Facebook, Russian Bots, Data Mining, and Me

Maybe I’m not paranoid enough, but I don’t think Facebook is really paying attention to me. If it was, I’d be seeing pop ups for the two major issues in my life:

1. How to remove skunks (five skunks) from under your (my) house.

2. Is humanity basically more stupid than evil or more evil than stupid?

The first is a short term problem. Those skunks have been trapped and released far far away. The second more ongoing. I’ve been pretty much worrying about it non-stop since I was thirteen when I definitively realized that “adults” had all the power but far far from all the understanding.

Facebook has realized that I can be lured (like a skunk to a marshmallow cookie, I kid you not) by the promise of cheap, colorful, ethnic, hippie, flow-y, items of clothing. As my browsing history, my closet, and my taste at my friend Joanie’s clothing exchange will attest to.

Otherwise, what I post on Facebook is ultra vanilla. I imagine my former dean or my dead mother’s friends reading it. I voted for Hillary. I am never drunk or naked with a lampshade on my head. I never sign in to anything via Facebook. Got it?

Sestina by John Macker

It is always thrilling to discover a poet through another poet…

Elements of Mystery and Surprise

Nicanor Parra said, “take back everything I said”
anti-poetry was his game and he took it to his grave
his vernacular Chilean love fest with language
permeated my life with hard-edged oblivious
soul and a militant wonder at everything that moves,
that is beautiful or sorcerous, everything a surprise.

That he died at 104 in January is no surprise,
he took his wild white hair with him to his grave
and for a moment I thought of my mother’s oblivious
end, and how silence is its own language
how it stalks and centers the mind, how it moves
through rooms on its own recognizance, left unsaid.

“In poetry everything is permissible,” or so he said.
You can’t improve the blank page from the grave.
I’ve always been attracted to sorcerers of language,
who braved elements, who watched winter’s blind moves
without flinching, who used words that enticed and surprised
who romanced each word with a knowing. Death to the oblivious.

Like those beautiful Chileans Bolaño and Neruda, oblivious
to the sorceries and machinations of fate, they stalked language
with the white hot passion of martyred saints, there ain’t no grave
worth its weight in silence that could still the bold surprise
of their words. Nothing left unspoken but everything left to be said:
winter drives us deeper in, the wind takes a breath but still moves.

Across landscapes wretched with drought, the ancients move
with the alacrity of wind, each track, each bone is a surprise
and if we dig deep enough, the words appear in a language
we don’t recognize but we do, where whispers of wind once said:
everything is permitted, nothing survives the ground, even the oblivious
can take root. Even then the world seemed cruel, its condition grave

its dancing black ghost horses stared at ghost borders on ghost graves.
I visit my mother’s grave and everything we said
is above the ground, in the wind, safe in a quiet house oblivious
the passages of time. I think of her, of Nicanor, how memory moves
us from one dimension to another. Every blank page a surprise.
Nicanor, your anti- is my anti-. I remind myself that snow is the language

of silence. Chile is a long way from Colorado, a different language.
A kid in winter is waiting for the bus in the wind, it moves
him to allow for the coming mysteries and the elements of surprise.

John Macker

Nicanor, young and old, from Wikipedia.

More on Vivo: Painting by Warren Keating & Poem by Miriam Sagan


The paintings of Warren Keating, a repeat participant in the show, are typically based on videos he takes of people from above while standing on bridges or balconies, often people walking or riding bikes. This year, he gave Santa Fe writer Miriam Sagan an oil painting from a still photo he took of a boy face down in a San Antonio hotel swimming pool years ago.

Sagan made a narrative poem about the boy’s backstory and internal dialogue. In her piece, he is seven years old and afraid of the older kids who earlier wanted to throw him into the pool. He jumped in on his own to do a “dead man’s float,” and thinks:

beneath the rippled surface,

the legs of other swimmers,

I see the city

I’ve always known was there,

of coral towers

with pearl windows

house of peacock shimmer


with roof of oyster shell


“It interprets the work in that my work tends to be getting people to rediscover how amazing the everyday moment is,” says Keating. “The poem looks at just the image of the kid and creates this whole story and fleshes out what the imagination would come up with.”

Sagan notes that in a way, what Keating is trying to display with his images is what creating poetry and art itself is all about.

“Most of our experience is mundane,” says Sagan. “A peak experience is great, but it’s far and few between. Art, and I’m including writing in that, eliminates the mundane. It lets it live on an extra level.”

“Giving Voice to Image 6” opening reception is tonight at 5 p.m. The poets will read their work at additional events March 30 and April 20.