Tag Archives: poetry

Ode to Draymond

The King James Version
was completed in 1611
seven years after the King
commissioned a new English translation
for Church and King.
All splendor and allegiance to the King.
Words become law.
The flowery word of creation
actually the testimony of disciples
actually the translation of clergy
become the word and law of the King.

But underneath, what is there?
What do Kings speak?
What do clergy speak?
What do disciples speak?
The King’s law is no law. It is only words.
Never let them fool you.
Peel the layers and there is nothing but life.
Nothing but the life of the human being,
the one, and all.
Only life—the one, the all–is holy.
The lowest among us speak; it may be you,
on some days it is the 35th pick of the 2012 NBA draft;
who says, who has always said, who will always say,
until the end of time,
because we are alive,
Thou shalt not step over us.

Writing Literature, Writing Race: Syllabus

Below is the description and course reading list for a writing class I designed and am teaching in Spring 2016 in the English Department at UC Davis.

English 003: Introduction to Literature: Black and White and Read All: Writing Literature, Writing Race

Race is read all over: thinking about race and, especially, thinking that is shaped by ideas about race, is global and constant, from college campuses in the United States, to Paris, Brazil, South Africa, just about everywhere. Though each location and social situation is unique in its thinking about race, race is something we think we “see”; it can shape what we think we know about particular human beings; it can shape our behavior and treatment of others; it can affect our life circumstances, opportunities, and hazards. But what is “race”? We often use the term “race” to refer to groupings of humans who share (or seem to share) distinct physical phenotypical traits. And in practice race is also often used to refer to cultural traits. But in both of these cases, after scratching the surface there are many complexities and contradictions that make simple categorizations quite problematic. Why? Race is a social construction, meaning simply that “race” is an idea created by humans to explain or understand the world. So some scholars argue that racism—as expressions of how people are thinking about race—is not only a useful way to understand “race” as a socially constructed idea but perhaps its defining characteristic: racism makes race. Race (and other social constructions) is a flexible concept that change over time and place, and can differ depending on the society in which they are used. As a social construction, we can look to an unlikely place to better understand race: literature and culture, expressions human experience and human thought. The creative expression of literature shows us what people see, think, and imagine about their world in particular places and times. Importantly, literature is not simply about recording knowledge; literature makes new knowledge that shapes society. So literature also creates understandings of race. Thus, to write literature is also to write race.

Continue reading Writing Literature, Writing Race: Syllabus

Literature and Citizenship: Syllabus

[Image from Mine Okubo, Citizen 13660 (1946)]

Below is the description and course reading list from the syllabus for a writing class I designed and taught in Fall 2015 and Winter 2016 in the English Department at UC Davis.

English 003: Introduction to Literature: “Go Back to _____!”: Literature and Citizenship

In the summer of 2015, when Donald Trump told Univision reporter Jorge Ramos to “Go back to Univision” (i.e. “go back to Mexico or X-Latin-American country”) he used rhetoric and expressed ideas that are neither new nor uncommon. He wasn’t the first and won’t be the last. Even in the few months since then, debates about who belongs where, what they should look like, sound like, worship like, think like, etc.—who they should be—are everywhere in this country and world. In a globalized world, questions about citizenship and belonging are of the highest importance, not only in the technical sense of laws but also at a very deep philosophical level. Who are we? And how is this shaped by our relationships to other human beings? What are those relationships? How are they formed, perpetuated, dissolved, and transformed? In this class, we will examine how writers have used literature to represent and think the meaning of citizenship, belonging, nationhood, movement, migration, inclusion, and exclusion.

Continue reading Literature and Citizenship: Syllabus

Scenes of Gentrification: Before Your Very Eyes

“You can’t perform the duties of a police officer and have racism in you.” -Darren Wilson


“It’s everyone’s movement, because its a movement for freedom.” – Anonymous @AnonymousChaos_




Scenes of Gentrification: The Life of Memory?

(Wasn’t it Beenie Man who said
“memories don’t live like people do”?
well, whatever to my cultural contexts…)

registering change
requires a test of memories, of memory

a battle with brain
pathways, clandestine tunnels.

what was here

can you remember?
can you toni morrison rememory?

loss is so easy
the victor is now—always

the challenge set before you
the duel proposed

whose blood will spill, evaporate
whose reality will spill, evaporate

whose blood will circulate
whose reality will circulate

we may pray for blood on the sidewalk
at least

Scenes of Gentrification: Sale Pending

sale pending
wavers in the breeze
a flag planted
driven into the earth
seismic ripples
ground shifts
reshapes plates
fire seeps out of newly split cracks
the reordering above
no less than
the scrape of the barnacled ship
on sand as it hits the shore
men in metal step onto land
and say
“it’s mine—i bought this—here’s the paper”
and soon, not long before they leave
the wreckage of the plunder
they have wrought, moving on
more destruction to come
they will say
“i have been here, like,
over a year now.”

school’s out

I hear as

though the gurgling rush

of a river, the children streaming

down oregon street

approximately 3 oclock

after school

opens the flood gates

releases the prisoners

releases the spirits

emotions emerge as concrete-sharpened cuss words

the hurt, volume knob all the way up

they watch and listen to each

other, to the slayings they only just avoid

the laughter all the meaner because

they themselves have only narrowly

escaped the fate, for now, 

that awaits, as surely as

sun rise sun set

our young Amerikkkan girls and boys

in berkeley, california, usa.

Scenes of Gentrification #2: State of the Arts Redacted and Reconstructed

The watercolor paintings of Max Kauffman


the sacredness of

broken-down houses.

When Max Kauffman moved

from Denver to Oakland

about a year ago,

he became

instantly enamored with the area’s old, decaying Victorian houses.

In a recent interview,

he said he loved the fragility


by their disrepair, Continue reading Scenes of Gentrification #2: State of the Arts Redacted and Reconstructed