Broken Totems, Sky-clad Dreams

Wan, narrow-ranged forgiveness we expected to
Fall on us when we wept deeply,

Shattering the night sky with our regrets, our turgid explanations,
Then filled with utter amazement at the following

We´d drawn; the absolution, those awful cries for help. The eyes,
It was the eyes that carried the sacred in their harrowing yearning.

All they had left now were
Fragments of remembrances, broken totems of the power

The people once had to stand upon, now tossed, lying
Flat, naked among the last hunting fields,

Sky-clad dreams inspiring essays to be written
Among the bare rocks.




It was the wonder of it all that made it harder to win:
That roaring rushing sound when
The waters fell, the sliding
Ebbs and flows of the shallow pool
At the bottom,
And the gloaming curls of the mini-waves hitting the crass and broken
Black rocks along the sides.

There are spectacles of wonder
And there are wonderful and sundry spectacles we
Turn our eyes from
As the muted horrors pile upon us daily,
Brought to us by cozy furniture guests,
An outfit designed for discomfort,
Taking advantage of our bedazzled eyes.



In that odd, timber-framed house
At the end of the long drive
A barely hospitable glance
From a darkened window
Hinted at what came later.

If not for sheer happenstance
The weather would have turned us away
But those black leaves and reddish skies
Cured any chance of despair.
Someone was home.

The winds howled mercilessly
In a scarecrow cry that shook the porch
And bent the makeshift eaves.
We entered cautiously as no one knew
What was really expected.

It was not an unfortunate thing,
We had, after all, journeyed this far.
Only the opportunity to meet someone,
Even, one of them,
Was too great to pass up.

We sat tightly huddled
In the Earthlike semblance of
A rocking chair and an old couch.
We listened, understanding little.
But there we were, listening, wondering,
Looking into its large eyes,
Planning yet another conquest.


The Whole Game

Long past that point
Where pauses mattered, caused distress,
Or lingered for a few seconds too long,
They always noticed the stove or remembered something
Suddenly needing their attention.

That break, or shift,
Is the whole game now,
Played on table tops covered with food where
All may eat at the same time
But never together.

Once he passed her
Too close in the hallway
& she turned so quickly
He nearly jumped, alarmed that
Even an accidental touch
Could provoke so much distress.

The Buddha statue & batik heads,
The ones from Thailand, are quiet, yes,
But there is no peace here.
Only a tortured calm
Until the next time
His arm nearly brushes hers
& they both quickly remember
Something else.

Like a game,
Or what to cook tomorrow.




“I look to the north now,
The space of cold, where the birds fly from,
I listen to the deep heritage I received,
Wondering if I have the wherewithal to resist,
To fight, again,
Like we always have had to fight
Just to live.
I don´t. So I wait.
You come and ask me questions. Alright, then.”

“We lived, ‘unsupervised’ would be an understatement:
We lived taking the food and leaving barely any marks
In the snow. In the summers,
We moved with the other animals, listening to their voices,
Watching their habits until we were allowed to take what we needed,
And only that.
Then you came and for some reason it was hilarious,
How our nakedness offended, or how we had no schools
Or churches.”

“The hills were my church, the forests and fields my schools.
The authority our leaders received
Was given them by good experience, hunting, fishing,
Fighting away those who wanted to put us into pens
Like the animals you fattened to eat
Until you were too fat to farm!”

“Before, Earth fattened us all enough to be food for something and,
When times were lean, we were too, waiting for signs of return.
We suffered, yes, sometimes we did.
We laughed, too, and slept with our women,
Saw babies take their first steps in the tall grasses
And saw our old ones return to the sky when it was time.”

“When you first came,
The undercarriages hid the guns used to shoot at us,
As if we were only crows eating your corn.
Now we have some secrets to give which you want to collect,
Just like you collected the land, and the waters before.”

“I am old and the sunsets are quiet, but they whisper to me
That you and your young ones, the whippersnappers, you call them,
Are trained to eat from plastic which they throw on the fields my
Grandparents, and the generations before them,
Saw as the Source of all.
Too much plastic, not enough good food.”

“You cannot control them, their faces stuck to screens, when,
In my time, the stars thrilled us and the occasional shooting star
Gave us stories for months.
Now, you are angry and lost, frustrated because they are angrier,
And more lost, and you come to gather stories from me
When all I have whispers from the other side that
I will be soon reunited in the great space of flowing fields
And cool, clean streams of water, where I will wash my face
And look up to see a bright sky,
And signs that all is fine.”

