I saw the horrors on the Internet,
Of little children lying dying, dead,
Of adults kicking, spasming, being held,
As poison did its cruel work on them.
And if I hadn't had my dinner, then
I probably would rise from watching this,
With dinner warmed and ready, and would eat,
While chatting with my wife on this and that.
I wonder what we all would do if all
That's perpetrated in a war or peace,
Would reach our screens, so sights of burning flesh,
And sounds of screams were heard as watchers dined.
I wonder. Then I think, how every day
The men and women drive to work and sit
In front of screens – and guide, to targets, bombs
That then explode in places far away.
And some of them may see the ones who burn,
Who run like ants with clothes and flesh aflame,
And some are children, mothers burned to death,
Or maimed, disfigured, left to rot in pain.
And each of these must then, in turn, arise
And drive to homes where they can eat and talk,
With children and with spouses, some of them,
At peace again at end of working day.
So if indeed we saw what nations do,
Be they perceived as foes or closest friends,
I wonder if the world might change or not.
I think I still might eat and carry on.
But then, of course, we haven't reached there yet,
And if it goes like this, might never do.
We'll see the horrors that we blame on those
We see as foes, but rarely what we do,
Each land has troubles of its own enough,
But when the powers use it as a stage
On which to fight their battles, then we see
Unending grief and endless misery.
In Syria, we see what might be us,
If we have come from India or a place
Where many peoples mix and live as one,
With tensions past and present underneath.
We know the fuse, when lit, will burn and then,
If not put out, will lead to lethal end,
A death not brief and merciful but one
That makes of life and land a living hell. 2013 August 31, Sat. Brooklyn Strange Encounter
We humans are the same, it seems, wherever you may go,
Yet populations cleave in two – or three or even more.
For night and day may alternate, but solace is denied
To all but those who're fortunate, across the great divide.
And some may say, “That's balderdash! They've risen through their wit, By labor while the others slept, ascending bit by bit!”
Yet others claim the cleavage is not simply into two.
But since we are of simple mind, the two will have to do.
Half the world has darkness, while the other half has light.
But most of us have misery and few have true delight.
Should happiness not spread itself, like sunlight at the dawn,
Should miseries not fade away, in the golden light of morn?
How strange it is that some see dark, where others see the light,
For humans seem identical to all but gifted sight.
With bodies and with minds alike and speech and feelings too,
Could conscience, strength or reason be what cleaves us into two?
“Alas! It is a nightfall.” say the ones who suffer most, “For even as the others, of their proud achievements, boast, We're yielding to the darkness, and our lives are filled with pain. And though we struggle hard to rise, we're beaten down again. “Our days are spent in labor and our nights are spent in dread, Our evenings in lamenting and in wishing we were dead. And some of us have exited in ways that others fear, And some are waiting listlessly, with exits drawing near. “But others take their leisure in the comfort of a bed, With joy at what's accomplished and with hopes for days ahead. You can hear them as they're talking, while their children laugh and play. They're planning their vacations that will start again in May.”
And those, who aren't beaten down, who've risen to the heights,
Proclaim, “There is a world to win, that's filled with sweet delights. The human race advances – and the ones, who still complain, Are lazy or are ignorant. Their kind, we should disdain. “We're chosen by divinity – or what you wish to call it. And so we're truly different – as kangaroo from rabbit. Where rabbits hop and stop and hop, we bound across with glee. The difference, if you would look, is clear enough to see. “We live our lives in gratitude for being what we are. Whichever way we go, it's clear that we'll be going far. We have no use for pessimists, they always are a drag. They spend their time complaining. That's the reason that they lag.”
And which of these describes aright the world that humans live in,
I will not try to tell you – but will leave for your decision.
It seems the world has peoples two – or even more than three,
And each can see a world that is unlike what others see.
Now could it be the world itself is really two, not one?
Or even three, as some have claimed – and surely not in fun?
I leave to you, to figure out complexities, but now,
It's time to sleep, for I'm in pain and suffering. Ow-ow!
And if you think that's funny, you had better think again.
How shameless that you'd laugh at one, who really is in pain.
I'll be waiting till you've aged and then are whimpering. I'll laugh!
But woe! I'll long be gone by then. You're grain, and I am chaff.
2013 August 29th, Thu. & 30th, Fri. Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
Rites of Passage / Vespertinal The seven-horse chariot's done its daily beat; And over there, where sky and earth commune, The evening star sheds limpid, icy fire Against a cyclorama amber-blue. A breeze from west, gently insistent, blows Streamers of sand off crests of velvet dunes, Whispering reminder, prickly on the soul: The intimation of a threshold passed. Through dim and misty distances in time Loom memories of dreams that went unlived; Of songs unsung, of feelings unrevealed; Of deeds not done, of promises unkept; Of cheery smiles received and not returned; Of leaps of faith across uncharted streams Landing in quicksand, and being helped from there By waiting arms that never stayed for thanks. And as the canvas is daubed more and more, The tints turn muddy, chiaroscuro fades To shades of grey, darkly illumined from The tunnel's end, a weary age away. Threescore-and-ten was granted, half is spent. What rests is but a half-life of decay, Of keeping count of acts, noble and base, At every rite of passage on the way. Vivek Khadpekar Osian, Thar Desert, Rajasthan and Benares (Varanasi) India, 1988/89 By the same author: Midnight
1. The capital of Pakistan, following its independence in 1947, was initially Karachi, the large port city on the Arabian sea, near the mouth of the Indus river in the southern province of Sindh. With the increasing dominance of the Panjab, the capital was shifted first, in the early 1960's, to 'Pindi (Rawalpindi) in the north, where the Panjab plain meets the Himalayan foothills, and what was then the NWFP (North West Frontier Province), inhabited by Pathans (Pashtuns/Pakhtoons)) and others. Around 1966, it was moved to the neighboring, newborn, planned capital city of Islamabad. So Islamabad was the official capital at the time of what was essentially a military coup, in March of 1971, against what would have been the newly elected government led by Mujibur Rahman's Awami League, which had its base in mainly Bengali-speaking East Pakistan, separated from W. Pakistan by well over a thousand miles by the width of the Republic of India.
The brutal crackdown by the Pakistani army, starting in March of 1971, in that eastern wing of Pakistan, the stirring up of religious animosities, and the ever-present scarcity of land and resources in the fertile but overpopulated delta region, led to a great number of hapless, frightened, malnourished and footsore refugees streaming across the borders into neighboring states in India (which I witnessed first-hand as a relief worker there) and quite a bit of local resistance, including from a lightly-armed guerrilla force, the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army). Most of the Awami League leaders, however, those not arrested along with Mujibur Rahman, fled across the border to Kolkata. The final full-scale war, involving the Indian army, that led to the creation of Bangladesh, occurred at the end of 1971.
Although Islamabad was then the capital of Pakistan, I have referred to 'Pindi in the verse line, as that was where much of the W. Pakistani army headquarters and generals were centered. The two cities are situated, I believe, cheek to jowl. I gathered then, from talking to many of the refugees (mostly Hindu, but with a fair number of Muslims as well) that the lot of ordinary peasants, especially the landless ones, might not change that much if and when the W. Pakistani rulers, reigning from Islamabad-Rawalpindi, were exchanged for Bengali ones ruling from Dhaka, just as the departure of the British had, at least at that time, left much of the peasantry unaffected all over the subcontinent, still subservient to, indeed, effectively enslaved by, the feudal landlord hierarchy that had been established since before the Mughals.
For me, this was a revelation, which I might not have had had I not journeyed, in the summer of 1971, full of youthful idealism and misplaced Bengali nationalism, 900 miles southeast by train with a Gandhian group from Dilli to Bongaon, a small town on the Ichamati river, which separated the eastern Indian state of W. Bengal from what was then E. Pakistan. But after talking to the refugees (many of whom had received their only organized help, on their own side of the border, from the Communist Party and the National Awami Party) and after rowing surreptitiously across the Ichamati, as cannon boomed, to visit a badly shelled and nearly abandoned village, where we met a few remaining aged inhabitants and some wary youths who were part of the local Mukti Bahini, I came to this conclusion, which was, at the time, a rather sad and life-changing one for me. I hoped then that I would be proved wrong.
2. The reference is to the British East India Company, and to the Uprising of 1857 in the subcontinent, led by the native sepoys (soldiers) employed in the Company's army. The rebellion was brutally suppressed. However, the British Crown then took direct control of India, making it a centerpiece of the British Empire, taking a slightly longer view and shrewdly reining in, to some degree, the rapacity of the colonial enterprise there.
3. Howrah is a suburb of Kolkata (Calcutta), in the state of W.Bengal, India. It houses the main railway station and is linked to Kolkata by the Howrah Bridge, built in British times across the Hooghly river, a broad local estuary of the Ganges, navigable by ocean-going ships.
