Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween: Who's Holiday?

Time for Grendel to mount the old soapbox again. Today's topic, Halloween. In the continuing tradition of the Enemy's plan to keep us infighting about insignificant points of dogma while ignoring the larger picture (remember Jesus telling the Pharisees that they "strain at a gnat and swallow a camel?"), Halloween and it's meaning is a molehill that's been turned into a mountain.

To gain some perspective on this topic, a bit of history is useful. Halloween is actually a contraction of "All Hallow's Eve," referring to the fact that it is the night before All Saint's Day. The roots of the traditions associated with Halloween go farther back in history, to the Gaelic tradition called "Samhain." The Catholic Church sought to supplant pagan holidays by arranging "holy days" during the same time-frame as the pagan festivals they were supposed to take the place of (for example, Easter gets it's name from "Eastre," the Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring). The festival of Samhain had several elements: it was believed that on that day, the barrier between the physical and spiritual world was thin, allowing spirits--harmless and harmful--to travel more easily into the material world; it was a time to celebrate the harvest, usually with feasts and bonfires; and it was a time to remember the dead, memorialize those who had passed. The origin of costumes is believed to originate with the practice of dressing up in disguise to confuse or thwart harmful spirits. While it's true that Samhain had some dark roots, it was also considered a tradition to mark the transition between the "light seasons" and the "dark seasons," and thus was also regarded as a sort of New Year. As with most holidays that were "morphed" by the Catholic church, it kept many of the trappings of the pagan festival, blending them with symbolism and associations with the church, a process known as synchretism. For more details about the history of Samhain and Halloween, is a useful starting-point.

In modern times, there has been a movement in some churches and denominations to do away with Halloween, calling it "the Devil's Holiday." This is, in my opinion, a superstition that harks back to the ancient Gaelic Samhain, as if there was a single day in the year that Satan and his minions have more access to the world. Granted, there are certain things associated with Halloween that might be considered dark or dangerous (particularly to those who are weak in the faith), making a big deal out of these things only draws more attention to them. Like Paul, i believe that nothing in and of itself is necessarily evil, but how we treat it and think of it can bring about evil. Also like Paul, i believe that there's nothing inherently wrong in regarding certain days as special, or in thinking that every day is pretty much like any other day. By regarding Halloween as "the Devil's Holiday," many Christians are infused with an unnecessary superstitious dread, and it also generates a "counter-reactionary" movement by people who are by nature rebellious or inimical to the Christian faith. Often, when Christians are too quick to condemn something they disagree with as a point of dogma, or through a misunderstanding, individuals who are inimical to the Faith adopt that very thing as a symbol. When Jerry Falwell announced that the purple Teletubbie was a symbol of homosexuality to "normalize" it to preschool-age kids (the triangle symbol on it's "antenna," the color, and the fact that it carried a "purse"), it was pure hogwash . . . but a number of people in the gay community adopted it as a symbol. If you walk around telling people that Halloween is "the Devil's Holiday" (and making a big deal out of "not practicing it"), you're drawing attention to it. It's very similar to the movement to do away with rock-n-roll, because it was "the Devil's Music." I remember one incident in the late 80's when the Christian rock band Stryper had gained some mainstream popularity: my job at the time was at a place where most of my co-workers were what i call "politichristians"(in spite of the fact that some of the jokes that were told were racist, sexist, and often decidedly raunchy), and the topic of Christian rock-bands was being discussed. One girl said that Stryper's style of dress, hairstyles, etc., were not "of Jesus." This was one of the few times i verbally countered what i thought of as ignorance, telling her, "I think Jesus looks on the inside, and if these guys are practicing what they preach and reaching young people in a way that hymns written in the Victorian Era can't, then they're doing God's work. Even Jesus said "if he's not against us, he's for us." The look of fearful perplexity on her face is one i've come to know well, an expression that pretty much says, "How dare you say such things? If you're a Christian, you should agree with ME." At any rate (pardon the digression), i see much of this in the hullaballoo about Halloween. GET OVER IT.

Here's my take: if you don't want to celebrate Halloween, don't. Don't give away candy, decorate your house, or participate in any Halloween festivities. A cynical part of me says that Halloween--like most other holidays--has been transformed into a day where the corporate world rakes in more cash than usual (the place that i worked--an electrical supply company--might have been anti-Halloween, but if their sales went up because of people decorating for Halloween, they wouldn't have turned down any of the cash appropriated by it). Most holidays now are more rituals to celebrate Mammon for the corporate world at large, so if you're going to protest a holiday, that's a better reason than some empty superstition. If you want to celebrate Halloween, but some of the trappings make you uncomfortable, there's nothing wrong with having a Fall Harvest festival, celebrated with feasts, bonfires, and the like. Autumn has always been a favorite time of year for me, mainly because (as i have discussed before in this blog) of the beauty shown in Nature during that time. Some types of fruit don't taste good until the first frost hits; other types don't come into full ripeness until October. If you don't have a problem with Halloween at all, seeing it as a time mostly for kids (of all ages) to play "dress-up," and go "trick-or-treating," that's pretty much okay, too--but if you have friends who are troubled by some of the elements of Halloween, make sure you're being considerate of their feelings. Just like you wouldn't invite vegetarian friends to a barbecue, or Jewish or Islamic friends to a pig roast, don't invite your more conservative friends to a Halloween party. As far as costumes go, there are plenty of costumes and masquerades that don't have anything to do with devils, ghosts, witches, or monsters--go as your favorite historical figure, Star Wars character, or animal. To me, focusing too much on the whole idea of Halloween as a "bad holiday" smacks of religiosity, an empty thing done more for appearance's sake than for any true conviction. Of course, you MUST follow your convictions as a Christian, and if you test those convictions and still find that the idea of the holiday troubles you, then don't celebrate it, and avoid it.

In reality, those of us who worship Christ should regard EVERY day as special day, another day in which to revel in the joy of knowing Christ, of seeing the hand of God in the Natural world and in the way unobtrusive miracles occur every minute, whether in October, April, or any other month. The world, the fullness thereof, and every day on every calendar page ever printed belongs to God. Stop your infantile squabbling and live each and every moment to God's glory.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Over the River and Through 2012

1 full week of not smoking cigarettes, a weekend at our family's place on the Greenbrier River, the current "craze" about 2012, and watching the movie version of Stephen King's "Desperation" (and, as usual, they butchered the book, although not quite as badly as some of Hollywood's translations of SK) . . . 4 unrelated things that have resulted in some deep thought this weekend.

I started smoking cigarettes about the same time i moved to the Bronx, AFTER the housefire (there's probably some irony in that). I didn't have any particular reason, it was just something i started doing. No peer pressure (that was never very effective on me, anyway), no significant trauma (well, the housefire was a little upsetting, but my situation after the housefire was pretty good--better, in fact, job-wise and opportunity-wise) . . . and, at first, i gave away more of a pack than i smoked. As time went on, though, it became something to do when i was bored . . . and then something to do when i was stressed, and before long it was something i didn't even THINK about that much. That's the bitch about a habit . . . it's something you don't think about, and not thinking has become a habit we can't afford. A week ago, i felt like i was being urged to fast . . . and, yeah, i hear all the "you don't need to fast" bullshit, but you don't fast for dietary reasons, you fast to cleanse yourself from (among other things) the impurities that most of your food contains. So, i drank only water, fruit juice, and tea, and ate nothing. I had originally planned to make cigarettes a part of the fast, to give them up during that time. I did some intense praying and Scripture-reading during that time, and realized that i didn't need to just "abstain temporarily" from cigarettes. They were killing me . . . there's enough stuff on this planet that's doing that already. I've often said that the things i talk about in my poetry (or, potentially, in this blog) would get me shot sooner or later . . . but i'm certainly not going to help them out by killing myself more rapidly. And, as it was with alcohol, God was my strength in giving them up. Addictions are powerful, and once they sink their claws into you, you're going to need supernatural aid getting rid of them.

