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.)
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 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
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.
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 April 2k9
“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” ~George Washington
“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless,
whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism
or the holy name of liberty and democracy?” ~’Mahatma’ Mohandas Gandhi
In London, the G20 Summit has ended for some, but for others the misery is just beginning. No protest occurs in a vacuum, and there are always consequences…an unknown number are still jailed, legally or not; people who need help soon, or they will be eaten by their system. And there are the walking wounded who need attending, some of whom can’t even walk, along with uncounted others whose wounds are invisible to the eye, yet catastrophic nonetheless; for PTSD is common on both sides, and a typically understated byproduct of any mass-demonstration. Often it is due to the fact that, despite prayers and pleas, not all have learned to embrace Non-Violence as the only real viable protest tactic. When you resort to the methods of despots, you allow that despotism inside your heart, and thereby become yet another tyrant.
By all accounts, including some first hand, this protest was no different. If you have not been to one before, and you’re at all interested, see my post entitled Dark Hours for a quick sketch of what it can be like, here in the Good Ol’ USA. Although, it appears the UK cops used less chemical weapons this time, and were more nightstick happy. (Actually, that sounds a lot like NYC cops, now that I consider it.)
If you’re up front on the Hassle Line, or get caught in a skirmish, this can really suck. One pair of badge-bearing sociopaths once fractured my jaw after kicking me repeatedly, just to get my gas-mask and helmet off…one of them then proceeded to pound me like a steak. Unfortunately, a little nightstick goes a long way. And yes, you do see stars, but not pretty ones…just asteroidal, flashy ones, that make you want to puke, again.
Not to fear Dear Reader, for the next day—while being detained for a few hours, roughed up and down, intimately searched (while the complete contents of my possessions were photographed) without a warrant or even probable cause, and rudely interrogated without the dubious benefit of a lawyer—I took my vengeance:
During the whole tiresome ordeal, I spent the time reciting my own most subversive and seditious poetry to them…which, needless to say, pissed them off mightily. I would have gotten my ass kicked for sure, except one of them was actually a decent Police Officer. (I do recognize a difference, and it comes down to the human being inside the uniform.) As you would guess, even though I was a bit worried, there was a high ratio of my fun to their anger, and I didn’t mind showing it either. By the time the thugs were done, and the Good Cop was just plain embarrassed, we’d all agreed to a mutual, abiding, disdain for one another; and I was told to “Get the fuck out of their city.” in exactly those words. As far as those korrupt keystone kops were concerned, the word Constitution apparently has something to do with bowel movements. But, as Arlo Guthrie once lamented, That’s America…Also, I’m pretty sure they hated my poetry.
Therefore, in my continuing contempt for sadistic riotcops, who just give good police officers a brutal name. And in gratitude to the thousands who non-violently marched in London for the marginalized millions, those kept poor in the name of profit, at the G20 this year, I’m just going to leave this growling mutt of a poem right here…
Serenade for a Riot Cop
Malo Periculosam Libertatem Quam Quietum Servitium
Admit it, you miss the heyday of the Black Maria,
righteously flailing us to our knees.
You see your duty, doubtless,
To create Law and Order.
Why can’t you see that it is our duty
to create Justice and Peace?
It is a noble oath you take, to Protect and Serve.
But exactly what is it that you are trying to preserve?
You know this is not how it is supposed to be.
What did you suppose would happen
to our nation, our daughters and our sons,
when you applied the law with your stinking guns?
You have nothing that can ultimately stop it now
it does not matter what you do to us,
remember—Sic Semper Tyrannis: To Tyrants Ever Thus
Our aims, our desires, are not much different:
Cast aside your bloody nightstick,
the riotgun, the filthy gas.
Throw down your body armor,
the tin badge, the black mask
and step up, step out into the street
vulnerable with us, before the Fist.
Stand before the fuming others
who once were your brothers
in unnecessary arms.
