It rose: a monumental sticky bun.
The raisins: huts where workers stored their tools.
The top: spiraling high above the clouds.
The builders: poised to bend, not break, the rules.
We all spoke a common language.
We understood each other well.
Before the tribes, the nations, and the blocs,
this simple project held us in its spell.
Our goal: not to storm the heavens.
Our goal: not to displace the gods.
We hoped just to work together
to build the curves and sleek facades.
Then, like a mislaid brick, an errant word –
a new inflection, a new sense implied –
dislodged from above, began its descent,
growing larger as it sped down the slide.
It scattered us, like tumbling tenpins.
We fell to arguing, minds out of tune.
Our building practically ceased to exist,
that dissonant word so inopportune.
We couldn’t see the tower as it was.
La tour, el torre, wieza, stolp, and torn.
We forgot our goal and gave up our tools,
and gazed out at the world as if reborn.
Men are bulls
and prone to bullshit.
They pretend to be tame
and rape you all the same.
Love you, deceive you:
Who cares if he’s a god?
Who cares if you become a queen
on a rock sunny and serene?
What they did to a virgin
they do as well to the Earth.
It’s not love but a grievous theft
that steals and steals, leaves nothing left.
Europe, too, was born from sin,
delivered through clench and pain.
After war and rape and so much blood,
civilization crawled from the mud.
We tried to fix the wounds
all in Europa’s name.
The center could not hold,
a splintered world foretold.
Too late to warn:
Don’t mount the bull.
Don’t wade out to sea.
Don’t become an abductee.
The Hanging Poem
I look upon the ruins of my life,
the result of anger, despair and strife.
I’ve failed as a mother, as a wife.
I’ve put everything under the knife.
The planet has splintered, and so have I:
so little gained, no matter how I try.
I have no time or energy to cry.
Why does everything I touch go awry?
It’s useless to pitch my tent in the past.
Of course, it’s true that no good things can last,
mold will consume the hardiest repast
and the future arrives furious and fast.
My tribe of poets is too contentious.
We’re hermetic, grumbling, and pretentious,
unwilling to dive into the trenches
to fight for the future, so my sense is
that we have failed to act as we’ve been taught.
The world’s now fated to add up to naught.
we blithely refuse to do what we ought.
We cannot see that we’re already caught
in a sandstorm of our own creation:
tribe on tribe and nation against nation.
at this wake, we’ll avoid altercation
to unite against such fragmentation.
So much is hanging on every word:
not just what’s said but what’s actually heard.
We are pursuing the rarest of birds.
Awake fellow poets, we can’t be deterred.
The quarry is perching just beyond reach.
It can’t be caged with a figure of speech.
to quote the Bard: once more into the breach.
And not for the first time I must beseech
you to overlook where we disagree,
overleap the sandpits of history.
reach for those mystic chords of memory,
not within our borders but globally.
First, I must pull myself out of a hole,
overlook the parts to canvass the whole,
stopper my ears to the cries of my soul
and lash myself to the mast of this goal.
Thus, I proclaim a sacred month of peace.
Lay down your arms, take your place at the feast.
pass food to the west, converse to the east,
make one important connection at least
What we create here will last forever.
This is no temporary endeavor.
I know Ozymandias – whatever.
This is a group, not a king, however.
We can, together, restore the planet.
Stop introducing objections, damn it!
just have to make the world better than it
currently is so that we can hand it
to the next generation that’s waiting
beyond this environment of hating.
through song we have set about creating
Something that is well worth celebrating.
Quality of interactions, it must
be said, produces quantity of trust.
We will destroy the now out of disgust
and devise something brand new from the dust.
The Conference of Birds
Listen to me as I tell you the tale
of birds who can no longer flock.
We fly all at odds, we falter and flail.
We twitter and warble and squawk.
Crow versus magpie, robin against wren:
Bird-on-bird conflict abounds.
We can’t agree on the why or the when,
even the facts on the ground.
One day a crane said out of the blue,
“We require a prophet to lead.
Not me, nor him, no, not even you,
But a bird of a brand new breed.”
With his reedy voice and bugling cry,
Crane was not easy to follow.
But we crowded close to him in the sky,
every bird from thrush to swallow.
Crane spoke of a king in a distant land
who could govern all birds of a feather.
“His name is Alvas, and he is most grand.
We must visit this Alvas together.”
We believed our Crane was certainly right.
Only this Alvas could lead us.
We all began to prepare for the flight.
There was nothing left to discuss.
But Crane spoke again, after a deep breath,
“Seven valleys we must traverse:
the valley of deprivation and death
is the last and there’s nothing worse.”
Seven valleys? Deprivation and death?
We weren’t ready for anything like this.
Some birds, in terror, exhaled their last breath
As they considered the awful abyss.
The rest took flight, thousands of birds.
We turned the bright day into night.
There was no need to put into words
how anxious we felt at our plight.
But the things we saw I just can’t relate:
Terror, beauty, and much despair,
visions far too awful to contemplate.
Many birds just dropped from the air.
“Alvas,” we chanted, “Our leader, our goal,”
as we pierced through the ultimate veil.
The journey took a most terrible toll;
a mere thirty at last would prevail.
We approached the castle of the king,
but his servant turned us away.
Survival had not gained us a thing.
No bird received entrance that day.
At dawn we returned to beg yet again.
“We have to see Alvas,” we cried.
The servant took pity on us and then
at last we were ushered inside.
He led us to the most exalted room
where we saw the great Throne of Thrones.
