Doug Bytes: An unconventional essay by Doug Anderson

Doug Bytes: An unconventional essay by Doug Anderson
November 26, 2022 Anderson Doug

Doug Anderson’s essay for this month’s issue of Plume consists of twenty four paragraphs that appeared first as posts on Facebook over the past several years. They include a wide variety of incisive reflections on topics that I have dubbed Doug Bytes for their engaging takes on everything from writers block, old age, doctors who don’t listen, the first Women’s March, Google,  Derrida, and much more. Doug has worked as a playwright, an actor in off Broadway plays, a photographer, a taxi driver, a drummer, a college professor of English and Creative Writing, a reviewer for the NYT and other papers, and a combat medic in the Marine Corps at the height of the Vietnam war in 1967. He won the Kate Tufts Award in 1994 for his book of poetry about the Vietnam War titled The Moon Reflected Fire, and has just recently published his third book of poetry with Four Way Books titled Undress She Said. In 2009 he published a memoir with WW Norton about his experience in Vietnam titled Keep Your Head Down.
–Chard DeNiord


Doug Bytes   


I ‘ve never had writer’s block. I can always write something but sometimes I wish I hadn’t. I can always delete it if it’s merely glib or just plain awful. It’s not like that thing I said to someone they will never unhear or forgive me for. It’s not a sin. But if I don’t write all the bullshit I won’t get to the good stuff. If I don’t practice my scales I won’t be able to play Haydn. I don’t play the piano but you know what I mean. Maybe it’s a kind of sortilege. I keep throwing down the same twenty-five thousand words and sometimes I hit. It’s work. So far I’ve not tired of it. By the way whatever I said to you that hurt you was bullshit. Can we be forgiven for our bullshit? Much of what we say in our life is bullshit. Practice for life. Like scales. But finally I can truly love you. Why did it take so long to learn? I’m old now. I’m discarding words till all that are left are the right ones.




Doctors who don’t listen. So I tell a doctor I’ve got swollen feet, which at my age is no joke. I can’t get an appointment for a month. I consider going to urgent care. I don’t have diabetes, or vascular problems in my legs, so it must be something else. Heart? I do some research on my medications and find that a blood pressure drug, Metropolol, which I have most recently been prescribed, can cause swollen feet. I cut the dosage in half and the swelling in my feet begins to subside. Next time I see the doc I’ll tell him I’m titrating. Is it my job to make these kind of decisions? No. So what the fuck. Most doctor’s visits last about one minute. When I go to a doctor, I make a list of things to ask him or tell him about that I can rattle off in half a minute so he can take the other half a minute to respond. Then he vaporizes. There are not enough doctors and APRNs are taking over primary positions. Why are there not enough doctors? APRNs are not trained in differential diagnosis. Some of them are very good, but they don’t do what doctors do. Not listening and no time are national diseases. Time is money. Thank capitalism, which is becoming more and more unsustainable. We’ve become speed freaks. People suddenly don’t have time for essential relationships. We are on a train headed over a cliff and it keeps speeding up.




What is retirement? Maybe it’s something people who’ve been used up in the corporate professions feel when they hole up with their nest eggs and try to figure out what happened. Try to re-inhabit their souls. Find little lost things in the corners. I remember when my mother was doing “elder hostels” like people were suddenly lost and needed to be told what to do. And it involves money. I’ll keep writing/photographing/loving till I drop dead, but retire? Isn’t that something like going to bed, e.g.; “he retired at 10 each night?” I’m fortunate to have good medical care because I was in a fucking war. But I’ve never really understood retirement.




