26 January 2k19
“Hey, you well-heeled Big Wheel: Ha! Ha! Charade, you are…
And when your hand is on your heart: you’re nearly a good laugh.
Almost worth a quick grin…all tight lips and cold feet.
Donnie, you’re nearly a treat. But, you’re really a cry.”
~ P. Floyd (paraphrased)
Greetings, Dear Reader. Not much preamble on this one.
It really does cry for itself.
So, let’s get to it…the New Coliseum awaits, and this fuse is burnin’ fast.
Weak Sauce Circus & Wonder Bread (MAGA!)
Nevermind the Wonder Bread
microwaved with that
Whitehouse weak sauce.
We want a brand-new, bloody Circus.
Had it up to here with Trumpery
with Shut Down dread.
We are pissed off at endless
over lands of water, lands of oil
over who shall eat—who shall serve
over who will punch it—who will swerve.
Over & again, the cauldron boils
Soldiers and Civilians dead
while Politicos cache the filthy spoils.
Do we really have to watch Donnie Trump
grab our nation by the ass & twerk?
On ne Passe pas!
Nous Voulons un Nouveau Cirque!
You want quiet streets?
You want to keep your head?
Time to deal with us:
Nevermind the Wonder Bread
We want a Shiny Circus!
The USA has never been a Democracy.
And by now it’s just a grifter’s paradise:
a money-grubbing, pig-trough
This bureaucratic circle-jerk
makes me want to lean over those
sleek Gucci kicks and yerk.
Feeling shaky? Feeling tense?
Bust out of that cubicle,
jump off the damn fence.
Come, drop that sammich, join us!
The Coliseum had nothing
on this most American ruckus.
Nevermind the Wonder Bread
Give us a Psychotropic Circus!
Line up for the All-Star
You’ll swear you smoked
a squirrel’s adrenalin gland
when ya see the Executive Branch
tear apart the Judiciary Clan!
Yup! Better than a Darby Treat
poppin’ in your skull.
Oi! Got center field seats.
Got some crackerjacks.
Got my Dandelion wine.
I’m warmin’ up on a crowded
bottle-rocket firing line.
Ready to boogie down at
KKK fest: shirts vs. skins
bangin’ at a do-or-die
one-legged, ass kickin’ Kontest.
Nevermind the Wonder Bread
We want a Psychedelic Circus!
How many Fascists
can be crammed in one Clown Car?
Now, that’s what I call a Social Intervention.
First, let me ask a pertinent question:
should we rustle up a weed-whacker
to shave their legs & nethers?
Or maybe settle for good ol’ fashioned
hot tar & feathers?
Nevermind the Wonder Bread
We want a Psychotronic Circus!
Scope the racing form,
see how the Lion races ended.
Ya know, I’m wondering
who just got ate, my friend?
All to Make America Great Again.
18 November 2k18
“The Day the Flesh shapes and the Flesh the Day shapes.” — Frank Herbert
Greetings, Dear Reader,
on 16 November I once again celebrated Life after Brain Surgery.
Twelve years: Feels like a lifetime crammed inside a hot-minute.
I adapted to being broken. Then something changed. It always does, nu?
I moved to an Oasis in Spenard; whilst through the blessing of CBD,
the seizures that plagued me for years were finally reined in. Sort of…
So…I kicked that Wheelchair to the curb. And haven’t been in it since last Spring.
Eleven years is a long damn time to go on Wheels. I am still shaky, still sketchy.
But I have learned that with each step I grow Stronger…and Stranger.
I must go on walking.
Choices are for those
who have such luxuries.
We shall not speak of them. No, not here:
One step. Crutch-step. Two step.
S t a gg e r
Aluminum sticks splayed, guarding
against capricious Gravity, Her cruel insouciance.
Pain is no paltry obstacle
It is a taskmaster: the Instructor of Survivors.
Pain is a goad.
Walk then. Walk
lest I become rooted where I stand.
Ah! But the temptation …it is terrible.
To embrace the Winter of permanent Wheels, at last.
To become twisted—bone, tendon, gristle
into a secondhand scarecrow.
of my unremitting dreams:
gnarled branches I would grow
to crook into puzzle shadows upon snow
to croon with ravens roosting
as Williwaw winds keen raw
frost-finger limbs I would form
to drum rattle-a-tattle rhythms
aside raise the dead
sky swept flurries
Guttural—my song to ice crystals
bitterly encrusting twig, bough, and burl
alike during fathomless auroral nights
grown like brutish spurs of bone
on the sockets of worn, arthritic joints
will echo the baying of outcast wolves. Caught
therein, under the spell of loneliness and moonlight
A taproot I would send down to Queen Persephone
on Her throne in darkness built;
there to beg an Indulgence
for a small measure of Spring
come lavish, come too soon.
The weight of sunrise
burgeoning nacreous, lushly white
when land and sky appear as one
shall incite sleeping sap to flow
amongst fellow trees. Transformed
into rime-laden soaring sunsparkler cathedrals.
Standing sentinel in clouds of our own breath.
Ever so, greenleaf sweet
I must go on walking.
16 November 2k18
14 November 2k18
Greetings, Dear Reader. ‘Tis an entry full of frayed ends, of uneven odds.
Low cards again. Guess I just call ’em as I see ’em…
What could I possibly say this time? Should I speak of my father?
Well, seems I already have. But I left out one of his critical lessons: The Gambler’s Fallacy
Much has been said of it, and you’re welcome to draw your own conclusions.
But, while watching a herd of sheep all running one stupid way,
Pops said to me of the Fallacy, “Never fall for it, kid.”
He pointed at one old goat doing his own thing,
“See. Mind your own cards. You must learn to trust Instinct.”
Oi! Go ahead, flip a Fair Coin,
a full score of times—and you tell me, nu?
Did’ya fall for it?
Against Lady Luck, did’ya Count Coup?
:such is the tale of my Coup Stick.
One wing dipped in blood.
Hard to explain
what has not killed me served only to teach
my yet fragile soul how to survive.
I can’t put it down to Junkiedom, USA;
for of the score, Ah! So many…we were
blood enemies at first sight.
Now, my father was a consummate Gambler.
An archetype of the Old School.
A man for whom defunct notions like: honor, trust, respect
meant that line so thin twixt
And taught me in his own methods: the Way of the Gambler
He said, “Never welsh. Rake the table—
take what you will and pay for it.”
It took all of my cards : nearly a lifetime
to understand that a jackpot can reap a heavy loss
that so often winning is turned on its gilded head
that what is lost is never a loss. If you learn the lesson.
Count Coup upon your foes come away bloodied
and you learn Living is the gamble: even odds
Pops said, “Draw low cards and you play ’em
Play ’em like they’re royal.”
I have learned believe me…
Counting Coup against a Devil
it is best
on a river.
10 November 2k18
Greetings, Dear Reader. It has been kinda heavy ’round here lately, eh?
What with all the Painful Poetry…
Blitzes. Voting. Retreats. Returns.
Hard to keep track of all the Ethical ins & outs…lotta connect-the-dots pandering goin’ on; backroom good ‘ol boy circle-yorking;
all while shrewdly calculating, on the fly, just exactly who is still hangin’ on the POTUS junk?
Who is stabbing whom in the back? Who left the knife stuck there?
Who’s on First?
I hear Marble Hill politicos are gnawing on the skulls of the fallen and defeated this day.
Welcome, Cohorts, to the Ramshackle Day Parade! (Thanx, Joe)
Meanwhile, we’re all straining—stuck sittin’ & spinnin’ on the U.S.A. Inc. Moral merry-go-round v9.2;
judging from the forlorn squeal the thing is making, it needs some WD40…seriously.
During this time of year it can be damn hard to find a good laugh;
‘course bad laughs go for less than a dimebag, and are just as endemic.
The streets are littered with ’em, snuggled right up next to abandoned American Dreams, ubiquitous plastic flutter-bags,
old kicks sneering down from every wire, Faith disenfranchised,
and dumpster fires fueled with legislation of obfuscation,
plus pallet loads of overstocked, mangy, Presidential toupees.
And then there’s all this blog mucking about:
Comforting the Disturbed
Disturbing the Comfortable
The Empathy Hustle. Ah, merde! It can be that way, sometimes.
So it goes.
Today I thought we’d tap the brakes. Oi! Not that hard…easy. Easy!
Why spin out, unless you really wanna run amok, too?
B’sides, around here I’m 24/7, y’all. I’m just not always doin’ business, dig?
Yet, a Poet simply cannot live on words and smoke alone.
No…no, as well there must be Coffee
What happens before Coffee
I told a diffident cup
to get fucked this morning.
It fell on the floor.
I was seeking to set fire
in my black, lil heart.
So…I just loomed there in those long, long minutes
vehemently cussing out its timid, inanimate spirit.
I know ya think I’m a fruitcake, baby.
Hey, that’s just how I roll.
Guess you’d better know now—
In those minutes before Coffee
don’t dare hand me a match
’cause I’ll spark the big fuse
every every every time. Natch.
In those minutes
I stalk amidst twilight
in the Savannah of Kitchen
looking for trouble—surveying thus:
Lions kneel before a State of the Art, blood-rusty King.
Jackals, daunted, hide their wicked eyes.
Hyenas shut their cackling yaps in surprise.
Vultures, envious, take their young under wing.
Such a wild-eyed beast I am forsaken. In those minutes:
do not glance at Trumpery at dread news, whilst Coffee brews
for every time I do: sirens howl. Fire engines growl
something will go snap will crackle, will go PoP!
something will be throttled will be scalped raw
something will run for dear life will flee. Running red lights
something will get bruised something will lose
I give No Quarter
to my prey—
not to Hate, not to Seizures, nor to Pain
before sacred Coffee eases
my shattered-cup brain.
6 November 2k18
“Suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
They never ask why build.” ~Anne Sexton
“You want it Darker. We kill the flame.” ~Leonard Cohen
Greetings, Dear Reader. There is nothing easy about this post. The last one was simple.
Rage always is; ’tis Empathy that requires work. Venting is easy. Living is difficult.
And while I freely admit to some cathartic venting in my last post, nevertheless—it needed to be said: Screamed.
However, I have recently learned that a Human I care deeply for made that Choice.
There is such profound suffering in this Life that some flounder beneath towering waves.
Please remember, swimming so far from land, that You. Are. Never. Alone.
L’amour soit avec toi, mon ami.
I have been asked, enough times to lace cracks in my heart,
“How do you survive!? How? With all of this…how is it that you survive?”
I could never answer.
I never knew how. Still don’t…not really.
It is just what I do.
I think that I am not special, in this regard.
There is no adversity I have endured
that you too cannot survive.
You must remind your battered Self
—It is not over…I am not Done.
Heels to haunch
in the mental whiteout
of a breakdown blizzard.
I cradle a flare gun
unsure whether to fire.
For every blind S.O.S.
carries a heavy measure
It is said that freezing to death
is like going to sleep.
It is not.
There is more icicle
in the reality of such a slumber.
Passing this skin-searing
metal chunk of grip
from cold hand to clumsy hand:
despite any resolve to soar away
there is no freedom
in a transition to fleshberg.
—rather they will find a broken bird
lying on pitiless tundra.
are ruthless when wrathful;
cruelty matched only
by sheer indifference.
A whore-frost gargoyle, Winter
skulking on your back.
Ah, the treacherous
all that you
know of you.
Wishing to die, you wane;
a winter scarecrow of fallow field,
shriveled remnant of the Self—
facing emptiness, you perilously
resort to stuffing in fistfuls
of moldering bracken, sour grass
wrenched by the roots
out of abject fear.
Being a Scarecrow,
the Ravens will help you
what you are made of.
Yanked apart at the seams
by rending talons, by bitter beak
to find what is good in you.
Raising the flare gun’s weight
up to an opaque vault of sky,
vexed by snow-borne wind into a fury:
fingers ice-gnawed into claws
I fumble in the maelstrom
—slip but for a moment
and pull the trigger.
Just between us
||who tread that bone-strewn path
as only the Suicidal can.
Among the ten thousand
useless ways to die
there is always a choice
to die well.
you do not see it coming.
4 November 2k18
“Standing on the gallows with my head in a noose.
Any minute now I’m expecting all Hell to break loose…” ~ Bob Dylan
What can I say, Dear Reader? The man has brought it upon himself.
I can stand no more of this utter, fascist Trumpery.
Please understand, I know there are those who will be vexed by this post:
whether you can believe it or no, I do have empathy. Yet, I also have a mandate:
Respect Existence or Expect Resistance
Trump and his ilk have gleefully sown the wind.
Now comes the Gale.
The Excoriation of Donald J. Trump
Here is the way of my Curse for you, Donald:
Doom of the craven
and the swindler be upon you—
who makes feast on the blight of poverty
who gorges on the blood of earth, rock, and sea.
You shall have all you blindly desire,
but naught of what you truly need.
You shall find no water in the desert
nor shelter from the burning sun of Judgment.
You have delivered the Earth
into the hands of despoilers.
You shall find no rest therein.
Your carcass shall be rejected.
Even your ashes shall be as salt
upon the ground, and none shall suffer to tread there.
Your black shade shall find no admittance to the Garden
but shall submit tenfold
to the woe and misery your works have wrought.
With left hand you bear the Scepter of Tyranny
while within your withered right
are clenched the thirty pieces of silver for which
you bartered your Soul.
Vultures gather at your feet
and verily they shall name you
Lord of Carrion.
A crown of bone and gore shall be
fashioned for you, and upon it branded
the Sigil of Gluttony.
Tyrant of Twitter, I dub thee.
Highwayman of the Hill, Maestro of Misogyny
Yes, yes…and moreover,
I name thee: Despot of Demagoguery
Brigand of the Beltway and Rustler of the Republic.
Cur, you hustle cowardly
with insolent thugs and greedy pimps.
