america | safari honeymoon nightmare | strains of bossa nova

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america (inspired by alan ginsburg's america and by the america i know)
july 3, 2002

america, i've given ya
all, and now i'm headed to
the mall of america to spend a bunch of nothing.
no expenditures. i'm bluffin', huffin', 'bout puttin' an end to ya,
dispense with your huntin' a little somethin' somethin'.
to be precise: two dollars and twenty-seven cents,
a pair of nikes and a bowl of rice.
roll the dice relentless.
send this mental presence into
senseless sentence spinning,
de-sentimentalizing essence. winning
or losing's not the object.
when will the human war be targeted
like enemies are marketed
and put to rest regardless of
your motivations? collective aspirations of a nation, hating
using fusion and confusin' propaganda
to slaughter and slander opposition,
hold a dominant position--
go fuck yourself, your smart bombs, and your covert missions.
waging holy wars without admittin' that you're sittin'
in the same teeth-gritting, power-grabbing stance.
i'll do my dance when i'm ready.
for now the course is steady:
love the moment
but don't forget to let the feeling foment.
america, when will you be less devoted to your potence and more angelic?
when will you take your clothes off, expose your-
self and shake your achin' pelvis?
when will you appreciate the irony of elvis?
admit it's frightenin' that white men
dye their hair to look like black men tryna look like white men,
but it's also funny.
admit that sunny days and healthy children should be enough.
admit that we could stand to share a little of the stuff we've got,
and quit taking from others.
i'm sick of your insane orders,
sick of your deranged borders,
and maintained border-crossings
depressing me like rain water,
upon the leaking awnings
and onto good books.
when can i go into the supermarket and buy everything i need with my good looks?

it's you i'm addressin', and
it's time for some questionin'.
you gonna let your feelings be controlled by cnn?
i know i'm obsessin', and
i've got to admit
i watch headline news every chance i get.
can't flip past it yet,
though i try to slip free.
it's always telling me about responsibility.
businessmen are serious, movie makers serious,
everybody's serious but silly me.
it occurs to me that i am america,
and america me.
i'm talking to myself again.

america, after all, it is you and i who are perfect,
not the next world, so why all the disturbance?
why all the ferment
-ing anger sold by sermons
on every side making me nervous?
why the lack of purpose?
or the purposeful act of making surplus,
making your bank over the backs of servants?
what a circus.
complete with acrobats, lion-tamers, and ring-leaders,
freaks, geeks, elephants, clowns, and shit-sweepers.
the shit deepens, like new perspective on some scenery,
you seem to be too much for me with all your machinery.
you made me want to be a saint, then way too easily
pulled the rug out from under me, teasing me
in my complicity. insistin' we
are in this together, "we got history.
we got issues, see.
move away, you'll be missin' me.
say good-bye to feelin' free."
but i, being me, have to disagree.
i feel differently:
your ministry just pissin' me off.
at this rate, you'll never get the best of me.
america, stop pressin' me
and stressing me out.
no use in testing me,
i know what i'm doing.
america, look around at all the ruin', stewin'.
america, are you in tune with the news in
the papers? everyday it's
another person on trial for murder, like stasis
slid into regression--disturbing.
i find your complacence greatly depressing, unnerving.
how could you win the cold war with a promise sounding like a joke?
yokes over the necks of your black folk, talkin' 'bout
c'mon, even hypocrisy
more subtle will often seem
a cover for some huddle, huddle, 'bout to hustle.
i smoke marijuana every chance i get,
and dance to death,
in my room, playing with castanets
and casting fresh
glances at the roses in the closet.
i go to chinatown, get drunk, and never get laid.
my mind is made up: there's a debt to be paid.
you should have seen me reading Marx and attempting to sway
public opinion. common sense becomes the lecturer's clay.
the therapists say
i'm damn right, forgetting to pray,
'cause i can see the light by simply looking,
hearing each minute as music,
and choosing
to view the uncertainty of life with slight amusement.

it's you i'm addressin', and
it's time for some questionin'.
you gonna let your feelings be controlled by cnn?
i know i'm obsessin', and
i've got to admit
i watch headline news every chance i get.
can't flip past it yet,
though i try to slip free.
it's always telling me about responsibility.
businessmen are serious, movie makers serious,
everybody's serious but silly me.
it occurs to me that i am america,
and america me.
i'm talking to myself again.

