Category: History

An open letter to the Beats:

to you who are anathematic to propriety
constantly risking absurdity
killing our darlings!!!
ambitiously invoking a new vision
you monsters that dance upon our graves

in pyrotechnic hallucinogenic gyrations
scored by DJs from another galaxy
decked out in divinely comedic glow paints
you who dive bomb our discourses
like fuck is a neologism of your own devising

rattling and tearing down cages of perception
unleashing amphetamine pumped diction
cartwheeling descriptors of obscene nature
you who jump jive a dirty boogie
and get all up in our lexical junk

honestly, we, the venerated few of the dead poets society,
blame you for all this foul-mouthed, Piss Christ postmodernism
for turning poetry into a god forsaken jumble sale
in the name of liberty or revolution or adolescent angst
you killed Kenny and refuse to respect our authority!!!

please consider this your death threat, hate mail,
anthrax-laced, redacted funding letter from the NEA
your kick to the curb or the road or whatever
rock you crawled out from under, stoned,
because we’re not gonna take it anymore!!!

Note: I had a bit of tongue in cheek fun with Gay’s fantastic prompt on the Beat Poets at dVerse.

Fortune One

let’s make a corporate baby
white collar sex crime to
become Gods of limited liability,
conceptual artist creators

launch a Kickstarter campaign
to attract early angel investors
book him his own reality show
with a recurring cast of characters

imagine a secret R&D department
Google’s gonna solve death
but who’s covering life
in 24/7 high def wish fulfillment

he’ll command the stage with all
the rights & privileges of a real boy
Enron asks us: ‘Why, asshole?’
to explore what it feels like

(from the inside) to be wealthy,
entitled, and largely immune,
reliving every boy’s wet dream:
to be the King of Versailles

join the nouveau-riche yacht club
arrive in style in a Embraer Phenom 300
he’ll be the top of his Ivy league class in a
burgeoning (oc)cult of accumulation

we’ll reenact hostile takeovers of legend
(exotic dancers will party at the mansion)
he’ll cum on fraud-laden, creative,
quarterly reports until he just can’t do it anymore

sparking corporate espionage in far-away places
off shore accounts to sink a nation
(all in the name of performance art)
super star risk takers of global proportions

Radical Eye

Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei

he creates an underground black book
covert artist communication device
white, grey covers with adventurous
distribution (psst- gallery goers)

‘wanna incite the subversion
of state power?’ only eleven years
in prison – hooligan tactics to
counter sanctioned criminal acts

Sichuan earthquake topples tofu construction
in a cover up of her seven happy years
child victims dismembered by indifference
mauled and devalued into a state secret
making mourning subversive

police beat propaganda into the skull
of a poet’s son who turns technology
against them – fuck the motherland
this revolution will be twitterized

in Beijing, Mao Chow the cat opens a door
but never closes it behind him
slinking through a surveillance state
exhibiting an uncooperative attitude

a ghost passes him on the street
whispering the names of children
in an act of remembrance

Transmission Lost

Fallen Angel by Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1981

Fallen Angel by Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1981

Music by David Chamberlain, Jr., poetry by Anna Chamberlain, and the lyric ‘all we ever wanted to say was chased erased and then blown away’ is from the Janelle Monae song, Many Moons. Hit play above, this is a spoken word piece.

The Triumph of Death by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

The Triumph of Death by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

I speak now to the audience in your head
not the voice that reads this line
(nor the voice that speaks alongside it)
but instead to the part of you
that observes the voice,
(hush now)
watch the unfolding theater:

here is an excursion of the artist into war
from the safety of the mind’s constructs
(you will not have to take a stance)
so you, the observer,
have assurances
double indemnity

