ELECTION POEM: We De-serve More Than One Date a Year

Even with
The sorry lack
He in the capitol arena
He refuse
To beg for change
As riddled with ballots
From a stone throne
Presumed in a sense
As the free mark it
To mock a difference
In hour damn nation
Weather staying qualm
Or carrying on
As beheading
The wrong direction
Right
That’s going to work
Like pulling jobs
Out of a hat
Railroaded
And Rand over
Take
You’re choice
Taking liberties
Wear ever
Whatever
Left
Dying
With boots on
Won’s neck
And arms flailing
In the heir
Violins playing
US again
And masses cry
Weight
For some guardian angle
Following-lite
30 seconds and never the goaled
Promising silver ballots
For the monster knock off of your choice
The leaser of two evils
Billed on platforms not worth one read assent
Rhetorical quests in
Skirting half the populace
Out flanking the body politic
And the only deliverance
Is backwards male junk
Ridden on drossy stationary
Acceding Stepford lives
Androids answering robo calls
Buy passing any hire power
Rebutting humanity
Like sum tally whacker
Awl to govern us
Violating our hides
Out ranking privates
Another poll taken
As nations pawned
And questions razed
From the dread
The answer
Lies
Before us
And incite us
The time is now
To re-wind
These vane choices
Truly bearing
As wee
Vote with our feat
And in-F-able arts
De-serving
More than one date a year
Arrest of our daze
Courting flaccid elections
Feudal proposals
And tickets beyond won’s means
Soully to forge more candid dates
And over power
Our faux
Never miss lead

It’s election day!  This election poem captures the perennially popular cynicism concerning politics, particularly electoral politics, and issues a call for a more encompassing path to redress our collective grievances and embody our shared hopes.  In short, this entails year-round civic engagement where citizens vote regularly by putting some skin in the game and pouring their hearts into public life.  This sort of direct democracy leads by representing ourselves boldly and honestly to one another, backed up by whatever integrity we have in our lives.  We get the democracy we deserve.  Or, in this case, we get the democracy we de-serve.  We stop serving power structures and start serving one another.   This saps the top-down power so fraught with abuse and alluring to those more interested in governing others than governing themselves.  There is no patchwork of half-truths that can stand without the consent of the governed.  Elections are largely contrived of narrow choices pandering to the powers that be and offering mere styles of the status quo.  If we settle for a democracy that only works a day or two a year, and barely that, then we should adjust our expectations commensurately.  Though this is not the only choice: hemmed and hawed candidates or non-participation, not voting.  Whether you vote or not — and I think you should make such a modest investment of time — the body politic is not formed in a day or two.  What we do the rest of our days is decisive.  Work, shop, consume, die may be one way to go, but what price do we pay for our “free” time.  Free people live and give freely.  Free people are the freedom the want to see in the world; they are not waiting for license from others.  I like the saying: activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.  I occupy this planet first, am a member of the human race second, and a citizen of a particular political jurisdiction/shopping zone thirdly.  If we unabashedly order our lives according to our deepest values and priorities, the sheer existential force of our lives will champion our planet, give rise to a cherished humanity, and even create a firewall against bullshit politics mistaken for a fertile common-wealth.  Of course, like they say, freedom isn’t free.  Being change in the world will exact a price.  And while you may only get what you pay for, there are untolled pleasant surprises along the way.  The only real question is how much are you willing to pay, and how much are you willing to play?

POEM: Democracy – as seen on TV

Wherever I land
In the electoral whirled
Politicians ceremoniously execute
The will of the people
In doctored fashion
Yet an other sort of capitol punishment
Delegated to the coroner
Turning voting off
In a Pyrrhic victory
So hollowed by those bored of elections
As a so low survivor
Left to re-collect
In suing came pain
Promises unfulfilled
A small prize to pay
For virtual democracy
Only calling to mine
Survivor
As democracy
In reality
Only on TV

Here is a poem for election time. While citizens have been cynical about politicians for eons, politicians are digging new versions of low at record rates. For decades, America has had one of the lowest rates of voting of any so-called advanced democracies. This poem does take its titular metaphor from the television age and the more recent reality (sic) television. Run-of-the-mill electoral politics is so bad, like “reality” TV, that most of it is not even worth watching, a palpable waste of one’s precious life. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not against voting. For most non-voting citizens, voting oneself off the island is hardly a very productive way of bringing about participatory democracy. In the pantheon of inane activities competing for our attention, and often winning, voting is still worthy of the modest effort required. Still, I doubt that electoral politics is anywhere sufficient to save the planet or humanity. Most of electoral politics is reactionary, cynically triangulating competing interests without much internal compass. Though politicians are regularly without distinguishable rudders, they can be quite adept at blowing whichever way the wind blows — everything is for sail! So, if not too disgusting, do yourself a flavor and vote for a politician closest to your taste. But don’t let voting get in the way of creating the winds of change necessary to redeem electoral politics. Participatory democracy requires ongoing civic engagement. The quality of our democracy will be directly rooted in the degree by which we are the change we want to see in the world, how we treat our neighbors (friends, strangers, and enemies) and how well we speak truth to power, translating our own lives into vital and vibrant community. May it be so.

POEM: Owed to Racism – That Whole In Our Soul

Owed to Racism: That Whole In Our Soul

Our life is
A thin line between
Loving hate
And hope filled madness
Dark mournings
And over joy
In this may hem together
To suture self
And community bound
For wince they came
Through painful needlings
Both sides
Right
And left
In stitches
Where it hurts to laugh
At such a heeling surgin’
Please
Do not real
At my site
Unless you are willing too
In counter me
Phase to phase
Offering me
More than mirror change
Wear wee are all scarred
Leaving behind
Broken images
In its place
Bad luck
And idol
Hands speaking
In victory clenched
Lifting up
The signs of the times
I am a man
And woo man
Never the less
Hearts beaten
As won
An incite job
Game to be fixed
Equal to awe before us
That whole in our soul
Onto grievous grounds spilling
Not simply in vein
As sometimes made pale
Sometimes colored
Weave all skin in the game
In this work of heart
For as it is read
Sow shall it be ridden
Free dumb
Of oppressor and oppressed alike
No longer sullen one another
Undertaking and overtaken
In the passed
To marrow
Never for gotten
Bidding us
To not be under souled
In the ours before us
Wresting in peace
So called
Beyond words
And belief
In action
To gather
With won voice
And undivided tension
Of won accord
Hand in hand
So becoming
Full circle
Un-brake-able

This anti-racism poem came out of my recent experience with a combating racism dialogue group, as part of a larger anti-racism initiative in Toledo.  This poem reflects both the devastation and intractability of racism and group members’ deep commitment and hope for a world free of racism.  The poem calls for united action to reclaim the wholeness of our community.  The level of denial of racism by white folks in America is staggering.  Confronting white privilege often makes even dialogue difficult.  Truly joining in solidarity to combat racism with concrete actions is often seen as unduly threatening to privileged whites.  I am grateful that Toledo has the wisdom and fortitude to operate these dialogue to change anti-racism groups.  May these groups unleash a juggernaut of positive social change for Toledo and the world!

POEM: We Won’t Be Food Again

I would rather
Be Job
Less than
Renounce
A living wager
And know place to lie
My head
My heart
Made homeless
In loo of
A fast fooled nation
For going
The beast
Wee
Can due
Hitched to number one
Number too
As on the line
For given debts
In place of
Solemn assemblies
And last riots
As wreck we him
For the masses
Left too
Starve
As a full groan man
Eschewing
A distended belly
And infantile grimace
Dis gorging
To which I object
A single finger
And vomiting
A sour second
Relative to the toil it evacuates
As vying a bowel inconsonance
And those who are but in
Fringe benefits over doo
Be rated by privilege takers
Of a hollowed hire power
Pro claim
There is no Black day for employment
The unanswered trump it
As if
Falling flat to some honky
Reveres discrimination
As dark daze per severe
The fecund material bound
Now a mushrooming clerical class
Beaten too
A bully pulp it    
Copious crumbs and the blest whines
Offering salivation
Like no me
Biblically
Throwing the book at me
Showing me the works
As if in some fooled court
Taking out
On me
Sum type
Of contract
Know labor
No food
Nor time travel to
’79 sense
For every dollared earn
Or as a payday loan
Cash here
Slipping through my fingers
Each day
For another till
My dreams standing still
Idoling money changers
On short order
Cooking the books
Serving as sum batterer
Or fry guy
Who is just
Greased
At the end of the day
Pain
You less
Than what
You learned
With respect to
Meat grate people
Seriously toying
“Be the happy meal”
As if
I whir
To halve a cow
And go to town
Drug by sum ferry tale
A bout
Worshipping some magic beings
Stalking skyward
As some giant rumble
To expose my hide
Wont to grind my bones
For their bred
My blood smelt
As iron away
From their golden cuffs
Razing my shackles once again
I will only ax once
As you know not jack
Weather the heavens fall
Either I am
Udderly fed up
Or my last words herd
Eat me
As I will only be
Food once
It’s just
Awe in a daze work

I wrote this poem today, all in a days work!  This poem was triggered by my experience last night at a community meeting, “Faith Conversations on Income Inequality.”  I was somewhat disappointed that of the two hours, less than 15 minutes was conversation.  The meeting was mostly didactic, with two detailed presentations, a short film well documenting the existence of actual poor working people in our very state of Ohio, and a short small group exercise (where some conversation occurred).