asia's rising up.
i won't have a chinaman's chance when times get rough.
my national resources need some sizing up:
my national resources consist of two bags of weed,
three and a half rhyme-books, traveling at the speed
of sound,and twenty-five thousand
institutions for the housing of mental patients.
not to mention the houses of detention,
nor the heart-wrenching conditions lived in
by millions of children,
and other underprivileged,
ruining my image--
the grumbling bastards.
my ambition is to be president despite the fact i'm a recovering catholic,
frequently stumbling backwards.
i think i'd be very good at mumbling passwords.
america, i'll sell you rhymes with 2.9 APR and nothing down.
america, free your dissidents and save my fucking town.
america, alan ginsburg must not die.
and death row must not fry,
or be so black.
america, way back when i was seven, attending
summer camp with my brethren and sistren, i'd assist in burning the flag as
we'd secede
from the union every fourth of july,
followed by some ice-cream and some apple-pie.
america, you don't really want to go to war and have to die.
america, it's them bad arabs.
them arabs. them arabs. and them chinamen.
. . . and them arabs.
the middle-east wants to feast on us for hours.
the middle-east is a beast that's mad for power.
she wants to take our cars out of our garages,
and drive them to mirages, making hajjs.
she wants to kill new york and watch tv.
she obviously wants our auto-plants overseas.
he watches over me--big brother bureaucracy,
always follows me. he runs the lottery.
no stopping me or stopping him.
him big bambino.
him make indians learn read and also run casino.
him need big, black people.
him work us eighty hours a week, yo.
help. i'm delirious.
america, this is quite serious.
this is the impression i get
staring every day into my television set.
ain't been in prison yet,
but it's what i dream about when i sit in bed.
america, is this correct?
i better get down to it already:
it's true i don't want to be in the military
or push buttons in corporate cubicles--
i'm hardly physically or mentally suitable.
america the beautiful?
i'm asking questions
and doing my best in
pressing for the truth.



safari honeymoon nightmare (2000)
(a loose, hip-hop adaptation of hemingway's the short happy life of francis macomber)

i was dumbfounded to hear
the man had grounded his fear
in the belief that the lion's roar sounded as near
as the camp. however, i decided now that we're here
we might as well start hunting
so i shout in his ear:
" the boys went to bring around the jeep and the guns,
but i would recommend that you should keep the word mum,
or else your wife'll prob'ly want to be keepin' us some
company, and things could get deeper than dung.
she shouldn't come,"
i suggested.
but she insisted.
i protested.
she said there's no way she would miss it.
"enough then, no need to get on each others' shit-lists.
if you'd like to risk it,
you're more than welcome to come with. shit."
we hopped the jeep
and dropped a steep
twenty yards headed south.
he awkwardly
popped a cheap
cigar in his mouth.
ridin' through the jungle
i knew by the rumble
of the lion's roar
from hind to paw
he'd be a heap of trouble.
don't mean to burst the bubble
of these honeymoonin' hunters,
but i've got hunches
that one or both of them might lose their lunches
when they see how quick a giant cat lunges
and how it could crunch this
entire party into little bunches,
munch us,
and leave for hyenas and vultures.
i'll instruct the man to pull no punches:
"aim for the neck, and if that don't work, then hit him in his haunches."
as i explained he almost lost his conscious-
ness, the man was so stressed.
i thought upon this mess
and said it might be best
for him to stay by the jeep with his wife
while i go 'head and kill the cat 'cause, well, that's my life.
he looked relieved at first
but then received a burst
of courage, and even decided that he'
d go first.
soon as my man strapped on a sack
we got back on the track
of lion trackin' like a line-backer tryna sack a quarterback.
i said, "quiet all of that
and look over by that ocean,
i mean river,
there's our glorified tigger."
and sure enough,
than life, the lion roared at us.
i told the man, "get out the jeep and get your rifle ready for to bust
a couple well-placed shots."
the man's face got
red and the place got
shot-up, but the cat wasn't dead.
it stumbled instead,
and in the bush to hide it went,
found a comfortable environment
to lie and wait
for that motherfuckin' man and his fire stick,
and i admit
the situation held some danger.
and not merely stemming from a wounded lion that could maim ya
with one last swipe
but also the underlying anger
produced last night
as this man's lady friend allowed me to entertain her.
see, she arranged the
whole affair
and it was clear
that this was nothing new.
plus, it was obvious this morning that her husband knew.
but what could he do but swallow his pride?
his only plan could
be to follow this guide
and bag a lion's hide
to prove his manhood.
so here we are in the bush,
the man's wounded pride giving him a fatal push
into the jungle.
ominously did that thicket rustle
as if jostled
by the lion's rippled muscle.
as the man stood poised
my band of boys
tried to coax the cat out.
i broke the gat out
in preparation, and not a second too soon, 'cause almost flat out
of nowhere the beat came chargin'.
the man's first shot missed by a close margin,
and as the second shot missed i knew that things were startin'
to look dismal.
so i grabbed my pistol
and discharged three well-placed shots at that far-from-brittle
mass of gristle,
movin' like a heat-seeking missile.
luckily, it was enough to permanently fizzle
his momentum.
i looked to the man, who appeared to be bendin'
over, but actually he was fallin',
and not because the lion mauled him.
it never got that close, but while we were all in
the heat of the moment, his wife--rather than bawlin'--
picked up a shot-gun,
saw the lion closin' in and tried to stop him.
but alas, she missed,
and the blast eclipsed
his poor ass,
leaving the bastard ripped
in half
with the glasses still
to his ghastly, shattered face.
the kind of sight to leave a bile-type taste
in your mouth.
couldn't quite brace myself
from reactin',
but i'd seen worse in all my years of trackin'.
the woman was hackin',
coughin', spittin', sittin'
by the side of the ride, shocked to her system'score.
but i had more
than a hunch that it was such an accident,
so back i went
to the jeep and
confronted the weepin'
woman. i told her, "we can
pretend it was all a weekend
trip gone amiss."
she pondered this
with tears in her eyes and said, "stop it."
but i wouldn't drop it.
i told her if i file papers through the proper channels
then she'd be off the hook and could go back to huntin' mammals,
whether four- or two-legged.
she begged
me to stop again,
but i'd seen lots of men
destroyed more or less in this way,
so i continued to say
that such accidents happen,
but i could sort it out and soon enough send her packin',
and she'd be back in
the states, where she could block it
all out. but again she implored me to stop it,
and this time i thought it
might be best to do so,
you know?
so i started actin' more discreet,
and helped her back into the jeep.
and as we headed toward the station,
all of us steeped
in rather pensive meditation,
a lion's roar leaped
out of the jungle, momentarily breakin'
all our concentration.
know what i'm sayin'?



strains of bossa nova

sittin' at a table in the back of a small brazilian bar,
the man could see a
waiter approach to refill his jar
with sangria.
but that was just the corner of his eye,
'cause really on the other side
is where his gaze was affixed.
although the bar was crowded,
through the maze he had glimpsed
a woman so endowed with
beauty her name remained on his lips
long after a dumbfounded
waiter aided his quest
and carefully pronounced her
lovely name with such zest
it was unmistakably pressed
even in his clouded mind.
so he gave him a tip
when he paid for his drink
and quickly shifted his gaze back to that lady that messed
with his head and heart so much so soon, "it's crazy," he said.
but couldn't take his eyes off this tastefully dressed
woman, shakin' her hips.
The man was way in the grips
of attraction,
and after askin'
the waiter for her name
it stayed on his brain.
then came in the strains
of bossa nova,
and suddenly he arose and sauntered over--
perhaps his confidence
a consequence
of being not quite sober.
he tried his hardest
to look cool as he approached her.
and as he got closer
his heart began to beat in over-
but not about to stop he thought he'd at least go the
further feet
and greet
this heat-
seeking temptress.
in an attempt to impress
this girl and spark her interest,
he twirled and raised his instep,
cocked his hip
and got a grip
on the hands of his princess.
at first they danced in jest,
but then the room got smaller
and the tune got louder
though they knew that all the
crowd was still around them.
looked for her eyes and he found them.
then put his lips to her ear and like a fountain
poured out a mountain
of mixed metaphors
as they continued on with their samba-esque petitfours.
and this was his game:
he whispered her name
and told her how she blissfully came
into his life that very night
and that from then on every sight
no matter how majestic never might
approach the strong and steady light
she radiated,
and in comparison they'd just seem pale and faded.
well, after hearin'
such endearin'
words she nearly fainted,
but before she swooned
he guided her outside into the light of the moon.
their eyes and hands met before too soon,
and as they listened to cicadas sing syncopations against that bossa nova
they inhaled the sweet aroma of a night in early may.
surely, they
were rushing into things, he thought he heard her say.
but he was mistaken,
for suddenly she came closer, a move she was makin'.
his body froze at first but then awakened
with an achin'
sense of desire--
her body against his feeling just like fire,
and once again the entire
world disappeared
as they shared
a moment of sublime solitude.
alone together, their lips met,
their hips met,
and each of them wondered, how deep can a kiss get?
they searched for the answer to that question
by stretchin'
their conception
of time and space.
through their divine embrace,
they sought a finer place.
and as he looked up into her smilin' face,
he was overcome by emotion--up his spine it raced
at a wild pace,
stronger than the oldest bottle of wine could taste.
it felt as if,
with this kiss,
to eternal bliss
he had signed his fate.

(check the "play" section at to listen to the tracks above)