Thursday, January 21, 2016

Mayhem Road

Mayhem Road

On the mayhem road
it's a long patrol
down and down,
where the bad seed drops
and lives to grow

where the black oil flows
where the rocket burns 
where the blood gold glows
where the dark star shines
in the falling fog,  cold

where the child is lost,  long
where the old can't find,  spent
where the young must hold
the killer's mad hands,   sprouting

on the mayhem road;
broke down alone
in the monochrome,
their lips are black.
No color leaks

from the grayscale night.
The dun dust glides
a cloudy sheet
across the girl with no breath,
face we can't bear to see

of all we once were,
of the damned we'll be,
companions on the long patrol
to the dead that grow
the mayhem road.

 ~January 2016

posted for       real toads

Official music video for Tis a Pity She Was a Whore, by David Bowie, from the album Blackstar. Lyrics here


  1. *sigh* This is what scares me so much with all the saber-rattling from the right. Haven't we been down this road enough times? Aren't we still paying endlessly for Bush's war of amusement? "The paths of glory lead only to the grave", and yet, fools can't wait to rush in. I don't get it, and your poem illustrates the bleakness, the waste and the devastation of it all.

  2. Pretty dispiriting all right--and dis-spiriting in literal sense. Agh. The rhythms, spacing, enjambment are especially strong here, as they bring an added heft to each line and added broken-ness to the breath. There is something about mayhem that goes particularly well with seed-- I found the stanza about where the child is lost and the old can't find especially affecting, with those breaks and the strong last words, and the lost, find, hold--this stanza particularly like a refrain. I have not listened to the tape--I'm just a bit tired to focus on it--but the poem certainly engaged me plenty-- The part re the faces of what we were and will be very compelling too (the whole thing) but I just love that stanza with the young and old. k.

    1. The video is difficult to listen to, very keening, but the lyrics are brief and succinct, and I've borrowed a bit from them in just an echoey way. The segment you single out actually came to me in a fragment prior to the prompt, but seemed to suit the thought I was working on here--thanks, k, as always for your insight and input and time and energy. I know how busy you are,which makes it doubly valuable.

  3. oh hedgey, this twists my heart. I love the tone you have invoked is that of the uber narrator, all knowing but all knowing. Love love love this! Thanks for posting to the out of standard.

  4. This reads like after-battle cadences... The kind of song sang, over and over, by the blood-dirt-shame-drenched soldiers, marching back home after winning their loses... Looking towards the other side of the road and seeing clean boys and girls taking their old steps... Singing about winning, not knowing that in this song everything is already lost...

  5. wow. lack of heart, emotions. striking!

  6. I love where you took the lyrics.. the lyrics itself disturbing, and you took it to this magnificent elegy... We do walk that Mayhem road, we lead and let us be led like sheep for slaughter... Why are demagogues so skilled?

  7. These words could be set to music, and be so on point with what seems so tragic to me: lost art, fading light and the vicarious grief of a world which is fast losing faith in future saints.

  8. love the flow of this woeful piece

  9. Glad to see that Bowie was taking the leading hammers of his music to train sights here, terrifying as the result was. I've heard snatches of Blackstar in radio reviews of the album, its extremely 21st century jazz rock, and Bowie's voice melds perfectly there, hovering, broken-angelic, dying. The effect in this video is stunningly perfect ... But on to your poem, which for me required at least a minute of the video to train my sights properly upon, gain that vantage, feel the ground-level horror of it, too far away from this besodden land of comfort to hear, much less understand. This dying-place is the sum "of all we once were, / of the damned we'll be, / companions on the long patrol / to the dead that grow / the mayhem road." There are times the rhythmus of rock lyric is required to get from drone to road, to catch the explosion in media res, in corpus flagrante: And yet for the howling searing register of this, we are most damned by flying away, or rather getting out of a chair in a drab building outside of Las Vegas and driving sunny miles home to suburb our woes away. Amen and ripped hymen.

    1. Yes, the video definitely informed this piece, B--I was drawn to the Elizabethan title, then sucked into the, as you say, corpus flagrante of naked aggression--I'm sure the lyrics can be read many ways, but for me, the whore is US, as in U.S.(and in a larger sense, the West)--no longer the country(ies) in the white hat, but of black ops and blacker gold, blackest blood. Like you, I feel it is so easy to tunnel away into that personal hidey hole and ignore the incalculable burden of collective responsibility--but what else is there to salvage off this plague-ship wreck but a personal refuge. We have come to a lost land where all options are bleak. Thanks as always for your thoughts.

    2. No wonder so many no-longer-Young Americans are choosing Bowie's hidey hole -- opiate stars haloing a grave. I'm not sure, but I'm beginning to suspect that renouncing one's responsibility to confront these dogs of war is what makes the nation a whore and conspires with the threshold of escape. We're bound to this no matter how we try to sing it away. Make our small private peace, each in our own way, but show up for duty the next iced morning in Stalingrad. If we don't the dogs get bolder. I suspect ... only ... and sure respect the verses, still.

  10. There is a certain level of horror which can't be denied in your words but behind the shroud, I find that meaningless sadness of how things stand today globally. There's war, there's violence, there's pain, there's exploitation and then, there's a hope and there's a sense of repugnance, equally horrifying.
    Beautifully written and hard hitting.


  11. This is so scary because it is true. I feel the weight of battle in this piece. There are times I don't believe there is light at the end of the tunnel, but perhaps it is we poets, thinkers, artists, musicians, creatives who need to join and become the light.

  12. So first I watched the video, because one I hadn't seen it, and two I know you put those there for a reason.

    The song strikes me more as punk than jazz, you know? But I think they have the same dam and sire, as it were...

    My sons play shooter games. I'm going to have them watch this video and have a brief 'dad' talk (again - they know I'm not a fan) and see if I can't lean them over, a bit, to why that distancing is not good. Fat chance it'll do much, but still.

    As to the pen itself, that 3rd verse, I read the extra spaces as "long spent sprouting" - an echo, a reinforcement of what it is we face (re your response to B). This is the whirlwind coming. This is the Cruz, the Trump, who are but avatars of a generation of Air Force Xians clamoring and planning for the end times.

    We are truly fucked. Sigh. My elder son plans on becoming a plumber rather than a doctor, these days. Makes more sense, you know? At least the people paying you *admit* they're full of shit... ~

    1. Ah, M--yes, it's all as you say. End times, the 'may you live in interesting times' Chinese curse, the crash and burn of empire, perhaps the first empire founded on democratic ideals, so all the more hideous when it becomes a failed, twisted puppet show plutocracy of the usual suspects. I wouldn't attempt to categorize the music itself--to me it was just a hymn to death by the murdered, haunted...afa being a plumber, I'm married to one, and it's a very worthy trade, an honest one--of course, once being a doctor was too, but now that's so full of money it's a hopeless cause, I think. Thanks for getting the clue of the separate end words, which echo back to the bad seed dropping and living to grow...and thanks for reading and giving your own particular insights, which I appreciate and learn from, as I do your poetry.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats