Audio & Verse

  • (Sunday June 26, 2011) Radio interview at TheFightBack.org on the situation facing D.C. taxicab drivers – conducted by Pete Tucker, independent D.C. journalist and activist. Aired Sunday June 26, 2011 on “The Voice of DC Cab Drivers” on WUST 1120 AM. Skip: Interview begins at time 58:20 in the audio.
  • (Monday May 30, 2011) Radio interview at “Bringing Light Into the Darkness” - a progressive social and political program in Austin, Texas on community radio station KOOP 91.7 FM. The topic of the interview was nurse unionism in D.C. and nationally, health care, and the labor movement in general. Skip: Interview begins at time 11:20 in audio Part 1 and continues for the duration of program through Part 2.

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VERSE                                                                   

A FUSION OF THE PERSONAL AND POLITICAL

PERSONIFIED PROMISE LAND

Liberation shook her from sleep into a dream, pulling her up

from out the chasms of submissive hopelessness

wherein confined indigenous faces

stand behind barbed wire and a concrete wall that snakes its

way beyond the Green line.

Her black hair under her kufiya

and with a bullet ring like Leila Khaled,

And with relentless oppression breeding desperation

in a powerless population under constant humiliation,

Justice guided her by candle light through the darkness of subjugation

until daybreak cast the rays of self-determination

upon Gaza rooftops and across the West Bank landscape.

Peace lifted her above the checkpoints so high up

that she could nearly touch visions of freedom

that once seemed so far removed from reality:

the pastures of dirt she walked on.

Resistance raised her as an infant atop the rubble of her home

that she might grow into a river

running swiftly through the flames of apartheid,

cooling the scorched homeland.

Walls and fences cannot confine a river.

She took the hand of Righteousness

and followed its struggle toward peace …

… But gunfire riddled her path.

Now an explosion shook her from sleep into a living nightmare:

A grinding bulldozer ripped at her foundation.

Caterpillar crushing families’ homes

and uprooting olive trees.

Shrapnel shattered her living flesh.

Fire burned her orchards to ash.

A missile struck her heart.

A tank rolled over her dreams.

Soldiers emptying their magazines –

it seemed a racist ideology pervaded their ranks.

Liberation sobbed over her lifeless form,

tears diluting rivulets of blood.

But she is always revived and awakened.

Her heart, like the sun, vaporizes oncoming missiles.

She will lay the cement for a new foundation,

build new homes and plant new trees,

and she can always dream new dreams –

Make them real … by any means.

IMPERIAL DEMISE

I spy

a bald eagle

with its talons sunken into the back of the Third World – the oppressed people.

It’s lightening-clipped wings show that against this bird a Divine karma works three-fold.

And as it soars over the powerless, casting the shadow of its expansive wings over the feeble,

I stare into its star-spangled eye

and send a bullet to the sky

to pierce its stubborn skull. I pry

and pull from the beak its final hegemonic cry –

ending its conquest mid-flight. May empire die.

Rejoice as it drops faster to the dirt.

I try

to make the sharp thud of its carcass smacking the earth

humanity’s gentle lullaby.

NEW JERSEY

My roots are dug into dismal nighttime suburban landscapes;

waiting in winter.

wet blacktop surfaces beneath mufflers that breath,

small exhaust clouds that roll over brown decaying autumn leaves,

huddled against the curbside.

Landscapes of more parking lot vistas,

in strip malls with commercial red glowing store signs.

White fluorescent lights that blind.

I might be waiting for life to start some times;

in limbo.

Living in a split second between scholarship

writing professional, activist comradeship.

Dreams of a new world emerging;

below the surface serpents of certainty are working,

and I am hurting from personal misfortune and so little learning,

and sorting through the mess of a world in calm distress.

Homeless, broken purses and minds,

weathered by streets, dismembered by time.

The cold is cracking lines in concrete and faces adjacent to

hopeless smiles.

How many age brackets encompass reporting warriors in flack jackets

misled by military men with bad habits?

Imperial foot soldiers manufactured by a culture of plastic?

How many fallen to deceit, deranged and without homes?

Mostly Black and poor, still wearing fatigues

like they just returned from war in the Middle East

for a government that repaid them by kicking them onto the street.

Begging for change at a station for buses and trains.

Soon-to-be passengers ignore the less fortunate

and keep reading a newspaper. It’s strange;

they too are begging for change.

In this life structured from day to night,

with the pace of an economic defined human race

to the bottom rung of the latter.

We place trust in a regimen of jerking traffic lines,

the rhythm flow as the arteries of a metropolitan mass system –

Economic organs.

We are the feed in this machine,

the drones bemoaning this evasive notion of home.

Scatter brain, mind musings – spatter thoughts like paint.

Spit onto this brain.

We made plain our intentions

to revolt at the mere mention of privatized existence.

The unrelenting advertisements venting

the filth of “buy this,” “get rich,” “lose weight,” “call now,” “don’t wait,”

Be proud of this, you are an American jingoist.

Embrace the arrogance, the ignorance, the privatized existence.

Get health from a profit-seeking entity with online impersonal distance.

Politicians and press shape the dialogue of the day,

with rhetoric on a mission

The coverage of caucuses, a depraved dirty contest for power

perpetuated by privilege.

…And we’re all homeless in ways,

hopelessly sane,

on the corner waiting for buses

and begging for change.

FIXED TO FAIL

We once protested in verse

and in streets saw riot cops disperse

when facing a barrage of our stones flung first

But now I rehearse

conversations that will never happen

I’m abusing allusions to mics that echo guns clappin’

I sat in the bus with my gaze to the sun

following the silhouette of the day star

veiled by thin clouds afar

And what is flight?

Running for your life

or advances skyward by day and night?

Scouring the skyscape – defy gravity

Steel tubes with wings

Impossible things – defying my comprehension

Minds confined to this dimension

…to this convention

You see the profit’s path is a money trail

overgrown, obscured in the thicket of politician-written tall tales

Freedom fighters fixed by feds to fail

Who else rides the third rail but radicals?

Yes, we rebel, yell and rail against capital

Because the math is bull

to be buried by bears

Calculated digits – beware

Numerical potions of corporate spells

that make stocks jump and more empty stomachs swell

…and privatized prisons to be packing the jail cell

Invested in incarceration

swept up by raids against immigration

Locked in a cycle – the poor fixed to fail

ON LINED COMPOSITION

Hello, paper!
I sew my verses into your fibers
so the ink might eclipse empires.

But paper, tell me who I am.
Reflect me like a mirror.
Free the flow from this repressive dam
or hold back my ocean if you can.

Paper, I converse with none but thee;
You cannot advise me
but at least you don’t criticize me.

Paper, I’ll tell you my secret –
I know you’ll make no verbal attack,
but with the stroke of the pen you whisper it back,
the inscription intact.
Writer’s sword strikes your surface with placid impact.

Paper, I like you as a listener

with no eyes,
unlike seeing beings whose splinter

penetration cut through my mind that they deny.

You, paper, understand me –
Soliciting silence, freedom is bread in the hands of the hungry.
But rather it is your apathy that is the appeal.
And, no, you do not understand me or know how I feel.
Better that you are pressed into a tree –
Return to your origins while I turn from me

Paper, I paint words on you and let them speak my ire.
Paper, I know my words fight on your stage, boiling into quagmire.
Paper, some call you a page, but now I call you a liar.
Paper, I write to release my rage, but you stare back uninspired.
Paper, you have failed to draw my thoughts and satiate my desire.
Paper, no one’s listening and you are deaf, you should be fed to fire.

THE POVERTY OF SELF

Why is it that you have taken all subjectivity from beneath my collectivity?

My atmosphere is not the blue you take: in picturesque panorama

Whosoever would undermine this hallucination must be cast in the high-tech gulags

It is democracy – and I am utterly voiceless

What is law but codified injustice?

I must risk

my life to thrust this

web of fetters off my mind to crush this

diplomacy by gun ships

and run with

the red and black

pulsing with the wind as we attack

they convulse and I rescind the NAFTA Pact

I am the sage

Leaves torn by weather and uprooted

Uprooted by the dirt of sustenance

and overshadowed by the inexorable dogma

of overarching masses of bark, wood, and foliage that surround me

The sage was propagating the fertilized seeds of revolution,

which stirred all other growth

Decorating the garden,

so the green thumb wrapped itself around the seditious herb of wisdom

Suffocating the harvest of free minds,

free thoughts for a free word –

for a people to live for each other

and not walk behind their colorless masks of subjectivity

With what facility these divided atoms can be employed, manipulated, and marginalized

made cogs in the machine

You are picking up the scent of me as the sage emanates the aroma,

catching the wind

It is I, caught once more in shameful introspection

Even while the maelstrom of rape and genocide

Are thrown by flame in Africa

And I can hear the devastation and turmoil and quagmire

as an axe splitting into the earth

You and I, the sage and rosemary are safely sheltered from the violence and suffering

Physically removed, thus naivety ensues

while poverty we circulate with paper currency

Concentrated in the north,

they indebt to conquer the Third World

Structural Adjustment – plundering for profit

and still I am scribbling inward

THE INSTRUMENT AND THE OBSESSION

This was a neglected pen,

Having fallen somewhere behind my desk,

out of mind and put to rest.

For dust would grow slow like a fungus,

and I thought the ink was wasted.

This instrument once made to take me

beyond the dull escape of my room.

Once it lifted me to such a place,

so far away now beyond embrace,

to sun and fields of sustenance,

under mountains.

Cobblestone streets laid for the trampling

of young bare feet,

and native merchants.

Wattle and daub, stucco red roofs.

The music of water trucks.

The market. The local coffee.

The rebellion still fresh in the minds of the peasants

People from across the globe attended the aftermath

and romanticized

…for I was one.

But soon I left for home

and that portal of ink, a pen,

fell outside of the view for memories to be stimulated;

that threshold collapsed.

I blew away the dust,

for I must reignite this fire lost

to the grind of the academic, the polemic,

politics and action that impact patterns systemic…

…to the monotony of life.

And I can see lost even more

is a passion for person, for love –

from someone.

Everyone needs familial and platonic ties

of affection that define their impression

of meaning,

of belonging.

But so belonging must also feel predicated on partnership,

in romantic suns pressed on cheeks

of one and one, flesh to flesh

and, deeper still, heart to heart,

Such belonging is that for which longing

is oft for me daunting and useless.

Hopeless upon despair,

my faculties of love broken beyond repair.

There is no point in lamenting a “void.”

It has been so, so long.

Now it is filled with the question:

How? How could it ever be otherwise?

That would be the stuff of chimera.

Inconceivable, a life born outside of the womb.

Unforeseeable, a love known outside of my head.

She came from a land of checkpoints and fences,

walls and conflict express ethnic tensions,

pent in oppressions.

Olive trees overshadowed by apartheid’s deadly dimensions.

Her sharp black eyes and soft brown skin,

and I might mention, an intellect so brilliant.

I felt inadequate, too wanting of self-confidence

to fall back on pretension.

But was it just another hopeless obsession?

Tugging at the circuits of mundane cognition,

derailing trains of thought.

She will pass like the rest,

having never left my brain. I guess

I should forfeit this folly of farce,

another fad of a fantasy girl foisted on my mind frame.

It was time I came to my muted senses.

I flicked the pen back to the floor

beneath the dusty radiator

fixed to keep the flame dead some more.

