City of Joyful Dread

I caught a fever, a holy fire

untitled (protest wrote the Constitution)

protest wrote the Constitution
well past the dark ages
when warlocks wore white and conjured
words of compromise and imperfect


Donny Karl

“give Courtney a word to spell”
the teacher told Donny Karl
two hours before the spelling bee

went Donny Karl

spelled Courtney

& we laughed
& laughed until
he was dishonorably discharged from
the Army six years
later and killed in a
hit-and-run, fucking
bastard never saw his wheelchair
rolling out
on dawn’s highway, pipe dumping
ashes on his lap like harsh
black fairy dust

Anomic Esq

Humility is sexy
but I prefer humiliation

Friday nights at a club called the Nile
I walk like Little Egypt
I walk like an erection
I do the pole dance with the pole cats
It’s electric

When I’m under your boot
you can crush my dreams
you can make me come
to my senses
that I can’t have you
when I want you
I’m pathetic
It’s poetic
It’s so poetic

When I’m rambling in my Nash Rambler
on my way to the Black Banana
got a bottomless cup of coffee
got a bottomless cup of coffee and a topless dancer
on my dashboard, won’t you excuse me
would a how do you do behoove me
would a how do you do behoove me
I’m moved by the way you move me
the way you move me out of
your way on your way to
somewhere else

The Iran deal

The US’s withdrawal last week from the Iran deal thanks to three billionaires means more emails to my Congressman, a Democrat who is decent on labor issues and not a terrible human overall, urging him not to support our latest preemptive war of aggression. Our last exchange, back in 2015:

* * *


Dear Congressman Norcross:

I’m writing with regard to your mailing opposing the Iran deal on the basis that it “rewards a known sponsor of terrorism by lifting economic sanctions without providing enough assurance that Iran will be restricted from developing or acquiring a nuclear weapon,” concluding that Iran “must stop funding terrorist organizations and must never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon under any circumstances.”

I agree that Iran shouldn’t have nuclear weapons. But I also think Pakistan shouldn’t have nuclear weapons. Nor should India. Nor should Israel. Nor should the US. Given that these countries do have nuclear weapons, it’s difficult for me to argue Iran should be treated differently.

Nor does state-sponsored terrorism differentiate these other countries from Iran. Pakistan’s ISI has supported militants in Kashmir as well as the Taliban. The current ruling party in India is the political wing of the paramilitary group RSS, which has been linked to Hindu terrorism. Israel funded Hamas in the 1970s to weaken support for the PLO and sabotage potential peace negotiations, and has also provided weapons, training, and/or intelligence to Somoza’s Nicaragua, Salvadoran death squads, and the Ferguson police force. As far as US state-sponsored terrorism, the CIA along with the UK removed Iran’s democratically elected prime minister when their oil cartel was threatened; supported the Shah, whose SAVAK intelligence force tortured and executed political opponents; and has provided support for MEK (People’s Mujahedin of Iran), an anti-Iranian terrorist group within Iran. Why should Iran’s support of Hezbollah and Hamas be treated differently?

I won’t tell you Iran can be trusted because I don’t know what trust means in the context of countries, who speaks for whom or to whom. I will tell you I don’t think the US, or Israel, or India, or Pakistan, or Iran has the moral authority to determine which countries should or shouldn’t obtain or possess nuclear weapons. None of them should, ideally, but since many of them do, all of them should be able to. Only when those weapons are used, not simply obtained or possessed, can we demand otherwise. But so can they.

“Diplomacy has worked and can continue to work,” you conclude. “That’s why I urge all parties back to the bargaining table to develop an agreement that ensures a nuclear-free Iran and a more stable, peaceful world.” I agree, and encourage a broader discussion with other world nations that will ensure a nuclear-free Pakistan, a nuclear-free India, a nuclear-free Israel, a nuclear-free America, and a nuclear-free world. I don’t disagree with a nuclear-free Iran, but why stop there? Where’s the bargaining table if only one side is bargaining?

Lastly, I note that the mailing I received was “prepared, published and mailed at taxpayers’ expense.” I appreciate the honesty, but not the waste of my money. Please stop.


Hop Wechsler

* * * *

September 18, 2015

Dear Hop Wechsler:

Thank you for reaching out to me with your concerns regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Agreement (JCPOA) with Iran. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with me on this issue. As your Representative, I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to you directly.