The benefits of having stopped smoking became apparent almost immediately. And i don't just mean breathing easier. My sense of smell and taste, which had been blunted by cigarettes, began to reassert themselves, and just in time for the trip we made to our family "compound" on the Greenbrier River. Now, Autumn has a "smell" all its own . . . it's simultaneously loamy and spicy. As we drove along 81 and then 460, then Route 12 into WV, the woods went from almost-peak here in VA to just-past-peak in WV. Watching the trees in their autumnal garb dancing in the high winds brought back the old excitment i always used to feel looking at the forest. The word "excitement" is as close as i can come to describing the powerful emotion that, in some cases, bordered on an almost frightening ecstasy . . . but now, stepping out of the truck there by the Greenbrier, i was more aware of the scent of the forest and river than i've been since i returned from NYC. Another side-effect of not smoking is an upsurge in my appetite--which has been a lot better since i came back from my self-imposed exile in Babylon, but now it's ferocious, especially since the food i'm eating tastes even better.

Now i'm going to sidestep. One of the things about Autumn that impresses me the most is the amazing diversity in the colors of the trees, and the way the whole forest seems to celebrate the "harvest," a last fling before the more austere and apollonian beauty of Winter. Think about it. If you accept the concept of Intelligent Design (i do, obviously), you have to wonder why God would go to all this trouble. It's not necessary for the leaves to change into all those variegated colors, no reason at all except for beauty. And why does it seem beautiful to our eyes? Maybe that's WHY it looks the way it does. God wants us to appreciate and enjoy His Creation . . . it is one of the inspirations of Praise. The awe and wonder it inspires should be something no Christian is without . . . it is that childlike quality of expectant wonder that is so necessary to all things we do in our walk with Christ. The Christian walk should not be some timid, shallow, plodding thing . . . it should be exuberant, adventuresome, and--with the realization that God is in CHARGE--fearless. I don't mean fearless in the sense of the sometimes foolhardy thrill-seeking that the word might call to mind . . . i mean, that fear should not be a factor when we are walking in step with God's will.

And this takes me to the next topic: 2012. According to one interpretation of the Mayan calendar, the "end of the world." Guess what? I don't give a tin shit what Nostradamus, the Mayans, or any of the doom-criers say about 2012. I know what Christ said regarding the end of times: "No man knoweth the hour." Jesus DID describe a certain event by which we would know that we should be ready to "run for the hills," so to speak . . . the Abomination of Desecration. Basically, something setting where it should not be. Apostasy. It would be a human being setting himself or herself up as "god-on-earth." Things of this type have happened throughout history (in fact, Peter said that if we were looking for the antichrist, that antichrists were all around), but this will undoubtedly be in such a way that it will be undeniable . . . at least, to followers of Christ. This individual will want to do away with all forms of religion other than the twisted version he or she represents. There is, in contemporary Christian thought, a dangerous trend, an assertion that the Rapture will happen before the Great Tribulation. I find no such assurance in Christ's message . . . in fact, if one carefully reads the Scripture, it becomes apparent that the Church will be present on Earth during the Tribulation. Worshippers of Christ will face opposition, ostracism, and execution. It will eventually come to a point where people are going to be forced to choose which is more important to them: their citizenship of the Kingdom of God, or their citizenship of the World. We already have forces in this world pushing for a "one-world-order," the WTO being primary among them . . . individuals who hold the financial fate of billions in their hands, who consider themselves above and beyond all laws that have been created on national and international level to check or bar them. A one-world economy will eventually come into being . . . and the "being" who holds the reins will be a literal representative of Hell-on-earth. Many folks in the world would consider the idea of a "National ID Card" as a good thing, to "protect us against terrorist threats." Having gone that far, how about a little microchip planted subcutaneously . . . such technology exists . . . that contains all the relevant financial and medical information about an individual? I can tell you how that one will probably be sold . . . "let's do it for the children." Everyone will think it's a good thing to have your kid electronically tagged so that, if they get lost or kidnapped, they can be located by GPS, or if found, can be identified easily. Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, if the kids get it, why not everyone? Then there'll be no danger of terrorists at all . . .because everyone will have their ID implanted in their skin. If you're aware at all, you probably know where i'm going with this . . . if you don't, God help you.

Compared to what IS going to happen, the disaster-movie-style apocalypse that most people are imagining (and depicting in typical Hollywood style from the point of the view of the handfull of survivors rather than the point of view of any of the other millions slaughtered) would be mild. And given that, why do i insist upon a "fearless" attitude? Because, if you are firmly grounded in Scripture, and filled with the Holy Spirit, you realize that GOD IS IN CHARGE. Time and time again, if you read the Scripture, you read that those of us who are in Christ have the Advocacy of Christ at the Throne of God. Jesus Himself said that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church. The Church is not a building or a social organization, but the whole group of those who follow Christ. The body of Believers. Yes, things are going to get tough. Sometimes, you won't understand WHY they are so tough . . . or exactly what God is up to. That's where trust comes in. You can trust God wholeheartedly, without reservation, even when the situation seems desperate and hopeless. In the book "Desperation" (and, i recommend this novel; horror-writer though he may be, King makes some very good points in this one), a good portion of the book concerns itself with a young boy's "conversion" experience, and the nature of God as the boy comes to understand it. One thing that is repeated in the book is "God is cruel." It's harsh-sounding, but if you understand that "cruel" is a human interpretation (for a Biblical reference, read Job), you realize that often it seems that way, especially to Christians who are in dire straits or in terrible situations. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. Throughout the novel, it becomes clear that this group of people have been gathered there to do something because it's God's will . . . and, sometimes, the answer to the question "Why?" is simply "Because." At the end of the novel, though, the reassertion is made that "God is love." Ultimately, it's God's love for His children that will prevail. He didn't spare His Son when it came to saving humanity, doing for us what we were incapable of doing ourselves . . . it was the most powerful statement of Love ever made, any time, any place. It is good for us to be AWARE, to be AWAKE, and necessary for us to recognize those things Christ told us to be prepared for, that the Scriptures tell us will come about. It is dangerous for us to allow twisted fallacies, flimsy religious "magic-shows," the complacency that comes from being surrounded by the apperance of normality, or perversions of the truth to have any hold on our Christian brothers and sisters. If we are to be for Christ, we must fearlessly confront falsehood whenever and wherever we see it. A lot of people are going to be fooled by those assuring, comforting falsehoods that will be promoted by religious organizations, corporations, political parties, and so-called "world leaders." If you're going to be fearful, be worried for THEIR sake! Let your fears spur prayers. You cannot overcome evil with more evil . . . but you can get the best of evil by doing good. Prayer, kindness, guidance, supportiveness to those in need . . . those are things that everyone can do, and may surprise you with what they can accomplish if applied consistently and faithfully.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fearful Symmetry v2.1

