amerika, liberty

#6 - Thimble Winter

 Thimble Winter
24 February 2011

The sadism,
That this or that should attain,
As punishment for some crime.

Little Carthages we must sow with salt,
Should all our late Catos be heard.

Death to the greedy, the stupid, the caught -
No, cage him or her with a jury
Of the victim's peers.

May justice be done swiftly and
The stone of justice grind slow and fine.

Can we start again?
Can you reeducate me?

I betray myself as hate
Betrays us who speak it,
Whipped into our owned inaction.

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nice shoes

#5 - Passed

 My poems are a rather drear lot this year. I'll try to write about something happy once spring kicks in with some earnest. The dawn choruses always inspire me.

The departed, he ate so little
At the end,
But could be convinced
With some favourite food -
Peanut butter (only a little,
So hard to digest)
And cucumber, or a bit
Of chocolate -
The nurses liked that,
Made him thirsty -
Wouldn't drink water

They were all so vivid,
Our parents, back when
We friends first met.
But twenty some years on
(So hard to compute)
They're up in years.
And we deal now, unnursed,
With those old person issues.

Another father passed
Last week and I still
Feel too young, too fond
Of these favourite things,
Too convinced of a
Thinning, dry, youth.

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breaking eggs, soft rains

#4 - Rite

I wanted (usefully?) to ask
Did you get from it what you needed?

Of my friend who attended
A funeral yesterday.

Not a futile question,
But the day after you don't know.

The one just passed
Is still so alive, might telephone.

Scattering those few ashes
Doesn't change this state,

Says one too young (and safe)
To have attended too many.

In a month or a year, it will be
Of those who lived that day,

Not the (living one) mourned,
My mourning friend will recall.

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labour, atlas

#3 - Accentuate

 I wrote most of this sometime late last year and gave it a more recent polish.

The origin had something to do with hearing accents on the World Service and more on BBC Radio 2 and 4, that most certainly were not the "BBC English" that English language teachers the world over have been taught to teach for decades.  On the one hand, as a purist this saddens me. On the other hand, the accents that thrill me on the radio far outnumber those that grate.

And then there's the matter that my own accent is a source of amusement to many of my English friends...

I'd taken on this prejudice
Against the Estuary
Accents and the Yorkshire.

'Geordie's okay,' one says,
'Because only a Geordie
Can penetrate it.'

I loved the English of old
Auntie Beeb
Because she sang langage
As I wanted it sung.

Other voices of my
Bicoastal youth, antennaless
All static to me.

I denigrate those dropped syllables
As posh London friends carp
On my Los Angeles vowels,
Wide as a river mouth
As they pour out.

But no,
The language sings itself to me
If I let it, wherever I hear.
Adjust my dials,
Transistor tilted just right.
All of it can sing,
From South to the grim Northeast.
And beyond.

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damn kids get off my lawn

#2 - Separation

 Another meditation on childhood, I suppose. I fear that all the references are very personal, but maybe it speaks to a larger audience...

Far later than the knowledge
is of any use
Some realisations still offer peace -

One or another did far less
damage -
Sat far less at fault than believed.

I don't want to see him -
I abhor the acrid clench
of my stomach
when I'm with him.

But so many years too late -
Will your ashes accept
my apology?

Worse than that absorbed hate
sits the too late connection -
He didn't leave us -
You took us away.

All that hate for him
and the ones who came after -
What for?

All the extraneous
infatuation taken as some right
or reparation for an unwanted
Or for the uprooting you didn't want
Once you'd done it?

Someone always raises the other hand,
You don't realise you've hooked your own father
Until long past too late.
Your siblings did it too.

The decision to live for yourself
arrives when it will.
And refutes denial (I know).

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#1 - When it's oiled and cleaned

In 2010, I stalled out on poetry back in May. I'm going to try to balance the fiction and poetry this year. (Note, I also got married twice and will wed for a third time in April. Visit for details.)

When It's Oiled and Cleaned

My poem pen rusted last year.
Fictions called (and other.diversions).

The nib clogged with unflowed ink,
But I had no shortage of words to utter,
No shortage of vows to fulfill,
Stories improvised,
Assertions, joys and atonements.

I start again silent,
Listening to the snowmelt, the pine needles.
The still bells dictate.

My pen rinsed, oiled, and dried;
Its reservoir refilled and ready
To transcribe what spills, scratching
What had spoiled
In the dammed stream of fog's revision.
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no, sluggo

#10 - Settle

I've been thumbing through Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons and found the following: "An elegant settlement a very elegant settlement is more than of consequence" (from the section labeled 'A Seltzer Bottle'). 

    To settle eloquently
though two may settle down
rendering the two open
to all consequences
settle eloquently to all
outward appearances
eloquently place each word
that its consequence

    Once the elegance has settled
And you wade through 
the very dust
eloquently settling

    Settling up subsequently
up with the past
pulling roots
once put down
in the very settlement's soil
soiled again

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#9 - The Tide

You drove me down to a northern
Seaside - we climbed over tide pools
Eating rock and the low November
Sky complimented my retold youth -
The anemones of Laguna Beach
And the muddying water at our feet
Distracted from the incoming tide.

Composed, you told me my boots
Would have to come off.
My cityboy ignorance revealed itself,
"How long until the tide goes out again?"
As the sun drooped into the horizon.
You, pragmatic country girl guide,
"Too long to wait here."

And as the rocks submerge
Off came our boots.
Your laughter knew the confidence
Of a problem solved,
Mine edged in the mania
Of encroaching nature
Left safely behind.

So in our manic confidence,
We revealed ourselves,
Muddying the still waters
Each had presented to the other.
We spend such time alone
Polishing our mirrors
That none could see what we'd hidden beneath.

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nice shoes

#8 - For Max...

 I did a one-day poetry workshop with a chap named Peter Diamond a few weeks ago. We started by choosing a place and what came to mind follows:

On the dead's gray side of the wall
Hangs a gray marble plaque to Max Brod
Opposite Franz Kafka's grave.
Turn around and look down
At the pebbles that accumulate, the candles,
The short pilgrims' notes atop the gray slab.

Who clears these away,
Leaves the slate clean for the next generation,
The latest artisans of hunger?

Turn back around.
The first one called
To clear the papers from Kafka's table
Refused the job.
Unseen close-typed pages fit,
Kafka told his friend,
Only for the furnace.

The rows of neat black stones at your back
Ask of us visitors, "Remember us".

And the hunger subsides each year
When we might say kaddish,
Stack the pebbles of memory into neat cairns,
Rearrange the ashes into clear instructions
We might follow finding our way.

As any mother or sister,
Kafka refused anonymity, desired namelessness.

As with any pain, he desired only forgetting.

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pissing in a river

#7 - There Was Power In a Union

Inspired by David Peace's novel GB84, Billy Bragg and Shane MacGowan.

Where were you back in '84?
Numberless boots in stride
Or on cropped and blinkered horses
with truncheons 'gainst the strike.

My men and I we were sent up
To towns far from our homes
To escort scabs gone in the pits
From bottles bricks and stones

Did Scargill send you out before
The men in riot gear
Teargas and their rubber bullets
Ale to keep down the fear

My brethren and I we stood strong
Let no one down the mine
Arm in arm til the force they tore
Victory of ash and bone

No, you sat before your TV
Watched collier and police blood flow.
Did you take those edits for truth,
Actions just for your show?

Was Maggie so thoroughly malign
And Arthur so ruthless
To tear they eyes out of our unions
Leaving us gutless and blind?

We persist, some even say thrive
On little more than we should
With less air than we were used to
or oxygen to the blood.

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