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MADE IN TAIWAN
You stamp it on your t-shirts
You slap it on your cars
Display it in store windows
And on your mug in bars
You crumple it on napkins
Upholster it on chairs
You soil it on your tee shirts
And on your underwear
You drape it on your altars
And flex it on tattoos
You blow it full of speeches
And fly it on balloons
You stamp it on your sodas
And leave it in the rain
You pledge allegiance to it
For freedom from your pain
The man I was looms over me,
Like a father teaching his son to read.
Like a shadow cast
From the fateful past,
He haunts me with his deeds.
He wants me to carry on his seed.
This man is more than history--
His inmost core a mystery
That he disowns.
I reap what he has sown.
My passion flows from him;
And where he ends, I must begin.
But when his folly shall no more
Delude me, and the Other Shore
At last I’ve reached,--
And from that beach
The undulating waves
His errant footprints have erased,--
That man will be a Parable
Of human destiny, as well:
A lesson learned,
Not to be spurned
By those who seek to free
Mankind from self-made misery.
PHIL OCHS ON THE ISLAND
OF BARREN MOUNTAINS
The compact disc is spinning in the dash
Of the Grand Am we rented for our tour.
Your voice becomes the spirit of these shores,
Surrounding us in waves that roll and crash
About the crags whereon your face is splashed
In cubist planes and cracks--a technique old
Of landscape painters such as Thomas Cole,
Who dramatized that elemental smash.
Your songs are like the mountains and the plains
Of this exploited land that we consume.
Yes, even now the verses of your pain
Are as prophetical as when they sprang
To life from your twice-strangled vocal chords,
Declaring the defeat of hate and war.
Child Of God
“O Jesus, Lord Jesus,
Be with me today,
And comfort and guide me
So I may not stray.”
The prayer of the child
Reached the ears of the Lord,
Who came down from Heaven
As good as His Word.
The boy went to church
And held Jesus’ hand;
And after the service
The deacon, a man
Whom everyone trusted,
Asked him to stay
And help with the cleaning--
We left him that day.
But three years later
He broke down and cried,
And told us what happened
The day Jesus died.
TO THE LIBERTY TREE
Four hundred years of history are now
Concluded in this Tulip Poplar’s frame,
Which cracked and splintered with a hurricane.
Thus past to present times are made to bow
With rasping teeth of chainsaws, viewed by crowds
Whose liberty has won for them no peace.
Two score and fifteen tons of thick concrete
Were poured inside its hollow trunk, and shrouds
Of cables strung to constitute its state
More perfectly in union with Man’s laws.
As scientists experiment with fate
To clone it into fifty replicas,
Its massive stump will grace the College lawn,
While underground its roots disintegrate.
Within an earthen chamber they pupate,
Then crawl toward the light in their next phase
As horned and dotted caterpillars, lured
By sunshine beckoning them to leaves and warmth--
To die again one day, having stretched out
Their speckled yellow wings marked purple gray,
When still they are attracted to the Sun
Though born to be nocturnal.
They are fooled
Not by the simple daylight, but by signs
Illuminated by man’s artifice:
Street lights and floods that stay on through the day.
I saw a moth one sunny afternoon
Upon the wall of a convenience store,
Where driven by the glare of gaudy bulbs
He’d flapped his five inch wingspan through the dark
And worshipped there well past the break of dawn.
Displayed so well in all his panoply,
Did he become the morsel of some crow?
For I have read that where such sleepless light
As lured him is abundant, his species
Has fast become a rare phenomenon.
TOO MUCH BLUES
Too much freedom,
Too many choices;
Too much to heed
From too many voices.
Too much consciousness,
Too much thinking;
Too many hunches
And too many inklings.
Soon you lose touch:
Too much is too much.
Too many factories,
Too many plans;
Too much supply
And too much demand.
Too much to buy
And too much to sell;
Too many doors
With too many bells.
Who can you trust?
Too much is too much.
Too many applicants,
Too many jobs;
Too many options
For too many mobs.
Too many values,
Too many lifestyles;
Too many roads
Stretching too many miles.
Ashes and dust:
Too much is too much.
