Tall Tales: anagram

If you would tell tall tales, at least
refrain from stale cliché, and try,
when your imagination fails, to steal
with a light and creative touch.

If you would wipe clean story’s slate
before you start “once on a time”,
remember this: the little things
divide the world – and build its walls.

10 JAN 2017

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Generation Gap

You call yourselves Creatives,
seekers of some brave new world
where the light of tomorrow shines
and everyone is free,
constructing some great paradigm
connecting one and all
across the universe and time
through some technology.

You call yourselves Inventors,
sculpting from the gossamer
of heretofore undreamt of dreams
and other precious stuff –
iconoclasts, revisioning
the way the world should be:
unleashed from simple here and now
across eternity.

You build as if your raw supplies
were part of nothing else:
a world of waste and sloth and darkness
waiting for your touch.
Pretending it some virgin spot
you dig with pre made tools,
imagining your destiny
replaces nothing much.

And those with whom you disagree?
It’s obvious they’re old,
and harbor shadows of the past,
their light hurtful and cold.
If their ideas made sense,
why did the world end up this way?
That they failed, is no fault of yours;
they did what they were told.

And those who straddle old and new,
those hopeless dinosaurs
whose shoulders you now stand upon
without a word of thanks?
You graciously allow them space
to try and tag along,
while you refuse suggestion
as you scurry to the bank.

Creative? Without toil and sweat,
your art is fantasy;
a game of smoke and mirrors
where you hide your snob’s distain
for those who came before you,
whose creations you transform
into the shiny, plastic things
you promise will again

invoke some metamorphosis,
turn all frogs into kings,
relieve your halitosis
and give back your bounce and spring,
improve your sense of wonder
for a reasonable cost,
and make you feel you’re where it’s at
pretending you’re not lost.

30 SEP 2014

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Damocles

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

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Pop Charts

You wanna make it on the pop charts
Shrink-wrapped and sold just like a pop tart
Well, let me tell you: better get smart
it doesn’t matter if you’ve got heart

It doesn’t matter what you’re saying
and you don’t have to do the playing
Don’t take a seat, ’cause you ain’t staying
If the cash registers’ aren’t swaying

They’ll tell you it’s too complicated
or that your appeal’s understated
the boys in sales must be elated
to see your potential inflated

You wanna make it on the pop charts
Be the next big thing sold at Wal-Mart
Well, let me tell you, better get smart
Forget your brain and lock away your heart

It doesn’t matter what you’re saying
As long as stadium’s are swaying
They don’t have to know you’re not playing
Or that you’re prematurely graying

You’ll be the flavor for a short while
And then be left out on the trash pile
With nothing but a toothy, big smile
“So sorry, but you’re going out of style”

You want to make it on the pop charts
Be shrinked-wrapped and consumed like pop tarts
Well, let me tell you, better get smart
and find another path with some heart

It doesn’t matter what you’re saying
Or if you do none of your playing
It’s just an image you’re portraying
Don’t mind your bags, you won’t be staying.

02 AUG 2006

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Untitled for a Reason

What a record label’s looking for I haven’t got a clue;
it doesn’t really matter any more.
And who’s at number one or rising up to number two?
I’ve stopped pretending that I’m keeping score.

I don’t expect the radio to leave familiar ground;
they’ll play what advertisers think they need.
And the movers and shakers never stop here at my door;
I’m guessing they prefer a faster speed.

The nightclubs and the bars will cater to a younger crowd;
that’s where they think the money’s gonna be.
They’ll want it new and trendy, and they’ll keep it fast and loud
and look to get it cheap or nearly free.

It doesn’t bother me that some things never seem to change;
some folks will always take what they can get.
But every now and then I take another look around
and see again what I tried to forget.

It’s not the song that matters, or the singer, anymore;
and no one cares if either lives or dies.
Unless the numbers add up to a profitable score
only the writer’s tax accountant cries.

No matter what you’re saying, you’re forgotten in the end
and no one wants a has-been or maybe.
The truth is, you’re expendible, based on the latest trend,
in a world where even free love isn’t free.

01 JUN 2006

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Insomnia Redux

Would that this night provide some small respite,
sweet sleep instead of wisps of restless dream;
but like a spring o’er-wound and pulled too tight,
my mind finds no repose. Each small sound seems

a thunderclap that echoes in the dark
and leaves behind a wake that does not fade,
while every thought like striking flint brings sparks
that catch in flame acts due from plans unmade.

In restless times as these, creative souls
are said to find stray inspiration loosed,
and in somnambulence descry the whole,
that waking, they may put to greater use;

but I find not epiphany, just ache
that grows with each new moment still awake.

27 JAN 2006

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The Politics of Epiphany

It occurs to me that all poets at some point in their lives experience something of the profound, and the nature of this experience colors and informs their writing from that point forward. Robert Graves might have said it is the presence of the White Goddess that is that initiating profundity, that point at which the salmon in the stream bed of inspiration is first discovered, that instant when Taliesyn’s finger is burnt gold by Cerridwen’s foul potion of hyper-knowledge. James Joyce echoes this theme, in a way, through his constant obsession with epiphany. There is always a point in his writing at which key characters, in a moment of absolute clarity, realize that in order to be alive they must embrace a certain level of awareness to which their ignorant compatriots are blissfully unaware. That blinding moment of illumination is found in every poet’s work at some juncture. What triggers it, of course, is different for each writer, but it always involves a painful awareness of the difference between mere commonplace angst and profound turmoil.

Interestingly enough, this grand profundity more often than not is expressed negatively. That is, it is communicated as a loss — of innocence, of joy; or as the sense of something ponderous, weighty and sad — a sense of isolation, of powerlessness, of triviality, of uselessness, of pointlessness. It is the rare writer that colors their illumination as a positive experience, as if ignorance of the reality of things is something worth losing, if exchanged for an awareness of one’s true place in the universe. Perhaps that is because in order to communicate to those who have not had their own epiphany, one must appear to grieve as those without profound experience imagine grief to be, if only to establish some basis for communication. Never mind that the language of profundity, like the language of the acid trip, is meaningless outside its context, even to one who has made the journey and is now safe back at home.

And too, people who see the profound where others see simply the ordinary are often ostracized, ridiculed, and even institutionalized in order to maintain the fabric of society. We accept grief, loss, isolation, loneliness, powerlessness, and pointlessness as part of every day life — so long as one does not wallow in it, nor force others to witness its impact on our neatly scrubbed, public faces. I suppose it’s like agriculture, to some extent; we are pleased and proud as a culture that less than 5% of the population has to work directly with dirt in order to feed the rest of us. In a similar way, we are pleased and proud of that small number among us who serve as artists, poets, dancers, sculptors, musicians — pleased that they are indeed only a small portion, whose dalliance in profundities siphons but a meager amount of gross national product from more practical, useful and ultimately controllable employment.

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