At eighteen, I stepped into the other world,
the one that sounds fantastical but is not.
Drainage pond at the bottom of a hill on campus,
behind it a small straggle of winter woods,
beyond that, a path towards the sports fields.
Grass still green in the mild mid-Atlantic,
twiggy dried milkweed standing and fallen,
plain as plain, just hidden, just waste.
An ordinary afternoon, and I felt surfeited with reading;
walking down the hill, I cast away my mind.
At the water’s edge I looked at the surface;
the water looked back at me. The world had eyes:
perceived me as I perceived it, all the same.
The bare treetops in the distance moved in my arms.
I felt the cawing of the crows that rose inside my chest.
But no crows there, no chest here, only that cawing,
that burning and empty annunciation
of how we too are the shine in the tufts of the cracked pods,
falling and lifted in the wind through everything.
All of this I could see, while I rubbed my eyes,
as if to dislodge a film that was not there.
This happened. I was a freshman, with no one to tell.
Why do we seek imagined worlds? We know nothing
of what is real, how wondrous and complete.
In the ever-Summer glare and heat
I found my life’s pain and regret
sanctified into something replete
with but little Hope baptized in sweat.
So the torment, no matter how holy,
still rips around my beaten heart
as if it was something mad and solely
bent and intent to rip it apart.
Perhaps I can hallow my vessel so hollow
with the heat from a different kind of light,
as good for my soul as the heart to follow,
soothing all my pain with its godly might.
And that’s why I’m here dipping pen in ink,
the black sprung from my soul to my heart.
Drawing pictures in words so we all might drink
of this sacrament that heals me called Art.
As I like to say, completing these pieces I share does not make me feel better. But all the time spent immersed in the process of writing them does. And that, my friend, is the miracle of Art, no matter how poorly rendered.
If you want to feel
the passing of night to day,
take my hand.
And if you would know
the road best travelled
see the lines on my face.
If you wish
the greatest gift ever,
lie beside me, feel my heart
and if you want to know
what lies behind the stars,
look into my eyes.
If you would feel
the world shift, then accept
happiness from my soul.
And if you want
a place always to return to
For this is not
Nor a storybook rhyme
that ends happily, regardless.
This is love.
As simple as it can be.
When we love. Truly love,
our skin becomes thin.
A fine, tender membrane.
That leaves us vulnerable.
Open to the blade and scour
of a harsh word
or thoughtless gesture.
Yet that same skin rebounds.
Strong in its flexibility.
Allows healing and repairs
the sore spots of wounds
Fear has teeth, weight, venom,
that permeates every cell.
Brings paralysis of limb and mind.
steals appetite and sleep.
Yet, it is a figment.
Has no legs, no substance but that
which we offer from our own minds.
that pushes thought forward
to explore worst-case scenarios
that we touch and poke
like a tongue probes
a tender tooth.
Yet fear is insubstantial.
Allowing it bones hardens it.
Gives solidity to make a weapon.
One which we painfully use
In the midst of nuclear insanity
In the midst of natural calamities
In the midst of hatred and harm crisscrossing the land
In the midst of hostility riding in cars emasculating our civil liberties
In the midst of blood spattered into the streets…
In the midst of people crying…people dying
America Still Sings of Freedom
In the midst of Black Lives Matter
In the midst of limitations set on Muslims’ immigration
In the midst of white supremacy poisoning the tender tendrils of democracy
In the midst of Native Americans wanting to save the earth from greed and destruction
In the midst of dreamers’ dreams vanishing in the wind
In the midst of chaos and confusion
America Still Sings of Freedom
In the midst of immigrant children being wrenched from their parents’ grasp
In the midst of the vanishing affordable health care act
In the midst of the oppressed screaming for justice from the callous and the cold
In the midst of the stranglehold of the school-to-prison pipeline
In the midst of the vines of violence choking aspirations
In the midst of mass incarceration
America Still Sings of Freedom
In the midst of earth’s disintegrating atmosphere
In the midst of conflicting attitudes towards a solution to pollution
In the midst of profits leading to the desecration of our planet
In the midst of socio-economic terrorism
In the midst of religious fanaticism
In the midst of man’s obsession with power
America Still Sings of Freedom
In the midst of the sunrise greeting a new day in magnificence
In the midst of the stars twinkling eminence throughout time
In the midst of intergalactic connections singing in eternity
In the midst of the courageous voices of the many standing together in unity
In the midst of joy infusing hearts of stone
In the midst of peace in search of a home
America Still Sings of Freedom
Learn this lesson: assume the supplicant’s
position, low before the arbiter.
Hang your petition on the ox’s horn and
pray as it turns and plods inside the keep.
Forty two days in the wilderness, longer
than Christ’s self-chosen stay. Time to go home
and count the copper pennies in your palm, time
to scour the bins for corn cobs overlooked,
scraps on bones, nubs of bread, hide candles
and kindling, beg remission on your rent.
Time to forage hedgerows, scrape bark for baking
bread, claw the furrows for potatoes, hush
the hungry child while you lie clamped and clemmed,
fashioning hope from feathers and dung.
You may be lucky: beneficence
parsimonious may be granted or
day on day on days delays will find you
in winter’s shadow outside the castle walls.
The title of this poem relates to a new UK Social Security single benefit ( to replace several others). Its rollout has been very expensive and is causing great hardship for the poorest people in this country. Many have to rely on food banks.
got folks outside the candy store staring at opaque glass they can’t really see the sweets they’ve heard about and will most likely never taste but they’ve got some pretty pictures like promises painted for them on the glass outside pictures carefully crafted by those who own the store who offer free tenants a lifetime of servitude to buy a lottery ticket for the chance to
The woman I am
Is the woman I was
The quiet one,
The smart one,
The one who ran a high school mile in 20 minutes.
The woman I am
Is the woman I was
The hands in my back pocket,
I can conquer the world,
Let the party begin,
I can pull off an A paper in 4 hours Co-ed,
Who wasn’t self aware enough,
Who wasn’t practiced enough,
To know alcoholic lies.
The woman I am
Is the woman I was
The trusting in a good world,
How did this happen to me,
Despite my negative words,
Against my feminist will,
It must be my fault,
Forgive me, understand me lover.
The woman I am
Is the woman I was
The grieving mother,
The don’t get too close so it doesn’t hurt mother,
The oh it could be fun and easy mother,
The I didn’t realize boys were so different mother,
The stay my baby a little a lot longer mother.
The woman I am
Is the woman I was
Angry and hurt,
Confused yet hopeful,
Spurned into action,
Despite fears of rejection.
I am the intersection of
The intertwining of identity and history.
The woman I am
Is the woman I was
Is the woman I will become
Brows coming together
Looking straight ahead while around her
Kids are squirming, tearing, jeering
She rubs her forehead, right above her nose, and closes her eyes
The gesture of acceptance
Head tilted to the side
Staring into a face that doesn’t believe in her worth, her rights, her existence
She crosses her arms, juts her hip, and taps her foot
The gesture of defiance
Disbelief that in this day and age
Listening to advice and false promises yelled by witnesses to her body’s treachery
She swings her arms and shuffles forward
The gesture of persistence
Knowing pain is temporary
Afterwards, she sits still
Listening to the quiet sounds
Of trees swaying and not breaking
Her breathing deepens
Her arms raise to the sky
The gesture of triumph
Amorphous clouds engulf me –
My true hand unseen
My heart frozen, unloved
My breath stilled and unworthy
My solid form deemed weak
What was supposed to shade me
From the bleaching hanging sun
Now hurts my skin with its
Wispy viper tendrils
I thought you were my friend
But I missed the forecast for
Cloudy with a chance of
Its leaves are near-ochre,
yellowed with age and changes
in weather and geography,
like the pages of memory
I un-shelf along with it each year.
I bring it out like a swimsuit
each summer since I found it
on that beach in that place from
that side which did not prevail.
Today, a page fell like a memory.
It tells a tale of the push and pull
of a time when men could be
paid for and sold, or lined up in ranks
to pay their last full measure
of devotion to a cause each held sacred.
As I run my finger down the page,
I am present in my place and time
as I am in theirs, though I smell
the aroma of a musty old book rather than
of Hell’s own sulfur and smoke.
And I am at peace reading of war and death,
vaguely secure that such a conflict
couldn’t again slash my nobly scarred nation.
Then all these men would have given
that last full measure for nothing.
It’d be our most-mortal sin to allow them
to have lived and died in vain, knowing their
new birth of freedom, and government
of the people, by the people, for the people—
all the people—did perish from the earth.
