Wednesday, December 05, 2007

the Gringo-thon

A friend just turned me on to this short movie, Gringotón (Gringo-thon), both an amusing spoof on Mexicans' and Americans' perceptions of each other and a biting critique of U.S. militarism. Check it out, if you are amused by the idea of a gringo washing windshields and selling chewing gum in Mexico City to raise money for an armed insurrection against Bush ...

FedUp with FedEx

FedEx is aggressively violating its employees' rights to form a union, firing and harassing those who support the idea. Please click the box above to send FedEx a message, and pledge not to use FedEx services this holiday season. (Both UPS and US Postal Service employees have union contracts and are companies more deserving of your business.)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Happy November 30!

Today (well, yesterday) is the eighth anniversary of the day we shut down the World Trade Organization.

Saturday, Dec. 1 at the Seattle Labor Temple, Community Alliance for Global Justice is hosting a celebration of that victory and discussions about the current state of global economics and social movements. There will be two great DJ's and a party past midnight. Check out

The postcard above announces a people's history project about the WTO protests, which will soon go live online at Check it out.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My journey to Fort Benning, Georgia. Part one.

Earlier this month I volunteered as a Spanish interpreter at the annual vigil to close the School of the Americas, at Fort Benning, Georgia. The SOA, officially renamed the Western Hempisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is an American military academy known to have trained many Latin American dictators, officers and soldiers responsible for massacres, torture, assassination, and other forms of "dirty warfare." Each November, a vigil outside the gates of Ft. Bennning marks the 1989 assassination of six American priests in El Salvador, their housekeeper, and her 14-year-old daughter. The vigil, started by Father Roy Bourgeois and a handful of others in 1990, has grown exponentially, to include 25,000 participants this year.


In every airport – Seattle, St. Louis, Dallas, Atlanta – soldiers walk alone, dressed in desert fatigues and carrying rucksacks. I happen to sit next to one on the flight from St. Louis to Atlanta, dressed in civilian clothes. He’s a member of the National Guard, and spent two years in Iraq, securing a section of Baghdad’s Green Zone, right at its edge. He shows me photos of himself and his buddies in sniper position atop high-rises, and posing with Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and other bigwigs. Other photos are of car bomb scenes. Iraqis are such a resilient people, he tells me, that once the debris is removed, people go back to their regular business. “If a car bomb exploded in Westlake Plaza, no one would come back for a long time.”

In another photo, a man stands in a jail cell, his hands on the bars, his eyes looking into the camera. His graying hair and beard are getting long, but he looks well kept, and has a warm smile, despite everything. He looks to me like an uncle I haven’t met. The caption reads simply reads “Card_Guy,” meaning he is one of the men most wanted by the U.S., whose pictures were distributed to soldiers as decks of playing cards. I wonder who he is, what Bush & Co. say he did, and how much of that is true. Then my seatmate closes his laptop and says it’s the end of the show, that I wouldn’t want to see the photos lower down the list, of people with their heads blown off. "Of U.S. soldiers?" I ask. "God no," he says, incredulous. "I would never take photos like that."

I ask where he’s going. “To Benning, to see my little brother graduate from basic training.” I tell him I’m headed to Fort Benning, too. He asks about the white arm band I’m wearing. I explain it has written the name and age of someone killed by a graduate of the School of the Americas. He looks confused a moment and then his face changes, hardens a little, but we keep talking. I explain to him about the SOA, the training manuals leaked to the media detailing lessons in counter-insurgency: torture, assassination of civilians, targeting priests, students, union members. “War is a very nasty business,” he says, “by definition.” He doesn’t explicity condone such tactics, but he doesn’t condemn them either.

Two years in Iraq marked him. When he returned to his family, his eight year old daughter always wanted to be with him, to hang her arms around him, to sit on his lap. He asked his wife to keep her away from him. About the same time, the nightmares began and he began drinking heavily. “Luckily I caught myself before it got too bad, went and got some help from the V.A.” Later he starts to rant a bit about politicians, saying taxes are too high, and that if people need drug treatment or the like, they should pay for it themselves.

I am thankful this man chooses to speak so openly with me about his own experiences despite our political differences; he says he feels the same. When we transfer to the 30-seat plane that takes us from St. Louis to Atlanta, I hear him share a few words with a young female soldier already buckled in, her hands gripping the armrests, staring at the seat in front of her. “You coming or going?” he asks. I don’t hear her reply, but he pats her on the shoulder and says, “You take good care, now.”


At the Denny’s on Macon Road, in Columbus, Georgia, a group of peacenik Spanish interpreters gathers to discuss how we are going to tackle the weekend of workshops and rally speeches. At the two nearest tables sit military families. At each one, a young man wears fatigues and sits next to his girlfriend, along with parents and siblings, eating burgers and salads and sandwiches. One of the soldiers looks barely 18 years old. He sips a chocolate milkshake and the waitress calls him “sweetie.” Both families are quiet in their celebrations.