I am sick of ideologues. They are reductive and self-ignorant, so blinded by their own self-righteousness they can’t see human beings. Look at the historical record: Stalin and Hitler, putatively opposite ideologically, were, in practice, completely the same: they murdered millions of people out of false ideas of purity and perfection. The Russian playwright Mayakovsky was ordered to write only work that denigrated the bourgeois mentality and exalted the pure communist world view. Mayakovsky, intending to carry out this demand, wrote a play called “The Bedbug.” The Bedbug, a parasite, was the ultimate capitalist who lived off the people. Ironically, the Bedbug, who was funny, drunk and decadent, was the most popular character in the play. He was humanly recognizable, whereas the robotic communist characters were cold and boring. Apparently Mayakovsky was incapable of writing dull character. Hitler similarly demanded idealized characters. If you look at the painting and sculpture of Naziism you see that the “perfected” human beings created by his propagandist hacks were exactly the same as those created by Stalin’s social realism. They were all born without assholes.




Why there is age discrimination: the old are by definition subversive because they’ve seen the wheel of history turn probably twice in their lifetime and are thus skeptical of political movements. My generation saw Marx appropriated by Stalin and Mao.  The old have been around long enough to observe politicians turn into their opposites, and religions of love turn into religions of hate. They are aware of self-deception as the Achilles heel of zealotry. They are similarly skeptical of intellectual fads. They can be seen in the back row of the meeting shaking their heads. The young are afraid of them but mask this by calling them obsolete. They will insist therefore on not hiring them.

Note: maybe this is why I’ve developed selective memory as a form of defense. I can back out of pointless arguments by pretending to forget things.

Note: it was the tradition in Inuit tribes to honor their old. The old remembered things. There were no books to consult. When a person became too old to keep up, they were allowed to gracefully return to the elements. A story, perhaps apocryphal, was they were left on the ice with a jug of wine. The cold would kill them in short order and it was probably less cruel than lying in a hospital in a coma. I am, of course, speaking of the conscious old, and not perennial fools.




Why good things disintegrate: The first Women’s March was a powerful and most welcome event that counteracted the awfulness everyone was feeling about Trump’s victory. It reminded me of the moratoriums of the sixties, the sense of accomplishment, the joy and fellow feeling. It made me think change was possible and inevitable.

The second march had already begun to show cracks in the alliance. Blacks were accusing white women of racist exclusion and Jews were accusing blacks of anti-semitism. The march split into two different marches. Finger-pointing and blaming superseded any kind of dialogue, any kind of attempt to separate the true offenses from the misunderstands or poor wordings.
IMHO this is the major problem on the left and what will weaken it at a time when unity is urgently necessary. Academic politics has supplied most of the language of bickering: people are obsessing over being “triggered,” are desperately looking for “micro-aggressions, which are often mistaken, exaggerated, or vindictive. People of good will are being excoriated over petty shortcomings or misunderstandings. Progressives are bickering with centrists the way religious sectarians have always done it. Purity politics has reached a level of absurdity so that people are obsessively looking for flaws in their brothers and sisters. Pluralism is no longer viable to many. The idea of a “politics of imperfection” is not even in the conversation. Let’s face it: everybody is likely to slip, to fuckup, to unconsciously offend. The young blame the old for everything that is wrong today without understanding who the old are, what they have done as activists, or the historical context from which they come. Many people have an appalling ignorance of history. I guess I’m appealing to all of us to drop the petty shit and get unified. The midterm elections are coming and the negative possibilities are really scary.




The metaverse has created new modes of performance. We are all performing in it. I am performing right now, presenting you with a public persona that is much more carefully crafted than what I present in person. (“Persona,” the root of “personality,” was the Greek word for the mask actors wore. The mouth of the mask was configured to amplify sound in an amphitheater.) When we say that such and such a person has a lot of “personality” we are often complimenting their public performance. Note how easily the word can be spoken ironically.)
If we were together now in person, you would see elements of my public persona, but you would also see increased levels of emotion and vulnerability, facial reactions, and nuanced body language. That said, poetry, and art generally, can convey more of our complete person than discourse, or even our physical presence. I can refract secrets about myself through a poem that I would not commonly tell you in person unless I knew you very well. In art we perform to tell the truth.