4. Sylhet is a north-eastern district of Bangladesh, bordering the Indian states of Meghalaya, Assam and Tripura. It is a lush, hilly region, with tea, oil and gas being major industries. Sylhet, like a few other parts of the subcontinent, has long had a large expatriate population, many of whom work in the U.K. and in the Gulf states, sending remittances home.
An afternoon in August, with the temperature still high –
And yet, in the slanting light, a sign that fall will soon be here...
We had so little rain, the trees were parched throughout July,
But now, with rainy nights, those trees, in fresh-washed greens, appear.
The air is clean, the sky is blue, with cirrus high above. The greens of trees are lit by soft and slanting golden sun.
So summer ends and autumn nears – with time enough for love,
But not for those like us, who spend their lifetimes on the run.
I've walked the city streets to sit awhile amidst the green,
To watch the elders play at chess and chat beneath the trees,
To see the mothers with their kids, to breathe awhile, serene.
With gratitude for all a slave, for a precious instant, frees.
I wonder who designed this park, who built the promenade,
The circle green where ball hits bat, the courts where children play,
Who planted then the stately trees that cast their dappled shade,
Who tended saplings as they grew, who tends to all today...
I know the answers may be found, by those who persevere,
But I shall leave that work to you, and idly sit awhile.
I'll watch the little parrots wheel, as fall is drawing near...
In winter, when they all have left, remembering them, I'll smile...
2013 August 23rd, Fri. afternoon,
by the flagpole at the upper level of Bensonhurst Park,
near Cropsey Avenue & 21st Avenue,
To leave a comment, please click on the "No comments", "xx comments" or "Post a comment" link directly below this post. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Benso`nharst' Parke
In Giza now, the pavement's stained, With blood of those who died. The vultures wheel in Cairo yet We dare not say they lied -- The ones who did this monstrous thing. So Saudi "aid" will flow. The Emirates will also give But all the world will know That Egypt has been murdered now. The Copts will slowly flee, As innocents will die for naught And all the world will see. The blood in Egypt marks the end Of era that had been. For even royal heads will roll To pay for Egypt's sin.
Two wrongs together cannot make A right, it has been said. So Morsi slapped up Egypt more And Sissi shot her dead. Egyptians, rise! Do not forgo What's right, but wake and see. The ones that murder Islamists Your murderers will be. The Islamists are but a ruse To rise again to power. The Socialists, they'll wipe out next. So each will have his hour. So Hitler did, as Germany, With new-found pride, applauded. What happened next is history. Can Egypt now afford it? 2013 August 19th, Mon., 4:31 am (first section) (second section added August 20th, Tue. 8:15 am) Brooklyn, New York
Yet More Advice (There are references, in parts, to the most recent horrific events in Egypt. Remembering all the sacrifice and hope of the "Arab Spring", let us hope that courage, reason, humanity, sober idealism and sanity prevail over fear, irrationality, brutality, cynicism and insanity. ) If you find a vassal country takes a path that you dislike, It's your duty to divert it, with a bold preemptive strike. But when bleeding troops and money, you had better think of ways, By which to wield your influence. A little thinking pays. You can call for free elections and for freedom of the press. If you don't like who's elected, push for freedom to repress. And some advice to vassals too – don't take your boss for granted. They'll let you hang tomorrow – if circumstance demands it. So if you are the rulers there, depend not on what's distant. Depend instead on power raw, and seize the precious instant. If you've ruled a nation long enough (being really who's in charge), You know that to retain it, there are duties to discharge. Elections can be dangerous, the people then have say. The military then must move – express a forceful “Nay!” You can engineer conditions that will have them up in arms – The populace – and those who are dependent on your alms... You can tolerate the ones who're hip, and even spoon them honey, But you've got to draw the line with those, who're sniffing for the money. If you buy your suits in London and your wine is shipped from France, You can't brook interruptions in your dinner or your dance. Your children are at Stanford, and you've got to pay the fees. So there's little choice, except to promptly deal with the disease. The masses, you've contempt for – for they're backward and they're vile. Can you let them enter in your rooms – and settings then defile? They are talking of an Allah, and who knows where that may lead? There are demons there in plenty, who on such as you may feed. And if they taste of power, then it's curtains for your crowd. It's then Paris, Rome or London. But you mustn't say this loud... For your fiefdom, it is there, where the Nile is flowing broad, Where the Pharaohs and the Ptolemies had ruled, with spear and sword... It's best to do it short and sharp, to cow them with your terror, For laxity in this regard