Tag Archives: Poetry

Genocide

When I was a young hoodlum, I plagiarized a bit of prose poetry with something like this at its core in order to make myself look cool. As an officially legal adult I’ve lost interest in how things look and have taken up a pursuit of how things Are. This is my take on the piece that my younger self recognized as valuable. That unknown poet, whose name is long lost to the mists of my long lost mind may well recognize a few of his or her words here. No harm intended, kind sir or ms. All the cells that may have stolen your work wholesale are long dead. I hope you like what my momentarily current self has done with the memory….

When I woke up this morning I pulled back the cover and in so doing scattered skin cells like chaff from wheat onto the floor.
I drank a bunch of hot-ass coffee and scalded my tongue–maybe the caffeine killed a few hundred thousand brain cells. Who knows?
I rode my bike to a demonstration, undoubtedly reaping a harvest of sorrow amongst the muscle cells in my anguished protesting protester’s legs.
When I arrived and put the rest of my body to protesting I met a friend and we hugged causing the deaths of multitudes of fleshly villagers in each of our respective bodies.
As the day progresses into evening I’ll meet others maybe loved ones maybe new acquaintances and we will joyfully kill one another’s cells ending their brief unnoticed lives ignominiously.
If it should fall out that we fuck–Genocide!
How is it that these most tender of acts expressing our humanity are so violent in their collatery? Does it matter? Are those cells not reborn in a new generation a new regeneration? Hark! I am born again yes born again.
I am born and born and born requiring the Universe to bear me. It’s the points on a line–I am born again at each indivisible moment. Infinite. There are no two points between which there are not infinite dimensionless points. I’ve been born again more times than there are numbers for as I wrote this.
You’ve committed murder in your own head while you read it. Surely this bit has killed some of your brains off too.
The beauty of it all is Infinite. Eternal. Undying.

(Reprinted from Hipgnosis)

a poem for the holidays

The Art of Disappearing
 
When they say, “Don’t I know you?”
Say “no”.
When they invite you to the party
Remember what parties are like
Before answering.
Someone telling you in a loud voice
They once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.

If they say we should get together
Say “why?”
It’s not that you don’t love them anymore.
You’re trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees.
The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.
When someone recognizes you at the grocery store
Nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven’t seen in ten years
Appears at the door,
don’t start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.
Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.

~ Naomi Shahib Nye

A 1930 Spirit of Christmas Past

Black Agenda Report revisited this Christmas poem by Langston Hughes:

“Merry Christmas”: Published in New Masses (Dec. 1930), p. 4.

Merry Christmas, China,
From the gun-boats in the river,
Ten-inch shells for Christmas gifts,
And peace on earth forever.

Merry Christmas, India,
To Gandhi in his cell,
From righteous Christian England,
Ring out, bright Christmas bell!

Ring Merry Christmas, Africa,
From Cairo to the Cape!
Ring Hallehuiah! Praise the Lord!
(For murder and for rape.)

Ring Merry Christmas, Haiti!
(And drown the voodoo drums—
We’ll rob you to the Christian hymns
Until the next Christ comes

Ring Merry Christmas, Cuba!
(While Yankee domination
Keeps a nice fat president
In a little half-starved nation.)

And to you down-and-outers,
(“Due to economic laws”)
Oh, eat, drink, and be merry
With a bread-line Santa Claus—

While all the world hails Christmas,
While all the church bells sway!
While, better still, the Christian guns
Proclaim this joyous day!

While holy steel that makes us strong
Spits forth a mighty Yuletide song:
SHOOT Merry Christmas everywhere!
Let Merry Christmas GAS the air!

Walt Whitman was not Grandpa Moses

Poet Walt Whitman at age 37A new Levi’s commercial overlays Walt Whitman’s O PIONEERS on scenes of fashion-conscious youth, distilling substance like just another stylizing element. It reminds me of the false portraits our society is content to hang over its radicals. This week, a statue of Helen Keller was unveiled at the US Capitol. Commemorated safely for being an advocate for the disabled, Keller is represented at age seven, before she became the notorious socialist and antiwar crusader. The reverse fate befalls Whitman, who is always represented as a massively-bearded authority figure, and not the authority-challenging reprobate.

