Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Atlas Mugged

Atlas Mugged

I don’t like you much, John Galt,
born of a bitter barren mother,
witching ethics into egotism,
confusing freedom with just the wanting,
people’s rights with tyrant’s lust.
Why even bother asking who you are
when everybody knows?

You’re just too good to be true, John Galt,
striding through her pages cloaked in power
in your noble strength and mystery,
pretending to create the world from abstract air
sprung from your handsome forehead all intact,
but no one sees that as you're swarming up the dogpile,
you're crushing rock-ribbed bodies beneath your boots.

It's not your spotless well-kept hands that lay the track
or staff your clanking cars. A mass of others
make your transcontinental timetables all print true,
and hold up this your great enormous enterprise
on their wide and sturdy backs while you

explore your angry soul, John Galt, and
fill your endless coffers and
cry, “I am the victim!
of little men and littler rules. “

You cry, “I take the risks!
and there can never be enough.
but I need your money,
your jobs and lives for me to wager on a throw.
Please sign for them here so I can go on gambling,
and have you underwrite me
when my card-house melts and burns.”

You're  both a diner and a cooker-up of money.
You whisper, “I’m the boss, the proud consumer
of little men and littler rules, They'll be my dinner
and I'll have second helpings
of all my just desserts. 
As for you,
I’ll laissez-faire you, dice and slice you,
make of your marrow bones
a chaos soup for me to sip.”

I don’t like you much at all, John Galt
and that’s an understatement.
Nothing must restrain you while
you roll your diamond dice.
You juggle worlds because you can
and drop the markets’ glittering millions,
still slick with sweat and labor
down a stinking sewer of avarice
for a loser’s game of lust.

Were you different once, John Galt?
Perhaps then you cared for something
that was greater than yourself.
But now you’re old and care for nothing,
maudlin drunk with all that dark and lustrous wine
men drink when they assume they wear
the mantle of the gods.

We know who you are, John Galt,
hero of deluded adolescents. If only
that round globe you say you balance
could be seen for what it is:
our lives that are your toy,
the rolling ball of all your greed,
and if only you could be the one beneath it
when the world you’ve pushed so hard falls off our backs.

November 2010

Also submitted to  Big Tent Poetry  for their Monday prompt(slightly revised to include the  word, 'Enough,' though I think the concept is already present.)

Posted for One Shot Wednesday at the inimitable One Stop Poetry

Disclaimer: I freely admit it's been thirty or more years since I read Atlas Shrugged, and that I may have taken some liberties in modernizing Mr. Galt  into current socio-economic context. The poem is just a poem, and while it obviously reflects my personal opinion, it's not particularly intended to debunk the validity of Objectivism or modern day libertarianism.

Additional Info: For those who may not have been exposed or want to refresh, here's a quick linky to the wikipedia entries on John Galt, the character, and Atlas Shrugged, the 1950's dystopian  novel by Ayn Rand.

Image: El mundo, by Manuel Domínguez Guerra, wikimedia commons

Monday, November 29, 2010

Off the Shelf Archive - November #3

This ironic little study on the vagaries of government and society by Finnish post-modern poet Pentti Saarikoski now goes into the archive to make room for an indulgence on my part. Probably one of the three most seminal poems to my own worldview, this may not be the best poem Wallace Stevens ever wrote (that would be 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, in my very humble opinion) or the most anthologized, but remains my personal favorite. So without further ado, his poem of transition, life, lust, hate, disgust, love, and survival, Farewell to Florida. (Bear with me, the dark winter's just around the corner, and nothing could go along with it more fittingly.)

As with all the Off the Shelf selections, feel free to comment on either of these poems in this post here in the main stream since comments are disabled on the actual page, and also feel free to recommend a poet you'd like to see in Off the Shelf next time. I'm thinking it's time for a woman.

