Sunday, April 25, 2004

In Which I Read Law And Make A Confession

Are we surprised that our fair Governor Willard "the Mitthead" Romney has vowed to aggressively enforce one of Massachusetts' ugly little antediluvian laws, the one prohibiting Massachsetts marriages to certain out of state couples whose marriages would be illegal in their home states ? A law whose intent was to prevent interracial marriages in Massachusetts of couples from states with anti-miscegenation laws ?

No we are not. The Governor has no compunction in enlisting an ugly bigoted holdover of a law to advance his own personal bigoted agenda. Bigoted legislation, turns out be, to use a word recently brought out of Websterian depths by Donald Rumsfeld, merrily fungible.

Eric Fehrnstrom, the Mitthead's "loathsome 150,000 a year spokesperson" (excellent phrase courtesy of Ben at Romney is a Fraud) was quoted in the Globe this morning : "The governor does not have the luxury of choosing which laws to enforce and which ones to ignore. He took an oath to enforce all the laws of the Commonwealth."

So I checked out the Laws of the General Court of Massachusetts to see what other laws the Governor "does not have the luxury" of ignoring.

I had no idea I was such a miscreant. We're talking three strikes you're out territory here. I, by all accounts, am a habitual criminal. I'm planning to turn myself in later today, to throw myself upon the mercy of the Great And General Court of Massachusetts, oyez oyez, God Save the Governor, God Save the Commonwealth from the Governor, but first I will make a public confession.

Open your lawbooks, gentlemen, to


Chapter 272: Section 34 Crime against nature

Section 34. Whoever commits the abominable and detestable crime against nature, either with mankind or with a beast, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than twenty years.

"The abominable and detestable crime against nature" is for legal purposes, of course, our old friend "sodomy." As in Bill and Monica. And most other affectionate couples. In my case, this would involve "mankind," not "a beast." Will that afford me some leniency ? Twenty years is a long time.

Chapter 272: Section 16 Open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior

  Section 16. A man or woman, married or unmarried, who is guilty of open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than three years or in jail for not more than two years or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars.

(Lewd and lascivious cohabitation. (Under Chap. 272, Sec. 16.)--That A.B. and C.D., not being married to each other, did during one month next before the finding of this indictment...

Yes, I admit it: I lewdly and lasciviously cohabited with BOTH my husbands before we wed. And lest you find yourself flipping ahead to the section of Chapter 272 that prohibits polygamy, let me assure you that my husbands have been consecutive, not concurrant.

Chapter 272: Section 35 fornication

Section 18. Whoever commits fornication shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than three months or by a fine of not more than thirty dollars.

 Fornication.--Sexual intercourse between an unmarried male and an unmarried female.

Yes, it's true, I fornicated and committed the abominable and detestable crime against nature during my two openly and grossly lewd and lacivious cohabitations.

And there's more.

Chapter 272: Section 36 Blasphemy

  Section 36. Whoever wilfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, his creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and may also be bound to good behavior.

Can I plead ignorance of the law ? How was I to know it's illegal to contumeliously reproach all three members of the Trinity, or deny the final judging of the world ?

And then there was that time I said "fuck" on a steamboat:


Chapter 272: Section 43 Disorderliness in public conveyances; disturbance of travelers

  Section 43. Whoever, in or upon a railroad carriage, steamboat or other public conveyance, is disorderly, or disturbs or annoys travelers in or upon the same by profane, obscene or indecent language, or by indecent behavior, shall be punished as provided in section forty.

Now here are some laws I have not, by the grace of our contumeliously unreproachable God (see -- I'm rehabilitating even as we speak), yet violated, that I offer up to my Massachusetts readers so that you may avoid such a life of crime as I have found my self to be leading.

Sports fans, beware ! (Is "sucks" profane ? If so, the Mitthead "no-new-taxes" Romney will immediately see the revenue-rich potential in this law.)

Chapter 272: Section 36A Sporting events; penalty for abuse of participants and officials

  Section 36A. Whoever, having arrived at the age of sixteen years, directs any profane, obscene or impure language or slanderous statement at a participant or an official in a sporting event, shall be punished by a fine of not more than fifty dollars.

