Clipped Bites

Trending Now – that fire-breathing dragon, the “n” word, rose above the lavender mists of Camelot last week and took another look around. According to Publisher’s Weekly, Alan Gribben, a Mark Twain scholar, plans to release a Twain re-mix without the “n” word or the “in” word, “Injun.” Gribben’s “do over” will replace the “n” word with the word ‘slave.’

Digitally Remastered – Gribben’s design is well intentioned, though perhaps a “wardrobe malfunction” in 1885 is yet another attempt on the part of Tom Sawyer to sweet-talk us into whitewashing his picket fence. The retroactive redaction of the “n” word is not only a capital act of erasure, it doesn’t solve the real problem, which is the underlying issues of racism and slavery that have not yet been fully addressed. In other words, excising the “n” word from Twain’s vocabulary asks us to just pretend the whole nasty business never happened. But it’s not Twain’s vocabulary that needs adjusting. It’s ours.

Red Sugar – lines 35-38 from designer Jan Beatty, coming down the catwalk for you now:

Some people call it eating weather
the way you swallow what you know,
but keep it – later it rises like a storm
from another world, reptilian and hungry” (35-38).

Notice the elegant line, the styling, the class with which Beatty handles the issue of swallowing up the fire-breath. Look out Mrs. Palin! See here, Lady Gaga! We find Ms. Beatty’s lines alluring and seductive.

Facebooking – also seeing red, a gentleman friend of mine posted, “The TEA bag party will go down in history as the KKK of the 21st century…” last week. A clipped debate followed. Determined to engage one another in conversation, in dialogue, intent toward ever aspiring toward achieving our mission, “toward a more perfect union” – all “holds” barred, name-calling un-invited. After all, wasn’t opening up the dialogue, striving to understand each other, in fact, the conversation itself, really the point?

Fabric Choices – Robert Frost and President Obama jointly remind us: we need to “kick it up a notch” – need to watch our tone, police our own brass, pick up our own full-metal jackets; that is, wielding words as weapons and hurling them as slurs “bites.” It thwarts our national mission, closing dialogue rather than opening up a conversation. Keeps us bereft, staring into the divide, across the banks from one another, separate and unequal. To equally engage, “asks a little of us here./ It asks of us a certain height, / So when at times the mob is swayed/ To carry praise or blame too far, / We may choose something like a star / To stay our minds on and be staid.” (20-25)

Soul Food – In honor of Kingdom Day and the legacy left to us by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s word, and in memoriam of the six members of our family who faced another flare-up on January 8, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona and were taken from us by its flame, I join in asking us for a “re-direct, your Honor,” and share Stanley Kunitz’ invitation to initiating a conversation, my favorite poem of his, titled “King of the River”:

If the water were clear enough,
if the water were still,
but the water is not clear,
the water is not still,
you would see yourself,
slipped out of your skin,
nosing upstream,
slapping, thrashing,
over the rocks
till you paint them
with your belly’s blood:
Finned Ego,
yard of muscle that coils,
If the knowledge were given you,
but it is not given,
for the membrane is clouded
with self-deceptions
and the iridescent image swims
through a mirror that flows,
you would surprise yourself
in that other flesh
heavy with milt,
bruised, battering toward the dam
that lips the orgiastic pool.

Come. Bathe in these waters.
Increase and die.

If the power were granted you
to break out of your cells,
but the imagination fails
and the doors of the senses close
on the child within,
you would dare to be changed,
as you are changing now,
into the shape you dread
beyond the merely human.
A dry fire eats you.
Fat drips from your bones.
The flutes of your gills discolor.
You have become a ship for parasites.
The great clock of your life
is slowing down,
and the small clocks run wild.
For this you were born.
You have cried to the wind
and heard the wind’s reply:
“I did not choose the way,
the way chose me.”
You have tasted the fire on your tongue
till it is swollen black
with a prophetic joy:
“Burn with me!
The only music is time,
the only dance is love.”

If the heart were pure enough,
but it is not pure,
you would admit
that nothing compels you
any more, nothing
at all abides,
but nostalgia and desire,
the two-way ladder
between heaven and hell.
On the threshold
of the last mystery,
at the brute absolute hour,
you have looked into the eyes
of your creature self,
which are glazed with madness,
and you say
he is not broken but endures,
limber and firm
in the state of his shining,
forever inheriting his salt kingdom,
from which he is banished


8 responses to this post.

  1. Clint, Thank you! Like Jonathan, you pose most excellent questions for framing a dialogue, opening up a discussion: readers – your thoughts?


  2. Posted by Wini Parker on January 16, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Jeremiah 30:2 KJV
    Thus speaketh the LORD God of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book.

    Well done, Anne!!!


    • Thank you for giving me your insightful commentary and feedback. You helped me see it from a reader’s point-of-view and you asked all of the right questions!


  3. Posted by Jonathan Hughes on January 16, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    This is great Anne, I like the word that is in your heart. Regarding the commentary on Mark Twain it is a said commentary on our culture. What was written was written! Should we also change a work of art because it displays nudity?


    • Thank you, Jonathan! You pose a most thoughtful question! A very good “precipice” from which we might leap into a conversation! I guess we, as final consumers, are always free to look away. I think that the artist’s work is “done” when s/he releases the work “into the wild,” as it were. Dear Readers: your thoughts?


      • Posted by clint on January 22, 2011 at 1:29 am

        an artists work is never done. isn’t it still part of an ever evolving *text*?
        shouldn’t we consider [cultural] context?
        in what ways do we read Mark Twain differently than people who read him while he was publishing, or even up through the 1960s?
        (re: 1960s, some of us weren’t born yet…)
        when a work is read it is given a chance to fulfill itself texutually; that reading may create a text not quite in line with the text the author intended.
        how many different texts? how many different favorite parts? least favorite parts?
        which reading is best/worst?

  4. Beautiful ……Anne another dream fulfilled ….follow it u have talent (who knew) LOL LOL LOL so you’re not just another beautiful face LOL LOL GOD BLESS and prosper


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