“I’ll find a place to rest my Spirit if I can.
Perhaps I may become a Highwayman again.
Or I may simply be
a single drop of rain.
But I will remain…” ~ Jimmy Webb
19 June 2017
Greetings on this post-Father’s Day. I’ll never know why it seems to be my function to be the buzz kill. Don’t get me wrong, I dig a good buzz as much as anyone. But there are times when my mouth opens and these things just come out.
For example, one glance yesterday at the multi-headed beast of social media was all it took to put a fresh crack in my admittedly hitherto broken heart.
Yet, have no fear over this fractured heart, Dear Reader, for I have been well assured that these cracks are how the Light gets in…
Yesterday I was wished a Happy Father’s Day. And that’s complicated for me—hell, it’s complicated for a lot of people. In truth, there’s endless pain, regret, and suffering skulking about on such days. From dysfunction to grief, in every holiday survivors are camouflaged.
We smile, we say thank you, and wish you a happy day as well.
While inside us a tiny piece of breaks off and dissolves.
I was adopted, but that’s not the complication—it’s a long story best left for another time. Let’s just say that I am grateful to have been twice-blessed. First by being chosen for adoption by a family who made me their own. And later reunited with my birth family, whom I have come to love unconditionally.
Adoption is a rare gift, too often overlooked in our society. For those who make the most heartbreaking decisions, and those willing to accept a child as family, are humans of empathy; they are humans of immense empathy and courage, regardless of what tragedies that may force such choices.
No, the difficultly in this day is that I lost my father when I was only 28. Please understand that I realize countless people are not so fortunate as I, to even have had the years we did—to have even had a loving father.
But nothing can stop grief. It is a tsunami, we can only be inundated and Survive.
I could write pages about my dad, Red McKenzie. But I’ll share a memory my mom is especially fond of. I was nearly two years old…
1969, Christmas, San Angelo, TX
Dad, known to his older relatives as Billy Chris, was sitting out on the stoop playing with my brother and I. An old friend, one who’d lived in Mother McKenzie’s building since dad was a kid, stopped and admired the two darlings he was bobbing up & down—one on each leg.
“Why, Billy Chris, what beautiful babies!” she gushed at him. “So, which one is yours?” She asked, knowing of the adoption—as doubtless the whole building did. According to my mom, he simply looked at her and answered mildly, without rancor,
That was just how he was. A man of few words, but you listened when he chose to speak. I learned from him that our actions often matter most—that coming from a poet is something of an irony, I freely admit. So many lessons I learned from my father only really sank in after he died.
I never had a chance to thank him for giving so much; even through the worst times, when I was a delinquent thug bent on leaving a wake of destruction in my path. Using Tough Love, my parents pushed and pushed to save me, rather than let me rot in McLaughlin juvenile jail when I was sixteen.
They never gave up on me, even when I had.
They allowed me to earn back their respect, and helped me find some for myself.
For those adopted: never forget that we were chosen…no one gave us away.
Forgive the rough edges of this poem, Dear Reader, for I wrote it 21 years ago, and in mourning. I have only edited it here for clarity.
In the box with my memories
I have a short deck of playing cards.
Only forty-seven are left.
The rest I buried with my father:
a straight flush in his breast pocket
to best St. Peter at the Gates.
Born and died a cowboy in the end
his last word went unheard.
We have put his pistols in the ground;
fought with the wrecking company
to remove his saddlebags from
the maroon Taurus in which he died.
I have stood beside
my mother, my brother—
as if exiled by thick, awkward pain
we faced the line of grieving friends
and bore their condolences with grace.
I smiled when I had to:
at heartfelt tales of yesterdays,
of shared sorrow, and keen-edged kindness,
for elegies both solemn and bittersweet.
Shed no funeral tears, he’d have said.
For an honest gambler he remained.
He always taught—
We have to play the hand
we are dealt in life.
That the turn of a friendly card
is the best we can hope to gain.
I drank with his partners.