Scourge of Empathy,
the fire of your abominate words
has lit a conflagration of fear
through the heart of a divided Land.
Never shall the blood of these Innocents
be washed from your brow.
1 November 2k18
“That is not how to Love me.” ~ Fever Ray [Karin Dreijer]
By now that statement is enough to inform you that I have been sexually assaulted, harassed, violated…You know this from those two words due to the immense courage of women from every walk of life. Women, nay Humans, who have stood and added their voices to the clarion chorus of Survivors. Humans who are calling for an end to the grotesque culture of abuse and rape in our society.
Though it matters not, my gender is male (mostly). I am the 1 in 20.
Male Survivors, I beg you, join your Sisters. Raise your voices against the Monsters.
We accept atrocities.
They have become so ingrained, so prevalent, that as a society we add it to the statistics of annual horrors in apparent apathy.
Statistics that are tracked and charted: they grab, they grope, they nestle next to the unspeakable as if we cannot change.
Yet, we can.
WE can change this sick paradigm.
We can drag it into the light. We can watch it burn.
Individuals know how to change. Often, we just collectively don’t know how to stoke an ember into a conflagration.
Me Too is a collective social outcry.
It is the thunder that incites lightning.
I pray it cracks the world.
Feast for a Monster
Oh, how you must feast.
Gorging on a memory banquet—
my child hands on your flesh: unwilling.
Suck marrow from husks of vile memory
the way you sucked your lips then:
all venom and petulance.
Torpid. Sprawled on a ratty couch.
Warning me, “Don’t you dare throw up.”
—just as I see you in nightmares:
Massive and fearful
the way only a child
Lick hoarded reminiscence
from your fingers,
Let it drip down your elbows:
wring, throttle, squeeze
those final drops
out of the places
you ripped open
inside of me.
Scars grow upon scars.
Such wounds never heal clean.
You shall never know that
has served to make me formidable.
Yet, you own nothing of my survival.
For that emerged from within,
where your maggot fingers
could not dig deep to reach.
Whilst you grow evermore frail
I banish you to the Past.
A predator become vulnerable:
choke now on your last sustenance
of corpse-liquor remembrance.
how will you possibly
crave anything wholesome again
when you have supped at such a table?
31 October 2k18
Good Hallows’ Eve, Dear Reader. This day the Veil is thin.
Go to the Crossroads, tear the Veil away:
The first step is the hardest of all.
9 June 2k18
Greetings Dear Reader, I’m experimenting with a new platform style.
~ ★ ~
:: End Transmission ::
“I’ll find a place to rest my Spirit if I can.
Perhaps I may become a Highwayman again.
Or I may simply be
a single drop of rain.
But I will remain…” ~ Jimmy Webb
19 June 2017
Greetings on this post-Father’s Day. I’ll never know why it seems to be my function to be the buzz kill. Don’t get me wrong, I dig a good buzz as much as anyone. But there are times when my mouth opens and these things just come out.
For example, one glance yesterday at the multi-headed beast of social media was all it took to put a fresh crack in my admittedly hitherto broken heart.
Yet, have no fear over this fractured heart, Dear Reader, for I have been well assured that these cracks are how the Light gets in…
Yesterday I was wished a Happy Father’s Day. And that’s complicated for me—hell, it’s complicated for a lot of people. In truth, there’s endless pain, regret, and suffering skulking about on such days. From dysfunction to grief, in every holiday survivors are camouflaged.
We smile, we say thank you, and wish you a happy day as well.
While inside us a tiny piece of breaks off and dissolves.
I was adopted, but that’s not the complication—it’s a long story best left for another time. Let’s just say that I am grateful to have been twice-blessed. First by being chosen for adoption by a family who made me their own. And later reunited with my birth family, whom I have come to love unconditionally.
Adoption is a rare gift, too often overlooked in our society. For those who make the most heartbreaking decisions, and those willing to accept a child as family, are humans of empathy; they are humans of immense empathy and courage, regardless of what tragedies that may force such choices.
No, the difficultly in this day is that I lost my father when I was only 28. Please understand that I realize countless people are not so fortunate as I, to even have had the years we did—to have even had a loving father.
But nothing can stop grief. It is a tsunami, we can only be inundated and Survive.
I could write pages about my dad, Red McKenzie. But I’ll share a memory my mom is especially fond of. I was nearly two years old…
1969, Christmas, San Angelo, TX
Dad, known to his older relatives as Billy Chris, was sitting out on the stoop playing with my brother and I. An old friend, one who’d lived in Mother McKenzie’s building since dad was a kid, stopped and admired the two darlings he was bobbing up & down—one on each leg.
“Why, Billy Chris, what beautiful babies!” she gushed at him. “So, which one is yours?” She asked, knowing of the adoption—as doubtless the whole building did. According to my mom, he simply looked at her and answered mildly, without rancor,
That was just how he was. A man of few words, but you listened when he chose to speak. I learned from him that our actions often matter most—that coming from a poet is something of an irony, I freely admit. So many lessons I learned from my father only really sank in after he died.
I never had a chance to thank him for giving so much; even through the worst times, when I was a delinquent thug bent on leaving a wake of destruction in my path. Using Tough Love, my parents pushed and pushed to save me, rather than let me rot in McLaughlin juvenile jail when I was sixteen.
They never gave up on me, even when I had.
They allowed me to earn back their respect, and helped me find some for myself.
For those adopted: never forget that we were chosen…no one gave us away.
Forgive the rough edges of this poem, Dear Reader, for I wrote it 21 years ago, and in mourning. I have only edited it here for clarity.
In the box with my memories
I have a short deck of playing cards.
Only forty-seven are left.
The rest I buried with my father:
a straight flush in his breast pocket
to best St. Peter at the Gates.
Born and died a cowboy in the end
his last word went unheard.
We have put his pistols in the ground;
fought with the wrecking company
to remove his saddlebags from
the maroon Taurus in which he died.
I have stood beside
my mother, my brother—
as if exiled by thick, awkward pain
we faced the line of grieving friends
and bore their condolences with grace.
I smiled when I had to:
at heartfelt tales of yesterdays,
of shared sorrow, and keen-edged kindness,
for elegies both solemn and bittersweet.
Shed no funeral tears, he’d have said.
For an honest gambler he remained.
He always taught—
We have to play the hand
we are dealt in life.
That the turn of a friendly card
is the best we can hope to gain.
I drank with his partners.
Howled on asphalt dusty
until my throat cracked
until bore-tide tears ran
clean tributaries down my face.
These things I have done
will honor him as best I can.
Yet they all pale
when set beside
the East Texas man
who claimed me
from the cradle
and made me his son
not through blood
but through love.
1 May 2017
“How can you say that you’re not responsible?
What does it have to do with me? What is my reaction?
What should it be—confronted by this latest atrocity?” ~Sting/The Police
“We are bound to rouse and rise
those who still endure the sham
—all of the orphans of our Uncle Sam…” ~Humanwine
Greetings on this May Day, Dear Reader. Oh, sorry, I guess it’s Loyalty Day now, isn’t it?
Please forgive the long drop in signal, but well…that’s how it is with poet’s and our blogs. Occasionally we lose hope; only to find it again in the scruffle of those around us attempting to survive…and more, to survive in Freedom.
This requires resistance.
May Day has long been a celebration of that very resistance. Some clever ogre in the Goon Squad surrounding Orange#45 must have whispered in the Jester’s ear that proclaiming May 1st as Loyalty Day would be a massive fuck you to the remaining Resistance. And that little toady was right. It pissed off a lot of people, your humble poet not the least.
Why? For those who don’t know, or would like a refresher on the history of May Day as a Worker’s Holiday, this is a good start: The Brief Origins of May Day
Today, humans around the world have taken their streets and demanded change. Some with restraint, others without restraint, or a lick of sense in some cases. What worries many of us who have stood on those front lines for decades is the level of violence being seen in engagements with counter-protesters in the US.
We all have the right to Free Speech.
It’s a different matter entirely when you go to a protest with the intent of squashing that Right, that Freedom, of another because you disagree with their ideology. That is unacceptable. And if such adrenalin-fueled clowns continue, they’ll be forced to square off with the Black Bloc. These protesters are on the front line, the Hassle Line: that fluid space where cop cadre meets the thousands marching.
Generally speaking, there are two “types” in the Black Bloc at a major protest: Older, experienced, Civil-Disobedience oriented activists of all genders and wide ideology. The other are the younger, less-experienced ones that smash windows, FSU, and are badly in need the guidance from the former. And, of course, it’s always the young hot-heads that wind up on CNN or Fox news. You never see the work and dedication of the real Black Bloc; or, for that matter, the work of the Street Medics, or the Green Hats, aka National Lawyers Guild.
These are the people who are there to help protect those thousands amassed behind them (those without helmets, or gas masks, or radios) to engage in their right to protest peacefully. On the Hassle Line, it’s not so peaceful. In addition to nightsticks, CS gas, pepper-spray, Riotcops use an array of ancient, highly-effective shield tactics for crowd control. If you come against them, you’d better come correct. Often, they will open a gap, allowing grab teams to snatch effective activists and drag them behind their lines: there to get a solid beating, zip-tied, and tossed like meat-puppets into whatever transport has been arranged.
This is only a small glimpse into what it can be like in the thick of a protest when things do go sideways.
This poem is based on a true event that occurred many years ago; an experience that I still encounter in nightmares, awaking only to relive it as memory…and the awful truth is that it could happen today, tomorrow, perhaps right now. This poem is for everyone that stands on the Line, that others might be safe.
To be honest, I am not among those that relish the coming clashes between the Black Bloc and Counter-Protesters. Frank Herbert was right, “Divide and rule. Sub-divide and rule even more powerfully. Fragment and rule absolutely.” and that is exactly the bait we gobble by venting our rage on each other. We should be building bridges between the common ground between us rather than doing their bloody work for them.
Now, back to Loyalty day: sorry, Orange#45 and Cronies, I am no bull you can wave a rag at to enrage for your own amusement. You piss me off, but I will not rent space in my head to you clowns for free.
We remember the words inscribed on the Haymarket Memorial~
“The Day Will Come When Our Silence
Will Be More Powerful Than
The Voices You Are Throttling Today”
We will not drink your kool-aid, nor any other noxious brew:
If someone wishes you a Happy Loyalty Day,
just smile and wish them a Happy May Day!
For there is no difference between the two.
a doctrine of disobedience
When you heave
me to the ground
Chain my arms
behind my back
to teach me
who is boss
I am one
What, did you think
we could ever forget?
We, who stand
before your fist—riot
that we might remain Free
There is a creature
hooves to haunch
furious and raw
from the filthy lies
A pitiful, ugly spawn
of my heart—it flowers
into a brutal blossom
as I see you, astride
a human, whipping
that nightstick down
It is as if I am chewing
on a mouthful of tinfoil
What will happen
when we have had
enough is enough
Of petty cop gods?
puffed up princes
of the billyclub
Fleeing, she caught
a teargas canister on
the back of her head
and it opened—how could you
ever think we would forget?
You were laughing
before the shooting
You stand stricken
now—between us her
choked-off scream still
You cannot hide
behind a shield
No black mask no
corrupt law passed
can undo the sight of
Her red hands seeking
will hide the evidence
You must know why
We are fighting back? Why
we are taking the streets
despite the cages
That you will lock us in?
I would rather live one day
marching free on a forbidden street
than live a lifetime in a police state
I saw you, riotcop
Through a pall of painsmoke
your face had gone sick:
Behind the gas mask
behind the shiny badge
I saw you—thinking
that this time
might have been a mistake
~23 April 17
Update: 2 May 1730hrs: Since posting this I’ve been asked by quite a few if I’m engaging in a little hyperbole for the sake of art. No harm in asking, and I don’t feel offended by the question. Sadly, if anything, I underplayed the severity of street skirmishes on the Hassle Line, where thousands protesting meets Law Enforcement. A friend sent me this video from You Tube, courtesy of Alpha Tribe Productions, and MikeHated’s channel. Included is footage from the very protest this poem was born in. The Massacre in Miami, FTAA Protest 2003. If you’re not familiar with it, please look it up. Everything changed after ‘Chief’ Timoney and his “model” effectively chilled a robust movement of non-violent Civil-Disobedient protesting in the US; they accomplished this through pre-emptive arrests, and the militarization of Law Enforcement, which has become so prevalent today. (Warning: the following video may contain PTSD triggers for some.)
31 July 2016
Recently, Dear Reader, I was deeply honored to have my poem Extrusion selected by Cirque: A Literary Journal for Alaska and the Pacific Northwest for publication in their 14th. Issue, which was released this July. Mighty massive thanks to Editor Sandra Kleven, a savvy, insightful editor and skookum friend.
While I was unable to attend the launch here in Rage City, a dear friend, cohort, and fellow poet, Peter Porco—also featured in this issue of Cirque, I should add— intrepidly elected to read it during the festivities.
A thousand thanks, Peter, you made the plight of that little yard lizard, and our hand in its fate, creep into the minds of all who see the clip, and you do it with sangfroid. My hat’s off to you.
The video can be found on Cirque’s fab facebook page: Cirque Journal; meanwhile, if I can find a way to embed it you know I will.
I’m taking down the version that was featured here. If you’d like to have a read, please surf over to Cirque, where I am surrounded by a convocation of immensely talented poets, authors, and artists. Fully available online, you can also order a copy for a fair price. (I receive naught a penny on sales, folks…just that being a poet, I’ll always dig pages over pixels.)
It somehow feels unnatural, disingenuous even, to leave you without a poem. It is my job, after all. And you’ve come all this way for a sales pitch!?! I think not.
Lately the concept of redemption has been on my mind. You don’t have to look far to find symptoms of rot, apathy, and naked greed in our society, but in the same glance you’ll find countless souls seeking redemption; and so often it is these very souls that display the most remarkable acts of generosity, kindness, and human empathy. This is for those of us on the path of Redemption; may you find what you seek…
—Variant № 8
Redemption is a steel beam
running up your spine.
