31 March 2007

A Chaucerian sonnet

Whan that Aprille doth March displace,
with weping, walinge, and cryes folk do disporte
for there beth ne shelter ne resorte;
the IRS doth every fotestepe trace,
and will nat grante even a minute's grace,
an ye paye not, thenne the kyng his courte,
shall distrain on ye, and ye shall fallen shorte.
Empty will be thyne pockets, and longe thyn face.
The reeve and miller shall with bailie strive,
the wyfe of Bath shall kepe a civil tongue,
and franklin shall kepe cheke upon fre thoughte;
tis not the time for knight or squire to wyve,
the prioresse shalle nat of love have sunge,
and all take care to do the thinges they oughte.

naming the better choices

where words and music in due course combine
we choose each time to listen or to dance
life's more than bread and water beer or wine

the finest elements from raw ore we'll refine
each of us in our turn will take our chance
where words and music in due course combine

for what we want for that we will not pine
we'll get our pay or we will not advance
life's more than bread and water beer or wine

the whole thing's not about what's yours or mine
although we cast a glamour of romance
where words and music in due course combine

each of us will our tastes and hopes define
we'll take things in with more than just a glance
life's more than bread and water beer or wine

and in the end where some might draw the line
there'll be a moment where we fall in trance
where words and music in due course combine
life's more than bread and water beer or wine

a spring saturday

aloft a speckled blue like wild bird's egg
lower the varied greens dancing in light
still hours to go before return of night
each tree sways gently like a dancing leg
yet holds the earth down firmly as a peg
time it would seem has given up its spite
the day began dull but now ends bright
peace flows serene like beer from a keg
let there be wisdom no god told us that
but we need something firm in each mind
rest comes and calm but always a catch
sits in our thoughts we can take nothing flat
acceptance of each moment is too blind
but only fools would strike the final match

we see the change

all that we ask for will one day be lost
all day through sun and rain we wend
at some point somebody will count the cost

those who obeyed and those who bossed
no memories of grace they'll lend
all that we ask for will one day be lost

all through the night we turned and tossed
against vague evil foes we did defend
at some point somebody will count the cost

those rivers which we have not crossed
we watch at the last slow great bend
all that we ask for will one day be lost

a message with the great seal embossed
is not the one our enemies will send
at some point somebody will count the cost

and in the end we feel the touch of frost
who's left as foe and who indeed as friend
all that we ask for will one day be lost
at some point somebody will count the cost

through the trees

what beings flit from branch to branch in light
both soft and clear under a pearly sky
we don't feel fear and yet we wonder why
such a thing this morning just seems right
where we were caught in a despairing plight
yet overcame the monster and the lie
went moving onward as the day rolled by
these are the things that come into our sight
when beyond morning we behold the day
unsullied by such things as fear and pain
the weather will all elements alloy
there is we hope a better clearer way
we long for the warm gentle touch of rain
but the calm moment brings to us its joy

30 March 2007

New fears for old

What we want is new horrors for the old,
enough of zombies, vampires, or trolls,
there aren't enough of them to fill the holes
that have appeared when it stops being cold.
The ones who want to fight them are so bold
and eager to go out on swift patrols;
they are the ones with well-developed souls,
who've done the job for more than mere gold.
New monsters are now needed, that's the case,
but ones that aren't just squamous or rugose,
monsters that will last beyond this year.
We want some monsters that will set the pace,
that won't be taciturn, nor yet verbose,
but will inspire some deep, gut-clenching fear.

where none has gone before

Across the distance messages return
from star-dates long forgotten by the stars;
the symbols in the crystal glow and burn,
embers of Klingon and Romulan wars.
And now we all such strife and conflict spurn,
and settle our disputes in spaceport bars.
Although some memories still rankle and vex
we celebrate, each in their turn, these treks.

From former neutral zone and wartime front
come tired heroes; they've been to and fro
from Picard's calm to some old Kirk-like stunt
they'll continue with their mission, make it so
whether they're diplomatic or they're blunt;
for the primal imperative is to boldly go.
And atoms, like infinitives, smash and split
yet, somehow, on each voyage, there is wit.

To distant quadrants of which nothing's known
by dynamic forces which they can't control
but which can't overcome them, they'll be blown;
alien and cyborg each find a human soul
and Vulcan shows his heart is not a stone.
To broaden human knowledge still the goal.
What, though we wonder, will their journey find
more wonderful than the frail human mind?

On deep space station there's another cause
controlling diverse species passing through;
aliens and humans finding common laws
are not enough, and yet each gets their due.
Each faces and comes to master normal flaws,
and each comes to take the other's point of view.
What binds them all together is the start
of shared understanding in each sapient heart.

And even pioneers, on their first enterprise
shocked and delighted by the things they found;
warmed, hurt, or frozen under alien skies
but still determined to stand on human ground.
Learning to sort hard truths from the soft lies
and ears attuning to the sphere's great sound.
No quantum leap this from earth to deep space
and yet we know this is their rightful place.

write a poem about cricket

the yellow tennis ball and the coconut bough
marks of ambition on the concrete pitch
to think that playing games can make you rich
but that's not the question right about now
instead we want to ask just when and how
the ball can be hit halfway to the ditch
and one can get the runs without a hitch
where there's no umpire but a sleepy cow
names long forgotten run through every head
thoughts of great places to carry a bat
that take you far from this confining space
there's no time here for worry nor for dread
you dream of crying out at last howzat
and swearing oaths by the beard of grace

the deepest of wishes

threat or promise we desire the rain
to fill our parched cracked empty hearts
this is our vision and we see it plain

there's nothing for which we want to strain
lethargy weighs down all human parts
threat or promise we desire the rain

on river's edge we see the nesting crane
after soft prey with alacrity it darts
this is our vision and we see it plain

at night we seek the stars of charles's wain
their brightness is so clear it almost smarts
threat or promise we desire the rain

we fight for justice with full might and main
and find it sold for threepence in the marts
this is our vision and we see it plain

life carries on between joy and pain
survival is the plainest of all arts
threat or promise we desire the rain
this is our vision and we see it plain

from memory to purpose

words once written go
they vanish into nothing
their weight not golden

we gild the lily
still its loveliness appears
calming the loud day

what we know we know
vanishes into nothing
the world is so large

the rose of summer
casts odours to the breezes
soothing the hot soul

a moment's wisdom
it emerges from nothing
cycles of action

short was the spring

already summer shows its sluggish shape
not soft the sun but heavy lies the air
at midafternoon haze weighs like a bear
senses stunned to cool caverns we escape
wits seem to wilt our nerves begin to scrape
so many things we wish but do not dare
feverish fitful we seem so full of fear
jammed into place we do not jest or jape
the milky light turns into blinding glow
warmth soon turns torrid and we wail
at how the pace of summer has increased
almost we long for the soft touch of snow
like leaves in drought our spirits quail
the demon of the sunlight is released

29 March 2007

refining what's in the pit

black dirt red clay we watch the cords stretch out
these are the signs of change or so we're told
the day is warm but that's not why we're bold
those boundaries of detail we shall not flout
up until now all that we thought was doubt
of anything being done till times turned old
no thought of change here expenditures of gold
might or might not have made the worker shout
no name or number given but still the signs
are clearly laid out we've not been deceived
a newer process has begun and at long last
we watch the markings and the taut blue lines
some message it is clear has been received
and emptiness is thrust far to the past
yet omens taken and the dice being cast
the earth no longer clings to the broad tines
the shape of things now passes the conceived
behind us wave the thin but earnest pines
we little know the changes they've perceived
seasons of drought or else the lightning blast
the rumble comes and goes this is the name
of what's long sought-for and the normal flame

distant prospects reconsidered

at this remove the world becomes too strange
for understanding yet we work our wills
upon the ones that mark the greatest range
once great mountains now just gentle hills
with greatest ceremony the spaces marked
become the holy places for such odd folk
as those who when the dragon softly barked
conceived that they no longer bore the yoke
of such a servitude as not one would despise
but understand the purpose we have made
the beast that took all nature in its eyes
departs and leaves us but a darkish shade
marking the world the lightest of the kind
unclogs the senses and redeems the blind

not enough to console

what words there are have not the vital force
there's never sufficient healing in our hearts
life proceeds onwards in its normal course

whether on foot or on mounted on high horse
we aren't required to do more than our parts
what words there are have not the vital force

stream must flow full strength from the source
the waterwheel provides the blow that smarts
life proceeds onwards in its normal course

life's not to be priced or traded on the bourse
the heart's made vulnerable by pointed darts
what words there are have not the vital force

the moment's one that calls out for remorse
but that may cause more pain than all our arts
life proceeds onwards in its normal course

this is the point where sense and heart divorce
our hearts and minds are far beyond the charts
what words there are have not the vital force
life proceeds onwards in its normal course

geography is history

where the place is not the people what's seen
beyond the moment where sight can connect
a momentary gathering of cause or effect
those who are to come and who have been
the ones who come from the locales between
will in their proper time choose or reject
the answers that are given what we reflect
is all the colours spread from red to green
emotion or inaction what we've been told
is that we matter but that each alone
is not important that at least we'll give
all of our purpose to turn lead to gold
and when we've learned we're wrong atone
but then what reason would we have to live

