What do you owe them?

Everyone who has ever lived and died

What do you owe them?
Photo via KCBIO

I was inspired by this letter of resignation by Anne Boyer from her position as the poetry editor of The New York Times Magazine. It reads in part:

Because our status quo is self-expression, sometimes the most effective mode of protest for artists is to refuse. 

I can’t write about poetry amidst the "reasonable" tones of those who aim to acclimatize us to this unreasonable suffering. No more ghoulish euphemisms. No more verbally sanitized hellscapes. No more warmongering lies.

If this resignation leaves a hole in the news the size of poetry, then that is the true shape of the present.

Also by the resignations – or forced removal perhaps – of two other Times journalists Jazmine Hughes and Jamie Lauren Keiles after they had gotten in hot water for signing the Writers Against the War On Gaza letter that I also signed. Hamilton Nolan has a good read on the situation here but I wanted to highlight this part of what Kelies said on Democracy Now because it describes the entirety of my erstwhile career as a freelancer for many respectable legacy media outlets who have long expected people like me with none of the benefits or protections of a real job to behave in public as if we were employees.

“Jazmine’s a staffer for the magazine but I’m a contributor, which means I don’t have benefits, I don’t have any kind of protections. So that’s how most of the journalism in our industry is currently being produced in this moment, by contingent laborers,” he said. “There’s this bigger question of: If an institution is not willing to give you a job, then what do you owe them?”

Nothing but the work is what I say. We owe them the work and they owe us the money for the work and the relationship ends there.

For what it's worth the one single time I wrote for the New York Times magazine was probably the worst freelancing experience of my life. I decided then and there I would never let my labor be jerked around like that again no matter how fancy the publication. Prestige can get fucked.

Nolan goes on further in his piece bringing in the imaginary concept of objectivity that I go on about so often in here.

News organizations want to pretend that they stand outside of politics, which is like stepping onto a box and pretending that you no longer stand on planet Earth. It is very difficult to have an honest conversation about what is happening when the person you are talking to insists that they are an angel floating above the tawdry corporeal plane. But this myth is important to the self image of mainstream media companies, and so this charade will continue long after we are all dead.

From the perspective of workers, though, this is pretty simple. We must strenuously defend the principle that the purchase of freelance work does not buy you anything other than the freelance work. Companies that want to impose conditions of employment on people are free to do so—the first step is making those people employees. Until then, companies may go to hell.

It reminded me of what I wrote about the Times and their coverage of trans issues a while back which I've already re-shared a few times but who cares.

This is what our prestigious reporters believe about themselves. Well I don't know if they believe it believe it but it's what they perform that they believe because their job requires it.

I'm just a humble servant of the facts (which are always real and knowable by the way) that the universe has presented to me uninformed by my own choices.

This is the thinking of a bygone era. You are performing advocacy one way or the other whether you are aware of it or not. The difference now is that more of the audience is onto the con and can yell at you about it on Twitter every day.

There has never been such a thing as a completely neutral journalist but it's even more apparent today. And yet many of them still don't seem to realize it or refuse to admit it. And for what? What are they holding on to besides their professional stature?  They all think that if they confess that they believe in anything they’re violating their little fraternity's oath of objectivity. That entire standard is just made up! It's not real. Journalists are like you can’t say Macbeth in the theatre and we’re all supposed to buy into their delusion.

I published this piece a couple weeks ago in which Annie Howard looks back on the anniversary of the Club Q nightclub shooting (today November 19) and reflects on growing up queer in Colorado Springs. Please give it a read if you missed it.

Queerness in Colorado Springs
Today Annie Howard looks back on the one year anniversary of the Club Q nightclub shooting and reflects on growing up queer in Colorado Springs. I published another excerpt from A Creature Wanting Form yesterday which you can read below or jump directly to here. My whole life I’ve
Club Q brought a lot of unsettling memories back into view, sharpened the contrasts in what I’d found upon moving away, and served as a reminder of the community I’d never known I needed when I was younger. Even with so many of my foundational relationships in the Springs, the attack made it feel like my queer self would only ever be found elsewhere, making the only childhood home I’d ever known somewhere I could never truly be myself.

Things shifted.

I didn’t know how to be gay in Colorado Springs. But that wasn’t the same for countless others who had been there my whole life, and countless more who would move to the city in the years after I’d left. As a newspaper clipping that my grandmother had given me in 2021 explained, El Paso County was home to at least 2,900 trans adults, and as the billboard put up by the local Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) reminded drivers on the busy Colorado Avenue corridor, “Someone you know is transgender.”

Today's main thing is a new poem or short story or whatever it is that I do. It's about washing dishes and cougars and microplastics in the clouds and murder and – you guessed it baby – loss and grief.

You'll have to be a paid subscriber to read the whole piece but here's how it starts.

Thanks for being here all the same either way. Good bye.

No living witness

Scrubbing dishes in the soup splattered sink. To be able to tell myself later that I had given it an honest try. You can lie to yourself about anything you want if there’s no one following up. 

Jumbling and jostling around and splashing like a child with a house hose and speak of the Devil Himself out the kitchen window now appeared some actual children next door darting around with a hose of their own on the shared grass which is probably why I thought of the hose analogy in the first place just there. 

Reminding me also I should get to cutting the grass. 


I will cut the grass tomorrow. 

Do you ever hold the door open for someone at the grocery store or vice versa or perhaps someone waves to you to go through first in traffic and you want to weep for the world over it? 

The entire history of the world. 

Everyone who has ever lived and died. 

How kind we can all be to one another when it costs us nothing.