Too many visions,
Too many schemes;
Too many ways
And too many means.
Too many channels,
Too many clues;
Too much to gain
And too much to lose.
You gasp and clutch:
Too much is too much.
AN ACADEMIC MILESTONE
Congratulations, Sir, on the Degree
For which you leaped through circus hoops to gain!
At last you are a Doctor; and that name
Will be a mantra for you as you seed
The field that you have labored in for years
As toady to a Tyrant whom you fear,
And yet whose office you intend to seize.
Your strategy is cold and circumspect;
For human intercourse is just a game
In which you score while others smart with shame,
Defeated by your scheming Intellect.
Your Title would make good the hurt they feel,
If you were but a Doctor who could heal.
ISLE AU HAUT
We paused at the summit of Duck Harbor Mountain,
Beside a small cairn that marked the trail,
And followed the blue squares through the spruces,
Among orange mushrooms, shelf fungi, rotting trees;
Past a log cabin on the banks of a stream
That flowed into spacious Moore’s Cove,
Where a harbor seal watched as we sidled towards her,
Attempting to get as close as we dared.
Before long the hiking trail bisected a roadway,
Which we took, though it wandered out of the park.
We strolled past the lobsterman’s houses,
Over a brook that decayed in the long drought;
Glimpsed the lighthouse at Robinson Point,
Its bed and breakfast without electricity.
Suddenly, the spruce forest parted in a vee,
Revealing a valley of oceanic Heaven
Where a radiant white cloud hovered,
Poised like a Buddha blessing all beings.
But when the photograph was developed,
It seemed drained of that moment’s suchness--
When we were high on the Isle au Haut,
Scattering bright thoughts o’er the Gulf of Maine.
NEW BOSS AGAIN
So you’re the New Boss!
Well, I do declare:
I guess I should cross
myself, and say prayers.
You’re just what I need:
A Seer to define
Reality for me--
It’s all in your Mind!
You’ve come out on top,
at least for your turn:
The cream of the crop,
with Visions to burn.
But what you don’t know
can hurt you: I’ve seen
each Boss come and go,
like slides on a screen.
But you’re the New Boss!
Without any doubt,
no time should be lost
in finding you out.
He teeters on his new prosthetic legs,
His forehead on his father’s shoulder laid.
His robot arm is held up by the hand
Held underneath his armpit, to keep him
From falling forward on the concrete floor:
One arm and two legs blown off in Iraq,
And shrapnel riddled through the rest of him.
Sometimes he spits a piece out as he eats
A grilled cheese sandwich or a slice of pie.
His father whispers something in his ear,
Remembering the infant he once held
In quite another hospital, so bright
With promise for the future. Cameras flash:
Their picture made the front page news today.
TO THE WARMONGERS
O ye of little faith who fan
The flames of fear and ignorance,
And throngs of patriotic masses guide:
I stand here watching the parade
On Main Street, where the flags are waved;
My ears are ringing with your shouts of pride.
Forgive me for not joining in
The chorus of this manic din
Extolling all the heroes of your wars:
For cowards are they every one
Who fail to cast aside their guns
When ordered to oppress a foreign shore.
I shout no praise: instead I bring
Bouquets of funeral offerings,
And pity--for they die as rich men’s pawns.
You preach that they our rights defend
By trampling on the lives of men
Who wrong us not. What demons urge you on?
You prate of heroes. Watch them there,
Pushed forward in the ranks by fear,
Too craven to gainsay your wicked will.
For should they halt and shout “No More!”
The vengeance that you hold in store
Would hunt them down as felons to be killed.
My heroes are a different breed:
They flout your false authority,
Refusing to wage war when it is wrong.
They willingly would go to jail,
Be beaten, cast out from the pale,
Than serve as cowards the unjustly strong.
Did not the Man you praise as God
Defy the zealots as His blood
Ran down to wet the Roman soldiers’ feet?
Did He not rise to bear the loss
For men who died upon His cross--
Who scorned all wars and loved their enemies?
