On the Road in Phoenix
I once had a book reading
in Phoenix, AZ.
This post-grunge poet
who was going to Naropa
to learn to be beat,
and perhaps peaceful repose
amongst the yoga trees,
took up arms because someone
had double-booked a young nobody
on the road, on his own dime,
for a dual engagement on the eve
of his chapbook release.
What was his name,
the 35-year-old poet
in flannel shirt and Converse shoes?
I don’t remember—
all I remember was a
vexed martyr whom idolized
that exuberant generation
drilling me on the classics:
Who did I read? Where did I go to school?
Who was Ferlinghetti? Had I read Howl?
Did I even know who Kerouac was?
I don’t even remember his poetry.
His fans informed me
they weren’t there for me
as if I’d conspired his literary downfall.
Blame the promoter, I thought,
and he did. The hostile Naropite
argued with the host,
throwing a tantrum
outside coffee shop doors.
awaited my turn,
delivered my work,
where my verse wasn’t
approved, but my style was;
I listened to hecklers who
mocked me during the open mic,
counted my money from books sold,
and went home, where the next day
the anarchists proved a far kinder audience
than these learned and lettered people.
Crafted in a world where people have
become useful commodities is the point
of your existence. Another turn at useful
idiots in a speculative world-view of selfish
prostitutes, princesses and millennials
whom think they know better. There
is ignorant rage running rampant
in the streets. For all the attempts at
education, the blind cannot heal
their own eyes, and the deaf
can only pretend to hear.
The aural dissonance of lies proliferated
through daily excerpts of infallible propaganda,
thoughtful historians draw lines in the sand
and watch as we cross them generation after
generation. And now the cowards of the world
stand up, another turn of useful idiots who
will not concede but through violence claim
superiority. And now the artists stand up,
the ones pigeonholed into a bleeding heart
worn tactlessly on their sleeve, declaring
their resistance, a message created
for historical value. The convoluted
stories of our time alter this experience
and its destination. Where leader’s lies
trickle from top to bottom, influence
creates a confluence of similar vice
and down it goes to the common
follower, a stagnant condonation,
a cess so thick even as the ropes
are thrown and the light is
cast, we struggle to see our
way from its quicksand.
—after Walcott’s A Far Cry from Africa
Wind sweeps over the sullen
city as rats rampant reside
in streets and cracked buildings.
The wind pushes passed our dwellings,
mere boxes painted and carved to taste.
Roaches scamper, our homes their
food and fodder. They scurry, carrying
the memory of the world inside their mind,
hiding in the foundations with the fleas
and termites. Roaches, wise men
of old cry out, “Waste no compassion
on these separate dead!”
Separate in a unity that binds
us in stagnate desperation.
A nation bound, a truth is told:
It is in our boxes we learn,
in being bound we are separate
from each other. Separate, with
a sarcastic quip and a cynic’s lips.
It is in these hidden truths the subtle
lies have disguised the idea of
the individual. We’ve become
a homogeneous routine creating and
destroying time like a clock. Daily,
in-and-out in service or by necessity,
the chains of poverty and neo-feudalism
cast around our neck.
Climes of fear and terror realize the day,
arrogant bombs are scattered across
lands innocent of cause and the just
are played by willing deceit spoken
daily on programs through screens
that use light and pulses and get
smarter as the years move on.
The level of exposure almost
designed to rot. Entertainment
damn the soul; food and water
damn the body; false histories
and propaganda damn the mind.
And, this is my America,
a land I learned to love.
This is a country I have come to
understand as a symbol, an idea
now defamed, backwards, reversed
and upside down.
“Waste no compassion,” he says.
“Waste nothing, on these separate dead
for they are lost among the fallen
as the wind passes them by,
and they are fast asleep as
the wind leaves them behind.”
An ashen mask is worn
by the sun, a gasping rasp
that’s overcast the people
and the throngs of evil,
traitorous scum who’ve
lost integrity and sold the
soul, or have held the souls
of others hostage in convoluted
warfare against the raising
of humanity. The dimming
sky, a chilling breath that
blinds the eyes, harkens
back to bleaker days.
The expansive gray
hides hopes and freezes
the nourishment the spirit
seeks in bleak disarray.
the peddles pulled and
rendered, bleeding violet
crimson, tattered bodies
underfoot. The sighs are
vexing as the vexed trudge
forward, pressed and conned
into deceiving each other
in a sweet repose condoning
condemned actions and
admiring the devils
even as they hold our
and hands before us,
daring us to speak.
The sky is darker now,
a fading plumb behind
gray plumes thickly
wafting. The cotton
in the wind. Ash floats
down to a cess, stagnating
on a puddle of black brown
mud. A guard brutally shackles
our hands as we float back
into inebriation, and that
At the center of our encampment,
amidst the euphoria that sweeps
soberly into our stomachs, the sweet
addiction called promise licks itself
in nostril, on lips, and finds home in
the pit of our heads (it travels the
streams of our hearts), and we
breathe black lilies, our equivalent
freedom, and end all thought;
we dream of sky:
Tuft white dreaming rolls up
in spiral stratus clouds. Feathers
yawn in space afar and flow horizon
home. Azure blue ripens to royal
and fades into the setting sun—
carnation hues, magenta surges.
Eyes above as the stars look down,
our eyes in the stars are eternally found.
I know nothing of death,
though I often think I feel it.
What curious obsessions
cannot relinquish the hold
of the misery that proposes
I don’t know.
I don’t know why in everyday
a tragedy, as if change were
something wrong and denial
a fiercely strong perception
I know nothing of death,
though I often fear it, and
I fear my breath is fleeting
with no reason to believe.
Ignorance keeps people
frightened, for they do not
want to see the truth.
And in truth, have I
wept myself blinded,
and not wanted to see
the light of laughter
and happy recourses
to the curses of living?
Too many questions:
Why does my house reside
in pain and misery? Why
do I choose to reside
in the rye? Why
can I not break
from the bell jar
and breathe easy
and clear? Why
and fear it as if I
I need to break free from this relic,
from this monument of the past.
I need to release all the demons
that have rested as ghosts.
Like the gods that break free
from the gates that bar them
from lush green; break free to
the pastures where I can roam
as me and the person I am,
unrealized in this decaying house
on the street that is a byway of lost
civilizations, a ghost road of dead