Wednesday, December 4, 2019


“If we all do as our kindred have done
and refuse to fight for our lives and for our ordinances,
they will quickly destroy us from the earth.”

- 1 Maccabees (2:40)

“I am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty, land:
never be purged away; but with Blood.
I had as I now think: vainly flattered myself
that without very much bloodshed; it might be done.”

- John Brown


in these cold nights,
voices ride the wind:

Ave Marias uttered
at a bedside altar
a murmured i love you between a couple
in a tent under a viaduct
the prayers of a child whispered
into the carpet of a Mosque
the war cries of Water Protectors
camped near a pipeline

meanwhile, the faces change,
but the story stays the same:

He shed much blood,
and spoke with great arrogance.
The people mourned deeply
in every community…
young women and young men
became faint…
Even the land
trembled for its inhabitants…

and police joke about brutalities over lunch
and troops gather at the border
to unleash tear gas on children seeking asylum
from unnatural disasters in Honduras
(where U.S. troops are still stationed,
while more wait in Afghanistan, Iraq, Russia, Japan, and all across the planet)
and bombers fly routinely over China's waters,
while Chinese children compete with computers
to make more computers
and wages everywhere drop
like bombs
and families around the world open empty cabinets
while perfectly good food sits on the shelves of stores
until it is thrown into dumpsters
and the dumpsters are locked.
and shiny shops spread through the city like boils
while rents soar
and more and more
residents move out (to where?)
and the unhoused gather on the corners
and outside our grocery stores
and places of worship

for the citadel became an ambush
against the sanctuary,
an evil adversary of the people
at all times.
On every side of the sanctuary they
shed innocent blood;
Because of them
the residents of the city fled;
she became a dwelling of strangers;
she became strange to her offspring,
and her children
forsook her.
Her sanctuary became
desolate like a desert;
her feasts
were turned into mourning,

and storefronts close,
and factories rust,
and leaded water runs through our taps,
and another shelter is shuttered in Uptown,
(the list of friends I pray for grows longer every day)

and Lew and Diana take their children
and teenage grandchildren,
and now their infant great granddaughter
into their small apartment

while violence spreads and closes in
around everyone I know

           Alas! Why was I born to see this,
           the ruin of my people, the ruin of the holy city,
           and to live there when it was given
           over to the enemy…
           Her temple has become like a person
           without honor…
           Her infants have been killed in her
           streets, her youths by the sword of the foe…
           All her adornment has been taken away;
           no longer free, she has become a slave.
           And see, our holy place, our beauty,
           and our glory have been laid waste…

And see how they destroy us
de-story us       file
and defile us         turn our visions into
his       / story            of our lives
caught in their net    /      worth

until the star of David represents Apartheid
and the stars and stripes look like babies in cages
and Lady Liberty seems to be shouting Heil Hitler!
and the Scales of Justice stand for currency exchange

           and in this world,
           what does a Menorah mean?
           or the million lit-up mangers?
           or the eagles on our currency

                      (the money that multiplies 
                      as it kills off the actual eagles)?

           Will Harriet Tubman tolerate
           her face being placed on a twenty-dollar bill
           (her likeness woven into the very sinew
           of Andrew Jackson’s on the other side)?

           And who will remember, this December,
           as they light the Chanukkah candles,
           the murder of Fred Hampton in the night
           and who will light one for Wounded Knee,
           and Standing Rock,
           and tell their children why,
           at the camp of the seven council fires,

                      The U.S. flag was flown inverted
                      because a nation is in peril
                      when it places its first people last
                      and values the deadness of oil
                      over the sacred waters of life? 

                      Who will tell the story
                      of the veterans who went there
                      to kneel at the feet of hundreds of nations

                                 And who can explain
                                 why the flag with a serpent is waved
                                 by Zapatistas in the mountains
                                 and the government that hunts them?

                      Or why the rebels in Chiapas
                      cover their faces with masks
                      and their bodies with rifles

           Or why John Brown ordered rifles
           to be shipped west in crates labeled “Bibles”

Or why, tonight, when we light these candles,
we think of these courageous and their deeds

That we may never forget
the battles they fought
when all other choices failed

And so they learned the proper use
of both prayers and weapons

                      so that one day
                      only prayers might still remain

For these, tonight, and every year,
we light and burn these flames:

           for John Brown

           for Harriet Tubman

           for Fred Hampton

           for Standing Rock

           for Palestine

           for the person without a warm place to go tonight

           for the children born in the cold

and One for us,

           that we may become worthy
           of this prayer

           for you,
           and me,

           and all of us
           who (re)dedicate ourselves
           to the land that gives us life

                      who light candles
                      in the darkest of times

                      and in the most dangerous
                      of places

Monday, October 28, 2019

New Fight Song Lyrics for 2019 CTU/SEIU Strike!