BY THE ROADSIDE
(after Chuang-Tsu and Bunan)
One evening on my way back home,
I spied a human skull
Bleached ghostly white, retaining still
Its former shape, wherein the will
To live had swelled its bones.
I tapped it with my walking cane,
And asked it, “Did you, Sir,
In all your greed for life, bestir
The twisting fibers of your nerves
To come to this in vain?
“What brought you here? A civil war,
Perhaps? or just old age--
Your grand finale on this stage
Of losing battles, where the wage
Can never compensate the scars?”
This said, I took it in my hands,
And underneath my head
I made a pillow for my bed
Among the weeds and trash that hid
My sleep from beast and man.
At midnight when the town clocks tolled,
That skull became my dream,
And whispered, “What you said to me
More like an orator beseems
Than one who sifts for gold!
“Your words described the way of life
Of men who drew their breaths
While in pursuit of happiness
And liberty, in spite of death
Preventing all their strife.
“But in the grave those baits and lures
Can never satisfy the Saints
Whose deaths take place without a taint;
Who wipe away the foolish paint
That masks a hollow core.
“Perhaps you’d like to hear me speak
About the end of woe.”
“Oh, tell me everything you know!”
The skull resumed, “In Death are no
Distinctions that men seek.
“No seasons waste each other there
With changes soon undone;
No phase of moon or fire of sun
Surpasses Wisdom’s light for ones
Who move beyond your sphere.”
I heard his words with skeptic doubts,
And said, “If magic arts
Could somehow cause you to depart
From your abyss, and take your part
Once more in your own house,
“With mother, father, wife and child,
And all your wealth and friends,
Would you refuse the chance to blend
With what you loved, to live again,
If only for a while?”
The skull stared fixedly at me,
And said, knitting its brows,
(This was a dream, remember now!)
“No one who casts away life’s shroud
Regains that misery.
“While living, be a dead man, then;
Be dead so through and through
That anything you think or do
Will be as though there were no you--
And dwell here as my friend.”
HIGH ABOVE THE TOWN
After four days of clouds and rain and cold,
We bounded out of bed at four-thirty,
The alarm having failed to work on time.
I groped across the room and pulled aside
The curtain: yes! The day was bright and clear.
A half an hour later we had wound
Around the five mile road of the ascent
Of Cadillac, the highest mountaintop
Upon the east coast; not a place to miss
For people who appreciate sunrise.
And even as we drove across the lot
Just moments ere the sun peeked from the cloud
That was its bedclothes, young Apollo waved
And smiled at us, a camera in his hands,
Returning to his car to get more film.
We stood upon the mountain’s eastern slope,
A freezing wind tormenting us; the sun,
The sun was rising, and his long sought light
Suffused the barren stone and sparse spruce trees,
The sparkling bay and misty Schoodic Head.
A voice came from behind us. “Do you mind
If I take a few pictures of you two?”
Apollo had returned; the lad explained
That he was studying effects of light
In photographs, for class. And so we posed,
My wife and I, upon that summit’s brow,
Two thoughts joined arm in arm. Ascending still,
The glorious divinity revealed
Himself before us, circled by his robes
Of rainbow effulgence; as he eclipsed
The earth, the wind became his clarion
And woke us to ourselves. As we drove back
To town, we saw that cheerful youth once more,
His camera full of images; and waved,
As though he and ourselves were oldest friends.
One day I as set out to roam
About this town I once called home,
I chanced upon a herd of sheep
That stumbled through the city streets
With stupid, gaping gaze toward
High angel bands that dove and soared
Throughout the bright and poisoned sky.
The sheep, I swear, had bulging eyes
Like mirrors, convex in their heads,
Reflecting Glory’s lies instead
Of holes that they were stumbling in.
With downcast gaze I studied them,
Incurious of higher things;--
For I was sure I’d hear them sing
In rapture, as their Paradise
(Which certainly was not of Christ)
Revealed to them their hearts’ delight,
Supreme, as Military Might:
Blue Angel planes that dropped the bombs
Of fantasy’s narcotic balm,
Translating patriotic sheep
To mess halls, for their heroes’ feast.
**Copyright 2007-2009 Lee Evans, all rights reserved
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