Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Tuesday Poem: "America Doubts Itself" by Andrew M. Bell


America,
the land of fat people is
now casting a thin shadow.
It is worried that it is not “great” any more.

It is afraid of China,
growing capitalist power out of
a communist socket.
Mao wouldn't have approved
of the American dollars bulging
in the people's pocket.

It has waged one too many
“interventions”, got too much
egg on its face.
It has been nine-eleven-ed and it has
lost its swagger.
It is tentative like a
teenager with its first bloom of acne.

And now it is banking on a saviour,
a man who epitomises The American Dream
when the myth has been stripped away,
a self-made man whose father left him a huge sum,
a swaggering, shouting misogynist
whose ego squeezes the air out of
every room. 

He is a man who has never known
hardship, never slept under a copy 
of The New York Times on a park bench
in a windswept, dangerous park,
never pushed his meagre belongings around
in a supermarket trolley,
never wandered the streets talking to himself
because no one else will,
never known the escape of the crack pipe or
the bottle and never
searched through a trash can for his next meal.

An older man is trying valiantly to resuscitate
the vision of your founding fathers,
but he will be bought off with party favours because
Big Money has you by the balls, America,
and is squeezing ever tighter.

Ave, America, morituri te salutant.
Hail, America, those who are about to die salute you.
Photo Credit: Andrew M. Bell

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Tuesday Poem: "New Zealand" by James K. Baxter


(for Monte Holcroft)

These unshaped islands, on the sawyer’s bench,

Wait for the chisel of the mind,

Green canyons to the south, immense and passive,

Penetrated rarely, seeded only

By the deer-culler’s shot, or else in the north

Tribes of the shark and the octopus,

Mangroves, black hair on a boxer’s hand.

 

The founding fathers with their guns and bibles,

Botanist, whaler, added bones and names

To the land, to us a bridle

As if the id were a horse: the swampy towns

Like dreamers that struggle to wake,

 

Longing for the poets’ truth

And the lover’s pride. Something new and old

Explores its own pain, hearing

The rain’s choir on curtains of grey moss

Or fingers of the Tasman pressing

On breasts of hardening sand, as actors

Find their own solitude in mirrors,

 

As one who has buried his dead,

Able at last to give with an open hand.


by James K. Baxter

For more information about poet, James K. Baxter, see:



Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Tuesday Poem: "Elegy Written Near the Mitchell Freeway" by Andrew M. Bell



The car horns toll the knell of parting day,

The toxic fumes creep slowly o’er the park,

The traffic homeward plods its weary way,

And leaves the world to joggers and the dark.



Now fades the shimmering lakescape on the sight,

And to the air the dusk its stillness brings,

Save where mosquitoes wheel in droning flight,

Ross River virus loaded in their stings;



Save that from yonder television tower

The besieged magnate to his “mates” complains

The A.B.T. has exercised its power,

Sent him packing without ill-gotten gains.



Beneath those tiled roofs, that mortgaged shade,

Where heaves the serf in many an exhausted heap,

Each of the dole queue mortally afraid,

Whose forefathers once rode upon the sheep.



The wheezy cough of beery-breathing morn,

They swallow Berocca for their straw-filled heads,

The clock’s shrill clarion, or their arguing spawn,

Once more shall rouse them from beloved beds.



For they no more have savings in their banks,

Both busy partners toil to meet their ends;

No children run to lisp their heartfelt thanks,

They clamour for Air Jordans like their friends.



Oft did their annual jaunt to Bali yield,

Their furrows smoothed by oily massage strokes;

How jocund were their Customs trolleys wheeled!

Their cases bowed by extra grog and smokes!



Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,

Their media-fed dreams have learned to stray;

The Holy Grail of the Lotto life

Has taken free out of the word Freeway.
(with apologies to Thomas Gray)

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Tuesday Poem: "O Black and Unknown Bards" by by James Weldon Johnson


O black and unknown bards of long ago,
How came your lips to touch the sacred fire?

How, in your darkness, did you come to know

The power and beauty of the minstrel’s lyre?

Who first from midst his bonds lifted his eyes?

Who first from out the still watch, lone and long,

Feeling the ancient faith of prophets rise

Within his dark-kept soul, burst into song?

 

Heart of what slave poured out such melody

As “Steal away to Jesus”? On its strains

His spirit must have nightly floated free,

Though still about his hands he felt his chains.

Who heard great “Jordan roll”? Whose starward eye

Saw chariot “swing low”? And who was he

That breathed that comforting, melodic sigh,

“Nobody knows de trouble I see”?

 

What merely living clod, what captive thing,

Could up toward God through all its darkness grope,

And find within its deadened heart to sing

These songs of sorrow, love and faith, and hope?

How did it catch that subtle undertone,

That note in music heard not with the ears?

How sound the elusive reed so seldom blown,

Which stirs the soul or melts the heart to tears.

 

Not that great German master in his dream

Of harmonies that thundered amongst the stars

At the creation, ever heard a theme

Nobler than “Go down, Moses.” Mark its bars

How like a mighty trumpet-call they stir

The blood. Such are the notes that men have sung

Going to valorous deeds; such tones there were

That helped make history when Time was young.

 

There is a wide, wide wonder in it all,

That from degraded rest and servile toil

The fiery spirit of the seer should call

These simple children of the sun and soil.

O black slave singers, gone, forgot, unfamed,

You—you alone, of all the long, long line

Of those who’ve sung untaught, unknown, unnamed,

Have stretched out upward, seeking the divine.

 

You sang not deeds of heroes or of kings;

No chant of bloody war, no exulting pean

Of arms-won triumphs; but your humble strings

You touched in chord with music empyrean.

You sang far better than you knew; the songs

That for your listeners’ hungry hearts sufficed

Still live,—but more than this to you belongs:

You sang a race from wood and stone to Christ.

by James Weldon Johnson

For more information on poet, James Weldon Johnson, see: