Poetry and Rants by DC McKenzie

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Why Occupy?

8 October 2k11

It has been my honor to stand on the front lines at protests with Naomi Klein more than once. Although it is very likely that I remember her much better than she remembers me; for even then she was a fiercely charismatic activist and journalist. Someone you could rely on to remain calm no matter what was going down. Recently she wrote an article in The Nation following her speech at Occupy Wall St. in Liberty Park. Here are a few excerpts which I consider a privilege to share with you:

“‎…We all know, or at least sense, that the world is upside down: we act as if there is no end to what is actually finite—fossil fuels and the atmospheric space to absorb their emissions. And we act as if there are strict and immovable limits to what is actually bountiful—the financial resources to build the kind of society we need.
The task of our time is to turn this around: to challenge this false scarcity. To insist that we can afford to build a decent, inclusive society—while at the same time, respect the real limits to what the earth can take. What climate change means is that we have to do this on a deadline. This time our movement cannot get distracted, divided, burned out or swept away by events. This time we have to succeed. And I’m not talking about regulating the banks and increasing taxes on the rich, though that’s important.
I am talking about changing the underlying values that govern our society. That is hard to fit into a single media-friendly demand, and it’s also hard to figure out how to do it. But it is no less urgent for being difficult.That is what I see happening in this square. In the way you are feeding each other, keeping each other warm, sharing information freely and proving health care, meditation classes and empowerment training. My favorite sign here says, “I care about you.” In a culture that trains people to avoid each other’s gaze, to say, “Let them die,” that is a deeply radical statement.
“…We have picked a fight with the most powerful economic and political forces on the planet. That’s frightening. And as this movement grows from strength to strength, it will get more frightening. Always be aware that there will be a temptation to shift to smaller targets—like, say, the person sitting next to you at this meeting. After all, that is a battle that’s easier to win.
Don’t give in to the temptation. I’m not saying don’t call each other on shit. But this time, let’s treat each other as if we plan to work side by side in struggle for many, many years to come. Because the task before will demand nothing less.

Let’s treat this beautiful Movement as if it is most important thing in the world. Because it is. It really is.”

~Naomi Klein, copyright the author, and The Nation.

~*~

Naomi’s words cut through the dismissive wall of media interrogation demanding from this movement a single demand or goal. How can anyone accept such marginalization? They would certainly cry to the heavens if suddenly the media were all limited to just one question. Yet that is what they demand of us. However, there are just too many questions, too many crimes, to go unchallenged anymore. From here on out, everything will be different. The big question is, how different?

Why Occupy? So many still ask. I could go on and on about the financial ruin wrought upon Americans by avaricious, corpulent corporations who put profits before people, while our elected officials fill their war-chests and whistle in the dark. But you’ve probably heard that. I could tell you that we have not forgotten what happens under the yoke of taxation without representation. That too is nothing new; nor is the frustration of a nation at seeing our politicians strut about with their pockets so full of lobbyists and fat-cat CEOs that money is spilling out.

Instead, take this extraordinary scene, with almost the quality of a dream, and let it answer your question of “why occupy?” 
Today, hundreds have gathered in Town Square, Anchorage, Alaska. Like their bodies’ breath mingling in the crisp Autumn air, there is an undeniable energy pouring, flowing through the crowd. With no cops to brutalize them or deny them their Constitutional rights, they have found a way to express their outrage with joy, speaking their piece in peace. Such diverse people coming together with the same goal of demanding an end to everything from the despicable banking institutions who profit off of the poor and the desperate, to the pillaging of our country’s coffers for privatized war, to our hemorrhaging Social Security & welfare systems, to the despoiling of our land, water, and air in the voracious feeding-frenzy of our natural resources.

The grievances are as valid as they are endless.
Yet without fear driven into the crowd, they stand with dignity, even joy, calling for an end to this madness which has set upon our society. No rioting. No burning. No smashing. No hate. Such a sight is as beautiful a thing as you could ever want to behold.
They have peacefully assembled from the full spectrum of our community; not just a protest of experienced activists, although there are many in the ranks. But the majority are people who when asked generally say this is their first protest, or among their first: families with kids on tricycles smiling at job-seeking students smiling at black-clad anarchists who in turn are smiling at a guy wearing work overalls who is smiling at a woman in a suit; both of whom just got off of work and came because they are worried about the same thing every other protester involved in the Occupy Movement is: Our Future.