We are definitely in a Southern military town. Almost every block and shopping center along the broad suburban avenues has a military surplus store, a tattoo parlor, a strip club, or all of the above. Even the Cannon Brewpub, a hip hangout spot in the polished Uptown district, displays Dixie flags among its eclectic décor. I am constantly reminded I am a stranger here by people’s rich Southern accents. To my ears, some sound tinny and nasal, but most voices like cornbread dipped in honey-butter.


The interpreter team is about half people who I worked with last year, half new to me. There’s the Nicaraguan man whose humor sometimes has a bite. The DC tenant organizer, young and sharp. Her housemate, a silver-haired Colombian woman who is as warm as a winter wool blanket. Her friend, a former nun, all smiles. Both work for a community clinic in the DC area. Then there’s the gringo who married a Puerto Rican and speaks fantastic Spanish, often quoting literature and off-color jokes, and the fabulous, funny gay Mexican-American man from the historic Highlander School. We all quickly establish a good rapport. It’s easy to do, because we have a lot in common. Everyone is charming and ready to work hard all weekend.


For the second year running, I celebrate my birthday the night before the Vigil, the centerpiece of the weekend gathering. We take turns buying round of drinks, but mostly I drink for free. I never knew that shots of Patrón Silver tequila went down so smoothly. I have quite a few of those. Later the gay man and the young woman from DC and I go another bar and and the conversation goes deeper, on topics personal and political. We sip Mexican beer, dance to Michael Jackson songs, and improvise our own karaoke to “Bohemian Rhapsody.”


At the end of the weekend, the interpreter who is a former nun gives me a handful of “goals for 2008” on colored construction paper, the size of raffle tickets. Each has a calligraphied message in Spanish, such as:

To strengthen my sense of humor, since Satan fell to Hell for being annoying!

Spread the Word: We need more extremists: extremists of love (-Martin Luther King).

To be the loyal memory of those who gave their lives for their people.

Monday, November 19, 2007

School of the Americas vigil, 2007

I returned late last night from Columbus, Georgia, where for the second time I attended the annual vigil to close the School of the Americas. I hope to post some thoughts about the experience, and in the meantime recommend reading a summary of this very powerful event at, and viewing a photo slideshow at

Friday, November 09, 2007

Want to read about my big project? Click here.

For the last few years, I've been researching the roots of the Free Company of Catalonian Volunteers, a unit of the Spanish army in the 1700's that was instrumental in the colonization of what we now call California. I've been cooking up a plan to write a historical novel about them and the Chumash peoples they encountered in the land where I grew up, illustrating the human costs of imperial conquest. This week I updated and revised a description of the project to share with foundations, colleagues and friends, and I have just posted it online. I call the project "At the Edge of Empire."

[Update Jan. 2011: This project evolved into a master's thesis, now completed and online at]

Monday, October 15, 2007

In my father's country

voices rise and fall like gentle waves
on this slender neck of sea,
a melody I’ve always known

like the features I see in faces
crinkled eyes smiling, noses proud,
echoing my aunties, my cousins, my own

But on the streets, the bootblacks,
schoolgirls in uniform, stubbly fishermen on the bridge
ask Nerelisiniz? Where are you from?

And in that moment
my tongue becomes a fish
flopping on the ground

rev. Oct. 23

Sunday, October 14, 2007

2007 election thoughts.

I'm posting here an email I received from Curt Firestone, who, joined by other seasoned local activists I respect, provides suggestions about how to vote in the upcoming elections for Seattle, King County, and Washington State. Regarding the issues below that I know something about, I agree with their positions. Some of them I know very little about, but I generally trust these folks' judgment.


Dear friends,

Here is my list of how I am going to vote. It is a little different this time. First, it is signed jointly by Phil Bereano, Cindy Domingo, Dan Merkle and myself. Second, after much discussion, we have decided to make no suggestions regarding any candidate elections this year. Each of you has been following the candidate campaigns and I am sure that you will use your best judgment.

I hope that you find the following guide helpful.

*I-960 No. ( makes it more difficult to properly set taxes)

*Ref 67 Yes. (Makes insurance firms more accountable)

*SJR 8206 No. (Removes some budgetary flexibility from the legislature)

*SJR 8212 No. (Brings private industry into our prison system--we are not Louisiana)

*HJR 4204 Yes. (Makes school tax levy passage by simple majority instead of 2/3)

*HJR 4215 No. (why would we want to gamble with our education funds in the stock market?)

*KC Initiative 25 No. (Election of Elections Director. This position should be based on professional credentials not on political opportunity)

*KC Prop 1 Yes. (Keep those ambulances running)

*Transportation Prop 1 No. (Roads- no; Mass transit- Yes. Why be bought off to increase global warming; Sound Transit will be back to the ballot with a mass transit measure).

