Tag Archives: political poems

Lil Greenie

There are so many bodies
between a frog
and its grandfather
they may not know each other
when they meet.

Think of a full pond
of offspring and grand-offspring,
how many eggs, how many tadpoles…
Gramps and Lil Greenie
easily may see each other,
croak back and forth
with no awareness
of genetics held in common.

Lil Greenie grows up
swiftly, turns out pretty 
ordinary.  One day someone
sketches him badly and 
eventually the drawing makes him
famous under a new name — they
call him “Pepe.”

He gets taken
all the wrong ways to all
the best places by some very 
fine bastards indeed. Frogs being
what they are he doesn’t care
as long as he gets fed. They put
bloody words in his mouth and slivers
of ice under his skin and he
burps out this is fine thank you
whenever he gets a chance to speak.

If you ask him what his grandfather
or great-grandfather, what
his Original Mother would think of this,
Pepe will look at you with a half turned, 
crude smile that says he knows just enough
of his ancestry to be dangerous,
which is almost nothing. 


Ain’t That America

1.
You arrive, there’s
a church ready made
for you.  A grand car lot.
Sign spinners
and blinking neon.
Plastic pennants point shaking, 
acolytes rump shaking.
Come on down, step right up,
huckster gospel hour of power,
walk on in and be approved,
drive away in your holy wreck,
come back soon for more new shiny.
Like that song says,
ain’t that America. 

2.
Stick here long enough
and someone
may slip you a whisper
or maybe you find out
for yourself 
not to trust deities
who keep eight decks of cards
up each sleeve. Who invert
at dusk to hang inert 
in their Paradise, ignoring
desperate prayers
so they can wake up 
refreshed for their new day
at the expense 
of refreshing yours.
Who play you when they play.
Who made this house that always wins.
Ain’t that America?

3.
You leave feet first,
they always say,
unless of course you don’t
and you depart while still
upright, walking around in debt
to those gods of the house
with the church and the holy tables
where you laid your life out
and kept betting chunks of it
in pursuit of happiness.  Midnight
prayers unanswered except
through the last radio left on
all night in a tired coffee shop 
full of other mesmerized folks 
singing along. Ain’t that America?


Shrug It Off

Amid the shock and awe at the final arrival of the long-inevitable,
at burn patterns already veining surfaces, at cities that smell like mistakes,
at villages cowering, at collapsing sea walls in hot rising surf, at isolated farms
where life’s winking out as flames consume…you’re here

where deep down you believe all that mess can’t bother you. You’re here
where you can feel the heat and think it’s…nice. You’re here
where you can watch and shake your head in time to the crackling
and you’re here where you can tell yourself that at least the art

may soon be as good as it always is under such stress.
It can’t be helped, you say.  It’s the way of things, you say.
Forget the bucket brigade, forget the hoses, forget
pulling livestock and children from the flames.  Their owners

and parents should have known better — but they aren’t yours.
You now may wring your brutal, soft hands. You need do nothing more.


Practicality

In this
fascist daylight
a sensible man 

holds back

Keeps his edge
hidden in the presence
of killers
Waits till dark
to slit them
and carve them down

before slipping back
to his mild life
and family

Movies
and the sheep
who love them

call him a coward
to wait for nightfall

and not confront the killers
right out where they
can see him

He will end
more of them his way

and stay alive
longer than he would

if he fought the way the movies
insist he should 

If the fight comes to him
in daylight
that’s one thing but

his way seems more
sensible and the results
speak for themselves

The toxin of dumb bravery
is a long memory
Casts a longer shadow

He who moves past those
while disregarding the jeers
of those enamored
of its cinematic allure

ends up
anonymous
blood soaked
successful 

thinking of it
as a matter of 
simple
practicality
in real life and
not fantasy


Marketing

Anything you buy
has a name given to it
by people who’ve been paid to name 
cough drops and cosmetics
using words they think
you will remember;
making up words they think
will soothe you;
creating words to shift
your confidence or fear.

If you buy that Bible tale
this started long ago.
Back then it was done for free
by divine decree.
Even if you don’t buy that

it’s clear from all the books
holy or unholy, secular or sacred,
that naming has always been
at least a little about
marketing 

and marketing rarely asks 
that which is being named
for permission to name it
or even for input
as that might not fit
the needs of those 
doing the selling

which is how we got names
like
redskin.


