3 November 2k10
Our world at times feels alien; a bedlam full of hostile places, a wasteland vast with no oasis—
Our world is teeming with the strife of war, the spectre of genocide.
The chasm between wealth and poverty grows with every hour.
While with mighty armies and high walls behind which they hide,
Evil men rule the day, grasping at their chains of power.
In a land held hostage, with even the name of the country in contention, though recognized by the UN with little dissension—and even less international aid, hardly worth the mention—the nation now called Myanmar reels with anguish and persecution. Even as it stands at the brink of Freedom.
Tremors rumble across the country, as more and more Burmese begin to resist, only to be struck down.
Yet for every one returned to the Earth, another rises.
With this poem I address the Junta of Burma. Ruthless, blood-hungry Generals with your dispassionate decrees, and Death Squads set loose like jackals upon your citizenry. Right down to the faceless functionary, with a fraction of power to be wielded mercilessly—your pens are as bloody as any sword could hope to be.
Humbly, I beg you, wipe clean this awful slate, upon which you write Burma’s fate: turn away from the empty security of a Police State.
It is better to have freedom with danger, than to have security with slavery.
I beg you, fuel the ember of compassion within you, which you have secretly protected against the long winter of fear.
Finally, I beg you, for the sake of your people, set free Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Their alms bowls overturned in protest,
begging instead for peace, for an end to slaughter,
thousands of Buddhist Monks are marching
in solidarity, in despair, on the streets of Sittwe.
Armed only with prayers, they stand against soldiers
as before, and as before,
when they were tear-gassed
and beaten with batons.
In Mandalay, they march fragile seeming
against armored thugs with riot-guns.
However, a human at one with the Universe
cannot with beatings or bullets be quelled.
In Rangoon, they rise against a tyrannical regime
…just imagine all of that orange and saffron
clogging the streets with prayers,
spilling into alleyways
like a broken string of prayer beads.
Monks unyielding, monks resolute—
unwilling to bear the yoke of repression
unwilling to face atrocity and remain mute.
Now citizens, men and women,
young and old alike, who would
normally stay out of the troubles,
are linking arm in arm
to protect these monks
who beg alms to feed the hungry and the outcast
whose lifelong service and selfless
sacrifice have made them truly holy.
Later that day, gutters ran with blood for rain—
a saffron river to dispel discontent in those who remain.
And what of the monks taken alive?
They have disappeared
They have disappeared
Reeducated or Reincarnated
—whichever came first.
~Monks of Burma~
26 September 2k10
~In Memorial Gayle Janecek~
These songs are dedicated to you Gayle. And for our reunion on Saturday, 5 April 1986.
24 years, 5 months, 21 days have gone by…and though you have crossed the veil of this life,
I still count the days until we are reunited once more.
“Twilight at Rainbow Lake”
On that Saturday of our reunion, Gayle and I drove from Anchorage out to my Birth family’s home at Rainbow Lake. Needless to say, it was an emotional day. Even my Mom, who lovingly supported my quest to find my Birth-Family, and to learn my history, shed a few happy tears at seeing my long dream of meeting my Birth Mother fulfilled.
During the drive we talked, haltingly at first, but soon enough the dam burst, and we made peace with the long years of separation. And we have Paul Simon to thank for releasing the deluge of emotional turmoil. For during the drive this song came on the radio, and within a minute Gayle and I were pulled over on the roadside, hugging, crying, and laughing. As we shared a moment of beautiful synchronicity.
For that, and all that came after, I will always be grateful.
So began a lifetime of friendship and love.
3 September 2k10
~In Memorial, Gayle Janecek~
On 10 February 1968, two young people, deeply in love, made what is among the most painful decisions a parent can make. They gave their firstborn child up for adoption. I was that child, and decades later Gayle would confide in me that over the long years she never gave up hope that one day we might be reunited.
My adoption was not an act of running away, despite their youth. No, it was a sacrifice they made out of love, and the needs of their child. Because it really was the best for all involved. Neither did they give me up to the first couple they encountered. Far from it, Gayle interviewed many until she found what she was seeking. Not without Michael’s help, you should understand; but I’ve been told that Gayle was a Mama Grizzly Bear in her drive to find what she considered the right family. Through a collusion of Providence itself and my truly formidable Birth Grandmother, Jean Paal, they found a couple who would love me unconditionally. And she chose well, for those I call Mother and Father raised me as their own. Though my Dad has passed, today I am as close to my Mom as any friend, and love her as she loves me, unconditionally.
So it is with my Birth Family, whom I was joyfully reunited with on my 18th. year. So much more than my birth mother, Gayle was among my closest friends, my ally and confidant, my cohort in a chaotic life. Her wisdom, and the loving fierceness with which she lived her life inspires me every day. So too, I am blessed to know and deeply love my birth father, Michael.
Although I miss her profoundly I know in my heart that she has found Peace.
Her bright Spirit walks a new path beyond this life.
Yet the loving memory of Gayle Janecek will remain with us always.
“Farewell Gayle” photo by Joan Paal-Fridley
Free Rabbit Living
~poem for Gayle
Repeat after me: I am free
It was in the season of twilight
when you broke-trail ahead of us
and died after living joyously.
To live, we must do the same.
Autumn is a season of paradox.
Precarious, yet resplendent
as the circular relationship
between Water and Stone
between Rabbit and Fox.
In every day moments unfold
both of rapture and sorrow;
living to live teaches us
the truth of the ineffable Now
without seeking an unreachable tomorrow.
Free Rabbit Living teaches us
that every day is a good day to die.
As you have left us,
so too the Moon is leaving Earth.
Naught but a fraction in each season
’tis true, but ultimately vast
set against the dominion of space and time.
In a Danse Majesté, with Her
we are but crossing paths.
We waltz, with lonely Sol calling the rhyme
—in the silence we shall part,
to the inevitable we must relent.
While of the grief
we can only endure
until its razor edge
is ground dull by love.
Let us raise a glass then:
to lavish time
that sliver so thin
which is granted to us.
Repeat after me: I am free
29 July 2k10
On this night, 120 years ago, Vincent van Gogh passed from this life. He died in the presence of those he loved and who loved him. A rare blessing in his last days of torment and despair. Much has been written of his suicide, the painful details have been etched into history: That on 27 July, he finally lost the battle with the acute Depression he had been fighting for so many years; that he walked behind a haystack in a field where he had been painting and shot himself in the chest.
The bullet missed his heart and lodged in his chest, making it possible for him to walk back to the Ravoux Inn, where he had been staying. His brother Theo arrived the next day and stayed by his bedside, where Vincent quietly smoked his pipe, until the end.
Clinging to life for two days before succumbing to the injury, Vincent van Gogh died in Theo’s arms at 1:30 am on 29 July 1890.
Such was the bond between the brothers that Theo’s grief likely contributed to his death six months later, after protracted illness, on 25 January 1891. Today, at Johanna van Gogh-Bonger’s behest, their graves lie together beneath an ivy shroud, planted from the garden of Vincent’s physician and friend, Dr. Gachet.
Described as Grief-stricken by their mutual friend, Emile Bernard, Theo van Gogh would later write to their sister Elisabeth, “He himself desired to die. While I was sitting by him, trying to persuade him that we would heal him, and that we hoped he would be saved from further attacks, he answered, ‘La tristesse durera toujours~The sadness will always remain~’ I felt I understood what he wished to say.”