From The Invitation to The Dance, entry XXX by Pentii Saarikovski:


The tyrants were
people who took off their clothes
and put them on
worked late
shuffled papers
and citizens 
from the In tray
to the Out tray
now government has no cordiality
the tyrants have been rationalized away
now machines that don’t get tired
or drunk
or dance Cossack dances
do the work
they talk like barbed wire being stretched
and you can hear what you are
you are a number one two three 
or a four or a five a six a seven
or zero
these machines wouldn’t be possible
if they hadn’t been invented

Penttii Saarikoski

Translated from the Finnish by Anselm Hollo

Top photo credit



Penttii Saarikovski was a Finnish poet, translator, bohemian, political activist and enfant terrible of Finland's literary landscape during the  Sixties and Seventies. You can find some information about his life and times here in his wikipedia entry  and also here.This poem is taken from the second entry in his Trilogy, Invitation to the Dance (1980) which represents some of his last published work.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Wild Hunt

 Edin Chavez

The Wild Hunt

All the day I ran
to catch you
outsmart you
outrun the rattling feet 
disappeared in the night,
flown before me.

Crouched in the thicket panting
learning your ways;
where you are hard and protected,
where a sudden strike might find
the heart.

Under the standing sun and
under the flying moon I tracked you,
followed your spoor till I dropped on the rocks,
hot with the calling of the blood,
chilled with sweat in the empty night.

in the village a dead woman lies—
So you’ve been this way
noiseless and gone.
In the torchlight her face at last unfocused
seems to smile.

Must I avenge her
though she is free,
though she was the enemy?
though you and she are

neither real,
live nor dead,
but only running shadows 
where some hellhound passed me
on the grassy hillside hiding.

November 1987

Photo Courtesy of Edin Chavez
All Rights Reserved

Mike's Got Shoes

Mike’s Got Shoes

No stickball, jacks, no time for games of tag
just walk the starvling streets and look for work,
run an errand for the Turk,
for the banker sweep a corner, find a rag
and get a penny,
just one lost among too many.
A penny buys the baby milk.
'Fraid Ma will never dress in silk.

Old eyes watch from a grown man’s face,
a child’s body small and wiry.
Hands are cut and callused, hunger’s fiery,
ignored but never missing from the race,
riding always in the belly,
turning thin legs into jelly.
but it’s no good to stop and cry.
No one luckier’s passing by.

Jacob yells and asks his brother for a hand
to fill a basket with the broken bits he’s found
Otto doubts the use, his mouth turned down.
Frankie’s dreaming that he’s playing in a band.
Who’ll run twenty blocks to check the news?
There might be work uptown, and Mike’s got shoes. 

November 2010
Posted for One Shoot Sunday at the inimitable One Stop Poetry

Depression era photo  prompt provided by One Stop Poetry.  Source Link

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bard's Tale

Bard's Tale

Your words rang out both elegant and bitter
like sour wine from an antique golden cup,
pouring a ballad rare, medieval, mythic,
with rhymes built neatly to the last refrain,
where all the lovers die.

Your looks were bad, edged, blank and tender,
alternately protective and estranged,
till finally all was sorted, the last line came,
and you were going on without me, neatly folded
like a newspaper forgotten on a train.

Pain well-cooked reduces down to apathy, and
apathy well-cooked becomes a passive steam
inflating a whistling void that’s stretched and wrinkled
like yesterday’s balloons who've lost too soon
their gift of high unshackled random flight.

Rapidly one thought becomes another.
The revulsion of feelings becomes habitual.
Vices are pulled from our hands, each one by one,
till we're left holding our virtues like
roadside advertisements

November 2010,
based on a fragment from 1988

Posted for Magpie Tales #42



Antidote to evil
is the peace in sleep that comes
when all hope of it is gone.

That resolution of night into light,
the bawdy eye of a grackle
in its ungainly dull body glittering

The acquiescence to destruction
that makes impermanence eternal.
Life many formed and changeful
commands resistance, liquid and elemental,
saying the yes now that will later be no.

You like a burning under the moon,
freezing the sun,
a bonfire burned down
to the banked coals of life,
glowing with the fitful cool of death.
Servant tool or instrument of neither.
Only the twinned image of a dual contradiction.

September 1988, Revised November 2010

Posted for One Shot Wednesday at the inimitable One Stop Poetry

Image by Dean Bertoncelj 
 All Rights Reserved

Monday, November 22, 2010

My New Dragon

The story in this poem concerns an imaginary digital kingdom far away where a grizzled hedgewitch rides a verbose airy dragon, and occasionally writes a blog.

