Reenactment

There’s a shooting —
maybe at a school or 
a night club —

or an injustice — rights
being taken from someone
or a swift deportation and
separation from family —

or a scandal — a sex thing
or maybe it’s espionage
or a mix of both —

and while shaking your head
and exclaiming your now-routine
amazement and shock 
at such goings on

you are shocked and amazed
all over again when your head
falls right off
and rolls 
across the ground
for what seems 
like an eon
before it comes to rest

against a Civil War replica cannon
being used in a reenactment 

and without warning your head
gets rammed down the barrel 
and in a blast of sulfur and flame
you are flying toward the other side

your loose and empty head
having become someone else’s ammo
for this drawn out massacre called
The American Experience
and you realize

if you had just had your head
tied a little more tightly 
to something solid
like an understanding of history
to hold it down
instead of being so floaty
with reaction and awe at
the everyday more of the same

you might have avoided this

you might have at least been 
the one firing the cannon

you might at best have been
the one who stopped it from firing

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The description is on the sit for patrons only, but the gist of it is that I’m working on a series with an aim toward creating a book at some point that will be available to patrons before anyone else sees it, as well as some tiered rewards that I’m still developing.  

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Thanks!


Liturgy

Some say that if there is
a singular God
he’s a mad male monster
and we ought to stick him
in a dumpster and move on.

Some say the God they know
smells like grand incense and 
is made of love and gentle words.

Some say sulfur
is heaven’s breath and
you’ll smell it forever
in hell to remind you of God’s
withheld kiss, if you
don’t watch out,

and some say, c’mon,
you morons, you children, 
you can’t prove God,
and they shit on the notion,
laughing as they make you
wipe up after.

If you have a moment, 
I’d like to tell you about
the God I don’t worship
but keep at arm’s length
because of all those people
I just mentioned:

you scare me, all of you
whose certainty blinds you
to how often received truth
changes. See, 

the God I refuse to worship resides
in a crack in a dungeon wall,
holds a handcuff key sacred
without having hands, seeps
like groundwater up to the surface
in the dark and soaks the land
into growth,

but never, ever
causes anything
to happen. 

I don’t understand it,
neither do you,
but clear as day
there’s the water, 

there’s definitely
a prisoner singing
in the dark,

and there without question
is the sound
of manacles cracking open.


Describe The Glass

Here stands
the glass.

Here stands
the question: is it
half full or half empty?

Of course we know,
intellectually,
that it’s full, always. 
Whatever that clear
liquid is, it stops where
the air begins and thus
the glass is filled with both
at once in equal measures.

To press the metaphor further,

let us pose the question
another way:
how do you feel
about water, how do you feel
about air?  Which do you
side with in your observation
of the glass before you?

If you choose air,
do you say what’s there is enough
to fill and overflow and
thus the glass is brimming 
of air, air laden with traces
of war from world over or wildfires
from half a continent over,
air which the world calls clean
and then says that
is the same thing as being 
half empty? 

If you choose water — 
do you assume what you see 
is water? Perhaps it is not,
but let us assume for the press
of metaphor that it is;
let us further assume 

it is clean water,
unadulterated, water not from, say, 
Flint or Standing Rock, with
no added solids to complicate 
the question; do you choose
water with all its uncertainties
and say the glass is bottom-full 
of water, which the world says
is the same as being half full?

There plays the news,
there lies the country — 

when you look at the news,
when you look at the country,
is the glass half full
or half empty? 
If half full, is your half full
a clean fill, if half empty,
is your half empty
crisp and honest?

When the metaphor is pressed
will you say that in truth it’s
nothing but shattered 
and the space where it was 
is now broken and boundless,
full only of wind and flood 
and storm and poison?

There stands the question.
There stands the glass.
There you stand between them,

asked to describe
the state of the 
glass when you aren’t sure
there is any glass
there at all. 


Silent Alarm

I’m so tired 
of all this outrage, tongues

clacking surprise,
horror, post-verbal wringing

of digital hands
in cyberspace. I mean, it’s been

a colony for a minute now.
People keep forgetting — 

one privilege of being
a colonizer, I guess, no matter

how many generations you are
removed from the first,

is that you are alllowed
to forget

how the good old gears
turn and grind and

who and how many get ground
changes, but the colony itself

always remembers 
that it was built to grind. 

I am trying to be like
everyone else around me 

and be shocked and surprised
and wring my hands

and say the right things
but I can’t.

I can’t. I feel alone
here because none of this

seems new to me except
this general bewilderment 

that it’s happening, as if
all the shrill wailing of history was in fact

a silent alarm and only some
heard it, while others have had it

in their ears from birth; now it seems
everyone can hear it, 

but most are paralyzed,
and those still in motion

are scattered and separate,
grains fallen unground from the mill.

