First Advice for Those Entering Retail Sales

If he were walking around the streets today, the richest man I ever knew might be mistakenly thought to be homeless. His clothes were well-worn, almost threadbare, the leather on his shoes was cracked, and he wore no jewellery. The man who accompanied him might be mistaken for a carer of some sort, except that this man was always wearing a tailored suit with fashionable leather shoes, carried a literal bag of money, and he was never without the aid of a reliable and recognisable timepiece. This sharp dressed man was, of course, was the personal assistant to Mr. Phipps, the bedraggled banker he served quietly and with great decorum. 

This PA (let’s call him Johnson, because I never had any idea what his name was) saw to the messy details of Mr. Phipp’s life such as paying for services, food, and the few material items Mr. Phipps might require. Mr. Johnson had an easy job, as Mr. Phipps was as gentle as he was austere. Mr. Phipps also knew that money was about the filthiest thing you could touch, so he never touched it unless it was fresh from the mint. Any previously used money was handled strictly by Mr. Johnson, who took his chances with the germ-ridden currency, but still saw to wash his hands frequently. 

I had a fairly intimate relationship with Mr. Phipps myself. At least I guess it was more intimate that what most of the local 12-year-old boys had with him—I shined his shoes. The leather was old and cracked, as I said, but I did my best to restore it and bring the shine back. He always seemed grateful for my efforts, and he’d have Mr. Johnson reward my labor handsomely by the standards of a 12-year-old shine boy. 

I think of him every time I hear a salesperson brag about the ability to size up potential customers as soon as they walk through the door. “I can tell right off,” they’ll say, “whether someone is ready to spend money. Or even has any money to spend.” The snap judgement and dismissive following behaviour serve only to fulfil the bigoted prophesy. But I suppose our days are filled with nothing but minor miscalculations. We trip over our own feet constantly but usually carry on to walk again. 

Cancelling Cancel Culture for Beginners

I’m not old enough to remember a time before cancel culture existed. In the 1950s in the US, anyone suspected of being a socialist was labeled a communist and blacklisted. Anyone who was gay or suspected of being gay (or otherwise queer) was forced to marry opposite sex partners for appearances in order to appear in any media. 

Atheists kept their religious beliefs secret if they wanted to hold any kind of community leadership position or even be accepted. Muslims were simply not seen or heard in the public arena. Many Jewish people in the public eye adopted names that would conceal their Jewishness. 

Non-white performers might try to “pass” as white in order to work, and those who could not were often prevented from even entering venues that would be appropriate. Many black performers watched in poverty as white performers gained wealth and fame off the art they stole. 

People were less offended? Lenny Bruce, who was taken off to jail for offending community standards, would have been surprised to hear it. People could criticise the government? The Smothers Brothers were fired and blacklisted from TV for daring political satire. 

Of course, cancel culture began long before the examples I gave, and it will continue long after. The difference at the moment is that people who are accustomed to censoring, and censuring, others are now finding that non-white, non-Christian, non-heterosexual, non-cis people have found their voices and have a thing or two to say. People aren’t now losing their voices. People are now finding their voices. 

Poem: Cowboy Sonnet

He called himself a cowboy poet,
and he performed wearing an old straw hat.
It had been awhile since he rode a horse,
but he never really mentioned that.
He knew the smell of wet hay, of course,
but it’d been years since he scraped dung off his boots.
It’s true he missed being out in the fresh air,
but he didn’t miss seeing all the redneck brutes.
He still remembered seeing the cow’s fear
when some were taken off to auction,
and his memory still brought a silent tear
at the thought of a mother cow’s grief-induced exhaustion.

When pressed, he could still carry on a cowboy’s prattle,
but it was undeniably true he was all hat and no cattle. 

Poem: Eternal Recurrence and Damnable Regrets

It was a misunderstanding, really,
or a slip of the tongue,
or maybe he really was
just a major asshole.

Whatever, he felt the rising burn
in his cheek and the glow of his ears
whenever he thought of it,
and it played on an interminable
loop in vivid detail in both
waking memories and lucid dreams.

There’s nothing to be done now, 
he thought, no exit from past decisions.
Redemption is impossible and
Salvation a mere myth of mortals.
He would always be what he always was.

As he stared at the fan on the ceiling,
he only wished he had chosen his
words more carefully. 

Poem: Something about Celestial Irony

She was explaining about how each moment had an infinite number of possibilities and how each possibility existed in an alternate universe where each subsequent moment created an infinite number of following possibilities and how each of these possibilities existed in even more parallel universes where every possible story line for every possible moment was played out with both cosmic justice and celestial irony. 

But he was distracted by the movement of her lips. He was watching the flutter of her eyelashes and the dilation of her pupils. He was enthralled, almost thrilled, but appeared bored. She said, “You’re not even listening,” and started to gather her things. 

He was disappointed, yes, but it wasn’t the first time a casual social interaction had gone awry. All the same, he wondered what might have happened if he’d only listened a bit more carefully or at least explained that he’d been distracted by her lips. 

Poem: Facebook Permissions

I do not give Facebook permission to share the disinformation of delusional dictators and audacious autocrats. I do not give Facebook permission to sell my digital soul to the arbiters of obedience. I do not give Facebook permission to sow division and destroy democracy on my behalf. I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with it permission to exploit my vulnerabilities in its quest to achieve world domination through manufactured consciousness. I do not give Facebook permission to warp reality to suit the ends of sadistic kleptocrats shrouded in casual pullovers. I do not give Facebook permission to persist. I do not give Facebook permission to exist.

Poem: The Other Side of Nigel

Dominic’s parents took him to
church and warned him to sit still.
Of course he had a fidgeting fit
as all boys his age will.
He sat for eternity in a state
of seemingly suspended frustration.
He tried against his wont to focus
on redemption and abomination,
but he couldn’t get his mind off
Susie’s note, better reading than the Bible.
But it slipped from his pocket when he took
his seat and fell on the other side of Nigel.

Poem: The Infinite Inefficacy of Adaptations

I always thought Christians would
have to accept Leibniz’s dictum that
this is the best of all possible worlds.

Otherwise, believers would be saying
their omnipotent God could
have created a better world,

if he had wanted, but here we are,
trapped in this heap of chaos
and pain, but it is no easier

for atheists. After millions of years
of adaptation, we have nothing
better to show for ourselves

than greed, war, and vanity.
We’ve had all this time to improve,
and I still can’t find the glasses

that are resting on my head.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Poem: Refusing to Look Away from Death in Dying Light

This guy once refused to mourn
a little girl who died in a fire,
and we were shocked,
but here we are,
and mourning is forbidden.

We already had distance from death,
sending the dying to hospitals to
negotiate their final arrangements
with eternity in solitude.

And now we wrangle with loss,
alone, muttering final farewells
into wells of wine and beer.

We’ve got this far apart,
and, somehow, drifting
in starless night has made
us realise, against all odds, this
is community. God is in
the limen between me and other.

At one moment, this penumbral
light marks an opening, an escape,
and the next it marks the infinite fading.

I will forever whisper, “I love you,”
as a torturing tic of Tourette’s
until darkness muzzles the
motoring mouthpiece of my mind
and peace kills what remains of desire.

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