The National Mood, January 2019

Standing over
a roadkill dog
Poking it
with a stick
Saying

it is fine
it is just resting

Clearly still alive
Look at the movement
under the skin
Look at the eyes
still wide open

All it needs is
a little tender loving care

All we need
is to turn it over
and it will
get right back up

run in joy
over the plains
to the sea and back
to us

its tail wagging
no teeth showing


Travel Brochure

Come to our stunning land
of shuttered offices
and shattered myths

of historic capital founded upon
no memory. You will
travel in its ruts

from one coast to another
and learn to pronounce
place names in the tongues

of the forgotten. Dine 
upon its bounty, pick your teeth
with its sharp old bones,

see its cloudy mountain tops
and thrill to its endless,
burial ground plains. Its cities

will snare you, its villages
will hang you up, its forests
and lakes will burn before you

as you marvel at the light
and the way it moves
the shadows away

from your scrutiny.
You’ll go mad with tourist joy
at the mystery. All expenses

paid by others, 
meals included but often
rushed and spotty.

Restrictions apply.
Some assembly required;
bring tools, glue,

your own plans,
lowered eyes and 
brows. Patience. Armor.


Jerry Or Tom

I call him
Jerry or Tom,
that White Man In Me.

Jerry or Tom,
who I prefer to
forget about

but who refuses
to stop being
me in public.

And I call 
that Mescalero In Me
Tom, or Jerry;

whatever 
Jerry or Tom
isn’t using today,

he gets. I wish
I knew more about him
than I do, except

I make up 
too much already
and the older I get

the less inclined I am
to indulge in
dreams

about Tom
or Jerry, whichever
he is. Who knows

whichever one
is the Truth?
Can both be, or is Truth

truly a casualty
of war and as I am
war embodied, 

am I pure lie? I have
friends (I think) who say
I make too much 

of all this: be yourself,
they say, little of
that matters, really.

I’ve got some who sneer and say
I’m pure Tom, others
who scrape and say

pure Jerry,
others who praise me
for being entirely

open to such torture.
On the rez
they’ve called me

other. In the office
they’ve called me 
other. Once at home

the White Man In Me
sits up and barks
at every little sound

whenever the Mescalero In Me
isn’t doing it and it’s striking
how they less and less often

agree. Tom tells Jerry
to die. Jerry tells Tom
the same thing. Maybe

that’s something
we can all agree on —
after all I get to 

ride behind them 
and watch them
punch it out and

such fatigue as that
you might imagine only
if you know them

intimately or have
your own war-pair
to wrestle with. 

What keeps me going
is knowing that I am what
the people who made this happen

wanted to happen: one of
a host, one of a generation of 
denatured progeny

drifting between names
and selves, guilty and raging
and disintegrated; knowing that

and hating that
and refusing to die
until I figure out a real name,

one they would hate, 
one I can finally live with, 
is all I’ve got now.

Tom or Jerry, Jerry
or Tom; at the end
the cartoon will circle in

upon them, upon me.
I will have no certain name
then, other than Dead Man

and then Tom or Jerry,
Jerry or Tom, Mescalero Or
White Man In Me Or Not,

shall become as academic
as anything else ever carved in stone
over a set of sodden bones

or left on the wind
in high desert, never
to be spoken again.


The Long And The Short

the length of time
it takes for me
to explain again
to yet another person
the pain of all the generations
(indigenous and not)
that have preceded me and 
settled in me

shortens my life
by decades

thinking of all
the decades I’ve lost
in which
I could have done
so many trivial things
that would have made me
unremarkable

in truth all I wanted
was an armchair
solid food
a beverage and
a little love
from loved ones

along with a little respect from
those I meet

but here I am
and the long
and the short of it  
is that I’m either
ten feet tall and looming
as a learning experience
for some or
microscopic
beyond the vision
of others

I’d just like to be
five foot eight
thick and graying
and left alone


In Despair

Revision.  Posted originally in April, 2016. Original title, “I Wake Up In Despair.”

I wake up in despair most mornings
that the day will again slant uphill
and it will take everything I have to climb it.

I wake up in despair most mornings
but find comfort in doing things
no Pharaoh could ever do:

for instance, picking myself up
without an entourage to help me;
getting by with no entourage in celebration

or sorrow; falling down back-broken
and getting back up again next day for another round
with nothing but what’s in me to pull me up.

I wake in despair most mornings.
Each day bores me: sometimes a dull drill,
sometimes a chisel striking same and same and same again.

I wake in despair most mornings 
but find comfort in knowing
things a boss can’t know or has forgotten:

how to do the dirtiest bits of a dozen jobs;
how to take the next step when it’s time, how to 
fix the broken piece, how not to fail

from seven AM to lunch, how to stay awake
from lunch to three PM and longer
if three PM becomes 5 PM or later.

I wake in despair most mornings knowing 
how little of my life is good for me, based on 
the time I have to spend recovering from the rest of it.

I wake in despair most mornings
but almost get to glee knowing
what a king does not, what they may never know:

how to run riot in the streets to spite my aches and pains;
how to run riot in the streets with all the others aching and pained;
how to run riot in the streets knowing how little time I likely have.

