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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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.
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.
to make the sharp thud of its carcass smacking the earth
humanity’s gentle lullaby.
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;
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
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 –
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,
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
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,
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
…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 –
Everyone needs familial and platonic ties
of affection that define their impression
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