Friday, March 04, 2011

ERIC CHAET: FOUR POEMS

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WATCHDOG

All night long
I roam the premises
the financiers are sleeping
the football champions are sleeping
the movie stars are sleeping
the ruling coalition is sleeping
the party of the opposition is sleeping
multinational corporation executives
famous artists—all media—sleeping
the distributors, middlemen of all sorts
store-keepers, traffic managers
data miners, customer handlers
sleeping, sleeping
the innovators of electronics & code are sleeping
the lungs move in & out, all’s well
strength is ebbing from the viscera
of the weak & impoverished
the tide moves in, then out, all’s well
inflation, deflation
expansion, consolidation
confidence, uneasy doubt
the intestines do what they do
catabolism, anabolism
the cells decay & are rebuilt, all’s well
the dreams make their rounds
you get your nth instantaneous glimpse
& before you know it
you’re transported to another time, place, form
or you’re already putting on your pants & making breakfast
the bacteria live life-time after life-time
presumably they can tell youth from elder
the stars rush away from one another
dimorphic hormones & courting
then gradually becoming aware of consequences
tomorrow’s publicity is being arranged, all’s well
those who have rebelled against injustice
have been duly slandered
& prevented from fracturing the pyramid—
their tactics far from perfect
more than a hint of desperation
ruthless thugs & myopic, calculating fools among them
as much as among any other subset or set—
& those who work at the base
fixing the food & cleaning up afterward
& absorbing & processing the propaganda
are resting up for their next assault
on the beach of competition
for enough of the leftovers to go on
all’s well
breathing in, breathing out
catabolism, anabolism
death, birth
& I’m trotting around
the brainstem controlling the movement
of my hips, thighs, calves, feet, little bitty toes
no need to be aware of myself or will anything
watching, watching
behaving myself, keeping out of trouble
oh, maybe barking a little subversively now & then
so someone stirs in their sleep & grumbles
nothing likely to stop or re-route any inertia
or fracture any structure
maybe something will bend a little
but it’s resilient
it’ll resume its previous form, all’s well—
that’s what I report
to those who pet me on the head & say, Good dog.

///

THEY DON’T OWN

They don’t own who Jesus was—or what he did or said
they don’t own creation or the beating of your heart
or the past or the future or your breath or your era
they don’t own kindness or righteous indignation.

They don’t own Moses, Muhammed, or Gautama
or Adam Smith or Karl Marx.
We can value whatever we value as much as we value it.
They can’t corner the market on trading
however many markets & trades they control.
Their troops, weapons, & officers aren’t stability.
Their clever algorithms & devices
aren’t the only clever algorithms & devices.
They don’t own struggle, jihad, kampf.
What they have agreed to agree on is a desiccated husk.

They don’t own imagination, longing, or resolve
or the ability to sort, prioritize, organize.
They don’t own strength, innovation, bliss.
They don’t own the American Revolution.
They don’t own flower petals or snow flakes.
They don’t own enlightenment, peace, the possible.
They don’t own Van Gogh’s paintings
tho they may have paid millions to hang them in their rooms.
They don’t own fire or color or movement
or the water, hemoglobin, or adenosine triphosphate molecules.
They don’t own photosynthesis or glycolosis.
They don’t own restraint or audacity.
They don’t own rhythm, raga, the blues, octaves.
Even Bob Dylan doesn’t own Bob Dylan’s songs.
They don’t own Shakespeare, Rembrandt, Goethe
or Confucius, Plato, Schweitzer, Gandhi.
They don’t own cunning.
They don’t own Voltaire or Nietzsche.
They don’t own learning, compassion, or medicine.
They don’t own thunder, lightning, delight, the night.
They don’t own sober reflection, balance, will
or memory, friendship, humor, or exultation.
They can say what’s what, but so can you, so can I.
They don’t own poetry, integrity, reason, discipline.
They don’t own harmonious development.
Their laws, courts, & prisons aren’t justice.
They don’t own justice.

They overlook seeds they imagine are weeds
& they don’t own Shiva, the catabolic vulture.
They may own the State—but not for long!
& they sure as hell don’t own culture.

They don’t own electrons, or the colossal set
of combinations & permutations of symbols.
They don’t own the intellect, love, or courage.
They don’t own language, they don’t own grace.
They don’t own strategy or perseverance
or knowledge, dawn, spring, this moment, or foresight.
They don’t own resourcefulness or concentration.
They don’t own the air or Space.
They’ll sell you Time if you’re gullible.
They don’t own the stars or the genes.
They don’t own the history of nations, or the nations—
however much they act like they do.
They don’t own the Sun, Moon, seas, winds, tides.
They don’t own arithmetic, algebra, probability.
They don’t own the Pythagorean or binomial theorem.
They don’t own differential or integral calculus
or magnetism or electricity or your hands.
They don’t own the Earth even if they show you a deed.
They don’t own mass or gravity, vibration, decisiveness.
They don’t own thrust or parry, acceleration or surprise.
If they owned every lever ever made, you could make another.
They don’t own you, or me, or your loyalty, or mine.
And they aren’t as formidable as they pretend to be.
They own their pretenses
& however much belief they can induce in others.

///

WINTER SOLSTICE, 2010

Body’s tired—shoveling snow & chopping ice
eyes tired—Service’s 600 page biography of Stalin
filling a blind spot
Russia 1917 to 1989
how Stalin & Hitler inspired one another
slaughtering millions
& ruining the lives of more millions
who were obstructing realization of their visions
& what Roosevelt, Chiang Kai-shek, & Mao
& Musollini & Franco
& the Japanese admirals, generals, & political patricians
& all the non-famous people who were attentive
factory workers, housewives, farmers
scientists, artists, bank clerks, & the unemployed
the slaves in the Gulag & German concentration camps
& my parents & their neighbors
struggling to adapt to the Depression
& the controversial experiments of the New Deal
in stockyard-pungent Chicago, for instance
must have been thinking about what was happening—
what it means to totally mobilize the will
Machiavelli, Pontiac, Tecumseh, Napoleon, Nietzsche
General Sherman, Crazy Horse, General Custer
Bismarck, Lenin, Geronimo
cool kings of the drug trades
& desperate drug smugglers, death squads, assassins
drunks fighting with broken bottles in bars
police with ulcers patrolling hostile neighborhoods
teenagers planning a heist
or assessing whether to apply for admission
to a school, mafia, or corporation
prophets, revolutionaries
who triumphed briefly or long-term
Cromwell, the round-heads
Sam Adams, George Washington, Tom Paine
Alexander Hamilton, Toussaint L’Ouverture
& revolutionaries beaten back & executed
Wallace, Danton, Robespierre, Kautsky, Emma Goldman
Russia in 1905
when Grandpa deserted the Russian army
dictatorship of the proletariat
jihadists, & the most determined entrepreneurs
robber-barons & gangsters
& fierce counter-revolutionaries
the Restoration, Ku Klux Klan, Shah
the meek who are to inherit what’s left of Earth
& those who want to be famous
“it’s only up to you,” says the song
fame the goal
not what, good or bad, you’re famous for
“justified” by a cause, at whoever’s expense
if you fail, what drove you to rebel will continue
grinding down everyone like you
more generations, more injustices & hypocrisies
more hunger & sickness & despair
& you & all you’ve tried to do will come to nothing
immediately—
& who the various imitators—
Mexican & South American general-dictators
Saddam Hussein, the oil emirs
& petty potentates propped up by the CIA
or by investments by the Chinese so-called communists
the sahibs of the Roman & British empires
Myanmar’s junta, Pol Pot, Joseph McCarthy
were imitating
or they had the same impulses & opportunities—
& how USA rightists mirror Stalin
& are pale imitators of Hitler
while leftists replay the flailing impotence
of the Weimar Republic
unwilling to do what is necessary
to prevent what they fear & detest—
& who I am in the spectrum
from those who are defeated
for lack of understanding, strength, will, & power
or because of poor programming
or poor decisions, bad habits, & stubborn pride
plus always good & bad luck
every mode, key, flavor, direction, volume, intensity
affecting each & everyone, never-endingly
to those who rise to the apex of pyramids
politically or economically—
Hitler, Stalin, Churchill, Clive, the Rothschilds
pharaohs, popes, kings, queens, dukes & duchesses
local political bosses or the owner of the town’s factory
slave-owners, war-lords, bully of the 3rd or 6th grade
Andrew Jackson, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Rhodes
Eisenhower, Warren Buffett, King Saud, Tata
Reagan, Deng Xiaoping, Thatcher
bin Laden, Gates, Lula, Putin
& who’s young & next?—
when it’s appropriate to fight & how
when it’s appropriate to retreat & how
what to fight for, & what to refrain from fighting for
not worth the cost, or not winnable
power too great, pervasive, intolerant
delusions & traditions glaciers irresistible
who to ally with, if they’ll have me
who to refrain from allying with
how best to use what’s left of my attention & resources.

///

DON'T SLANDER HUMANITY

Humans are a species
among whom are some who slander humanity
humanity is a species
like horses or mice
humans vary
check out the children
& among the adults
there are tyrants
sometimes one dominant tyrant per society
sometimes, as in the society in which I live
many dominating tyrants
as well as the many petty tyrants of any society
& many who are timid & dominated
victims of tyrants
& those who manage to live
among tyrants & victims of tyrants
without being tyrants or victims themselves
however much they are inevitably involved
in the tyranny & victimization
some who are clever, for good or ill
some who are good, tho they’re rare, it’s true—
you wouldn’t slander gazelles, would you?
because they don’t stand up to & fight the lions?
& you don’t slander the lions, I suppose
for yawning & heading out into the world
to try to kill & eat gazelles or wildebeests?
humans are far from as perfect
as we allow ourselves to imagine
our reason, sympathy, self-discipline, empathy
rarely outrank
our vanity, lusts, jealousies, fears, fantasies
our lazy plodding along according to habit
resistance to seeing where the path we’re on leads to
therefore our flaws
aren’t so far from what’s to be expected
that they should shock us so
& throw us off
from what we can do that is wise & good
even great
with our lives
we humans live amid humans
who do as we wish they wouldn’t do
foolish & cruel
who refuse to see themselves for who they are
& discipline themselves for the better
grumble however much you might
& who oppose us more for what we do
that’s wise & good
than for what we do that’s foolish & bad—
we are always tempted to give up on other humans
as much as we are always tempted
to murder someone in order to be declared a citizen
of a country or mafia or gang
or to participate in something not quite so terrible
but nearly as terrible
as a result of which
at least in the long run
people & other beings, too, will suffer & die
in order to be respectable
& to live with less friction
among those we live among
& therefore have a better chance to survive & thrive
humans are good & bad & mainly just going along
with the program of the strongest
humans are weak & strong
wise & foolish
some humans can take care of themselves, mainly
for some decades
& others can’t
fellow human, don’t slander humanity
or, if you must
don’t do it in my direction
I’m busy, I’m struggling
to change what I can for the better
for myself & anyone else I can.  

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