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‘Law & Order’ by Jerimee Bloemeke

Law & Order

 

Flags are half staff on the Brooklyn Bridge.

It is Veterans Day weekend. I am on the Q train

crossing the Manhattan Bridge. I am reading

Submission by Michel Houellebecq since last week

because I thought it would feel poignant,

and it has felt so, but it nauseates me now

because to be divided into multiple tumultuous times

at once completely fictional, at best speculative, and at worst real…

At Union Square, I climb to street level.

Most of the protesters are gone, but I find a place

to stand next to a police barricade in the southwest

corner of the park, near the bronze Mohandas Gandhi.

I text my friend, smell faint marijuana.

I walk to the Bank of America and withdraw

forty US dollars from an ATM. My friend texts back

to say to head to Trump Tower. I get back

on the Q after just missing the W, now running.

Get off at 57th Street and walk east, turn south

on 5th Avenue from 58th Street. 57th blocked off

by police a block west of Trump Tower.

Onlookers mill about the southeast corner of 56th and 5th

crowded on the sidewalk, the street barricaded.

Three Trump supporters converse in a triangle

wearing Make America Great Again kippahs.

It is reassuring no one else notices them

seeking the best vantage of the empty roads

before us like a series of bridgeless canals

separating our side from the other bank

where the anti-Trump march settled, 55th/5th.

 

Chants, cries, drumbeats, and horns muffled by

the distance between us are carried upward

between the buildings, upward with the steam

swaying from a ventilation pipe in the middle

of the intersection. A bike tire bumps into my shin.

A woman asks can she get around the corner.

I tell her no, it is blocked. She turns and calls out

we have to go around. I look at the buildings

wondering which is Trump Tower, then I look up

Trump Tower on my phone. It looks more modern

than I expected and non finito like it is missing

a piece of it that would click into place

on top of the present structure.

I look up again at the buildings.

I cannot see Trump Tower, and I want to

experience the throng of humanity I sense

on the horizon. I reverse, then east on 58th Street.

Handfuls of people carrying signs

with pertinent mottos push past me

having come from the march, talking

about lunch. On Madison Avenue, down 55th Street,

cops set up a barricade. Protesters appear to stand

 

and chant at passersby it’s her body,

her rights, my body, my rights. What about the unborn

child’s rights someone yells, and someone else yells

read a science book. No one is listening to anyone.

All arguments thus somehow sound valid enough.

Unable to pass to the west here, I continue south.

West on 54th Street, walk in the middle of the road.

5th Avenue is crushed by a surge of people

looking forward, looking north toward

Trump Tower, which I can barely see, its dark tinted glass

reflecting its surroundings like invisibility camo.

I put my arms up and scan the crowd with my phone

recording a video. I recognize this man Nico.

He wears a mint-green hoodie and has a scalp tattoo.

He is a friend of a friend who works for a magazine

and makes techno; who I spoke with at a holiday party

at Gavin Brown’s enterprise art gallery a couple years ago.

He was drinking vodka on ice and told me when

he was younger and went to parties, he would

always steal the spatula and had dozens of them

in a closet in the pool house at his father’s house.

I tap him on the shoulder and say hey.

He nods at me and says hi but does not recognize me.

I am wearing a 3M Thinsulate 40 gram beanie

and Oakley sunglasses with purple polarized lenses.

Enthralled by the scene, the people yelling in the street,

other people come in and out of the sidewalk

 

around the end of a barricade in front of Massimo Dutti.

The sidewalk is less populated than the avenue;

populated by observers more than participants,

people taking pictures of the throng from upon planters,

grabbing little decorative trees for a balanced view,

frantic about being up there, their chance to see

this amount of dissent. I find a planter of my own,

but it is occupied by two others, a man and a woman.

The man with a United Nations lanyard around his neck

points his phone at the protest and broadcasts live on Facebook.

Like, love, wow, sad, and angry emoji reactions

glide across the woman’s face entering the frame on his screen.

She holds a microphone to her mouth, her other hand

holds onto the little decorative tree as she speaks

her language so close to me to describe the scene.

I want to post videos of this moment on Instagram.

I cannot get a good connection on my phone, but I am calm.

That is what is important. Everyone is still chanting.

I stand atop this planter all the livelong day

before I have had enough and want to go

meet my friend who sent me a picture

so I would know where he is, a picture of scaffolding

with a banner that reads: God’s House.

I ask him what he looks like, and he sends a selfie.

No hat, dark hair to one side, Fendi scarf, dark coat.

Night has fallen. Several lights shine in the tower.

 

Is he even up there?

A helicopter at such an altitude

that it cannot be heard below

hangs in the sky.

I see it blinking.

I am humming.

On the 66th floor,

a gold-plated door

can’t keep out

the lord’s burning rain.

