Tag Archives: american dream

South of Richmond

Every other billboard

literally every other billboard

along a one mile stretch of I-95

just south of Richmond, Virginia

is for the Army National Guard

The others are for God,

Jesus,

and the Navy Federal Credit Union.

This is God’s country

and if God loves anything

its giving poor kids

a false sense of hope

in a better future

before sending them

to kill other poor kids

who have no hope

of any future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Road Trip

Billboard after billboard

too many to count

mile after mile

road after road

state after state

buy this car

buy this whiskey

buy this beer

call this lawyer

when you get pulled over

for driving this car

after drinking this whiskey

and this beer.

Drink this soda

eat this pizza

open up a new checking account

at this bank

double your money at this casino

buy tickets to this concert,

call this doctor when you get hurt.

Buy this mattress

for a good nights sleep

rent this storage unit

to keep all of the things you buy

call 1-800-WEED-DOC

when you want to get high

call this locksmith

when you get locked out of your car

call this taxi

when you get too drunk at the bar

think you’re an alcoholic?

get sober at this rehab!

can’t afford college?

let the national guard

pick up the tab

join the army

and see what great adventures

tomorrow brings

join the navy

join the air force

and call this lawyer

when you need a divorce

join the marines

join the coast guard

use this fertilizer

on your front yard.

Buy this burger

buy this hat

get this liposuction

when you get too fat

call this plastic surgeon

to westernize your nose

when you want to paint your house

make sure you call these painting pros

and make sure you come to church

don’t let satan lead you astray

even when you’re driving

there’s always time to pray

and if you get too tired

stop by this coffee shop

it’s just off the next exit

right next to the quick stop

get your coffee

and your gas

and a thousand other things…

you’re still on the east coast

just see what I-80 brings

May Day

It’s May Day

May Day

May Day

come, workers of the world

unite and fight for justice

tell all the boys and girls

that today’s the day,

no need to pray

we’ll stand up and we’ll fight

and we won’t forget coal miners

still out of mind and out of sight

and lightning strikes a second time

as conmen steal our pay

and rob social security

it’s time we seized the day

and seize the capital

take back what we have lost

a billion here, a trillion there

we’ve lost sight of the cost

May Day

May Day

May Day

we’ve lost count of all the wars

and Johnny lost his mind

on one of his eleven tours

though it was there for many score

the factory shut down

the lights went out in Holyoke

and an Irish widow frowned

and drowned in cheap whiskey

can’t drink away the truth

though try, she will

wash down more pills

can they make a higher proof?

they’re making bombs now

it’s the only job in town

unless you want to be a jailer

or a methcook, or a clown

we’re down and out now

and out of options once again

May Day

May Day

May Day

I need a job, I need a friend

I need a living wage

and I won’t build your bombs

this needle seems less harmful

see, it’s the only thing that calms

and psalms the preacher reads

like Casey long ago

I’m a lonely ghost of yesteryear

lost, looking for a soul

but April showers bring May flowers

that you’ll lay on my grave

May Day

May Day

May Day

wish I had a soul to save

I gave it on the dotted line

fine print, I did not read

I thought I’d fight for freedom

but I only fought for greed

and seeds of hate are sewn

ships blown a mile of course

May Day

May Day

May Day

the carts attached to a red horse

and dead men dictate what is just

but these men owned human beings,

why is it in their God, we trust?

is there something we’re not seeing?

let’s all dance around the Maypole

roll our sleeves up for this fight

and stop funding war and violence

if we believe in basic human rights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

chicken-scratch

old noteboks fill boxes

in a cold New England basement

with chicken-scratch poetry

from a time of insanity

and its aftermath

you know, stories about

taking the wrong path

about drowning

and letting go

of the precious life raft.

