All Poems From 2020

ALIENS đź‘˝

Under an unfamiliar sky,
on an unfamiliar planet far away,
stargazers, much like us,
look up and think—
“Are we alone?”

We’d be aliens to them, almost
as much as to each other.

 

NOSTALGIA

Nostalgia is a spotlight cast
to flatter features of the past:
  the undiscovered virgin land,
    the happy time before the masks,
      the age of long attention spans
        before the tweets & texts & tasks…
Nostalgia keeps us on the fence
about today’s experience,
since if that memory is true,
the future might get brighter, too.

 

HOW TO KILL A POET

Kill her with disparity
Kill her with despair
Kill her with the thousand shocks
to which flesh is heir

Kill her with brutality
Kill her with red tape
Build a deep surveillance state
no one can escape

Kill her like an animal
Kill her in the street
Kill her like a cannibal
Kill her while you eat

Kill your poet all these ways;
then, if still alive,
kill her with the death of love—
THAT she’ll not survive.

*
Context: written shortly after George Floyd’s death.

 

NOTE TO SELF

What do you yearn for in your đź’™ of đź’™s?
I know you’re, like, allergic to clichés,
but cut some slack for me—I’m in “the arts.”
The Muse commands; the lowly scribe obeys.

So, what, deep down, can set your 💙 on🔥?
What can you do all hours & yet not tire?
What purpose can you infinitely serve?
What would you, at your lifetime’s cost, preserve?

Your answers could be many. You’re but 1.
But out of all the races you could run,
by running even 1 with all you’ve got,
you may make greatness your companion.

What do you yearn for, in your đź’™ of đź’™s?
That wonder is where all our greatness starts.

*
Context: An English teacher insisted, “Emojis will NEVER have a place in poetry.”

 

A POEM IN 10 FACTS

There’s no excuse for cowardice
no honor in deceit
no ransom sum for innocence
nobody death won’t meet

no victory in bigotry
no sanity in hate
no substitute for dignity
no foresight into fate

these facts I know
but even so
I’m ignorant as Eve
without you, Love—
without you
I have nothing to believe.

 

POSTCARD TO CLARITY

Since I’ve sacrificed
so much on your altar,
I hoped I’d see some light
one of these days—
no longer.

Whenever I try to wrestle you down,
you’re stronger.

Now I’m hoping to write one song
long enough
to make you known—
no longer.

 

A POET’S PRAYER IN A PANDEMIC

Where are you, Muse,
that you forget, so far,
to sing of that which makes you
what you are?

What plagues you, Muse,
that when I’m nature’s prey
you push away Love even
one
more
day?

Return, neglectful Muse,
& resurrect
the passion that connects us—
humankind—
so no one can disparage or forget
the power of a love-infected mind.

*
Context: written at the start of lockdowns in the USA.

 

ATLANTIS & JERUSALEM

Atlantis—dream of future
Jerusalem—dream of past

now
they rise
out of the dead land
again—it was never over,
not when we split the atom,
not after Troy, even—
myth of future & myth of past
tie our fragile being
to the mast

now in Atlantis
the Stargazer returns to his
accustomed toil
strengthens the soil
harvests the sun
makes machines run
for everyone

now in Jerusalem
two bodies face to face
fly on fleeting kite
strings in
a violet
sky

now
Atlantis—dream of future
Jerusalem—dream of past
tie my fragile being to the mast

Context: inspired by conversations with Marc Tarpenning.

 

THE NIGHT WATCHMAN

“I know the stars by heart,”
said the night watchman.
“Under these stars, my boy
was born and raised;
under these stars,
my mother taught me well;
under these stars, my empire
rose and fell.”

“How many nights
have seen you here?” I asked.

“More than you’ve ever slept,”
he answered me.

“How much of fate is written there?”
I asked, studying Cancer, Gemini & Mars.

Laughing at me, he said:
“I know the stars—
that doesn’t mean I know
what’s in the stars!
Under these stars, I fell
into love’s spell;
under these stars, I rang
the temple bell;
under these stars, I lived
and maybe well—
that’s all my fate
and all fate I can tell.”

 

PANDEMONIUM

We named it Pandemonium—
the capital of Hell—
where Satan takes the podium
& poison floods the wells
& slaves & masters, both of them,
are slaves to Satan’s spell;

we tired of Pandemonium;
we wanted to live free,
& so we got Newtonian
& found our gravity:

we rallied every rebel soul;
we battered down the gates;
we reached the sacred sun & soil
where liberty awaits;

we saw the sunlight, all of us,
& rang the holy bell
& left behind
in ruins of time
the capital
of Hell—
but
just
in
case
we fall again…
who’s ready to rebel?

 

PROCRASTINATION

Forgive me, Productivity!
Distraction had its way with me
while Time escaped away from me;
I’ve scarcely seen success before;
I’m scared there’s gonna be a war;
I have a cold, I have a limp,
I have a pimple like a blimp,
I made a mess, I took a nap,
I drew a dragon-doodled map—
I’ve got excuses out the door
for why I don’t possess you more!
I guess to keep track of the time
until you’re mine, I’ll make this rhyme.

Context: Inspired by conversations with Nir Eyal.

 

ETERNITY IS PASSION

Have you seen a top achiever
in a sport, pursuit, or craft
at the height of that bright fever
that engulfs them in the act?
Eternity is passion!

Where the dead trees give no shelter
& the dusty rocks no shade,
where the sweatless reptiles swelter,
even there, where things decay,
eternity is passion.

Why get dragged down by minutia?
Why let beauty pass you by?
Why not build your chosen future?
Why not sing into the sky?

Yes, this road runs right through failure;
yes, your heart will sometimes break—
but you’ll be your own worst jailer
if you chase a prize that’s fake.
Eternity is passion!

Context: conceived & written collaboratively with a small group of poetry lovers on Twitter. Title courtesy of WB Yeats.

 

THE OBSTACLE IS THE WAY

Staggering, the weight of it—
Blinding, like the sun—
Yes, I am afraid of it.
No, I will not run.

Let the stars throw down their spears;
let volcanoes roar;
as the old world disappears,
I will find new doors.

In the horror of the shade,
gripped by time & fate,
yes, I’m mortal—and afraid—
still, I will create.

Yes, I am afraid of it.
No, I will not run.
Fear—man isn’t made of it,
so the battle’s won.

 

THE LIFE OF THE MIND

each great man at some point becomes
a philosopher (a lover of wisdom)

philosophy floods in when you’re short on time,
yet you have all the time in the world

philosophy is a guilty pleasure—also a lifeline

philosophy can help you evade chaos

philosophy gives you a torch to carry

&

a great man is a torch-bearer
disguised as a teacher.

 

THIS ONE’S FOR YOU, MY LEADERS

This one’s for you, my leaders: I can see
in you the strength to topple tyranny,
to carry those who travel wearily,
to grapple monstrous Chaos in its tracks,
to lift oppressors off their victims’ backs,
to open minds & hearts & avenues
to know & love the truth so much abused—
& even these weird years,
I see
in you
the vision that beholds the future’s torch;
it’s in your reach—believe it!—you are free
to take that torch, and march it to the sea.