31 January 2008

when virtues fail

when virtues fail we blame the weary heart
not knowing how to tell the false from true
we cannot mark the honest from the art

at action's end you cease to play your part
and swiftly pass from ordinary view
when virtues fail we blame the weary heart

the premises were flawed from very start
nothing we saw was what we thought we knew
we cannot mark the honest from the art

shams pain us but they've something to impart
when all is finished we'll know how to rue
when virtues fail we blame the weary heart

regardless of what's written on the chart
we dare not bid the wretched scene adieu
we cannot mark the honest from the art

we are so stupid and we think we're smart
the lightning bolt does not strike from the blue
when virtues fail we blame the weary heart
we cannot mark the honest from the art

name all the stars

name all the stars and watch the heavens fill
with meanings we impose from down below
words add to words and so we claim to know
by name on name that neither luck nor skill
explains each hap nothing that we distill
from sensuous knowledge moving fast or slow
is just its seeming the world is simple show
each scene dissolving without act of will
there are so many motions none can say
which ones might matter at the proper time
only that from the changes none can hide
there is through nature but a single way
only one bell that rings a simple chime
and every journey takes a single day

no honour left

words well inscribed upon the sacred scroll
names of the wise names that are best forgot
there is no honour left upon the roll

time does its job and terror takes its toll
no one can stay long rooted on one spot
words well inscribed upon the sacred scroll

to find the answer one must take a poll
and send one one who has been picked by lot
there is no honour left upon the roll

behold the man who thought he could control
the surging tide because he'd paid his scot
words well inscribed upon the sacred scroll

no one regards the dancer on the pole
who leans over the rail and ties the knot
there is no honour left upon the roll

given the choice no one would make the roll
but curl up tightly on each tiny cot
words well inscribed upon the sacred scroll
there is no honour left upon the roll

only inches deep

shock is when ocean's only inches deep
when mighty rivers turn out to be rills
the himalayas just some bumps and hills
each mighty hero just another creep
what we have given turns out to be cheap
compared to what we see on others' bills
we find that what was written in their wills
was never final we have gone to sleep
the giant turns out to have been a child
and mighty struggles no more than a game
what we thought mighty forest is just park
nothing is left that's disordered and wild
the universe is now fenced-in and tame
and nothing's left we could call truly dark

life on trust

there are so many words that fall to dust
the silences where love has gone to die
we've come to take too little life on trust

we do those things that we have not discussed
hours weigh and drag the soul itself is dry
there are so many words that fall to dust

we claim the whole thing's failure to adjust
to what we find out is just passing by
we've come to take too little life on trust

there is no living soil beneath the crust
what has been sold no one will think to buy
there are so many words that fall to dust

no action happens just because it must
we do not think that bird has cause to fly
we've come to take too little life on trust

the one who rules may think that he is just
but all the rest will know that's just a lie
there are so many words that fall to dust
we've come to take too little life on trust

30 January 2008

children's tale

a chosen word or two matters not much
we know enough to count the open ways
in which to value what the speaker says
and leave behind that which we cannot clutch
the timid rabbit hiding in its hutch
is not much wiser than the cat that plays
out in the garden but it knows the days
account for more than what we think to touch
the predator may dance before the prey
but is no gift the thing that must be done
is not to gaze upon the complex act
but in a twinkling to run as fast away
as would a bullet leave the hunter's gun
the magic is not in the thought but fact

29 January 2008

by way of explanation

by way of explanation and defence
we mask the feeling and we hide the fact
not out of decency kindness or tact
with suchlike qualities we soon dispense
but since a trial with due speed may commence
and with the future we have no compact
we leave you with the gaoler to extract
what may remain of honesty and sense
rivers may flow but we shall never care
for what the waters might have had to say
we took our silver and we gave our word
to those for whom such things were very clear
regarding what the promise was each day
and in the quiet merely watched the bird

the fullest heart

a better measure of the fullest heart
is all the glory of most needed joy
one thing that all the world cannot destroy

we leave to you the larger harder part
expect to see you with all force deploy
a better measure of the fullest heart

natural glory exceeds that of art
the full-grown man has no need of the toy
but knows the wisdom of the growing boy
a better measure of the fullest heart

by what command

by what command we do not know
the words are written and remain
answer has come but very slow
we do not hope to see again

just what the truth was in the press
or who began the count or why
the answer was it no or yes
the reason was it truth or lie

songs that were sung by hasty sorts
have been forgotten but regret
has worked its triumph through the courts
the road is marked the path is set

master and servant disagree
on how the wages shall be paid
one says the other shall not see
the outcome of the final raid

what's eaten is not any food
that we would choose were we to pay
the price is what had once accrued
upon the ones who chose the way

so marching on the road of choice
we lacked the sense to sit and weep
others were fated to rejoice
we were the ones who had to sleep

final option

all of our options were presented stark
we faced the same choice in our daily grind
either we conquer or go down to dark

the hungry dog has never ceased to bark
it knows just what the horror is we'll find
all of our options were presented stark

it may have started as some youthful lark
but it has ended with the stars aligned
either we conquer or go down to dark

the secrets that were hidden in the ark
are brought to daylight and are unconfined
all of our options were presented stark

you do not know if we're up to the mark
that has been very much the complex bind
either we conquer or go down to dark

we have to choose either the wolf or shark
the monster strikes with or without a mind
all of our options were presented stark
either we conquer or go down to dark


we listen and we groan as once again
lie's piled on lie until the world of shit
is lied into perfection cheer fake wit
and do not ever think of all the pain
these lies are built on nor of all the gain
the smiling ones would not ever admit
as privately they turn to hawk and spit
and then tell us that it is just the rain
not one of them would hesitate a beat
to save the life of one who was not rich
compassion's just a word without a sense
you have to have a nicely cushioned seat
for other's goods a finely-tailored itch
and at humanity make some pretense

fools' gold

you take the brazen fool for solid gold
and miss the golden threads at highest noon
there are some people who just can't be told

it is a waste of time to shout and scold
we might as well start baying at the moon
you take the brazen fool for solid gold

in face of wolf you swiftly gate the fold
with sheep outside you acted far too soon
there are some people who just can't be told

upon the rope you have taken strong hold
but now you can't let go of the balloon
you take the brazen fool for solid gold

you thought that all the exits were controlled
and now you learn the guard was a buffoon
there are some people who just can't be told

you value brashness at the price of bold
mistake concession as some kind of boon
you take the brazen fool for solid gold
and miss the golden threads at highest noon

28 January 2008

there are no fires

there are no fires upon the beacon hill
where armies marched long silence now must fall
no fair folk gather by the pond and rill

only dust gathers at the broken mill
no one will answer at the last bird's call
there are no fires upon the beacon hill

no cheerful maiden comes to clear the spill
the tackle rots beside the empty stall
no fair folk gather by the pond and rill

no swine are left to swallow the last swill
upon the wall no hungry spiders crawl
there are no fires upon the beacon hill

no scavengers appear to eat their fill
the lizard has no kingship in the hall
no fair folk gather by the pond and rill

nothing will matter in the end of skill
no human power will rise above the small
there are no fires upon the beacon hill
no fair folk gather by the pond and rill


the hero is the one who has to die
and then come back from past the iron gate
the master not the victim of hard fate
who's looked the darkest god right in the eye
and then returned to look upon the sky
his is dominion of the nether state
michief resiles and leaves no lasting freight
he holds as one the golden truth and lie
bees hidden in the music now explode
leaving their honey in the hive behind
no one would now how long the serpent curled
another monster now must block the road
to torment and to terrify each mind
such is the manner of the living world

27 January 2008

lost messenger

you had a choice and made the proper turn
but then the road divided and you fell
into a pit as deep and hot as hell
and from that time you have not ceased to burn
from then to now you have not failed to learn
the price of all the stories you would tell
the cost of all the goods that people sell
there are some things it is not good to earn
a distant horn reminds us of the time
it takes to journey up from deepest vale
into the light of not-so-common day
so many fail to finish the long climb
and they are beings of the self-same clay
but you alone return to give the tale

tiny rocky ball

your eye can see only up to the wall
what lies beyond is in the heart of dream
too swiftly moves the tiny rocky ball

a fool believes the world is far too small
for what you wants and for your self-esteem
your eyes can see only up to the wall

the child you reared has gone beyond your call
what you have told you cannot now redeem
too swiftly moves the tiny rocky ball

you did not think you'd ever have to stall
but now you fear the coming angry gleam
your eye can see only up to the wall

what was your pride has turned into your fall
the leap you surmise was just so extreme
too swiftly moves the tiny rocky ball

what was once nothing now has become all
the rivulet become the larger stream
your eye can see only up to the wall
too swiftly moves the tiny rocky ball

