I often wondered, when I was a goth
(did we have that name back in ’85?)
about the downward spiral of the world;
and contemplated shadows, where I thought
the secrets of the universe were kept.
From chiaroscuro, I firmly believed,
a balance quite long-lost could be restored.
But just how deep I thought, I question now;
it could be I was restless, young and bored
with trying to achieve so-called success,
and plotted revolutions in my mind
that would require no real degree of work.
With who I used to be, I’d like to share
a lesson learned from twenty shadowed years:
there are so many colors besides black;
the only limits are imagined ones.
05 AUG 2009
I would admit a lesser crime
if only it were worth my while;
but in these days when wish makes fact
the simple notoriety
of having lived will sentence me.
There is no justice in the world
when thought alone is quite enough
to stripe a convict without bars,
at least the steel variety,
and clang the door shut on their cage.
What bargain would I strike, besides?
Admit the world is right as rain,
that equal opportunity
exists to knock on every door,
and offers all their dollar’s worth?
What kind of poet would I be,
were that the case? What kind of man,
to live and breathe among such lies?
What shame that such a bold offense
results in nothing but fools’ praise.
I would admit a lesser crime;
but what’s the use? The truth will out,
and I would rather form the noose
from my own actions, my own words,
than feign guilt worth a coward’s mind.
05 AUG 2007
To find again the solid ground,
the pulse beneath the surging song
that lends its subharmonic sound
to all that hear and sing along;
To seek the strings that touch the heart,
that plucked, would shake the listening spine
and signal for the dance to start,
to find grape deep within the wine.
To sense the beat within the vein
and chart its course from start to end;
so feeding soul and bone and brain
with food that causes hurt to mend.
To find again the fertile earth
where roots run down and deep, unseen,
for nutrients that may give birth
both to what will, and what could be.
03 JUN 2007
If you would have me write of bliss,
exclaiming art mere artifice,
a simple sham designed to fool
the ignorant who fill our schools
with some vain hope of what might be:
quite useless, a mad symphony
that holds no tune, does not inspire,
I say: I will not be your liar.
I cannot speak except my truth.
To turn the curse of misspent youth
from years of folly into gold,
to cower where I should be bold,
to silent, watch your fabric wind
its cloak of death upon the mind;
these things I cannot, will not do,
and call it art to forgive you.
Unless it strains against the mold
to whisper secrets long thought cold
and buried to the modern soul,
unleashes furies thought controlled,
and births the questions best unasked,
there is no meaning in art’s tasks;
despite its pompous, highbrow claims,
it is a cripple: blind and lame.
What madness you would have me fake
to shield from view such a mistake
may fool the senses for a while
with clever tricks, a knowing smile;
and on such palimpsest you may
suppose to write of one true way
by which the world is formed and doomed:
its genesis, its prime, its tomb,
But know true art will prove you false
and throw odd beats into your waltz,
unloose and snap your well-tuned strings
and turn to rust your well-oiled springs.
And then, what good mere words of bliss
to serve you? I can tell you this:
Art’s sword, that you would make a plow,
is cultivating those seeds now.
03 OCT 2006
You cannot win. It seems no matter
which way you progress
(to seek self-sacrifice for good,
or your own happiness),
the world will work against you
to undo what you have done.
It will erode your monuments
and interrupt your fun
with either condemnation
for the talents that you waste,
or horror at the way your talent’s used
beyond good taste.
To wit: should you choose sin
and find yourself in deep debauch,
you’ll be proclaimed a wretched soul
by those who only watch;
and virtue? that’s no better lot.
For should you speak your mind,
those holding power by wrong means
will take offense and find
some cause to treat you with contempt;
and with the line you’ve crossed
will spare no opportunity
to prove themselves your boss.
Perhaps the wisest course to pick
would be: stay underground,
refuse to share your wealth,
let your great talent stay unfound.
The world will think you “normal”,
worthy of no great alarm;
and if you’re lucky, your whole life
will do you little harm.
But then, your only enemy
will be the self you hide:
the talent that you must express,
that will not be denied.
So walk your path. It matters not
who praises which you take.
They’ll use tar to annoint you
for both feathers and the stake;
both ridicule and persecute,
should you step out of line
and either let your talent rot,
or cut an edge too fine
that it offends the sense of those
who claim to be your peers
yet think your life, in either case,
the sum of wasted years.
19 AUG 2006
If you asked a Buddhist monk
who fled the monastery
as it burned down to the ground
if he would miss it very
much, I think he might reply
“Some mornings, in the winter,
purple clouds would split the sky
into bright colored splinters.”
10 OCT 2005
Grantland Rice (1880-1954) was a sportswriter for the New York Herald-Tribune. He was really one of the first, if not the first, famous sportscasters, immortalizing Knute Rockne’s Notre Dame squad as the “Four Horsemen” of the apocalypse, among other things, and coining many a pithy stanza along the way (e.g., “There’s no dearth of kindness in this world of ours; Only in our blindness we gather thorns for flowers.”). I imagine that his colorful commentary was often repeated by those growing up in the first part of the 20th century, particularly by boys like my father (born in 1928, the same year as Mickey Mouse). Such things leave great impressions. My father, for example, until his death often repeated something of Rice’s every now and again:
“When the one Great Scorer comes to score and writes against your name, He marks not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game.”
In other words, it’s the means that matter. Never the ends. That’s a good thing to bear in mind.