Fearful Symmetry
(lines in quotes from William Blake)
"Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"
In a time when clipper ships, sails belling windward,
plied the ocean currents in search of new lands,
mariners, sailors, explorers alike
populated the edges of their maps
with fearsome beasts, deadly bygones
like the manticore, the peryton,
the leucrotta, and the catoblepas . . .
and then, all lands had been sundered,
plundered, surrendered to the hunger
of these Conquistadores, these ravagers,
robber barons with maps and sextants
facile archaeologists who weighed the material worth
of each priceless find to a nicety.
and most priceless of all, native virgins fall
to the hands of those who claim Divinity
as a cover for their lusts.
now, the many-times great-grandsons of these
conquerors and the natives they raped
bear the marks of both their parentage
in the language they speak, in their lean and tawny
frames. they walk an urban terrain, and in it
they are the fearsome beasts.
they dance the streets to primal rhythms,
their blood runs with the rumble of drums.
and men such as their many-times-great-grandsires
were, now walk in terror of them, feel
themselves nearing some forbidden border
of their mental maps as that music reaches
them on some subconscious level, as those
chatoyant eyes glance in their direction.
their high-rises and briefcases are empty play,
and now the aristocracy is the prey.
survival of the fittest? so you say,
before you step outside when night replaces day.
lords of creation? i think not.
i see fangs of steel in the dark.
"Did He who made the lamb make thee?"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wonderlost (New Poem)

incessant intellectual exercise
devoid of discourse;
breaking old habits, fearful
of what new ones will step forward
to inhabit those now-empty niches,
praying not for empty rituals
but to be taught new steps for the dance.

i remember when four walls and few meals
sustained me.
i remember writing poetry that thundered
and widened eyes.
i remember when forests had names and trees
spoke, and eyes burned in the darkness,
and every scent was a living thing,
and that was the dance,
and that was enough.

now, i live unchained, but haunted.
something dogs my steps, breathing down my neck.
something pulls me forward like a lodestar.
in between, these myths grow potent,
and these pedlars of banality weary my ears
with their pallid recipes for "reality"
that's no more real than the whispers of the breeze
and insipid as history's repeats.

i've been locked inside my own circles for so long,
and i long to share the dance with others,
but my steps falter, and my ears are attuned
to a rhythm that doesn't belong to this sphere.

i've heard:
i'm too extreme, i'm too emotional, i'm paranoid,
i'm looking for something that isn't there, i'm a
dreamer, i'm an idealist, i'm unable to forgive
my past, i'm scared of success, i'm just
fucking well
and beating my head on a wall, and
i'm not going to change anything.

in one breath, somebody asks me
to be more "tuned in" to my surroundings,
then complains that i tune out sirens
because i became accustomed to hearing them,
and unable to alter their cries.

i'm asked to devolve, to adapt backwards,
to adjust to the rhythm of a railroad town
with an overblown ego based on
making a bigger rut to get stuck in.

new job, advancement, "because i deserve more,"
but deserving more obviously doesn't include
being respected for surviving against the odds
transcribing the history of an urban tribe
trying to represent an alternative
in a World dying of thirst for the Truth
that doesn't trickle down from any empty theories
that the elite deem sweet.

wanderlust aches in my bones,
and winds from other worlds blow around my head,
and sleep is only a temporary respite
from the appetites that gnaw and claw
and have left me leaner than ever . . .

all these stones, they might break my bones
oh, this fire, it might set me alight
c'mon, set me alight . . . .*

*lyrics from The Wild Flowers "Set Me Alight"

From the 2 Train Journals: Transcendant Transfer

pellucid, an almost
holy gray-and-gold light
illuminates this landscape,
tawny with teasel and reed, and
backed up against that
distant, homesick gray
the trees spell their branch-sentences
in letters that,
though i would linger here for hours reading,
i could not transcribe the first word thereof.
i tell my friends, transferred from the tropics
where Spanish is spoken,
"it transcends human experience,"
feeling doubly locked by clumsy English . . .
if i can't even phrase it in my mother tongue,
how can i hope to dance in their fluid language
well enough to make it known?
for what prupose was this gift given?
why was such a treasure placed
in such a broken vessel?
perhaps it is
the flaws in me
that allow some of that transcendancy
flow through, untainted
by my tawdry identity . . .
and perhaps,
that is the definition
of poetry.

Divided & Conquered: The Sinister Solution

A lot of folks who read my blog might raise their eyebrows by the information links that i have listed in the side panel. There is a stereotype of the American Christian that asserts that we all: vote Republican, resist knowledge, prefer ignorance, practice intolerance, and are in collusion with certain political or ideological groups. Sadly, there are plenty of Christians who either accept and believe that these things are part of their responsibility, or are duped into following along with the rest of the herd. Stereotypes wouldn't exist if some individuals didn't follow them.
Once again, the time has come for me to test the waters and see how many other folks i can alienate. Or maybe i'm overdoing the whole "alienation" thing. At any rate, let me clear a few things up.

I don't necessarily believe, condone, or follow everything that the sidebar links promote. Essentially, these are merely helpful locations in the larger context of the internet that i've found provide data and information that the larger, corporate-owned-and-promoted media organizations either downplay or ignore altogether. Since 2000, i've become increasingly interested in this "underside" of the news, and why we aren't being told about it. Yes, it's likely that some of the information you'll find on these links borders on "paranoia," and that some of it is disinformation, but that's no less true in the corporate-owned media; what most folks would accept as "normal" news is no less susceptible to disinformation, confusion, and out-and-out falsehood than the sources i've listed.

One thing that Evil likes to do is create divisions within the human race, and then promote enmity and hostility between those divisions. To a great degree, this is easily done between the elite and/or super-wealthy, and the common lot of us; in many ways, there are those who consider themselves "elite," who think that because of their greater wealth/power they should make decisions for the rest of the human race. Those of us who do not belong to their "class" are expected to simply accept their pronouncements and plod along with the rest of the herd, bemused by all those televised images and glossy magazine photos. Those of us who "cut against the grain" are vilified, regardless of our intentions or beliefs. We're often labelled "paranoid," "conspiracy nuts," "out of touch with reality, " "losers," "freaks," and words even i won't repeat. When you challenge the dominant paradigm, you're going to generate hostility, even if that's not your intent. Why else would pacifists be murdered? Year after year, liars are elected to government posts, and they face no greater threat than any of their comrades . . . but utter a few hard-hitting words of truth, and laser gun-sights will multiply on you like measles! I've encountered resistance and hostility on double-fronts before. As a performance "slam" poet, i've been questioned and even actively opposed because i'm a Christian, and to a degree that someone who claimed to be a Buddhist, a Wiccan, or a Pagan would never experience. Yet, because i move in those circles, and because i don't pass judgement on my fellow poets, or the other folks i associate with (such as the "Park Rats" of Union Square), a lot of my fellow Christians regard me with suspicion (bad) or a sort of condescending indulgence as if i were a wayward child (worse). I hate to beat a dead horse (i've expressed this frustration in prose and poetry for years), but i'm really getting tired of it on both ends. Even among members of my own family, i'm regarded as "paranoid" or "too extreme." I began to wonder WHY it was that Christians aren't supposed to have a critical intelligence, or a healthy skepticism regarding ANYTHING having to do with the World. I hate to break everyone's bubble, but there ARE NO POLITICAL ANSWERS TO THE HUMAN CONDITION. You might as well get it through your head. The more power you put in the hands of the Government, the less the Government is going to be "public servants." That term is almost a joke as it is. And don't hand me that old Democrat-vs.-Republican bullshit, because that's just a game they play to keep us amused. Don't you see that every time somebody gets elected to office, they: break promises they made during their campaigns, begin living high off the hog from our taxpayer dollars, and cite "executive privilege," "state secrets," or just a general "no comment" when they're confronted. Wealth and power create all sorts of walls, mazes, and distractions that keep the people who're being governed from getting too close. Any government that cannot accept the scrutiny or criticism of the people being governed cannot call itself a Democracy. What we have in this country--indeed, in most of the world--is plutocracy/aristocracy. Rule by the wealthy and elite. Those who have the most money and biggest financial backers generally win elections. This is the way of the World, and any right-thinking Christian realizes that there's only death and destruction down that road.

Evil seeks to divide us and subdivide us, especially within the Church. If the body of Christ is divided, how can we hope to effectively function as moral or ethical examples? And, to my fellow "freaks," if you resist oppression and hatred, why is it so difficult to understand that we have a common Enemy? The fact that God's name has been misused as an excuse to perpetuate evil does NOT mean that all those who are Christians condone or promote those evils . . . quite the opposite! Not all of us are puppets for the Right Wing. Some of us deny ALL political classification. I wouldn't be writing like this if i accepted the "dominant paradigm" of what i call "politichristianity:" religiousity used as a cover for political motivations, or as a tool to assure that certain portions of the population will accept what they'd normally reject. I'll be point-blank: THIS IS BLASPHEMY. Every year, Uncle Sam picks our pockets, uses the money to by guns, bombs, limos, prostitutes, and blow, and has the audacity to complain about the "heathen nations" and their "godless ways," but "God bless America" and "in God we trust" are Uncle Sam's magic incantations, a way of making all the crimes seem simultaneously righteous and patriotic. (Oh, and by the way, nowhere in the Bible is being "unpatriotic" listed as a sin).

We are rapidly coming into an era where the free exchange of information and ideas has a new horizon in the Internet (a fact that the elite are quite aware of--watch for more attempts to limit and/or privatize this new horizon). People have been shaken and shocked, first by 9/11, and then by the nigh-collapse of the economy. Reality has a way of doing that . . . and yet, rulers, leaders, and "captains of industry" have done everything in their power to re-create that "magic curtain," to keep us entertained, amazed, and amused, to feed us tiny bits of information that are a placebo to real knowledge, and of course, to make sure that the divisions of race, religion, age, sex, and political orientation stay firmly in place, and promote the stereotypes that reassure that (watch FOX; they're really good at promoting stereotypes).

There's one point i want to end with: anything that is not of God will ultimately fail; anything that IS of God will ultimately prevail. The "dominant paradigm" is all wrong, all deception.
Let me end this with an appropriate passage from the book of Habbakuk, from the Message translation. It makes the point better than i ever could.

"Note well: Money deceives.
The arrogant rich don't last.
They are more hungry for wealth
than the grave is for cadavers.
Like death, they always want more,
but the "more" they get is dead bodies.
They are cemeteries filled with dead nations,
graveyards filled with corpses.
Don't give people like this a second thought.
Soon the whole world will be taunting them:
"Who do you think you are--
getting rich by stealing and extortion?
How long do you think
you can get away with this?
Indeed, how long before your victims wake up,
stand up and make you the victim?
You've plundered nation after nation.
Now you'll get a taste of your own medicine.
All the survivors are out to plunder you,
a payback for all your murders and massacres.
Who do you think you are--
recklessly grabbing and looting,
Living it up, acting like king of the mountain,
acting above it all, above trials and troubles?
You've engineered the ruin of your own house.
In ruining others, you've ruined yourself.
You've undermined your foundations,
rotted out your own soul.
The bricks of your house will speak up and accuse you.
The woodwork sill step forward with evidence." -- Habbakuk 2:5-11

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Christian Walk in a Global Community: Part 1

Writing in response to my last blog post, a respected friend and mentor, Pastor John Ault (who, along with his wife Jane, were frequent visitors/performers at the Roanoke Poetry Slam), presented me with a challenge. Although he affirmed a great many of my "points," he wanted me to go deeper, and find some gospel-based answers to the problems i posed. Rather than enumerate those problems one by one, i've decided to reaffirm exactly what being a Christian in this--and any--situation requires, at least from my personal standpoint. There are several points i want to touch on here, things that i believe would, if applied personally and individually, have a marked effect on our "global community."

1) Forgiveness: A constant and prevailing topic in Christ's teachings--and what He represented to the world--is forgiveness. Now, this is more than simply telling somebody who has wronged you, "That's okay, forget about it." It's more than just shrugging off the hurtful things that people have done to you. Forgiveness requires that the individual who has been wronged fully understands the nature of what's been done to them, how it has affected them, and how the relationship with the offender has been changed or altered by that action. I'm not merely talking about the mishaps or misunderstandings that happen on a daily basis (although they are included), i am particularly talking about the deep and fundamentally hurtful things that are done, and ESPECIALLY those that are done intentionally. It's easy to "forgive" someone when they've screwed up because of a misunderstanding or accidentally; it's far more difficult to forgive someone when they've done something knowingly, especially with the intent to harm. Jesus said, "LOVE your enemies. BLESS those who curse you." From a mere human standpoint, that's not just difficult, it's nigh impossible. This kind of attitude can only come from the direct interaction of the Holy Spirit in our lives. What i'm going to say now will probably alienate more people (but, that's okay, i'm used to it), but think of this: if, after the dreadful attacks of 9/11, every Christian in the United States offered up prayers NOT for vengeance against our enemies, but asked God to BLESS them, to show mercy on them, and to give them a change of heart . . . and REALLY meant it, what do you think would have happened? That act changed the face of our nation, threatened us both externally and --with the crack-down on civil liberties (the very things that make our nation what it is, the very things that we were told the terrorists hated about us, our freedom)--internally. Hatred and rage ran rampant. More hatred, more destruction, and more rage are NOT a God-honoring response to hatred, destruction, and rage! It sounds insane on the face of it, but i believe that if the Church as a whole had prayerfully submitted all our fears to God, and prayed for God's FORGIVENESS and MERCY, both for us AND for our enemies, things would have been changed for the better in a way that probably goes beyond our comprehension! Christ Himself, on the cross, spoke the words "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." If we as Christians are to be Christ's representatives in this world, that is how we are to act and think. Period. And, again, this can't be done without the direct action of the Holy Spirit working through us.