Rambling draft inspired by reading, breathing, feeling, listening to the pages of my old paperback copy of The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara’s fictional narrative of the actual men and events leading up to, within and following the days in July of 1863 we know as the Battle of Gettysburg. I find myself reading more of my Civil War books these days.I love them, but that I feel so viscerally compelled concerns me a little.
On looking how she was. Staring
always, as though there were
depths and hollows to see through
somehow all into. Something to stay with her
little girl hands twisting and then the warts.
She would always try to pull
The world into her fingers.
To play the sounds closer.
She was just oblivious
To her difference.
But behind, they knew her
for the witch they thought they knew she was,
Jude, Commie, sick-to-stick-out little girl,
Pale-wincer-in-the-sun with that heavy coat.
Cassie and Lassie, those twins,
they knew fast just what to do.
lasso a tip of her hanging braid
and soak it slow and silent in the
ink-well behind. Well, she just kept her still.
Her long eyelids shuddering in her quiet.
Little girl on the edges, locked inside in.
No Howdy Doody times, no way to say it.
She just fought to gaze hard to look straight
beyond the puppet land of the 1950s.
She had to come home to hide
behind the tv and the cooking.
All the time life opened up for her
savage saddle markings.
I go blind from then I go
here now so into Franco-free light
where I don’t know
how to turn my eyes, spent scars of second skin,
years of no and fury,
now the clean air breaking in
to be real in this to breathe it
all in and then to die in Madrid.
Tempt it not—I surely do not
Not too. No Franco and his cops
Nor his tiny stamps, unwritten laws
And truncheons at the ready.
I did not come here to die
but to be home here
where I can get lost again free
in a landscape of
words drifting oh words! Hombre que te pasa la Republica Zaragoza libertad.
Find the bridge, the path,
to cross over to some-
where the verdict words cannot. Qué bonitas son Son las flores
No, not just pretty. Knot not.
When I go blind,
“good I cannot see them”
(as the words once were cords
even to touch their fury)
The pain of sound.
Let the air out
of this flat tire.
I’m breaking in
to be real again—
the Guadarrama mountain range
splendid low about the horizon
women scarring Fascism.
Late afternoon glory with them in Madrid.
The air so pure it stings to settle.
At the beginning of before.
Here it is: are we in the right
spindle bobbing away?
Are you a fable resting in the sun and wanting?
Tell me how your dreams are.
Tell me what you might mean to yourself in their fury,
Now, skirts forever in a night wind
Yesterday spins yellows around tomorrow
Whatever did your mother tell you about
late at night when you put your book down
on the bed and she came in soundless
with a tight face to sit in the dark with you
while you wheezed and you waited.
Violence in the coal mines.
They always told me
La Pasionaría was brave no pasarán, she said. With her vision
she was defending Madrid’s mountains
they told me and I heard her when
she spoke with that spike of passion
indomitable: she said no pasarán
and in the foothills there were cheers all dressed in black.
Your father I learned took a gun with him
there at the beginning of before
to protect himself at midnight
on the picket lines in the dark
to protect himself from hit men
who hated his vision out west
in the fog in those long flat parking lots .
Low in his left cheek a muscle quivered
within, at the end of a smile that wasn’t.
He took a gun and she went kitten silent on your bed.
The quiet of her heavy sitting
at the beginning of before
reminds me of an old dream,
her telling you of crossing the street
because of the scar on her skin
because she wanted to hide it from all eyes
Was this a mingled message
to fight with all the passion the rains pour
or to scurry away from feeling?
To hold the front line or to flee into a hole?
Camus who believed in solitude as his struggle
And Aragon whose masses were transcendental
Tell, tell me more please before the end is over.
No matter how much we enlarge it,
that photograph snapped by a German soldier
of my grandmother in Lida, 1916,
remains perfectly clear. Her eyes
register her cold measure
of the soldier who could decide
to shoot her instead of her
picture if that
was his hobby
instead of photography.
This is what war
is like – I taste her fear
even though I’m seeing her
now from the eyes
of the oppressor.
And I know the shame of both.
What brought the Israeli poet, Karen Alkalay-Gut, to post this on FaceBook, about the poem above?
Sepia: The poem is about 1916—there were no Nazis back then. By writing the poem about this scene I am doing what the German soldier is doing—taking advantage of the person in a helpless situation without their permission. That’s what the poem is about. Anyone who sees politics in this poem is paranoid. But if some people were hurt by this poem, especially because it was in a place so honorably perpetuating the memories of such persecuted people, I do apologize. —Karen Alkalay-Gut
A controversy led to this statement, of course, based on misreading the poem. The misreading, though, mattered because of the context of where the people that Alkalay-Gut mentions “were hurt by this poem” encountered the poem. The poem appeared in the exhibit “Flashes of Memory – Photography during the Holocaust,” at Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center (Jerusalem, Israel). Although the photograph from the poem came from 1916, and the year appears in the poem, the context suggested to others that it was about a NAZI soldier. And rather than understand that Alkalay-Gut recognized that her own gaze at the helpless Lida, her grandmother, in the 1916 photo formed a kind of oppression (related to something called scopophilia in critical theory), viewers/readers saw in it a criticism of Israel that likened Israelis to NAZIs.
One might agree that a reasonable reading of the poem could be that those who benefit from military oppression are like the soldier who oppresses with his camera in the poem. The soldier had the choice to use a camera or a gun, and that those privileged to be in the class benefitting from soldiers’ guns also have a choice to use cameras or (let others) use a gun. The poet could be seeing her gaze as privileged and potentially oppressive (of her grandmother / grandmother’s memory, of others held at camera-gun point). But the soldier in the poem came from WWI, not from the Holocaust, and that is not a minor distinction.
Another distinction that matters is that Karen Alkalay-Gut lost her family during the Holocaust. She recognized that the hurt that could occur from encountering this poem in this context could be genuine and deep. She responded, as quoted in Israel HaYom newspaper:
“It’s a personal poem, I write from the heart, and it’s not a political poem, despite the fact that there are many ways to read a poem—and it could be read in such a way,” she explained.
“If this poem is hurtful to someone, then it should be removed from the exhibit. I did not mean to offend anyone, heaven forbid. I lost all my family in the Holocaust, and if it offends someone then I have no right to say something else,” she said.
“I think Yad Vashem needs to handle the matter, and if it appears to someone as political and insensitive – the poem must be removed from the exhibit,” she reiterated. —Israel HaYom
The poem cannot reasonably be read, on its own merits, as comparing Israel to NAZIs. It could be seen as being critical of oppression and military violence. It could be seen as drawing a parallel between the WWI soldier and the poet. On its own merits, yes. The context, however, created a different reading than the poem by itself would. And Israel does not appear in the poem, except if you know Alkalay-Gut is an Israeli living in Tel Aviv.
This is a strong poem, by a strong poet. She does write from the heart, as she says, but she also writes with a sense of justice. This poem is about justice in a very personal way—her grandmother is a victim of the soldier, as the speaker in the poem implies (the presumption is that he is exercising his power over her), and a victim of the poet looking at the photo, many decades later, when the grandmother can no longer say, “No. That is not for you to see. It is private.”
‘The spirit of the wolf resides in my heart Mostly peacefully, but ever wild Running in time to the blowing wind, Dancing in the clouds that drift in the heavens The spirit of the wolf resides in my soul.” – Gretchen Del Rio
The Howl or How Wild Women Press Came to Be
by Victoria Bennett
At twenty-six, I met an owl. It turned out to be one of the axis moments on which my life pivoted. It was a cold January day where frost lingered in the shade but the sun was shining, the kind of day where things seems possible because you have survived the darkness of winter. The trees stood bare of leaves, branch-fingers stretched out expectantly, waiting for Spring. I was waiting too, holding a sense of change quietly behind my eyes. I watched the crows fly, black wings against blue sky, looking for carrion, listened only to the sound of water and wind and some crow caw above. This was what I was trying to remember – the feel of my touch, the scent of the sky, the hopeful warmth of sun just after the midwinter. My life had become so much darkness, so much noise and pollution and not seeing. This was the counterbalance and so far, it was working. Slow, slow days, allowing the words to surface and sound and where words could not come, allowing the brush to paint or the body to move. All was changing. I was changing. The woman I was underneath was beginning to take shape, and to my surprise, I liked her.
But first, the owl. I was stood beside the ash, eyes closed, when I heard a scratch from above. I opened my eyes and saw the owl, white feathers thick for winter, watching me. Awake. Not daring to move, I simply looked and allowed it to look at me, until after a few moments, it flew away. The owl came, and I was listening because I was ready to hear, and I was ready, it seemed, to shift shape again.
