A Reaction to Am I Alone Here? by Peter Orner



One of the most important things I noticed about Peter Orners book Am I Alone Here? is that he is talking about his relationship to books. He lives in a space where words are his business. The feelings you and I get looking into worlds, fictional/relative in a way take us out of the one we are in and they take us to the place I used to think represented the explanation of the phrase: Literature is the opiate of the people, which I derived from the actual one, which says that not literature, but religion does this.

Literature takes you to a place of aesthetic beauty. It is cozy, warm, tender, and truthful.

Orner describes: Alone in the garage with all these books,p. xi, theres no room on the shelves anymore.I have this situation, except that I have moved everything in my apartment into my bedroom so that they can remove asbestos. My books and art are piled at my feet and to my sides. I have books that are dear. Everything at this point that is not dear has been discarded. I am moving toward this point of exact reflection, where things I own represent who I am at my deepest and most meaningful.

This is where Orner is coming from.

Having said that, I would like to talk about things I have underlined in the book and why. Reading is about responding to things as they relate to us.

At the very front of the book, I wrote: A Deadmans car in another deadmans parking space.It was a thought I had while sitting in my car looking across the parking lot at the car of a man, who fell down in his apartment, died, and went unfound for at least a month. I noticed the smell and the flies on the door.

Orner is documenting his thoughts in terms of the ideas/statements in books, I am documenting my thoughts, using his book as inspiration.

The first thing I underlined was, When we die, not only will our bodies be gone, but so will the people we remember.

The parking spot that housed the car belonged to the man who bought the car and later died in another car, where he must have had an epileptic seizure and crashed head-on with another car. I was coming home and saw his car, parked, and returned and saw a body lying on the ground. I asked the police officers if that person was my neighbor. I told them who I thought it was and they eventually agreed.

I was not gone, but to him I was. He is now gone and I dont believe he has any memory of himself. I can say that because I have been in ICU with amnesia. I did not know who I was. I did not exist mentally or physically to myself. Also, I had a heart attack and after I passed out I was no longer aware.

This is why I tell people they dont have to worry about death. It is the absence of memory, no matter what you will be going through before you cant remember the pain and the pain is controlled by any memory of it.

We live in the world, and we recall the world,Orner said, (p. 11) and one day we wont do either anymore.As you can see how relevant this line is to me.

When he talks about Juan Rulfos Pedro Paramo and The Burning Plain and Other Stories, I underline: People unburdening themselves of the stories they cant help tellingand this is the core of what Rulfos work is about coupled with my knowledge of the book and Latin American books and writers. It is mandatory (in terms of my psyche) that I read it. Orner said that Gabriel García Márquez said he memorized the book for its rhythmic cadences.

I am unburdening the story of myself. I see, hear, and feel great connectivity and meaning. I have a story to tell as associative response. That process of sharing is who I am. I have found that catharsis through literature and art is the most valuable thing in life. I do not have love, consummation of food is now limited given my heart, and so the wisdom and cadence found in books is the only beauty I have.

Here too is another relevant quote: At what point in your lives do we fall so in love with our own failures that we cant stop talking about them?(p. 83)

Obviously, I cant help talking about my ritual sadness that I have fallen in love with the failure that it is. That pain gives my life meaning. Just the other day someone said that I was too old for another person, except that while I knew this and refrained, that attraction was true, but truth was not the failure of my life.

Then Orner asked: At one point do we clam up for good?I think so. We become irrelevant to the social hemisphere and othersexpectations or their rules. We, in effect, commit social suicide.

It is as Orner said: The silence that follows us around [is] like a premature death.(p. 85)

This defeat, as he says, becomes my story: Am I Really Alone Here?and yes, I have to say that I am.

He talks about a woman, who mattered to him: All that mattered was Lilly Brisco.All that matters to me is ____________________. I still think of her constantly. She was my greatest achievement, the woman most regal and mysterious. I think the only reason she took an interest in me was because I broke it off with someone else. It implied superiority, I guess. Its that reverse psychology stuff.