The kicker for the evening was after the meeting when conversing with a woman who I had never met proclaimed the disproportionately too-often cited and familiar, “If a person doesn’t work, then they don’t deserve to eat” (see 2 Thessalonians 3:10).  Of course, the key word and concept in this passage is an unwillingness to work.  I might add dignified and humane work.  Either way, it certainly doesn’t apply to people who can’t find work.  Further, in the previous verse, the apostles speaking about their own self-support when visiting the Thessalonians, say, “We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.  This seems to state that they did claim a right to such help (food), but were modeling an additional value of not being a burden on others.  If the apostles accepted help, when they were able to pay their own way, and this caused a burden to another, then they shouldn’t take such a necessary resource from another.  The higher way modeled by the apostles seems more apt as a critique of people unjustly benefiting from paying poverty wages, thus causing a burden to others, than as a critique of food as a human right.  Perhaps a less sophisticated yet more easily understood response to worrying about hungry people getting too much food is Uggghhh!

I had really hoped for an opportunity to share personal experiences and perspectives on faith and poverty, or income inequality.  For better or worse, I’ve thought about such things my whole life.  Still, I am actually eager to learn more, as I continue on my journey.  The story of dealing with poverty seems to me to be full of good news-bad news.  In my case, the bad news is that technically, I have lived in poverty most of the last decade — technically, meaning that my average income has been under the federal poverty guidelines.  The good news is that I am the wealthiest person I know — of course, I don’t get out much!  Such a conundrum has provided much experience and raw material upon which to meditate regarding what is true wealth.

One main point that I believe could help bring a more balanced perspective in our dealing with poverty is this: from a spiritual perspective, we must give equal time to spiritual poverty.  This is perhaps most succinctly captured by Mother Teresa, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”  I see Jesus as quite clearly spelling out the dividing line: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)  And, of course, serving God is inextricably linked with serving our neighbors: ” ‘The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.’  ‘What should we do then?’ the crowd asked.  John answered, ‘Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.’ ” (Luke 3:9-11)

A corollary of this spiritual view of poverty is that we must not stigmatize the poor, or dishonor God’s special relationship with them.  I half-jokingly put this under the moniker of: “You say poverty like it’s a bad thing!”  A couple of generations ago, Latin American theologians developed the concept of God’s “preferential option for the poor.”  In part, this refers to the special relationship that the poor, disenfranchised, and marginalized have with God.  Their vulnerability manifest by oppression in the world creates an openness to God’s way.  This openness fosters a greater intimacy, deeper understanding, and easier access to living in harmony with God’s laws (ultimate reality).  Of course, harmony with God’s laws is counter-cultural to the status quo and the powers that be.  Intriguingly though, the oppressed already stare down the brutal realities of the powers that be every day; so, being counter-cultural is much less of a leap “of faith” than those who benefit from the status quo.  This is perhaps the most simple reason why top down change rarely, if ever, benefits the poor more than the rich.  Thus, the poor are already primed to adopt God’s ways, as the world’s ways sure as hell aren’t working for them.  Jesus is a striking example of acting in accordance with this reality.  Jesus spent the vast majority of his time with the dispossessed, and “regular” folks, the 99% if you will.  In a stroke of spiritual genius, Jesus planted his message among people who were both most open to God’s message and had their material interests aligned to move in a direction parallel to God’s ways, including, of course, justice.  No doubt, Jesus played a prophetic role, in directly confronting the powers that be, whether religious, political, or economic elites.  Such confrontations were likely inevitable.  Even so, Jesus brought an unwavering dignity, intimacy, and authority (street cred) to such encounters.  Jesus did not shy from his fully humanizing ways, even in the face of dehumanizing forces.  This was a palpable measure of how Jesus loved his enemies.  This is God’s ways manifest.  The poor have fewer barriers to accessing such ways. Let’s learn from the poor!

I have lived among affluent people of faith most of my life.  For the affluent, the vast majority of us in the so-called developed world, I am convinced that voluntary poverty and simplicity is the most powerful tool to transform our world, God’s creation, into ways friendly to abundant life.  I have drawn this conclusion from my profound failure to convince rich westerners to truly care about the world’s poorest.  I am a formidable debater, both informed and with heart.  Still, the misery of my failure to convince others with words is exceeded only, and greatly, by the misery of the world’s poorest.  I cannot escape the weight of my experience that the affluence of westerners, including myself, and the material conflicts of interest we are embedded in, is the single most important factor preventing such a conversion.  Better aligning our material interests with the poor, through voluntary poverty and simplicity, can unleash a cascading journey where the soul’s force begins to flow more freely, as water invites gravity to do its work — and the most grave law unbroken, that of love.  This poem of mine alludes to the freedom gained by simple living:

Dining with Kings and Queens
Courtly balls
Knightly duels
And priestly indulgences
You can avoid it all
If only you are happy
Eating beans

Probably the greatest illusion humans face is seeing wealth (and its companions, status and power) as an answer to all of their problems.  Surely, people have material needs, and those needs going unmet is a tragedy.  However, once one’s basic material needs are met, wealth becomes a disability to the individual and a disease to society.  There is a great body of psychological and sociological evidence that increasing wealth makes us less compassionate and less generous.  In short, wealth serves as a wedge between people and God.  Science confirms the truth of not being able to serve two masters.  People can, and do, argue about the role of material scarcity in the problems of poverty — just witness political wranglings about budget-busting social programs in the richest nation the world has ever known.  Nonetheless, there is one pervasive and undeniable fact: there is, and has been for at least centuries, enough physical resources to more than meet the material needs of every human on the planet.  In this light, spiritual poverty is exposed.  We can solve material want; we choose not.  It is not a close call!

Poverty worldwide is endemic.  Billions of people live on $2 per day or less.  Those most likely to be the poorest are women and children — so much for family values.  People of color are also at much greater risk.  Those most likely to go hungry are those who grow food, our farmers.  The only way this can happen is to literally steal food from their hands.  The rich claim a hugely disproportional share of the world’s resources, including the productive labors of billions.  All the wile, pawning sham scarcity as an excuse for their hoarding and ravenous ways.  Gandhi captured it well when asked what he thought of Western civilization.  He responded, “I think it would be a great idea.”  I concur.

With untrammeled globalization, poverty can only be adequately viewed as a global problem.  The causes of poverty cannot be isolated within one country.  We, as a world, are in the same boat — though, undoubtedly, there is an increasing chasm between the accommodations of first and third class.  Debt, just as in biblical times, is used to enslave people.  We are told that the world is in great debt, accepting it as gospel truth.  Yet, to whom exactly are we are in debt?  Pay no attention to the money changers behind the curtain.  Exploitation and robbing of natural resources unjustly enriches the wealthier.  Such profitable cleverness is called business.  Meanwhile, non-prophet organizations stand by impotent to counter this unseemly necessity.  And governments suffer from electile dysfunction. The good news is that the cancerous idol of endless economic “growth” may not destroy creation, with such abundance and ingenuity.  Praise be to God!  If only, God forbid, the dream of a worldwide “middle class” can be averted.  Work.  Buy.  Consume.  Die.

Less poetically put, the “powers that be” work on a global scale.  This juggernaut of globalization reduces humans to economic beings in a consumer culture.  People become means to ends, not being of sacred worth and inherent dignity.  To enforce this state of affairs, wars are waged as “needed.”  These wars, unsurprisingly, do not serve the interests of the dispossessed.  This global reality is rooted in a distinct worldview: poverty is not the problem; poverty is the solution.  While a tsunami of rhetoric speaks of jobs, unemployment serves to lower wages, not just of the unfortunate unskilled, but of skilled labor too.  More unemployment is good for (someone else’s) business.  And if you missed that memo, perhaps the desperation of unemployment and wage slavery has you occupied.  Such desperation can serve as a distraction and thwart a healthy, functioning civil society (see electile dysfunction).

There is an African proverb which says: where there is no wealth there is no poverty.  This ancient wisdom emanates from the experience of humans over many generations and cultures that concentrated wealth creates poverty, that is, depends on poverty. There is a powerful illusion that wealth brings wisdom, that the rich must really know something that we don’t.  Well, if they do, it’s most likely occult or a cult.  I cite the incisive lyrics of “If I were a rich man” from the play, Fiddler on the Roof:

Posing problems that would cross a rabbi’s eyes!
And it won’t make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong.
When you’re rich, they think you really know!

The truth is much simpler, and more stark: the rich need the poor; the poor don’t need the rich.  For those who might cite the droll biblical retort, “the poor will always be with us,” have you pondered this: if you think the poor are hard to get rid of, try the rich!

The diseased worldview of consumerism and capitalism has at least on Achilles’ heel.  This rests on the utter inability to answer a fundamental question in life: how much is enough?  Capitalism thrives on convincing you that you never have enough, you are perpetually lacking something (which we happen to be selling), and by extension: you are lacking.  This turns the Gospel’s worldview upside down.  The good news is that you are enough; God made you that way.  Return to this truth, and capitalism recedes to a perfunctory process describing the nominal exchange of goods — and the goods are actually good!

The meeting on faith conversations about income inequality focused on the United States.  While poverty extends far beyond, and is rooted in, the larger world, the U.S. can serve as an enlightening case study.  The U.S. just recently observed the 50th anniversary of the “war on poverty” as declared in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson.  [For poetic versions of lessons learned from the “war on poverty,” see my poems, Hungering for Answers, and War on Poverty]  The “war on poverty” is about the same age as me.  During my lifetime, the U.S. has grown about three times wealthier in material wealth.  Nevertheless, more Americans work, and they work longer hours.  Some gains were made in reducing poverty in the early years.  However, the overall trend since the late 1970’s has been stagnating or declining wages, especially when compared to skyrocketing worker productivity.  Income inequality is higher now in America than in the last hundred years.

For those with biblical commitments, we are long overdue for a Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25).  The year of Jubilee is a Sabbath of Sabbaths.  It prescribed forgiveness of debt every seven years.  In the fiftieth year — after seven cycles of seven years, not only was all debt forgiven, but all slaves were freed and all land returned to its original owners land.  This is the biblical prescription for preventing large concentrations of wealth and persons from being permanently dispossessed from their land and/or forced into servitude through debt.  Let’s make it so!

Testimony to NRC to Shut Down Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant

Below is my testimony for today’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s public hearing regarding the potential re-licensing of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant:

My name is Dan Rutt.  So, what are my credentials for being here tonight?  I live in the kill zone of Davis-Besse.  I have lived in the kill zone of nuclear plants almost my entire life.  I suspect few could argue against the mournful reality that way too many people share these credentials.

I do have a B.S. in Biology.  Though, I must confess, my B.S. pales in comparison to the B.S. of the nuclear industry and the NRC.

I also have a masters degree in public health.  But I am not here to debate technical minutiae, nor to discuss the arrangement of deck chairs, the lack of lifeboats, nor the alleged unsinkability of the titanic nuclear industry.

Today, I am here as a poet and an activist.  I am here as a child of mother earth and as a planetary citizen.  Most importantly, I am here today as a prophet.  And let it be said: nothing today will truer be said than that the nuclear industry and the NRC listen to profits!

I am here to do the impossible.  I am here to topple a multi-billion dollar corporate empire with a mere wisp of democracy — approximately 3 minutes worth.  Unfortunately, the NRC’s plan to protect itself from democracy is much stronger than it’s plans to protect us from nuclear disasters.

When the NRC circus comes to town, their death-defying prestidigitations may very well make you gasp.  Still, we will be safely confined to grandstanding.  This dog and pony show might allow us to bitch until we are hoarse.  But, at the end of the day, the elephant in the middle of the big, flimsy tent, will do its thing, and the little people of this world will be left with the mess.  And the NRC circus will skip town, to continue their tour de farce.

So, I am here to do the impossible.  I am here to speak for a thousand generations in 3 minutes.   Usually such hope and possibility requires the venue of something like American Idol.  Well, my friends, we have an American idol: the nuclear industry.  This American idol has reigned for 70 years.  This American idol has rained nuclear waste across this great land.  And today, 70 years later, as the waste of the nuclear fat cats grows larger, they offer a 600-page tome as their litter.  And who dares wade through this litter box?  Who dares to think inside this box?  Who of us will not be pooped out?  Can anyone venturing into this 600-page tomb view it as anything but a deathly undertaking?  What box can possibly hold such eternally reigning transgressions?  Do you have a staff member called Pandora by any chance?!  There is only one sane solution: let’s idle this idol!  The solution is simple: we must end nuclear generations to end nuclear generations.