Buddhism, et al. I’ve been doing a Buddhist practice now for some years. I’m not a Buddhist. I’m not “enlightened” nor do I see myself as superior to anyone else. I would never insist that other people do the practice because I do. I don’t see Buddhism as a religion nor am I “religious.” I still have my anger and anxiety but I have a little distance from it, I have the ability to say to myself, I am angry, I am afraid. There was a time that I was merely angry or afraid and had no ability to observe it happening in myself. I am also more aware of what triggers me. There is something practical about being able to observe the ways our minds make us unhappy and to develop some distance from them. I have also begun to experience states of mind that are momentarily free from constantly swirling, reactive thoughts. There are other positive side effects: calming down from fearful or angry states is more possible for me now than when I was attempting the same with alcohol or addictive, self-fleeing behaviors. I’m now aware that neurologists are studying meditation and have come up with some promising findings. Something that used to be snickered at in the medical profession now has a modicum of respect.


Illusions about Buddhist practice:


  1. that you will forever rise above your suffering by some transcendental leap.
  2. that Buddhism is ascetic and will lead you away from sexual or other life enjoyments.
  3. that if you are a good boy/girl in this life you’ll be reincarnated as another better good boy/girl.


The practice is more about being with whatever is. This is not a simple matter, especially in an addictive culture where we are being bombarded daily with all the things that would make us happy if we could only afford them. We suffer. A goodly amount of the suffering is our attachment to impermanent things (I think of this more now that I’m older). I sometimes wonder why I am bringing another book into the house. I have so many things. What a mess for whomever sorts my life after my death. I am moving toward a stripping down of belongings. The biggest gift for me in the last 35 years is an increasing self-compassion that allows me to reflect the love in others. I am much easier about opening up to people, of entering a “thou” space with them. If they are willing. Not an expert mind you, but things are better. It may be that our good and not so good actions in this life are what “reincarnates” as our effects on others, what they might carry forward from us into their lives, for good or ill. Learning how to die gracefully. Trying not to do anymore damage. Trying to forgive myself.




Getting the Sunday New York Times on Saturday Night in New York City

Some of my happiest days when I lived in New York included newspapers. On a Saturday night I’d pick up the huge, bulky Sunday Times at one of the street kiosks. The timing had to be right; you had to get there late enough to make sure the paper had the Book Review in it. Thence home and nod out reading the front page knowing you’d get up early and dig into it. The paper was very different then; more liberal and less sold out to corporatism. If one had a lover, it was fun to get up in the morning, have coffee and bagels, and read the Times together. There was always something to make talking better. The Book Review was different in those days, more substantial and more intellectually vigorous. Now marketing seems to have diluted it; the relationship between big publishers and what gets reviewed has become incestuous.

The other paper that was central to my life was the Village Voice. This was before Murdoch bought it and destroyed it. It covered jazz, theater, and politics in a way that is no longer done. When I was doing theater, it was always exciting to wait for the reviews of whatever I was in at the time, then to scowl or delight. Now, of course, the Voice is gone, having suicided itself with banality, having lost its bite and imagination and succumbed to petty loathings.




I am a kind of worker and I want to be paid a worker’s wage. I write in hope of reminding someone that their life is more remarkable than they know. That there are ways to see everyday things, things a person might pass by without seeing. I show you those things. I say, look, there is a copper beech tree. I say, there is water and see how it has scoured out a place in the rock from running there hundreds of years, how it is shaped like a woman’s hip. I say, look, this woman you’ve been living with all these years, this man, look at them. Look at the way their eyes change, look into the green the blue the brown and the way the iris changes like a sea anemone. I speak of one thing in terms of another so you can see it clearly, the light inside it. For this I want to be paid. Not much. Enough to eat and have shelter. That is all.