I believe we stay in love and only pause when a new infatuation arrives. There have been many women who have attracted me and there have only been a few with whom I have had lucky intimacy. The ones you get together with while still in love stand no chance because they are compared to the ones that got away. Now that I am old, the opportunity for love is nearly non-existent, and even if it were not, who I am as an older man makes my attractions ridiculous. My heart still waits for love. I wish I could say the womans name, but she would just call me crazy and say to get on with my life. But, love is my life, unrequited love, apparently.

Orner wrote, I fantasized about becoming a reclusive writer,p. 113. I havent fantasized about being reclusive, but I have become one, who understands that what I write about unrequited love — makes me out for a sad sack, a loser, which I guess I am. I wanted to be famous for describing that plight of men, but I am white, old, and unwanted. Nothing I say matters to anyone.

My truth is politically-incorrect. My whole life has been a waste-of-time. First, as white in Hawaiis public schools, then in California, where mansplaining

white males are out-of-touch, like old philosophers, Kants Critique of Pure Reason gave us the riot act. But, did we listen?

At this moment, I am sitting in the cafe that housed my work and where I spent most of my time writing. The music is playing pleasing, soft, classical piano. Cafe Milano is one of my favorite places in the world: Plywood floor, folding chairs, and marble table tops. How oft I have dreamed of potential lovers here and never was I chosen. For me, life has been the same soft, sweet hope. I am drugged by my genes to wait for words. This is the closest sense I have to who I am.

On page 119, Orner writes, How can I express my gratitude to a poet who never sought it, who only wanted me to know his creations, not their creator?

I can totally relate. As an introvert and believer in the persona and not the person and for whom the words come and I move on, except that I keep harping on the same theme as so perhaps I am lying to myself. My sister says to be careful, the world is full of people who will misunderstand and may even hurt you.

I dont know anymore, my poems have not taken root, like The Wastelandor Burnt Norton.I have read most of them again, and this is true, they go in and out of beautiful and mediocre. Although a few weeks ago, a publisher said that the short story I read was hypnotic. Theyve said that about Margarite Duras and I know what they mean. Could my work have been as good?

Orner writes: That little girl in the white dress crossing in front of the hood of the car, and Ill know that it happened again the night before.He harbors the thought of hitting a little girl with his car while drunk. I think of that example and how we sometimes end up in places where we never thought we would, only to realize we might have never gotten there if we were where we were supposed to be.

Ill-washed flesh, infrequently changed underwear, chamber pots, the slop pails, the inadequately plumbed prives, rotting food, unattended teeth,p, 129. Orner is talking about the place where Lizzie Borden lived and had to manage her life. Lizzie Borden, the households youngest daughter, readies herself for the day. Of course she might have whacked someone, what an environment within which to be born and run.

While Herman Melville was toiling in the Customs House, trying to pay off his bills, J. T. Headley, Charles Briggs, and Fanny Forrester were the toast of literary America,p. 143. I too have contemplated this. Do my works have value? And if so, will they be recognized before I die? And if they have no value, have I wasted my life?

After the publication of the collection Women in their Beds in 1996, Berriault enjoyed a brief moment of national recognition.” But, once again, her work is hard to find. I have one person reading and writing about mine, and where she included it in her presentations, I feel it belongs to her. I have lost ownership. I have lost the point of my life and my life is non-existent to others. I will have to buy Orners recommendation The Infinite Passion of Expectation, because it explains my life. It is not so much a passion of expectation but a purgatory. Nothing has been decided. How many of you are in this boat? We are awash among and around a few, but, in general, we are unknown.

In effect, you could say that my life has been simply like Orners quote: Loves found, loves lost. Whats more calamitous?p. 155

I am only a thinker, not a doer. But, what a doer does is present in the now and visible to whoever was there, then lost.

I am a Street of Lost Footsteps.

As you read Orners list of books, you find yourself to wanting to experience them. Inevitably, I am alone and yes I am alone here. We long for that maudlin tapestry of the self.

