Weaponized Love

From I.O.U., Wim’s new book of poems, available at Amazon.com.

We’re told it’s only been unleashed one time
by a lone fanatical guerrilla sent
by some silent foreign power. People talk
about him all the time, but most don’t dare
say too much about his self-immolation—
how he cold-bloodedly provoked the fury
of priests and prefect to detonate
the deadly charge of love strapped to his heart,
damn near putting an end to everything.

Even now we don’t know the whole scary truth
of what happened after that conflagration,
those three dark days verging on apocalypse,
how close we came again to shapelessness and void
and darkness upon the face of the deep—
and without doubt it’s just as well. The wise
illuminati who rule from shadows might
someday make public those seven files sealed up
some two thousand years ago, but only
when we’re ready for the truth—and frankly,
I wouldn’t hold my breath for that fine day.

The vestiges of ruin lie all around us.
We’re damaged, too, in our guts and in our souls.
Nobody could foresee back when it happened
the terrible genetic consequences
such an indiscriminate weapon would wreak
on generations yet unborn—the seizures,
the boils, the lesions, the burning eruptions
of morality and justice, pandemic
outbreaks of conscience and goodwill,
and worst of all, the mutant and grotesque
progeny too crippled and misshapen by
compassion for the cruel works of a sound
and robust functioning society.

But by the skin of our teeth, as they say,
humanity pulled through, and here we are
today, a heartier species than ever.

There’s no denying, though, we have been lucky.
The role of diplomacy has, I think,
been overstated. Scant progress has been made
by sovereign global powers to dismantle
their silos and armories, their insanely
massive stockpiles of lethal lovingkindness.
(So weird, all this frenzied hoarding of something
too terrible to contemplate its use!)
Worse, attempts to halt the proliferation
of agape have been a laughingstock—
the same with eros, philia, and storge.
Would-be Jesuses find such materials
in their kitchens, and instructions and designs
are available on the Darkest Web.

As the experts say, it’s not a matter of if,
but of when, and we are long overdue.
This time if one lone zealot sets off the spark,
the critical mass of deadly altruism
will be more than sufficient to destroy
civilization several times over,
leaving nothing but the naked infrastructure
of human bodies, guileless and zombified,
baffled by purposes and meanings you
and I take for granted—the pedagogic
utility of sweatshops; the culinary
smorgasbords of mass assembly lines;
the pious, sweet indentured duties of
the supermarket aisle; office cubicles
where we roam at liberty in our endangered
tameness as if in our natural habitat …

What use are these, our mindless heirs will ask,
their limbs and gazes alike entangled in throes
of folly, now that we have fallen in love?

Appeared in Tuck Magazine, April 27, 2019.

American Recessional

From I.O.U., Wim’s new book of poems, available on Amazon.com.

For frantic boast and foolish word—
Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!
—Rudyard Kipling

The City on the Hill is turning out its lights
and closing up for a long, long night.
Heroes are cast out of their Valhalla;
the halls ring with a clamor of cowards.

Closed up for a long, long night
of drunken revels in the dark,
the halls ring with a clamor of cowards
gloating in the exile of heroes.

Their drunken revels befit the dark;
it was false morning in America too long.
Those who gloat in the exile of heroes 
believed in a painted dawn, a sun that never rose.

The heroes, after mourning America too long,
retreat across the frozen bridge
yearning for a warming dawn, a sun to rise,
their bleeding feet wrapped up in rags.

Retreating across the frozen bridge,
the general reads a pamphlet to troops
whose feet are numb in icy rags:
“These are the times that try men’s souls.”

The general shivers as he reads to his troops
about summer soldiers and sunshine patriots:
“These are the times that try men’s souls.”
A woman with a face of iron and coal

leads freezing slaves and snowblind refugees
across the bridge toward freedom and new life.
Her posted face of iron and coal
offers tens of thousands in reward for her.

“Cross the bridge to freedom or you die,”
she says, threatening a lead ball from her flintlock.
“Don’t make me lag, there’s a reward for me.
Keep up, keep walking, or I’ll put an end to you.”

