TO SPEAK THE TRUTH
I took a chance and spoke the truth
As I once dared to in my youth:
When I spoke it, people fell
Back a step or two;
I spoke the truth and I could tell
That people weren't sure what to do.
Should they run or could they hit
Me with their usual line of shit?
When I spoke the truth I notched
Up another blank;
When I spoke the truth I watched
Some dickhead pulling rank,
Pumping up on nerve and muscle--
Rah, rah, gung-ho, charlie hustle.
When I spoke the truth the lies
Slithered off their hooks;
As I spoke it, barbs that ties
Had covered up soon lost their looks.
And you could see both hook and barb
Apart from their appealing garb.
As I spoke the truth, up reared
An ugly head to stare
At me as if to say I'm weird,
Would I please get out of there?
To speak the truth was to imbibe,
Reactions to it wouldn't jibe.
Was the truth a big mistake?
You speak the truth and dragons wake.
True or not, it's fifty-fifty
Judging TV network news.
Between the honest gaze and shifty
Phrasing screening someone's views
That cover facts I need to know,
It's hard to tell which way to go.
No new taxes, what a laugh.
Read my lips: the rich pay half
Of what they paid ten years ago.
No new taxes, ho, ho, ho.
I write what I say
And sign my own name?
If I had my own way
On top of the game
We play every day,
Cuz like it or not--
You sign your name
When outcomes are bought.
AN UNEXPECTED DEATH
Lived the good life, had a ball,
Said the lipstick on the wall
Written large above the bed--
Dead, a bullet through his head.
Once he thought he'd have it all--
Living long enough to crawl.
PROBLEMS OF THE SOUL
Seek it. Know it. Anyone
Can figure out the soul.
Hide it, kill it, crudely done
Announcements come and take control--
Telling us what we should be,
Then puts the load on you and me.
Growing up you're told, be good,
And don't get in the way.
There's talk around the neighborhood
About a better day.
But something happens, they blame you--
You know they haven't got a clue.
Hide your soul away in fear
Your soul is going to draw
Attention causing life to rear
It's ugly head and claw
Away illusions you have kept
To keep you up while danger slept.
Kill the soul. Your own. Or mine.
Attack the soul where it resides.
Tamper with the code/design.
Take what seem to be free rides:
Getting high, or so low down
Soul's on your list of things to drown.
The soul, sweet soul, so strong and yet
I chipped at it today;
Took another chance and bet
That I'd survive and chip away--
Searching for that lasting peace,
Somewhere my soul finds its release.
Death and taxes. Nothing's certain.
When and how? How much? That's when
Tomorrow draws its modest curtain
Across another day again.
You care less, too much to pay
To see Tomorrow anyway.
Wait a little longer still.
Any minute now.
Patience, a peculiar skill
No one can teach you how.
But something everybody knows
Is, waiting keeps you on your toes.
The casual walk and heavy talk
Are noticed first for sure.
But walking like the bully's walk
Means slogging through manure--
And by the time the leaves have dropped
The bragging bully did has stopped.
Criticize their system, maybe,
"Hey, you've come a long way, baby."
But they sit around and slip
One over you again. You're hip
Though you can't do a fucking thing,
While management and bullets sing.
THE EVENING NEWS
Billy Higgins, was it you
There, twisting from the rope?
Were you dead and is it true
The ragheads left us little hope?
The camera panned, your feet were tied,
Of course the light was poor inside.
We'd like to say you passed away
A long, long time ago.
We'd like to find a way to say
That this is all they've got to show
For hanging one gung-ho Marine.
We have a million twice as mean.
Colonel, please don't get me wrong,
But they had you much too long--
You see, we have to make the best
Of it, in case you had confessed
And told them all you knew about
Us getting any hostage out.
You know we couldn't trade for cash.
Seeing you was such a flash.
BABBAGE DOES COBOL
AN ODE TO STRUCTURED PROGRAMMING
Lady Lovelace, love Of mine,
Your Procedures Go Down fine.
