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Comfort is a privilege,
yet kindness and dignity,
charity and compassion,
are spirit-given rights
the seeded marrow
of our soul’s turnings
toward unequivocal light.
(I wrote this piece, “The Meaning of the Mob,” over a decade ago, but felt moved to share, because words bridging action matter.)
The Meaning of the Mob. I say, the Mob, meaning
the Definitely Uncertain, Fixed—a liberal form of physics—
or the clotted swarm wallforming brick by brick,
a mosaic pattern. Pick a number, any number, it’s a given.
A given what, you say, a given that, heads together, mindless, will make of a stone’s throw a hard cold pledge—
Indivisible, in Mob We Trust.
Meaning the Mob
made of a stone’s throw a lottery-like contest,
one hurl after the next,
snuffing out solitary skull-candles
in the name of making nameless a victim
swallowed by sand.
And blood. And the song sung not unlike syncopated tocks of a rockingchair horror-christened,
the chant a band of hands knotted together:
In Mob We Trust . . . In Mob We Trust . . .
circling the victim,
swallowed by sand. And blood.
And it was black. It was black and they couldn’t see . . . and the track like that of an animal’s . . . they couldn’t see . . . it was black . . . and they couldn’t see . . . the moon—Mack the Knife, the Fat Pope, the Poet’s Dream—blacked out . . . they couldn’t see . . . so it was only . . . natural.
Lit to burn off black skin, to burn black the chant—we win! we win!—to burn black the black, cuz sin-cleansing be the business of townsfolk
assimilating a godgiven blank,
and black the blues’d but not broken souls stolen from split dawns,
cleaving huddled crying masses,
brothers and sisters adrift in salted storms—
and give us your poor! your huddled masses!—
but so many vessels disappeared never washed ashore.
aflutter on treelimb’s sway,
a savage prop, deformity of art,
shaped by mindless mob
in the shame of God.
cuz faces meld milky into a blur,
murder repetitively attempted
on Life of Self
sharing cold common turf,
lesser themselves they become
closer to None,
the birth of myopic nations,
D.W. Griffith racist,
history’s torn pages—
and in Bethlehem same as Alabama
a blood-born photo-op for the swarm-ready faceless.
treason’s gotta be a no-brainer,
lest the rule of the roost is jeopardized:
lest we cry a million broken cradles
for the Sheperd boy, the blackskinned angels, the crossbearing toy—
of a god, a whim, a fate—
an overwrought lie
sold and bought
down the river
and everybody knows, everybody knows, everybody knows,
all rivers lead to seas,
but how sweet the amnesia
when nobody knows, nobody knows, nobody knows,
the troubles we’ve seen,
on the surface of deepsea oilslicked, clot-heavy,
and holding in its crotch—
a thousand and three grieving mermaids.
who fo sho knows
a fist is an infant afraid to flower:
hour by hour,
the sand’s slip quakes the legs of littleones with boombox-glued-ears, hearing:
You’ve gotta fight the power,
you’ve gotta fight the powers that be.
Chuck D. leading the charge of a million-starred march,
walk the talk grind-frictioning sparks,
to start a campaign against
light on dark topfucking,
and these days better tomorrows,
for one and all,
means mob mentality’s gotta liberate the link from the chain—
changing the face of the faceless, naming the unnamed—
and in this I need to believe,
dissolving the meaning of the mob
into bridges bonding one soul to the next,
a show of hands linked by breath
and a show of respect
where a love supreme is given a chance
to ripen and seed its wilds anew.
When a nation
becomes a paid advertisement
turn over in their graves
which they share
with the ghosts of slaves
whose chains they inherited
on karmic loan.
here and now,
a marvelous free bounty
and blessed inheritance,
this world of breath,
our most vital resource
and best friend,
master to our disciple,
and how clear must it become
for us to not only see
but to cherish and revere
this precious and fragile gift,
which, when threatened or imperiled
by a virus of novel origins,
or one circulating through dreamless racism,
snaps the threads of we-being-ness
which we all share,
each and every one,
the mortal bearers
of light’s passage to air
the reapers and sowers
of seeds radically spread
to grow the greening wilds
of a love supreme.
Photo by Zoe Zimmerman
Here is a candle,
a flagged token of light
in the small hours
for a man who is
no longer with us,
who, for eight minutes and forty-six seconds,
desperately attempted to save his own life
through bated pleas and Mercy’s petition,
which, in the blindest seize
and theft of broad daylight
was violently denied,
and turned repeatedly over
to a long shadow
with too much black on its hands,
too much fear-based acid dripped from within,
and make no mistake, we the people,
upon this earth, sharing seasons and soul’s plights,
reap the corrosion and soiled bones,
whether we know it or not,
flyers to a raging pandemic of prejudice,
shame and debasement
that keeps us gagged
and bound to viruses of our own making,
and so, on this night,
a small measure of prayer-flung light
a warm hand to join the hands
of those in mourning
not only for the man
whose blood now holds
false badges in true judgment,
but for a collective crisis
that is long overdue
for dawn’s promise
of a brave new day.