noon late january

silent these bright woods
in the hard wintry noon light
which lies about warmth

we look at blue sky
and think of bright birds that skim
over highest trees

in hottest august
winter will seem mystery
but now it is truth


do not expect the magic to endure
for others have seen what you hope to see
the leaves that budded on the winter tree
have hoped for what you wanted to ensure
the future has the same sort of allure
as it had long before you came to be
there has been no change to the actual key
nor to the things that good folk must secure
onto the rivers many lines are cast
by those who seek to bring ashore a a haul
that none before had counted as being real
the future is no mirror of the past
and what is seen within the crystal ball
is not the final nor the golden seal

i meant to say

i meant to say some words but i forgot
to tell you just what all those thoughts were for
to make you know just how much i adore

you and how much you mean but i could not
find the right moment so i seemed a boor
i meant to say some words but i forgot

i fear that i'd be taken for a sot
another one who should be shown the door
for every golden thought i'd need a score
i meant to say some words but i forgot

the law of colours

the law of colours hold us firm in place
none of us care to think outside the bar
we're trapped by the old rules of the race

we fear to step into the open space
and would not dream of quite another star
the law of colours holds us firm in place

there is a fear that hides behind each face
and so we would not leave the door ajar
we're trapped by the old rules of the race

to speak of freedom is called a disgrace
we aren't allowed to trade in the bazaar
the law of colours holds us firm in place

all memories of the garden we erase
and leave behind us nothing but a scar
we're trapped by the old rules of the race

yet we could all our happiness embrace
and make once more what you would have us mar
the law of colours holds us firm in place
we're trapped by the old rules of the race

past summers' heat

no more the echo of past summers' heat
but hope that in the coming times of strain
good fortune and good sense at last will meet

cast down the mighty judge from his high seat
and you will set another up again
no more the echo of past summers' heat

down river soon the rowers have to beat
with hopes to reach the port before the rain
good fortune and good sense at last will meet

you make the move to plead and to entreat
protection from the bringers of great pain
no more the echo of past summers' heat

a wise commander knows when to retreat
and when to summon his troops to campaign
good fortune and good sense at last will meet

we listen to the politicians bleat
and know that in the end we won't abstain
no more the echo of past summers' heat
good fortune and good sense at last will meet

dark prophecy

this is the tale of one who dared not speak
but made his measure one that all must hear
the word made harder than it should appear
vision exposed to strong as well as weak
there are creations that the small may wreak
upon a world become thin and austere
such matters as no god could engineer
beyond the space of matter and mystique
attend you noble ones as you dance by
upon your futile duties to the throne
no palace lasts when all the plebs are dead
no kingdom can stand long built on a lie
that much even the dullest kings have known
and this is what the master spies must dread

26 January 2008

mozart for piano

i hear the voice of music like slow rain
bring down the calm of a most gentle night
inside we have a soft and buttery light

the fingers touch the keys without a strain
i've come to know it with another sight
i hear the voice of music like slow rain

bowing my head i hear the music plain
the fingers on the keyboard get it right
my mind and heart are one in their delight
i hear the voice of music like slow rain

the serious moment

a press of shadows in the midst of day
reminds us of how fragile all things are
we take the serious moment for a play

too soon the brightness turns to bitter grey
and little warmth or light reach from the star
a press of shadows in the midst of day

we bid the noonday sun to pause and stay
not knowing how the form of things we mar
we take the serious moment for a play

we see the workers moving on their way
and note the tide has reached the harbour bar
a press of shadows in the midst of day

there is no grief though thousands pass away
another tune is played on the guitar
we take the serious moment for a play

too late we see the ship depart the bay
discover that we have now gone too far
a press of shadows in the midst of day
we take the serious moment for a play

The biggest jailbreak in history

The biggest jailbreak in history

John Maxwell

On Tuesday, January 29, it will be exactly six months since I established a folder on my computer titled “The Crash of 2007”.
Tuesday January 29 will also be the 56th anniversary of my entry into what I thought was the honourable profession of journalism. These days many journalists ask themselves whether what they practice is a profession; whether what they do is honourable and even whether it constitutes journalism.
As disaster approaches we wonder why the global media don’t seem to notice.
As the so-called Thatcherite-Reaganite revolution cartwheels its ungainly, calamitous and soul-destroying progress towards implosion and self-destruction, many of us are too mesmerised by the gargantuan awfulness of it all to look at anything but the accompanying economic and financial mayhem.
But there is lots more not so obvious.
In Iraq at this moment, the major evidence of humanity’s eight millennia of civilisation is being looted and sold off to ‘investors’ who have more faith in the artefacts of Nebuchednezzar’s peasants than in all the oil wells of George Bush. As well they might. As we sang in the late sixties: “Everything Crash !”.
As Field Marshal (ret’d) Rumsfeld will tell you again, “Stuff happens!”
Move on! Get over it!
What is happening is so enormous, so transcendental that we can no more see it than we can see the rotation of the Earth.
But there are many people, neither prophets nor even experts, who for a long time have been feeling in their bones that something untoward is underway, rather as they say cats and dogs can sense seismic disturbances before earthquakes shake us up and destroy our cosy domesticity and, often our lives. Even people like me, who thought they were feeling the precursor tremors, are probably just as scared and apprehensive as anyone else. Worse yet, while we can vividly imagine what may happen, most people don’t get really frightened until their own houses start to to do the tango.
I’ve been watching for a long time as the invisible hand of capitalism attempted even more daring feats of prestidigitation; as the managers seized control from the shareholders and the corporate system abandoned any idea of public responsibility or accountability, as jobs and the people in them, were ruthlessly discarded and production was outsourced to slave societies – oops- ‘more cost effective countries’ – and the American capitalist forgot what the trade unions had been trying to tell them before they were emasculated: The money paid to American workers is what fuels American production. But the Enrons and the Exxons have never been interested. The idea was to make as much money as possible as fast as possible and to hell with the workers.
A declining workforce still being paid at the equivalent of 1975 wages could obviously not support the enormous superstructure of speculation, competitive consumption, greed and waste into which American capitalism has transformed itself. If the workers couldn’t afford to support the economy out of their wages or savings, their masters could always borrow European or Japanese or Chinese money to lend the workers and allow them to borrow more, paying ever higher rates of interest, running faster on the treadmill and losing ground, and the whole elaborate Ponzi scheme would go on and on until the second coming of Ayn Rand.
Multi billionaires like George Soros who spoke of ‘gangster capitalism’ and Warren Buffet, who spoke of the unfairness of the system were ignored: perhaps they were just envious of how fast the new Lords of the Earth could make money and didn’t really understand modern capitalism
What American capitalism has accomplished would have confounded Adam Smith and astonished even Karl Marx: it destroyed its own working class.
For the new-rich, capitalism was a no-risk game where governments had a duty to come to the rescue of those involved in unfortunate accidents, like Enron or the sub-prime mortgage debacle. Mr Alan Greenspan who keeps Ayn Rand at his bedside, had always delivered when necessary, despite a schoolmasterish tendency to vaguely deplore the ‘animal spirits’ and other juvenile delinquencies of his billionaire charges.
The problem of course, was that there were too many balls in the air and little or no certitude about how many capitalists could dance on the head of a peon. Ayn Rand, from beyond the grave, advised self-love and selfishness as the only virtues..
Margaret Thatcher did say ‘There is no such thing as Society” – expressing the Rand philosophy even more succinctly than Miss Rand herself. This pithy aphorism was then swallowed by various dummies all over the world. In the United States the explicit application of that principle has wiped out a significant proportion of the savings accumulated by African Americans over the last 50 years or so. And though it is blacks who are most critically affected, whites, Hispanics, and what is left of the working class are all condemned to fulfil the bizarre prediction in the gospel according to Matthew:
“For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath”. I’ve always considered that verse to perfectly represent capitalism.
The legacy of the Thatcherite-Reaganite counter revolution is not simply economic and social catastrophe but structural unsustainability in every dimension
Though the Reagan/Thatchers did not believe in society their commonplace lunacies such as the deregulation of aviation and Reagan's firing air traffic controllers – worked because of human altruism and the self-sacrifice of the victimised. They privatisated essential services – disregarding the fact that they would be run by the same people. According to them these people would suddenly become more efficient, since there was a profit involved. They ignored the probability of corruption, corner cutting, destruction of social cap[ital and decreases in the indices of civilised existence.
Thatcher and Reagan were not the causes of global warming or of any of the dire curses that attend us; they simply made it much harder for us to act quickly effectively and responsibly. The practical, pragmatic guys who ‘make things happen’ too often produce developments that depend on destroying the environment. maximising their profits and stealing environmental goods from the rest of us.
We’ve lost the 21 square miles of Kingston Harbour to sewage, solid waste, to assorted manufacturers and to the Port Authority
Do you hear any of them offering to replace what they have stolen?
Of course, when the beach sand goes and when the jellyfish swarm the beaches stinging and scaring our visitors, guess who will be asked to find the money to fix the problems?

