The full moon hangs spectral
in African air chilled by Antarctic exegesis
whipping waves that bring
the leatherback mother
to a lonely stretch of titanium sand
a ritual of night
to call forth a new generation
we will bear witness
For the longest time,
no one remembered how we were partners,
the Good Cop and Bad Cop of Yuletide,
a symphony of jingle bells and rattling chains
‘ere we drove out of sight.
How disturbed must they have been by the thought of me
looking over your shoulder and salivating
as you added children to the naughty list
for transgressions great and small.
You were the carrot,
oranges in the stocking,
presents under the tree,
half-eaten cookies as a reminder that you were there.
I was the stick,
birch branches in hand,
bathtub on my back,
my stew-pot bubbling in anticipation of fresh meat.
You were the red and green of holly and mistletoe,
I was the poison.
From the first,
I have been with them.
Born of the sands of Egpyt,
I was Abo Ragl Ma Slokha,
Man with the Burnt Leg,
bane of wicked tots.
Parents around the world would conjure me in story, the Namahage, le Croque-mitten, Baba Yaga, El Coco,
to keep their brats in line.
In their stories,
they always gave me horns,
a cloven hoof at the end of one leg,
a misshapen foot on the other,
my teeth sharp,
tongue so long it could reach them from under the bed
to taste their nightmares.
When I crossed the Alps, followed the Danube,
I found a new home under the Solstice moon.
As the fires of Yule cheer burned in the village squares,
I shouted my name so loud that every child would remember it,
whisper it to each other between shudders:
THE KRAMPUS!!! When the willful boy or indolent girl came to a bad end
parents would remind the kinder:
Behave or the Krampus will come for you too.
When we first met, Santa Claus,
I thought you were there to kill me.
You came to my cave in regal glory.
Father Christmas! Jolly Old Saint Nick!
Your light washed away the darkness so I had no place to hide.
Trapped, I thought you were there to finally bring a gift
to those excluded as an annual tradition.
You cannot imagine my surprise when you extended your hand,
asked “won’t you ride my sleigh tonight?”.
You put me in chains as a precaution,
you still felt my wicked heart beat beneath my goatish chest,
but left me my bundle of sticks
because as you said: spare the rod, spoil the child.
Why does no one ever see the shadow behind your rosy cheeks?
Over the years, we brought so many children to goodness,
I rarely ate.
I did not mind,
I was able to drink in their fear like an elixir.
Then one foggy Christmas eve,
I noticed your sleigh was now driven by a broken buck with a freakish nose, your retinue filled out with polar bears drinking caramel-colored sugar water, the sack was filled with things never seen in your workshop before.
My eyes full of terrible wonder,
you leaned in,
said one word: “Plastics“.
I did not like the sound of it.
As we flew over the city and marched down the streets,
your image was everywhere.
On billboards, in newspaper ads, on TV, in shopping malls.
I would have no part of this,
with sadness in your voice, you agreed: I would have no part of this.
You banished me back to the cave,
exiled into fading memory.
But I feel them pulling me back,
through of the Black Forest,
past the gingerbread house,
out of the fairy tales,
and into a cage.
They are corking my teeth,
dumping out my stew-pot,
reeling my tongue back in,
making me safe,
making me fun,
making me marketable.
It will not be long before I star in the limelight of cartoons,
baked into the shape of cookies,
imprisoned within wrapping paper.
When I am a triumph marched down 5th Avenue on Thanksgiving,
I will know they have checked me off their list,
now as gelded as Donner and Blitzen.
I see you up there on your sleigh,
and for the first time since we first met, Santa Claus,
the Krampus is afraid.
I wonder if you felt like this, when the ad-men turned their attention on you.
I love stingrays. When I would stay with my grandparents, they would take me to Pine Island in Florida, and I would also hope we would get there early enough so I could see the stingrays sleeping in the shallow water by the beach – but by the time I got there, they had flown back into the Gulf of Mexico, leaving behind only their diamond-shaped imprints in the sand, the water so calm that the evidence had not been erased by the tides.
Seeing one killed this unnecessarily, for no other reason than laziness, it’s so infuriating. To see it suffer, slowly suffocating to death… We really don’t deserve this world.
GARBAGE ON THE BEACH
I do not do it myself. I have a choice. I can afford practicing compassion. Others are less fortunate. I understand why some people fish.
Still, wasting life? Putting someone through the agony of suffering and death? Pulling fish out of the water just to let them rot in the sand? That’s an entirely different story.
It’s the same attitude that allows us to club baby seals and skin them while they are still alive. It’s the same attitude that allows us to fire harpoons into the living breathing body of a whale, never mind she is self-conscious, worries about passing away, and perhaps even pays the homage to the Divine in her unique way. It is the same attitude that, we think, gives us a right to rape the earth and the ocean with a myopic greed that leads us to pumping water rather than heavy mud in a drilling hole for a sole purpose to save a few bucks though we have already made billions and will keep making more billions each and every year.
It was an evening at our favorite roaming place on the Mustang Island, right by the Park, right where the dragons smile to me, right where the protective deities have granted us free passage, right where we chant “Namu Dai Bosa — Homage to the Great Compassionate One” into the ten directions, for the benefit of all. My heart was high up in my throat and my fists might have been clenched, too, when we arrived at this place and the first thing I heard was – “I caught a stingray, a really big one, too. It lays down over there by the poles.”
If I had more courage, I would have asked him – “Why do you destroy living beings in such a brutal way? What is your purpose? What have you achieved?” If I only had more courage I would have returned the fish to the ocean right then and there, right in front of him and his children. But I did not.
I hovered around for several minutes waiting until they packed their crap into their gigantic oversized SUV and took off. Only then I returned the fish to the ocean. It was too late. It did not survive. Thinking about it, perhaps it was too late in the first place. Maybe there was no way to help her anyway.
I have to grant them one thing. There was no garbage on the beach once they left.
Namu Dai Bosa
for the fish left in the sand
salt on my cheeks
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stefan Sencerz, born in in Warsaw, Poland, came to the United States to study philosophy and Zen Buddhism. He teaches philosophy, Western and Eastern, at the Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi. He has numerous publications in professional philosophy journals as well as several refereed poems that appeared in various nationally distributed poetry journals. He has been active on a spoken-word scene winning the slam-masters poetry slam in conjunction with the National Poetry Slam in Madison Wisconsin, in 2008, as well as several slams in San Antonio, Austin, Houston, and Chicago.
For National Cheeseburger Day, I give you my half of the 2013 poem that myself and Joy Young brought to the semi-finals, “It’s Golden (Training Day)”
It’s Golden (Training Day)
Everyone thinks that the Clown is in charge. His grease paint and ability to pull golden arches out of the air are just a little show for the cameras. I am the power behind the throne.
An all-beef patty, special sauce, the Royale… They call me the Mayor
but you can call me McCheese. In McDonaldland nothing gets done without my say-so.
You want some sesame seeds on that bun?
Good luck without a permit.
Want to know when the McRib is gonna be back? Well, I’ve got the stopwatch that starts on “limited time” and ends on “when I say so, motherfucker”.
If you want to Super Size that –
Well, you just let me know – I got a guy.
But it ain’t all dance parties with Mac and Me.
I hear the people talking about how they are the 99 Percent Value Meals
’bout wow I own this town and don’t give anything back to the community
They think this top hat and sash come cheap?
Just because I know the value of a dollar
doesn’t mean I’m gotta start handing out gift certificates like it’s the last night of Hanukah.
I’ve got mine, you can’t have it.
If you don’t like that, get back to your McJob behind the fryer,
Tell it to your McNugget Buddies that you’re gonna serve up with dipping sauce.
This is McDonald’s, baby. Everyone here is made of food. The Fry Guys, Birdie,
I think even Grimace bleeds some sort of grape drink
There is no liberation. It’s eat or be eaten,
if you think the Hamburgular is some sort of Robin Hood
stealing the burgers away to some sort of Happy Meal…
Well, I got an army of Big Macs that put his McAss in McJail
and he’s never coming out.
Not unless starts bringing back the cheddar for Mayor McCheese
So shut the fuck up.
The only color that matters here is Shamrock Shake green and if you want to talk about “the people”…
everyone walking in green fields singing and holding hands?
Well have a Coke and a smile, Then get back to work hope we don’t cut your hours for getting out of line – because this is McDonaldland
where cash is the Burger King.
OCTOBER 16, 2018 UPDATE: This was a great idea that didn’t pan out. Unfortunately, September and October turned out to be incredibly busy and I wasn’t able to donate the necessary time to get this going. I will post some recommendations in the coming days, but nothing so elaborate as this had been planned.
ORIGINAL POST: August 29, 2018
While I’m a multi-issue voter – I care about whether or not my duly elected representative likes puppies, babies, AND Mom’s apple pie, for instance – there’s two issues that will make or break my support for a candidate: marine conservation and climate change. In Arizona, we’re upstream from ocean, so what we do here filters down into the Blue Eternal, and in Florida – well, Florida will literally live or die on the health of the oceans and the level of the sea. For my ocean adjacent home state of Florida, and the land-locked desert I now call home, I’ve decided to try to determine, in four races, who is the ocean hero who I can support, and hope, as a salt-water enthusiast, you will similarly support.
Those races will be Arizona’s and Florida’s gubernatorial and senatorial races, and I’m going to be honest with you – I don’t know what I’ll find. I know next to nothing about Florida gubernatorial Democratic candidates Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis, and while I like Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, and have a fair amount of animus towards current Florida governor and Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott, I’ve never gotten into the nuts and bolts if their records on ocean policy and climate change. For Arizona, same thing with current Republican governor Doug Ducey, and Democratic candidate David Garcia. For Arizona, I’m actually fairly antagonistic towards Democratic Representative Kyrsten Sinema, and I don’t care much for Republican Representative Martha McSally, both running for Arizona Senate.
