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I’d like to explode and explode this world with me, thanks to contemporary democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville. Democracy in America today is an inferno for obvious reasons, until this society is emancipated from practicing inhumanity as liberal, neoliberal, and conservative culture. In fact, democracy in America is largely dehumanizing these days and requires coping, as its the case in many so-called un-American despotic societies.

Contemporary American Democracy

What we have lost is not the earth.
The loss is that glance we no longer exchange,
between one child and another
as they share a loaf of bread

The poem above is from The Glance, by Saadi Youssef, a great contemporary Iraqi who has seen his native land and surroundings turned into an inferno of extraction of oppression by Empire and its international court. His poetry is one that allows an individual to cope with hell, the deep depths that we often live and are obliged to live. It’s important that we begin with him poem, for, as we will later see, it could have been an American poem as it manifests poetry’s relationship to a society.

The democracy of inequity and inequality, of worshipping wealth and the rich, of creating a strata of “representatives” instead of looking for them in a neighbor, is an inferno.

Again, the thesis here is partly that democracy in America as it is now is an inferno. The democracy of inequity and inequality, of worshipping wealth and the rich, of creating a strata of “representatives” instead of looking for them in a neighbor, is an inferno.

The following is a dispatch from Cafecito, a cafe in El Sereno, Los Angeles. It is an institution founded to primarily cater to individualities that emerge out of our American democracy as we know it, on the subject of my wanting to explode into otherness as I meant by “I want to explode” and how I cope with our society and democracy.

Sitting in a chair, having consumed, unsatisfied, I am of the opinion, like many who live at the time of a Trump presidency but also of a long list of that I do not accepts, that democracy, the popular vote, does produce beasts and bestiality. In other words, this democracy produces horrors, dark horrors, that one may find as a deep concern in countercultural poems produced by minds plunged in dissenting America. Non apollonian, radical, this poetry manifests our the inferno that is our democracy while also manifesting coping with it, by asserting an individuality, individual experience being the way by which a society can be measured. Beauty amid bourgeois extraction. And so I far from the beast with the poem, generating an alternative condition to the one offered by my democracy.

What is this democracy that is ours, our very own? A democracy practiced ever so often as a vote. Democratic workplaces? Democratic households? Do we give power to the person’s humanity? Do we allow power to all personalities?

I am fourteen
and my skin has betrayed me
the boy I cannot live without
still sucks his thumb
in secret
how come my knees are
always so ashy
what if I die
before morning
and momma's in the bedroom
with the door closed.

Some of these poems are actions, activisms in time of space to yield new ways of inhabiting time and space may it be named socialism or generosity. Like in the activist poem above, I’m scared and hurt because of my observations. It makes observations public, as a public comment.

In other words, the excerpt above, from Audre Lorde’s classic poem “Hanging Fire”, is the product of democracy: melancholy, inequality, insatisfaction with language enough to produce an alter language, all put on display as culture and art. This is a political text, as all texts are. Its subject, however, is the social, which leads directly to the political as a shadow of the social. Lorde’s poem is the enunciation of a perspective found and felt living in a democracy as a shadow of the social: that is how it copes and is political.

How exactly can activist poetry help one cope?

Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine, or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo. And in doing so, you must leave your subjective preoccupation with yourself. Otherwise you impose yourself on the object and do not learn. Your poetry issues of its own accord . . . when you have plunged deep enough into the object to see something like a hidden glimmering there.

The poem above is a haibu. by Basho, the japanese poet. It’s by going to the wording and writing of inferno that you will learn about the inferno, for only knowledge can be a salvation from fear, as most book burning despots know.

Democracy is the ink of every individual letter. Our democracy is the possibility of producing a published poem as a black writer as much as it hasn’t been, as many of us know. I am thinking about legal racism when I think about the poem. It all started with Strom Thurmond’s walking out of the 1948 Democratic Convention with a conviction to do something about Harry Truman’s sort of pushing for civil rights.

