Sympathy for the Titan

Stop.
I can’t take it.
It’s too much!

*snap*

Go away.
Let me be.
Leave me alone!

*snap*

I’m done.
I give up.
I want to quit!

*snap*

Think of the times
when your stress
has been unbearable.

*snap*

You know you’ve wanted
all that stuff
to just disappear.

*snap*

So tell me: can’t you
sometimes imagine
why Thanos might

*snap*

The Vampires of Kodak Park

When I was in my twenties I moderated
a horror role-playing game for my friends.
Vampire: The Masquerade, it was called,
and it was set in a world much like ours,
but darker: more poverty and cruelty,
a deepening of the usual societal decay.

Plus, of course, there were the vampires.
Vampires and werewolves and witches,
all playing their power games, employing
supernatural powers for blood and profit.
It was all very gothy and grim – an ideal
proxy for our privileged yuppie angst.

I set the game in a crumbling version of
Rochester, New York, where we lived.
Dark fairy godfathers ran crime families,
making the Lilac City run with crimson.
Romani caravans camped in the suburbs,
and the impoverished masses trembled.

And Rochester’s favorite corporate son,
the Eastman Kodak Company, was dead.
The area’s premier real-world employer
had failed. Its vast properties lay empty.
In the industrial complex of Kodak Park,
voids echoed with the groans of zombies.

Inevitably, my dystopian fantasy ended.
I got depressed and had to leave the dark.
I got more depressed and moved south,
and our vampire-haunted Rochester, with
its warlocks and were-tigers and despair,
faded to shared, ghostly memory. Except…

Before I left Rochester, I worked for Kodak
for a period of several months – the time
during which a C-level Kodak exec was
reported to vow: “We are a film company!
Our future is not in digital technology!”
It wasn’t. They filed bankruptcy in 2012.

Last month I visited family outside Utica,
and they’d been to Rochester recently.
They said it was not in very good shape.
They said there was poverty and cruelty,
a deepening of the usual societal decay.
Like our 90’s Lilac City, but much darker.

I don’t know if undead feet shuffle through
the abandoned gloom of the industrial park.
I can’t say whether vampire lords have filled
the vacuum left by fallen corporate giants.
But I’m troubled by reality mirroring fiction.
Our nightmare wasn’t meant to come true.

Salvation

In the beginning was the One.
And the One was cold.
Cold as forgotten sepulchres.
Cold as the void between dying stars.
Cold as a father’s absent tenderness.
Cold and alone.

Then one day there was an Other,
and the One was no longer alone.
And the one was no longer cold.

Now, the One was hot.
Hot as a fiery arrow of fear up the spine.
Hot as a volcanic core of anger in the chest.
Hot as a blazing barrier of self-protection.
Who is this Other?
What will they take from me?

And many times, the story concludes there.
Except that in time (despite the wall of fire),
the One grows cold once again.

The End.

But in a few tellings, something else happens.
The tales disagree about the cause.
But in most of them, the One,
peering out between the flickering flames,
glimpses something in the Other.
Something like Humanity.

And (in these stories), the One begins
to wish to taste this Humanity.
Not to take it from the Other,
but to understand it,
to savor it,
and perhaps to share it.

And timidly, tentatively,
the One lets down the flaming wall,
and reaches out a hand,
and discovers that Humanity
is neither cold nor hot,
but warm.

No, that’s not right –
some fables do make that claim,
but the wisest ones say they are wrong.
Humanity is warm, yes,
but it is also cold
with loneliness, isolation, and distance.
It is also hot
with conflict, challenge, and fear.
But it lives all of these things
in relationship, one with another.

In the beginning was the One.
Now there is the One, and the Other, in relationship.
Whole and hurting members of humankind.
Cold, and hot, and warm.
Mostly warm.

prone

i was better off in the cellar
in the cellar i was safe

there is no safety here
on top of this mountain

here i cower from eagles
that circle these peaks

i can hear their screams
feel their hunger in my spine

i see blood on their talons
and i know

should they come for us
you cannot save me

and i know
i can’t protect you either

so why couldn’t you leave me
alone and snug in my hole?

why drag us up here
exposed

endangered
in one another’s arms?

The Rabbit

with gratitude to Neil Gaiman, in the tradition of his story, “Nicholas Was…

The rabbit didn’t understand.

He could hardly breathe,
and his heart labored to supply
his unnaturally enlarged body
with blood.

His elongated legs
wobbled.

He stared,
uncomprehending,
at the enormous wicker hamper
they had strapped to his neck.

The discolored chicken eggs
inside it
smelled foreign and strange.

“It’s time to go, bunny!”
came the voice
of one of his white-robed
tormentors.