28 March 2007

Puto ego deus fio

What god descended from Olympian height,
perhaps from some vast distances of space
to give to Barbara his divinest grace;
or, perhaps, rose from the most Stygian night
to create for us some quandary or plight
and teach us all our proper servile place?
(We'd love so much this paternity to trace.)
We cannot know, and that we don't think right.
Perhaps great Thor from garth of Aesir came,
or Brother Anansi from far Afric land;
perhaps some half-remembered god of war
gave to our George the dark celestial flame
(not Agni's but much like it), so from his hand
might one day come the bright atomic star.

head wall bounce

there isn't hope of any good or end
but what we build and that's so weak
for any good we want or could seek
the answer comes in backward trend
whatever's made or what we send
matters little we know that the meek
are eaten by the strong and at the peak
of power there's nothing that can bend
discovery of just how much to bear
that load's not made for ordinary back
the road goes up there's no plateau
each journey's day seems like a year
there is no light upon this track
when we are come then must we go

exquisite experience examined

before this fellow stopped bewraying kex
his personality was quite fully shaped
he looked to act where others merely gaped
and would not let the normal actions vex
with determination unusual for his sex
he had things wrapped and neatly taped
from boundaries and limits he's escaped
but all his children's names begin with 'x'
saints and cities and warriors all mixed
flavours of different continents combined
and there'll be three who's speech is a burr
that's not a problem they won't have it fixed
i've not a doubt they'll all be most refined
and paternal roaring diminished to a purr


The voyage will depend on a mixed crew
who must learn to live and work as one,
to voyage home is all they wish to do.

Strange and uncanny things will come in view,
they'll grow into a family before they're done;
the voyage will depend on a mixed crew.

Love will bind them all before they're through
and they won't lose their spirit on the run --
to voyage home is all they wish to do.

Crises will come and be resolved on cue
yet from their purpose they will not be spun;
the voyage will depend on a mixed crew.

Carpers may speak nonsense till they're blue
but the bold captain duty will not shun;
to voyage home is all they wish to do.

Over the years their spirits will renew
in spite of threats from tractor beam or gun.
The voyage will depend on a mixed crew;
to voyage home is all they wish to do.

looking out at the dark

at times you want to see the fire sweep
over all the city cleansing as it goes
at others you want the eternal snows
to cover up the towers many feet deep
across the ruins let the monsters creep
as cold rain falls and the great river flows
let nature deliver her least subtle blows
the time has come when all should sleep
but no that would not be the proper way
to punish all the evil things that walk
and claim the human shield for all their deeds
you hope instead for one bright shining day

when rightful action will replace the talk
and all that's done will meet the deepest needs

27 March 2007

that's entropy man

what's to be done we might as well begin
the choice of action won't be open long
we've done no deed to be marked in song
but want success and have the will to win
our efforts could be stigmatised as sin
yet we know that we can't now be wrong
our steps go to the beating of a gong
and nothing beats the quality of spin
so here and there the stars are going out
the world hasn't yet ended we'd be told
if anything should happen to our hopes
still there's no whimper but a noisy shout
the universe is quickly going cold
and all our champions are on the ropes

A continuing mission

Beyond the stars in deepest hard vacuum
all journeys end or so we have been told;
our job, however, requires us to be bold
so to the deepest spaces we'll presume
to go, not because there's no more room
on Earth for courage, but in spite of cold
equations that would moor or hold
us in one place. Space is not a tomb.
Other continua we know we'll find
where arbitrary powers still hold sway
who wish to subject us to greatest pain.
Still we move forward, with each mind
determined to keep our vessel on its way;
and even androids seek the human stain.
Now, Borg or zombie, it has been quite plain,
will seek to make us from our true path stray
and our desires assimilate and bind.
Yet, we believe that we must win the day,
our virtues keep, and greater wisdom gain,
knowing that vision comes even to the blind.
Captains are bold, and make us understand
that hope and justice are at our command.

waiting for sunrise

if there were hope of any new reward
who'd go out there in hope of great gain
knowing that the other answer was a sword

those who had stood for long hours on guard
would have endured the greatest joy and pain
if there were hope of any new reward

they would have taken any for their lord
who would have washed away the human stain
knowing that the other answer was a sword

all who receive guerdon of bed and board
should give of all their hearts with might and main
if there were hope of any new reward

the ones who reached the final goal and scored
must not show any sign of sweat or strain
knowing that the other answer was a sword

the ones who the old paradigms adored
would not have seen the vision clear and plain
if there were hope of any new reward
knowing that the other answer was a sword

what's thought not heard

the distant sounds of traffic in the dark
strange gatherings on shadowy street
life and death could very quickly meet
life here is not a walk in some neat park
those who bear the eternal walker's mark
will not with cheer our smiles now greet
the road lies hard and rough under our feet
you don't come this way only for a lark
here it seems calm at least for this hour
the radio brings a message of good cheer
outside the shadow has not yet been raised
in the far distance one sits in a tower
observes the turbulence of the dark air
and wonders why we are not more amazed

26 March 2007

for g o-l on a monday

i know just where you are but cannot call
i don't want to disturb you while you teach
you're near enough but just outside my reach
the thought of you is one that cannot pall
you are my soul's delight my heart my all
your presence is what i most beseech
your absence now suppresses all my speech
i can't describe exactly what the part
you've played has been i know that you are there
when i most need you and that you're not far
from where i sit you're safe within my heart
your passion and your warmth and all your care
you are the sole the one the guiding star

For AS on a new journey

There are no destinations on our trip,
just stopping points where we may rest
or find some task at which we do our best,
before we have to move, or else we slip
from place to place at a more steady clip
and, rootless, are devoted to the quest.
We may abide, but at our own behest,
and when we are quite ready board the ship.
To view the different oceans and the isles
that story tells of, to have got to view
the places that you dreamt of as a child,
that's the reward for the long weary miles.
Each place we come to teaches something new,
and facing each departure we just smiled.

Making it so

Our enterprise has no limits in time
nor any in the space that we can reach;
our task, today, is both to learn and teach
as humankind begins the steepest climb,
up from our world, and onward with the prime
directive as our guide. There is no beach
for us to rest on, and we know that each
sapient species can learn to be sublime.
Encounters rich and strange, future and past,
the names of entities have magic force
but cannot long detain us, we are on our way
to the furthest destination. The die is cast.
No godlings and no cyborgs can bend our course,
we seek the furthest star and its last ray.

still sleepy at work

the towers of the city in the night
a magic kingdom of peculiar kind
structures created by an act of mind
covered with jewels glowing to the sight
the sky above them seems too light
past their upthrusting our path we find
there's nothing here to keep or bind
and to the east nothing is bright
the struggle that we face is old
each day's exposure tires and wears
duty compels and need for pay
so i set my face and appear bold
i've done this now for many years
and this is just another normal day

25 March 2007

What's beamed up

We find out pretty early that the tech
sustains us but provides no moral core;
the journey is not one we've done before,
to reach the stars will take us a long trek.
We're not to be summoned, not at the beck
of any caller; our mission needs much more
than mere devotion, but we do not get sore;
the captain sits and ponders on the deck.
Below the engineer thinks squares and cubes,
gets everything the engines give and yet
can coax more from them, that's the noble thing.
He clambers with agility through narrow tubes,
does not despair though others get upset,
and finds more lift than can be got by wing.

attending to the record

when told the tale of what is now long past
what recollections and what feelings rise
the field's enormous and the map is vast

what was done then has now been surpassed
by those who do not need the least disguise
when told the tale of what is now long past

it might have been one who had been aghast
at all that cautious thinking could devise
the field's enormous and the map is vast

the sail that's hung upon the tallest mast
takes up the wind or that's the best surmise
when told the tale of what is now long past

upon great waters desires were outcast
all backs were turned to loud despairing cries
the field's enormous and the map is vast

never be certain this fight will be the last
life will entice us with its subtlest lies
when told the tale of what is now long past
the field's enormous and the map is vast

no prevarication

what spaces left for those who did not rise
when called to action but chose then to bide
waiting for some sign like a change in tide
uncertain whether to commend or to despise
claiming great aversion to long goodbyes
they could be neither merciful nor snide
but chose to sit while others risked to ride
what kind of ending sat upon their eyes
if there's a place where those who pause
for far too long and cannot find their way
may be appraised and given proper measure
might we by invocation of superior laws
demand that they be stripped upon the day
then denied access to the greatest treasure

the oddest ring

i'm not sure if it's real or some kind of illusion
the phone rang clearly but no one was there
i spoke but got no answer from dead air
i shut the phone and sat in much confusion
this day i know there should be a profusion
of spoken messages voices of love and care
our deepest worries spoken honesty of fear
giving to all our senses its dark infusion
instead there's silence i'm at a loss to speak
to one who's not there for there's no reply
when i call back it isn't that i'm worried
but on this afternoon i'm tired and weak
in spite of all the light that falls from sky
but still i know some things cannot be hurried


Murders, witches, ghosts, and all that shit
over five acts, we recollect the lot;
remembering stray lines and burnished wit
we keep in mind the threads of the hard plot.
It's not the kind of thing that we'd forget,
this play that actors fear, but must produce
since audiences love it for the strong purge
of all our senses; still it will seduce
even those most fearful, for all have the urge
to take their turn upon that tragic stage
and show the limits of ambition. There's hope
in all of us that when we turn the page,
we'll find another Scot, one who will cope
when all is said and done, with lord and wife,
and bring our fears to such huge, vivid life.

due recollection

it's good to have this monthly conversation
to speak across the waters without fear
allow the words exposure loud and clear
be honest sensible avoid tergiversation
truth and love combine in admiration
this is the proper happy time of year
the messengers that all our signals bear
are filled right now with joyous animation
let each of our attentions thus be given
to those who gave us life and taught
our human senses to take understanding
from all of life no need ever to be driven
out to distraction and then to be caught
by those whose bent is ever so demanding

the masque of humanity

seeking illuminations of this weary age
not on the streets but in the human heart
we read the message and we turn the page

no reason now to burn with hotter rage
at those who made our past a thing apart
seeking illuminations of this weary age

it was no wonder-worker nor no mage
who bought and sold our fathers in the mart
we read the message and we turn the page

all our experience has not made us sage
we have not moved six inches from the start
seeking illuminations of this weary age

we've trapped ourselves within a tiny cage
and yet we've hope this horror to depart
we read the message and we turn the page

each of us takes our turn on the great stage
we forge our lives into a kind of art
seeking illuminations of this weary age
we read the message and we turn the page

not only wilberforce

each step to freedom requires a long fight
power concedes nothing without force
things don't move in a predestined course
it takes an effort to shove back the night
strength is required to combat great might
justice must be demanded from the source
no need to fear appearing crude or coarse
they are called rude who ask for what is right
told that they suffered from a primal curse
they didn't falter though the road was long
struggle they embarked on countless wars
what was bad they kept from being worse
against all power they raised freedom's song
their eyes were focused upward on the stars

24 March 2007

the hall of the mountain god

with careful step the hill we climb
the temple there is pale and old
the trees are bare feeling the cold
stark walls are here coated with rime
sensations far from being sublime
enfold us this is not the story told
to those who climbed up here for gold
this place reminds us of another time
the god has long departed from his place
the priests still shuffle with feet of woe
no sacrifice suffices for our need
above us in the infinity of space
the stars in their fixed patterns go
and infinite divinities their ichor bleed

autumn 1969

how many i wonder read eliot for pleasure
the faber book of modern verse with devotion
at thirteen with a real library as treasure
while others looked at it as work the notion
did not enter my mind there was so much
to find so much to read the deepest sense
of exploration the need to reach and touch
all that creation all that truth without pretense
no need for magic with those words of power
opening worlds and letting infinite space
into a nutshell i still regard each short hour
as not enough i'd found at last the place
where i could stand at par with them that know
and let my thought in those deep waters flow

continuous service

evening light thoughts come to me of rest
but much to do and much more to be done
large orange ball of the declining sun
heads down the slope of sky to the southwest
it seems to me that none of this is a test
life is for real right from the starter's gun
there is a battle it may be lost or won
but the duffer ends up equal with the best
long days to come we sense the promised heat
warmer the world and weary are the ways
this is the magic moment of the soothing light
life moves for now to a far slower beat
the race will happen soon for none stays
the coming of the stars and gloom of night

without transition

within the moment what room to be
no sham this enterprise emergent
what not to understand or even see

the answer that arrives most urgent
wherever growth resumes in spring
grass climbing up the slope resurgent

not heard the telephone's faint ring
messages taken coming across ocean
all avian creatures rise on happy wing

soothed by the touch of emollient lotion
a storm recedes clouds scurry west
there's no reason for any great commotion

instead we ask each candidate for the test
not for an answer but a better query
selecting all the bad ones not the best

the response given does not make us teary
intensity of concern drives us wild
but we have got good reason to be wary

the adult carries in his soul the child
that looked on the wide world with wonder
and now considers things and is not mild

what had created such a curious blunder
the sense of being not a whole but part
of some smaller being with no thunder

we go back and examine from the start
the nastier production of the torpid night
and see in them the makings of new art

it is our duty here to make clean light

melancholy joy

shorn of all inelegance the spaces fill
with all the memories that we can bear
moving from cool to warm along the year
the light is sharp the trees are very still
walkers are quiet going down the hill
for once we name and master all our fear
duty we have and with that duty care
but what may happen must do so by will
not now the time for our tempers to fray
allow our sentiments their proper spaces
shaping the time's an overwhelming task
the mind into odd paths we will let stray
amazing each with such unexpected graces
the smiling visage under the hard mask
what matters here is that we have to ask
not for what we must but what we may
rejoice in while each finger interlaces
with the next hand the sun's glowing ray
brings out the colour in our winter faces
allows us joy in the most boring task
welcome to us is this amazing hour
when the small bud turns into brilliant flower

what choices have i

i name my apprehension but it remains
to haunt me at the noon no light of sun
penetrates these corners and i can't run
faster than myself inside always rains
there isn't room here to list all the strains
the shadow falls when most i'm having fun
thoughts of the waiting hawk nothing done
by me can compensate for all the pains
i've taken to mark off the normal space
for life and thought the work that's made
to suit my agile mind and all the fleeting time
that seems to hurry in much faster race
past me and through me on the long parade
that takes us forward but not to the sublime

right mindfulness

impact of messages senses must derange
what rejoices marks a kinship with the past
what's most familiar becomes most strange

emotions and sensations will arrange
into those shapes that potters may cast
impact of messages senses must derange

with no respectfulness signals will exchange
with symbols that pass by our vision fast
what's most familiar becomes most strange

the job of cultivation keeps going at the grange
meanwhile the ship's boy stands before the mast
impact of messages senses must derange

you hold things back we give our hopes their range
in between horrors we all will have a blast
what's most familiar becomes most strange

rejecting all stability what we embrace is change
we know that life and light just will not last
impact of messages senses must derange
what's most familiar becomes most strange

appropriation of light

the sounds we hear at the edge of the known
light in the trees the birds at work or play
we sense the fullness of this fresh spring day
what we can see is more than what is shown
the birds are here they have not further flown
we look outside and by the sun's bright ray
see greener grass and life sprouting from clay
white and pink flowers on many branches blown
and the clarity of light and sound we note
the voices tell us things we've longed to hear
work summons but the call is not so loud
as to silence each heart we're called upon to vote
for what we like most at the turning year
but here for this moment we can avoid the crowd

