up ...


Me: How the hell am I supposed to know when you're joking? Do you think I'm a mind reader?

Me: Anne, you need a glass of wine.

Me: We gave it up, packed it in, vowed to live sober. You surely remember that.

Me: Yes, alas, I do. But it's okay, because to get a glass of wine I would have to move out of the barca-lounger.

Me: Which, under the circumstances, I would never ask you to do. I have an idea: Why don't we go to Etsy and shop for fairy clothes?

Me: I give up. Anne, you're right. In fact, you're always right. Everyone says that about you.

Me: I know. Thanks all the same.

Tune in for another session of "The Gods Are Bored," where we'll go see Walt Whitman, or Decibel's ghost, or have Asherah over for scones. You never know.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Vulture Doesn't Want To Eat Cold, Starved Senior Citizens

It's a little known fact that the construction of the Great Wall of China led to a severe famine in the country constructing the wall. All the able-bodied people in the nation were called upon to help with the wall. Between the cost of it and the lack of workers to do other things (like, for instance, plant and harvest crops), the country plunged into decline.

So now our government has money to build a wall, but not to finance Meals on Wheels?

Get ready for it. VULTURE IS PISSED.

Vulture does not want to dine on emaciated senior citizens! Vulture would vastly prefer a diet of ultra-wealthy fat cats who are harvesting ducats on the backs of the rest of us! Vulture likes his carcasses to be brimming with the finest caviar-crusted entrails!

The Great God Vulture would like me to add that He (just like a person) likes His food squishy and fleshy, not rock-solid frozen.

Before you get the misguided idea that you should point out to Vulture that Meals on Wheels is state-financed, let me tell you that I did some due diligence here. Some of the financing for Meals on Wheels comes from federal Community Block Grants, which have been around for decades and are used to prop up the poorest, neediest communities in all kinds of ways. You guessed it. The block grants will be gone. They are "failing."

Vulture. Is. Pissed.

So, how do the starving senior citizens also become frozen? Federal money also props up state grant money that helps the poorest among us to keep their furnaces lit all through the cold months. This I heard on the local news radio. Our local LIHEAP office is afraid that they won't be able to help poor folks next winter, due to the budget axe being wielded by our Carrion in Chief.

What kind of heartless scoundrels prey upon the weakest and most vulnerable citizens? Vulture cries foul! Vulture is not a predator -- He disposes. He does not kill. Governments that cut social services while increasing the budget for weapons of mass destruction ... those are the killers.

Thus sayeth Vulture: Oppose the draconian measures that are being contemplated with glee in the halls of power!

Anyone who begrudges poor people nutritious meals and warm homes deserves to die and go to


Where they will be helplessly obese and overheated, trying in vain to avoid being pelted by those heavy-ass rolls of quarters you pick up on your way to the laundromat! All the while, perfectly polished mirrors will allow these miscreants to view themselves being taunted by Santa Claus and his righteously indignant elves!

The word of Vulture for the people of Vulture. Thanks be to Vulture.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Postcard Day

 Here we are again at "The Gods Are Bored," where the only Goddess joining us today is Sedna. She gets a kick out of the fuss we make in New Jersey whenever it snows. She has seen it all: No amount of sleet and freezing rain ruffles Her fur.

In our last installment I told you that Walt Whitman was joining me for dinner and an overnight stay. Fortunately I had a day off for stormy weather, so before the sun came up the next morning, I towed the Great Gray Poet into Camden on a Flexible Flyer sled. I deposited him at his home, which is now a museum. So as not to disturb him too much with our modern ways, I stayed along the Cooper River until we got into the heart of Camden -- and from there parts of it don't look much different, just way way more run-down.

I wish I had kept him handy, though, because I nearly forgot ... today is the Ides of Trump! I had to send my postcard to the White House!

With a deep sadness I unearthed one of my "Greetings from Asbury Park" postcards. And there was even greater regret when I had to affix a nice little "forever" stamp with a cardinal on it. Worst money I ever spent. But these things must be done.

It's important to be succinct on a postcard. There's nothing I hate more than getting a card from someone who has the money to travel someplace that I would like to go, and I'll never get there, and it looks so good in the picture, and how come I never have any money to travel? Wait. Emmm. Off topic. Re-direct: I don't like postcards where the person runs out of room at the bottom and writes extra small, or curves the text around the side. Pet peeve, you know?

I wanted to keep things short. And secular.

Drum roll ...

I'm not gonna cuss ya
You puppet of Russia,
But I want to know why
You put tape on your tie.