Pina choreographs the performers
writhing masterfully among the corpses
wrap flesh around their toes
to raise on point

upon a beach invaded
by the long dead
(whale song)
marching to the sacred shrine
(come away)
the listening shores rebound

hand-held spotlight illuminates
an iron triangle against the
politics of a graffiti sky
jagged edges slice the dancers
(to operatic pleas)

she stands alone
undulating arms
(come away)
frenetic, kinetic shapes
haunt in liminal space
consume your ideas,
bury your children

confront the psychology of obstacles
strewn across a room within a world,
a café, a memory, a drama
(inextricable motion)
painting your psyche,
(behind the fourth wall)

bid the virtues,
bid the graces
daughters of art

cry your overflowing river of dust
a rite of spring granting muddied feet
to reclaim the earth of this stage

incursions into our perspectives
wormholes to exquisite pain
(as I write to you)
of this excursion
of the artist
into war

we close the door (castaways)
seaweed tossed by the storm
mimicking the dance
emotive intensity whirls
in the roar

violent intent permeates Nature,
from whom we learn not
seeing with closed eyes

you hear my voice, your voice,
the observer draws horrific pictures
for your inner sight
you travel, exploring this interior
view of war

at a remove that fans out
like a house of mirrors
dancers mime





Pina Bausch

Pina Bausch 1940-2009

Frank O'Hara 1926-1966 by Grace Hartigan

Frank O’Hara 1926-1966 by Grace Hartigan

Frank O’Hara says to Grace Hartigan
‘I do not always know what I am feeling.’
(but in For Grace, After a Party
it will become about you)

spouting a poetry of indeterminacy
as he builds his identity,
a compulsion of artistry accusing
her of the betrayal of figuration

pure abstraction was required to
invent a self-referential language,
to find the convincing limits of the self
she asserted the definitive line
in his elegy in paint, Frank O’Hara, 1926-1966

now imagine the Abstract Expressionists
on Facebook, drunken missives
of fluid modernity existing within
the persistent lateral surveillance of decorum

gorging on sycophants sexting naked pictures
from the front facing cameras of smartphones
deKooning’s women couched in
an art of internalized misogyny

in this iDubai world of conspicuous
consumption, anything can be a commodity,
masquerade as a pretense or solipsistic dissolution
accompanied by a string orchestration
to score a cinematic self-expression

all devolves into projection and reflection
tactical apologues in the life of the mind
code-talker paradox a side effect
in a cyber-context devoid of meaning
simultaneously blocking and enabling communication
digital age where we cannot make marks
that depress the paper, only unembossed gloss

we’re so far from the sumptuous feasts
debauched scenes and willful obscurities
of Lycophron’s Alexandra, offering instead
staid symposia and motivational speeches
forgetting the orgiastic origins
and slave owning of the intelligentsia

Plato was the first literary dandy
explicating the joys of exploitation
revived by the Queen of Versailles
time share dream pushers building
90,000 square feet of opulence because they can
suing the filmmakers for life story rights

we bleat mutilated themes like Adele anthems
(registering attempts at emoting)
obsessive tracks running on elliptical trainers
to avoid over-hyped terrorist psychosis

virtualization is an act of fallacious connection
Time polls reiterate being rich will make you happy
performance art in the social hierarchy undermining
Rich’s dream of a common language

private and public merged
process and product revealed
so that the art and artist are one
unheeding the warning signs
Pollock’s unveiling killed him because
he knew the falsehood he stood upon
(cigarette butts and ejaculate
embedded in house paint)

how could we not continuously turn
to the melodic tones of dancing limbs?
pregnant looks, throwbacks to lover’s songs
ingestions of longing, You Belong to Me
melds into Make You Feel My Love

both speak intensely of possession,
of an invented and distorted humanity,
at the edge of thought as it becomes volition
or fades into the void, a gnat’s worth of life energy
in the storied American pursuit of happiness

Putrefaction plié

Dancing with death

dancing with death

exabyte choruses of jumbled debris
detritus and hubris, humility and dignity
Mao’s last dancer lifting Pol Pot corpses
in a ballet of ideologies as
art crumbles into propaganda

song lyrics and lyrical nightmares
conspire to create vistas of twisted
surrealist mindscapes, beautiful disease
even Charles and Ray fell prey
in a day/night haze of stalled flight

Isaiah Berlin argues value pluralism
beating a drum in honor of human tragedy
young pioneers of socialist realism dancing
immortalized with graphic clarity
denouncing enemies of the state
of a unified ego / positive freedom
collapses under the weight of oppression

a conscious self-mastery schoolmistress
raps her knuckles in the theater of mind/war
constructing corrective labor camps for the
multiplicity which refuses to comply with
posted slogans knowing the flogging will
continue until morale improves

an undecayable, sainted body
arises in a self-perpetuating
cult of personality,
becomes the god
birthing scribes who

indoctrinate the newly formed history
solidify the moral superiority
of the family of origin
in an attempt to root out the shame
of a peasant, anti-intellectual upbringing

there’s no escape
from the fatherland
cellular memories,
spinning ballerina delusions,
brought about by behavioral epigenetics
while vertigo overwhelms the
perpetually still dancer