Howled on asphalt dusty
until my throat cracked
until bore-tide tears ran
clean tributaries down my face.
These things I have done
will honor him as best I can.
Yet they all pale
when set beside
the East Texas man
who claimed me
from the cradle
and made me his son
not through blood
but through love.
1 May 2017
“How can you say that you’re not responsible?
What does it have to do with me? What is my reaction?
What should it be—confronted by this latest atrocity?” ~Sting/The Police
“We are bound to rouse and rise
those who still endure the sham
—all of the orphans of our Uncle Sam…” ~Humanwine
Greetings on this May Day, Dear Reader. Oh, sorry, I guess it’s Loyalty Day now, isn’t it?
Please forgive the long drop in signal, but well…that’s how it is with poet’s and our blogs. Occasionally we lose hope; only to find it again in the scruffle of those around us attempting to survive…and more, to survive in Freedom.
This requires resistance.
May Day has long been a celebration of that very resistance. Some clever ogre in the Goon Squad surrounding Orange#45 must have whispered in the Jester’s ear that proclaiming May 1st as Loyalty Day would be a massive fuck you to the remaining Resistance. And that little toady was right. It pissed off a lot of people, your humble poet not the least.
Why? For those who don’t know, or would like a refresher on the history of May Day as a Worker’s Holiday, this is a good start: The Brief Origins of May Day
Today, humans around the world have taken their streets and demanded change. Some with restraint, others without restraint, or a lick of sense in some cases. What worries many of us who have stood on those front lines for decades is the level of violence being seen in engagements with counter-protesters in the US.
We all have the right to Free Speech.
It’s a different matter entirely when you go to a protest with the intent of squashing that Right, that Freedom, of another because you disagree with their ideology. That is unacceptable. And if such adrenalin-fueled clowns continue, they’ll be forced to square off with the Black Bloc. These protesters are on the front line, the Hassle Line: that fluid space where cop cadre meets the thousands marching.
Generally speaking, there are two “types” in the Black Bloc at a major protest: Older, experienced, Civil-Disobedience oriented activists of all genders and wide ideology. The other are the younger, less-experienced ones that smash windows, FSU, and are badly in need the guidance from the former. And, of course, it’s always the young hot-heads that wind up on CNN or Fox news. You never see the work and dedication of the real Black Bloc; or, for that matter, the work of the Street Medics, or the Green Hats, aka National Lawyers Guild.
These are the people who are there to help protect those thousands amassed behind them (those without helmets, or gas masks, or radios) to engage in their right to protest peacefully. On the Hassle Line, it’s not so peaceful. In addition to nightsticks, CS gas, pepper-spray, Riotcops use an array of ancient, highly-effective shield tactics for crowd control. If you come against them, you’d better come correct. Often, they will open a gap, allowing grab teams to snatch effective activists and drag them behind their lines: there to get a solid beating, zip-tied, and tossed like meat-puppets into whatever transport has been arranged.
This is only a small glimpse into what it can be like in the thick of a protest when things do go sideways.
This poem is based on a true event that occurred many years ago; an experience that I still encounter in nightmares, awaking only to relive it as memory…and the awful truth is that it could happen today, tomorrow, perhaps right now. This poem is for everyone that stands on the Line, that others might be safe.
To be honest, I am not among those that relish the coming clashes between the Black Bloc and Counter-Protesters. Frank Herbert was right, “Divide and rule. Sub-divide and rule even more powerfully. Fragment and rule absolutely.” and that is exactly the bait we gobble by venting our rage on each other. We should be building bridges between the common ground between us rather than doing their bloody work for them.
Now, back to Loyalty day: sorry, Orange#45 and Cronies, I am no bull you can wave a rag at to enrage for your own amusement. You piss me off, but I will not rent space in my head to you clowns for free.
We remember the words inscribed on the Haymarket Memorial~
“The Day Will Come When Our Silence
Will Be More Powerful Than
The Voices You Are Throttling Today”
We will not drink your kool-aid, nor any other noxious brew:
If someone wishes you a Happy Loyalty Day,
just smile and wish them a Happy May Day!
