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Here is fresh matter, poet,
Matter for old age meet;
Might of the Church and the State,
Their mobs put under their feet.
O but heart's wine shall run pure,
Mind's bread grow sweet.
That were a cowardly song,
Wander in dreams no more;
What if the Church and the State
Are the mob that howls at the door?
Wine shall run thick to the end,
Bread taste sour.

-- William Butler Yeats
Church And State

God fashioned the ship of the world carefully.
With the infinite skill of an All-Master
Made He the hull and the sails,
Held He the rudder
Ready for adjustment.
Erect stood He, scanning His work proudly.
Then -- at fateful time -- a wrong called,
And God turned, heeding.
Lo, the ship, at this opportunity, slipped slyly,
Making cunning noiseless travel down the ways.
So that, forever rudderless, it went upon the seas
Going ridiculous voyages,
Making quaint progress,
Turning as with serious purpose
Before stupid winds.
And there were many in the sky
Who laughed at this thing.

-- Stephen Crane
God Fashioned the Ship of the World

The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings.
Sceptre and crown
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

Some men with swords may reap the field,
And plant fresh laurels where they kill;
But their strong nerves at last must yield,
They tame but one another still.
Early or late,
They stoop to fate,
And must give up their murmuring breath,
When they, pale captives, creep to death.

The garlands wither on your brow,
Then boast no more your mighty deeds;
Upon death's purple altar now,
See where the victor-victim bleeds.
Your heads must come
To the cold tomb;
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.

-- James Shirley
The Glories of our Blood and State

Cities and Thrones and Powers,
Stand in Time's eye,
Almost as long as flowers,
Which daily die:
But, as new buds put forth
To glad new men,
Out of the spent and unconsidered Earth,
The Cities rise again.

This season's Daffodil,
She never hears,
What change, what chance, what chill,
Cut down last year's;
But with bold countenance,
And knowledge small,
Esteems her seven days' continuance,
To be perpetual.

So Time that is o'er -kind,
To all that be,
Ordains us e'en as blind,
As bold as she:
That in our very death,
And burial sure,
Shadow to shadow, well persuaded, saith,
"See how our works endure!"

-- Rudyard Kipling
Cities and Thrones and Powers

 

We met at the art gallery.
(but not really)
She was a security guard,
guarding against the likes of
the Henry Moore’s steely-Dan’s
that often stood, in her presence.
Her steel-grey uniform,
the one the Union had cunningly tarnished,
sheathed her real, humanitarian essence,
but her pink sari, was her sexier cover.
They didn’t like pink, for a Rep.
Her hip-cocked lips, natural mind,
could roar them white, skinless.
They didn’t like being skinless.
A compassionate Lion, too.
She use to whip me with her eyelash,
then swallow me whole, to cure my wounds.
It’s been a while since I licked her tears.
She’s a lawyer now.

-- Roland Hardy
Anita and the Union

But I love the I, steel I-beam
that my father sold. They poured the pig iron
into the mold, and it fed out slowly,
a bending jelly in the bath, and it hardened,
Bessemer, blister, crucible, alloy, and he
marketed it, and bought bourbon, and Cream
of Wheat, its curl of butter right
in the middle of its forehead, he paid for our dresses
with his metal sweat, sweet in the morning
and sour in the evening. I love the I,
frail between its flitches, its hard ground
and hard sky, it soars between them
like the soul that rushes, back and forth,
between the mother and father. What if they had loved each other,
how would it have felt to be the strut
joining the floor and roof of the truss?
I have seen, on his shirt-cardboard, years
in her desk, the night they made me, the penciled
slope of her temperature rising, and on
the peak of the hill, first soldier to reach
the crest, the Roman numeral I--
I, I, I, I,
girders of identity, head on,
embedded in the poem. I love the I
for its premise of existence--our I--when I was
born, part gelid, I lay with you
on the cooling table, we were all there, a
forest of felled iron. The I is a pine,
resinous, flammable root to crown,
which throws its cones as far as it can in a fire.

-- Sharon Olds
Take the I Out

we were never caught

we partied the southwest, smoked it from L.A. to El Dorado
worked odd jobs between delusions of escape
drunk on the admonitions of parents, parsons & professors
driving faster than the road or law allowed.
our high-pitched laughter was young, heartless & disrespected
authority. we could be heard for miles in the night

the Grand Canyon of a new manhood.
womanhood discovered
like the first sighting of Mount Wilson

we rebelled against the southwestern wind

we got so naturally ripped, we sprouted wings,
crashed parties on the moon, and howled at the earth

we lived off love. It was all we had to eat

when you split you took all the wisdom
and left me the worry

-- Wanda Coleman
In That Other Fantasy Where We Live Forever

Between The Euphrates and The Potomac

by

Justice Putnam

It might have begun
In the month of Rajab

But I'm sure it was before
The year 490

The sad thing
Is that it continues
To this day.