The ultimate question for today is: In our call to shut Davis-Besse down, will we be heard?

Sure, NRC staff will herd our comments into another neatly formatted tome.  But will we be heard?  Sure, the decision-makers have ears, and stenographers, and word processors.  But will we be heard?

Will the people affected by nuclear power generation be heard?  They call this a public hearing.  But the reality is that it is physically and metaphysically impossible for over 99% of those affected by Davis-Besse’s nuclear waste to be here — for the simple fact that they have not even been born yet.  Will we weigh the testimony today to account for their interests, the interests of future generations?

Can you hear our great grandchildren cry out into the not-so-great ears of today’s nuclear executives: Why did you poison our world for a few kilowatts?

Can you hear our great, great grandchildren cry out into the not-so-great ears of today’s First Energy shareholders:  Why did you rob our future for a few profits today?

Can you hear our great, great, great grandchildren cry out into the not-so-great ears of today’s parade of crooning cronies, sometimes called politicians:  Why did you sell out your communities for a little patronage?

But…what if we are truly heard today?  Then we might just hear:

The gentle whispers of our great, great, great, great, great grandchildren saying “good job” to the employees in the former nuclear industry — and by “good job” they don’t mean thanks for taking that decent paying job, but rather, holding out and demanding good jobs, jobs friendly to both working families and our environment.

If we are truly heard today, then we might just hear: the gentle whispers of our great, great, great, great, great, great grandchildren thanking the nameless thousands across this great land who worked for neither wages nor shareholder profits, but rather, worked freely for a world where it doesn’t pay to destroy our environment.

We must listen to our future generations.  If not us, who?  If not now, when?

As for me, in this generation, I will gladly live without Davis-Besse.  I will gladly trade the sliver of energy produced during my lifetime to spare thousands of generations the poison of nuclear waste.  Though make no mistake, even if the problem of nuclear waste disposal was somehow miraculously solved, I would still gladly trade this energy source simply to avoid the probability of a nuclear catastrophe from the safety disaster that Davis-Besse has so proven.   Shut it down!

Please listen to the prophets who seek the good of all, not the profits which only enrich the few, at the expense of the 99%.  THANK YOU!

Good Job
by Dan Rutt, alias “Top Pun” (it’s just, my pun name)

It was early Monday mourning
When the Davis-Besse nuclear plant
Finally ruptured
At the base of Lake Eerie
Weeping poison
From the once-great lakes
Now a watery grave for both sellers
And consumers
Of atomic drivel
For what human remains
The event became known
Simply as “The rupture”
Leaving sleepy millions
In its wake
Sucked into a glowing sky
For who knows watt
Feudal to press release
Fore their heavenly reword
A paradise rolled
Entranced buy snake eyes
In charge of all that meters
Relegating us to hoarse power
Silent partners
Dealt a roil flush
In a conniving casino
Pain only in skullduggery
Forging height reason
And absolute faith in stonewall
As a bet
A dark wager
Echoing in the empty halls
Of unions and congress
“Good job”

POEM: Fermi Too

From Detroit to Toledo
I drive by and by
Monroe’s Fermi 2
Nuclear waste tower
Falling over
Penning only
A plume of death
In place of this poet
A prophet taking
Having called for its decommissioning
Offers no comfort
Only one more thing to mourn
Sanity unheeded
As the tsunami of insanity
Overtakes us
A graveyard of scant profits
Where we stood
Where we lived
And worked
No re-creation
As even the god of destruction
And his unwitting fallowers
Dare not rejoice

Today is the three-year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear power plant ongoing disaster.  I joined some folks outside the Japanese consulate in Detroit.  The Japanese consulate and security would not let us in the renaissance center where the consulate is located.  We wanted to deliver a letter mourning the loss of life due to the Fukushima meltdowns, and deliver a call to remediate additional harms as this disaster continues to unfold.  We protested outside and read the letter publicly.  There were as many police and private security personnel as their were protesters, so no one was harmed in the protesting of this mega-disaster.  If only such well-resourced public safety extended to nuclear power plants.

