poem 6

I’m high and drunk and listening to sub                                                                     cathedral and trying to type while the keyboard is                                                      spinning do you know what this                                                                                     means do you know this                                                                                                 means that i’ll have to be                                                                                                  more focused on this experience than i’ve ever

been                                                                                                                                    and you know I see and i                                                                                                   have not forgotten all of the other                                                                                         but have I forgotten or have I                                                                                           nearly forgotten to add the I                                                                                                   to add the capitalization                                                                                                         to the letter i                                                                                                                       have gone deliberately back to                                                                                     change the i for the I for                                                                                                            i am not what’s important here but                                                                                         is it changing them to                                                                                                              is it changing them to                                                                                                              is it changing them too                                                                                                          I’m too fucked up by this music to notice too                                                                fucked up by this music too notice too                                                                                too fucked up by this experience to process too                                                                 too fucked up by you and your willingness too so easily take me there too the darkest parts of myself to feed me in a way i’ve never been                                                           you know the rest you know i’m scared too                                                                     share my full heart with you but you force                                                                            me too sir so that the part of me that gets discarded is not just my                      prudishness sir but also my fear sir and also my fear                                                            of pain sir and of losing control sir of the course of my life                                                    sir and how much I loved your poem of me sir but yes I was thinking                                   in my head sir of telling you I love you thank you sir and oh how I oh how I oh how I       don’t know the answer sir and oh that                                                                               gets me oh excited sir and I can’t                                                                             remember what we’re talking about                                                                                      sir I only know that the voice inside of me is thundering and                                            silent and still now sir like it’s                                                                                         holding                                                                                                                           holding it’s breath like a kid in a                                                                                      tunnel who can’t see the peek of the                                                                            daylight outside and i                                                                                                        can’t see shit right now except black swirling on white because I                                     drank too much and I’m                                                                                                   going to lie down before I throw up.

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Poem 4

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessowen/

Photo by flickr user Jessie Owen

I never talk about the blood.

No,                                                                                                                                actually                                                                                                                                     I never talk about any of it.

Usually the word is enough                                                                                                    to shut people up.                                                                                                                  It’s a powerful                                                                                                                    scary                                                                                                                                 word.

I tell men the word                                                                                                            when I have to                                                                                                                though I’ve learned to soften it                                                                                              use substitutes                                                                                                                      like assault                                                                                                                              or trauma                                                                                                                          things where you get the idea.                                                                                                  I say it once and move on                                                                                              because after all it’s                                                                                                             over                                                                                                                                    done                                                                                                                                     past                                                                                                                                     gone

I’ve processed it all already.

But still                                                                                                                      sometimes                                                                                                                                 I think about the blood.

blood                                                                                                                                  blood                                                                                                                                                                              blood                                                                                                                                                                                 blood                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         blood                                                                                                                                                                    BLOOD

slick on my thighs                                                                                                               how did I not fucking notice                                                                                                was I really that drunk                                                                                                         was I really that fucked up                                                                                                 what did I think that slick slippery feeling was                                                                     did I think I was wet                                                                                                             did I think anything at all besides                                                                                           no                                                                                                                                         and the pressure on my neck and                                                                                       don’t come inside me

he didn’t come inside me                                                                                                         I wouldn’t do that baby,” he said

it was crusted under my fingernails                                                                                         in the morning                                                                                                                      and that blue camp chair                                                                                                      was soaked in it                                                                                                                    and the white cuffs                                                                                                                 of my pull over sweatshirt                                                                                                    that said “Berkeley” in big pink letters                                                                               were stained brown

and I don’t even want to tell you                                                                                       about his friend                                                                                                                    and his open                                                                                                                 gawking                                                                                                                          disgust                                                                                                                                     at me

Rose and I threw the chair in the dumpster                                                                          and went down to the beach                                                                                                and drank tecate on the sand                                                                                                and I swam

All I had wanted to do                                                                                                         was swim naked in the river under starlight                                                                         and get a piggy back ride                                                                                                     and laugh and squeal and kiss

And my mom had yelled                                                                                                      that I was going to get raped                                                                                                and my uncle had likened it                                                                                                    to walking through east LA with wad of cash                                                              bursting through his back pocket                                                                                           for two girls                                                                                                                            to be in the woods

Was I really that much of a commodity?                                                                                 in birkenstocks and sweatpants                                                                                            and short choppy hair

they were right though                                                                                                           so I never told them                                                                                                              and I still never have                                                                                                     because what would be the point                                                                                            of that

what really                                                                                                                       would be the point                                                                                                                  of that

john

he                                                                                                                              (probably)                                                                                                                       doesn’t know                                                                                                                        that he raped me

He thought I wanted it                                                                                                         that all those whispered “no”s                                                                                            were just soft banter                                                                                                                to be knocked aside                                                                                                                  I was coming on to him after all                                                                                              at first

He asked me if I came.                                                                                                             I didn’t.

If I saw him in the street                                                                                                           I wouldn’t recognize him                                                                                                          I wouldn’t want to confront him                                                                                               I wouldn’t even be mad                                                                                                            I would just want to find a quiet                                                                                      private place                                                                                                                            to vomit.

I’ve never been mad at him.                                                                                                 I’ve never been mad at anyone                                                                                        except myself

It’s six months later and                                                                                                         my boyfriend grabs my face below my chin                                                                        and hugs my body tight from behind with his arm                                                               and tells me to be quiet                                                                                                         and I collapse into weeping and shaking

I dumped his ass.

It’s three years later and                                                                                                              I just did mushrooms yesterday for my birthday                                                                  and splashed around in puddles in the rain                                                                           and my boyfriend and I are cuddled on the couch                                                                  in pajamas with ice cream                                                                                           watching a movie                                                                                                                 and the screen turns black                                                                                                    and you just hear her crying                                                                                                 and I break                                                                                                                           like a cracked piece of glass                                                                                           holding a damned ocean                                                                                                      and I sob out loud, uncontrollably                                                                                          as he holds me                                                                                                                      and shushes me                                                                                                                    and tells me it’s alright                                                                                                          and that he’s here                                                                                                                  and it’s okay                                                                                                                        until I stop shaking                                                                                                               and we go to bed                                                                                                                  and he reads the hobbit out loud                                                                                         with funny voices                                                                                                               until I’m ready to sleep

years later we fight over                                                                                                       him still wanting me to finish that movie

It’s six years later and                                                                                                            six fucking years.                                                                                                                  my lover                                                                                                                                      (who is reading this                                                                                                                           hi zach )                                                                                                                              gave me a book                                                                                                                      on practicing Tao                                                                                                                 and I’m breathing out                                                                                                          with my hands over my ovaries                                                                                              to expel sexual pain                                                                                                              and all that blood                                                                                                              jumps up into my eyes.

And then I breath in                                                                                                         power                                                                                                                                   and all my body fills with words                                                                                          that lift me up                                                                                                                       half out of myself.

And I don’t want your pity                                                                                                     or empathy                                                                                                                              or fucking facebook posts                                                                                                   your simplistic little memes                                                                                                    on what causes rape                                                                                                                is rapists

take your jezebel links                                                                                                          and shove them

all I want                                                                                                                                 is a spray can full of blood                                                                                                      to paint my shame on a concrete wall                                                                                 then smash it down                                                                                                              and light it on fire                                                                                                                 and throw the pieces into an audience                                                                                    of slam poets snapping their fingers                                                                                        in approval                                                                                                                              of my articulated                                                                                                                 self-disgust

and screamshriek–BLOOOOOOOOD–into a microphone                                                until you shut up                                                                                                                  and just feel fucking uncomfortable                                                                                     and all the people like me                                                                                                      get their ptsd triggered                                                                                                          and start shaking and crying                                                                                                   in their auditorium seats

not because I want to hurt them                                                                                            but just because                                                                                                                        I want to rip away our ability to hide                                                                                      so that you are finally forced to                                                                                             see us                                                                                                                                     all

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Poem 3

IMG_1345

You are not what you thought you were                                                                              and                                                                                                                                                                                                       

                thank god                                                                                                                          not what you thought you wanted to be

you are much larger                                                                                                       messier                                                                                                                          bloodier                                                                                                                       perverted

they lied to your mother                                                                                                       and when you watched her fail                                                                                               to meet her pinched and stifled dreams                                                                                you thought you could do better                                                                                            do it right                                                                                                                           climb to the top of the porch                                                                                                and sit                                                                                                                                   and sit                                                                                                                                   and sit

middle class white woman hood                                                                                             is a bloodsucker

you are something unknown

a cumlicker                                                                                                                        angel                                                                                                                                witch,                                                                                                                                 from when it was a thing of                                                                                               terror

a boy in a raccoon cap                                                                                                        buys you food and                                                                                                          escorts you through the tenderloin                                                                                          to the midnight bus

a trembling man on that bus                                                                                             alights at the wrong station                                                                                                     to hear you pronounce Melville

and old hippy says you are magnificent                                                                               and can’t believe that you aren’t owned                                                                                 by at least one of those boys on the stage                                                                             but                                                                                                                                          oh                                                                                                                                        how                                                                                                                           exquisitely                                                                                                                            you                                                                                                                                    aren’t

you pull each in so elegantly                                                                                                that they think they are coming onto you                                                                             that their kisses and cocks and finger fucks aren’t a                                                    conscious seduction                                                                                                                in your deliberately beautiful life

you’ve tapped a power                                                                                                    you’ve been sleeping on

after seeing your mother explode in                                                                            weeping, screaming, strangulation                                                                                       you cramped your elbows inside                                                                                            of the box you built to fit into                                                                                                the first lazy white boy to buy you a burrito                                                                         and warm your bed every night

you don’t even fucking like burritos

but it was safe and warm inside that                                                                                  small dark place                                                                                                                   

and you hated yourself for not being happy                                                                     wasn’t that the point?                                                                                                              of getting what you wanted

but cramping your soul never                                                                                              ever                                                                                                                                  makes you lovable

so when you were betrayed                                                                                                how you screamed and ripped                                                                                             and threatened fire                                                                                                               you loaded guns into a trunk                                                                                                and learned how to use them                                                                                               you sprinkled ashes full of bad magic                                                                                     in places they couldn’t be found                                                                                           you frightened away sensible people                                                                                  who you really don’t give a shit about anyway

you are not who you thought you were                                                                               and                                                                                                                                                       

               thank         fucking            god                                                                               not who you thought you wanted to be

this is what Mrs. Pontellier                                                                                                   and a hundred thousand others                                                                                    drowned for

you are not powerful                                                                                                            you are                                                                                                                            power. 

poem 2

Photo by flickr user Ben Watts

Photo by flickr user Ben Watts

Is this what you were thinking                                                                                         when you wrote about being fucked                                                                                    like you want to be fucked?”                                                                                           Yes.”                                                                                                                           What?”                                                                                                                            Yes, sir.”                                                                                                                        Good girl.”

hair pulled up                                                                                                                       toes curled                                                                                                                        mouth in my ear

If you wanna play this game,                                                                                          here’s how this is going to work.                                                                                        You say the safe word and everything stops.                                                                       We put our clothes back on.                                                                                                 We go eat dinner.                                                                                                                 But if you don’t say the safe word,                                                                                           I own you.”

cocooned inside walls of scraped wood                                                                               and everyone outside                                                                                                    sleeping on camper pads over concrete floors                                                                      can hear us

First rule                                                                                                                          every word that comes out of your mouth                                                                          ends in sir.                                                                                                                            Do you understand?”                                                                                                        Yes, sir.”                                                                                                                       Good.                                                                                                                           

Second rule                                                                                                                          you don’t come without my permission.                                                                             And if you do”                                                                                                                         –I can hear him smile–                                                                                                        I’ll beat the shit out of you.”

tomorrow at the restaurant I won’t be able to think                                                                I’ll be holding on to the bathroom stall                                                                         breathing in gulps                                                                                                             trying not to scream

I read that poem of yours                                                                                                      on the internet,                                                                                                                     and I wondered who she was                                                                                               that wrote that                                                                                                                      and how she wanted to be fucked.                                                                                      And then I saw you in my living room                                                                                and I knew.                                                                                                                           Do you know how I knew, Lorena?”                                                                             How, sir?”                                                                                                                 Because I’m a dom,                                                                                                            and I can recognize little sluts like you.”

I say the hours out loud under my breath                                                                            until I’m supposed to be there                                                                                                 in stockings and eye liner                                                                                                    four hours and twenty minutes                                                                                            four hours and twenty minutes                                                                                           three hours and ten minutes                                                                                                three hours and ten minutes                                                                                                     at two hours I’m shaking                                                                                                           I can’t eat                                                                                                                                  I almost vomit the food I swallow                                                                                         my co-workers see my desperation                                                                                      and think I want to go home because I’m tired

Twelve minutes.                                                                                                            You’re twelve minutes late.                                                                                                How many times should I punish you for each minute?”                                                         –I’m laughing but I don’t answer–                                                                                   Turn around.                                                                                                                           I want you to count these out.”

