2015: a year in verse
For a few years now, I’ve toyed with the idea of commemorating the past year in poetry. This year, I somehow completed it. The ~1200 line poem goes over some of the year’s biggest events while providing odd spurts of opinion, analysis and poetic embellishment. Some things I have intentionally and unintentionally omitted, but please take it for what it is. My hope is that you’ll be able to read this ten years from now and remember how crazy and how interesting this year was. With all my heart, I wish every one of you a happy new year.
The old Gregorian sound plays once again
What was once now is gone, once now is then
From its dated overture we learn a new number
spans winter to autumn, ‘round springtime and summer.
its cathedral, the timepiece of the living and spent
time brings forgiveness, and in time we repent
But what can words say of time? In stillness they suffice
seep slowly from our memory like melting ice
Whatever moved thus, moves me to words
Moves the migratory patterns of a billion birds
But as dust cakes the mind, shreds our bones to rubble
hope, like new grasses, will spring out its stubble
Forgetting is not the worst of crimes
But whenever someone tells you get with the times
In 2020, 2050, 2100 and beyond
Poetry births for me, an unbreakable bond.
Some mark empires and their rise and fall
Some misremember time through alcohol
Some recall how, in time, they belong
So let the musings of the past year spin.
Charlie was a lowly man, a fool upon the hill
humiliating, poignant, not lacking ink to spill
Accused of brash misogyny, hated near and far
That hatred spread to Yemen — in short, he was kuffar
Give speech to the page, at least I was told
that our voices, paginated, will unfold
from a bundle of crude cartoons all spread
along a bulletin board bloodstained in red
Those ragtag Parisians all sauntered in
Stinking of Gauloises and morning gin
To the disheveled Charb, it already occurred
That most caricaturists were caricatured;
The meek, pathetic trolls of alternative press
had a thousand different issues to address
Those vapid politicos across the pond
the sexual misadventures of Francois Hollande
And what about Merkel? So terse and boring
All those pen-pushing frauds were worth abhorring
But one topic rose above all the rest
That group of Jihadists who all professed
To build a paradise upon death and war —
Then a knock and commotion at the office door.
Like an inkwell spilled upon the table
Like a warrior torn from a children’s fable
The world of Asterix now lay in ruins
They drew blood for fiction and blood for cartoons.
But can the comic book artist ever tell
Whether their words aren’t concealing a sleeper cell?
Whether those that offend for a facile pun
Will face the opinions of a spraying gun?
Al Qaeda struck their foe, the world again
Not soldiers nor drones but a mischievous pen.
But since the pen is mightier than the sword
the tribes of writers and artists strung a similar chord
Claiming: that even when all of us are through
a million more will say: I am Charlie too
(Except of course, for a dissenting voice
who thought those xenophobes had no choice
I have one thing to say to those delusional bards —
With yellow icons the undergrads will preach
about the merits and downfalls of “freedom of speech”
How does it all split, how do you explain
The unfathomable sadness of all things twain?
But then in Columbia, in a moment of rage
They despised their environs’ seething eyes
fecal swastikas, threats, committee lies
And suddenly, a once-dormant voice arose
From the campus-commons, they dealt their blows
Because in matters of living, in matter of race
the American youth want a safer space.
They don’t want their schools residing with sheriffs
flipping teens to the floor over petty tariffs
But complicated issues are not black and white
Nor inequalities gone once out of our sight.
Crash and burn
I heard the sound of a grainy door
and muted footsteps on a carpet floor
then in a quiet moment, amid the engine hum
a rhythmic knocking like a battle drum.
the pilot’s routine, attempted patter
turned into a crazed and savage batter
He pushed and yelled, as the box recorded
that routine flight to Spain aborted;
The Germanwings pilot just locked the door
and from there, oblivion and nothing more.
The flight from the Sinai met a similar fate
As Egypt could not, in combat, abate
the incurring Jihadist forces staking their claim
by taking so many lives, with civilians their aim
They fuselage burst and the plane went down
shortly after the plane left the desert ground
Yet investigations doubt evidence of attack
or that the killers lead with Jihadist black
Remember that Putin began his campaign
To send the Chechen nation down the drain
By planting explosives and blaming others
And killing Russian children, sisters and brothers.
But not all oblivion is draped in blood
death marches at times in a tidal flood
So Kiribati asked where would they put
its people if the oceans rose by a foot?
At least by a foot the oceans will rise
Of course you know that’s no surprise,
But some had signaled the arctic’s certain doom
In a confidential report, for a corporate room
As the truth would have it, Exxon knew
Of earth’s destructive moods in ‘82.
Now many blare warnings from their parapets
The Oceans rise as Greenland sweats
But now another wrath has grabbed them by the collar
fracking fields are now bust from the petrodollar
Has it only been two years since North Dakota
Now the barons of Williston have turned their backs
(though the earth rumbles still in quaking cracks).
If we could fossilize fossil fuels
if the blackened stone-sludge remained in pools
underground, then future diggers could unearth
A topsy-turvied version of our earth
Where Qatari emirs and Saudi Sheiks
controlled whole economies in dips and peaks
The barons of bituminous, liquid traces
marionetted endless voter bases
and suddenly, baffled, the geologist would see
the cash cow’s price drop so suddenly.
