Sunday, April 20, 2014

Memory Oval

As time defeats its half-life,
the already opaque shades darker,
a shadowed tree on gray and snowy land,
bordered in the depths of a mirror made of mercury,
ornate golden edges crumbling against 
a disappeared realm of peeling wall-roses,
in a room where seconds dissolve like hours,
and the years seem hollow and unfathomable,
all dust and ash and corroded tarnish,
without human whispers to support them.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Early April, Burlington

Winter's bitter grasp has receded now,
though lines of faded light still haunt 
the distant hills at evening's close,
and the trees remain gray configurations of bones
in the deepening green of waking backyards. 

There's still traces of earth and cold lingering in these walls, 
territories of candied frost along windowsills and steps,
and though the birds have grown bolder in their stirrings,
we remember the silent cast of snow on unlit streets,
and the rattle of plows traversing the neighborhood.

Yesterday, the cat brought me a rabbit,
young and soft as a fallen feather,
a single claw piercing its heart, staining the 
fresh white fur with the deepest cloak of red. 
At day's, end, she had felled another 
and left it on the porch threshold where we ate,
and it seemed spring's magnetic orbits 
of birth and death were there with us,
like a feastbound ghost floating in the margins. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Forest Fire, Linville Falls, 2007

How these dark flames lick at the branches of thorn
on the trembling hot eve of summer,
and whittle them to broken gray ash
with sparks showering orange pinpoints in the gloom,
each tree cowered helpless before the conflagration. 

This horizon was a jagged collection of black spikes
halo'd with pulsing columns of fire, 
striking lakes to pools of hell and murk,
instantly fossilizing the quicksilver of life beneath.

There is only open country 
and worried stars beyond this fevered blaze,
and the frame houses where rural faces float worried
at yellow-washed kitchen windows, 
the pair of us looming in the sour air 
at the threshold of a church parking lot
as the mountain crumbles and burns,
a swath of furious red, 
as if an airliner made an unscheduled landing
in the depths of these woods,
and burst into pieces upon arrival.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Dirty Truth About Capitalism: A Rare Political Aside

This is not a political blog, by design. Though I'm a dedicated progressive activist and voter, I reserve this space for more calming dispatches, mostly poetry and the occasional diary-like musings that soothe my nerves between marathon hours of making music and art and basically just functioning. Yet rules are made to be broken, and there's a rather unpleasant reason for such exception today. 

Despite the very public (and deservedly-derided) Tea Party takeover of North Carolina's controls the past couple of years, I still know this state to be one of the leading progressive lights of the South. I am more than happy to tell folks from afar that the current governmental situation here is the result of illegal gerrymandering and voter fraud, because it is. I tell them that the voices in power behind the throne don't represent the views of pretty much anyone I know in NC, and I've lived all over this state for most of my life. We're a cultured, rational, diverse place that bucks many of the northern stereotypes of the South. It's one reason I love it here.

Occasionally though, a hint of ugly good-old-boy Southern anachronistic politics will peek through this pleasant rainbow of ours. Like when your local newspaper, usually a reputable source of impartiality, blessedly free of rightward spin, publishes an editorial in defense of capitalism, citing those hoary old Fox News buzzwords "socialism" and "fascism" as the true evils that cloud capitalism's victory as the best method for the poor to pull themselves up out of poverty. "Don't listen", the article practically begs. "It's all commie lies". Capitalism, we're told condescendingly, is the greatest political system on earth. The myth of the benevolent corporation working for anything but their own greed has persisted since the trickle-down days of Reagan, but its sure seen a real renaissance of late. 

So how does a rational, informed liberal respond to such blatant propaganda and big-company apologetics? I suppose he rants to his blog. 2014, everybody.

But let's unpack some of these persistent myths for a moment, if you'll bear with me. 

It doesn't take someone with a degree in Poly Sci to see the reality of our current empire in decline, and that such strident denials of said situation are surely evidence that said decline is probably irreversible. The scales have fallen from many of our eyes, after all; we know corporations manipulate the very people they hurt most, through powerful lobbying of their in-pocket congressman and senators, and dupe them into voting for their desires time and time again. We know they use social issues and that classic American fear of the 'other' as a dividing tactic to distract their great unwashed from their own nefarious misdeeds. We know they exploit the ignorance and rural fear of the undereducated to blind them to their bailouts, their Wall Street abuses, their wage slavery. They coddle them with another myth, that myth that they too, if they work hard enough, could be wealthy, and that anyone who isn't wealthy is a lazy 'taker'. In this way, they demonize not just the 'other', but also the poor, and their loyal voters continue to defend them to death, all while seeming to ignore one simple fact: they're the working poor themselves. Meanwhile, the corporate welfare queens squeal at their gullibility.

