My eyes already hurt
and all I’ve done so far today
is read a story of two children
killing a friend over some toy
and another one about
not teaching kids full history in schools
which if they did might explain a lot of things
about killing and why they do it
and it made me think about the possibility that
all of history’s dead people are sitting beside me
on the bus on my way to work
I’m always so cold by the time I get there
the last thing I want to do for a job
is take orders and abuse
from people not yet dead
who just keep repeating the same mistakes
because they don’t know history
and I want to tear out my hurting eyes
and push on the columns of the temple
that look so strong and solid
all it would take
is a few of us
to take them down
and though I’d be first blind and then dead
I am willing to try but then again
when I look at where I am
my eyes hurt like the hell I see
and all I can do is close them
We are really becoming productive again
and it shows in every shiny pore of our tender skin
that’s been locked away from sunlight and community
The possibility of changing everything is still ripe they say
but instead we’re going into the office and oooh
it feels so good to do those same things again
the way we used to in the same spot that somehow
feels a little different and it’s not like we haven’t been
locked down to doing them from home except for the ones
that had to be done in the war zone itself along with
the blood jobs and the food jobs and the shit jobs and the death jobs
and even at home we worried about death a little more
and the kids thronged the house behind the makeshift workspace
and the kids needed teaching which was a second job
and the second job was a first job and the first job became a dull ache
and the third job was a dread and how do we comfort each other
when we can’t touch each other and tell each other it will be alright
when we don’t know how to be alright anymore
Except we’re really becoming productive again and that’s alright
What counts is what we are becoming
We have the opportunity to change everything
We have the opportunity to say we’re changing everything
including who gets to define what we’re becoming
We don’t have to leave that in those same old hands
The virus was as mindless and hungry and implacable as they are
No wonder they loved it so much though they would never admit it
but it also put a spotlight on us as the means of production
and in that spotlight is where we find ourselves now
This is how we could seize not just the moment
but our own definitions instead of slipping back into theirs
and becoming really productive again
with our kids thronging behind us
to sweat and die from the same old plague
My hands flew open and I found myself
mistakenly trusting someone once again.
It felt like hell afterwards, worse than normal;
I’m certain that this blood
all over my hands
is my own.
Once again I’ve received what I deserve
for my perpetual, hopeful foolishness.
I reset my center, swear, “never again.”
I will no doubt do it again,
accepting what appears to be
kindness. It may even be
intended as kindness. No matter:
I will trust someone and afterward
I will bleed and swear not to bleed
ever again. Every two years,
every four years, I will remind myself
of this as I bleed and bleed.
Take a moment to think
of all the sad sick children of our parents
who should not have been parents.
Think of all the children whose parents
never learned a thing about how to do it right
because no one gave a second thought
to how the world was failing, to how
they had failed it themselves and how
they were passing it all down to their kids.
You see them every day walking in parks
and seeing nothing, sitting in bars, lying together
on joyless, broken beds.
A nation of slipped discs —
a full measure of people with
untenable spines for the battle ahead,
nearly bent double from the pain
of trying to just survive. They aren’t going
to revolt or even protest. They can’t see
what’s right in front of them,
for the pain of standing upright
keeps them blind. If it takes
a village to raise a child,
where is theirs? You are a fool
to believe in any revolution
rising from people whose only model
for society is what they can see
when the only society they can see is an anthill.
a quartz point
stolen from where
it grew. Now it rests on
a folding table
in the home of a
colonizer who keeps it
lit with a full spectrum light
all hours of the day,
all the days of the year,
and if you listen you can hear
a sharp growl like that of a black dog
from the corner of the room
where it languishes.
Nothing should surprise you
about this as it is not
unusual for a colonizer
to exercise what they call
in whatever way they deem best,
regardless of listening to
the earth itself which speaks
in tongues they can’t fathom
of a stolen stone comes less
from the tongue
than from the lung and throat,
for instance, and when
a colonizer hears it
they assume it is their own
voice within, depression
they call it, the black dog
they call it; and it will persist
as long as they hold on to
what they’ve stolen.