The biggest jailbreak in history
Ayn Rand would have approved of Israel’s latest initiative in Gaza. To punish the unruly Palestinians, Israel with the approval of the West, imposed a blockade which quickly shut down municipal services, food supplies and emergency rooms. As someone (not Margaret Thatcher) once said “The prospect of being hanged concentrates the mind wonderfully” but what if the mind belongs to babies on a respirator who will die when the last generator runs of of fuel?
If Mugabe or Milosevich had done what the Israelis have done (and not for the first time) there would have been outraged howls from the State Department and other chancelleries of the civilised world, condemning barbaric, primitive inhuman behaviour. What happens to Palestinians or Haitians is not the concern of the cognitive elite of the world. Haitians and Palestinians live in law-free zones where human rights should not interfere with effective governance. And Condoleezza Rice, George Bush and the governments of the North Atlantic community approve of Israel’s turning Gaza into a concentration camp. Their motive: to convince the Palestinians that they were wrong to choose as their government the Hamas party. The Fatah party, once led by Yasser Arafat, was judged wanting by the Palestinians who voted for the much more radical Hamas. Fatah, once into hijacking planes and reviled as a terrorist organisation, became the darling of the West after the death of Arafat
Hamas and Israel share the same basic prejudices. Hamas refuses to recognise Israel’s statehood; Israel refuses to recognise Palestinians right to their own country. Normally the Hamas opposition is expressed as if it meant the extermination of the Israelis. The last Intifada was sparked by Israeli retaliation for the assassination of an Israeli cabinet minister who advocated exterminating the Palestinians or at the minimum, expelling them from Palestine.
The Europeans, atoning for Hitler's attempt to exterminate the Jews, have consistently backed the Israeli contention that the Jews of the world deserve a homeland and that homeland should be the territory of Palestine (land of the Philistines/Falastin).
For the last 70 years, those Palestinians not expelled by Israel have lived in smaller and smaller reservations in their own homeland with Israel continuing to install ‘facts on the ground’ – Israeli owned housing scheme on Palestinian owned land.
A map of Palestine (if the western media would print one) would show Palestine looking rather like a chocolate chip cookie, with Israeli settlements represented by the chocolate chips. Palestine is essentially split into two non-viable tribal reservations, the West Bank (of the Jordan River) including Jerusalem and a slim sliver of land on the Mediterranean – the Gaza Strip.
Unlike the Haitians, the Palestinians are recognised by the United Nations as refugees in their own land and have been so since 1948. Hamas two years ago won the electoral loyalty of the majority of Palestinians. Israel and her western allies decided that democracy was fine for Gaza, but, that, as in Haiti, you can vote for anyone you choose as long as it’s our surrogate – the Henry Ford principle.
The Israelis try to control the Palestinians by a variety of means, incursions by the Israeli army in which Palestinians including children, women and other innocents are ‘unfortunately’ killed; and by other means such as pre-dawn runs by Israeli aircraft generating sonic booms which terrify children and drive adults crazy.
The Gazans retaliate by firing primitive rockets into Israeli settlements (built on Palestinian land) and by suicide bomb attacks – although, mercifully, there haven’t been any for some time.
The situation is dangerous, crazy and unjust for everybody. The latest clampdown on Gaza was forcing people into starvation, putting children and sick people at dangerous risk and imposing generally inhuman punishment on the entire population for the sins of the rocket launching radicals. The Gazans were penned into this prison by an Israeli- built analogue of the Berlin Wall, a 26 ft./8 meter high concrete and steel barrier.
The Hamas government of Gaza last week decided to create its own facts, in the words of one of its leaders. Its sappers and heavy equipment drivers knocked down the massive wall and nearly half a million Gazans streamed out into Egypt on the first day. For some it was their first time out of the Gaza prison/concentration camp in their entire lives
The difference in perceptions is vast. TIME, Newsweek, CNN and other US media treated the breakout as if they were reporting the annual Spring merchandise sales in the US.
To describe the desperate scramble of people seeking baby food and basic necessities in Egyptian shops across the border, TIME said: It took explosives to do what diplomacy couldn't: allow Palestinians to go on a shopping spree – Newsweek and CNN evaluated the incident in terms of a public relations disaster for Israel.
That’s what we journalists call ‘the human touch’.
The Israelis say it is up to the Egyptians to restore the wall and the prison. The Egyptians realise that popular opinion is with the Palestinians and everybody realises that Palestine is the main excuse for the existence of Al Qaeda.
What with Gaza, the imminent worldwide economic collapse and climate change, all our lives are going to become much more interesting very soon.
Copyright©2008 John Maxwell

winter bloom

we need the vision of the winter bloom
not the raw force of the hard summer rose
to warm the hearts within our little room

it's not the colour or the faint perfume
that most of all the calmest grace bestows
we need the vision of the winter bloom

here in the south we still feel weight of gloom
and need a brightness with its kindly glows
to warm the hearts within our little room

far be it from you simply to assume
that you can lead us coldly by the nose
we need the vision of the winter bloom

we dare not let the tyrant cold consume
our common sense the effort quickly grows
to warm the hearts within our little room

we take a joy to overcome all doom
that has a meaning that is past all shows
we need the vision of the winter bloom
to warm the hearts within our little room

wherein we fail

wherein we fail to understand the signs
of changing seasons and the rising tide
informing us we cannot long abide
within the bounds set by these ancient lines
each city that we build in time declines
and we must pass without a hint of pride
into those places which we'd long denied
and give up all our plans and our designs
so that the mystic symbols are aligned
in tune with all the stars that we have seen
the time has come for others to depart
from those positions they had been assigned
by honest peasant or by vulgar queen
and close the chambers of the waiting heart

simply to say no

what meaning comes lacks any sort of glow
there aren't as many paths as you'd believe
the way to win is simply to say no

the river does not pause in its long flow
but open water has ways to deceive
what meaning comes lacks any sort of glow

sodden with anger we await the blow
that you have made it your life to achieve
the way to win is simply to say no

short is the day when the hot winds don't blow
and there are answers you could not conceive
what meaning comes lacks any sort of glow

decline is what we claim you ought to know
sweet gift that you most wanted to receive
the way to win is simply to say no

when we arrive we learn we soon must go
the time of praise is when we learn to grieve
what meaning comes lacks any sort of glow
the way to win is simply to say no

when angels fall

when angels fall into the maw of fear
not many know just how the end is set
nor who will in the end express regret
before the fever and the pox appear
we leave the facts to those who engineer
the kinds of meaning that we soon forget
those marks of cadence on the coronet
that tell us what is normal and sincere
aspire to higher glories and you'll fail
to reach even those you ought to master
but the first dropout soon achieves his goal
those things you strike upon the very nail
are not those that you arrive at faster
nor are they ones that you will get to whole

beneath that marker

beneath that marker nothing but bare stone
our eyes are drawn down to the sighing earth
each takes this journey on his very own

tempted by maiden laid out by the crone
taking for plenty what becomes mere dearth
beneath that marker nothing but bare stone

accept the burden with a single groan
but do not give us reason for more mirth
each takes the journey on his very own

the lamp that guided now is dead and blown
the ship we sought is missing from its berth
beneath that marker nothing but bare stone

we listen for the lonely ones who moan
not caring what the silence had been worth
each takes the journey on his very own

the sunlight slides into places unknown
we wonder what will be brought to new birth
beneath that marker nothing but bare stone
each takes this journey on his very own

old casuarinas

old casuarinas casting a hard shade
on the crushed limestone of a noontime road
hat signals could the play of light encode
of generations that had worked and played
the promises both kept and long betrayed
each passing donkey silent under load
could not explain and would not forebode
the longer journey or the bright cascade
none hide from voices latent in the air
the messages of knowledge never cheap
but paid with effort and crushed out of stone
what's left behind is nothing but hard care
and all those things we could not bear to keep
but still the tree lies weeping in the bone

what the magic says

defined by means of what the magic says
we do not let the hours turn into sheep
but slowly into corners they might creep
while we are confined to the higher ways
those other actors in these slower plays
have yet to tell us is the seas are deep
but we are eager to live on the cheap
without the sight or odour of bouquets
now here or there we name the monster life
that eats the light and darkness without pause
it leaves no marks for anyone to see
but we reject the horror of this strife
demand that all submit to equal laws
and force the whole to obey and agree

25 January 2008

a different eye

a different vision means a different eye
what is achieved becomes an essence
what makes us think may also make us sigh

your words will never make the aged spry
we speak of nothing but obsolescence
a different vision means a different eye

too soon we speak and then we have to cry
at the passing at the evanescence
what makes us think may also make us sigh

what rivers were too soon have all run dry
well-known the cause of sudden deliquescence
a different vision means a different eye

we give ourselves and know we are passed by
the only symptom is our acquiescence
what makes us think may also make us sigh

how soon the sun has fallen from the sky
how swift has vanished all its luminescence
a different vision means a different eye
what makes us think may also make us sigh

ol' hige

so many choices but the one that's made
will matter when the day has ceased to run
hidden from eye of the intruding sun
we find some reason just to be afraid
of what we thought would not have reached the grade
the purpose of the blow is not to stun
but kill naught matters when its done
we are not in it just for the parade
no silence now instead the voice of ire
revealing much that should not have been said
until the bird was safely in the bag
but that is not a problem for the buyer
who waits in anger tinged with fiery dread
for the next coming of the hungry hag

