Tag Archives: progress

The Wheels of Progress

When ground to standstill, mired, besmirched,
their cog-end mesh begun to rust,
the wheels of progress can but lurch.
Their motion barely moves the dust;

and each gear’s inch assaults the ear
with tortured squeaks and sudden stalls.
Behind all effort lies the fear
of a collapse. Beyond the walls

that seem now solid, storm clouds build,
and in their grey depths store the seeds
of new despair, and drain the will
that seeks out hope, and guarantees.

The great machine we all assume
needs only maintenance to sustain
prosperity — is it now doomed,
its circuits blown under the strain

of finding crisis hidden where
in some illusion, we once thought
ourselves immune, and without care
protected by the things we bought?

The factory that once supplied
in part and parcel, our defense,
lies now in ruin, paralyzed,
struck dumb by an experience.

03 OCT 2005

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So Much for Science

The art of living well, some pundits quip,
is equal parts audacity and luck;
while others posit a stiff upper lip
and careful breeding lift us from the muck.

The hedonist claims pleasure is the thing;
his polar opposite, the aesthete: prayer.
Each year a new philosophy that brings
the focus to some erstwhile, dormant layer.

I think there is no “art” to life at all.
A chimp can paint a Pollock, nonetheless;
and like a tortured artist, see his walls
as solid bars that shut out happiness.

There is some irony that humans spend
so much of their free time imagining
that their exalted rank must have some end
beyond the simple fact that is living.

The question I would pose to scientists
is whether when they put chimps in a room
to type out “War and Peace”, they get them blitzed
before they start, and tell them, from the womb

that real chimps study law, or man machines,
and must resign themselves to apish rules;
how many, then, would live their lives in dreams
and fail the tests so valued by their schools?

20 JUN 2005

Prompted by the article Pollock’s? No, but the artist aped his work.

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When history’s sad lessons fail

When history’s sad lessons fail
to find their place in memory’s halls
and social constructs name their grail
progress alone, foundations fall.

Progress to where, and at what cost?
The road to ruin remains paved,
while freedom’s edifice is lost
and those who sheltered there, now slaves

caught in the rubble, cannot run
nor find the strength to turn away
the scavengers who’ve now begun
to feed on those still in their way.

The silent crowd, hushed by its fear
of losing face, of showing doubt
as these dark vultures draw more near,
seems to have lost the will to shout.

What use the rhetoric of peace
against such monstrous beasts of war?
What hope their wanton lust will cease
until dissent is heard no more?

When history’s sad lessons fail
to teach those with the sense to learn
what good are tears? They cannot quench
the fire that at our bound feet burns.

The means will taint the noblest ends,
make even Heaven reek of Hell,
if you would call such demons friends
and name their course your own as well.

Spit back their speeches, do not drink
the wine of victory they swill;
each of their boasts, weigh out and think
before you share in their foul kill.

Before you join their path, be sure
it leads beyond the bonfire’s glow;
and if they ask you for your vote,
remember that you can say no.

07 JUN 2005

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Back to the basics

Back to the basics: down that trail
bringing us from the ocean’s foam
where we shared space with fish and snail;
back past Europe, far beyond Rome,
before we started keeping track
or had the means to tally score.
If we would find the things we lack
we must devolve, then dig some more
distaining drills and modern tools,
pickaxes, shovels and backhoes;
tricks learned in engineering schools,
and physics, too; they must all go.

Bring nothing with you, pen nor phone
will serve you here in this dead zone;
no trail guides, blueprints, wires or cups —
to walk this path, you must give up
all semblance to your modern self;
and all those volumes on your shelves:
pretend that they were never writ,
that all you know, the breadth of it,
spans just as far as your two arms
and runs the width of a small farm.

Back to the basics: eat and sleep,
hunt and be hunted, kill or die.
Turn back from hills that are too steep,
from rivers too deep or too wide.
Back to the basics: no free time,
no Broadway shows, no top shelf wines;
the Devil’s in such modern stuff,
so give it back, and say, “Enough!”

Forget how far the human race
has come; at least, in any case,
deny yourself the benefit
of what you did not work to get
and take for granted your whole life:
to slice that bread, you’ll need a knife.

03 JUN 2005

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Blues for Elijiah/Fallen Angels

For some reason, sitting out under the carport this morning in the rain made me think of a period during 1991 when I wrote about 30 songs in the course of 36 hours. It was a very strange Peter Gabriel meets Van Morrison kind of weekend … just me, the computer terminal and the digital piano.

Blues for Elijiah

Ravenous, we turned our backs on civilized pursuits
in suits of woven rags and skins, exposed to elemental change;
No human chatter breaking forth, no spewing after-thoughts
of imperfect internal combustion.

Blinded by the word of the immortal beast of broadcast,
scarlet-eyed, star-struck, in cathode-ray imposed myopia,
we foolishly believed that we had found the new Messiah
and we called to him by name, Blessed Technology.

Cloven-hooved, through clover fields, we chased the dream inconceivable
Thinking we could make believe and make it more believable

Turn away from your television
Turn away from your radio
There are more things in Earth and Heaven
Than you’ll ever know

Words are only words if they hold no other meaning
Symbolized interpretation of an unseen imagery:
The silence shouts out deafening; cover up your ears
or you might hear something important.

Hungry now, and rooting through the leftovers of history,
power ties no longer bind, yet cut off circulation.
Do you still believe that you have found the reasons for your presence?
Do you still hold fast to dreams that have no meaning?

Turn away from your newspaper
Turn away from your bulletin board
There are so many things escaping your attention
There are more rivers left to ford

With all your money, can you still pay attention?
Will all your bridges tumble into the sea?
With how much credit can you purchase my affection?
Will you be frightened if I love you for free?

Turn away from your television
Turn away from your radio
Listen to the music playing out in the courtyard
They’re playing verses you should know

Turn away from your radio
Turn away from your magazine
There are things happening that are much more important
There are still wonders you’ve not seen

26 JUL 91

Fallen Angels

A monster’s out walking the streets tonight
Devouring the city, cobblestone by cobblestone
A soul without mercy; and you know
pity is a lonely word, small and forgettable

Silent in mute screaming agony
Following the gutters down and out to the sea;
otherwise, without purpose, directionless,
void of apparent course.

Searching for fallen angels
Fitting them with dragons’ wings
‘Cause if this play falls on its face
We’ll have to think of something

The monster in his guise, so human,
licks his lips, mastiff-inspired,
the scent of life, animal
caged words, primitive and sophisticated.

Alone in schizophrenic company
Following the sound of life around the corner;
no intentions, only expectations
of disappointment in the shadows

Searching for fallen angels
Fitting them with dragons’ scales
‘Cause we’ll need more cannon fodder
When self-preserving instinct fails

A monster is stalking the city tonight
Devouring the pavement like lines
on a printed page, without mercy or pity,
which are lonely words, small and
easily forgotten

Searching for fallen angels
Fitting them with dragons’ hearts
‘Cause we’ll need all our energy
Once the floor show starts.

26 JUL 91

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A Meeting is no Substitute for Progress: a cywydd llosgyrnog

So much to do, and time so tight
that one would think to do things right
the first time might be thought wise;
but it’s a finger pointing game,
no one willing to take the blame.
Things stay the same. No surprise

there, I guess, but one can still work
to bypass the constant knee-jerk
reflex that lurks, just waiting
to derail some major meeting
and cause dissent, thus defeating
those who bring hope. Frustrating,

when it takes more hours than at hand
to craft and hone some kind of plan
that spans the project’s gamut.
Consensus is great, that is true,
but other times you just have to
Shut up and do it, dammit.

13 APR 2004

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To Progress: a bucolic

To those who wish the past returned
and simple life brought back in fashion,
a relationship with the land renewed
and the blight of urban living shunned,
a hundred years of progress dissolved
in the bliss of primitive survival,

Who see the plains of Arcady
As pristine lands, fertile for the tilling,
and in the slow change of the seasons
some majesty of divine balance,
I offer this emetic for nostalgia:

A worn stone lies broken on the grass
in the graveyard at Indian Hill.
Thanks to early hours in freezing rain,
eighty rough acres and pneumonia,
a husband and two sons, gone the same year.

06 APR 2004

In memory of Christena Ann Litzenberg (1817-1909)

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