Free your voice, outraged, in a defiant cacophony,
tell them you will make no more mishumanity,
that you will no longer lock people in cages for money.
Their pepperspray will be a baptism burning in your lungs.
Discover how it is to stare down the other side of the guns,
with naught but your humanity for a weapon or a shield.
Take your beating with us, learn what it takes to wield
your body, with civil disobedience as your last defense.
With us, draw a line today, understand what it takes to disobey.
Join us now in a united stance, or soon enough we will all lose the chance.
If this is truly the promised Land of the Free
then c’mon Riot Cop, tell me if you can
—why aren’t we?
26 March 2k9
“There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.” ~George Carlin
set them free
And there came a night when, at last, I could take no more:
It was act, or a coward I’d remain,
I had to do the deed demanded
in the face of our awful disdain.
Tools I packed, in a large canvas bag:
cutting torch, pickaxe, folding spade, bolt cutters,
a large pair of insulated dikes, 12″ catspaw,
5 lb short sledge, and a few other necessary odds & ends.
The walk was short, but the chill night seeped into bone and tendon alike
I looked about at all the other prisoners until my blood was up again.
And an ember of stoked rage blew aflame,
long since fired into a brittle glaze.
The hostage was waiting just as I knew he would.
Where, after all, was he going to go?
Certain that this was illegal,
although not exactly sure why it should be, I set to work.
First to go had to be the ten thousand little lights.
White and pretty yes, but tell me, would you wear them?
He hated them.
Clipped & taped, stripped & scraped off along with fistfuls of ragged fliers…
Into the street.
Then came the abandoned freakin’ bikes, only four of them today.
All bent to shit, and kicked by every asshole who passed that way.
He was shackled by these metal carcasses, yet nitrogen froze the p.o.s. locks,
then smashy smashy with the 5 lb. short sledge, and off came the mechanical stocks.
Into the street.
Warmed now, by my disgust, the adrenalin reality of my open rebellion—
which, after far too much turning of the cheek, was indeed, truly sweet.
Next was the cast-iron grill, the cell of his prison,
like something dreamt up for an Inquisition.
Prior inspection told me the locks were for show,
that the diabolical thing had been welded ages ago.
A welding blanket I wrapped ’round him tight
and lovely blue-white fire lit the winter night.
While watching through goggles black and thick,
a whisper warning floated through my brain,
“This is usually when everything kind of goes to shit,”
then shoved away the nagging thought double-quick.
“So what?…wouldn’t be the first time…” I sniffed in disdain.
One, two, dripping metal on my shoe, and there it was, an opening new…
Into the street.
Working hard, hurry now Scurry—tick-tock tick-tock, up against the running cop clock,
I yanked out the pair of ornate sidewalk grates,
you know, the ones that so many treat like ashtrays…a clattering they went.
Into the street.
Then I began on the cobblestones:
smashy smashy with pickaxe, then shovel shovel with spade.
Repeat. Gasping. Repeat.
Into the street.
An old-school handful of M-80s, saved for such a night:
deftly taped tight, and carefully placed just right,
(crossing fingers) blew a few goodish chunks out of the curb,
and made it easier to pickaxe-peel back some asphalt.
Into the street
Fight or Flight, mixed with fear and sweat, was trickling down my spine;
knowing well the cops were scant minutes from this place where I’ve scratched my line.
Running rolling a dumpster over to the pile, mostly for aesthetics to tell the truth,
I jammed up its wheels and stood back for a look.
It appeared as much like modern art, as it did a small blockade.
Breathing heavy, I lit a few magnesium flares and tossed them in
amongst the wreckage: candles to start the parade,
and to avoid any accidents…after all, this wasn’t that kind of cabaret.
When I fled back into the night,
savoring only a tight taste of glee,
there was an undeniable barricade
burning merrily in the street.
And when the cops finally did make the scene?
Standing tall in the red flicker-light,
what they found was a magnificent Tree—
one that could, at last, sort of breathe.
set them free