Saturday, May 27, 2006

Y Tu Rumsfeld Tambien (Part 4)

Rumsfeld was asleep in the living room -- or, in his loutish phrasing, "the parlor."

The cattle who live next door to him in Taos clopped around me, their stern cadences waxy and servile. I detested them. I knew Rumsfeld never would leave, so I had to escape. But the Secretary of Defense stirred from his slumber in "the parlor" and I ran into the closet to hide. I fell asleep on Shelly's backpack.

I heard him shuffle into the kitchen. He is feral when he walks, the chill void in his heart like a breeze off the lake in December.

He was talking to himself. He opened cupboards.

"I can't get my pajamas off," he said. "How will I ever get my street clothes on?"

I crept off Shelly's backpack. I squeezed past the closet doors, which I've learned to open anytime I want and no one can stop me. I crawled along my belly. Rumsfeld still was talking to himself.

"If I find something to eat in Tony and Shelly's cupboards, that would then suggest that that might be the only place where food might be found. Which would not be accurate. Not necessarily accurate. It might also not be inaccurate. But I'm disinclined to mislead anyone."

Just then, I heard one of the cattle rub his snout against the large rug that you sometimes find milk-bottle-cap rings under. The cow howled -- a thin, ridiculous ululation -- and knocked Tony and Shelly's books off the shelf. Something was wrong. He was enchanted.

Rumsfeld sang to himself in the kitchen, opening and closing one cupboard after another.

"I want to reach out and touch the sky," he crooned. "I want to touch the sun, but I don't need to fly. I'm gonna climb up every mountain of the moon and find the dish that ran away with the spoon."

The cow was enchanted, Rumsfeld sang his mad-hatter songs, I crept on my stomach, the night-owl El train rumbled out the window, The Mayakovsky Tree was mute.On the bookshelf, near the maniacal cow's head, sat a vase shaped like a turtle. Tony and Shelly brought it back from their trip to Costa Rica when Brian, the downstairs neighbor, fed me every day. The enchanted cow lunged his head toward the opening of the vase and -- I'm not making this up -- he disappeared inside it.

I froze. I just saw a cow leap into a turtle-shaped vase. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp-stands are the seven churches themselves.

I couldn't hide under the spare bed because it's the first place Rumsfeld would look.

I couldn't run away -- because the bloodthirsty Secretary of Defense now stood in the hall between the kitchen and living room.

"Shimmy, I don't know what's going on." Of course, he still wore his pajamas, callous sheer blue with dirty black pinstripes. He pointed at the vase rattling on the bookshelf. He said, "I don't know what the facts are, but somebody's certainly going to sit down with these cows and find out what they know that they may not know. And make sure they know what they know that they may not know."

Oh, Christ.

"You have become a system for protecting the facts," I said. "A racket. That's what Raoul Vaneigem says about you."

"Shimmy, why don't we walk over to the couch. You can sit on my lap."

"When it's challenged, the coherence of myth becomes the myth of coherence. Tony Snow is a lie invented to deprive reality of its value."

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Y Tu Rumsfeld Tambien (Part 3)

He won't leave the apartment. He talks for hours and hours. Saliva glitters on his lower teeth when he smiles and pushes his eyeglasses up his nose. He's been here for two weeks now, slapping the rumps of the cattle who followed him here from his inauspicious little bungalow in Taos, where he spent a memorable summer as a Boy Scout in 1948. He talks for hours and hours.

Yesterday, after another gory dawn ritual sacrifice, I asked him, "When are you going back to Taos? When are you leaving my home?"

"Shimmy, I can't tell you if I will stay five days, five weeks, or five months. But I won't stay any longer than that."

"You really have no idea, do you?" I said. "You've just put your feet up and made like you own the place."

"From where you sit, the White House may look as untidy as the inside of a stomach. As is said of the legislative process: sausage-making and policy-making shouldn't be seen close-up. Don't let that panic you. Things may be going better than they look from the inside."

He settles each night in a green sleeping bag in "the parlor room" -- his peculiar, vainglorious name for the living room of my apartment. The cattle step over and around me like I'm a crumbling old tabby.

Late last night, as Rumsfeld slept a sound restful daze -- the world aright and snappy, someone else's blood gushing in Baghdad and all the body armor in the world disappeared -- I made my break. If he wouldn't leave my home, and if no one would rescue me, then I'd have to escape the apartment myself.

