The Cost

Sometimes love is not enough,
sometimes all the rainbow doesn’t lift
the heart from the basement of us,
and all the colors run into a pool of black
and all that is reflected is hate,
and then good men do the worst deeds
and pick the weapon up
and end cruelty at the barrel,
and it’s the cost of being free.

An Era

If ever there was an era
to inspire a revival in poetry
and scare us out of our anxiety
then this horrid decade’s
sense of impending doom should do,

Because the nurses have always fallen
when the air sickened with perfume.

Because for all our confidence,
there’s always something new.

Because the war, the shortages,
and all our desperate search for cures
have brought us no closer,
no further from something like a remedy.

The living ocean has seen no relief,
and wild things still march as Lemmings
freefalling into the fossil record
and leaving the list just slightly longer.

For all our best of intentions
our solutions are icepicks to the eye sockets,
though we have not found the cure.

If ever there was an era,
a time to vertebrate our words,
it’s now when worry seizes us
and stir us from our nervous sleep.

We’ve Run Out of Some Paints

I’d paint the page with sunflowers and marigolds,
but Wordsworth’s nature is long in its grave.

We have forgotten the cold mountain stream,
the little birds in the blueberry bush,
the worms wiggling beneath their hungry beaks,
and the sound of the forest is deafening for us
as the chainsaw’s roar over heavy machinery.
For us nature is a conversation,
A metaphor for human care and change,
and a political questioning of the trees
in search for meaning when we bludgeon a rose
and all the beauty that it has stood for.

Politics

If you lend me your ears
I doubt that you would hear,
So lend me your wallet
And watch as the toilet
Flows over all your hopes
As piles of dreams and heaps
Of political shit,
Spread thin across the stall
Of life and its fall
To a rhetorical crapper
And the blabber of men,
Who pop to the surface again
When there isn’t a plunger
To force them back under.

I got bored. I am amused. It works. – JP

New Beasts

Unlike all the beasts we have known,
murders, thieves, and miscreants
there now arises a wickedness
that cannot be measured in neat units
or fit into convenient little molds.
No, these beasts rise unrecognizable
like some Jabberwocky come round
out of the tumtum trees and Tulgey Wood,
familiar, yet, distorted and wholly
inhuman while vaguely wearing a smile.

Laborers

Where did they go
when the capstone was finally fitted
and the labor contracts were off in the garbage?

Where did they go
when the Taj Mahal had absorbed its last marble
and the laborers were without their paychecks?

Where did they go,
the names of the masons who built the Coliseum?
Are they scribbled and hidden away in the arches?

Where did they go
when King John claimed his glory for England,
before the people’s great revolt had ended?

Where did they go,
the laborers who riveted the Empire
and thrust a wonder to New York’s skyline?

Where do the migrants go
when the politicians’ take advantage
And Dubai becomes anything but a shining dream.

Where do the workers go
when the skyscrapers are stained with their blood,
and employers’ side step the law to make a victim?

Where do they go
when their desperately needed paychecks
are withheld, and they cannot pay their debts?

Where do they go
when the practice is illegal,
but the government ignores that they are prisoners?

Where do they go
when their passports have been seized upon arrival
and the work camps have been abandoned?

Where do they go,
the sheiks, the queens, the very rich,
when it’s the poor who’re forced to paint the image?

Where do they go,
the names of common folk who built it
to the history books of corrupted kingdoms?

Why do we know
the name Khufu as the pharaoh who built Cheops
but not the names of countless laborers?

Where do we go
when faced with such threatening information,
and why do we continue building when forgotten?

The Quality of Being Afraid

When I think of the old providence,
  the land where gods were megaliths
and human wants were always gone
  the moment the chief called for blood,
I think that our ancestors had known 
  that beating hearts were a pestilence
to be separated from the chest
  before the plague had taken hold
  of more than just their overlords.

These chiefly warlords would murder
rather than admit they hadn’t a clue.

The common man was sure the score
  but they hadn’t the answers either,
and hearts split from chests seemed better
  than the madness of a civil war.

It’s times of drought and starvation 
  that mute and warp the moral herd
and leads them to the depths that's human 
  where men can sacrifice their friends.

I speak of humans then and now
and know that reason seldom holds.

All the love and wonderment
  one could offer to heaven’s gates
will not alter a single thing
  because we desperately follow 
rulers and beg them for their lead.

But how can they offer us more 
  than any other ruler’s curse
when they cannot solved the reason 
  why men turn their backs and eyes
to accept that we must have sacrifice,
  despite the fact that hardships come
regardless of our best of hopes,
  regardless how much sacrifice,
regardless of the leaders we’ve chose;
  In truth we’re truly on our own
because our leadership can’t fix itself,
  and brother will murder brother
for fear he has a better gift,
  and all of leaders are just men
who have that most human ailment—
  the quality of being afraid.









Blood as Wine

The king still sits on golden throne
drinking our blood as wine;
he needn’t skippers to sail the ocean’s tides,
he needs our hearts and minds.

Someone must stand and speak the truth
or all will lose their lives,
there’s some among you who are scared
but you cannot go and hide.

The king is ruled by the best of men
and kept in check by them,
but madness creeps into the crown
and cackles with its kin:

The pen, the laws, the shackles, the means
to which all suffering should end
now turned against the flock
to protect the thirstiest of men.

I Wanted the World

I wanted the world, and I found it,
I poked and I prodded with certain glee.

What I had found was youthful and free,
a boyish desire for wild
and wildernesses within me,
but the world was wicked and cheap
and myself so dumb and naïve
that I had found pills and gold drink.

As if mad with famine I drank
sunrise right out of the bottle,
and the pills went down as a sliver
crescent moon, little and jagged,
and all I had wanted was lost
in the swollen tide of my youth.

I wanted the dollars, and lost ‘em
more often than I had found them.
if it was worthless or cheap, I downed it,
I hurled myself into despair.
I wanted the world, and I drop it—
‘til I lay melting into the bed.

I thought that this was what I wanted,
the world and all its glittery charms.

What I had found was painful and weak,
a voyage of fire and fright,
and the horrible wound of my life
left writhing on a bed of pain,
but I rebounded from the edge
as one sometimes does from these things.

I wanted the world, and I found it,
as snow falling in winter hours.

What I had found was that season,
a boyish melting of ice
and the rivulets of all life,
where the world is newborn and kind—
and myself I wanted life and joy
like summer’s valleys fresh and clean.

Tolerance

We are now so tolerant,
so willing, that intelligent people
are unable to speak freely
without offending the frail;

We are now so arrogant,
so complacent, that offending is a crime
against the common imbecile,
and so we erase discussion
from the public’s mutilated eye
and wonder why this country,
divided, we cannot recognize.

This is the paradox of tolerance,
the consequence of the blind leading the blind,
you cannot tolerate those who will not tolerate you,
and the whole system leads to hatred
and repression because we’re not tolerant of truth.

“The paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.—In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance

We all Fall Down

Around we go again,
around this ancient dance with plague,
and though we have no rose
blotches to mark our perfect skin
we still dance the dance of innocence
and tell ourselves and kids
that all is right as rain today
because we cannot face the facts
that nothing has ever been right
with children circling the drain of death.

For generations vast
we hadn’t the knowledge to ease our pain
or make sense of our falling children’s cries
being recorded as nursery rhymes.

In the musical fall of innocence we go
around the drain again,
beat down by life and its immortal friend,
and not even the images of children
dancing around the roses will let us forget
a history of pain and death
so sick we had to hide it from the kids.

Calliope

Now rise to life again, sweet poetry!
She is chief among my muses this art.

Let Calliope go and sing her song
Her old wisdom knows not a passive note.

Let the Sirens attempt to sing as she
For none not even her daughters compete.

She is the goddess of the epic poetry,
The act of falling in love, the hope, and pain.

She is the music that moves men to life
When all the world is fraught with prosaic strife.

I sink

You won’t write me down in books
or read my words with a rose
colored gloss over, or toss paint
as white as I on picket fences
because we’ve move on from hatred
in the poets lines and in publications
from Bronx New York to San Jose California
but still, like ash, I’ll fall.

Does my mild manner offend you?
Why are you insistent on my doom?
Because I act reserved like at a funeral
when all the pain is within its bloom?

Just like blood and like oil,
with the assistance of gravity,
just like hate pouring down.
Still I’ll fall.

Whoever would want to see you broken
Should bow their head and lower their eyes;
Whoever would have me brought to my knees
Should bow their head and lower theirs eyes.

