Tag Archives: independence

Nesorna’s Monologue

I can not say I feel as if reborn —
and yet, there is a newness about me,
a cleanliness of spirit, that springs forth
from a new source, unknown and without name.

What words I choose can only dent the veil
of this deliverer that spawns such hope;
mere words cannot define this flash of light
that now illuminates my sorrowed pain.

Yes, pain: that wracking, scream of agony
which celebrates itself in birth and life.
I feel it not, but in its place I find
an agony of quite a deeper sort.

The pangs of transformation I now bear
bring me aware to planes of solid thought;
and in that heightened state they bid me stay
to question of my place and of my fate.

‘Tis true, that once I sought an early death,
as a small child might, innocent, seek change
in this too often monstrous, hateful world:
my simple wish to end all pain for good.

I offered prayer and hearkened to the Gods,
beseeching them to show themselves to me —
and wished that to their presence I could fly,
or that they soon would take me from this place.

But whimpering days of longing are no more,
and with its cloak of cold and glorious bliss,
this night has brought with it a wind of change
and I am more resolved to live than die.

This wind, more like a gale, has brought me life,
and set me on a pinnacle of hope —
here, tempest-swept, I stand, my spirit strong
and am renewed and ready for this day.

But where to start in this great future land,
this new discovered world of strength and truth?
The starting is the easy part, I know –
as for the finish, therein lies the test.

The glow of reason may not light this quest,
this enterprise that, virgin, waits untried;
and treachery is sure to find me, too,
yet I must follow out into this wind.

For be it so, or perhaps not to be,
it is not mine to yea, or nay, command;
It matters not if heaven is the goal,
nor if to hell’s doorway the breezes blow.

If strength or folly, whether good or ill,
this changeling spirit offers more to me,
more promise to my dark-encumbered soul
than any specter from my past has done.

Therefore, I must now gird myself anew,
and into time’s wide chasm throw my lot –
not backward, where my spirit found its root,
but into the un-named and unknown now.

I am resolved to hesitate no more,
but follow that which beckons from beyond;
and move into what learned men have called
the history and quest of all mankind.

But quiet now, the dawn approaches soon,
and it will prove me wise man, or buffoon.


From The Trial of Nesorna, Nesorna’s Monologue, Act I, Scene 4

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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

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

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.


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Freedom of Religion

As a pagan, I often overhear pagan conversations where the chief topic of concern is the negative affect that evangelical Christianity has on the “free trade” of alternative religions – its nature to limit, deny, persecute and eradicate viewpoints other than its own.

I wonder, however, if the “power” of the rough 70% majority (in America, that’s about how many claim to be “Christians,” whether they act accordingly or not) is not greatly overestimated by my pagan colleagues.

Historically speaking, the number one enemy of Christians is usually other Christians (or in the case of the Crusades, which weren’t really about religion anyway, other monotheists). The Pilgrims and Puritans who sallied forth and assailed Plymouth Rock with their austere sense of righteousness were running from persecution in Europe and England, where they were being thumb-screwed, hung, burnt and otherwise imperiled by other Christians. The separation of the church and state was originally a way to prevent a Catholic state from persecuting Protestants, or visa versa. Those brave souls (and if they’re yours, they start as visionaries and end up martyrs; those on the other side generally begin as heretics and blasphemers and end as capital criminals) who question the status quo of the Christian power structure from within are usually the most likely victims of Christian persecution; there’s so much to harvest there (in terms of dissention, dissembling and disavowing) that I don’t think at least in recent centuries there’s been enough time for them to focus on or bother with non-believers. Sure, every now and again someone will get a Cotton Mathers bee up their bonnet and worry about the devil lurking in strangers. But typically (and ironically) it’s much more effective to clamp down on “your own.”