My New Dragon

flies above the forest
his spine a swift reticulated run
of cloud croquet hoops,
his breath the flinty white
of ashen cinders in the grate,
flaring back behind him like a banner
of all that overcomes.

My New Dragon

fought the old all summer long,
all winter in a haze of snow and fire,
till victory was made in blurry battles
high where eyes of mortal could not peer
and now he mounts his watch above
in case his rival someday
comes back home.

His head is turned to follow
the disappearing backside of his foe.
His three-horned crest stands tall
and watchful, full
of secret raptor pleasures
bonebred in dragonkind.

Though rain patters grey
turning blue as it falls
like steel on the scales of

My New Dragon’s   

skin, his heart is light
And on his broad back of clouds and vapor
I go riding.

November 2010

Cloud dragon photo  by joy ann jones november, 2010 
A masterfully tweaked version by my modest technical consultant appears in the blog header.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Canyon Call

Photo by Trent Chau

Canyon Call

Dawn comes walking
wrapped in a blue blanket
striped with red purple and gold
shaking bells.

A silver snake sprawls her sinuous curves
amongst the ashen hills,
winding towards turquoise mountains
under a wet misty sky.

Four insects swarm up sides as sharp as shrapnel
to stand and point and murmur
and fidget a bit
in front of the gods.

Riding bareback on green winds, their fingers
deep in the sleeping earth,
the gods have no time to listen,
though dimly they sense a presence.

They’re too busy making water and feathers,
rabbits for coyotes, and grass for rabbits, mountains for time
and riddles for humans
to stop when they aren’t called.

November 2010 

Written for One Shoot Sunday at the inimitable One Stop Poetry 

slightly revised 11:27 am

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Ghoul and The Weavers

The Ghoul and the Weavers

The house was empty all the while
as they sat and worked the loom
to weave the cloth to sell next spring.

Though something made a bang and boom
that made them jump and the glasses ring,
the house was empty all the while.

Each night one fewer in the room,
each morn one less to pull the weft,
as they sat and worked the loom.

The loom is stopped, the air is numb
with sisters’ screams though none are left
to weave the cloth for springs to come. 

November 2010

Okay, this was just for fun, an extra cascade poem for Big Tent Poetry.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Off the Shelf Archive - November #2

This fine poem by Langston Hughes is going into the archive to make room for the final November selection, a poem  XXX, by a Finnish poet I've recently been introduced to, Penttii Saarikoski. Since no comments are published on that page, feel free to comment on either poem here.

So without further ado, here's Langston Hughes speaking to us from the Great Depression about our lives today:

Advertisement for the Waldorf Astoria

Fine living . . . a la carte?
Come to the Waldorf-Astoria!

Look! See what Vanity Fair says about the
new Waldorf-Astoria:

"All the luxuries of a private home. . . ."
Now, won't that be charming when the last flop-house
has turned you down this winter?
"It is far beyond anything hitherto attempted in the hotel
world. . . ." It cost twenty-eight million dollars. The fa-
mous Oscar Tschirky is in charge of banqueting.
Alexandre Gastaud is chef. It will be a distinguished
background for society.
So when you've no place else to go, homeless and hungry
ones, choose the Waldorf as a background for your rags--
(Or do you still consider the subway after midnight good

Take a room at the new Waldorf, you down-and-outers--
sleepers in charity's flop-houses where God pulls a
long face, and you have to pray to get a bed.
They serve swell board at the Waldorf-Astoria. Look at the menu, 

will you:


Have luncheon there this afternoon, all you jobless.
Why not?
Dine with some of the men and women who got rich off of
your labor, who clip coupons with clean white fingers
because your hands dug coal, drilled stone, sewed gar-
ments, poured steel to let other people draw dividends
and live easy.
(Or haven't you had enough yet of the soup-lines and the bit-
ter bread of charity?)
Walk through Peacock Alley tonight before dinner, and get
warm, anyway. You've got nothing else to do.

Langston Hughes 1902-1967

Illustration: Advertisement for the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York City, circa 1950  public domain

Dental Work

Dental Work

Closing my eyes
In the summer night
Clouds of gnats swirl up
Against the black.

