Old Devil Moon

October 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

(cross-posted in Open Salon)

We went out to look at the Harvest Moon, but it looked like any other full moon. No round-bellied, pumpkin-colored menacingly gracious goddess for Manhattan—no, a distant, silvery sphere, eager to stay far away from the embarrassment of Earth.

Later, we watched a program on marine life: a large peculiar fish with a squiggly nose swimming in a cloudy hum of blue, then just as we relaxed into that, a sea turtle caught in a fishing net, fighting, winding itself into an ever more impossible knots. I wanted humanity to go extinct then. We’re going to lose millions of species as it is, but if humans survive, they’ll keep despoiling, maybe more carefully, but always taking far more than their fair share of resources.

I would prefer it if a couple of million of us could thrive gently on the earth, spread out, using renewable energy and clean tech to live comfortable, exploratory lives. But if I could chose only survival or not, without conditions, I would end us. And I’d even do it right now, not say, “Let it happen after I’m dead, after the children are dead,” etc. But of course I can’t make that choice, so it doesn’t matter. Instead I try to get back in a fiction-writing mode, vividly aware that my girlish dreams of “immortality” for my work are not only limited by my talent, but more severely limited by what I can imagine future people would want to read from this generation, the generation they will hate the most.

They’ll forgive Homer, Shakespeare and Keats, Jane Austin, Scott Fitzgerald, Balzac, Proust. I don’t know if they’ll forgive anyone who was adult after 1960. Certainly not us. How could they, reading our newspapers, watching our TV—the stultifying stupidity and greed, the utter lack of concern for nature, animals, our descendants….

I think of how hard it is and has been to forgive those whom I blame for blighting some part of my life—and that’s nothing, tiny emotional pain—nothing compared to what we’re doing to the world and future.

They will hate us and envy the world we had, which we complained of. Oh, those terrible, tiny airplane seats, the lines at Security, the taxi lines. Obesity in America! High gas prices! They’ll want to come back and slit our throats; you know they will. The Midwest and West will be like Australia in a bad year; the coasts and river valleys will flood all the time. FEMA will be stretched very, very thin, so thin it will be invisible. There won’t be enough firefighters and the wildfires will take the trees and houses and animals and people and it will be tragic but in other places they’ll wait out the hurricane and wonder: which is worse, fire or rain?

I find it almost more painful to imagine those people and how they will think of us than the actual damage and how soon it will happen. We have no experience of this. We hate the past if it’s hurt us directly—if our parents were in the death camps, or our great-grandparents were slaves—but mostly it’s a tableau of wonder, disgust, drama, oddity: our storybook. Our origins. What we are better than (smarter than), or what we long for wistfully—the pastoral joys of 17th century England, the glory that was Rome, America before the white man came, the dinosaurs!

We don’t look back and say, you bastards. You greedy, evil pieces of shit. How dare you. How dare you. Come back to life so I can kill you, you Richie Rich trust-fund babies, you overprivileged, clueless twits living in your bubble…just look at you on that endless video and film you left behind, how you whine and pontificate, proclaim each other the enemy of workingman, the middle class, the lovers of freedom, the real Americans. Socialist Muslim. Heartless Capitalist. You’re all the same, you’re monsters…you have no clue what life is like for the rest of us…

I’ve heard people say, now and then, that they fear what their grandchildren will think about them. But as a novelist I can’t help but go along with the climate scientists, shouting into the wind: It will be so much worse than you imagine.

And this…

The White Room

The obvious is difficult
To prove. Many prefer
The hidden. I did, too.
I listened to the trees.

They had a secret
Which they were about to
Make known to me–
And then didn’t.

Summer came. Each tree
On my street had its own
Scheherazade. My nights
Were a part of their wild

Storytelling. We were
Entering dark houses,
Always more dark houses,
Hushed and abandoned.

There was someone with eyes closed
On the upper floors.
The fear of it, and the wonder,
Kept me sleepless.

The truth is bald and cold,
Said the woman
Who always wore white.
She didn’t leave her room.

The sun pointed to one or two
Things that had survived
The long night intact.
The simplest things,

Difficult in their obviousness.
They made no noise.
It was the kind of day
People described as “perfect.”

Gods disguising themselves
As black hairpins, a hand-mirror,
A comb with a tooth missing?
No! That wasn’t it.

Just things as they are,
Unblinking, lying mute
In that bright light–
And the trees waiting for the night.

Charles Simic

Did Mitt Win?

October 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Did Mittens win? I kept trying to watch the debate “objectively,” which I think I’m somewhat more able to do now than in the past, and while I was as disappointed as everyone else that Obama didn’t nail Mitt even when he had huge openings, Mitt came across as a slick salesman. I could see someone thinking that he might have the managerial skills to get the economy going but at the same time not being able to believe a word he’s saying. Obama didn’t fight. There’s no question about that, and it’s frustrating, but I think it will play better with women than with men.

Barry’s just not capable of looking at his opponent and saying, “You’re lying.” He almost did, a few times—had a wry comment about one of Mitt’s endless inconsistencies—but he always ran right over it, not pausing, not emphasizing. He should use humor more, since he’ll never be comfortable with in-your-face anger.