Starting Over From the Top,
I'll Perform till I Read Stop.
A little coupling gets me By--
Perfect When cohesion's High.
Schools teach you how to slave
And never question why.
You behave and and then you crave
The thrill it takes to satisfy
The need to be the very best.
Ah, you've aced your teacher's test!
It's practice so you'll do the same
For bosses who don't know your name.
(IN MY DREAMS)
My, oh my, my god, Third World,
What are you up to, now?
Looking dangerous, tense, and curled
Up to strike, oh wow.
I'll go back to where I came from,
Looks to me like you're pissed off, some--
Ain't fucking with the Mau Mau now,
Ain't going nowhere, anyhow.
DREAMERS AND THE PEACE DIVIDEND
We call them dreamers, those who think
Serious changes should be made
To save the world. We trade a wink
With others like us, unafraid.
Now no longer fearing war,
We'll do what we could not before,
Fixing up what we know how.
(But tell me friends, who's dreaming now?)
TESTING, TESTING, USA
They want to know if you're the best
At doing what they want.
They grade you with a little test
And tell you you can flaunt
An 'A' in front of classmates who
They say are going to work for you.
You watch me while I shovel shit,
And sweat runs down my face.
Who's it going to benefit
If I pick up the pace?
It's dirty work, but yours, not mine--
Without you I'd be doing fine.
A call's heard from the other side--
Paradise, but you're not sure.
In any case you can't decide
To cross on over or demur.
Crossing over could be worse
Than sliding in the long black hearse.
Hops and barley-malt and rice.
Sugar, yeast, some time to brew.
Yellow, bubbles, head is nice,
Yeah, I've managed one or six.
A KINDER, GENTLER NATION
A kinder, gentler nation?
Who's he trying to kid?
Every day is pure frustration--
You both work to keep a lid
On situations like nightmares
We dream alone--who really cares?
Who's going to turn out gentle?
Someone's win is someone's loss.
Kind and gentle's incidental
When my uptight dickhead boss
Tells me I don't know my job.
Fuck this shit, I'd rather rob.
What makes a person gentle
Is never getting beat
Up by peers or mental
Case's shifty eyes and feet--
Social worker, schoolteacher,
Sullen cop and angry preacher.
What makes somebody gentle
Is never being broken
Down by stiff parental
Trips for having spoken.
Kids wear chains the parents yank,
And pain endured is rage they bank.
To know I mean
It's time to wean
You off of your delinquent scene.
GIVING IT UP
Rockie calls me up and asks
Me, where you been? Que madre!
Every other word she masks
With others, Ay! Que padre!
Catching everything so far,
Coca and dime bags of tar.
I gave my dad a stroke, no less,
My mom a heart attack.
Crazy dumbass, I could stress
Them out and set them back
Some money here, some headaches there,
Some peace of mind, a world of care.
Are you kidding? Exercise
Is all I gave my folks.
Telling truth instead of lies
Headed off attacks and strokes--
Admitting I'd done something dumb,
Organs, theirs, would always hum.
Do I think of suicide?
What? You don't? Say, life is great?
You must think that you decide
On how you deal with your fate?
Living your life longest when
You think your life has meaning. When?
IF I WERE KING
If I were king, or queen or shah,
Or any kind of potentate,
I'd order up a Shangri-la
For us all, then abdicate,
To leave us all a life of ease--
Doing everything we please.
It's possible. We'll never know
Until we outlaw all the dough.
I found my voice.
The assholes cheered.
You think by choice
I act this weird?
Don't be kidding yourself, honey,
Only do it for the money.
I had to go,
The assholes cried.
They'll never know
How hard I tried
To ignore the fact that they
Had only come to get away.
LUCKY, YOU BET....
Got a rich friend.
No big deal.
But he'll spend
And make me feel
Like I wish I was rich as him,
Satisfying every whim.
The cult of personality
Simplifies the world.
Marching in: banality--
A face on banners comes unfurled.
We're only human after all,
Our pride is keen before a fall.
Our heroes rise. To persevere,
Our achievements go to them.
But when the rose smells of manure,
They're convenient to condemn--
Someone who will take the blame--
Mistakes that we made in their name.
A hero's like a two-edged sword.
First they're God, and then they're shit.
Either way they can't afford
To deviate one little bit--
So many of us watching close;
Heros take an overdose.
Personality cults are how
The world goes unexplained;
Hitler, Stalin, Chairman Mao:
Responsible for days they reigned?
Rode the crest of waves, I'd say,
Good enough to seize the day,
But in control? I'm sure they tried.
What good is that against the tide?
"I finished what I came to do.
Like they say, that's all she wrote.
And nothing's left between us two."
Smug cliches, a sorry note
Summing up the gist of his
Mystic life and how it is.
I quit being lazy,
And gave up getting mean.
She quit acting crazy--
And making such a scene.
Stopped her crying,
Me my lying--
And then we got along just fine.
We'd figured out the bottom line
Was over our heads long ago.
Might as well go with the flow.
More and more it looks like war.
Is this the one they've waited for?
The one that lets George go to town--
So full of shit his eyes are brown?
The one that lets them drill off-shore?
The one that cuts the old growth down?
Is this the war that uses up
The inventory on the shelves?
The war that's going to interrupt
Our conversation with ourselves?
Talking like they've got a wedge
Stuck up their butt, they stiffen, give
Up some space, but antsy edge
Up to tell you how to live:
Their zeal as real as any drug
And their convictions just as smug.
I married someone stupid,
I had no self-esteem;
I'd like to fuck up cupid
For dicking with my dream
Of having someone I could talk to:
No one causing me to go through
Speeches never ringing true,
Hating what I had to do.
Never want to bother
Because they're so obsessed
Behaving like their father/
Mother, and request
Repsect, respect, come on, respect.
Suicide's what you expect.
Life reduced to simple parts:
How old before you lose your smarts.
Made up systems which they use
For models how the whole thing works.
Presto, they've explained the blues
And all our major, ugly quirks
We enhance with drugs and booze--
And secrets that make sure we lose.
Figure the feather
And deal with dirt.
It's going to hurt.
Revolution? Sure we can--
That or hand it to the Man.
Rotten when unhappy,
Brilliant when they're not;
When they're feeling crappy
Of course their temper's hot--
Nothing they can ever fake;
A dish, a window, heartstrings break.
I don't like them, never will,
All you use them for's to kill.
But I got one, stainless steel,
Pretty thing, a comfy feel
Lying heavy on my hip,
Cool and natural solid grip
You gave me strength to love her while
She tried to come apart on us.
Calm enough I stood on trial
The first time he raged over us.
Companion, I can't figure how
You made it smooth to have a cow.
A LITTLE RAIN MUST FALL
Hey that's life, somebody gets
A bad break, but what's sad
Is all the petty stuff that bets
You're the kid who'll turn out bad.
Stuff to make your spirit break,
Cold dunked in a glacial lake.
Old friends finally get in touch,
Calling up and asking how
You're doing, hey, like it's too much,
The end must be approaching now.
Old friends I thought way long gone,
Call amd ask what's going on.
No idea, I answer back,
But it's looking like the end;
All my neighbors hate Iraq
And wamt armed forces, ours, to send
Irag back to the stone-age where
The threat is gone, like never there.
Her boyfriend turns to tap a keg,
She sits beside me at the bar.
A fingernail slides up my leg.
Christ she's gutsy. It's bizarre.
Finally getting off her shift,
Now it's me who's getting stiffed--
She'll be going home with him.
Good thing that the lights are dim.
It's payback time. She had no fear
Of what a man could do to her.
Even tanked on Jack and beer,
Her boyfriend's just an amateur
Compared to daddy who could whip
Up frenzies times she made a slip;
Secrets shared. What made him roar
At her she's nothing but a whore?
