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.

-pj

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

by some swift, passing weekend song

So let the musings of the past year spin.

Charlie

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 —

Joseph Anton sends his regards”).

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

the Tigers left their footballing stage

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.

(The Guardian)

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

Scrambled to meet America’s booming quota?

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.

(New York Times)

Migration

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.

The Greeks spoke of this white man

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

They used the old theater for their daily plays

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, in the scrum of reporters, were tripped.

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

of the corporate overlords of fish and shrimp

farming in secret with no way home

Only their bodies shored like Pacific foam.

Charleston, SC

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;

he almost didn’t do it — they were so nice)

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

Bree Newsome ascended the official pole

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

And the stars of Davis, Lee and Calhoun

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 —

to kill so many at community college?

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

From Luxembourg to Cyprus, the ban was gone

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.

Black Lives

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 Foreign Observer)

ISIS

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

Something exploded in proximity.

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

(long before his family had hoped he was dead)

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.

Change

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

Greenland’s melting, glacial highlands

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

On the partnership binding the Pacific

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.

(The Nation)

Canada

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.

Though Canada struggled with economic strain

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.

The screen

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

were shot with the camera light still aglow

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!

(imgur)

Narcotics

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

(Dallas News)

Bikers

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

“Bandidos forever, Forever Bandidos.”

But another foe, some fervent rapscallions

Who named themselves after Russians on Stallions

Wanted to meet to quell the bubbling tension

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.

(abc.net.au)

Sport

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

to ignore the balls deflated with precision

Brady, like Belichick, was branded a cheater

truants in America’s grandest theater

But even with a tiny suspension

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

By capturing, with ease, the elusive Triple Crown

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.

(Huffington Post)

Economy

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.

Trump Card

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

A woman from Spokane in the NAACP

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.

Falling Kingdoms

In Greece, a five-year crisis returned to session

spurned by lingering effects of recession

A young maverick leader took to the floor

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

to address how many actually died

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

But the atheists, artists and servants they host

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

(the video editing an apparent non-issue)

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.

spacex.com

End

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

the early stages of the artificial mind

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 potential extent of automation

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

Willing to block whole airports and roads

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

but In Korea, only speculation went viral

Elon Musk, with his rockets, reached for a stars

And on the ground advanced self-driving cars

Cuba eased its border and its relations

Helped out other, more unfortunate nations

Sent doctors to Africa to help the dying

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

The right to perform haphazard cloning

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.

that ripped apart several city blocks

And vaporized dozens in sudden slaughter

gutted schools of fish in the nearby water.

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

For Pratchett, Salter, masters of the tongue

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.