“Police Pursuit” and the Death of My Neighbor (Part One)

Saturday, May 11, 2019

“Do we let someone just run away?”

JB - May 7, 2019

This past Tuesday, shortly before noon, the Long Beach Police Department made a decision that a stolen car was more valuable than the life of one of my neighbors. As a result of a police pursuit in an extremely dense neighborhood, Jessie Bingaman, the mother of a ten year daughter, was killed at the intersection of Third and Temple, about a half-dozen blocks away from where Linda and I live. We have walked across or driven through that intersection hundreds of times the past dozen years. It could just as easily have been us.

But it wasn’t us.

And yet, when I got home on Tuesday, the first thing Linda told me was that she had spent part of the afternoon across the street talking with a pair of neighbors about this incident. My shock, sorrow, and dismay are shared by others who live at this particular corner of this neighborhood. Jessie Bingaman’s sudden death has impacted “us.”

And what is the response of the Long Beach Police Department?

When should police pursue? Woman, 5 dogs are just the latest killed in high-speed chases

“It’s a very difficult situation,” Long Beach Police Department spokeswoman Arantxa Chavarria said. “Do we let someone just run away?”

My response to Ms. Chavarria is that you obviously don’t believe what you were also quoted as saying: “The sanctity of life is, obviously, always our guiding principal in policy development,” she said.

The Long Beach Press Telegram reported that Police Chief Robert Luna and ten of his officers attended the vigil held in her honor at the intersection on Wednesday evening. He was quoted as expressing his “condolences” to Ms. Bingaman’s mother. Jessie Bingaman’s family deserves far more than “condolences.” But as Paul Naylor, a poet-editor I knew in San Diego once said in an elegiac piece written at the start of the last decade, “There will never be enough flowers.”

JB - Flowers Corner

The intersection of Third and Temple, which is about as ordinary as a four-way stop intersection can get in this neighborhood, can never be neutral ground for me. I will never again be able to drive or walk through it without thinking of Jessie Bingaman and the dogs owned by other people and entrusted to her care as a professional dog-walker. They, too, perished with her.

My own answer to Ms. Chavarria and Robert Luna is, “If you can’t be absolutely certain of containing the flight risk of the driver of a stolen vehicle, then wait until you can be sure. If that means letting them evade immediate surveillance, then so be it. But not one of the lives of the citizens of Long Beach deserves to be taken in the name of trying to recover a stolen car.” And I say this as someone who once had a car stolen.

“TRACKS” — poems by Lynn McGee

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

TRACKS: Poems by Lynn McGee (Broadstone Books, 2019)

The New York subway system has recently been rebuked for its disruptive service far more than its inured administrative personnel are used to, and I am glad that I don’t have to depend on it to get to and from campuses in the New York City area, as I did back in the Fall of 2005, when I was working at Nassau Community College in Garden City (on Long Island); St. John’s in Queens; and Rutgers in New Jersey. That was a tough semester, and I had little time for anything other than teaching and sending off several dozen applications for work elsewhere.

The subway system in NYC, as well as the rail system that serves the “larger metropolitan area,” is a form of public participatory theater in which the riders and the workers are usually acting with a “less is more” approach. Tamped down emotions, no matter how intensely felt, are revealed obliquely, as if for a movie camera in which the director has called for a long close-up of one’s face. An awareness of this context can heighten a reader’s appreciation of Langston’s Hughes’s depiction of social space on the subway in Montage of a Dream Deferred. Along with Hughes’s book-length poem, in fact, McGee’s Tracks is the one of the best books to read after revisiting Blake’s “London,” the poem that establishes the template for the modern poet in the ever-accelerating urban milieu.

Many great poets and fiction writers (from Hart Crane to James Baldwin) have made use of the subway to heighten the subjective tension of their poems and stories, but few creative writers have made it the crucial trope of an entire book. NYC-based poet Lynn McGee’s TRACKS undertakes the challenge of recording some of her chance encounters on the subway system; her skill in doing so could easily be under-appreciated. For the most part, the diction is pared down; the line-breaks stay focused on enabling the reader to absorb her “depth of field” approach. These are poems that remind me of Robert Bresson’s films, and there is little in the way of higher praise that I could offer.