I don't care how many dogs live out the back porch, or how many potato chips they eat, nor do I care that The Mayakovsky Tree out back went silent this past fortnight as fiftful spastic squirrels made a new home in its bole. I'd just escape out the front door, where the worst I could encounter is Brian's cat, Clyde. And I'm sure I can run faster than him.
But I had to get past the cattle. Last month, I hissed at a blind dog and made him cry. If I could mangle the heart of a old, blind Bichon Frise, then I could terrify Rumsfeld's cattle!

I dodged their hooves, but played a bit to keep them off-balance, snapping at their fat, clumsy legs. They tried to bruise me with their snouts. I bit a little harder, broke the skin. Rumsfeld stirred. I ran into the bedroom closet. I remembered that I don't know how the front door opens. Usually, you just look at it long enough until something happens to it. Or Tony and Shelly open it, then you scurry into the hallway. But what now? I couldn't do anything till daybreak at least. I fell asleep on top Shelly's backpack.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Y Tu Rumsfeld Tambien (Part 2)

"I will not sit on your lap," I said to the Secretary of Defense.

The cattle who live next door to the Rumsfeld manse in Taos wandered through the apartment. Their hooves chopped against the hardwood floor. I watched to make sure they did not come near my food dish.

"Then I'll go to sleep in the bathtub," Rumsfeld said.

I imagined the Prince of Darkness shuffling his aged, murderous frame past the cattle to the bathroom. Envisioned him clambering into my tub. Go ahead, Rumsy, make like you own the place. I looked into the horrifying sheen of his forehead.

His fingers tapped like sordid mouse feet on the arm of the sofa. He picked a scab from his chin and swallowed it. Welcome to my nightmare.

"The animals love me, Shimmy." he said. Rumsfeld's mousey fingers, the dizzy clatter of hooves. He let me bite him a few times. He cackled when I broke the skin.

"You are rapacious," I said. "Yesterday, you told me not to be afraid of you. But today you threatened to sleep in my bathtub."

"Shimmy, I believe what I said yesterday. I don't know what I said. But I know what I think. And, well, I assume it's what I said."

I yawned. Stole a quick glance at the radiator in case a stupid chipmunk crawled out. I said, "Charles Stimson, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs, says that 'waterboarding' will be taken out of the revised edition of the U.S. Army Field Manual."

He scratched his left cheek. I was terrified.

I added, "Raoul Vaneigem says that the crumbling away of human values under the influence of exchange mechanisms leads to the crumbling of exchange itself."

"Shimmy, death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war."

Monday, May 08, 2006

Y Tu Rumsfeld Tambien (Part 1)

Faces and horns, anonymous bodies, the cattle who live next door to Rumsfeld's home in Taos burst into our apartment. Flies buzzed their rumps. The cattle rambled everywhere. I nibbled Science Diet Hairball Control pellets just so they wouldn't steal my food. My skull hummed from their manic eyes and grunts. I watched them mingle, their matted brown hides and muddy horns. Their hooves clattered on the hardwood floors.

They were running from the Secretary of Defense, fleeing another of his blood ritual masses at the manse in Taos (a Chevy Chevelle sits on blocks in the tall grass next door) where he camped as a Boy Scout in 1948.

These poor disposable creatures. Satanic masses, white SUVs rolling up the driveway at midnight, the soil steeped in blood. I threw the milk-bottle-cap-ring tied with dental floss, but to them I was a calico ghost chattering at their ungainly legs. I hid in the South Forest of the apartment and watched. A waterbug crawled along a crack between two floorboards.

"Shimmy, come sit on my lap." It was Rumsfeld, old and plump, tapping his fingers on the arm of the sofa, mimicking the doomed pitter-patter of mice. "Don't be afraid of me. Look at all these cattle! I'm friends with the animals."

The Secretary of Defense pushed his eyeglasses up the lean rivets of his face. He looked at the cattle, then back at me, the darting braggart eyes of a teenager. He tapped his fingers on the sofa, back and forth like mouse feet.

"Raoul Vaneigem says you are a great despiser of life," I said. "You're on a gigantic search-and-destroy mission in pursuit of myths and received ideas."

"I adore your love bites, Shimmy. You chomp just hard enough to break the skin. Each pinch a punctuation mark and a boundary, like a couple kids playing a game they've decided in advance won't be meaningful unless they keep score. I kill all life on earth."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

List, IV: Remember Kent State, May 4, 1970

1. Three days after the Kent State killings, California Governor Ronald Reagan said: "If it takes a bloodbath, let's get it over with."

2. The demonstration was over when the National Guard fired. They shot into a crowd that was walking away.

3. Sergeant Lawrence Shafer, the National Guardsman who fired into Joseph Lewis's abdomen, testified in court that he shot at Lewis because he was giving him the finger. More than 15 feet of Lewis's intestines were removed in the surgery that saved his life.

