This virus will not yield to us, I think, In time for us to stop its lethal toll, In spite of all our wits and armaments, And yet will yield to Nature, like all things That form the moving parts of Nature’s whole.
And so, with the northern spring, as breezes blow Through open windows, sweeping out the germs And drying droplets, northern folk may find That though the Reaper’s rent for April grows, The summer’s lease will offer better terms.
But if indeed this bit of hope is true, Then those who love their a.c.’s should abstain And bear the summer’s heat and humid days, While keeping windows open, paying dues, So they themselves—and others too—may gain.
****** “What price is there to life?” we ask, and yet That price is known to those who calculate, For tables have been built to catch the flow, As hapless fish are caught in fishing nets. But fluids flow—while tables estimate.
And so we balance life and cash and say That money is what's needed to survive, And so it is in this commercial age, But there are months and years, as there are days, To pause and rest from all the hype and jive.
And such a time perhaps has come for all Of us who only see the dazzling light That's blinded us for long to all that's dark And of our making. So the virus calls Attention to this fact of loss of sight.
****** A month of fasting surely can't eraje Our centuries of gluttony, and yet We see the sky again and hear the birds. The sight of mountains long unseen amaje. The air we breathe is as clean as it will get—
For lo, the mills and vehicles have paused, And since perhaps the mad and senseless rush Has been at least abated for a while, With all the muck that crazed consumption caused, In urban spaces, there's a rural hush.
The poor are hit the worst in every land And some are starving, others walking miles And miles and miles towards their distant homes, And some will see and sadly understand As humans weep—and the rest of Nature smiles.
There is right and there's wrong—and then there's the dollar.
It comes with a leash and it comes with a collar.
It comes with a biscuit and a ride on the ark,
And when bidden, we'll bite and when bidden we'll bark—
But not at our Master. We're fed by his hand.
His kicks, we will take, as you all understand.
We can smile and spin. We can twist and shout—
But the truth, in the end, will always out.
It might take a year or a thousand more,
And there isn't a god who is keeping score,
But we know in our hearts that the truth is this—
We quaked and we crapped at the Serpent's hiss.
For the sake of the silver, as Judas had done,
We sold out our honor, and the Devil has won.
When our Master decrees that a nation should fry,
Then who has the gumption to stand and defy?
But in time we will see, when it comes to our turn,
That the Devil will laugh, as he watches us burn.
2019 April 25th, Thursday D train from Manhattan to Brooklyn
A country, like a town or province, is
a thing we humans make to fill our needs.
The things we cannot do by just ourselves,
we let the city, province, country do.
Towards these tasks, we pay our taxes and
elect the folk who manage these for us.
So it should be, in sober viewing, yet
we have exalted this and have imbued
a country with the qualities we once
reserved for deities—or kings who claimed
to be appointed by divine decree.
How foolish that appears, and yet we see
our politicians thumping on their chests
and seeking to be kings—and pouring scorn
on anyone who seeks to question this,
as hails and fists are raised for hero-kings.
If these were only carnivals, we then
could simply shrug, as some of us may do
at other spectacles—like all the games
where sport and commerce vulgarly combine.
But hatred, bigotry and all that flows
from human vices—these are tapped, released.
And violence follows swiftly, mounting more
as lies are spread and can’t be questioned, so
we see a spiral that descends to hell.
The nation states are birthed and bred in blood,
as empires are—and mass religions too.
And this is so in almost every case—
as each “exception” shows, when opened up.
And yet we yield to tribal impulses
and swear allegiance to a flag and state,
as soldiers march to beating drums, saluting
those who send them out to slay and die.
So also, lines are drawn that may divide
a province or a city. Families flee,
as sorrow turns to anger, then to hate—
and neighbor turns on neighbor in revenge.
What started this and what sustains it still?
At base: survival; economics; those
who strive for power; vice; and ignorance.
One could say more, but let this here suffice.
When a person’s life is threatened, then
the person acts and so defends the self.
When he or she is verbally abused,
mistreated or exploited, then again
the “I” awakes and reasserts the self.
And so it often is with nations—these
arise as concepts when oppression reigns
that victimizes humans based on things
that they are born with or acquire in youth—
the marks of races, cultures, which they then
perceive as common and as threatened, so
they band together to defend themselves.
But then in turn, if people then succeed
in overturning orders, so that they
are now within the group that reigns, they then
may often push yet others to despair—
and so another nationhood is born.
And that’s a story that’s repeated, though
it’s hardly all there is to nation-states.