But we can’t tell the earth to hold its breath
As monoxides puncture the ozone to death.
A regular kid from a burb in Minnesota
darns a robe from a smuggle in Istanbul
At an outpost near Kobani, gets a simple quota
with the scalps of infidels he’ll learn to rule
He’ll sport a Hilux pickup to Ar-Raqqa
Get transferred to a hut in old Mosul
Shoot some rebels from Jaysh-al-Fatah
Then tell a Tunisian orphan to keep his cool
In black, he will step forth to a play
staged on a mound at the edge of town
Then player will ask the other: Sir, are you gay?
Then an axe, then the curtain, will soon fall down
He’ll step on a broken, ancient tomb
With Aramaic secrets lined on the wall
And in the dusty bosom of a sunlit room
He’ll dream it will someday be his to call.
As barely a man he ran away
To a biblical kingdom he could call his own.
He’d say: All this will be mine someday
A Mohammedan inscription on a golden dome.
But the dust stormed upon the clouded plain
And his house crashed into flimsy rubble;
he could barely muster beard nor stubble
But they told him to meet at dawn,
Before the sun’s yolk cracked a bleeding red
And there, doe-eyed and dumb, he sat upon
a ripped, piss-puke filled single bed.
From Sinjar, a mountain where the idols stood
a Spring ago, Zoroaster to her calmly spoke
Of ascendance, steeped in a greater good.
But their defended barriers indifferently broke —
They came in droves, gunning through the night
To the homes built on that mighty plateau
They’d escaped three wars and endless blight
But now, her mother said, we have to go.
a rickety powerboat carried them together
they clutched the dinghy’s rubber handles
just row, they thought, it’s now or never.
who in graceful, relative ease
was a hero for sacking a Turkish village
after crossing the Peloponnese.
They say he was the original migrant
weary of his painful environ
He resisted temptation, he resisted mystery
By ignoring the call of the siren
The homeward bound, lost and found
problem child of history.
He had a mother who with muslin, would loom
the drapery across a soldier’s tomb
when her brothers, for Rojava, decidedly had
their own bloody and besieged Stalingrad
They fought bedeviled, Salafist killers
Who put C4 at the foot of the pillars
of Jonah, a sailor who could dodge all trouble
now mingled in Mosul’s endless rubble.
ISIS pounded the stubborn defenses
with suicidal, terroristic offenses
One family, seeking refuge, ran away
from Kurdistan, seeking Canada and a better day
They needed to go, so they paid a fare
That provided human cargo with paltry care
Their vessel capsized in the stormy sea
bound to a home that will never be.
Alan Kurdi washed ashore upon a beach in Greece
and The family finally found their elusive peace
In death, they inspired thousands to aid
In the mess that this brutal war had made
The migration inspired global attention
and the usual, predictable xenophobic contention
The mysterious splendor of Palmyra remained
As a lesson of how the Romans sustained
their power and might so distantly
And their aesthetic grandeur so consistently
But the bandits of ISIS, like a vandal mob
invaded the old Roman outpost to rob
the ancient city of its antiquated jewels
and impose upon Palmyra antiquated rules
Executions performed in their own sad sadistic ways
But the local warden of the antic town
To torture and demand, did not back down
And ISIS executed him, yet he did not reveal
the worth of anything with a true martyr’s zeal.
Merkel took in Syria’s desperate and poor
And encouraged the world to open their door.
Some countries believed it was their right
To keep the issues out of their sight
I won’t object to the interests of a nation
I neither wear their shoes, nor live their situation
But if you truly think the migrants abused
the system, Anne Frank herself was refused
on the eve of the war that would take her kind
Fear, not exploitation, busies the migrant mind.
The Syrians and Afghans approached the frontier
A strait away from a journey in the clear
But human merchants set up their trade
At the end of Eurasia, and the migrants paid
to move before authorities forced them back
To a land draped in pernicious, mortal black
Some refuged in camps plateaued upon
the rolling, cedar hills of Lebanon
others sought Lesbos, an island known
For its musings on love for one of your own
They crossed the Balkans, Munich, Berlin bound
Some busied rail cars, some wandered on the ground
Some took their families through fields of corn
Some were met by fearsome looks of scorn
Some were from their friends and parents ripped
Some migrants, though, won’t become Europeans
When escaping persecution, the Eritreans
moved towards tenuous, Libyan ports
With law and safety completely out of sorts
From Bangui and Bamako, Niger and Chad
Families fled the edges of a world gone mad
Boko Haram joined the global cult of death
gave the morbid few a lasting breath
They invaded the north, hid in the woods
sold young men and women as stolen goods
And if you ever think them all so daft
to take a flimsy, Mediterranean raft
Try imagining walking in their shoes
Whole peoples gone, not making the news
But the terrorists weren’t the only ruthless prey
traders, in Myanmar, lead others astray
Although they enjoyed a democratic election
clandestine groups made their own selection
They acted as the racketeering pimp
farming in secret with no way home
Only their bodies shored like Pacific foam.
And then another picture for us to see
His face slumps down like a willow tree
His eyes are purpled like a rotting fruit —
a nectar bruises the angry brute.
His jacket bears flags from an old disgrace
Britain’s murderous, enslaving, colonial face
His utopian dream was but a stranglehold
On people he thought should do as their told
Dylann believed it better to be
in a colorless, vacant confederacy
So the Last Rhodesian, in his final fight
would add to fallow spectrum’s blight
The camera outside witnessed the killer’s lurch
as he walked into the Charleston church
Sauntering into The AME basement
He listened while hiding that leaded encasement
(And yet, he told police how he thought twice;
The killer’s run ended, his reaction mirthless
His efforts would turn out worse than worthless
In Columbia, a silhouette on the capitol lawn
Would destroy Dylann’s dream before the dawn
where a flag marking that Antebellum role
in the pillage and enslavement of countless people
brought light to the shadow of an umbrous steeple
For Bree took it down, and thus fell a nation
racist and hateful, spiting that declaration
that all men are created equal, and free
from cowardly bastards that loathe liberty.
From the capitol of ‘Bama all across the south
A red-blue tide receded from the river’s mouth
waned with that old, regal Dixie tune.
Dylann opened a floodgate of endless grief,
Those who felt imprisoned by a common belief
that the oldest symbols of American oppression
can burn and vanish in rightful progression
But can we ask why, can we ask how,
A stormfront perched on his hanging brow?
Or why it seems to us so surprising
that lonely, foolish youth dream of uprising
by taking the vilest form of knowledge —
But let me conclude with a hopeful refrain
to the Americans who wrangled on the train
to the Saudi youth who died defending
his mosque from a kamikaze’s brutal ending
from the journalist on Parisian streets
taking bullets instead of breaking beats.
Heroism incarnate is what we own
From the terror or terrorism we will disown.
As the states lamented this sudden, hateful act
the South states broke from their antebellum pact
While some will argue that it’s sticks and stones
not symbols, that will break our bones
But even as the flag from the pole descended
The Supreme court proudly, ultimately ended
The persecutory actions of the bigoted few
who rebuked the happiness of the LGBTQ
When they wanted nothing more than to disparage
The dream of life, courted, connected in marriage
In the realm of federal law, you’ll find little above
But in the realm of people, high above stands love
Other nations accepted who you look upon
And trans people brought their issue to the fore
In American media, represented all the more
If only time could maintain an endless hold
on the good of others, as we do on gold
Then the hatred of bodies, of love would cease
And perhaps — just perhaps — we’d achieve some peace.
But for all the woes that mar the states,
And all the issues that issue debates
I won’t crusade or act as defendant
Of those that champion the second amendment
of course, in America, you can bear your arm
But at what point do you amend, and bear the harm?
The kids aren’t alright, they’re rightly infected
access & execution are closely connected
So ask: From where do you assume this referral?
Well right near my house, a man sketched a mural
And as a scarred face on the concrete unfurled
in the light of the underpass underworld
A man approached without any warning
and ripped the fabric of the morning
Speak truly: if your protection is a saber rattle
Then in peace comes peace, otherwise, crude battle
But America, peace means that to bidders are sold
Weaponry, artillery kept in the cold
Because the Pentagon spends billions that go to waste
So they give it to PD’s who use it in haste
If you’re armed, or colored, you may be in luck
To meet some trojans in an armored truck
They’ll butt you with batons, gas you to tears
with the same smoky canisters used in Tahrir
As even more fragments wound and shatter
A persistent resistance reminds: Black Lives Matter
Yet even the brokers seem surprised
that the cops are suddenly weaponized.
And that there seems to be no other way
to detain and arrest a Freddie Gray
Without unintended trauma to his head
and an unintended sleep, an unintended bed
Freddie was just another kid in Baltimore
“Suspiciously” loitering and nothing more
They cuffed him and told him to get in the back
Of the paddy wagon for what? being black?
Being young in a city where they can’t afford
more than the present state of discord?
Gray couldn’t move when the wagon rocked
But fate isn’t set when the pistol’s cocked
fate readies itself when we turn away
When the vehicle turns tightly, but its contents sway
And as streets of Baltimore, to rage, attested
The killers of Freddie needed to be arrested.
On the streets of Minneapolis-St.Paul,
hey then occupied the Great American Mall
The protests, while strong, grew all the more
When some white supremacists who abhor
those different from them shot at the crowd,
Defiantly, the protesters remained unbowed
In Chicago, they defended the life of Laquan
Who, long after he was fired upon
Was proven to be scarcely a threat
Certain camera footage did not forget
the truth of the matter, so it was deleted
And those who stood up had to be seated
The Chicago police thought the public aloof
Without important, exonerating proof
What we fear is what we can’t control
But for some, it’s an othered people as a whole
That we brand and we beat with no pretense
But tired excuses and negligence.
The rotting ideals of some brief nation
hunger for horrible, mortal satiation
What thirsts within, who can ever tell
if parasites concealed in a sleeper cell
will expand and perturb beyond the skin
and poison the people, their friends, their kin
On the streets of Paris, in the peace of Kobani
In the totaled building blocks of Ramadi
Cancer incarnate drew the people’s blood
Until the ISIS fighters added to the flood
What useless lives, sadder all the more
That they think they’ll survive in militant lore
And act out their idiocies in a “blaze of glory”;
Fortunately, the fires they crave only bear
A pathetic amount of gassy, hot air.
