paulson | dear american…

26 09 2008

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No.153 | September 27, 2008

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transaction is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully, Minister of Treasury Paulson

eric chaet – central bankers save big gambler buddies!

25 09 2008

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 152 | September 23, 2008


by Eric Chaet

Central bankers intervene to protect big gamblers
take money from everyone else
to keep their friends from suffering the consequences of bad bets
they’ve been misallocating money all your life
more for them, less for wiser investments
text books that tell the truth, hospitals, libraries
clean water & air, food for the hungry, medicine for the ill
bridges that lead from here to somewhere we’d rather be
prose, poetry, speeches, budgets, & laws that don’t just sound cool
but mean something you can build something good on
not just more of the same struggle
in hopes of getting back to a slightly less desperate struggle.

The central bankers say it’s for everyone’s good
maybe everyone they know
representatives of government don’t understand
any more than reporters understand
they mumble what the central bankers said to them
to the TV cameras & microphones
people everywhere are confused
can it possibly be a racket that makes Mafia operations look puny?
it’s all as legal as police, judges, & prisons.

The capitalists have overthrown feudalism & clericalism
that’s progress, I mean it, hooray for the Capitalist Revolution!
the capitalists have also suppressed everyone with only their labor to sell
as tho it’s shameful at least, maybe a crime to be born without assets
or to suffer reverses because you didn’t understand everything
or because a tornado or disease is bigger than a human being
or because you’ve cast your lot with human well-being & the future
not immediate jackpots, lots of toys, the admiration of the deluded.

Yes, tyrants have used the indignation & rage of the poor
Stalin, Hitler, Mao, the whole revolting list
but the capitalists also suppress
the indignant, angry, or resigned & wasting-away poor
& discredit anyone who even suggests
that what they’re doing is tyranny, too
tyranny with a great cover story about liberty & justice for all
& free enterprise
how all your problems are caused by foreigners & trouble-makers
& those they have suppressed mumble
what the capitalists’ talking heads tell them year after year.

How do you qualify to be a capitalists’ talking head, general, or admiral?
you must show some ability
it helps to be good-looking per the fashion of the time
fair complexioned
with a brief last name that sounds normal to a Norman
after a little conquest & a nice meal
but rule number one: you mustn’t be questioning
the doings & rationale of those making the unwise allocations
profitable for themselves on a scale beyond the ability of most to imagine
while everyone else is a hurricane- or cannon-fodder tax-payer
get a job, buy gasoline, heat your quarters, serve.

It makes you dangerously cynical against serving anyone at all
easy prey to diseases that overwhelm you when your spirit is low
no wonder people turn to crime, legal or illegal
no wonder the best youths rarely achieve what they hope to achieve
give up & die, or become middle managers for their oppressors
while many among the dullest are celebrated
for scoring touchdowns, singing love-sick ballads with corny accents
everyone pretends rural & small town waitresses & mechanics use to court
or making fortunes marketing sugar-laced canned goods that cause diabetes
or gadgets or fashionable trinkets whose production requires
the poisoning of rivers, aquifers, forests, babies, & elders.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s better than feudalism & clericalism
you have a better chance to be one of the winners
it helps if you’re willing to care nothing about the losers
in fact, that’s a requirement, for most promotions.

The financiers who have profited the most
from taking the biggest risks with others’ money
bailed out yet again with money you must pay or go to jail
even if you never bought into their confidence games
when those games would otherwise collapse.

The central banks & those who claim to represent you
who delegate the authority to them
continue their revolution against being ruled by solidarity with you
their feudal & clerical enemies long ago defeated.

Yes, I’m aware most poems aren’t like this one.
That’s not my concern—I only hope it does some good.

Who pays the talking heads, generals, admirals, congressmen, presidents
famous authors, experts interviewed every day on supposedly public radio?
Where does the money come from?

I’m not talking about killing anybody
I’m talking to you
I’m not just performing word-tricks hoping for praise
let’s do something else
let’s put ourselves to work doing something else
something better
each of us & together, too
can you imagine?
individual freedom, justice for each individual
not this bunch of rich gamblers too big to fail, everyone else expendable
it’s hard even to imagine doing something else
when they’re doing what they’re doing on such a scale
right out in front of everybody, maybe secretly, too?
once again expediency & injustice seem to prevail
it’s the oldest, most discouraging story
& anyone who makes a peep about it being unfair & intolerable
seems crazy misinformed probably a crank idealist unrealistic
if you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?
count me among the crazy.

nora ephron | who are you?

