Tag Archives: conflict

How Many Times?

for Johnny Cash

How many times must I repeat
the same old tired line?
How many times can this old heart
be broken and be fine?
It doesn’t take a genius to opine
the odds are bound to take a sharp decline.

How many times must substance
take a backseat behind style?
How many times can a good man
walk down that extra mile?
The calculations need not take a while;
no need to note an entry in some file.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t love you,
but I’m getting tired
of waking up each morning
feeling old and uninspired;
There’s just an empty feeling
in my heart that’s like a hole,
and a longing for something that’s
out of my control.

How many words should be too many
spoken out of turn?
How many matches must we strike
before we start to burn?
It doesn’t take a brilliant man to learn
the law about diminishing returns.

How many lies will we both tell
before we face the truth?
How much of careless, foolish love
is wasted in our youth?
It doesn’t take too much to find the proof
that some foundation must hold up the roof.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t love you,
but I’m getting tired
of waking up each morning
feeling old and uninspired;
There’s just an empty feeling
in my heart that’s like a hole,
and a longing for something that’s
out of my control.

05 MAR 2006

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A Tale of Two Saints

Two saints of diametric views
one rainy Sunday morn, did choose
to spend some time in long debate
on gods and men and life and fate;

each sought to prove his deity
more just and great (such vanity)
imagining the sad world pined
for their opinions, wrought sublime.

While neither knew the other’s gods
(or quite why they were at odds),
their hearing dulled and eyesight poor
each stood on their respective shore

with little buckets rimmed in salt
distilled from the sea, to assault
with proofs that just their deity
encompassed true salinity.

They splashed each other well enough
and neither one could be rebuffed
until both soaked through to the skin
they paused; and as the tide came in

a voice was heard above the swell
that neither knew (at least, not well)
and it said, “just act like the world
is not for man, but for the squirrels.”

Then buckets half-lost in the sand
the two saints laid down, hand in hand,
and in the fading daylight’s spark
saw the horizon’s distant arc

and gained perspective, sitting there,
the ocean in their underwear —
and laughed, because their points of view
were equal parts hogwash and truth.

Two saints went to the shore one day;
and from that beach, none went away.

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Tell Your Children

Thinking of Richie Havens (thanks to poetbear for dutifully transcribing “Younger Men Grow Older”), I reached into the deep chasm of the archives and pulled out the only Richie Havens-inspired song I ever wrote. It dates from about 12 years ago … imagine all kinds of “Freedom” like strumming … not my usual subject matter, but I was extremely irritated with some right-wing Christofascist ideology at the time, and it sort of just came out … it was probably a combination of Freedom Fighting in Nicaragua, Freedom Fighting in the Falkland Islands, and Freedom Fighting in Belfast.

God, it seems your houses are the very first to fall
Explosive words in your foundations leave most wicked scrawls
And your small children, those you haven’t time enough to save
Are gone, and your own armies lay your sod upon their graves

Please tell your children this is not how it should be
We cannnot kill each other off, and still claim to be free
Each day another heathen soul climbs nearer unto thee
But for myself, here in our hearts is near enough for me

Women and our children are the victims of this war
But that is nothing new, for it has happened here before
Perhaps the grail was something Arthur never should have saved
Before the world believed in You, and by Your will enslaved

Please tell your children this is not how it should be
We cannot hate with hatred and believe in love and peace
Each day another murdered soul cries nearer unto thee
But for myself, inside my heart is near enough for me

We sit upon the left of you, or perhaps on the right
Far from the door so we can ignore wailing in the night
From those gnashing with their gums because their teeth have fallen out
Your word has so deafened us that we can’t hear the shouts
Of your unbroken followers who toil within our jails
And keep our cross-constructors stocked with wood and sharpened nails

Please tell your children this is not what you had planned
We cannot draw the line between two kinds of fellow man
Each day another holy fool runs nearer unto thee
But for myself, here in my heart is near enough for me

1982

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The Pen and the Sword

a bref double

Speak to me, if you linger at the trough
and hesitant to take a drink, hang back
while others have their fill and more besides,
expecting none will challenge their self-right.

I give to you a gift – the words you lack;
Do not refuse their use or doubt their strength.
Employ them, let their fiber warm your bones,
and fill your inside ’til it’s round and tight.

As weapons, are these few small words enough
to arm a soul, defenseless, for the fray?
They may not seem a danger at first glance,
but steel beneath their slack coat gives them might;

So drink, and what you find no use, give back;
as iron rusts, so words forgotten die.

06 APR 2004

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The Wheel

Some men stand tall, some men feel
Some men show signs, some conceal
Train is rolling, iron and steel
Steam that blows the whistle never turns the wheel.

Some men make plans, some men deal
Some men kick out, some men kneel
Highway’s burning, oil and steel
Steam that blows the whistle never turns the wheel.

Some men destroy and some men heal
Some men build up, some men steal
Trouble’s boiling, blood and steel
Steam that blows the whistle never turns the wheel.

Some men save life, some men kill
Some men won’t cry, some men will
World is turning, earth and steel
Steam that blows the whistle never turns the wheel.

1998

A Real Audio version can be found HERE.

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Mightier Than the Sword

My pen and paper ‘gainst your sword and shield
We both draw blood on the same battlefield
It’s a war of ideas, and some of them proud
None of them dare speak their motives out loud

My own revolution turned out to be small
And sometimes, I wonder on the sense of it all
It’s a trial and burden, this conscience of mine
It keeps me from thinking everything is just fine

Some old friends surrendered themselves to the void
Got themselves mortgaged and gainful employed
It’s a non-ending struggle, to have and to hold
And the graveyards are filled with the wild and the bold

Some fought for their country, and some fought against
the barbed wire that keeps us on this side of the fence
It’s a constant reminder that what makes us sane
Is the same thing that drives us to lash out in pain

My own revolution is smaller, it seems
It keeps me from dying, and keeps me in dreams
It’s a lifelong ambition, to strike with a chord
To the heart of the matter with ink, not a sword.

07 SEP 2003

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This is the soft hoarse whisper of these times

This is the soft hoarse whisper of these times:
its cup full of succulent summer grape
no longer laced with Being’s false treason,
the braces of its skull bone corset bent,
unloosened to the warm, wet wind that seeps
across its throat with a caress of steel.

27 AUG 2003

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