The militants, imbibed by some idiot screed
Made the hearts of the Parisians bleed
The night of a friendly football game
Warm and relaxed, to the Stade France came
bearing flags of red, white and blue
To see what the new, young players could do
But in the first half, right on live TV
In the stands, Hollande did not yet know
Three suicide bombers had tried to go
into the stadium with their explosive vests
heavily strapped around their chests
But a security guard doing routine frisking
Found the strapped killer, and after whisking
him away before he would decide his fate:
He’d Run away from the Stade and detonate.
But downtown, others prepared their own attack
dressed in nothing but nocturnal black
They stormed the bistros and cafes
where happy Parisians spent their days
extolling the virtues of their joie de vivre
and in the evenings, did the same en ivre
But the bullets flew, the windowpanes shattered
And suddenly, the cafe crowds lay tattered
Such a grandiose, poignant way to tell
That one truly deserves to rot in Hell
At a legacy venue over a century old
Hundreds watched the loud concert unfold
The Bataclan teemed with the merry sound
Of rock and roll booming off the venue ground
No decibel meter could truly measure
How strongly resounded the evening’s pleasure
The Eagles of Death Metal moving the crowd
An allegiance to rock the Parisians avowed;
With the sparkling Eiffel gleaming above
a city of friends within a city of love
Nobody thought anything could go wrong
until they heard pops louder than the song.
With smuggled AK’s they shot towards the fray
indifferently killing who got in their way
incessantly adding to the chaos and clatter
the terrorists paid no mercy to the matter
They massacred them until their clips unloaded
Les Gendarmes got one, but the others exploded
And as for the planners, the “mastermind”
(as the media was relentlessly inclined
to call the spawn of an army’s idiotic attempt
To take Syria and beyond through pure contempt)
roamed the streets where the shootings occurred
Then into the shadows he quietly blurred
Until special forces raided his lodging
but even unto death, he continued his dodging
From life, the excuse of a person fled
In Brussels and Germany, many others were sought
An in Molenbeek, the majority were caught
In the wake of the attack, the French demanded
the world come together, and together they banded
The coalition continued their bombing campaign
turned their selected efforts into heavy rain.
But we heal in tragedy in a triumphant arc
The world became Paris in the mournful dark.
Their targets waived no admissibility
not even a centre for disability
where Americans — black, white, asian, latino
helped out others from San Bernardino
But just a Saudi couple presumably content
with how their California life was being spent
Syed and Tashfeed raised a six month old daughter
before their life-defining, life-concluding slaughter.
An AR-15 Rifle packs a lot of power
But can you go from hosting a baby shower
to killing your co-workers for no other reason
than a band of misfits crying open season
On everybody in the world but them?
oh wait, they sew explosives into their hem.
This world will be never be satisfied
By international agreements ratified
To appease foreign policy platitudes
or to quell passé-partisan attitudes
Our modern fables should urge: beware
The world will wreak havoc if you won’t care
for its arteries, oxygen and breathing room —
The earth has a penchant for birthing doom.
An ultimatum was set, the nations conferred
upon Paris, where the attacks had just occurred
But for all the anxiety and apprehension
Most nations vied for urgent intervention.
With China and India exhaling coal
And a globalized economy playing a bigger role
the leaders heeded a bigger warning:
some nations were dying, some in mourning.
The Marshall, Solomon, Fiji Islands
Of nations proposing their heroic solution
While spewing an inordinate mass of pollution
In Beijing, not only did the smog make them sick
An artist vacuumed the particles and made a brick
From the shadows, a filmmaker slowly unfurled
The voice of truth, and she shocked the world
Not only did the smog make children asthmatic
It made the metropolises of China go static
And static and stale the particulate matter
Caked on the rooftops like a cancerous batter
thus the future that arrived today is seizing
the lungs of the young, coughing and wheezing
an organ with tendrils lined with soot
greener pastures, gone, trampled underfoot
If only such abstractions could be elemental
And the view of ourselves, environmental.
We are not cocooned, it is us too that suffers,
between flesh, earth and ash, nothing else buffers
As we perch aloft on indifferent plateaus,
we produce, like machines, a million woes
to be discovered by future generations
Be not so quick to hand out venerations
I don’t want to get too specific
The delegates supposedly met for debate
to talk about tariffs, law and also our fate
Philip Morris, Chevron and other dying brands
Wanted to draw new lines in the sand
So that they could sue beyond their border
And usher in a new bureaucratic world order
In secret, they bound the oceanic rim
to a future as corporate as it is dim
big corporate players joined reps in the room
Where democratic self-governance met its doom
I ask: Can any of them draft a fair description
Of what they really want to do with encryption
Do they really want to improve innovation
By making digital dissent a rightful invocation
of paramilitary raids on those who don’t comply
To the demand of intelligence’s all-seeing eye
Someone will tell you: I have nothing to hide
Well I have something special to confide:
those hacking the docs will see it all —
your dirty laundry and odd curiosities; It may appall
some people, especially the shaming kind
and they’ll put your life in a horrible bind
It seems that they think they’re above the law
Or like petroleum interests, above the thaw
So fitting how their reforming instruction
is so closely aligned with liberty’s destruction
In a year of challenging greenhouse gases
the megacorporations received free passes
So remember, the kingdom of Obama, Hillary
is a wing of global interests, a plugged auxiliary.
