City of Joyful Dread

I caught a fever, a holy fire

Month: January, 2015


Comet Lovejoy

to the haunted belong the ghosts
& ghosts belong to no one

we belong on coasts
“in search of Eldorado”
warm December breeze
dying in the jacaranda trees

I had a dream about you
we were both Confederates
but we could not endure, permanently,
half you and half me
I never expected the mystery
I never expected our union would be dissolved

we were far from home
ten thousand miles from Wollongong
“Down the Valley of the Shadow”
with Atlanta in flames
in the coldest winter
a walking nightmare
an endless bummer

were you alone beyond the wild lantana
was that where you kissed her
Gogi Grant wails from a lazy transistor
the wayward wind is a restless wind
a restless wind that yearns to wander

the Southern Cross is the brightest star
warning the dawn of night’s wandering ways
“shot through by topaz suns, and amethysts”
warm December breeze
kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
January will bring you to your knees

Photo (c) Wayne England. Available at


Tango Zero Hour


we meet to descend

when you call my name
in the midnight hour
things fall apart
and we’re up all night
walking the walls
of a broken home

whenever you want me
whenever you need me
someone else will be there

he walks like me
he talks like me
he looks like me
but he won’t dance the dance

let the dark intellectual violence begin

I once knew someone
who knew someone
named Crystal Shanda Leer

she was a Sybarite too

but unbreakable

Photo courtesy of

Frederick Douglass on the Mummers Parade

From what I know of the effect of these holidays upon the slave, I believe them to be among the most effective means in the hands of the slaveholder in keeping down the spirit of insurrection. Were the slaveholders at once to abandon this practice, I have not the slightest doubt it would lead to an immediate insurrection among the slaves. These holidays serve as conductors, or safety-valves, to carry off the rebellious spirit of enslaved humanity. But for these, the slave would be forced up to the wildest desperation; and woe betide the slaveholder, the day he ventures to remove or hinder the operation of those conductors!…They are professedly a custom established by the benevolence of the slaveholders; but I undertake to say, it is the result of selfishness, and one of the grossest frauds committed upon the down-trodden slave. They do not give the slaves this time because they would not like to have their work during its continuance, but because they know it would be unsafe to deprive them of it. This will be seen by the fact, that the slaveholders like to have their slaves spend those days just in such a manner as to make them as glad of their ending as of their beginning. Their object seems to be, to disgust their slaves with freedom, by plunging them into the lowest depths of dissipation. For instance, the slaveholders not only like to see the slave drink of his own accord, but will adopt various plans to make him drunk. One plan is, to make bets on their slaves, as to who can drink the most whisky without getting drunk; and in this way they succeed in getting whole multitudes to drink to excess. Thus, when the slave asks for virtuous freedom, the cunning slaveholder, knowing his ignorance, cheats him with a dose of vicious dissipation, artfully labelled with the name of liberty. The most of us used to drink it down, and the result was just what might be supposed; many of us were led to think that there was little to choose between liberty and slavery. We felt, and very properly too, that we had almost as well be slaves to man as to rum. So, when the holidays ended, we staggered up from the filth of our wallowing, took a long breath, and marched to the field,–feeling, upon the whole, rather glad to go, from what our master had deceived us into a belief was freedom, back to the arms of slavery.
–from “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” (1845)