~The Sadness Will Always Remain~
Reportedly, these were among Vincent’s last words. Yet the melancholy, the archetypal mad artist, would not be the only legacy Vincent van Gogh left to the world.
Far from falling into obscurity, as he believed he would, instead the world has come to cherish the genius, the vision of van Gogh.
A vision unique; one that changed the very way we perceive art, and the artist. I dedicate this poem not only to Vincent, but to Theo, who never gave up on his brother, who in many ways made Vincent’s oeuvre possible. With this poem, written with the utmost respect and empathy, I seek to drag the spectre of Mental Illness out into the light, that others who suffer may know that you are not alone.
On this 120th. memorial of the death of Vincent van Gogh, let us celebrate his life and the illumination he provided the world, which is his true legacy.
Fou Roux ~the redheaded madman
~by D.C. McKenzie
Thirty good and wholesome
townspeople of Arles, neighbors all,
have had your yellow house closed by the cops
And you, Vincent, saw your worst fear come to pass
as, at last, you were hauled off to the Asylum.
There it took three days of solitary
confinement to regain your Self.
Gauguin is gone. It is true, Paul has left:
but not before it was too late
to stop the juggernaut of sorrow and arrest.
(and by the way, Paul Gauguin
you windbag, you…cross-eyed thief,
it had been raining for days on end—
how did you hear his footstep
so soft behind you in the downpour?
In the darkness, without lamp or light—
how did you see the blade with which
you claim Vincent menaced you so?)
You are scared now, Vincent…aren’t you?
All about you are the insane and their keepers.
Have you come to believe the vicious gossip?
Has it truly come to that at the last? Madness?
Or is it a worse ailment? Failure.
Not as an artist before the public,
that fickle beast, you know too well
it was never really about acceptance
rather, a failure to render your vision into reality.
That, I fear, is what broke you—so finally, so completely.
Now, you are surrounded by chaos and heartbreak.
Bedlam brimming in broken minds: without order, without colour,
as if you have been cast upon a fey, monochrome wind.
Alas too, the sky above you has become foreboding,
pressing upon you as much so as the pressure of poverty
skulking in the shade. For to be a burden upon Theo
and his family is a thing you loathe most of all.
There is so much that I will never understand.
Yet, this I truly know, Vincent:
Hunger is nothing next to Emptiness
(don’t believe? try it.)
—a hideous non-thing that steals away our very senses.
Of emptiness there can be no solace.
It is a thing every suicide instinctively knows.
In the end, it is not loneliness, but emptiness
which we seek to escape; and by which we are undone.
The sky, hitherto your collaborator,
your vista upon a far too vivid Now, is shuttered.
It has become a coffer of looming cobalt clouds.
In this Now, even absinthe and spirits cannot ease the pain
or bring surcease to the seizure and the sorrow.
Smiling a scarecrow smile to even behold it—
the sunlight which was once your gilded muse,
once your benevolent ally in a hostile world,
huddles forlorn in your cell
caught in a corner of the ceiling
where your brush cannot reach.
A sun that is present only amidst fields
populated by an unkindness of crows.
Furrowed ground lies beneath hulking slate-blue skies
and wheat sheaves, bound into pyre-like haystacks,
which you have roughly carved in cadmium and ochre
on a canvas barely able to withstand your demands.
Although they make much of the crows,
it is the blackviolet vault of the sky
which brings a stab of empathy
for the agony and despair of your last days.
Thunderclouds roiling greyblue
broken by oblique rays of a mantled, yet majestic, sun.
Oh, they make much of the crows, but…no, Vincent,
it is the turmoil of the skies that signaled your peril.
Wheat Field with Crows~Auvers 1890
16 July 2k10
“Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.” ~Bertrand Russell
“All humanity is one undivided and indivisible family, and each one of us is responsible for the misdeeds of all the others. I cannot detach myself from the wickedest soul.” ~Mohandas K. Gandhi
16 July 1945 5:29:45
Deep in the desert, at the White Sands Proving Ground, The Trinity Test of a plutonium device called the “Gadget” is detonated. Ushering in the Nuclear Age, the device is an equivalent to 20 kilotons of TNT, and the shock wave was felt up to 100 miles away. The mushroom cloud reached a height of more than 7 miles. The crater of radioactive glass, called Trinitite, was 10′ deep X 1000′ wide.
All who laid eyes on the monstrosity reported that the blast turned night into day. After the Nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki a short time later, humanity was forever changed. For the first time, we as a species were capable of suicide, capable of the extinction of the Human Race.
Following the detonation, Dr. Robert Oppenheimer is said to have quoted from the Hindu ‘Bhagavad Gita’, “Now I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds.”
Currently, The Doomsday Clock, created and maintained by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, now stands at 11:54, 6 minutes to midnight, and the fall of Mankind.
On this 65th. Anniversary of the Nuclear Age, let us ask, “What have we learned?”
However, remember this: Nature Laughs Last.
1 January 2k10
“The basic problems facing the world today are not susceptible to a military solution…mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind…”~John F. Kennedy
“The first casualty when war comes is truth.“~Hiram Johnson
“When the rich wage war, it’s the poor who die.”~Jean-Paul Sartre
Searching our hearts, many Americans feel true grief, and a serious sense of disgrace, regarding our war in Afghanistan. This is to be expected. For many, the objectives which began this war in the first place have faded like a brooding, evening fog. We are left wondering if our stated primary goal, to unseat the tyranny of the Taliban, was truly our main objective, or was it really a deadly smoke-screen masking nothing more than a glorified pyramid scheme loosely called a “War”, which has been waged primarily to fatten Halliburton and their corporate cohort’s bottom line.
Meanwhile, we do the Taliban’s work for them. By planting the seeds of oppression in angry, disenfranchised, and vulnerable youths, we only make the insidious indoctrination by the Taliban easier to take root in their hearts.
I feel certain that our Service women and men consider it a war, having to face the lethal consequences of combat in often hostile terrain, or in urban areas filled with non-combatants, which impede their ability to completely defend themselves without endangering civilians. Even as the Taliban punish those who would help free their nation by branding them “collaborators”, they foster terror in the population, further hobbling efforts to help forge an independent Afghanistan.
However, here at home we are not facing the reality of this war. We are creating implacable enemies of a frightening percentage of a new generation in Afghanistan, and for what? Democracy? Such a statement is a grave insult to every citizen of Afghanistan, and also to our Service men and women who place their lives on the line every day. It is a war born of our monstrous foreign policy of a Democratized Earth and more importantly for our boundless thirst for oil.
Nevertheless, it is the people of Afghanistan who will suffer most in this war. And currently it is a war without a foreseeable end.
To our heartfelt dismay, we elected a President who promised to end this war. So far the Administration has only further entrenched us. With this poem, dedicated to all Afghani people, I pray you, Dear Reader, to plant a seed of empathy for the future. For the nation of Afghanistan, for all of the humans, soldier and citizen, caught in the fist of war, I call upon President Obama to stand tall and wage Peace.
adjuration for rain
Abdul Ghias, tonight you
eat the bread of foul grass,
bread of noflour and despair.
Famine squats bloated
in the bellies of your children,
calling your name.