For there is no difference between the two.
a doctrine of disobedience
When you heave
me to the ground
Chain my arms
behind my back
to teach me
who is boss
I am one
What, did you think
we could ever forget?
We, who stand
before your fist—riot
that we might remain Free
There is a creature
hooves to haunch
furious and raw
from the filthy lies
A pitiful, ugly spawn
of my heart—it flowers
into a brutal blossom
as I see you, astride
a human, whipping
that nightstick down
It is as if I am chewing
on a mouthful of tinfoil
What will happen
when we have had
enough is enough
Of petty cop gods?
puffed up princes
of the billyclub
Fleeing, she caught
a teargas canister on
the back of her head
and it opened—how could you
ever think we would forget?
You were laughing
before the shooting
You stand stricken
now—between us her
choked-off scream still
You cannot hide
behind a shield
No black mask no
corrupt law passed
can undo the sight of
Her red hands seeking
will hide the evidence
You must know why
We are fighting back? Why
we are taking the streets
despite the cages
That you will lock us in?
I would rather live one day
marching free on a forbidden street
than live a lifetime in a police state
I saw you, riotcop
Through a pall of painsmoke
your face had gone sick:
Behind the gas mask
behind the shiny badge
I saw you—thinking
that this time
might have been a mistake
~23 April 17
Update: 2 May 1730hrs: Since posting this I’ve been asked by quite a few if I’m engaging in a little hyperbole for the sake of art. No harm in asking, and I don’t feel offended by the question. Sadly, if anything, I underplayed the severity of street skirmishes on the Hassle Line, where thousands protesting meets Law Enforcement. A friend sent me this video from You Tube, courtesy of Alpha Tribe Productions, and MikeHated’s channel. Included is footage from the very protest this poem was born in. The Massacre in Miami, FTAA Protest 2003. If you’re not familiar with it, please look it up. Everything changed after ‘Chief’ Timoney and his “model” effectively chilled a robust movement of non-violent Civil-Disobedient protesting in the US; they accomplished this through pre-emptive arrests, and the militarization of Law Enforcement, which has become so prevalent today. (Warning: the following video may contain PTSD triggers for some.)
31 July 2016
Recently, Dear Reader, I was deeply honored to have my poem Extrusion selected by Cirque: A Literary Journal for Alaska and the Pacific Northwest for publication in their 14th. Issue, which was released this July. Mighty massive thanks to Editor Sandra Kleven, a savvy, insightful editor and skookum friend.
While I was unable to attend the launch here in Rage City, a dear friend, cohort, and fellow poet, Peter Porco—also featured in this issue of Cirque, I should add— intrepidly elected to read it during the festivities.
A thousand thanks, Peter, you made the plight of that little yard lizard, and our hand in its fate, creep into the minds of all who see the clip, and you do it with sangfroid. My hat’s off to you.
The video can be found on Cirque’s fab facebook page: Cirque Journal; meanwhile, if I can find a way to embed it you know I will.
I’m taking down the version that was featured here. If you’d like to have a read, please surf over to Cirque, where I am surrounded by a convocation of immensely talented poets, authors, and artists. Fully available online, you can also order a copy for a fair price. (I receive naught a penny on sales, folks…just that being a poet, I’ll always dig pages over pixels.)
It somehow feels unnatural, disingenuous even, to leave you without a poem. It is my job, after all. And you’ve come all this way for a sales pitch!?! I think not.
Lately the concept of redemption has been on my mind. You don’t have to look far to find symptoms of rot, apathy, and naked greed in our society, but in the same glance you’ll find countless souls seeking redemption; and so often it is these very souls that display the most remarkable acts of generosity, kindness, and human empathy. This is for those of us on the path of Redemption; may you find what you seek…
—Variant № 8
Redemption is a steel beam
running up your spine.
I recommend a permanent installation
affixed on the outside, a gruesome renovation.