24 09 2008

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 151| September 23, 2008

The Laugh’s On…(who?)

Editor’s Notes: Maybe what the country needs in this dark hour (these dark times) is a little humor. The old fashioned kind. The kind of humor writers, skilled in the art of working words and situations into belly laughs, once served up in our daily newspapers and monthly magazines. There’s so longer room for that in our culture. Nothing in America seems funny anymore unless you’re sticking it to the other guy—weapons off satirical destruction. Making ‘fun of ‘ so-and-so, instead of finding the humor in common, everyday situations. Once upon a time there was also room in this culture for something called “self-deprecating humor.”

I was reminded of all this when I came upon the piece below by Nora Ephron. Which called to mind a recent incident (just a week or so before yet another birthday, alas) when I carried on a long conversation with ‘a stranger’—who obviously knew me –Norbert Blei


Nora Ephron

I Know You

I KNOW you. I know you well. It’s true I always have a little trouble with your name, but I do know your name. I just don’t know it at this moment. We’re at a big party. We’ve kissed hello. We’ve had a de¬lightful conversation about how we are the two last people on the face of the earth who don’t kiss on both cheeks. Now we’re having a conversation about how phony all the people are who do kiss on both cheeks. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. You’re so charming. If only I could re¬member your name. It’s inexcusable that I don’t. You’ve been to my house for dinner. I tried to read your last book. I know your girlfriend’s name, or I al¬most know it. It’s something like Chanelle. Only it’s not. Chantelle? That’s not it either. Fortunately she isn’t here, so I haven’t forgotten both of your names. I’m becoming desperate. It’s something like Larry. Is it Larry? No, it’s not. Jerry? No, it’s not. But it ends in a Y. Your last name: three syllables. Starts with a C. Starts with a G? I’m los¬ing my mind. But a miracle occurs: the host is about to toast the guest of honor. Thank God. I can escape to the bar. I will spend the rest of the night scrolling through the alphabet in an attempt to come up with your name. If I fail, there’s always Google. If only I could re¬member what that last book was about.

Have We Met?

Have we met? I think we’ve met. But I can’t be sure. We were introduced, but I didn’t catch your name because it’s so noisy at this party. I’m going to assume we know each other, and I’m not going to say, “Nice to meet you.” If I say, “Nice to meet you,”, I know what will happen. You’ll say, “We’ve met.” You’ll say “We’ve met” in a sort of aggressive, irritable tone. And you won’t even tell me your name so I can recover in some way. So I’m not going to say, “Nice to * meet you.” I’m going to say, “Nice to see you.” I’ll have a big smile on my face. I won’t look desperate. But what I’ll be thinking is, please throw me your name. Please, please, please. Give me a hint. My husband is likely to walk up, and I’ll have to introduce you, and I won’t be able to, and you’ll know that I have no idea who you are even though we prob¬ably spent an entire weekend together on a boat in 1984. And even though I have a secret signal with my husband that involves my pinching him very hard on the upper arm, a signal that means, “Throw your name at this per¬son because I have no idea whom I’m talking to,” my husband always forgets the secret signal and can’t be counted on to respond to my pinching, even when it produces a bruise. I would like to chew my husband out about his forgetfulness on this point, but I’m not ex¬actly in a position to do so since I myself have forgotten (if I ever knew it) the name of the person I’m talking to.

Old Friends

Old friends? We must be. You’re de¬lighted to see me. I’m delighted to see you. But who are you? Oh, my God, you’re Jane. I can’t believe it. Jane. “Jane! How are you? It’s been — how long has it been?” I’d like to suggest that the reason I didn’t recognize you right off the bat is that you’ve done something to your hair, but you’ve done nothing to your hair, nothing that would excuse my not recog¬nizing you. What you’ve actually done is’ gotten older. 1 don’t believe it. You used to be my age, and how you’re much, much, much older than I am. You could be my mother. Unless of course I look as old as you and I don’t know it. Which is not pos¬sible. Or is it? I’m looking around the room and I notice that everyone in it looks like someone — and when I try to figure out exactly who that someone is, it turns out to be a former version of herself, a thinner version or a healthier version or a pre-plastic-surgery version or a taller ver¬sion. If this is true of everyone, it must be true of me. Mustn’t it? But never mind: you are speaking. “Maggie,” you say, “it’s been so long.” “I’m not Maggie,” I say. “Oh, my God,” you say, “It’s you. I didn’t recognize you. You’ve done something to your hair.”