23 March 2007

walking across campus

motion of planets
the long cycle announces
time for new growing

even in this place
i feel the new fire raging
blossoms gold and red

regardless of date
we know the truth of seasons
the old blazing sun

light green refreshes
eyes weary of the winter
rejoicing music

in the end we know
the liberation of hope
plastic our feeling

hearing adams' transmigration

names of the dead sounds of the distant city
our task of memory is the sharpest goad
not anger now but sorrow and deep pity

the message is most clear the impact gritty
the weight of grief we cannot yet unload
names of the dead sounds of the distant city

the voices deep and gentle in their ditty
have on our recollection grace bestowed
not anger now but sorrow and deep pity

we know the answers given by committee
to all that happened there's no secret code
names of the dead sounds of the distant city

now after a long wait we may wax witty
but strong emotion haunts every abode
not anger now but sorrow and deep pity

we listen as the music makes all pretty
rounds out our sadness sends out on the road
names of the dead sounds of the distant city
not anger now but sorrow and deep pity

recalcitrant device

the message does not go it is delayed
by what i cannot tell almost in rage
i seek a different path a better page
nothing appears to come to my aid
patience falters and temper's frayed
but that seems normal at this final stage
my spirit stalks like a tiger in its cage
while in and out there's a constant parade
nothing suffices to clear a tired head
help was promised but did not arrive
the panic in my heart's a heavy load
it's easy in this place for anger fed
by closing walls to keep itself alive
each stoppage acts like a most fiery goad

22 March 2007

with sudden clarity

what we illuminate we do not see
the agent is the victim of the age
the letter is the prisoner of the page
and yet the leaf doesn't define the tree
from the narrow passages we flee
seeking the open spaces of our rage
to act the tyrant on the open stage
the moment doesn't mean but must be
enough that there's a chance for light
to creep right in and make us smile
before we turn and face the will of fate
beings that congregate in dead of night
may be kept off our backs for a long while
the principle will not define the state

not narcissus

we're not monsters though the mirror shows
a face that we don't want to admit is there
commingled essences of love and war and fear
as plain to any viewer as the end of your nose
we deny all we want to say that the rose
outweighs the thorn that in the end we care
what happens to each other that we'd dare
defy our own nature if things came to blows
the devil and the angel both of them lies
what we are is more and less than these
partial images of our longstanding quest
we can't deny what's there before our eyes
the world does not exist our vanity to please
the truth we tell ourselves is merely a jest

more image than a shade

winning or losing what matters is the game
our task is just to struggle till the very end
what comes tomorrow will not be the same

our expectation was a world made tame
the wildness we confronted would not bend
winning or losing what matters is the game

we looked and saw the peoples that came
what grace they had they could not lend
what comes tomorrow will not be the same

we shape our images to fit the given frame
the colours do not run together and blend
winning or losing what matters is the game

the light we have does not come from a flame
what we have got here we will not now send
what comes tomorrow will not be the same

we ask and we are told the proper name
for all that we would master or intend
winning or losing what matters is the game
what comes tomorrow will not be the same

the past and the future

words flow thoughts seem to cohere
the presentation's written and revised
the hour for action is drawing near
the concepts to be spoken are devised

there's never any hurry till the ending
or so it seems and then i have to write
words and ideas to my service bending
there's a vision on the edge of my sight

recalling times when heart was frozen
by consideration of every single fact
it's not an easy thing to be one chosen
to speak out with both honesty and tact

messages come i have to make it known
how this reality comes near the bone

the art of writing

when there's clear light we see the trees
the leaves reappearing green in the grey
the warmth of life announcing a spring day
twigs moving slowly in the light breeze
this is what's needed our spirits to please
the definition of noon the gentle sway
no need for solemnity on such a fine day
the signal's for those still down on their knees
duty obliges but its call's not too loud
thought after thought chases elusive word
and meaning escapes as the letters elide
here right now avoiding the future crowd
i look outside seeking the bright young bird
with messages about both hope and pride

21 March 2007

and does it matter

if there's no sound we don't know we are there
at the wood's end where the trees are old and tall
we can't hear any voices cannot hear the call
that once was shouted through the fragrant air
before one could say what the means of care
or why more distant objects seemed so very small
the earth we knew was a large bluegreen ball
and there was no place anywhere more fair
now we have heard the message come we'll blame
the messenger since we have no way to reach
the source and let it know exactly how we feel
there's a desire to give our fears their proper name
to use them as a new device to learn or teach
but that requires a new turn of the wheel

For TNH and the spring

You and the warmer time we celebrate
lady whose virtual home is kept so bright,
whose wisdom and good thinking, day and night,
allows us our small stories to relate,
to praise you would be a matter of much weight
but here and now is time for making light
of troubles past and future, it is right
to celebrate this notable recurring date.
Spring is the time when hope and long desire,
kept by the winter from achieving fruit,
combine to let us go outside and dance;
we've kept things going, kept the lonely fire
alight through all the coldest times, the root
of all our satisfactions. Now, let us advance.

poised at the end of day

we see no limits to this late march sky
those things we wish for we may soon obtain
the minutes come and go the seconds fly

what's attempted now is neither low nor high
the answer that we get couldn't be more plain
we see no limits to this late march sky

the bees and wasps we watch them buzzing by
the ants have come out waiting for the rain
the minutes come and go the seconds fly

we've asked what and when and even why
our souls and bodies cannot take the strain
we see no limits to this late march sky

we've gone outside the air's no longer dry
we've great anticipation of the rain
the minutes come and go the seconds fly

not pierced yet to the root we want to try
the question that seems most to pertain
we see no limits to this late march sky
the minutes come and go the seconds fly

flowers are everywhere

the cycles that we live in always seem
so narrow and so short we long for days
when we can walk the easy rural ways
in the warm light of the glistening beam
but what we ask for is what others deem
not quite enough we wonder at what rays
light other lives and what image stays
when we awaken from our nightly dream
not always is it cold we know the heat
will drive our age out and restore the mind
but what we have to see is where the sun
allows us to resume our regular beat
and what we have this year to leave behind
another season closer to being done

new leaves new life

what we depend on may not be always clear
we don't think of it as new nor yet as old
we don't think of the season as warm or cold
we see the smoke curling up in the bright air
we've come so far and now we see the year
turn into spring for now we're being told
that winter's done that now we may be bold
cast off our coats and with them all our fear
the lights in the distance mark another road
the spaces we have left may now expand
there's nothing we desire that we can't do
the message comes in clear and not in code
the tools we'll need come readily to hand
life sends its message it's time now to renew

20 March 2007

for a few hours

the world's well guarded and we see a mask
that covers nothing but has firm regard
for all i do with gaze both firm and hard
as i'm seated in my place plying my task
there's not much i think that it would ask
while behind the night takes shape starred
and pools of light fill the deep tarred
street in them the cars appear to bask
now here and there we see the moving lights
that signal life continues in its proper way
while signs proliferate on neat green lawns
these are the symbols of the springtime nights
the signs that soon we will return to day
cease being kings and take up being pawns

the roughest road

the lives that once were led should not surprise
each of us knows the limits of what's desired
each knows and does not follow what's required
there's no room here for guess or for surmise
the things that we will hate now or despise
we won't get caught in nor will we be mired
in that dark bog where justice has expired
we'll see things through the clearest set of eyes
to turn or jump through the remaining hoops
shows skill perhaps but not the best of skill
there's room for change and room left to throw
a line out or to put through the many loops
designed as a test not of our power but will
in the far distance we might see things glow

stubbing the mental toe

if there's a reason for the simplest act
and we can't think of it without delay
we'd rather condemn than merely say
that we've encountered a refractory fact
we're not speaking here of lack of tact
that comes to us in the ignoble way
that we reject the coming of the day
but we saw something here that lacked
either the style or else the plenitude
of proper action as we'd understand
being the creatures of a normal habit
instead we've taken on the attitude
that our intentions are noble and grand
our courage is not that of a vile rabbit

what's here doesn't answer

if when we ask for sense we get a stone
and told that this is the best form of bread
we can't expect the criminal to atone
unless his heart is filled with fear and dread
but that's not a thing for us here alone
who have been sheltered watered fed
enough that there's been a grave crime
but not enough to punish him with rhyme

on one side sea and on the other land
the beach is long and lined with cheap hotels
we dodge the gulls and the terns stand
their feet firmly placed on small clam shells
there's so much here we need to understand
while from above the fool inanely yells
we've learned that someone tells the story
in order to make sure they get the glory

we're far from sea here up two thousand feet
the trees outside are turning a pale green
i strain to hear the noises from the street
my thoughts are all about what's gone and been
the hour has not yet come when we must meet
i've learned to count the things that i have seen
movements in dust and debris here abound
i listen for the perfection of new sound

where there's a will there's usually much gold
each of us does our duty for a plain fee
we've seen the ones who don't duly get rolled
hope is not something you pluck off a tree
we have to do the things that we are told
but in our hearts we won't really agree
our course though is mapped out and worse
we can't summon the energy to curse

name the new obligation and we'll run
as fast as feet will carry us we'll be well hid
there's not a need to wonder if all's in fun
we've managed to keep our pictures off the grid
our activities will the most jaded come to stun
but we'll not be found guilty god forbid
the messages we've got will have to keep
till we've been able to obtain true sleep