And, yes, adultry is illegal. And punishable by three years in state prison. We're talking Cedar Junction here. Is there a department of the vice squad assigned to root out and prosecute these domestic offenses ? And if not, why not, GOVERNOR Mitthead "I took an oathto enforce all the laws of the Commonwealth" Romney ???

Chapter 272: Section 14 Adultery

  Section 14. A married person who has sexual intercourse with a person not his spouse or an unmarried person who has sexual intercourse with a married person shall be guilty of adultery and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than three years or in jail for not more than two years or by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars.

And here's the kicker. After it is legal for gays and lesbians to wed, it will remain illegal for them to consummate their vows. ("Unnatural and lascivious acts" is legalese for same sex sex.)

Chapter 272: Section 35 Unnatural and lascivious acts

Section 35. Whoever commits any unnatural and lascivious act with another person shall be punished by a fine of not less than one hundred nor more than one thousand dollars or by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than five years or in jail or the house of correction for not more than two and one half years.

I suspect this is one of the sections of Chapter 272 which the Gov. has read with deep interest and affection. And may even be envisioning a task force to oversee its new and aggressive impementation.


Saturday, April 24, 2004

Transcendental Etude

Sic transit: across, beyond, through. Trans is a crucial little particle for the threshold creature, the liminalist, whose practice is Zeno's paradox. Out on the limitless limb of her asymptote, where she seems to have all the time in the world , she thinks, "I'm getting there," halving the distance once again. And again. And again.

She keeps hearing the old refrain: No trespassing.

Nonetheless, it occured to her one day that some kind of leap might be in order. It would not be the first leap. Just a leap. Not "of" anything. Over the years she'd found herself inside from time to time. She recalled how the actual moment of crossing over gets lost in a quantum blaze of de- and re- materializing. "This must be how Alice felt passing through -- transgressing -- the mirror's surface," she'd think, looking around, resheveling nervously, praying for invisibilty wherever she landed, zendo or cathedral, monastary chapel or church parlor.

The church was big. She'd chosen it partly for its size, hoping it would contain a crowd into which she could melt. It was also beautiful, a small cathedral of pale gray stone, with several tall, excellent windows. She'd deliberated a long time -- months ? years ? -- before choosing, pondering every aspect of the decision. She'd had her eye on several candidates and picked one partway between heaven's whitewashed Congregational anteroom and the shadowy godbox in which she would always be the scandal-tainted outsider.

The heavy side door was open; the shadowy vestibule was empty. It was now or never. She made her move. Leaped...

... across.

Wash me and I shall be clean indeed

We cleaned the river walk today. It took a few dozen people just 2 hours to return the trash strewn pathside and riverbank to a pristine park-like state. It took much crawling through muck and thorny tangles, much crashing through stands of dead and hollow bamboo-like knotweed stalks with twigs grabbing at skin and hair -- but it was a lovely spring day with little white flowers and violets coming up and trees bursting into bloom and leaf, and everyone seemed, well, happy to be there, friendly strangers working together to right something that had been wronged. To care for a suffering and abused creature.

In the universe of moral trangressions, littering ranks among the lesser sins. Nonetheless, it's an ugly little act of violence, an epiphenomenon of greedy over-consumption and lack of reverence for the earth. It signifies a radical alienation from the fact of our inextricable connection with the environment for our air, water and food. It signifies a repudiation of our social dependence on and connection to one another. It signifies a culture that acquiesces to over-packaged, over-marketed, over-abundant poisonous cheap food. Greed and carelessness and ignorance all the way up and down the chain from the supersizing bottomlining CEO to the hungry ghost on the banks of the Charles desperate to pour another Dunkin Donuts down its pinhole piehole into the abyss of its unquenchable, wordless, thirst.

Thursday, April 22, 2004


I was young, maybe seven or eight, and was at the shoe store with my parents. I'd already been measured by the tickly, corrugated-steel foot-sizing plate and the shoe clerk was in the back room, behind the grimy curtain, pulling boxes from the untidy stacks. He emerged, probably exuding boredom and tobacco fumes, but, to my small eyes, exuding authority. Shoe authority. He was The Shoe Man. I was in his thrall.