How will you answer?
When the baking smell of nocakes
makes even your mouth water.
Abdul, for you I wish the paradise
of a mouthful of cool pomegranate,
the spring thunder of clean rain.
For you, I wish
almonds, dates, honey
and bread baked of Afghani grain.
17 December 2k9
Rest now, be at ease, Linn~Matriarch of the Andrews Family.
No more pain, the long suffering has at last surceased,
Your flame has gone from us, your Spirit mercifully released.
Yet, you remain bright in our memories, forever at peace.
Linn Andrews with her son, Darby
Linn with Wingnut
photo by Darby Andrews
31 October 2k9
~A poem for Samhain~
Once upon a time… A time before Hallmark Halloween and Hershey Bars; before trick or treat. There was a time when many cultures, particularly the Gaelic peoples, celebrated Harvest, and honored the dead on this night.
It was believed that the barrier between this world and the Sidhe became thin, allowing for all sorts of trespassing both from and into our realm of the living. Being the final harvest, it was also a time of hard choices to survive the coming winter.
In many hidden faiths, this day and night are balanced against the Spring festival of Beltane on the Wheel of the Year; Samhain is considered to be a time for celebrating the lives of those we love who have passed from this life.
Surviving down through the centuries, sculpted to serve each new belief system in its own way, this night nevertheless retains a powerful hold on our imaginations. For this one night out of each year we stop and pay tribute to the Unknown.
Considering how much we do not know, this should be a large tribute indeed.
On this night let us acknowledge the bitter Darkness that we might cherish the fertile Light.
The Cycle of Life
that cannibal poem
—credo quia absurdum
few of us truly believe
we will draw the short straw
and be killed for food.
or that behind sterile walls
hidden away from prying eyes
spiders are silently plotting our demise;
and even now creatures loosed from the zoo
might be amassing to stage their coup.
there may come a fine summer day
when this fuming parking lot
is a fair field of honey hay;
when sharks swim upriver
hunting in swimming holes
for an easy dinner.
and packs of piranha prowl poolside patios,
while here at this barren bus stop
there will be a grizzly bear buffet.
some things are so absurd
they must be believed:
that in this youniverse
there is room for a me.
the trick, it seems, is to know
—when to run
instead of standing around gawking
—when to dance
instead of sitting there talking
it does you no good to live in dread
of things that are slithering beneath your bed.
when morning comes and finds you still alive
just shake off that tired, old bogeyman jive.
now, it’s easier to will a comet
down into your loving arms
than it is to outgrow being a fool.
yet, in the end, it is far better
living round within square rules.
some consider it misfortunate and macabre
a sign of narcissistic hypochondria
to entertain the rather gruesome idea
that there might be a tumor
lurking somewhere inside us
a wild growth
we will never see
waiting to undo us.
yet, life is finer when you snuggle up
to the Reaper; the meat’s so much sweeter
when you make a friend of Death
so, here I stand, atop a heap
of defeated worries and bony woes
waving a stone club over my head
howling at the heavens to awaken the dead.
for it is easier to believe i could do the eating
then be eaten.
the future, you see, is certain,
minute by minute,
the only question
is whether or not we are in it.
12 October 2k9
A poem for someone I greatly admire. Someone who, though disabled of the body, has a mind all the stronger for her many painful trials. Someone who, instead of retreating into isolation and depression, summons the strength of a bright, compassionate spirit, and formidable will, to help others every day. Many are often in a time of despair. Vulnerable to the demons at our backs, you show us that we are not the sum of our failings, or our illness.
And rather than trying to heal our wounds, she somehow finds a way to help us find healing within.
Sensei, you are to us as the patient river is to eternal rock:
slowly helping to reshape us over time, gently coaxing out the beatific within.
With gratitude, I dedicate this poem to you.
the bent wing
A convocation of crows has gathered,
raucous beneath an Elder riverside Oak.
Rough northern sister of the steaming Delta,
the mighty Mississippi River churns in Her cradle.
First road of the New World, She bears our burdens still,
Taking what the Iron Range sends Her.
—In our hearts, the word for patience is River.
We deny Her:
We measure the rain and pray against Her rising.
We build a stone girdle for Her, with deep steel locks,
and the bargemen sing that Her curves sway for us alone.
When we sleep we think the River is not changing.
—In our hearts, when we read the future,
the runestone always says River.
We dredge Her like a clumsy lover
and believe we have revealed all of Her secrets.
When the Lady of the Lake
fled the ruins of the Old World,
fled the smoke and plague of
the last siege of Avalon
She rose from the water
and looked to the West.
When the Lady of the Lake
fled the ruins of the Old World,
She came to the Mississippi River.
Yet we deny the River, with noxious veils of toxin,
with shackles of reeking effluence.
We deny Her suffrage and this can come to no good.
I dance among the cryptic crows, wooing my muse
from Her moonshrouded bed. I caw and croon into Her dreams
of the warm summer sun as She shuffles chunks of dirty ice.
Restive, in the corsets we fashion of sandbags and cinderblock stays,
She murmurs that the spring floods are coming.
—In our hearts, Love is a River and the embrace of
some bridges remind me of Consequences.
A bent wing glides above me
whispering black the River Song.
Scattered leaves at my feet,
brown from winter’s grasp,
have become frozen in the ice.
A piece of my heart there resides,
waiting for the River to rise.
3 September 2k9
~In Memorial, Gayle Janecek~
more words on ashes and loss
Grief is the circling of our hearts against the unknown.
Devoid of boundaries, or limits of space and time,
grief cannot be “gone through”, cannot be fled from;
it must be allowed to permeate, then endured—no more.
Grief the Bogeyman waits around every corner
to remind us of the fear rooted in our chests.
Hidden within our lullabies, woven into our faery tales,
grief is the pitiless Taskmaster
teaching us to treat each day
as if it were our last chance to make things right.
We must make our peace with grief at every chance.
Because every day, often in each moment,
grief confronts us, assails us
with the terrible finality of its truth.
For grief is the acknowledgment that, at the last,
we face death alone, taking with us only memories
of those we love beyond the bright gates.
We who remain must learn to dance on the ashes of our loss.
13 July 2k9
“Oh, my dear boy, sometimes I know so well what I want. I can very well do without God both in my life and in my painting, but I cannot, ill as I am, do without something which is greater than I—the power to create.” Vincent to Theo~Letter no.531
In his definitive 1977 catalogue raisonné “The Complete Van Gogh” Dr. Jan Hulsker quoted Picasso in the overleaf, who asked, “Why do the Dutch mourn for Rembrandt? They have Van Gogh.” Dr. Hulsker continued, “Indeed, for many people today van Gogh’s vibrant paintings, created in torment and struggle, are more meaningful and closer to their own concerns than are Rembrandt’s…”
Without detracting from the true mastery of Rembrandt, I heartily agree. And it is as true now as it was in 1888, 120 years ago…some 44,144 days have passed since Vincent sat with Eugène Boch and painted what he considered to be but a “first sketch” of a much grander portrait. Time is the Judge, however, for as Dr. Hulsker wrote, and to which I would not add a word, “There seems scarcely any reason to want a more finished version; the portrait as it stands ranks as one of the most personal and impressive works Vincent painted.”
Hence I feel I must ask, with a heavy heart—had Vincent known the impact his work would have on the world, would he have perhaps been able to stay his hand? If only for a short time.
Time enough, at the least, to find some peace of mind, some ease of the soul.
Letters 505, 531 & 546 revisited
Once, Vincent, you daydreamed into reality the portrait
of Eugène Boch, in Arles, during the autumn of 1888.
A ‘fellow artist’ you named him;
and wrote to Theo that—he dreams great dreams.
You wrote that he works as the nightingale sings:
because it is in his nature.
Compassionate, almost worried, you laid bare
his expression. Green eyes become hazel, keenly seeking…
You painted infinity for a background:
an azure void broken only by the palest
of argent and rose-gold stars.
Such beacons, like Spring blossoms
rising up from an ultramarine mind-field of muddy laments,
such stars burn clean through our hidden expectations—
Illuminating, and thus forever changing,
all that their delicate, eternal radiance falls upon.
29 June 2k9
…a poem you have always liked.
I dedicate this tonight for you Gayle, with all of my love.
I believe in miracles.
I stomp in mud puddles.
I let the wind have my hair.
I believe in love,
so I learned to dance from laughing Raven.
The sight of pavement still makes me cry,
so I carry a piece of bright blue chalk
to speed the passage of my feet.
I have seen cunning Fox abandon fleeing Rabbit
in the running swiftness of a hunt;
transfixed by the sight of a triple rainbow
we stood alike panting, rooted by sheer wonder.
I know the words to Imagine by heart—
I am not afraid of them.
I speak Coyotes secret name. I call to her
through braided runes of driftwood smoke
rising up to the Spirits; in the hushed night,
our song to sister Moon is a love ballad, a feral lament.
Once I met wounded Bald Eagle, long exiled from the sky,
who had only one wing. He lived in a round, steelscreen
cage to keep away chatty Magpies and jeering tourists.
Caught in the constant wind tugging at him,
forever whispering to him,
a piece of ivory down
floated from his ruined flank into my palm.
I carry it with my bright blue chalk.
If you can live without flying
I have stood in mute, salt despair
as human thunder rolled through a forest;
Goblin-greedy poachers had shattered mother Bear.
Her spirit left forsaken—
through boles of witness Red Cedar and Spruce,
floating woeful on raw, autumn mists.
There are days when I am a stranger
to my family, to my tribe, and I see Raven soaring.
Blackwing trickster above our concrete forest,
I see Raven soaring—
there rides my spirit.
DRA is experiencing technical difficulties at this time.
Please Stand By
1 June 2k9
My Neighbor Tells All
—Rage city tales pt. 7
While taking a roll through the neighborhood
I happened on a roadgang raising havoc
with a gas-fired wood chipper.
Stopping to watch, I soon became mesmerized
by the verdant, leafy pile disappearing;
pushed by diligent minions
down into a metal gullet.
Mesmerized, yes, and excited as well
by my own wanton appetite
for destruction of the ogre machine.
Hardhat sycophants feed it the green limbs of trees
dismembered for their ugly appearance,
or where they happened to be growing.
From within the danger-yellow, dented maw
there comes pandemonium—
the sound of doomsday slouching forth
a ruckus of Wood Nymphs enraged
the sound of civilization ending by rending.
While, from its diesel-driven bowels,
out spits nothing but chunks
and clouds of greasy dust
spewing up into an arcing fountain.
A drift lay piled up in the back of a waiting garbage truck.
…Grinder will gobble up everything one day…
the maddened ogre murmurs
within the mayhem of exploding dinosaurs.
“Man, you could pulverize a body with that thing!”
My neighbor bawls, booming into a silence
created by the sudden killing of Grinder’s engine.
It’s not silence really, rather it is an emptiness of sound
—a riot of molecules screaming into the vacuum
once filled by a furious and vengeful demigod.
In the clamor he has snuck up on me,
is standing right behind me, this neighbor.
And I am perfectly certain that my heart
really will leap up out of my chest,
flee from my shocked, witless mouth
and fly straight into the waiting gob of Grinder.
“Yep! You could chew through a whole body
pretty quick with a monster like that.”
Quieter now, but no less disturbing,
his voice is hoarse—almost reverent.
We have rarely spoken, this neighbor and I.
He’s heavy-eyed this one, with a Gorgon gaze:
acting as if by his keen weather-sense
he feels capable of Judgment—of sussing out the malingerers,
of rooting out the unworthy, of meting out punishment.
His stare is weighted with thinly-veiled
contempt; as if I reek of weakness
and he can smell me wherever I go.
I have always given him dubious distance.
In this moment I am not sure why that was
—only that I was right to do so.
He looks to me for some kind of response, and
sensing the patience of a bully in him, I realize that
I am not sure what to say.
He has a compelling face carved over a long age.
its surface is a lunar field of fissured craters,
belying an eternal battle with volcanic acne.
Ever the old soldier, he still worries at those war wounds
such that they are perpetually on the verge of eruption.
Seen up close, his eyes are chipped marbles of blue;
almost dreamy, those eyes give scant hint
of the heat seething inside the brain.
Iceberg eyes set slackly adrift;
until, upon voracious Grinder, a fond,
brutish stare is avidly affixed…
absently stabbing with one blunt finger
at an angry lava vent on his forehead.
Trying not to wince, I bobble my head vaguely,
neither up, nor down exactly.
Squirming slightly in my wheelchair.
Where to start with such an opening statement?
“Yeah,” says I, “but—”
Grinder, gnashing-demon of the trees,
roars to sudden life:
shocking me like a cat out of one more life.
My neighbor, this Judge of Humans, stands
wearing a child’s smile, arms akimbo;
utterly free of guilt at loving such a terror.
“Sure,” he yells into my ear, “the skull would bounce
around for a little while, skipping on the blades, it’s true…”
He whips one finger around in tight circles,
“But, eventually, you could shove it right through.”
1 June 2k9
Photo from my friend Sharlie. A talented artist, a wonderful mother, and good friend…Thank You Shar!
14 May 2k9
4 West pt ii. ~Invisible
Just a few sentences from crazy
that’s all any of us are
Working in a modern madhouse
she would know
about creeping crazy
about how the bogeyman gets inside,
tied down at night
become shadows unknown
hidden away from our sight
where they are vulnerable to any bully
to take a piece of them
You could be insane and not know
so many of us are
Crazy is as crazy does as crazy is
she shudders slackly,
they say it’s not contagious
but hang around long enough
to get some good
some mental manacles tight,
to ease your plight
and then you’ll see the truth
there is no safe place
to scream, or to whisper even
in the darkness,
a few unguarded words
12 May 2k9
4 West pt. i
We are the Hallway People—
Shuffling aimless…discordant, dissonant
Flinching at the slightest touch of any stranger.
In vain, we try to decide whether
Our rooms are a sanctuary or cell:
A less than empty space
Too quiet not to be lonely
Inhabited by souls too burdened
Not to be somewhat mad…
We are the Hallway People—
Saying little, yet broadcasting much
Into air thick already with fear
And a smog of illness, but tinged with twilight hope.
When confronted, our gaze retreats,
Or lashes in sudden, defensive vehemence.