I have no tattoos
Just some gold
To mark a place
And put a smile
Where something crumbled.

I live in hope
That when we tire
Of feeling sorry for ourselves
We’ll finally begin
To pity each other.

November 2010

55 words (including the title) for my friend Shay's friend, G-man, and his Friday Flash 55 word challenge

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Threnody on the Number XI

Threnody on the Number Eleven

Eleven months she missed him and feared eleven years.
Eleven times she called out to catch the ship that sailed.
Eleven times eleven times eleven were her fears.
But once he called and it was she who failed.

Across the moonwarm seas the soulship fumbled
but never stopped its dizzying careers.
Eleven charts were shredded, canvas crumpled.
Eleven months she chased him and feared eleven years.

Across the crepe black void the echoes scatter,
across each face years caracole a tale.
Across all time, all light, across all matter,
eleven times she set out, but sunken ships don’t sail.

Days dropped down wormholes time sees safely landed.
Quick hands of new craft banners from worn fears.
Smiles lace across the light but night’s more candid.
Eleven times eleven times eleven are her tears.

Soft shadow walls stand fast, their faces shimmer,
piled clouds of knife concrete, white ice so paled
by painted rose, soft sigils scarlet glimmer
where dead days shook their fists sunlight prevailed.
But once he called and it was she who failed.

November 2010

This experimental poem in the cascade form is for Magpie #41 
Uncredited photo provided by Magpie Tales removed. 
Also posted for the Monday prompt at Big Tent Poetry, which was to write a cascade piece.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Questions of Ownership

Question of money

Questions of Ownership

To own
but not necessarily to have
the price must be paid in full.
An experience of both cost and pleasure.

Full owner of my sorrow,
dark full face of my moon
turned away to
the small dots that look you back,
am I not here?
Under that faceless black moon
am I not even dark wind that lifts your hair?

Many truths coexist.
Many rivers run to the unfilled sea.
Many waters may be one or several,
all equally vocal.
All silent when they run dry.

In the child of our bodies
I see your arabesque of bones
Your dizzy hesitation that flees
to rigid purpose.

You and he, the moon, the beach, the grass,
and the rivers that run so endlessly
dwell and spring and 
consume all here, so

where am I then?
In these combined relics and scars I own,
these snow white bones and sepia
distillates of time?

January 1987

Posted for OneShotWednesday at the inimitable OneStopPoetry
Photo: Question of Money, by anolobb on flick'r
shared under a Creative Commons 2.0 License

Sunday, November 14, 2010



If I were not
not here, not me
not hungry, not cold not dismantled
defective, diminished not
a cipher in endless columns of living integers,
I wouldn’t need this blanket womb, this soul
dustcover, this tented mask that makes me
formless, this my solitary success 
to strip myself of
that self that can feel
at all,

that subtracts my presence
and keeps away
something some fear, some knowledge
some sign that those who won’t look
now can’t see
how much I need them
not to turn away their eyes.

November 2010

Written for One Shoot Sunday 11/14/10  at One Stop Poetry


Photo Credit


Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Scout

The Scout
(For the Man Who Told Me Never To Write Down His Name)

Back when I was
I loved you.

I saw you as the pathfinder
alone among men known to
disarm the plaint of the frog sentinels,
and allowed to pass the trees’ seedlings
covered in their rustling beds, soundless,
walking like a snowflake over the breasts
of sleeping wrens,
sent to pull me from
the ooze and gel of the mire.

You did
but what a cost.
You lost
your beaded moccasins,
your pipe and pelts, your mule.
I lost
my pain only to see it
found in a new spot,
coming up like the weed it is
needing always to be pulled

You moved on
to another frontier of lost
but far from fallow women,
scouting out
that ever expanding horizon.
I think you walk there still, quick and
soft as the memory of a
leaf that never falls.

November 2010


Posted For Poetry Potluck  at Jingle's,   Monday, November 15, 2010

Image: Shotgun Hospitality, by Frederic Remington 
Source: wikimedia commons


Too Much Candy

I am
too much candy
sticky for love
in quantity
like 25 pounds of chocolate.
All you can eat.
Too much.