I run riot knowing that ahead of me, somewhere
cowering, somewhere hiding behind their walls, 
a king, a boss, and a Pharaoh are themselves in despair,

filled with the knowledge
of their lack of knowledge
about anything that needs to be done.

In spite of the odds and the guns
and the war any of them could muster,
I no longer share their despair.


What Is The World Now

Am not D and D
Am neither Magic nor Minecraft
nor even Pokemon Go
Not anime
Cannot speak in manga
Cannot read emoji
Am not EDM
Am no Internet troubadour
When new songs are mentioned
I am bewildered by them all
From behind these changes
I am asking

what is
the world now

Cannot stand in cipher
or freestyle
Words slip by
faster than I can hear
Though never shy to stage myself
As heads turn from what I do and am
I puzzle over how and why and

what is
the world now

I squint to see gray today
Was born to black or white
I strain to see gradation
from pole to pole
Was born to see either heat or ice
It turns faster
than I was raised to move
Was born to claim either here or there
Male or female
Right or left

I am being changed but

what is 
the world now

Stood so long
where ground seemed strong
So little need
to shift my weight
Footing changes below me
I maintain
but not without fear
Mind unclear as scramble
becomes routine
Body sore and incomplete
as pace rises and

what is
the world now

Am not made for this
Was made for a slower climb
In fact was not built to climb at all
Was expected to float and rise
by nature over nurture

What is
the world now 

A rock shuddering through changes
impersonal and fatal

People who are proudly not
what they were long forced to seem

And as for
shrunken, straggling, uncomfortable me

Am not D and D, am not shibari
Am not EMD, am not Fall Out Boy
Am lost old man
Zigging in panic to try and keep up
Increasingly unsure if I want to or should

for what is the world now

but a growing rejection
of all I was built for

Ready for my self-demolition
of which it will take little notice

as it moves in another direction
from where I shall rest in its dust


23 And Me

Revised, from March 2018.  Original title, “23.”

Somebody give me two imaginary things:
a top hat dyed dark with noble blood
and a statue of me wearing the hat.

Then, call me
lord and ruler; a statue
of the imaginary me

is enough of a vessel
from which to sip
the red juice of privilege.

If you give me the bloody hat 
and the statue as well, perhaps
I shall be regal and in charge,

so go ahead and give me
the title as well. Something good,
something recorded on parchment,

for I want to choose who I am 
and discard what I was raised to be:  
that matters less, it seems,

than what a scrap of me
has to report. 
All that history

we used to wrestle 
once could exalt or damn a person, 
and now all we have to do

is check a box or stuff one
and we are what we claim.
Easy enough for everyone. 

I’m enjoying the sticky hat on my head.
I’m enjoying the hell
out of my pale marble face.

I’m dreaming of what it all must mean
although all it truly means
is that I’m dreaming. 


Immigrant

Where you come from
the people speak the language
of eyelids: all messages, direction,
and mission revealed
in hints of motion visible
behind shuttered faces. 

You can usually 
get past the noise level here,
but some days, you come home
and lie in the dark wishing
for someone to read
what you’re thinking.

Such a loud land
you’ve landed in: news
a broken set of bells
echoing every minute, opinion
half screaming angry,
half screaming in sorrow.
You wonder if it will ever
fall silent, then fear that moment
is coming soon and no one
will know what to do, 
except explode.


Chosen

World outside is greasy
with nonsense 
today; that wind
has some throat to it.
Had to get up early; no sleep

to be had with that voice
slipping around corners, 
through windows, along eaves.
Anyone would prefer

to stay in bed with that
chaos blowing so hard; rather
keep sleeping, keep screwing, 
keep blank and dark and quiet

pretending it’s going to end
as quickly and silently as it began,
but it doesn’t work that way; this same
scouring windstorm has blown

from first day to this one
and all that changes is who is here
to confront it and build new shelters
among its teeth. No matter how slippery

life gets, someone always finds a footing.
No matter how loud and dirty life gets,
someone always whispers
something clean enough 

to break through it. It might well
be you: uncomfortable you,
frightened you, present 
and dawning and perfect,

born in this time for this time.


Feeding The Birds

He’s feeding the birds
before putting out the trash —
making sure they’re fed,
making sure the recycling’s done
right, making sure of his own little circle.

He will not watch television this morning
because they’ll be showing the funeral
of a villain, and after all the funerals he’s wept at
he does not want to see 
the weeping at this one.

He’s feeding the birds
before putting out the trash,
before anything else he might do
to avoid the prattle and rattle
of ceremony.

He will not stop thinking
“rot in hell” today
because it’s the only way he can assuage
the horror of knowing the funeral means
the bastard got away with everything.

He’s feeding the birds. He’s putting out the trash.
He’s amazed he made it this far
and after all the funerals he’s been to,
he’s glad he lived to see this one although
he’s sorry it took this long.