Does anyone’s loftiness upset you?
do you feel as if you deserve the silk
because someone had more of it than you?
I have never had a scarf as soft as chiffon,
and never made bullets of my words,
and never cut anyone with my glance,
and then you choke me with your soulful cries
but still, like lead, I sink.

Does anyone’s equalness upset you?
Did my struggle come as a jolt
that lightens up your heart like feathers
at the beating of our wings?

Out of the hole of history’s grief
I sink,
down from the ledge that’s crumbling with pain
I sink.
I’m a human person, falling and frail,
Wailing and yelling into the pit of hell.

Praying to leave behind the terror of night
I sink
Into a trench line that’s horrendously deep
and sink
begging for the wisdom to rise,
I am the poor and hope of the brave.
I sink
and sink
and sink.

America’s Suffering

I see beggars suffering silently
uncounted out in the streets,
these old rags slumped over plead
but only each to each
as none will see their tears,
and it’s the beggars weeping
who see America the great
brought down to her blood covered knees,
who see the mechanic wrenching
for loving family and pennies
who see the carpenter sawing,
measuring his losses, and cut like fir
for lumber to build this dark world.
who see the mason cemented
to the bricks of his tomb,
when he has fitted the last brick
up over his most secret of hopes.

He hopes that when he builds the walls
that there is still an art in stacking bricks
and that he will never be so robotic
as the men who build the factory bells,
the whistles, and the sum of its parts,
but sadly he knows that there is no art,
that laboring while suffering brings only pain,
and that true art is born
in the eternal flame of joy and grief:
the having the money
to successfully raise a family,
but being unable to stop
the illness that took his wife,
and the being lost and without hope
only to find his meaning
in bricks and the stacking of them
and bread that feeds more than his mouth.

Simply to Dance

You are not an arrow,
nor is your path
flowing like time itself
from birth to death.

You had to learn to walk,
but you might still
find reason to suddenly crawl
across the planet’s shores
and beg for her
or some meaning complete
when all seems lost,
but remember
life is danced as children,
without a course,
simply to dance the dance.

Tibetan Sky Burial

I am foreign and do not understand.
I burn my dead
or lower them into the pit.
How is it that these people
do not believe what I see as fact?

How is it?
The body now an empty vessel
the burial of sorts begins
on a ground too hard to dig,
but perhaps the bird are better
and nature truly knows
that the soul moves at the moment
the copse relinquishes its grasp.

How is it
that they might be heathens
but I have burnt the dead?

How is it
that a scattering of birds
is not better than a crypt?

I do not know because I am foreign
and do not understand.

If All the Stars Should Go

I will predict that all could end.
That time should slip
and suns should burn
has never been a single truth.

If you and I should get up and go,
and all the stars should follow close,
and for reasons-I cannot say
we should part on that loss,
then losing all the light of day–
the warmth of summer air–
the joy of springtime rain
would not compare to your vanishing
because a thousand billion burnt-out suns
would not leave a blackness as vast
as the hole from which I had once loved.

For Some

For some
razor wire fences ascend
as phoenixes from the ashes
of division;

For some,
razor wire fences descend
as the fallen cherubim
of division;

Long since
the first division of the war in heaven
we have fallen victim
to division.

Long since
the crown of thorns mocked him
we have taken reason
to divide

And built
razor wire fences around
as protection from the heathens
on the other side of the fence.

Long since
simple razor wire fences
were built into political prisons
for some,

We’ve built
new systems out of the pickets
and turned friends into heathens
and built empires on the premise
that we are better than them,
and it’s been long since
we have seen the carnage of this
on American soil

But billions
believe or are dissidents
and die every day as pawns
to a system that keeps
dividing up our arms
and tying up our hearts.

Today’s Wounds

Even as newborns
we are defeated
by our very own nerves
and greeted into this
as fresh infants
awaiting life’s little razors
to soften the cradle.

We are defeated
in a thousand moments
and a thousand brief cuts,
and out of this
we become hard.

The skin stiffens with scars
until the marks are the surface
that takes the next
blow of the chisel’s tip.

We are not the sculptor
or the guard that watches our torture,
yet somehow we still rise
each morning out of the bed.

For each
there is a cloud that looms,
for each
there is the knowledge and truth
that each cut is less deep
because of today’s wounds.

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