would be a serious error. And if the slaughter continues – no matter, be resolved. Such things will be forgotten, once you've got the problems solved. It doesn't matter who you are – your politics, I mean. It's power – that's what matters, and the rest becomes a sheen. You can be a bearded mullah, wear a yarmulke or not, But if you once buy into power, then you'll leave the rest to rot. There are those who look to oracles, or pray to the divine, But in politics, no miracles can build for you a spine. So you've got to bite that bullet – with its taste and smell of grease. You've got to swallow then your spit and pull that trigger – please! Astrologers may tempt you, you can have your palms be read, But when it comes to enemies, you'd better have them dead. There are graves enough for ditherers, or those who were uncertain, It's better to be murderers, than ousted, that is certain. The masses may be restive, but let's understand this truth: They'll bear your rule in silence, if you show you're lacking ruth. But know the ones to squeeze and also know the ones to culture. The spoils of war and peace are used, to loyal vassals nurture. Pay tributes to the ones above, from those below, get same. In finance, as in bedrooms, there's no place or point in shame. You've got to have that instinct for subservience to power. Today it is the U.S.A., tomorrow's another's hour. That boss you had for many years is aging now, you see. It's time to cultivate the one, who's itching, boss to be. With power, as with money. And the two may go together, Or for a while may wander, till they reach their ends of tether. You can shelter in a Dilli, in a Tokyo or Beijing, But when you feel them quiver, then to old New York take wing. And if Washington is shaking, then you'd better look around. Whatever be your politics, let your finances be sound. There are those who see the world as did the Buddha or the Jinas, But the others see a chance to lose – or grasp and be the winners. So there's no place for scruples or a doleful frame of mind. Why seek for liberation, when your fortune, you can find? The Century of Labor's past – another one is here. It's time for entrepreneurship and casting off of fear. Divisions sow, of every type. It's best when they're divided. The working class consists of sheep – by wolves of cunning herded. Take the best of East and West and North and South – amalgamate! Then you needn't fear a debacle, as in the Watergate. You could kowtow to a Pinochet, a Reagan or a Mao, But in dealing with the obstacles, can you follow still the Tao? Pay obeisance then to Mammon – and to Lakshmi and Ganesha, So you can say, "...diversified, by every kind of measure...".
****** You should wipe out now the Islamists (the moderates as well), And label all as terrorists. And some may see and tell.
How many will be listening? There are interests at stake! The sleepers, they will sleep through it. A scattered few may wake.
But make the price of waking steep. And show them that you can, With prison, maiming, murder and, of course, the legal ban.
The courts bow down to power, as the Pharaoh wields the sun. And power comes, as Mao had said, from the barrel of a gun.
So show them all what terror is. Riyadh will then applaud. And from the Gulf will come support, to fire your flaming sword.
The Islamists have had their use. Now use them as a ruse To gain control – and then proceed, to ticking bombs defuse.
For after you have dealt with them, or even well before, With the Communists and Socialists, you should settle full you score.
For vermin such, the time has come, to end their numbered days! And all who matter will be glad, when you, their kind, erase.
So courage, then, oh generals! The world relies on you! Your Egypt will be prosperous. And so, of course, will you!
And those who dither, from their doubts, will surely see the dawn. They've interests – and so will come, with F16's, to fawn. 2013 August 16th Fri. & 17th, Sat. (last 10 couplets added Aug. 19th, Mon.) Bensonhurst, Brooklyn More Advice
When I grow up, I would like to be
The man who picks up the garbage.
Early in the morning, when everyone's asleep,
I would ride on the back of the garbage truck
And would hop off to pick up the garbage.
I would lift up the bags and throw them,
I would bang on the metal cans.
And some of the sleepers would wake up
And some would mutter and curse.
And the smell of the rotting garbage
Would fill up the morning air.
And then I would call to the driver –
And the truck, it would move with a roar.
I'd hop on that truck. To the next one,
With that noise and that smell, we would go.
And that is my dream, Mr. Teacher,
The dream that you asked me to write.
I hope that you'll give me a 100.
What you gave me before wasn't fair.
My dream is to pick up the garbage,
To join with the garbage men.
I've heard that they're paid good money,
And the smell washes off when they shower...
My dream is to pick up the garbage,
To be a garbage man.
But I'm told that it it isn't easy.
I really hope I can.
The jobs nowadays aren't many.
My father's unemployed...
I hope that I'll get a paycheck,
And be married too, with kids...
Do you think, if I do all my classwork,
And my homework, every day,
And I pass all those tests you give us,
My dream will come real, one day?
2. This stanza was probably influenced by the quote from William
Blake that my friend Amitabha Sen sent me from Chicago. This
was in response to my last sending, Nature's Nature:
Man was made for joy and woe; And when this we rightly know Through the world we safely go. Joy and woe are woven fine, A clothing for the soul divine; Under every grief and pine Runs a joy with silken twine.
man was made for joy and woe The first 4 lines of that poem, by the way,
may be among the most remarkable in the
English language. Do take a look. They may
be very familiar to some of you. But, if you
have the patience, it may be worth your while
to read Blake's long poem in its entirety.
The Age of Packaging – Part II in which the state of these United States (and perhaps of other countries) is described and reflected on, albeit with eye and mind of prejudice... The Age of Packaging is what we're in. But there is more to say. And we had thought To leave that out, as it's dispiriting. But pessimism has its uses, too. So we shall venture now upon that road And leave to you to follow us or not.
We shall endeavor now to wail a dirge, With sordid details woven in that seem To indicate the death was homicide – Except that we're recounting the demise Of what was left of sorry humankind, And so, perhaps, it's suicide that fits...
And some of you, I'm sure, would disagree. For soon, that dream we had, when realized, Will let the village boy or girl access The knowledge – and, perhaps, the wisdom – stored And ever growing, of our human kind, So all can use this – and can add to it.
And soon, that other aspect too Of that same dream – that when their citizens Converse – and see the others' sufferings, The nations then might bomb and war no more – This too, we hope, could be reality...
And that might be, but isn't yet, and those Who're cynics – or are realists – might ask, “When families and clans and villages Resort to violence, can nations cease?”
And others yet, more hopeful, might reply, “If provinces and cities find their peace, And often do not care for race or creed, Then nation-states may surely do the same, Or else dissolve, in time, so men may move About and do, what they have always done To live, without the burdens of a state Or nation or of empire on their backs.
“And as they talk, across the distances, Their narrow prejudices then might yield To broader vision, while what's local still Is treasured, drawing vigor from the new.”
But all of this is dream and speculation. We look around and view reality – And though our sighting may be jaundiced, we Perceive, that as before, each step we take, Made possible by reason and by work, Is then reversed – and all, that labor wrought, Is turned around to deepen slavery.
This keeps us busy, as we need not be, While even more distractions rise to cloud Whatever vision gave us hope of clarity.
When life was simpler, and we ran with apes, We cannot doubt that many still were caught Within that web that beings weave, with selves Emerging from that weaving, like those shapes That close inspection sees are only threads Of colors, magicked by embroidery.
But when that weaving too is done for us, So we have even lost that freedom sole, Then what remains, is to our ancient selves As are the plastic prints to cloths of yore.
And so, while in the past one still might hope To clearly see the woven self and so, With gentle art, unravel all its knots, What hope remains, when distant hands conspire To tangle us so even gods despair?
And as we tire of all that comes our way – In print or via copper, glass and through The air itself, on oscillating fields, We're even less inclined to look within Those boxes black that run on magic code That seems beyond our plebeian minds to ken, To ask, from where the things that we consume Have come – and how – whose labor was involved – And whether what we're told by Congressmen, By rabid ranters on the radio or By salesmen – archetype of current age – Is true or false. A numbing apathy Descends – and all we wish to sense Are colors, sounds and titillations. Pablums feed Not only children, but our adults too. We substitute, for facts, mythologies.
So all are turned to salesmen, pitching sales Of goods and services and attitudes – Plus wars, of course, as needed for the rest... And all depends, at end, on packaging.
And only violence appears to wake Our souls from somnolence. We vent that rage That stems from fear, frustration, ignorance.
We cannot see, through blinding prejudice. We cannot hear the subtleties of tone, With ears that have been blasted by the noise That issues, amplified, from gadgets' mouths. We gladly dance to tawdry piper's tunes That lead us further into misery.
The package, when it's opened, then is seen As having content that is clearly not As we envisioned from the packaging. So we're enraged, but rarely blame ourselves Or even packagers, but someone else.
The system's rarely questioned much in depth, By him, who is a modern fatalist, Conditioned to be so, by all he's seen, Despite the jive and all the packaging.
“A pinball game it is, this life,” he says, And some will win, and hopefully, it's me, But all of us are losers in the end.”
“So let us all consume, as best we can, While running fast to earn, so we can spend, Or if we're prudent, sock away that sum, That's ever growing, for that future time When we can either work no more or else Are rich enough to finally relax.”
But then, too often, the unraveling: The wealth has disappeared, along with health. And what's now left is argument, divorce. The dream's still distant. What is real, is debt.
