“The Pure Products of America Go Crazy…”
What drives a man
bombing in Nashville
OD’ed on your toilet
That RV so cheap pathetic really—
When you get lonely you can always go downtown downtown
Does anyone need to know more about America
Than the name Anthony Quinn Warner
Or that our history is unknowable
Why not just say Elvis?
These mirrors and masquerades history books
“The tension between individual liberty and the social good has always been…
You can’t finish that sentence, can you?
But it was in Nashville, so of course places
What things happened in Nashville?
Electrons, really, a kind of skill
That has something to do with money
Proud Boys v. Antifa this lust for violence Chaos grins says
Listen to the trees
Her hair glistens like oiled snakes
& you know darling all it takes
Is one slow kiss under the candlelight
And maybe you might lose your fright
And be the man you said you’d be
Trembling in shade under the apple tree
Said some words you nah know what they mean
Maybe you hoping you weren’t seen
But have to say boo it was like that we watching you
The idea of nobility in human affairs still exists
And there is something to be said for the study of history and language
Whatever you resisted resisted you back
You carried an alarm clock
The idea that time does not exist a child’s dream
Ok say it true now baby say how it feel
You know if you don’t it won’t be real
Make your heart in rainbow slices
See the sunlight how nice is
Make this beat your own heartbeat
Tell me you don’t know the street
Tell you what you not understand
You blow your van up—you not a man
Outside the tent of the destruction
Of the greatest empire the world has known
We watching you
What is the statute of limitations on lynching’s
And the mass graves
–you can find the bones if you look
Or in Nashville some human tissue
Ephraim and Henry Gizzard, 1872
Samuel Smith, 1924
he was fifteen
232 lynching’s in Tennessee
Human tissue debris from RV historic
inside CNN carnival
smile a lie
Tennessee’s “greatest lynching carnival” was held in Memphis in May 1917 when Ell Person, the allegedly confessed ax-murderer of a sixteen-year-old white girl, was burned to death in the presence of fifteen thousand men, women, and little children.
Tonight we must mourn anyone named Anthony Quinn Warner
No story to tell, no rhyme no reason no couplet indebted to any ideology
Just ample evidence of the meaninglessness of time
No babe its about how sad someone gets
He saved everyone with that loudspeaker
And you know those six cops were heroes
What point is there in talking about history
When you know you will die without seeing the end?
Make an intention
It’s ok not to believe in anything, it is easier that way
Remember Anthony Quinn Warner
What drives a man? Antaeus vs. Heracles says
God of the waters, goddess of earth I called to you
Choking on air, my monstrous soul
What were you doing in Libya, anyway?
We could have been brothers
Between us we could have destroyed the gods
The beauty of a suicide bombing that killed no one
The single-minded and purposeless effort like writing Finnegan’s Wake
Or climbing a cliff no one climbed before
Or making sure to leave on the stone “He lived a quiet, ordinary life”
You have no idea how much pain it costs me
To tell you this—you feel troubled by the broken windows
To me they are beautiful
There is nothing more beautiful than broken glass
Catching the flickering oranges and yellows
Of cars and buildings on fire
The idea of meaninglessness
Captured in a single gesture
Make an intention taste the fire
He was designed for summer
The ways in which a human body can be destroyed
Are chronicled. You can’t look away—see it clearly
African American victims, both men and women, were regularly tortured with methods that included eye-gouging, cutting off of the ears and nose, and cutting off fingers and toes joint by joint for souvenirs.
Were you there? We are watching you tell the truth
Don’t look away
I met my darling on a dark street
We talked all night until dawn came
She said she’d love me if I paid the price
Give my skin up, let the sky fall
Keep a shotgun on the kitchen wall
Saying y’all Sicilian don’t be nice
You white boys all look the same
What you got, how your heart beat?
LED’s and Sunlight
Squirrels grow fat when you feed them seeds
Or an electronic barbie with a vicious smile
Like butterscotch razor blades and the ice
Where a blue-jay has joined the squirrel
Is melting slowly in the noon sunlight
So it can freeze again harder
But the plastic doll is tasty and satisfying–
That’s all they need–
Inside the mirror of ice the squirrel looks fat
Blue jays descend in a tight-knit gang now
Chickadees and slate juncos scatter
A cardinal watches from an apple limb
These natural hierarchies are comforting,
A small piece of obsidian in my mouth, sucking on it
LED lights shine all the time, even at 5AM
When juncos are wrapped in their fir trees
Not much illumination but the clowns still dance
And long trucks thrum on the daybreak avenue.
If my anger is a kaleidoscope then tell me
What the shrapnel taught you, taste this black ice.
Inside the intermissions of an interminable drama
There is real blood on the stage. Bend low, taste it–
You’re my bitch tonight, follow my words,
A voice calling hopeless on a weekly phone call from prison—
I never picked up the phone, no one fucking makes bail
In this life, you know that–snakes in the hole—
Avoid them—make feathers in your hair
Somewhere close to edge—rock is scrawled in runes
We slant on dirt like raged farmers so starved for love
We can’t answer the most basic questions.
We have not read the stories yet. We won’t.
This late winter sunset filled with bone.
Birds and so on, apple blossoms and knives,
Slime on the river stones, a trail of blood
Up trap-house stairs, no light in the sky,
Rain falling and the stream rising to flood—
Dawn sends artifacts like an oracle,
Some gibberish about nature and the human,
A bounty of coins from a failed empire
Like trying to spend Japanese pesos
From the WWII occupation
At the Firehouse in Manila
On a girl who would be nice to you
But just for a while—that money was fake.
My last doctor told me that I was “programmed to die”—
He said that. It was strange,
My body was fine but he wanted me to understand
I would inevitably die, so what did I believe in?
They called him Crazy Eddie
In the small-town practice he had,
And he put me through the course on miracles for free,
Reading the Bible and Bagavad Gita, the Secret Garden
And the Wizard of Oz, a sort of mad map
Of ways to think the soul persists beyond death,
That there is a larger reality we can’t see.
It didn’t work. I am just a reporter.
All I can do is say what I see, or what I remember.
Fifty years ago, in this same country place, I owned a horse.
I rode him bareback on the dirt roads,
Veering sometimes into an open mowing to ride full out,
Gliding over his galloping body like a sprite.
Once he shied and I flew off into the soft grass,
Stunned for a moment, breath knocked out.
I came to with wildflowers all around me.
Then I climbed back on and rode home
Solstice: Green River
One mourns at dawn, blue light on the snow,
Cracked windows locked against the cold.
What can one say? I’ve always marveled
At time’s bleak nature, scored now by ice
Coating still-green grass and the dirt road,
And while the landscape is winter-barren
The ghosts that inhabit this place are partying
In liquid light of the fireplace, rafters shaking,
That tune from 1939 going round and round.
One year we visited where the girl witches were hanged,
A christmas sojourn to Salem. There was no cause for celebration.
There were addicts on the sidestreet. A grey smudge
Lay like a quilt on the bay. Gulls swooped and screamed.
This year ghosts scratch graffiti on the frost.
This austere December sunlight on thin snow
Today’s ghetto, shards of grass pocking through frost,
The light slanted so deep against the high windows
It might as well be sunset, that yard-arm passed
At dawn, ice glazed on the water glass,
No sound on roads, just winter’s vacant heart.
In this season, December’s full moon Cold Moon—
A couple of weeks to wait for the Wolf Moon,
The spirit I long to inhabit my body.
Cold moon says look at the light, weep, and sing
Songs of joy since you have no choice,
Play that violin in the concentration camp of your body.
Inside the churning of dreams and lost time
A spirit made of ice and hot chocolate
Says drop those seeds from your hand. Songbirds will follow.
So this the day you meet the dead—you knew
It would come, ice in your hair and tangled wires,
And while you said you have no fear you knew
That you were afraid. The wood is made of ghosts.
Inside the enchantment of the cold moon
You searched a way to speak to them, the ghosts
Inside the wood walls where heat depends on burning.
But the full moon’s a motorcycle and the wind
Against your face as you ride into the sky
Won’t let language free except you are screaming
How much I love you at the sweet savage spirits
That cling like wraiths to the dark leather of your soul.
When the full dark comes you walk to the graveyard,
Touch the cold stone with your hands, then go home again.
Solstice: Meteor Shower
At five AM shooting star flowers on black,
Flaring without explanation, just quick
And lovely, the way all things are, and this frost
Glitters like answering stars in porch-light,
Dead leaves shining like gems.
My arms are filled with wood
But I still look around, how quiet the night is,
How constellations have not changed
Since I was a child and soon light will start
These skeletons of trees green again,
The dead grass needing mowing.
Nothing is permanent, or temporary, but something else
That we have no language for except
The stars fall from sky they remind us
Some things are beautiful, the way we dance
In sky, dancing for free—no one takes coins home
From this game, we play stacked odds,
Dancing until dawn finally comes
With an unusually beautiful shade of blue
That like everything else has no name.
written by MacLean Gander© 2021
MacLean Gander grew up in Manhattan, where he attended the Collegiate School before studying at Harvard, where he received an A.B. in English and American Literature and Languages, cum laude. He was the Hoyt Fellow in creative writing at Boston University in 1981, where he took his Master’s in Creative Writing (Poetry).
In the 1980s he worked for several years as a researcher, writer, and reporter for Newsweek’s international edition in New York, and then spent two years in the Philippines covering the 1985 elections and 1986 “People’s Revolution” as a freelancer accredited to The Nation. After returning from Manila, he decided to relocate in Vermont and change his career path, taking a faculty position at Landmark College. In 1988, he was appointed English department chair, a position he held for nine years. In 1997 he was appointed Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College, a position he held for 11 years, a period of rapid growth and change for the college. During this time he earned an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Change from Fielding Graduate University. As Vice President for External Affairs and Strategic Planning from 2008 – 2009 he led and participated in the College’s consulting initiatives with the Kipp Charter Schools, The Prince Salman Center for Learning Disabilities Research in Riyadh, and with several other organizations and groups.
After returning to the faculty in 2009, MacLean held appointments in the writing department and then in the Core Education Program, teaching courses in composition, creative writing, journalism, and education. He currently holds an appointment in the Professional Studies program, where he teaches courses in journalism, leadership, and narrative nonfiction. He also donates his time as an investigative reporter for The Commons, Windham County’s nonprofit independent newsweekly, a role in which he is able to engage journalism and business students in internships and in doing reporting in real-world contexts. He lives in Brattleboro, Vermont, with his wife, the poet and artist Shanta Lee Gander.