Far-right conservatism preys on peoples' worst instincts, their inherent selfishness and refusal to understand another's experiences. This chest-beating, knuckle-dragging  mentality is built on old fashioned superiority, on a narrow perspective of the world and its inhabitants. My way is simply right, and if you disagree, you are wrong, and a traitor. These 'true Americans' expect to have their political views respected under freedom of speech, but don't believe in the same criteria for the other side. They're easily distracted by outlandish paranoid conspiracy theories and fake scandals. They almost-hilariously believe any attempt to stop them from persecuting others is itself persecution. It's always Us Vs. Them. The cult of extreme-right zombies have no need for verified facts or logic. 

In a world where most developed nations have moved towards the logical next step of universal healthcare as a human right for its citizens, here we balk at the idea of a precious few tax dollars going towards something as absurd as saving a child in poverty from cancer. One could argue that this is a form of state-sanctioned eugenics, far-righties feeling that these 'others' deserve whatever they get, while once again conveniently ignoring that in most cases, it's themselves in that position. Let's not forget, these same people are often the ones whining about an irreversible loss of community and morality as the years dance by, all while clinging to their money while the less fortunate die. This is the sad reality of far-right "Christian" values in our modern age. God wants you to look out for you. Our proud patchwork of entitled McMansion dwellers is so deeply removed from the actual horrors of genocide that they'll compare an attempt at universal healthcare to Nazism without blinking an eye.

I mean, does it get more self-loathing than women who vote for old, rich white men who consider them nothing more than baby factories? Folks who care a great deal about an unborn cluster of cells, but care less about that child's well-being as soon as actual birth is commenced? It's a startling pattern with the far right; if it's rational limitations to guns so more children don't get their faces blown off, say, well that's tyranny. Small government for all! But when big government is needed to interfere with the private sex lives of citizens, to try to enforce theocracy past all church and state boundaries laid out by the founders because some people are just too obsessed with what other people do with their bodies, then big government is just as dandy as a dewdrop! The far-right constituency is fooled into this schematic time and time again, this demon hypocrisy, and they'll never stop being blinded by such tactics. We've even reached the point of vilifying higher education, which should be the goal of most of our citizenship for their children; the far right knows damn well that the increased education, culture and exposure to people of different backgrounds found in higher education inevitably leads to progressive ideologies. No matter that those in charge attended college themselves. They need their voters dumb and misled, and working for them in Wal-Mart for scraps from the table without complaint. They encourage pride in the stupid, through cultural exploitation of white-trash culture as "True America" and its celebration of backward, harmful views as a natural cross-section of our nation. This is the kind of idiocy that keeps a vastly beneficial and largely harmless plant illegal (best not to threaten those big pharmaceutical and paper companies, after all), while alcoholism is essentially openly encouraged by our society. This is the upside-down land we live in.

Socialism, a buzz word dutifully parroted by those on the right without ever realizing what it actually means, is the enemy of capitalism, this is true. Socialism hurts class divide by expanding opportunities for all. Socialism encourages community over the caste, the true access to an American dream rather than the petty illusion of one based on blind consumerism, ignorance and fear. Still, Tom Q. Tea Party will gladly drive on public roads and send his kids to public schools that his taxes fund, and will gladly pony up for needless and xenophobic wars to line the pockets of defense contractors the world over (with their children as cannon fodder to do the rich folks' bidding), all while bitching up and down about the tiny ration of funds PBS and NPR are appropriated each year. This is how education and culture is being eradicated in our country. This is how we excuse the murder of citizens, often black, by insecure cowboys with the tiniest of rationalizations justified as 'self-defense'. This is how we keep stocking prisons with people of color press-ganged into jail cells on petty drug charges (the prison-building lobbies also need to keep raking in the funds). This is how we ignore an epidemic of gang violence in Chicago because it only affects those poor, dark-skinned people. This is how we feel no guilt in executing potentially-innocent prisoners but rant and rave about the sanctity of all life.

Capitalism encourages division and judgment, not unity and mutual understanding.  It encourages the heedless rape of the planet and a shortsighted, ignorant view of the future and such destruction's consequences. It pillories scientists via extreme-right religion in order to avoid environmental regulations that cut into the hallowed profit margins, it denies the overwhelming evidence of global warming to steer us from considering clean energy and keep us continuing to worship oil and coal, feeding our addiction with desperation measures designed to squeeze every last drop of resources from a swiftly dying planet. And it encourages theocratic patriarchy to keep the people subservient, those kind folks who use religion as the most convenient of moral shields to rationalize their fears and prejudices.

