The Big Dipper is part of Ursa Major,
The Great Bear constellation
That presides over the Arctic.
Ursa shows the way to the North Star
Which has been helping people navigate
For thousands of years.
It’s hard to conceive of what that meant
For people on the North American continent,
To have that star, Polaris, up there
To depend on for orientation.
The Arctic is named for Arktos – Bear.
Is it really so strange
That Bear and her land share the same great spirit?
We aren’t used to making whole places disappear,
Only the souls and vitality of places.
Ursus, however, will not go away,
Being made of stars.
But Arktos has nowhere to go and
She can’t go to live in the sky,
Or can she?
I wonder how our distant descendants
Will explain these times.
Will they tell of a race of small-headed, one-eyed giants
Who chased Arktos into the sky
Where she found protection behind Ursus?
The Antarctic, on the other hand, is appearing
As the ice melts,
But no bears live there.
Antarctic means the opposite of Arctic;
It is the Land of No Bear.
If only we could find our way
To learning from our mistakes
Instead of making a religion of disproving our worth
Before all the eyes of the heavens.
What are we doing?
What have we done?
Do you remember me?
Do you want to ask me something?
Can it wait?
What time is it?
Do you want a time machine?
Do you want to go forward or backward?
Could I come with you?
Would I come with you?
Can I tell you what I think?
Can I trust that you are who you seem to be?
Can I ask you more questions?
How do you like these questions?
Would you like to turn away?
Would you like to move somewhere?
Would you just like your coffee in a mug?
I’m sorry I’m taking up your time,
But I need to ask you a few more questions
Before I can let you go
But if you have had enough, just ask,
“Can I go?”
Do you need help talking?
Do you want better questions?
Do you think we can do this tomorrow?
Do you want to go back somewhere?
Do you want to change something?
My special gun cannot sleep.
My gun is black steel and cold as a stone.
My gun talks to itself in the wee hours.
It has a soul.
It is lonely.
It dreams about hitting the bull’s eye,
Bam-bam-bam-bam, rapid fire.
The smell of gunpowder
Lingers over the dusty street
After a Western shootout.
One bullet through the heart of a terrorist.
My special gun is Mama’s hero every time.
The third eye of the moon
Opens in my gun’s hypnagogic vision.
The moon is smiling down on the planet.
Smiling tenderly into a little pond.
A wave silently crossing the pond
Lifts the face of the moon.
Something sliding under the surface
Is pushing the water up.
Turbulence followed by stillness.
My gun sleeps.
Goodnight my special gun.
Mouse (who never had an evil thought)
Asked penguin (who never raped or pillaged),
Have you seen caterpillar
(that one who never held anyone at gunpoint)?
Oh, you mean butterfly, said penguin,
Now he is butterfly (but, just like caterpillar,
He never held anyone at gunpoint either).
Crow (who never stabbed anyone in the back),
Who happened to overhear this conversation,
Said he just saw butterfly
Flying over the garden.
Should I tell him you want him? asked crow.
Just then up crept lion (who never bought or sold sex).
What’s going on around here? he asked
He was looking at mouse, who seemed to be in charge.
And mouse (who never had an evil thought)
Was looking back at lion wide-eyed.
I thought you were poisoned! said mouse.
I was poisoned, said lion, but I rallied.
I’m still not feeling tiptop.
Those humans. . .
Said worm (who never cheated at cards).
Sticking his head out of a hole in the ground,
They’ll put you on a hook and throw you in the river.
Yeah, why do they do that shit, said crow.
Sometimes they just want to look around
And sometimes they just want to kill you.
Why, they’ll stab you in the back!
A lot of them think evil thoughts, said mouse.
Some rape and pillage, chimed in penguin.
They buy and sell sex too, said lion.
I don’t know how I know that, but it’s true.
Here comes butterfly, cawed crow.
Butterfly landed on lion’s mane sedately.
What are we talking about?
Humans, squeaked mouse dismally.
I had one hold me at gunpoint, said butterfly
(Who used to be caterpillar).
Everyone looked genuinely surprised.
But only for a second because
That’s when mouse
Invited everyone to a party.
Where did worm go?
Oh, I think he went to get his cards.
How short or long is a life lived —
In minutes, hours, days?
And in the ways we move with it —
How can it not amaze!
Just how we grow from seed to old
And find ourselves grown wise,
Almost in spite of ourselves,
Sunrise to sunrise.
And at what age do we conquer?