One week after the owl and I met, I had a dream. In this dream, I was with a woman walking along the river. She told me I was to call the Wild Women together. This did not seem strange or unusually prophetic. I had found a deep resonance with the stories I had found in the Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book Women Who Run with the Wolves and so the archetype of the Wild Woman was something I was familiar with, but the sense of purpose was surprising, and so, the next morning I got up and started to write the posters for what was to be the very first of the Wild Women workshops.
Six weeks later, I stood in my living room, the fire in the stove burning and the tea hot in the pot. Before me sat twelve women, very different in ages and styles, but all sharing something special: they had all responded to the call. And so it came to be, the Wild Women group was born and I was to be their mother-wolf for this journey. As I stood there, faced with women whose individual and collective ages outstripped my own, I felt petrified. Who was I to stand here and say “this is the way of being woman”? Yet, that is exactly what I was to do. I did not know where it would take us, take me. I was just willing to begin, brave enough to speak out and hopeful enough to believe.
… and in that one word, I started something that would sustain me through my twenties, thirties and into my forties. I had met my clan. Together, we found the courage to stand up and say, “This is who I am…”.
That was nearly twenty years ago. Since then, working with the Wild Women, I have gone on to set up Wild Women Press, published several books of poetry from the group, worked with over 2000 women (and some brave men) on a number of amazing projects, hosted the (in)famous Wild Women Salons, made creative connections around the globe, and performed live at events around the UK and USA. It is a space of celebration and activism. There is no business plan or professional career path. It can lie dormant, hibernating as we nuzzle down and grow our ideas in the dark, or it can awake with passion and create for change on a global scale. We have used our creativity to create positive change, to be part of the world we want to live in andleave for those who follow. Sometimes we act on a very local level, sometimes on a global one.
Recently, I have been collaborating with the creators of the #MeToo poetry anthology. This is a very important movement for me personally, and for us as a group. As soon as I heard Deborah Alma was wanting to put together an anthology of poems from this movement, I offered my support, and the platform of Wild Women Press. It was obvious from the very beginning that there would be many more poems than there were pages in the book, and so #UsTogether was created, to give a platform for some of these other voices. Alongside the launch of the book, Wild Women Press are hosting a selection of these poems, in honour and celebration of the courage and sisterhood of all those who have spoken out as part of the #MeToo movement.
One of the core aspects of the group is the respect and celebration of each individual woman. Although in the beginning it was me who stood at the front of the room, every woman in the group was to go on to inspire and lead, using their own experiences, passions, talents, and knowledge to guide them in how they would to do that. In a similar vein, we will be launching an online Wild Women Press blog later in 2018, sharing our ideas and perspectives. Over the next year, we will be gathering Wild Women from around the globe to contribute, extending our circle of clan further. We would love to hear from other women, who would like to be part of a clan of contributors.If you are passionate about something, and would like to be part of a global group of Wild Women writing, creating, and being part of a positive change, please do get in touch.
In 2019, it will be our 20th Anniversary, and 20 years since we published our first book, Howl at the Moon: Writings By Wild Women. To celebrate this, we will be publishing a new book of poems by Wild Women – and this time, we are extending the howl out to others. We will be putting out the call for submissions soon, on our website, Twitter, and Facebook page.
For now, we continue to meet as a group every couple of months, and once a year, we spend four days at our Wild Women Gathering, celebrating, creating, and sharing our stories (and eating way too much food). We have witnessed births, marriages, divorces, unemployment, career changes, graduations, new beginnings, and painful goodbyes. What began as a workshop group, has become a place we now call home, and a wild family. You can sometimes find us on the fells or beside fires. We howl often, laugh lots, and when prompted, bare our teeth. Our coats are all a little more silver, and our eyes a little more wise, but we are still discovering. We are the Wild Women, and we welcome you.
VICTORIA BENNET (Wild Woman Press) is an award-winning poet, creative activist and full-time home-educating Wild Mama to her son, Django. Originating from the borderlands below Scotland, she is the Founder of Wild Women Press and has spent the last quarter of a century instigating creative experiences in her community. Her poetry has appeared in print, online and even in the popular video game, Minecraft. She has published four collections and performed live across the UK, from Glastonbury Festival to a Franciscan Convent.
Poetry publications include:
Anchoring the Light
Byron Makes His Bed My Mother’s House – a Poetry & Minecraft Collaboration with Adam Clarke, that explores grief and letting go
What We Now Know – digital VR music collaboration with Adam Clarke and The Bookshop Band, inspired by the #MeToo anthology
returned to bite through the umbilical of tradition,
to flick her tongue
and cut loose the animus-god of our parents,
like a panther she roams the earth, she is eve wild in the night,
freeing minds from hard shells
and hearts from the confines of their cages,
she’s entwined in the woodlands of our psyches
and offers her silken locks to the sacred forests of our souls ~
naked but for her righteousness,
she stands in primal light,
in the untrammeled river of dreams
the yin to balance yang
the cup of peace to uncross the swords of war ~
through the eons she’s been waiting for her time
her quiet numinosity hiding in the phenomenal world,
in the cyclical renewal of mother earth,
whispering to us in the silver intuition of grandmother moon
watching us as the loving vigilance of a warming sun ~
she, omen of peace birthed out of the dark,
even as tradition tries to block her return,
her power leaps from the cleavage of time
Illustration ~ the lovely watercolor painting by Gretchen Del Rio with its girl-tree, panther and other spirit animals was the inspiration for my poem, Her Power Leaps, on the return of the divine feminine. The back-story on the painting is interesting. Gretchen says, “I painted this for a fourteen year old Navaho girl. It is for her protection and her power. She sees auras and is very disturbed by this. She is just amazing. Beauty beyond any words. You can see into the soul of the universe when you look at her eyes. She has no idea. I loved her the moment I saw her. My blessings for her well being are woven into the art.” Such a delightful piece. I purposely posted it full-size so that everyone can enjoy the detail. Bravo, Gretchen, and thank you. / Jamie Dedes
I’m on my way home from the Lucidity poetry conference. I learned a lot from fellow poets and from Nathan Brown. I highly recommend if you have a chance to go to one of Nathan Brown’s workshops, do it! He teaches through music, storytelling, and poetry reading.
As per one of the requirements I wrote a poem for Lucidity‘s Annual poetry contest. At the time I didn’t know why I was being led to write such a personal poem about abuse. When the awards were given out it earned an honorable mention. As with anyone who enters a contest the hope is to win. I was disappointed but stood up to read the poem not expecting to be emotional. I felt a bit overwhelmed but managed to read it and then sat down. After the ceremony a man came up to me in tears. He thanked me for being brave enough to write it and to read it. He said he was going home to tell his daughter about it. He said she had suffered abuse and he thought it would speak to her, help her. I leaned over to the table picked up the poem handed it to him,and told him to give it to her. He wrapped his arms around me and we cried together. I then knew my reason for writing it and my reason for reading it. Susie
I bring you time
seamless as seas;
the fragile vee
of fledgling’s beak;
the solidness of shapes:
oak, tower block, petrol pump;
a coupling, tripling,
quadrupling of souls;-,
the still small pureness
of colours, every one;
an ample mixing palette,
deftness of touch to conjure
your own shades.
An ear tuned
to the furthest whisper
of the furthest corner
of all your life might hold,
and every decibel step
and variation from this
to the loudest brain roar;
a hundred eyes to sperm
and mystery of saying
all you need to say
in one, or two
ladybirds, beetles and bugs
worms and platoons
of white maggots
with bluebottle generals in charge
turned the corpse
and bit by bit
spirit eased itself free
of tissue remnants and bones
squeezed between stones
until it stood proud of the earth
an aura of wishes still clinging
wondering why it felt
so lost, so alone
Never starving artist, for we feast on what our father has made
Infinite of beauty.
This poem is about my reaction to the protest and gufaws at the die hard simplicity my husband and I attempt to maintain. Green is in but sadly simple joy and the appreciation of nature, human experiences and connection is not. So, if you see a petite, brown skinned cellist busking on a street corner near you, give her a hug. If it is not me, I am sure she won’t mind. If she does…it will give you something to write about.
There used to be craters on the moon, now the moon is a crater. Carved out, mined of all its juices, it remains derelict. Too light to continue to orbit: it just hangs, skeletal and listless. Unable to wax or wane, its cycle broken.
Tidal-confusion grips the ocean below. Trapped, neither flowing in nor out, unable to turn yet trying to. Turning itself one way, then the next, like an uncomfortable sleeper, too hot inside its own shape.
