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Category: Politics & Activism

(Re-post) POEM: this changes nothing

A friend asked this morning if I’d repost this poem from 2011, written after a mass shooting. In the 11 years since I wrote it, it’s never been proven wrong.


this changes nothing

you know that, don’t you?
in a few days we’ll go back to our coma
back to our flat-screen televisions
our high-definition getaways
six people? nowhere near enough
at this point, we’d need rivers of blood
flowing past the grocery store
submerging the church pews
to even catch our attention for more
than a 24-hour news cycle
for shock value I could start listing
the daily death tolls
of those without health care
or the number of children who go to bed
hungry or abused each night
right here, in the richest…
but you know the story
or choose not to know it
for less shock value
(because who really cares about them?)
I could tell you how many civilians
were killed today in Iraq or Afghanistan
or Gaza or Pakistan or Yemen
by us or by our allies or with our weapons
but what’s the use?
a new season of your favorite show
will start soon and you’ll plop down
on your couch with some popcorn
or a nice plate of nachos
and go back to sleep
in a few weeks you’ll have to
Google this date to figure out
what this poem is about
and in another few weeks after that
so will I

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POEM: death mass

by Alan Casline

death mass
(for Alan Casline)

need dinner propaganda
your cameras need access
broken devil, twisted truth
death mass for evil madness

/ / /

27 April 2022
Pittsfield MA

(NaPoWriMo Day 27)

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POEM: Walter Rodney

Walter Rodney

I’m learning about Walter Rodney.
Headphones on, listening to
the intertwining guitars
of Remmy Ongala from Tanzania.
This world is its own multiverse.
I have a constant opportunity
to see and hear and taste new wonders,
despite the efforts of my ancestors
to own what cannot be owned.
Water Rodney was from Guyana.
I had to look it up on a map.

/ / /

10 April 2022
Latham NY

(NaPoWriMo Day 10)

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POEM: Disposal

Disposal

This “morality” ran without need.
Those he condemned moved forth.
Given feeling, current, real sense.
The rule disposed of the anarchist.

/ / /

6 April 2022
Latham NY

Taken from “Anarchist Morality” by Peter Kropotkin.

(NaPoWriMo Day 6)

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Who you know (Dunbar’s number)

Yesterday, while sitting in a grocery store cafe and working on some projects, I suddenly had the idea to pare down the number of contacts in my online address book. I can’t say why exactly, other than the general shrinking of scope I’m attempting with my life as a whole.

At one point I had about 3,000 names in my contact list, but over the years I’d reduced that down to about 650. Last night I exported the remaining contacts to ensure I could restore them if necessary, then deleted all but the people I thought I’d like to contact again, plus a few deceased folks whose birthdays I’d still like to observe and thus left them on the list so they’ll show up on my calendar. When all was said and done, I was pleasantly surprised (well, maybe not that surprised) to see that I’d reduced my contact list to about 150 living people, aka Dunbar’s number. British anthropologist Robin Dunbar believes we can retain relationships with about 150 friends and acquaintances. Beyond that, it’s too many people to effectively maintain any kind of regular communication with.

As you might know if you’ve been in my orbit for a while, my philosophy of humanity’s survival is “small intentional communities of mutual aid.” I’ve been arguing for years for the idea that our time is better spent trying to make a difference with the people we live near and can actually know. The more we try to deal with massive problems on a massive scale, the more we realize our relative powerlessness and the faster we become dispirited, or else our activism becomes mostly hashtags and memes. But if we stick to working at a hyperlocal level, we can make an actual difference and build real relationships. You may disagree and that’s fine. This is what I think, though, and my past 20-plus years of labor, political and community organizing are the reason I think it.

As I look over the 150 people remaining in my address book, I realize of course that they’re spread over a wide geographic area — multiple states, multiple countries. They’re not an expression of this idea of hyperlocal community building. If I was more ruthless and pared the list down to people with whom I have some sort of active relationship, I’m sure it would drop down to the low double digits. Once I move to Albany and start renewing old relationships, and making new ones, I expect the overall total will end up stabilizing around Dunbar’s number again. Some people will move into my life, others will move out.

I do want to use this current list of humans to try to increase the number of people with whom I have contact each week. Not counting incidental contact in stores, I have face-to-face conversations with maybe one person a week, sometimes two. If I expand the circle to people with whom I have text or phone conversations, it’s maybe a half dozen on a good week. And most of those communications are very brief and surface-level.

