was a time I would eat anything
torn from my body, as a city
recycles its bricks after trauma.
so I would eat the bitter black things,
those brittle wound stones. was a time, torn,
I’d eat anything from my body,
those yellowed bark ridges. a city
recycles gypsum after trauma.
I’d eat anything, pale crescents torn,
those Moor-less swords. after, a city
recycles. green things from my body,
those rotting gems. those sour gray things—
wasted clay. city, after trauma,
recycles its iron, those bones torn
from a city as though—a body:
those swords and bones, gypsum, gems, trauma:
a torn time recycled. a body
as a city, torn into a thing.
Source: The Black Automaton (2009), published by Fence Books.
An award-winning poet, performer and librettist,
Andrea Vidales makes $9 an hour taking care of a blind Korean War veteran and an elderly couple in their Merced County homes. Under California’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program, she spends about 60 hours every week bathing her clients, preparing their meals, cleaning house, paying their bills, driving them to doctors and dealing with other aspects of their medical care. She was delighted, then, when the Obama administration, through the U.S. Department of Labor, announced new regulations last September requiring in-home caregivers to be paid overtime for working more than 40 hours a week.
Her good fortune didn’t last long. On January 9, Governor Jerry Brown unveiled his proposed $155-billion budget for 2014-2015 at a press conference in Sacramento. Under the governor’s budget, Vidales and hundreds of thousands of other home health care workers would be prohibited from working more than eight hours a day, or 40 hours a week.
Last week’s announcements about 2013 earnings by California’s largest public pension funds suggest the agencies may be making significant progress in shaking off the lingering after-effects of the 2008 stock market crash.
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) said it rode a 25 percent run-up in stock prices to post a 16.2 percent gain for its 2013 portfolio — its best showing in a decade. For its part, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) reported an impressive 19.1 percent return on its 2013 investments, led by a 28 percent return on its stock holdings.
The announcements undoubtedly came as welcome news to the roughly 1.6 million California government workers and 860,000 public school teachers represented by the systems. Ever since the 2008 global financial meltdown, their pensions have been in the crosshairs of fiscal conservatives and anti-public pension activists who wish to see the employees’
I knew him. He ran the lathe next to mine.
Perfectionist, a madman, even on overtime
Saturday night. Hum of the crowd floating
from the ball park, shouts, slamming doors
from the bar down the street, he would lean
into the lathe and make a little song
with the honing cloth, rubbing the edges,
smiling like a man asleep, dreaming.
A short guy, but fearless. At Margie’s
he would take no lip, put the mechanic big
as a Buick through a stack of crates out back
and walked away with a broken thumb
but never said a word. Marge was a loud,
dirty girl with booze breath and bad manners.
He loved her. One night late I saw them in
the kitchen dancing something like a rhumba
to the radio, dishtowels wrapped around
their heads like swamis.
Illustration by Lalo Alcaraz. (Click image twice for full size.)