One outcome of reading these poems is their implicit reminder of the vicissitudes of others as they ride beside us. “Tracks” are also what is made by animals, including us, as we move across the ground. McGee’s personal losses, including that of a sister who died from a brain aneurism, are not of course visible to any of the people she takes note of on her subway trips, and yet it is the very tension between that the visibility of others in this book, and the hidden theater of her own personal sorrow that gives these poems an imaginative trajectory: the “tracks” delineate a cartography of a city as both as both one’s most intimate companion and most unappeasable antagonist.

This book of poems will not make you want to move to New York City, in the way that Frank O’Hara’s, Ted Berrigan’s, or Eileen Myles’s poems might prove alluring. Instead, you will find yourself looking around at all the ways you move about in any given day, and no longer regard the ordinary as too familiar to record in precise and evocative language. We might think of ourselves as not needing a reminder about the imaginative resources available in our daily movements, but McGree’s Tracks demonstrates that we overlook that which deserves our close attention far more frequently than we believe.

McGee’s book is available through SMALL PRESS DISTRIBUTION (SPDbooks.org) or through her publisher, Broadstone Books.

The Caesura’s Constantly Shifting Net

Saturday, May 4th

In one of those quirks of a so-called poetic career, I have received in my old age a surprising number of requests to write blurbs for books of poetry. Fortunately, I have enjoyed the work of the poets who have asked me for a back-cover endorsement and have not had to figure out some diplomatic way to turn down the invitation.

Most recently, I have been working on a blurb for a debut volume of superb poetry by Alexandra Umlas, At the Table of the Unknown, which will soon be published by Eric Morago’s Moon Tide Press. Her metrical work is exceptionally skillful, and it tempted me to quip that “If writing in meter was compared to tennis, in Frost’s acerbic remark, then watch out for Umlas’s wicked backhand.”

I ended up not using that conceit in my blurb, but Umlas’s deft use of the caesura led me to reconsider exactly what the “net” of tennis is; a few volleys of thought later, it occurred to me that Frost, with his usual gnomic humor, meant it literally: it is the caesura. If indeed, “rhythm is the total sound of a line’s movement,” then it is the constantly shifting “net” of the caesura that makes the line an encounter with the existential plasticity of language’s essential flux.

“Survivor” — The 2020 Election

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The desire to impeach President Trump should be distinguished from the desirability of impeaching him. The only impeachment that has a chance of winning happens on Election Day, 2020; and as impatient as many people might be for that day to arrive post-haste, I am afraid that we must endure this imposter for another year and a half, during which he will no doubt cause permanent damage to the democratic process (such as it is) in the United States. If those who favor immediate impeachment have their way, they will only play into Trump’s hands, for I am certain he regards formal impeachment as his best means of rallying support. This is not to say that subpoenas should not be issued at a record pace. His financial affairs, especially involving the issue of emoluments, deserve extended congressional scrutiny, and I only wish that Congress was not in recess as the GOP holds its nominating convention in the last week of August, 2020.

Recent polls indicate that a majority of Americans plan to vote against Trump, but if he can convince a significant number of them not to vote at all, then he could well win another close election. The three states that decided the 2016 election had exceptionally small margins of victory for Trump, and those states are exactly where it will play out again. The Democrats must win Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania in order to win the White House in 2020. If the upcoming presidential election depends on winning Ohio, then I assure you that Trump will indeed triumph again, even as George W. Bush secured re-election by winning that state in 2004. Ohio was almost as dubious in 2004, as Florida was four years earlier; but all that mattered was how the game played out in Ohio, and it was not in John Kerry’s favor.

Trump has long been regarded as the first “reality TV” president, but the 2020 presidential election brings to mind not “The Apprentice,” but rather an earlier prototype: “Survivor.” Just as Trump whittled away the GOP competition in mid-decade, he no doubt sees a similar set-up already in motion. A huge field of Democratic candidates has landed on the “island,” and Trump knows that his reelection depends on the Democratic party voters booting candidates off the island in a manner that leaves both party loyalists and independent voters deciding not to vote at all in November, 2020, instead of holding their noses and voting for someone they dislike.

