Unit of Agency

Is it that vine pushing through the rubble? Is it a fist in the air? Is it the quiet in your heart? Is it a thought? Is it an atom? Is it that flock of starlings? Is it an earthquake? Is it a loom? Is it a tidepool? Is it your hand writing? Is it your pen? Is it an open field? Is it water trickling down a rock? Is it a child walking down a beach? Is it a widening pupil? Is it a neuron? Is it a nebula? Is it light from a star? Is it light? Is it the song of a storm? Is it a howl? Is it a leaf? Is it a grove of aspens? Is it a cresting wave? Is it rapacious? Is it angry? Is it fire? Is it a thousand people singing? Is it a law? Is it a crime? Is it passion? Is it action? Is it breath? Is it a body? Does it bide?

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push pushing oh sun starch stretch a fulling full fill fulling ahhh fra fray free frolic breeze oo breeze ooo crumb crumble scrim grip pull pulling pull oo damp o vesicles! vesicles! pull fill stretch reach and breach oh nectar rushing

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You can turn on a light bulb with a switch. It might make a sound or it might not, then light comes out. Does the lightbulb know that it’s connected to a power source, or does it experience all this as waking and sleep, waking and sleep? What does it do while it’s awake? How does it busy itself? What does it see as its role? Does it dream when it’s turned off, or just lie quietly thinking? And what does it like for breakfast?

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It is unpopular to say you don’t exist, and yet reviling that, how can you know if it might be true? We spend our lives looking for what? – meaning, purpose, success, renown, identity, a better life, the divine or sublime – and to what end? To make us feel more here? What if you’re already here, and have been all along, but you’re just not what you think you are, or have been taught. And neither is here. What are you then, not-here not-you? Are you uncomfortable yet? Why do you think that is? What if it could make the world a better place, your life a better life, if you were to follow that through? What if it could make that not-here not-you an even more truly you here?

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“We do, doodley do, doodley do, doodely do,
What we must, muddily must, muddily must, muddily must;
Muddily do, muddily do, muddily do,muddily do,
Until we bust, bodily bust, bodily bust, bodily bust.”

― Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Cat’s Cradle

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BOOK IS AVAILABLE  :: Unit of Agency, which I’ve been describing as a collection of my human struggle/protest culture/social justice/pissed-off leftie poems and flash prose, can now be purchased directly from Collapse Press, and also on Amazon if you prefer. And if you like it, please leave a review on Amazon or on Goodreads.

A lot of people have asked what the title means, since it doesn’t appear in the poems themselves. It just struck me as a perfect title for this collection, and I hoped that people would arrive at their own meanings for it. Still I kept wondering what response my mind had to the phrase, so this month I wrote a bunch of flash prose pieces that springboard off of it, eight of which are on this page. They’re not meant to arrive at any definitive meaning, even for myself, but I sure found them amusing. Though I’ve only posted it at the top, each separate piece is supposed to have the title “Unit of Agency”.

The book debuted on Friday, October 29th at Collapse Press‘ The Friday Collapse reading series. Super proud of this book! But don’t ask me what I think. Here’s what poet and queer activist Dena Rod has to say.

“Sharp and incisive, Unit of Agency cuts to the bone, echoing what’s always been present but shifted to the shadows. Balancing irreverence with an unflinching eye, Loranger pens anthems for the rebel hearted everyman and declarations against MAGA’s with bloody knuckles. Here is where we find what guts are made of: grit and determination.”

Thank you, Dena! You can read more about the gleaming tome and what people have to say about it on the Books & Chapbooks page.

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UPCOMING READINGS  ::  Woo this list is a doozy, cause I’m tryin to do Collapse Press right and get the book out there where it can do some real damage. 😛  Here we go.  ::  On Tuesday, November 2, I’ll be reading a few poems on zoom to help the wonderful Natasha Dennerstein kick off her new chapbook about the life of Aileen Wuornos. Actually I’m part of the chorus line for Natasha, which also includes Tony Alderondo, Cassandra Dallett, Trey Keeve, and Christine No. Hang on to your scuba gear cause it’s gonna get deep.  ::  On Saturday, November 6 I’ll be reading as part of a co-book release with Natasha Dennerstein, whose new book Broken is, well, forthcoming until then. Also reading will be the powerhouse lineup of James Cagney, Juba Kalamka, Dena Rod, Cassandra Dallett, Peggy Morrison, and Kai Sugioka-Stone. Who could ask for more? This event will be in person and everything at the Mosswood Park Amphitheater in North Oakland. Gathering around 1 and starting soon after. Masks required. Yay!  ::  Wednesday, November 10 I’ll be taking part in the great weather for MEDIA weekly “10-minute reading” series, which means, yes, that I’ll read on zoom for ten minutes, starting at 4:30 PST / 7:30 EST, and that’s the whole thing. You can watch on gw4M’s Facebook page, or directly on zoom by registering via Eventbrite to get the link.  ::  Finally, Collapse Press is sponsoring a second launch party zoom called “Collapse Around America” on Saturday, November 13, which will include Natasha Kochicheril Moni (Seattle), Hilary Brown (Chicago), Lonely Christopher (NYC), Tammy Melody Gomez (Fort Worth), and Rich Ferguson (LA), and myself, reading again (but hopefully different pieces) from Unit of Agency. So excited to take a swing around the country with so many voices that I love and respect.  ::  As usual, deets and times for everything can be found on the Events page. Whew!

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“It is important for this country to make its people so obsessed with their own liberal individualism that they do not have time to think about a world larger than self.”

bell hooks, “Simple Living: An Antidote to Hedonistic Materialism”

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You came out of your mother, but did you completely? Could part of you still be inside her? Did you really become separate, and how can you make that distinction? What about that tuna sandwich you just ate, or that salad, or that opioid? Is it part of you or separate, separate or part? It’d be nice if we didn’t sometimes have to get our hands dirty, but what would we be without dirt? Are we dirt? And how can you get me to shut the fuck up? I know, I get it, I don’t really want to hear about all this shit either. I’m busy. I’d rather just have that tuna sandwich.

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Starkly, we see each ourselves as one, and speculate on how we might unite when all we’ve ever done is fight to be the one. We take small pieces of rock in our hands and give them names, then fall in love with everyone else’s. Rather than trade we’d sooner swallow our rocks to keep them close. Go ahead, swallow your rock. Does that make the earth part of you, or you part of the earth? Once you figure that out you can have another.

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Many a starfish found itself upon the crushed-shell beach of Linden Bay. What did? Did it find? Found what? And many? Do starfish find? What self? What shells? Crushed how? Do shells crush? Do starfish crush? Do beaches crush? What crush? What beach? Flung or found?

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The human tide surges, as they say, churning in, sliding off, leaving castles in its wake. One body thrives, another declines, while their rapt parts fare variously. Still several make a village, a conspiracy, a ballet, straw mats and all. We weave and seethe and dig away as the lone reed flies stray and seeds were meant to bear until the fruit bursts of sugars on the loam. Meant? Meant by whom, or which, or in the foam where everything merges in care. And then the stars.

Happy November,
Richard

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