*Seattle 17 Yes. (A nice charter preamble written by Peter Steinbrueck)

*Seattle 18 yes. ( Support Nick Licata in requiring the Mayor to make the State of Seattle presentation February of each year)

Happy voting,
Curt Firestone, Cindy Domingo, Phil Bereano, Dan Merkle

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Un Poquito de Tanta Verdad / A Little Bit of So Much Truth

As mentioned earlier on this blog, a great new documentary has been released by Jill Freidberg/Corrugated Films, and it premieres in Seattle this week, Oct. 3 & 4, at Central Cinema. Shows are at 7 and 9:30, but arrive early -- the last time she premiered a movie there, all four shows sold out.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Sweet Arab, the Generous Arab

Here's the original poem by Naomi Shihab Nye whose Spanish translation I posted the other day. I hope she doesn't mind that I'm putting her poem online. If you like it, please go buy a book of hers, such as You and Yours, from which this is taken.

The Sweet Arab, the Generous Arab
by Naomi Shihab Nye

Since no one else is mentioning you enough.

The Arab who extends his hand.
The Arab who will not let you pass
his tiny shop without a welcoming word.
The refugee inviting us in for a Coke.
Clean glasses on a table in a ramshackle hut.
Those who don't drink Coke would drink it now.
We drink from the silver flask of hospitality.
We drink and you bow your head.

Please forgive everyone who has not honored your name.

You who would not kill a mouse, a bird.
Who feels sad sometimes even cracking an egg.
Who places two stones on top of one another
for a monument. Who packed the pieces,
carried them to a new corner. For whom the words
rubble and blast are constants. Who never wanted
those words. To be able to say,
this is a day and I live in it safely,
with those I love, was all. Who has been hurt
but never hurt in return. Fathers and grandmothers,
uncles, the little lost cousin who wanted only
to see a Ferris wheel in his lifetime, ride it
high into the air. And all the gaping days
they bought no tickets
for spinning them around.

Bolivia’s Evo Morales Wins Hearts and Minds in US

an article by by Deborah James and Medea Benjamin

Saturday, September 29, 2007

El gentil árabe, el generoso árabe

Porque en estos días nadie te menciona.

El árabe que extiende la mano.
El árabe que no deja a uno pasar
por su tiendita sin una palabra de bienvenida.
El refugiado que nos invita a una Coca-cola.
Los vasos limpios sobre la mesa, en una choza destartalada.
Los que no toman Coca-cola, hoy la tomarán.
Bebemos del ánfora plateada de la hospitalidad.
Bebemos mientras tú inclinas la cabeza.

Por favor, perdona a los que pronuncian tu nombre sin respeto.

Tú, que no matarías a un ratón ni un pájaro.
Quien se siente triste a veces sólo al partir un huevo.
Quien hace un monumento de una piedra
encima de otra. Quien guardó los pedazos
y los llevó a un nuevo rincón.
Para quien las palabras explosión y escombro
son constantes. Quien nunca deseaba
esas palabras. Sino poder decir,
hoy es un día y lo vivo con calma
entre mis queridos. Eso era todo.
Quien ha sido lastimado
pero en cambio no lastimó a nadie.
Padres y abuelas,
tíos, primito perdido que sólo querías ver
una noria, subir a lo alto de los cielos
una vez en la vida. Y todos esos días desgarrados
en los que no hubo boletos
para girar en ellos.

By Naomi Shihab Nye, from You and Yours, BOA Editions Ltd., 2005.
Translated by Jeremy Orhan Simer and Norma Angélica Ortega
revised December 9, 2007

"Greenbridge" in Real Change

A friend tells me she saw my poem "Greenbridge" in this week's issue of Real Change. Unfortunately, they don't post their poetry section on their website, but if you're in the Seattle area, you can pick up a copy this week, and anyway, the poem is posted on this blog.

Speaking of "Greenbridge," stay tuned for a photo project I am slowly, slowly working on to accompany it: a sort of stop-action animation of a building's construction, in the White Center housing project by the same name.

Vis-a-Vis Society: the Movie

Monday, September 10, 2007

hidden truths.

Looking online, I misspelled a poet’s name, searching for Ted Kooser.
My computer asked me, Were you trying to search for Tend Boozer?

Fun ways to help Heather do her research.

A message from my friend Heather Day, acting director of Community Alliance for Global Justice:


<<< please forward/tell your friends! >>>

Thursday Sept 27: Screening of "Thirst" documentary at Agua Verde Cafe: 7-9pm, $10 donation (pay at the door)

Agua Verde food & drinks available! At 7 I will do a short presentation of my
research for Other Worlds, about the many inspiring examples of vital, public water systems around the world, as well as resistance to privatization, that I have been learning about. We will show the excellent documentary, Thirst, from 7:30 - 8:30.

