Robber Fly

This entry is part 15 of 40 in the series Pandemic Year


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All around the world, jubilant crowds are pulling down statues or, barring that, smashing off their heads. Confederate generals must be relieved not to continue in a pantomime of victory they never knew. And imagine the ecstasy of a slaver thrown in the sea, which erases all debts!

I find a key in my sleep, but it’s not clear what it opens. An ornamental, patriotic heart? The moon’s blue twin? I was born without language, but somehow I already had a name—one so heavy I couldn’t stand up for more than a year. Those I inherited it from once ran a plantation on stolen labor, brutalized bodies, shattered lives. I imagine us all joined like knots in one net.

robber fly
too many legs
to walk


Process notes

This was hard to make, and to be honest, I’m still not sure it works. But finding public-domain music I could use for a soundtrack, and editing to that, really helped give the words and images the space they needed… while also hiding the less-than-satisfactory aspects of my vocal delivery. Thank you, pseudonymous Cuban anarchist musician on SoundCloud!

I considered grabbing some news footage of protests, which is generally permitted under Fair Use, but decided that for this haibun series I needed to maintain the connection with my own lived (and hermit-like) experience by relying on the shots that—in the case of the robber fly and the hollow snag—actually prompted the haibun in the first place. And I wanted to focus ultimately on my own discomfort at and complicity in our white supremacist heritage—a follow-up to an earlier haibun in the series, Flag of Hate.

Including the flopped-over peony was an idea that only occurred to me late in the process. I hope it isn’t too cartoonish a connection with the text.

It’s interesting that while I was working on this, my co-blogger Luisa posted poems first about the toppling of statues and then about peonies, which was completely unplanned and uncoordinated but I guess demonstrates as well as anything that the sidebar description of this blog as “an experiment in daily, poetic conversation” isn’t just empty blather.

The wall in the left side of the split screen, by the way, is something I shot last summer: London’s Wormwood Scrubs prison. I suppose I could’ve driven to one of the two local maximum-security state prisons here, which are of course much more forbidding looking, with razor wire and what-not, but there’s no way I would’ve been able to get anywhere near that close to the walls. And I like the connection with the UK, given how transatlantic this iconoclastic phase of the Black Lives Matter protests has become.

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