24 January 2008

the river holds

the river holds together all the shire
we dream of places far beyond the seas
but work to raise fresh crops from out the mire

there are so many things we might acquire
to let us rise to suitable degrees
the river holds together all the shire

we pay too much attention to attire
our needs are not to spend time at our ease
but work to raise fresh crops from out the mire

we rate the seller far below the buyer
the humble grasses far below the trees
the river holds together all the shire

those values matter to which we aspire
but we can't simply stand and shout decrees
but work to raise fresh crops out of the mire

having arisen we can go no higher
than to crawl forward slowly on our knees
the river holds together all the shire
but work to raise fresh crops from out the mire


the angriest god
fights justice against justice
with no victory

double bind

the names of gods are hidden from the folk
by priests who need to raise their voices high
to hide the weight that they wish to apply
and the great absence of what they evoke
we'd think it all some sort of painful joke
until we hear the worshippers all sigh
not knowing that they take part in a lie
not feeling either the whip or the yoke
the slave insists that she can feel no chain
all normal cycles are proclaimed as proof
of benign powers that by secret art
provide a blessing with the sun and rain
create the sky as their majestic roof
and know the secrets of the human heart

not getting the blues

your meaning's hidden by the words you choose
a century may pass before we find
how close we came to not getting the blues

the sort of thing that we might call a ruse
is with the normal signal all entwined
your meaning's hidden by the words you choose

on some principle you'd act and then refuse
to show just when the forces were combined
how close we came to not getting the blues

it is my obligation to bemuse
those who believe that like your complex kind
your meaning's hidden by the words you choose

if you would pause a moment to peruse
these documents you would not call to mind
how close we came to not getting the blues

our case is one that you would not abuse
in broadest daylight we are left quite blind
your meaning's hidden by the words you choose
how close we came to not getting the blues

worn out magic

there are so many maxims we forget
our parents seek to teach us basic laws
but we pass through our childhoods with regret

our adult lives we do not want to set
into the concrete forms of final cause
there are so many maxims we forget

our duty is to hasten without let
towards the goal without a second's pause
but we pass through our childhoods with regret

beings of clay by many pains beset
our lives are patterned only by our flaws
there are so many maxims we forget

each sings a solo none join in duet
even the wisest teacher hems and haws
but we pass through our childhoods with regret

with all our credit we end up in debt
for life itself we pay for our applause
there are so many maxims we forget
but we pass through our childhoods with regret

23 January 2008

ordered their estates

all that is good has been released from pain
we ask no more of morning than the light
but get for effort both the wind and spite
and in the end no dragon will be slain
the hungry peasant sees the longed-for grain
turned into something smelly by the blight
and darker monsters stalk the winter night
than know the secret voices of the rain
echoes of ancient musics haunt our days
while in old libraries the scholars seek
the secrets that the wise knew how to hide
another citadel we wish to raise
knowing that we are truly very weak
but filled by an unconquerable pride

22 January 2008

the other kingdom

what happens when you fall inside the whale
is not a secret hidden cities there
filled with the sorts of beings you'd beware
if met with in the normal kind of tale
angels and demons jointly will assail
your tender hide but soon you will not care
but be brought into a much stranger air
safe and secure from any rain or gale
beyond this place no man has dared to go
so there is no report that i could bring
of wonders of of blandness to assuage
your rising fears there still is much to know
of all the magics that the heathen sing
and certainties that come from distant age

forms of patience

so we are waiting still for healing rain
there are no reasons for the silent air
to be so empty for the birds to stare

the sun will set soon that is very plain
each tree we look on seems so stark and bare
so we are waiting still for healing rain

the depth of winter is the height of pain
all that we know is the hard weight of care
the curdling light of which we are aware
so we are waiting still for healing rain

perfection of form

perfection of form
branches bare of all their leaves
winter's deepest heart

so brief the white snow
thin the ice on our small pond
frogs' eggs in cold mud

deer eating our leaves
their hoofprints marking bare mud
life in the suburbs

over island shore

whose face and fortune we have named before
will not again trouble those thoughts that rise
like the high mountains over island shore

we left your message lying at the core
where it was safe from idlers and the spies
whose face and fortune we have named before

no clever scout could ever find the spoor
but other symbols you will soon apprise
like the high mountains over island shore

no angry creatures here will rave or roar
one speaks in quiet and another cries
whose face and fortune we have named before

so many enemies we might abhor
in this foul kingdom governed by the flies
like the high mountains over island shore

but what we know to beg and to implore
will not be set aside by guards of lies
whose face and fortune we have named before
like the high mountains over island shore

youth and grace

a mirror held to what is not your face
shows all of us just what you have become
forgotten now is all your youth and grace

we cannot fit into this tiny space
without our hands and feet becoming numb
a mirror held to what is not your face

we choose to claim this is our proper place
that all the numbers add to one true sum
forgotten now is all your youth and grace

the easy choice is just bow and abase
before the gods who know to balance plumb
a mirror held to what is not your face

no soldier has to come and set the pace
we do not know just why we feel so glum
forgotten now is all your youth and grace

announcers tell us we have lost the race
nobody's willing to grant us a crumb
a mirror held to what is not your face
forgotten now is all your youth and grace


having gone places where no human feet
have felt the ground and where no human eye
has seen those shadows you have cause to sigh
on hearing once more the familiar beat
of human hearts on every well-known street
knowing they go forth once more just to die
for no cause better than an ancient lie
another marker in the long defeat
from places further than we've ever known
come signals in forms we would best expect
from those who speak the tongues of honest folk
visions of better places we are shown
told what prizes we ought now to select
and how to smile when we put on the yoke

there is no brilliance

there is no brilliance on distant shore
a moment's hesitation serves to tell
just what it is that all the fools adore

so much there is to hate or to abhor
we listen for the coming morning bell
there is no brilliance on distant shore

the morning news is more accounts of gore
modern accounts of bomb and shot and shell
just what it is that all the fools adore

you moan and cry and huddling on the floor
give way to tears and let go a loud yell
there is no brilliance on distant shore

safe in their beds the leaders gently snore
at telling the safe stories they excel
just what it is that all the fools adore

this is we're told another kind of war
the path to heaven has to pass through hell
there is no brilliance on distant shore
just what it is that all the fools adore

21 January 2008

the conflict of monkey and cat

we leave the conflict of monkey and cat
to wiser folks who know how to describe
the interplay of thievery and bribe
combined with fear of how things become flat
the signs of sacrifice left on the mat
are those the simian would most proscribe
and thus most subject to the feline gibe
and we know just what happens in combat
so thinking of the night and what we need
such as good rest and dreams of summer shores
we do not set out any tricks or traps
but propaganda lies more in the deed
than in the execution of our chores
and others wake more swiftly from their naps

20 January 2008

all light and breath

we think all light and breath must come to halt
no time will pass between the first and last
moments of absent time have lit and passed
no stars will move across the nightly vault
against eternity we'll make assault
and at vain time our stern defiance cast
knowing from the first breath we are outclassed
but in our hope and pride we still exalt
both love and life without a hope or fear
our one true obligation to forgive
not those who harm but only those who bless
who think it matters that the turning year
must like a massive measure sort and sieve
still we go forward and we won't regress

weight of passing time

all that we see resolves itself as gold
what has been asked is never quite enough
to give as good an answer off the cuff
as that superb one which we had been told
by wiser sorts in the high ranks enrolled
more than this word we count as a rebuff
the manner sordid and the method gruff
this is mind's winter all the hearts are cold
i can't forget that will not be allowed
so few the memories distant the place
and now we listen for another chime
with hearts so heavy and with heads all bowed
not caring any more about disgrace
but feeling all the weight of passing time

the ancient art

you know the meanings of the ancient art
but have no need of what the words may show
through all the seasons we come to the heart

truth is not bought or sold in any mart
all of the rivers first must cease to flow
you know the meanings of the ancient art

the honest actor says he plays a part
but never lets on just how much you know
through all the seasons we come to the heart

to win or lose we can't claim to be smart
we let the wind decide where it will blow
you know the meanings of the ancient art

you stay while we make our plans to depart
leaving the seedlings their best chance to grow
through all the seasons we come to the heart

if we cohere then you must come apart
all becomes clear during the afterglow
you know the meanings of the ancient art
through all the seasons we come to the heart

a fractured symbol

one little moment of a rougher hue
we let the light refract and then we smile
so much the eye and mind have to beguile
this empty heart of life we bring to view
not merely in the forms of white and blue
but as we measure up and down the pile
through understanding of both skill and style
we ring the values back from false to true
all of the colours have come flooding back
after a day we spent in monochrome
yet what we have is not enough to praise
our thoughts revolve around plans of attack
not limited by the bright high blue dome
a matter now of seconds not of days
whatever happens we can never raise
eyes that are attuned only to see lack
while feet are not permitted yet to roam
to all those places within normal gaze
the ones who win will have to leave the track
not knowing how they'll find a safer home
where weight of fortune cannot force a way
such quiet messengers have much to say

a churchyard near sada

she was the elegant the fashion plate
the one who set the standard for the rest
who thought herself the luckiest and blessed
demanding always to be set in state
and yet though she might chasten and berate
was still by joy and sunlight all possessed
and knew those things that make the morning best
now in the concrete she also must wait
what must be said by others has been said
the corpse is burned and ashes have been placed
in the flat wall now silence will remain
when all the mourners from the yard are led
and one day memory shall be erased
and on the shore will fall the steady rain

19 January 2008

a thought of warmer places

a thought of warmer places tropic stars
waiting for news of who's come out ahead
you look on poor souls sitting in dim bars

images swirl like smoke from old cigars
as bookies calculate the total spread
a thought of warmer places tropic stars

our minds recall the older fights and jars
the floors are clean where once they all were red
you look on poor souls sitting in dim bars

others are shown who learned to wear their scars
with pride and dignity they were best fed
a thought of warmer places tropic stars

cold streets not lit by many passing cars
no one is sure just who was to have led
you look on poor souls sitting in dim bars

some other tunes are played on their guitars
and far away the happy now are sped
a thought of warmer places tropic stars
you look on poor souls sitting in dim bars

The Poll of the Baskervilles

The Poll of the Baskervilles
John Maxwell
Sanguivorous –bloodsucking – leeches are an extremely low form of life, a kind of worm which is basically an animated alimentary canal. There is a mouth at one end provided with teeth used to perforate the skin of its prey and nothing but a gut until the other end of the animal where there is an anus.
Sanguivorous leeches can ingest several times their own weight in blood at one meal. After feeding the leech retires to a dark spot to digest its meal Some leeches will even take a meal from other sanguivorous leeches which may die after the attack.
I first came upon leeches – or rather they came upon me – about forty years ago in a water-meadow – a pasture – in Berkshire, England, where I had been admiring a herd of cattle of a kind I hadn’t seen before Afterwards, as I was cleaning my boots of the mud and cattle dung I realised that there were about half a dozen ugly little worms attached to my calves, just above my socks. They were leaches, sucking my blood. I persuaded them to cease and desist by bringing a lighted cigarette near to one end of each leech, when the other end let go falling to the ground to await another food supply.
I am reminded of leeches by the activities of some people who masquerade as journalists both here and abroad.
Their modus operandi is simple; they sink their teeth into people who they esteem as more important than they, hoping that the blood they may draw may bestow upon them some of the attributes of their hosts. Which is why people like Wolf Blitzer, Glenn Beck and others on CNN and Chris Matthews, Sean Hannity and many others on the Fox network in the US spend so much time putting the needle into people they fear or hold in awe In Britain the stimulus is more sex than power. In Jamaica, as in every other activity, leeches are not specialists. They are omnivorous. But whatever their prey, the idea is to draw attention to themselves. Talk show hosts, newspaper columnists and cartoonists can be found among the ranks of leeches. One of the most egregious gets his rocks off by an annual exercise in denigrating those he considers his superiors. The proprietor of this newspaper and I (a “Jurassic fossil”) are among his latest targets. I am delighted to be among his bêtes noir. I am specially gratified because this is at least my third or fourth time on one of his lists.
Even Tyrannosaurus Rex had his leeches – as I can personally attest. In any case, a man may be known by his enemies.
A public trust
Journalism is allegedly a public trust in which journalists and their employers are supposedly committed to the protection and defence of the public interest – acting as guides, counsellors, sentries and guards as we report, discuss, analyse and advise on the vents and developments in our environments.
These self-assigned duties and responsibilities mean that the successes and failures of our societies are intimately related to the performance of journalists. Many of us are quick to criticise our societies and governments as careless, corrupt, brutal and uncaring forgetting that if the societies and governments are so, we are part of the reason they got that way.
Journalists are now criticising the Jamaican police for brutality, having spent forty years conniving at and condoning police murder because they thought it was in their interest. In the United States journalists condemn racism while being in the forefront of the promotion of prejudice. American journalists still find it difficult to adopt stances against torture and other corruptions and breaches of the US constitution because they connived at and condoned the stealing of voters rights in the ‘election’ of their chosen hero, George Bush in 2000 and 2004.
And soon – wait for it – they will begin a wholesale official assault on the usurers and shysters who conned a substantial number of blacks, Hispanics and other poor people out of billions of dollars and cheated them out of hundreds of thousands of houses. They will probably not attack however, the banks and finance houses that enabled and financed the usurers and made (and have now lost) billions of dollars in the casino that is the free market. In the last few weeks some of these loses have been revealed: Citibank alone has written off 22 billion dollars in bad mortgages and bad loans, Merrill Lynch perhaps as much as 30 billion and other banks and assorted financial houses like Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley, the American Insurance Group, Barclays and HSBC have written off or lost billions more, leading central banks and the financial establishment to try to finance a $75 billion bailout fund to avert a complete and universal meltdown in financial markets. These astronomical sums were the proceeds of funds sucked out of the poorest sectors of working class America. The total involved is more than the Gross National Products of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica combined.
And then, of course, there is New Orleans.
What happened is that the banks accepted IOUs from mortgage lenders and sold packages of IOUs/mortgages as new ‘ investment products’ that were traded as if they represented real assets, being sold at increasing discounts to other speculators who figured that eventually the investment products or ‘derivatives’ as they are called, would mature, as they say and everybody would get a piece of the action. These derivatives are are simply a way for the private sector to print their own money – the very sin against which they rail when governments do it. Governments of course, can’t go bankrupt and unlike the private sector have to pay their debtors one way or another. And when the private sector money printing machine crashes, it is governments – ordinary taxpayers – that must come to the rescue to prevent the total, catastrophic dislocation of their economies and societies.
The private sector are paid astronomical sums, win or lose. Stan O’Neil, head of Merrill Lynch took home a parting gift amounting to more than $200 million and the head of the disastrous Countrywide mortgage company took home more than $250 million for the last two years sterling work in digging his company and its clients into a multibillion dollar hole.
The winners do even better, with rank and file employees of Goldman Sachs, for instance, sharing nearly $20 billion, almost a million dollars each for their part as winning bookmakers in the capitalist bucket shop.
As they say – the invisible hand is faster than the eye and the financial sector is nothing more than the world’s largest floating crap game.
In all of this the journalists of the world are too intimidated to emulate the little boy who noticed that the Emperor's new clothes did not exist. Instead the press are the Judas Goats of capitalist speculation, leading their fellows to slaughter or forced labour for the greater profit of their employers and patrons.
Why the dog did not bark
In the mystery of “the Hound of the Baskervilles” as Sherlock Holmes noted, the most important piece of evidence, the major ‘clue’ was the curious fact that the dog did not bark when the intruder entered the house to commit his foul crimes. . To Holmes this fact pointed to the perpetrator; dogs don’t bark at intruders they know and love. It was an ‘inside job’.
Last week Hilary Clinton won a spectacular ‘victory’ in the New Hampshire Primary against all expectations and to the great consternation and astonishment of almost everybody. “How did the polls get it so wrong” was the typical question asked by newspaper and television pundits.
It was an odd question, because apart from this rogue result, the polls got everything thing else spot on.
What was so odd about Clinton’s ‘victory’ as I pointed out last week was the fact that people questioned after they’d voted said Obama was more likely to be elected president than Clinton. This conformed with what the voters said they had done in the voting booths but not what the election results said. What was strange was that Clinton got the votes predicted for Obama and Obama got the votes predicted for Clinton. In every other respect the exit polls were accurate
Even John Zogby – the most accurate pollster – seemed to feel constrained to agree with his sometimes statistically illiterate critics: “Going into the New Hampshire primary, we certainly did see Clinton holding on to a significant lead among women and older voters. But we were focusing on Obama's massive lead among younger and independent voters. We seem to have missed the huge turnout of older women that apparently [sic] put Clinton over the top.” and
“We expected that Obama would receive the lion's share of independents and drain the Republican primary of these voters. It now appears that, perhaps with a sense that Obama had a lock on the Democratic side, independents felt free to vote on the Republican side and reward their hero, John McCain.” This, as it later transpired, was not true either.
Zogby’s grudging ‘admission’ that something may have been overlooked by his polls is an argument that hasn’t been bought by many serious bloggers.
Brad Friedman of Bradblog says “a few folks in the world are finally beginning to open their eyes, and realize that not counting ballots, and trusting instead, in error-prone, hackable machines for "faith-based results" doesn't make a lot of sense. Particularly in an election for which nobody --- and I mean nobody --- has come up with a legitimate explanation for the surprising results.”
The candidates’ own polls contradicted the electoral “result”. According to Bradblog: “… [On MSNBC] Olbermann repeated what Russert had said earlier, that Obama's internal polls showed him winning by 14%, Clinton's internal polls had Obama winning by 11%.”
Brad and others dedicated and skilled at this sort of analysis have uncovered what appears to account for the curious circumstance of the dog that did not bark.
In New Hampshire 80 percent of the precincts (polling divisions) had their votes counted by Diebold scanning machines, a process which has been thoroughly discredited in the United States. In the one fifth of precincts where votes were counted by hand, the actual results matched the poll predictions. In the Diebold-counted precincts there was a 7 point swing for Clinton. One unreconstructed troublemaker, Dennis Kucinich, also a candidate for the Democratic nomination, is not content to let sleeping Diebolds lie.
In a letter to the Secretary of State for New Hampshire, Kucinich points out that the integrity of the electoral system is at the heart of the democratic process.
Kucinich wrote:”“Ever since the 2000 election – and even before – the American people have been losing faith in the belief that their votes were actually counted. This … isn’t about who won 39% of 36% or even 1%. It’s about establishing whether 100% of the voters had 100% of their votes counted exactly the way they cast them.”
“This is not about my candidacy or any other individual candidacy. It is about the integrity of the election process.”
“New Hampshire is in the unique position to address – and, if so determined, rectify – these issues before they escalate into a massive, nation-wide suspicion of the process by which Americans elect their President. Based on the controversies surrounding the Presidential elections in 2004 and 2000, New Hampshire is in a prime position to investigate possible irregularities and to issue findings for the benefit of the entire nation.”
Kucinich is alarmed, as are many other Americans, that the Republican party and its military industrial complex of support is well on the way to turning American democracy into the qualitative equivalent of a nineteen thirties Banana republic. In those places democracy was rather like Henry Ford’s cars: “You can have any colour you want, as long as it’s black.” And, as Henry Ford foresaw, the media saluted, and the band played on.
Copyright 2007 © John Maxwell