1967: Naive Doug goes to Vietnam and serves a year with a marine infantry battalion. Doug hates the war. Doug gets up to treat casualties in ambushes, under sniper fire, mortar, rocket and RPG attack. Doug hates it and hates the war but he still gets the fuck up and moves into the shit. Doug is not a hero or super patriot. He’s scared shitless. This is not the movies. Doug is just doing what he signed up to do, and because he can’t stand to listen to people scream for help. So, Uvalde PD, what the fuck? What is a police department? What does “protect and serve” mean? You wait forty minutes with the killer still in the building killing kids and teachers until the Border Patrol shows up. The Border Patrol? What the fuck? Oh, those are the guys who Trump used to attack protesters.

Now, here’s the killer: Trump apparently read the names of the murdered children at the NRA convention. This is part of the thoughts and prayers cha cha. Remember when Trump said he would have run into the building to save children during the Parkland shooting? All 300 pounds of him? How much bullshit are we supposed to swallow? Half this country has lost all sense of reality and believes the lies and the moral obscenities.




The Met is apologetically self-conscious about its Carpeaux exhibit. We are to chide Carpeaux for his image of an enslaved woman who happens to be beautiful and sensual. She is also angry. We are further constrained to notice that this sculpture was owned by the rich and royal which allegedly proves the sculptor was cultural appropriator. What is missing from this frame is that the sculptures are beautiful. We are encouraged by the article in the Times to call this beauty “kitsch.” If you stand in the presence of these sculptures you will be moved, and that is what it is all about. I do not consider Carpeaux’s love of his subject as racist; I see it as human. He is not responsible for others’ misperception of his work. I am growing weary of the fashionable impulse to find everything made in the past to be somehow morally wrong. We are all formed by the times we live in and I wonder what will be said about us long after we are gone. Good God.

The phenomenologist Husserl suggested that we “bracket” our perceptions in order to actually see a thing. Blake talked about cleansing “the doors of perception.” Is it possible to do this anymore?
Here my response to this piece: she is proud and angry at being put on display like this. She is very likely on the auction block, about to be sold. Everything about her life has been violated by her captors and sellers. Her rage is appropriate, her treatment unconscionable. She has not been stereotyped. And yes, she’s beautiful, and her beauty is perhaps from her revulsion at her circumstances. Note: enslaved people were in fact displayed before potential buyers,




Jack Gilbert used to complain that language had become inflated. This was before Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Before everybody thought they were a poet. Further, he said, the more that was said weakened poetry, made it inconsequential with nattering and noise, small talk, blather and bombast. He further said poetry should mean something, that it should have been shaped through the peristalsis of the self and spoken only when precise, concrete, beautiful, individual. He didn’t say the second part, about the peristalsis of the self, but I inferred it from the first. Poetry like a spoonful of olive oil pressed from the finest olives, fragrant, and gold. Like a diamond found in a piece of coal.




One of the things about Google, that is not Google’s fault, is that when you search you realize the impoverishment of our culture. For example, when I google “the American songs Vietnamese love” all I get is Vietnam War songs. The US and Google has not yet accepted that the country of Vietnam is more than the horrible mindless war we fought there. BTW Vietnamese love a lot of American songs. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that? In my 2000 visit to Vietnam I had coffee with some Vietnamese students. They didn’t want to talk about the war. They wanted to know if I knew any rock stars. I confessed I’d gone to school with Linda Ronstadt.




Memories of my honorary (not my real) Uncle George. He hunted with beagles and had two in his backyard in Memphis. When they howled, he opened the window and shot them with a BB gun. By this negative reinforcement he trained them not to bark. One wonders how this worked out when he took them out to hunt, shotgun over his arm. He pretended to be rich. When he was in college he used to buy silk shirts, wear them once, then give them to the first black person he saw. Later in his life he went to prison for income tax evasion.