After centuries
of listening to that,

the wailing is
an insult

almost as loud to me
as the grinding.


Pitchforks

American Gothic is a very famous painting
Experts like to argue about which America it’s about
But one thing I think we can all agree on
is that the picture is centered on a pitchfork

We like to think we’re better than them
We like to think we’re beyond all that
We like to think we’re not the ones
who are supposed to hold the pitchfork

Our biggest problem 
is that out of an excess of kindness
we’ve let the other side pick up
all the torches and pitchforks

No one’s scared of
any of us because 
we said “this can’t be happening”
instead of “where’s my pitchfork”

Stop thinking of it as the exclusive tool of the devil
It’s just another tool on the rack
We can’t make hay while our sun dims
unless we learn our way around a pitchfork

Boycotts chants and votes all matter
and they matter even more when
it’s clear that behind the words
are the tines of a forest of pitchforks

And it is good to punch the obvious ones
but we’ll eventually have to get around
to watching a billionaire wriggle
on the end of a pitchfork

So go and look at that painting
Put yourself in it whoever you are
No one in there looks happy but they sure as hell
have a solid hold on that blessed pitchfork


The Flying Monkeys

The flying monkeys flew in
from Oz to suburbia
and landed just in time
for Sunday dinner.

Sat there on the neat margins
between the sidewalks and the curbs —
crouching on the fresh cut grass,
shitting on the blade savaged dandelions. 

Did you know there is a word
for that strip of green between?
It’s called “the verge.” The flying monkeys
were on the verge

that Sunday. Jackets,
hats, attitudes intact, acting
exactly as we’d expect: tails tucked,
wings folded, waiting for orders.

Down the block from here
someone cracked a screen door
and said, “You look hungry. Why don’t you
come in for a bite,” to the ones

perched outside their house.
One by one the monkeys filed inside.
The neighborhood was dead quiet.
What was going on in there?

The monkeys came out hours later
dressed in the clothes of the folks
who had invited them in, who followed
the monkeys 
naked into the streets,

who stood passive as they were taken 
and lifted 
and carried higher and higher,
seeming to rise almost forever
until they vanished; 
then some among us

rushed to proclaim this
the Rapture at last while others 
simply laughed and clapped their hands
along with the suddenly welcome

flying monkeys and their magical
flight plans, and more and more
stripped and flew, stripped and flew,
and the monkeys took over

their empty homes and their jobs,
their routines. They folded up 
their wings tight under T-shirts
and mowed the lawns and even

the verges, sat out sunning themselves
in their yards in swimsuits, their tails
slung lazily to one side of the lounge chairs
or the other. That’s how it’s been for a while now;

now and then, a distant scream; now and then,
decomp on the wind as if somewhere
there’s a huge and growing pile of broken bodies
in a valley just beyond the verge of sight.

Those of us left aren’t saying much.
There are a lot of monkeys around,
and frankly we can’t tell the difference
anymore. Not sure

who’s giving the orders about
who flies and who gets flown, who rises
and who falls. We fret, we fear,
we whisper to each other that old line,

“these things must be done delicately,”
even though it’s clear 
that for the monkeys, that’s no longer true:
no. No, they most certainly do not.


The Stream

I keep an image of myself
as a stream on a shelf 
in my chest. Now and then 

I take it down and remind myself
that I was made to flow
at the worst of times,

even when I am nearly dry,
even when I’m only a trickle.
Even when I am leached full

of poison and death, I try 
to see myself as a stream:
even with the pollution

I am better as a stream
because you cannot step into
the same stream twice and

that makes it hard to maintain
my accustomed level of self-hatred
for very long.


Regrets (I’ve Had A Few)

That was a time:
anyone who said “let’s go”
found a friend
in me. 

I’d be ready at once. I insisted
on buying the tickets or driving.
I’d hold the door as we glided out,
a company of foolhardy beings
adrift in the mysteries of the world.

But even then I knew
I did not belong among them.

I was raised instead
to sit by the window
in a hard chair
on a sore ass
and snub the rude world
when it approached

but somehow,
I kept standing up befuddled
when it came for me

and bewildered I would walk to the door
and swagger out among those 
urging me to join them and 
I would although
I’d be terrified the whole time.

Now I stay home pretending
I can still be counted among

those ragged, brave ones
even as I know

I never truly was
cut out for danger,

and when the world knocks now
I hide behind my curtains and say,
“Shhh…go away…”
and I am proud of myself

for ten whole minutes
after the knocking stops,

after which I curse myself
and begin, once again, to die.