crystal rain

what comes down from the sky is white and plain
a lazy saturday is what we've got
not much to be recalled or else forgot
we do the job and do it once again
there's nothing complex here nothing arcane
we bind and unbind knot and then unknot
earn our small fees or learn to pay our scot
and contemplate the falling crystal rain
cascades of music set the changing scene
all of our eyes are focused on the sky
but we can rest there's nowhere yet to go
we add up all the things we find they mean
not very much say otherwise you lie
just sit and look at the large flakes of snow

again i watch

again i watch the giant flakes of snow
cascading down between the house and trees
the window narrows just what any sees

there is no noticeable shine or glow
winter proclaims unusual decrees
again i watch the giant flakes of snow

from above freezing needle falls below
we learn the weather's real and not a tease
absent at once our long-expected ease
again i watch the giant flakes of snow

the modern midas

the shades of heroes from our world withdraw
honour's abandoned and we're told the game
is not about a decent human law
but how to turn the wild into the tame
or bring our master one more piece of fame
there is no need of which we are aware
that should befall the weakest billionaire
since wealth alone defines just who is fit
to get attention and receive due care
from modern midas who turns gold to shit

we're told the tiger with his stealthy paw
will wreak much damage and that we must blame
his depredations which no one foresaw
for all the horrors which we overcame
only to have each mistake to disclaim
as weary year succeeds on weary year
and we still trumpet that all folk must fear
the ones who threat and danger must emit
we'll be defended by the steady stare
from modern midas who turns gold to shit

it's not the tiger with its tiny maw
a creature that's so easy to defame
but the much larger monster with large jaw
whose goodness all our leaders do proclaim
the one who steals without a sense of shame
and leaves the cupboard and the larder bare
he is the benefactor preachers blare
and his path to retirement is well-lit
with gentle torches that cast no great glare
from modern midas who turns gold to shit

prince you tell us that we are free as air
the way to fortune is set out quite clear
we leave to you the passion and the wit
you tell us who to kill and who to spare
and we learn who to aid and who impair
from modern midas who turns gold to shit

18 January 2008

the flag still waves

news comes and we find we are not so tough
as to accept the fates without a sigh
it is so easy now to call our bluff

we face the struggle always in the rough
signals are sent and we just pass them by
news comes and we find we are not so tough

off islands we have heard the waves rebuff
shallow the seas but we can't reach too high
it is so easy now to call our bluff

we make pretense of being hard and gruff
but cannot from your face the meaning pry
news comes and we find we are not so tough

you climb and climb but cannot leave the slough
receive the benediction but still lie
it is so easy now to call our bluff

between the tides we learn to say enough
our words are honest though our hearts are wry
news comes and we find we are not so tough
it is so easy now to call our bluff

label the messenger

label the messenger and nothing falls
from any heights you have no sense of how
your turning birds may hear the winter calls

such beasts as tramp and steam within their stalls
may take the time to do what we'll allow
label the messenger and nothing falls

through tunnels each strange silent creature crawls
not certain what the word or whose the vow
your turning birds may hear the winter calls

flawed hero who from out of ocean hauls
some stranger being the altar to endow
label the messenger and nothing falls

from ocean bottom what our anger trawls
will sink with speed each ordinary scow
our turning birds may hear the winter calls

from light to shadow what we learn appalls
raises the blister brings sweat to the brow
label the messenger and nothing falls
your turning bird may hear the winter calls

i shape the morning

i shape the morning with an angry fist
this light may mock my most earnest desire
but i cannot escape what you require
the choice is always submit or resist
so many names are left off the long list
of those who qualify to face the fire
for it is known who's strong and who will tire
and who was by the last hot angel kissed
the sharpest light that hits the waking eye
reminds each one of what is left to do
and we must hurry to precede the rain
such signals may come from the urgent sky
that others bring most eagerly to view
but i can tell just what is done in vain

17 January 2008

nowhere in the dark

nowhere in the dark a hopeful sound
the cadences of night are never kind
no signals and no meanings are defined
\cold and delusion complete the surround
while our best wishes in silence are drowned
to quiet hopes there speaks an empty mind
of hearts and forces that have been confined
by more than nature in this horrid pound
let us not mention just what words were said
by those too eager to demand a trust
not easy given by the ones who know
loathsome creatures soaring overhead
with fiercest breath turn swiftly into rust
those things we least would want to see let go

the wrongful art

the secret is one that's well-known of old
desire to shape the world into a dream
such hearts too soon become both hard and cold

all youth mistake the brash for the true bold
each rotting bubble for an honest gleam
the secret is one that's well-known of old

what you condemn the foolish have extolled
confusing anger with deepest esteem
such hearts too soon become both hard and cold

they take the frozen for the self-controlled
that decent interval seems too extreme
the secret is one that's well-known of old

no sound brick's left behind the vicious mould
but you declare the world is as you deem
such hearts too soon become both hard and cold

ill-painted tin you tell us is bright gold
not knowing we've grown weary of the meme
the secret is one that's well-known of old
such hearts too soon become both hard and cold

just how the day ends

just how the day ends will not really matter
you learn some things and others will forget
while over all the raindrops still may spatter

a time of quiet ends with angry clatter
the precise hour so long ago was set
just how the day ends will not really matter

we left the happy children to their chatter
too soon they'll learn the meanings of regret
while over all the raindrops still may spatter

all turns to silence there's no need to flatter
when other purposes have not been met
just how the day ends will not really matter

against the wall we vainly strike and batter
honour and purpose long ago upset
while over all the raindrops still may spatter

upon this shore the urgent waves still shatter
but no one's left to worry or to fret
just how the day ends will not really matter
while over all the raindrops still may spatter

your name is precious

your name is precious and you must redeem
each small expense of virtue you have made
honour requires a sharp and steady blade
which you have polished to a merry gleam
force and raw power the masses will esteem
leaving the calm and silent in the shade
plain cloth has not the merit of brocade
and honest answer bows to fever dream
motion is life but we have to be still
and listen to the words borne on the air
while in the distance gathers once more cloud
easy to blame some harsh and ancient will
whisper of forces to the unaware
and claim to be the last one left unbowed

16 January 2008

if we begin

if we begin with any sense of how
the choices made arrived at final sense
with virtue and with vice we might dispense
and leave the field to neutral power now
the wind that blows the last snow from the bough
reveals the paint is peeling from the fence
the trees behind us here seem not so dense
and windy voices make some kind of vow
rumours abound regarding how we fight
against the powers that set the laws in place
but not for those who cannot will the calm
we're here in deepest coldest winter night
those are not roses we see on each face
still only one of us may bear the palm

atlanta snowstorm

on these magnolias the snow should stick
a sudden weight of winter on each heart
no sense of purpose in the frozen art
paths made treacherous and roads turned so slick
far better to be slow than to be quick
to get there safely than to lightly start
upon a journey we are not so smart
as to distinguish the truth from the trick
winter invades it comes as a surprise
this freight of change this absence of all heat
a punishment for when we were so bold
as to believe the warm and tender lies
but soon the grey and soggy sight of sleet
reminds us that we too can feel the cold