Nightmares have eased

but some ghosts linger

the man in the mirror

still pointing a finger

8 years a blur

shaken

and stirred

exams taken

and papers written

but lessons learned

too late

must fate be?

blind men saw

better than me

-scratch-

-scratch-

angry and afraid

-scratch-

-scratch-

my bed was made

-scratch-

-scratch-

alone and forsaken

by only myself

notebooks moved

from bookshelves

to boxes

alone only

in my mind

must I be a martyr?

time after

and after

the dust settled

it was too late

thought I’d figure

my shit out

and out run fate

-scratch-

-scratch-

too fast

too late

lonely

-scratch-

cheap dates

on Dot Ave

with only god knows

-scratch-

depressed,

writing A papers

on Dunkin

and NoDoz

-scratch-

and life goes on

-scratch-

and so it goes…

-scratch-

and so fall fell

away

and it was too late

and fuck fate

and I

-scratch-

cried

because I

lied

to myself

-scratch-

and grandma

moved those notebooks

-scratch-

from the dusty bookshelf

and they sit

in a box

and I try to forget

but some things

you can’t lock

away

and some things

you don’t want to

-scratch-

and sometimes

you read a page

or two

once every year

or two

and get chills

and sometimes

you read something else

and get chills

-scratch-

and sometimes

you wonder…

-scratch-

scared to death

in Babylon

and something

-scratch-

got you through

something…

-scratch-

kept you from the ledge

of the old Ba’ath party building

on the bad days,

eight stories up

something…

brought you home

-scratch-

and something

-scratch-

and someone…

made you happy

and someone cared

and someone loved you

and you loved someone

but didn’t dare

stay happy

didn’t deserve

couldn’t deserve

wanted to deserve

-did deserve-

but couldn’t deserve…

-scratch-

and pages turned

-scratch-

and chapters fell away

-scratch-

and new chapters started

-scratch-

and ended

-scratch-

and the cheap paper fades

and the memories fade

and black hair slowly

fades

to gray

and I can’t stay

-scratch-

I have somewhere to be…

and I’m always running

but never can find

-scratch-

sanity

and the poetry helps

-scratch-

-scratch-

and time helps

-scratch-

there are too many

lessons learned

from too many

mistakes made

-scratch-

and it kills me

that I wasn’t

the only one 

footing the bill

when the price

was paid

-scratch-

and I’m not running now

but Christ,

my feet itch

-scratch-

and what if

I stayed?

-scratch-

and what if

I stay now?

-scratch-

I sort of know how

and it seems easy

but the demons

always come back

-scratch-

they never fucking leave

-scratch-

and the booze and cigs

are a year gone

and every day

theres a new dawn

-scratch-

but the demons come back

and the angels are gone

and the angle is wrong

and the wagons lonely

but I won’t fall off

and these chicken-scratch poems

will be lost in a notebook

and put in a box

and burned when I die

and I hope no one reads it

I don’t want them to cry

but I’ll try

and I’ll try

-scratch-

to keep hanging on

to the farm

and this life

to my dogs

and my wife

-scratch-

to this pen

and this memory

that I’ll never forget

it’s a catch-22

but of course I regret…

-scratch-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Armistice Day

I am proud that I volunteered and trained as a warrior, fully willing to give my life for my community and my country. I am sad to say, however, that I was part of yet another generation led astray by a government more than willing to take advantage of the selflessness of its young men and women. I was raised on a steady diet of blind faith and allegiance to government disguised as love for country and community. I was raised with an unquestioning patriotism that led me to believe that I lived in the greatest country on the planet and that my Uncle Sam had only the best interests of all the planets inhabitants in mind.

I was a senior in high school on September 11th, 2001 but that did not prompt me to enlist. Money for college did not prompt me to enlist. Wanting to see the world did not prompt me to enlist. From a young age, inspired by nearly all of the men in my family before me who had been in every war since they began emigrating to America in the 1800’s, I felt that it was my duty as an American to serve my fellow Americans, and as a human being to serve my fellow human beings.