I sit, bare-footed, on night-dewed grass, sniffing out the hot-salt of the ocean that cannot rest, the orange-rind moon above. I too am neither one thing, nor another. I whisper to the blades of grass, tap on the earth, and wait for the flowers that will never come.
In my lifespan,
so far reaching 22 years,
I have owned 3 computers,
3 games consoles (despite the fact I don’t really use them)
and 3 mobile phones,
the first of which would have lasted forever, but,
in a freak accident my dad ran his car over it.
I can’t drive, but I did have a moped –
but I crashed twice and got rid.
I have voted in 1 election – (you made me)
but I won’t say who for. (Yellow)
I can ride a bike, swim (just about), speak French
and have that crazy allele that lets me roll up my tongue.
I have drank 0 cups of tea, smoked 0 cigarettes –
the only nail polish I own is black.
I have eaten:
1232 Loaves of Bread
243 tins of Baked Beans
669 kilos of Spuds
181 kilograms of Chocolate (mostly without you)
and 345 Chickens.
I have bought over 2000 books,
borrowed over 3000
and never returned at least 5 (one’s yours, I’m sorry).
I have spoken 32,301,600 words
written nearly as many,
but lost most of them in workshop.
I have had 30,025 dreams,
most of which were nightmares,
some in black and white,
some sound-only, (but always your voice)
and some so real – they remain
like false memories –
when I wake up the next morning.
I have blinked 119,376,303 times,
walked over 4450 miles,
cried 34 pints of tears (25 pints were for you),
shed 588 skins (but for you I haven’t changed once),
experienced over 834,200,000 heartbeats,
I have lost my virginity once,
had sex with one person,
and (I think you should know this)
have only ever fallen in love once.
To name a purple flower—hubris;
To call red a rose. A rose is a rose is a rose,
The fruit of purple.
So like an apple—
so unlike an apple—
poison to eat. —Sodom’s apple milkweed—
A rash thought that
blisters my skin. A rose is a rose is a rose,
Shaken earth weeps
floods of ice in all lands,
attempts to cleanse itself.
We diseased cells have
its forbidden flesh,
perforated its bones.
What it cannot shake
off it sweeps away
in wind or burns
off in fires. Glaciers
wear down what remains.
Everything known is now
extinct. Only new forms
emerge, scathed and
transformed from death
by cancerous greed—
into a fallen grace.
And these words, which I command thee with this day, shall be upon thy heart…
And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets before thine eyes.
—Deut. VI:6, 8
My beloved whispers in my ear; she reveals herself to me—
her Words, jewels upon my breast, upon my hand, upon my forehead. When my beloved walks in the field, the heron flies up with cackling praise; she inspires the crane to laugh as it rises into the sky; the swallows dance for her.
I have come and gone with uncertainty and doubt; but my beloved inspires constancy:
Though in times of drought the hill dries out, the hollows hide some mud, remembering. My beloved brings rain into the high, parched fields that have forgotten her; she walks among the swaths and sheds her tears for each cut stalk.
The hollows swell with water to quench the beasts and grow the iris;
my beloved reflects their grace as they mirror the sky among the grasses.
The storm was terrible: the thunder rumbled long in the night; the lightning terrified;
a wind blew through the window of the house and tapped upon the walls. Yet, my beloved whispered in my ear and I wore her words like jewels. In her arms I rested as the fields drank deeply, the dry holes filled with sweet water.
In the dark I am drawn to my beloved; she is even more glorious in the light:
She is a stand of gentian unexpectedly found near the edge of the willow. An eagle flies above the goldenrod and pines; I know my beloved thinks of me. The thought of my beloved eases my burden as I toil on the road to her house:
Her kisses, sweeter than blueberries freshly picked, inspire acorns to rise toward the sky;
her caresses provide strength to the birch, the aspen, the maple, the oak, but also to grasses.
I hold my love; she holds me. I have studied her in the willow, the iris, the thistle:
finches, warblers, and wrens feed and live in her shelter, so my love feeds and shelters me. The oats have been cut, the hay rolled and stored for the winter. My love comes to me and whispers in my ear; she reveals herself to me.
The geese gather and call, flying over the trees, landing in the pond:
my love sighs and the grasses bend; the aspens sigh and my love bends to me. Her kisses build the temple; her love holds me and I heal: My beloved is mine, I am hers. She points to the flowers off the path:
small white bells, tiny blue trumpets, vetches, paintbrush; I don’t know all the names.
My beloved knows the Names of the Flowers; she whispers them to me: I embrace her.
והיו הדברים האלה, אשר אנוכי מצווך היום– על לבבך… וקשרת לאות, על ידיך; והיו לטופפות בין עיניך
-ספר דברים, פרק;, פסוקים ו’-ח;
אהובתי לוחשת לי באוזן; היא נגלת אלי-
מילותיה, תכשיטים על חזי, על ידי ועל מצחי. כשאהובתי פוסעת בשדה, הענפה אצה מקרקרת תשבוחות: לעגור היא נותנת השראה לצחוק במעופו אל השמיים; הסנוניות רוקדות עבורה.
באתי והלכתי עם ספק וחוסר ודאות: אולם אהובתי משרה השראה בלי הפסקה:
גם אם בשעת בצורת הגבעה מתייבשת; הנקיקים מחביאים קצת בוץ, זוכרים. אהובתי מביאה גשמים אל הגבהים, אל שדות קמלים אשר אותה שוכחים; היא מהלכת בין האלומות ומזילה דמעות על כל גבעול שנגדע.
הנקיקים מתרחבים ממים שמרווים את החיות ואת משקים ומצמיחים את האירוס;
אהובתי בבואה לחֵינם באותה מידה שהם משקפים את השמיים בין הדשאים.
הסערה היתה נוראית: הרעם הרעים לאורך הלילה; הברקים הבהילו;
הרוח נשב מבעד לחלון ונקש על הקירות. אבל עדיין, אהובתי לחשה לי באוזן ואני לבשתי את המילים שלה כמו תכשיטים. נח בזרועותיה בעוד השדות בשקיקה שותים, הנקיקים היבשים במים מתוקים מתמלאים.
בחסות החושך אני נמשך אל אהובתי ובאור היא אפילו עוד יותר מופלאה:
היא גבעול גנציאן סגול הנמצא במפתיע בפאתי הערבה. נשר חג מעל האורנים ושיחי שרביט הזהב הצהובים; אני יודע שאהובתי עלי חושבת. המחשבה על אהובתי מקלה על המשא שלי בעוד אני עומל לעשות אל ביתה את דרכי:
נשיקותיה, מתוקות מאוכמניות טריות, מעוררות השראה באיצטרובלים להתעלות מעלה אל רקיע;
ליטופיה כוח נונתים לליבנה, לצפצפה, למייפל, לאלון אבל גם לעשב.
אני מחזיק את אהובתי; היא מחזיקה אותי. למדתי אותה בערבה, באיריס, בחוח:
פרושים, גדרונים וסכבים ניזונים ובמקלטה חיים, ככה אהובתי מאכילה ועלי מגנה. שיבולת השועל נחרשה, עובדה ואוחסנה לימות החורף. אהובתי אלי ניגשה ולי באוזן לוחשת; היא מגלה עצמה בעבורי.
האווזים מתאספים וקוראים, עפים מעל העצים, באגם נוחתים:
אהובתי נאנחת והאווזים רוכנים; הצפצפה נאנחת ואהובתי רוכנת לעברי. נשיקותיה בונות את המקדש; אהבתה אוחזת בי ואני מחלים: אהובתי שייכת לי ואני לה. היא מצביעה לעבר הפרחים לצד הדרך:
פעמונים קטנים לבנים, חצוצרות זעירות כחולות; מברשות, מטפסים; אני לא מכיר את כל השמות.
אהובתי יודעת את שמות הפרחים; היא לוחשת לי אותם; אני אותה מחבק.
In reading that word – sustainability – cradling the head of our current Guide Dog puppy in my hands, her deeply pleading eyes looking up at me, I am reminded that this word not only describes what we at The BeZine – and indeed many, many more people around the world – more commonly come to understand of its meaning.
I have hitherto thought of sustainability as the fundamental process, nay philosophy, that needs to be adopted in order for the Earth to continue providing for all the life that inhabits it. But it also reflects human behaviour; it expects a certain attitude; it assumes that an essential ingredient to the achievement of a sustainable World is that the human beings, who inhabit the Earth become determined to adopt a way of life that is … well, sustainable!
It is an unfortunate character of the human condition that it is not until we lose someone that we become much more conscious of their value to our own life. It seems, whilst they are still around, that we prefer to focus more on their faults and shortcomings than on their virtues and strengths. We are even more prepared to abuse or betray their trust, than to respect them. So too, our Mother Earth.