I wrote this poem a couple of months ago, spurred on by driving past the Fermi 2 nuclear reactor in Monroe, MI, on my way to Toledo from Detroit.  I’ve driven through this nuclear kill zone many times, and I live most of my life in the kill zone.  The Fermi 2 nuclear reactor site has an overfilled high-level radioactive waste storage building, five stories tall, that cannot be off-loaded because it was not built to its design specs — oops.  If this tower falls, the death toll would be unfathomable.   There is no permanent solution to radioactive waste here or anywhere, which has been building up over 60 years of commercial nuclear reactor operations in the United States.  Making matters worse, there is a proposed Fermi 3 nuclear power plant, a $15 billion monstrosity as an answer to declining electricity usage in the region.  We need to end nuclear power before nuclear power ends us.

POEM: Owed to XL

Owed to XL

Something irresistible
Drug from Canada
That must be some wick-ed shit!
What the “eh”
For the land of the free to be
Sold to the highest
Bitter
Everything must go!
“It’s going to happen anyway”
A juggernaut of lemmings
Full of subtle plunder statements
And generations of litter-gation
Brought a bout
By agitators wanting
Neither change nor dollars
Though perhaps
Some green back
And a few bucks
To run free
For if
Not
Just
Chain me
To the pipeline
To the prison
Of another’s drug habit
That makes cents for them
A million caliber fire arm
Into our vain
And heart land
Across to be borne
Again and again
Until we fine
The dose
That kills
It’s called “XL”
As we have a fit
For our over-sized ambitions
Though might
As well
Be one size fits none
Baggy pantsed gangstas
Stuffing their pants
With the stuff legends are made of
Getting under Mother Earth’s kin
And running out
Of patients
And ways to heel
Left in the mutter
There goes the neighborhood
Wondering if
There’s a belt big enough
To hold up
These fuels

I wrote this poem today, at the prompting of yet another fuel fool brandishing the inevitability of the XL pipeline and exploitation of the Canadian boreal forest tar sands strip mining.  Even more shameful, it was a “scientist” claiming metaphysical inevitability.  We don’t HAVE TO strip mine the earth of every fossil fuel to live a good life — in fact, destroying the earth is absolutely incompatible with the good life.

I’m sick and tired of people saying that the Canadian tar sands will be developed with or without the XL pipeline running through US.  It’s just another lame version of the “If I didn’t do it, somebody else would” excuse for not taking responsibility for your actions.  It’s not that complicated.  If your actions are destroying the planet, then you have a responsibility to stop.  Then, you can start working on changing the rest of the world.  It may very well be the exact opposite of leadership to say that you won’t do something until everybody else does it.  I might say that we’ve become a nation of sheep and lemmings, but that would be an insult to sheep and lemmings within whom the moral agency to save the planet does not reside!  We can continue to kick the can down the road, but eventually, it will be Mother Nature kicking our can…

POEM: Chapter 58 – Isaiah

Chapter 58 – Isaiah

Isaiah was a man
A kind of a man
More generous than his wealth
Untouchable by another’s profits
With a frugality beyond any poverty
He was a gentle man
With a purposefulness typically beyond words
Speaking with a clarity too spirited for some
In jail for disturbing the peace
Though he would have said
“I am disturbing the war”
He was a headstrong man
Though less determined than unshakable
His single-mindedness
Exceeded only by a purity of heart
In that instant where mourning breaks
In the face of a rising dawn
Awaking
Following that first night
With an irrepressible smile
On his face
Realizing he is the freest person
He knows
Simply saying
“I really need to get out more”
Fast becoming hungry
Thirst things thirst
In spite of being
Like naked
For I’s guarded
Surrounded by men of this stripe
Wholly innumerable
Ever-present in the passed
His work was before him
A long line of just us
All the same, some lost
Some merely on their way
To share some food with his mates
Then off to work
For there is
No such thing as
Free room and board
From some anonymous uncle
After all the feds
Reckon the rest
As what will follow
When expecting to be herd
As well as something more

This poem is a tribute and extremely loose paraphrase or interpretation of Isaiah 58 in the Bible.  This Old Testament chapter is a classic among lovers of justice.  In this poem, the title alludes to a chapter in the biography of a man.  This modern-day take is inspired by those faithful and devoted workers for justice who commit civil disobedience in the course of their work for social justice.  The setting is a free man who finds himself in prison.  Barring all irony, he is still free!