2) Prayer: I mentioned prayer in the last blog-post, primarily in regards to the arguments pro and con regarding Prayer in Schools. It's a political hot-button, but i think it's a non-issue. If children are taught to pray at home, both as a family and individually, they will carry that with them throughout their lives. Shrugging off the responsibility on a bureaucracy that is, at best, flawed, if not completely disfunctional, is not the answer. I never felt any pressure to pray in school, but i often did . . . either silently, alone, or with others who shared the Faith. Prayer is a conversation with God; it is part of an amazing thing that happened through Christ's death and resurrection. Christ's spirit, the Holy Spirit within us, allows us DIRECT ACCESS to God! In Romans, Paul talks about how Christ is standing at the right hand of God, STICKING UP FOR US! God is on OUR SIDE! He did for us what we could never do for ourselves . . . arranged things so that we could actually stand before God acknowledged as His children. That birthright that belongs to all Christians is not something to be taken lightly, and i have serious concerns that something like prayer would be left to teachers (already overburdened) and administrators (whose minds may not be seriously committed to the prayers). It is very important, and something that should not fall into rote . . . no ritualistic prayer in the morning in schools, not some form prayer that you repeat without thinking about it. Your intellect and your spirit must both be focused on your conversation with God. I am also aware that there are many nonbelievers who, rather than being encouraged by prayer in schools, would feel more oppressed, and at a time when rebellious tendencies run high, might just push them AWAY from Christ. (There are many things that i think the Church is either doing badly or not at all that form what a brother of mine in NYC--nicknamed "Conscience"--refers to as "church hurt.") Christ gave us a general outline for our prayers, and my friend Lewis refers to an acronym for prayer called ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. These four components can be seen clearly in Christ's teachings. Adoration: "Hallowed be Thy name." This worshipful awe should be the first step as we approach God. Confession: The Message translation's wording for this part of the prayer is "Keep us forgiven and forgiving others," and this should never be a simple rote, either. Being aware of what we need to be forgiven FOR goes back to what i said about forgiveness earlier . . . we need to be aware of how our wrongdoings have hurt our relationship with God and with those around us. It's also important to share our confessions with another Christian, someone who can provide support and love . . . trust me, i have a great need of forgiveness, and for reminders of that forgiveness. It's tough for me, sometimes, because i have a long memory which, coupled with anger issues, make it easy for me to carry a grudge. I often have to pray again and again for Christ's help in releasing those old hurts, to NOT HOLD ANYTHING AGAINST ANYONE. Confession helps us by releasing that . . . forgiveness, the letting go of grudges, lightens our burden. Thanksgiving: Realizing that God is the "giver of every good and perfect gift," that He blesses EVERYONE, not just the righteous, but EVERYONE, and that all good things have their origins in His love, gratitude should overflow in our prayers. Why does God bless those who neither acknowledge Him, nor share the blessings with others? Because that is part of God's Nature, and God cannot be made less than He is. He remains True, no matter how many falsehoods are perpetuated (either out of denial, or falsely "in His name"). Just because somebody doesn't recognize God as the source of the good things they have in no way changes the nature of God. However, much will be expected of him who is given much." Blessings and curses are both boomerangs. Being grateful to God for what He's given us makes us more aware of just how much we have, and allows us to become receptacles for blessings that will spill over on those around us. The more aware and grateful you are for what God gives you, the more open you are to receive more . . . and always with the implicit understanding that it is your responsibility to pass those blessings on! If you actually sit and try to "count your blessings," and SERIOUSLY think about everything you have to be grateful for, you might be surprised by just how much you take for granted. Supplication: "Give us this day our daily bread," and "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Supplication, asking for God's help, is something God expects us to do. It is part of an act of humility. Humility, which means (among other things) to be aware of our limitations, puts us in a position to receive from God. He wants us to ASK for blessings, and has many things to give us . . . and some of us never receive them because we simply don't ask. Supplication can be for things that we need, for protection, for "deliverance from evil," and can be made both on our own behalf and on behalf of others. The people that it is hardest for you to pray for--your enemies--should be some of the first people you consider in supplication! Ask God to BLESS them! Maybe your "enemies" are simply enemies because of the circumstances they're in. If those things were to change for the better for THEM, they might regard you differently. Don't be afraid to ask God to help you out in times of trouble . . . but never forget to ask Him for guidance, protection, grace and mercy, when things are going GOOD. That's something that i've often fallen short on . . . it's easy for me to become complacent when things are easy, but that's dangerous . . . taking things for granted, getting too full of myself, and those times have often preceded a downfall. And there's no set time to pray . . . you should do it at different times during the day, whenever you're tempted, whenever you're grateful, whenever you're in need, whenever you see someone else in need. It's a good idea to set apart a time of day to read the Scripture and to pray, and to simply make that as much a part of your day to day life as a meal, or sleep . . . it's something you need for your spiritual health and wholeness. But that doesn't mean that you should limit your prayers to that time alone . . . far from it.

3) Love: The word Love is used so many times in the New Testament, it's unavoidable. Love, as God loves us, is expressed in the Greek as agape, meaning "unconditional love." Psychologists phrase this as "unconditional positive regard." It goes beyond the "love" that's typically expressed in Valentine's day cards, or in phrases like "i love pizza." It's deeper than the love that we have for people who are our friends, those close to us who share our interests. Paul said: "There abide these things: Faith, Hope, and Love . . . and the greatest of these is Love." It is the "more excellent way" that he expounds in 1 Corinthians 13, often called "the Love chapter." It's a great chapter to read through and think about regularly, because it describes the qualities that our Love should have. Imagine: a group of people, diverse in race, age, and any other demographic, LOVING one another, caring so much for each other that they will willingly sacrifice for the better of those around them. Hard to imagine? Sad to say, that's where the Church has OFTEN fallen short . . . failing to represent Christ's unconditional love in the community. In times of economic crisis, this love--and the expression of it--is critical. Hardship shears away our facades, revealing us as we truly are. That's, in part, what hardship is FOR. It's a necessity to "love the unloveable," to do for them the things you'd want done for you. TAKE THE INITIATIVE! Be creative in hospitality! Sometimes something as simple as a smile or a helping hand can make a world of difference in somebody's life! Christians, both singly and as a body, should be reaching out in LOVE to those around us, to those who are lost, lonely, angry, afraid, in despair, in need . . .no matter how well we speak, no matter even if we allow ourselves to be martyred for Christ, if there is no Love in our actions, our actions are empty. Dying for something means nothing if you haven't lived for it. Christ expressed His love both throughout His life, and in His sacrifice. Would you die for the sake of a murderer? a rapist? a sex pervert? a war criminal? a terrorist? a drug dealer? That's what Christ did . . . that and more. Again, this kind of love is something that we are only capable of if we allow the Holy Spirit to use us as instruments. It is more than an embellishment, it is a necessity.

4) Anger, and It's Place: Now, this is a difficult topic. Anger is an emotion that is DEADLY if mishandled. Paul affirms that anger has it's place--there's a lot to be angry about! But he also urged us not to let anger provoke us to sin, or to "let the sun go down on your anger," that is, not to let anger fester and seethe, to turn into rage or bitterness. But, as one button i wear says, "IF YOU'RE NOT PISSED OFF, YOU'RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION!" Any time we see oppression, murder, crimes of any kind on any level, we're supposed to be angry! But anger, in the context of a Christian life, should provoke us to work to change the things that we're angry about--and not in a hateful, spiteful, destructive way. And, if you're angry, be sure to TEST that anger. Take a minute and try to figure our what the source of that anger is. Some people's natural response to being confronted--either explicitly or implicitly--about hypocrisy or harm they've done, is to become angry at the person who's confronting them! Make sure that your "anger" isn't actually chagrin or humiliation. Sometimes, we get angry over things that are beyond our control . . . in times like those, that's where prayer comes in; take those angers and frustrations to God, and He'll help you sort them out, putting everything in perspective. If you're working on something and accidentally injure yourself, you're going to feel anger on top of the hurt . . . but don't let that turn into what psychologists call "misplaced aggression." A lot of people who are cross and cruel to other people aren't really angry with THEM, they're upset over something else that's going on in their lives, and just vent that anger on any convenient individual. Part of dealing with anger as a Christian is trying to understand the source of other people's anger, and in understanding that, as Paul said, "everybody has their own history." So, when you hear about oppression, or people being wronged or hurt, you SHOULD feel anger . . . then let that anger turn into energy that will drive you to work in a positive way to make things better. It can be done.

