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Perfect in Defect
To fly strong with broken wings,
To wax eloquent with but a pinch of words,
To race into hearts and history with one leg less—
These make the truest tales of perfection,
The highest perfection under Heaven:
To be perfect in defect.
Be not tarried by the sight, sound, or feel of a flaw:
No! Truest perfection never lay in the absence of
But in their impotence
When we will them down from hurdle to puddle
As we hop and drop till goal we reach.
Born with a tombstone
We walk about the earth tethered to our tombstones;
Not once do we ever break loose.
Like a fish hooked on a slack line
We do for a while roam quite free,
Oblivious to the grip of the noose.
But sooner or later the final hour cometh
When death’s black hand reaches forth
And reels us in while we shriek and squirm,
Afraid to board the lidded boat
That all our days stood moored at the grey tombstone.
Soon it’ll sink to its final destination
And lie still beneath the waves of time,
A boat full of treasure over a lifetime gained:
The great thoughts, the rich values, the glowing dreams…
A thousand years hence the question will be asked:
To where sailed this boat when this headstone it struck
And sunk into the earth laden with treasure?
Leave not that question to posterity
Nor its answer to tongue-tied epitaphs,
But each day ask to where sails your boat with the
treasure you are
And loudly answer now before you’re a force to fossil
It’s paving- not tomb-stones that shall capture my story,
The tale of my sail on life’s rough seas
From its beginnings at home
To its end in a storm
That’ll wreck my boat on my tombstone
That somewhere lurks like an iceberg menace.
When a man stepped out his childhood home,
Planting a brave foot in the open world
Not an age, not a generation, not a world ago,
There breathed and burned in him hope
Shared with mama’s receding figure,
Frozen in prayer by the doorpost to his back,
That his way he would make through the mild wild
That law and claw both make the world
With flesh unmarred by scratch or patch.
“You’ll keep out of trouble if you behave yourself,”
she would advise.
That, sure, was the wisdom of her world,
Her old world now long gone,
When the law was still a genuine ass,
Not a chameleon in ass skin
That turns deathly black when around blacks
And pristine white when around whites.
Black or white, all will rue the loss of that world
When a man was safe if he behaved himself.
Now he’ll only keep out of trouble
If he behaves himself,
The police behave themselves,
And court behaves itself.
The 3 G’s of a girl
The 3 G’s of a teen girl, I had them all: guys, garb,
I looked with warmth upon their flow through my
But with dread at the day when to the big G of my
nightmares they would turn: ghosts!
And one by one they did
When the hands of the clock with a mighty broom
Did slowly sweep them away.
And the games
From the grasp of my fortunes fled
Like leaves from autumn boughs shed.
Now with their ghosts alone I live.
Not shy ghosts as of my childhood—
The wispy souls bereft of flesh
That hid away in attics and cellars—
But the bold ghosts of day dreams
Sprung from the chambers of memory
To haunt scenes where I yearn to see their flesh
And pair again with the broken world in their wake
That I now with leaden substitutes inhabit.
By the cracks of my world I await that return,
And there in the meantime sweet fantasy looses
In playfields, playrooms, & playthings
To quell one by one the spectral eruptions of memory
But only to my ghost they lend their wings
To fly out to the world of my dreams
Where I find in the flesh the guys, garb, & games of yore.
Thus only as ghost and flesh do we nowadays meet:
When to me they come through memory
And when their visits I return through fantasy.
Immigrants & Neighbours: The Dirty Duo
At the national picket of the unhappy
I see large crooked coins
Hoisted like placards above the irate crowd.
On the first face, I see immigrants & owls embossed,
And on the second, snakes & neighbors.
It’s the coin they toss
To divine the wellspring of troubles
That every day beset this broken nation.
It turns at every toss to land first face up
When crime is up and jobs down.
The oracle, I know, holds the second face in reserve
To deploy on that day to come
When the homeland is rid of strange hairs and noses
But crime is still up and about
And jobs still down and out.
Yes, when immigrants are gone it’ll be neighbors in the dock
Taking blame for all national ills.
History will stand witness
As the whips and stones that now descend on immigrants
To break their bones and spirit
Give way to tanks and missiles
Sent forth to break bone and spirit
Across the trampled borders
To the east, west, and south
Previously crossed by immigrants
But now crossed by armies.
Wisdom beckons to the clueless right
But her call they will not heed.
With glee they hasten to their likes across the border,
Carrying their precious coins in tow
With which they purchase glib excuses
To explain away all national failure.
How little they know that when their deed is done
And all immigrants gone
We’ll be back to war, war, war
As of yore,
When the homeland had not strange hairs and noses
To take away from neighbors the blame for national ills.
My horse for a kingdom?
I rode to power on a Midwest horse,
Bearing amongst the feathers in my cap this terse brief
from my broken people:
To lay waste to the irksome order
That home and abroad now prevails.
Strained voices break out in the valley below
And many more in the world across the seas
Bidding me to dismount at once
And move to saddle the global kingdom
Of Reagan, Roosevelt, Clinton, …
That now is mine to ride.
Yet this very kingdom I came to crush;
My Midwest horse, I wouldn’t trade for it!
In her neighs, I hear a nay
Forbidding me to consider the bargain.
Her counsel I think I’ll heed
For between the two, she’s the easier to ride.
A horse that trots on cheap lies
Or a kingdom that floats on costly allies–
That’s the question I now confront.
At the start of the next war,
While the headlines scream “war, war, war”,
Go fit a lens to your gun’s barrel
And a reel of film in its magazine.
It would be a better war—don’t you agree?—
If all the innocents soon to face your gun
Froze in a pose
Anticipating the shots to come:
Shots of them, I mean,
Not shots at them!
When the order comes to open fire
That’ll be the time to peer through your gun sight
Ready to take to the field of battle
And go clicking away
At the follies of men in war,
The corporate vultures circling above,
And all the lies, lies, lies about the war.
For where blood spills,
There truth must spill too;
But oft in war, it’s the pills we get
To cloud our eyes and dim our minds.
Then, perhaps, we’ll someday learn
Why our boys and girls who march forth to war
Never do really as of old return.
The heroes of a thousand battles
Retreat to a thousand bottles
At the doctor’s and the barman’s.
Who we call survivors
And whom we call casualties
Their fates ultimately come equal:
One falls in the battlefield,
The other in the bottle-field—
But fall they all do, they all do, O lord!
The Promised Office
When darkness falls on the fortunes of men