We are manimals, trapped in a fetid braincage,
Haunted by the knowledge that we squirm
In the cage by the working of our own minds:
Castles in the darkness we build
Of despair, a fortress high
Of joyous mania, spires twinkling bright…
We are the Hallway People—
Who sing a lament of the fractured mind.
Arias to love lost, and relentless, tock-ticking time;
The broken life…once so safe, so secure,
Become now a webwork of cracks and missing pieces:
A wisp of spider silk tangled in a branch
A child’s toy tossed aside…
We are the Hallway People—
Who have grown into riddles of ourselves.
We are puzzles without defined borders;
With no more than sharp edges to cling to,
Nor similitudes to find solace within.
30 April 2k9
Posted here with love and thanks for another patient, who likes this poem. Someone beset on on all sides by pain and challenges, yet rises to face life every day.
You are a mentor, an inspiration, and above all a true friend.
Waiting for a brain MRI is a little like waiting for a subway train,
things will be different afterwards, but one can’t really be sure how.
Despite what the people who work here may believe,
waiting rooms are really for deciding if we want to do this, or not.
What does one wear to have a brain MRI? The Polynesian block-print
Nancy gave me last year perhaps; it is beautiful, and what’s more
Nancy survived a brain tumor. She has walked the line between
luck and faith. How would the world change if we all had to do that?
No, the black cat shirt is best after all; it suits my sense of the sardonic.
Besides, its hissing, arched body and beady little eyes make me smile.
Excuse me, I’m here to have my head examined—
Usually, I don’t have a good reason for stopping the protons in my brain.
I allow my atoms their autonomy, knowing as I do how hard they work.
Yet the smooth flux of their particle dance has grown a bit erratic of late.
Wedged inside the GE machine now; while, bound like demons, huge purring magnets
are waiting for Adrian the Atom Wrangler to blow her whistle: Simon says, STOP!
Inside the machine:
WEEEWAH! WEEEWAH! CHUNK! CHUNK! CHUNK!
Earplugs reduce Cacophony to a dim Titan. There is the feeling of barely restrained
dissonant fury whirling around me as I lay transfixed within a magnetic maelstrom.
Inside the brain:
Frank was right, ‘Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death.’
I must face Fear or it will climb my back. I am not afraid of the machine.
I am afraid of what it will find.
Adrian listens to the radio frequency of me, astronomers listen to decaying stars.
I suspect they sound the same. You are tuned to WDON. EFFF EMMM! No static at all…
What flavor would the Grim Reaper’s popsickle be?
We learn to live under a vast weight of many small things gathered.
17 April 2k9
i. Chinook wind
Chinook wind knows nothing of a shooting in Fairview;
gustful, she lifts the curtain of night’s mystery away.
Reveals concrete-box buildings capped with dirty snow
and asphalt ribbons, frozen yet running, at their feet:
Cop lights swarm and nightclothed people gather
at the cordoned off edges of a tragedy;
One more kid lying in a pool of police procedure.
There is not much more than yellow caution tape fluttering
Playful in Chinook wind—which knows nothing
of gunpowder or methamphetamines—
Separating one group from the other,
separating gunned down son from undone mother.
Until this moment he did not know what it meant
to be ‘made cold by the universe’.
Clinging cold; as the black bottom of a river in winter
he is learning for the first time what it means to be truly lonely.
Knowing solves nothing. Right now, and all that came before,
crash together—beneath him the pavement feels warm.
ii. go away
I have found a scared woman
coiled tightly upon herself
head in hands,
at temples like two dazed birds
fallen from the nest.
She hunches between old cars
rusting forlorn, in a junk strewn lot,
hiding where she might not be seen.
staring not seeing
until it is far, far too late
this barbaric scene
unfolding in Fairview:
I smell acrid fear on you,
all too familiar to me—
the burnt, copper taste
of his gasping grip
the spine breaking
compression of his weight
in you, all around you,
pushing out the last dregs of air,
leaving only sour panic.
Pushing, tearing for your insides.
He wants to push you out.
He wants to scrape your shell clean,
leaving nothing inside but
the awful residue of his sick self.
—when I asked
if you needed help
you did not answer,
but crept quiet to the
other side of a derelict car.
There hugged arms
‘round your body
until you were tightly closed,
as a dayflower at midnight.
I sit on my wheels,
wretched and helpless—it feels
as if the cops will never come;
as if you are bleeding out fast
and I cannot reach you.
Weeping, you are nearly silent
making only frightened
panting steam into air, grasp for fresh air.
chuffing through splayed nostrils—
Leave me alone.
He’ll see me.
Just go away.
iii. What I said to the Soldiers
hanging out on 4th. Avenue
looking for a good time
chugging two-dollar beers
in rock-bottom bars.
They smoke out on the sidewalk
basking under a dusky sun
as if they own its fire
and all it patriotically falls upon.
Their sense of entitlement
swollen and swinging
between their legs;
their common sense
shriveled and scarce,
hiding in their bellies
under all that sour beer:
They decide it might be amusing
to block a cripple’s way.
Snickering malicious smiles
frame bright, orderly teeth.
They look like menacing green insects
beneath blank black sunglasses.
Where you goin’ gimp? Asks one.
Down this sidewalk, I answer,
and point through a buzzing knot
of clammy muscle and adrenalin.
You sure? Asks another.
Yeah, pretty sure.
I reply and begin
a can of bear mace.
Smiles fall from faces
behind shiny shades.
One or two look as if
they would like to be
holding a gun.
Well, let the man through,
last soldier says, reptilian,
drooling venomous sarcasm.
In his voice runs the
unmistakable undertone of
—I’ll see you later…
Get bent, you fucking mercenary.
I answer, and roll through their
abruptly deflated gauntlet.
Neck flesh crawling
with the bugs of their blank glares;
it is better not to listen
to the silence in my wake.
I push harder.
Better let it go,
’cause ya can’t ride a slut
with your face all fucked up.
First soldier says to last
to restore mirth and morale
in the American Way.
To hell, boys—
you can go straight to hell.
iv. Sparkler Rhythms
At the Bus Transit Center
laughing profanity cuts through
the traffic; suddenly comes a starburst
of street rhymes, bantering beats,
and secret statements of individual
power in the face of all this…
Passing lines back, forth,
in the symbolspeak of
young and rebellious poor
—yet (if only they knew it)
staggeringly rich with life.
Laughing rhymes of elegant,
cynical, ease finally shake me out of Cummings
(Oh, how you would love
this new world, Estlin)
and, curious, I stop to listen.
I sit both alienated, yet unafraid
of their honed, measuring stares;
peering at me in the wheelchair
with dark eyed, old-world,
inquisitive gaze behind
the smoke of my pipe.
Their raucous fun has frightened
a gaggle of tourists—who sort of fucking
deserve it. With their disdainful,
clearly thinking that this was not part
of the sales package of The Great Land—
I roll, an iceberg obstacle, in front of these
delicate daytrippers of the Last Frontier.
Gawking with their cameras a-dangle,
ready for capturing the richness
of Four-Leg wildlife;
certainly not for poor,
I obstinately blockade their progress.
Until, along with me, they must listen
to the ruckus-rap-rhythms of these young
Native-Alaskans and African-Alaskans
whom have wooed me from E.E. Cummings.
I want to growl at these vapid visitors,
flay them with the hairy eyeball.