Nora Ephron, the author, most recently, of “I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman,” is a contributing columnist/or The Times.

[From: The New York Times, August 12, 2007]

Nora Ephron, acclaimed essayist, novelist, screenwriter and director was born May 19, 1941 New York City. She is the daughter of screenwriting team, Pheobe and Henry Ephron, who wrote classic screenplays such as, There’s No Business Like Show Business, What Price Glory and Desk Set. She is the oldest of four sisters, Delia, Amy and Hallie. The Ephrons were a family that valued verbal jousting, and in an article in Vanity Fair one Ephron sister compared the family dinner table to the Algonquin Round Table. Ephron grew up in a household where both parents abused alcohol, but she has never let her sometimes difficult childhood defeat her.

Ephron graduated from Wellesley in 1962 with a degree in journalism, and became a reporter for the New York Post. In her autobiographical speech, Adventures Screenwriting, Ephron reveals that in college all she could think about was going to New York and becoming a journalist. She became one of the counrty’s best known journalists with her work in Esquire, New York Times Magazine and New York Magazine. Two collections of her essays, Crazy Salad and Scribble, Scribble were bestsellers, along with her novel, Heartburn, an account of the breakup of her marriage. Ephron was married to writer, Dan Greenburg before marrying Watergate journalist, Carl Bernstein. The couple had two sons, Jacob, 21 and Max, 20. It was the breakup with Bernstein that prompted her novel Heartburn. In 1987, Ephron married Nicholas Pileggi, a journalist and screenwriter. He wrote Wiseguys, which later became Goodfellas. Ephron lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with her husband.

michael dickman | we did not make ourselves

19 09 2008

Poetry Dispatch No.252 | September 19, 2008


Michael Dickman

We did not make ourselves is one thing
I keep singing into my hands
while falling

for just a second

before I have to get up and turn on all the lights in the house, one after the
other, like opening an Advent calendar

My brain opening
the chemical miracles in my brain
switching on

I can hear

dogs barking
some trees
last stars

You think you’ll be missed
it won’t last long
I promise

I’m not dead but I am
standing very still
in the back yard
staring up at the maple
thirty years ago
a tiny kid waiting on the ground
alone in heaven
in the world
in white sneakers

I’m having a good time humming along to everything I can still remember
back there

How we’re born

Made to look up at everything we didn’t make

We didn’t
make grass, mosquitoes
or breast cancer

We didn’t make yellow jackets
or sunlight


I didn’t make my brain
but I’m helping
to finish it

Carefully stacking up everything I made next to everything I ruined in broad
daylight in bright

This morning I killed a fly
and didn’t lie down
next to the body like we’re supposed to

We’re supposed to

Soon I’m going to wake up


There is only this world and this world

What a relief

over and over

from THE NEW YORKER, September 1, 2008

norbert kraft | skinning a rabbit

14 09 2008

Poetry Dispatch No. 251 | September 14, 2008


SKINNING A RABBIT by Norbert Kraft

I rip off
pull fur
down back
peeling it
over belly
yank it
over head
across paws
drop it on
old newspaper
insert knife
where naked legs
spread apart
slash down
thru tender belly
as thin blood
drip drips
& guts bulge
stick hand into slit
grab handfuls
of warm guts
which I tear
from back
chop head & paws
off with hatchet
plop whole wad
on top of fur .
wrap corners
of newspaper
around bloody mess
compress it
into ball
to bury
in garden
drop leftover flesh
in pail of water—

staring down
at a shrivelled
pink embryo
in reddening water
I blink to
the large streaking blur
my shotgun
blasted so still
& wonder why
I pulled the trigger
with such fever
the knife
with such relish
the guts
with such satisfaction.

[from THE HEARTLAND II, edited by Locien Stryk, Northern Illinois University Press, 1975]

ed markowski | candidates 9/3/08

9 09 2008

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND… No.150 | September 9, 2008


candidates 9/3/08

election news a woman spits up sticks & stones

sharpening the darkness of her smile a poet

the color of a crow on the clothesline is perfect

-ed markowski

Editor’s Note: Sometimes you leave it to the power (political) of the poet to find truth in words. More of Markowski’s mastery of the small poem can be found at: . “Candidates 9/3/08” will be posted there as well. –Norbert Blei


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