At what age do we relent?
At what age do we accept our fate?
At what age repent?
At what age do we stop dead
And contemplate our doubt?
At what age do we whisper?
At what age do we shout?
At what age do we stand
Upon a cliff beyond all fences,
And stare into the distance,
And come into our senses?
At what age do we smile
An inward sort of smile,
Because we’ve signed on
To walk the full mile.
Desperate people do desperate things.
They flee from their homes
because they are not safe there,
or because there are no longer
any homes there,
only enemies and rumors.
They break the law
because they are hungry
and their children are crying.
They sleep in the rain.
They risk their lives to reach lands
where they have heard
there are doctors and medicine.
They look for work.
The desperate ones wander empty roads
that go nowhere.
They are thirsty, and tired.
They have no money.
And wherever they die,
they die in a ditch.
Desperate people do desperate things.
Have you ever been that desperate?
No, I haven’t either.
Tom Cowan is the author of several books on shamanism and Celtic spirituality. He lives in New York’s Hudson River Valley. He contributed this poem to ThisCantBeHappening!
We poets take no responsibility
For the forms of civilization;
There are architects
To create the shells we leave behind.
It is our nose for truth
That makes us poets,
A requirement of human evolution
That civilization exploits,
Or straight out denies.
Truth does not build on truth.
Each generation may rightly lay claim to it!
It has to be experienced.
And truth is self-sufficient.
A good life can be built
Around some very simple truths.
Being pushed by the wind,
I once found myself caught up
In a storm of milkweed parachutes,
And truth was everywhere. . .
Architects are illusionists.
And we’re running out of toothpicks and tinsel!
Soon there will be cities built out of smoke
But before that happens
There may come a day
When we sit down to a dinner
Of artificial memories,
Choosing from a menu
Of long-forgotten tastes.
I remember a cover
Of a science fiction thriller in the 50s,
Depicting an alien landscape:
In the foreground, a canyon
With the rusty hull
Of a spaceship leaning
Silhouetted on a rise,
And behind that, looming
Mirage-like in the distance,
Great mountainous hives of a super city,
Which, due to its remoteness I guess,
Enhances the incorruptible romance
Of an alien dusk.
There is our future, if we’re not careful!
Form, gargantuan, cosmic,
Posing as the last, unbuildable city.
But it’s always been there!
Like a screensaver on the inner eye
Of a species that never felt at home,
Showing us what we will look like
When the simple truths are gone.
Do you hear them?
Around the block,
Just around the glass and marble corner.
Smell the smoke
Of the eternal fire.
Salt Lake City,
Built on Native land.
Near the great Salt Lake,
I saw it sparkling from high up
When I flew in
On southwest air.
There is a crystal
In the center of that lake.
They say the old ones
Used to walk out there
On the water
To make offerings.
The water held them up
Just like Jesus.
How do you like this day?
Does it feel new?
Is it powerful?
Do you hear the drums?
Do you smell that smoke?
Do you want to be here?
Thanks to the Navahos,
I taste my blood again.
Let us bomb your neighborhood
Guided by our intelligence.
Let us erase your neighbor
Out of love.
Not you, not your children.
Bombs of love!
You should be grateful
After the dust clears
After the evil has been exploded,
After the crater
Has been filled and paved;
We will explode our way into your hearts.
We might miss our intended target. . .
Our missiles of love are no more accurate
Than our missiles of hate.
No one is perfect.
We will say “We’re sorry.”
And other words.
There is nothing to be gained
By challenging why we obliterate.
We have plans for your future.
We will make sure
That evil doesn’t return.
Our bombs are well-intended, moral bombs.
Bombs of democracy,
Antiseptic bombs of change,
Bombs of a new order for you,
Of superior judgment
Pray for the day
When the gun-god turns to salt
And melts away.
Grieve our helplessness
To change what we believe in.
I had a gun once
With a silver bullet,
A gold bullet,
A diamond bullet.
I loved my gun so much,
I loved the bullets.
I shot the silver bullet into a cloud
And it rained.
I shot the gold bullet into a dream
And it landed on my pillow.
I shot the diamond bullet at a star.
It circled the earth
And it came down
And told me stories.
But I wanted more from my gun and bullets.
I had one more bullet
That was made of clay.
I shot that bullet into the ocean.
It didn’t change a thing.
I threw away my gun.
I turned to the land of my home
And I walked
Toward the far horizon,
Grieving and praying.