Whew! That's probably the longest blog i've written in a while, but a lot of it needed to be said. Reading through it, you'll no doubt find a lot of possible solutions to the situations i described in my last post. It's actually made ME think through things i've written about, just by sitting here and putting it into a format that i could deal with. In many ways, this is how the gift of poetry that God gave me has worked for me . . . being able to deal with my angers, fears, hopes, dreams, and exaltations, to put it in a coherent form so i could come to grips with it. I just hope that my words can help other people with their own troubles . . . either by letting them know that they're not the only ones who've felt this way about things, or by giving them a vicarious release of emotions they've kept bottled up. The act of writing, and especially poetry, has provided me with a great deal of benefit, but it would rejoice my heart even more to hear that someone else has found worth in my words.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Why I Shouldn't Run for Office


In the following blog, i will probably piss off or alienate plenty of people. It seems to be one of my basic skills, along with cooking and being able to rip pieces out of my brain and put them on paper.

In a recent discussion with my parents, one in which i was (probably accurately) described as being "too extreme" and/or "paranoid," i was ranting (as usual) about the current state of affairs in America, the world, and so on and so forth, blah blah blah, yackety smackety (i'll spare you the play-by-play), i was told that if i didn't like the way things were, i should run for office. Now, that's a really ridiculous idea: me, Todd Pack, aka Grendel, running for public office. Forget for a second that there's a lot in my past that could (and would) be dredged up and media-pumped into a huge scandal. Forget that the people with the most financial resources usually end up winning (like, say, having the manufacturer of voting machines being one of my major supporters). Let's zero in on what most of America totally ignores when voting: the issues. Oh, the candidates will TALK about issues, or take stupid things and transform them into issues, and then make promises regarding those issues that they intend to break as soon as they're in office. But, are the issues what it's really all about? Well, in case i'm ever stupid enough to try a stunt like this, and in case there are people in America stupid enough to vote for me, let me lay out a few of these issues and my opinions about them.

1) The Economy: Economists have been warning us, over the past decade--at least--that the consumer-driven economy (which is not quite the same as capitalism) is doomed to fail. Our current economy is based on consumers and commodities, and assumes that there will always be consumers capable of purchasing these commodities. Basically, the economy is top-heavy . . . those with the most pull the strings on what's popular, what's promoted, what's ignored, and all with the singleminded goal: to earn a profit. So far, so good. But, as we've seen in recent years, the accumulation of wealth seems to reveal a common flaw: GREED. Having more money doesn't satisfy . . . like any addiction, it reaches the point of diminishing returns, whereat the addict requires more of the same thing in order to reach that "high." I have nothing against capitalism in and of itself, but our economy is not BASED on capitalism, but is rather a malignant cancerous outgrowth of it. My attitude towards the economy is simply this: "You cannot serve God and Mammon." Period. The word "Mammon" represents material wealth and the things it can acquire. You might as well say "The Bank," "Profit," etc. I find it ironic (and infuriating) that so many people who self-avowed Christians seem to completely avoid this Biblical truth. It's as if the thought of Christ flies right out the window when it comes to turning a buck. Will the economy recover? Possibly. Will it take another down-turn? Probably. Will it ultimately fail altogether? ABSOLUTELY. I could get on a long side-track here by dissecting what people SAY about money and what their actions regarding money say about THEM, but that would probably turn into another rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth rant, and i do that enough as it is. So, let's turn to another subject.

2) War: What is it good for? Turning a profit (see the preceding paragraph). The United States, France, Great Britain, Russia, and China ALL turn a profit on arms sales. They sell to both sides of the fence. Don't think so? Well, those of you who are old enough (or have read history and retained any of the knowledge gained therefrom) will remember that when Russia was invading Afghanistan, the United States was supplying the Taliban with weapons, military technology, and training, in order to help keep Russia out. The same group of individuals who were involved in the 9/11 attack on American soil. This is just one recent, modern example of something that's gone on for centuries. Huge corporations stand or fall based on whether or not a war will occur, and how long it will go on, and how much profit can be gained from it while it continues. The people who supply these arms seldom--if ever--have to look on the carnage firsthand, or suffer one iota of the misery caused. Is war a necessary evil? Well, given mankind's track record, i'd have to say it probably is. But, if war is a necessary EVIL, how can ANY war be called "good?" Nowhere in the Quran do the words "holy" and "war" appear together, but the words "holy war" are bandied about by many who claim to be Islamic. Likewise, you'll find a lot of people who claim to worship the Prince of Peace, the One who commanded "LOVE YOUR ENEMIES," calling for war, citing "patriotism" as their reasoning. How exactly are we "loving our enemies" by lobbing bombs at them, by gaining huge profits from arms sales and developing new and improved ways of killing off more people, and then actually claiming that God WANTS this? Even if you're an agnostic, an atheist, or a voodoo priest, this "playing both sides of the fence" HAS to be ridiculous. The fact is, one one hand, we're (and by "we," i mean the United States) are condemning and attacking Islamic leaders and people in Iraq and Afghanistan because of human rights violations, and on the other hand are oppenly supportive of an individual like Suharto, who has kept his countried embroiled in civil war that has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths, an Islamic leader who, according to Bill Clinton, was "our kind of man." The war in the Middle East has been going on for thousands of years. Our "intervention" and "liberation" are insignificant drops of water in the comprehensive ocean of that war. But, now that we're there, and feel we have to protect our investments, we've been caught in what could be aptly described as a combination of a bear-trap and a land-mine. We're stuck in an explosive situation, and whether we stay there or leave, it's going to explode . . . but that's not a valid excuse to add more explosives.

3) Prayer in Schools, "Under God" in the Pledge, and Other Voodoo Semantics: The Christian Church has gone to bed with politics, and whenever that happens, the child of that union is a monster. I'm not going to belabor the point, just point out a few truths that should be self-evident. First of all, if you teach your kids to pray at HOME, then they'll carry that with them wherever they go. I often prayed in school . . . particularly before exams. There's nothing to prevent anyone from praying silently while they're IN school, or at work, or anywhere else. The government, by definition, cannot prohibit or forbid--this would be a violation of a Constitutional guarantee. Simply put, this "non-issue" is a way of throwing off responsibility. Christian belief is rooted in the concept of individual responsibility, and "family values" vary depending on the family in question . . . so, flush those buzzwords down the toilet. I ENCOURAGE people to pray at home, in school, at work, on the road, EVERYWHERE. And "prayer" isn't a wish-list, or a hotline to complain about the service. Prayer is intimate conversation with God. I don't want an unholy world having ANY say in how or when i pray. And, "In God We Trust" printed on our money is outright blasphemy, because when people get their hands on those bills, God's usually the last thing on their mind. "One Nation Under God"? Get with the program . . . ALL nations are under God, and just because people are repeating it by rote doesn't mean that they're actually thinking that . . . in fact, it's the other way around. Anyone can recite scripture, and they're often apt to do that if it makes them look good in public. But saying it and MEANING it are two different things. Jesus said of the Pharisees, "You strain at a gnat but swallow a camel whole!" It's the same thing here . . . you're quibbling over mere dogma and completely ignoring God's Spirit while you're doing it. YOU CANNOT LEGISLATE MORALITY. Christ's life, death, and resurrection put things back in order, making each of us responsible, making each of us "ground zero" for our own "revolution." You cannot please God by following rules, but rather by letting the Holy Spirit motivate you, changing you from the inside out. And if THAT happens, people around you will notice. Sure, you're going to encounter opposition, that's part of the deal . . . in fact, REJOICE when you encounter it, because it means you're doing what you're supposed to be doing! But others are going to follow your example, and be enriched by the way you live your life, and that's God working through you. Don't let the government, or any other earthly body, control the way you live your life before God. If you want to pray in school, pray. If you don't, don't. It's as simple as that.

