Imagine a world where property value, tax-paid infrastructure, the rule of law,
justice’s infuriatingly slow machinations,
tact, decorum, gold prices and golden manners,
collective peace-of-mind, tranquility of greater-good, and the easy flow of status-quo traffic
and blissful return to whatever we consider our communal normal
were all more important
than the unconscionable completely avoidable death of your son, or brother, or father, or lover.
Really imagine it though, and feel free to sub-out and imagine your daughter, sister, or mother instead
murdered by the state;
I didn’t recommend it because I’m no monster.
Now sit with that moment, that overcooked despair and rage as your civic institutions tell you with a dismissive shrug
that his death was unavoidable, his assailants, servants of the state are good and normal in completing the task of snuffing-out his light
and your reaction to his completely avoidable death is completely unreasonable and lives as proof of the sole reason why guys who look like him
– and yes, who look like you too –
are routinely slaughtered by the state-sanctioned violence in the first place.
He’s never coming back, his voice forever silenced
and there is no one with leveraged power to champion his cause, to validate your grief,
nowhere to turn to wring meaning from your loss.
What would you do? What is your next move?
Whatever you decide, best be quick about it.
Monday’s coming, and you’d better be on time with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.
Wouldn’t want to give anyone within the superstructure the wrong idea that you’re angry or resentful
or one of those malcontents out there disrupting the established order. ***
“But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”
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And last, but not least, our final (optional) prompt! In some past years, I’ve challenged you to write a poem of farewell for our thirtieth day, but this year, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem about something that returns. For, just as the swallows come back to Capistrano each year, NaPoWriMo and GloPoWriMo will ride again!
Sorry to end NaPoWriMo on such a dismal note. I could’ve gone with some type of spring renewal, but I guess I wasn’t there.
I was just sitting here thinking about how the COVID-19 pandemic will most likely (and rightfully) squash the May Day protests tomorrow, but our US (and nearly global) capitalist economy is just chompin’ at the bit to throw our sick, broken bodies back into the churn, risk-assessment be damned. I hear talk of rushing to get “back to normal”, and it just makes me wonder, normal in relation to what, exactly?
Thanks for hanging with me this month. I’ll see you back here next year, but until then, feel free to hang out and read my infrequent poetry postings.
What can I say, Wolf? I’ve never owned any pets. Too much overhead, too much work,
oh, and also because of slavery.
Yes Wolf; I mentioned pet ownership and slavery in the same breath, but it’s not like you’re gonna call me on it; you’re just a dumb dog,
one that’s been dead for nearly thirty years.
But fine, I remember those soulful eyes, so I’ll try to explain it.
There’s something to be said of those unlucky in birth who persevere against all odds to overthrow their oppressors in triumph.
Americans especially love these underdog stories, as our recorded history is full of them.
But what of the other stories?
With Tubman, Douglass, and The Amistad as outliers of four-hundred years of mostly humdrum, garden-variety slavery, with all the standard rape, abuse, and outright murdering of slaves too stupid to mask their intelligence,
how many stories of the voiceless do we know?
It’s weird, Wolf. You were a dog – a beautiful German Shepherd/Doberman Pinscher mix
– but when I think of all the voiceless slaves who were born and died in unconscionable suffering, I think of you.
To be honest, Wolf, I haven’t thought of you in ages, and that’s a shame, but
the less remembered of your tragic life and death, the better for me.
Or perhaps not; after all, I’ve left your memory as it were, untamed, but there it sits upon my return, waiting patiently only for me.
What if my sidestepping your legacy is but one more injustice for you?
Our lives were intertwined for so long, with much of the trauma descendent directly from my ancestors in bondage.
You weren’t even my damn dog, but I was your reluctant caretaker, and there’s nothing poetic about feeding you and cleaning up your shit, but I felt your loyalty and your agony in-kind.
Wolf, you were an idiot of a dog, raised on ignorance and cruelty, and yet you were still sweet and loyal.
I’d given up on hiding grandma’s tools of discipline, as she’d just find herself a sturdier switch to snap on ya,
but I taught you to sit using head-rubs instead of grandma’s rubber hose; you were always a good boy.
I wish I had told you that more.
I remember you having the audacity to demand more head-rubs from me, swatting at my hand with your paw like Bunky the cat taught you, and I happily gave them to you.
I wish I’d given you all the head-rubs.
But I’d graduated the basement and fled to the Navy, making the cut despite the odds.