Joe Biden, for example, is someone I intensely dislike. His entry into the race is not surprising. He’s a professional politician, and he wants his deathbed scene to be one in which he is assured by his family that he would have made a great president. I would just as soon not ever had him serve as a senator or vice-president. He is kind of political operative who epitomizes what Mike Davis calls the “barren marriage” of the working-class and the Democratic Party. If Obama proved to be as disappointing as a president, in direct ratio to the excitement he provoked as a candidate, then that disparity is precisely the reason that Biden is the probably the worst possible choice for the Democratic Party. Biden played a significant role in taming candidate Obama in the transition period to office-holder, and for nudging Obama in the wrong direction Biden should be allocated nothing less than our heart-felt opprobrium.

Since the election is a matter of the Electoral College outcome, one has to ask oneself if a left-wing candidate can secure at least 270 votes in the Electoral College. Two of the poet-bloggers I read on a regular basis (Brooks Roddan and Ron Silliman) have already announced that they favor Bernie Sanders, and I concede that I lean that way myself. However, I fear that Sanders will prove to be an even more inept administrator of his presidential duties than Jimmy Carter, and that his failure to bring about much needed reform will leave the electorate vulnerable to the machination of a variation of Ronald Reagan in 2024.

I have a hunch that Elizabeth Warren would actually prove to be much better at executing the office of the President of the United States, and that she would have a superior chance of being reelected in 2024. As such, I remain unwilling to endorse Sanders at this point. I would first like to see several debates in which no more than five Democratic candidates are given an opportunity to confront each others on policy preferences (for instance, let “Medicare for All” begin its first incremental growth by covering all children under the age of eight). There should be at least two sets of these five candidates on stage on any one occasion, and at least two of the candidates should be women. If Biden were one of the five, I would prefer to see Warren, Gillibrand, and Klobuchar on stage with him, with Pete Buttigieg being the fifth candidate. Biden deserves to learn what it feels like to be marginalized, and let it start with the debates.

Cornbread Consecration

I found the disposable camera, that had this particular shot in it, in a box I was going through as part of the sorting I am doing for my literary archive. At first I thought that I was up in Idyllwild, at Sabrina’s cabin, the one inhabited by Velcro, a cat whose size required a door entrance large enough to also permit a full-grown raccoon to get in the cabin. The roll of film also included some shots of the stone backdrop of the grotto’s waterfall, without any creek flow off of its orchid-like lip.

However, this particular part of that sequence of images was taken in our current residence, earlier this decade.

Table Setting Two

Page Against the Machine


“Rage Against the Machine” was one of the most popular bands of 1990s. Its second album, “Evil Empire,” was emphatically not a reference to the Soviet Union, but a home-grown analysis of the hegemonic ambitions of an upstart former colony embarking on its third century of ever-expanding domination. I never saw them perform, but couldn’t help but be impressed by how many of their songs made the infamous Clear Channel Memorandum.

A few months, as Linda and I were taking a walk around the South Rose Park neighborhood in Long Beach, I noticed a small storefront that had a sign in the front window: “Page Against the Machine.” The echo of the band’s name hinted at the kind of politically engaged writing that is consistently featured in one of my favorite magazines, BLUE COLLAR REVIEW. While you can subscribe to a print copy (and I myself have been a long-time subscriber), you can also find a substantial sample of its unflinching “progressive working class literature” on-line:


In the on-line sample of its most recent issue, you will find the poem, “Another Monday,” by G.C. Compton. Part of the poem speaks to one of the problems I have with Bernie Sanders, not to mention every other candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. In what way does Sanders propose to eliminate the tax on the first $25,000 paid in the course of a year to social security recipients? Take note of the following:

Once more I will pay two grand
in income tax
because in 1982, a sign in the zodiac
told Reagan to tax Social Security.
Seems the Federal Reserve needed the money
more than we who have the need –
and the guts – to work past 66.
G.C. Compton — “Another Monday”

At the age of 74, Compton is still working, in part to earn the money needed to make up for the tax paid on earlier earnings that were already overtaxed. If Sanders is serious about wanting the votes of people over the age of 66, then he better do more than just talk about relief for college students. In his previous campaign, his ideas for assisting the elderly survive corporatized America were nothing short of pathetic.

Blue Collar Review lost one of its most articulate contributors late this past year. Lyle David Daggett (1954-2018) died on Christmas Day, and I regret that my blog did not record his passing. He published over a half-dozen books of poetry and also published a blog that is deserving of your attention.


Of course, if Yannis Ritsos, Muriel Rukeyser, and John Berger are a little too strong for your tastes, then it’s likely that you want American voters in 2020 to choose between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. The DJ will now drop the needle on the final cut of “Beggars Banquet,” which features the line: “a choice of cancer or polio.”

“PAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE” might well become a much needed resource in Long Beach. The store defines itself as a place that provides “Books and Tools for Mass Defaince, Empowerment, and Self-Reliance!” It will have its opening event this coming weekend in the form of an art event and poetry reading.

“Poets, Protesters and Panthers: 1960s California Counterculture”

2714 4th Street
Long Beach, CA

FRIDAY, April 26, 2019
6-10 p.m.

Readings by Fred Voss, and Joan Jobe Smith
Music by Los Mauraders

The Blue Collar Review is a quarterly journal of poetry and prose published by Partisan Press. Our mission is to expand and promote a progressive working class vision of culture that inspires us and that moves us forward as a class. Subscriptions are $20.00 yearly, or $7.00 for a single issue.
Subscribe using the on-line link or send checks to Partisan Press, P.O. 11417 Norfolk, VA 23517.

Note: A little over 12 hours after posting the above entry on my blog, I couldn’t help but notice that a computer based in the Ukraine took a second look at my column: Ukraine April 25, 2019 8:05 pm
www.billmohrpoet.com » /page-against-the-machine/ Ukraine April 25, 2019 7:44 pm
www.billmohrpoet.com » /page-against-the-machine/

I’ll leave it up to a curious reader to do any follow-up work.

The Cutting Board Caesuras

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Side Garden - Tomatoes 2018

Tomato Caesura

Garlic Bulb Caesura - 2019B

New Issues of “Poetic Diversity” and “Caliban”

Easter Amaryllis - 2019


Vol. 16, No. 1 (April, 2019)
Edited by Marie C. Lecrivain

Featuring Rich Follett, Dan Rachel Jimenez, Terry McCarty, Simon Perchik, Kevin Ridgeway, Opalina Salas, Annette Marie Smith, Jan Steckel, Lois Michal Unger, Amy Uyematsu, and Viola Weinberg.


Edited by Lawrence R. Smith

CALIBAN features Ray Gonzalez, Will Alexander, Ivan Arguelles, Jim Grabill, Doren Robbins, Sheila E. Murphy, Simon Perchik, Lawrence R. Smith, D,E, Steward, Dan Raphael, John M. Bennett, and Wayne Hogan.

“It all falls upward, every drop a rival.
We gather to bear witness
To the gravity of rain.”
— Lawrence R. Smith

The Classification of Storage Shed Doors

Monday, April 22, 2019

In the backyard of the house in southern San Diego my brother and I sold a couple years ago to raise money for the ongoing care of our 97 year old mother (needless to say, no inheritance heading our way), there were two storage sheds that had not been opened for a while. Pine needles had gathered around the handles. In the late afternoon of an overcast winter day, I took photographs with my flip phone.

Pine Needled Web

Pine Needled Handle

Follow-Up to Women’s Marathon Mural (1984 Olympics) Catastrophe

Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019

The first article in the LA Times on the whitewashed mural of the 1984 Women’s Marathon in Los Angeles did not mention the artist’s name until the end of the second paragraph, and then did not once mention her by name in the remainder of the article. This attack on a work of art that honors one of the important milestones (26 of them, in fact) in women’s athletics deserved a more comprehensive article than was first posted in this city’s major newspaper.

Here’s the link to the most recent iteration:


I am pleased that the first two words are: “Judy Baca…”

I remain skeptical about the denial of CalTrans that it was responsible for the mural’s obliteration. I look forward to immediate action on their part to restore the mural, as well as to cooperate with SPARC in preventing such atrocities in the future.