Past Lives Poem

Featured in the #FINALPOEMS series on the Enclave page of Entropy magazine

Past lives poem

I guess you can say I’ve been busy

Living lives anything but epic
Basking in a thousand rays of sunshine
But never in fame or honor

I’ve been busy
While you were in Atlantis
Creating what would become
The field of science

I was in France, digging into dark caves
With hands full of ochre and soot
Making sure the world would always know
The shape of my right hand and foot
And the sweet contours
Of the local buffalo
When Jesus was busy gathering
You twelve disciples and three lovely ladies
I was hitch-hiking the silk road in Han China,
Writing new poems
On the new invention of paper

While you were scheming
In the courts of Cleopatra and Marc Antony,
I was busy pouring out my gold and blood
To the sun in Mayan temples

While you were sketching with DaVinci
During the renaissance I was
Being born into endless cycles
Of brutal beatings, lynchings, and forced labor
In the centuries
Of African colonization and slavery

While you were sitting lotus with Gandhi
In peaceful protest
And running naked through Woodstock
With various grasses between your toes,
Stuck in your hair, and breathed deep into your lungs

I was sewing beads into babies’ moccasins
While grinding roots and seeds
To create paint to decorate
Faces, horses, and pottery

I was dropping out of art school
To join a street circus
And maintain a starving artistic integrity
That no one respected
While waiting for under-nourishment
And sexually transmitted maladies
To turn my wary paranoia into
A soon to be be-headed
Headful of insanity

I was getting drunk and into bar fights
With Jackson Pollack

I was in bed with Miles Davis
Giving birth to cool

I was the night clerk
At the Chelsea Hotel

I was the security detail in
Warhol’s factory

I was the designer who sat down at a sewing machine
With yards and yards of polyurethane polymers
To construct the pants
Of David Lee Roth

While you were spending a century
Growing into a noble, wise, beautiful oak tree

I was baking in the sun
Amidst miles and miles of limestone
Spineless and grey-green
I popped peyote buttons out of myself
To lure priests
And induce visions

You may bear the memory scars
Of wars, deaths, murders, and failures

But I have a million birth memories
Into larval insect bodies
And memories of lives
That may have lasted under a week
But with rebirths and passionate reproductions
That enabled me to fly,
Gave me the strength and limbs to run,
Broke through my exoskeleton
And left me the legacy
Of being father to innumerable trillions

You may know exactly which Civil War uniform
You died and were barely buried wearing

But I was the prison guard who smuggled
Paper and ink to the Marquis de Sade

You may have travelled
In Tubman’s underground railroad

But I was busy taking over a full year to
Construct and stitch a quilt
That could communicate through trade routes and history
The stories, habits, prides, and struggles of my family

Yeah you can say
I’ve been  busy
I never changed the world,
I just did a lot of work,
Punched a lot of clocks,
Named a lot of babies,
Swept a lot of floors,
Avoided many revolutions and wars,

Was part of more counter-cultures
Than kingdoms or empires
And died alone in the woods
More times than I’ve been publicly staked
And set to fire

I’ve been pretty busy

I may not have been in any
Major predictions,
But at least Nostradamus took the time
In his forwards
To thank me,

His inter-dimensional,
Proofreading editor

The American Machine

Poem previously published in “Rise: An Anthology of Power and Unity” by Vagabond Books


The American Machine

In the America I live in,
Much is made of the American gangster

This is why “Scarface” and “The Godfather”
Don’t leave weekly cable tv rotation

But it also spreads to the famous
American notion of success-
“The dream”

In which everyone must
Start from nothing to gain something

Even seen in the way Americans laud
The born-into-it big timer
As long as he served a summer stint at McDonalds
Or if he in any other way devoted himself
To a great American franchise

I am not generalizing but absolutely do mean
Because the American dream
Provides different avenues for a female
She comes up not from common labor and pluck
But out of motherhood
Sexual abuse
Or decades of marriage

What I mean is we like to see the men-

Who we can say understands
The value of the American dollar
(our values)
Because he has dabbled temporarily
In what could be described as
The issue here is that
I’ve had many friends and acquaintances
Who had plenty of pluck
Good luck
Worth ethic
And strike-it-rich intentions

And yet never made it above
Floor manager
Head server
Key holder
Opening supervisor

Or some other condescending stunt
That clearly was meant to say
You are better than average
But should be paid
Only slightly above average

I have known so many people
That worked hard and were willing
To work harder
Who worked a 70 hour work week
On a meager salary check that was designed
To abuse them

I have known many men and women
Who kept as keen to 70 hours a week schedules
As a well sharpened knife
Hoping it could cleave them to ease and a better income

While a life of ease remains a needle head
That almost no one threads

Some of the hardest working people I’ve known
Were single mothers and ex-convicts
Who worked on factory assembly lines
After eventually coming to understand
That much like in grade-school sports
Non-participation in the American economy
Is more despised than failure to succeed

(The American dream is a deliberate machine
That produces citizens who are prepared
To do whatever it takes to succeed in some way
The gangster no different from the lawmaker
From the paid lover
From the president
From the CEO
From the distributer
From the boy at 14 first learning to con with an innocent smile
To chase this dream is to admit one’s self
To a series of self-degradations
That may prove to be endless

But just may prove in the end
That you are worthy to degrade others)

The Over-Employed

Poem published previously in “Rise: An Anthology of Power and Unity” by Vagabond Books

The Over-Employed

In America,
We like to classify our levels of destitution-
The news will often report the rates of homelessness,
The un-employed, the under-employed…
’d like to add to this hopeless list
The over-employed.
Those who excel at scraping by,
Who get confused by a day off,
Whose car/bus bag is full of hangers
From switching uniforms between jobs,
Who feel like it’s a luxury to eat a meal sitting down.

This category of people don’t do “Well.”
They are mostly too busy to “get ahead,”
“luck out,” or “take advantage of opportunity.”

Instead they get/luck/take
Shopper’s discount promotions,
Government programs,
And public transportation.

We may not have what you could mark on an application
As “special skills,”
But we know how to cook dried beans into something
That seems elaborately planned.

We know how to get on our knees in front of a bathtub
wash our clothes by hand.
We know a dozen alternate ways to make money
If/when our second or first jobs fall through (again).

We are the elite set of humans that never get up very high
Yet always end up having to land on our feet.

We work hard so your statistics don’t have to.