I want to snarl that: This is Alaska!
And these beautiful, sleek, Two-Legs,
who pop sharp rhymes between them,
with words aflame like lit sparklers,
these are the Children of Alaska.
Author’s Note: a version of part 3 appears on the page Body Hammer, wherein I explain how that poem was written and the special conditions from which it sprang. Please see that before feeling I have disrespect for all who sacrifice to Serve our nation, far from it…no, just these disgraceful men in particular. Thank you.
9 April 2k9
“All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing.” ~Edmund Burke
I. “Mankind must put an end to War, or War will put an end to Mankind.” ~J.F.Kennedy
As is each day when seen in the lantern of the past, April 9th is a date rich in history, a date of great deeds and sorrows. A date of paradox to which so many are apparently blind. And looking closely, there are some glaringly obvious and tragic echoes. As now, the Sixties found us mired in war and growing turmoil here in America.
—1968, our nation mourned as the Reverend Martin Luther King jr. was laid to rest, slain at the hands of a racist coward.
—1969, the Chicago Eight were arraigned, and pled Not Guilty, in federal court to felony charges of “conspiracy to incite a riot” under the Anti-Riot Act, which Congress had enacted just one year earlier on 11 April 1968. The charges stemmed from the 1968 protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
However, looking farther back into the shadows of history and herstory there are moments of humanity at its best. In 1947, the Journey of Reconciliation began, using non-violent Direct Action to challenge “Jim Crow” segregation laws, particularly interstate public transportation in the South. A 1946 ruling by the US Supreme Court had removed such laws, but was not being enforced by the states. Sixteen interracial riders took part, facing arrest, violence, even possible death, to help enforce basic Human Rights. The Congress of Racial Equality who organized the Journey is said to have directly inspired the Freedom Rides of the Civil Rights Movement.
Not to mention the fateful 9 April 1865, when Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, in what is now considered to be the end of the American Civil War.
And looking even farther back, we can find a Roman General, Septimius Severus, who was proclaimed Emperor of Rome by the legions he commanded on 9 April 193 AD. He promptly went to Rome and took it unopposed, after the Senate ordered the execution of the former Emperor, Didius Julianus; although he did not gain full control over the Empire until 197, he fought for it tooth and nail during those four years. Septimius Severus stands out among other Emperors notably for his treatment of his armies. Much like Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, and other military dictators to follow, Severus was a soldier first. He determined that all of his troops were entitled to a share of the spoils and nearly doubled their annual pay. Such treatment made him immensely popular with the legions; and if the Roman Senate had a problem with it, they were probably smart enough to keep their mouths shut. That is, after Severus had a few dozen of them executed on various charges, mostly for corruption and conspiracy. However, he went further still in elevating the status of the soldiery. During his reign he greatly increased the legions. He engaged in campaign after campaign, using a tried and true method for enriching an economy through warfare, while at the same time heavily taxing the people for the welfare of his army. Sound familiar?
His advice to his sons prior to his death sums up a military dictatorship perfectly: “Be harmonious, enrich the soldiers, and scorn all other men.”
II. Violence may be defined as that harm which is done without our consent.~D.C. McKenzie
The attitude of Septimius Severus, that soldiers are a better class than the citizenry they allegedly defend, is an easy correlation to draw directly to many armies of today, especially the United States. I understand this will be hard to hear, but in our lust for Freedom (read as: Power) it seems the true definition of the word mercenary has been twisted or altogether ignored. Although it basically means “one who soldiers for pay”, we are nevertheless creating more of them every day; with promises of enlistment bonuses, education, and a sense of entitlement that comes with the ingrained belief that a soldier is better than a citizen.
Yet our freedoms, our human rights, are inalienable; they are neither given to us, nor ensured, by any army. And to cry otherwise is to deny your own rights as a citizen. For good or ill, a citizen of a nation which I agree that an army fought to create, but I remind you that it began as an army of citizens, to which the professional soldiers came later. An army should exist by agreement of the people, not the other way around.
As a nation, we have always been happy to ignore the Armed Services’ active recruitment of the poor, telling ourselves they are receiving a better life then they would otherwise have gotten. And whose fault is that in the first place? If they had the same educational and occupational opportunities, how many do you think would sign up to fight an unjust war just for a college degree?
Society looks askance at the misery of the truly poor, which we allow to occur through mass apathy and greed. Yet after we put them in a uniform and teach them the killer’s creed, they becomes heroes; whereas before, many of them were just punk kids in the eyes of society, without a future, waiting to be scrubbed off the street.
Each American soldier who dies is tallied up against the people of Iraq and Afghanistan as if every individual committed murder. Meanwhile, we don’t even bother to count their civilian dead, a tacit admission of our belief that there are no civilians in this war. Watch ten minutes of CNN and you can see that the paradigm used by Emperor Severus is very much alive and kicking today. But changed, the popular belief in this paradigm remains, yet now the new Aristocracy need not send their children to die in the sands. Due to the masses who see too few other options, plenty are signing up…though not nearly enough we are told. Just how many will be enough?
While with the same jingoistic, vile breath that sent them to war, our returning wounded are finding themselves in a limbo of disdain from their own VA. (Emperor Severus would probably be kicking some serious ass about that… While I do not advocate it, I wonder how 21st Century Generals would handle this injustice if President Obama started chopping off heads over the issue of veterans rights?)
Please understand, I’m not opposed to having an armed service to defend the people. And I give honor to those who serve. My problem is when that army is turned on its own populace with fear-mongering propaganda, which is a shameful disservice to us all.
My dissent is that our service men and women are being used, with their lives put in danger, to further the aims the few (rich) with massive disregard to the many (poor).
History teaches us that such paradigms last only as long as we let them.
For my part, allow me simply to quote Abraham Lincoln: “This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it.”
3 April 2k9
“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” ~George Washington
“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless,
whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism
or the holy name of liberty and democracy?” ~’Mahatma’ Mohandas Gandhi
In London, the G20 Summit has ended for some, but for others the misery is just beginning. No protest occurs in a vacuum, and there are always consequences…an unknown number are still jailed, legally or not; people who need help soon, or they will be eaten by their system. And there are the walking wounded who need attending, some of whom can’t even walk, along with uncounted others whose wounds are invisible to the eye, yet catastrophic nonetheless; for PTSD is common on both sides, and a typically understated byproduct of any mass-demonstration. Often it is due to the fact that, despite prayers and pleas, not all have learned to embrace Non-Violence as the only real viable protest tactic. When you resort to the methods of despots, you allow that despotism inside your heart, and thereby become yet another tyrant.
By all accounts, including some first hand, this protest was no different. If you have not been to one before, and you’re at all interested, see my post entitled Dark Hours for a quick sketch of what it can be like, here in the Good Ol’ USA. Although, it appears the UK cops used less chemical weapons this time, and were more nightstick happy. (Actually, that sounds a lot like NYC cops, now that I consider it.)
If you’re up front on the Hassle Line, or get caught in a skirmish, this can really suck. One pair of badge-bearing sociopaths once fractured my jaw after kicking me repeatedly, just to get my gas-mask and helmet off…one of them then proceeded to pound me like a steak. Unfortunately, a little nightstick goes a long way. And yes, you do see stars, but not pretty ones…just asteroidal, flashy ones, that make you want to puke, again.