4. The Guard fired on the dispersing crowd at lunchtime.

5. Only 2 of the students killed had been involved in the demonstration: Allison Krause (shot in the left side of her body as she was ducking behind a car in the parking lot) and Jeffrey Miller (shot in the mouth).

6. William Schroeder, an ROTC member who had been watching the demonstration, was killed by a bullet that struck him as he hit the ground. Sandra Scheuer was killed by a bullet that cut through her jugular vein. She was on her way to drop off a paper for a Speech class.

7. Immediately after the killings, a group of roughly 300 students gathered, shocked, on the Commons and staged an impromptu sit-in. The National Guard threatened to attack them. Geology professor Glenn Frank pleaded with the students to leave: "I am begging you right now, if you don't disperse right now, they're going to move in. It will only be a slaughter. Please, listen to me. Jesus Christ, I don't want to be part of this. Listen to me."

8. President Nixon's Scranton Commission concluded: "The indiscriminate firing of rifles into a crowd of students and the deaths that followed were unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable."

9. After the shooting, a National Guardsman attempted to plant a pistol on Jeffrey Miller's dead body.

10. In criminal court, students' attorney Joseph Kelner asked Ohio National Guard Sergeant Leon Smith to put on the helmet and gas mask he was wearing May 4. While Smith was still on the witness stand, Kellner then threw a rock that hit Smith on his helmeted head. (Students throwing rocks were cited by the Guard as reason they feared for their lives.) Smith's helmet was so effective that he did not flinch when the rock hit him. "What happened to the helmet when I struck you just now with the stone?" Kelner asked in court. Smith replied: "You just made a sound."

11. The FBI's investigation concluded: "we have some reason to believe that the claim by the National Guard that their lives were endangered by the students was fabricated subsequent to the event."

12. According to the FBI report, a Guardsman "admitted that his life was not in danger and that he fired indiscriminantly into the crowd. He further stated that the Guardsmen had gotten together after the shooting and decided to fabricate the story that they were in danger of serious bodily harm or death from the students."

13. One week before the Kent State killings, the Ohio National Guard was sent to Cleveland to quell a wildcat Teamsters strike. According to testimony in the Kent State criminal trial, the Ohio National Guard did not load its rifles during the Teamsters strike -- even though they actually were fired upon by the Teamsters. At Kent State, no one fired a gun on the Guard, yet the Guard shot live M1 rounds into the retreating crowd.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Song of Myself

She gave ten dollars for a ten cent hat and got some store-bought cat food for a mean eyed cat.

These days, she says, I feel my life just like a river running through the year of the cat.

A scrawny, contagious cat in a kennel -- she could be my heart.

The first time that I got it, I was just ten years old. I got it from some kitty next door. I went and see the doctor and he gave me the cure. I think I got it some more.

I met an alley cat pussyfootin' around till the break of dawn. Found me knocked out flat on my head.

Kitty at my foot, and I wanna touch it. I guess I'll just go walking -- the cat's no good for talking to.

The hobos of yesterday would always make a sign on the doorway of someone who was so very kind. They'd draw a cat on the sidewalk, where it wasn't hard to find, to help the next traveler -- ease their troubled mind.

Got shiny diamonds, like the eyes of a cat in the black and blue. Something is coming for you. You better get back, honky cat. Living in the city ain't where it's at.

When my little kitty gets out, there's gonna be a party -- a party, no doubt. Out in the wide world, kitty, far across the sea.

You got me jumping like a cat on the wall.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Let Me Go

He wouldn't let me out. Nearly half-million marched on Chicago yesterday, I think. I wouldn't know -- I wasn't there.

I could have been useful. On Queensberry Street, when I was younger, I scared pigeons on the fire escape, ran from a motorized toy with a squirrel tail attached to a plastic ball from Las Vegas, canvassed for socialist City Council candidates from the Fenway neighborhood, protected Tony and Shelly from the cat named Friday who lived across the street, rolled on the bed when they recited Italian poetry, and killed cockroaches.

But Tony wouldn't even let me step on the back porch yesterday. I stared at the door knob. This always works. You stare it down, then he opens the door. What was that noise? A chipmunk? A bowl of yogurt? I tried to trick him. He bagged yesterday's garbage. I grabbed it with my punctilious jaws. Let me help -- I'll take out the garbage this time. After ripping open the bag for food scraps, I would gallop to Grant Park. He took the bag out of my mouth. I stretched to the doorknob on my hind legs and he walked away.