American Dream Project: Writer’s Residency: Posts

Polis is eyes

Up to 12 writers in each city have been invited to visit the site and stay for 2 hours.  LigoranoReese have asked them to share their thoughts about the disappearance of the American Dream. This part of the project stems from the idea that direct participation comes from active perception, apprehending the moment and leads to democratic action.

Commentary will be posted in realtime here on the meltedaway website and reblogged to ArtsEverywhere.

Poet and writer cris cheek is the Residency Coordinator. This part of the project is supported by the Musagetes Foundation.

Writers Cleveland

Mary Barrett, cris cheek, Carla Harryman, Justin Glanville, Daniel Gray-Kontar,
Janice A. Lowe, Julie Patton, Mary E. Weems

Writers Philadelphia

Josh Adler, cris cheek, Ryan Eckes, Knar Gavin, Anna Maria Hong,
Cyree Jarelle Johnson, Julia Lopez, Bob Perelman, Ariel Resnikoff, Frank Sherlock,
Kirwyn Sutherland, Orchid Tierney and others


Watching them erect The American Dream ice letters

Bob Perelman, Philadelphia

The first letter is, surprising for a second but not a surprise: I

People dream as individuals, when asleep, the private cranium stuffed with public speech, but nevertheless, I

then the next letter spelling out IC

and so the interior of the letters are already speaking the disgust their glitter contains

my garage with the 9 foot 8 inch hoop attached above the door, my photosynthetic petrochemical lawn off to the side — dandelions not welcome, ICK

then ICA — contemporary art is always what we need, awake or asleep

now RICAN asking when are we going to stop strangling the Puerto Rican economy

and now I’m way behind: it says AMERICAN DR and we certainly need more doctors, plus giving RNs more leeway to act

As they’re fussing with the kerning, shoving the R and the D over (otherwise it might start to say AMERIC AND REAM, which is one way to think of it), anyway, as they fuss, it’s hard to not focus on the steady stream of water drops flowing from the bottom of the M

And now it’s saying AMERICAN DREAM, in Baskerville, Marshall tells me. Nora says it’s the font on the dollar bill. I have to say it’s nicer without the definite article. American dream, adjective noun — last night I slept on an American mattress, well, an IKEA mattress, which means a Swedish mattress, a global mattress, yes. But also an American mattress and I had an American dream, something about making spaghetti for friends, and . . .

but aren’t dreams boring? and anyway, now it’s HE AMERICAN DREAM and don’t we all know it?

Will the T which they’re just putting up now help with the HE problem? Not that much, I’m afraid.

Now to sit here in this wired-up tent and watch the letters thin. There they stand, each on its bottom. It’s not script, no hand wrote these letters, a skilled chainsawer carved them out of the originary ice. All caps, it’s Roman imperial — Trump can’t win, OK? There are bottom lines below the bottom lines we’ve been crashing through all my life.

Now the letters are getting scrawny, people are posing in front of them, touching them. All the letters are going to melt, libraries archives and the worldwideweb nonwithstanding.

But meanwhile how much longer do we have to read the same thing, live in front of the same phrase

out of many dreams and waking perspectives just the one dream?

Toasted susie is one person’s ice cream and there is enough for different tongues

to taste speak and judge

Meanwhile, it’s hot and many people are waiting


THE AMERICAN DREAM (at the 2016 DNC, Philadelphia PA)

Ariel Resnikoff, Philadelphia

after the Yiddish of Yankev Glatshteyn

These days, there’s no trace left
of Yankl of Reb Yitskhok,
just a micro-speck, a discoid,
that spins itself stoned thru streets
with awkward tacked-on limbs.
The suzerains with skyblue
the whole earth surrounded
and no escape.
Everywhere’s falling “EXTRAS” from above
& flatten my melted head.
Someone with a panting tongue
& a shtikl red smears my specs indefinitely
& red, red, red, red, red, red, red, red
Ya hear:
one of these days my brain’ll explode
& with a dull crack burn into a heap of shmutzy ash.
& me,
that rolling micro-nothing,
I’ll spin into vertigo ether
bundled in layers of red


I don’t know the american dream

Orchid Tierney, Philadelphia

I don’t know the american dream

& the american dream doesn’t

know me & I don’t know what it means

but yesterday I said to Ari, as Bob said

to me (with words to this effect) the grass

is greener on the other side, and I thought

then, well, who speaks outside this

speech quote american dream—

aside from the man who knocked over

the letters CA , grasping a shard of

(cris: ‘California is gone!’) ice, with

embarrassed fright

as passersby took his photo.