Yesterday a friend called and said he had just a few minutes to talk but he wanted to use those few minutes to contact someone he cared about. I thought that was a great idea. Despite my general phone-phobia, I think I might try it.

I’ve spent decades winnowing people out of my life. I’ve always been good at walking away and never looking back (except in the case of my most recent long-term relationship). It’s time to get better at keeping people in my life, instead.

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POEM: Let Him Who Is Without Sin

1986: Steve and Mike and I found
a Northern Sun catalog
& ordered anti-apartheid pins.
We wore them on the rugby shirts
that were in fashion then.
We listened to “Biko” by Peter Gabriel
& watched Cry Freedom.
It never occurred to us to wonder
why there were just two black kids
in our school.
When your house is glass
everything is a stone.

/ / /

16 May 2021
Greensboro Bend VT

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What I Mean When I Say “Get Rid Of Cops”

It’s useful to remember that when we people like me call for the abolition of the police, our proposal is not “leave the world exactly as it is except without the police.” The idea of police abolition goes hand in hand with the idea of communities taking care of the basic needs of their people. No baby is born to a life of crime. Instead, babies are born into a world without adequate shelter, food, education, leisure time, arts, communal structures, play, and all the other things that make life worth living or even possible in terms other than mere existence. As long as we continue to allow our society to work at the whim of corporations and the wealthy and the powerful, there will always be a need for an armed force to enforce those whims. When I say “get rid of cops,” I also mean “take the money we use on cops – whether here inside our borders or via our armed forces – and use it to build a better world.” Of course we can go even further than that, past the need for states and borders at all. But imagine, for a start, if we used the money we spend on tanks and rifles and flash-bangs and bombs and drones and rubber bullets to instead house the houseless (and everyone else), feed the hungry, clothe the naked, educate all who want it, provide a basic income, get rid of the idea of landlords, allow people to have leisure time and to develop their minds, bodies and spirits as they see fit. Then we can deal with the few folks who’d be left who simply can’t or won’t be members of such a society. And we can do it without cops.

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POEM: The Lord’s Prayer (Revised)

The Lord’s Prayer (Revised)

Our Father, who art in heaven,
are you there or not?
Thy kingdom has seen better days,
& if this is thy will then you’ve got
some ‘splaining to do, Lucy.
Give us a break, wouldja?
A bunch of old gray suits are trying
to steal our daily bread.
Maybe we can’t live by bread alone,
but without it we’re toast, if you’ll
forgive the pun. Also forgive us
our trespasses & our shoplifting
& our “missed” rent payments.
Lead us not into temptation, for we are
sorely tempted to string up these motherf—
excuse me, Lord, bad guys.
For thine is the kingdom & the power &
the glory & whatnot, but we might need
to take matters into our own hands for a while.
Amen.

/ / /

Jason Crane
27 March 2020
Tucson, AZ

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POEM: The Covid-19 Blues

The Covid-19 Blues

less than a buck in my bank account
not much food in the fridge
not many brains in the White House
the orange man, he don’t care a smidge

too many people still partying
too few people at home
too many rich men in Washington
passing too few bills in the dome

it’s time we looked out for each other
it’s time that we did for ourselves
it’s time that we stopped hoarding TP
and food from the grocery shelves

it’s time that we aid one another
do it the mutual way
keep going that way forever
on a move to a sunnier day

the thing that I’ve seen in this crisis
the thing that is giving me hope
is that all of our rules are just fictions
we don’t really need them to cope

we don’t have to keep paying landlords
we don’t have to scrape and to bow
we can come together as comrades
we can make a better world now

/ / /

Jason Crane
17 March 2020
Tucson, AZ

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POEM: 100 seconds

100 seconds

jumpin jack flash
gimme that frackin gas

horse shoes & hand grenades
as the men in my family used to say

nobody plays horse shoes anymore
but we still chuck them bombs

are we on foot or horseback?
sneakers laced or boots strapped?

pull me up I’m sinking
like the old cartoons with one, two,

three fingers in the air
all I can say is we gotta be there by now

with the clock at 100 seconds
& just time for one more drink

/ / /

Jason Crane
18 February 2020
State College PA

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