But in the midst of that drear morning gloom,
we felt a strong shock in our bones.
Throne empty, Alvas nowhere to be seen,
in mirrors the throne all covered.
We could view only ourselves on the screen
and that is when we discovered:
Crane had sent us on a circular trip,
Alvas was a mythical thing,
and we birds were joined in a fellowship.
“All of us.” Together. Were king.
I sing not of love but of fearsome war.
During all that horror and resistance,
we never forgot the goal we fought for,
even when it faded in the distance.
The same hopes and dreams as ever before:
the continued thread of our existence.
You armored soldiers from so far away
failed to conquer those who stood in your way.
It happened when I was a girl of three.
Through a forest of legs I saw the men
who rode huge llamas; I prepared to flee.
But you were not an army, only ten
foreign traders who wanted rocks that we
didn’t have. So, we gave you our food and then
sent you away with a tacit demand:
never to see you again on our land.
I planted and weaved and planted and weaved
and grew nearly as tall as my brother.
Soon we would learn that we’d all been deceived
when you returned and shot down my mother.
We fled to the woods and there were received
with sadness and anger by another
tribe determined to remove our nation
from the conquistadors’ subjugation.
I want you to know what you have destroyed:
The looms and the huts and the fields and the stores,
all of the wealth that our tribe had enjoyed.
A great deal worse was the kin that you tore
from my grasp, leaving behind just a void.
Rivers ran red with the blood and the gore.
You said that you’d give us heaven’s reward
not someday but now: by dint of your sword.
I lived on the run, one fight to the next,
preparing the food and treating the sick.
Late into the night I would weave this text,
putting words into wool, warping it thick.
Your cruelty left me stunned and perplexed.
With so little time, it had to be quick:
a blunt tapestry of triumph and pain
honoring victors as well as those slain.
Now I am old; this is all in the past.
Freedom is ours, but we still must ensure
that our hard-won independence will last,
that our people’s traditions will endure
even while we are harangued and harassed.
More dangerous is the foreign allure:
we don’t want your Bibles or your baubles,
your odd precepts or inter-state squabbles.
You want all of us to be just like you:
worship the same god and sing the same song.
You cannot see another point of view.
You insist that we all want to belong
to a single tribe: that’s simply untrue.
You’d rather die than admit that you’re wrong
and kill all of those who ask for the right
to sing the epics that we ourselves write.
Soon I will die but I’ll leave this behind:
a harp of wool that my children can play,
a record of battles that can remind
them of their ties to an earlier way,
the songs that have helped to define our kind,
the land where we’ll stay to our dying day.
You who have traded wisdom for travel
My last curse: may your empires unravel!
Facing a deluge of thoughts,
I try to fish out a few lines
to rearrange on the sheet
only to erase them again.
A blank page is a terror.
Each thought an anxiety.
Every line could be better,
the perfect killing the good.
Inspiration giveth and
reflection taketh away.
Thus does the right hand of creation
wrestle the left hand of revision.
Birth, death, rebirth, death again:
An oscillating universe.
Physicists say: the Big Bounce;
poets call it: the multiverse.
It is a writing course dictum
that you must always drown your darlings.
Post-partum depression aside,
only a man would say such a thing.
It’s our darlings that survive
to populate our cantos.
Try not to overgroom them
or snuff them in their cradles.
A new world will take shape
if we suppress our fears
and take that leap of faith
by mustering our words.
We must believe in this impossible thing:
Breathe life into lyrics and teach them to sing.
We’ve been on this voyage for so many years.
I’m only a scribe and not the ship’s leader;
I’m happy to work as writer and reader.
But I am lately overwhelmed by deep fears.
There’s been no announcement, just a few rumors
that our space ship has drifted far off its course.
The captain’s demurrals are losing their force.
Our doubts are metastasizing like tumors.
I write everything down, the stuff of our lives,
sending dispatches to passengers and crew,
telling them stories to help get us all through
until that great day when the space ship arrives.
We aim for the stars but they’re so far away:
too far to be reached ‘fore we all flicker out
or even find out what this trip is about.
It’s taboo to say that we’ve ventured astray.
Deep down we must know, for why else do we act
toward one another as cruelly as we can,
reproving the adage: man is wolf to man?
No good deed truly ever goes unattacked.
In the dining hall we have roped off a ring
to resolve with our fists longstanding disputes.
Have we devolved into a transport of brutes?
We end up bloodied, having not solved a thing.
I, too, feel that I am losing my purpose.
I am deceiving myself plus all the rest.
I tell lies, propagandize, and do my best
to pretend this ship’s not a sarcophagus.
I have started to write in allegory:
fables that amuse but can also provoke
my shipmates to ask tough questions to uncloak
the grim reality beneath the story.
Ultimately, this trip goes only one way.
Forget about refunds; there is no return.
How long will it take for us humans to learn
that there’s nothing more at the end of the day?
But maybe I’m wrong and my stories are all
that prevent those onboard becoming insane.
My analgesic tales can help blunt the pain
and prevent all concerned from going AWOL.
So, let’s suppress this existential despair
And just focus on what we hope we can change.
We have only weak powers to rearrange
the order of things that are under our care.
The journey continues and still I must write,
weaving a text that is both fiction and fact,
forever unsure of the final impact,
yet pushing my readers from darkness to light.
The meaning is there, but it’s all on the page.
I, not the captain, can determine the path.
It doesn’t hinge on engineering or math,
but only the beat of the heart in its cage.