Years later, that conviction morphed into a coalition between southern Democrats and conservative mostly midwestern Republicans that led importantly to the Presidential-bility of George Wallace, Strom Thurmond (much less,) Barry Goldwater (that’s the big one,) and the Southern strategy of Richard Nixon appealing to “law and order” and state’s rights, words that had become parts and parcel of dog-whistle politics to get the older, silent majority, white vote.

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Barry Goldwater’s dogmatism led straight to Ronald Reagan and, as historian Sean Wilentz puts it, the emergence of the welfare queen as the new monarch to be stricken down by American conservative politics. From this, as seen through the Willie Horton character in Willie Horton ad against Michael Dukakis, came a stereotype of blacks, that lo and behold, coincided with the crack epidemic and thus the impoverishment of the black community as a larger war on black personality and the black person.

Cut to our times and black kids are killed in the name of “law and order,” and blacks are the privileged who benefit too much from free stuff like affirmative action. The new Jim Crow. It’s continued. I think about what this poem is truly going up against and saying, how to change the condition of the I in that poem. It is agonizing that why happens behind closed doors.

“Law and order”. Few of us go to school to study democracy, or poetry as a manifestation of a societal system. We study politics, in the name of living orderly lives. Is not democracy a practice on itself? Politics is what one does amidst democracy, which in the end makes for a sort of society, a democratic society. We celebrate the men (and too few of the women) who proposed this racehorse, Democracy that is, tamed this horse, but nonetheless stabled our horse and groomed it to participate in war. In that cart, ladies and gentlemen, sitting royally, is often bad news guided by a well fed horse, consumer of better carrots (better than elsewhere.)

The dark depths. We’ve reached the dark depths, as we have before, and they call for the sort of action that regenerates, or that can stop the extraction and the coercion that has led us to this dark depth.

The girl walking home after school, past the gas station and into

The entry of her apartment complex, which extends uphill like old-fashioned los angeles hillside apartments. She is entering the steel security gate that is always open.

The burn-out, boarded-over clapboard old house next door, abandoned for years; now it has ragged holes in the roof.

Franco auto repair next door to that, closed and abandoned, boys have smashed the office door and ransacked the place.

The twins, two sisters talking only to each other, walking home up city terrace drive past the elementary school after school.

Two deaths in two weeks, walking like two legs of death bank and forth across my world. Two legs of death walking across the world.

Sadness of kids walking home after school in the bright wind.

The poem above is “city terrace postcard” by LA poet and activist Sesshu Foster from his new book City of The Future. It is also democracy: written in a democracy, about a democracy. How can you read his poem and not want to do something about the world, or at least scream at the top of your lungs.

I think of LA today, and its potential not to eternally be Antioch, a city of the Antiquities that was the first cultural capital of early Christianity, as LA is of American dissent as praxis, peripheral to Rome (New York City), as historian Jackson Lears describes New York City, if only it would begin to produce a new and large political community out of its diversity, and not police its diversity. I think of humiliation, divestment, disintegration, the need for a battle of Los Angeles. I think of the lack of regeneration on the left and how we fight to reassemble the very same righteous cavalry ever so often.

The poems we write in our democracy, as our democracy, these days are dark, and they have been for some time now. I’d rather read poems about flowers all day. The poet Mahmoud Darwish once said that if he could, he would write poems about flowers all day and night. I want to explode into something new, into a new life form, as an explosion that impacted the world around me as something new, but I cannot. It is as if my biology, anatomy, etc, all are fixed in this democracy of choice and opinion. I am bound to feeling, to hurting, to accepting a past that I would never want for myself.

I have no choice but to live this dark depth, it seems, regardless if I publicly acknowledge it or not. Should that not be a rallying cry for change in America? That democracy does not entirely mean absolute free will.

Adolf Alzuphar

Neighbor, you must fight, as the practice of culture that will come hand in hand with a new practice of democracy.

Adolfo Alzuphar