And as with persons, so with larger realms.
“What happened? This was not to supposed to be. We cannot lose, for we're the winning kind. It must be those and that and all the rest That's come between us and the very best.”
And welcome, all, to world, as it's perceived By optimists who flourish in the west And surely, in our day, in east as well. Mirages will be chased, as empires rise And even as they fall to sordid death.
“So what, in this, is new?” you well might ask. Our masses, long ago, to sheep were turned, That did, as wolves-turned-herders, class of lords, Commanded. Violence was always used, With law and church subverted for the ends Of those who reigned and profited the most From all the labor of the ones “below”. This came to them along those feeding chains That still exist. But times have always changed, With evils old acquiring newest names...
So now, it seems, the ones who do the best Are those adept at selling, to the rest, The products and the myths that propagate And feed yet more the cancer that has spread To all the globe, devouring all of life And humankind itself. For it's been found That we've been numbed and dumbed enough to yield, And gladly, to the art of packaging...
So commerce rules, as many had foretold, And finance now is openly our king, And as predicted, local business dies As giants dominate the globe and run Their races for resources, markets and For humans, too, that robots can't replace.
And since so many care for price and show, And little else, the jobs, to places go, Where pay is least, conditions often worst.
And labor thus gets cheaper by the day And yet must face replacement by the ones Who need no wages, pensions, benefits, Nor even sleep nor pause from constant toil, But clank and whir – or function silently.
So many now are jobless. There's no land Or village to return to. Others strive To join their ends – and work themselves to death. Yet others thrive – or else make do on what The race throws up – or government largess.
The ties of village and of clan are lost. Traditions, cultures dissipate and die. While some may celebrate the evils gone, Some others see that evils new have come, With horrors often even greater, yet So packaged that they tempt unwary souls And snare them in the nets they can't escape.
What once was virtue, now is seen as vice. And newer vices rise, as virtues hailed... So soul departs, with all of substance lost, And all that's left is lust and violence.
There's more today of entertainment, food, But less, by far, of depth and quality, And dare we say, of plain humanity. We live and die on “bread and circuses”.
The children are corrupted. Innocence Is quickly lost, impatience, shallowness, Suspicion celebrated, trust misplaced, Sincerity misunderstood, abused...
And yet, on all of this, the marketers Are able still to put a glossy sheen, As we can see in plastic packaging...
We do not know, what misery's behind The food we eat, the clothes we wear, our drugs, And all that we so willingly consume. But there are those who suffer. Yet we're told They do so willingly – or else, it's God, Who has ordained they serve our endless wants.
And if we're scolded for this painting dark That spreads the shadows, at expense of light, And does not show the ones who benefit From all that vision, driving labor, wrought, We answer, “Surely, of those things, you've heard Enough. Discern advances genuine From those that are yet more of packaging.
“Remember, we are beasts of local scope. The more the distance is, the more the chance Of scams. To pipers, near or distant, do Not dance – or if you do, step carefully...
“And open, if you can, the packaging.”
2013 August 4, Sun. (additions made August 10, Sat.) Brooklyn
On walking home, as dusk was courting night,
I looked above and saw a wondrous sight.
The sky to west was lit, in light cyan,
And darkened in the east – to deepest blue.
And in that eastern sky, there floated clouds,
Of gray below, with mounts of purest white,
That still, as darkness grew, were filled with light...
And once again, from gloom and misery,
I found reprieve, as Nature's treasury
Of lines and shades and colors found its use
In paintings ever new, with none the same,
Unmatched by all those masters past who tried
To capture just a little bit of mystery
From Nature's trove – and then were history...
And so I walked, transformed by what I'd seen,
Refreshed, made whole, as I've so often been.
And as I walked, those clouds, so luminous,
Grew darker, yet – as blues turned violet, black –
Could still be seen, as planets, stars appeared...
In war's inferno, with its sights obscene,
Could grace be found in one celestial scene?
I pondered this – and saw, that if we turn
From all the things that hurt and make us burn,
Then we may find, in skies or on this Earth,
In smallest things – for body, spirit, mind –
The sustenance we need to carry on –
A lesson that we each might quickly learn
If each would cease, to gentler voices spurn...
So though it's said that darshan is a gift
Bestowed on us by those, with power to lift
Us up from morbid ignorance, we see
That all it is, is vision, literally...
And each may find this in a different way,
But when it's found, we then can bridge the rift
Within, be whole – and good, from evil, sift...
2013 August 4th, Sun., evening Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
We've learned that chapters of our human tale
Are named for stuff that formed our implements.
And so, we've had the Age of Stone, of Bronze, Of Iron – and we're surely still within
The Age of Coal and Oil and Gas, as we
Now live, scavenging remnants, decomposed,
Of beings past that thrived on radiance –
That even now springs forth as corpses burn.
And all the “plastics” that might indicate
That we should call our times the Plastic Age,
At source, from these – and ocean, air – are made,
And so are many clothes and furnishings,
Plus dyes and drugs – and endless things beside.
And so we could, with right, proclaim that we
Are living still in an Age of Scavenging –
And celebrate this plateau high with glee.
But some would argue for another scheme
And say that we had passed from a Primal Age
To the Age of Herds and Farms – and then, of late,
To that of Industry – and now, they'd say,
We're at the dawn of yet another age,
Where all (in time) are linked by nets that keep
Us so aware of all the rest that we
Can shout, “We're in the Information Age!”
But there's another aspect, some would note,
Examining the garbage we discard,
The things we buy and sell – and all we do
To keep in motion this economy
And so survive – including, constantly,
The merchandising of ourselves. They'd say
We've been, awhile, within a glorious age,
In which the wrapping counts – the gloss, the spin –
Far more than what's within. As Content is
Dethroned, they'd hail – the Age of Packaging!
Throughout July, we had but little rain,
And all the trees were parched, with drooping leaves
That browned and fell, as if the fall had come
Already. Rains arrived, at last, and trees
Revived. It rained till well past noon today.
It's August now – a cloudy afternoon,
with traces of a drizzle, drifting past.
I'm sitting in an asphalt city park,
beneath a tree recovered from the drought,
with little leaves in rows of two that weave
a curtain, oriental, underneath
a sky of white that's rimmed by shades of gray.
Those little leaves are waving in the wind,
in silence, as I hear the muted sound
of water gurgling from a fountain set
at the center of this little park, where kids
would now be swinging, running, shouting and
be climbing on the slides and jungle gym,
if the sun were out this August afternoon.
And though that sun attempts to pierce the clouds,
with light reflected brightly from the slides
and shadows briefly cast upon the ground,
it's hid again, as denser clouds arrive
and breezes cool and even chilly blow.
The pigeons too were scared away by rain,
and I am left in solitude today
in busy Brooklyn, as the cars go by
at intervals along a road I see –
and even they have noises that are hushed.
So I can hear that gurgling water and,
when gusts arrive, the metal clank of chain
against a flagpole tall that flies
the flags of nation, city, state and parks...
I sit in meditation, in that park,
as time goes by, this August afternoon...
I wait awhile – and then the birds arrive –
and as it nears to three, the smaller kids.
And gone are now that stillness, solitude
and quiet – with those faint and waking sounds...
It's life, not that of patient trees alone,
but active beasts – the pigeons, sparrows and
the swallows that are wheeling in the breeze,
the kids who run upon the clanking “bridge”
and chase each other 'round and ride their bikes
and scooters, those who mount the stairs and slide,
with all their squeals of joy, on play intent –
this life now fills this city park that wakes from sleep.
The adults, few in number, come to sit
on benches, basking in the tempered sun,
and watching children play and run and shout.
I sit and watch and wonder where it went –
that park that was before – and then, again –
a moment's quiet, as the sun breaks through –
and there – I hear it – still, that gurgling sound...
A little baby cries – and it is gone.
I look and see – that fountain, small, in sun.
It rises but a foot or so above the ground.
A little girl approaches, circles, squats
and wets her hand awhile and prances off.
I feel the sun upon my aging legs –
a benediction. But it's time to go...
2013 August 3rd, Sat. afternoon City park at Bath and Bay Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
More Advice Yes, I know of your credentials, as you've come to me commended By an able old disciple, who has highly recommended Your performance, for its slickness and its evidence of art – And he tells me that you're on the way to getting rid of heart...
But he notes that you're uncertain on some matters – that you worry, And at times, for needed actions, you have ended feeling sorry. And he says that you are looking for a mentor, for a guide, Who will aid you in your journey, one in whom you can confide...
So you've come to me requesting that I give you some advice. But you'd better be prepared, as what I'll tell you isn't nice. If you're looking to go higher, it behooves you to be shrewd. Be polite to those who matter. To the rest, you can be rude.
If you labored in a factory, then you'd do as you were told. If you worked within an office, you'd be foolish to be bold. You would follow all your orders and be loyal to your bosses, Or your exit would be certain. You'd be counting up your losses.
Were you serving in an army – or teaching in a school, You would surely have accepted that you're nothing but a tool. If you'd started on a business, you'd be forced to toe the rules, For the morgues for failing businesses are filled by errant fools.
If you're thinking you can change the world, you'd better think again. For the cynics have been betting – and they're winning yet again. If you venture into politics or you work in institutions, You should leave behind your right-and-wrong and softer intuitions.
If you listen to your conscience and you do as it dictates, You may find that you're the object of a multitude of hates. If you're questioning a “verity” or asking for a reason, You will surely be suspected then of lunacy or treason.
So be wary of the rebels who are questioning the flow. To where rising ones are headed, you'd be smart to turn and go. Leave resistance to the failures, who you'll see are losing ground. Let reflection be for losers, as you win another round!
To your bosses, be compliant. With your underlings, be stern. You should undermine complainers – who will never, ever learn. The ambition that is needed, if you're looking to succeed, Should be fortified by ruthlessness – and a fair amount of greed.
For you're clearly not for labor in a factory or school. As for slaving in an office – you are surely not a fool. You're not meant to die for duty in a distant, dirty war. You were born to be a boss-man, who'll be chauffeured in a car.
So you'll learn to do the herding – and the hunting too, my friend. And you'll learn from those who're herders – and who hunt until the end. And you'll ally with the in-crowd, with the ones who're seeking power, And you'll learn to lie and break the laws and watch the timid cower.
For the rules are there for workers and the lower rungs of bosses, But they don't apply to owners. We are ruled by profits, losses. And a nation, such as ours, is in need of rule by those, Who were meant to be the owners – and the roads to owning chose.
If you're looking for the power and the wealth, then you should know That these things, from your own labor, you can never ever grow. For the roads to wealth and power, they are built on workers' backs, And the entrances are barred to him, who basic shrewdness lacks.
It's when your wealth is multiplied by all who work for you, And your power too is magnified by all who're serving you, It's then, by dint of rent and debt and wages that you pay, That you'll get, with wits and ruthlessness, your money – and your way.
So I think that I shall leave you now to ponder if you're fitted To clamber up the hierarchies and leave the rest outwitted. It is heartening for elders, that a younger generation Will be putting on the stirrups, so's to ride this glorious nation.
You have come to me from someone, who was really rather clever. He had learned what I had taught him, while repeating hardly ever. And he says that you are like him, and may even rise above. If he's right (and I do trust him) then my labor is of love.
For I hope that you'll be smart enough to kill and have your dinner, And you'll show, to those who're watching, what it means to be a winner. So I'll gladly be your mentor, for it's rarely that I find, In a person who is younger, such a cunning sort of mind.
But your quibbles, you should garbage, you should throw them in the trash, Or you'll find that you are hobbled, or are even acting rash. To be honest is for others – just be careful, don't be caught! And you'll have your time for kindness – but there's battles to be fought. 2013 July 2nd, Fri. Brooklyn
I've lived, for many years, on a city block
that lies between a Sunoco, on Cropsey,
and a Russian social hall, on Bath.
On taking out the trash, at 3 am,
I found the night air had a bracing chill,
and started on a short, digestive stroll...
I slowly walked to bright-lit Bath and then
looked up, above the roofs, towards the sky.
And there, despite the glare of city lights,
were half a dozen lonely, scattered stars
that twinkled bravely in a patch of sky
that seemed as dark as death...
These must, I thought, be brighter than the rest –
that host that city-dwellers do not see
and never may...
I turned around and headed to my door –
but closed it, thinking I should walk the block.
And so, beside the darkened Sunoco,
I saw, above the roof-line silhouette,
another set of stars, a crescent moon,
decreased past quarter – and the silent flash
of a firefly-plane that arced across the dark...
I watched this pass the moon and disappear,
as eyes, adjusting, saw the dark had hues...
I stood there looking, drinking all this in,
and then walked home – as I had seen enough
to soundly sleep my precious hours three...
But if I'd wandered north – and passing Bath,
had walked to Benson, I would then have seen
yet more of sky, above a line of trees,
and yet more stars – perhaps the baleful Mars –
and Jupiter and Sirius and more...
That waning moon would then have walked with me,
and I, bewitched, might still be standing awed
or venturing further on that moonlit street.
I then might not have slept, this summer night...
But I had seen enough – and so returned
and mounted up the stairs towards our flat,
before the dawn in Bensonhurst...
2013 July 30th, Tue. 3:30 am (First paragraph & last two paras added Aug. 1st, 2:40 am) Bensonhurst, Brooklyn