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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Esther



so if we can’t afford to eat,
i guess we’ll eat the rich

& if our taps run poison,
hit them up to get a drink

& when they take away our homes,
that’s when we’re moving in

not unlike the book of Esther,
the proverbs, or Tao Te Ching –

for in vain a net is spread
in sight of any bird,

but these men wait in ambush
for themselves, to spill their blood.

the lot is cast, the lines are drawn,
but Nature laughs the last

the last job, which no app can take:
the gravediggers of capital –

no, we don’t want half of your kingdom,
all of it, or none,

who cannot even understand
            the meaning of your psalms

but day by day, time will tell
which of us will be killed

by this, your masterpiece,
            these giant gallows that you build.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

This is the Year (5778)

“O sing unto the Lord a new song;
Sing unto the Lord, all the earth!

Let the skies be glad, let earth rejoice,
Let the sea and all within it thunder praise!”
- Psalm 96


This is the Year
after Martín Espada, and all visionaries

This is in fact the year that squatters evict landlords,
as we occupy all streets & all city halls,

This is the year Black torture sites
butterfly into Freedom Squares,
Boards of Trade
are made Room & Board,
Tent cities vanish into sanctuaries
& homeless humans
move to human homes,

Let the prisoners be freed,
Let the refugees return,
Let the Water Protectors rest,
Let the organizers sleep,
Let the truth-speakers read novels,
Let the poets write about rivers,
Let the rivers fill with fish!

Let the land and everything it holds exult!

& Praise you People, praise your Rage,
come ye drummers, come ye sousaphones, 

come you hordes of righteous screamers,

Bless this Music of your thirst
for Justice, your hunger for Love!

This is the year the White House
is repossessed
& decked out with graffiti
by the children of D.C.

This is the year the Kochs & Goldman-Sachses pay their taxes,
Washing dishes, filling prisons with their fat cat class of fascists,

This is the year a law is passed prohibiting cops from gathering
in groups larger than two, unless they trade their guns for hackey sacks,

This is the year that Dred Scott resurrects from the Calvary Cemetery
to lead a seige of martyed ghosts upon the hosts of Capital,

This is the year that Moses & the Old Testament prophets
go toe to toe with Israeli soldiers, turning bullets into olives,

This is the year that T-Rump
pays off Mexico’s debt,

The year We the People forget to forget

The year we turn off
the reality television show that governs us
& start to govern our own reality,

This is the year the presidents of Mount Rushmore

morph into the faces of Crazy Horse,

Sitting Bull, Black Elk, & Fools Crow,   

This is the year that banners unravel
& barbed-wire fences crumble,

the year wage-slaves take over
as the stock   market        topples,

                        so the last will be first
                                    and the first will be last,

and we’ll give what we can
and take what we need…  

This is the year food & clean water are free
& gas is too expensive for everyone,

In fact This is the year we remember 
why

we cannot buy
or sell the Earth -- 

                                    (we are Her…)
  

If Occupy began
as a Vision
of people having the debts that crippled them cleared,
then This is the year…

If #BlackLivesMatter began as a Vision
of people walking the streets without fear,
then This is the year…

If every Movement begins as a Vision
of People empowered in body & spirit
Then this is the year it is so.


So,

Let all the trees of the forest sing for joy
                        before the Eternal…

Let the rivers clap their hands,
Let the mountains sing in chorus!

and if eyes are eyes,


… so may every silent mouth,
dry as thirsty dirt,

  
Open

       with the music  
  
         of Justice.


Monday, May 29, 2017

Ode to Technology

“Not my world alone,
but your world and my world,
belonging to all the hands who build.”

- Langston Hughes, “Freedom’s Plow”



“That electronic technology
that chains us today
in the prison of
unemployment lines
what could it do
in the hands
of the people”

- Lew Rosenbaum, “Ode to a Cell Phone”


We are sitting in a classroom
writing poems about technology
& our relationship to it…

reaching for words
to describe our lives

            their limitations & possibilities

striving to capture the feeling
of riding a train through underground tunnels
– the sound of it, that low metallic rush –

& people all around, on our phones,
connected through the World Wide Web

millions of invisible waves
travelling through the air,
bringing music to our earbuds,
images & words to our screens,
joining us in a vast global brain
of 7 billion
(miracle of miracles!)
this planetary network
of warp speed connectivity

from which we almost
never
look up

to actually
see  
each other.