For that, you’ll have to read the books, because
the things we've written here are just a sketch.
So you can read of Europe's wars of sects
that lasted centuries, what issued thence—
and more, to puzzle out yourself the curse
that makes us battle those who're much like us.
We humans seek some others, whom we blame
for all the problems that we humans face.
By doing this, we shift the blame and then
rejoice in meting out the punishment.
So all our baser urges then are vented,
as we “unite” against this “proven enemy”.
And knowing human nature, those who strive
for wealth and power utilize these things,
as idiots gather in their mobs and rage
and wars break out—in this and every age.
So also, wealth and power, threatened, seek
deflection of the threats. A foe is found,
perennial or new, that then distracts
the lumpen masses and obscures the truth.
The love of the land and people of one’s birth
or domicile is natural. Love is good—
and even better when it is informed,
so knowledge and compassion both are guides.
But blind obedience and belief can lead,
like willful ignorance, to all that’s cursed—
and these together breed the troops that greed
and zealotry require to do their work.
Ambition in a man or woman is
at times a good thing. Often, it is not—
for those of great ambition tend to climb
on others as they drive yet others on,
not heeding all the harm that hubris brings.
The tribal folk knew well their tribes, but we
belong to nations that we do not know,
because they were created recently
or are too large for us to know with ease.
Let’s get to know the country where we live—
the land, the peoples and the histories—
for we will find there’s more than one of each.
Let’s learn the names of places, plants and beasts
and speak the tongues in which the people speak.
Let’s sit with common folk and share their food,
the joys and woes that beings always have—
and let us do this, not for just a part
or portion of the land and people, but
as great a fraction as our lives permit.
And if indeed we truly do these things,
we then will surely find there’s much to like—
and also things we might be leery of.
And so it always is, with everything.
And if we do this, we will find the lines
that mark the borders—those are meaningless,
for genes and cultures both have flowed across,
as tends to happen when we humans meet.
And so within us are the genes of those
we’re told to view as foes—as enemies.
And in our tongues we find the words as well
that made the journeys over distances.
And so in food and music, so in clothes
and so in arts and crafts and sciences.
So does this mean that passports, visas will
now disappear, along with fences and
the armies and the wars that nations wage?
If it only it were so! But yes—in time.
The cities of a country do not war,
and neither do its provinces—and so
in time the humans of the world will see
a country is the place they chance to be.
A city may have quarters, if it’s old—
or even new, where different settlers live.
This should not mean that people do not mix
and over time create such citizens
as view the city as their quarter true.
What mayhem there could be, if one declared,
“Brooklyn is for A’s, Manhattan B’s,
the Bronx and Queens and Staten Island—they’re
reserved for C’s and D’s and E’s.”
Yet that’s the basis for the “ethnic state”—
the worst thing that a nation-state can be.
Beware the empire in its red advance.
Beware its reign, with even more of blood—
and know that blood will flow at its collapse.
Resist the empires. These have drained the lands.
But do desist from building blinding walls.
Beware the madness of the nation state
that takes a fiction and creates a tribe—
and even more, beware the state that marks
the “self” and “other” with the stamp of tribe.
Let's love our countries as we do the earth,
but know we share the overarching sky
that sees us insects crawling down below
and claiming this or that as theirs, as if
we ants could own it, through our ignorance.
There is no virtue that a nation owns.
There is no vice that only is a tribe’s.
We’d see the blood on every nation’s hands,
if only we could read the histories
that lie unwritten by the ones who died.
Numbers, essential as they are, seem to have taken over our lives.
Even our seers have to watch their watches—currently perhaps the digital ones on their smart phones. Time is money and money is all.
This view might have first gained currency in England, during its industrial revolution, but in the centuries since then it has spread to every country. Those who do not live by it swim against the tide. One might as well be in denial of gravity.
Monetary values are attached to most things, including living things. Even human lives have actuarial values. It is the same with activities and occupations. Those with lower monetary worth are devalued. Finance and economics had naturally been born from numbers. Humans, corporations and entire nations are ranked and described by these.
The physical sciences, engineering and technology have of course been based on measurements and calculations. But now, even medical science increasingly rests on measured numbers. More generally, anything that cannot be measured and so cannot have numbers affixed to it is is disregarded or dismissed. Such things are viewed as inconsequential and are even rendered invisible.
The revolution in information processing and communication has of course been a digital one, based on numbers, most commonly in their most basic, binary forms. This has made us even more dependent on numbers and even more enslaved through them—and seemingly to them.
We are now routinely identified by our numbers, and those with power over us, including financial institutions and governments, literally have our numbers. Here are some metrical reflections on this phenomenon.
From yes and no and repetition rise
Our newest wonders and our newest lies.
And streams of these, that merge at logic-gates,
Predict our futures and decide our fates.
From one and zero, is the world construed—
With all its shades and subtleties imbued?
Or are these primal numbers mere devices
With which to breed yet more of human vices?
We look around the world we’ve made and see
That Number is indeed a deity.
We count our money and we strive for more.
In learning, as in soccer, there’s a score.
We rank the players and the jobs we do
And happiness has now its index too.
A war is gauged by tonnage dropped and deaths—
And driven by the “windfalls” that it nets.
And money is of course the number that
Knocks all the other jousting numbers flat.
So income, wealth and GDP and more
Are numbers at the center and the fore.
But “wealth and power” are the twins conjoined
(And so that phrase in earlier times was coined),
And what is power if it lacks in force?
So arms and numbers never seek divorce.
Investments, in a war or in the land,
Are things that lords and bankers understand,
But now this Understanding Old has spread
And been, with Streaming Digits, duly wed.
There’s number, number, number everywhere.
It rules—and runs through ocean, land and air.
Our bodies and our minds have been reduced
To numbers that are measured or deduced.
The doctors now consults the oracles
That know our numbers. Seeming miracles
Are wrought by robots that can operate.
Our numbers get the job and find the mate.
In science based on mathematics, counts
Are needed—and, in finance, the amounts
Are all that matters. All our new machines
Subsist on numbers—though behind the scenes.
But can sensation and perception be
Devolved to measures of a quantity?
And are the qualities that we perceive
No more than mere constructions that deceive?
Are colors such as reds and greens and blues
No more than wavelengths that we see as hues
Or oscillations in a neural field—
And not the qualities these pulses yield?
Can all the vortices of our affairs
Be mapped, like those of galaxies, in stairs
Ascending and descending, on a scale
That has in it a point that is a whale?
Who dares to pause, within the lines of labor,
Will find, bestowed upon her head, no favor
From overseers—or even from her peers—
For pausing lowers numbers, raises fears.
And pausing might permit reflection, thought
Among the ones in mills and numbers caught.
And thought, that wonders why the numbers reign,
May question things we’d rather not explain.
Could numbers be as blinkers to our visions
That force us to be focused on the missions
To which we each have duly been assigned—
The tasks to which, like asses, we're resigned?
For fears, desires there may be measures, yet
Are loves and duties fishes in the net?
Are there dimensions that are qualities
That can’t be reached by measured quantities?
We each need meanings in the lives we live.
What meaning can a mark that’s measured give?
To ask such questions is to be a fool.
We’ve made a word in which the numbers rule.
We’ve been conditioned by our jobs and schools
To follow orders and to follow rules—
And one of these is to always strive for worth
In grades and cash—until returned to earth.
The numbers certainly have uses, friends,
But numbers surely cannot be our ends.
Let numbers be our tools and weapons, braves!
But let's not be, to all these numbers, slaves.
In several ways, this must be one of the worst (or at least strangest) poems I have ever written. But please read it to the end, if you are able. . The format may be distracting, but the content is even more disturbing. That disturbance may be needed, however, to see our way out from a trap of our own making.
. Reasons Why
In places far, the soldiers die,
And what can kinsfolk do but cry?
When more are sent to kill and die, Who dares to ask for reasons why?
The soldiers are trained to just comply
And not to ask for reasons why.
And so we send them out to die—
Too often, to support a lie.
So Nation A and Nation B
Send humans out, like you and me,
Who could be friends—except, you see,
They think they’re serving A and B.
But is that sacrifice deserved
By those, whose wealth is well-preserved--
The ones, by ardent soldiers served
Or those, for "martyrdom", reserved?
They meet, those dons from A and B—
The ones who rule both you and me
And soldiers too. But can’t you see?
They’re using those like you and me.
They sit and chat and laugh and drink,
As humans should. And then they wink
And make their deals that link, unlink
The fates of those who’ve ceased to think.
In every nation, it’s the same.
Another nation gets the blame—
Along with those, who’re set to shame
And silenced—those against this game.
And so we are distracted and
We fail to see and understand.
The years go by like flowing sand
And soldiers still are in demand.
If only those, who don their suits
And walk on marbled floors, wore boots
And then were sent in those pursuits
That soldiers are—we’d see the fruits!
Then wars might cease—and peace prevail.
We might be rid of this travail.
But still—we do not see, and hail
The one that hammers in the nail.
And so we each are crucified—
And soldiers most, who’re deified,
But only when they’ve glorified
This game. We should be mortified.
A soldier dies a “glorious death”
And so the need for more is met,
As others join the ranks and get
Their meager pay—and pain and death.
Without the film-crew, where’s the star?
Without the worker, where’s the car?.
Without the soldier, where’s the war?
Till robots rise, that’s where we are.
When soldiers die, we do not care—
Except when lights and sirens blare.
And then it’s far too much to bear.
We seek revenge as our rightful fare.
A soldier is portrayed as brave.
In truth, he’s molded to a slave—
Too often, bowing to a knave.
Obedience is what rulers crave.
The one religious wakes and prays.
The one who isn’t marks his days.
But neither stops to see the grays.
The order comes—and he obeys.
But who’s he shooting, beating? Ask!
And should he question then the task?
“It doesn’t matter! Don the mask
And like a robot do the task!”
And so we all are robotized.
This quality is highly prized.
We might, as humans, be disguised.
Our freedom, though, has been excised.
What freedom is left for an employee?
A slave to a wage, she will always be.
And that's how it is for you and me
In the land of the brave and the home of the free.
And that's how it is, in every land—
In nations small and in nations grand.
It's been this way since we've tilled the land—
As our lords and masters understand.
Our work is measured by their gauges.
So soldiers earn, with gore, their wages.
Mammon’s clerks have scribed the pages.
The cage is sealed. The battle rages.
So dogs and roosters fight and shred
Opponents. Floors are smeared with red.
With blood, the blood-lust must be fed.
The cheers resound, when one lies dead.
We count our wins and bear our losses.
We carry, each of us, our crosses.
We catch the ball the captain tosses
And run with it. We bow to bosses.
So soldiers too must daily do.
They’re humans, just like me and you.
They're trained to pull that chariot too—
That juggernaut of this circus-zoo.
So many soldiers take their lives
And leave behind their parents, wives
And children too. Our love revives
When bombs explode and none survives.
They died together, blasted, burned.
The wages that their service earned
Have ceased. Will widows’ pleas be spurned
For pensions—or for lessons learned?
The funds and arms for death were sent
By those, on wreaking mayhem, bent.
A superpower long had lent
What’s needed, taking lives as rent.
But why? Go ask of Mammon and
Of Satan. They’ve had motives grand
And petty. But the fronts are manned
By those who must not understand.
A nearby nation once had burned
And tactics practiced there were turned
To uses here, by those who’d learned
To murder, maim—for credits earned.
Such schools exist, for ardent sons,
Who there are trained, perhaps with guns—
Or else without—for they’re the ones
Whose bodies burst like searing suns.
They don’t have planes and missiles, so
They use their feet, however slow,
And going where they’re told to go,
They then deliver there the blow.
So soldiers once again will die
And others too. The limbs will fly.
The bodies, torn and charred, will lie. And who will ask for reasons why?
So thousand-pounders do as well.
They turn a town into a hell.
But who is there to see and tell?
Those stories aren’t fit to sell.
When suicide bombers kill a score,
It’s a heinous crime like none before.
When missiles daily kill far more,
That’s war—and who is keeping score?
The bombers circle once again
And drop their bombs like falling rain.
And beings burn and cry in pain,
But Terror doesn’t fly a plane—
Except that once—that we remember—
On an autumn morning in September,
When our homeland too received an ember
Of the fires we’ve set—that some remember.
And soldiers shoot civilians too,
Who aren’t armed—and I and you
May hear at times of one or two,
As armies do what armies do.
A thousand pellets, flying fast!
The boy had ducked. They speeded past.
The girl could not. She sees her last.
And so the daily die is cast.
So many children, walking blind!
The captain says we should not mind.
A better means is hard to find.
Our use of pellets shows we’re kind.
And still, we see the flying stone
That flung with force can break the bone.
That’s all he has. For that alone,
The thrower may, for long, atone.
These bullets now—as you can tell--
Are ones the pelters know too well.
They pulverize the bones. They sell
Because they make, of life, a hell.
But this again is seen as kind
Or justified. We should not mind.
In every nation, some will find
That “kindness” has been redefined.
Seventy thousand listed dead.
A street that’s often bathed in red.
The youths are now, by zealots, led.
The ones, who reasoned, long are dead.
That demon that is Blind Religion—
That plague that’s ravaged every region—
Has mounted now on that of Nation
And whips us on towards damnation.
