Another Cautionary Tale, Part 2

(How Did This Happen)

Somewhere along the way we had lost our appreciation of the principle of cause and effect, we forgot that actions have consequences, and so whatever happened in the world on one day, even if it seemed important, was forgotten on the next, until nobody could understand any longer how various events were connected, and that if no one was responsible for them, then everyone was.

We were all increasingly confused, and so became impatient with each other. Anger replaced civility, as we became aware of more and more annoying differences between us, until everyone became suspect. Maybe they (the others) would try to hurt us, take away our precious things, maybe we needed a better security system? Or maybe what we really needed was a true red-blooded Hero, someone who would show us whom to blame!

Some days we woke up and discovered we were at war. This was unsettling, though vaguely familiar. Hadn’t this happened recently, we couldn’t exactly recall. In any case, we encouraged our children to enlist and defeat the enemy. We knew we could win, we had more of what would be needed to endure and triumph. This is what they all said, and why should we doubt it? Look at our great cities, look at our imposing banks and guard towers!

Then somewhat later, nobody was speaking about that war, there was another matter for concern. The war was forgotten, even though many of us now were experiencing variations on traumatic disorders. A great biological epidemic was loose on the land, and we needed to get inoculated. We all hurried to the clinics and got our vaccine, but a month later nobody was talking about it, so life went on as if there was nothing to it.

Well, not exactly — we were more anxious, and so required more medications. Thank goodness for drugs, and the Real Housewives, and Survivor! We forgot about the war, we forgot about the disease, but there was a new threat. We heard about it on our devices. We all had these wizardly electronic devices, and so kept up to the minute on whatever it was that we would soon forget.

Now it suddenly seemed that hordes of darker people were secretly crossing our borders to fiddle with our young women, and even some of our older ones. They were too bold, they wanted our jobs, the few ones left after the machines had filled the spaces which our men and women had once upon a time occupied. We were told that we must stop the invaders, we should build a very big wall. Could our machines do that, build that wall and save our jobs and women? Save our pure religion from the barbarians, the filthy false believers who would deny us our breakfast ham?

Not long after, the wall was forgotten, there was something else of urgent concern. People were lying, publishing the wrong information, making up stuff and pretending it was really happening. We were no longer sure what to believe. We should have a real Hero to believe in, a big man with big important plans who would make us great again. We didn’t really remember when we were that great, but it must be true, look at our cities, our tall imposing guard towers. Look at our machines!

Were we really at war, was there really a horrible disease that was being brought in by the darker people, the ones who came to take our women, our jobs, our ham? It seemed so. Things seemed to be getting worse. They told us it was getting bad out there. Then whatever we bought seemed to break and fall apart before too long, so could we even trust our machines any longer? Yes, we needed a Hero to fix it all, to make all of our things great again, as great as they used to be.

We got a new leader, we surely did, but it would not go the way we thought it would, the way we hoped it would. We had lost our appreciation of cause and effect, until nobody could understand any longer how various events were connected, and that if no one was responsible for them, then everyone was. In that way, things really began to fall apart, but the troubles didn’t go away like they had usually done before, replaced by something else cleverly designed to distract us. No, falling apart seemed here to stay. What more was there to say?


(Painting by Meesha Goldberg)

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Another Cautionary Tale

I sit hunched over a splintered table in the dim light of a flickering lamp and gulp down the last bitter cup of watery wine. Since that old god electricity is now but a vague memory, I have to take advantage of what little light I can find, even if it is in this stinking cockroach den of liars, drunkards, and thieves.

I still appreciate the little things, the remnants of the fruit of the grape, the bit of oil that keeps the lamp wick lit, a smile from a fellow traveler in the midst of the curses and threats. There is far much worse out there now of course — it’s a wonder that any of us from the old times have managed to survive and tell the tale of how plump and smug we once were, and how low we all are now.

I really can’t account for what compels me to write this sorry testimony. I suppose there’s the sodden idiot’s fantasy that some may read this wine-stained ramble and wistfully nod their heads, remembering how it all once was, and how far we have since descended into this new dark and angry age. I certainly have no illusions that what I write will change anything at this late date, but perhaps chronicling the fall might help a future age avoid the same mistakes.