 

I am in the middle of 5th Avenue surrounded

by amateur protesters. I wonder if the air is cold tonight.

People are dancing, singing ‘Fuck Trump’.

People happy. On the 2nd floor of the Polo store

employees watch us. The Polo flag flutters in the wind.

Next to it the American flag flutters in the same wind.

My aunt told me protesters burnt an American flag

in New York City when I emailed her a picture of

a swastika spray-painted on a slab of concrete

with the inscription Make America Great Again.

I find my friend. He asks how are you. How is he? He is

with his girlfriend whose birthday was this week.

I wish her happy birthday. She thanks me.

Her mother is in town, and so she leaves.

I ask my friend, who is a PhD candidate

in German Studies at Columbia University,

about the parallels of Trump’s regime

and the Third Reich. He says not sure we can

assess that at this time, early and unaware

of what his plans are, if he will follow through

with his campaign promises. It also depends who

he chooses for his cabinet, your run-of-the-mill

bargain-bin fringe Republicans, CEOs, and Steve Bannon,

whose first post-election interview was an exclusive

he granted to the Hollywood Reporter online,

which makes sense because he is in media

having amassed a fortune via syndication Seinfeld

and is determined to undermine establishment news

by deploying an alternative angling bait, a chum

made of dick chain, Big Van Vader masks,

and satanic feathers geared toward those

who believe that they are disenfranchised

like my father’s golf buddy who jollily refers to himself

as a fat fuck, drinks silver Patrón and reminisces

about psilocybin mushrooms and Grateful Dead shows in Buffalo,

owns a couple macaws, and lives alone in Fort Lauderdale

celebrating the election of Trump. The throng turns

and my friend and I, we are caught in its current.

 

We peel off onto 54th Street and turn south onto Madison,

passing thru the NYPD’s designated protest area checkpoint

and into the unsupervised city ambience.

We walk among others leaving the protest,

some continuing to chant and shake their homemade signs.

As we cross 53rd, more join.

At 52nd, more. 51st, more. Ahead

and behind, the procession grows and spills

into the street, which we take, marching against

traffic stopped as we pass, motorists cheering

and filming us with their phones, flicking us off

with their fingers and telling us to fuck off

or Trump. Emergency lights flash red off

reflective surfaces and into my eyes. The procession

halts at 41st Street like runoff in a drain

clogged by garbage, in this case the NYPD’s

line of militarized Vespas. These giant swans

redirect us to the west, toward the flagship

branch of the New York Public Library at Bryant Park.

A crowd watches us from the library terrace steps

as the Vespa swan cops lead us around the park, east on 42nd,

past the Grace Building’s vert ramp façade, then north on 6th

a couple blocks, west again on 44th

past the National Debt clock. What time is it?

Parking garages with neon arrow signs, multistory

department stores with employees taking a minute

to watch the protest go by, raising a fist or giving

the peace sign, and we respond in kind.

 

Times Square, bright lights and Broadway shows.

Tourists in the enclosure on Military Island on Broadway

mixed with the Uncle Sam panhandlers on stilts

watch the parade of protesters go by, cheer our signs,

and take photographs with their selfie sticks up high.

Others boo us and yell Trump; they are the minority.

Others at crosswalks try to get by and mutter morons

under their breaths, under the night sky lit like day.

These people, enough of them, finally out in the open.

We circle around a block, are again on 6th Avenue

where the swan cops corral stragglers onto the sidewalk

and my friend and I stop on a corner to regroup.

Should we call it a night? The procession seems to have

dispersed. But wait, another wave overtakes us and

we are due south again against traffic on 6th Avenue

passing Bryant Park, the swans flanking us, so we

punch past them over 40th, and they speed ahead

to blockade on 39th. My friend and I are at the front

when we meet them. Another protester directs

the procession onto the sidewalk like an irony

broadcasting his directives through his phone

on Facebook Live to unknown numbers,

facial recognition documenting our features

matching previously uploaded images

of our same faces and connecting the dots,

putting a face to a name.

 

How will we be classified?

Get to 5th, the Avenue of the Americas, and turn south

blocked by the swans onto the sidewalk, my friend

says I have to go, it is my girlfriend’s birthday and

we are going to the ballet. I continue with the protest,

which at this point has tamed, walking down 5th Avenue

on the sidewalk, the swans holding us in at a slow waddle.

A disfigured woman is marching in front of me,

persistently dragging her legs, reminding me of the

unadulterated muse of poetry of my youth, brash

and no bullshit thrashing through puddles, tripping

and falling on her face, being helped up by the arms,

continuing. Then the only thing I can think of is

Trump mocking a handicapped reporter at a rally

immortalized in a Hillary Clinton-approved

attack ad that played during commercial breaks

when I was in South Florida in late September.