Is it not lovely, they say,
touching the quartz point
under the full-spectrum light
they bought for the purpose.
It glows under this, they say, as it would
under the sun. Exactly so, in fact,
and they look around for the source
that will explain
why their black dog is growling
like a stab within.
My father once owned
an Ithaca shotgun
he got from a kid at his job
who was going to Vietnam
and couldn’t take it with him
12 gauge with a monster kick
that knocked my six year old ass
right down the one time I shot it
Weird looking gun with a lever
that broke it open
at the barrel for loading
Good for birds and pests
and not much else
No idea when or where he sold it
or gave it away or turned it in
but now and then
I think about its oaken stock
and wonder about
how the kick would feel to me
now that I’m grown
Last night I dreamed I was living
in a condo somewhere not here
and a boy with bright eyes
knocked on my door
and asked for his gun back
I said didn’t have it
and told him the name
of the town where I grew up
and if was looking for his gun
he should knock on their doors
He nodded and turned away
to walk there in his combat boots
to go ask people he’d never seen
for a gun long ago lost
I saw him join
all the rest of the ghost boys
from all the rest of history
thronging the streets
asking strangers for their guns
because they knew that if only
they could fire them one more time
they’d remain standing up after the kick
this time they wouldn’t fall down
My shoulder aches for them
Aches for the gun my father got rid of
Aches for wanting to handle correctly
what I could not when I was young
Just another ghost boy
citizen of a dead nation
a whole nation of us
imagining a gun
that we could master this time
to feel masterful
Enraged at unknown others’
words and actions
read or heard about or seen
through a screen, I say
so often to myself,
“May Death take you…”
as a curse upon them.
I walk away muttering, change
the channel muttering,
drive past muttering; I throw
the middle finger, sometimes
I even shout out loud in the car.
Then I grow ashamed of myself:
who am I to lay this magic
like a bludgeon upon these people?
I try and try to change, to say:
may Death take you
as a taxi would, to your
May your ride
be white-knuckled and filled
with obscene commentary from
a wild-eyed driver,
but may you end up
where you need to be.
May Death take you
in a horse cart to
a field of long grasses
and small blue flowers
on long stems that scratch you
as you walk to the center of
the centering meadow,
where you shall lie in the sun,
itchy from the passage,
but where you wanted to be.
May Death take you
in Death’s time
as Death wills it,
being what you are.
May Death take me
when my work is done,
as soon as it is done;
may Death take you
before you can finish yours.
May Death take us both
as we would like to be taken
whether or not our work is done:
gently, with a pat on the back
or the head as we are guided past
the Veil and through the Gate,
and may I not see you there.
To see yourself. To see another.
To reach out to touch when invited.
To be touched in return at your own invitation.
To strip another, then play.
To be stripped by another, then played with.
To strip mutually and play together.
To take on full nakedness and take on all else that way.
To wear the playclothes, to take on all the toys.
To be yourself. To be another. To be each other.
To play with another at being selves or others.
To arch and stretch and turn and moan together or alone.
To do nothing like anything already spoken of.
To find another way to see the Fire and chase it.
To come to the edge of the Fire and run with it as it gallops along.
To run alone or with others parallel to the edge of the Fire.
To leap across into the char behind the Fire’s edge.
To leap back again. To do the great back and forth across the Fire.
To be flame resistant. To be Fireproof. To be unscathed.
To be singed. To be the Fire. To be burned.
To find yourself or another in the burn.
To never cease burning. To live on Fire.
Advice so frequently given
it’s almost an instinct:
Don’t go to bed angry.
But what if we’ve been hearing it wrong,
forgetting a comma and a capital letter:
Don’t go to bed, Angry? What if
Angry is a being? A trollish
essential worker. Angry’s job is
a work-through-the-night position.
Angry doesn’t and shouldn’t sleep, runs
on maintenance shop coffee and off-brand corn chips.