4) The Sanctity of Marriage and the Right to Life: Okay, this could actually be a continuation of the preceding paragraph, but i've separated them for thematic purposes. I don't believe that homosexuals should be forbidden to have civil unions. Why not? Well, the same government that blathers about "the sanctity of marriage" has allowed legal brothels in Las Vegas. If they REALLY believed in it, they'd repeal those laws. It's hypocrisy for the government to deny homosexuals the right to be "married" in a civil ceremony . . . of course, nobody would THINK of interfering with Las Vegas' legalized brothels because--you guessed it--that's MONEY. PROFIT. Now, i don't think the Church should let itself be influenced by what the state does, one way or the other. First of all, the Separation of Church and State is healty for the Church, and for the government to try to demand that the Church allow such ceremonies infringes upon the Constitution. So, stop clamining that the "sanctity of marriage" is what you're really concerned with. It's just another holier-than-thou scheme, putting yourself on a higher level than other humans, acting like you don't or haven't sinned in ways that are just as wrong. If a man sleeps around with another man's wife, it's a small scandal; if he sleeps around with another man, that's a big scandal, but THEY ARE BOTH THE SAME SIN. Adultery is adultery. Now, as to the right to life, i DO NOT support abortion as a method of birth control. There are plenty of methods of protection, the best of wish is abstinence, to avoid creating a new life. If you ARE pregnant, carry the baby to term . . . because there are plenty of families out there who are willing, in fact EAGER, to adopt a baby. BUT: i don't believe that it's the right of the state to forbid it. In function, this works much like the Prohibition. The Prohibition did not stop drinkers from drinking . . . in fact, it just opened the door for organized crime, and resulted in more calamity. If you prohibit abortion, you open the door for free-lance abortionists, and women who want to get an abortion will do it somehow . . . there are records of women dying because they attempted to give themselves abortions using broken bottles stuck on the ends of broomsticks. If abortion is murder, it's on them . . . creating convoluted laws to make it illegal will only increase the prison poplulation, and as Charles Dickens observed, "in the courts, nobody wins but the lawyers."

There are plenty of other issues i could comment on, but my fingers are growing numb. Probably, i'll continue this in another chapter, as new ideas come to mind. Now, given the preceding paragraphs, there is no political party in the world that would have me as a member, and running as an independent is like painting a target on yourself for both Democrats and Republicans to take cheap-shots at. I'm better off remaining a poet, successful or non-successful, because poetry--thus far--has been the only vehicle that is capable of supporting my emotional storms. Everybody expects poets to be a little weird, anyway, and in that department i'm quite capable. I am as vocal a supporter of Freedom of Speech as the Right to Bear Arms, and in my case they're both the same thing. I have a hard enough time controlling myself, let alone guiding a city, state, county, or nation. I've got my hands full . . . i wouldn't want to burden others or myself with a position where i'd be attacked on all sides, both with pressures to conform and pressures to resist.

Enough said.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Poem: Beyond the Edge of the Chessboard

Beyond the Edge of the Chessboard
don't worry. be happy.
the politicians pharamceutical companies
bankers lawyers doctors
various NWO conspiracies
religious fakers
media whores
telephone name-takers
advertising CEO's
have got a PLAN for you.

they're not necessarily in collusion
but they're all selling variations of the same illusion
and, despite the apparently conflicting world-view solutions,
the resolution is always about

gimme dat, gimme dat, gimme gimme gimme dat
whole lotsa

their quest for money seems funny
because in order to get it, they need to be phoney
because the reality of their ghoulish greed
even frightens them.
they have the best
and various other ways of disguising themselves
and like all liars, are skilled at lying to themselves
to avoid the truth of six feet of dirt
all the land they'll ever really need
to hide their remains
until rot and decay
reveal humanity's true face

and, unlikely as it is,
they've sold these masks to us
telling us
don't worry, be happy
because happy faces sell products
happy faces make the malls more inviting
happy faces on the drug commercials
make you wonder what you're missing
if you don't take that blue pill
that gives you a 3-hour erection
blood rushing to a place
where (at least in the male body) it tends to remain
at the deficit of the brain.

What? You're not HAPPY?
You didn't buy the latest product?
You didn't read the Wall Street Journal?
You didn't give envy run of the house
so that you can get one-up on your neighbor
and own a bigger plasma TV, bigger SUV,
bigger ass from eating bigger burgers?
what are you, some kind of
intelligent, self-aware, thinking creature?

And, here's a guy in the White House
who's been promising change,
but it's not likely to add any change to your pockets
while he's riding around in jets and limousines
and spending thousands on an inaugural ball
just like his predecessor, only more media-friendly
and a lot more articulate.
and look at all these glossy flyers
submitted to each post office box
by the latest political candidates
who seem to enjoy flinging poop at each other
like monkeys in the zoo
only, there's no bars around these animals,
so some of the shit's likely to land on you.

don't worry, be happy,
even when 2012 looms on the Mayan Calendar,
and even if it isn't the end of the world
all those wealthy men
will find a way to make the doomsday trend
line their pockets once again
(remember Y2K?)

don't be happy. worry.
we've let these idiots play the tune too long
it's the same old song they've played
since they nailed God's Son to a tree,
and they've even taken that piece of history
and used it for their own purposes
and if you buy into the lie, sucker,
YOU'VE been played.
you're just a pawn on the chessboard
allowed to move in tightly restricted lines
and if they need to sacrifice you
to protect their king and queen,
they won't hesitate . . .
step outside the lines
demand their attention
remind them that we outnumber them
and let them know what it's like

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New Poem: Know the Refrain

Know the Refrain
it's like howling at the moon, and hearing it howl back
it's like watching the trees move in the breeze,
and feeling your veins do the same thing
it's like being tested by fire a hundred times
until only a core of diamonds remains
it's like listening to the same song a hundred times
just to hear the refrain

you wonder if you missed the train
reaching for a grip that slips out of your grasp
nothing but a gasp between you and forever
a well you're falling into
and something in the night calls your name
a phone ringing at midnight
with bad news breathing down your neck
a wreck of something you might have been
and you'll never build anything from the ruins
that won't fall down again
ashes, ashes, we all
fall down.

you can make your home look like a picture in a magazine
you can stake all your hopes on the American dream
you can break a thousand hearts looking for the right one
you can take from everybody you meet and not gain a thing.

something's missing.
meter, rhythm, rhyme
cadence and design
pages full of words that--
distilled into their purest form--
only repeat

Jesus saw us as sheep
and they nailed Him to a cross.
Paul called us idiots
and they locked him in a prison.
Socrates drank a poison cup
because he woke too many dreamers up.
Martin and Malcolm took a bullet
that was fired by 200 years of hate.