Tie me up and beat me down?
You must be kidding, right?
You want to see me split from town.
I'm out of here, thanks for the slack,
Don't worry, I ain't looking back.
Politics go on at work,
Careful what you say and do;
Careful so as not to jerk
Around someone who's over you.
Making love, she'd talk non-stop,
Faster, oh, let me on top,
Squeeze my tits, ugh, harder, yes.
I guess they were a tad obsessed--
But me, I'd be the last to guess
A spanking's what got her off best.
I take that back. I saw a kink--
She got crazy when she'd drink.
Her daddy, now, a man so mean,
Surviving him a fucking scene.
Coming from Palm Canyon Springs
Where she and Billy went to soak,
Up Banner Grade, there Billy swings
Off the road and through scrub oak,
To a spot hid from the road,
Blanket, sand, took off their clothes,
Looking like they might explode.
He eases in, and ahs and ohs.
The trick is how to make it last?
Cowboy don't get off so fast.
Turn me over, pushes him,
Now spank me. What? Uhh, spank my butt,
Make it sting. But Bill got grim,
Stopped and asked her once more, what?
Driving up the grade and neither
Talk. It's written on their face.
Billy thinking that he's either
Dumb or she's a mental case.
Mona kept her mouth shut till
She couldn't stand it any more.
You're thinking I'm a sicko, Bill.
Shrinks have told me that before--
That spankings help me deal with guilt--
Crying over milk long spilt.
Fuck 'em. Who's to say what's right?
Spankings, though, I know excite
Me--get me off, O.K., O.K.?
Billy can't forget that day.
Not a clue as what to do.
He even tried to spank her, too.
What a joke. And from then on
Billy watched their love grow wan.
COUNTRY SWING, IRAQ AND ROLL
Cowboy on the radio
Satisfying country roots.
Kick ass, junior, way to go.
Nothing like old pointed boots
For standing in and walking tall
To where you think you see it all.
Junior I don't mean to say
That you ain't shit or nothing
Like it. Sorry. Honest. Hey,
Your momma was my kissing cousin.
I like you, really, all I mean
Is you come on like methydrene.
That's OK, but don't you think
That dying young has got to stink?
I miss baby.
It's been worse
When it was maybe
To be in love with her so bad
That I let go what all I had.
The name, it stinks--
Too many links
To Matthew 24:11.
Don't matter what
You call it but
I never called it heaven.
Can't find one friend.
This trip won't end.
My dog, she barks at strangers,
A total paranoid--
She maximizes dangers:
Her memory's a void.
Nothing out there she ain't missing,
Me and Smith & Wesson listen.
(with few apologies to Joyce Kilmer)
I thought that I would never see
The day I'd look down on a tree,
Then towers rose and trees seemed small.
From Babel on the towers fall,
But still they come up one by one--
Stands of them eclipse the sun.
Oceans were an endless sea.
New frontiers? You're kidding me!
America? Hey, I'll buy that--
See me now, I'm getting fat.
And now another baffling stage?
Computer Information Age?
Ayatollah, Holy See--
Even they confess we're free
To learn how information works
To see us past the ugly quirks
Appearing when it's time for change
And making changes hard and strange.
Computers. Ahh.... Now I can see
Past variables that used to be
The things that kept me in the dark--
(Snarls, when I'm lucky, bark)
Variables you can't ignore
Or you'll climb walls, like trees before.
It's never going to end, I know,
And some say we don't have a prayer
While others have no place to go--
All the same, we're getting there.
Towers. Sailing seven seas.
Computers. Still we're climbing trees.
SLICK AS SNOT
Bold as earthquakes, slick as snot
On doorknobs--kids' forget-me-not:
Pick their nose and turn to leave.
Next time wipe it on your sleeve--
Or toilet paper from the john.
Hi, kids. Bye, kids. Sure, dad. Gone.