We were told
It was about
Sacrament

Icon mythology

We were told it
Was about
The fluid of decay.

But it was about

Children dying
Underground

Buried up to
Their education

While the true believers
Stared up at the sky.

The greatest fear
Is that people will bear
Their ignorance and

Humiliation

Just like they
Are mesmerized.

But everywhere
That the innocent die

I pray

Somewhere
At least
One person

Will wonder
Why.

(San Francisco, California)

Bless Me Father

by

Justice Putnam

Bless me Father
For I have sinned

It’s been so long
Since my
Last Confession

Give me penance Father
I’m on bended knee
My heart is crying

No amount of Hail Mary’s
Or Acts of Contrition
Can Absolve me.

I gave my parents
A lot of grief
But that doesn’t compare
To my evil deed

Give me penance Father
I’m on bended knee
My heart is crying

One summer’s night
I stole a neighbor’s purse
But Father I’ve done
Something so much worse

Give me penance Father
I’m on bended knee
My heart is crying

Really Father I’ve tried
To live an honest life
And I know I haven’t
Really done things right

Give me penance Father
I’m on bended knee
My heart is crying

I’ve been known to carouse
Like a soldier will
But my sin
Is so much bigger still

Give me penance Father
I’m on bended knee
My heart is crying

Somewhere near
The Tigris River
Somewhere north
Old Baghdad

Lies an old woman
In widow’s shrouds

I shot her dead.

The Sarge said
It’s kill or be killed
But Father still
I shot her dead.

Bless me Father
For I have sinned

It’s been so long
Since my
Last Confession

Give me penance Father
I’m on bended knee
My heart is crying

No amount of Hail Mary’s
Or Acts of Contrition
Can Absolve me.

(San Francisco, California)

South of the Border

by

Justice Putnam

I’m playing my cadenza
In a boxcar near Del Mar

Tomorrow
I’ll have to pitch a tent

What little was
Of my pension
I just had to cash in

And then it was
Immediately spent

(By going south of the border
South of the border
South of the border
Going south

South of the border
South of the border
South of the border
Going south)

I can cobble shoes
To last half a lifetime

Manufacture steel
That would never
Show a dent

But the buyers
Of the company

Said they found
A better way

For the stockholder’s monies
To be spent

(By going south of the border
South of the border
South of the border
Going south

South of the border
South of the border
South of the border
Going south)

I went from Bangor
All the way to San Diego

Every where the same story
Of the jobs
Just up and went

How our Country
Is now a Homeland
Our children have
Turned to Soldiers

They’ve just been
Ordered by the President

(To go south of the border
South of the border
South of the border
Going south

South of the border
South of the border
South of the border
Going south)

Maybe I’ll wear
A white linen suit
Like Malcolm Lowry

Maybe I’ll attain
An affectation and
Diplomat air

When my days
Are numbered
And my time is at hand

Would the Country
Or the Company
Even care

(That I died south of the border?

I died
South of the border

I died

Going south)

(Guadalajara, Mexico)

Déjà Vu United

by

Justice Putnam

Do you hear the war bells ringing?
Do you feel the cannons blasting?
We must teach or force Them
To do things
Our way!

There is no rhyme or reason
For their terrorist treason
Their hate for us
Comes from a vacuum

‘Cause we've always done it
The Right Way!

Go to sleep you dear citizen
Don't mind the man behind the curtain
The levers that he is working
Don't concern you
Anyway!

Just know that the very next Nation
That is blessed with our invasion
Was attacked for a very good reason

They got in
Our Way!

It is Right for Us to do this
God said that
WE Must Do this

No matter what the excuse is
We're going to
Do It
Our Way!

Just know that the very next Nation
That is blessed with our invasion
Was attacked for a very good reason

They got in
Our Way!

It is Right for Us to Do this
God Said that WE Must Do this
No matter what the excuse is

We're going to
Do It
Our Way!

(Yorba Linda, California)

There’s a Cold Wind Blowing

by

Justice Putnam

There’s a cold
Wind blowing
It’s blowing
North and South

There’s a cold
Wind blowing
No one knows
What it’s about

There’s a cold
Wind blowing
It’s blowing
East and West

There’s a cold
Wind blowing
Putting so many
In duress

There’s a cold
Wind blowing
It’s blowing
Through your town

There’s a cold
Wind blowing
It’s blowing
All the houses down

There’s a cold
Wind blowing
It’s blowing
North and South

There’s a cold
Wind blowing
No one knows
What it’s about

(Berkeley, California)

The Myth of Chimeral Evolution

by

Justice Putnam

Darwin
Berkeley and
Nietzsche

Were traversing
Through the
Primordial soup
When a
Booming Voice
Echoed throughout the
World,

"Ha! Ha! Ha!"