Orner quotes, Phenomenology of Responsibilitya person who doesnt love doesnt exist?In the story, a woman throws herself at her professor to save him; but he realizes that sacrifice is absurd. A beautiful woman sacrifices her body to save an old man.

Theres an audacious honest[]y in Havels work(p. 192) and in my own. I think, where truth reveals the absurd, where truth reveals your own abnormality and how isolated you then feel. How do you reinvent yourself, if who you are is inherently offensive or destined to receive the same response? You are stuck, I think. If you reach out to others, your hand will get slapped. At some point, you want to live completely separate, but trouble still finds you.

Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first Czech president, was also a philosopher, a man who wrote many books, including a ground-breaking study of suicide,Orner wrote, p. 192.

Havel,Orner said, needed to be with his own in order to create. He remained in prison for almost four years.I think too I am a man out of my element, a permanent amateur, someone who has lost his way, but is there such a way for someone like myself or even Orner, who eschews money and who wishes to tell the maudlin truth of the artist, who constantly wishes to express himself, although that self is inherently flawed amid a world governed by more practical spirits.

I am still a fool,p. 199, as my losses pile up,and so at 56, I am destined to ultimately fail. I am not a coder, a doctor, some financier, or someone for whom the way to success is apparently more pragmatic. I write inevitably, about myself; a recipe for disaster. And so there you are.

This is my status: The story is less about insatiable ambition than about what a writer does when hes simply got nothing left to say.When I hear myself complain, I see that I have caused it all. I think we retire, when we see we are no longer relevant or when we keep repeating ourselves. I never found love because there was nothing left to love. I was only the complainant and no longer the person. You could hear it in everything I said.

Writing poetry is the exploitation of a substrata of memory that is imperfectly understood.I have never satisfied the need for sex and thus sex, according to Maslow, is all I will ever think about.

What happens when youve got no substrata left to understand? On top of all this, the only thing the old widower can think about, aside from the Nobel prize, is sex,p. 207

In response to pages, 207-208, I write in the margins: She writes all day and the editor looks over her work and says, Why dont we throw this away?And she looks at him. He tosses it in the trash and says: It doesnt matter that it was lost to the world, all that will happen is that those will be a few seconds of peace.” “Lugging his lust,Orner said, p. 210

At least there is hope for me when Orner quotes Gallant, who wrote: The French refusal to accept poverty as a sign of failure in an artist.My books have sold few copies. I am as obscure as the day I started writing and perhaps even more availed where the truth of who I am was the opposite of who I thought. Against the back drop of others, I am either misunderstood or correctly unmarketable or even liked as a person.

Have I been Daydreaming?

Have I self-reflected and yet not seen who I was?

What does the character of who I am want?

Fiction writers mustcreate lasting characterswho are as inconsistent, as foolish, as rash as we arebeyond the page. But, the truth of me is even more than I can take. Am I the manifestation of the phrase: Truth is stranger than fiction?

What should have happened?I do not know. I am blind to anything else but to who I truly am.

Maybe it is the welcome darkness of this morning.

Orner said: For me writing has always been about holding a mirror to life and then smashing it…” I dont understand this. When you hold a mirror to life you are standing behind the mirror, unless the creature before it is sentient, the mirror may reflect it, and if it is a woodpecker, it may attack its reflection as an intruder, but otherwise it remains indifferent. I believe and in the case of the bird it doesnt recognize itself. It doesnt see itself but something that reminds itself of danger.

When Orner holds the mirror to life, he is showing us what life is; art imitates life. But, then he destroys this communication of the truth, what is real. It is just Orner and the subject in front, the two looking at each other. How does he tell us what he thinks or is there? The mirror is down in the dust. Again, it is just the two of them and me/us looking over his shoulder.

Isnt there just something about our past words that is comforting,p. 278. Recently, someone asked a question about poetry and I was demonstrating my ability over a long time, say 25 years and I read a poem I had written about my ex-wife in the year we met and married. I said,  that I knew she didnt love me. I married her anyway. We got divorced five years later. That poem, although straight-forward, documented my knowledge and the clarity of it.