Orthodox orthography

We see ourselves in separate small spaces,
others see the outline, the plain silhouette,
the liaison between hope and regret
which we have found in the most vacant spaces.
So here we are, the mule's kicked over traces
and made the cemetery into its oubliette;
we might find reason here just to forget,
but we remain in place till we have faces.
Our memories put things in bold and majuscule,
but that's a falsity, some sort of camouflage,
for what we do not know. But still we've tried
to put our words into small space, in minuscule
letters, in our best hand, yet without persiflage;
we told ourselves we'd know when others lied.

lost in deep bush

we've heard the lies we hear them once again
the glibbest answers are the ones we've heard
nothing remains for us but sorrow and long pain

the mark on the map looks like a large bloodstain
the long shadow there comes from a carrion bird
we've heard the lies we hear them once again

we've seen the fall of darkest oily rain
we asked for bread and we received a turd
nothing remains for us but sorrow and long pain

the simplest kindness will go against the grain
the kingdom's ruled by masters of the absurd
we've heard the lies we hear them once again

nothing that's here is either clear or plain
our vision's like our language dull and blurred
nothing remains for us but sorrow and long pain

the injury here is to the heart and brain
the falsehood's present in the merest word
we've heard the lies we hear them once again
nothing remains for us but sorrow and long pain

equinox arriving

life persists although we make it hard
we turn our cities into hells of stone
we make it far too easy now to live alone
the doors of fellowship are locked and barred
and yet we see the grass in the backyard
return to vivify winter's barren zone
it has that power although the earth is known
not to give anything its fond regard
nothing prevents the coming of the green
the reddish buds proclaim returning life
warm breezes promise that there is still more
for us to know so many things will be seen
we'll cut the growing branches with a knife
and bind them into wreaths for the front door

the official version

there's nothing that can match the longest fall
it seems to last for hours then the ground hits
you lose the skill to walk you cannot crawl
what's left now of your vaunted sharpish wits
when you're down there not knowing how or why
you know you're not allowed to moan or cry

to be a man means you can't acknowledge pain
you tough it out you keep your smiling face
you musn't show even the smallest strain
you've got to represent both style and grace
the thing that you must show is merest skill
behind it has to lurk a more than iron will

it cannot matter that your heart's been broken
what you must show is nothing but the brave
you aren't allowed the merest tiny token
there's nothing here you'll be allowed to save
what happens when you move at a pace slow
enough for comment is that there'll be a row

the mask that you have can't simply command
it must show kindness warmth that sort of thing
it must hide it must smother the harsh demand
your voice must have the proper noble ring
you musn't let your voice or speech be tragic
your job here is to persuade us all there's magic

when light appears you've got to shrug it off
as just the normal day the ordinary change
you have to master the dismissive cough
you've got to give your scorn the proper range
as you peer out from beneath the hanging eaves
you must not comment on the fresh new leaves

what you've to say here must not be too loud
still you've got to present it as simple fact
your attitude should never be quite proud
you should seem master of restraint and tact
your job is to produce the proper patter
as for the rest it does not ever matter

it's proverbial

we ask for nothing but the taste of hope
what comes beyond that we won't know
time we have learned is longer than a rope

if we can manage here or simply cope
with how the river flows or doesn't flow
we ask for nothing but the taste of hope

the answer's in a metaphor or trope
what makes the poem plod or really go
time we have learned is longer than a rope

if we're unlucky we'll face a long downslope
we'll go down faster than ever we can throw
we ask for nothing but the taste of hope

our fingers are made slippery with soap
we slip off those things that make us slow
time we have learned is longer than a rope

a final answer well that's beyond our scope
we doubt that we'll be filled with a true glow
we ask for nothing but the taste of hope
time we have learned is longer than a rope

waiting for morning

simply put we have another light
the window lets us see only the dark
we want to see the sun rise to mark
not just the day but also the right
to clarity and warmth each night
leaves us cowering but now hark
the noises distant cars dogs bark
the world is once again in flight
in adjacent spaces shadow reigns
the little light does not quite reach
the corners that still hide murk
nothing here of the past remains
we might have to learn or teach
but not while all the shadows lurk

19 March 2007

a string of brilliant pearls

yesterday we chose the harder way
today we must regret it most of all
we must proclaim there is a better day

what lets us bide here will let us stray
our spirits shorten as the days grow tall
yesterday we chose the harder way

serpent or dragon's mouth will speak and say
we have not hearkened to the proper call
we must proclaim there is a better day

we've seen the light illuminate the bay
colours return to the most distant wall
yesterday we chose the harder way

we see the waters and we think of play
this is the sort of pleasure that won't pall
we must proclaim there is a better day

far to the east we see the first dawn ray
before we walk we always have to crawl
yesterday we chose the harder way
we must proclaim there is a better day

a few clouds pass

in these fresh leaves the light drips green
we aren't asleep but aren't fully alert
what we can see is not what may be seen

the things that pain us do more than hurt
they give us meaning and they take it back
don't think of us as any more than dirt

whatever rises will be coloured black
to indicate its purely empty power
there's no time for ease here or slack

craving the rest craving the hottest shower
no place for peace no place to set it down
we wait the longest most regarded hour

the trees here hide the fact we're in a town
the bustle tells us otherwise we know
each face has become set hard in a frown

what knowledge we have will not let us go
we cannot walk but now we've got to run
we're underway but not yet under tow

we look downhill toward the setting sun

potsherds counted

what stops the wheel the foot raised in the air
there's nothing more to do here now it's gone
the product and producer lie in the warm sun
the guardian and guarded are beyond all care
the whole thing started as some sort of dare
before we knew it water would deep run
some would speed faster than shot from a gun
the ones who were responsible driven spare
nowhere do we abjure our former claims
but with a rush we enter not our noble home
instead we look out at the new-formed leaves
there's been no clarity to any of our aims
it's been enough to poke about and roam
answers will come though history deceives

in flaming memory

remarkable that we can recall fire
when it flamed up and what we saw
we add another string unto the lyre

life's hard enough for seller or buyer
the crows in the trees always caw
remarkable that we can recall fire

what things to which we might aspire
will bring us under some great paw
we add another string unto the lyre

voices that compose the present choir
hit every note without a single flaw
remarkable that we can recall fire

we pile our titles up and ever higher
we hold ourselves in reverential awe
we add another string unto the lyre

our thoughts will not in this way tire
we're subject to a single civil law
remarkable that we can recall fire
we add another string unto the lyre

regression to the mean

a future that we dreamt of came to be
it was no paradise though it had graces
people acquired almost human faces
they thought themselves educated free
they celebrated their own jubilee
theirs was a world of open public spaces
it lacked our hidden dismal quiet places
it was the best on which all could agree
now what we feared most came to pass
our happy moment here was all too fleet
and older evils came once more to rule
the demons of power of race and class
the need to be insincere and discreet
we learn our lessons in a horrid school


the flash is so fast
we do not understand it
meaning is complete

geese passing over
their honks will clear no traffic
spring has come to us

waiting at airport
night oppresses delay hurts
when will i have rest

four years of war

the dark gets thicker and there is no light
bombs go off and suck in the many fools
we're told what we must say in the schools
any free speech is a danger to the fight
we've got to say that our actions were right
we had to get in there those were the rules
but it would take the more than patient mules
not to observe what's out there in plain sight
our fearless leaders sit behind their walls
the truth is more deeply than them immured
we don't hear in the dark the myriad cries
the engine of their progress sputters stalls
we learn a portion of what's been endured
what become visible are the most obvious lies

Black Holes in the Global Reich

Black Holes in the Global Reich

John Maxwell

In my one excursion out of the ranks of the working press, half a century ago I was the first Information Officer for the Industrial Development Corporation, preaching the benefits of industrialisation by invitation.