The beauty of this is, neither Walt Whitman nor Sedna helped me with this fine verse! I did it all on my own.

Monday, March 13, 2017

My New House Guest

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" It's me, Anne Johnson, sitting here awaiting a Nor'Easter. I've got my bread, my milk, my candles, and my firewood. It's all good.

I also have a house guest, at least for one night. Let me tell you all about it.

Some of you old-timers might remember that I had a parrot named Decibel. Poor Decibel keeled over from heart disease a little more than a year ago, and I buried her near a pond that lies just behind my house.

With a storm approaching, I thought I would go by Decibel's grave and spend a bit of time before it starts snowing.

Decibel's grave overlooks the pond (it's a smallish number, home to some snapping turtles and a fractious mallard or two). As I stood there I looked toward the water, and I saw a man standing on the bank.

At first I thought it was my friend the Monkey Man, done up in his Walt Whitman attire. But the Monkey Man never grows his beard as wild as this guy's was.

Doing Walt Whitman impersonations is popular around here, so I guessed I was looking at one of those sorts of people. I'm softhearted for reenactors. You see truckloads of them in Philadelphia. So I climbed down the bank and hailed the guy.

"You called me," he said. And damn, he was the best all-time Walt Whitman reenactor I ever, ever saw! He looked just like -- I mean just like -- the last photo taken of him.

This is the guy. Except it really is the guy.

I've watched a little bit of Doctor Who, enough to know that he has some kind of time machine and he changes faces conveniently every few years. Must say I felt a little bit like I'd stumbled into an episode. Walt Whitman was standing there, along the pond, staring at me.

"I heard you calling," he said, "but I'm a trifle lost. Is this Camden?"

"Camden's about three miles to the east," I said. I was genteel enough not to add, and your mausoleum is right on the edge, I go there all the time.

He took off his hat like a gentleman, extended his hand, and said, "I'm Walt Whitman. Maybe you have heard of my poem, 'O Captain My Captain.'"

"Oh yes, I've heard of it," I said. Then, just because I can, I said

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me
He complains of my gab and my loitering.
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

And this is how I knew it was really Walt Whitman. You say that to a reenactor, you get a knowing nod. You say that to Walt Whitman and you get a hungry look, like, "Has this person bought my book?"

"You've read my work!"

"I've got some of it by memory, too," I said. I wondered if I should tell him about this:

Then I decided against it. No predicting how an old dude is going to react when you tell him a major steel bridge linking New Jersey and Pennsylvania across the Delaware River is named after him.

He said, "I heard you calling, but I didn't know you would be a reader."

Except I didn't call him. I was just standing by Decibel's grave, looking for him under my boot-soles.

"What can I do for you, Miss ... Miss ..."

"Johnson. Anne Johnson. Really."

"How can I help you, Anne Johnson? You can see, I suppose, that I'm not in a shape to help anyone with physical labor."

Okay, now I was skeeved. But I soldiered on.

"I'm not sure why I hailed you, exactly," I said. "It might be because of your great, unbridled optimism for this land and its people."

He shook his white locks at the runaway sun. "I lost much of that optimism during the War."

"I know," I said. "Somehow, some way, I want you to keep America out of another civil war. We need to hear America singing Her great, varied carols. We need to celebrate the body electric. We need to believe that every hour of the light and the dark is a miracle."

"By my soul, you really know my writing," he said.

"Everyone knows your writing. You've wandered into the future, Mr. Whitman."

He looked stricken. "Am I a ghost?"

"You sure don't look like one."

He seemed doubtful, then mournful. "How did I die?" he asked.

"You aren't dead," I said. "You are as alive as Sophocles, as Shakespeare. Name ten famous poets of your time, and I can honestly promise you that you are more famous than any of them. Don't dwell on death." I started steering him toward Chateau Johnson. "Here now. Come home with me. I'll make you some dinner and take you home in the morning. Please tell me you have your house key."

He fumbled in the pocket of his ragged great coat and produced a key. It perked him up.

I'm so forgetful," he said. "It's good to have this."

Damn right, I thought. Because I have no idea how I'd get you in that museum otherwise.

Well, reader, there you have it. Walt Whitman is up in my book room, holding two separate editions of Leaves of Grass in his hands and staring at one, then the other. Wait until he reads the learned analysis in the front of the paperback! It will go right to his head.

At the height of the Nor'Easter, I'll use the old Flexible Flyer to pull Walt Whitman into Camden. I'll take him to his home, which is right across the street from an incarceration center. Then I will call on him, frequently. We'll walk together. Maybe he has some words for us in these dark and dreadful times.