The Booming Voice
Joyously announced,
For He was a
Joyous and happy
Booming Voice,

"So you
have quite a conundrum
Before you now!"

Berkeley,
As was his manner,
Nudged ahead of
Nietzsche and
Announced,

"I know or am
Conscious of my own
Being;
And that I
Myself
Am not my ideas,
But somewhat else,
A thinking,
Active principle
That perceives,
Knows,
Wills and
Operates about
Ideas.

I know that I,
One and the same
Self,
Perceive both
Colors and
Sounds:
That a color
Cannot perceive a
Sound,
Nor a sound a
Color:
That I am
Therefore one
Individual principle,
Distinct from
Color and
Sound;
And for the
Same reason,
From all other
Sensible things and
Inert ideas.

But I am not
In like manner
Conscious either
Of the
Existence or
Essence of
Matter.

On the contrary,
I know that
Nothing inconsistent
Can exist,
And that the
Existence of
Matter implies an
Inconsistency.

Further,
I know
What I mean
When I affirm
That there is a
Spiritual substance
Or support of ideas,
That is,
That a
Spirit knows and
Perceives
Ideas.

But I do not know
What is meant
When it is said
That an unperceiving
Substance has
Inherent in it
And supports either
Ideas or the
Archetypes of
Ideas.

There is
Therefore
Upon the whole
No parity
Of case between
Spirit and
Matter."

Not to be outdone,
Nietzsche elbowed
His way past
Darwin and Berkeley to
His preordained spot,

"With the highest respect,
I accept
The name of
Heraclitus.

When the rest
Of the
Philosophic folk
Rejected the testimony
Of the senses
Because they showed
Multiplicity and
Change.

He rejected their
Testimony
Because they
Showed things
As if they had
Permanence and
Unity.

Heraclitus too
Did the
Senses an
Injustice.

They lie neither
In the way
The Eleatics believed,
Nor as he believed,
They do not
Lie at all.

What we make
Of their
Testimony,
That alone
Introduces lies;
For example,
The lie
Of
Unity,
The lie
Of
Thinghood,
Of
Substance,
Of
Permanence.

Reason is the cause
Of our
Falsification of the
Testimony of the
Senses.

In so far as the
Senses show
Becoming,
Passing away and
Change,
They do not
Lie.

But Heraclitus
Will remain
Eternally right
With his assertion that
Being is an empty
Fiction.

The apparent world
Is the only one:
The true world is
Merely added
By a
Lie."

Darwin strode
Forward in a
Gentlemanly manner,
Cleared his throat and
Began,

"As man can produce
And certainly has
Produced a great
Result by his
Methodical and
Unconscious means of
Selection,
What may not
Nature effect?

Man can act
Only on
External and
Visible characters:
Nature cares
nothing for appearances,
Except in so far
As they may be
Useful to any
Being.

She can act
On every
Internal organ,
On every
Shade of
Constitutional difference,
On the whole
Machinery of
Life.

Man selects
Only for his
Own good;
Nature only for
That of the
Being which
She tends.

Every selected character
Is fully
Exercised by
Her;
And the being is
Placed under well-suited
Conditions of
Life.

Man keeps the
Natives of many
Climates in the
Same country;
He seldom
Exercises each
Selected character
In some
Peculiar and
Fitting manner;
He feeds a
Long and a
Short beaked pigeon
On the
Same food;
He does not
Exercise a
Long-backed or
Long-legged quadruped
In any
Peculiar manner;
He exposes sheep
With long and short wool
To the same
Climate.

He does not
Allow the most
Vigorous males to
Struggle for the females.

He does not
Rigidly destroy all
Inferior animals,
But protects during
Each varying season,
As far as lies
In his power,
All his
Productions.

He often begins
His selection by some
Half-monstrous form;
Or at least by some
Modification
Prominent enough
To catch
His eye,
Or to be
Plainly
Useful to him.

Under nature,
The slightest
Difference of
Structure or
Constitution
May well
Turn the
Nicely-balanced
Scale in the
Struggle for
Life,
And so be
Preserved.

How fleeting are
The wishes
And efforts
Of man!

How short his
Time!

And consequently
How poor
Will his
Products be,
Compared with those
Accumulated by
Nature during whole
Geological periods.