At that time, Norman Manley was Premier and the government was a great admirer of the Puerto Rican model of development. The western world was also convinced that underdeveloped countres would find in this model a sovereign remedy for underdevelopment.

If we could attract capital we would create jobs and find our way onto the runway for 'Take-off' into the realm of First World Development. Fifty years later we are no further forward than we were then and in some ways we are behind where we were.

Oddly enough, the same is true of our model, Puerto Rico.Puerto Rico seemed to have all the advantages. Their people were citizens of the US and at that time, nearly half of all Puerto Ricans lived in the US. Today there are more Puerto Ricans in the US than in Puerto Rico. A few months ago the New York Times published an editorial "Puerto Rico, an Island in Distress" in which that other blessed isle was described in terms normally reserved for places like Jamaica.

In January, the Miami Herald published a news story entitled "Puerto Rican killings may bring out National Guard" in which it was revealed that in the first 15 days of this year there were 46 homicides in Puerto Rico, just about the same level as in Jamaica. The NYT editorial was a commentary on "The most exhaustive study of the Puerto Rican economy done in the past 75 years …" This study, done jointly by the Brookings Institution and a Puerto Rican think tank, said that Puerto Rico's "hoped-for renaissance will require that the private sector and government join together to create thousands of jobs and that tax and other policies have to be developed to make this happen."

Just what was needed fifty years ago. The situation is indeed dire. According to the study "About 48 percent of Puerto Rico's 3.8 million people live below the federal poverty line, according to the 2000 Census. Despite the advances the island has made through the years, it has a per capita income of $8,185 -- about half that of Mississippi. Unemployment hovers at 13 percent.…"

This is odd, since Puerto Rico with only fifty percent more people than Jamaica, gets in one year assistance from the United States equivalent to Jamaica's entire National Public debt. "The island receives about $11 billion from Washington, $6 billion of which is through Social Security and federal worker pensions and salaries." That is, PR receives nearly one billion dollars in aid every month.

In the fifties and sixties Puerto Rico became a showcase for private sector investment and development. US government assistance enabled Puerto Rico to offer huge subsidies to manufacturers wishing to relocate to the island, but it soon became apparent that it was costing the US taxpayer about US$70,000 to bring an American job to PR, nearly twice as much as the real cost. In addition to this, as in Jamaica, screwdriver industries began to leave the country as soon as there appeared to be cheaper labour elsewhere. The same process has been in train in the United States itself, which is de-industrialising as American capitalists find lusher pastures in China, which now supplies the US with manufactured goods of every description, from computers to ships.

Some of us have always contended that the so-called paradigm of 'competitiveness' meant nothing in a world in which levels of living and pay were functions more of culture and history than of economic development. The answer was, of course, Globalisation, designed to make everybody competitive.

What this really means is that the world is now engaged in a race to the bottom of the barrel, in which manufacturers forsake their own homegrounds to seek maximum profits in foreign parts, mainly Far Eastern.It seems to have escaped most economists in the west that in order for the so-called freemarket system to function rationally, the essential component in production – Labour – should be free to relocate just like capital, but racism and nationalism prevented most people from understanding Adam Smith's truism that like water, all productive forces should be free to find their own levels.

The Chinese are for the time being, in a prison of their own culture. Having escaped the inflation and consumer-driven extravagances of the West, Chinese labour is up to now, satisfied with relatively picayune rewards. But, as soon as their productivity rises there will be demands for better pay so that workers can afford the products they produce. In the United States that was the secret of their industrial success: thriving markets based on the increased productivity and earnings of their workers.

But in the United States, as in Puerto Rico and Jamaica, the pull to the bottom has become irresistible; American workers are no longer competitive and the giants of the last century, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, are busy closing factories and laying off hundreds of thousands of workers.

It has not occurred to many people that if people are out of work they can't afford to buy SUVs. If the money paid to labour goes to China it is the Chinese who will be able to buy cars and expensive appliances. That's one of the reasons stock markets round the world shuddered over the last few days. The de-industrialisation of the United States has up to now been buffered by the middleclass and working class. They've been borrowing money to buy – following President Bush's advice a few years ago to shop till they drop to help boost the economy. But loans have to be repaid and money borrowed on rising values has a tendency to become due and payable when values are dropping. That means that ordinary Americas who bought houses in a rising market or borrowed on the apparently increased value of their houses for the same reason, are finding it difficult to repay the money they borrowed.

Running out of Money

This is partly due to the de-industrialisation process and massive job losses, but also to the fact that American workers are not properly rewarded for increased productivity. The productivity gains are siphoned off by the bosses, who have also hijacked their shareholders' interest by paying themselves enormous salaries and other benefits.

As I pointed out six years ago, The United States is the world's largest financial black hole, attracting investments from bashful millionaires in Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Burkina Faso – you name it – by way of places like Cayman, Anguilla and the Isle of Man. This constant swallowing of foreign money is what keeps the American enterprise machine and stock and bond markets booming. It also impoverishes the rest of the world.

The result, as in Jamaica and other Third World countries, is that while productivity andf GDP are apparently increasing, the working classes are getting ever smaller shares of the increased pie.

So when it becomes apparent to the Chinese and others that the US as a whole is defaulting or about to default on its loans, both private and public, the Chinese stock market takes a hit when the US stock market takes a hit and the effect is knocked on round the world. The catastrophic deceleration of the world's largest economy has only just begun, and it will gain speed as panicked investors rush to cut their losses

As more of them come into the market the stock tickers will soon become unable to keep up with the runaway elevator. The result: recession and perhaps, even depression. Depression is not as outlandish as it seems, with the United States not only overextended in its foreign borrowing, but also overextended in its defense spending. The billions draining away down the rat hole of Iraq are not recoverable, and when the American taxpayer proves unable to cough up the ready cash, the foreign lenders will find their willingness to lend even more severely tested.

All of this is the result of globalisation or extreme capitalism, in which no thought is given to the basic principles of Adam Smith which briefly stated, are that income and outgo should fairly regularly come into balance. We will soon feel the knock on effect. We will soon find that in the new atmosphere of economic stringency, the people who have lent us money will want it back rather more quickly than they'd promised. Since we have made our economy totally open, we have nothing to produce to pay for our purchases, the remittances from our expatriates will begin to fall, because many will be out of work and the earnings from tourism will crash because many middleclass Americans will no longer be able to afford the kinds of holidays to which they have become accustomed.

With gasoline at $100 a liter how much in tolls will our new superhighways be able to collect? What will happen to places such as Puerto Rico and Jamaica?

Eating cats, rats and dogs

Jamaica has swallowed the globalisation bait hook, line and sinker. We have opened up all our markets to unbridled foreign investment and competition, and, as I pointed out several years ago, this means that ordinary jamaicans are going to pay through the nose for the inestimable privilege of becoming for the second time round, a slave society. Our beaches, our forests and our farmland will become hostages to the foreign parasites. We will re-enter slavery.

And just in case you don't know what slavery was, l;et me quote a sympathetic observer who wrote 250 years ago: Negroes… who are now computed to be more than 120000 [120,000] in number; and by whose labours and industry almost alone, the colony flourisheth, and its productions are cultivated and manufactured.… The Negroes …are. for the most part, the property of the Whites; and bought and sold like every other commodity in the country…;" "When we consider the inconveniences under which these creatures labour, the toils they are obliged to undergo, the vicissitudes of heat and cold, to which they are exposed, and the grossness of their food in general; we ought not to be surprized they had been still more slothful and sickly than they are commonly observed to be; In a footnote, Dr Patrick Browne writes:"(a)in the country parts of the island every plantation Negroe is allowed a Saturday afternoon or some other afternoon …to stock and manure his particular patch of ground, which he generally plants in cassada (sic) yams, potatoes, Indian and Guinea corn and on Sunday they provide provisions for the ensuing week, and send some to market, to supply themselves with a little salt beef or pork or fish, and a little rum, which are the greatest dainties they can come at, unless a cat, a rat or dog fall in their way . It is true, many of them raise a little poultry, and other stock; but these they generally sell to enable them to purchase some decent as well as necessary cloathes (sic) for their wives and themselves.." ( pp 24-25 "The Civil and Natural History of Jamaica" by Patrick Browne, M.D., Grays Inn, London 1756)

What Dr Patrick Browne is saying is that he is surprised that the slaves were able to work as hard as they did given the treatment they received. Not only were they poorly and badly fed, but they had to supplement the estate food by growing their own. The day off they got was in fact an additional slave labour so that they could eat and dress decently. And it is clear that if they were forced by hunger to eat cats, dogs and rats, their situation was wretched in the extreme. That is where we are headed when we beg the WTO for special treatment for bananas and sugar and when we buy the garbage about producing ethanol and aluminum.