We are trying to describe
the strange loneliness of this,
our age…

but also,
                        the comfort of silence,

the kindness of time spent
in transit, locomoting
from one place to another,
with nothing in particular to do,

& the gentle rocking of the train’s motion,
this soothing place
of being alone
(together, yes)
in a quiet kind of intimacy
that I actually enjoy,

here,
writing the poem,
pencil in hand,
scribing in this ancient system
called a book,

stitched by a friend of mine,
with a cover so soft
it eases my soul into a dream
in which my hand begins to fill these pages
with magical lines & dots & circles
that mean things:     

“human”
“history”
  “time”
            “evolution”


(sometimes
i like to think of myself as a kind of tool
for a greater process

not god, necessarily,
– unless you like to think so, as I do –

but you, & us, & everyone,
our species & our mother,
earth)

these hands build
poems, songs, beats, workshops,
concerts, culture,
sandwiches…

they write, they strum, they type
these words
composed by billions of tiny
invisible hands
firing in my brain,

which wonders, now,

what your hands do,
& your brain?

& whatever the answer,
i say

bless the hands!
& bless the brain!

bless the work that is yours,
your contribution…

isn’t this what makes us human?

not the labor,
but the way we share it?
not our stuff,
but the world we create from it
together?

Listen,
people…

Allen was a copy editor for Sun Times, for 23 years,
until he & 600 others got squeezed out by technology…

Lew was a manager at a branch of Barnes & Noble
fired for not wringing the last drop of sweat
out of his workers

Diana was a teacher
slowly shoved out of her classroom
by ready-made materials
from Pearson & Scholastic,
by  “data analysis” & test prep

so much for her hours of conversations
with students in her Beowulf unit
about real-life heroes
like the Freedom Riders
& Water Protectors

now she must look for new ways
to teach & learn.


but,
       Listen –

who, do you think,
is replaceable
in this story
really?

what
is truly
obsolete?

& what if they
– the millions newly deemed disposable –

themselves replaced
the few who have no vision?

Imagine, friends, for just a moment,

the computers taking over the jobs,
& us taking over the computers…

Friends,
to be honest,

I never wanted
to be shackled to a classroom
having spent so many days & years
abhorring them,

but still I’m here
in a different school every day
talking, listening,
trying to master the art of dialogue

because, you see,
this is my most precious tool
&, I think,
our most invincible
weapon

& this is why I’m writing,
speaking to you,

family,

i want to imagine with you, perhaps,
this very place, the same, but different,

i want all of us to visualize
doing the things we most love:

reading, writing,
telling stories,
dancing, strumming a guitar,
painting, gardening,
walking through a forest with the dog,
biking along the lake,
or hiking dew-wet mountain trails,

swimming in the ocean,
studying stars
or history, or Torah,
teaching our youth how to live, how to learn,
how to break dance,
how to make medicinal blends of tea,

or maybe, simply,
sitting quietly with our grandparents,
sipping coffee, making pancakes,
listening to records, or Spotify playlists,
watching movies, playing soccer in the yard
with our nieces & nephews,
with all our relations

(We are all related… )

Relatives,

here is a corner of my imagination,
take it.

stretch with me
as wide as possible:

let’s flex our collective mind
into a portrait of you & me
doing all of these things

freely, meaning,
without any money
& without coercion

simply because we are
what we are –

can you imagine

            a grocery store where nobody has to stand outside
panhandling for food?

a street where no one has to sleep,
or choose between medicine & lights & heat?

& nobody having to stand in the way
of bulldozers coming to turn up the graves
of their great grandmothers & fathers

& no people killed on the street by police
& yes, let’s say it, no police

do we dare picture it?

Comrades,

close your eyes, if you want –
& imagine waking up in bed
knowing every person in the world
has slept warm & safe last night, & every night,
& every morning eating breakfast
with every single one of the 7 billion,
drinking your coffee knowing
that any human hands growing the coffee beans
have worked the land with dignity,
& possess all the time in the world
to rock their own babies to sleep

try to imagine the taste
of food made without the torture of people,
land, animals, or water,

& maybe even
passing a whole day through
from dawn to dusk

without once worrying,
or working a job,

other than what flows
from our own beating hearts

… a never-ending summer vacation…
an eternal Sabbath…


My people,

what would you give
if you could give anything?

if you were free
to receive & to give
all of nature

the way the river feeds its neighbors,
& the forest shelters the owls?

the way the rain waters the prairies,
& children, freely, play…


oh, the days
we’ll spend in the sun,
& the dreams
we’ll dream by night

which we now
cannot


even
dream!!