Thursday, December 1, 2011

February Was Only Half Over, Ellen McGrath Smith


and so we decided to roll the coins.  We emptied all tin cans
and urns on the bed, and the bedspread was covered in coins.

The first large-scale contracts related to Hurricane Katrina, as in
Iraq, were awarded without competitive bidding, and using so-called
cost-plus provisions that guarantee contractors a certain profit
regardless of how much they spend.

We decided to pawn the wedding ring.  On the bus
on the way back, I cried to remember the love-knots
were deliberate and started in wax.  Then the gold
was poured over.  I paid the light bill with that.

Expecting nothing but the best, Margaret Ann wants to throw the biggest Sweet 16 party in South Carolina history. In anticipation of her birthday, Margaret Ann first goes shopping with her mom at the BMW dealer. After Margaret Ann's mom buys her a flashy convertible, she goes on a shopping spree with her dad who treats her to almost 2000 dollars worth of new clothes.

Those rolling tubes ran out, and so we decided to count out
the coins, then divide them in stacks and wrap units in foil:
50 pennies; 40 nickels=$2; 50 dimes=$5; 40 quarters=$10.

Based on data collected from five participants (and counting) and multiple anecdotes, rolling coins should not take more than two (2) minutes a roll for most people, although some individuals may take longer. At two minutes a roll, you would save only $1.34 an hour for rolling your own pennies (60 minutes / 2 minutes roll = 30 rolls * 50 coins a roll * 8.9% or 4.45 cents fee each roll = $1.32.) However, for each higher denomination, the amount saved rises as shown in the table.

We decided to sell the antique dental cabinet.  Over the Internet,
I pretended I knew what I had.  That took care of half my June expenses.
This was the year the cost of cigarettes spiked.  I bought my own
rolling machine.  I spent much of that year rolling coins and tobacco.

Brad Johnson noted in today’s Progress Report that “the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy are greater than the entire salary of most Americans.”

We decided that, after rolling coins, our hands had touched everyone,
somehow.  Some people soak them in bleach first — for germs —
but getting sick was the last thing on my mind.  Penetrating every sleeve
with my upright middle finger, I was getting through the month.
I was getting through the month and touching everyone.
About "February Was Only Half Over," Ellen McGrath Smith writes:
 "February Was Only Half Over" was first published in Kestrel (Spring 2010): It's a poem written about a particularly hard winter economically when, though employed full-time, I struggled to get through the month. I tried to get at the harsh irony of this young century: at the moment when more Americans than ever struggle to make ends meet, the "luxury" class has never had it better, and we are surrounded by media messages that make this bitterly clear. The collaging of those voices, along with "helpful tips" about rolling coins, was a way to place my own difficulties in a larger context. The resentment happened "naturally" with the middle finger being used to hold open the coin-rolling sleeve at the end. I've been fortunate enough to be able to say that, at least for now, those memories are in the past; but I'm overhearing in the other room a 60 Minutes story about 2 kids who are living in their family car. The Occupy and 99 percent movements may be the last chance Americans have to lessen the ever-widening income gap that threatens to destroy us as a nation. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Variation on a Theme by Milosz Misquoted by Robert Hass, Bradley Harrison Smith

                                    Lunch Poems Reading Series, Berkeley 2004

O to see through teargas!  The color flash grenade—
O to see through teargas the flash grenade transfigure what was once
in colored Oakland the flooded street ablaze!

The numbing quiet spilled from flesh the stun grenade
ripped open.  O molten scent of what it stung—
About "Variation on a Theme by Milosz Misquoted by Robert Hass," Bradley Harrison Smith writes:
This poem is written after a Robert Hass reading in 2004 in which he attempted to recite a translation of Czeslaw Milosz by memory but messed up and had to restart.  It is dedicated to Scott Olsen, the former Marine and Iraq War vet who sustained a skull fracture in the Occupy Oakland protests due to police brutality.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Noble Savage Learns to Tweet, LeAnne Howe


Timeline  Mentions  Retweets  Searches  Lists

Noblesavage  Noble Savage  I walk alone 
11 seconds ago

Noblesavage  Noble Savage  I walk alone
10 seconds ago

Noblesavage  Noble Savage  Please RT
9 seconds ago

Noblesavage  Noble Savage  Contact Indian Agent
8 seconds ago

Noblesavage  Noble Savage  Sample photos, comedy 2 horror
7 seconds ago

Noblesavage  Noble Savage  On first-name basis with Wall street culture
6 seconds ago

