Game of Words

I play with words the way rulers play with lives.
I elevate some of them, and I set others
against each other, slashing as if knives
were what they were. If I find a word that smothers
the others in my word menagerie
I snuff it out the way rulers do with lives.

Unlike with shamans, presidents, and tzars,
my powers do my subjects little harm.
When I am dead and done for, words will be
in dictionaries alphabetically,
and locked in novels, and free in open minds,
and floating between planets while they wait
for future speakers to provide them breath.

When shamans shame a person to go fight,
when presidents preside and send in troops,
and when tzars drive cars across their peasants’ heads
the people they run down stay grievously dead.

I can’t know if I am more moral than all world leaders,
but fortunately I am weaker, and I use words
as my objects for tormenting. Words can’t die.

The powerful trick or force the weak to work
on things that make the powerful more strong.
The strong earn billions (‘earn’ is here misused)
off the backs and dreams of people with less power.

I play a game with words, but those I exploit
remain as well off as do those I don’t.
To rulers causing torment, words are a quoit
they throw to ring in dissidents who won’t
kow-tow to them. Let them throw rings of iron
as often as they like till they expire,
these rulers, who like us must grievously die,
but our words and word games will survive their worst.

Many Beauties Lost

Our research yields no insight that redeems
the evil he unleashes on the world.
Nearly two years into his reign that we insist
historically should be called his term of office,
he stomps jackbooted over things of value.
He surrounds himself with weak, evil, crazy men.
They feed his crippled ego, stoke his id,
and they, giggling, help him jeopardise the world.
An earlier incarnation of his type
was stopped, as such things are, but by that time
there were many beauties lost, and millions died.

Muddled Class Set-up

We are conditioned to stay blinkered to the distress
of those we only let inside to mop.
We pretend that they are used to poverty
and so aren’t bothered how the cards are stacked
against their having the security
our lives rely on. We let systems slide
the door shut on the little people’s dreams
and tell ourselves things aren’t so bad at all.

We remain in blissful ignorance of the mess
we sink into, as long as we’re on top
of others who sink first, and we don’t see
that it’s us, the middle people, who are backed
up next against the wall. We think we’re free.
We have free speech, because, to those inside
the halls of power, giving free speech seems
a trifle while they set us up to fall.

Resistance or Resignation – Trumped Witnesses

They camped for the night on the porous edge of Real,
upstream as far as possible from Sad.
They watched the lights go out, watched space congeal.
‘Can it really do that?’ asked someone who had
taken science courses. They watched goblins steal
both Joy and Meaning, leaving only Bad
in their picnic hampers where they’d thought they’d kept
enough sustenance. They suffered, then they slept.

I wanted the last sentence to be ‘They suffered. No one slept’ denoting vigilance and resistance, but their eventually forgetting and giving up seemed sadly more likely.

Coming soon: Caligula Unbound

The beginning of these present baleful times struck me with their resemblances to the world of the mad emperor Caligula. I began to retell his story using the phrasing of the news around us. Parallels to the modern ruling corruption threw themselves into the mix. Soon I had not a short poem but some 2400 words, and a title: Caligula Unbound. I sent the text to a dozen beta readers and their enthusiastic responses encouraged me. I thought to publish it as a paperback or as an e-book. But I dithered and some time has passed. I do want to make Caligula Unbound available to more readers. So I will soon be placing it on the WordPress Earth Tourist site at birdcreekblues.com.

Snap Judgements in the Republic’s Baths

The ginger snaps dissolved in the ivory bathtub.
Whatever ate the sinking crumbs stayed hidden
in the steaming cloudy water. Large things stirred.
Caligula, on his horse, imagined great
futures. He placed sycophantic men
in positions of great power; he let them drown.
He laughed until he choked, unplugged the stopper.

Excerpt from CALIGULA UNBOUND

Medusa Defends Corn’s Lies Because Unwitting

‘Corn doesn’t know he’s lying, so it’s okay,’
Medusa says, defending her meal ticket.
‘You mean Cornet,’ is what I try to say.
Medusa cuts me off: ‘The press can stick it,
that ‘et’ suffix, onto other horns:
Trump-et and Baritone-et. But my man’s Corn.
Corn lies a lot, okay? But he was born
in a weasel-wording world with lies as norm
in a wealthy world where lying was the norm.
He grew up lying. It made him who he is.
He doesn’t know he’s lying. Pundits fizz
about the lies he tells because he can.
But until truth catches up, Corn is my man.