A sneak peak into my newest collection: Poems and Tweets in the Age of Trump

shut-down, cool-down, de-pressurize

Who gets to write the poetry,
that is, the first-hand account,
for what it’s worth, describing
the next nuclear holocaust?

I studied the ethical and strategic
dimensions of the last one at Army
War College. I confess it was neither
poetic nor convincing and perhaps

the world would be much better off
if soldiers and diplomats studied
peace more and war a whole lot less.
But back to the questions at hand.

How long does it take, post-delivery,
for the ashes, debris, and remains
to cool enough for the victor
to march in and measure it all,

to assess the damage accurately?
for the searing heat to dissipate,
for the bright flash of light
to soften to a gentle glow?

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from the archives – another 14 liner

Each universe with which we interact
demands of us a level of respect
and complicity, yes, complicity,
while we wonder if we are hypocrites,
or merely disbelievers. As if it
even matters. And what doesn’t kill us
endows us, becomes our strength and power,
our shelter in a storm. The paths we trod,
we tread, the record of our deeds becomes
our judgment day, our immortality.
Be patient with me – I’m not finished yet.
Pay no attention to my southern charm,
that folksiness you underestimate
is just a steady cadence for my march.

 

Beat Reader – a fourteen liner

My copy of “the portable beat reader”
still has its original dustcover intact –
it’s one of those laminated kinds that
libraries use to make books last forever.

I break it out for week 6 of ModPo
each year. Found it on an online sale
from Fresno County Free Library,
though it plainly says in the inside cover,
“You may return library material to any branch.”

The cardholder inside is stamped “WITHDRAWN –
WORN, SOILED, OBSOLETE.” My wife
keeps telling me to stop buying used books.
She watches too much of that “Hoarders”
show on television, and Real Lives, and HGTV.

from the archives: “pocket compass”

And old friend brought me back
a gift from a street market in Kabul –
it was a brass pocket compass with
a poem inscribed in the screw-on cover
(She knew of my love for poetry).
Its final verse (engraved in words
too small to make out for my 57-yr-old eyes,
but clearer with a magnifying glass) reads:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.”

Go figure. An American poem inscribed
inside a British compass, being sold
in a market in Afghanistan. Where
is the Russian? Or was that occupation
too rapid a blink? Maybe the whole thing
is a fake – maybe something counterfeit.

Stanley London
Pocket Compass
1885

#FlashbackFriday – Aleppo (from my first published collection, Trombones: A Sonnet Crown)

We never made it to Aleppo.
There was property there to inspect,
a perfect reason to take a day off
and drive up, get away from all
the random sameness of Damascus.
But we kept putting it off.

The first time I listened to Zooid
I could hear traces of Arkestra
wafting through – the juxtaposition
of high-pitched and low tones,
the improvised piano keeping the rhythm,
the pizzicato of the bass strings
gave it all away.

But we kept putting it off. Then,
we returned home, still assuming
we’d return at some point and trek
up to Aleppo to see the remains
of an ancient civilization.

So when Threadgill said Sun Ra
was one of his important influences
it only confirmed my suspicions.
The remains of an ancient civilization.
Now it might be too late.

#FridayHaiku: #whennegroesdontread

when negroes don’t read:
they swallow talking points whole –
stay on plantations 

when negroes don’t read:
their master gives them good jobs
on television 

when negroes don’t read:
they reject critical thought –
spew recycled lies

when negroes don’t read:
they memorize responses
and act on impulse 

when negroes don’t read:
they imagine false worlds that
don’t require work

When negroes don’t read:
they are like crabs in a barrel –
their words are empty

A fourteen liner for a Friday

Forgive me Father for I have sinned.
I have this fetish for fountain pens.
And I didn’t mean to make a near rhyme.
It just spilled out, like ink.

Forgive me Father. Seven Hail Mary’s
I will say. No more ink will I spill
on the table cloth. You have my word

of honor. Parole d’honneur. So help
me God. I swear on the graves
of my unborn children. I’ll find a way
to fill my pens cleanly, with red ink

and black ink, and green, and I promise
not to buy another fountain pen in this life.
Can’t say what may happen in the next.