Nursery Rhyme for the Apocalypse

Bill Barr, Bill Barr, you’ve gone too far.
You find the peasants revolting.
The CIA in your day
was grounds for fascist training.

No care at all, for the Rule of Law.
Democracy is fleeting.
Just shock and awe from secret police
as the jackboots go out beating.

(chorus)
Bill Barr, Bill Barr keep it up
pushing autocracy.
We‘ll stand, we’ll fight, we’ll even die
to save our democracy.   

You’ve made it clear that some lives
Really should not matter.
We’re here to say we have rights,
And we’re done with passive chatter.

We came in peace but stood our ground
And now your army can’t persist.
We’ll stand up tall, win or lose,
And we will always resist.

(chorus)
Bill Barr, Bill Barr keep it up
pushing autocracy.
We‘ll stand, we’ll fight, we’ll even die
to save our democracy.   

No final win and no final loss
Will cause the struggle to cease.
You think you’ve won, but you’ll soon find out
without justice, you’ll never have peace. 

(chorus)
Bill Barr, Bill Barr keep it up
pushing autocracy.
We‘ll stand, we’ll fight, we’ll even die
to save our democracy.   

Poem: The Pogrom Approaches

It’s just because we used to see all these moronic looking jerks just strolling around through town trying to look tough with their AR-15s and Sig Sauers for no real reason, and we just laughed at them, because what were they even doing? I mean, they were like cartoons in these stupid trucks with big tires and all these stupid flags waving all over the place and everything. I mean, you know what I’m talking about, right? They were just these fringe idiots trying to get a little attention, and then, you know, these people start showing up dressed the same way and shooting at people and grabbing people off the street, and we don’t know who’s who, anymore. We don’t know what’s going to happen, and no one really knows what’s going on, but everyone knows it isn’t right. I mean, even a little child knows it isn’t right for anyone to just go around grabbing people and terrifying them like that, especially when they done nothing wrong and all, but it ain’t right, anyway, to just take people like that—violating their God given rights and everything. There’s no way to know when they are going to be shooting real bullets or so-called “less lethal” bullets. There’s no way to know if you’re going to jail or the grave. And you sort of just say your prayers, and you say, “God help me now or let me die doing what I know is right.” And you just go and stare them in the face again, because they want to see you run, but you know if you run, no one will ever be free again. 

Poem: Prelude to the Pogrom

In camouflage and unmarked minivans,
brutal anarchists are loose on the streets.
They perpetuate the casual cruelty
of anonymous cops on the beat.

The desperate disappearing of schismatics
realises nightmares of deadly disorientation.
Extraordinary renditions become ordinary
daily habits of these agents of provocation.

While the doves of justice sing of peace,
lawless mobs roam in the darkest hours.
Concealed and agitating the sleeping hive
while gassing the nectar of its flowers.

Many naively thought they were immune
from aggression and unprovoked attacks.
A veteran thought he’d just have a word
before finding himself beaten with bats.

The moms came out in force, surely
no one could mistake them for terrorists.
But gas canisters were lobbed at their feet
as the traitors were more than treacherous.

The dads stepped up with a leaf-blower defence
to give the treasonous well-deserved blowback.
And a nation finally started to see clearly
that democracy had taken another track.

Epiphanies sometimes come too late,
and eternal vigilance is hard to maintain,
But the sleepy multitude shakes to life
to scrub and erase this lawless stain. 

Take heart and raise your heads high.
You have history and justice on your side.
They are no more than a despotic few,
but you are the power of a rising tide. 

First Advice for Those Entering Retail Sales

If he were walking around the streets today, the richest man I ever knew might be mistakenly thought to be homeless. His clothes were well-worn, almost threadbare, the leather on his shoes was cracked, and he wore no jewellery. The man who accompanied him might be mistaken for a carer of some sort, except that this man was always wearing a tailored suit with fashionable leather shoes, carried a literal bag of money, and he was never without the aid of a reliable and recognisable timepiece. This sharp dressed man was, of course, was the personal assistant to Mr. Phipps, the bedraggled banker he served quietly and with great decorum. 

This PA (let’s call him Johnson, because I never had any idea what his name was) saw to the messy details of Mr. Phipp’s life such as paying for services, food, and the few material items Mr. Phipps might require. Mr. Johnson had an easy job, as Mr. Phipps was as gentle as he was austere. Mr. Phipps also knew that money was about the filthiest thing you could touch, so he never touched it unless it was fresh from the mint. Any previously used money was handled strictly by Mr. Johnson, who took his chances with the germ-ridden currency, but still saw to wash his hands frequently. 