Excerpt from a novel-in-progress:
It was in the year _______, that a maskless society had ceased to exist. A decision was made by people who made decisions of that nature (yes, the masks, the decision-making, the proper authorities, all this stuff was no longer part of delineated hierarchies—who did what and why—all had become part of a cryptic jumble wadded in bowels of electric red tape, society now a covert subset of gumballs.)
Everyone was issued a mask. All the masks were the same. A uniform anonymity, a sea of samefulness, or rather there was only one standard issue mask with three different colors. Red, blue and green. The colors you were assigned to wear was based on zoning. Your location dictated your color.
When a child was born they had to be registered with the M.O.D. (Masking Ordinance Department) and implants would be surgically implanted into the facial pores. If a child wasn’t registered, and the proper authorities found out, the child would be seized and enrolled in what was known as the Nursery. No one knew the location of the Nursery, or much of what happened there, but basically the Nursery children were wards of the government until they were old enough to be released back into society.
If you took your mask off, your facial pores would release an acidic chemical issued from the micro-pellets which had been implanted into your face, and you would burn. And keep burning. The scalding would be excruciating, intolerable, and it wouldn’t be long before you put your mask back on, which would defuse the acid. This temptation of mask-removal had been the cause of many disfigurements, which of course, remained hidden from public view. No one saw the wounds beneath the mask, no one played screaming mirror anymore to someone else’s unverified crises. Points of reflection had diminished in stature and vocabaulary.
Signs were posted everywhere, rectangular slabs of mildly glowing metal that warned in red lettering: Demasking is a Crime.
There were the fugitives. Those who refused the indoctrination of masking. Fugitives, unfortunately, didn’t have a very long shelf-life on the outside. The barefaced ones stuck out like sore thumbs and were easy to apprehend. Some did wear masks, of their own stylistic design and color. These masks might be modeled after indigenous masks from Africa, from the Lakota-Sioux, from Zuni, they might be modeled after Venetian or No masks, there were masks of colorful anarchy, masks with long Zucchini-hose noses, masks engraved with floral patterns and imprints, masks of sleepy revolt, attic masks, eyeless mouthless masks with swirling riots of cursive, masks abstracted into vowels, masks of whetted translucence, masks that radiated a funereal whiteness, masks of glaring hyperbole and exposed hypotheses, masks that had frozen the contorted muscles of screams into the mask’s texture, masks with quizzical half-smiles petrified into question marks.
There was an entire subculture of people who crafted and donned masks to assert their individualism, or to place a visual and symbolic wedge between themselves and the Anonymites (how they euphemistically referred to the uniformly masked members of society) and they flung themselves and their radical masks into the thick of it all, like bombs in a crowded marketplace, bombs with the kamikaze intent of exploding umbilicial strands of mucus and magma. Their time out in society usually didn’t last very long. Anonymites would turn against them, turn them in. Bad apples exhibited in a public cart was something that most people didn’t want to see, or to be made visually available to the world at large.
White vans would roll up and men dressed in white linen and white caps, looking very much like crosses between milkmen and painters, would seize the Radicals and wrangle them into the van and they would not be seen or heard from again. Rumors had it that they went to a place called the Repository, though, like the Nursery, not much save for the notion that it probably existed, was known about it. The men in the white linen outfits and white caps were referred to as the Dogcatchers. No one knew who first started calling them that, but it stuck and circulated, and as a result the Radicals then became known as Strays.
Dogcatchers, Strays, Anonymites.
The world had become quartered into agitated simplicities.
In what has been an inspired harmonizing of words and art, and a storyscape richly carved out of light, shadows and dream-stuff, The Jackdaw and the Doll has been completed. This fable, penned by yours truly, and illustrated by pen-and-ink sorceress of worlds within worlds, Miss Izumi Yokoyama, has reached the end of one phase, in what we we hope will be a charmed and magical journey into the hearts of readers.
We now embark on our next phase: finding the the right publisher to help our Jackdaw take flight.
And away we go!
I am honored to have two of my poems–“Anne Sexton” and “Sylvia Plath”–included in Issue #12 of the Taos Journal of Poetry and Art, which is now live.
From the Mission Statement, by editor Robin Shawver:
“This spring 2020, the world joins together now in a surreal landscape of pause.
Months before this moment, I took over as Editor of The Taos Journal of International Poetry and Art, and so begun my journey with this issue and with the poets and artists featured here.
In Issue 12, New Mexico poets and artists continue to be highlighted as well as poets currently living or from varying Unites States and countries around the world. “Grey Day,” the collage created by artist Johanna DeBiasse is the image that introduces the current issue.
The journal was begun eight years ago by Catherine Strisik and Veronica Golos in Taos, New Mexico, U.S., amid astounding horizontal beauty of mesas and the vertical allure of mountains. I will continue to hold that splendor close as I gaze on new mountains in the city of Qingdao, China where I currently live.”
(“Grey Day,” mixed media collage by Johanna DeBiase)