Tag Archives: political poems

Christmas At The Feeder

Here’s to fortune and health
for all the downy woodpeckers
I’ve ever seen on my feeder

It’s almost Christmas and I feel nothing
but fear for myself as I wish good cheer
to every last feathered one of them

Before they disappear forever
into the next mass extinction
may they feast and be merry

all the way to the end (and
may the squirrels I accidentally support as well
have a twinkle in their eyes as they pass)

It doesn’t much feel like Christmas to me
but when I see the animals I’m reminded
that part of the world

thinks they’ll be talking to each other
at midnight on Christmas Day
and they’ll be saying calming things

about some baby or another born to save us
If we make it to the Second Coming
I’m sure there won’t be many animals 

left to talk about it
So for now I’ll encourage them to eat
and smile at their heads bobbing in and out

because as the song says
it don’t feel much like Christmas time
To me it’s more like Good Friday

and grief’s darkness and I’m thinking
we won’t make it to Easter 
and the stone will sit there unmoved

with a raven and a dove perched on top
for a few seconds before they topple
into the dust 

Of all the myths we’ve lived by
the one I have the least faith in
is the one that taught us to think death

while awful was impermanent
so complacency in the face of extinction
was a rational state of mind

The downy woodpeckers fly in
and eat when they can and when they go
they’re gone

and it doesn’t feel like Christmas
or hope or belief or even joy 
will stick around for long

once they’re gone for good


The Origin Of The Modern Serial Killer

You long for the frontier
of old, long for 
the joy of getting a medal
for your massacre skills.

These days,
you have to be
discreet.

Get a secret tool
you can use 
with black iron edge or
silver that sings.

Learn to swing it,
where and how
to stop it.

Start your practice
at home, move it to
the car, at last strap
yourself and walk among
your targets
like an old school
hunter, settler, pioneer,
colonizer deluxe;

bloodline cleanser
one hundred and fifty years
too late to go public — 
too bad 
they don’t pay for scalps anymore:

you could have made a killing.


When The Check Gets Here

When the check gets here
we will open the front door
For the first time in days
we’ll go outside to the sunlight

(that’s been here all along
but which has felt more like the agent
of exposure and threat
of relegation to the street

than the giver of life and joy)
When the check arrives we will dance
the grocery dance and sing the song
of the one small luxury for each of us

bought alongside the staples we will take home
to our empty shelves that have whispered of death
every time we have passed them
for — who can recall the full amount of time?

It has seemed like forever
or maybe a month of those
When the check comes we might heat the house
We might leave a light on all night by mistake

and not curse it in the morning
Maybe we will offer the good cat food
two days in a row
and rejoice in the purring

We will stare at the gas gauge
a little less carefully and turn off 
the calculator nagging inside
for today anyway

When the check comes in
we might swear to never get this low again
When the check comes in 
we might swear to never ever getting this low again

Every check’s a prayer these days — 
not an answer to a prayer but a prayer itself
We fold our hands around it and ask it
to take away pain and give us hope

to free us from the tyranny of barely getting by
and the guilt we feel for buying one small luxury
The side-eye from the people in the stores who see it
in our carts otherwise full of shame

They might be suffering too
whenever they’re waiting for their next check
but we look at them the way they look at us
and somehow forget that all of us

are in this by someone else’s design


Thanksgiving Eve

Revised. From 2008.

Yes, I know the first official Thanksgiving Day 
was ordered to celebrate 
the massacre of 700 Pequots 
in 1637.

Yes, I feel accountable
to those dead 
for joining the annual amnesiac rush
to hide behind the lie
of a feast 16 years earlier in Plymouth 
that is used these days 
to screen us from how we cruise 
upon an ocean of blood.

Yes, I annually balance 
that shame on the end of a fork.

Yes, yes, to holding tight to the memory
of death in the fields around villages
burning like candles on the shore
of Long Island Sound.

Yes, yes, to the horrid past alive
in every bite of every American dish
eaten every day.

Yes, yes, though,
to days off and family
and people unseen since last year;
to knowing some of these faces
will likely be not here next year,
perhaps not even 
my own.

Yes, yes, yes.
Yes to our own remaking.
Yes to surviving the remaking of others.