outside there’s a band playing                                                                                              and a boy listening to everything                                                                                          but I can’t tell you who he is                                                                                                   or why he matters                                                                                                                     I scream into the blankets                                                                                                       so he can’t hear me                                                                                                                but really I get off on knowing that he can

What number are we on?”                                                                                             Ten.”                                                                                                                              What number are we on?”                                                                                       Twelve.”                                                                                                                        What number are we on?”                                                                                         Twenty-four.”                                                                                                                What was that?”                                                                                                        Twenty-four, sir.”                                                                                                                  I can’t hear you.”                                                                                                       Twenty-four! sir.”                                                                                                         That’s two for each minute.                                                                                         Because this is your first time,                                                                                              I’m going to go easy on you.                                                                                              Next time it will be five, then ten.                                                                                       You don’t want to know what happens                                                                                   if you’re late more than three times.”                                                                                                                                                                      

when it’s over there’s cigarettes                                                                                               in the back yard                                                                                                                    and wind blowing up                                                                                                       leaves and paper and bits of trash                                                                                  swirling up underneath a streetlight

I wrote my letter to Marie                                                                                                         I wrote it and gave it over today                                                                                             to the woman who put a white postage stamp                                                                    over my marbled yellow paper

Now all I can do is wait. 

It was still summertime.

Image

It was still summertime.

There wasn’t much left, but there was enough. I had gotten the mustang out of storage the week before and Javier’s stepdad had fixed it up so that engine rumbled and roared smoother than before. I wanted to see the river and the mountains and feel that nice dry heat before it was swallowed up by winter. I scoured my drawers for things to wear. I pulled a plaid button up out of my mom’s closet and sewed a button on it. I put on my yellow Malaysian wedge heels and the tight Spanish jeans I had bought in Bangkok. I left at noon without any breakfast in my stomach.

It was warm driving across the bridge, across the Richmond bridge with that sparkling blue water towards the sun and mountains and that surging feeling of optimism. Avery and I used to make this trip every other week. I would sit in the passengers seat with my feet up on the glovebox and pass a bowl back and forth between us. We’d be listening to Akron Family or Dan Deacon or something weird and noisy. I never got a say, though I liked most of it.

Janelle Monae was playing on my stereo. It was a week before the Electric Lady dropped, so I was listening to The Archandroid and wondering why it had taken me so long to download this album. There was still a load of traffic to make it through in Marin, but once you hit that greenbelt at the end of the narrows, where the marsh opens up into hills and fields and there’s that one little dip in the valley belted on either side with cows, that’s when you’re in Sonoma County.

Petaluma is a bridge and a hill that cuts out on the west side and makes you leap your eyes over to look on the glittering suburbs in the valley. There’s the pumpkin patch and the weird giant golf net. You don’t notice Cotati. Rhonert Park is a cluster fuck of traffic. And then you hit Santa Rosa.

It had felt weird at first not to get off at that southern exit. To turn left over the bridge and into the old rural part of town where Avery’s parents house sat at the end of a road with no sidewalks. We had lived in that house together when my lease ran out halfway through my second semester at Berkeley. The commuting sucked. But I grew accustomed to family dinner at 6, cut up pieces of fruit in a bowl on the dining room table, eggs for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch, filling one half of the double sink with soapy water to do dishes, smoking weed in the music studio partitioned off of the garage. On holidays his sister would come down from Davis and his dad would join us in the studio. His mother put floss in all of our Christmas stockings and told us Santa said it was the best kind.

I took the downtown exit and went down third street. I knew where I was going, but I wasn’t entirely sure how to get there–that spot in front of grocery outlet where two main roads merge into one, just around the corner from where I used to go to therapy. Was it down or up from that office?

I hit fourth street and missed the turn off. I made a U-turn in front of the burger joint across from Will’s picket fence neighborhood where Carson and I used to split onion rings when we were supposed to be working. It was hot in the parking lot. Almost too hot for my tight jeans and tucked in shirt. The house was a dilapidated old victorian standing stark in a landscape of parking lots and squat, square business buildings. I walked in without bothering to knock. Some dude in a afro mohawk with his shirt off waved at me. I said “hey” and walked up the stairs. The door to his room was open.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

.

.

We went to the Jewish cafe downtown for lunch. I don’t remember what we said to each other, some kind of silly banter. Some kind of funny bullshit. I told him about Thailand mostly. He asked questions, proposed little problems in his mind he’d been thinking on and asked for my opinion, shook his head when I gave it and presented counter arguments. We got two ten-cent peppermints out of a jar when we went to pay the bill. The old woman behind the register didn’t charge us for them. She never has.