The reflection of a thing, not the thing itself, has become the source of all mystery,p. 281.

I made a coffee table photography book entitled Urban Reflections. About it, I argue that I am trying to capture the catharsis of art, that weepy interconnection between the work and the viewer. The reflections in urban windows that I take in a number of cities looks behind the glass, the reflection on the glass, which is inevitable, what is captured in the reflection in front or behind and around me. The reflection becomes the consciousness of the viewer and thus yes it is mysterious. Do we really know who we are even while we are staring at ourselves? As we look out of our eyes, we think about the things in front in terms of us and what we need. We think about the world in our terms. Contemplation is the mystery.

Crowded Loneliness of Bohumil Hrabal,Orner said. In a crowded loneliness, the loneliness is crowded. There is a lonely person amidst a crowd. Even in the coffee shop full of people, he felt alone. He could open his mouth, write on a piece of paper, but he knew without having to do anything that the woman, who held his interest could feel his contemplating her, and he also knew that in time, she would be collecting her things because, he felt, that his feelings for her were communicated and uncomfortable. On the trail, he passed a smiling woman who was running with a friend, he liked her from behind and from the side as he passed. He told himself that when he passed her coming back on the trail, if she stopped him he would know if she liked him. As they passed, she looked from a distance and when he got close enough to see her eyes, she looked down. He passed her.

Loopy cadence,p. 283. When Orner writes this I understand his love of how writers, who I love  to write with loopy cadence, like Joan Didion in Play it as it Lays or After Henry, Margarite DurasThe Lover, any number of hypnotic writers, who cast their spells, see also: Too Loud a Solitude by Boumil Hrabal.

Only individual memory has the unique power to redeem us,p. 284. What is individual memory, my memory vs. yours that has the power to redeem you? Unless I communicate it, how will you know? My memory causes me both pain and whimsy. I think about the women I have loved as I know I can never go back. I wait for one but I know the futility in that. My absolute love is as meaningless to me as is the absolute love I have received from others. This is the saddest thing on earth and I dont know why our world is made of so much loss. What a waste.

Yet, Orner quotes the Talmud, p. 285, For we are like olives: only when we are crushed do we yield what is best in us.Singing like a Thorn Bird, I am not sure when we take ourselves out of this, I think the other person can relate on his/her own terms.



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Today, while on HWY 1 on the way to Bolinas, just before Stinson, I was coming around the corner, a sharp corner, and there was a man in a bright red robe and leather boots, the hood of the robe over his head, back packs on his back. He stuck out his thumb and I stopped. He said he was on his way to the North Pole to help Santa. He called me Sir. He seemed like he was in his twenties. His cheeks were full. I drove him to Bolinas and we went our separate ways.

The Mask


A cellphone lay on a large wooden table surrounded by chairs. There were stapled 8.5” x 11” compiled documents with: a person’s name, date, class, and assignment in the upper left-hand corner, each on its own line, the title of the work centered on the page, two spaces below the double-spaced lines above, two spaces below and then the indented paragraphs that covered the rest of the page. There were several examples of academic papers strewn on the table in the center of the room and on the chair to the right. An open laptop sat on the table. The screen was lit. There were glasses, brown-rimmed, probably plastic. Next to those was a light-green dinosaur on a small stack of books and magazines next to the glasses. Black and orange floral bag, and a stainless steel tall, narrow covered mug, and a wind-breaker. Also on the table was a black leather purse with gold rhinestones running from the top to the bottom at a diagonal, and then around the bottom and up on the front and back of the purse. There were ball-shaped attachments, diamond-shaped round holes, smaller appliqués, a black strap and tan interior. The purse leaned. The bag was new, open, unblemished. Inside the purse was a strand of aluminum, blue on one side and bright silver on the other. It hit the light just so. There were more strands, then a white rubber mask that was covered in black shadows, near the mouth. Along the hair line of the mask were red beads with strands of white hair moving out through the beads. These beads and hair were all over the head. The eye holes were just big enough so that someone’s eyes could see out. The mask was crumpled into itself and there were crimson splatters.