I recommend a permanent installation
affixed on the outside, a gruesome renovation.
There it can be seen by all, and
with ease polished to a high sheen
To avoid the unsightly tarnish
of blood, shame, and rust.
With hot rivets, hammer the bone-girder
right into your marrow;
Where in cannot become dislodged
by the innate brittleness
Of occasional backsliding and failure.
—Or did you believe the slate wiped clean?
You believed Absolution is final?
No, as with our mistakes
We are interdependent
with our Saviors.
So, strive not to walk too stiffly
beneath your bone-grafted burden.
Bear your penance with some show of dignity,
ignoring the desultory loathing
You will find in those unwilling
to fashion their own soul scaffolding.
Smile when invariably you’re asked why
you walk so strangely, as if
you had a steel beam shoved up your ass?
Just tell them that you have been Redeemed.
~by DC McKenzie
22 June 2016
9 August 2k15
“The atomic bomb made the prospect of future war unendurable. It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass and beyond there is a different country.” ~Dr. J Robert Oppenheimer
“Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing power to make great decisions for good or evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” ~Albert Einstein, New York Times, 25 May 1946
“Natura Potest Fieri Furioso” ~Unknown
Seventy years ago today, The United States of America, and her Allies, completed the first Atomic bombing campaign in human history when we dropped the Plutonium bomb, Fat Man, on the city of Nagasaki, Japan.
Three days earlier, Little Boy, the first and last Uranium bomb, was dropped on Hiroshima. In the months and years to come the whole world would learn the devastating impact that nuclear weapons cause to life itself; rendering the very Earth a poisonous, parched heap of scorched rubble. We know now the genetic blight that nuclear weapons bring.
However, there was one man who never saw the risk of nuclear weapons as being too high for their perceived value. He never admitted, to my knowledge, that the building and stockpiling of these weapons–the much vaunted Mutually Assured Destruction strategy–was a kind of paranoid madness that overcame much of humanity in the wake of the our thunderous entry into the Nuclear age.
Yet, more importantly for this discussion, I am speaking of the creation of the Hydrogen Bomb. Many—Scientists, Citizens, and Generals alike—argued that such weapons were completely unnecessary. But our man championed them. That man, widely considered to be the father of the H-Bomb, was Edward Teller.
Here was an archetype Mad Scientist if I ever beheld one.
It was he who put the final nail in the the career of Dr. Oppenheimer, who was an opponent of the Hydrogen bomb project.
Influential in many world-changing events such as being among the main driving forces behind Operation Crossroads (the July 1946 Plutonium bombing of Bikini Island and the Ghost Fleet), and other subsequent Nuclear tests, Edward Teller is also widely held to be directly responsible for Dr. Oppenheimer being exiled from Washington D.C., and losing his security clearance during a Witch Hunt. A vicious stab in the back to a man who gave his brilliant mind and most of his career to his country. Regardless of how we may personally feel about Dr. Oppenheimer, the man deserved better.
Edward Teller did not escape the consequences of his political machinations; nor did his single-minded pursuit of the Hydrogen bomb come without fallout. Indeed, I understand that a great many of Teller’s colleagues despised him for what he did to Oppenheimer, for his part in Operation Crossroads, and for his part in ensuring the proliferation of the most frightening and dangerous weapons Humanity has ever created. As for his legacy, Dear Reader? Being as we are history, I invite you to read more about Teller…then you be the judge.
Untitled Poem 235
Edward Teller has died, at last;
I shall curse him no more.
Still, I want to send him dead roses.
Petals fetid, craven thorns and all;
blossoms fattened on brine and nox,
—yes, and with sick, withered leaves
tied demure in a pink, cardboard box.
For siring the Hydrogen bomb
he deserves no less, and likely much more.
By now it has been explained to him
that security is a superstition;
that we can neither love, nor even live
that, like electrons, life moves in a circle;
and that what goes around, really goes around.
By now Edward has gustily slurped
the quark soup of our beginning
and found all of his answers, in the end.
Maybe there are no superstrings to bind our hands.
But, perhaps there should be…
From Edward Teller, at least,
there will not spring
any further ghastly surprises.
He has become glass without bubbles.
He has been struck on the Big Collider
—split, fissured, unharnessed.
And I will not curse him
for he has enough to worry about as it is.
by DC McKenzie
6 August 2k5
2 August 2015
“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?” ~Kurt Vonnegut
“The last thing we discover in composing a work is what to put down first.” ~Blaise Pascal
Some poems are fated to die before their potential, their full glory, is ever attained; in this way, as in so many ways I’ve discovered to my endless fascination, poems are much like humans. It may be that the Seed of Idea on which the poem depends never germinates, though we pour our life onto it; or that, like animals of the wild—including homo sapiens it must be admitted—they are abandoned due to some Terrible Trauma or similar ilk which Nature is so fond of handing out like a ruthless teacher with homework assignments; or simply because they smell wrong. Which seems ridiculous to you and I, but which is of undeniable mortal importance to a vast number of species.