While I fully support the administration’s diplomatic goals, I am deeply skeptical that the Iranian regime shares America’s values and desire for peace. When we are dealing with nuclear weapons there are no do-overs and no second-chances. Iran must never be allowed to become a nuclear threat to the world. Not today. Not ten or fifteen years from now. Never.

Since the agreement was announced last month, I have met twice with President Obama, including a briefing inside the White House Situation Room. I was also briefed by Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and senior members of the U.S. Department of Defense. As a member of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, I had the opportunity to review classified documents related to the Iran nuclear deal multiple times.

I had the opportunity to visit Israel last year and again this August with fellow members of Congress, which gave me a crucial opportunity to hear what this deal means to Israeli officials, military officers, and everyday citizens. I have also met with a variety of constituent groups from South Jersey over the past few months to hear their thoughts on the issue.

In April, prior to the announcement of a deal, I wrote a letter to President Obama, voicing my concerns over the negotiations with Iran and missed deadlines. In it, I outlined my belief that an acceptable deal would be long-term, fully transparent, and provide for the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program all verified by intrusive inspections in exchange for phased sanctions relief. Unfortunately, the JCPOA falls short in each of these criteria.

The Iranian regime is a known sponsor of terrorism that has openly expressed its hatred for both the United States and Israel. Lifting economic sanctions at the outset essentially rewards past behavior and infuses billions of dollars into their economy that could be used to buy more weapons and outsource more terror. Moreover, the deal does not provide enough assurance that Iran will be restricted from developing nuclear weapons, so this windfall may ultimately help fund their nuclear ambitions.

I’ve listened, I’ve studied the issues, and after careful consideration, I must vote against this deal.

I applaud the Obama Administration and other world powers that worked diligently on a diplomatic solution. We all know no deal is perfect or iron-clad and I am not looking for perfection, but I do believe that a better deal can be achieved. Diplomacy has worked and can continue to work. We have not exhausted all possible efforts. I urge all parties to go back to the bargaining table so we can continue a dialogue that can help us achieve an accord that ensures a nuclear-free Iran and a safer world. To that end, I promise to work with Congressional leaders to foster more diplomatic action.

Thank you again for your interest. If I may be of any assistance to you in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Donald Norcross
Member of Congress

Well, he responded. Maybe now, in 2018, he can visit Oaklyn, or West Collingswood, or Camden, or (gasp) Tehran or Gaza, and hear what withdrawal of the deal means to everyday citizens from places other than Israel.

The Seventies

I’ve been to Hollywood
I’ve been to Redwood
Never going back again

Dancing Bear (for Gord Downie)

we die a little
when he dies
robbed of his music
that was never really ours

the impenetrable gaze
the inscrutable phrase
a name projected on a cave

we rave
until dawn
we move on
we move to the music
that was never ours



you told me I was the token male
with mezcal in your coffee
I’ve been known to occasionally
run with the wolves,
I said
I occasionally run with the wolves

did you hear that, we’re wolves
you told her
with something in your eyes
my lover didn’t recognize
and on the jukebox the man in black sang
never do me harm
never do me harm

we dropped you off
at the Christian Street Y
you whispered in her ear,
why don’t you make a baby
you said, why don’t you make a baby tonight

you must have known we weren’t breeders
we’re cat people
see these eyes so green
I’m sure you must have known we were cat people
but I didn’t know you were actual wolves


when you call me
you never call me
when you call me
make me a baby
when I was a baby once
before your time
& will be
before you will



cocaine is so 1984
I wanted more
I’m breaking down
the walls of South Miami

remember when we were
like Walt Whitman I penetrated
multitudes of lovers

once we were old
then we were dead
now we’re reborn
I mean every word I’ve
never said out loud

outside the broken window pane
I dedicate this hurricane
to you

the monuments are coming down
from Johnny Reb to Johnny Brown
so now we’ll never understand
the meaning of confederate
as lover

when I come home the bedroom’s empty
my baby went and found redemption
in Detroit

Photo by John N. Teunisson for New Orleans Railway & Light Company (1917). Robert E. Lee Memorial Column in Lee Circle park, central New Orleans. Available at Wikimedia Commons.

Get It On

I’m enough of a child of the sixties
to think no matter how awful it
turned out or what it took to
end up there at least
nobody else died
nobody except for her and
we can make our own torches now
we can make torches with
ourselves every day
with our own bodies
naked as the night
without masks or muskets or
calling other humans animals
because we’re all vulnerable now
more than ever and
this is what we must do
this is what we have to do to
get it on