Tag Archives: failure

Such a World: rondel

What sense can you make of such a world
where kindness and consideration fail,
and ignorance, its angry, hard fist curled,
destroys all to build more graveyards and jails?

When hatred’s flag has been proudly unfurled,
has culture’s last ship onward set its sails?
What sense can one make of this world
when kindness and consideration fails?

Forget the single grain, the oyster’s pearl;
there is no private gold, no separate grail.
The ocean’s parts held in your tiny pail
show just a pattern’s glimpse, merely a purl.
What sense can you make of such a world?

08 MAY 2017

Deep End Abilities

You coughed, turned your head,
said are my eyes still red?
Some mornings I just can’t get out of bed;
feels like I’m sleeping with the dead.

You laughed, rolled your eyes,
then you cried about the suicide.
Some mornings I just can’t seem to decide;
feels like I want to be denied.

Underneath the rolling thunder,
I sit and begin to wonder:
how to segue to the final number,
how to break the spell I’m under
standing.

You coughed, lit a cigarette,
then wrote some letters to the alphabet.
Some mornings I just can’t seem to forget;
feels like I haven’t happened yet.

You laughed, began to frown,
then you sent a package underground.
Some mornings I just can’t hear any sound;
feels like I’m in the lost and found.

Underneath the quaking ocean,
I sit and think up foolish notions:
how to muster up sincere devotion,
how to make myself go through the motions
again.

You coughed, turned your head,
then asked, “Are my eyes still red?”
Some mornings I just can’t get out of bed;
feels like I’m sleeping with the dead,
or just a worm who’s not been fed.

1992

Foolish Notions

for Bob Dylan

Youth’s rebellions dissipate;
brave destiny succumbs to fate.
One morning you find it’s too late
to join the revolution.

One’s high ideals sink in the mud;
mountain retreats recede in flood.
The fire that once burned in your blood
Is ash and tar solution.

The words you chanted echo back
with missing verbs, with added tact,
contaminated by the fact
they’re now just noise pollution.

What was the problem has become
the status quo, opposing thumbs;
and the low beating of the drums
is just sheep in wolves’ clothing.

Those questions you posed to the air
have lost their sense of savoir faire.
Youth listens, but it doesn’t care;
they have their own self-loathing.

The answers aren’t there to find
out in the world, inside your mind,
to questions, now, of any kind.
Your gurus were all posing.

And yet the world is still the same:
victors dividing up the blame,
while tired and poor and sick and lame
sit waiting for a saviour.

While those with strength enough to fight
pretend their side is mostly right,
with pills to help them sleep at night
not doing them a favor.

Pretending at community,
while slicing up eternity;
the dish is done, it seems to me
the salt has lost its flavor.

I could, but now it’s far too late;
while we sit back and hesitate
the tabla rasa changes state
and crumbles in the ocean.

And each of us that could have been
if only we’d decided when
is left with words and bitter pens
robbed of our forward motion.

To sit and kvetch about the news
our backsides warm in worn-down pews,
forced now to listen as our views
are shown as foolish notions.

01 AUG 2006

Everybody Wants to Change the World …

but (and there’s always a BUT – depending on whose diatribe you’re reading at the time, it might be [and I’m making these up as absurd examples, they’re not real quotes]) …

nobody wants to change their underwear.
nobody wants to make change for a dollar.
nobody wants to change their OWN life.
nobody wants to be hated for it.
nobody wants to do it for nothing.
nobody wants to start with their own backyard.
nobody wants to give up their life to do it.
nobody knows how.

There are tons of organizations out there (http://www.zaadz.com and http://www.one.org, to just name two) whose tag line incorporates something about “changing the world”.

And there are hundreds of thousands of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed enthusiasts that flock to these kinds of organizations with big ideas and high hopes. And they spout things like “how about getting children enthusiastic about global change” or “why don’t we win over the ‘Heartland'” or “let’s think globally, and act locally”. I’ll admit, I am one of those people who look for organizations and people with big ideas. But I wonder … as I’ve often wondered when I see the Jehovah’s Witnesses somberly traipsing up the block, or see the clean scrubbed Mormon bicycle evangelists or street corner Nation of Islam boys hawking their particular brand of enlightenment. What I wonder is this: when you say “save the children,” whose children are you talking about? The children of famine-ravaged Ethopia or war-torn Bosnia or overpopulated India? Why is it that so many “missionaries” tend to look elsewhere for somebody to save? There are probably kids in your own neighborhood that are under- or mis-educated, malnourished, disenfranchised. Hell, they might even be relatives. What about them? Why are there so few missions to the trailer parks, to the coal mines, to the squatter villages right here in town “on the wrong side of the tracks”? What about those “black sheep” cousins, or your own parents? Try convincing a set-in-their-ways, old-fashioned, conservative, Bible-thumping auntie that Buddhism is a viable option for some. That’ll keep you busy for a spell.