Of course, that depends on who you call “your own.” Particularly when you’ve got more churches than congregants (where I live, there may be 300 churches for 17,000 people – on any given Sunday, there are between five and forty cars in 300 different parking lots). To sing, not to sing; musical instruments vs. voices only; women clergy or no; laity preaching; dancing; drinking; wine vs. grape juice; transmigration real or symbolic; Latin vs. local; tithe vs. time; literal vs. figurative; dip vs. dunk; limbo, purgatory, bottomless pit, endless fire, consuming darkness. About the only thing they agree on is barbeque – and then the sauce is different depending on which side of town you’re on. Again, from local experience, there’s one denomination that has two separate facilities – one for “locals” and another for “foreigners” (i.e., those who were not born and bred in town).

How could this group of divisive, in-fighting, bickering, nit-picking and otherwise non-collective souls agree on anything – at least, once they pass out of the church’s threshold and return to their completely isolated and often hypocritical lives?

Pagans: who cares what they think anyway?

“If you want to sing out, sing out.” That’s what I say.

I know, I know. There’s that social pressure. Those potential cross-burnings. That shunning. The losing of the job, etc.

But why would you want to live in a town with that kind of thinking, anyway? Shouldn’t you be looking to live among your own kind, like the Christians do? Or do you have the same level of schism with your fellow “pagans”?

I say again – if you believe in what you are, what you do will follow. If that is worth doing, then it doesn’t matter who opposes it. Is living in any other way worth living?

Besides, I think it was Dan Rather who said in an interview perhaps 15 years ago that the most important question you will ever have to ask yourself is “what am I willing to die for?” Once you have that answer, the rest is pretty clear. If you’re up against anyone in those sacred areas who hasn’t asked themselves that question (and given themselves an honest answer), unless that’s what they’re fully committed to, you will emerge victorious.

Happy Independence Day.

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What You Do Not Seek

Assuming you don’t write your own,
whose poetry assumes your voice
and would, with no small arrogance,
usurp the words that form your world?

Assuming that you do not play,
whose music fills your waiting ears
and would displace the silence there
with its own song and not your own?

Assuming that you do not dance,
whose rhythm would inform your bones
and chart your course across the stage,
its curtain drawn upon your birth?

Assuming that you’d dedicate
your years to some creative spark
should it make obvious itself
and fill with purpose your short life,

what makes you think it cares to wait
while you stand silent in the wings,
content to sing another’s song,
wasting your breath on other’s words,

or learning some odd stranger’s dance?
What good is that to a small spark
that seeks a kindling dried and gnarled,
not soaked through with another’s sweat.

Assuming you are not your own,
whose god have you imagined yours,
that will appear somehow at length
to give you what you do not seek?

27 NOV 2006

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Wide Open Road

For some reason, I’m in a shit-kicking mood today. All my ducks are in a row, and I’m feeling my oats. Could be because it’s a beautiful warm spring day with a slight breeze and plenty of sunshine. Could be because it’s Friday. Could be just because.

Anyway, here’s a song I wrote about being your own man, finding your own road, and not listening to any crap along the way. What’s that Jeff Bates says? If you don’t feel like turning it up, it’s not a real country song.

WIDE OPEN ROAD any direction I choose
Shakin’ off this town like an old pair of shoes
Like my old man told me, you’ve got to use it or lose
And if the man don’t call you brother,
don’t give him your membership dues

WIDE OPEN ROAD and no kind of a plan
Shakin’ off these blues like I don’t give a damn
Just like my wife done told me, you’ve got to get it in gear
And if you’ve got no direction,
better bring it on back here

Two lanes is all I need, the right to cruise or to pass
Don’t need no big city news, don’t bother shakin’ your ass
You can tell my friends I’m trying to lighten my load
They can find me out there somewhere on the WIDE OPEN ROAD.

WIDE OPEN ROAD with nothing blocking my sight
Shakin’ out of my skin, just like I told you I might
Just like some folks try to tell you, they say you’ve got to keep your place
Well, if you feel like you’re under the wheel,
there ain’t no smile on your face

WIDE OPEN ROAD and nothing out there for miles
Shakin’ off my past like I was shredding my file
Just like the old man told me, sometimes you’ve got to move on
And you can give better answers
if they show up and you’re long gone.

