Why Poetry?

Because when poetry is good
it is as a fairy-haunted wood
full of shadows and foxfire
which burns in glade, thicket, and mire
and fireflies in hinted flashes
while, at a distance, lightning crashes
and rain coos its gentle music
along the canopy, its dew thick;
because the wood is known, yet wild
and I wander as an elfin child
in want of magic and insight
between the gloom and the bloom of light
that sparks with such breathless surprise
and wakes the mind as it blinds the eyes;
because it is, too, the splinter
caught neath the fingernail, and Winter
blowing cold through the frosted trees
to bring famine to all families,
and it is the pookah, so crazed
it trammels its rider till glazed,
it is the wendigo, hungry,
and the charlatan, his tongue free
to charm off the chastity belt
of the princess whose soft heart doth melt
at the gold song of a cuckoo
and then her own song: that of “boo-hoo…”
It is the dagger in the bed
as she cradles so gently his head,
it is the will o’ the wisp aglow
to lead astray another John Doe;
because it heals us when we die
each day of our lives, wondering Why?
And it resurrects us anew
when the woes of the world hack and hew
at our hearts, our bodies, our minds,
gutting us like fruits unto rinds;
it helps us to understand ourselves,
and our feelings, those tectonic shelves
hidden away in our secret depths
whose quakes come with our quickening breaths
while we seek the words of solace
to shelter against pains that toll us
in an old crumbling barn’s facade
against the wrath of a jilted god.
Because it is innate, this need;
as inborn as to breathe and bleed,
and we know no better way
to heat the night and to cool the day
with but few of the choicest words,
nor how better to compete with birds.

By This Color Divided

The one color that divides
America into “sides”
is not Black or Brown or White,
Red or Yellow, dark or light,
but the color that is Green—
that is the color between
the one side and the other,
between sister and brother;
it is what gives some more rights
while most squawk in petty fights
that accomplish no more than
idle talk, or prayer, can;
it is the power of wealth
that divides all from oneself;
the othering of the bank
and thus the false social rank.
Similarly, it was gold
that was the demon of old—
it was greed that took the lands
from the Native tribal bands
and it was greed that enthralled
peoples from Africa, hauled
to America to build
the dreams of men who so willed
without care of soul or heart
or the lives they tore apart;
nor the migrants near the turn
of the century, yet to learn
that the green of one’s greed
did not care about their need—
though they were just as White
as whom deemed them “parasite”
and used them all as prey
for cheapened labor, and pay,
as like those of modern times:
Latinos from Southern climes,
for Race is just an excuse
to divide us so we lose
the real war of the classes
as one percent amasses
more money, more power,
everyday, hour by hour,
while we raise a wayward fuss
about tribal “them” and “us.”
Divide and conquer, they say,
and it does work, day to day—
the poor so obsessed with hue
while shortchanged for their due.

By The Light Of Diogenes

I would not flinch at sullen light
should we meet on a darkened street
nor would I dare to bark or bite
and run like dogs, on hands and feet,
to gain favor with one clever
as to prefer dogs to Mankind,
for I know he would not ever
be but of a contrary mind.
In the halo of his candle
I would try to be quite honest—
honest of whatever scandal
weighed heavy upon my own chest
and invite him to see the soul
of one who knows his share of shames
and ask to be judged as a whole
and not only by his bynames.
Perhaps we could reflect in turns
with a mirror that truly sees
so by glass and by light that burns
he might judge, too, Diogenes
and come away enlightened
to see himself so much clearer,
both of our souls thereby brightened
in the candle and the mirror.

Gratitude

Gratitude is not the desert flower
thankful for the sudden shower,
but the thanks given for strength to abide
the thirst of a dry countryside—
to endure the arid eons between
each drop meted, meager and mean,
so the hot hills dissolve around its roots
and blast-burn its shriveled shoots,
shrinking but never dying as it wilts
in its scorched bed, as its head tilts
as in humble prayer, offering thanks
to not know the flush river banks
where a flower is drowned in silt and mud
when showers swell rivers to flood
and die from glut and generosity
and an overbearing pity—
for a flower never drowned in dry lands
except if by well-meaning hands,
and so we learn gratitude from such plants:
it is a thing rooted in circumstance.

Another Smattering Of Poems

Panis Caelestis
The strength of his faith was just paper thin
like the bread of the angels, a wafer,
and so he stacked up the toppings of sin
to make an hors d’oeuvre of the bland flavor.

Pride
Pride is as the hard seed
deeply buried in the
hardened earth
and coiled tightly
in upon itself in a shell of
stubbornness.
But how beautiful our
potential
when we crack that shell
and allow ourselves to
open
as the bud unto its
bloom,
presenting sincerely our soft-petaled
humility
to the open sky
and its humbling elements—
to drink from the pelting rain,
to bask in the glaring sun,
to blossom unafraid
of being trammeled underfoot
by living with our hearts
wide open.

Trigger Warning
Stop your crying—
it’s just birdshot.
You’re not dying
from some heard thought.
I’m shooting off
at the big mouth,
so turn and cough
or migrate South.
I’m the kettle,
you’re the hot pot:
while you’re fretful
take your potshot.
I do not care
if the mic’s hot;
free speech, free air—
I’m no robot.
I’ll speak my mind
as I so please,
both fruit and rind
without surcease.
Be glad it’s not
a stronger shell
like some buckshot
or truth to tell.

Three Variations On Speaking Truth To Power

Haiku
Speak truth to power,
buried to your neck in sand
as the tide rolls in.

Rhyme
Willful, he speaks his truth to power
as a man against the surging tides;
speaking until the late evening hour
when wave upon wave rolls and collides
with the wide, unwinding, shell-strewn land;
speaking to stop the ocean with truth
while buried to his neck in the sand,
the moon unmoved above—aloof.

Ebb And Flow Rhythm
Willful, he speaks his truth
to power,
the moon climbing high, aloof,
hour to hour
while wave upon wave collides
with the shore;
a man against the tides
speaking evermore,
yet buried to his neck in sand,
the moon sitting atop its tower
as he stakes his final stand,
gurgling truth against power
while the surf strikes his face
like the backwash of his own words
as he struggles, stuck in place,
and there gather the seabirds
to torment him as the waters rise
and the hours dim to night,
deaf to his cries
in the cold moonlight.