Black and White

The truth is a thousand voices
On the stairs fronting St. Paul’s
In London,
Except it is early morning
And I woke in the youth hostel
Because of the traffic and because
I stop breathing 14 times an hour.
I remember having to force myself to get up.
I had promised myself that I would read poetry
In public.
As I sat there in shorts and T-shirt
And some guy was throwing shopping carts
At a metal garbage can,
I read my poems to an occasional car,
A passerby, here and there,
But never at a volume any of them could hear.
I fulfill my promises in private
I sleep alone
I stay up until early morning
And I live my life
In black and white.

The Slow Sauce of Wood

If the tree could only hear itself
The heart racing through the years
Each line as four complete seasons
As snow fell and rain danced
As creatures passed and the wind blew
How water moved through its veins
And the light at morning and
Night fall caused
A squeeze of fibers

Every circle tells a story
Like awkward rock
Erosion and fluctuations in time
Speak of what confrontations it greeted
How the slow sauce of wood grew year after year.


Son of a Hoarder


On Lewers Street in Waikiki, there was a hotel half-way down the street, between Kalia Street and Kalakaua Blvd. He lived there with his mother. The mouth of the road that fed the Sheraton Waikiki on the Makaha (North) side came out and in front of the hotel, simply called 260 Annex. It housed mostly residents. In one of the units down the hall from them, was a woman dying of leukemia. On the ground floor was a Chinese restaurant called House of Hong. Tourists would enter the Chinese style red-painted wood entrance to the restaurant. As a local, he would marvel at the implied wealth of men and women in business attire and laughter. In the cinderblock walled hallways was a plain blue carpet. He looked down at it and imagined how thick the padding must have been. The humidity and the temperature were the same as it was outside. The owners never air-conditioned the hallways, which led to stairwells on either end of the building. The cement stairwells were enclosed with glass windows, always open. You could see between the hotels and down into the narrow driveways. As he looked from the 8th floor, it made him queasy. Cars would either go up one floor from the ground level or down into the basement. He looked at how dirty the walls were; there were black lines and gashes he knew were caused by cars unable to negotiate the narrow lane.

Sometimes it rained, but usually only once a day. It would rain as close as across the street, get things a little wet, and then dry out almost as quickly. He either walked into the rain or waited until it cleared in the hallway fronting the street. It depended on what side of the street you were on and if you wanted to get wet. He would look into the knick knack store in the hallway to his right as he looked out into the street. The walls were a medium gloss white, glass, or in the case of the area near House of Hong, it was ornate. He would look into the restaurant at the bar, but in all the years he had lived in Hawaii, he never once ate there. In the last apartment on the top floor facing the beach, there was a three-balcony apartment. This was his mother’s place. The carpet was plain and blue too. He looked down thinking that it had probably never been cleaned.The walls were white and they felt thick, unshakable, and were made of solid cement. He never feared that they would fall. He hit them with his hand and it hurt. He stood inside of the threshold and shut the door. He felt embarrassed. On the inside wall, and to the left, was a black and white picture of him in a gray suit. He thought about his recent divorce. His pants were down in the image and he held a framed photograph of his ex-wife’s portrait, which he had taken. He liked plays within plays. His ex-wife wore a hat with a strap of fabric at the bottom of the crown. He looked at her and thought how much he loved her. She was a pretty Asian woman from Nicaragua. He knew those eyes. She was smiling. The picture was taken in almost the same place as it was hung. It was framed in a red frame with a turquoise matte with a black inner core. He had told his friend Jeff Fleischmann, a framer, what colors and types of materials he wanted. He turned to his right, passing the bathroom door. He thought how as soon as he took a shower, he was sweating again, and his clothes seemed wet too because of the heat and humidity. Everything inside was white or glass. The components of the bathroom were as old as the day they were installed. He continued turning toward his bedroom, the only one in the small suite. He realized that his mother had made a sacrifice for him to be in the room, but she needed him too, but he didn’t realize how much she needed him. The thought of this would haunt him for the rest of his life. His uncle and aunt had lived in the suite long before his mother. He could sense that she was acting weird with all the trash and things that were accumulating. He shared it with her since his divorce. She wouldn’t let him throw anything away and he pleaded with her. Just after the divorce, he moved into various shared situations, but in every case, his roommates made it nearly impossible. He remembered the bassist for the Honolulu Symphony, who was bipolar. The negative energy from this man affected him with oppressive rants. The energy was communicable. He couldn’t take it.