~*~

Shut Up and Revolt

Let us begin with the beheading of statues
bring what you have of axes and chains, hammers all.
…but no guns, this time it will not be with guns.

What rusty pleasure your hands shall find
when dented spade from your garden
meets downcast bronze despot.

Do not falter, for there is no sovereign ground
nor chiseled block of proud marble
where outrage loses its breath.

Such resistance as the hammer
will meet will
feel like Independence Day

to your bones; which, freed from the burden
of tyrannical muscle, discover sudden liberty.
But of hands and hammers, skeletons all, be warned:

Bones will fail you in this task.
Batter with your heart, not your hands.
For, in this work, bones shall never suffice you.

 ~D.C. McKenzie

—end transmission—

Rehabilitation Ward II

4 September 2k11

“Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it.” ~Vincent van Gogh

“Every where I go, I find a Poet has been there before me.” ~Sigmund Freud

This Journal, though I don’t post often, has been a labor of love; one that constantly calls me back to it…as a lighthouse beckons safe anchorage, or a Siren song amidst the waves, lures a ship to founder on the rocks.
My desire has been to create a haven of hope and empathy in the darkness of digital void.
And to that high-reaching aim I occasionally fail utterly; however, sometimes the right poem will find the right person. It changes how they perceive themselves, and the very world around them, both subtly and profoundly. When that happens it is among the most satisfying experiences for any poet—one that leaves us feeling deeply grateful for the opportunity to peer beyond the Veil of Life and share what we have found.

As a Poet, speaking to the soul of another human being is far more than a calling: it is an honor, a privilege, and I truly feel it is also a responsibility to emblazon our existence rather than cast shadows upon it. This is what we poets live for: not fame, nor glory, nor riches. But to touch the hearts of others, and perhaps help them find a path through this life.
This poem is dedicated here to a friend who has been a brilliant inspiration to me. She is a person who gives all of herself to help others find their creative voice. Friend, confidant, editor, and a gentle yet firm goad to keep working, keep digging for my truth. In so many ways she has helped bring out the best in me, as I deal with physical disability, and mental illness, all the while forging ahead as a poet. For that, I will be grateful to the end of my days. Here then is a poem she loves. I would also like to thank Bruce Farnsworth; an old friend who is both a gifted poet, and insightful editor. A true Wordsmith, Bruce cleaved this poem with one inspired strike into a work of beauty that I can be proud to offer to you.
It is also a poem based upon true events in my life. Parts of it may be disturbing to you, Dear Reader…but so is life.
I wrote it in the glare of unflinching honesty. I wrote it with the dream that those who also suffer from the terrible isolation and pain that comes with disability may find some peace, and freedom from despair.

~*~

Rehabilitation Ward II: Jose

Nurse Practitioner of the Dayshift,
Jose told the story of He versus Car.
His trauma was a debilitating hit and run:

They put cables and long screws in his head.
They put needles in his arms,
wires on his chest, and a tube in his penis.
Matter of factly, Jose said that he could hardly move.

Sunlight inundated room 718
of Jackson Memorial Hospital—
illuminated every flinching detail
lit every swarming corner
where things that eat pain lurk in the daytime.

Jose stood, stripping the bed of its foulness.
Washed in morning light, his golden-caramel face
was solemnly composed. He spoke
as he worked, glancing across to me
occasionally, where I fidgeted
uneasy in my wheelchair.

My hands—
(when I stop paying attention to them)
constantly seek the scar where beneath tight,
fragile stitches, rough against my fingers,
they burned out a tiny piece of my brain;
the brainskin where they grafted a piece of someone
who, having died, donated to me a priceless gift.

Turning again—
his too shrewd eyes lighting upon me,
measuring with care, Jose picked up the thread
of his story. He spoke of how he hated
the Asian Man washing his ass and jewels

after an enema. He spoke of walking at last:
with the long screws still in his head;
of shuddering down a cold hall, the cables snaking
away beside him; the tube trailing from his penis
and the iv pole straggling next to him,
small wheels squeaking.

He spoke—
of walking alone to the bathroom one night
of how he fell to the floor,
bouncing hard, bouncing halo
of screws and shocking pain.

