All bow!
Charlemagne dons Emperor’s
Florid garb;

He invokes Justice.
Knights, lords, mercenaries —
None opposes.

Punished, quashed rebellions:
Saxonia trembles
Unctuous viziers wax xenophobic.
Year Zero.


I voted today, in the gym of a local elementary school. Overall it went very smoothly. There was a sense of standing in line for a long time, but it fact we were home just about an hour after we left the house.

Why is it important to vote? Isn’t it just an empty ritual, rigged from the start, with candidates that are all just corporate puppets? If I were true to my youthful anarchist and later Marxist influences, I’d probably be memorizing Noam Chomsky and agreeing with that statement. But I was also raised by politically-active, liberal Jews, who believe that society is made of people, and that improvement of the world by people is not only possible but imperative.

I’m in no position to moralize; my civic involvement is generally limited to voting on election day, and recycling. I even missed my party’s primary. I’m not proud of that. I’ve made an effort to be informed, by studying the candidates on Project Vote Smart (where you can find detailed information about the candidates’ positions on a whole list of issues) and my state’s League of Women Voters site. Yes, I took the time to research whom I was going to vote for, albeit the night before the election.

If you enjoy any modicum of benefit from living in American society, why not participate in the process? It’s not about whether the person you voted for wins, it’s about paying attention — even just a little — and showing up. You don’t have to subscribe to some naive myth that you’re single-handedly changing the world. Just show up. Cynicism in defense of your own non-participation does not make you appear more intelligent. It just seems like an excuse for laziness.

What people forget is that most elections are not just about the hot-button, big-name races. The local campaigns might be less interesting, but the closer you get to home, the more connection there is between your life and the operation of government. It’s one thing to be cynical about someone running for Congress — but what about State senators, county executives, city council members, sheriff, judges? I don’t know these people any better, except what I’ve learned through reading. But I feel like these people are going to have a more immediate impact on my life. You could also argue that your vote counts more in a local election, since the overall number of votes is smaller.

What’s my point? I guess that I’m still an optimist (albeit an apocalyptic optimist). Chaos theory reminds us that even the smallest change can alter the course of a storm. And even if History is spiraling down a giant vortex into confusion, I’d rather be paddling with or against the current than just getting dragged along. Any takers?

for Anna

  Pink blush of the happy young bride,
Gone in a distant ship’s whistle,
As the waves roll by,
  As the dust of Jacob washes
    Up on the Lower East Side.

  Pleasant eyes constrain the panic,
Holding breath for the camera’s decision.
She is married to her husband now:
  To his doom, and a new nation rising.
    Bites her lip she has made her decision.

  So she hopes with the hint of a smile
That her children discover the way,
Through the smoke that is rising from Europe,
  Through the howl of atoms dissolving,
    In the eye of Science unfolding

…yet not for her. But never for her;
Her service was always to others.
She was last seen receding,
  Too soon the breast stopped heaving
    In the subway’s cry
    – In a sullen bucket of lye

Shore Story

microscopic multiplying,
great shapes nudging towards becoming.
something down there.
pond scum rippling,
green waves lap my feet.

then at once the pond explodes,
in fountains spiral up,
an agony of peptides.
geyser spinning, spinning,
folding in upon itself.
and the sound washes over me.

fifty thousand cycles:
sunning Hell days dusty rocks,
albumen sucked from shattered eggs,
flapping panicked wings…
a smear of blood on the savannah.

biology, the manic squawking
over wave-assaulted rocks
compounded, trilobyte, exertion,
rainfall stirs the smell of ferns.
and organism slithers onto throne.

from shore I see it rolling on
towards completion of a sort,
which I will never know —
except as cells
know the mysteries of music,
the sadness beneath the laughter.


it stings it burns the lip
it heaves to the cusp
when tomorrow brings you down
you get up go; you must

i don’t believe that anything’s impossible

there’s a body in the grass
its name is on your lips
there’s a halo on the moon
your memory resists

i don’t believe that anything’s impossible

the streets are wet with mud
we shuffle in the dark
where dogs and demons go
at least we played a part

i don’t believe that anything’s impossible
i don’t believe that anything’s impossible

What is History?

The sound of metal on metal.
The sound of metal on bone.
Goat-trails on Judean hills.
Crowds surging against a gate.

    A grudge passed down from father to son.
    Buzzing on the radio.
    The struggle to cooperate.
    A bite of camphor in the air.

Rolling fields of rice, endless rows of corn.
A sacred cow’s swaying fat.
Red wine at the victory feast.
Brown water sloshing from a bucket.

    Rumors of the city.
    The music of the desert.
    Shanty towns and mausoleums.
    Skyscrapers and pain medication.

A child playing in an orchard.
The wail of sirens.
A sigh of violins.
The splash at the bottom of the well.

    Warehouses full of paper.
    Neighbors screaming through the wall.
    A bottle smashed on brick.
    A broken promise.

Sweat on the parchment.
A gathering of friends.
A man dying in a valley.
A woman sobbing in an empty room.

As the world comes apart

Eyes gleam in darkness want to kill us
To pierce our air-conditioned haze
Our false bubble
To let the world in, sweating and congested

Fingers feel for our weakness
Always creeping back though smashed
And smashed with force
Without a center
Without remorse

The scramble to survive:
All life washing in a tide
Against the stanchions of America
Almost sinking this fragile boat
As history rages stronger

the crone

The Crone whispers in confusion
Vocoded incantations warping matter into mind
Rasping at the perished flue
The drone of history escaping

She is here, among us now
She will urge you forward
She is mouthing words of war
The beautiful undone