This is one of a set of poems that came very close to perishing in the deep freeze of a year-long Writer’s Block. A state which to this day reminds me so much of what I imagine to be the outbound journey to aphelion that stellar bodies undergo in their gravitational orbits. Aphelion, that point which is furthest from the sun, is such an apt metaphor for the hell of chronic Depression, and concurrent Writer’s Block, that I find myself returning to its rich imaginative spaces for ore…the words that I process to fuel my life. Now that I have begun my own journey back to a poetic perihelion, the words have begun to trail out behind me once more…
But before the thaw, I had come to think this would remain a sad nebula of ideas and half-finished verses; a primordial soup lacking the necessary Promethean lightning. Digital debris destined never to produce a poem. Until a few days ago, when I found myself opening the old file. During the familiar alchemy of transferring it over to my working journal—ink and paper being capable of surmounting the sum of their parts in a way that computers never can—I stumbled onto the trail of uncanny ideas, and melancholy memories that had led me to begin writing it in the first place.
It’s an aspect of writing which authors are forever attempting to define, to describe—right in the face of our mandate to Show, Do Not Tell.
Yet, we do it because it’s so near to the heart of why we write in the first place. The alchemy of composition is honestly far more gratifying than the glory of seeing a finished, published poem, and it is also equally as personal.
That magic is what drives me to get up at four in the damn morning to scribble. I suspect that every writer, indeed every artist, shares this. Yet, in a vocation built on the finesse of description, it’s ironically one of the majesties of our art that most often defies definition. And, regardless of what labels are applied, in this bittersweet, ineffable Life you have to take your miracles where you find them.
Redhaired Amy daydreams
into smoke become nebulous in moonlight;
entwined Van Gogh-gyrations of gunmetal ghosts.
Undulating, with her haphazard smiles,
Amy drags the husks of dead stars in her wake.
Tonight Earth jealously eclipsed Moon. As we drifted
between Luna’s infernal lover, the sunlight unceasing
cast a ruddy blush upon her majestic face;
lest Moon, however briefly, forget to dance.
Amy smokes the way ravenous people eat
—all jaws and no tongue.
For hours on end, she stares ardently at Moon
as if her gaze tattoos love bites on ice-dusty peaks,
carves runes within secret, darkside craters.
If Moon slept
she would only feel safe
wrapped in the arms of Sol.
Redhaired Amy cannot live
away from the ocean,
but she will not swim.
When lethargy seizes her by the spine
her bones telegraph a rattle-a-tat s.o.s.;
her atoms become bored, they incite
subtle dances of cellular rhythms
and metabolic war cries
that only she can hear.
When we are honest
we speak ten thousand fragments
hammered from a cryptic core
far too brittle to be cleanly cleaved.
Each time we strike off misshapen shards;
which we string together like unfamiliar stars.
Until we finally stand in dismayed bewilderment,
listening to our own battering, forlorn echoes.
Head cocked, as if we cannot believe
such a din could ever come from us.
These poor words could never hope
to bear the loneliness we are dying to convey
—no matter how we burden them.
Amy has come to believe
that God sleeps when we sleep:
and that since there are so many of us now,
God is always sleeping.
Redhaired Amy breathes fire, daydreams into her smoke;
thinking that ‘reckoning’ is not
spelled with a W for a good wreason.
26 July 2k15
PS: My apologies, Gentle Reader, for the site’s editing program seems to have suddenly become stupid; or maybe it’s woken up, and is being obstinate. (an altogether horrifying idea, speaking personally)
So, if you dig this poem please drop by in a day or two and see it with its proper structure on.
Yes, it’s naked and shaky, but I simply could not wait to run it out of the pen.
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.
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 Teeka Ballas, 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 both humble and proud to set before you.
It is also a poem based upon true events in my life. Parts of it may be disturbing to you, Dear Reader…but then, so is life. Among our mandates as artists is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.
I wrote it in the glare of unflinching honesty, composed while still in hospital. I finished it with the dream that those who also suffer from the terrible isolation and pain that comes with disability may find some solace, 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.
(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.
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.
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.
4 June 2k11
This poem is dedicated with Love,
with gratitude, and my utmost respect to
1 April 1949 ~ 27 May 2011
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
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.
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, extraordinary rendition
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,
some, or all, of our inalienable
human rights must necessarily be 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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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~
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
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.
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.