Harper put his eggs into one basket
one his triumph, his legacy — now his casket
For the downturn in the oil sands
some claimed he had blood on his hands
For taking heavy crude out of the ground
and ruinously making the environ unsound
And in the environ was an environment
Threatened with fire, pollution, but little was spent
to alleviate the growth of the petroleum giants
And the First Nations’ could muster little defiance
But the price of oil plummeted steeply
Oil around the world was now sold cheaply
So promising electric vehicles wouldn’t stump
The average price of gasoline at the pump.
But by the end of the year, Calgary shuttered
And across the country, ‘recession’ was uttered
At around the time Canadians selected
a new leader, who in October would be elected.
Harper engaged in a negative campaign
With a tobacco lobbyist hired to promote
The distorted prospect of a liberal vote
Harper could not go farther to the bottom
When he suggested the libs paved a road to sodom
The conservatives warned that brothels and pot
Would soon populate every single empty lot
But even with collectively-maligned intention
Most local leaders didn’t fall for pretension
And in the end, the only leadership he could afford
Was to partner with an idiot called Mr.Ford
So with three choices: Mulcair, Harper and Trudeau
Few knew exactly where most Canadians would go
But on election night, the leaders made their final bid
Trudeau said: “Just watch me”, and everybody did.
For all the effort and time he spent
to crush both activism and political dissent
Harper succeeded and was surely able
to bring a financial gain upon the table.
Its banks have since made important, global gain
But most Canadians will likely agree
That from petty corruption we are free
At least until others feel the corrupting pull
And just happen to identify as Liberal.
In the midst of something like the cult of the screen
an interface internalized with no in-between
in the world of killers and careless killing
the gaze of the camera, its bloodlust fulfilling
the briefest seance of society fearing
the prospect of comfort disappearing
When did the world ever never spin
In the mortal, indifferent coils of wrath and sin?
How in Virginia, two reporters on a morning show
the shooter had his GoPro display
his barbaric, pathetic, final day
where with little remorse, he died defeated
but before he died, he said little, but tweeted
and darkness blanketed us once again
As with Kobani, Baga and the Bataclan
As with Jihadi John and the beheaded
the aid workers and reporters once embedded
in the war zones Syria and Iraq
but like so many, they never made it back —
but they remained as fodder for the global press
for weeks they’d incessantly address
why cameras and cinema became the norm
for the evils of this world to perform
if only we could leave the pull of the void
but the screen beckons, and our perception’s toyed
and manipulated filter shrugs off the moment
with terrible indifference and phantom atonement.
Are you the son of a hashtag
the daughter of metrical trending?
Are you the martyr of a cartoon rag
Or the free speech of voice, unending?
I can only tell you in so many words
How differently this world is turning
How the chirp of a hundred million birds
is a spirit engine, churning?
For whom do you live, for what do you stand?
for longer than an hour?
What will you eat that will plenish you
when all you do is devour?
The crazed-low souls is this new world
sit tortured by a screen
They do their best to monitor
humans and their in-between
You want to talk, you want to touch
You want some sweet replying
But we’ll look over you a little too much
And shame you for your sighing.
How could you shrug, how could you ignore
When the world goes up in flames?
This tragedy’s trending, another high score
in the media marketing games!
I wish I could’ve helped you, I wish I understood
how the flower’s pollen spreads farther than it should
From bee to bud a Flanders’ field will see a raid
barring neonicotinoids, aphids on parade
will milk the poppy as the red turns from rosy into white
the vigor of our flesh, haunted to a fright
From Portland, Maine to the Green Mountain State
Some take it as a pill, and some tempt their fate
with a new beast, fentanyl; heroin, thou art a villain
vainglorious, notorious, you had to get your fill in
We can no longer prick those who are vain
In fighting the cartels and the narcos of cocaine
I remember the blizzard sweeping over town
the sky, bleach-powder white, had taken you down
As as the bore the flavor of another gall
The cold winter bitters of our friend, alcohol
my friend took a call; then his head fell into a tuft
as we teared over the tincture that snuffed
you out to the other side. The needle grafts the skin
and flesh and death divided, ultimately thin
But even as the cartels struggled with their crop
Their wily operations never seemed to want to stop
In cavernous conveyors beneath hill Tijuana
smugglers sent coke and bushels of marijuana
They were headed by a narco in a prison cell
or for a kingpin, a four-season, five-star hotel
He oversaw operations of a vast human chain
beneath him, a fortune 500 miracle of cocaine
But as the DEA brought meth and oxy’s down
Joaquin El Chapo Guzman Loera brought opium to town
He flooded the states up to the Canadian border
Sowed addiction on the streets, and in others, disorder
the kings of Chicago, in ruthlessness had grown
Far beyond the ancient courtesies of Al Capone
But how he he do all this from that isolated jail?