Not to fear Dear Reader, for the next day—while being detained for a few hours, roughed up and down, intimately searched (while the complete contents of my possessions were photographed) without a warrant or even probable cause, and rudely interrogated without the dubious benefit of a lawyer—I took my vengeance:
During the whole tiresome ordeal, I spent the time reciting my own most subversive and seditious poetry to them…which, needless to say, pissed them off mightily. I would have gotten my ass kicked for sure, except one of them was actually a decent Police Officer. (I do recognize a difference, and it comes down to the human being inside the uniform.) As you would guess, even though I was a bit worried, there was a high ratio of my fun to their anger, and I didn’t mind showing it either. By the time the thugs were done, and the Good Cop was just plain embarrassed, we’d all agreed to a mutual, abiding, disdain for one another; and I was told to “Get the fuck out of their city.” in exactly those words. As far as those korrupt keystone kops were concerned, the word Constitution apparently has something to do with bowel movements. But, as Arlo Guthrie once lamented, That’s America…Also, I’m pretty sure they hated my poetry.
Therefore, in my continuing contempt for sadistic riotcops, who just give good police officers a brutal name. And in gratitude to the thousands who non-violently marched in London for the marginalized millions, those kept poor in the name of profit, at the G20 this year, I’m just going to leave this growling mutt of a poem right here…
Serenade for a Riot Cop
Malo Periculosam Libertatem Quam Quietum Servitium
Admit it, you miss the heyday of the Black Maria,
righteously flailing us to our knees.
You see your duty, doubtless,
To create Law and Order.
Why can’t you see that it is our duty
to create Justice and Peace?
It is a noble oath you take, to Protect and Serve.
But exactly what is it that you are trying to preserve?
You know this is not how it is supposed to be.
What did you suppose would happen
to our nation, our daughters and our sons,
when you applied the law with your stinking guns?
You have nothing that can ultimately stop it now
it does not matter what you do to us,
remember—Sic Semper Tyrannis: To Tyrants Ever Thus
Our aims, our desires, are not much different:
Cast aside your bloody nightstick,
the riotgun, the filthy gas.
Throw down your body armor,
the tin badge, the black mask
and step up, step out into the street
vulnerable with us, before the Fist.
Stand before the fuming others
who once were your brothers
in unnecessary arms.
Free your voice, outraged, in a defiant cacophony,
tell them you will make no more mishumanity,
that you will no longer lock people in cages for money.
Their pepperspray will be a baptism burning in your lungs.
Discover how it is to stare down the other side of the guns,
with naught but your humanity for a weapon or a shield.
Take your beating with us, learn what it takes to wield
your body, with civil disobedience as your last defense.
With us, draw a line today, understand what it takes to disobey.
Join us now in a united stance, or soon enough we will all lose the chance.
If this is truly the promised Land of the Free
then c’mon Riot Cop, tell me if you can
—why aren’t we?
1 April 2k9
Happy Birthday to my best friend, Wingnut the Great
Many years ago, I was blessed to be found by the sweetest, most loving friend I’ve ever met. Sticking by me through good times and bad, either flush or flat, Wingnut never complains. He takes each day and has just as much fun as he can possibly have. And even though it’s true that dogs do get the blues, I’ve seen him shake it off like we change our shoes. He knows when I’m in pain and snuggles up to me so carefully that it breaks my heart and heals me all at once.
With Love and admiration, Happy Birthday to my only April Fool…and that’s no joke.
31 March 2k9
…I pushed my soul in a deep, dark hole, and then I followed it in.
I watched myself crawling out, as I was crawling in.
I got up so tight, I couldn’t unwind. I saw so much, I broke my mind.
I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in…
~Kenny Rogers & The First Edition
Seems my condition is not too good right now. One of my teeth decided to go nuclear on my ass, which also means I’ve had an 8/10 headache for six days…needless to say I’m ready to tear my skin off, or maybe this time I really will roll out onto Ingra St. with a red cape and a big can o’ whup-ass, (dumb-ass) There’s time for that later…first a journal entry
Tom Waits croaked a prophetic dirge in The Earth Died Screaming:
“…There was thunder, there was lightning; and then the stars went out.
And the moon fell from the sky, it rained mackerel, it rained trout.
And a great big wrath is comin’.
And here’s mud in the Big Red Eye.
And the poker is in the fire.
And the locusts take the sky…”
However melodramatic it may sound, this could be a scene right out of any one of my frequent nightmares. (read as every godforsaken time I sleep).
“Yeah, yeah,” you say, “Everyone has nightmares, besides we all know you are one fucked up individual, Dawn.” I won’t argue with any of that. And, knowing I’m definitely not alone when it comes to nightmares, I really don’t feel all that special in this. Combined with my insomnia it makes for some very interesting nights.
I’ve had them since I was a kid, at some point whenever I sleep, and they are vivid as hell, the price of an active imagination doctors tell me; regardless, they feel absolutely real when I am having them. And, honestly? They scare me speechless…often I can’t even scream when I wake up wallowing in your average cold sweat, with an icepick-headache. I’ll bet my neighbors appreciate it, because once in a while a scream does get out and it’s not a pretty sound…
What are my nightmares like? I’ve tried to explain them to many a friend and doctor, and it’s easier to shove a half-melted marshmallow up a Bobcat’s ass then it is to make sense of the freakshow in my head. And after all, we’re not here for therapy. Which makes me wonder, yet again, exactly why I’m doing this? Well, I’m a writer, so…I write, even when I’m wrong…very wrong. I have no idea why you are here, Dear Reader, but you have my thanks for your tenacity.
Last night I dreamt of a protest back in Miami, and of my friend Badger, whom I haven’t seen in years. I dreamt of the night when he caught a teargas can in the face and lost an eye. It was brutal. The Miami-Dade cops, and the Alphabet Boys, were actually taking the time to headhunt in the local Emergency Rooms; it’s not hard to identify their thuggish handiwork, and they were arresting “People Of Interest” in whatever condition they found them. Of course, they allowed treatment until doctors signed off that they were ambulatory, then they were transferred to whatever jail infirmary the police deemed necessary, if at all. Obviously, once the word got out on that crap, folks started avoiding the ER, which put a heavy burden on our Angels of Mercy: the Miami Street Medics. Heroes one and all. They were out in force, despite the beating the cops would sick on them if they got caught.
Badger made it back to the Convergence Space, which by Thursday night was effectively under siege. The only reason they didn’t shut us down, was that it kept us in one spot, so they thought, and made surveillance easier. (At the height of the protest we estimated, via a running logbook, that there was some form of cop car, using various methods of surveillance, every three minutes or so, cruising around the building. Justifiable overtime?)
As they did throughout the entire two weeks of the FTAA Fascist Circus, feds and cops scoured the surrounding blocks of the Convergence Space: checking IDs, being asshole bullies to anyone they even remotely suspected was a protester, detaining without cause, arresting on shaky grounds…you know, your basic Police State. If you made it through the gauntlet, and truthfully it wasn’t all that hard to do, you could get in through the Bob-bitchin’ 12ft. high rolling gate we had at this space, that was kept locked as often as possible. This allowed us to have some control on undercover swine getting in. And it allowed us to triage the gassed and peppersprayed, before entering the space. You really don’t want that crap going around a crowd, it’s worse than herpes, and just as painful some say.