I had a fairly intimate relationship with Mr. Phipps myself. At least I guess it was more intimate that what most of the local 12-year-old boys had with him—I shined his shoes. The leather was old and cracked, as I said, but I did my best to restore it and bring the shine back. He always seemed grateful for my efforts, and he’d have Mr. Johnson reward my labor handsomely by the standards of a 12-year-old shine boy. 

I think of him every time I hear a salesperson brag about the ability to size up potential customers as soon as they walk through the door. “I can tell right off,” they’ll say, “whether someone is ready to spend money. Or even has any money to spend.” The snap judgement and dismissive following behaviour serve only to fulfil the bigoted prophesy. But I suppose our days are filled with nothing but minor miscalculations. We trip over our own feet constantly but usually carry on to walk again. 

Cancelling Cancel Culture for Beginners

I’m not old enough to remember a time before cancel culture existed. In the 1950s in the US, anyone suspected of being a socialist was labeled a communist and blacklisted. Anyone who was gay or suspected of being gay (or otherwise queer) was forced to marry opposite sex partners for appearances in order to appear in any media. 

Atheists kept their religious beliefs secret if they wanted to hold any kind of community leadership position or even be accepted. Muslims were simply not seen or heard in the public arena. Many Jewish people in the public eye adopted names that would conceal their Jewishness. 

Non-white performers might try to “pass” as white in order to work, and those who could not were often prevented from even entering venues that would be appropriate. Many black performers watched in poverty as white performers gained wealth and fame off the art they stole. 

People were less offended? Lenny Bruce, who was taken off to jail for offending community standards, would have been surprised to hear it. People could criticise the government? The Smothers Brothers were fired and blacklisted from TV for daring political satire. 

Of course, cancel culture began long before the examples I gave, and it will continue long after. The difference at the moment is that people who are accustomed to censoring, and censuring, others are now finding that non-white, non-Christian, non-heterosexual, non-cis people have found their voices and have a thing or two to say. People aren’t now losing their voices. People are now finding their voices. 

Poem: Cowboy Sonnet

He called himself a cowboy poet,
and he performed wearing an old straw hat.
It had been awhile since he rode a horse,
but he never really mentioned that.
He knew the smell of wet hay, of course,
but it’d been years since he scraped dung off his boots.
It’s true he missed being out in the fresh air,
but he didn’t miss seeing all the redneck brutes.
He still remembered seeing the cow’s fear
when some were taken off to auction,
and his memory still brought a silent tear
at the thought of a mother cow’s grief-induced exhaustion.

When pressed, he could still carry on a cowboy’s prattle,
but it was undeniably true he was all hat and no cattle. 

Poem: Eternal Recurrence and Damnable Regrets

It was a misunderstanding, really,
or a slip of the tongue,
or maybe he really was
just a major asshole.

Whatever, he felt the rising burn
in his cheek and the glow of his ears
whenever he thought of it,
and it played on an interminable
loop in vivid detail in both
waking memories and lucid dreams.

There’s nothing to be done now, 
he thought, no exit from past decisions.
Redemption is impossible and
Salvation a mere myth of mortals.
He would always be what he always was.

As he stared at the fan on the ceiling,
he only wished he had chosen his
words more carefully. 

Poem: Something about Celestial Irony

She was explaining about how each moment had an infinite number of possibilities and how each possibility existed in an alternate universe where each subsequent moment created an infinite number of following possibilities and how each of these possibilities existed in even more parallel universes where every possible story line for every possible moment was played out with both cosmic justice and celestial irony. 

But he was distracted by the movement of her lips. He was watching the flutter of her eyelashes and the dilation of her pupils. He was enthralled, almost thrilled, but appeared bored. She said, “You’re not even listening,” and started to gather her things. 

He was disappointed, yes, but it wasn’t the first time a casual social interaction had gone awry. All the same, he wondered what might have happened if he’d only listened a bit more carefully or at least explained that he’d been distracted by her lips. 

Poem: Facebook Permissions

I do not give Facebook permission to share the disinformation of delusional dictators and audacious autocrats. I do not give Facebook permission to sell my digital soul to the arbiters of obedience. I do not give Facebook permission to sow division and destroy democracy on my behalf. I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with it permission to exploit my vulnerabilities in its quest to achieve world domination through manufactured consciousness. I do not give Facebook permission to warp reality to suit the ends of sadistic kleptocrats shrouded in casual pullovers. I do not give Facebook permission to persist. I do not give Facebook permission to exist.

Poem: The Other Side of Nigel

Dominic’s parents took him to
church and warned him to sit still.
Of course he had a fidgeting fit
as all boys his age will.
He sat for eternity in a state
of seemingly suspended frustration.
He tried against his wont to focus
on redemption and abomination,
but he couldn’t get his mind off
Susie’s note, better reading than the Bible.
But it slipped from his pocket when he took
his seat and fell on the other side of Nigel.