Jose said, “The key to running
is to have the will to keep walking.”

He spoke then of lying on the floor
with iv pole askew, its precious cargo scattered.
Jose’s hands, everworking, paused.

His eyes—hard, black marbles
glazed over with distant memory.

He spoke of the hated Asian Man
lifting him gentle from the floor.
How he wept.

~D.C. McKenzie

—end transmission—

Just Us

4 June 2k11

~*~

This poem is dedicated with Love,

with gratitude, and my utmost respect to

Gil Scott-Heron

1 April 1949 ~ 27 May 2011

~*~

Just Us

I. the Idioglossia Concordance

Welcome to America,
the nation who put the ‘us’ in Justice.
America: be loyal or be vanished.
Now that you are in our country
learn to speak the language:

We have named it Freedom
yet it feels like oppression.
We think we hold the reigns
but in truth we have been shackled with chains.
A yoke of responsibility, of shame
for countless atrocities committed in our name.

We say Reservation:
yet it really means domination,
and may be read as ‘refugee camp’.

Christopher Columbus began the brutal language lesson
when he came to the New World, which was really an Old World.

Soon Settlers taught the First People new words, such as
redskin-Independence-firewater-OnlyJesusSaves-tuberculosis-genocide
and Liberty, which ironically rhymes with poverty.

What was defined as a Republic, a Democracy,
in practice reeks of hypocrisy, waving a bloody flag over
The Home of the Brave
The Land of the Free
—unless your name happens to contain ‘Ali’.

Paying the dues of the poor and the weak
Paying the dues of the Wannabe Free
It is a white voice of doom in the inner city night
blaring flashred from cop cars;
it is no accident that we paint them black and white—

To Protect and Serve,
police use words like commUnity.
Yet, after the butchering and rape,
Judges use words like copImmunity.

Therefore,
I do not pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America,
or to the market brand for which it now stands.

One nation, under corporate domination.
With Liberty and Justice for some people, and indefinite detention
at an immigration and interrogation prison,
a humiliation and assimilation prison,
for other people. Amen.

II. the Bonehouse Accord

We each have but one chance
to do our part, our share in healing
the world and her children.
What will you do?

Better still, ask yourself:
what am I willing to give?
what am I prepared to lose?

What would you give if your life were not enough?
What if first you had to give up your home,
your family, and all of your stuff.
What would you give?

Do not wait until you are lying in the bonehouse
rotting and rattling before you ask,
Could I have done more?

Still, this feels useless—
for you have heard all of this shit before.
Maybe we will wave some signs, or send a check
to assuage (guilt) the wretched misery of
some poor kid halfway around the planet.

Maybe some of us will get off of our asses
and spend the rest of our lives,
every last drop of our spirits,
striving to ease the suffering
which is skulking all around us—
gnashing its teeth to jackboot thunder as
one human, every four seconds, dies of hunger.

Famine squats in the belly of the world.
While we inject air into sugar and lard,
shrink wrap it beneath stinking plastic
and sell it as food on tv, crammed between
commercials of starving refugees.

Yet we cannot seem to understand
why our children are obese.
We cannot understand why
they are turning to automatic weapons
as an answer to public education.

There are some places where
people are stoned to death merely attempting to vote.
Here millions just sit watching the tube
and getting drunk or stoned.
In the end, barely a fraction
of our fractious population actually votes.

Rooted upon the couch, we are
stunned by the absurd and
paralyzed by the gross:

Scientists are creating ethical obscenities—
growing the teeth of pigs in a lab rat’s belly;
whilst I can buy fourteen different types
of seedless raspberry jelly.

Why then will we not grow enough food
to feed the millions of hungry people
in this land of milk and honey?
Is it because we agree when the tv shows us
an asshole in a suit saying,
“Show Me The Money”?

Brandishing a Visagold-plated guarantee
that our lives shall be secure and livable,
our government has decreed that corporate crime
is forgivable. So also to insure that our citizens
from the Evildoers are defended,
every day more and more of our inalienable
human rights are being suspended.

Welcome then, to America,
the nation who put the ‘us’ in Justice.
America: be loyal or be vanished.
Now that you are in our country,
learn to speak the language.

~D.C. McKenzie

—end transmission—

Close Cover Before Striking

21 April 2k10

Tonight my friend is in the hospital. He is dying. Yet, lingering in a vegetative state, many would say he is already gone. His heart beats, a machine fills his lungs like a bellows, another machine regulates his medication, and monitors his vital signs, however his mind is…disconnected. He is dying. It was an accident, one that could have been avoided, except that he was drunk, which is suspected of being a contributing factor. In truth it could happen to any of us: while walking home, he slipped on a treacherous remnant of winter ice and fell on his head. In happens in the blink of an eye: One moment my friend was making his way through this life, the next moment he was clinging to that life.

And though this is terrible in itself, the truth of this is far more tragic. The truth is that we knew he was in crisis. We, his few friends, knew he was struggling with depression and alcoholism. Of course, we tried to help, some more than others. Still, we all tried. But he can be difficult to communicate with, brilliant and troubled, often recalcitrant. and…and…and…bullshit, all of it.
The truth is that I had my own problems, my disability, my own acute depression, and when he did reach out to me I avoided his calls. And eventually, my friend stopped calling.

Given that we were both fighting depression, and suicidal ideation, I thought of my friend often. I knew that, like me, he was isolating. That he was breaking beneath the weight of pain and loneliness. I knew that he was self-medicating with alcohol. Nevertheless, I didn’t call him.

For me, alcohol is an issue, mainly because many years ago I also drank…before the brain surgery, before the onset of ‘major depressive disorder’. And back when I drank I invariably turned into an asshole. It took a while for me to wise up, I lost friends, I lost girlfriends, I lost self-respect from my actions while drunk. Seven years ago I quit drinking. I stopped because I finally realized that I did not like the person I was when I drank, that it brought out the worst in me. Luckily, I quit before I became a full-blown alcoholic.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my friend. He was suffering, and like so many countless souls he self-medicated to dull the pain, and the unspeakable emptiness that depression creates in us. I feel that because of this he became a chronic alcoholic. And I should make it extremely clear that he did not become an asshole when drunk; he was always a good man, even when he was in misery. Still, despite however nice people are, I admit I still have real difficulty dealing with a drunk person. In truth? Perhaps I can’t stand to see what used to be me.

This went on for a few years as he deteriorated. We worried. We all tried to help him, but he wouldn’t have it. He kept slowly self-destructing and it was so painful to see that many of us looked away. To my shame, that is exactly what I did.

The last time he called me, I didn’t answer the phone. I know he was reaching out for help because no one calls that late without a serious reason. I stared at the phone and rationalized that I would call him back the next day, when I was better able to deal with his pain, better able to help him…after all I could barely help myself at the time. So, I didn’t answer the phone. He never called again. And tonight he is dying.

My friend spent day after day living with the belief that he could not escape the wretched cycle. This is what depression does to you. It whispers that you are alone in your despair, that there can be no escape. It is a cancer of the soul.

As he lies alone in the hospital I am drinking, something far worse than alcohol. Tonight, I drink the cup of regret. It tastes of the bitter guilt of trading my own peace of mind for having empathy for a friend who needed help. As I drink this cup, I beg you: learn from my mistake. If there is someone you care for who is suffering do not let them pull away, regardless of how hard they try. Do not give in to the corrosion that eats away at love and empathy. As frightening as confronting depression can be, if you see signs of someone who is in crisis do not be afraid to talk with them, it could save their life. Sometimes people are screaming for help on the inside and yet it’s still so very hard to hear.
He is dying. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Don’t put it off until you find yourself like me, sitting in front of a screen futilely searching for a way to say, “I’m sorry.”

~*~

Close Cover Before Striking

My friend Tom walks and talks—
He slouches through the day
slowly
stuffing
down
the noxious TNT distillate of Depression,
the cloying soulsap rendered from rage:

He has made a bomb of his heart.

The Tombomb works his job and wonders why—
He has built an Anti-Tom device,
it is hidden under an oilcloth against the walls of his chest.
He is surprised every time he finds it
ticktickticking sinister beside the fleshbricks of his ribcage.
Much like finding a landmine in a plate of mashed potatoes,
he is not sure what to do.

The Tombomb loves (screams) and does not remember—
He rocks but does not roll.
Waking to a new day, he finds the old one wired into his heart.
He stands in the bathroom and will not look in the broken mirror.
He shuffles to table, and staring into coffee, toys with the fuse.
She wants to take cover, yet every morning she diffuses him
…red wire…green wire…blue wire…green wire…red wire…
only to find fresh solder sweating from his heart by night.

The Tombomb wishes Things Were Different—
He has seized himself for a hostage.
He sits in the driveway and says, ‘No…No, nothing’s wrong.’
But I can see in his arms that he is holding the Bomb.
His pleas for lightning go unheeded,
as I back slowly away, with
no
fast
moves.
Fumes bleed into the air, which shimmers around him
like a desert mirage, distorting all that he can see.

The Tombomb has a fuse but he cannot find a match.

 ~D.C. McKenzie


—end transmission—

Parable of the Blacklight Rat

16 January 2k11

This poem is for all of us who have been raked over the coals by the Universe. This one is for the down-hearted, the down-trodden, the down-on-their-luck, and the down-for-the-count. This is for those forever alone. This is for the outcast and for the untouchables. This is for those who endlessly toil that others may eat and be warm. This is for we who have been tempered in the fire of pain, depression, and trauma only to rise stronger for it.

When Death comes for you, when fighting and fleeing are futile,
remember the Blacklight Rat, and decide how you shall greet the Reaper.
For mortal though we be, our souls are eternal and free…

~*~

Parable of the Blacklight Rat

i.
As a teenrager, infected with
an acute outbreak of angst,
there hung above my bed
a blacklight poster portraying
in vivid-violet hues
the last great act
of defiance by a doomed Rat:

Standing lonely on a bleak cliff,
bathed in moonlight, is Rat.
Meanwhile, plummeting down upon him
from its cold aerie of starlit stone,
comes the feather-swoop of a hunter deadly—
Eagle plunging out of the indigo night.

Ill-fated, foreseeing no salvation
other than to go out with his boots on.
Rat elects to spend his last moment
standing defiant in the face of Death,
by flipping his executioner the finger.

ii.
Undaunted by the Scourge of Small Things:
cool grimness seen in a slight sneer
wrinkling his whiskered mug;
that steely-eyed little Rat
gave the bird the bird.

Such insolence, such obstinate
disdain for the Reaper’s raptor,
an ornithologically ordained
messenger of Winged Death itself…
well, surely this audacious outrage
shall echo to the very end of time.

Such six-gun-man-with-no-name bravura,
such contemptuous courage,
such nobility noir,
forever warms the darkest corners
of my own rodent heart.

~D.C. McKenzie

—end transmission—

Saffron River~Update: Aung San Suu Kyi is Free

13 November 2k10

Today, after two decades of prison and house arrest, two decades of ruthless oppression which has only strengthened her noble resolve, the Junta of Burma has set free Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

~*~

Emerging from her Rangoon home to the celebrations of thousands, who had been gathering since Friday, Daw Suu Kyi called for calm, saying, “There is a time to be quiet, and a time to talk. People must work in unison.” And said she would visit the headquarters of the now disbanded political party, the National League for Democracy, which won the election in 1990, but was quashed by the Junta, who then arrested and held the outspoken Daw Suu Kyi in one form of imprisonment or detention ever since.

Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, also made an impassioned plea to the military Junta to “…build on today’s action by releasing all remaining political prisoners…”

Until they are freed, a part of every one of us remains imprisoned. For that which you inflict upon even one of us, you inflict upon us all.

Only in Solidarity can we forge true Freedom.
Only with Solidarity can Unocal be held accountable for their Crimes against Humanity: by bribing the Junta military to make slaves of countless poor Burmese citizens. Forcing them to labor in the jungles to clear brush for pipeline equipment; a death sentence to many, while those who live often become refugees in their own land. Yet Solidarity knows no borders, recognizes no difference between Asian, European, American…Solidarity only recognizes Human.

Only through Solidarity will the political prisoners of Burma be released, and an end put to the Generals and their brutal, wicked regime.

Come, let us stand with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, until all of Burma is finally Free.

~*~

~DC McKenzie

—end transmission—

Saffron River

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.

~*~

Saffron River

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.

~D.C. McKenzie

~*~

~Monks of Burma~

—end transmission—