The Sixth Way To Kill A Man

I read Meena Rose’s blog this morning and wrote this quick poem in response to her prompt to write an updated ending to Edwin Brock’s poem, Five Ways To Kill A Man. You can read Brock’s poem on Meena’s blog, click here. I will post an updated version the poem below in a later post.

I could not help but think that though there are many ways to kill, and it seems we continue to find new and chilling techniques each decade, that today we do it with ever more advanced means of distance and stealth.  I also thought that like the reaper we are unable to completely wash our hands of our killings, even when convincing ourselves we are fully justified.

Our best literature has told us this time and again: think of the Lady Macbeth attempting to wash off imaginary blood stains; think of the holy scriptures where King David is unable to build the Lord’s temple because God told him he was a man of battles and had shed much blood. These stories and many others, gives voice to an eternal truth about human nature: once a person kills another, whatever the justification, they are forever changed and the killing never leaves them. It becomes their companion as if they had adopted a ghost. Some times this leads to madness, sometimes to numbing emotional death.

In the modern era I think little has changed. Thanks to our omnipresent technology we all have become active participants in killing. We watch from the comfort of our living room people being exterminated like insects while sipping on a cool beverage. I do not think that it has ever been made this easy to watch the death of others. And we, like the killers, are changed forever.

The Sixth Way To Kill A Man

— after Edwin Brock’s Five Ways To Kill a Man

Today, Edwin, death comes to us all
rather traditionally, like a thief in the night.
In an undisclosed low lit room the Reaper floats
rubbing his hands like a fly his vomit.
Below, men with joy sticks
stare into blue screens that flash
and discuss sand fleas and friendlies.

We are all witnesses to the killings
And like Death we often wash our hands
yet it seems in the nature of things
that we are high overhead looking down
as shadowy figures walk in sand
or on a busy street or broken bridge
and we know too watching them
we’re next, that technology marches on:
a mere speck in the wide blue sky,
a bee buzzing in the lilies
a bass-noted vibration,
mistaken for a hummingbird
or the incessant whine
of a gnat burrowing in one ear,
ever nearer, ever louder, until
reflexively we begin to raise our hand,
when the swoosh and thump
that is death becomes us.

The future is only a block away,
we see a man become
a brilliant flash of white light
dirty smoke and falling litter
and from an ancient instinct
we flinch, tuck, twist and squat
as if sitting on an invisible chair,
one hand grips our head,
the other curls and hovers
a few inches from our chest.

*****

What do you think. Has the fact that we are witnesses to so much easy killing changed us?

Let me know. Leave your comment below.

Poetry of the Dead for the Living

Yesterday was a good day for this poet’s soul.  A perfect stranger asked if they could use one of my poems in a presentation. Of course I said yes.

Mary Pfeiffer found me through Elizabeth Saunders, who, like me, is participating in Robert Lee Brewer’s April Platform challenge. The idea is to grow your network of on-line social contacts so that you can share and grow together. It seems to be working.

Mary Pfeifer, a Memoirist, teacher and writer, does not frequent poetry blogs. She found my poetry blog via Saunders and liked my “Visiting Grandma” poem. She will use the poem this weekend for a talk on writing memoirs. The greatest compliment was Pfeiffer writing in her email “I think I will have to rethink my “I don’t do poetry” stance…” Talk about the power of poetry. Maybe one day I will be known as the poetry evangelist?

In any event I was happy to help Pfeiffer and included in my email to her other resources she might use. One of several links I sent was of a talk Ted Kooser gave called  ‘Narrative and Healing’.  It includes several of my favorite Kooser poems: A Good-bye Handshake, Mother and Pearl. I call them heirloom poems because, besides being good poems, they memorialize ancestors by remembering them alive, as I did in ‘Visiting Grandma.’

In what ways have you memorialized you loved ones? Grave stones are traditional but today so many people are scattering their loved ones ashes on the wind. Does this mean they are writing down memories or maybe creating a web presence for their loved ones?

Let me know. Leave a comment below. 

Platforms and Pollywogs

I am working on my platform.  No, I’m not building a stage out of wood for the local rock concert promoter. I am creating a rather nebulous entity called a social network platform. This is a place in the Internet ether that will allow me to share with others who I am and what I love to do, namely, write poetry.