15 January 2008

just how to be weak

no one who understands would ever speak
of tiny measures that we must avoid
so few of us know just how to be weak

the mountain is much more than just the peak
the teacher more than one who is annoyed
no one who understands would ever speak

we blame the modern more than the antique
not sensing just what we could have enjoyed
so few of us know just how to be weak

we grant no special grace unto the meek
nor praise to those who with great risk have toyed
no one who understands would ever speak

the plainest cloth becomes finest batik
and in the end joins all the goods destroyed
so few of us know just how to be weak

we face the worst and accept its critique
the path we tread is right above the void
no one who understands would ever speak
so few of us know just how to be weak

the constant duty

what one could say another could indite
in better verse than i could ever make
and show that none of those who mirth forsake
will ever understand the clearer light
instead we follow the amusing sprite
who leads us on the path to the dark lake
through fevered memories we cannot shake
we are compelled by life herself to write
the truth is clear we do not get to choose
our purposes alone instead we find
coöperation works but out upon it
we know at once just who will win or lose
and put such matters firmly out of mind
just so we properly complete the sonnet

red beans and rice

our diet's heavy with red beans and rice
morning weighs on us with a colder sun
too sweet the sugar now too sharp the spice

it's winter but there is no snow nor ice
nor any reason for plain joy or fun
our diet's heavy with red beans and rice

our struggles are not ended in a trice
we have to let the process run and run
too sweet the sugar now too sharp the spice

lacking in method with no good device
to twist things into shape each makes a pun
our diet's heavy with red beans and rice

we learn the value and forget the price
our purpose is to act and not to shun
too sweet the sugar now too sharp the spice

knowledge of virtue is knowledge of vice
we know the end as soon as we've begun
our diet's heavy with red beans and rice
too sweet the sugar now too sharp the spice

14 January 2008

a glimpse of river

a glimpse of river distant sight of sea
familiar places within realms of thought
each of us finds just where we have to be

a distant mountain the shade of a tree
in those materials our hearts are caught
a glimpse of river distant sight of sea

all proper moments when to frame our plea
about the meanings all of us were taught
each of us finds just where we have to be

never complain and never disagree
about the value of what must mean naught
a glimpse of river distant sight of sea

over the hilltops the wind may decree
such limits as no human hand has wrought
each of us finds just where we have to be

what's known in common by each refugee
is that the wealthy valued them at naught
a glimpse of river distant sight of sea
each of us finds just where we have to be

all the best songs

all the best songs are played by angry souls
we hear the words and do not understand
the sense is best provided by creoles

the batsman always fears the one who bowls
such messages we hear as flat and bland
all the best songs are played by angry souls

you rake the foolish over hotter coals
but do not have the guts just to command
the sense is best provided by creoles

a host of metaphors must still pay tolls
to those who think our language is too grand
all the best songs are played by angry souls

no enemy would hide within the holes
that dot the mountainsides in our fair land
the sense is best provided by creoles

the deepest diggers are not normal moles
under their rule our pains will just expand
all the best songs are played by angry souls
the sense is best provided by creoles

in due and proper measure

my name and nature are not in dispute
but in between the hours and longer days
we find that answers can't be absolute

the rules require that we must prosecute
our tasks and duties in the proper ways
my name and nature are not in dispute

no one who counts can hope now to compute
the sum of value in the nightly plays
we find that answers can't be absolute

you play the older tunes upon the flute
and do not smile when we throw the bouquets
my name and nature are not in dispute

a final sentence no one dares commute
the monster devours all who tread the maze
we find that answers can't be absolute

moments and hours each bear their proper fruit
all must their expectations soon appraise
my name and nature are not in dispute
we find that answers can't be absolute

13 January 2008

i name the place

i name the place and i shall name the hour
no wonder left but magic still to come
we live from day to day and crumb to crumb

it does not matter who should choose to glower
not one of them has ever found the plum
i name the place and i shall name the hour

you take the sweet and leave us but the sour
so what what matters is the final sum
we wait till from the river goes the scum
i name the place and i shall name the hour

out of the abyss

nothing but silence out of the abyss
from time to time we wonder how it came
to be or why we give absence a name
we never wonder nor find it amiss
when with our peers we talk and reminisce
about the boundaries of wild and tame
without dissension and lacking all blame
how in the emptiness we find our bliss
looking at monsters is a common sport
but monsters too have eyes and they can see
into our hearts in many devious ways
against such inquiry there's no resort
we make no defence issue no decree
and go out swiftly in a sudden blaze

home is the place

home is the place where one is most secure
though travel broadens both the mind and rear
to be elsewhere is always to endure

exotic places have a great allure
but so do those we know to be most dear
home is the place where one is most secure

one's never fooled by bright tale or brochure
there's heavy dust upon the chandelier
to be elsewhere is always to endure

we find the daily task no sinecure
the way of duty is always austere
home is the place where one is most secure

each journey is no more than a detour
we learn those things that we most want to hear
to be elsewhere is always to endure

so of some things we find out we're most sure
all journeys end as they begin in gear
home is the place where one is most secure
to be elsewhere is always to endure

the symbol not the thing

what meaning sits inherent in the gem
must be translated by the better sort
not those who in the muddy fields cavort
but who the vulgar and the wild contemn
the elegant who are from stern to stem
the ones who know just how best to comport
themselves who will not with foul fiends consort
but will exactly weigh judge and condemn
now we mistake the doer for the deed
the arbiter for what he must decide
and that will lead to worship of the fake
we are too eager to confuse true need
with what we really want to see applied
and that too often leads to grave mistake

Character is the real issue

Character is the real issue
John Maxwell

It’s a really good idea to write down for the record, statements you think deserve to be in your book of quotations One such statement, by former Field Marshal Donald Rumsfeld, I did scribble down but have since lost. It went something like this:”I cannot tell you at this moment what is going to happen.” The impression was that in another hour or so, his prophetic talents would be back up to speed and he would then be able to tell the interviewer what would be the result of whatever lunacy he was planning at the time. Or perhaps, the prophecy was a state secret and not for public circulation.
Some people assume that public opinion polls are prophecies. All they can do is describe what a particular group of people intend to do at the time the poll was taken. Unfortunately some people and most of the media believe that polls are the word of God and denounce the pollsters when people don’t behave as they said they would a day or week before.
Freedom to change one’s mind is probably the one significant freedom not under attack by the present US administration. But their accomplices and abettors in the Press are trying to make it harder and harder for people to believe that changing their minds is a sane procedure and not a betrayal of the media’s Right to Know.
Public Opinion polls are merely the societal equivalent of a blood test: if the sample is properly designed, you should get an approximation of what the society thinks at the time the poll was taken. it is nothing more than that. And, to use a brand new cliché – the road to hell is paved with voters’ intentions. Since is is January, and the sinners among us are busy deciding which New Year’s resolutions to break, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that people do enjoy changing their minds – it’s about the only thing they can do without paying tax.
So, after the exhilarating win in Iowa, it probably was no surprise to Barack Obama that he didn’t ‘win’ in New Hampshire, where the demographics, the traditions and the culture are different. I confess that I expected Obama to win based on the trends in the rolling polls done by John Zogby. The problem of course, is that Zogby can’t ask people on election day who they intend to vote for. And, of course, some people make up their minds in the polling booths. And of course, voting machines tend to have minds of their own.
In Iowa, where there is not a primary election but a number of local caucuses, last minute decisions are likely to be less decisive, since the caucusers get to argue with each other about the merits and demerits of each candidate. And there is the possibility of last minute change when candidates whose totals don’t reach a certain level are knocked out and their supporters are free to vote for their next favourite candidate.
Although the press was full of warnings that people shouldn’t take Iowa seriously, because only about 300,00 people caucused, I am inclined to take it more seriously than New Hampshire where emotions ran wilder and spot decisions were easier. And a sample of 300,000 people is a pretty good sample.
The Iowa preferences for Barack Obama are therefore to my mind, more likely to be an accurate reflection of what Americans are thinking right now. This is in my view, confirmed by the fact that majority of those voting in New Hampshire FOR Clinton, also said that they though Obama would be the best candidate fir the Democratic nomination.
Punditry of any kind is dangerous, and long range punditry as practiced by people like me, is even more risky, tending to provoke abusive letters, mainly explaining why I don’t understand American politics and why I have no right to be speaking about something so sacred. I am cheered, however, when I read what I predicted at the time of Mr Bush's selection as president by the US Supreme Court , my prognostications immediately after 9/11 and by my warnings on the Iraq misadventure, before it began. The first one, with a few changes of tense, sounds as if it could have been written last week, predicting as it did Mr Bush’s assaults on the justice system including the Supreme Court and predicting that the world was in for a rough time at the new president’s hands.
As I said at the time, it would be nice if Americans understood how important their choice was to the rest of us. Naturally, in a country so deliberately safeguarded from the truth, most people go for the bread and butter issues and are fertile ground for hysterical appeals to chauvinism and other idiotic prejudices.
Which is why the success of Obama is so surprising. I freely confess that John Edwards was my preferred choice with Obama second. First I knew much more about Edwards and felt, and still feel, that Obama will be forced to give more hostages to fortune than Edwards. Unlike many people I know, I really like and admire Hillary Clinton, but her steadfast commitment to Clintonian politics, including an unswerving belief that Israel is always right, put me off.
It’s not that I believe that Israel is always wrong, it is simply that if the US president is to be an honest broker in the issues of Palestine, he or she must be able to look at both cases impartially. And this becomes particularly important when we remember that the major issue fuelling anti-Americanism and uniting so-called ‘militant Islam’ is Palestine. If the Palestine issues were to be solved, a great deal of generic ‘Islamic militancy’ would disappear. Similarly, the Clintons and their backers continue to believe that the USA must be the policeman of the world and since it can’t do that job well it concentrates on people like the Colombians, the Venezuelans, the Haitians and the Cubans not to speak of the Jamaicans and all of Africa, which are conveniently dismissed from the ranks of the civilised by describing them as failed states or states about to fail.
I once read an economics textbook by Paul Samuelson in which he said that a country can export successfully, only those commodities that satisfy its own market first. In the United States and in most other countries of the world, Freedom is not an exportable surplus.
In the United States they marvel at the success of barack Obama, carefully described as a bi-racial man, rather like Tiger Woods. They cannot be black and be heroes at the same time.
As Senator Joe Biden, a bright, likeable and civilised American Senator said last year "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy, ... I mean, that's a storybook, man."
The obvious but unconscious denigration of people like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and perhaps even Martin Luther King, escaped Biden. What was reassuring about the new America was how hard people even including the media, came down on Biden for that remark.
The fact that someone like Biden can make a remark like that tells us more than any research study into racial/ethnic/colour attitudes can reveal. In advertisements for eHarmony.com – a service for finding mates, there has never been as far as I know one example of a trans-racial couple, and there is never on television, except sometimes in the news, anything which could suggest that in the United States that are millions of people ‘miscegenating’ like crazy. Despite their problems, this is not true in Britain or Europe. There is still on America’s most potent socialiser, television, a colour bar.
And this is part of what makes Obama’s political odyssey so fascinating.
Bill Clinton has said that the media treats Obama lightly, sparing him the examination it focuses on other candidates. This is true but is largely die to the fact that, like John Kennedy v Nixon half a century ago one candidate has much less controversial baggage than the others. But this is not true of the bloggers and the poison pen experts of the rabid right, who are busy circulating email on the internet accusing Obama of being the ‘Manchurian candidate’ of the militant Muslims and of a host of other high crimes including disrespect for the American pledge of Allegiance.
Not a Candidate but a Movement
The US Press has discovered a surefire way of discrediting the enemies of the right. The Press does not originate most of the scandals, it simply passes them on. The scurrilous and utterly untruthful Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry would have gone nowhere, had it not been taken up and magnified by the Press. On CNN, for example, the video was played over and over. On the other hand, the video which destroyed Howard Dean, showing him apparently to be an hysterical and unbalanced person, was carefully edited and graphically analysed to produce that effect. Dean had to shout in the auditorium in which he was speaking. he was also hoarse. If you subtract the background noise and remove a few of the lower tones, you get an attack weapon of tremendous megatonnage. That too, was amplified by the Press who knew that it was a fabrication.
I’ve had the same treatment. After the 1980 elections in Jamaica there was a huge thing about the fact that I was sweating profusely as the results came in showing the PNP losing. Nobody pointed out what they knew, that the temperature in the studio was well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit because the air conditioners had failed with five times as many people in the studio as the systems were designed to serve; and I was the only person deputed to remain at the commentators’ desk while all the others came and went freely
Dan Rather, the one mainstream journalist who tried to discover the truth about George Bush, had his throat unceremoniously cut by his poison-peddling colleagues and employers.
Journalists have powerful tools and they use them. Talk-show hosts can turn you down and tune you out without your knowing – and so on.
The problem for the US Press is that they can’t turn down or tune out Obama. As someone said last week, Obama is no longer simply a candidate, he’s a movement.
That movement is a direct response to the barbarities of George W> Bush.
It has taken the Americans seven years to get the measure of the disaster that he has been, in lost liberties,lost jobs, lost homes, lost pay rises, lost pensions and investments, and children lost to an unnecessary and unconscionable war.
When he goes, as I predicted seven years ago, he will leave behind him a Supreme Court dedicated to reversing the democratic and social gains of the American people over the last sixty years. Like a lost fish pot, it will go on catching and killing prey long after its owner has disappeared.
People are beginning to understand these things. It is taking them longer to understand what happening to the message and reputation of “America” outside of the Unite∂ States. They don’t know about Cuba and Haiti or all the other crazy misadventures of US power in Latin America, Africa and the Far East. But they do know that there are many people outside the ranks of ‘militant Islam’ who hate, fear or despise the foreign policies of the United States.
Ron Huckabee, no foreign policy wonk, stated in the journal Foreign Affairs recently, that US foreign policy is based on an arrogant, bunker mentality. For this he was roundly criticised by Mitt Romney, the Plastic Man of the republican candidates.
The most interesting thing about the candidate struggle on the republican side is that it reinforces what’s happening on the Democratic side. All of a sudden, character is important and it is the one area that the Press cannot interpose itself between the candidate and the people. That was why John McCain in New Hampshire and Mike Huckabee in Iowa sent Plastic Man packing. That is why Obama won in Iowa and probably won New Hampshire.
This poses immense problems for the media and the Republicans. They are confused at the moment, not knowing who to attack. Believing all along that Hillary was bound to be the democratic nominee they had their toxins all prepared. When Obama won in Iowa, they were thrown into confusion. If Obama is indeed the eventual nominee, which I believe he will be, the republicans will have to fall back on their old standbys, race, sex and poisonous innuendo.
The problem is that Obama does not give them much space. His marriage is obviously happy, his children adore their father, unlike Giuliani’s, and, like McCain and Huckabee, he seems to be a really nice person, a good human being.
Electorates, below the patina of pseudo-sophistication, are always looking for people they can trust. That is why the Press and the republicans went after Al Gore and misrepresented him as an aggrandizing liar who claimed to have invented the Internet and claimed to have been the hero of “Love Story” among other things. Even so, Gore won that election although the Supreme Court decided otherwise.
Kerry also had strong positives going into 2004, but the press and the Swift Boaters turned even his heroism against him as they did against a paraplegic war veteran in the Georgia Senate race. .
If you really want to judge the worth of the US press remember this: In 1997 when the Pope was visiting Fidel Castro in Havana the stage seemed set for an unprecedented Great Debate on the world stage. But then the Drudge report came out with a story about semen stains on a little blue dress and the entire American Press Corps decamped like a flight of cuckoos, to luxuriate in scandal.
There is scandal aplenty surrounding at least one of the republican candidates, Giuliani. But do you think the Press is interested? Despite the fire-fighters he will go on being “America’s Mayor”; despite the concealed expense accounts and the sex scandals he will go on being ‘America’s Mayor’ and he will despite the Bernie Kerik scandals and whatever else might surface between now and November.
Meanwhile, CNN has been busy investigating, showing Barack Obama’s paternal grandmother peeling cassava in her hut miles from nowhere in Kenya and no doubt we will hear serious investigations into his father and stepfather, both black, both dead, and his mother, who was white but is fortunately now dead and impossible to misquote.
A few days ago, George McGovern, about whose character there is no doubt (and which may be why he lost to Nixon,) declared that George Bush had committed higher crimes and greater misdemeanours than Nixon and was more deserving of impeachment. Here was a senior and eminent statesman making serious allegations about the behaviour of the President of the United States
Do you think that made the headlines?
You must be joking.
There was no attempt even to check whether McGovern had a case. The fat lady had already sung as far as the US Press was concerned.
Perhaps though, it simply was not NEWS.
Dual Citizenship
I must confess than I was more than a little surprised –before the elections by the vehemence of Danville Walker’s response to Abe Dabdoub’s cautionary note to the people of West Portland.
Now that it has been revealed that Walker, like Darryl Vaz, is an American citizen, I have been waiting for comment from the Press and the Government. Perhaps I’ve simply missed them. Since Mr Walker’s job description explicitly excludes non-Jamaicans, I cannot see how he can continue to hold it for another minute. The whole affair reeks of undemocratic special privilege demanded by one class of Jamaicans and denied to others.
In the first place the US law does not admit of dual citizenship. Therefore it seems to me that there must be powerful forces which have allowed Vaz and Walker among others, to effectively exercise dual citizenship.
Under American law a citizen can lose his nationality for voting in another country’s elections. Here we have one American citizen presiding over our country’s elections and others running as candidates.
How is that possible?
The American Embassy owes us an explanation and Walker and Vaz owe us – and their American compatriots –their resignations.
Copyright © 2008 John Maxwell