Yes to the remaking of myths
through truth applied more as lesson,
less as bludgeon.


Point

a point can be made of anything
if you grind it long enough.

any point can stick you, or pierce
another. any point 

can be used to draw blood
or break a hide whether tender or tough.

you say, what about that warrior who said
“be like water.” what about water, you say,

water has no point? but direct it tightly enough
and it cuts through anything from stone

to time — any canyon shows 
how sharp and durable water’s point

can be, how much past is laid waste
behind it.  air, you say, air has no point?

tell me, what word that has ever torn you
was not at first a reworking of air?

a thought well sharpened can kill. anger
comes in spikes. temper, temper,

harden, hone; pull all we are
into the service of the spear. 

a point can be made of anything
worked hard enough, ground down enough —

even us, softened with fear;
even us who think we could never, could.


On All Fours As Predicted

as has been predicted
we are down on all fours
eating sand — smooth

pink, hard graveled, 
laden with plastic and glass,
oil-caked: whatever we find

we swallow because we must
eat or die. we are down on all fours
drinking sewage or other foulness

because all we have left is foulness.
drown in scent and hard swallow.
this is how we see ourselves now.

as has been predicted on all fours,
understanding slightly more
of what that’s like. there were so many

who told us it would come to this
and now we semi-get it but we still think
we will rise up in a bit and things

will return to normal. we only semi-get it
as was predicted. this is normal now.
we will have to be down a long time,

longer than this, if we are ever to rise.
those who’ve lived here on all fours longer
stretch and prepare. as was predicted.

as their time down is done. if there will be
a rising at all they are ready. we remain
on all fours though they will lift us.

if we let them.
if we can vomit that poison.
if we take note of what has been predicted.


the American din

words you’d expect to use
are hereby banned

for the duration of
this conversation

instead of nation
we will say blanket

instead of cacophony
we say rust

instead of chaos
we shall say engine

for scream
instead we say the language of love

which is like a blanket 
over rust

flaking off from the rough shake
of the engine that propels us here

to the carnival
which we say instead of saying

brushfire
which we say instead of saying

a civil debate
which we say instead of saying

what we mean which is 
a way of saying we don’t know

what we mean when we insist upon
speaking of the language of love 

while the blanket
bursts into flame


the American quiet

in the American quiet
a voice that 
in other countries
is plain and 
acknowledged
becomes a nuisance,

an unnecessary
trumpeting of what
the American quiet claims
is so obvious it is
unnecessary to say it:

that people 
have a right to 
redress and 
even the rudest hint
of protest is still
to be honored

but in the American quiet
all you hear
is that the rudeness
of the hint negates
the gaping scream
of the sacred cry 
it portends

you could drown in the American quiet
and no one would hear you scream


Did Not

did or did not,
died or was killed,
suicide or homicide,

choose your focus:
another long day of lies
in a string of long days
or

one short night
you think is a

occasion for a burst
of truth

in the daily news
that feels like
just a
mystery

if it matters to you
or not, if you are sure
or not, if you have proof
or believe proof or not:

what are you going to do
except laugh at it or cry out
against it or make it into 
some middling joke to share
with the like minded

and those who did it
or did not

do indeed do
right out in the open

things you ought to
stop laughing at

and though mockery is all you have
or think you have 
or bother to use 

maybe

stop laughing 
pick a target
and do?


Focus

Enter, stage right, the muzzled
and the dumb. I am ready
to take them as they come.
I do not judge them for what they
seem unable to do;

we do such a good job of binding
and stupefying that it hardly seems fair
to stare down adversaries so stunted
they cannot see how tall
they could have been, or could still be.

It is not that I will stand for their aggression,
their threats, their torches and their guns:
no. If they come swinging 
I will swing; if shooting,

I will shoot. I have no good reason

to save these already destroyed,
though I pity them. I do in fact mourn
the need to do what I must to save myself
and those I loved. But I must
look beyond them to see 

the true enemy who made them
and use them and suck them dry
of cash and logic and compassion.
If I am made to hate anyone, I will reserve
that capacity for them. 