I awoke to the tragic death of Jose Fernandez

who said you couldn’t know freedom unless

you never had it. He drove his fishing boat,

called Kaught Looking, into an inlet

early one morning high on cocaine,

playing with time off of Miami Beach.

He was 24 years old, soon to be a father,

and had saved his own mother from drowning

when she fell overboard escaping from Cuba.

They kissed the sand of America, kissing the clay

on the mound Fernandez pitched from at Marlins Park

the day after his death. My mother and I went to the game.

During the Marlins’ first at bat, second baseman

Dee Gordon hit a home run.

He cried as he rounded the bases

 

and later expressed, during the postgame

press conference, that it was the greatest moment

of his life. Humans, capable of magic, at their best

can achieve the unbelievable that makes one a believer…

Giancarlo Stanton’s walkup song that night was ‘Forever Young’,

a remix of the Alphaville version. Do you really want to live forever?

On 16th Street, I peel off from the procession and watch it file

into Union Square counting handfuls of people talking

to one another, no longer chanting, no more signs.

I tally over four hundred souls that were walking behind me.

Probably fifty of the swans congregate near Gandhi.

I enter Taco Bell and order the number seven.

I used to eat these quesadillas in Coral Springs, Fla.,

where I am from, where members of my family

voted for Trump. My aunts are twins and both

certified public accountants. One works for a city

and claims two women who work for her,

who are cousins and have darker skin than her,

take advantage of the system and undermine her

authority, receive undeserved financial benefits

even though earning $50,000 salaries,

drive Mercedes-Benzes, among other things,

and if my aunt were to say anything,

they would lawyer up, citing racial discrimination.

The other works in her husband’s accounting business

and has seen her wealthy clients’ incomes dip

since the passing of the Affordable Care Act

and says to me, who she knows relies on Medicaid

because she’s done my taxes the past three years,

so you got some free insurance, big deal.

All their lives these 50-year-old women

 

voted Democrat, but not this year.

Their younger brother, my uncle, the ex-con,

hates Trump; says a scammer can spot another of his ilk

a mile away. He lives in my late grandmother’s duplex

rent-free because one of my aunts pays the

mortgage and utilities, driving a Cadillac until he crashed it

into a tree, totaling the car and breaking his hip.

He lies in a hospital bed, on Percocet, laughing.

Thumbs up to his friends who bring fried chicken.

When he returns home a week or two later

with a two-iron cane, the insurance check comes in.

He cashes it and blows two grand, cackling,

if I ever make it to Trump Tower, I’m gonna take

loads and loads of laxative and shit all over the place.

My mother is the oldest sibling of the four and

worries herself sick about her brother’s addiction

but thinks his remarks are hilarious, as she, too, despises Trump,

particularly because of what he has done to women.

I have been thinking about this since 11/9.

Wondering, keeping me up at night, if this is the end

of America as I thought of it, when I hoped for an event

before when I knew what that meant, age 12, hoping

for war to realize my heroic intent, and in 2003

watching Shock and Awe on CNN, thinking finally

the time I lived in had a historic moment

that I can trace in my consciousness then,

a world event post-9/11, terror, permanence

inching, however it did, closer to me

and my undeveloped persona, my poor sense

of history, thinking only negligence prevents

change, tracer bullets green lines in night-vision

scenes so impersonal I see now were despicable,

to want death on a hill normal citizens will never

traverse was stupid, and what was wrong with me

was I expected my life to never live up

to my predecessors’. My grandfather

fought in World War II after joining

the navy, age 16, and found himself

in the Pacific Ocean theater

on a destroyer, the USS Laffey,

with his back against a wall

huddling with his best friend

as kamikaze pilots shot at them

and crashed their planes into the ship.

And as the story he told me goes,

a story my mother often retells,

my grandfather looked at his friend

whose head had been blown off,

then looked to the blue smoky sky

and screamed Jesus, save me.

It was not a unique experience.

But would I ever have a story to tell?

Perfection is not singular.

I needed publicity in a utopia.

Wanted to find mine unique,

opportunity to cheer evil

for a chance to root for good.

 

In 2008, Donald Trump suffered a Stone Cold Stunner

after shaving Vince McMahon’s head

after his wrestler, a black athlete named Bobby

Lashley, a name Trump would get wrong

in the lead-up angles to the WrestleMania 23 pay-per-view

hair versus hair match on April Fools’ Day

at Ford Field, where the Lions play, calling him

‘Bobby Langley’, defeated McMahon’s wrestler,

the savage Umaga, whose name means the end,

means the final and most painful part

of the traditional Samoan tattooing process,

a ritual like a billionaire in a squared circle

shaving bald another billionaire, both surrounded

by 80,000 – which is a number the WWE had inflated

by 15,000, an entire arena of attendance;

a number taken as fact, even by the fact-checkers –

complicit, paying witness to a seed being planted.