Perhaps the american dream is like beetle juice

& if we say it three times, it will appear,

marred, jolted, awkwardly unuseful

enough to water grass bathe drink.

But I still don’t know what to know

about this thin thing american dream

unless  I excavate public words in &

around ‘god bless america’ spaces

& convert this feeling to a

stuttered ahhhhh foreign accented utterance

that acknowledges  the lacunae

in this tentacled dream.

Like I said to Ari yesterday, actually, words lack

honestly honesty without acknowledgement

(with acknowledgement etymologically

as a form of confession).

So I wonder if this american dream confesses,

then, a continuous (re)settlement,

a refused thinking to speak, know, & point

to ugly things, slow violence, difficult communities,

scrunched faces in acts of catastrophe.

To this end, it is dishonestly resilient

unlike the people who believe

in the american dream

& breathlessly utter, like beetle juice,

the american dream the american dream the american dream.



Knar Gavin, Philadelphia

says this, my gobbler nation,


you, citizen, are a mere cutout.
i am most holy & without need of you.

the dream drum is ruptured.
an ear through with hearing.

i am america, all ears of corn & starch-ornery.
i am preparing my arsenal against your marches.
i am weaponing into the Anthropocene.
loading the rivers with forever toxins.
overflowing my banks with monopoly money.

my arterials are designed to survive nuclear attack.
a state un-personed yet full with paths, forked and forking.
i was ready for the end of the world in 1945.
my poetics are atomic. are autonomous.
are the raison d’être for your automobiles.

my gut is swole. i smoothe your soles
& send you wild-chasing after
disinformation, & misinformation.

i bed you with lies.
lap you with my lion tongue.
am a kingdom full with smaller kingdoms
swallowed down.

when the lamb came to lay with me i ate him belly first,
saving not a chop for wolf or fly. certainly not for my hungrier cities.

i will replace the sky’s tenants
with machines of all sizes.
take your earth & your under-earth
& your overearth. boil your roiling seas.

i am broad-stuffed & marching to my own tune,
tectonic decibels screaming with the pounds

from these im/possible feet.
ritualized toxicities & limbs limp in my maw.

my liberty bell is not all that is cracked.
my innerface is mere interface.
should you grab my handle it will break off.

& says my Citizen:

EMPIRE, UMPIRE OF BATS & brutal balls, biggest:

[read me my wrongs because Juridico is the largest country,
by & of the original gobbler ready with its ropes and lashings]

i have been given my national assurance:
free & dumb as a bloody bird is how i will have my foul snack.

oh america, largest machine of corporate speak,
corpse libations flood your guzzle-wide chambers.
& likewise gun chambers, diffuse orchestras of done & drone.

america, my citizen can longer be what is throng with you.
such a condition — like so many — is insufficient.
my throng is a rush of run-off & run-through.

nation of parking lots & automobiles,
you know only speed & tumble.

i dream of you tearing through the last wood.
razing every last tree. using palm oil as gargle.

america, i’ve seen your dreams
cut a person into endless halves,
scene of the division soaked.

vapor eyes cloud thick
& the oh-zone is outlawed
& outstripped.

why just this shortest wick, the quicker thrill?
why this brutal domination?

in this arc Hive of globalizing fever
we breed drones of all sizes,
messengers of an un-worlding
sting & stung.



More Police Officers Means More Police Officers

Josh Adler, Philadelphia

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 4.40.46 PM

More police officers means shutting down from the Delaware to the Turnpike. More police officers means slowing down city hall from rallies competing for clean air. More police officers means you may never reach the bridge.

More police officers means more police officers singing the ‘X-Files’ theme song to themselves, means more police officers feeling lucky that they were caught along the river with more police officers where the currents open-carry more police officers to where they’ll float downstream on inner-city-tubes inflated with more police officers celebrating more police officers in certain places.

Josh Adler website


DNC poem

Ryan Eckes, Philadelphia

Hillary Clinton’s not an American.
Bill Clinton’s not an American.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz is not an American.
The Democratic Party is not an American.
Wells Fargo is not an American.
Wharton School of business is not an American.
Trump is not an American.
The Republican Party–which is the KKK–deport the Republicans.
Deport the Democrats.

Where to?

Who wants them?

Maybe the desert.
Maybe the desert wants them
without food or clothes.
We’ll call that the blue life–crawling in the desert naked
without food or water
trailing Donald Trump’s ass

In Cold War school
they told us you
can make it
from nothing.

You by yourself
a baby capitalist
crawling thru a hallway
like the desert
of a nothing country.