How To Throw A Brick

First of all of course
you must choose the brick.
It can be any shape or size:

being yourself 
in an unexpected place,
one where you’ve been
forbidden, is often brick enough
to break some wall or window;

it may require
a bit more — the purchase
of a wedding cake,
a clothing choice no one foresaw,
stubborn insistence on a name or pronoun —
to crack a thicker wall or head
grown old and bitter
from long authority.

Next, the throw.
It should be overhand —
let it take flight, let it soar
over the ruins between you
and the target. Those
who fell before this time
will look up in the dark
and see a brighter sky and think
of a bird that can fly and land
wherever it wants;
they will rest easier.

You will not be alone in the fight.
Bricks that arc together land harder;
there are so many walls and windows to smash 
before they fully open the gates.

As for yourself in the aftermath?

You may retreat to save yourself
from what they do in response
but the ground where you stood remains yours;
though some may see it as a paradox,
you are also the brick you tossed,
a piece of something new yet to be built.


The Semi-Conscious

To be left uneaten
by the cannibals:
that is the fondest wish
of the semi-conscious.

To see the feeding
and the preceding slaughter
and merely cower:
that is the privilege accorded to them.

To crawl away and hide
and be able to stand up
and pick their way
through the bone-field,

then go safely home
after the feast is done,
to be left untouched and whole,
is their purest joy.

Their dreams mostly
untroubled by the sound
of chewing. Their lives
lived as fatly or thinly

as they choose. Their children
guaranteed to thrive
unbitten or even to grow into
the next class of flesh-eaters:

what else could they desire?
It’s not their fault others 
were designated as fast food.
That so many were roasted

and consumed by the cannibals.
All those people had to do was lay low
and blend in. It would have been
easy to survive, 

camouflaged, half-awake,
just aware enough to know
what it took to survive.
They must have
deserved to be prey.

As for the current sound of cannibals 
gnashing their teeth and thrashing the bush f
or the next meal? 
That sound is meant, they trust,
for someone else to fear.

 


A Bowl Of Bruised Fruit

You have a bowl 
of bruised fruit.
A cloud of tiny flies.
A smell.

Some of it looks
salvageable. Some of it
is clearly spoiled. How much
of the rest is imminently beyond help

is yet unknown and the thought
of sorting it, taking each piece
and finding it soft
and rotten, finding its stain

upon your high and mighty hand?
You aren’t ready. You step away,
the brandied rot of the bowl
hanging in your nostrils.

It’s going to get worse
before it gets better, you know,
but if you ignore it
maybe someone else

will do the necessary dirty work
that lies ahead and you can pretend,
at least to yourself,
that you never knew. 


Three Chords And

Massively revised from 2008, 2015.  Original title, “It’s The ‘Spangled’ That We Love About That Song.”

once you were a chucked salt berry
a fogerty full of sloppy chords
a skip to my lou reed

then you got all slippery
with your own clean sauce

tossed out your faded paper bag

of dark wanderings
bought your commercial anthem
from the fluorescent aisle

come back to your game desire
come slaphappy sharp
to the war against plastic

you used to have
a mouth full of splinters

honored dingbat and idiot

and all those
who broke the social charm
with a fart

you were gas monster
huffer of free roaches
smoker of the right goddamn herbs

who feared not death
when it came through charred fences
borne on tornado cellar blown open

you were the scent
of acorn porridge

delta mysterious

that devil in the crossroads
still valued
your willing ass

you used to not be such a freak for safety
you used to not be
such a doom escape

children
hate you more
now that you’re safer

not a scrap
of care left
for your tradition

we love some of you still
even with your
crystal fraud hippie faking

and your
wall street loving
gutterpunk

bite me
or better yet 
infect yourself

be the sick fuck we loved to love
no matter how bad
you made us feel


Looking At My Cereal Bowl, I See Only That (I Swear)

That hairline crack in my favorite bowl
is going to split open one day, either from
an accidental contact in the sink
or the excitation of the microwave.

This is all I am thinking about
right now: a mess yet to come;
the shards in the soapy water
or the oatmeal splattered on the steel walls.

This is all I am thinking about 
right now: dread for the clean up;
the blood in the water when I seize
an edge or a point without seeing it.

This is the only thing I am thinking about:
how much I’ll miss that bowl even though its end
is obviously near; how much nourishment
it has held for me; how short is its remaining time.