There it can be seen by all, and
with ease polished to a high sheen
To avoid the unsightly tarnish
of blood, shame, and rust.
With hot rivets, hammer the bone-girder
right into your marrow;
Where in cannot become dislodged
by the innate brittleness
Of occasional backsliding and failure.
—Or did you believe the slate wiped clean?
You believed Absolution is final?
No, as with our mistakes
We are interdependent
with our Saviors.
So, strive not to walk too stiffly
beneath your bone-grafted burden.
Bear your penance with some show of dignity,
ignoring the desultory loathing
You will find in those unwilling
to fashion their own soul scaffolding.
Smile when invariably you’re asked why
you walk so strangely, as if
you had a steel beam shoved up your ass?
Just tell them that you have been Redeemed.
~by DC McKenzie
22 June 2016
9 August 2k15
“The atomic bomb made the prospect of future war unendurable. It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass and beyond there is a different country.” ~Dr. J Robert Oppenheimer
“Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing power to make great decisions for good or evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” ~Albert Einstein, New York Times, 25 May 1946
“Natura Potest Fieri Furioso” ~Unknown
Seventy years ago today, The United States of America, and her Allies, completed the first Atomic bombing campaign in human history when we dropped the Plutonium bomb, Fat Man, on the city of Nagasaki, Japan.
Three days earlier, Little Boy, the first and last Uranium bomb, was dropped on Hiroshima. In the months and years to come the whole world would learn the devastating impact that nuclear weapons cause to life itself; rendering the very Earth a poisonous, parched heap of scorched rubble. We know now the genetic blight that nuclear weapons bring.
However, there was one man who never saw the risk of nuclear weapons as being too high for their perceived value. He never admitted, to my knowledge, that the building and stockpiling of these weapons–the much vaunted Mutually Assured Destruction strategy–was a kind of paranoid madness that overcame much of humanity in the wake of the our thunderous entry into the Nuclear age.
Yet, more importantly for this discussion, I am speaking of the creation of the Hydrogen Bomb. Many—Scientists, Citizens, and Generals alike—argued that such weapons were completely unnecessary. But our man championed them. That man, widely considered to be the father of the H-Bomb, was Edward Teller.
Here was an archetype Mad Scientist if I ever beheld one.
It was he who put the final nail in the the career of Dr. Oppenheimer, who was an opponent of the Hydrogen bomb project.
Influential in many world-changing events such as being among the main driving forces behind Operation Crossroads (the July 1946 Plutonium bombing of Bikini Island and the Ghost Fleet), and other subsequent Nuclear tests, Edward Teller is also widely held to be directly responsible for Dr. Oppenheimer being exiled from Washington D.C., and losing his security clearance during a Witch Hunt. A vicious stab in the back to a man who gave his brilliant mind and most of his career to his country. Regardless of how we may personally feel about Dr. Oppenheimer, the man deserved better.
Edward Teller did not escape the consequences of his political machinations; nor did his single-minded pursuit of the Hydrogen bomb come without fallout. Indeed, I understand that a great many of Teller’s colleagues despised him for what he did to Oppenheimer, for his part in Operation Crossroads, and for his part in ensuring the proliferation of the most frightening and dangerous weapons Humanity has ever created. As for his legacy, Dear Reader? Being as we are history, I invite you to read more about Teller…then you be the judge.
Untitled Poem 235
Edward Teller has died, at last;
I shall curse him no more.
Still, I want to send him dead roses.
Petals fetid, craven thorns and all;
blossoms fattened on brine and nox,
—yes, and with sick, withered leaves
tied demure in a pink, cardboard box.
For siring the Hydrogen bomb
he deserves no less, and likely much more.
By now it has been explained to him
that security is a superstition;
that we can neither love, nor even live
that, like electrons, life moves in a circle;
and that what goes around, really goes around.
By now Edward has gustily slurped
the quark soup of our beginning
and found all of his answers, in the end.