As I regularly drive the roads around us, particularly the lanes of the beautiful countryside that surrounds us here in Yorkshire, I am reminded also of one of those human faults, anxiety, and of all the consequences of that condition: stress, impatience, fear, anger, aggression, depression. All too often, when I glance in my rear view mirror, I see another car race up behind me and sit so close to my rear bumper that I can’t see their number plate; at speeds and in situations in which it would be lunacy to contemplate overtaking. It is as if they are tempting me to yield, give in, pull over into a ditch and let them pass … and claim me as another victim! It isn’t necessarily that, I know, but it feels like that and, even in my advancing years, with the wisdom and insight of the road that I’ve gained in fifty years of driving, along with lowered testosterone levels, I sometimes feel like retaliating … and we all know how that could turn out.
The Dalai Lama it was, who attributed anxiety or agitation as the root of all conflict in the World. There is no doubt that he is right. Yes, I hear the academics, anthropologists, psychologists and any number of other -ologists, state the obvious, that Darwinian principles of evolution and survival in the animal kingdoms, of which human is one, dictate this behaviour. Our base instincts are therefore not to respect any forms of life outside our own sphere, outside our immediate survival zone; to consider them a threat to our survival.
We are beyond this, surely, aren’t we? Can’t we exert more control over our behaviours, or are we simply hopeless victims of our own psyche; our individual intractable personality. For many in the Western World, the need to survive, to subsist on what our local environment can provide us, has long since turned into higher and higher material expectations. Each generation starts with more, but wants still more than the previous generation. Our survival instincts have turned into greed; at the expence of those on the margins, particularly in the overexploited so-called Third World. Are these expectations a consequence of some out of control unconscious driving forces within us, or could we re-educate ourselves. I believe the answer for some, sadly, is ‘no’. For others it would be ‘yes’.
I contend that the World could continue to support all life, even with its currently burgeoning (human) population. If only we were able to overcome our unreasonable expectations, there is one overriding benefit that could accrue from vanquishing our own greed … we could begin to feel what it is like to live with less poverty in the world, and less debt; less personal debt; less corporate debt; less national debt. Currently the only way Western governments can see to pay off the latter, is growth, economic growth, which has become the unquestioned Demi-God of economic and political policy objectives; growth is, I believe, a largely misunderstood, overused and abused tool of political rhetoric. This is, unfortunately, a vicious circle. I’ve heard growth described as a means of servicing our national debt. Long term, this does not make economic sense and surely cannot be sustainable!
So, what are we to do? Save more? Conserve our resources, however modest they may be? Adjust our expectations and those of our children? Their generation and the ones that follow, will otherwise only continue this roller coaster of a suicidal ride into debt and debt slavery; a World in which the super wealthy few have more and more control over the increasingly debt-ridden many. Freedom from debt, however you achieve it, whatever the cost to your expectations, your dreams, has to provide the way to a more sustainable World, and …
It. Is. Liberating.
Otherwise, our greatest and only means of survival, our patient and beautiful Mother Earth, will expel us, rich and poor, forever, and no-one will inherit anything! Space exploration to find a new life sustaining planet somewhere out there in the vastness, is pure fantasy … and vanity!
What can be done to reduce your anxiety? A starting point for me is to have a hug with your best friend, be they human … or puppy dog.
“The Great Divide“
Crossing the great divide
between the dark age
and a brave new world,
sailing from the safety
of knowing your place
into uncharted waters.
In a deep and sickly swell,
an ocean of uncertainty,
struggling to recall
the purpose of the mission
for control of life, of lives,
and death by ownership.
From a certain time when
the have-nots had not
to one in which they have
a chance to trade their life
for aspiration, for riches,
for stuff and things,
for dukes and knights,
for castles and kings,
in suits that shine
with lights and bling,
but didn’t see the price
they’d have to pay.
Rivers flow with mighty force,
and carry away the memory
in a flood of whys, for what
and where will this all end?
Where are we now,
where will we be …
may be Utopia, the place of dreams
that while away our wild ambitious schemes?
We fail, as long as we can feel the pain
of having less than someone else’s gain.
Or we, by virtue of the coin’s toss,
have more by far than someone else’s loss.
I sometimes dream of eastern Kansas,
in those days before the wars,
when the white men fought each other
to be the right men behind the doors,
deciding the lives of men red and black,
to remain the preeminent beast,
over this land he said God was his alone,
from the left coast to the east.
I think of the man in the village,
sitting on the bluff above Wolf Creek,
and how once he ruled wherever he stood,
a wandering Pawnee being anything but meek.
And I know his time is passing,
his wandering no more his choice.
Soon the white man will fight everyone
over the black man who still had no voice.
In my dream the lodges moved westward,
if they ever moved at all.
Because illness, greed and the great lord God
seemingly turned on the Pawnee, Otoe and Kaw.
And that’s why I dream of eastern Kansas
in those days before the wars,
because a native man might still call his own
his land, his freedom and his lores.
Free-write rhyming thing, an exercise I tried to get the juices flowing. For whatever reason, the name William Stafford and the words “Lawrence, Kansas” kept clanging in my head. I searched for some art that might help stimulate some creative spark and found that picture by Albert Bierstadt of Wolf River in Kansas, circa 1859. Then I let loose the reins and my claybank muse cantered me here.
Once in a while you excel yourself.
Are you blue, because we thought no more of you
as the driving force for life on Earth
or potency behind the waves of bitches and whelps
Thrilling moments … or contemplative
of a thriving, muddy, salty, riverine universe of life
waiting for you to draw the pelagic
covers repeatedly over the fruits of sustenance.
A force of nature, fully formed
yet so much smaller than the mother of your birth,
you hold sway, in countless ways
you touch our lives and drive us through our days.
Humble, unassuming, even unnoticed
by those who hurtle, mindlessly, and make no time
for the wisdom of our insignificance
or feel the difference between our age and yours.
As necessity tramples over truth
most days, we hide in fear of the darkening,
of the madness that ensues.
Does not the hunter choose your waning dark
to spike the nervous memory,
and remind us of the untamed wolf pack?
We may not ever tame you
but your mother is dying a slow and painful death.
Oh super blood blue moon,
does not your God and our God sing the same tune?
Rocking next to the Christmas
tree, the child in my arms sleeps.
Colored lights slide over his face, our peace
as reverent as if we knelt in church.
Let his breath come even and soft, let him
fidget, held beyond waking and dreams.
Let his brightness never fade, let him be wild
as the stars slung across the sky.
Let him reap the fruits of love. In his tiny hand
sugar cookies leave a sticky sweet.
I think carefully on this world he has
entered. The TV tells me all
I need to know of grief: shattered homes
from last month’s storm, gunshots ring
out in bloodied streets, foreclosure notices point at
where a family once lived, moved on to some other sorrow.
But snuggled safe, this child knows
neither hunger nor fear. The worst that has
happened is a tumble and a pinched thumb, a brother
leaving him behind a shut door.
I intend to keep it that way but we can’t keep him
from life. His heart will be broken—he will lose
and be lost, cry with rage and pity. But with
his brightness around him I pray it is not too soon,
nor lasts any longer than he can bear.
Al tell thee best dream av ad
in any midneet while folk were fast on
a sees a reet cross tree,
a ghoast in plated gold
ringed by shiny moon fascinator,
jewels like worth summat glow worms
rahnd base, five more ont cross beam.
Throngs o’ God’s angels tacked on it. This were no scam artists cross but every heaven spirit and earth folk had peepers on it: a see universe agog
And me, aware of wrong doing,
that native wood-beetle, eyed it too
felt a shiver of glory
from that cross barkskin beaten gold
wi jewels suited a cross a Jesus
and tha knows through all that gold barkskin
rattled folks bloodless yammering
how bleeding as stained crosses rightside.
Harrard an horrored
a that sullied wi leaked blood.
a lay there yonks
in agog sorrow fort Saviourcross
till me lug oyles heard glimmering cross pipe up:
“Ages since, I fetch back I were hacked
dahn at holt-edge, lugged off, hauled
shoulder heaved, squared top on a hill
adsed to a cross to carry wrong doers.
Then I see Christ, his balls ready fort hoisting. For us there’s no flitting, no shirking on God’s mind to: I might a fell on these folks. Then
God himsen, med himsen naked, to naked balls,
laid on us afore throngs of eyes
when saving on folks flitted in his bonce.