“Hippity!
Hoppity!
Easter’s on its way….”

uncertainty principle

this poem is written
it’s right here
right now
that’s an undeniable fact

and me
i wrote this poem
i’m pretty sure of that
too

but you
you haven’t heard it
you haven’t read it
not yet
not the whole thing anyway
so its momentum
and/or position
are so far
indeterminate

you don’t know
and i don’t know
(face it, tiger: nobody knows)
what form it will take
when it entangles itself
amongst your brain cells
when its quantum waveform
collapses
with an echoing clang
inside your skull

you could try to explain
“your” poem
to me
attempt to teach me
your personal realization
of this poem
that i wrote

but it won’t work
because i wouldn’t understand
and it wouldn’t be right anyway
(due to unavoidable
quantum decoherence)

all i really want to know is
did you like my poem?

tell me you liked my poem
please
i can’t handle this uncertainty

burn

headlines buzzing rolling in
on schedule     right on
times wapo huffpo cnn
shaking quaking rhythms
making dissonant vibes


let's meet the new news!
sells just like the old news
same old blame old flame
of war     deploying arms: 
lethal     or "merely" verbal?


she's a liar     he's a monster
feckless reckless lazy mean
innocent? then why’d he run?
had it coming     every one of
t        h       e       m


always salting one another's
wounds     constructing rusted
shells around our hearts so we
don’t feel each other     so we
don’t feel anything at  all     but


darling     you and i gaze into
brighter human landscapes
undivided by these chasms
so     what have we got to lose
if this ruined world should end?


days like this i cannot say why
we still shed our blood     still
weep our stinging bitter tears
fortifying     shoring up this
pre-apocalyptic dystopia


shall we burn it to the ground?

fruit

little seed, you are my hope

only you can keep
my labor from coming back empty
only the fruit you bear
can fill the bellies of those i love

so i plant you with utmost care
avoiding rock and thorn and gravel
i break my back to nourish you
carrying pure water from afar

i watch
and wait for you to sprout
but you don’t

despairing
i see the dry earth split above you
as your own precious body
cracks in two

tears stream down my cheeks
and mingle with dew dripping
from the cedars that surround us
pouring into your cloven heart

i see you sending tendrils
reaching down deep into the earth
touching the roots of these mighty trees

green vines begin to grow
exploring over the ground
further than i can follow
forming fruit
sweet and plump and nourishing
fulfilling the desire of those in need

with a trembling hand
i reach out
and taste

The Prize

Underneath the rutabagas,
Carol dug and dug.
She didn’t find a blessed thing.
She gave a little shrug.

She thought she’d seen a glimmer.
She thought she’d seen a gleam.
But the earth gave forth no secrets.
Dirt was dirt – or so it seemed.

Next morning, during breakfast dishes,
Carol glanced outside.
What she spotted through the window
made her hazel eyes grow wide.

Out beyond the berry-briars
where the rutabagas grew
shone a light bright as epiphany!
Her mission was renewed.

She ran outside, her trowel in hand –
she’d find it now, she vowed.
But when she reached the rutabaga patch,
a voice boomed loud:

“Your arrogance will fail you, dear.
The prize shall not be yours.
So take your tiny shovel,
turn around, and go indoors.”

Carol paused, astonished
at this strange, malicious cry.
Then she choked up on her trowel,
a glint of purpose in her eye.

The dirt compressed beneath her boots;
the briars made no scratch
as she stomped into the center
of her rutabaga patch.

As Carol crouched down low
and thrust her trowel in the ground,
she jumped a bit in startlement
at one indignant sound:

“A-humph!” she heard, then
“So, you think to excavate my home?”
She turned to meet the glare
of an ill-tempered garden gnome.

“The diamond that I’ve buried here
is not for you to take!”
He said, before he rushed her,
brandishing his little rake.

She started, then she stood up,
then she said to him, “OK.
Sir, I wouldn’t want to steal it.
It’s your diamond, anyway.”

The gnome stood still and blinked at her,
and tears fell from his eyes.
He said, “You’re the only human
who declined to take my prize.”

“And therefore, if you want it,
this fine gem belongs to you.”
But Carol said, “No, thank you.
Have some rutabagas, too.”

The garden gnome bowed deep,
picked up his diamond, left that place,
and he carried with him
newfound fondness for the human race.

“Hope” is (after Emily Dickinson)

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That tickles at the nose –
And keeps on irritating –
Until you’ve snoze – and snoze –

And Sensibility – is lost –
And so much you’d condone –
To make this nagging, feathered thing
Leave you the eff alone –

I’ve felt it at the bleakest times –
It springs eternally!
And – never – will it GO AWAY.
It asks too much – of me.