Sunday Sept 30: Guided Moon-light Paddle of Seattle's waterways from Agua Verde: 7-9pm, $40 minimum donation

Reservation required for historical kayak tour: contact Travis English at 545.8570, extension 23 (see more info about tours:

As many of you already know, I am currently researching successfully run public water utilities around the world for Other Worlds, a project documenting successful alternatives to neoliberalism (please see more info below). The purpose of this research is to demonstrate that privatization of water is not necessary or desirable. These events are fundraisers to help pay for travel to Asia this Fall to document the public water utility in Penang, Malaysia. The funds will also be used to support the writing of a chapter for a book about multiple examples of vital parallel economies, tentatively titled Tomorrow, Hacienda Victoria: Globalization, Gender, and Just Economies.

Both events take place at Agua Verde Cafe & Paddle Club, 1303 NE Boat Street, in the U-district. Questions? call me! 206.724.2243 or email Let me know if you would like to donate to Other Worlds, but can't come to these benefits.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Un Poquito de Tanta Verdad

After an intense year of filming and editing, my friend Jill Freidberg (Corrugted Films) has completed her documentary on Association of Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), which was born out of the schoolteachers' strike last year in Oaxaca state, Mexico, and blossomed into a powerful movement against the corrupt governor. "A Little Bit of So Much Truth" highlights the importance of grassroots media outlets to sustain and inform popular movements, such as when a group of women took over the state television, planning to challenge its steady stream of misinformation with a simple on-the-air statement, and ended up running the station for weeks.

The film has premiered in Oaxaca and Mexico City, and is coming soon to a grassroots screening near you, including October 4-5 in Seattle ...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

No matter the color

all our blood
runs red

all our hair
turns grey

and when we close our eyes
the black night gives way
to dreams
and nightmares

Why take the bus stop that's two blocks farther?

Because each morning
steep Denny street
makes my lungs swell,
my heart pound
to the rhythm of rush hour
and dreams dissolving

because some afternoons
the black crooked-tail kitty
circles, purring as I crouch
to scratch behind her ears and chin

because these August days
the no-man's plum tree
hangs sweet black jewels
just out of reach -- gifts
for anyone who cares to climb.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

New Nalgenes = Nasty

For years I've carried water bottles virtually everywhere I go, snazzy ones in bright colors, from the company known as Nalgene, an old standby for hikers and campers.

No more. Various studies have shown that the transparent, colored bottles from Nalgene, made from Lexan® polycarbonate plastic, have potentially terrible health effects. Check out the article "On the Trail of Water Bottle Toxins" for the evidence. Then throw away your transparent Nalgene bottle (plastic type no. 7) and get yourself one of the old school ones, made of opaque white plastic (no. 2), which are much safer.

"La gente aprendió a usar los medios y Oaxaca se transformó"

An article in La Jornada about "Un poquito de tanta verdad," the new documentary by Jill Friedberg (Corrugated Films)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The battle for Red Hook

There's an area in Brooklyn called Red Hook where for years, Latin Americans have gathered to play soccer on Sundays, and a food market has grown up around them, serving tacos, pupusas, huaraches, tamales, and other cheap, delicious meals. Now local authorities are trying to push the vendors out with new permit requirements. My friend Burke made a short video about it, with a great soundtrack by Los Lobos ...

A Tribute to the Red Hook Vendors (quicktime):

or on YouTube:

"Language Burier": Why English should the the official language of the U.S.

[ if you're aghast that I should post such a thing, here's a hint: it's a video from Comedy Central ]

Saturday, July 21, 2007


My heart is crowded with broken furniture
and cigarette smoke.

It’s a wobbly, spinning top.

A water wheel that fills itself up, rises
to dump its contents, returns
parched to the river
to fill again.

My heart is a river frozen over.
Fish seethe underneath, swim in place.

It’s a custard
carmelized on top
waiting for a spoon to tap.

A kaleidescope—

a lead weight
heavy on my lungs—

a tinderbox
eyeing the matches.

It’s a rowboat in choppy seas
my four grandparents
lost in the fog, arguing
in two languages.

I got drunk one night, fall-down
drunk, and my heart became a cage.
I heard a child’s voice—
my father’s voice—
crying out
lonesome and ashamed.

My heart is true,
remembers everyone and every thing I ever loved.

My heart is false,
leads me into the arms of too many
and not enough.

It retreats into a tortoise shell
scratched and ancient,

swells with hope
its steady rhythm beating
against the surface of my skin.

It runs over with desire
and with love. Touch it
and the palms of your hands
stain red.

My heart is a blind old man
walking down Fourth Avenue
talking to the rain.