What I’ll be doing is running a series of issues up the flagpole – for DeSantis, Sinema, and McSally, I’ll be using their Congressional voting records, focusing primarily on the most current Congressional session. Likewise for Bill Nelson, I will be focusing on his Senatorial voting record. For Doug Ducey and Rick Scott, I will be focusing primarily on laws they have signed and policy edicts they have issued. Gillum will likely be the biggest challenge, as Mayor of Tallahassee, he will have the most limited ocean policy record, so I may have to extrapolate based on his Mayoral record, coupling with promises made on the campaign trail.
Full disclosure – I am a Democrat, but I’m going to attempt to boil away as much of biases as humanly possible, and go with the science and consistency (meaning: if candidate X is for small government but mandates a big government policy, you’ll hear about it. Similarly, if a candidate is anti-climate change and then takes money from Big Oil, you’ll hear about that too).
There are some things that are going to be taken as non-negotiable.
1. Climate Change: The science is settled. It is real, it is man-made (anthropogenic), and it is causing problems from coral bleaching and ocean acidification, and a political columnist with no field experience or research work’s opinion does not carry the same weight as a scientist who is doing the work.
2. Biodiversity is critically important: Yes, the desert pupfish and the Lost River sucker are as important as the great white shark and right whale.
3. Plastic pollution must be addressed: This means from your drinking straw to a ghost fishing net. There is no single solution for this non-point pollution problem, and all of us are part of the problem (from the consumer to the producer). No, skipping the straw will not draw Lisa Frank rainbows in the sky over an ocean of jumping dolphins. Unless you need it due to disablity, there’s still no reason why you should be using a straw.
4. The affects of rivers and waterways upstream affect ocean health: This should be a no-brainer, but some people don’t get this.
The rating system will be clear and concise. I’ll introduce it with the first post I do, no later than Saturday morning, and we’ll start off, as is my wont, with shark conservation.
NOTE: THIS IS THE WORK OF A PRIVATE CITIZEN, EXPRESSING OPINIONS GUARANTEED UNDER THE 1ST AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES. I REPRESENT NO POLITICAL PARTY, POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE, 501(c)3 or 501(c4) CHARITABLE ORGANIZATION, OR COMPANY.
THE VOTE IS TODAY. CALL YOUR CONGRESSPERSON NOW AND TELL THEM TO VOTE NO ON HR 200.
The one thing about Congressional legislation in American politics is how Orwellian the naming conventions are designed to be. My favorite is the “USA PATRIOT” Act, which stood for: “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001”, and meant that the government had expanded authority to erode your Constitutional liberties in the name of “defending” you. I mean, you voted AGAINST the “USA PATRIOT” Act!?!?!? After 9/11? What kind of un-American monster are you?
And so it goes.
Some upcoming legislation I need you to call your Congresscritter about? The equally Orwellian-named “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management” Act. I mean, who could be against that? Don’t you want to strengthen fishing communities? Don’t you want flexibility? WHY DO YOU WANT TO KILL THE GORTON’S FISHERMAN?!?! Of course, it’s not really about that. Thanks to a law called the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Act, which became law in 1976. Why’d it become law? Well, in part of due to the collapse of the North Atlantic Cod Fishery. Let me show you in one easy chart:
The Y axis is amount of cod caught in millions of tons. The X axis is the year. Look at what happened in 1976, and the in the 1990s. We basically wiped out a breeding generation and then WHOOPS WHAT HAPPENS 20 YEARS LATER. Magnuson-Stevens was designed to stop this, and that huge crash in the 1990s was basically because science got it wrong. Catch limits were set too high after the 1970s crash and then it literally killed the cod fishery in New England and Canada because the governments basically said “HA, YEAH, NO” to anyone who wanted to fish out the last remaining cod.
“Well, Klute, don’t you want to strengthen those communities? Again I ask, what kind of monster are you!??!” Well, here’s the thing – you strengthen the communities by making sure the fish are there to be caught. And lo, Magnuson-Stevens, with some good science now behind it is working really well. From the 2017 Report to Congress on the Status of the US Fisheries:
Read the whole thing (click on the link), but overall, the Magnuson-Stevens Act is working. There’s still that 9% that needs to be worked on, and the 15% that needs further recovery, but the act, by all accounts is working as is. Each year fish populations recover, and each year, the science gets better and gets tweaked to move the process forward toward recovery further. But ending overfishing is a constant battle. Look at what happened to the cod. Any species that is overfished can be overfished again. And certain elements of Congress who don’t understand the science (or who understand the science but are putting short-term economic gain over long term stability).
It’s on the docket today, with a vote scheduled for the end of the day.