You're more likely to die for doing the right thing
and more likely to earn a profit for doing the wrong thing
and there's all these things laying around
radioactive, poisonous, dangerous
littering the ground we call history
but it's nobody's story but our own.
You wrote it.
I wrote it.
Worse yet, we let people we hardly knew
write it for us,
and our silence gave them consent
as long as we were kept content.

You've listen to this same song a hundred times . . .
i think by now
you know the refrain.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

From the 2 Train Journals: Pursuit/Elusion

the nature of this mystery i pursue
makes me wonder who's stalking who
rakish basilisk basking naked
adjacent to the azaleas,
brazen and emblazoned with
razored blades arranged
like blossoms that could be eyes;
this whole synthesis could paralyze
any system of allegory
that endeavored to tell its story.
fearful distances render feral dances
into microcosmic storms, atoms and
mad planets translate eternity into
something the senses can almost grasp,
grappling with the vatic beast
that sinks its teeth into my heart
and turns back into the night
with a scrap of me caught in its jaws.
it will not bear the locks and bars
of language's cages, passing
through my fogged glass like a whisper,
like a ghost, like smoke.
sleep eludes those who pursue
this dream that walks awake among us,
stung with wonder, sudnered
as if by thunders paws rending me into surrender
until hunger pains only remain
to entice me to chase it again.
beds and friends alike have fled
before the sligthest glimmer of it
in the eyes of those who've seen it--
it forces me to translate the oracular
by embracing the vernacular
without having an incestuous relationship with it;
and no matter how i make the verbs cavort
and nouns contort, the right words
forever elude my cages . . .
all i can do is show you
the holes it's torn in my soul,
and say,
"it's shaped sort of like this . . . ."

Monday, October 5, 2009

Feverish Rambling, Blogsprawl, and Dream-Journal #3: The Cacodaemon

Felt on-and-off feverish for the past 24 hours or so. I finally weakened and took some aspirin, along with some goldenseal, just in case there's something in my system that needs to get purged. I don't know if it hurts or helps that i'm drinking Mountain Dew Voltage, but maybe the ginseng and caffiene will help rush the aspirin and goldenseal on its way. Either that, or it'll make having a fever slightly more entertaining.

I'm also having a case of "blogsprawl." I still have some passages that i want to mine out of my Myspace blog, which i don't post in anymore. Now i have a poem that i've posted in Facebook, because i recently discovered the "notes" tab where i can post more than a few lines at a time. Not that anybody's more likely to read my Facebook than they are this rambling diatribe, but i like to spread myself as broadly as possible in the internet. I had a Livejournal at one time, long ago, but most of that was cannabis-induced raving or just general ranting, or a combination of both.

I also need to post the dream i had last night. Like i said, they're becoming more vivid, either because i'm now making the conscious effort to remember them, or because i haven't written much poetry lately and the creative process tends to "spill over," or both. Anyway . . .
In this dream, i'm walking along a road in some mostly rural area . . . it reminds me of pictures i've seen of India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, etc. There's a crowd of people ahead, dressed in various styles, apparently mourning a man who is laying on a raised concrete platform. Two other men are at a shrine at one end of the platform, cutting themselves and splashing their blood all over the corpse and the shrine. I understand that this is some kind of rite to try to raise the dead. The two men who have cut themselves have almost eviscerated themselves, and staggered away from the platform. The dead man begins to rise up, and a woman . . . perhaps a wife or mother, i'm not sure . . . runs over and says, "You've returned to me, _____" (The blank is the man's name, which i cannot remember). The man laughs in a horrible voice, and says, "_____ is DEAD!" I then understand that a demon has inhabited this corpse, and now staggers almost drunkenly, with a horrible leering smile on his face, to a corral where there is a small bull-like creature. He stands and lets the creature attack him, goring him . . . and then the bull's face distorts, and i realize that the demon has gone from the body of the man to inhabit the bull . . . the creature runs out of the corral, and i am suddenly afraid to meet it's gaze, or draw it's attention in any way . . .but it sees me and runs over to me, not goring me but rubbing up against me. I am repulsed by this, and i cry out, "I bind and rebuke you in the name of Christ! I cast you into the Abyss on that Authority!" The bull then seems to crumple, and then fades out completely. None of the people who are around appear to notice either me or the bull's bizarre behavior and disappearance, but i'm overwhelmed with a sense of relief as if from some tragedy barely avoided. At that point i awaken.

I think i know what it was.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Poem: Untitled 10/03/09

Untitled: 10/03/09
to bend the untiring ear that listens,
you want to stand in the wind and scream silently,
mouth open as if
you would swallow the moon whole
and become something for coyotes to sing about.
why mourn the loss of things you never had;
when opportunity knocks, only to apologize
that it's mistaken your door for someone
more important, more deserving,
and wouldn't you feel better giving them a handout
like dharma-bum wannabes
who live their entire lives
in a state of mind
that they call "Zen," but is as easily achieved
by pharmaceutical accidents and moldy cheese?
something like a fever crawls just
below your eyebrows, behind your eyes,
an animal thing that crept down
from the aurora borealis
to lay its eggs in your frontal lobe.
when the temperate rainforest changes its garb,
trees shedding green for scarlets and yellows
that burn away so rapidly,
and you hate the sight of clocks
and feel the eyes of something stalking you,
as it eyes that connection between brain and spine
where the animal and the archetype meet . . .
that thing might be a poem with a dagger in its teeth,
or the last breath, last drink, last cigarette, last
sharp inhalation of breath for a scream
you'll never give birth to.
it doesn't matter. the impossible never happens
when you're waiting for it.
there's no recliner in which to view apocalypse,
and CNN isn't going to bring you hourly updates
on the burning of human souls
as you reach for the remote to switch
to a more comfortable channel.
consumers are a commodity, just something else
that is ultimately consumed.
autumn is here, the children locked in schools,
men and women locked in jobs
where fake fall foliage is decking their stalls,
a failed attempt at levity in a place
where the counting of heavy metals
only increases the gravity,
and the moon is getting closer every night,
but the coyotes are blind
and only the poets can howl.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dream Journal #2: The Mephit

In this dream, i am in a place that appears much like our family's camp on the Greenbrier River. Throughout the dream, there is a child's voice, narrating the events as i experience them. I am vaguely aware that there are other people in the campsite, but i neither see nor encounter them directly. There is a creature that i first identify as a skunk, loose in the room. I try to get it to leave by throwing various objects at it, but it isn't deterred by this. As it moves about, it seems to become more intelligent, somewhat anthropomorphic. It begins moving various objects in the room, tilting pictures sideways, disarranging various knick-knacks, and otherwise "messing things up." I was distressed by this for reasons unknown. The creature moves into another room, apparently intending to further it's mischief, when i hear the child's voice talking about the creature, saying, "But he didn't know about the _____ upstairs that was going to stop him." (The blank represents a word that i don't know). At that point, i hear a sound from the attic space. It seems to be a mixture of an eagle's cry, and owl's call, and a woman's scream. It is frightening because i don't know the source, but i also understand that it means to harm the creature and not me. At that point, i awaken.