Remember three instances in my late teens and early twenties when two older teachers and one gay wrestling coach, made sexual/romantic overtures to me. When I was a seventeen year old working as a professional musician, I had an affair with a thirty something jazz singer (will not give her name: she was well known). She was beautiful, and tender with me. I was approached by one bisexual couple (1961 when such things were all still in the closet). In my twenties I met older women who liked young men. These didn’t coerce me in any way, never misused their power, merely expressed their desire. I’ve never thought badly of them, or shocked, or fearful; in some cases I was flattered. I contrast these remembered experiences to the now extreme reactivity to any such occurrence, and the career-ending consequences for those who cross the line. I’m also remembering faculty who married their students, including two long term friends.






Derrida, or specifically Derridians,


deride language for its instability
(how could Plato speak truth with something as shabby as a metaphor?)


but the very instability is the poet’s peyote.
Language, fluid, wears down rock, says the Taoist
who wrote the thing that can be named is not the real thing.
Lao Tzu precedes you by how many thousand years?


An utterance stronger than these little jargon cages
which in the case of Derrida is amusing–
academics trying to build a position out of a rug slipped out from under them.


But no matter. The priest of the unexpected says, Let us Play.


Take Camera: in Italian it means room. And yes, so does stanza,
which means not only room, but stopping place


which suggests a journey and a roadside inn—already I stray.
How terrible that language is such a puttana.


Let’s go there: inside, good wine and pasta and the owner’s daughter,
Isabella, long trapped here–


I’ve done it again: a questionable uomo (listen to the longing in those two o’s)
spirits her away on his motorcycle leaving mother to clean up after meals,
father struggling to keep the books, the brothers out on the road
looking for the cattivo in his leathers, Isabella’s dress  billowing
round her white legs at 120 miles per hour on the Moto Guzzi


but back to camera.


First, it’s an eye, already deftly brained
to flip the image right side up


that mimics the iris to let in just the right amount of light.
Light now, there’s a word—I can already hear them scribbling.


Let’s crack it open:


L what if the tongue kept rolling
I  I am onto something
G God: “In the beginning was the word.” Is that what this is all about? The final iconoclasm the end of language itself?
H Hell, a place where no one can say what they mean
T Tell me again why two Pompeians, lava-frozen in the act of love,
should not be the most tender thing you’ve ever seen?


How unstable that word, light!


Meanwhile, Lorenzo and Matteo have caught up with the sister thief, have a knife at his throat, Isabella begging them not to kill him.


But the scoundrel, Ugolino, has some Kif from Morocco
and all will be well if he marries Isabella.


This signifier is precise in its copulation with the signified,
at least for a moment. But Lacan will arrive,
like a child playing in mud, and disturb the word salad in your l’inconsiente.


There’s no way out. When someone blurts I love you, stammering with passion,
and his lover knows he’s being truthful in his messy utterance,
we have a poet always already shaping his words to make it pure.


At least for a moment.




Sufism sees religion as exoteric and esoteric. The exoteric is the outward rituals of a religion, it’s belief system, its social integration. The esoteric are the inner teachings that are understood through the practice of the religion. When Rumi talks about “discomfort” he means the truths we hide from ourselves. For example, to be worse than Pharaoh is to deny our inner pharaoh, that part of us capable of the pharaoh’s evil. It involves accepting the whole self and its capacity for evil. To deny it is to project it, to project our own inner violence on the world, with which we assume a purity that allows us to righteously make others suffer. Sufis have been killed in large numbers throughout South and Central Asia for this teaching, because it threatens power structures in religion.




The word “spiritual” can mean all kinds of things, from the banal to the profound. It has come to mean the pursuit of religious imagination outside organized religion. In law there is “letter” and “spirit,” which I think applies to the strict application of the law versus the humane. Some of us have an unquenchable desire to explore the ontological mystery: why is there something rather than nothing and is there meaning in existence—something we are here to do? In some of us there is a hunger to know this. This hunger does not deny reality: it owns that we will die and throughout our lives all we cherish will be taken from us–our health, our loved ones. This is the anchor, the letter. The spirit is what hungers for meaning. Since life is hard, kindness is worth practicing. This approach is not obsessed with rules and prohibitions. It is rather the work of continuous opening to what we don’t, and possibly can’t, understand.




