The Demagogue 

•April 21, 2017 • Leave a Comment

You lie
On a scorched, desert rock,
In the cavernous rib cage of some blasted crater.
Your enemies are dead men
And so are your friends;
Your deeds…are the deeds of an egg-man.

The loyal men you cherished have abandoned your side.
Your flanks have joined ranks with deserters.
You saved your respect for the last man alive;
That honor is yours
Old egg-man.

Your trusted, bodyguard is a shell that is breaking
And nothing, but death, can save you.
Your yolk is exposed for the sunlight to dry.
Give back to the world that made you.

Your insides…they gleam.
Look now! Can you see them?
That’s freedom you bleed,
Not the scheme you called freedom.
You’re “A lock without hinges, key or a lid…”
But no “…golden treasure inside is hid.”

The curse that drives him is the thirst that defines him.
Unsatisfied lusts line his horizon.
A primitive drive in a ‘civilized’ mind
Are together combined…in the egg-man.

Now a skeleton-bone, all
But dead on his throne.
Who knew that a slave would enslave men?
What a world he’s made,
His desert
Our grave
Indeed
No egg-man could save man.

A riddle, written on Easter, 2017

The Cyclist

•January 15, 2017 • Leave a Comment

In winter night I heard them cry
With weeping whines that chilled the air
The groan of sirens
Their flashing eyes
Dimmed my vision as I stared

Beyond the lights the train stood still
In veins of steel on wheel and rail
The serpents tail that shook the night
Let sound it’s warning to no avail

And into the belly of that beast
The ambulance was fed it’s meat
And suddenly the sirens ceased
Replaced by thuds of running feet

People flocked from down the street
Too late to watch those creatures eat
They caught their breath
I fought with death
To lament that heart that failed to beat

Beside the line of frost bit steel
Lay twisted spoke. A broken wheel
Race the train and face the shame
Of knowing you’ll never feel again.

The Alien

•January 15, 2017 • Leave a Comment

As a species, we are warped. I suspect we accentuate our deficits by reinforcing them in our young and in our vulnerable.
I am not alone in this realization. This belief is shared by an individual with the necessary credentials for confirming these sorts of beliefs. I met him on the train, coincidentally about an hour or so after ingesting the LSD my brother had asked me to deliver. (I took liberties in assuming the chemical would be of more use to its recipient if the recipient was myself, which my brother vehemently objected to, albeit after the fact.) When considering taking liberties with my brother’s product I remembered an interview with what must have been a smart man. He referred to all Mammalia as having an instinctual predisposition for self-preservation which is psychologically rooted in what he called the ego bias. I tend to believe men who agree with me.
But anyhow, I met this fellow whose name I couldn’t pronounce–we settled on Marvin, which seemed appropriate for some reason. He was visiting Chicago doing research for his book. He was an eloquent and rather long-winded dude, a fact which I found to be surprising upon hearing he was an alien. He didn’t look out of place but there was something remarkable about his presence. Perhaps it was that he was dressed in a suit and tie, despite the late hour or perhaps it was the way he spoke. He certainly had a knack for language. When I commented on his mastery of English, as to have even appropriated the use of the Chicago accident, flaring “a” and all, he dismissed it, saying, “I said I’m an alien, not a foreigner.” I said I understood, but was having a difficult time concentrating on his words. I was distracted by a blue, spiral notebook he had tucked in his armpit. It looked like the kind I had in high school or perhaps the kind everyone had been given, at one point or another, in school. Scratched in the binder, was a pair of letters I had seen somewhere before.
I pointed to the binder. “That your research?”
He looked shocked. “How did you guess that?” he answered eventually. He seemed concerned.
“I don’t know. You said you’re visiting Chicago, workin’ on your book.” I replied.
“Is that right?” He hummed, squinting at me.
“What’s your book about, if you don’t mind me asking? I like books, especially when their about something and not about some things.” I laughed hysterically for a moment, surprised by the experience of hearing myself speak.
“What kinda things you don’t like in books?” the Marvin pressed. He seemed like he was getting at something.
“Well…” I pondered. “I don’t like books about things that don’t make sense. A book’s gotta make sense for me to like it!”
I felt relieved and somewhat pleased. Marvin was obviously some sort of brilliant specialist in something or another but he wasn’t the type of intelligence that necessitates misunderstanding due to lack of social skills. Marvin was simply on a higher plain, I suspected.
My intuition was confirmed. “I’m writing a book for adults.” He explained. “Humans are vile things; they are, but my book is meant to stimulate their inherent vices and thus call attention to them.”
I was fascinated. I explained that I had just come up with the same idea, at the moment I had boarded the train, not more than an hour ago. I had somehow forgotten all about it, perhaps due to my distraction with Marvin.
“Of course you did.” He snapped.
I couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic, facetious or neither one and told him such.
He smiled a said only, “I would never treat such important matters flippantly.”
I snapped back, “Sarcastic huh? What you hinting at, man?”
Marvin contorted his mouth and eyebrows so that he appeared as a preposterous cartoon. His face had an expression of glee as he raised his finger above his head and pretended to press on an invisible button, on an invisible ceiling. At that moment, the train sounded its shrill horn and I jumped.
“Ding ding!” Marvin hollered. “Yes, sarcasm! Have you forgotten the role of sarcasm in your epiphany? It is your book, isn’t it?”
I was amazed.
“I haven’t even told you yet, have I?” I said.
“Told me what?” Marvin replied, his eye brows dancing on his forehead.
“Told you about my book…my angle…the role of sarcasm in it and the ironic tone of it all?”
“You just did.” He said and smiled smugly.
I frowned.
Marvin drew in a deep breath and began, “Ok, ok, I’ll be matter of fact, for a moment. I don’t want to lose momentum here. Your thinking, ‘hmmm, perhaps we really are on the same page about this fresh concept that’s been rattling around in my head…this book of mine seems to resemble your book.’ To which I will say, yes indeed! To be clear, my book’s target audience is adult humans and your book’s audience is for aliens.”
“That much seems clear.” I said.
Marvin continued, “Now let’s discuss the evidence…the analogous elements of our two, parallel concepts; you said you were a chemist didn’t you? What exactly is your book about?”

I cleared by throat.
“Where to begin?” I thought. I stammered as I organized my thoughts.
“Get to it, now…be quick!” Marvin urged. “The mic’s yours.”
He sat back in his seat and pursed his lips.
“Well my book is written…” I began.
“Upupupepe! Interjected Marvin. “You will refer to ‘your’ book as our book, I might stress, in lieu of our co-authorship. As you know, since we share a core thesis, it is the convention on your planet, when dealing with manuscripts other than primary sources and religious texts, to share authorship, in this particular circumstance. Don’t bend the rules for me. Not that any writer of worth ever adhered to convention. I digress. Please continue. Describe our book in detail.”
I took a breath and began.
“Well our book is written for adults, yet is written ironically, as if it is for the pre-linguistic child. It’s a book of warning so to speak; it warns of how language and belief and customs and all the bullshit society trains us to think, is meant only to perpetuate itself and is no more valid than the perspective of say… a monkey or ape or any other life form for that matter. But it’s written for adults obviously. There is likewise a version of the book, with the same underlying irony and social commentary, which pretends to be written for aliens. It is meant to illuminate the peculiarity and significance of human symbolism, customs as well as satirize over-arching behavioral patterns present in all humans. It invokes satire, irony, sarcasm by which it engages in critical analysis of key elements of the human experience. It is written for those who wish to understand the dark side of humanity from a detached perspective. This version is funny because in the prologue it is clarified that the aliens, who, as you remember, are the fictional readers…well it is clarified that these aliens are quite different than humans in the sense that they don’t see societies as groups of people. They see no differentiating between individual life forms. In their experience, individual cells, which make up all life, are as much people, or individual as are individual people. In fact, human societies are analogous to cell groupings within a singular organism like a person. For them, all life is fundamentally singular.”
Marvin began to clap in a deliberately slow manner. He smiled, or rather winced, at me mischievously. The train had almost come to its stop but Marvin sat motionless, peering at me through squinted eyes. I noticed that blue binder of his; it lay open in his lap.
Marvin leaned forward, pointing at me with his pen.
“And what’s the title?” Marvin barked.
I had already thought of a title, so I happily explained my idea.

