Saturday, September 25, 2010




One nation eating another.

One people eliminating another

like a medieval column of red meat-eating army ants.

The right hand is at war with the left.

Though they both share a common vision

of their dark mother

one eye hates the other.

Is this Cain?

Is this Abel?

One brings meat.

The other brings vegetables to the table.

What kind of God loves one better than the other?

Jesus liked fish

and Muhammad liked dates

and Moses wasn’t into seafood.

Which one do you think smelled sweetest to God?

The Buddha who could get by for a long time on nothing?

Or the fanatical atheists

who don’t care what they eat

as long as it’s secular

not kosher halal or consecrated?

The new Eve theory of evolution says

we all come from

between one

and a thousand mothers

in East Africa

about five and a half million years ago.

She taught us to sweat when we run

so we could hunt animals at noon

when they had to stop

and catch their breath in the shade

or die of heat exhaustion.

Now we can kill anything we want

without breaking a sweat

thanks to civilization.

But we haven’t lost track

of where we came from.

The weapons may have evolved

from stones and bones

to sophisticated nuclear missiles

that can read our minds from space

before we do

but we’re still the same troupe

of rabid baboons with painted asses

we always were.

We’re still throwing things at each other

like diseased body parts

over the Persian walls of a Mongol siege

in a biological war

of cocks and balls like hand grenades

pine-apples and potato-mashers

and rifles with sensitive triggers

and collapsible gun-butts

taking out whole families at a single burst

of a phallic weapon

that eats their children

like a male lion taking over

another carnivore’s source of life. 

Ever since Sargon of Agade

introduced imperialism to Mesopotamia

it’s never been enough

just to take their stuff and go back home.

Greed is the mutant norm of hunger.

Power is the vengeful recompense

for sexual incompetence.

It’s important to look at what’s intimate

about cosmic events.

History’s just a screening myth

for a lot of preventable accidents

that came down on their heads

instead of landing on their tails.

O sure the world’s full of good people

as anonymous as oxygen

and as secure in themselves as water.

By their fruits ye shall know them.

Fruits is an old-fashioned word

for market-based commodities

but don’t let the archaic diction fool you

there wouldn’t be any logos in the world today

if it weren’t for this ancient wisdom.

We owe a lot to the people we killed

when they came before us

like genetic pioneers.

This little piggy was chosen.

And this little piggy was not.

And this little piggy thought he was an ubermensh

and goose-stepped all the way home.

The world is the cornerstone

of an insane asylum

having a nervous breakdown.

The raptor’s off its meds.

There are continental fates

like third world nations

in the untimely wombs

of fractured fortune-cookies.

It’s hard to see the stars

because the lights in the windows

are on all night

and no one trusts the darkness anymore

but they’re keeping their distance from us

like one of the freaks of nature

there’s no explanation for

that leads

to the auto-extinction

of an intolerable species.

We’ve grown so bright in our blazing

in our own eyes

we blind the light

that opened them in the first place.

The hard bitter medicine of experience

can’t immunize the child

against the loss of its innocence.

When I think of all the people

who have been threshed by the sword in wars

since the birth of civilization

I am stunned by the abyss

of what I want to know

that I will never be able to ask them

all the answers they might have given

like a cure for cancer

and all those personal questions

that can only be asked by friends

when they’re alone

with everyone in their hearts.

They’re picking up the corpses

of scrawny children in the dawn

like dead starfish

out of their element

and stacking them like cordwood

in the deathcarts that creak

through the backalleys of Calcutta.

Usama bin Ladin

is the reincarnation

of the Old Man of the Mountain

Ogadai and his Mongol hordes

destroyeed in Iran

seven centuries ago

when the assassins

got higher than Al Qaeda

on Afghani poppies

supple as the dancing girls

that keep temptation alive in heaven.

But the worst sin

is to kill people

in the name

of an uninhabitable idea.

The terrorists bow to Allah

in the direction of Mars

not Mecca.