It seems so long ago now that we watched in shock and dismay as that petulant and vindictive schoolyard bully commandeered the office of the leader of the land, swiftly plunging us all into this bitter realm through which we now must navigate our way with what little we have left. How could it have so quickly come to this, this utter ruin?

Perhaps one reason there used to be all the many bad marriages is that people wanted so desperately to be loved and confirmed that they settled on the first prospect which came along and happened to show some interest. Likewise, in the old days before the fall, we all wanted a change from the frustrating “business as usual” corruption that characterized our enfeebled government, and so we chose the first alpha-type to come along with (fraudulent) promises that he would make things right again. Regardless of the fact that he based his platform on greed, division, and hate, we crowned a crafty fool the king, and he re-payed the favor with this grim dystopia that we wallow through today.

Certainly, I could enumerate each outrageous travesty which followed, one upon the next in quick succession, as his predatory minions divided up the carcass that was once a viable nation and sucked out its marrow, licking their lips and praising their god for granting them their momentary triumph. An ocean of blood and tears would soon be shed, but does any of that really matter now?

They saw a fat wobbling cow, ripe for plunder, and they rushed in with their gleaming knives, dressed in the colors of the flag upon which they trampled in their mad stampede to grab everything they could. What they left in their wake: this devastated world and its pitiful remnant of walking ghosts and virtual savages, snarling and fighting over the measly scraps of a once bountiful providence in a strip-mined landscape of chemical dust and reeking poison. If you’re reading this now I need say no more, except that some of us tried and we failed.



(Painting by Andrzej Kuziola)

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At the Movies

It was like stepping backward from the deck
and then haplessly falling off a ship at sea.

How often has that happened before,
and where do all those corpses go?

Perhaps like mine the bodies slowly drifted
through layers of liquid time, inexorably
returning to the moment right before
they were born into their movie.

It was 1948, and just prior to a dance named Conception,
beneath a moon made for mating, young mom and dad
had no idea that I was hovering right over them
at the evening matinee, reading their intent.

They were virgin lovers with fresh hot popcorn
and icy cokes, staring fixedly straight ahead,
wondering if Rhett and Scarlet would finally just . . .


in a time and place that has little visceral meaning
to the children of now, except of course it is now,
just as it was then, and maybe it was a warm,
kind-hearted night, and later, after the show

(perhaps as a Cormorant dived through the air somewhere,
and not by accident, but with the determined precision
of any chasing thing pursuing any fleeing thing)

they drove through the night in a Buick with the windows
all rolled down, because the breeze felt so invigorating,
and they both had the very same thing in mind
that would result soon enough in yours truly.

Some little drop of stuff filled up a certain space,
an insistent desire was quenched amidst love’s pleasure,
though nothing really happened, just as it does now —

just a slight step backward and I’m falling through
the layers, past the H-bomb and Ed Sullivan,
past Viet Nam and Kennedy, past Haight Ashbury
and Woodstock, past all the people and events
I can hardly remember, though all along,
regardless of the passing scenes,
I know one thing: I am.

There is a way I know this, but it is the same way
my parents knew me before they had even kissed,
and so before I ever came to be, here I always am.


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Standing In Place

If we open ourselves enough to let it all in,
it soon becomes obvious that there is more
than we can ever hope to bear, even if
we have done yoga, eaten properly,
or fallen in love – especially
if we are in love.

It’s all too much to try and grasp,
and so we learn to release it, we learn
to let it flow through us, until there is only
this one immensity with no demarcation
which separates where we leave off
and everything else begins.

After the long rains, I walk out the door
into the shock of a freshly cleansed sky,
so brilliant it makes me gasp, aaahh,
it takes my breath away.

The morning shadows cast by the tall pines
are crouching like playful children
trying to muffle their giggles in a game
of Hide ‘n Seek, as they wait to be discovered
by the searching rays of the ascending sun.