Talking to students about electronic alienation and why it is important to come to class. People talking to each other face to face are less likely to kill each other down the road. The body is part of the conversation. We read bodies, consciously or unconsciously. We read faces, eyes. But we live in a world of increasing alienation where the body is absent from communication. They seem to have grown up without boundaries. The part of the syllabus that deals with class participation has no meaning to them.




Thinking about all the political poetry we’re writing in conditions of privilege, and remember hearing somewhere that, during the war, people in El Salvador wrote love poetry to take back a little of their life from the larger nightmare. Given the largeness of our present fascism should we not do the same?




Writers’ Block

Step out into the day and observe Mr. Hubert who is mowing his lawn at six AM on Sunday out of vengeance and Bobby Herbert who’s locked out of his house after being out all night drunk and his wife inside the door in her PJs crying and Francis the old mutt who’s wandered out into the intersection at the end of the block and is just sitting there blocking an outraged hipster in a BMW on his way to rock climb and then the sprinklers come on and catch a lab trying to hump a shitzu in front of the house and all the time the sun is going in an out of clouds changing the lighting and the grass keeps growing and Fenster McGraw is crawling out the back window of his lover’s house and stumbling into the alley pulling up his pants, and is spotted by the ever vigilant widow Winnie Wildwood with her nineteenth century naval spyglass who’s had her suspicions about that Wilson woman anyhow and Mr. Hubert turns off his lawn mower and people stop their homicidal fantasies and go back to sleep and here comes Jack Frankle with Jennie Pearson on his lap riding his electric wheelchair in from late night partying, laughing and swinging around a fifth of Jack Daniels at which sight Winnie Wildwood has a stroke and pushes her wrist alarm and then the paramedics and the cops light up the neighborhood and those who blessedly got back to sleep are awakened again in a rage and during all this, nine cats in nine windows sleep soundly. All of this in one block.




Long Time Around Exponential Tardigrade Pythagorean Blues


So I died and became emulsified and helped grow some trees and then the trees got burned up for firewood and I was smoke and then I got into your lungs and you coughed and meanwhile the unbreathed part of me was circling around in the air making people sneeze, but was gone. Where did I go? Anyhow I was atmospheric after that and got rained back into the mud—hang on this is the short part—and I got processed through some earthworms and whatever consciousness I had became electrical energy and took a different route through some poems I wrote which changed somebody’s brain chemistry—you see the “you” you think you were splits into more than one entity—I know, that’s hard on the ego; ain’t no self and what we call a soul is energy that keeps changing form but anyhow the earthworm I was in was snatched up by some bird and was thence shat onto a monk’s head, who, disgusted, wiped and flushed me in the river whence some catfish ate me and I became somebody’s lunch downstream, meanwhile my poems had had their affect—positive and negative; one person fell in love because of them and another became an ax murderer. We have no control over what happens to our leavings. The woman who ate the catfish got sick and puked me up into a stainless steel pan and was flushed, whereupon I had a wild sewer ride out to sea where I was guzzled by a whale shark cruising for plankton. I met some plankton and I tell you they are interesting folks but all this in retrospect; anyhow some whale shit washed up on shore and some tardigrades living in a tide pool nibbling moss gobbled me up; meanwhile my poetry energy had become ubiquitous and was living a parallel life orbiting through a few generations of various negative capability types and a big freeze happened so the tardigrades who ate my corporeal substance went into a state of cryptobiosis. They can live in this for a long time; some of them have been living this way for the last 540 million years waiting to be thawed into somebody’s green tea. So anyhow it was the long stretch that was a bitch, me living with all the unskillful, petty, sometimes mean, sexually rampant, dishonest shit I’ve done along with the starlight beautiful stuff that is mostly in the poetry. Anyhow, my next rebirth might not be for a while and especially since human beings are likely to destroy themselves through various means and I may come out of it and be reborn into something not yet named from a fragment of destroyed green planet orbiting around god knows what black hole. Don’t get your hopes up for heaven or a quickie reincarnation. We in for some shit.