A shuddered at his touch, afeard splintering,
A had hold, I were raised as a cross,
hold heaven king high, afeard cracking. They tapped dark iron in us: scars tha still can see,
A cannot bear ’em stroked. They jeered at both on us. A felt his blood seep from his side
as he sighed himsen upards.
Av seen pain on this hill
saw Christ as on vicious rack
then roilin’ storm clouds, death to sunblaze,
covered o’er that blaze on God: a glowering gloom creation’s sorta: Christ on cross tree.
A see folk come forard, a felt splintered
as if added, but gev ne sen.
I were in their dannies, gore-wet, nail gashed.
They laid him art, a dead-weight atter ordeal,
final knackeredness. Then afore
murderers peepers, those folk mrd
a stone oyle and set Christ inside it.
Then late int day flitted knackered : left
Christ by himsen.
Long atter soldier’s lottery natter and cold rigor on Christ’s limbs,
us kept our places, drahned wi blood.
Then they sets to
bury us in delved grahned, but disciples, friends fahned us…
put on us barkskin o’ gold an silver.
so nar tha knows, how sorra warped
me flesh, how malice worked with spintering iron. Now it’s time for earth foak and whole marvel on creation to cow eye this sign.
God-son were racked on us, so now ma glimmerin’ haunts heavens, can heal
all who afeard for us. Am honoured
by Christ above all forest trees as God favoured Mary above all women folk.’
Then by mesen, thrilled, me spirit high, let mesen rave that I can seek what a av seen,
saviour-cross: a peace with mesen that yearns a help on earth. Few mates still livin’ nar : most are int manor on heaven, av fetched upards. Now, daily, I listen art
fort cross-tree in my earthly nappin’,
to lead us from this flitting life
into great manor of heaven
where God has set a right feast.
May God-Son and Ghost be mates,
who were nailed to death for folk ages since :
a saviour as gin us life,
that we may put wood int oyle in heaven.
does it bloom, this horror,
from my nonEuropean roots
from the scent of cinnamon in my blood?
the brown and yellow tinges of my skin?
or is it just your old soul and mine and
this intuition we share on the ground
of one another’s battles, witness the fuming
anger feeding disenchantment in the street
and the acquisitive tendencies of the elite,
cowardly saber-rattling, cut off from authority,
from that innate expressively honest power
of our erotic selves, our instinctive selves,
the non-rational knowing that embodies
strength, nothing weak or pornographic
in its expression, a profound antithesis
to the pornography of war and hate that,
in the end, is about impotence, about the
emboli of narrow minds, grasping oligarchs
fomenting tribal dissents for their own ends
or dropping bombs like a child bangs pots –
to overwhelm the fear of thunder, a game
of chicken, of the hawk-hawk play toward
a mutually assured destruction . . .
just a matter of time
as we stand the ground of one another’s
battles where peace would be revolutionary and
the unholy alliance of wealth and fear-mongering
might burn itself out, find its way into justice,
but here we are, once again, in thrall to the
sociopaths that have us bloodied and bound ~
their eyes are the aged face of clockwork orange,
numb to the obscenities of maim and murder …
where is the will of the cup to overcome
the sword? time for the temple whores to
sleep with insanity and take the war out of it
In the positive sense, a conceit originally referred to an extended metaphor with a complex logic that governs a poetic passage or entire poem. By juxtaposing, usurping and manipulating images and ideas in surprising ways, a conceit invites the reader into a more sophisticated understanding of an object of comparison. —Wikipedia
Less conventional, more esoteric associations characterize the metaphysical conceit. John Donne and other so-called metaphysical poets used conceits to fuse the sensory and the abstract, trading on the element of surprise and unlikeness to hold the reader’s attention. —The Poetry Foundation
I knew her when I was younger,
she’d smile at me every morning
when we’d stand up in class and
talk to the flag and the cross.
She was so pretty then, adventurous
and friendly, the Supermodel-in-training.
She helped all the kids, even new ones
transferred in from other neighborhoods.
But some big kids mistook her friendliness,
for weakness, twisting it into some
unspoken promise of a good ol’ time.
They used her in indulgent perversions
of power and possession.
When we got older, those big kids
corrupted her, trotted her around, showed her off,
gave her a new face, new boobs, new persona.
My friend became so addled by all
of their push, prod and promises that,
in the end, she’d do whatever the big guys said,
even nod hollow-eyed when they lied about her.
I barely recognized her in her obit t’other day.
You may have missed it, being so busy
doing what they let you think you want to do.
I’m told they laid her next to her mom,
who men used, debased and scarred until
she was unrecognizable, too.
I wrote most of this poem, originally titled “Liberty Has Fallen,” almost four years ago. I based it on my friend Kellie Elmore’s prompt of a picture called Fall of Liberty, which I think was something like the one illustrating this marginally updated version. In four years, not much has changed. Maybe just the volume’s turned up.
My elder brother, why do you love to hate me,
Neither am I a boxer or a punching bag,
Yesterday was just about a mere comment that graduated into a serious conflict,
Must we fight to showcase might,
Why don’t we just sit down and reason like men and not just big boys,
I fighting back from slavery to bring peace home.
Sister, why do quarrel over quagmire questions,
Must we agree on everything for us to live harmoniously together,
Don’t we have to disagree in order to learn from the wiser,
Then why do we fight over opinions and errors that can be corrected,
I am rowing too hard to bring our big brother peace back home.
Dad, I miss mum fulfilling presence,
The ugly squabbles have drowned the beautiful love,
Our age refuses to buy into your exchanges,
Please don’t shout over over our heads,
I can’t stand my parents fighting in the 21st century,
Please go sell all your treasures and buy peace and then sleep in peace,
With tranquility of freshness blowing gently on your home.
Oh, what is sweeter than sweet peace of mind and soul overshadowing the struggles of life.
There is no calmness quite like it,
its warmth caressing
your tumultuously tumbling mind,
a damp cloth on a fevered forehead.
All the white noise behind your eyes
with the decision made,
the route mapped,
the end in sight,
The end of it all,
an unholy trinity
of pain, noise,
as you will be gone,
nothing of you left
but the body you once inhabited
and the memories
alive in the minds
who didn’t really know you
Any one of us
could change the world,
simply by turning to the stranger beside us
and saying hello;
a stranger could become a friend,
a silence a sound,
a gesture a levelling
of these walls we build around ourselves,
creating our own narrow worlds
within the greater, wider world.
all of us human,
need only one world,
as big as it needs to be,
while as small as the distance
between us and a stranger,
not these millions of unideal worlds,
noiselessly colliding with each other,
fragments of ourselves
still we sing give peace a chance still the young die for the ghosts under old men’s beds and for flag draped corporate greed once our voices were strong and could be heard throughout a generation our arms were linked for human dignity but time has eroded the bedrock of our song and death has pried our arms apart so many of us stand alone repeating those words as if the dead will rise if we but only say our life’s mantra for every life lost to the lust for domination oh we have sung these words so very long
A regiment of leaves dry, dull, dark, dead,
Flying, flapping, fluttering in the wind,
Rustling, rattling, flattering, sputtering
And a small piece of advice stuttering
About how once they were so vividly green,
Glittering, glistening, ah what a scene!
They were so excited to have eavesdropped
To the the secret of love and never stopped
Until they dropped dead like shot down birds
Or buffalloes or any hunted herds.
Yet I don’t lament their fall and absence
For next spring they’ll come back to existence.
They’ll come back as green as ever again,
Canopies to cover the naked plain.
Oh those young regiments who won’t come back,
Confined before time in graves cold and dark,
Sent to fight in futile wars and battles
And got killed in everlasting struggles.
They won’t be seen next spring or any spring,
They’re gone forever but the pains still sting.
Hemmed in on all sides, left and right closing like a vise.
When the gauntlet is thrown down, you better think twice
about your plan for freedom, because they’ll strike you down.
Violence births violence, it all comes around.
Venezuela and Cuba are examples of this, how a people downtrodden
take the party’s whips, until fed up with utopia, they push back and are killed
for party, for community, for unity, ideological blood spills…
Hemmed in on all sides, left and right closing like a vise.
When the gauntlet is thrown down, you better think twice
about your plan for freedom, because they’ll strike you down.
Violence births violence, it all comes around.
American values are shipped the word round, we infiltrate cultures,
raze them to the ground, then rebuild in our image, a slow-bleeding wound…
Hemmed in on all sides, left and right closing like a vise.
When the gauntlet is thrown down, you better think twice…
When war is your “normal”,
How do you find peace?
Is it the breaths between bombs,
When the dust motes circle,
Sparkling in sun beams?