Electric shivers course through my body —
I feel like I want to laugh and cry
because somehow I am alive,
I don’t know how, but I love it!

Some holy preachers say I should rather
prefer suffering, it has much more to teach,
but I’m learning all I need to know,
just standing here in place.



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Breaking the Imaginary Chains of Cognitive Tyranny

If I squint my inner eyes and remain very still I can slightly make out an indeterminate space at the deep root of thoughts where tiny, nearly invisible beings are feverishly reproducing. Even as they do, their spawn instantly wriggle loose from their flimsy egg sacs and, like an army of industrious architects fully committed to the project, carefully fashion a credible personality for me to inhabit, as if it were my actual identity.

They ask for no thanks, they are selfless in that regard, and so we tend to overlook their amazing contributions that craftily replicate, from moment to moment, the apparent sense of self which we subsequently assume to be concrete and continuous. If there were some kind of industry award for outstanding technical achievement in the field of illusion, they would be the clear winners.

It’s unfortunate that some preachers want to condemn these innocent critters for alleged grievous crimes. Producing a villain to blame, no matter how imaginary, seems to be a critical element to their stories. A skilled forensic scientist, however, would simply observe without arriving at the easy but premature conclusions that so often trick people into those futile internal conflicts which have (as a side effect) given legitimacy to the major pharmaceutical cabals.

The truth of the matter is that there is really no blame to be cast. Instead, we can simply recognize that every being has its job to do. Moreover, if those little guys happened to slack off for a while, we would probably suffer some sort of identity crisis and maybe end up joining one of the numerous cults which promise to repair our edifice according to the sacred transmitted instructions of this or that dead holy man. This can be costly in many respects, buyer beware!

On the other hand, we could be humble and grateful that we have a costume to wear, and one carefully crafted to our individual specifications. If we are going to play our role on this moveable stage, we may as well dress for the part. The only problem arises when we take our roles so seriously that we forget we are merely actors, and not the virtual characters we are playing.

The costume department crew are not the bad guys. There are no bad guys. We came to this playground to have some fun pretending to be whomever we want to be, and they just oblige us by providing the props. If you don’t like the way the story is going, don’t blame the props. Turn around and go straight to the screen writer. Guess who you’ll find!


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Great Again

A monstrous wounded beast lay along the ruined shore,
bleeding out its toxic fluids in steady bloody gushes.

We all suspected that it would probably be better
if we did not dwell too long on the eventual consequences.

Maybe the poisons would harmlessly dissipate, or whatever.

As we sat around the television, picking at our supper,
we watched in silence, occasionally sighing, as if
we were helpless, and we secretly knew it.

Someone finally changed the channel.
Thank goodness for small mercies.

There was a cooking show, a southern barbeque contest,
and several bearded men who were flirting with obesity
slowly turned large hunks of meat and smiled broadly
as the aromas of burning flesh mixed with smoke
rose from the grill and pleased their nostrils.

Now everyone was feeling relieved.
Appetites improved, and small talk resumed.

Suddenly, without warning, there was an interruption
in the regularly scheduled entertainment.

The leaders were gathered for an impromptu presentation,
but they were all wearing various masks, so you couldn’t tell
what they were really thinking in their hearts.

They were making vague promises that all would be great again,
that matters were under control, that the foreign and domestic
enemies would be thwarted, that there would be more money.

One by one we rose from our seats and brought our trays
back to the kitchen. The lingering question was:
Who would do the dishes?


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The Lark of Light Ascending

My heart — it joyously surges up through my chest,
it rises through my throat, through my mouth,
through my nose, my eyes, through my forehead,
through the very tip top roof of my skull, Oh
it bursts into a million brilliant shards of light,
raining down on all the feeling beings mind has populated
in order to rightly raise them up, right through their skins,
their thoughts, sensations, precious memories, hopes and fears,
wants and aversions, raise them up, yes raise them up,
shatter the dome of the blessed sky with this impossible ecstasy,
this beauty of swift ascension into the fullness of itself, ourself,
you and me, we are free, we have always been — yes,
now we are free, then we were free, then we will at last be free!



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