Seven months later, these citizens would vote for a man

who would ‘bail out’ the backbone of Detroit, Mich.,

the very city in which the seed began to crack

in the spotless mind of a literal star

of reality TV, a walking/talking oxymoron

who for most of the subsequent eight years

would question a certificate of authenticity

of the President of the United States, his legitimacy,

like the bad heel to the hero face, as the first tendril

took root in a wrinkle in the brain,

and the ant begins to flee on a branch

to die away when its mind is blown

and from its head a fungus crown.

 

*

 

One month after the election

I am on the Q train crossing the

Manhattan Bridge into Manhattan, reading this

poem I wrote in an email to myself, the sunset

shining like rose-gold foil behind the brown

Brooklyn Bridge. Get off at the end of the line.

57th Street, west to Marian Goodman Gallery

to see the John Baldessari show Pollock/Benton.

I ride the elevator to the fourth floor, and I am in

a space of typical white walls and gray glaze

floors, images by Baldessari on the walls, couplets

of Pollocks and figurative works of Thomas Hart Benton,

Pollock’s teacher, World War II nipple and Rising Sun,

helmeted soldier with bayonet rifle, Native American

battle scene, and landscape, bodies painted over

with primary colors here and there, overlaid

solid-white rectangles at angles, neutral captions.

I sit on a bench and draw a floor plan of each room

listening to ‘Ghosts’ by Japan: Just when I thought

I could not be stopped / When my chance came to be

king / The ghosts of my life blew wilder than the wind.

I ride the elevator to the ground floor, step outside

into the wind, Bergdorf Goodman across the street,

a giant snowflake suspended over the intersection

of 57th and 5th that I walk toward into a crowd.

A traffic cop holds taut a blue ribbon at the crosswalk.

When the walking man signal alights, he lets it drop.

Masses of people head at each other and bottleneck

on the opposite corner around an NYPD-branded

giant concrete brick into a security checkpoint line

going through a pop-up tent manned by armed guards

inspecting bags and nodding at those without them.

Tiffany & Co. barricades in front of the Tiffany & Co. store

next to Trump Tower, in front of which many people stand

taking pictures of their friends with police officers for hours

aiming the barrels of their combat weapons at the ground.

I look up at the building. It does not look as big as it is.

Is the theme of deception it is always intentional?

The base of the structure about ten stories high,

then the tower aspect narrows like a thin handle.

If you did not look up, you would not notice

its actual volume is hidden in an architectural

optical illusion. Pushing past the elderly, through

revolving doors into the lobby and past another

security-check, the overwhelming gold hues rose

gold through my purple lenses cover the surfaces

disorienting everyone catching a glimpse

of each and every movement in their periphery,

bodies shouldering into each other like in a funhouse

unsure which direction to go in, in or out, up or down

the numerous narrow escalators, climb the Christmas tree,

or get in line to buy Make America Great Again hats

(red with white letters, white with blue, blue with white,

or woodland camouflage with blaze orange)

and fetishize the kitsch fascist aesthetic.

A dining area at the base of a marble waterfall

lights up gold sounds of thin trickling liquid

framed by cheap stringy vines and Niketown signs:

a perverse depiction of the Hanging Gardens.

 

I look at the many people look

and do not touch. Is that all

we are permitted to do?

All-white tourists from the self-

proclaimed flyover country flew

to New York City to see their new

King walk the lobby to his elevator

in his golden Christmas reservoir

up to his pulpit, up to his vast abattoir.

What is that motherfucker up to?

His followers pay their respects,

pay the piper, perhaps, pay the

dearest price, pay with their lives?

The simplest rhetoric of all time appears

to appeal to their greatest fears.

Do they feel safe now, in the end?

The drawbridge is rising

like a guillotine blade.

Who will stick their neck out?

I could fall off any moment

in time an imitation of music.

And this is how it felt, O father,

to be no son.

 

 

Jerimee Bloemeke’s chapbooks include Cosmic Latte (Floating Wolf Quarterly, 2013) and 25¢ CASH (Slim Princess Holdings, 2013), and further poems of his have been published by Artifice, The Claudius App, Company, Hinchas de Poesia, The Iowa Review, jubilat, LIT, and Novembre Magazine. He holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He resides in Brooklyn, NY. 

 

 

Image credit: .christoph.G.

One thought on “‘Law & Order’ by Jerimee Bloemeke

  1. Wow, tears flowed from my eyes! As I read this poem sitting in my rocking chair in front of the tv at 7:45 pm 12017 waiting for him to show up at his ball. Ronald Reagan ‘s son just spoke on msnbc hard ball. Empty bleachers are being shown along the parade route earlier and tractors! Huh? Loved the poem made be think, love my son! Be safe and safe healthy XO MOM?

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