But Faith and Nation need their stash,
So see—how deep they bow to Cash! .
And lo—it turns this world to trash,
And all that’s precious, serves to smash.
And so the spiral turns and turns.
The children cry. The village burns.
The vultures wait. And what returns
Is ash, perhaps, in plastic urns.
A thousand miles. The widow weeps.
A little bit of ash, she keeps.
But where he served, another leaps.
The Reaper, yet another reaps.
How many humans more will die?
How many orphans more will cry?
How many bullets more will fly? And who will pause to question why?
A story has its bends and twists.
Their weapons could be arms and fists,
But all we’ll ever see are lists
In which the slain are terrorists.
That woman and that child as well?
Those aren’t things on which we dwell.
There’s no one with a voice to tell
“They’ve turned our home into a hell.”
But where is “home” and who are “they”?
That home’s unseen and far away.
Who orders this? I cannot say.
But soldiers listen and obey.
It could be at a barbed-wire border.
It could be for the sake of order.
It could be by the forest’s border.
But soldiers must obey the order.
A girl is slain. Her parents sigh.
But should her siblings only cry?
So tens of thousands more will die. And who will ask for reasons why?
. 2019 February 19th, Tue. Brooklyn, New York .
How many the flags, how many the songs! How often the nations have hidden their wrongs And pointed to those of the others, as flags Were raised to the skies, with salutes and with songs! There’s a chord within humans that is struck by these things, So our eyes—they may water as the lead singer sings And the words of the anthem and the fluttering flag— They can lift up our hearts as our spirits find wings. There’s a music that's martial that is truly an art— With the swirl of the pipes, and the drums at the heart. It can set our hearts pounding, as schoolchildren race To see all the marchers, before they depart. If only the virtues of citizens could Be uplifted by flags and by songs as they should, We might smile at these follies and not weep at the thought Of the evils our Master has sold us as good. ****** The sister, she suffers; the brother, he dies. The widow remembers her husband and sighs. The orphans, they weep for the parents they lost, As nations and empires are built upon lies. Oh love, with your being, your land and your clan! Be strong, like a woman! Be brave, like a man! Be a seeker of truth and a giver of love, But turn from deception, as much as you can! The truth is not simple—and yet it is true. It’s waiting for me and it’s waiting for you. Uncover the truth and discover its layers. What’s right, by your heart and your reason, then do. You aren’t a label—a religion or state. Be mindful and turn from the madness of hate. We were born from the stars that are burning on high, But it’s we who are turning to decide on our fate. ****** Let us turn towards reason, let us turn towards love. Let’s release, from its prison, that captive—the dove. With peace in our hearts, let us see that our fates— They are chosen by humans, not the stars up above. How many, the hours that a parent has labored For the children, with whom they in youth had been favored! How hopeless, the feeling, at the death of a child, Whose life, in its fullness, will never be savored! How many—the parents, who have toiled and have grieved! As the fruit of their labors, what have they received? How many, the soldiers and others who’ve died— By the slogans of empires and nations deceived! Let the death of a friend and the death of a foe Be equal—in that there should never be more That are needlessly caused by the madness of sin And the lies that are layered on the lying before. ****** Let nations and empires be things of the past. Let us turn to our essence, from madness, at last. The roar of the mill and the din of the war— They’re the voice of the One, who from heaven was cast. And here, on this planet, He’s been telling His lies. For each that believes Him, another one dies. He’s the Lord of Deception—and the flags and the songs He has turned to His use—as we perish like flies. And the sins we’ve committed, with falsehoods in mind, Ensure that we’re damned—and with death we will find We are trapped in the hell that we made for the others— That they might have escaped, if we’d thought to be kind. His name? It is Mammon. But His faces are many. He is inked on the note and He’s scribed on the penny. We march to His orders, not knowing they’re His. If we beg Him for truth—He never has any. ****** The Lord of Deception? A title, a name— A way of describing the source of our shame, A personification, like Mammon, of all That has led to this hell that is played like a game. Our Master? Our masters—for there isn't just one— They are making us play at this game that they've won Again and again, and will win, till we see That we lose even more, the harder we run. The nation? A deity, not fashioned from clay, But rather from that which is current today— From symbols like flags, and with borders on maps, And armies—and taxes for funding the play. But it's Mammon that's driving the engines of war And is making us less than the beings we are. So bow not to Mammon or others on high! It's love, and not hate, that will carry us far. 2019 February 5th, Tue. &16th, Sat. Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York