I don’t think it matters, though. It was necessary for Romney to have some kind of win or the pundits would start dissing Obama for no reason at all, just out of boredom. This sets Mittens up to fall again. His hallucinatory denials will work well in TV ads split screen with him saying just the opposite. What I’m mostly curious about is how this “win” will loosen Mitt up into making another serious gaffe. I expect that to be the ultimate result of the debate—he’ll become too aggressive and too confident. The Onion has a funny piece about Romney coming from a long line of Presidential losers and, privileged as he may be, I think he’s better as a challenger than as the putative winner. We’ll see.

I also think many people don’t process debates as win or lose. They hear things that matter to them, or don’t hear things that matter, and the rest is irrelevant. They can agree that someone won, without that affecting their opinion–and I’m talking about undecided voters. Romney was Ronald Reagan Barbie and I felt a fleeting affection for him, as one does for those undignified dolls…and that’s winning?

That said, I don’t think Romney has a killer instinct. He’s just a bright boy, did his prep and is a smooth liar. He’s convinced himself that lying has no moral weight. It’s interesting because I do think he has a moral code. I’m just not sure what it consists of.

Autumn Begins in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio

In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.

All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.

Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other’s bodies.

–James Wright

Obama vs Romney vs Seals

October 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Weddell Seal

I’m going to watch the debate tonight, and hope for the best. But even if Obama wins—the debate, the election—there’s a lot of work to do to get him moving on climate change and energy policy, as well as getting all those other deadweight in Congress in line. More work is being done locally by cities, towns and individuals than on the federal level (other than the EPA standards, which are great), and that’s probably for the best, but it would help to have Obama solidly on board. Even if he can’t get bills through Congress, he can explain things to the American people, confirm their suspicious that yes the weather is very weird and will get weirder, and without pretending to know exactly what’s going to happen when or how we can avoid it, he can make it clear that both the dangers and the opportunities are too great to ignore. He can salute and support local efforts. The oil companies can’t buy every city councilman, town alderman, Silicon Valley start up, local roofing guy, smart tech gal, DIY parent with a genius 15 year old looking for a science project, etc.

I read that driving is less popular with the young. Well, sure; it’s not nearly as fun as when I was 17, when there was much more room on the road, cheaper gas, no enviro-guilt…U.S. emissions are down, too, though a lot of that is from fracking. Still. Renewables are leaping ahead, and though they have a long way to leap and not much time to do it in, this is the hopey-changey part of my message, so enjoy it, all you why-is-Margaret-so-negative- folks. You guys who whisper, It’s sad—she’d be so smart if only she wasn’t sucked into a black hole every time she switches on her brain.


I tend to hoard my optimism. Why share what’s rare? Sadness is what makes me want to reach out, demand reassurance, assign blame, etc. Happiness is as simple as a cat or a cake. But never mind that. When you finish this post, you’ll get a nice poem.

I just signed a petition at ClimateSilence.org, which they asked me to pass along. In their words, “Will you help me end the silence on climate change? President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney have a responsibility to tell the American public about the clear and present danger of carbon pollution and how they plan to address it. I just signed the petition at ClimateSilence.org to demand they break their silence. Although words alone won’t save us, silence seals our fate.

Together, our voices can break the silence.

Please join me by signing the petition to the candidates at http://climatesilence.org.”

When I tweeted it, the message shrinkage made me think it was about seals, but that’s okay, since there’s nothing like thinking about a seal to make you want to stop global warming. We don’t want that arctic ice to melt and neither do they. We also really don’t want wildfires, drought, floods, famine and pestilence. 

 Here’s an article that may tell you a little more than you knew about the current drought (which is bad in parts of China, Russia as well). http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/drought/index.html

 That’s it for now. Time for the cats’ dinner, our dinner.




Perhaps I hold people to impossible ideals,

I tell them, something is wrong with your

personality, (you’re a drinker, you’re

too dependent, or I think you have

a mother/son fixation). This is usually

followed by passionate lovemaking,

one good long and very well meaning

embrace, and then I’m out the door. 


In daylight, I’ll tip my sunglasses forward,

buy a cup of tea and think of the good

I’ve done for the world, how satisfying

it feels to give a man something to contemplate.

The heart is a whittled twig. No, that is not

the right image, so I drop the heart in a pile

of wood and light that massive text on fire.   


I walk the streets of Brooklyn looking

at this storefront and that, buy a pair of shoes

I can’t afford, pumps from London, pointed

at the tip and heartbreakingly high, hear

my new heels clicking, crushing the legs

of my shadow. The woman who wears

these shoes will be a warrior, will not think

about how wrong she is, how her calculations

look like the face of a clock with hands

ticking with each terrorizing minute.


She will for an instant feel so much

for the man, she left him lying in his bed

softly weeping. He whispers something

to himself  like bitch, witch, cold hearted

______,  but he’ll think back to the day

at the promenade when there was no one there

but the two of them, the entire city falling away

into a thin film of yellow and then black,


and how she squeezed his hand, kissed him

on his wrist which bore a beautifully healed

scar, he will love her between instances

of cursing her name. She will have long

fallen asleep in her own bed, a thin nude

with shoes like stilts, shoes squeezing

the blood out of her feet, and in her sleep

she rises above a disappearing city, her head

touching a remote heaven, though below her,

closer to the ground, she feels an ache at the bottom.


–Tina Chang




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