Well it wasn’t isolated — and neither without fail
Because money talks, and helps move the shakers
From measly little cells, to plots of sprawling acres
So Chapo disappeared into a hole in the floor
Where his cell’s toilet had sat before
He descended into a tunnel beneath the prison
carved by his henchman with stunning precision
It included PVC tubing and ventilation
lighting and stairs to ease the allocation
And cruising on a motorcycle strapped to a track
He rode off towards freedom, and never looked back
And as the product moved across the border
it consumed its consumers, sowed disorder
a community’s lost is another man’s gain
and Chapo brought his vengeance across the plain
Rumbling along the steppe on a Texas road
Where wind farms and pumpjacks, in summer, glowed
And as a black fuel spewed out the pipe’s exhaust
With their rockers, top to bottom, neatly embossed
The gun-toting warriors, the Texas one percent
not the wealthy ones, but those whose dues were spent
quashing competition like helmet mosquitoes
But another foe, some fervent rapscallions
Who named themselves after Russians on Stallions
It seems chains and clubs fomented contention
But the Cossacks, the new guys, wanted peace
For the beatings and the threats to quickly cease
So the hogs rolled up to the roadside diner
Expecting little more than shove and a shiner
And a couple of pints shared between weekend riders
common criminals and the devil’s providers
But the Bandidos were confused, they didn’t suppose
That the member tables would extend in rows
That Cossacks, would object to the approaching gang
a shout, a push, an argument — then a shot — suddenly rang
Before the bikers even knew the origin of the sound
Several bikers from both sides would have hit the ground
Across the patio, The Bandidos shot their enemies dead
And Diesel, from the Cossacks, was shot in the head
And the bullet, point blank, hit right above his nose
and his brain spilled on a fellow biker’s clothes.
At the end of it all, nine bikers were killed
A Shootout in Waco, spaghetti-western billed,
And the cops had their biker problem solved
But some still suspect that they were involved
they corralled the gangs into a enclosure
Then OK’d the KO’s without disclosure.
On the court, the Warriors moved a-flurry
lead by the unstoppable Stephen Curry
spinning, shooting and passing to Klay
Who left it for Bogut, Barnes or Dre
They met Lebron and the Cavs at the Oracle
And though Steph’s numbers were historical
He needed Iguodala and the rest of the team
for Golden State to finally fulfill the dream
of leaving the middle of the win-loss table
once quixotic, now no longer a fable
The Pats and Seahawks fought in the Super bowl
in a tooth and nail thriller (which on the whole
was less of the story than the Patriots’ decision
Brady, like Belichick, was branded a cheater
truants in America’s grandest theater
Brady added another ring to his pension.
U.S. Women’s soccer were overjoyed
By the wondrous performances of Carli Lloyd
American Pharaoh became the talk of the town
In Europe, FC Barcelona took control
of the league, the cup and the continent as a whole
Legendary Lionel, could simply not be stopped
even world-class defenders tried, guessed and dropped
they scampered like moths to a buzzing light
then put up a pathetic excuse for a fight
He would dribble around them with indifferent ease
Split the remaining defense, then suddenly seize
A moment in time and a place to shoot
A work of art from the end of a golden boot.
in England, one blue team rose and another fell
while another ascended bound by the spell
of a beer-league player who rose to the top
It seemed doubtful that Vardy would ever stop
But for all the triumphs on the pitch
a growing problem tore football at the stitch
At a Zurich conference, in the dead of night
Officials from FIFA were given a fright
by FBI and Interpol agents seeking
A prominent stench from their suitcases reeking.
Blatter, Warner, and the rest of the tribe
made every decision after reviewing a bribe
Bringing disrepute to the beautiful sport
With actions only Putin himself could support.
One hundred, two hundred, one thousand percent
Shanghai one soared, then they braced for descent
They overvalued everything but the prospect of trouble
’cause you can always float flimsily, but they’ll burst your bubble
Not only did the Greeks feel a passing chill
The BRICS declined severely — Russia and Brazil
lost promised prosperity, and thus declined
to the point where their stature was redefined.
Russia, fighting on more than one front
Could not conjure up a geopolitical stunt
to make Russia’s might more than fantasy;
they lost at least four points off their GDP
From walls built unsteady to stagnant disorder
From silver lining infrastructure for the working poor
To a notice noting simply: you don’t work here any more
But others aren’t so lucky, some can’t even go home
Doha’s princes need to raise a replicate of Rome
They need to build fountains without a trace of water,
Need air conditioned streets for when it’s even hotter
Need to build those stadiums at inhuman, breakneck pace
Need to build some atriums for all that empty space.
Historians will ask: How did all of this rise?
To such a monumental, baffling size?
With money, your utopian dreams will come true
get women from Dhaka, men from Kathmandu.
Put them into housing units “beyond reproach”
They may not be fit for a king, let alone a lowly roach
Book them on flights to Doha or even to Dubai
farewell to the Himalayas, so long to Madurai
Take our offer, just say yes, please don’t shed a tear
give us your passport, it’s ours while you are here.