Which Side Are You On?

Well come all you good people, good news to you I'll tell
We could get a piece of heaven if we'd only raise some hell
Which side are you on? Which side are you on?

You've heard about Chicago: there are no neutrals there
You'll either be with CTU or with the millionaires
Which side are you on? Which side are you on?

Which side are you on? Which side are you on?
Which side are you on? Which side are you on?

A message for the mayor: be careful what you choose
We've sacrificed so much already we ain't got much to lose
Which side are you on? Which side are you on?

They say the teachers are greedy -- How dare they ask for more?
We say school equity should be the common core
Which side are you on? Which side are you on?

Which side are you on, my people, which side are you on? (We're on the students' side!)
Which side are you on, my people, which side are you on? 
Which side are you on, my people, which side are you on? (We're on the nurses' side!)
Which side are you on, my people, which side are you on? 
Which side are you on, my people, which side are you on? (We're on the counselors' side!)
Which side are you on, my people, which side are you on? 
Which side are you on, my people, which side are you on? (The librarians' side!)
       (the teachers side, the people's side, the freedom side, etc.)

Which side are you on? Which side are you on?
Which side are you on? Which side are you on?


Eyes on the Prize 

Chicago is a Union Town -- We ain't never backin down
Keep your eyes, on the prize, hold on
Chicago streets are chilly and wide, but we got the people on our side
Keep your eyes, on the prize, hold on
Hold on, hold on,
keep your eyes, on the prize, hold on!
Lori Lightfoot, this ain't cool -- We need nurses in every school
Keep your eyes, on the prize, hold on
New boss acts just like the old, but our kids are worth more than gold
Keep your eyes, on the prize, hold on
Hold on, hold on,
keep your eyes, on the prize, hold on!

They will try to spin the truth / but we just want justice for our youth
Keep your eyes, on the prize, hold on
We didn't come this far to now / to give up and turn around
Keep your eyes, on the prize, hold on
Well, the only chains we can stand / are the chains between hand and hand
Keep your eyes, on the prize, hold on

Hold on, hold on,
keep your eyes, on the prize, hold on!


We Shall Not be Moved

We shall not, we shall not be moved,
We shall not, we shall not be moved,
Just like a tree that's planted by the water,
We shall not be moved.

We're striking for our students,
We shall not be moved...

We want nurses and counselors,
We shall not be moved...

The people are behind us,
We shall not be moved...

We won't be tricked or bullied,
We shall not be moved...

Estamos en la lucha,
No nos moverán...

La huelga es justa,
No nos moverán

No, no, no nos moverán,
No, no, no nos moverán
Como un árbol firme junto al rio,
No nos moverán

Monday, September 30, 2019

This is the Year (5780)

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 that torture sites
are painted 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 workers get some rest
Let the organizers sleep
Let the students learn
Let the teachers teach
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 we impeach the whole damn system

This is the Year that Water Protectors on horseback
storm the White House & light the 8th Council Fire on the lawn,
& the youth of D.C. swarm to join
& cover that building's bloody whiteness over
with prophetic technicolor graffiti!

This is the year we throw barbecues in every park
to celebrate the fact that all the legal papers have been lost
& every blessed family seeking posada has found it

This is the year the profiteers of torture sleep in their own cages
while the rest of us remake the world in our image

This is the year no one gets arrested
for being a decent human being

This is the year the only fears that students feel
walking into school are about whether
they'll make friends / do well on oral reports
or pass their classes

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 the war engineers
load their drones with seeds of fruit-bearing trees
& M16s are melted down to garden shovels

This is the year that churches have a shrine for every person
Buddha meditates beside a crucifix where Krishna plays

This is the year that makes a century
The year that trumps the sleep of history
The year the spoiled tyrant brats that rule our world
are deported to formerly colonized island territories
where they are sentenced to liftetimes
of land & water reclamation service

This is the year we use their money to pay off each other's debts
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 Mount Rushmore erupts with native flora & fauna -
sweetgrass growing out of Teddy Roosevelt's nose
magpies flocking across George Washington's wig
& the mountain becomes wild & sacred again

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.


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,
with the music
of Justice.