Saddle shoes had already, for parental reasons I can't remember, been vetoed. I tried on pair after pair of stiff, shiny, otherwise unmemorable shoes, rejecting them all, until, finally, out of the shoebox tissue, they emerged: a pair of magnificent blue shoes. It was love at first sight. They were big, solid, royal blue brogans. I put them on, walked around, peered at my feet in the low mirror as my parents looked on in horror.

"These." I said.

"Not those gunboats !" pronounced my dear father, Raul Stanati, presciently trying to rescue me from my first steps down the path of a life of fashion catastrophe.

He, of course, prevailed.

But even the most loving father can't save a hellbent daughter from disaster.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

O harp and altar, of the fury fused

Boston has a lovely new bridge, the Zakim bridge, that rises like a big white harp from the industrial lowlands around the harbor. Its gleaming white cables stream from two wishbone-shaped arches at either end whose capping towers echo the obelisk of the Bunker Hill Monument, visible in Charlestown just to the east. Leonard Zakim, the much beloved former director of the local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, died of cancer in 1999, quite young, after a life dedicated to "building bridges" between communities and fighting for the civil rights of minorities. To commemorate this brilliant local activist, the new cable-stayed span was to be called "The Leonard P. Zakim Freedom Bridge."

In fact, the bridge's full name became the Leonard P. Zakim - Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, an unwieldly mouthful cobbled together after some Charlestown residents objected to naming the bridge for Zakim. "What," some asked, "do Jews have to do with the Battle of Bunker Hill ?" (A question that historians quickly answered.)

Nonetheless, the community indignation was signal for Governor Cellucci -- known more for being prickly, irritable and defensive than courageous or visionary -- to expand the original dedication to include homage to the waspy obelisk. It was an ugly little moment, imbued with a whiff of anti-semitism. Angry, ignoring Zakim's peacemaker spirit, I took to calling it "The Leonard P. Zakim - Adolph Hitler Memorial Bridge."

I'm pleased to report that, today, it's mostly called the Zakim bridge.

Which brings me to the question of the bridge's gender.

My husband, the sharp-witted and ever-patient DK, thinks I am too prone to give a Freudian reading to objects, landscapes and architectures. He's probably correct. "What does that remind you of," he'll snicker, as we drive through a tunnel or buy bananas.

The obelisk is, of course, the bull goose looney of phallic symbols. And the Zakim bridge boasts two of them, one at each end. One would think that to be a case-resting, QED-ing, argument-ending talking point. But approach Boston at night, I challenge you, from the south, and emerge from the Bigly Dug underground highway: I defy you to tell me that what faces you is simply a boy.

The beautiful archway, the thick-strung cables, the pulsating red aviation light at the top, the inwardly vectoring road -- how could it not bring to mind the silent film-within-a-film in Pedro Almodovar's Talk to Me, in which a miniscule man, "The Shrinking Lover," traverses the undulant landscape of his paramour's sleeping body and, finally, walks in ? It is a similar vulvoid archway through which I pass, shivering with delight, onto the brilliant, harp-strung expanse of Lenny's beautiful bridge. Not, as I said, simply a boy. But not just a girl, either.

The Zakim bridge invites us to re-examine the antiquated, repressive notions of gender and sexuality that are fueling the current efforts -- gubernatorially spearheaded, or, in keeping with stereotype, obelisked -- to undo the supreme court's recent clear and correct expansion of marriage rights to include all citizens.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Art Criticism

The graffitist critiques the river path's long mural, a work of gentle civic homage "by local art students." Under the redactor's sardonic brush, the redbrick factory, symbol of the city's industrial past, bleeds white at the windows while a white cloud swallows it from outside. The white is hot and violent. Magnesium burning with retina-scorching light. A caustic plume of toxin, quicklime to the eyes. She deconstructs "heritage," that time-honored schoolroom topic, with her lead-white allusions to Bhopal, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and even the Twin Towers. I see in her gouged out, threatened edifice a burnt out bus in Tel Aviv, and a bulldozed house in Nablus.

I imagine, then, that the teacher arrives, dragging the vandal by the ear, making an example of her. The teacher looks strangely like Governor Romney -- meticulous, blank, blandly handsome, cold as a power point. He is here to defend "heritage." From his mouth, it sounds strangely like "privilege" or maybe "marriage." The vandal scowls at his side.

