Day 16: Poetry as Visible Steam


Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

Poetry as Visible Steam

That iconic church
catching fire
is not upsetting.

less-iconic black churches
is not upsetting.

Random hate crimes
against minorities
is not upsetting.

A murder of another
based on who they choose to love
is not upsetting.

Having a government leader
with no empathy, no tact,
no impulse control, no shame,
no fundamental grasp of science,
not even the service of
an official proofreader
or spellchecker
is not upsetting.

Passing the tipping-point
of human-aided
catastrophic climate change
with a collective shrug
and a doubling-down
of business-as-usual
is not upsetting.

What is upsetting
is the growing numbness
incinerating our
collective superstructure.

What is upsetting
is realizing that faith in humanity
was firebombed decades
before observation,
like a lobster having no idea
they’re slowly being
boiled alive
until there’s steam.

What is upsetting
is our growing detachment
from the humane.

What is upsetting
is catching yourself wondering
what the victim did to provoke
such violent hatred
before remembering
that all they did was
have the audacity
to exist.

What is upsetting
is that a hilariously-terrifying,
poisonous, treasonous,
is executing the will
of a percentage of people
I call neighbor.

What is upsetting is receiving
such an oppressive influx
of terrible things,
that the nervous system
reflexively shuts down
to protect itself.

What is upsetting is knowing that,
even after adjusting cosmic perspective,
knowing that no one is coming
to save you from yourselves,
compelling you to root for the
sweet, sweet probability of a
random extinction meteor.

What is upsetting
is slowly realizing that
nothing is upsetting anymore.

Not even when the steam is visible.

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 16 prompt: “write a poem that uses the form of a list to defamiliarize the mundane.” Again, I took license and adjusted the scale, as I’m running dry on mundane topics and I’m a bit sleep-deprived and grumpy.

Also written for Real Toads’ day 16 prompt: “poetry as an insurgent art”.

15 thoughts on “Day 16: Poetry as Visible Steam

  1. Oh my goodness, i am so glad i did not miss this poem. You’re right, Barry, with daily disasters, i think we all shut down…..which may be what the powers that be want. To keep us in reaction mode so we cant muster enough solidarity to react. For two years i have wondered at the silence of those in government, what this regime gets away with that no other administration would, and why everyone isnt out in the streets. The numbness and silence is freaky. Fantastic write.


  2. true, all of it. and i’m reminded of that old Far Side cartoon, with the chef aiming at a lever over the stove, where a lobster perches over a pot of boiling water. ~


  3. This is so true, Barry! When tragedies happen again and again, society becomes inured to them. You’re right about the growing numbness and the loss of faith in humanity – the lobster analogy is particularly potent.


  4. Oh! You said it all by touching the nerve-center of this prevailing numbness and the resulting complicity of being entirely unaffected by anything and everything — the lobster analogy is spot on in this acknowledgment. Powerful, hard-hitting, and thought-provoking! I wonder how far this poem would reach when the visible steam can’t deter or bring us all to the consciousness of our impending doom.
    Wonderful writing!


  5. This is incredibly raw and poignant! It’s tragic to learn that people all over the world have stopped caring .. and are indifferent to what’s transpiring around them.. sigh ..


  6. Grimly true. I catch myself at times and wonder to my dismay just how much of me is slowly being desensitized to all of it, and then I remind myself I can’t do that if I want to stay relevant and be part of the solution. It’s damn hard though, and you say it perfectly.


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