“I will call the book, ‘How Grownups Think: The Beginners Guide to An Economy of Human Conception.’ The other book—the alien one—that one might be called ‘The Extraterrestrial’s Guide to The Notion of Human Selfhood.”
“Hmmmmm” Marvin hummed.
I continued, “There would be an illustrated section that would discuss the people’s history of the united states, as an example of how the notion of personhood, historically, has been flexible, so that the hegemony might subjugate populations, based on the notion that they are non-persons and thus lower than people. Such persons…slaves for example…or the ‘savages’ that the missionaries ‘saved’ were stripped of personhood, so that those in power might justify their subjugation and go about their business without guilt or moral dilemma.”
“What would the illustrated portion look like?” asked Marvin. He seemed to be taking notes.
“Well, the cover would have a picture of an old-school American steam engine…but it would be personified…it would have a face, kind of like Thomas The Tank Engine, but the face would look like a real redneck American douchebag.”
Marvin chuckled, “The steam engine would have a face?”
“Yeah…a face of a fucking asshole…wearing an American flag bandana maybe…but the train would be pictured gliding down a mountain—a meandering downhill track. And lined up are old fashioned racist depictions—you know what I mean…you’ve seen ‘em on antiques and in racist propaganda, or cartoons, from back in the day—a cartoonish depiction of each minorities our Caucasian ancestors enslaved, conquered or killed. In the distance, the track would end at a precipice.”

“Wouldn’t that just be straight-up offensive?” Marvin asked.
“Yeah, maybe.” I responded, “But it is a satire of how fucked up white American history is…it’s meant to underscore the barbarity of our nation’s proud history.”
The train came to a halt and the doors opened. Marvin stood, and tossed me his pen.
“That’s for you…” Marvin said smiling, “…and all this? …well this is for me.”
He held the notebook open in a comical fashion, so as to taunt me and walked backward out of the doors of the train. He grinned as I examined, from a distance, all that he had written. It appeared as if he had jotted down our entire conversation.
“You son of a bitch!” I murmured.
“Don’t fret…” Marvin jeered, “…we agreed, that this is our book. I’ll send you a copy when it’s published…where I’m from, it’ll be a best seller.”
I never did see Marvin again; coincidentally, the LSD had begun to wear off, as I approached home. And I didn’t think of Marvin or our conversation until about a week or two later, when I discovered a blue note book with my initials scratched into the upper corner of its cover. I opened it to find everything that you have just read. I examined the script; overall, it didn’t look like I had written it, yet certain phrases resembled my handwriting. A strange change in the lettering took place as the conversation evolved and oscillated—everything was written down, word for word.
Was Marvin right about getting the ideas-the subject of our conversation published? No way, no how…but as far as co-authorship legalities are concerned…I’ll give him his fair share of credit for the satire and for the book ideas. After all, aliens have rights too.
Epilogue: What you have just read was written and edited by an author, whom you respect and admire. It was written in memory of the famous Russian poet and satirist, Burt Vonnevich, who never met Marvin nor Kurt Vonnegut, but whom likely, would have drunk them all under the table… or under the ground…whichever came first. So it goes.
The End

Over and Under

•December 28, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Beside the river
The night heron roams
Free from the cage of earth.
I’m trapped between invisible walls
A prisoner since birth.
Those moments gone….days yet to come
Weigh heavy on my mind.
I long to be the heron
Free to leave the world behind.

The watery banks are haunted by
The ghosts of the distant past.
Their spirits burn as ancient suns;
Shadows cast on glass.
And Somewhere in the fog of night
Church bells bid farewell to twilight.
They Sing to the pulse of the melting snow,
Moments come
Moments go
Drip….drip …
Young are old
And now is now long ago.

I wade into the current
My body a fallen branch.
Steadfast, the prisoner revolts
And from this stance I seize my chance.
I flee the cage
Of future….past
I feel its strength
The current’s grasp.

At last, half submerged, I sway
The current gives
Then snatches away
Moving freely
Without walls
Backward
Forward
Toward the falls.

Amidst the mists
Far from shore
The heron spreads its wings and soars.
Vanish upward!
It’s silhouette shrinks
Formless… shapeless
Water and ink.

This is my signal
I follow its lead
I stretch forth my arms
And lift up my feet
Allowing the current to carry me on
Leading me forward to the world beyond.

Thrashed by the rapids
Crashes like thunder
Slave to the current that carries me under.
Deep beneath these waves the days and nights are distant rays of light
At last, alas, I’ve taken flight
Free of time
Free of life.

Antisocial Media 

•November 14, 2016 • Leave a Comment

          It is no secret that, in both humans and animals, isolation gives rise to compulsion. Thus far, social media, the golden child of this proud new millennium, has illuminated the depths of loneliness that is the human experience. With the proliferation of web access and use, people are arguably less isolated than ever before in the history of our evolution. But let us consider the means of exchange, by which we attempt to mitigate our isolation. Let us discuss the context of communication–the sharing of thoughts and experience. 
          Social behavior has evolved by means of direct exchange and through person to person contact. It relies on an unquantifiable magnitude of conscious and subconscious cues that depend on oration, body language, facial expressions, cultural context, geographical location, social expectation and physical proximity. Each of these factors is a universe of their own and impact one another in infinite combination. Direct exchange is a nuanced and ever changing dynamic which evolved for the purpose of creating physical and emotional bonds-for the purpose of sharing what lies within our isolated, inner worlds. That is, direct exchange is a form of communion that allows us to collaboratively make sense of the world without by exploring the world within.

