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Race Relations in Seattle

So I’m waiting for my ride at 5th and Jackson, when my bus driver friend Gary (older black gentleman, very nice, but very formal) drives up in the #14. A lady with tattoos on her face staggers towards the bus as I’m talking to him, so I step back to let her on, rolling my eyes to let Gary know he’s got a real winner coming on board. She’s just trashed, and being Caucasian, I guess that makes her White Trash (in this part of town, it’s probably 50/50 odds the inebriated person is black or white. The Asians are rarely wasted, or they never show it, and I won’t even mention the Native Americans).

Anyway, after the drunk Caucasian lady stumbles past Gary, he looks at me and says, “That’s one of your people, Finnegan.” Then he closes the door and drives on up Jackson.

Maybe you’d need to know Gary, but it was funny as hell.

Now, if our roles were reversed, could I say the same thing, and would it be funny? Obviously no, and I think it could be justifiably considered a racist comment. Doesn’t that mean that Gary’s comment is racist as well? What’s fair (or unfair) for someone on the basis of race must be fair or unfair for someone of a different race, right?

Only if you’re an idiot. The manner in which people of different races, especially blacks and whites, view one another has a long history in this country, and ignoring it, or trying to ignore it, turns us into fools. People are different. We treat different people differently, and that’s just the way it is.

No, it doesn’t mean racism is a laughing matter. Neither, in most or at least many circumstances, are drunkenness and tattooed faces. And I’m not sure how well this story would play in front of a crowd, told by a comedian. In fact, this seems like a pretty good illustration of the difference between what’s funny for professional comedians, and what it means to have a sense of humor in the midst of whatever life happens to throw at you. The former can be enjoyable, but the latter is necessary so that life doesn’t become unbearable.

Two Very Short Poems About Common House Pets

The Fat Cat Doesn’t Need You
Don’t bother talkin’
To that old grimalkin!

A Man’s Best Friend’s Personal Attendant
Holding a warm bag, he watched his collie wag
her tail at the end of the trail, then lallygag.

Two Very Short Poems about Favorite Fictional Characters of Mine

007 Escapes Again
As Bond jumped from the plane, some were stunned
to see a parachute fly out of his cumberbund.

Kinsey Millhone Moonlights as a Madame
She started a service (somewhat impolitic)
for very private investigations: “Call a Dick”.

Two Very Short Poems about the Relentless March of Time

A Winter’s View of Autumn
Following September, orange October guided
November, bister and more sobersided.

The Present Moment
Forever severing and pari passu
Gathering everything old and new.

One Short Poem about Halloween

The Not Great Heist of All Hallow’s Eve
The two had a plan, even a sense of irony,
as they wore masks of Shaggy and Freddie
for the cameras. Bumped the bolt. Their heist
was some silverware and costume jewelry
thrown into a pillow case—fairly petty—
and pizza and beer from the fridge. Tomfoolery
to fall asleep, drunk in front of the TV,
to be unmasked like any cartoon poltergeist.

Three Very Short Poems in which Something is Missing

The Dragon at Peace
From any point of view upon the xyst,
one rock or another will be missed.

The Cares of an Egyptologist
“Yes and No”, he said with a cough. “Ka
outlives life—an immortal scofflaw.”

Presence & Abscess
Instead of white there,
there was just a square,
black space—odontoid.
Empty. So gone. Void.

Three Very Short Poems about Authors Who Wrote about the Sea

Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski
After years at sea, he adapted a nom
de plume
for English language readers,
still recognized as a Polish phenom,
among the very best of modern writers.

Had He Caught Moby Dick
Ahab would have had to buy a pan
to fry up all that leviathan.

The Man Who Swallowed an Ocean
The flesh eaten right off Santiago’s skeleton
became the villager’s favorite feuilleton,
but who knows what monsters from the deep
swam back to reappear in Papa’s sleep.

Three Very Short Poems about the Competitive Spirit

Lois Loses With Long Odds
She began to drum her fingers and furrow
her brow—then laid down a Yarborough.

The San Patricio Rattlesnake Races
The snake able to most quickly slither, wins—
as long as it doesn’t start withershins.

At a Competitive Eating Contest
A dozen hot dogs isn’t just skosh
or a losing total, but très gauche.

Two Short Poems on Letters and Numbers

Down on the Farm
On a page as white as milk, row
after row of black letters filled
a large field of text to be tilled
with red tools, such as a pilcrow.

Way Out There
Neither the infinite nor the infinitesimal
will you reach with yet another decimal.

Two Short Poems about Toenail Fungus

My Onychomycosis
It takes a lot of chutzpa
to walk into a foot spa.

After His Toenails Were Trimmed
He had terrible athlete’s foot
and (whenever he ran) asthma. Boric
acid helped heal his hoof,
but made jogging phantasmagoric.