My heart is a warbling bird
you hold in your hands.

revised December 9, 2007

Watch Real Change for "Greenbridge"

The poem "Greenbridge," which you'll find posted elsewhere in this blog, is to be published sometime soon by Real Change. Unfortunately, does not include the newspaper's poetry section, so if you want to see it in print, watch for paper vendors on the streets of Seattle ...

At the crossing of Story Street and Branch

At the crossing of Story Street and Branch
stands the house where the old lady lived
who bicycled downtown each Thursday evening
pulling a cart, a card table, pamphlets
full of heart and socialism,
to her post between the flower vendors
and the barbecues.

Here’s the school where we skinned our knees,
bruised our hearts, where we taunted
and were taunted,
until June came in sixth grade –
we sang out last children’s songs
signed each other’s notebooks and t-shirts,
saying nothing of our fear and wonder
at what came next.

It’s quiet here.
A bicycle ticks by, a sprinkler drips
droplets on my pant cuffs, on my shoelaces.
A bus rumbles around the corner
where Manuel’s Liquors still sells treats
like Abba Zabba and Jolly Ranchers
and still they pour them stiff
at the Gaslight Lounge
where we filled our hearts and spilled our guts,
turning twenty-one years old.

A blue jay screeches.
Breezes run their fingers
through front porch chimes
move tree to tree
like bumblebees:

A magnolia with one white blossom.
Red bottle brushes, avocados,
lemons and pines.
From thin, robust branches
persimmons emerge, small and green,
making promises
for a sweet November.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Real News

Very, very, very interesting ...

A new online video news network, funded by members, dedicated to investigative journalism ...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Take Action Now for Police Accountability

From an email from a friend ...

There is an urgent need for action right now to help change police accountability politics in Seattle. Please take a minute to read the rest of the below email, email your City Council members, and attend a rally next Thursday, June 28, to help reform and strengthen citizen oversight of the Seattle Police Department.

As you may have read in recent newspaper articles, Seattle's Chief of Police, Gil Kerlikowske, recently orchestrated a cover-up for two police officers accused of planting drugs on people they arrested, using excessive force, and lying about their behavior. Chief Kerlikowske intervened in Office of Professional Accountability's (OPA) investigation of the allegations, helping guide the investigation in a way that exonerated the officers. The OPA's Auditor found the exonerations unfounded, while its civilian Review Board report (which you can read here) found that the Chief's intervention in the investigation was unethical.

There is a growing call for the City Council to intervene in this issue, review the reports, discipline the Chief, and reform Seattle's police accountability system so this kind of abuse cannot happen again. But unfortunately, instead of taking these issues seriously, the Chief of Police, the Mayor, and at least one City Councilmember (Jan Drago) are dismissing these critical reports out of hand and trying to stifle any serious discussion of reform.

Please contact your City Council members now and demand that they:

1. Read the OPA Review Board's report which documents the Police Chief's unethical behavior.
2. Support the OPA Review Board giving the City Council a briefing on the report.
3. Address problems raised in the report by considering reforms of Seattle's Police accountability process.

Please also attend a rally sponsored by the Seattle NAACP on the City Council steps at 4th and James next Thursday, June 28, at 12:15pm.

I can't stress to you enough how important it is for the City Council to receive these letters and see your presence outside their offices. Here is what a colleague of mine, who is a lawyer-activist, wrote to me about this issue:

There will not soon, if ever, be another case like [this]: one where the victim of the misconduct was brave enough and hopeful enough to actually make a complaint; where the events at issue were fully captured on videotape; where the videotape was preserved; where city, county & federal prosecutors did the right thing & notified defense lawyers of serious credibility problems about the officers involved; where a highly respected forensic video analyst analyzed the video & concluded that virtually no part of the officers' story could be true. If we cannot repudiate what happened here, we may as well give up on any pretense that we have police accountability in Seattle. A culture of impunity will be reaffirmed within SPD that it simply doesn't matter what you do as an officer -- you can be caught on videotape in flagrant untruths, and as long as the only person harmed is a criminal suspect, no one will care.

Thank you for reading this long email, and for taking any time that you can to act on this important issue. Please contact me if you have questions or need any additional information.

Trevor Griffey

PS Here are the emails for Seattle's City Councilmembers: (Make sure to thank Nick for his leadership on this issue-- he is the only one on the City Council to take a strong stand for police accountability so far)

Friday, June 15, 2007


Wednesday, June 20th, 6-8 PM

Gethsemane Lutheran Church, 911 Stewart St., Seattle

Immigrants share their own stories - Updates on immigration and trade legislation - CISPES delegates report on their recent trip to El Salvador - FREE!

Seattle CISPES is pleased to announce, in collaboration with CASA Latina and the Washington Fair Trade Coalition, an Immigration and Trade Teach-In on Wednesday, June 20th.

This distinctive event will examine the root causes of immigration from Latin America and the effects that U.S. trade and immigration policies have on families. Recent immigrants will share their own stories, while leaders of local organizations will speak out about current immigration and trade legislation. Additionally, CISPES activists will share from their recent experiences in El Salvador, where they visited the families of immigrants who have settled in Seattle.

Join us for a night of education and personal stories, and leave with ideas for concrete action you can take in solidarity with immigrants and the families in Latin America that depend upon them.

For more information, contact Seattle CISPES at 206.325.5494, or

Seattle CISPES - Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador
206.325.5494 -

Monday, June 04, 2007

SOA: School's Out

Yes! Magazine's summer issue focuses on Latin American social movements, including a brief article I wrote about opposition to the School of the Americas. It is on the newsstands now, and you can find it by clicking the headline above. Look for number 3 in a series of articles titled "U.S. Role Turned Upside Down: Why U.S. economic, military, and covert influence is waning."

Cómo ahumar un salmón

Last month I visited my sister in Barcelona, where she runs a language and arts school, called Collage. Recently they began hosting a monthly performance night for poets, musicians and artists to share their work. I translated and read one of my poems for the occasion. The original, How to smoke salmon, appears in an earlier post on this blog.

Cómo ahumar un salmón

Salarlos un día entero, reyes
jalados del océano por las redes barredoras.
Reemplazar parte de la mar con ajo
y jenjibre.

Prepara tu lugar de trabajo
debajo vigas que se agarran
a los cayucos. Recuerda:
no podemos nadar, tú y yo,
hasta el vientre del río.

Saca los filetes del cubo glacial.
Admira las escaleras de los huesos,
las manchas de carbón en escamas plateadas,
la carne rayada como hebra de madera.
Ya pronto tus dedos estarán iguales de helados.
Date cuenta de los huesos que esconden.

Coloca el ahumador en el concreto,
leña de nogal en pedazos
debajo el elemento. Deja espacio
que pase el aire, que se filtre
el humo en la carne. Cuenta cuentos
de nuevas amistades y de amores perdidos.
Deja que el humo te enjuague el cabello.

Siéntate, abre una lata de cerveza,
cuenta cuentos de viajes,
de recién nacidos y de tipos de interés.
Sal de paseo, deja que la lluvia
te cepille las cejas.

Al ratito, echa más leña
y un cuento triste;
de un sabio asesinado, quizás.
Esparce ceniza y rescoldo;
luciérnagas en el rocío.

Luego descansa,
sueña con la isla de Kodiak. Con algas.
Con pececitos, y los gordos que se los comen.
Y cuando te despiertas,
el desayuno te espera,
el salmón ahumado.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Venezuela and the Media: Fact and Fiction

"... the US media coverage of Venezuela’s RCTV controversy says more about the deficiencies of our own news media that it does about Venezuela. It demonstrates again, as with the invasion of Iraq, how our news media are far too willing to carry water for Washington than to ascertain and report the truth of the matter."

The art of the possible

What happened in a small town in Andalucía, with many homeless families and an unemployment rate of 70 percent, when people voted in a socialist mayor and town council? They built homes, soccer fields, swimming pools and cooperatives to process local wine, olives, beans, and peppers, and now they have to bring in workers from elsewhere ...

Read about it in "El imbatible alcalde de Marinaleda," by Juan Jesús Aznárez, El Pais May 17, 2007.

Monday, May 21, 2007

You are out of control ... I wish you good health.

An amusing snippet of Turkish political discourse, so typically bombastic, formal and of course with the kind colloquialisms that enrich Turkish speech ...

CHP, DSP slam Erdoğan's comments
Monday, May 21, 2007
ANKARA – Turkish Daily News

Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal and Democratic Left Party (DSP) leader Zeki Sezer criticized the prime minister's comments on the election alliance of their parties Saturday, with Baykal accusing Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of being out of control.

Erdoğan, speaking at his Justice and Development Party's (AKP) rally in Van on Friday, said: "If you combine 40 rotten eggs, you cannot get one fresh one," in reference to the election cooperation of the two parties.

Speaking at DSP headquarters on Saturday, Baykal said: "It is upsetting to see that the prime minister of the country is so out of control. I wish him good health."

Friday, April 27, 2007

"Sacrificial Wolfie"

Says Naomi Klein:

"The World Bank has the perfect standard bearer. The bank's credibility was already fatally compromised by hypocrisies far greater than those of Wolfowitz."

Click the headline to read on, a biting critique of the World Bank and the corruption it embodies.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Crime and Punishment, the poem

A short piece of prose I wrote a few days ago just wrapped itself in a cocoon and came out a poem ...

The gavel came down on Mel Kay
and Michael McLaughlin
of the Golden State Fence Company

who built a levee fifteen feet high
to hold back the human tide
at the southern border.
The Army Corps of Engineers
called their work impeccable
and stuffed their pockets full.

Then a judge banged his gavel
sentenced Kay and McLaughlin
to house arrest, fines of five million,
for hiring men with borrowed names
and imaginary numbers.
For shuffling papers with a wink
and putting them to work.

But does the punishment fit the crime?
Perhaps a fine, a few thousand each
would suffice, paid with indentured sweat.
Being forced to run the deadly gauntlet
through the desert,
for the profit and pleasure of bandits.
Spending years not knowing when
the knock might come at the door,
whether tomorrow they will take you away
in a windowless van, leaving behind
your spouse, your children,
once again.
Spending years apart from your firstborn,
who turns flat into photographs, a voice echoing
at the other end of the line.
And getting stuck on the wrong side
when your mother or brother is dying back home
but there’s no way you can go to them,
because there’s no telling if you can get back again.

This, perhaps, would make a just sentence for Kay and McLaughlin.
Not for hiring workers without papers,
that is not the crime.
For building fences to block their passage—
cages, for men and women
who arrive with dry throats
and hearts laden down with stones.

revised December 12, 2007

Friday, April 20, 2007

May Day / Primero de Mayo

Hilary Stern from CASA Latina says: Yesterday, there was an interesting report on the National May Day Marches and Boycotts on the NPR show, "Democracy Now." Organizers predict that it will be even bigger this year. Be part of history. Join us!

May Day March and Rally

Tuesday MAY 1st, 2007
3P.M. Seattle Center Fisher Pavilion

Stop breaking our families apart

If you are interested in volunteering please call (206) 324-6044.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Crime and Punishment

Mel Kay, President and Founder, and Michael McLaughlin, a manager of Golden State Fence Company, ran a tight ship. They were contracted in the late nineties to build a fence 15 feet high and 6,100 feet long near the U.S.-Mexico border, to hold back the tide of immigrants. The Army Corps of Engineers called them “professional, reliable, and extremely competent … We have never encountered any problems with any personnel they have used.” Their revenue grew to $150 million in 2004. Their motto is “Home of the American Dream.”

In late March, a federal judge sentenced Kay and McLaughlin to house arrest, community service, probation, and fines of $300,000, for knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants between 1999 and 2004. Their business was also fined $4.7 million.

But does the punishment fit the crime? Perhaps a more appropriate sentence would have included a fine of a few thousand dollars each. That, and being made to run through the desert. With no food and little water, risking death by hypothermia, dehydration and the violence of bandits. That, and spending years wondering when the knock might come at the door, whether tomorrow they will be taken away from their wives and children. Years of seeing only photos of the other kids left behind.

This, perhaps, would be a just sentence, but not for hiring workers who lack the right papers. For building fences to block their passage. For building cages.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Backyard Bounty

My friend Leonard has started a business to help "urban farmers" grow organic veggies in their yards. Spread the word about this good man with a green thumb.

click the headline or see for details

Step It Up!

Join the National Day of Climate Action this Saturday ~

click headline for details

Monday, April 02, 2007

Public Health: Pay now, not later

From a recent Seattle-Post Intelligencer editorial:

Washington ranks 44th in the country on public health spending, and one source told us that as of right now, some local public health offices can "barely afford to keep the lights on and the doors open."

[ click the headline for the full text ]

Sunday, March 25, 2007

"Memorial" printed in Real Change

Real Change newspaper published my poem "Memorial" in the March 21-27 issue. Unfortunately, they don't publish poems on their website alongside their valuable news and commentary, so I can't include the link here. You'll either have to buy a copy this week if you live in the Seattle area, or read the version published on this blog. (As usual, click the headline to follow the link.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Night of 1,000 Conversations

Want to participate in the movement for a just reform of immigration law, without leaving your living room? Check this out.

"On Thursday, April 5, 2007 thousands of people all across the country will come together in living rooms, basements, back yards, community centers, schools, and places of worship to work towards immigration reform that restores basic civil liberties and human rights, protects our core American values of fairness and justice, and defends due process for everyone."

[ click the headline for more info ... ]

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Check out the Common Language Project

A fascinating online journal engaged in "Positive Reporting Across Borders" ...

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

History lesson

[from the Turkish daily Hurriyet]

“If we had all been able to say, ‘We are all Jewish’, there would have been no Hitler”

Speaking at a conference about coming to term with the past, Aleida Assman of Konstanz University in Germany said that the lessons and spirit of Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian journalist who was felled by a sniper’s bullet last month, lived on.

“We still hear his voice, and aim for his beliefs to continue to exist,” she told attendees at the “From the Burden of the Past to Societal Peace and Democracy” international conference at Bilgi University in Istanbul.

Drawing attention to the “We are all Armenian” slogan carried by those attending Hrant Dink’s funeral in Istanbul, Assman said that “synagogues, homes and goods belonging to the Jewish minority were ransacked in Germany in 1938. If we had been able to say, “We are all Jewish,” would Hitler have been able to do this?”

Monday, February 12, 2007

Hrant Dink's dream

A commentary by Elif ŞAFAK, from Turkish Daily News, 2/10/07

Imagine a moment in time when there is no chauvinism, xenophobia or racism. We thousands of Istanbullular saw it happen. So did Hrant.

[ click headline to read more ... ]

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

365 Days / 365 Plays

Check out my pal Katie in this Seattle Times article ...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Feb. 9 reading of Elif Shafak's "Bastard of Istanbul"

After Hrant Dink's assassination, Elif Shafak cancelled most of her U.S. book tour, but in Seattle we will gather at Elliott Bay Books as originally scheduled to read from her new novel, as well as a commentary by Dink himself. [Click headline for details.]

Monday, February 05, 2007

How to smoke salmon

Brine them all day long, kings
pulled from the ocean in purse seines.

Replace some of the sea with garlic
and with ginger.
Pull filets from the icy tub.

Admire the crosscut bone,
charcoal flecks on silver skin,
patterns in the flesh like wooden grain.

Soon your fingers will feel frozen.
Notice your own bones within them.

Set the smoker steady on concrete,
hickory chips
underneath the element.

Arrange the racks with room for air,
for smoke to seep
into the fish. Trade stories
of new friends and lost loves.
Let smoke seep into your hair.

Have a seat.
Crack a beer, trade stories
of roadtrips, babies born
and interest rates.

Go for a walk. Let the rain
comb your eyelashes.

After a while, add wood and a sad story—
a wise man’s murder, perhaps.
Scatter ashes and embers—
fireflies in wet grass.

Take your rest.
Dream of Kodiak. Algae. Little fish.

And when you wake:
smoked salmon for breakfast.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A tribute to Hrant Dink

Hrant Dink, an outspoken journalist and leader of the small Armenian community left in Turkey, was assassinated last week by an ultra-nationalist Turkish youth. Dink was outspoken about the taboo subject of the Armenian Genocide at the end of the Ottoman Empire, and was tried multiple times under Article 301, which has been used against many intellectuals, most famously Orhan Pamuk. The Turkish establishment's refusal to recognize the atrocities committed against Ottoman citizens of Armenian descent, and current laws that criminalize dissent, set the stage for this assassination; the ultra-nationalist movement put the characters into play. Both are responsible for creating a culture of intolerance that inevitably leads to violence.

From this tragedy springs some hope. Two days ago tens of thousands -- by some accounts, 100,000 -- marched in Istanbul, mostly in silence. Many carried signs and banners reading "We Are All Armenians," in the first large-scale demonstration by mainstream Turks for truth and reconciliation. It is my great hope that this movement will grow and mature, and that the far right will eventually be silenced by its own irrelevance.

[ click on headline for a tribute by Open Democracy, and links to more information ]

Sunday, January 21, 2007


turns to sleet

waves crackle down the beach
firecracker strings as the lunar year wanes
and the ferry in retreat
a great oil drum rumbling
its pistons humming angrily a dissonant song

turns to hail

tapping cracked clam shells
and palm-size stones.
hail like icy gnats nipping my cheek
but when I face the wind and waves,
lean in a little, the nip feels fine.

turns to snow

snow kisses my eyes blind
quenches my brazen tongue
and a solemn quiet unfolds

like water the moment it boils
as when the act of love is done
as when my chattering mind
slouches into sleep.

Skagit River rising

Swollen waters
silence rapids hidden underneath.
The river spreads beyond its banks,
turning grassy paths into marsh, indistinct,
erasing boundary between the river and the land.

Eddies churn in circles
and crows watch the eagles skeptically.

Warnings buzz around our heads—
the list of tasks, reminders shouted from room to room,
radio waves and newsprint chattering predictions:
The river will overspill. We scurry.

The woodpile by the barn, we tie it down
to stop the river lifting it, piece by piece,
to carry out to sea.
We move furniture, handtools and potted plants
to higher ground, beyond floodwaters’ reach,
and stop to make a pact
with neighbors: our hands are theirs.

Putting spark to fuel,
Richard raises a wand, throwing flame
across the kindling pile.
From beneath the burning wood, mice
abandon burrows, squealing
into a black-charred patch of ashes,
into open jaws of field and sky.

Mount Sauk, whose snowfall feeds the river,
lurks invisible behind the house,
behind the clouds we breathe.
Sadie barks. The air is cold and still.

Then the first fat drops
start a clatter on the metal roof,
falling heavy on our heads,
and the sky
has begun to sing
its ancient lovesong to the river.