If there were terrorists attacking New York, I wanted to stop them or die trying .If there was genocide somewhere on the planet, I wanted to stop it or die trying. I wanted to do my part to help make my community, my country, and the world a safer and better place. If I had been freeing people from oppression, stopping the spread of terrorism, stopping ethnic cleansing, stopping child labor, stopping sex-trafficking, if I had been stopping violence and hatred, I would still be proudly wearing a uniform.

I have spent a decade trying to find reasons to be proud of any of the things I did in Iraq. After all this time, after countless sleepless nights and far too much alcohol, and tobacco, and prescription medication, and anger, and hatred, and resentment, and frustration, and regret, all I can honestly say that I am proud of is the fact that, while looking into the eyes of the Iraqis, both the ‘good’ guys and the ‘bad’ guys, I came to see my brother and sister, my mother and father, my cousins, aunts and uncles, I came to see the humanity that is there in each and every human being. It sickens me how much dehumanization continues every single day in this country, not just dehumanizing folks in the middle east, half a world away, but also countless people right here in America. From the black men being gunned down every day by police, to the revival of westward expansion as native americans are being trampled by police and national guardsmen, things need to change.

As long as there are trillions of dollars to be made, nearly all human beings will be considered expendable, their deaths written off as collateral damage. Whether locked away in private, for-profit prisons for mostly non-violent, victimless crimes, or living in the wrong village at the wrong time as bombs rain down from the heavens, excuses abound. Whether we ‘accidentally’ hit a hospital, a school, a wedding, or a funeral, it is all well and good since we certainly didn’t mean any harm. That is what we tell ourselves. We didn’t mean any harm, and the people we accidentally killed weren’t American. They probably had it coming.

The problem is that, so long as we consider the death of even one human being ‘collateral damage’ we’re hardly better than the very terrorists we claim to be fighting and killing with US tax dollars, the very terrorists who became Frankenstein’s monster after generations of misspent US tax dollars, and misguided US foreign policy. Greed, imperialism, and the violence it requires has brought us further and further down this road that we have long been on, this road from which we might never return.

Collateral damage is a cold, heartless way to refer to the killing of human beings. Until the media actually does its job and holds the government accountable instead of acting as cheerleaders, as long as black and brown people in America are easily written off as statistics as they are killed by both the police, and the violence and health problems that accompany extreme poverty, as long as refugees drown on their journey from what is essentially hell in places like Haiti, and are written off as ‘statistics’, as long as people fleeing violence die of dehydration and starvation on their way to what they dream will be safety and are criminalized upon arrival, as long as people struggle to put healthy food on the table, and live with inadequate healthcare, or none at all, as long as innocent, defenseless people are killed by taxpayer-funded weapons in Baghdad, and in Boston, and there is no question that it will go on and on and on, regardless or which of the two political parties are elected, as long as schools are forced to cut music and art programs while JROTC remains, as long as we remain delusional and tell ourselves that violence will solve the very problems that we created with violence in the first place, as long as we keep pretending that we are bringing democracy to the world and that Jesus himself would support this latest invasion, or any invasion for that matter, as long as we pretend that hatred and violence and terror beget anything other than more and more and more hatred and violence and terror, as long as we pretend that Martin Luther King’s dream came true, as long as we pretend it makes a difference which emperor we elect to wear the cloak of Caesar and carry out the mission of the empire, as long as we pretend that we care about veterans as we step over them on the nations sidewalks all but one day out of the year, as long as we blindly pledge allegiance and pay our taxes and wave our flags, we should stop pretending that Jesus would support us in our endevors, stop pretending that God would be on our side, and we should stop pretending that we have the moral high ground.

