Poetry Brothel Berlin 2.0 Next Month

Photo: Philipp Bögle.

After a successful launch this spring, the Poetry Brothel Berlin is back—along with my friend Felicia Faust and a new, Lynchian theme. Early Bird tickets just went on sale here.

The Poetry Brothel immerses audience members in a cast of internationally renowned and locally infamous bards for a night of poetry, performance—and payment. Playing with the idea that we might value what turns on the soul as well as what turns on the body, the Brothel combines low and high cultures like the artistic vanguard always has. And is generally a lot of fun.

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Manja

Gouache on 36 x 48 cm paper.

Wild bird,
you fly
to the window—
stop, looking in—
shiver in heat

Gouache on 28 x 35.6 cm paper.

like a hummingbird
like a baby bird
and like a fairy
grown full and woman,
grown house-sized,
taut Amazon—
but still
seeking
tiny flowers.

Oils on 40 x 50 cm stretched canvas. 

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More Death/More Acceptance

In dialogue with ongoing research on MDMA for treatment-resistant PTSD, social anxiety in autistic adults, and anxiety relating to life-threatening illnesses. 

The body turns like seasons—
winter first, because
winter has its reasons.

Gouache on A3 paper.

1.

Brittle branches cracking
spread their dark crumbs like a sickness.
All the spreading blackening
comes inside, taking over with its thickness.
Unbidden pulsing, bodies disinterred,
skeletons laid to waste and refrozen in winter.

Gouache on 36 x 48 cm paper.

2.

Every year it comes to this,
the cycle of dying and reawakening bliss.
Pinkness bursts inside and out,
cherry trees and laughing out loud.
All the poison turns to flowers,
all the dead give back their powers.

Gouache on A3 paper.

And I know what bees are worth,
their sweetness and their buzzing mirth.
Flowers and grasses rise up to itch
and scratch my itch.
Sweetness explodes me.
Nothing can hurt.
Or, at least I’m free
to feel the blow and still assert—
spring is here.
Summer near.
Winters past
need not a tear.

Gouache and mixed media on 28 x 35.6 cm paper.

3.

Let living soothe the dying.
Ecstasy heals without
(so very much failing and) trying.

Gouache on 36 x 48 cm paper.

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Night Migrations

After Louise Glück. Oils on 60 x 70 cm stretched canvas.

“Bad American Dreams”

This poem in my ongoing Nuremberg: 2027 series on future war crimes trials is about cognitive dissonance surrounding rule of law from the point of view of an émigré from pre-revolutionary California. The metaphor driving the accompanying illustrations—”night migrations”—underscores the implicit nature of preliminary brain drain that appears at first as a series of incidental decisions to change country, field, or milieu. What the metaphor of night migrations implies, the poem states—for better or for worse.

Oils on 80 x 100 cm stretched canvas. This one changes and will continue to change in drying more than most, because of how the pigment variation and pooled linseed oil play. 

I have bad dreams of America.
Mine are bad American dreams.
You might wonder if it’s hysteria.
But compare it to other regimes.

In Berkeley, California, Professor Yoo
teaches public and Constitutional law.
In Nürnberg, Bayern, ten such men said adieu
for their war crimes that held the world in awe.

I have bad dreams of America,
where from Cali to New York,
men like Yoo who green-lit torture feria
are treated like some kind of revered dork.

War criminals should at least have to hide.
When you ripped entire countries apart with your lies,
and authorized torture as legal (or tried),
the noose is your only, well-earned prize.

I have bad dreams of America,
since a million or so dead Iraqis went
uncounted along with their WMD, an area
of unfound treasure still at present.

But equality is what America is all about!
Unless you count gas-guzzling the world into drought.
But freedom isn’t free, you see!
So no taxes paid healthcare or fixed roads for me.

I have bad dreams of America—among
them, going back. Hope keeps them at bay.
Yoo should have been hung.
Might still happen one day.

Gouache and mixed media on A3 paper. 