We’ll also take your room and board, deduct it from your pay
And for time off — just kidding — you’ll die before that day.
Everywhere they bury men in the ground
But the dead seem to wallow all around
And for what? For a leisurely game, for a silly sport?
No justice but an artificial, astroturf court.
You’ll build bloated monoliths until you break
Then hear that Nepal got struck by a quake.
Up upon the mighty Himalayan plateau
Lay an old beast with a beard full of snow
He could shrug off any man or yeti
Like a flimsy fragment of confetti
How self-abnegating and how cynical
to be thought of all mankind’s pinnacle
But as cruel he got, he could also be colder;
So Everest threw a torrent of doom off its shoulder;
From basecamp marched a group of climbers
a Google exec, some sherpas, part-timers
When suddenly the earth bowed to the gods
Clapped and shuttered as fiercely as thunder applauds
And the mountain offered a sheet of snow
to tuck the human element in the earth below
In Kathmandu, cracked like balsa wood,
sat fields of rubble where neighborhoods stood.
That which is concealed will be hard to find
so may I ask where closed the Western mind?
How heaps of knowledge become a dump?
How did Kennedy or Carter become Donald Trump?
How did a frothy-mouthed conniving canard
Become a Reality TV muppet, and then its bard?
Some saw his rise as an engineered invention
but Trump, a parasite, thrived on every mention
Every time they said his hopes had ended
He said a load of baloney and poof! he trended.
The irony is that it began with a charade
A beauty pageant putting people on parade
How fitting that the mind behind the theater
Could skip like a rhythm with inordinate meter
and before he faced the media’s locust swarm
It became the actor’s time to perform
And in this act of fiction, he had to turn the page
So he ran for president on a platform built on rage
Instead of scrambling the say the right thing
Or pleasing some secretive political ring
Only one suit on the ballot would suddenly jump
no club, heart, spade, or diamond — but, a trump
It began with pageantry and Univision
Miss America spoke out against Trump’s position
on immigrants from South of America’s border
they said he was ruined, and an angry reporter
grilled him on his hatred of hispanics
but only stoked the raging fire of this manic
fool, or genius, call him what you will
He doesn’t want the duty, only the headline bill
but as a product of this damned and beautiful age
America will forget him when they turn the page
for all his silly claims of patriotism
He’s a frivolous tyrant courting despotism
We blame the media for its worshipping cult
hyperbolic, mostly, but this time the fault
is on CNN, Fox and MSNBC
seeking out the news, projecting fantasy
What do you show the people when it can’t be tragic?
Canned manipulation works a little like magic
But even with chiefly stupid commanders
America also rallied around Bernie Sanders
For all the times the citizens were gamed
to believe that Socialist patsies should be shamed
for all the corporate luncheons he refused to attend
Bernie somehow held his ground until the bitter end
When a beleaguered town seeks peace and quiet
They will point the camera at the riot
and your pundits groan: “How unjustified!”
But isn’t it them who created that divide?
As as for you Twitterers — I hear you scoff
but please! for a day, just turn it off.
To war and violence, the soldier grows numb
to pixels and partisans, the viewer grows dumb
Says she’s something she’s not, nor could ever be
To speak of this stupidity, I’m a tad regretful
But the clickbait crusaders were all-too forgetful
That she was not a criminal, nor looking to kill
In all likelihood, Rachel was mentally ill
the media exploded, spun the cyclonic spin
a sacrificial lamb had different colored skin
What heroism, valor — berating on a screen!
No one’s perfect, most are caught in between
most have faults buried in their flesh
and in the digital world, we will never enmesh
And as we approach the upcoming year
Allow me to make one big thing clear
The world is bedeviled, your intentions fine,
but shame and harassment cross the line
If you want to be good, don’t ever stoop
To hatred’s cyclical feedback loop.
In Greece, a five-year crisis returned to session
spurned by lingering effects of recession
to prevent all of Europe from showing them the door.
The entire country and continent awaited the fate
of a former empire screwed by an interest rate
that skyrocketed before they could repay
only furthering the plot of their tragic play
Tsipras, the prime minister, exuded defiance
but Draghi and Merkel demanded compliance
Because Greece’s struggles were only reflective
of how a unified Europe was simply defective
Some claimed that the crisis was Greece’s fault
others, a conspired Goldman Sachs assault
But Greece would be no better than a pawn
a chess piece for empires or the Golden Dawn
The youth fought not for careless enjoyment
But rather, the right to fair employment.
In the end The Greeks at last received relief
After six-plus years of frustrating grief
But only time will tell if they’ll be left alone
Or remain a black sheep in the Eurozone.
Let’s take a minute to talk about the House of Saud
A kingdom of derision that the powerful applaud.
For some, a bigoted, sexist community
That deals with dissenters with impunity
This year, Saudi Arabia ascended when its oil
profited, while other nations paid for their toil.
Some, like Venezuela, had their currency degraded
And others, like Yemen, faced bombings unabated.