The only truly obscure reference that I would elucidate springs from the lines: In spite being/Like naked/For I’s guarded.  It’s more easily accessible meaning is a reference to being vulnerable, particularly when at the hands of someone who, like a prison guard, literally oversees your every movement, peering into the bowels of your very being!  The obscurity is in that “Nakedness was taboo in Judaism, and shame fell less on the naked party than on the person viewing or causing the nakedness (Gen 9:20-27).”  In Matthew 5:40, Jesus says, “if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well.” The theologian and author Walter Wink explains how Jesus instructed his audience, the poor, how to fight back using creative nonviolence, taking advantage of the cultural fact that viewing nakedness is more shameful than being naked:

“…so the debtor parades his nakedness in prophetic protest against a system that has deliberately rendered him destitute.  Imagine him leaving the court, naked: his friends and neighbors, aghast, inquire what happened.  He explains.  They join his growing procession, which now resembles a victory parade.  The entire system by which debtors are oppressed has been publicly unmasked.  The creditor is revealed to be not a legitimate moneylender but a party to the reduction of an entire social class to landlessness, destitution, and abasement.  This unmasking is not simply punitive, therefore; it offers the creditor a chance to see, perhaps for the first time in his life, what his practices cause, and to repent.
     The Powers That Be literally stand on their dignity.  Nothing depotentiates them faster than deft lampooning.  By refusing to be awed by their power, the powerless are emboldened to seize the initiative, even where structural change is not immediately possible.  This message, far from being a counsel to perfection unattainable in this life, is a practical, strategic measure for empowering the oppressed, and it is being lived out all over the world today by powerless people ready to take their history into their own hands.
     Jesus provides here a hint of how to take on the entire system by unmasking its essential cruelty and burlesquing its pretensions to justice.  Here is a poor man who will no longer be treated as a sponge to be squeezed dry by the rich.  He accepts the laws as they stand, pushes them to absurdity, and reveals them for what they have become.  He strips naked, walks out before his fellows, and leaves this creditor, and the whole economic edifice which he represents, stark naked.”

I encourage you read the full article by Walter Wink, Beyond Just War and Pacifism: Jesus’ Nonviolent Way, where Dr. Wink outlines three of methods of creative nonviolent disobedience that Jesus taught, from Mathew 5:38-41 (NIV): “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”  One of the truly magnificent revelations in this article is how it illustrates the extent to which Jesus’ teachings are commonly misunderstood; or perhaps more to the point, often understood as the exact opposite of what Jesus meant!

The spirit of Jesus is manifest in the scripture inspiring this poem, Isaiah 58 (NIV).  It is no accident that Jesus quotes Isaiah to kick off his public ministry!  The heading for this chapter is usually rendered, “True Fasting;”

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the Lord,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

POEM: As We Press Release

As We Press Release

The defense department denies killing civilians
The state department denies human rights abuses by trade partners
The department of energy denies that nuclear power is anything but safe
The criminal justice system denies institutional racism
The department of departments denies that it exists
There is no news here
An anonymous spokesman representing an undisclosed list of clients
Could neither confirm nor deny their uselessness
Beholden to flights of fancy
Carry on
Pink elephants trampling conspiracy theorists
Straw men unable to eat crow
Permitting no one to fly straight
Barring exceptional pork
The fun is over
A barrel
Of monkeys denying evolution
Where GOP is a measle-y typo
Read “take things literally”
A premeditated shot in the dark
Where there is no higher power
Emanating from the chamber of commerce
Pinko pachyderms never herd from
Any rarer would be bloody
Hell, the stakes are high
Raised by vampires
Unable to reflect on their own
Fratricide from dawn to dust
Sucking out the life
Granting only that
They feel our payin’
Attention
Exacting compensation for every notice
Dispatching captives with unmanned missives
Droning on
In their priest-like duties
Until the masses are free
Like a cancer
An endless growth
Of pulp fiction
And mind-numbing doublespeak
As we press release
From labor camps
Yet another
Birth of a nation
And its following deportments:
REDACTED
Censors monitoring your every move
So your posterity is theirs
And the war on terror
Only coming to an end
When know more
Freedom to deny

POEM: Skin in the Game

Skin in the Game

The gods are at war
A blood sport for many
The spectators are plenty
Seeded at the rite and
Overlooking the arena
As bleachers whitewash
The stain power of the players
Announcers pooring over each play
Drunk with ail
And inuries listless
Over actors breaking a leg
Pundits pining sicks feat
A box that no won can think out of
Merely the latest stat
Wherever you melee
With the gods at war
Who is it that dares to worship
With flesh and bone
Opening themselves up
On to marrow
A gaping dawn
For mirror mortals
Wear all we have
Or have not
Is in vein
A standing oblation
Know truer thou art
Sow secure
The peril of great price
Who will sell awe?
And who will buy it?
When will we come together
Means
And ends
Omen of good cheer
Root for all!