In other words, if you can’t convince people who KNOW you, because you’re worried they’ll resent you, or cut you out of their wills, or not let their children play with yours, or whatever — why do you expect a different reaction from someone whose space you’ve invaded without the courtesy of LIVING among them?

And check your information. Figure out that it’s not fossil fuel dependency to run our cars that’s the problem. It’s the dependence on CORN that’s the problem. It takes less petroleum to fill all our tanks than to produce the synthetic nitrogren required to fertilize the corn crop that produces not only ethanol, but 45% of what fills the supermarket shelves (and in some cases, is used to construct the shelves themselves). There’s not enough naturally occurring free nitrogen on root bulbs and produced by lightning to fertilize the food for my FAMILY for a year. Without synthetic nitrogen, there would need to be a significant population reduction. EVERYWHERE. At the very least, there would need to be an elimination of 95% of all candy and soft drinks (most of which rely upon corn syrup and corn sweetener). To get that nitrogen requires burning fossil fuels. So biofuels are a double-edged sword, aren’t they?

How to change the world, then? It isn’t by teaching, or educating, or spending, or practicing random kindnesses, or sending healing energy around the globe. It’s not conversion by the sword by any other name (and that sword need not be made of steel). It’s not, as I used to glibly jibe, changing the way people think by making sure they are thinking to begin with.

What is it, then? Some humungous collaboration of do-gooding, glad-handing, happy-shiny smiling know-it-alls changing the lives of those underprivileged and unwashed masses surrounding them?

No. I think it starts a little differently. I think it starts by doing what you think is right and ethical for those whose lives you already touch. And by remembering that every system of ethics has as its root principle “Thou before I”. In other words, to be ethical, you have to consider the other person’s situation as equally valid and important as your own. And you have to think about the impact of your actions on others before counting the benefit to yourself.

Such small things. Things that don’t get mentioned on the Philanthropic Channel. Or get you plaques or medals or knighthoods. Certainly not things that anybody is going to thank you for.

At least, not yet. Until you’ve changed the world.

Almost Famous

To be respected by your family,
those you like and know,
is often not enough acclaim
to satisfy; and so
we seek to become famous
in this lifetime or the next,
a bigger fish than all the rest
and so command respect.

As the sphere of your influence
expands, you gain some perks:
you get your way more often
and can boss around more jerks,
perhaps a bigger house or car,
more money in the bank,
a longer list of so-called friends
who think you owe them thanks.

From strangers, you gain envy;
from criminals, their lust;
and at some point, the tiny circle
that you know and trust
continues to diminish, until
they grow tired and leave,
exhausted from competing
with the users you believe
would be there if your fortunes
were one morning found reversed,
who only stroke your ego
as a way to line their purse.

I wanted to be famous once.
I thought it would be great
to live as if my word was law,
to die and lay in state
while mourners passed through teary-eyed,
my name upon their lips:
the mind, the face that changed the world,
that launched a thousand ships.

But now, I wonder at the point
of seeking such applause;
and seek instead a smaller crowd
of friends and kin, because
the bottom line is this, you know:
you get what we call fame
when people you don’t know or like
pretend to know your name.

30 APR 2006

This Song

You won’t ever hear this song
It won’t be finished ’til you’re long gone
and you never liked country radio.
It doesn’t matter, then, I guess,
if what I say is more or less
an echo of unspoken “told you so’s.”

You told me that I’d never make it
Until I learned how not to fake it
and tried to be much kinder than I am.
Looks you’re right, I’m at rock bottom;
I’d call on friends, but I ain’t got ’em,
and if I did they wouldn’t give a damn.

You were right, and I was wrong
I was weak, and you were strong;
I didn’t trust my heart, just my fool head.
I was wrong, and you were right,
and so I’m here alone tonight
I don’t have you; I’ve got this song instead.

You won’t ever hear this song
so you’ll not get to sing along
and find you have the words all down by heart.
It doesn’t matter much, I guess,
that doesn’t make me miss you less,
or shorten this sad time we’ve been apart.

You told me that I’d lost all feeling
and tried too hard to stop revealing
the bitter man behind the plastic smile.
Looks like you’re right, I’m down to nothing;
might act real tough, but I’d be bluffing,
just trying not to break down all the while.

You were right, and I was wrong
I was weak, and you were strong;
I didn’t trust my heart, just my fool head.
I was wrong, and you were right,
and so I’m here alone tonight
I don’t have you; I’ve got this song instead.

It’s not likely you’ll hear this song
It won’t be finished ’til you’re gone
and you won’t buy my records anymore.
It doesn’t matter, then, I guess,
but still I’ll say it, more or less,
because that chance is all I’m living for.

15 JAN 2006

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