BORN INTO POVERTY AND HUMILIATION
Born into poverty and humiliation and the degradation
of a woman at the hands of a man who said he once loved her,
had to have her for the world, begged and pleaded,
achieved her and then tried to put her out like a dance step
he was learning to do with a cigarette-butt in the dirt.
Not a humiliation of mine, not a degradation of me
I didn’t have the rage and discipline to overcome,
but the boyish impotence of watching her suffer
day after day, the occlusion of the light and human warmth
she was to four frightened children who were witness
to their black out father’s swarming drunks
when he got out of jail like a hive of killer bees
and she were too isolated and hurt to keep
anything back from me, the eldest, her sounding post,
who couldn’t do anything to help her except
pray to an unforgiving god to let him grow up in time
to murder his father while he was still conscious enough
to feel the bright steel of a son’s sterling blood
shuck the flint knapped oyster of his heart
to see if there were ever a pearl inside I could pluck out
like the evil eye of a mad moonrise on another binge.
As my mother withdrew like an ice age into herself
I tried to decipher her tears like unbroken circles of rain
in the heartwood of a young boy’s smashed guitar.
A strawberry heart with the savage scar of the moon
across the bass string of her throat like a martyr
garotted by what she had to go through to survive
her own life with four kids she controlled like the damage
done by love on the rampage that had trampled them.
I’m not a Momma’s boy. She didn’t cling to my brother
and I like an umbilical cord on a burning box kite
and we took more than our quota of self-destructive
chances in the world to prove to ourselves we might yet
outgrow the stigma of being men in the image of our father.
And the rough-hewn diamonds in my two sister’s eyes,
as well as my mother’s intransigent independence
to sacrificially transcend her circumstances at all costs,
long before the feminist revolution, I took it for granted,
all women who had grown up poor were as liberated
as the life-nurturing events of underwater volcanoes
breast feeding the ocean like islands of drowned sailors
that had smashed against the rocks of their seafaring wills.
Viking mermaids in bobbi-sox and saddle shoes
who sang alluringly to their vagrant boyfriends
they weren’t amused by the course they had set for themselves
by relying on their starmaps like mythically inflated safety nets
as they lowered the Titanic like a lifeboat on the moon
they inherited from their parents like shipwrights in drydock.
Pull yourself up out of poverty by your bootstraps, Paddy.
Get an education. And I thought, why was that? No one
going to lower the bucket to help pull me out of the birth canal
I fell into like the wrong housewell? And I did. Amo, amas, amat,
amamus, amatis, amant. I was taught civilization owed
everything it stole from the poor to agriculture,
and ruining a few wolves by turning them into sheep-dogs.
Animal husbandry that culls the people like roadkill.
I don’t think that anymore. My teachers were the dupes
of the lie they benignly bought into to keep their jobs.
Civilization, government, law, education, economics,
no more than the pine-scented deodorant the rich use
to disguise the blood musk of the abattoirs
slowly butchering the poor emotionally, creatively,
imaginatively as a kind of collateral damage
like torn beavers, wrecked muskrats, meaty groundhogs
water-logged in a ditch the turkey-vultures administer
like bankers and undertakers eating the guts out of
as the rich pass by every summer casually on their way
to the vacation cottage that will enable them
to get back to nature, ravening on the fat of the poor
like the American dream or whatever passes for one
in Canada from the floor of the House of Commons.
The rich sustain their vision of a good life like ants
eating the eyes out of the heads on the soft shoulders
of a way of life that has made them arrogant, stupid
and extinctually feeble. You know what civilization is
when you boil the fat out of chaos, it’s a deodorant
for the rich and powerful, corrupt, hateful, and mendacious
to smell like herbivores instead of overseas bloodbanks
that stain their teeth and lips red in claw and fang
like a dowdy, middle-aged political rose smearing
thick lipstick like dubbin on her waterproof mouth
she’s lies through as if life were a strawberry milkshake
she’s sucking the bubbles of the bottom up
through the proboscis of a straw longer than the budget
she proposes to make everyone else but her go first?
I studied history at university. The filthy rich
and their inconsequential bloodlines like varicose veins
that have grown stiff with the plack of their porky progeny
killing the poor of one country off against another
then flying like Churchill to Poland to sit down with Stalin
to see who gets to imperialize the cadavers
in the boneyards of Europe behind Roosevelt’s back,
because the U.S. is still too much of an ingenue
to know how to use a secret police force effectually
over port and cigars to keep a strangle hold on the people
they hang from meat hooks like abstract eviscerations
of foreign policy, as if flesh and blood had nothing to do with it.
Look at their bodies scotched by overindulgence
and privilege, see them naked at a photo-op
squealing like pigs at a trough living in their own shit
as Napoleon said of Talleyrand like excrement
in a silk stocking. Imagine history sitting on a toilet
listening to the vital organs of an overfed sea cow
like a trickle down theory of economics claiming
as it breaks like a political wind in an executive bathroom,
it can eat your food for you as a way of filling your empty bellies
with the crumbs and fins of the loaves and fishes
it feeds on as if it eliminates through the same bung hole
of a mouth it feasts with. Monostomes. Look it up.
Who hasn’t compiled a secret hit list of black ops
to be meted out contractually like an apocalyptic mode
of creative street justice for the atrocities they had to swallow
like bad medicine in an age of nuclear miracles
where the rich eat pearls and gold to avoid the black plague
of the fleas that docked their yachts in Genoa, or Cape Cod,
to teach Europe first and now North America
to the chagrin of the McCarthyite clones of Ted Cruz
and the feudal Republicans, death is an equal opportunity Democrat
that treats everyone fairly without distinction
like a plague rat chewing through the morgues of Congress?
Imagine that. The high and mighty brought low
by a little bug the NSA didn’t plant in the name
of the panic button on homeland security
genetically modifying the collective unconscious of the mob
like the super id of Monsanto in a cornfield of dreams
killing the bees and the Monarch butterflies with neonicotinoids
as surely as the Germans used Zyklon B at Auschwitz
or Assad fumigated the suburbs of Damascus with sarin gas.
Whatever direction the wind blows, World War I
all over again. Rumsfeld peddling mustard gas
and the dragonfly helicopters to deliver it to Baghdad
against the Iranians and the Kurds like cologne to a dictator
with sons more subordinately vicious than their old man
smiling like a Pacific dawn on the smog of Los Angeles.
And don’t tell me the terrorists don’t roam in packs
of rabid pit bulls tearing a child on her way to school apart.
Or the profiteering capitalists in the black markets
of the wars they start don’t think the poor are the reason
they suffer, and don’t take anyone’s pain to heart but their own.
Or the poor themselves don’t eat their own when
there’s nothing else in the house of life to chew on
but the gummy cliches of the snake-oil politicians
selling them the artificial fangs of yesterday’s vampires
as if everyone were entitled to a bloodbank of their own
as an antidote to the poisons they ingest like their daily bread.
Looking for a happy ending to the black farce
of the life you’re living? Who can blame you? I don’t.
Every little piggy’s got to get its own, every dog,
its bone, only so much time and then forever and forever
and forever, nothing to look forward to, nothing
behind you to look too kindly upon. Nothing but
a waterclock of empty moments to preoccupy you
with how minisculely irrelevant everything is at a distance
that disappears into itself like a blackhole
nothing can get out of, the bones of star-nosed moles
buried alive like tubers that groped the dark
with the green tentacles of their eyes awhile
and then withered like used condoms that have the feel
of the skin of old men in a wet dream. Life peaks
like an amoeba on a mountaintop, fish in the sky
out of their heights, a few astronauts like dust
on a starmap, lies that binge in the mouths
of corrupt politicians crying big slow tears
of crocodile saliva for the victims of their hydrophobia.
I wish I had a dad in the grave I could lay flowers upon
and talk to in the intimacy of the eternal silence
like a son that went fishing with his lighthouse of a father
and got lost at sea on the moon as my mother
called out to us from the far shore like a foghorn into
the forlorn dampness of an impending echo in the air
of a recurring nightmare that ended with a dove descending
as if somebody cared enough to return the message.
Three bells and all’s well. Or straight from the heart
of Julian of Norwich, all shall be well, all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well. Instead of this hell
that, too, shall pass. Like a kidney stone we pissed out
like a diamond in the rough. Like the ostrakon of an asteroid
with our name on it coming at us like a right cross
to the jawbone of the asses braying like pundits on tv
as if this were Periclean Athens, spinning fables
of oracular equality at the beginning of democracy
for those of the citizenry rich enough to be free,
and for the rest of the mob, the afterbirth of what’s left.
Optimistic autopsies chalked like flow charts
on the godforsaken sidewalks of the stillborn.