Now if you have a business, whether you’re an author or own a tire shop, the theory is you can increase sales by sharing with others your professional passion. You do this on the Internet by entering a kind of continuous party or conference in which you rub shoulders with others who have similar interests. In a sense, you are continuously passing out your business card on-line. To put it more bluntly, you are engaged in unabashed self-promotion on the Internet. In my case, I am a neophyte author of poetry books.

This month I’ve joined a 30-day Platform Challenge group, led by Robert Lee Brewer, a poet and editor. He is the author of a busy blog called, My Name is Not Bob. Robert gives copious amounts of sage advice on blogging, writing and on-line networking. Of course, Robert is a consummate networking executive who, while offering advice on building platforms and making new contacts himself, is helping me and 80 others put our best foot forward. I don’t know about you but I could use a shoe shine.

After the eleventh day of the challenge I think of Robert as the super hero of bloggers. He’s much too organized to be a normal human being. I suspect he is a clone. He is registered and active on a gazillion social network sites and his blogs generate 40-80 comments daily. And he seems to answer every comment that requires a response. Plus, he has a full-time day job and family. For comparison purposes, I’m definitely in the minor leagues of blogging and authoring.  At the moment, I feel like a pollywog in a big pond. I take comfort in the fact that I am a good swimmer and a person of faith.

The current challenge has given me a much-needed kick in the pants. Robert’s platform challenge has helped me shape and sharpen my professional profile, which until now did not exist. I’ve spent the last three decades writing poems under the admittedly romantic assumption that I would write brilliant poems, self-publish a book late in life, a la Walt Whitman. What’s more, the book would instantly become a barn burner and I would become the first millionaire poet in the history of mankind. I would accomplish all this without stooping to write reviews of my own book under a pseudonym, as Whitman did. So far my plan is working. My poems are brilliant at least when back-lit by the computer screen.

Back on earth, Robert gives us a new task each day to expand and focus our social media platform. He keeps assuring us all this gets easier and keeps telling us that if he can do it we can too. He tells us this will take time and not to bite off more than we can chew. Most importantly, he reminds us to be honest about ourselves. Good advice.

When was the last time you challenged yourself to learn something new?
Let me know. Comment below. 

If you would like to take Robert’s Platform Challenge, click here. If you think you’re too old, click here. If you are a poet and would like to know if you are indebted to Walt Whitman, click here.

Haunted By Twitter’s Six-Word Poems

Insomnia is sometimes the poet’s friend. Early this morning I could not sleep no matter how many times I rearranged or wrestled with my pillow. The poem below began to form at three-thirty a.m. and was pretty much fleshed out by 6:15 a.m., the time at which this house comes to life with sleepy people moving along like shipwreck survivors. I may nip or tuck lightly before it sees publication but it is pretty much done.
I titled it Six Words because I could not think of a better title and the lines seemed to come in six words. This fixation with six words could be related to tweeting a couple of six word tweets on Twitter last night. I did not try to write three-line stanzas either and it broke into six stanzas all on its own. Whether or not you are driving a car, in an accident you are merely a passenger.

No Commas. No periods.
As you can see when you read, I did not use commas, periods or other punctuation marks where they are typically used. I’m sort of pulling a Gertrude Stein and a W.S. Merwin here. They advocated eliminating some or all instances of grammar, in part, as a way to force the reader to pay attention to the rhythms of the language. We certainly don’t say “comma” when we read or “period” at the end of a spoken sentence. This may seem radical at first but it does not compare to the New Testament Bible which was written without periods or even spaces between letters, words, sentences or paragraphs: LIKETHIS. Compared to scripture, my poetry should be easy.

This is an early draft that will undergo revision. I’ll post an updated version later.

You can leave a comment below.

Six Words
In your arms the earth groans
and under the sea fish dart
and dive deep into our emptiness

how is it this could happen
amid the back alleys of abandonment
where the willow weeps with rain

as a car storms the road
your hair is a moving crown
a cornucopia spread on tidal moss

we are the ocean without shore
tell me again our world coexists
with dirty bombs and broken splints

and children eat shame for breakfast
while we dress aglow with pleasure
is it enough to know the world

knows nothing of what it is
enough to know that our love
is this word this real estate