Noblesavage  Noble Savage  Body paint assignments
5 seconds ago

Noblesavage  Noble Savage  Wall Street bound . . .
20 hours ago

Noblesavage  Noble Savage  Auteur theory & me from Ford to Cameron on Wall Street
1 hour ago

Noblesavage  Noble Savage  No idea too strange or too far outside the box
3 hours ago

Noblesavage  Noble Savage  Learning to cha-cha with Lady Gaga on Wall Street
1 hour, thirty minutes ago

Noblesavage  Noble Savage  Nudity, a sign of the healthy Skin on Wall Street
10 minutes ago

Noblesavage  Noble Savage  Tobacco clients welcome on Wall Street
2 minutes ago

Noblesavage  Noble Savage   Hear on Wall Street, cool females wanted with that “suicide girl look!” Read more at
1 second ago
About "Noble Savage Learns To Tweet," LeAnne Howe writes:
1)      1. Dutch settlers built the ‘Wall path’ sometime around 1692 to keep out the Indians.  In other words it was built for whites settles to keep out undesirables to protect developing commerce. According to, the Wall path “joined the banks of the east river with those of the Hudson River on the west.”  Wall path later named Wall Street.  Hence the poem’s narrator, Noblesavage, tweets irony.

2)     2.  “Indian agent” is a double entendre and can be read as Noblesavage’s agent, authorized to act on his behalf for acting roles in Hollywood westerns; or as an individual authorized to interact with American Indians authorized on behalf of the federal government.

3)      3. “Ford and Cameron” refer to Hollywood film directors John Ford and James Cameron.

4)      4. is a site for “artificial intelligence.”  Another irony, Noblesavage is not real, a creation of Hollywood imagemakers. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Last Gesture, Hadara Bar-Nadav

Hadara Bar-Nadav

My hand grew big as a house.
It was heavy to carry
and drag through the streets.

I staggered across the lawn
on gravel-burned knees
to watch the home
I could no longer enter.

My wrung wrist turned blue.
My shoulder bled.
Skin tore up my neck
and split open my eye.

I had given too much.
I had taken too much.

The hand grew
as the sky grew,
hand the size of wind

expanding until it was no longer
my own, until the weight
buried me.
About "The Last Gesture," Hadara Bar-Nadav writes:
The “The Last Gesture” is from my first book, A Glass of Milk to Kiss Goodnight (Margie/Intuit House, 2007).  I’m still humbled by the lines: “I had given too much / I had taken too much.” Those lines remind to walk carefully though this world, often full of many difficult and strained exchanges regarding money, objects, love, and life. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Considering Happiness
There’s no scoop in the grain bin
with which to measure a modest contentment,
no Arden, no unmapped hundred-acre wood.
Here there are city parks and places under bridges,
shanties where you dare not sleep. But no
leveling green wood for the dispossessed.
Still if fortune keeps your feet from the fire,
unsteadily, but with luck, you might
like the divorced Hicks street mother of three
raise chickens in a backyard hutch, petition
the old Italian men for tips on growing
winter chard, kale, & beets in a cold frame.
Twenty-somethings debate coffee grounds in compost
and heirloom seeds while the construction worker
in the metal-tipped boots has gone quiet,
hands deep in his pockets; we cannot know
why he’s here, but we’re hearing everything
from the girl who wants her loans forgiven
because the government bailed out the banks.
And she won’t vote for Obama again,
she may not vote at all. She favors anarchy.
Shall I distract her with the mystery of the red bees
of Red Hook or tell her about the friend of a friend
who farms all year down by the naval yard—
an old asphalt play lot gone heady with cornstalks,
sunflowers, every blessed vegetable under the sun
and the neighborhood boys busy every afternoon.
Shall I choose amity over rancor or retreat
while advancing and speak riddles like Feste,
“The better for my foes and the worse
for my friends” or just be plain and say
that for me contentment is three children
under the same roof, the kettle whistling, a book
tipped on its side, splayed open to the left off page
and waiting for the next conversation to begin. 
About "Finding Happiness," Catherine Staples writes
The Wallace Stevens question of finding “what will suffice” led me to thinking about a line from As You Like It: “some settled low content” and about the pastoral notion that one might make do with exile in the wood of Arden. But when you live in the city, how can you access the pastoral, the healing green? In terms of setting, I drew upon my brother Paul’s New York—from under the arc of the Brooklyn Bridge to the varied neighborhoods where long wandering bike rides took us.