           It is important to make a distinction between direct exchange and indirect exchange. Direct exchange is centered on the intimacy of ones immediate surroundings. Expression is limited to the resources available at any given moment of exchange. And technology is not inherently incongruous to direct exchange. Technology, synthetic and analog, offers us many tools which are conducive to direct exchange. It can even accentuate the systems of expression that have cohesively empowered us since our earliest beginnings. Technology augments and reinvents the dynamics of expression realized in various genres of direct exchange–the visual arts, music, performance, oral and physical communication, literature, etc. Yet through the expansion of direct exchange, technology has created the opportunity for social exchange to stray further and further from direct person to contact. Although indirect exchange or sharing by means of a device, satisfies a semantic element of socialization, this method of communication strips away the more fundamental, and human element of social connection. What then is the caliper of the bond that is formed under such inhuman conditions? Alone within ourselves, we indulge in the empty delight of sharing with imaginary spectators, which may or may not partake in the exchange. 

          Sharing, in this way, has become a compulsion, due to our loneliness–our isolation. The devices, by which we express ourselves, are an addiction which takes conscious effort to avoid. And what does one truly share, if the recipient of such exchanges are but phantoms trapped between worlds? And what do we receive from these exchanges? We witness only the fabricated snapshots of others in their lives, and thus we hopelessly try to catch up by doing the same… the digital realm-the invisible, albeit vocal, spectators of social media. But this compulsive habit reflects an internal malaise that is salient in social media, such as Facebook, snapchat, etc. And as we look upon the endless book of faces and decontextualized videos, we drift further into an alien world-the emptiness within ourselves. 

 

Riding the bus

My phone dies

Frustrated 

I put the useless device back into my pocket

I look around

Heads down

No eyes 

Save for the old folks

blessed enough 

to have avoided this addiction. 

The Falling Leaf

•November 12, 2016 • Leave a Comment

With every emotion 

With every hue in the spectrum of feeling 

With each sinew of meaning by which I make sense of this condition called life

I pay homage to the towering maple

Who sheds her leaves as the nights grow colder.  

In her image, I honor the creator of all things that are separate…all things that stand apart

Knowing that each leaf will turn to dust

To soil

And again be one with its maker. 

But It hurts 

Knowing that all individuality is only temporary

Because it’s all that I know. 

It hurts because Life is too real to take comfort in its transience.  

Yet despite my separation

I take comfort in knowing..

The leaf cries not, as it falls. 

Such is the curse of Man and the blessing of Nature.

Empty 

•November 12, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I want to remember

What I lost

Look into the half empty glass

And long to fill that space

With words and pictures

Beautiful and poignant–

The sun weaving through 

the branches of an autumn sugar maple tree

creating light and shade.

And that glowing golden tree

filling the glass

with its obvious splendor

while the shade moves patchily

in the wind-quivering leaves.

I want to remember

what is lost,

to fill the emptiness with mourning,

with these words

that tree

that graceful breeze

touching all that is

outside this room of limitation

Creating an invisible road of sky

Sunlit, illuminated 

and where at night

I traverse the Milky Way

And the Moon 

whispers secrets

into my sleeping ears.
I want to remember

What I lost

To feel the half-drunk glass

Uplifted 

the familiar weight of words and pictures

Beautiful

Radiant 

sunlight on the branch of a sugar maple.

And as a flock of geese fly by

With wings that sing

I to Search the sky

Our eyes are dark

Half full of sleep

We open the blinds 

Fill the deep

Pupils that drink in the late day light

Before surrendering to winter…

… night.

Alas, our vision can only fade

the sharpened edges of light and shade

Grow dull As darkness clings to branches 

-hardening sap on brittle limbs. 

We long to grasp what is already gone 

to raise that empty glass

And shake it. 

To stir with song

Of trees and geese

as flakes in a snow globe

wake 

then slumber. 

As if born 

chasing the sun 

That distant call of a goose 

Is unanswered.

so we drift on an invisible road of sky

Sunlit, illuminated 

Both her and I 

Vanish into the space between the stars

Leaving 

only the Moon 

To remember.