Have you noticed all these people
who think they know what to do?
Have you noticed how they often
also tell YOU what to do?
It seems rarely out of malice
that they try to force their view;
It’s more like their kingly palace
is a prison
like a zoo
where you spend your life’s duration
in your natural habitat,
but it’s all a fabrication
& you die exactly that.
Sometimes I curse
the existence of skin—
how it makes some
people lose & some win—
yet, without skin, there’d be nothing within.
Image: William Blake, 1796
I’ve taken it upon myself
to educate mankind.
I’ve studied much psychology,
much science of the mind.
My stamina’s uncanny;
my resolve is absolute:
I’m speaking for the underdogs
who’d otherwise be mute!
I do their thinking for them—
that’s what I was trained to do.
You wonder who I am?
I am not Red.
I am not Blue.
I’m someone using power
to make fake promises to you.
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
& battered down the gates
to reach the sacred sun & soil
where liberty awaits;
we saw the sunlight, all of us,
& rang the holy bell
& left behind
in ruins of time
we fall again…
who’s ready to rebel?
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,
the passion that connects us—
so no one in my time may yet forget
the power of a Love-infected mind.
to a coward
to get devoured
Once upon a time
in a land called Compromise
two people could win
if they could share the prize.
Painting by Émile Friant (1888)
‘Seclusion’ is a very pretty word
for something that could easily get lonely.
‘Isolation’ strikes a deeper nerve—
one that looks at war & says, “If only.”
Image: Caspar David Friedrich, ca. 1850
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 loss of love —that she’ll not survive.
What are you, opportunity?
You mask your full identity
until you’re seized—then, we can see
your face of grace. Yet, if set free,
passed up or missed unwittingly,
you mutate all too easily
into a space for tyranny.
Image: Andy Warhol, 1972
Atlantis—myth of future
Jerusalem—myth of past
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
strengthens the soil
harvests the sun
makes machines run
all for no one
now in Jerusalem
two bodies face to face
fly from their kite-strings
on the background
of a violet
Atlantis—myth of future
Jerusalem—myth of past
tie my fragile being to the mast
There’s a story I imagine
everybody’s heard before
of a little hilltop village
where they never lock their doors
where they don’t take love for granted
& they see no point in fame
& they share the food they planted
asking nothing but your name.
Have you traveled to that village?
If so, tell me: Is it more
than a bunch of people like us
who refuse to lock their doors?
Image: Van Gogh, 1890
Inspired by: Propaganda by Jaques Ellul
Image: Joseph Goebbels
Only after your time will Time decide
how well you’ve served our species as a guide,
but, since a leader’s life’s the life you lead,
here’s how I hope (& think) we both agree:
A good teacher won’t preach what he thinks;
instead, he shows the thirsty where he drinks.
The more he grows, the less he thinks he knows.
Friends are those who keep him on his toes.
Blazing no new trail from which to stray,
at best, he sheds some light that lights the way.
Finally (to not drag out this poem)
he understands this story as his own:
A wisdom-seeker lived inside a cave
for many moons. He neither spoke nor shaved,
but scribbled nonstop nonsense on the walls
until, clearly enlightened, out he crawled.
The only drawing left, of all he’d done,
was one big disk—a circle, like a sun.
Many disciples followed in his wake,
except they kept on making this mistake:
they drew circles, just like his, everywhere,
never discovering how his got there.
Brainwashers in the churches,
brainwashers in the schools,
making worship into mockery
& students into fools;
brainwashers in the Bible Belt,
brainwashers on the coasts;
brainwashers taking dollars,
brainwashers taking votes—
you’re all the same, brainwashers!
you think you’re slick & sly,
but I can see right through your grand
disguises to your lies
& I see how you
falsify your sympathetic cries—
it’s not hard when your crying eyes
look like a crocodile’s!
you think you’re safe, established
& looked up to by the youth?
you stick out like sore thumbs above the
flat, plain truth,
& already, your time’s run out—
you’re only still around
because what goes up
& you’re speeding toward the ground
Willie Lester was a man
who toured in Afghanistan;
he left when he was barely 18.
on that day, his mother cried
with sunshine in her eyes;
her son looked better than she’d ever seen.
he was decorated some
for how well he used his gun,
but mostly for the lives he fought to save;
he showed valor in a time
when his brothers lost their minds;
he was smart & strong, fast on his feet & brave.
he left with a purple heart,
but that was just the start
of the fearless fighter’s suffering & pain;
he came home where he grew up
& frequently threw up
from the flashbacks of his buddies maimed & slain
surrounded by the sound of the screaming
at night he never knew if he was dreaming
but in public he was fine
as he laughed & drank & dined
telling war stories his mom could understand;
little did Ms. Lester know
death had dealt the fatal blow
long ago to this exceptional young man.
one day, Willie got all dressed,
hung his medals on his chest
& wrote a letter for
when he was dead:
ma, my head’s so full of war,
there’s nothing left from before,
so I have to put a bullet there instead.
he pulled the trigger fast.
all his neighbors heard the blast
& stretched their rubber necks to see the sight
of the man whose violent pain
had pulverized his brain
till he was killed by his own will to fight.