We took my car, because fucking of course. He’s had no towels though we stopped in to grab some from his ma’s house.

“Oh hi!” she said to me, all bright eyed and smiling.

“Hi.”

“Lorena was in Thailand all last year,” he told her.

“Oh really.”

“Yeah, my dad lives there now, in Bangkok.”

“Really, we were wondering where he went.”

“Yeah, he retired early so he could move out there.”

“That is so cool. What a smart idea to retire in Thailand. James and I want to start traveling now that we’re both out of school.”

“Ma, Lorena sent me letters from Thailand.”

“Did you write back?”

“No.”

I laughed. “No one did.”

We played two games of pool, a regular game and a game of 1-15. We both got stuck forever on the 3 ball. It wasn’t not until he left for the bathroom that I sunk balls 3, 4 and 5. He didn’t believe me when he got back.

He told me he’s seeing a girl with a masters degree. Shit got snarky from there on. I dug into every slip in his grammar, every big word he mispronounced. He coughed and commented on my cleavage under his breath.

.

.

“I want twins.”

I jumped off the deep end and shrilled a bit at the water when I came up. He wouldn’t get in but stood on the edge of the pool watching me. He walked down alongside me while I swam to the shallow end.

“Good luck with that,” I said.

“It runs in your family. I’ve got twin cousins somewhere on my ma’s side.”

“Well, none of my family that I know of has twins. Wait, I got twin cousins. Ah, nevermind, they’re not blood related.”

“You making a case?”

“Pffffff.”

“You know what I want to name my daughter?” I say.

“What?”

“Josephine.”

“Huh, that’s not pretentious.”

“I think it’s beautiful.”

“How’d you come up with that?”

“I heard it once and I thought it was pretty.”

I really heard it on Downtown Abbey when the earl reads Josephine Mary Crawly’s engagement in the newspaper. But I wasn’t going to tell him that. He hates British romance.

“I don’t know what I’d name the boys though,” I added.

“Come with me into the hottub.”

It wasn’t quite cold enough to be in the jacuzzi. But it felt good anyway. We sat near the step and hung out until the the kid and his parent sitting across from us left and an older lady came by to turn on the jets and soak her feet. I laid out my back and gave him a bunch of flack for getting fat.

“You look like J——–.”

“You know what Lorena. Nobody likes you. Did you know that? Everyone just called me right now and told me.”

I laughed. “I’m sorry but you do.”

“No come on, I’m not that bad. That guy got fat.”

“No, you look like him at 19, that’s not that bad. You’re just on the way, that’s all.”

“Oh, thanks. Well shit that’ll motivate me to get in shape.”

“Oh! You should get a picture of J—— shirtless and tape it next to your mirror so you see it every morning and it will motivate you.”

“Shut up.”

.

.

“Do you want to meet Julie?”

“Not really.”

We were back at his place and the sun had set. He led me towards her anyway.

“We’re meeting her in a parking lot?”

“Yeah we can’t really hang in the house.”

“Why’s that?”

“She was kinda dating my roommate.”

“Are you fucking serious?”

“Yeah, she broke up with him a few weeks ago, but he’s really broken up about it.”

“How long were they together for?”

“Like 3 months.”

“Well, that’s not that bad. That’s trial period. But still.”

“There she is.”

Some platinum blonde with mermaid hair and a so-cal accent was sitting in a car with mohawk kid in the parking lot of Grocery Outlet. We said “hi,” and shook hands. The meeting didn’t last long. We left them there and walked back to his house and up the stairs to his room.

We sat on chairs across from each other, just talking. Another friend I had planned to meet up with called and cancelled our plans. Carlos texted back and forth with Julie but I don’t know what they said. He talked about going to a bar but then changed his mind. I asked if there was anything to drink at his and he shrugged and said there was some whiskey in the freezer.

“We’re not sleeping together,” he said.

He bored his finger at me and slipped the door shut before I could say shit. I started to get up and dropped back down in a huff.

He come back with two glasses and a mostly empty bottle. Things got slowed down and awkward from there. Gaps lay out in the conversation. I waited till the glass of whiskey was gone and told him I should probably go home. I asked him if I could smoke a cigarette on his porch so I can get smell of booze out of my mouth.

“Yeah, of course.”

“Will you sit with me while I smoke it?”

“Sure.”

“Alright, I’m gonna go to the bathroom and then I’ll go.”