As the money flowed like the blackest of gold
Armaments came to them from the cold
The merchants of death funded Saudi’s war
With Yemen’s rebellious, Shia poor
The Houthis, a rebel group based in the west
Showed up to parliament as an unwelcome guest
Saudi didn’t like that, and thus accorded
to bomb the living daylights out of the supported
regions where the clandestine dissenters fight
kill civilians, bomb hospitals out of visible sight
from the major Western Media groups
Who ignore the Gulf and Arab troops.
remember, America supports this brazen killing
Selectively patching where the blood is spilling.
The Saudis neither stopped their onerous ploys
During one of Islam’s proudest, holiest joys
at the Hajj, they corralled millions through a little tunnels,
a suffocating, horrifying human funnel
And when it struck, the inevitable stampede
No government official took the lead
Instead, they lowered the toll, and to mourners lied
At the heart of Islam, they covered the facts
While thousands died, they covered their tracks.
They treat women like chattel, atheists like sinners
but the greedy plutocrats succeed as winners
With privilege they flaunt their endless money
build desert stops into realms of milk and honey
Get second-class treatment at the very most
And to women, their treatment is a disgrace,
They forgive the rapists, and women take their place
upon the block where they lash and behead
Where those seeking justice are left for dead
Are they different from ISIS? such an absurd claim!
The United States does not treat the two the same.
In fact, as a witness, you should expect to lose
Whether you’re a civilian or a doctor in Kunduz.
You’re not immune from these American capers
or the type of thing you’d read in the Drone Papers.
Those right-wing politicians did what they could
to stifle that threat: Planned Parenthood.
In an undercover video, disguised to deceive
a conservative group made republicans believe
that the organization wanted to sell fetal tissue
But that didn’t stop presidential candidates
To argue that the snippet clearly demonstrates
a liberal cabal marred by corruption
gender violence is the right’s main seduction
A colorado man crazed on the urging
of vain politicians, for power, surging
their base to fight that mighty foe
The choice for a woman to say yes or no
An appalling prospect for the men in power
Looking to be that pious man-of-the-hour
One man in Colorado was willing to stifle
common medical procedures with a rifle
He knew the limits of suffering and shame
Figured verbal harassment was all-too-tame
He needed those around him to bleed
so he took the right’s rhetorical feed.
I ask Cruz, Fiorina and Rick Santorum
How proud they are of their sexist quorum
The road to hell is paved with good intentions
Or in 2016, with RNC conventions.
I’ll admit that progress is an iffy word
When so many of us eagerly joined the herd
or hateful and spiteful media leeches,
ignoring forgiveness when the needy beseeches.
But let’s have a moment for the pioneers
who shortened centuries of work into years
The artisans, who with programs designed
systems that watched, and struggled and learned
As the cranial cogs of computers churned.
Many warned that the future approaching
Would take our jobs, our lives, encroaching
upon the livelihood of the working class —
though it looks like nobody will surpass
the beginning of the end of job creation.
Not only did Uber land on the map
With a simple, button-pushing app,
They took an entire industry by storm
and created a defiant, violent swarm
For fear of what this brave new world bodes:
The demise of local, regulatory control
and the rise of the machine and its infant soul.
A selective history of time will suggest
That this year, among others, was not the best
But for all the suffering, triumph endured
And for the downtrodden, a spat of healing occurred
Ebola disappeared while many feared the end
feared strains no antibiotics could mend
feared a camel-backed disease would quickly spiral
Elon Musk, with his rockets, reached for a stars
And on the ground advanced self-driving cars
Helped out other, more unfortunate nations
While other nations’ efforts were simply trying.
Scientists discovered an entirely new way
To transfer and splice new strands of DNA
Crispr does so cleanly and sharply too
So that the mutations are virtually good as new
The changes may alter the industry for good
Or may do the harm that God never could.
These advances pale to the factories owning
Of pets like dogs and other stock to raising
And though these advances are amazing
This type of growth moves at such a speed
That nations can ignore the fire they feed.
In Tianjin, a mushroom cloud lit the night
like fireworks sputtering into chaotic flight
The chemical plant was a tinderbox.
And vaporized dozens in sudden slaughter
I wrote for all the light we cannot see
in that place between the world and me
I wrote for speech and its crucial defense
to challenge the unexpected virtue of ignorance
to have lived by the sword and died by the pen
to have launched to space and landed again
To have to top the disastrous in-between
of a galactic flop on Tatooine
No longer is Star Wars a relic of convention
It’s the heart of a strong industry redemption
With further competition coming from new faces
Netflix and its followers enjoying the graces
of commercial-free content marveling the viewer
the old model stands but the young want the newer
let’s celebrate the career of a movie maven
Who made poetic film out of all that is craven
The gods of the pen I want to die among
For a King to sing when the thrill is through
and a King that promised to stand by you
To an Arabian monarch of unlimited means
To the death of an industry blessing the greens
For how time may move, how it may pass
Through the glaze of memory’s looking glass
Time will make certain that some of us thrive
while it forces others to fight to survive
Be it reckoner or redeemer, time offers hope,
offers endless evenings to mend and cope
What will come next is but a sight unseen
But look forward, not behind, in 2016.
Phil James is a writer and web developer living in Oakland. He is the editor-in-chief of qwiklit.com, and will be releasing an iOS app for writers in early 2016.