I am
stick fingers.
A lit display of nerves.
A graphic run forward and back
at arbitrary speeds;
A green bug
meeting up with a windshield makes
a more solid statement than my own.

I am
like seltzer, clean and empty,
but full of random effervescence—
a distribution of air mixing with the liquid of events
pricked by fears of
going flat.

October 1986

Friday, November 12, 2010

Off the Shelf Archive - November #1

This Off the Shelf poem by 20th Century American poet Charles Bukowski  is being archived here in the main stream to make room for the next November selection, (a Depression era poem that might as well have been written this morning, entitled Advertisement for the Waldorf Astoria, by  Langston Hughes )

So here for a final read is Bukowski's visceral and excellent To The Whore Who Stole My Poems:

To The Whore Who Took My Poems

some say we should keep personal remorse from the
stay abstract, and there is some reason in this,
but jezus;
twelve poems gone and I don't keep carbons and you have
paintings too, my best ones; its stifling:
are you trying to crush me out like the rest of them?
why didn't you take my money? they usually do
from the sleeping drunken pants sick in the corner.
next time take my left arm or a fifty
but not my poems:
I'm not Shakespeare
but sometime simply
there won't be any more, abstract or otherwise;
there'll always be money and whores and drunkards
down to the last bomb,
but as God said,
crossing his legs,
I see where I have made plenty of poets
but not so very much

Charles Bukowski

Illustration: Old Man in Sorrow(On the Threshold of Eternity) by Vincent Van Gogh, wikimedia commons Off the Shelf poems are selected for contrast & to highlight some of my favorite semi-obscure poets.

The Well

The Well

The well is full of fear,
and every day we have to
drink poison, bathe in it. 
We know the well
is broken and fearful
but pretend we do not know
what broke it.

The village is clamorous drunk with
senselessness, blank and softened in that acid bath,
so that the pale flickering light
that shines sly behind every curtain
burns indelible images on damaged corneas
and rumbles an echo of wardrums into half-deaf ears
to sell cornflakes and cars.

Every soul must buy a badge and
every house have a plague cross on the door,
marked red or blue, and at primetime a bell rings
to bring out the ones we wish dead--
The Socialists or
The Patriots or
The Illegals or
The Not Real Americans or
whoever we've learned to hate today--who?
They're already gone
hauled off and dumped
in the dead waters that feed the well.

Every day the fear gets louder, the blue light stronger and
more curdling, the water less able to quench
as drinking it becomes sweeter.
It makes the mind dizzy and eager to
congratulate itself on its sapient foolishness, or
buzz with an insectile thought-erasing rage, as it
stings reason to death.

The well is broken, but we drink from it anyway.
Soon now it will be drained by the thirst
and the bucket will go down
deep down into the heart of dissolution
and come up not just heavy with
mud and iridescent sludge 
And venom that
clings like grief to the mouth,
but with the secret that lives at the bottom of the well:
that we are the ones
who broke it.

November 2010

Written for the Monday November 8th Prompt at Big Tent Poetry, which was to use a book title from the New York Times Bestsellers List. I chose Broke, by Glenn Beck.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Welcome to the Lost Island of the Technologically Challenged

This post was originally my attempt to add a backlink, and now it won't go away, so to avoid a dead spot sitting here uselessly asking for comments, I've posted an old picture of me in a funny hat with a fishhead, because, Why Not?


Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory

are human.
A hot light caught in flesh
bound to the necessity of choice,
given cloudy human eyes
and told to make life.

There is no happy
The imperative is toward order
so that every fleck
and piece
party to this planet
can cohere in purpose.

Undone it bends the back,
with the weight of chaos
too heavy to fight,
only visible
as a glowing lie 
that slides
quick or slow
towards an extinction
the intent to kill
meets the need to die.

you chose long ago.

You know the force that swings 
the hangman’s rope,
the grave that grows the flowers we become.
 You know
the rot that must be cut within the rose
You even know 
how clean to keep the blade,
    every potion to hold back decay, every weapon against waste,
every fire that burns in the winter of the heart.

The need to die
called your name and you refused,
because you know these things
without words.

because your answer
was to live.

April 1991

Also posted at One Stop Poetry   for OneShotWednesday

Lacebark Elm,  photo © joy ann jones 11/8/10