When the Poets Went on Strike
Because there had never been many
(Eking out livings in cold-water flats,
Or homeless and broken on urban grates,
Or gathering breadcrumbs, like birds, in parks)
The general public hardly observed
A gradual lessening of the sun’s corona,
A confusion of diphthongs—as though tongues
Wagged lazily; and, everywhere:
A coarsening… a blurring. …
The moon-June crowd went on going on
To haphazard applause;
And the apolitical, precious types
Continued pretending power and words
Were water and oil, as they rubbed
Sappiness into the wounds on the runway.
But the children felt a yearning hollowness
They had no words for bridging.
And the old ones hungered to be filled again,
Recalling lines that had cauterized, lines
That had cleansed; lines that had healed.
Lines that had kissed them awake
And asleep. Lines that returned as prayer.
“What do they want?’ someone wondered. “Surely
There’s enough to deter us, without their
Gobbledygook, roundabout, circumference-
Hugging saying things; intimating this
And that; implying, signifying, hint-
Ing with all their rigamarole-whirligig
About metaphors and similes, images
And scrimmages—rhymes, I mean!—subtly
Adorning fully-intentioned thoughts; as though
Anybody had the time these days to ferret
Meanings from allusions, let alone
Consider fabrications’ implications!”
But, they persisted; having lost the three-
Thousand-year-old battle to acquaint
Humanity with what it just might mean
To be free in one’s thought, to honor Earth,
To feel the utter serendipity
Of heartbeats and tornadoes, babies
Whispering in dreams and dandelions
In a breeze. They held out… until
An envelope of dullness catacombed
The globe; and scam-artist banksters
And gamester-politicos, and the sham-
Man and sham-woman in their cubicles,
Marching into corridors, stood up an
Esculent moment, looked around, listening,
Wondering: What was it? … Who? ... And how,
And why, it mattered.
The Country That Is No Country
The country that is no country… is my country.
The land that is all land… is my land.
The name that designates no citizen–-
that is the name of my comrade. ...
The sky higher than imagination
and the Earth deeper than love--
they are my sky… and my Earth.
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In a Time of Endless War
I write for the men of a thousand years hence—
And the women—and their healthy children.
And if they are suffering, if night is day,
Then I will drink the cup of despair with them,
For I have tasted of despair.
And if they are happy and wise,
May my words animate their limbs; may they dance
As I danced in the spring of my days.
In their dancing, my words will come again
Even as they came from the Old Ones long ago
To fill my cup with dreams and desire.
From the grunting in the caves,
From the maker of the paintings
And from the approving utterance of their critics,
These words crystallized over lifetimes come again.
Outside, howling winds; inside, the fire.
And if you have kept the flame of comradeship
In spite of arrows and explosions—
I send salutations from a blood-drenched past.
But…, if the blood has drowned your best
And you find these strange and faded words,
Then you have fulfilled the worst of us,
Then may you swallow them;
May they die in your entrails
For they and you have dwelt enough in darkness.
Enmity and gall and fear have hollowed us all.
Then…, let the words fester inside you and burn like a star.
My son, my daughter: We could not shake free of
The chrysalis of war, entombing us,
Still-birthing you. …
Never forgive us!