To the young people considering enlisting in the military, please keep in mind that               A.) there are other options. Work-trade programs such as workaway and wwoofing allow you to travel the world without having to sign any contract, and more importantly, without having to kill people. B.) No matter which country you’re sent to invade and occupy, it’s residents are human beings no different than tour mothers and fathers, your sisters and brothers, your family, friends, and neighbors. When we kill them, it is not ‘collateral damage’, it’s real human beings who die. The politicians aren’t the ones who have to pull the trigger. Their children aren’t the ones being moved around the globe like pawns on the chess board. The people who profit from the wars and the people who choose the wars, aren’t the sending their children to die in them. Sadly, the wars the government has dragged us into have in no way helped our country or communities, rather, they are doing the opposite.

Olive Tree

daylight fading

into evening shade

tree branches swaying

old record played

on repeat

no street lights here

nothing to fear

but aching feet

and tired eyes

havent cried in too long

the records skipping

mid-song

just as I started

singing along

it’s all right

but I’m all wrong

and soon I’ll be

long gone

hit the road

before dawn

no looking back

wish I died in Iraq

ten years on

I cant write you

a love song

I hate myself

and the world

tippy-toe along

the wagons edge

ready to dive back in

diamonds and pearls

measure our worth

in burried treasure

it’s been a pleasure

but birds of a feather

hunker down

in stormy weather

and I’m held together

with bubble gum

and scotch tape

and I’ll try to fly

but I lost my cape

and it’s a long way

to the bottom

so I might die

before autumn

is through

I could run away

but they stole my shoes

so uncle sam asks,

have you heard the news? 

here’s a new pill, son

it’ll end your blues

and just then

the record skips

again

and the rooster killed

our favorite hen

the prescription’s filled

its in the pigpen

and bacon and grits

will give you the shits

heres some ramen and spam

have you seen her tits?

you must go

milk her now

said the farmer

about the cow

now these fields

will go unplowed

and ashes to ashes

and dust to dust

and even the brand new shovel

rusts

but it’s good enough

to dig my grave

we were neither free,

nor brave

I gave it a shot

but now I will rot

this is goodbye

on my terms

please just let me

feed the worms

plant an olive tree

right here

remember,

theres nothing to fear

but day to day

and year to year

made me sick

of grinding gears

now aloha means

goodbye

my darling,

do not cry…

 

 

 

 

Standing Rock

20160923_121950

Standing on this rock

all alone

looking glass shattered

can’t find home

can’t escape sticks

and stones thrown

by a falling Rome

names don’t hurt

when Redskins flirt

with victory

the Missouri doesn’t flow

to the sea

it flows through you

and me

don’t close your heart

or bury your eyes

need you to see

through lies

they dig treasure

buried

like Fort Knox

it should remain locked

and rock

paper

scissors

they’ll cut off

our feet

so we can’t stand

but they want us

to salute

while they shoot

our mother

in the back

rape her dying body

and blame it on Iraq

and blame it all on black

rigging the roulette wheel

impovershed kids deal

but Uncle Sam still cooks

the crack

and he still looks

like dad

so we think

he can’t possibly be

this bad

but have you seen

what he’s done

to Baghdad?

and Oklahoma shakes

but the cowboys are glad

to have those jobs,

right?

and we drive our cars

and we leave on the light

all night

because we’re afraid

of boogeymen

and we ain’t got healthcare

or a nickel to lend

and we stay up nights

fighting with spouses

in our shitty clapboard

bank-owned houses

while the cat

chases mice

and our kids

all have lice

and wouldn’t it be nice

if we weren’t playing dice

with the planet

polluting the water

that we need for life

we’re cutting

our mother’s heart out

with a knife

made in China

and bought at a Walmart

in North Carolina

and will Kaepernick kneel

at the Panthers game

and will the results

all be the same

if he speaks about war

and about mother earth

will we say ‘just play ball’

will we cite his net worth?

as if that should negate

the things that he says,

will he take a stand

for those stuck on the rez

and if he does

will the team let him go

and will you speak up

before the oil flows

as the crows cry out

for what they have seen

or will you check your stocks

and count your green

and post a meme

about right

and wrong

or will you numb

your conscience

and sing along?

Fall starts today

but winter is coming

if you take two of these

it should help with

the numbing…