Two lanes is all I need, the right to stop if I choose
Don’t try to slow me down with your big city news
You can tell my friends I’m trying to lighten my load
They can find me out there somewhere on the WIDE OPEN ROAD.

Spring 1998

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Independence Day

I heard the sounds last night of war
outside my window and front door,
wild shells and streaks of fire and light;
and I was troubled at the sight.

No thought of where the sparks might land
entered the minds that worked the hands
that with their matches struck these bombs;
a country of brave automatons.

The flash of light, the burst of sound
and emptied beer cans all around
while through the smoke which slowly cleared
the throng of wise non-voters cheered.

They cheered the colors and the show
and cursed the duds that would not blow
their senses wowed by shock and awe,
and the ends of their fingers raw.

The cost of fireworks? Twenty bucks,
from out the back of nameless trucks;
The cost of freedom? Tears and bone
worth more than any flag now flown.

For what good pomp and grand parades
to celebrate a poor charade?
It lessens knowledge of the cost
if lives in some great lie are lost.

This freedom that we celebrate,
is it a license by which hate
and fear become the only sense
by which we gain experience?

Our independence, so hard gained,
is its dirge to be our refrain?
I seek, although perhaps in vain,
to define freedom, once again:

Freedom from the right of kings,
in matters large, and petty things,
and from the presumed word of God
that with chains bids man’s feet be shod,

and from the whim of landed wealth
who seek first their own fare and health
and from the bane of presumed right
that sees darkness, save its own light

and from the harsh slavemaster’s whip,
and fear of persecution’s grip,
and from the unseen, hurtful ties
that persecute the meek and wise

and from the threat of hangman’s laws
that seek to punish without cause
and from the hand that seeks to still
the tongue, the mind, the heart and will

and from the bloodied, soulless crowd
that sees itself as just and proud
and from the ignorance that seeks
to serve itself, and harm the weak

and from the politician’s greed
that dines in pomp, while poor men bleed
and from the engines geared for war
that gnash their teeth, and cry for more

and from the state, that seeks to bind
the tongues of reason, and be blind
and from the cloaked and hidden cause
that bids us follow, just because

and from the forked and evil ways
that seek by bloodshed gold and praise
and from all those who would be kings
and paint themselves with angels’ wings

and from our baser natures, too
that seek reward where none is due
and from the impulse not to act
when those who guide us go off track

and from the right to hold one’s peace
when liberty and freedom cease
and lastly, freedom to believe
and when that freedom’s risked, to grieve.

06 JUL 2004

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The Other Shoe Drops

My mother, who turns seventy next year,
four days from now is driving from LA,
alone across almost two thousand miles
(she plans between ten and twelve miles a day)

to visit us in New Orleans — she says,
for just a day or so; and then, she’s off
towards the north. Next stop is Tennessee.
My younger sister’s been there just two months

and barely settled in; she moved away
to close the West Coast chapter of her life.
Of course, that book includes my brothers and my mom.
I understand her motivation well,
although to mom it’s not so cut and dry.

She wonders what would cause someone to split
away from hearth and home, leaving behind
the everything your life has ever been
in search of something else – something else real.

But she and Dad did much the same thing:
they put a state, at first, between their life
and where they came from, cutting free the past.
It worked for about seven years or so.

And then they were dragged back into the fold,
or close enough to be within the web
of sibling politics and watchful eyes;
they tried to make a go of it, and failed.

Next, they tried the whole damn continent —
uprooting us from the dull, complacent life
that was in store if we stayed on the farm,
and ran three thousand miles, to Western shores.

The family back at home, in the Midwest
still wonders why they left, dissatisfied
with close-knit clan surrounding on all sides
and little opportunity for growth.

But it was dad that needed space, and change,
and his decision to break with the past.
Mom never spoke of it, but now, I think
she has regrets that they struck out alone.

And sis and I, the two like the old man,
have likewise flung ourselves out and away —
with breathing room to reconstruct our lives
in different ways, by rules that we define.

How could mom be surprised? Our exodus
was fated from the start. There was no force
of nature, blood or even divine will
that could have keep us California-bound.

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