“Go get your stories from somewhere else.
Your brokenness is not for me to heal.
Now my days are short,
And my hearing is bad
So I need to lean into those whispers
Which one day, will at least answer all my questions,
And you can have our bones in the soil,
But you will never have had our hearts.”




Out there
The night pitches battles
Against the dawn.
Kids lose.

Out there,
Lies behave better than trees,
Keeping secrets, never snitching,
Everybody waits.

Fires light the sky.
Some winged creature laughs
At the spectacle.

A black roof burns.
We go forward.
Trust is in the bank
And down in the suburban valley
A door slams.

Children cry themselves
To sleep.
The neighborhood sits still,
The “prize” still waits.




Weird how it all begins:
A bitcoin flagellation, expectations
Too grand to bear, too solid to hold up.

Not that some untoward yearning holds–we face what comes
And next, some subtle blankness.
By happenstance I looked up, not hoping for a sun
Or an expectant moon but wanting to see something,
Something else, perhaps, which might hang low in the blue sky
Promising health, or at least
A life different.

I am an agent of the truth in these matters,
Facing an epiphany of darkness, a spoonful
Of moments underrecorded, unnecessary, misunderstood.

In the room afterwards, a titanic silence folds me
In her sea-deep embrace.
I squirm,
Wired from the search for an intelligence behind this,
Wanting at least, enough smarts
To make it all worthwhile.




Altruists at heart,
We forgive everything,
Including the latest remix of terror,
Lugubriously fattened at the end
With “thoughts and prayers”
Sent reflexively with knitted brows
And pearl clutching astonishment;
Our uniquely “American” experiment
In thoughtful discourse.

If anything could be done, it certainly wasn´t considered,
But this we have long resigned ourselves to
For want of any reasoned speculation.

Some of the dead were pregnant, some children this time, all
Gathered in Sunday best for their best selves to emerge later,
Hugging neighbors, shaking hands in peace on their ways home,
Now removed from their red-splattered clapboard horror,
Now as statistics on a graph
We will not look at
With any honesty.
The fruition of years of feckless debates.

The other great terror of our times
Is this:
Cowardice is tenured,
Allowing the regular sacrifices of sons and daughters
Without even a disembodied voice from afar promising
An angel to stop it.

It´s all ours now.


The Tenacity of Persistence


As much as the honey on the blade tempted our taste-buds,
We wanted to focus on other things, but
No discussion of the pain we witnessed needed reminding
Of the main subject at hand:
Why do we keep killing each other?
It was disagreeable enough to gather discussants
(Our program wasn´t settled completely
And no one was willing to terminate it at this late date)
We tried, though.
At the heart of our talk
There was this strange issue of history.
We looked into each other´s eyes,
Seeing little that would answer the question there.
But, despite the inordinate coming of winter
When a gentler summer was needed,
Staying hopeful mattered,
Even if the bullets flew by our heads.




Somewhere blank, we don´t know exactly where but
There in that little tropical place,
Whose name we really don´t know either,
Nor care to speak of,
A strangely pacific wind blew through the shades one day
As the spaceship settled into its nest among
The grasses along the edge of the
Now barren hill
Near the stream.

(It might have been a fantasy, but let´s continue.)

After the hurricane destroyed everything, the people conducted a
Requiem for Civilization, using the last embers of the fire they made
To roast a couple of pigs for the neighborhood, to then write
“HELP!” on the bald mountaintop,
Hoping that a century of neglect might at last
Attract some attention among the newly visible millions of stars at night
They became quickly re-accustomed to
Since no one had electricity now.

The catalyst was despair; not that they were unfamiliar with it before,
But all these years’ gritted teeth wore down even the toughest among them
And finally “los desesperados” took matters into their own hands:
Realizing help might come from above, this time.
When that moony night finally came
They all gathered around the silver craft, now
Tilting to its dented side as the mud weakened,
Threatening to pull it down to where the rest of the island´s debris
Lay at the bottom of the ravine, on its way out to sea,

A few of these noble people took to dragging
The many ragged branches along the road
To prop up the ship
So that at least some entente could be negotiated
when at last their meeting came.
Nobody took notes.

However, in the morning it was decided that,
As they shared the same basic anatomy,
We´d all be best served by pairing up in the huts during the hot days,
Splitting the slender catches of fish at night,
Swapping recipes, holding hands,
Looking up at the stars together.