Is it the silence of the dead,
Of thudding thunder,
Or bloodied wonder of whistling
Is it as simple as securing
A safe path through the tumbled
Rubble of what used to be your school?
Is it found in the tiny, yellow flowers
Heads bobbing in the breezes
In the middle
Of a minefield?
Is it the warm comfort
Of a hot meal on nights
When you dared to light a fire?
Is it the softly repeated prayers,
Whispered balms for a tired mind?
When war is your “normal”,
You find peace in the small things,
In quiet moments of reprieve —
Of “not war”.
The kinds of punctuated pauses
That had no drumbeat,
When war is your “normal”,
It is hard to remember
That there ever was a
We all have heard the moral
That one should always be honest
Because honesty is rewarded.
Yes! We all should be like
That honest woodcutter
In the story ‘The Woodcutter and the Axe’.
But is it only about rewards?
Is it only about getting a silver axe?
A golden axe?
Honesty is not about getting more
Or receiving the best.
It has more to do
With our character
Being our true selves and
That which helps us find
Peace within ourselves.
When I look at the sky
I don’t think about its vastness
Nor the changing colours.
I only think how I can
Climb so high
How I can touch it
With my own hands
How I can colour it
With my own painting brush.
The marchers rally behind him.
His left hand flashes a peace sign.
The right brandishes
a sign like a sword:
“War is Fascism
Fascism is War.”
A reporter asks a
question. He sidesteps.
Instead he parodies
there is no security.”
That night he pulls into his parking lot.
A Lincoln straddles two spaces,
The street lamp illuminates
a Trump Pence bumper sticker.
He keys the Republican’s car.
Her bumper sticker proclaims:
“Visualize world peace,”
which should surprise no one
who sees her driving the
tie-dyed Tesla with
peace sign on the hood.
At the Elemental Fern
a waitress spills a latte down
her $500 Reformation coat.
She rattles the table with her fist
Screams for the manager,
demands the waitress’ dismissal,
abandons her check.
“The peace of the Lord,” he says
as he clasps the hands of the couple
in the next pew. “Peace of the Lord,”
he repeats to the grandmother and
the soldier and the smoker with
nicotine stains enveloping her hands.
In a moment he will lead
a reading from Isaiah,
“They will beat their
swords into plowshares,
their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up
sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war.”
His wife stayed home,
unwilling to show off
the black eye and bruises
adorning her cheek.
We demand peace from nations
but ignore the
It was the blessed of cities
It was the cursed of cities,
A city located halfway between heaven and earth
And a city halfway between earth and hell,
A city where stones are cool and soft
From evening breezes and countless feet
A city where stones are hot with blood
And sharp with crashing down on heads,
A city purchased with the blood of David
From Jebusites for more than it was worth,
A city worth more today than the blood of all our children,
One city’s Mount Moriah where Isaac was bound for sacrifice
Another’s Al-Masjid al-Aqsa where Mohammed ascended,
A city protected by youthful soldiers
And a city defiled by youthful soldiers,
Jerusalem the capital of Israel
And al-Quds the capital of Palestine
But in truth the capital of no earthly nation,
A city twice destroyed
A city indestructible,
A city about which everything said is true
And one about which nothing said is true.
It is written that whoever saves a life
It’s as though he saved a world
And whoever snuffs out a life
It’s as though he snuffed out a world,
And why is that?
It’s because that when we walk
We walk with an entire world in front of us
And we walk with a whole world behind us
On either side of us
Above and below us
So we are six worlds saved or destroyed
And who can know from whence will come the savior
How he’ll look or what he’ll do,
So whoever saves a life
It’s as though he saved himself
And whoever kills a life
It’s as though he killed himself.
“Shortly before Colin Powell’s February 5th 2003 UN Security Council fraudulent power point presentation – where he made the case for invading Iraq – UN officials, at US request, placed a curtain over the tapestry of Picasso’s Guernica, located at the entrance to the Security Council’s chambers. As a TV backdrop, the anti-war mural would contradict the Secretary of State’s case for war in Iraq.” Saul Landau, from “Fallujah, the 21st Century Guernica”
in the formal glass & steel palace
of power, Guernica is infamously
draped so power and its plans will not be embarrassed
by all those inconvenient very famous screams
or by that equally famous walleyed pall of death, suspended
in the air like a steel claw
the wild-eyed horse’s famous scream is draped, his long
teeth are draped, the famous one-eyed man looking wide-
eyed up into his own tiny but also very famous
death is draped, and the big wheel of pain
is draped, and the shame we ought to carry like
a ball and chain is draped and the god of unintended
consequences who steady dogs the gods of war with bad
dreams of futures, unforeseen, is draped, is draped
is also draped
and who or what will carry that scream, always,
already further into our memory because
our memory is now draped and our memory alone
is the true habitation and the secret name
of that horse, his teeth, that one-eyed
man, that claw diving down on us from
a sky, torn and dark, and that long, and for-now,
very famous scream
(This poem was formerly published by the Sonoma County Peace Press (Feb/Mar 2014, Vol29 #1)
After fuddled in thought,
Around 12 a.m.,
In the serene night
I depleted my thought
Which was flitting through my mind.
My thought I proffered no ears
But nature reasoned with me.
It was just like a cannikin tipsy with water
And then disgorged.
Night piggybacked me
Decoying me to drift off
And letting me not to take to heart
The scene of dratted, bloody war –
Which my eyes caught
In the placid gyring screen
(Men were moved to war)
What stirred men to bloody war ?
What impelled men to gyre in war ?
In the serenity perception of mind
Heart will proffer them answer
After the taste of juicy ZOBO-BLOOD
Running spill from their heart.
Hey, look up
see the sun sitting still on the cloudy sky
flaring on the days of worry
and slitting through the sky;
eyeballing on the earth
with a beautiful smile
and then gyring on the placid sky
Hey, look up,
the sun is still sitting still on the sky
as the cloudburst withdrew
like a bat that must flinch In flinch
from the morning-rosette.
all you who draw hot tears
from its sad face
all you who draw sword
against your neighbour
all you who feed fat on bloody wars.
Look at the gyring sun;
sunny, while rain drizzled the earth
and unmoved by the cloudburst:
It glisters all day in serenity
and bring harvest to men.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Emma Lazarus
Plaintive song sung in childhood, beloved melody that touched my heart,
Often tired, sometimes wretched, always poor, though not homeless
Before I understood the words, I knew the yearning
to belong, to fit in, to be accepted—we were outsiders
Immigrated to the west, escaped, searching for a better life
I left family behind, severed ties for years, survived
He was forced to flee the genocide, board the boat,
Fighting his friends to go to his wife and child, already dead, they said
Landed in New York, no English, cooked for men like him in the hostel
Once a proud Armenian, now a conquered, bereft, shamed man
Reluctant immigrant to a strange land, mourning his home, far away
Arranged second marriage, nine children born on a farm, a life lived, survived
Trauma lived and re-lived, DNA passed down the generations, his story lost
No golden doors for him, just a desire to blend in…and forget
Grandfather to father, father to daughter, I stop the cycle of abuse
Exiles that no God, no Lady Liberty could return home, sheltered here
Safe now, loved, loving others, a good life carved out of pain and shame
He survived that 1915 holocaust, I am, we are, his legacy, immigrants yet.
…..((an alternate plaque for our Statue of Liberty))
…..(Raanana, February 16, 2018)
What have I done
to warrant these insults and injuries
to our once rich lands,
our once free skies,
and our once clear waters?
You’ve stripped me of my soil,
you’ve fouled my air,
and you’ve diverted and poisoned my waters.
Have you found another land,
or another water to love?
Or have you no soul anymore
to love any land,
or any lake or river?
Take what you will from me
then leave me alone
and I will recover without you
but what will you do without me?
Starting from the outside,
the labyrinth’s path moves closer,
further, closer, as it takes a poet
deviously toward the center.
Mosaic patterns, partly broken
by frost, perpetually bloom there.
Gray, mossed-stones line the path—
they frame the wanderer’s flower.
We wandered that desert
for forty years. All we had
for communication were
specially designed tents
built from detailed plans—
each folding floorboard
and floating nail exact—
a cellular plan from God.
That lonely God longed for
our calls, the return of a gift
we could not understand.
We just turned on each other
instead. We hoarded words
into locked arks as though
we owned them or understood
what they meant. We didn’t.
We meant to know more. Ever since,
with poor reception, a limited data plan,
we still pretend we can call God
whenever we want. We pray
for every child shot in school
as though words could unlock
such cruelty. We pray that we
will not long be held responsible.