The bathroom was cold and dirty. I took my time washing my hands and my face in the sink. I thought about the poem I wanted to write about the last time I was in here and Carlos was standing on the other side of the door, filling up the frame, waiting to in the hallway for me to open the door. I remember the relief I felt back then when I heard that knock. How I took my time washing my hands, fixing my hair.

            Check your hands

            Is this real?

            Yes, it is

I had opened the door to him looming over me.

“You know what you and I have isn’t the same as what Rose and I had, but she’s got to think that, okay.”

Have. Did he say “have” or “had”? It probably doesn’t matter now.

I went into his room and grabbed my purse and stood up to leave.

He stood up from the bed.

“You know smoking is bad for you right?”

“And?”

“I’m concerned about your health.”

“Are you?”

He walked around and shut the bedroom door behind me.

Zachary Greer Can’t Stop Painting the Apocalypse

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Zachary Seth Greer was raised in a conservative Christian home in Texas, where the apocalyptic imagery of the book of Revelations captured his imagination as he witnessed open countryside transform into abandoned suburbs during the boom and bust of the housing market. After being homeschooled through elementary school and discovering the concept of evolution in junior high, Zach attended the University of Texas in Arlington to study architecture. But he ended up spending his hours in the art studios instead, developing himself artistically while opening up his mind to a more intricate world beyond that of Christian idealism. When financial difficulties prevented him from finishing his degree he packed up and moved out to California. Since then Zach has taught art to children with developmental disabilities, built a venue and community center in his West Oakland home, Trees, and created a series of paintings on display now at Blackball Universe. Last week I hung out with Zach while he painted the walls for his installation and talked to him about innocence, the apocalypse, and Oakland post-Occupy movement.

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Zach painting one of the walls at Blackball

When did you start on this series?

It’s been a year, year and a half in the making.

And was there a particular moment or a turning point that made you start on these paintings?

It was just after Occupy Oakland and dealing with all of the trauma and height of human experience. There was lot of amazing community building and also a lot of violent oppression happening. So the ideas started from processing those experiences and have been evolving for a long time. I’ve always been obsessed with apocalypse and what I witnessed with Occupy and continue to see with war, natural disasters, surveillance, and government control– that reminded me of the Christian imagery from my childhood for the signs of the end times and really resonated with me.

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Tell me about Occupy.

October 25th, 2011, after OPD raided the camp for the first time I went down to support the retaking of the plaza, and I was standing right behind Iraq war veteran Scott Olson when an officer shot him in the head with a bean bag round, which is filled with metal pellets. There were tear gas canisters exploding everywhere, people were scattering–it was total chaos. And I turned around and looked back and Scott was on the ground. (I didn’t know him at the time but I had seen him standing there in his uniform; he was with Veterans for Peace.) I was one of the people who ran in to try to help him once we realized that police were not going to give any aid, so we all ran in to try to help him and an officer threw a flash bang at us and it bounced off of Scott and blew up on my leg.

Whoa.

So that moment radicalized me, and it was the first time I had experienced first hand any kind of militaristic police oppression. After that the next six months of Occupy Oakland were just highs and lows with dealing with that sort of oppression and understanding how communities become marginalized for their beliefs.

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What were the highs and what were the lows?

The highs were the extent of human cooperation that occurred, and the lows were the experiences of oppression against that positivity.

So was October 26th your first experience of Occupy?

No, I had stopped in a few times before, saw all of the beautiful things that were happening–people being feed, housed, clothed; there were mental health facilities and many more positive things–direct democracy. But when I heard of how violently the encampment had been evicted by the city of Oakland I was enraged. I felt a fire in my belly. Once I made it to the library, which was the point of convergence, I could just smell the revolution ripe in the air.

What made you so angry?

That something so constructive could be so violently destroyed, that love would be met with such hate.

_MG_5491How did your involvement change after that day?

There was a point of tangential shift, I reached a point where I could go this way or that way. Except I didn’t really feel like I had an option. It was fate or something like it, some sort of gravity pulling me towards a great uprising. Being on the right side of history was something that was being tossed around a lot. And I felt that. That little community, as imperfect as it was, was an example of how things could function on a larger scale if given a chance. I was in it, after that.

Tell me a bit more about that tangential shift. 

It could have been passivity and turning a blind eye to the present events or to be actively involved–being the change I wish to see in the world. There’s critiquing and then there’s actually building something, participating in how I want to see the world operate.