Chows down on liverwurst on white with mustard
at 2:37 AM. Fuels up to poke your fires
all damn night. Burns off the reluctance
and the civilization you cherish
to keep you warm and alive. Angry
gets a bad reputation only because
they’re working class efficient, proletarian
strong in the face of the Big Bad.
Get up and see Angry at the foot
of your bed holding your armor.
Go to bed, Angry. Thank you for keeping watch.
We should count on you more than we do.
We ought to take a note, stay up, see
what the Big Bad’s been up to
while we sleep. You can whet a blade better
in the dark, at any rate — see the sparks,
smell the burned metal. Angry
keeps us honest, ready. Don’t go to bed,
Angry, as long as there are billionaires to scare.
Shocked by the daily news
being revealed as a lie and then being
This country is a manipulation by nature.
Why did you ever think
anything that makes that work
would diminish, can diminish?
Expecting truth to come out
is a misunderstanding of what it is.
is liquid by nature.
It tries to drown the truth
every time it opens its trap.
The truth disappears
in the flood. It stands there
under the surface, immobile.
You think it’s dead because
of that? Truth never dies.
It just stands still, hidden
from view, disguised by this country’s
hard, dishonest work.
But it doesn’t die. It holds
its breath. It stands there
in the muck, remembering
the existence of tides.
If “the Other” continues
to bother you into madness
simply by existing,
by being elusive,
I shall warn you
of the consequences
by reminding you of Captain Ahab,
of how he hunted, how he died,
of how his violence and obsession
changed the whale not at all;
of how the Great American Story
isn’t named for the captain,
but for the focus of his hatred.
Call them whatever
you want, but remember:
in this story Moby Dick
shall also be Ishmael,
at once wounded and triumphant,
the one left to tell the tale.
You built a fire
by which to keep warm
and which you hoped
would keep demons away,
a fire you tended badly
and let burn mile after mile
of the earth, let the ash
poison the sea,
not to mention your role
in what it did to the air
and all the flesh and hair
that burned as well.
Now you have the nerve
to fall in love with a song
that insists you never built it,
and all I can think of
is how much you must love
the tale of Peter denying Jesus
and somehow being
forgiven for it.
Think about how many
of your youthful TV loves
opened with the sound
of a gun.
Think about how many
movies you used as a mold
opened and closed with
the sound of a weapon at play.
Think about how much
of how you used to play
needed the sound of a weapon
for the games to work right.
Think about how easily
random items could become
guns and swords in your
magically fatal hands.
Think about how happy
it made you to gun down
a playmate, relegating them
to play dead on the battlefield lawn.
Think about how they used to get up
after being dead and take their turn
to kill you back and how you went on
taking turns till the streetlights
came on and you were called away
from all the killing by higher powers
to eat something and watch a little more
killing before bedtime.
Think about how surprised you still are
that killing them now leaves
the dead on the ground.
Think about how real blood smells.
Shudder to think of them rising.
Thrill to the thought of how you grew up
into who you are: barely chagrinned, relieved
that none of them will get their turn.
in the backwash
is still history.
theft and conquest
rumble on until
it’s all been taken.
After that it’s just canon
and it reads cleaner,
like an old film
people call out as
the way they used
to make them, not like
today. They say,
stars were bigger then
and the movies today
are too small, too focused
on bullets, blood, and
who dies and who lives
all the glory the big films
made so clear and so
lovely to think about.
They really love their movies,
their tales of glory. History
be damned unless
it can be shined like silver.
Lucky there is always
more history to polish,
shape, and put to work.
That lucky old sunset
is always there for them
to ride into at the close
of their film.
or mistake. big dumb
or slight intellectual.
war cry or
you find this
hard to follow? consider
how a bullet feels
upon learning its trajectory
has made it infamous
if you are
not yet numb from talking about it,
if you are not yet dumb about
only talking about it
what should we say this time?
how do we wrap this one in words
it shall be bound away
as the last?