I long for the days before
those instructions were given,
before we built the tabernacle,
before we transformed the tent
to stone on top of a mountain,
before we thought we knew
what God wanted us to do,
before we decided we were priests.
Poem of separation (kodesh, kodesh, kodesh)
A wandering God longs for us
from outside a forty-year labyrinth,
folding time, returning space, locked
into receiving words that cannot be given.
We thought we knew.
On the seventh day, God rested.
We have not seen or heard
Creation since. Our language
overwhelms the world.
We thought we knew.
This two-poem sequence was written at Lake Jackson, Tallahassee, Florida, during Michael‘s participation in the 100 Thousand Poets for Change Residency Program 2018, in the days following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass killings in Parkland, Florida. The 100 Thousand Poets for Change organization has planned poetry events as gun violence protests for peace and memorials for Parkland. More information with a schedule can be found here.
It’s white with snow and all is bright
on Christmas night. An image of your little face,
framed in elfin hat, as your eyes, open wide,
reflect the twinkles of a tree-borne star.
In awe we are, in awe you are
at your first site of wonder, magic, mystery.
It swells the very hardest heart
to see the perfect innocence that carries
all our fears and dreams and marries
them to faith and hope and charity
and love, that many fingered hand,
provides and guides you to your history.
A very Happy Christmas, little life.
May all this wonder, all that’s truly good,
be with you forever and without strife.
May love, not things, sustain you, as it should
provide the fuel, the fire inside, slowly
to burn throughout your life, empowering you
The night is short like a breath
and long like a cry –
a woman who hard is giving birth of
A flame, glimmered above water:
one and only,
Nothing born in Spirit
Neither does it repeat.
The circle is broken –
after the life, a life is coming.
There’s no death.
O, mother – give a birth!
dream of the spelt and salt
cake I will fire for you
and before you can seek
from the way I burn
clean my fireplace, clear your head
old ash and cinders block gust
makes for poor-burning,
makes for poor-thinking
piled ash in my grate
piled ash in my head
crumbles like walls
from incendiaried homes
in the Blitz
ash up against my fire-bars
makes them overheat
makes you overthink
so they sag and “burn through”
make me virginal
something to focus on
recall collecting ears
of spelt in reaper’s baskets
rake remains of my last fire
the last fire between my temples
so ash falls through my grate
train steam in your nostrils
pick-off the cinders for re-use.
my lightweight dark lumps,
not my powdery un-burnable
pieces of roasted shale.
clear my fire-bars of small cinders,
clear all my ash, clear all the dead,
dry bones out of my head
recall the crush, grind then roast the ears of spelt, yeasty
like a pint of beer
with dry, unfinished paper
cheap-newsprint not glossy magazine-print. screw sheets into rough balls,
packed into this brain space
not too tight, but not too loose.
keep the paper open & crinkly
don’t pack paper into hard nuggets,
make them roughly spherical.
should cover my grate,
with plenty of space to allow gust
to blow away focus these eyes
only one layer, as paper burns down everything on top will drop,
roof falling in around my ears
leave it at a couple of inches
recall preparing the salt,
pound crystals from the brine
from a salt pan in a mortar,
pack and inhale seafret
cut the lump with an iron saw
paper is to ignite the wood (next),
the next thought
too much will clog fire-bars
as your paper doesn’t burn well,
stuff a loose sheet under my grate
under my thoughts
stuff sheets underneath
reading, books in flame,
memories of things not spoken
break up my ash with a poker
recall stir of salt and spelt
into carried spring water pure
never touched the ground
into meal that must be rested
my pulped treeflesh
a support for my woodflesh
a flicker of an idea
a first layer of contemplation
my thought needs substance
to our hearthmind
you can’t light my coal with paper
my wood layer is for coal
as my paper is for wood
layer on my paper
small pieces of wood (kindling)
watch for splinters embedding
in fingers for pain all day
or a heated steel pin to remove.
make a wooden-pallet
a raft of images
on balled up paperwaves
to support the coal
so my imagination flares
as it it burns.
You pray the raft will hold
criss-cross the wood
a cohesive structure
your making of my fireplace,
my head is layered
as paper from trees
dead trees made coal
graduations of image,
thought and idea
When your paper is gone
the raftprayer to hold stays
a mixture of thick and thin
thin ideas burn easily produce heat,
thick sustains in depth
delights the imaginations coal
like wood is imagination solidified
build a pile of imagination
on top of your wood-raft
have a nice pile in the middle.
choose pieces too small
air-flow round the head
restricted visuals cannot breathe
choose pieces too big
don’t get enough heat
from the wood to
ignite images properly.
ensure fire-front is removed
for maximum air-flow,
ignite the paper from underneath
ignite heads images underneath
in multiple places –
get as much lit
quickly as possible,
heat will feed between
Imagination needs time,
the fire blaze
while wood and paper left,
heats imagination -fire
hard images are buried deep
pressured become harder, blacker
used in locomotives and steam ships
pitsweat minehacked proppedimages
soft images are nearer the surface
browner nostalgic soft focus
biscuit tin tender
Imagination produces smoke
when heated only
when it’s “dried out”
you get the red-hot
carbon fire that makes
imagination so hot.
Recall tar melting on roads
in sunblaze, sticks to soles
coal tar soap photosynthesizes
calls back its days as a plant
onvd your fire is lit poke it gently
to release ash and break-up images
that may have stuck together
through tar production
sticky mind coagulates
arrange cinders around
the edge, add more images
around fires periphery
around minds periphery
do not throw a bucket
on a fire, always put a
bit at the edges
or in the middle.
the images are poked
so ash falls through the firebars
so ash fall through the head
lift the burning images
ensure ash is removed
from under the fire bars
imagination needs time to warm up,
don’t smother the fire with cold-images
these will kill the lovely heat,
take longer to burn up.
pile it up around the edges,
when it starts burning:
poke and rake it
into the centre gradually.
divine futures from the way
food thrown on fire decays
how virgin cakes of salt
and spelt bake
towards decay in heat
jig of ideas
I just wished a handful of shower ,
Pouring down the lawn of my barren heart ;
I just wished a gust of cool wind ,
Blowing through my burning heart ;
I just wished a slender moonshine ,
Reflecting from the sky of my grave heart ;
I just wished the ripple of a little stream ,
Flowing through my droughty heart ;
I just wished a blooming flower ,
In the dry branch of my bosom ;
Whatever I wished might be trifle to you ,
But everything I wished was priceless for me .
God – has many names, But “Love” is the one that counts Most aptly “Love is”… “Love” “Just Love” only, one word Like…”God” isn’t it? God – has so many names Each acts as a veil… But “Love” is, “Love” only. So braid your hair with His… Embrace, lock fingers with His. His is a tree twining roots… His is the first branch you perch on… His is trees-bough at your centre Your hearts bead is a locket of amber “The trees name” is “Love.”
The clouds slide across the sky
like crib sheets being flapped flat
and floating down upon the place
where a child will sleep.
Between them you see the room
colored a blue distinct to winter.
Not so deep as a spring Carolina sky,
nor the chill azure
the northern firmament glows in autumn.
Between the gossamer sheets
waiting to drop their crystalline
whiteness, blooms a blue so bright
you think you might believe
you can see right through it.
But to where? At whom?
Maybe for that child waiting
for his moment to rest upon
man’s simple crib called Faith.
What if our guardian angels,
our guides to the light,
aren’t as perfect as we hope?
What if they’re merely “good”,
maybe barely adequate,
as winged messengers go?
Perhaps they can get as socked in
by a Blue Norther of Spiritual Woe
as we can. Problem is,
they’re the only angels
we’ve got. It’s not like they can
go to the gym, or get retrained,
or even call out for a temp.
Maybe the angels and I can
pray together for a mighty wind
to blow away these clouds
that beset us.
Miracles do happen.
I’ve been blessed by a few.
And, besides, my angelic friends
went to school with the maître d’
at the Chateau Ciel’s
pearlescent entrance station.
Table for one, please.
but especially in times of dark,
my hope alights and leans
on an enduring faith
in the human spirit
and the myriad illumined pockets
of kindness and enlightened thought.
They are as the stars in a night sky:
escape the density of beamed artifice
and they are constant; visible.
For the heart sees what it looks for
as much as does the mind’s lensed eye.
one loses the ability to sleep with awareness every event and sound is magnified in the late hours of one’s existence it is then when the pulsing of blood through veins can be counted like grains of sand in an emptying hour-glass where each falling grain echos memories that replay the events of our life a life where options were possible and paths were taken to where we are now aware seeing more clearly the lies broken promises and preprogrammed dreams of what life should be but could never be so we lie in our beds in a fetal position just before we die