Let us make it then
from nothing.
Let us fill the streets
like water.


the american dream has always been bullshit

Cyree Jarelle Johnson, Philadelphia

who built the white house?

who tilled the soil?

who worked the land?

who fed your babies milk stolen from her own, out of wide, chapped nipples?

who passed babies through another’s clean alabaster legs?

who left her own babies on the side of the scorching field,

face draped in a rag

shielding them with hope or detachment or both?

who watched the sun set again and again on their shackles?

who built the ships that held us?

who steered them as we churned inside their bellies?

who met us at the port with grease for our faces and coins to buy us,

the ship a matchbox bobbing in the vast Atlantic?

who’s arm threw us overboard and who filed an insurance claim with the same arm?

who donned capes and hoods as spooks to scare us?

who firebombed our homes?

who collects on our underwater mortgages?

who chased us to the fragile city to preserve their living space?

who exploited us in the factories?

who fires us for no reason?

who hangs us up by the neck until we bloat?

who steals our children for another and another ungodly war?

who shoots but does not know why but shoots all the same?

who will never be tried for his crimes?

who decides what is a crime?

who decides black murder is never a crime?


I too still out here singin america

i, forgotten, long lost sibling

black sheep but still black

and after all, in exile.

america still got cracks and faults in it

i still sit in the kitchen when company comes

and i will never be beautiful, they did not see.

those who chained you will continue to chain me,

an unbroken line back over the ocean.

my mind jumps back to the pit where they threw us.

my mind jumps back to the ocean that could have swallowed

us whole. 50 million, maybe more gone to history

living as uncategorized entries in an archives

buried to history, stolen away.


IV / The Money Font

Anna Maria Hong, Philadelphia


I am watching a work of art dissolve its way forward. I’m told that at the RNC site in Ohio, some of the letters just keeled over, leaving “Eric anDre” up last, the name of a comedian.

Things have gotten both unimaginably worse and unexpectedly better in my span on Earth. Two rivers running fast simultaneously, and countless tiny streams. Like the path of water, the life of a work of art—a poem or song or sculpture—is not predictable.

The RNC was a bonafide disaster; their candidate recalls the malformed despots who inherited their positions after generations of genetic devolution, not those elected by an informed populace in a democratic republic. Remember this poem (oft quoted during the W. Bush Era)?

England in 1819 by Percy Bysshe Shelley

As the sculptors who conceived and installed this piece, Ligorano and Reese, point out, art starts and abets conversation, a work is not an end in itself.


This particular incarnation of The American Dream is carved into the American dollar font, a happy, jovial type that makes me think of the circus and silver dollar coins.

All of the letters are still standing. The “I” and “C”—first to go up on their pedestals—are not looking too good. People have been putting their palms on the letters, dumping buckets of run-off water on themselves, enlisting strangers to take their pictures as they pose, taking selfies.




Anna Maria Hong, Philadelphia

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 9.42.40 AM

Ice melting

Squeaking and whistling, the ice is melting more quickly than anyone expected.

No, that is a lie; when the polar ice caps disappear, everyone who has access to the news will have been aware of the process for decades.

The United States are burning all over the place in more ways than one:

We find it self-evident that we and the other mammals will shortly be boiling in our own skins.

I would like to experience a female President of the United States before then. I voted for Hillary in the 2008 and this spring’s primaries, and I will vote for her in November. She has the capacity to govern better than she campaigns, and the salutary effects of even mere symbolism should not be underappreciated. I have not liked everything that Barack Obama has done for our country, and there will certainly be much to enrage, confuse, and disappoint in Clinton’s Administration, but I have also never taken Obama’s election for granted.

As a middle-aged Korean American woman, I would like to live in a society in which a female person’s experience and expertise are valued. I would like to not have to carefully consider how my words will be perceived after being refracted through sexism and misogyny. I would like to not have to deal with missteps being magnified to extreme proportions by men who admit no error and commit vulgarities daily. I would like to operate in a world in which repulsive men go to prison instead of being buoyed up to ridiculous heights. I would like to be able to walk down the street, go to work, and to the gym and other public places without fear of being harassed or worse.


In my lifetime, I have heard perspectives and lives represented in ways that I never expected them to be, as a young woman or child. Many of these changes have happened just in the last decade. I was never told that I could be President, and by the time I reached college, I was convinced that that would be an impossibility for a woman and racial minority, but I’m glad that other people of color and women were given to believe otherwise.

I would like to live without feeling like I need to apologize for everything, even my optimism.