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.
Dad, you believed in evil
To your dying day.
You weren’t a Christian
But it was just your way
Of forgiving human beings for
All the sadistic
Blood-thirsty things they have done almost non-stop
Throughout the histories of so-called civilization.
To you, there just had to be
Something evil out there
That infects the souls
And the good intentions of people,
Then you could forgive
Your own humanity.
You and I. . .
We went on for hours about this
Over the years.
I argued that if you believe in an ultimate good,
Then you are stuck with its opposite.
If you have God,
Then you have the devil to deal with
And there are a lot of Christians out there.
I often suspected you should
Really be having it out with a priest!
But you didn’t believe in an ultimate good,
Much less a personification of good,
Just in an ultimate evil.
Eventually you did grant
The possibility of a universal spirit of life,
But only as a concession.
It sounded too philosophical to me,
But evil, and specifically the evil
That possessed certain members of the human race
Evil bruised your ability to believe
In any other super-human power!
I, your son, and proud of it,
Also do not believe in an ultimate good,
But, while you were alive,
I tried so hard to get you to see that the Earth
Is a Great Spirit.
You were thrown off by the notion that matter
Could be alive, or sentient.
I don’t blame you Dad.
Until I took the magic mushroom
At the age of 54,
The sentience of matter
Was just something I embraced on faith.
I would say to you,
But where is your “evil” in nature?
You would just stare at your coffee.
I would say,
Evil is a human projection.
If we torture, maim, commit atrocities,
Turn our desperate brothers and sisters
Away from our borders,
It is because we are lonely,
Hurting, angry, afraid, jealous, confused,
Controlled by our twisted leaders.
You would listen patiently
And then you would say,
What about Hitler?
Under a thunderhead
in a suddenly darkened field,
straight-backed against a stone,
like a hunted thing
charmed into paralysis
by a great predatory growling
distantly igniting the silver lining,
blowing the fuse
of everything I was promised
as the trees fill
their great sails
and the ridge line fails —
that great wall breached!
Under the thunderhead
I am still here
as the temperature drops 5 degrees
because, not I,
but something being born in me,
that has storm-tested wings,
wants to stay no matter what,
instead of dashing for the house
to watch from inside
as I have watched,
how many storms?
unhinge this gentle place,
trap the stillborn moment,
in that coppery light
while the ever-breaking wave,
drags that weighted curtain,
of the rain we always say we need,
across the ecstatic valley.
Cecil the lion
Let’s have a moment’s
Silence for Cecil (Ses’-al),
But not yet.
During that silence
Let us think about why
Cecil’s life matters.
Was it because his trust was betrayed
And we felt a little responsible?
Or are we just so upset with what is happening
To the whole planet
In our name
That when something so patently disgusting
And immoral happens to an icon
We gladly wrap our minds around it,
Sign petitions, and inwardly set up a howling?
Getting mad when you know you are right
Is very cleansing.
So, in our moment’s silence
We can thank Cecil
For stirring our conscience.
It feels good to feel!
And before we get back to business as usual,
And during our moment of silence,
Let us think some more about
Why we’re so pissed
That such a perfectly handsome animal
Was murdered and decapitated.
What was the button
That Cecil’s murder pushed
That set off the alarm?
I watched a man whipping an apple tree.
I held the door open to him.
I knew that when he got tired
he would turn around and see me
holding the door for him.
And maybe he would come inside and we could talk.
I could see that many of the trees in his orchard
bore the scars of the whippings
they had received over the years.
Some of the older trees were bent over and knotted
as if riddled with pain.
Finally he turned around.
Who are you? he asked.
I am your door-man, I said.
I never saw you before, or that door.
Has that ever helped, I asked?
Whipping your trees?
It helps quiet my demons, said he.
And then I saw that the grass was crawling
with a nasty host of creeping and flying
and buzzing creatures of hideous appearance.
Anyone might have thought they were insects.
Nothing will make them go away, he said,
so I whip my trees
and they submit, agreeing to stand in
for everything that ever caused me pain or held me back.
You see, they are selfless.
Have you ever tried therapy? I asked.
My brother is a therapist, he answered.
Oh, I said, still holding the door
as he moved to the next tree
as if I wasn’t there.
Echo, like thunder off the shell of the sky-dome.
We, all on the terrace, glance at each other,
Jump to action.
Everyone knows what to do.
Grab something quick,
Whatever we don’t want to have to wash
Or hose off tomorrow:
Mugs of ice-tea,
Trays of cucumber slices, carrot sticks,
Bowls of chips, cheese, cold-cuts,
Pitcher of wine. . .
We all know how long we have too.
About three and a half minutes
And the shit will be raining down.
Pig shit, horse shit, chicken shit, human shit, bullshit,
A fine mist of shit, covering everything.
That’s how they get rid of it now,
They fire it into the sky
As high as they can
And let it rain down on our party.
Echo thunders again and again.
The kids are already inside,
Watching from behind the curtains.
Dog is barking angrily at the sky.
He’s the only one who is angry.
He hasn’t learned
It’s useless to rail at fate,
I mean, the gods.