I heard of your fate secondhand, and I wept real tears over a freaking dog that I didn’t even own
who lived his entire existence chained to a waterpipe in a half-finished basement,
life snuffed-out, most likely, by someone well-known and trusted.
Can you imagine that?
Anyway, yeah, I’ve never cared for any pets.
Too much overhead, too much work, just too much. ***
And now for our daily prompt (optional, as always). Today, I challenge you to write a paean to the stalwart hero of your household: your pet. Sing high your praises and tell the tale of Kitty McFluffleface’s ascension of Mt. Couch. Let us hear how your intrepid doggo bravely answers the call to adventure whenever the leash jingles.
If you don’t have a pet, perhaps you know one or remember one who deserves to be immortalized in verse. For inspiration, I direct you to a selection from an 18th-century poem by Christopher Smart, Jubilate Agno, in which the poet’s praise for his cat ranges from “For he is docile and can learn certain things” all the way up to “For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.” Personally, I’m lucky if my cat doesn’t just sleep the day away, but I find her pretty delightful all the same.
This was painful to write, and I nearly scrapped the whole thing. I kept trying to walk away from it, but it kept calling me back.
It’s unpolished, and I won’t be revisiting it at all, but Wolf deserves to have his story told.
Three-hundred, ninety years ago, as millions of Central and West Africans traveled involuntarily towards bondage across the vast Atlantic in irons, light began its unimaginable journey of hundreds of trillions of miles from an undiscovered star-system where iron vapor condensed, raining down from a night sky of a planet twice the size of our King Jupiter that none yet on our good earth knew existed, the faint light finally reaching our astronomers last month.
News travels fast it seems, but I guess for some, not fast enough. ***
Even now, forces battle for fractions
of light and dark, air and earth, truths and lies
the spoils, ripened treasures and abstractions
like oil, our foods, as humankind’s soul cries
split to the bone in factions
honed for overreactions
My soul’s not known for overreactions
compressing, sealing night into fractions
of morbid amusement, viewing factions
through porous veneers of their willful lies
unmoved by their biased cries
on currents of abstractions
Our sun will yield to night and abstractions
leaving the void and overreactions
light evening showers won’t drown-out the cries
of justice-seekers sliced into fractions
divided by clever lies
blinded factions fight factions
I welcome rain as night deceives factions
truth is our souls are merely abstractions
these lines dividing us all are sad lies
gains of few, fueled by overreactions
many fight over fractions
immune to his brother’s cries
I remain in-tune with my brother’s cries
but turn a deaf-ear to brother’s factions
I see us whole, and not just the fractions
bellies are filled by more than abstractions
stilled by overreactions
humanity’s fate still lies
I wonder which side will win through the lies
will we have our peace or feast on war-cries?
I still observe the overreactions
blackening hearts into soulless factions
they have killed for abstractions
weighing lives by the fractions
I wonder which lies will fell the factions
silencing the cries; soulless abstractions
overreactions leaving fractions.
Written for dVerse Poetry Form: Sestina, hosted by Victoria C. Slotto. Other poets have contributed to this prompt here. The Sestina is an oily form, super-tricky to pull off, like Jello-wrestling a sexy, nude, female vampire who’s riding a velociraptor. Naturally, I had to give it a go (the poem, not the Jello-wrestling, though I’d probably be game for that too.)
“What are you doing here?” she asked, pulling away.
“Just holding you,” I murmured drowsily, gently pulling her close.
“This is inappropriate,” she protested, squinting. “And what’s with that light?”
“This is only gratitude,” I replied. “Nothing more.”
“Gratitude?” she scoffed. “I don’t even know you.”
“I know,” I said. “And I don’t know you, but thanks to you, I know a thousand words for the color blue, and so I dreamt I was the moon creeping into your window, spooning you, comforting you with borrowed glow of yesterday and tomorrow, coiling your secrets into the crux of my crescent, never to see daylight again.”
“Oh,” she said. “You doing this for all of us?”
“Yes,” I said. “Now shh!”
And after a pregnant silence, she said, “You know we’re all gone now, right?”
This is a tribute to the victims, survivors, and families of the Kyoto Animation Studio arson/mass-murder that claimed the lives of 34 innocent and brilliant artists. I don’t have any more words to convey my grief and sorrow, but if, like me, you ache to flood the void caused by this act of hate with acts of love, contribute to the GoFundMe setup by Sentai Filmworks. Other ways to help can be found here.