Maybe there are no superstrings to bind our hands.
But, perhaps there should be…
From Edward Teller, at least,
there will not spring
any further ghastly surprises.
He has become glass without bubbles.
He has been struck on the Big Collider
—split, fissured, unharnessed.
And I will not curse him
for he has enough to worry about as it is.
by DC McKenzie
6 August 2k5
2 August 2015
“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?” ~Kurt Vonnegut
“The last thing we discover in composing a work is what to put down first.” ~Blaise Pascal
Some poems are fated to die before their potential, their full glory, is ever attained; in this way, as in so many ways I’ve discovered to my endless fascination, poems are much like humans. It may be that the Seed of Idea on which the poem depends never germinates, though we pour our life onto it; or that, like animals of the wild—including homo sapiens it must be admitted—they are abandoned due to some Terrible Trauma or similar ilk which Nature is so fond of handing out like a ruthless teacher with homework assignments; or simply because they smell wrong. Which seems ridiculous to you and I, but which is of undeniable mortal importance to a vast number of species.
This is one of a set of poems that came very close to perishing in the deep freeze of a year-long Writer’s Block. A state which to this day reminds me so much of what I imagine to be the outbound journey to aphelion that stellar bodies undergo in their gravitational orbits. Aphelion, that point which is furthest from the sun, is such an apt metaphor for the hell of chronic Depression, and concurrent Writer’s Block, that I find myself returning to its rich imaginative spaces for ore…the words that I process to fuel my life. Now that I have begun my own journey back to a poetic perihelion, the words have begun to trail out behind me once more…
But before the thaw, I had come to think this would remain a sad nebula of ideas and half-finished verses; a primordial soup lacking the necessary Promethean lightning. Digital debris destined never to produce a poem. Until a few days ago, when I found myself opening the old file. During the familiar alchemy of transferring it over to my working journal—ink and paper being capable of surmounting the sum of their parts in a way that computers never can—I stumbled onto the trail of uncanny ideas, and melancholy memories that had led me to begin writing it in the first place.
It’s an aspect of writing which authors are forever attempting to define, to describe—right in the face of our mandate to Show, Do Not Tell.
Yet, we do it because it’s so near to the heart of why we write in the first place. The alchemy of composition is honestly far more gratifying than the glory of seeing a finished, published poem, and it is also equally as personal.
That magic is what drives me to get up at four in the damn morning to scribble. I suspect that every writer, indeed every artist, shares this. Yet, in a vocation built on the finesse of description, it’s ironically one of the majesties of our art that most often defies definition. And, regardless of what labels are applied, in this bittersweet, ineffable Life you have to take your miracles where you find them.
Redhaired Amy daydreams
into smoke become nebulous in moonlight;
entwined Van Gogh-gyrations of gunmetal ghosts.
Undulating, with her haphazard smiles,
Amy drags the husks of dead stars in her wake.
Tonight Earth jealously eclipsed Moon. As we drifted
between Luna’s infernal lover, the sunlight unceasing
cast a ruddy blush upon her majestic face;
lest Moon, however briefly, forget to dance.
Amy smokes the way ravenous people eat
—all jaws and no tongue.
For hours on end, she stares ardently at Moon
as if her gaze tattoos love bites on ice-dusty peaks,
carves runes within secret, darkside craters.
If Moon slept
she would only feel safe
wrapped in the arms of Sol.
Redhaired Amy cannot live
away from the ocean,
but she will not swim.
When lethargy seizes her by the spine
her bones telegraph a rattle-a-tat s.o.s.;
her atoms become bored, they incite
subtle dances of cellular rhythms
and metabolic war cries
that only she can hear.
When we are honest
we speak ten thousand fragments
hammered from a cryptic core
far too brittle to be cleanly cleaved.
Each time we strike off misshapen shards;
which we string together like unfamiliar stars.
Until we finally stand in dismayed bewilderment,
listening to our own battering, forlorn echoes.
Head cocked, as if we cannot believe
such a din could ever come from us.