The choice is freedom or a lead ball from her flintlock.
Does safety lie behind them in the darkened hall?
They keep walking toward some doubtful end.
Only cowards mistake puniness for greatness;

safety is a lie told in their darkened hall
where thieves thieve all innocence away
and cowards take their puniness for greatness
and lies are held for truest scripture.

How can thieves thieve when no one left is innocent,
when everything is stolen, nothing earned,
and nothing is true and lies are scripture?
Surely thieves must then turn into cannibals.

When everything is stolen, nothing earned,
sacrifice is the sole obscenity.
When all thieves turn into cannibals,
they have no one to devour but one another.

“Sacrifice is the sole necessity;
the want of one is the want of all,”
say those who cling fast and dear to one another;
beyond the bridge’s end lies only darkness.

The suffering one, the suffering all,
cast one last glance back at their Valhalla,
then plunge into the darkness beyond the bridge;
they’ll light another City on another Hill.

Appeared in Tuck Magazine, April 27, 2019.

Three Double Takes

From Wim’s new book of poems, available on Amazon.com.

Double Takes are perhaps a less baleful way of looking back on 2020. Happy New Year to All!

*

Three Double Takes

1 andante

A zebra with a party
horn and hat has crashed
your thirtieth. This
creature was your friend
when you were three
and lived beneath the
checkered tablecloth
and would come up
from time to time
to munch with you on
globes of milk-drenched
Too-Sweets, but this
was not to be expected.

Hear the horn &
knit your brow &
turn & see &
nod as if you
understand &
turn away.
Your eyes pop out,
you turn right back
& stare amazed.

*

2 allegretto

Her husband has
come back again
as you were raising
up your glasses
in a toast to
one another
naked in white
sparkling wine
swapping an
indecent ripe
Greek olive
faintly tinged
with feta. He
called her from
Tibet an hour ago.
This was not
to be expected.

Hear & turn.
Look & nod.
Turn away.
Beat. Beat.
Face react.
Turn again.
Stare afraid.
Beat. Beat.

*

3 vivace

Death
has come
in a fake
tuxedo
t-shirt
with a
chainsaw
while you
were adding
a rhythm
section to
St. Matthew’s
Passion.
He calls
you by
a name
you can’t
pronounce.
This
was not
to be
expected.

Hear. Turn.
Look. Nod.
Turn. Six.
Seven. Eight.
Eyes pop.
Turn. Gape.
Stare. Six.
Seven.

*

Appeared in Open Arts Forum, February 15, 2020.

Wim’s new book of poems … I.O.U.

Wim’s new book of poems, I.O.U., got published today! It is available from Amazon.com and Adelaide Books.

Here’s what Wim has to say about his poetry:

One of the most common bits of advice a poet can get (or give) is “Find your own voice.” Instead, I look for other voices. My creative roots are in theatre, and I use my training as an actor and a playwright to try to create compelling and entertaining voices and characters. My poems tell stories. I also think that one of the key ingredients of a good poem is surprise. I try to bring surprise to my poems—surprise, thought, passion, and sometimes laughter.

Adrienne Rich once wrote, “A language is a map of our failures.” Poetry happens when words set us free from language. It is a liberation from unwitting collective prisons of thought and habit, for language binds us in more ways than we know. Fresh images, metaphors, and stories bring new vitality to our world of words and to our lives.

I also agree with the late Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai that all poetry is political:

“This is because real poems deal with a human response to reality, and politics is part of reality, history in the making. Even if a poet writes about sitting in a glass house drinking tea, it reflects politics.”

In these days when the forces of oligarchy and autocracy threaten to consume America and much of the world, poetry keeps us alive to the value of freedom and human decency.

Every poem is an act of resistance.

Exhibiting online…

Lately, my fiber pieces have appeared in several virtual shows and it’s comforting to know that some people can still see the work as it goes on. Now I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to show some drawings, paintings, and sketches in an online gallery/shop. Some of the drawings were made for Wim’s and my first novel: The Jamais Vu Papers (Harmony Books/Crown). Others are selections from my other efforts over the years.

Click here to see.

Pat