What we get is mines which will destroy our precious landscape, flora and fauna, screwdriver industries consisting only of worksites removable overnight. as we have seen and are seeing again in the "garment industry". When that goes the women are reduced to whoring and the men to driving 'robots'. Eventually, of course, the laws of supply and demand will mean that as in Germany after the first World War, a woman may be had for a pack of cigarettes and you will need a wheelbarrow of worthless currency to buy a loaf of bread. We have seen it happen in the largest countries in Latin America, in Argentina and Brazil within the last two decades.

In protecting the bloodsucking industries of sugar and bananas and aluminum, we are sterilising our land, rendering it unfit for growing food and we will have to import food from countries where the farmers fly Cessnas to work. Our real assets, our land and our people, remain unprotected. As I said six years ago, Jamaica is another kind of Black Hole, " sucked dry of inspiration, brainpower and resources, busy burning the furniture to keep warm. We are going to destroy world-class biological reserves in Long Mountain, heedless of the fact that our crime rate is closely connected to the fact that children have nowhere to play and have no idea of their rich history or the fact that Jamaica's 'biological heritage is one of the richest in the world and that Long Mountain and Hellshire and the Cockpit Country are among our crown jewels. We, prefer to cast our pearls before developers." – and now, before Marc Rich and Alcoa."

Instead of giving our children space to roam, to play, to learn and to study and socialise, we foreclose their options by blitzing green space and confining them to their barracoons on the same places which were slave yards 150 years ago. Having failed them, deprived them and corrupted them, we will, by another end of pipe solution, be making criminals of them. Jamaica and Puerto Rico, meet Haiti.

Copyright©2007 John Maxwell

18 March 2007

Gernsbackian sonnet

Rocketships, spacers, and time machines,
heroic men with rocklike and clean jaws,
men sworn to service to uphold the laws,
though tempted from their path by alien queens.
Scientific sorts, seeking the proper means
to travel across galaxies without pause,
and find out, in quick time, the proper cause
of all the varied universal scenes.
We think of men in myriad spaceport bars
telling the tales of planets far from view,
and alien beings with most human hearts.
Perhaps some girl will come, fresh in from Mars,
she'll bring fresh air, a sense of something new;
while into space another rocket darts.

no serene recollection

morning comes from mountains sudden light
night turns into small shadows and expires
the brilliance of the sun quite dulls the fires
we see the hummingbirds and hawks take flight
now distant prospects are open to our sight
but we're distracted by the marks of tyres
deep in fresh mud now each one of us aspires
to leave these scenes which do not seem so bright
and now looking backward with much older eyes
forget the pains and sorrows remember better air
there's naught but memory left to us now
we want to gild it to call it our paradise
forget each long and painful farmhouse year
and every promise made and solemn vow

not the wine-dark sea

you see no other islands from these heights
no sails triangular against the looming sun
this is not the web that weak arachne spun
these are not the odorous levantine nights
what you can see are not the ancient sights
the shadow there is not suleiman's gun
the colours do not mean the tunny's run
no sphinx waits here to give us all the frights
that's clearly the case and yet what we desire
is that this sea give us those blessed signs
that indicate that their tale's truly well told
but we don't hear the sound of homer's lyre
those are not grapes that hang from the vines
while winter comes we cannot call it cold
the people here know well that they were sold
from a far land where rises new the fire
to labour in horrid fields and dank mines
not to the ranks of elysium do they aspire
a better place they see and other lines
they'd see the heroes as too rash and bold
yet they have a story well worth the telling
about far more than mere buying and selling

Encrypted message

The abjurer will get nowhere quite fast,
each feels the tang as the evil gnat bites;
at noon the father (Abba) of the rites
will over the green Terra magic cast.
In the crag pent, the demon's free at last
but, free to irk and vex, it sets its sights
on getting us to flap in sync, for nights
and days -- bar one -- it has its rights.
Now, given that Cher's not the one who's pure
and at the onyx pendant will not balk,
we've got to navigate with astrolabe
until we've come to a landmark that's sure;
I realise that's subject to much common talk
but we'll defend the honour of honest Abe.

we've got the magic

all who hear this laugh with joy
the answer given must agree
we've got the magic girl and boy

what happens our peace to annoy
will not concern us by decree
all who hear this laugh with joy

the most remarkably deft ploy
will not evade the starting fee
we've got the magic girl and boy

nothing will our pleasures cloy
we'll all dance round the happy tree
all who hear this laugh with joy

no one can our desires destroy
we've made the final high degree
we've got the magic girl and boy

we will with our new burdens toy
we've got the power being free
all who hear this laugh with joy
we've got the magic girl and boy

no time for bleating

fractured factored shaped by water
not before its time turns ripe
father mother son and daughter
from their faces tears will wipe

now the broken time will cover
all the days that are to come
while the bird of prey will hover
all our voices are struck dumb

name the villain and he blusters
name the hero and he weeps
the bombs now explode in clusters
and the sword of justice sleeps

marginal and not for service
are the ones who will not fall
their appearance makes men nervous
yet they will not make the call

individual dysfunction
makes us wish for sacrifice
but the lesser day's conjunction
tells us there's a higher price

what the magic moment carries
is not what we can yet know
if one hurries the other tarries
for there is not far to go

now we make the moment quicker
but there is no one to see
the lights come on and the flicker
as it was so must it be


we find ourselves in a sort of urban hell
of factories and smokestacks and red lights
more smoky and sullen in the nights
we wonder what these people have to sell
the noise and shadows a dull story tell
meanwhile they're not announcing flights
you have to guess and you have no rights
it's almost as if there were a wicked spell
never in time and never in proper place
the signs contain no messages we need
the crowd sits sullenly and does not speak
this is another stage in the long rat race
none would move a muscle if you bleed
but swiftly would trample over the meek

17 March 2007

evening time for bed

i watch the numbers fall winter's last blow
the night won't be warm nor the day too cold
the birds and flowers are now becoming bold
we've not seen even the smallest flake of snow
yesterday we saw a dark bird perhaps a crow
on the green grass that's not yet been sold
we see a story here one that's been much told
we wonder why the change still seems so slow
now what i know may not be all that much
i'm not an ignorant type but learning's hard
as you get older and you want some ease
still i know that i've got to keep fully in touch
the way to knowledge is never truly barred
although the saucy muse is ever wont to tease

observation with extended view

there's no envy in watching others fail
to see the crack in the hard pyrex shell
to know that they are in a tiny hell
they asked to be ridden out on a rail
and to be thoroughly beaten head to tail
you want to watch as they cast a bad spell
gnats alight brought by the tang the smell
and then a million lapping up the stale
of their insanity we'll be given proof
though others might not want to see it now
the pain of empathy might give us pause
the tide ebbs off the once drowned roof
we give the most relief the rules allow
but are frustrated by the worst of laws

not being a stoic

the name that's spoken isn't one that's known
the speaker seems ashamed that it's his own
life doesn't allow much chance to have our say
but has still its pleasures each fine in its way

the margin for success has not been large
only a fool thinks to win by a straight charge
for slow and clever will usually win the day
but has still its pleasures each fine in its way

what we were asking for we won't soon obtain
but though we hate it we'll all soak in the rain
the life we've got gives not much chance to play
but has still its pleasures each fine in its way

naming the criminal will have but little weight
if he's already out and through the prison gate
the standard gives us but little chance to stray
but has still its pleasures each fine in its way

nowhere but here can we expect much change
opportunities seem always far beyond our range
our fortune doesn't get much time in the sun's ray
but has still its pleasures each fine in its way

we've no need ever to sweat and swink and strain
we won't get paid for injury nor for suffering and pain
the experience puts a cloud over the brightest day
but has still its pleasures each fine in its way

the jewel case

spread of lights below like jewels silver gold
give off a warmth that cannot here be real
the hope and happiness they make one feel
is of a form that's large and uncontrolled
one feels as if one's seen out and unrolled
not normal evidence of the tellurian wheel
but magical expression of the platonic ideal
beauty perfected and fresh from the mould
strings of precious emanations in the night
seen from the high perspective of a bird
transmuted reality the exaltation of power
and all to produce this most noble sight
allow me to express it in a single word
although exhausted and at a late hour

Retirement advice

If you want to spent winter at your ease
where the climate is better than just mild
and where there's nothing noisy or too wild,
don't think of Panama, but of Belize.
I know this sounds like a rather odd wheeze,
you don't have stacks of money piled
up at home and you're certainly no child,
but it's the kind of place that might just please.
The plane takes you to Houston or Miami,
the people all speak good English Creole,
for some reason I think there of Black River;
I realise this sonnet's somewhat hammy,
and that you might think I'm just playing a role,
but I'd say it would be good for your liver.

the mire of human veins

we are the ones who decide what is the law
we'll make you suffer you will feel real pain
we're just like nature red in tooth and claw

if you speak out you'll have soon to withdraw
all that you've said and you won't speak again
we are the ones who decide what is the law

our symbol is a beast with a huge maw
clamping down on you sucking out every vein
we're just like nature red in tooth and claw

there's no pup here batting with tiny paw
your blood will redden the wide-open drain
we are the ones who decide what is the law

if you're lucky you'll just be beaten raw
you won't be turned into a smelly stain
we're just like nature red in tooth and claw

our purpose is to make you cringe with awe
to deactivate your soft tiny little brain
we are the ones who decide what is the law
we're just like nature red in tooth and claw

By George!

I'm president, and so was my good pater,
I'm the decider, I get to governate,
I get to speak and to pontificate,
and bask in the approval of my mater;
I merely smile at each Democratic baiter,
I know how to decide and how to deliberate,
those who dislike me are full of hate;
and anyone who points at facts is a traitor.
I find presidenting is awesome and neat,
I want a nice war, and by George I've got one,
and I just won't listen when you call me a name.
I've got reality and truth thoroughly beat,
this is my hour and my time in the sun,
and, as for the country, well that's just a shame.

Summoning Cthulhu

There's nothing so much makes this a bright hour
and gives some meaning to the drab March days
(not to mention inspiring me unto these lays)
as seeing zombies in their fullest flower.
Surely these beings, with their horrific power
will cause us to flee screaming from the ways;
the brains are surely forfeit of he who strays
into the lairs where lurk these beings dour.
But, since this is a sonnet, not a ballad
we might wonder at what else these beings eat,
whether they like brains salted or unsalted,
whether each meal's accompanied by a green salad,
and whether zombies eat messily or are neat;
not to mention whether their drinks are malted.

16 March 2007

after a long journey

it's what's not there that you remember best
the staring vacancy that can't be truly filled
you never gave much attention to the rest

rivers of harsh words that have been spilled
in righteous anger in sharpest condemnation
but do we pause to remember all the killed

they spent that day in their normal situation
and then they were not in the hottest blaze
we use their memories as our great incantation

but otherwise they're all cast into deep haze
it isn't that we're callous or don't care
but we have better ways to spend our days

the music that we hear's gone out of tune
but what's that to us when we bear the tax
of every promise made under the moon

we've gone and let ourselves become too lax
but there are better ways to show our might
we'll stretch our enemies upon the racks

we'll burn their eyes with our actinic light
we'll make them give up and then plead to die
because when we do it we do it really right

to get to truth we'll send out every lie
to act on our behalf and to help obscure
what should be most apparent to the eye

for normal scepticism we have found a cure
on the warm shores of a far tropic bay
we test to see how much they can endure

we really must be given our rightful way
our writ must everywhere be free to run
we'll bring the world to its true judgment day

our anger must blaze far hotter than the sun

deep and dreamless

enough to anger the calmest of souls
the names of vampires we have all forgot
each of us cowers in our nightly holes

there's a light dancing round the poles
strangely appearing on the empty plot
enough to anger the calmest of souls

under each bridge ahead the trolls
have eaten nothing and begun to rot
each of us cowers in our nightly holes

the saviours of our future space patrols
are now inactive sleeping on each cot
enough to anger the calmest of souls

beneath us lurk no more sleeping moles
we've got rid of the entire slinky lot
each of us cowers in our nightly holes

none of us inhabits now our proper roles
not the sober certainly not the sot
enough to anger the calmest of souls
each of us cowers in our nightly holes

not what we ask for

who doesn't want the miracle to start
magic will not solve any of our woes
none claims to be the one who knows
each of us forgets their assigned part
the whole thing's thrown into the mart
we do not follow where the river flows
and cannot cross at the last place it froze
who would ask questions has no heart
before the day returns we hate the night
and when it comes desire the night again
we're never satisfied unless we truly itch
and then we can bewail our constant plight
declare that none can understand our pain
because in some regards we're truly rich

The official commentary

We've come up with a standard answer
when any of our crimes are brought in view,
it spreads throughout the nation like a cancer,
it covers every briefing like the dew,
we use it with the skill of a great dancer:
'It doesn't matter, Clinton did it too.'

We're pushed and prodded to admit our crimes,
we're asked and asked exactly what we knew
and when we knew it, we abhor such times,
we liked it when hard questions came but few.
Meanwhile, our spokesman, like a slug just slimes:
'It doesn't matter, Clinton did it too.'

The priest who blesses at the sacred grove
answers most quickly when we there halloo;
he looks remarkably like one Karl Rove,
past master both of lies and ballyhoo.
He bellows until he's turning almost mauve:
'It doesn't matter, Clinton did it too.'


The stories we are told feature rich muscle boys
(you bulk up big if you spend each day in the gym),
who with swords, spears, and suchlike murder-toys,
and after chanting their great battle-hymn,
proceeded to show invading foes the joys
of battling men with huge reserves of vim.
At least that is the tale that we've been told,
it's hoary now and certainly very old.

So they were brave, and they stood at the pass,
and their press spokesfolk knew how best to spin
the story, so that when they lay dead in the grass
they scored a kind of virtuous late win
and who says otherwise is condemned as an ass.
So others fought with them at that grave hour,
but from the page their efforts we will scour.

And when some fellows make a picture show
to hearten friends and remind them of brave deeds,
we see these heroes bathed in the noble glow
of men who had transcended human needs;
they fought in honour, trading blow for blow,
planting our liberty (or at any rate its seeds).
That's not what really happened there, of course,
but someone thinks we need a fellow on a horse.

Now freedom's a thing which no good man will lose
but with his life itself, or so it has been said;
there are some fellows (no names now) who'd choose
thralldom instead since it beats being dead.
But they're the folks whose path we cannot use,
and so we cut the cord and burn the thread.
We'll laud our heroes to beyond the skies,
though, frankly, we'll have to spin lots of lies.

But we're told nothing of the humbler type
the artisans and craftsmen, the hoe men
come from their fields, and boats, and ripe
with honest sweat, to take up the old job again.
without histrionics, screams, or other tripe,
the just ask where to row and pull and when
to drop their oars and grab their spears and swords,
common they are, but they fight as well as lords.

Sure, you can write an epitaph or two,
name heroes, speak of mothers' quick-dried tears;
allow their actions to pass in full review,
and speak about them all for years and years.
Until no one will ask 'what did they do?'
but think of how they conquered all their fears.
They're large now that they were in real life,
each of them a hero, even to his wife.

But Aechylus tugged on a long wood oar,
he saw a battle and he took his part.
His play's the thing, it will not lull nor bore,
he was the master of the playwright's art.
There's blood indeed, offstage, and guts, and gore,
but still the enemy's shown to have a heart.
He took his place, beside the common folk,
who fought together to resist the yoke.

The moral here, if I'm allowed to preach,
is not that epitaphs are no great guide
(or that their job is to instruct and teach),
we know they fought by the mountain's side
knowing that victory was past their reach;
we know that they took the most somber pride
in holding on even well past the breach.
It's certainly a major point of honour,
if you fight on knowing that you're a goner.

We're fed on lies proclaimed historic fact,
we're told that we should honour these brave souls;
we're told to exercise restaint and tact,
acknowledge that these men had noble goals.
We can't our praise and honour now retract
although their bodies have been cast in holes.
It angers us, though, that the rich and proud
should have their virtues so proclaimed aloud.

Victory came from quite ordinary chaps,
men who did their jobs, and then went home;
we don't see their burials marked on any maps,
no one in their honour has put up any dome.
They ran their race, they reached the final laps,
but they didn't stray or run or roam.
Instead they fought just to defend their land,
victory came from the hard rowers' hand.