The poetry of kick-the-can in the rain

Refrigerator magnet poetryI hate random stream of consciousness when you can tell the author thinks they’re building to something. It’s so, so tedious. Such was my reaction to officially-described poet Elizabeth Alexander, who recited a piece she composed for the inauguration of the First Black American President. I’ll just note Alexander is a professor at Yale, the alma matter of Bush, Kerry, et al the Skull and Bones secret society.

If there’s anything that makes me crankier than war criminals being hugged, saluted, and wished a bon voyage, it’s applause for crappy poetry.

The awful result begins with noise –a cacophony which Alexander captures with brute mimicry. When she describes uniforms as common as tires and hems, of course I’m going to object. Why not add Coca-cola while you’re pandering to product placement?

Repairing done, Alexander moves on to people of disparate means “trying to make music.” Maybe a tenured African-American studies professor wouldn’t know, no one tries to make music. It doesn’t even take a non-musician to make music, without having to try. Obviously you’re confusing music with poetry.

It may be that Alexander’s challenge was corrupted by the insincerity of the “we have overcome” moment, where a half-black man’s ascent to figurehead is taken as penultimate achievement of the underground railroad. It comforts me to see artistes fall flat when they dip their quills in propaganda.

Here’s the whole drippy thing. Hate the ambiguously half phrase.

Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, “I need to see what’s on the other side; I know there’s something better down the road.”

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp — praise song for walking forward in that light.

Marianne Moore’s Utopian Turtletop

Ford EdselIn the mid-fifties the newly-public Ford Motor Company sought a name for its soon-to-be-released experimental car, known in its design stage as the E-car. After in-house marketers came up with 300-odd names which were felt to be embarrassing in their pedestrianism, the company approached Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Marianne Moore, an icon of the popular culture, known as much for her wild passion for baseball and boxing as for her poetry…

What Ford wanted was a car name that “flashes a dramatically desirable picture in people’s minds,” from a woman who seemed to know mainstream America. What they got was “Anticipator,” “Thunder Crester,” “Pastelogram,” “Intelligent Whale,” “The Resilient Bullet,” “Mongoose Civique,” “Andante con Moto,” “Varsity Stroke” and then, as her very last try for the name magic, “Utopian Turtletop.”

Understandably disappointed by Moore’s ideas, the company hired a marketing firm. When the agency forwarded a list of 18,000 possible names, it fell upon corporate executives to choose the best among them for final consideration. Every day an appointed panel of executives would assemble in an appointed projection room to watch as thousands of names were flashed across a screen in six-inch high letters, to oblivion unless someone shouted, “Stop!” and gave reasons for his enthusiasm.

None of the final contenders, neither “Corsair” nor “Citation” nor “Ranger” nor “Pacer,” made the grade in the end, and Ford returned to its earlier idea — one that had been rejected for years by the Ford family — and named the car after company scion, Edsel Ford.

Of course, the Edsel was a spectacular failure on many levels, marketing most notably. Later consumer surveys revealed that the public strongly disliked the name, associating it with Edson tractors, dead cells (batteries) and weasels.

The Man With a Hoe

Palin and McCain  THE MAN WITH A HOE

THE MAN WITH A HOE

Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
The emptiness of ages in his face,
And on his back, the burden of the world.
Who made him dead to rapture and despair,
A thing that grieves not and that never hopes,
Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox?
Who loosened and let down this brutal jaw?
Whose was the hand that slanted back this brow?
Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?

Is this the Thing the Lord God made and gave
To have dominion over sea and land;
To trace the stars and search the heavens for power;
To feel the passion of Eternity?
Is this the dream He dreamed who shaped the suns
And marked their ways upon the ancient deep?
Down all the caverns of Hell to their last gulf
There is no shape more terrible than this–
More tongued with cries against the world’s blind greed–
More filled with signs and portents for the soul–
More packed with danger to the universe.

What gulfs between him and the seraphim!
Slave of the wheel of Capital, what to him
Are Plato and the swing of the Pleiades?
What the long reaches of the peaks of song,
The rift of dawn, the reddening of the rose?
Through this dread shape the suffering ages look;
Time’s tragedy is in that aching stoop;
Through this dread shape humanity betrayed,
Plundered, profaned and disinherited,
Cries protest to the Powers that made the world,
A protest that is also prophecy.

O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
Is this the handiwork you give to God,
This monstrous thing distorted and soul-quenched?
How will you ever straighten up this shape;
Touch it again with immortality;
Give back the upward looking and the light;
Rebuild in it the music and the dream;
Make right the immemorial infamies,
Perfidious wrongs, immedicable woes?

O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
How will the future reckon with this Man?
How answer his brute question in that hour
When whirlwinds of rebellion shake all shores?
How will it be with kingdoms and with kings–
With those who shaped him to the thing he is–
When this dumb Terror shall rise to judge the world,
After the silence of the centuries?

Whose turn is it on Afghanistan’s plains?

It was a hard lesson for the Soviets, and before them the Soldiers of the Queen. I think Kipling’s advice bears repeating as we consider that American casualties are on the rise in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is the Forgotten Campaign of the GWOT, where we’re still taking a victory lap in a pool filling with crocodiles.

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
and the women come out to cut up what remains,
jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
and go to your gawd like a soldier.
    -Rudyard Kipling, The Young British Soldier

Battlefield without Borders a reading

Battlefield Without BordersAn excerpt from STANDING THERE, After the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, June, 2006
 
Days before,
Rachael had told a story.
It seemed simple then.
“A bug flew into my eye
while I played soccer.
For a full minute,
I stumbled across the field,
half-blind, frantically blinking,
trying to free the bug,
holding my big, clumsy
fingers at my side.
It was hilarious.
Teammates told me ‘Just kill it,’
but I laughed and blinked
and the bug broke free.”

Poet David Ferri-Smith will be reciting from BATTLEFIELDS WITHOUT BORDERS on Sunday April 13, 7pm TONIGHT at the Gill Foundation.
    David’s Colorado tour raises money for Direct Aid Iraq:
Monday April 14, Pueblo 12noon CSU Aspen Room, 7pm UU Church
Tuesday April 15, Alamosa 12noon Nielson Library, 7pm Carson Aud.
Wednesday April 16, Montrose 7pm
Thursday April 17, Grand Junction, Grand Valley Peace & Justice
Friday April 18, Durango 7pm Fort Lewis College, 130 Noble Hall
Saturday April 19, Durango Bookstore
Monday April 21, Grand Junction 11am, Frisco 7pm Senior Center
Tuesday April 22, Fort Collins 7pm, Bean Cycle Matter Bookstore
Wednesday April 23, Boulder 7pm, Friends Meeting House

Poetry Slams slam poetry

Poetry Slams have reduced our most elevated literary genre to the arena of Hallmark Cards. Can you imagine compelling Longfellow to extemporize on the spot, faced with one-upping a fast-rapping carnival barker? Perhaps Oscar Wilde could have risen to the challenge against a ghetto phoenix such as Eminem, but Eminem is not representative of the norm. We have to acknowledge the aberration of genius.

These days we are prepared to recognize the profound in autism. Improvised mental acuity may be the specialty of some few, but it will remain a statistical improbability that such genius resides in your neighborhood. I’d say poetry voice-offs in malls or coffee shops, with contests open to all comers, are most likely efforts in philistinism. Like all things pop, crap for crap tastes.

Poetry appreciation in common circles is for reading not writing. Poetry writing is therapy fodder, meant for no further than the support group circle.

I say more art appreciation, less gluing of noodles to paper plates painted gold. Otherwise to a passerby, unschooled like the majority have become, poetry is an abysmal cacophony of disjointed near-sighted observations, shall I compare thee to a navel on the half-gazed?

Homey poem

BE CALM LITTLE WHITE MAN

You’re the man,
People respect your money
You’re the head stag
You get all the women.

What do you do about the hispanic boys
Postering with their tattoos their shirts up over their bellies
Doing the nobody’s badder parade, pick a fight
Here I am my car makes buildings tremble baddass shit?

What about the black boys, strutting, pointing,
Bending their knees, putting their weight into you
Telling you they own this corner rhyming
King of the hill I’m so bad?

And the white boy homeys
Emulating the poor man macho trip
The talk the walk?

Or the cowboy dude or the army dude
Embarrassing you with the girl-as-thing lingo?

They’re saying they get a piece of the action.
What do you do?

Do you meet them on the street with a razor?
Do a drive-by? A drag race? Do you buck horns?
White man money’s got big horns.

I’ll tell you little man what your daddy’ll do.

Homey’s getting no education.
Homey’s getting no job.
Homey’s going to prison.
Let him fight for his dominant life.

If you’re not king of the turd pile there
And there can be only one- you get fucked.
Everyone can act proud but everyone gets fucked.

This is me down your throat my angry poverty-struck friend.
Cute muthafucker.