Luckily, there was also a row of media vans parked out front, spotlights and all, which helped us in that the cops didn’t look so good tackling folks trying to get into safety. PR has its place after all…
When Badger, who is among the toughest and most giving humans I’ve met, made it in…he was, in his own words “well and truly fucked up”. The canister had hit him dead on and his eye was a toxic, bloody mess. The medics did the best they could, but he needed to be in a hospital, and there was no chance of that happening.
The last thing his right eye saw was a riot cop pointing a grenade launcher at him. Now it sees nothing, because it is glass. It could have been any of us there, but it was him. An excellent activist in his prime. A dedicated supporter of Human Rights, and in my mind a champion…nothing less.
There were many such stories that came out of those days in Miami as we protested the FTAA. Beyond Badger’s wounding, I witnessed awful things. For a week, beginning that Thursday night (after a day long, running fight in the streets) I ended up as head of internal security for the Convergence Space. I pulled the duty because their entire security roster had been arrested during that day, and I had some experience, along with years of non-violence training. They needed help, and many stepped up to keep the Space safe. How I ended up with the reigns, I’ll never really know, but there’s not a lot of bossing that is accepted in a consensus driven structure anyway. Basically, I’d volunteered to be the main Donut, or the person who gets fed to the cops first. And I very nearly got swallowed whole a number of times. The Miami-Dade police, and the plainclothes Alphabet Boys had been let off their leash. I have rarely seen such brutality. As soon as the cameras were pointed away they let their viciousness reign. Those who were caught up in the above mentioned Gauntlet were often beaten severely whether they actually resisted arrest or went limp, and all were charged accordingly, of course.
One afternoon during that week of hell we were treated to the surreal sight of a hundred or so MDPD on bikes. They rode in circle around the building housing our Convergence Space and commenced to shouting racial slurs, personal comments about our hygiene & ugly inquires about our dubious family ties. It was far and away the most disgraceful behavior I have had the misfortune to have to sit through. We kept everyone inside the barricade, and battened down all possible entries for chemical weapons, tear gas, etc. Sitting back we egged them on a bit, just to get as much video footage of the spectacle as possible. I once again nearly got gobbled up, but escaped only through pure luck. Happily, there were many, many experienced activists right behind me who were just as capable, though maybe not quite as devious, even they admitted. (Much to my gratitude. I remember each of you, and love you still. Miami Convergence Security kicked righteous ass.)
So where’s the specific nightmare in all of this?
Well, it was the look in Badger’s remaining eye, peering out from beside a bandage. It was deep night; by the light of halogen headlamps, a few of us were smoking and shooting the shit. Badger looked like half-defrosted Hell. Though he sounded as ferocious and righteous as ever. Still, I recognized the onset of PTSD and saw that his trail to healing would be long, if at all. Throughout the Space, the rest of us were in fairly crappy shape as well: little to no sleep for days, all of us gassed thrice over, most with a few nightstick licks.
Yet, after the years, it is that thousand-yard gaze in Badger’s one eye that stays with me as much as any of the atrocity in metrocity. It was not a look of defeat. But rather that of a stunned survivor, who hasn’t surrendered, regardless of the damage done. It was in that moment that I tasted the first ashes of real doubt. If our movement allows this to continue happening to people who shine as bright as Badger, then what real good can ever come of it?
Believe me when I tell you that, as one who has put civil-disobedience over my own self-preservation a few times, the idea that it may come to no good in the end is truly a nightmare.
In my heart I do not waver, I still do not believe that any act of speaking Truth to injustice is wholly useless; whether you write a Senator or President, march and wave a sign, or lock down and get tortured; we need all of the above to continue creating change.
That’s why it is among my nightmares, but upon waking I always eventually remember—
No such deed is ever truly forgotten.
There is no street, cemetery, police station, or court-there is no place where humans gather in this land where outrage loses its breath.
31 Mar. 2k9
26 March 2k9
“There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.” ~George Carlin
set them free
And there came a night when, at last, I could take no more:
It was act, or a coward I’d remain,
I had to do the deed demanded
in the face of our awful disdain.
Tools I packed, in a large canvas bag:
cutting torch, pickaxe, folding spade, bolt cutters,
a large pair of insulated dikes, 12″ catspaw,
5 lb short sledge, and a few other necessary odds & ends.
The walk was short, but the chill night seeped into bone and tendon alike
I looked about at all the other prisoners until my blood was up again.
And an ember of stoked rage blew aflame,
long since fired into a brittle glaze.
The hostage was waiting just as I knew he would.
Where, after all, was he going to go?
Certain that this was illegal,
although not exactly sure why it should be, I set to work.
First to go had to be the ten thousand little lights.
White and pretty yes, but tell me, would you wear them?
He hated them.
Clipped & taped, stripped & scraped off along with fistfuls of ragged fliers…
Into the street.
Then came the abandoned freakin’ bikes, only four of them today.
All bent to shit, and kicked by every asshole who passed that way.
He was shackled by these metal carcasses, yet nitrogen froze the p.o.s. locks,
then smashy smashy with the 5 lb. short sledge, and off came the mechanical stocks.
Into the street.
Warmed now, by my disgust, the adrenalin reality of my open rebellion—
which, after far too much turning of the cheek, was indeed, truly sweet.
Next was the cast-iron grill, the cell of his prison,
like something dreamt up for an Inquisition.
Prior inspection told me the locks were for show,
that the diabolical thing had been welded ages ago.
A welding blanket I wrapped ’round him tight
and lovely blue-white fire lit the winter night.
While watching through goggles black and thick,
a whisper warning floated through my brain,
“This is usually when everything kind of goes to shit,”
then shoved away the nagging thought double-quick.
“So what?…wouldn’t be the first time…” I sniffed in disdain.
One, two, dripping metal on my shoe, and there it was, an opening new…
Into the street.
Working hard, hurry now Scurry—tick-tock tick-tock, up against the running cop clock,
I yanked out the pair of ornate sidewalk grates,
you know, the ones that so many treat like ashtrays…a clattering they went.
Into the street.
Then I began on the cobblestones:
smashy smashy with pickaxe, then shovel shovel with spade.
Repeat. Gasping. Repeat.
Into the street.
An old-school handful of M-80s, saved for such a night:
deftly taped tight, and carefully placed just right,
(crossing fingers) blew a few goodish chunks out of the curb,
and made it easier to pickaxe-peel back some asphalt.
Into the street
Fight or Flight, mixed with fear and sweat, was trickling down my spine;
knowing well the cops were scant minutes from this place where I’ve scratched my line.
Running rolling a dumpster over to the pile, mostly for aesthetics to tell the truth,
I jammed up its wheels and stood back for a look.
It appeared as much like modern art, as it did a small blockade.
Breathing heavy, I lit a few magnesium flares and tossed them in
amongst the wreckage: candles to start the parade,
and to avoid any accidents…after all, this wasn’t that kind of cabaret.
When I fled back into the night,
savoring only a tight taste of glee,
there was an undeniable barricade
burning merrily in the street.
And when the cops finally did make the scene?
Standing tall in the red flicker-light,
what they found was a magnificent Tree—
one that could, at last, sort of breathe.
set them free