In my bad dreams of America,
I dream of having failed
to make a new life for myself.
I have returned, and wake up crying.
Waking worsens what ailed,
because I could so fail my self.
Return would be too terrifying.
I couldn’t. I won’t. I have help.

In my bad dreams of America,
I’m telling someone who might care
everything that happened—as if they’re unaware
that America is not America
except in the general area
of leading the world in delusion.
That much is already proven.

I have nightmares that no one will care.
Despite spouting off on rule of law everywhere,
there’s none for the poor, none for huddled masses,
or immigrants or homeless or sick or strange asses.
Sometimes the hypocrisy is as bad as the crime.
Is it rape, or that rapists almost never do time?
Is it murder, or that everyone heard you scream?
Is it theft, or that courts don’t work for the mainstream?

It was a crime
every time.
But the victim
of the system
should have worked harder
popped the right pills for more ardor
taken night classes
rejected the masses
flossed more like Oprah
learnt underwater yoga
prayed to a harsher God
been dispatched a kinder squad.

Kindness is not the law anywhere.
It is simply the regime children learn
to put on like their underwear,
one leg at a time and every day.
Some of us learn something else: unconcern
for keeping injustice at bay.

Last night I dreamt
I had pulled out my right eyebrow in my sleep.
My tongue discovered I was missing teeth.
“The war is getting to you,” you said.
“What war, and how did you know?”
I smiled and smoothed over what was left.
It was worthy, to dissent.
So I was honest to one too many creep.
At least I didn’t end up dead.
Who knows how I’ll use what I learned tomorrow.
Some days yesterday still has me fazed and bereft.

Gouache on 36 x 48 cm paper. 

There are bad dreams of America,
and then there are bad American dreams.
Although I’ve had both many times now,
Bad American dreams are the worse, it seems.

Bad American dreams make you think it’s your fault.
You can lose them, if you leave. Exalt
world above country,
go where now it’s more sunny.

I have bad dreams of America.
Mine are bad American dreams.
But at least I know, when I wake up,
I’ve already overthrown the worse regimes.

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“The abyss from which there is no return”

In my developing Nuremberg: 2027 series on future war crimes trials (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15…).

In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. (…) Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left: such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.

If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. (…)

I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.

—U.S. Senator Frank Church, 1975

” ‘The abyss from which there is no return,’ ” gouache and acrylic on A3 paper.

It’s generally accepted in the hacker community today that attribution (of cybercrime) is hard but not impossible. Also that online anonymity is going the way of the dodo and Silk Road. Do these combined assumptions mean that online state-level actors (or attackers) alone can—with good social media opsec like NYPD’s—retain a semblance of privacy for their online personae?

Combatting mass surveillance only goes so far when you (think you) need to use social media to reach large(r) audiences/your social network—and those services tend to block anonymity in various ways. Facebook doesn’t let you create/first access accounts using Tor. Google and Twitter require two-factor authentication, so you need at least a burner email and phone to make accounts with them. Identification standards ostensibly designed to deter cybercrime also deter anonymous expression, dissent, teaching, and resistance.

” ‘The abyss from which there is no return,’ ” gouache and acrylic on 36 x 48 cm paper.

So do we assume that resistance is increasingly futile (or likely fake)? Or perhaps that it is too late for known trouble-makers in their own societies—but not for new trouble-makers, if they start out with good infosec? Or is infosec not enough since encryption does you no good on hacked devices, and all our devices are belong to them? Or are good infosec and opsec only always ever imperfect Bandaids that are less about security per se than about buying bigger margins of success and time? Beyond the practicalities of resistance—assuming that some long-game win is still possible—how can there be legal or political accountability for “the abyss from which there is no return” if it’s a big structural condition that’s been 42+ years in the making?

Oils on 40 x 50 cm stretched canvas. So heavy on dark pigments and linseed oil, this type of painting is damn near impossible to properly photograph. You can see the selfie in this attempt. We leave digital traces wherever we go—often without an awareness of how they might later be used to prove who did what. 

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