Song of Echoes

It was somewhere far away, another time.
Humans still joined together for peaceful purpose
not to feed on and off each other’s fears
and take their homes and children, kill them dead.

We listened to the healing music reggae.
We waved to people who were friends
we were sure sometime we’d learn their names
and invite each other to make love

not war. This was long so longingly ago
before the hate that used to simmer off of stage
was freed by despots to destroy all
we had won when we tried to be our best.

Listen hear the music’s echo calling
from the bomb-cracked wall more used to wailing
than to notes and rhythms of the spirits godly
in the times we had and hope to see again.

Cicada Song

I hear old news: each new cicada’s song
repeats scraped notes with no change I can hear.
Fidelity a million years can’t wrong
rings through the muted trills that reach my ear.
When dinosaurs watched forest birds appear,
cicadas sang this song. These are the notes
that serenaded Celts who shaped these moats
in years when Rhône and Nîmes had Stone-Age names.
While I react to terror’s newest ‘votes’
cicadas string their chants on ancient frames.

I’ve read a plane’s been downed, all fliers dead;
each death a tragedy surviving news
that seeks and signals madness, till it’s read
and superseded. Widows take first views
of loneliness, and red-cold rage pursues
newly-childless parents as they wait,
unseeingly, at the arrival gate
for this, another flight that won’t arrive.
Cicada song and human news both grate
upon my ears, and ask why I’m alive.

I walk alone into the careless wood
and claim some shade, sit on a rough-stone wall
I share with ants and katydid. I should
find peace. It’s hot. Cicadas call
in rhythms in which angry bombers could
imagine calls to action; or a parent might
hear announcements cancelling that flight
her children should have missed. They’re dead.
Old news. Cicadas stop their song at night:
the silent time that we survivors dread.

FAV Reina Pool rendition of Alan Reynolds Cicada Song

Wee Human Beasts

Here’s why the other human beasts abhor us.
It’s a common trait we have from common parents
so common we have other mannerisms
like war and murder our kind traces back
to when we were one family razing cane,
each of us thinking he or she is able
to get out after setting fires in stables.
We’re sure we prosper sponsoring insane
wars somewhere else, feel we evade the pack,
and packs of lies, and sponsored barbarisms,
each certain it’s the other who’s the tyrant,
and the only god’s the one who roots for us.

A White Russian Christmas

I know, when I see the white cattle egrets
tending the late December fields,
grazing like guinea fowl, gyring like gulls.

I know, when the rains drive straight across,
rinsing blood from the memories,
drenching the log where I cut back thorns
to sit and watch the birds and rains.

Behind the cattle egrets, red broad cows
stand down the horizon,
russet frames for miniatures
of empty portraits in the sky.

Portraits as troubling and graciously vague
as those of long-dead grandsons made
on future daughters by drunken soldiers
killed before next payday.

I know, but know a little rinsing
will irritate me more than cure:
the welcome of an opened door
spoiled by anxious questions.

The red cows turn their horns toward me.
Thorns fragile enough to break
on my finger’s bone, but not before,
slash back at my knife and hand.

– – + + + – – –

I let myself inside the field.
The grass, felt-pressed by sheep,
springs up around my ancient boots
mimicking marches I remember.

Marches like those being made
in Grozny on this Boxing Day
where the only wholly silence is
that of the usually vocal West.

The evil empire bombs soldiers
drunk on ‘kill the infidel,’
a draught drunk in our daughters’ blood
for so many aeons that we are glad

when an empire somewhere draws the line,
then bombs those transfixed on that line flat.
Recording both sides’ transgressions,
gods wish each side good genocide.

I walk the fields the sheep have grazed
and clean my boots in welcome rain.
I thank the gods for Gore-Tex
and pretend to hunt the cattle egrets.

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.

War Goods

What Happens When You Win:
We achieved everything we fought so long for, and then…

What Happens When You Lose:
We lost everything. Everything, I tell you.
Can you understand me? No?
The phone in this Mercedes has a fault;
I’ll ring back from one of my other cars.

When Neutrality Is Affordable:
Jimmy reached out and maimed me.
I refused to be drawn,
           knowing the teeth
                      that his club broke
were not needed for ice cream.

With God On Our Side:
Nowhere more than in war do we enjoy
such confidence from our people.
We lead and they are disposed to follow.
There were very few we had to shoot.

The Holy War Against Drugs:
           War is a drug.

Something Worth Fighting For:
The better places on Earth are limited
There is competition
for the better grasslands,
           the more beautiful lakes and
                      the fatter sheep.
Sometimes we strong are at peace with each other,
                      sharing with our peers
and deploring the cries
                                 of the have-nots.
disturbing our armed suburbs with their cries.

Not Even Getting Close

they shine the sun on rats by lifting covers
and tell themselves they represent the sun

they bomb the little children and their mothers
we stay inside our restaurants having fun

and me i spend my life hide in the shallows
and nothing make me stand up grab a gun

like i live forever i avoid the gallows
while the others’ childrens’ bones bleach in the sun

they say they had to shoot john get him down
get him quiet and leave the loonies lone

nobody has to shoot i stay home drown
my conscience front an altar carved from bone

i getting crazy hearing voices whisper
put my head in pillows peek but don’t walk out

like i waiting for a benediction vespers
the whispers work they way up to a shout