He installed lemon yellow carpet and painted the walls turquoise. He had always wanted to paint his walls another color than white. He put semi-transparent corrugated light green roof panels vertically to give him privacy from the hotel across the street, not actually knowing if, when the room was lit at night that the tourists across the way could see him. He worried about being seen naked.

He seldom went onto his balcony, in effect, closing himself off. He wasn’t happy about it but he wanted the look of the material. He suffered the scent of fiberglass and the stagnancy of the air due to the blocked windows. In the balcony next to his, also facing Lewers Street, his mother stored a number of decrepit corrugated boxes that contained baskets she had made, plastic-covered natural fiber supported by stiff wood. He remembered her making them when he was a kid. The baskets had fabric interiors and lights on the outside that were connected to a flashlight inside that provided electricity. He would switch the lights on and off. The last time he checked the boxes they housed various generations of pigeons and cockroaches, from translucent or opaque eggs to death. He remembered his step father loading a truck with his mother’s belongings. His mother married, moved twice to the continental US for no longer than a year, and then moved back because her marriages or relationships would end. This was because of extra-relational affairs on the part of her boyfriends or husbands or because of alcohol and/or abuse. He had trimmed all the plants in the planters near the front door to reflect a Japanese garden, which pissed off his step-father, for example. His step-father fought against the Japanese in WWII.

Inside his room was a red plywood desk that he had cut in an organic shape and nailed into a tree stump that looked like a woman’s torso turned upside-down. He liked how closely it resembled female anatomy. Affixed to the other end of the table was a long glass stalactite that reached the floor. It was supposed to represent sperm. This was from his one-man photography show at the University of Hawaii at Manoa that incorporated the desk as well as a chair made of a black-painted metal rod in the shape of a Bienal Emmanuelle Chair, like a giant fan. It wasn’t comfortable to sit on although he cut out a piece of wood that served as a seat. On the desk, was the same manual typewriter that he had in the show and on the turquoise walls was a black and white picture of a man in drag. He framed the image he got from a colleague, who would later print images in Manhattan for such greats as Andres Serrano, who did ‘Piss Christ.’ There were foam-core, life-size cut outs of people in various poses (no detail) with out-stretched arms and arched backs. He leaned them against the walls. 

He stood for a moment before going into his room. It was hot in the room and the colors vibrated with tension. He looked at the wooden lattice that blocked his gaze into his mother’s area, the ‘living room’ of the small suite. The lattice was covered with fabric so he couldn’t see in, but he knew what was on the other side. A white Vienna style vinyl sofa with paneled arms that she had re-upholstered. Previously, it was covered in a soft, satiny, wool, paisley-patterned, white-on-white fabric. There was a white, early American table with inlaid, mother-of pearl top. He would hit his shins against it when it was in an open room. He knew too of white vinyl chairs somewhere hidden in the mess. His mother’s bed was just inside to the right in front of the closet that was filled with her clothes. There were many visitor magazine sheets in the room with sharpie and ball-point pen jottings. This habit would follow her for the rest of her life as she kept notes on advertisements and other printed matter. There were two small jagged trails through the morass to each of the balconies, both of which were piled high with cardboard boxes. He imagined what people thought of them as they could see them from balconies in hotel rooms in front and to the right. These were filled with belongings and covered with various blankets. With a breeze, the blankets would shift and expose the newspapers and various household things. He thought how her life seemed to be put on hold. 

She would smoke on the balcony in a corner covered with rope and faux ivy, plastic flowers, a fake parrot, a large ashtray, and a rod-iron ice cream chair painted white. Those chairs he remembered were always in the family and had been painted any number of colors: white, yellow, black, pink… She smoked her cigarettes and looked toward the ocean, which you could make out through a break between the Cinerama Reef and Halikulani Hotel. It wasn’t far, about half a block, and he would take his surfboard and paddle out to Three’s or Popular’s mostly.

The kitchen in the suite was about seven feet in and three feet wide in the walkway.  It was small and dirty. There were cabinets above and below counter tops that housed a small stove and oven. There were four stove elements. The kitchen felt cramped. To the left was a small sink. There were tens of cockroaches either walking around the floors and counters or they were hidden. At night when he turned on the light, they would scurry. At times, they even entered the refrigerator and walked around because it was never cold enough to deter them and the seams were old and uneven. This sickened him and would be one of the reasons he left Hawaii. His mother kept hamburger meat that she ate raw and simply put in the refrigerator exposed, she couldn’t afford plastic wrap. He never liked this. There were always open containers containing previous meals covered in pamphlets or card stock papers she would collect from the visitor shelves in the various hotel lobbies. He remembered them as brochures about tourist destinations or tours. She used them as stationary.

Blacks Enslaved When Star-Spangled Banner Was Written


“According to the historian Robin Blackburn, the words ‘the hireling and slave’ allude to the fact that the British attackers had many ex-slaves in their ranks, who had been promised liberty and demanded to be placed in the battle…’where they might expect to meet their former masters.'”

I extracted this from an explanation of the Star-Spangled Banner on Wikipedia. Apparently, while Francis Scott Key and John Stuart Skinner were being held captive on HMS Tonnant until after the inspiring battle at Fort McHenry. What this means is that a battle against the no-doubt opportunistic English for having freed slaves, celebrates a freedom for White Americans.

It was not until January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865, that the 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States. 53 years later was slavery abolished; but of course it lingers.

The point I am trying to make is that having a White man tell a Black man why he should or should not stand for the National Anthem, adopted as the national anthem of the United States of America on March 4, 1931, another 66 years later, forgets that the national anthem at the time of its inspiration represented an army that had not denounced slavery.

We have institutionalized racism. I know it because I am a racist at heart. I have to fight it everyday. Some Black people, in my eyes, are not like me, commit faux paus that I would never commit, which of course is to view a Black person through my eyes and to project my impressions upon he/she, which is wrong, especially where I have no business, in the context of the Declaration of Independence, which states that all men are created equal, even though I have heard allusions to “Only rich White men could vote, and they agreed that when the census takers were counting the population of each state, a Black man would count as only three-fifths as much as a White man.”

So, if we are talking about The Star-Spangled Banner as demanding that a Black man stand up and honor it, this is a bit of a laughing stock. And if you are saying that in doing so, we honor our previous and present soldiers, who defend our country, I might remind that the contributions slaves made to our country is a bit like the sacrifices members of the military have made for the security and safety of our country, but many soldiers did so by choice.

Blacks are at war with our perceptions of them as different. We apply our point of view. And I speak for myself. Until I no longer house any sense of superiority, I remain outside of that futuristic concept of all men being equal. I have the audacity to think that I am better than a Black person, whom for centuries of control, have been contorted by the very thoughts that I house, and because I and people like me may represent a majority, where the majority rules, and where the Black person has clearly felt and been affected by that control. This is why a White man telling a Black man that he must stand and put his right hand over his heart and his left hand behind his back (and not move and not look down) is offensive to me. 

Unrequited Love


When my love feels you,

It bashfully recedes

Into the awareness of


It stomps around alone

In a closed-curtain room.

The air is hot

The certainty of failure

Is everywhere

Like an unmade bed

And a room strewn

With clothes

None of which are yours.

The room doesn’t smell of you.

It is cluttered with false hope:

Empty open water bottles,

Portfolios, papers, books,

A tissue box on a wooden floor.