Monthly Archives: July 2005

Critical Path

July is gone, and the pecans
have now begun to set
on the old tree along the bayou;
sometimes, we forget
the simple things that mark the seasons.

We’ve no need of clocks
or calendars. Whatever reasons
we invent to block
the infinite expanse of time
into convenient lengths
quite often rob us of our prime
and downplay our great strengths:
such as the art of observation,
which serves to remind
us that the root of our frustration
is failure to find
the purpose for our human lives
in seeking power and might,
whereby our cause alone survives,
and therefore is proved right.

That humans are endowed with minds,
foremost, and only minor brawn,
should give us pause, and some new kind
of goal to focus on:
like seeking prominence through thought,
and sharing of that wealth
by proving wrong what we are taught
that profits just ourselves.

for R. Buckminster Fuller

31 JUL 2005

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What Happens If

What happens if, as a martyr in training,
you learn self-abandonment, lose fear of death,
imagine your sacrifice each waking moment,
practice your from-the-flames speech in the mirror,
give not a thought to your present or future,
trust that your cause will provide and protect you,
turn away mere earthly love and companions,
scorn little day-to-day dreams as unworthy,
then find the required persecution won’t come?

What happens if, as a rebel in waiting,
you learn discipline, self-denial and hate,
imagine your enemies each waking moment,
practice your from-the-front-lines stance for hours,
give not a thought to your present or future,
trust that your cause will provide and protect you,
turn away mere earthly love and companions,
scorn little day-to-day dreams as unworthy,
then find your great revolution won’t come?

29 JUL 2005

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What price a pawn

What price paid by a pawn who makes,
if merely by sheer luck or chance,
its way through fields strewn by mistakes
in focused, single step advance
to the far end of what it knows,
where all the trappings of a pawn
must be forgotten, and the clothes
befit a king must be put on?

28 JUL 2005

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Art of the Midwest

I understand the Midwest: there is no substitute for work,
labor being the sacred art that transcends even grief.
What is madness, but belief that toil will not resolve conflict,
and an aversion to the sweat through which the Holy Spirit flows?

I understand the Midwest: no outward sign of strife or tears;
the stock pot never brought to boil that simmers on, each passing year.
The art of work is Midwest art; a beauty to be utilized,
from steady hands held firm despite a frailness to be disavowed.

I understand the Midwest, and the metaphor of Luther’s hands:
despite the drudgery entailed, the Lord’s work will be done.
And those whose hands are smooth, without a callous or a scar?
They tend to the demented souls who cursed, are unemployed.

I understand the Midwest: Sandburg’s rough Chicago smile,
the farmer’s tan, the sweat-stained cap, the sun-bleached overalls.
What is madness, but excuse for someone else’s hands
to lift your shovel, tote your bale, store up your share of coal?

I understand the Midwest: steam that blows the whistle there
must be imported from the coast; what’s native turns the wheel.

28 JUL 2005

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Onrefni Setnad Taeper*

I am an arctic gypsy
come hither to enjoy the warm, crackling fires of Hell.
I have ferried
across the Mississippi with a hooded man;
he had a record deal
and told me he once had played the drums,
mentioning that the sticks had given him his lively hood.

I nodded,
more to appear polite than out of genuine interest in his dilemma,
and asked him
if his place had air conditioning.

I got a piece of yellowtail
from a girl hanging out at the barbeque grill;
she said it was the in thing,
and would I please stay outside
while she pulled herself apart.

I read briefly
from the book of the dead
(which she had in translation)
and waited for the morning
for her to come to life.

She said it could be a really cool town
if you liked to see red.

I met a man who had composed
a benediction using a stanza or two
from Rushdie;
he sang it in a delightful monotone
while reciting his intention
to duplicate the splendor
of Gregorian chanting.

Although it was hard to decipher,
and now I am rather confused;

I met a man named Lucy –
Lucy Paul Smith,
and his neighbor, Lucy Anna Reed;

as a matter of fact,
everyone here seems to have the name
Lucy.

Not wishing to pry,
I asked a red-faced gentleman,
“What’s Lucy for?”
and waited
while he had a fall
and then recited something about needing a light
and meeting a lot of smokers.

I signed a petition
and walked down a forked path
where a door said,

“Tonight Only –
Glad It’s Night and the Pit,
with special guests
the Beezle Bubs.”

All hail the contract players.

1993

* subliminally, onrefnI s’etnaD taeper = repeat Dante’s Inferno

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The Ten Percent Solution

Lobotomy perhaps provides the clues:
that with what meager portion of the brain
society encourages us to use
and education bothers us to train,
we think, and therefore are, so far reduced
from what potential might be in the whole
that in our ignorance we have deduced
the object and observer’s separate roles.

What lies beyond? The best minds only guess,
and courting madness, let conjecture fly:
that limitations serve, under duress,
as a protective shield. No one asks why
in fact such armor should be status quo,
or further, why we seek to find defense
against a world we barely even know,
imagining it a cruel experience.

Let science define borders, create lines —
the territory is more than a map
that presupposes theories of design
and satisfies itself merely to slap
a label on a place or thing, and feel
sufficiently content it is defined.
Such actions no more help divide the real
from the imagined than a sandy line
splits an expanse of beach neatly in two,
or marks a boundary between mine and yours.

Besides, conditions in the lab are too
unnatural and sterile. To use “pure”
as a benchmark for quality or right
when we our ourselves are amalgam and blend
is to constrict the possible so tight
that we are left with traces, and pretend
our grasp is all the world extends to fill,
our footprint covers the whole earth entire,
our mind a mirror of some Divine will,
and all creation slave to our desire.

27 JUL 2005

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Against The Grain

If knots formed in the wood
have turned the grain in a maze
that wanders no continued line
nor runs a cogent phrase,
then those who go against it
are not veering from a norm,
but rather seeking patterns
in the absence of pure form,
like turning in the skid
or tacking sails into the gale.

The true adventure starts
when more conventioned methods fail.

The salmon fights its way upstream
against the current’s flow;
a planet’s arc seems retrograde
to us, from down below;
our martyrs, saints and mystics
tap a source we do not know;
and we obsess on only what
the surface cares to show.

26 JUL 2005

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