Spiritual purity

is not a racial disinfectant.

The Christians cherish Christ’s wounds

and worship him like scars.

The Jews return home

to Armageddon in Megiddo

and the blue-eyed Texas Bible Belt

anticipates the Last Judgment

that will wipe everybody out

at the Second Coming

because the first didn’t work out so well

like birds that don’t sing in a eucalyptus

because all the bees and beetles and butterflies

that used to tend the blossoms

in the orange groves of their grandfathers

have been eradicated

from the tree of life

like Palestinian villages

that couldn’t adapt

to Israeli bulldozers

whenever a child threw

a stone at a tank

like David at Goliath

three thousand years earlier.

The unified field theory

the oneness of being human

the equality of women

the face you see revealed

wherever you turn

behind the veils of Isis

and the ineffability of God

is the tauhid of Islam

that has no simulacrum

no likeness

no mithal

no comparison

no identity

you can check like a passport.

The minute you say anything about God

she’s the subject of racial profiling.

If she looks like a human

she must be a threat.

The personal history of ignorance

is a private library in a morgue

no one’s had time to read yet.

Data’s not the same thing to knowledge

as a cell is to life

or a star to a galaxy.

What you can see

knows less about the light

than what you can’t.

And getting to know what you can’t

is wisdom.

And wisdom is space.

And space is the ultimate insight.

But nearly fifty years of writing like this

about the world’s horrors

trying to balance

the enormity of my cosmic rage

at a tiny planet

against the little I know of compassion

and I’d have to say from the very first

nothing’s changed

except it’s gotten worse.

I’ve always been stunned

by New England asters

in late September

growing by the sides of long dusty roads

I never mean to come back to

but when I walk over

to take a closer look

just for old time’s sake

I always see the blood of helpless children

splashed all over them.

It kills the mystic in me

stone cold dead

and makes even looking at flowers

a self-indulgence of mine

they can’t afford.

I look at the stars

and even they seem

like a waste of time

for all the years they’ve been shining

indifferently down on nothing

looking for something to relate to.

I look at life

my life

and those of my friends

and those of others just like me

all through history

living on the other side of the street

in the slums of Karachi

in the migrating herds of people

who are hunted like refugees

by rapacious crocodiles waiting in the river

between them and the greener pastures up ahead

after they’re dead and rotten

and the names of their children are said

because they were born

in Darfur

or Detroit

or the Democratic Republic of Congo

as if they were already forgotten

just a moment ago.

I look at the planet

as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin did

and see a sphere of mind enveloping it

like an atmosphere around a marble of starmud

and sense the planet’s waking up to us

like dead brain cells

that couldn’t quite get

the knack of conciousness.

I look at the squalor the ignorance

the starving the torment the war

the atrocities the chaos and destruction

the victims of reptilian viciousness

perpetrating horrors on the innocent

that make you feel

God may be dead

but the demonic’s lost

none of its appeal

to the ghouls around his deathbed.

And I see how much less than insignificant I am

in the grand scheme of things

like a bad dream I can’t wake up from

to do anything more than scream murder

when murder’s being done

to the children

and the people they love

and who love them.

I’m good with words

and I’ve got an excellent education

but that’s where it ends.

I might make a good fire-alarm

lighthouse or air-raid siren

in another life

but in this one

I look upon all those who are dead

because of our lies greed and corruption

because never have so many died

in the course of human endeavour

to feed so few

so much.

I never go to bed

without feeling

I’m forsaking someone somewhere

who could have used my help

if I were a different kind of person

than this one

who is so defamed in his own eyes

by the hungry accusing innocence of the dead

until my heart starts breaking

and a soothing compassionate half-defeated voice

arises like a battered angel

from under the hard stone

where three-quarters of the world

rests its head tonight on a tormented planet

and lays a cool herb of moonlight on my forehead

and says


if your heart is breaking

let’s hope it’s bread.