Appropriation

They treat us like tombs
eager to be emptied.

What they call artifacts
we called our lungs and heart.

Those things were how
we thrived, and more. 

We put our lives
into what they use

for pretty decor.
To them 
we were no more

than feathers
and a bank 
to be robbed.

Did they imagine
they could or would belong

whenever they wore
what they stole? 

They certainly took
enough of our blood 

to keep some
for their own.

They think we live
entirely in their commerce,

their fabricated mythology. 
They buy and sell

and take and fake
and slay and rape — still,

we’ve held back some.
It may not prove to be

enough, but it’s something
to build on and we swear

they will get nothing
of our new. We swear

that in their tombs
will be nothing but echoes.


The Apocalypse Began This Morning

The Apocalypse began this morning. I am sure of it; I dreamed it, and as I rarely dream of anything at all, I rely on the few I have to tell me the truth. 
 
As it began, I wore a blue beaded jacket I found in some ruins, and stood together with others as we tried to work out details of sanitation and shelter. I was alone in that no one I knew was with me; not alone at all as we cared for each other’s needs.
 
At one point the air was filled with strange and majestic music as a pickup truck drove swiftly by, followed closely by a garbage truck driven by uniformed cops, a few of whom rode on the sides as well.
 
They did not look at us, and as they passed the music faded from the sky and the first night of a new age began to fall.

I do not recall any more of this, but I am afraid and hope-filled at once; all this before breakfast, before the second cup of coffee.


I Am Aftermath

It doesn’t matter

what I call myself, 
what I see in the mirror,
how I was raised, 
what I learned,
what I was taught,
what name I was given,
who my father and mother were,
what I breathed growing up,
what music I heard growing up,
what fires I sheltered beside,
what drums I felt,
what I did while screaming back at insults,
what I fought or how I fought,
what claims I made or make,
what scars all this has left,

it doesn’t matter;

my existence is proof of genocide;

I should change my name to Aftermath;

I should forget myself.


Poems About Love

The man claimed
his poem was about love
but it was about 
fucking and only fucking.

We wanted love poems that smelled
of bullets and instead got this 
rose and mountain stream,
fresh bread and snowdrop scent. 

We wanted to hear love poems
about Babylon falling
and fires in the streets,
but instead got this wordy mess

about hydraulics and heat transfer, 
not at all the same as the fire 
we longed for. Love sometimes demands
a war song. Love is often

a hand up to a streeted body
and a slap across authority’s 
mouth, or at least it should be.
Love sometimes looks like 

riot wounds and how we tenderly
clasp another’s tired hands
in our own after a revolution,
but all this poet can say

is that he wants to be inside,
inside, when all we want of love
is for someone to bleed alongside us
as we fight to come in out of the cold.


Snippets

That which is recalled
is incorporated; snippets
making one whole. 

Two bars of a 
commercial jingle.
Slap-burn on the face.

Wet socks, cold wet socks,
snow-soaked cold wet socks,
badly buckled boots brimful of snow.

Three bars of 
a one hit wonder. Every word
of a different one hit wonder.

How they laughed,
how you cried, how you were
alone most when surrounded.

A tree long ago harvested by 
age that you never climbed. Your fear
of ending the same way.

Scents unidentified to this day
that still bring you to nighttime
among rocks near a lakeshore.

Your name, your given name,
your family name. Your skin
full of disguises. Your mask.

That which is recalled
remains. That which is recalled
is at the least your flavor,

is at the most your savior,
might be your demon: snippets
you cannot name, stuck in your choking throat.


President Icebreaker

This country once,
to some or perhaps most,
looked solid and white from above,

much like a blank paper, perhaps like
the back of a page in a history
text book or the back of a facsimile
of a foundational document,

or most of all, like a sea of deadly cold
covered by an ice pack.

When the Captains of Industry
and Control finally decided 
it had gone on long enough and
brought in an Icebreaker,
when they finally chose to lose the illusion
and let everyone in on the open secret,
when they decided they simply
didn’t care anymore about hiding the truth,
started breaking the ice wide enough apart
to make their greed work less difficult
and thus made it so folks could see
deep cold ocean beneath,
killer ocean that had always been there,

it staggered those
who’d been fighting drowning all their lives
while stuffed below the ice forever and a day

to see how the broken floes
who’d thought they were solid and safe
gave up their volition and sense
to get behind the Icebreaker itself
as it portrayed itself as
a savior of the great white pack,
who thought they’d make it when the ship
got through and showed
how thin the ice had always been,

how the solidity had been fragile from the start
and the fact that it hid the cruel sea under it
was the only reason it had been allowed
to last as long as it had.