Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Less Unfortunate Casualties

In Puerto Rico — among Irma's less unfortunate casualties — the lights were out. In many places, so was running water.

Caribbean Devastated as Irma Heads Toward Florida (New York Times, September 7, 2017)

I guess the relativity of casualties is what is hard to handle
The "less unfortunate casualties" construction amounts to a great muddle
In context, I can sort of see where the writer was headed
But the more I think about it, the more confused I get

One is certainly fortunate to be injured rather than dead after an attack
Yet one is clearly unfortunate to have been attacked in the first place
On the one hand, a casualty is, by definition, unfortunate
On the other hand, we are full of concern for those less fortunate

How to distinguish between the typical usage of unfortunate
And the duty of care we always admonish for the unfortunate?
Thoughts and prayers should always go to the less fortunate.
But what of the reverse? What is due to the less unfortunate?

Those who ended up without lights were casualties, that we must admit.
There are gradations of fortune, it seems, a full spectrum of hardship
Harken to the circles of hell laid out in Dante's Inferno
And so we come, in this instance, to misfortune in Puerto Rico

Like mosquitos and other disasters, the hurricane didn't discriminate
The truth is, those who didn't have running water were certainly unfortunate
It seems a stretch to make a distinction between those without electricity
And those of the former group. Whither the less unfortunate casualties?

AnySlum, Accra


Timing is everything
Observers are worried

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Writing log: November 30, 2021

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Rear View Mirror

Bear with me as I expound,
   my meaning will surely get clearer
I realize you want to put this plague
   firmly in the rear view mirror
It's only human to want to draw a line
   under the recent terror
Buyer beware, you may fall prey
   to the worst kind of category error

The blemish is that, per Doctor Fauci,
   it is the virus that sets the timeline
And, with a few new variants
   that escape the mooted, mitigating vaccines,
We're back to first principles:
   that global peril requires global solutions
Mother Nature doesn't discriminate,
   and the least of us deserve consideration

For all it takes is an immunocompromised so-and-so
   in some remote place
That, with a long infection,
   allows the virus to evolve and then displace
A few genetic markers in competition,
   for it's really survival of the fittest
And then a new variant is spawned
   with mutations that put humanity to the test
Unless you close your borders, or impose a quarantine,
   you have no protection
The new normalcy exposes
   the very real challenges of globalization

And so the tension that humanity faces
   is how to deal with the disease
Back to business, acceptable loss,
   and facing the ensuing unease
Will it be like malaria,
   once the challenge at home has been met
To close our eyes on the wretched,
   will we forget about the rest?

In the past, those in the first world
   were self assured and very vocal
Righteous, nay, they would always have you know
   that everything is local
A large part of humanity were consigned
   to face mosquito borne diseases on their own
For whatever reason, climate, bad luck,
   and the lack of development in the torrid zone

For some of us who know that no man is an island
Exiled souls living in the diaspora
Mindful about the fate of our relations
Our liminal networks have been disrupted

Those shielded from these troubles
   quickly gained a propensity for selective amnesia
Forgetting the enduring struggles
   that supported humanity's defenses
This pandemic has given a global education
   in observed competence
A corollary of the mosquito principle
   is vigilance against nostalgia

No problem

Rear view Mirror, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note (spotify version)

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time

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Writing log: May 22 2021, November 20 2021

Tuesday, July 11, 2023


Well, well, well, guess who turned 67 just the other day?
A neighbor distributed a flyer right at our doorway
Inviting us to a gathering to celebrate
   near the benches just before dark
Plum center, a photo of the birthday boy,
   the old man who lives in the park

Sadly, I couldn't rally to make it to the happy event
Even though I would consider myself one of his friends
Life intruded, parenthood and the pandemic's dismal reality
Meant that I missed out on the trappings of that ceremony

What do you give the man who has nothing but wants nothing?
I racked my brain:
   what could possibly be an adequate contribution?
Moreover, would he really want to be celebrated
   or, rather, left alone?
After all, when the party's over,
   the park would still be his humble home

At his age, one would traditionally be prime for retirement
Clearly though, besides his clothes and blanket,
   he has no safety net
Despite the gestures we've made
   to maintain a modicum of community
For all we know, he may not even be collecting social security

It can't be easy this life of his, being homeless
Street life, the whole world watching all your business
The soul of the neighborhood was the flyer's consensus
67, this old man. Think first, of the least of us

zinnias flower garden

The Old Man Who Lives in the Park (Redux), a playlist

A soundtrack for this note. (spotify version)

See previously: The Old Man Who Lives in the Park

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time.

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Writing log: September 11, 2021

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

Body and Soul

Human bodies can take a lot of physical stress,
Whether it is heat, cold, pain, or starvation.
Our surviving ancestors - those that handled it best,
Were accustomed to life at the extremes and deprivation

The gods would present challenges beyond mere deprival
For the health of the body is but one element of survival
The one paradoxical stressor
   that leaves the soul completely unmanned is solitude
A shadow's burden weighs on the psyche,
   isolation is the ultimate test of fortitude

Solitude has its uses, however,
   for such is the Gordian knot of human life
Many acts of creation require momentary detachment,
   if not a splinter of ice
A little dissonance and social distancing
   to garner an oblique perspective
To see things in proper true light,
   artistic impulse is the prime objective


Fellowship, a comfort suite is to be found in community and connection
Skin to skin, the merest touch can revitalize one's condition
Out-of-body, the journey to a far region of the mind has its own costs
Sensation, soul insurance assuages the spirit's rhythm of loss

Akue - Women carrying Pots

Body and Soul, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note. Twenty odd takes on Body and Soul, one of my favorite standards. Coleman Hawkins's solo is the definitive statement while Billie Holiday has lead the approach to vocal treatments. This is the kind of music that makes you promptly pay your soul insurance premiums.

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time

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Writing log: November 10, 2021