The teacher -- the Governor -- is worried about "confusion." The "confusion" that will occur if certain marriages proceed in May, and are later (as he so dearly hopes) prohibited.

Never mind that he himself has taken something simple and clear -- a stunning and courageous declaration of equality and rights -- and made it into a political, legislative and human nightmare. That is acceptable "confusion." Good confusion. That minorities shall suffer is right in keeping with our heritage.

The vandal, smirking now, dribbles white paint onto the teacher's wingtips.

Sunday, April 11, 2004


The river's receding, and the lowland along the bank is scattered with every imaginabile species of beverage container from Poland Springs, Dasani and Dunkin Donuts, to Budweiser, Seagram's, Pepsi, Coke and even Jumex Tamarind Nectar in the New 10% More Contour can. I saw plastic and glass bottles, cardboard, plastic and styrofoam cups, soda and beer cans, a cardboard Bud case wedged in a bush, even a five gallon springwater spigoted keg lying on its side like a beached whale.

We, apparantly, thirst. And powerfully.

The spectacle of the detritus of unslakable thirst befouling the already foul river is disheartening. The river is undrinkably contaminated, and buying expensive bottles of Brand Name water in unbiodegradable containers has become a craze, as has, apparantly, hurling the empties on the ground.

But amidst the trash (and I'm good to go for the river clean up in two weeks!) and upstaging it, is spring. I'm not enough of a botanist to identify most plants from their fledgling rosettes and seedlings, but already the ground ivy with its round, cobblestoned and scalloped leaves, is flourishing. A bracing green amidst gray and brown. Other sprouts -- feathery, succulent, blade-like -- are pushing up between dead leaves.

At the margin between field and wooded riverbank a few grape hyacinths are flowering, gloriously purple.

And, in the muck, a snake slithered by; noticing me, it stopped. It was small, black with dull yellow lengthwise stripes. It raised its head and looked at me. Too fascinated to be afraid, I crept closer, focused, and snapped a picture. And another. Then my brain whirred on: you ninny, that's a friggin' SNAKE ! What if it's a water moccasin or a copperhead, I thought, rummaging through my toybox of childhood nightmares, pioneers slashing the skin above snakebites with rusty knives, sucking out the venom, grisly, unbearably painful deaths. It was probably a garden snake.

Midair, the alders are hosting an incredibly sexy dance. All winter the little female "cones" and the longer male catkins have been tightly bundled against the cold making hard, dark sillhouettes against gray sky and snow. Up close they were dark maroon/brown.

Now, the male catkins have become swollen and feathery with tiny flowers and are polllinating the little club-like fledgling females beside them. Which will become cones that fall and seed the ground.

Perfect themes for Easter Sunday: thirst, death, resurrection, life.

May all beings be happy and free from suffering.

Saturday, April 10, 2004



Just as Holy Week leads to the extremes of theology, this tree leads to the extremes of botany. There are realms beyond daily bread and daily trees.

The thorny execrescences erupt from the tree. Are they disease ? Mutation ? Possession ? Transmogrification ? Christ's thorns were imposed, an instrument of what Simone Weil calls "penal suffering."

Fearful of losing their position of privilege, the political and religious authorities of Christ's day -- the hierarchy, the power-brokers -- killed Christ. They were protecting their turf, and their texts and their perks. How dare that radical make such outrageous claims ! Son of God ? Abolish the law, condense the whole canon to "Love God and Love your neighbor" ? What dangerous, seditious nonsense ! How dare he stir up the underclass, the disenfranchised -- there could be serious unrest !

This Holy Week, Archbishop O'Malley pointedly did not wash the feet of women as there were no woman apostles. In his homily last Sunday he listed "feminism" among this century's cultural ills. No women must defile the sacred turf of the priesthood. Every letter of the sacred text must be followed. Heaven ? Not for Protestants, Buddhists, atheists. Marriage ? One man, one woman. Sex ? For making babies only. Divorced ? You are -- I am -- a "scandal." Our lips must not defile the host.

The prickly Archbishop defends his turf, his texts, his perks.

What are these thorns ?

I can only stand and wonder.

Seven Love Poems