THE STAGNANCE OF CHANGE

Me, hopelessly trying to clasp time

sifting through my fingers as sand

and picked up by wind that has yellows and browns

of fine grains pelting into your eyes

So now you cannot see beyond the dunes

Tearing and knitting eyebrows

to catch a glimpse of the abstract future

that blurs like a mirage and hangs like a haze

Me, watching sand as time

eroding once fertile fields of youth

Sandstorms capture the desert feast for vegetation:

swallowing oases, enveloping harvests,

because time is blowing up dust clouds

It strikes Ethiopian villages and my inspirational growth,

making famine for both

All the while we follow paper trails

overgrown in the thicket of media whitewash

Grain by grain cyphens through a glass tube

but everyone else measures time with numerology

Me, always interrupting my own verse,

that voice echoing from the loneliest chasms within

It damns the wall of rock that corner him

Me, hearing thunder

It rumbles and rattles a vast cobweb of neurons

It severs reason from reality

by eclipsing the warm hope that shines over a mind

swimming in thoughts;

it even commands the shifting tides therein

You see I smile

not for me but for you

and all who surround me

This thought just confounds me:

a smile is language of closed lips

communicating a feeling so far from here

The wordless exchanges stretch across my face

but reflect nothing in me –

only reflecting what I see in those who would animate my world

My contentment, somehow left behind

and held fast to my imagination

that has me living in lives and worlds

so far removed from here

Right you are that I am detached

This life, this flesh, this self stir no feelings

For the mundane is a nauseating motion

Only bigger issues, global in size

seem meaningful enough for me to touch

Or should I bathe in the repulsive feces that is my esteem

and pray to a pathetic phallic form that governs a world

foreign to my senses?

I could construct verses on geopolitics,

blend darkness with the brightest colors

to convey the imagery of equality, workers’ power, socialist revolution

But to pin my essence down to a loose-leaf sheet

with only a pen is a twisted riddle

A painful epiphany:

If I could burn to ash the purse passed to the jingoist reactionary

I would still be a stranger to myself

My ontology forever ousted

Confusion is understating the way I be

so thoroughly tangled in the net

woven to catch an identity swimming in the social world

And every lifted veil pours forth only nothingness:

the pale light of manufactured sensations

that are meaningless and without direction

My effort surrenders to such hopeless endeavors

that simply offer no sense of fulfillment

This wall I had built in the name of protecting me

it is utterly insurmountable now

I only want to know the other side

to know that reality wherein so many hearts coalesce

Save me from this sordid consciousness

It has me personifying inferiority;

a speck of pathetic absurdity amid a blanket of perfection

Me, nervously fingering a rough surface on my wooden desk

as they all stare.

But are they really there?

Witness rapid thoughts fire,

my brain churning as if to mimic the pace of hummingbird wings

such that it whips my psyche – a shattered spindle of mind matter

This is why I mind what doesn’t matter

and so mind is never quite over matter

We are all living an existence

out in a universe of assumptions

Only mine are out of step with the rest

when I posit myself in the crosshairs of so many critical onlookers

Me, prying through prophecy painted in paragraphs pieced in passages

and practiced on papers perpetually pouring from the wastebasket

And then passing plants in plastic, I blew them away

like single-file smoke pushing out from under lips

sailing into the air and riding the jet stream.

I gaze at a beautifully ominous sky that chants apocalypse colors

across the picturesque pasture of blue overhead

Quietly exhaling hurricanes and softly blinking to send earthquakes,

rippling under the carpet of the landscape

Evaporate to isolate salt and sand

Droplets are still – still changing –

Concepts fuse together as one

like two raindrops on a windowpane

This is sleep in the cradle of a teardrop

What’s going on in there, she asked,

Step outside, she insisted

But where is a door or window

through which I might affect such departure?

She could only point to padlocked lips

New voices climbing out of clusters of new faces

that stir the same old worries

Is this folly of fortifying this fixture of myself ever finished?

Right before her glassy image leaped out of the mirror

and back to her home in my head,

she observed to converse is to be here and now

but that I am running too fast

from a lonely past,

too far ahead in the future

Yet the present I make now shapes the past to be

that will only chase me unless I embrace this moment,

shape it myself,

then keep the past out of my present

so I am not always pushed into the future

Me, collapsed before the mirror

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