The experience with Occupy also taught me how the complacency of privileged communities is in itself oppressive. To be complacent in a place of privilege is a form of violence.

Disaster-Knows-Boundaries-of-None-(Web)

Disaster Knows Boundaries of None

You grew up in Texas, so can you tell me about that. How is that different from being here and what kind of perspective does that give you?

Well I came to Oakland for the freedom of expression and I came here for the support in being able to pursue art, but I feel like living in Texas has taught me a lot about what I care about and what I am working against. Growing up in a pretty small town I saw basically country, wide open spaces when we moved there when I was a little bitty kid, and then we saw the housing market boom and then crash a couple years later. So all of the fields and all of the open spaces I played in disappeared and suddenly there were all these houses and properties, and I couldn’t go to all those places I had freely roamed before, which is just a bit of stripping away of innocence. And I feel like a lot of my art since then has come from that in some way. I keep returning to the innocence of children because it makes the most sense in my paintings for me and these playgrounds, these things that are taken away and destroyed.

And just suddenly not only were these natural playgrounds taken away but then all the houses were emptied. All of these neighborhoods that were just empty neighborhoods with nothing there. It’s really interesting how we run things through these imaginary systems of economics and growth.

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Who are the children in the paintings? Is that us or the younger generation?

It’s representative of the younger generation. I work with kids so I feel for them and I love the youth and their energy. I’m a bit concerned about their future, so I’m trying to bring it to light in the paintings with these kind of suburban landscapes to show that no one is immune from natural disasters and war.

It seems like the kids are never seeing or interacting with the negative forces in the paintings. Why is that?

Well I like the idea of their neutrality and playing and interacting with these scenes in a way that’s kind of introspective with looming desire. As adults we go to school and we learn all these preconceptions about the world but kids you know, all they want to do is play.

So they’re playing in the midst of this world.

Yeah. There’s a glimmer of hope in there, you know. It can’t all be awful.

_MG_5709The ominous presences in the paintings are depersonalized in a way, especially in “Uncertainty on a Day like the Future,” it’s just that dark void, so can you tell me about that?

About that one in particular?

Or just on the expressions of darkness in the paintings being this kind of—not like a kind of person or a villain or anything that you can particularly pinpoint—know what I’m saying?

Yeah, It’s just kind of an overarching, looming . . . doom.

Yeah.

That one—Uncertainty on a Day like the Future—was originally a print that was simpler, it was this big lake monster rising up and it was called “Uncertain Bravery.” And the girl is standing in front of something like the present state of our world, all of our governments, and societal problems. All of those things make up this monster and she’s figuring out how to face it, and of course there’s gonna be a little bit of uncertainty but you gotta shine through and try to make something good in spite of it.

Uncertainty on a Day Like the Future

Uncertainty on a Day Like the Future

And then colors. You really love this blue. You have this blue repeated over and over. Where did that come from?

Well I can’t afford many paints. (laughs) But I like the cyan magenta yellow sort of combo–that digital sort of feel, and there’s that 3d effect that you get with the red and the blue that I’ve always liked. I always looked at those 3d books when I was a kid where you wear the glasses. And red and blue just vibrate together really well. It’s hot and cold; it’s just these chromatic contrasts that help express the dichotomies in the paintings.

It’s interesting that there’s this dark tone to the paintings and yet the colors are just whimsical in how vivid they are and how bright they are.

I like dichotomy and contrast and all of that goes in with the subject matter, but just visually I find brighter colors more pleasing.

So I’m wondering, is there a line between art as a personal expression and protest art?

It’s a blurry line. I mean it’s definitely personal introspection and processing ideas and kind of finding the problem, and then going back to history and using art history and history of our world with government and collapse and all of those things, just putting them all together, meshing them. I like to work with collage whether it be physical or digital collage, just throwing all of these random images together and somehow making them work. I’m inspired and influenced by everything around me.

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With “Nesting in the Void”–did you see that movie Holy Mountain?

Yeah

Was there any correlation between that scene and the painting?

It’s possible, I don’t think I was thinking about it at the time but that’s a very strong movie full of imagery.

That image has just always stuck with me–with the student getting shot and all the birds flying out. 

Living in Oakland and dealing with violence, I wanted to portray that idea symbolically.  I wanted this idea of something moving through the body, kind of a beautiful transformation coming through the other side.

Nesting in the Void

Nesting in the Void

So do you think the paintings are ultimately hopeful?

I think so, I think they’re just contemplative, and hopefully anyone who has a heart for the youth and for children will gain something from it and want to try to do something more positive for the future and help future generations.

You went to Central America recently. What was that like?

It was really rad, cause it was right after Occupy had been squashed by the police. To get a richer history of US involvement down there was personally enriching. Talking to locals and people who had been refugees during the Guatemalan war and Contra wars, getting this history of revolt and insurrection after seeing a sort of naive movement fall short. Occupy was great in it’s idealism but no one has really dealt with that sort of thing here in the states.

_MG_5760You mean oppression?

Yeah, I mean not on the same level. People haven’t had to escape the country and be refugees, so getting that depth of those ancient cultures and their struggles, and going to all the Mayan sites was so rich. So I feel like that was an expansion of my own consciousness.

Did it influence your perspective of what our future might be like?

Definitely, I heard stories about how our government has treated people down there. The US has treated countries so badly and it makes me feel a little bit of blood on my hands–a little bit guilty, like ‘I’m sorry our government did that to you.’

I guess seeing those past historical things and seeing Occupy get treated similarly–there was no respect for free speech or the right to gather and organize, so it was very eye opening to realize that the American government has been such an aggressive and violent regime through history.

The-Great-Divide-Between-Here-and-'There'

The Great Divide Between Here and There

Why is the apocalypse such a strong theme in your work?

I try to paint other things but I can’t seem to get over the apocalypse. It just comes natural. I try not to fight myself on what I want to paint.

Plus I feel like we’re in it. All the things that are happening with natural disasters and poison in the water. It feels relevant. Plus it’s better than painting still life. It’s more exciting.

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In addition to painting, Zach is also founding special needs art and music program called S.N.A.P.S. –Special Needs Activities Professionals. Keep an eye out for more news on S.N.A.P.S. in the future.

Zach’s paintings and the rest of his installation are on display now at the Blackball Universe gallery in Oakland near Jack London Square for the rest of October. You can see his art on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 to 5. Be sure to come out in your best costume on Friday the 18th for Blackball’s Halloween art party–Blacula’s Ball. I’ll be there and it’s probably gonna get crazy.

You can view more of Zach’s artwork and find out about future projects at zacharysethgreer.com

All the installation photos were taken by Zoe Ceja, who is awesome.

Poem 1

Photo by Flickr user Project 404

Photo by Flickr user Project 404

I’ve been binge watching mad men since I woke up this afternoon                                                   when I get to the end of season one I’ll go out and buy cigarettes                                      and then start working                                                                                                          my mom will fall asleep on the couch                                                                                     in the big glow of step-dad’s sports shows                                                                       He’s Indian, so he watches the world cup games

 I still haven’t sent her my letter

 I took a shower after dark with my glasses off                                                          everything close to my eyes looks magnified                                                                       like my hair swirling as I flip it over to rub the conditioner in                                                  all the wet hairs on my arm stand up                                                                                  and the rolls in my belly look so plain                                                                                   my limbs such large and naked things

I am exceptionally beautiful                                                                                                      I know

I can’t leave at night without finding someone who wants to kiss me                                      I go home and masturbate twice                                                                                 wondering what it would be like to find someone who would fuck me                                like I really want to be fucked                                                                                                   I come harder when I don’t watch porn                                                                          because it takes longer

No one wants to read this

I have so many years to make hard work and luck and magic happen                                 and I wonder how much longer I’ll have to live at my mom’s                                          waiting tables and schooling teenagers                                                                        making up excuses to delay an interview                                                                              so I can get stoned and think                                                                                                really think:

What can I do to make this better?                                                                                   What can I do that will be different from anything done before?                                      What is it that I have to say?                                                                                              Who do I want to say it to?

I always get stoned on the beach at night                                                                           you can see San Francisco across the water                                                                        as clear and sparkling as a christmas tiny town                                                                   and I find that speaking terrifies me                                                                                     this is the agony and the sweat

Marie I burned that tree of friendship that we drew together                                              but I kept your portrait of me with the tiger skin over my head                                            and I kept the affirmation apple                                                                                           and I’m sorry

Carlos I love you so hopelessly                                                                                           that I’m angry at you all the time                                                                                             for rendering me powerless                                                                                                and I suspect that you’ll make a mistake                                                                            and wait too long

At midnight the house is still                                                                                                 but I still wait an hour to begin                                                                                                   I arrange all my words into little boxes                                                                                  on the glowing white box that I live inside of

This is not an ending.