Consuming the Masses

Francisco de Goya, Saturno devorando a su hijo 1819-1823 (public domain)

War is anthropophagy,
Leningrad gangs roaming
streets lined with
bread made of sawdust
picking dog-meat from
between their teeth
with rat-bone toothpicks

the Butcher salivates
examining the thigh –
castrates his male victim

Wendigo psychosis of leadership
warmongering cowards consume
the poor, these huddled masses

blood lust dilated pupils
loll in sockets reddened
by thoughts of feasting

ideological sacrifices for
120 seconds of silence
organ donors to greed

black acrimonious humor
gives the Butcher a voracious
appetite for human flesh

war profiteers gather and gain
vorarephilia inspired erections
rubbing together in orgiastic frenzy

crunch, squelch, he wipes
grease from his cheek, excretes
gluttonous cries of pleasure

millions are slaughtered
in a ritualistic, magical
cannibalism mimicking
Lord’s Resistance Army
training, in a flurry of
deadliest conflict

Saturn devours
his children
one by one

Map of Cannibalism (public domain)

Written for Poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub where I tried to follow Karin’s advice to take no prisoners:

Nora’s Irresistible Missives

Brief, brutal act
ransacked pages

wrote love’s stages
their rages inked
taut cages wrought

here she first taught
what he sought out
she caught his core

James Joyce’s score
‘strange-eyed whore’, Nora –
jibdoor obscene

Letters unclean
to be seen, shown,
his keen mind blown

gifts to atone
she alone knew
his moan’s timbre

Written for Form for All at dVerse Poets Pub on Than Bauk James Joyce and Nora Barnacle’s erotic letters were the inspiration for this piece. A jibdoor is a door made flush with a wall without dressings or moldings and often disguised by continuing the finishings or decorations of the wall across its surface.

RuiNation (Plastinate Diorama)

Jeff Ball (c) 2010 – Used with permission

dissection commences upon these
orphans of ideology
birthed of greed and invention
razor wire twined minds
inoculated against thought
suffering attachment disorders
imprecations rain when drawn near
our distended bellies emetic fed

military industrial complex choke-chain
asphyxiates a discernible truth,
speak for us we moan
as our mouths are sewn shut –
who threaded this needle?

the omniscient coroner sings:
humanity is a crooked timber
from which no straight thing
can be built (or imagined)

twisted images spin the picture
like crime scene photos
of abundance and stability
politicians and CEOs mistake
words of confidence for reality,
monuments of ego for power

missiles of tyranny
parading as democracy
mere echoes of Pericles’ stones
immuring liberty
flags dyed in blood from
renewable resources
(the marginalized and foreign)
nourishing the warmongers

in the ethical wasteland
these post-apocalyptic landscapes
leveled playing (killing) fields
are littered with mutilated animals
and fetid dead tossed in mass graves
waiting to be tallied by infallible machines

selected from the masses
the coroner’s team prepares to plastinate
stages of fixation, dehydration
forced impregnation, and hardening begin

pumping formalin through our arteries
removing skin, our fatty and connective tissue
a baptism in acetone
precedes vacuum impregnation
silicone rubber penetrates each cell

we are now posed, death grimaces
cured with gas, light, and heat
to a preserved splendor
harnessed for display

coroner proclaims science
has become more beautiful than art
our diorama, a stripped Arc,
impoverished ecology frozen in time
a testament to its endeavor –
technological mutations
of philosophy’s thunder

this towering foundation of Platonic ideals
denatures with rot, denies human striving
an exit wound embedded with fragments of skull
terrors devour and obliterate rationality
massive impersonal forces rumble
demarcating the territory where
vacuous monsters spew acid
dissolving thin barriers of freedom
as the great experiments fail

Notes: This is a significantly expanded rewrite of my poem Dystopia, previously posted in April 2012. If you’d like to better understand plastination you can read about it here: Also, thank you to Jeff Ball, my best friend, for the use of his photograph from the exhibition I had the honor of naming, RuiNation. More of his stunning photography can be viewed here: