This semester, I’m taking a creative writing course on poetry. We examine a number of poetry genres and forms before trying our hand at writing. Today, we discussed found poetry wherein lines are composed from words and phrases “found” elsewhere. Found poetry often flips a narrative on its head or provides criticism on the source or subject from which the work is derived.
Following is my poor attempt at a Found Poem submitted as part of the writing exercise.
Jesus With a Gun
I asked Jesus into my heart! I was born again! I am saved. A good christian.
Pulse nightclub, Club Q, Thirty-eight transgender people Shot or killed by other violent means; God helps those who help themselves.
Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Rob Elementary, Parkland, More than 338,000 students Have experienced gun violence at school Since Columbine— God works in mysterious ways.
I asked Jesus into my heart! I was born again! I am saved. A good christian.
Slurs are a slurry of swill. Urine and feces Served at wine tastings. Their bottles are fermented. Ours are fertilized. Drink up. It’s poison, And we’re all gonna die.
Forgive all this white noise. It’s just my religion. A holy mission To put women back in the kitchen. Because I need a sandwich in this man’s world. So break out the casseroles, And there better be raisins In that potato salad.
We conquered the world Just to dump its spices into the ocean, Like tea On a balmy Bostonian day. If we can’t handle it, No one gets to have it.
White pride. It’s a precursor to genocide. We’ve shackled dark skinned bodies And forced entire cultures to die. Go ahead, Write it down, it doesn’t matter, We’re burning entire libraries alive— With all the great works still inside.
So drink up— To the new world we’ve civilized. Or, colonized. Shout out to Jesus Christ!
On May 31st, we were given a demonstration as to why declaring June as Pride month is a necessary message that no matter how deep your pockets, how loud you get, or how old you are, you do not get to determine who does or does not belong in our beloved city of Kingsburg.
Immediately following a twenty minute public speech by the Constitutionalists for California that simultaneously substantiated the facts I brought to the council and misrepresented them, an associate among them declared the LGBTQIA+ community an “abomination.”
The far right organization acknowledged the increased violent victimization experienced by the LGBTQIA+ community, but then attributed that violence to “aliens, for all we know,” as if violent victimization only counts from sources they deem valid. The twelve murdered transgender Americans in 2022 were also substantiated, but 12 dead transgender Americans is deemed by them to be low enough to be acceptable—much in the same way that 19 children and two teachers in an elementary school is deemed acceptable. Pro-life, am I right? Their factually deficient organization asserted life saving care isn’t life saving if it is merely preventing the suicide of American youths struggling to fit in a world where they are told time and again they are “abominations.”
Twenty minutes they stood here an opined on the audacity of one resident standing up and saying ‘here’s a problem and here’s a symbolic gesture that would make a world of difference to a marginalized segment of our community.’ They all but said, ‘because we showed up last year and were loud and intimidating, we win. Case closed.’ If that was the case, the segregation era they enjoyed as children would be present in America today.
White supremacy is more than wearing a white hood, burning a cross, and saying the n-word. It is gathering with a hate group (with whom they would partner with again that same holiday season) and an angry mob to enforce their narrow and bigoted views on the whole of our community. Literal, fascism. Not hyperbole. Fascism.
At some point change is inevitable, and while I wish I had twenty minutes to breakdown the fallacies of their arguments or school them in the 1946 introduction of the word “homosexual” to the Bible and its 1971 retraction by the same translating body, I don’t have the time, and this isn’t the place.
Neither is this about a flag. T-Mobile took care of that already. This is about sending a clear message that we don’t view our residents as abominations regardless of gender, orientation, identity, race, religion, or creed. It is simply, not acceptable.
And as long as we fly the Swedish flag outside City Hall, uplifting one cultural influence into the spotlight over others, the argument that we don’t shine a spotlight on some and not others is a lie at best—a malicious oppressive lie at worst.
And as for any that suggests we ought ‘accept the answer no’ in calling to the attention of the public the humanity of the dehumanized, “woe to you, O Pharisees and scribes.”
Finally, what took them four people and twenty minutes, I have now done in less than five. Do not let those who would associate openly with a Southern Poverty Law designated hate group be our voice. Please, for the good and confidence of our whole community, consider declaring June Pride month in the City of Kingsburg.
In the fast paced environment of a first-person shooter (FPS) game, details are easily missed. The setting is often carefully rendered with masterful precision and full of wonderful surprises awaiting discovery by a player patient and curious enough to slowdown and explore. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, a recently released FPS action roleplaying game set in a post-apocalyptic world by 2K Games, offers a treasure trove of social criticism through comically inappropriate jokes, parody, and over the top dramatic storytelling. In line with Toni Morrison’s “Site of Memory,” Wonderlands functions as a compendium of facts presented in ways wherein the player might discover truths about their own world.
A setting within a setting, the playing field exists on a tabletop and in the imaginations of external characters in a Dungeons & Dragons parody. The setting itself functions as a kind of heterotopia where the external characters work through aspects of themselves often suppressed and resisted. Through their work, and the player’s often mindless acts of gratuitous violence, facts are captured, but truth is never given outright. The player is invited into the story, into the narrative, of the game to parse out what they find to be true “[because] facts can exist without human intelligence, but truth cannot” (Morrison 193).
Tiny Tina, the inappropriately young orphan filling the role of “Bunkermaster,” throws wave after wave of monsters, traps, and puzzles at the player to force the external characters directing the action from outside the tabletop into challenging positions. Tiny Tina appears to be working against the external playing characters at first glance. The player is made to face overwhelming odds that are difficult to overcome resulting in multiple deaths and resurrections throughout the entire campaign. As the narrative progresses and more facts about the world are revealed it becomes apparent that Tiny Tina isn’t working against the external characters or the player, but forcing them into great acts of heroism. Here it would be easy to assume that she wills those involved in her game to progress to higher levels and gain improved equipment and skill, but this, too, proves incorrect. She is processing the loss of her own playable character through whom she had experienced what it meant to be a hero.
Her initial understanding of heroism is defined by having power over one’s world to ensure the ‘good guys’ always triumph over the ‘bad.’ The young “Bunkermaster” believes being a hero means having power in a world where she—who has witnessed the murder of her parents by bandits, the death of her mentor by wicked oligarchs, and who continues to lose companions to tragedy—has had none. Loneliness and fear of abandonment surface as facts to a larger truth being revealed little by little. Through her narrative journey, and that of her companions Valentine and Frette, an agreement with Morrison arises. These characters “are my access to me; they are my entrance into my own interior life” (Morrison 195).
In the moment, in the heat of it all, when the virtual bullets are flying across the screen, the player is swept up in the action. They, we, are a part of something. Something big. Something epic. The player is in control of a world gone off course—what’s wrongs they alone can set right. Perhaps that’s both the alluring and damning part of the game. The modern world appears in many ways broken, or more honestly, the paradigm we have constructed and upheld appears broken. It is in need of heroes, but too many feel powerless. Like the many mindless sprites populating Wonderlands’ setting, we take care of our own and hope it is enough, but is it enough?
The facts about power structures, and the thrill experienced in the game’s action, archive for us facts about our own world. They lay the framework for truth to take shape. It might seem to be enough for us to take care of just our own, and we might believe ourselves powerless to change or move the world forward, but the thrill experienced specifically in setting right injustices, creating better paradigms between warring factions, and rebuilding communities in more beneficial ways—in game—seems to argue against this illusion of ‘enough.’ Truth appears to be more than we thought it to be. Maybe ‘enough’ is the conditioned response meant to keep us submissive—meant to keep us from moving the world forward?
Wonderlands is incredibly strange and arguably more interesting than the world we inhabit, but the impressions left on a contemplative player are as facts resonating within their own reality. Power structures corrupt and are corrupted. They don’t have to be. They are not fictional elements meant to convey a story, but real and tangible things which have been constructed and thus can be deconstructed and shifted. They can be corrupt now, and after some work, be not corrupted—or at least be made better for everyone. Perhaps this is what Morrison meant by: “’Truth is stranger than fiction,’ . . . it doesn’t say truth is truer than fiction; just that it’s stranger, meaning that it’s odd. . . . It may be excessive . . . but the important thing is that it’s random—and fiction is not random” (193). Truth is random. What is today may be something completely other tomorrow, if we choose to act.
Truth is elusive. This is why storytelling and art and literature matter. They shed light on facts which illuminate pathways towards truth. Even a video game such as Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands in its absurdity can cause one to pause and reflect on how many of our beliefs—especially about each other—have been conditioned in a specific manner. These glimpses, these facts, apply cracks along those things barring us from discovering truth.
And while it may be outside the scope of this work, perhaps these same glimpses leading to truth are really what’s behind the banning of books by authors and poets and artists of color, and of the same who identify as being part of the LGBTQIA+ community, from school libraries across the United States. Perhaps that is what has conservative white evangelical nationalists foaming and frothing at the mouth. Too many cracks exposing too many facts are drawing too many eyes to the truth.
Morrison, Toni. “The Site of Memory.” Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.
For those who don’t speak fascism, racism, or bigotry in the deeply rooted systemic dialect, I would like to offer a translation.
The lack of citation to provide evidence for his claims is standard practice in the fascist dialect. It is often employed when in the act of committing or supporting evil. Simply, a claim is made and we’re supposed to assume it to be unerringly true—like they do with the Bible.
The phrase “enflamed debate” means their argument is inferior and the claim lacks the weight of merit. In short, they can’t get their way by reason or debate. This is where the phrase “deepened division” comes into play.
Division is a dog whistle to rally defense of something generally indefensible. We don’t call out Uncle-Brother Billy Joe Bob for his racism at Thanksgiving because it would cause division.
Division is the phrase pulled out when fascists no longer want to debate, they just want their way. An example of this is excusing grandma because she grew up in another time, and we can’t reason her out of it, so we just give her a pass so not to cause division.
Where else do you see this use of division to rob power from the people so that it may be used to uphold oppressive structures, systems, and institutions? If you guessed white evangelical churches, you would be solidly right.
Now why do you see that similarity? Well, it’s not coincidental. The relationship between the white evangelical church and white nationalism in America runs deep. While that goes beyond the scope of what I’m doing here, I would invite you to consider how many of these far right wing fascists claim to be Christians. Then, consider all the ways in which these Christians argue for legislation against abortion rights, the entire existence of the LGBTQIA+ community, the poor, and women.
I’m not proud that I can still read white supremacy, but I feel it imperative that I should make very plain what has actually been said here. I would also ask that we pay very close attention to which States enact bans on abortion, birth control, contraceptives, and abortion medication. They’ll probably be the same ones enacting legislation targeting the LGBTQIA+ community and their families. Probably the same ones that are Republican run. Probably the same ones that have a long history with racism/segregation/slavery/lynching. They will probably rank low in education and high in poverty. Probably have some voter suppression history there, too.
Again, this not the scope of this writing, but do take notice of the common connection. GOP, white supremacy, and white evangelical Christianity always seem to be found hanging out at all the same clubs together. Just saying.