Can we wonder then,
That
Nature's productions
Should be far
Truer in character
Than man's productions;
That they should
Be infinitely
Better adapted
To the most
Complex conditions of
Life,
And should
Plainly bear
The stamp of far
Higher workmanship?"

"Ha! Ha! Ha!"

The Booming Voice
Joyously continued,

"If it were not
For your
Minds,
I would almost
Doubt my own
Existence!"

(Sausalito, California)

© 2007 by Justice Putnam
Fleur de Sel Musique
and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswesen

Originally posted to The Justice Department on Netroots Radio.com on Tue Jan 23, 2007 at 03:35 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Great stuff, but ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    justiceputnam, slksfca

    It's a bit much to take in all at a sitting.  How about doling it out a bit more, day by day or week by week?  And adding a bit of commentary and analysis in between poems?  Also when I quote whole poems I often worry about Fair Use; some, though not all, poets would probably rather I'd buy their book!

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Tue Jan 23, 2007 at 03:38:17 PM PST

  •  Alms for the Poet? (8+ / 0-)

    Even though I gleaned from my song lyrics, the first several of my works started as poems and became songs later.

    Also, it's obvious to me, but The Myth Of Chimeral Evolution sources Berkeley's Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous, Nietzsche's Twilight of the Idols and of course, Darwin's The Origin of Species.

    A Poet is at the same time a force for Solidarity and for Solitude --Pablo Neruda

    by justiceputnam on Tue Jan 23, 2007 at 03:39:44 PM PST

  •  ok, second time through (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    justiceputnam, slksfca

    I can take in a bit more.  

    "What if the Church and the State
    Are the mob that howls at the door?"

    Yeats is on target.  The institutions of society can and do express an ugly mob rule at times. Over the last six years I have feared we were sinking deeper into such a time; since the midterms I have a glimmer of hope.

    So that, forever rudderless, it went upon the seas
    Going ridiculous voyages
    ...
    And there were many in the sky
    Who laughed at this thing.

    Boy, that's Stephen Crane for you.  Not only is the human race a laughingstock, but God himself. The world has beauty, but not meaning.  Ship of the World, Ship of State, I can see how that got in there.

    And so on...

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Tue Jan 23, 2007 at 03:52:55 PM PST

  •  Good evening (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    justiceputnam

    Here's a couple of mine:

    First, Do No Harm: A Song Without End

    Bush, Cheney,
    Rumsfeld, Rove,
    I wish they read
    poems instead

    of painting
    the White House
    in blood, red,
    and piping
    torture's cries
    throughout the
    universe.

    Oh, pity me
    for dreaming,
    but this I know,
    Karma's not
    a quitter
    ... oh,

    Bush, Cheney,
    Rumsfeld, Rove,
    (repeat)

    Copyright © 2007

    The Costume Ball

    Incompetence
    masked in nerve
    is naked still.

    Copyright © 2007

    Against silence, which is slavery. -- Czeslaw Milosz

    by Caneel on Tue Jan 23, 2007 at 05:40:16 PM PST

  •  A few of my favorites: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Caneel, lgmcp, justiceputnam

    The Trouble with our State

    The trouble with our state
    was not civil disobedience,
    which in any case, was hesitant and rare.

    Civil disobedience was rare as kidney stone —
    no, rarer; it was disappearing like immigrants' disease.

    You've heard of a war on cancer?
    There is no war like the plague of media
    There is no war like routine
    There is no war like 3 square meals
    There is no war like a prevailing wind

    it blows softly, whispers
    don’t rock the boat!
    The sails obey, the ship of state rolls on.

    The trouble with our state
    — we learned it only afterward
    when the dead resembled the living who resembled the dead
    and civil virtue shone like paint on tin
    and tin citizens and tin soldiers marched to the common whip

    — our trouble
    the trouble with our state
    with our state of soul
    our state of siege —
    was
    civil
    obedience.

    -Daniel Berrigan

    Vietnam

    Woman, what's your name?

    • I don't know.

    How old are you?  Where are you from?

    • I don't know.

    Why did you dig that burrow?

    • I don't know.

    How long have you been hiding?

    • I don't know.

    Why did you bite my finger?

    • I don't know.

    Don't you know that we won't hurt you?

    • I don't know.

    Whose side are you on?

    • I don't know.

    This is war, you've got to choose.

    • I don't know.

    Does your village still exist?

    •  I don't know.

    Are those your children?

    • Yes.

    -Wislawa Szymborska

    "The waging of war, by its nature, is total - but the waging of peace, by our own cowardice, is partial." -- Daniel Berrigan

    by Rico on Tue Jan 23, 2007 at 06:04:37 PM PST

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