These poor words could never hope
to bear the loneliness we are dying to convey
—no matter how we burden them.
Amy has come to believe
that God sleeps when we sleep:
and that since there are so many of us now,
God is always sleeping.
Redhaired Amy breathes fire, daydreams into her smoke;
thinking that ‘reckoning’ is not
spelled with a W for a good wreason.
26 July 2k15
PS: My apologies, Gentle Reader, for the site’s editing program seems to have suddenly become stupid; or maybe it’s woken up, and is being obstinate. (an altogether horrifying idea, speaking personally)
So, if you dig this poem please drop by in a day or two and see it with its proper structure on.
Yes, it’s naked and shaky, but I simply could not wait to run it out of the pen.
31 July 2016
UPDATE: This poem was selected for publication! Please see the details below…
11 July 2k15
Greetings, Dear Reader. It seems my earlier optimism regarding signal reacquisition was…a bit hasty. Nevertheless, I am still writing; still nurturing that sacred ember of creative flame which came so perilously close to dying in a cruel wind. And with that thought, I offer you a new poem. This one I dedicate to everyone…for each of us deals with our own measure of misery. And comparing them does a disservice to us all.
It is in the empathy we bring to the suffering of other living beings which is the true measure of our own humanity.
Little mottled lizard in the yard
has become permanently entangled
in a gnarled chunk of six-pack plastic;
and like a tree grown around a nail
it is now an inherent part of him.
His left hind leg has become hobbled,
but he frenetically scoots around still,
flicking his tongue past a rotten knot
of the stuff that has grown monstrous
into the right side of his throat, and down to stomach.
Clearly, he has bitten off more than he can chew.
Leaving little doubt the little lizard’s days are numbered too.
For at bugs, he is too slow to catch more than a few,
Of the lady lizard, he will certainly never woo.
I want to catch him and pickpeel the plastic,
so like a tumorous growth, from his invaded body.
My fingers itch to tweeze the brittle, no-morsel of it from his throat.
However, he is still much faster than the fumbling likes of me.
surprising itchy pain, then instant fresh-skin relief
as a child. When a doctor once scrape-pulled
a knuckle of brownish, lumpy wax
right out of my ear, like a magician’s trick.
Of course, I did not even know it was there;
but once the awful waxy scab had gone,
that liberated patch of skin was all I could feel.
For days, that tactile memory
of its dislodging stayed with me,
at once delicious
yet shudderingly abhorrent.
And that Yard Lizard, scratch skittering
his burden across the savanna of grass,
he haunts my dreams.
…I can never catch him,
nor fix what has gone so badly astray.
Please go to:
Cirque: A Literary Journal of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest to find this poem in full glory.
17 April 2015 Rest easy now, Julius Rockwell Jr., you have twice-over earned a front row ticket to the next Big Show. I miss you so very much…the gentle, insightful advice on writing—no, make that advice on Living. The many stories you shared over the years with your razor-sharp wit, fearless humanity, and tremendous spirit. Though I haven’t had the honor of seeing you lately, that never seemed to matter when we did bump into each other. I am grieved at our loss, for it truly is we who are left behind; while you’ve broken trail, and have discovered a new adventure. I wish you a joyful journey, old friend. And thank you for the brilliant memories I will always carry of our conversations. When I came back to Alaska in 2006—broken, disabled, and in a wheelchair, you quietly sat down next to me, with that easy smile, and asked me if I’d learned anything.
With such brave empathy you coaxed the whole story out of me, as we sat by the fire. You listened, without a hint of judgement, to both my victories and my failures during the years I’d been gone. That night you helped me start down the long path to adapting to my new life. Now, I find that I have no proper words for the gratitude I feel. So, I’ll say it with a picture. Julius, this is what you helped me accomplish. I love you. Farewell… DC McKenzie
A portrait of Julius Rockwell commissioned for a party in his honor.
Painted by the inimitable Erin Pollock, who has a heart like the sun~