The problem with “newness.” The effect of modern art was characterized as “the shock of the new;” what is new now? Much of postmodernism (whatever the fuck that is) seems like a rehashing of modernism with less intensity, as if some kind of ironically detached attitude toward something that was once passionate. There is in this attitude a kind of been-there-done-thatness on the part of people who have not been anywhere and done anything. There’s an exhaustion, an innervation about it. There is, for example, a big difference between an academic sitting behind his desk saying that Marx is an obsolete narrative, and the person in an undeveloped country considering Marx a viable way of dealing with a corrupt tyrant. Frankly, ironic detachment bores the shit out of me. So how we to create something new in these times? What is there to discover? Champions of political correctitude seem more interested in not offending anyone, who seem to have as their objective the neutering of passion or anything that might overflow into ambiguity or complexity. They have no interest in innovation at all but rather some kind of harmless predictability, a paint-by-the-numbers moral exactitude. I can’t be called conservative for having these thoughts because the politically correct are more conservative than I am, and the right seems to have no interest in the conversation at all, content with their kitsch. How does one innovate in these times? It is a strange time to be a creative person of any kind. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. We on the “left” ought to remember Stalinist social realism.






A fascist does not know he is a fascist. He is wired so that he cannot see the wiring. Nor can he usually read well enough to understand where he fits in the long history of fascism. He thinks he’s thinking but he is merely obeying the conditioned responses his culture has programmed him with. He is a robot who is convinced he is an individual fighting for his freedom. He cannot tolerate uncertainty, or ambiguity, but must always crush any confusion under the weight of his iron principles, principles that have been ingrained in him, massaged into him electronically. He does not know this. He is so skillfully compartmentalized he can’t experience his logical inconsistencies or moral absurdities. He is sentimental about and protective of his own tribe but incapable of feeling compassion for anyone outside of it. He finds racism useful, especially as it convinces him that those he hates are less than human, and cleansing the earth of them will solve all his problems. Calling them names reduces them to the name he has invented for them which has no basis in reality, but allows him to feel no remorse for the suffering he inflicts. He is cruel to animals and humans alike. He is attracted to brute force. Violence ordered directly by whatever god has possessed him is in his mind justified. He has no qualms about swinging a baby by its feet and bashing out its brains against a wall if it belongs to the subhuman group he has aligned himself against. He thinks if we could only kill all the people we hate we would have the kingdom of heaven on earth and abide in eternal joy. He is obsessed with certainty but also continually tortured from inside by the part of him that doubts, that cannot help but doubt, that is still human enough to question. He projects this discomfort outside himself and blames others for it. He is capable of the same perverse acts he wrongly accuses other of and deep down this troubles him. He is incapable of considering that he might be wrong. He hates art except for the kitsch that affirms his always already eroding certainty because real art divides him against himself, and emotionally confuses him. His insecurity eats at him, something human is trying to surface, but he crushes it as he sees it in the face of another. He attaches himself to simple-minded and loud authority. He creates messiahs out of con artist predators and sociopaths intoxicated with their own power. He will follow them into Hell. He will disbelieve it when it is pointed out to him that the same people he worships are destroying him, betraying him, breaking him, taking his food stamps, his medical care, and even his home.

Doug Anderson has written about his experiences in the Vietnam War in both poetry and nonfiction. He is the author of the poetry collections The Moon Reflected Fire (1994), the winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and Blues for Unemployed Secret Police (2000). In 2009 he published his memoir, Keep Your Head Down: Vietnam, the Sixties, and a Journey of Self Discovery. His most recent book is Undress She Said (Four Way Books, 2022). Doug’s awards include a grant from the Eric Mathieu King Fund of the Academy of American Poets, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Pushcart Prize. Anderson has taught at the University of Connecticut, Eastern Connecticut State University, and the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Its Social Consequences at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.