Capitalism exploits any person or thing it can for the benefit of those at the top. Factory workers in China throw themselves to their death to escape productivity hell, rainforests are plowed under and more suburban sprawl is built…all so someone can buy a third yacht when two isn't enough. Empty possessions they think will fill some hole that they'll never fill, and that cease to mean anything upon death. Capitalism is a mechanism for this alone, and its cost is brainwashing those at the bottom into protecting them while turning on each other with pointed fingers. We're still the most powerful country in the world, and this affects people globally.

Fact is, American exceptionalism based on capitalism is not brought to bear by statistics. One only has to glance at the ways we're bettered by other developed nations - in education, in finances, in infant mortality, in any number of ways - to see that's the case. Our softer-minded citizens pine for a 'good old days' morality that never existed instead of moving forward into a more harmonious future. Capitalism is the late party where everyone is refusing to get their keys and leave, and it will be our downfall, unless we make some very necessary paradigm shifts.

But I still have hope. After all, if a conservative is outraged and spewing inherently-factless diatribes, you can tell they're frightened of losing. Those ignorant of history, those who believe this country was founded as a capitalist theocracy despite all evidence proving otherwise, will never look back far enough to see their own follies spelled out for them in the pages of the past. They fail to see, for example, that they will lose the fight to legislatively enforce their obsessed hatred of LGBTQ citizens just as their parents lost the battle to do the same to African-Americans (all attempts to paint our current president as a tyrannical monster as a convenient cover for glaring racism aside). Or that women will never, ever lose the right to choose what to do with their own bodies and sex lives. Or that just as their ancestors were allowed to come to this great country to work and build a life, there will continue to be a place here for those who want to join the fray. Progressive politics mean just that, progress. Conservatism is frightened, retrograde resistance to change, and everyone knows how unhealthy that is in the scheme of things. Liberalism will forever be painted by those on the other end of the spectrum as naive and immature, but history rings it true: conservatives may win battles, but they never win the war. Progressive ideals and pushing things forward for the betterment of all…that's what always emerges triumphant in the end, no matter how alarming our political future may seem, and no matter how many shills there are covering for their bosses along the way.  

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Now the seasons cast their worried stones against this wall
where we're burnished gold by a drunken, sagging sun.
Here's the glow that haunts our celestial acreage, 
darkening, quickening, a knife's edge pressed against 
the trembling hands of descending dusk.

These are seawashed bones upon a foreign shore,
where sand and soot plot passages away from tumbling waves,
and pine-tops crumble like the dust they secretly 
know they are, the weight of a hawk settling with 
furious, beating wings, hazarding a view of a distant expanse. 

I am alone at last with little but light and thought to keep me,
time for few regrets and to muse upon even less, 
an outpost untroubled by spirits or more earthly concerns,
beyond the rocks, beyond the stacks of burning sulfur, 
with only the fog for companionship's sake at my table.

Friday, February 7, 2014

February Burlington Lament

Oh, smallest hint of spring in the wayward currents,
pause for awhile in our brick and winter-battered town,
light upon branches with the softest breath of warmth and hazy sun, 
so that we might endure the grim finality of these grayest months,
and how they strike out with frozen fury at the houses and the street-corners 
where we pile space-heaters and blankets 
as battlements against the fierce young year.

Earliest sign of approaching gentler seasons, 
walk with us through the black pine and sumac trail, 
and stir them to sing with your yellow-green fingertips; 
this winter's been so cold, we seek your kind reprieve,
so cast down your lot in our little city, 
that we might emerge from paralyzed sleep once more.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Permanent Departures

This silent elegy is fashioned 
from bones dissolved in a sanguine summer field,
and bits of cold metal rusting in a pallid rain,
stitched idly by spider webs and thick bird's nests, 
these ancient, lurking ruins. 

Or torn seat fabric singed with black flame,
now half-submerged in the reedy bog,
the once sun-shimmer of seatbelt buckles
now rubbed and scratched bare 
beneath these patient currents. 

Here, where the news crews trampled 
their way to the grimmest of scoops,
where dazed passengers wandered 
bloodied and torn-clothed in the grass, 
shrieking, batting at halos of sparks 
in their tangled hair,
there's still jet fuel staining the land,
a harrowing old memorial.