Monthly Archives: May 2003

Untitled Sonnet

If I never saw another morning sky
nor waked to hear the sparrows on the lawn,
if roses gave no scent when I walked by
and all the butterflies were dead and gone,

there still would be their memory in my mind
(for beauty is not merely for the sense)
and every place I looked for it, I’d find
a way to grow from each experience

For life is in the living, here and now
and does not linger long in sight and sound;
It dwells in death and rebirth, and somehow

remains, among all simple things, profound.
The end? In truth, that day will never come;
we merely pass from bread, to toast, to crumb.

31 MAY 2003

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Like a Bird on a Wire …

The other night I saw a portion of NOW with Bill Moyers on PBS. He was interviewing Will Hutton (author of the book A DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE: WHY AMERICA SHOULD JOIN THE WORLD, an old friend of America’s, but a friendly critic as well. Hutton was for years Editor-in-Chief of one of Britain’s most influential newspapers, THE OBSERVER, for which he still writes a column).

The full transcript is here.

What I wanted to talk about is this. Two of the things that Hutton says worry him about American politics are the increasing role of money in the drawing of political boundaries, positions, etc., and the absolute inability of the Left to put together a cohesive platform to debate the Right, thereby causing the Big Eagle to flop around in circles because frankly, it’s really only got one viable wing. There is as a result no real debate, nor ideological banter. There is only a murky middle ground and the Extreme Right.

Of course, in this country we effectively castrated the Radical Left in the first half of the twentieth century with our crusade against the Communists (coincidentally, communism and socialism do not pose a threat to democracy, but to capitalism. Capitalism is in and of itself the anathema of democracy, unless each person has exactly the same amount of money. Socialism/communism strive to give each person the same amount of money, so that they can each buy similar numbers of votes. In both the case of the US and the USSR, which have been for quite some time effective oligarchies, the people with the most money are those who decide and can afford to ignore policy). But ultimately, the tools that the Right and Left use are fundamentally different. Reading Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich helps put this in perspective. In my opinion, unless things are going great, the Left’s position NEVER is more persuasive, particularly since our culture itself tends to emphasize the linchpins of the Right’s platform. For example:

The tools of the Right typically are:
Pride, Fear, Blame, Isolation, Reward, Institution and Ritual

Whereas the tools of the Left are typically:
Humility, Trust, Responsibility, Community, Work, Individual and Freedom

So, when you look at it, in a society where true education is not prized, the religious temperament is inclined to blindly follow leaders without personal revelation, and where personal gain is placed higher in the social contract that universal growth, it is no wonder that the promulgators of the Right have so many more followers than the left. Further, in the absence of any true Radical Left, it is unlikely that the anykind Left (which of course includes the milksop, pantywaist Democratic party of which I am a member) will be capable of producing any candidates that are truly worth a damn and that possess any kind of backbone or recognizable agenda – particularly when they, like the Social Democrats and Catholic Center parties in 1930’s Germany are not able to put into plain, everyday language exactly what it is they stand for, and why anyone should stand with them.

Ah, well. Perhaps we are indeed in a repeat of history. We certainly are a culture of complete self-interest. Which of course, is the Isolation the Right needs to build upon. Anti-Nazi activist from the 1920-1930s (and early biographer of Hitler) Konrad Heiden said:

Hitler was able to enslave his own people because he seemed to give them something that even the traditional religions could no longer provide; the belief in a meaning to existence beyond the narrowest self-interest. The real degradation began when people realized that they were in league with the Devil, but felt that even the Devil was preferable to the emptiness of an existence which lacked a larger significance. The problem today is to give that larger significance and dignity to a life that has been dwarfed by the world of material things. Until that problem is solved, the annihilation of Naziism will be no more than the removal of one symptom of the world’s unrest. – Konrad Heiden, Der Fuehrer, 1944

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Thoughts on Armed Conflict: a curtal sonnet

If there exists a cause to take up arms,
while breath survives some live to find it just,
and seek to purify themselves in blood,
forsaking for the fray their fields and farms
to wage war on their brothers; for they must,
to raise themselves, throw others in the mud.
Then when their deeds of heroism fade,
and victory’s bread is devoured to crust,
when time has dried to dust the victor’s flood
of rhetoric, what’s left of the charade
is crud.

19 MAY 2003

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Being Poetic

To be quoted by a thousand scholars,
used as a prop for some hopeless causes,
while earning enough to feed my old cat
bringing in those endless stipend dollars;
the rewards of my royalty clauses
helping me to grow sassy, sleek and fat,
outgrowing these cheap artistic collars –
the mind tends to boggle, as it pauses
to contemplate success so great as that.
And yet, I would rather be known as one,
who despite my many fatal flaws, is
trying to listen and join in the scat
of each new day and moment that’s begun,
than that.

20 MAY 2003

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Describing Sound to the Deaf

It is more than simply a vibration,
a finite number of beats across time
that enter the senses to resonate
and seek to move against the immobile;

there is a color and taste to it, too,
that fills the mouth with flavor and substance,
plays against the eye in patterns of light.
By turns, it is warm or cool to the touch,

and may fill the mind with joy or with dread.
It is alive, ever-changing, and moves
across great distances; as its echo
fades, it is absorbed in other new forms:

the whir of wings, the rustle of dry leaves,
the drip of a faucet, a tinkling laugh.

Drawing it in, we bring the world to us,
open, undisguised and without deceit –
where vision fails, in its grandiose quest
to reach out, conquer, and quickly discern

between the illusions it is offered,
the ear, with its passive, receptive scan
finds no separations, no division
between the self and the sacred other.

19 MAY 2003

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By Candlelight

that is
and slowly
a song that
echoes so
in the
flicker of time.
Like the side
of a candle
at the edge
of your vision,
the sound of
my voice, its
fragile refrain,
seems to draw
your attention
as it waxes
and wanes.

16 MAY 2003

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The Coming of Summer

The air is starting to gain water weight –
it sweats like a fat man there at the gate
and leaves hints of moisture with its warm touch;
under its heavy hand, it is too much
work to even sit outside until late.

Even then, as the night blooming flowers
unfold and release their sweet musk for hours,
the damp air is difficult to take in;
each slow breath is a labor to begin,
and seems to soon wilt and lose power.

And in the still dusk, for there is no wind,
the gathering dark seems to suck the light in
and blur all the streetlamps in heavy gauze;
even my cigarette smoke seems to pause
and hang there, dull and lifeless, at my chin.

But the night is alive with living things,
and from sundown to sunrise, the air sings
with whirring and chirping, whistles and croaks,
the Music of life from a thousand throats
and the rustle of countless tiny wings.

As the darkness settles like a thick sheet,
and beads of sweat form from my head to feet,
I slowly breathe in the fetid scent
and sit in silence, my energy spent;
Ode to summer! May your days be fleeting!

14 MAY 2003

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