Saturday, November 1, 2008

A ribbon around the heart of the world

By Ted Burke
(There is something greater than politics, and that is service, and such is our luck that the service that needs to be provided for an embattled American Public has to be administered through political institutions; I believe in the line that goes that what used to be an occasional (good)hunch or inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the mind, and that we can collectively view what needs to be done and elect a leader who can forge our path through the proverbial dark forest and into the light. Obama, I think, is that man, not to put too partisan a face on the matter. Not that either party is blameless in our national and international pickle; that's besides the point at this juncture. What is obvious is that if Obama gets elected by anything resembling the margins have him at, there will be a mandate (from Heaven?) to change the way things are done in our ostensible democracy. I can't believe that we're just changing seats on the Titantic, since without the hope that things get better after a time of struggle , I'd have no reason to get out of bed, to work, to even bother doing the things I do. Why bother, if all is for naught? Hope is the watchword, and that idea is created by the quality of the acts you perform and the responsibililty you take for your conditions. Achieving that, little by measurable little, is the source of all genuine happinessFor me it comes down to the simple notion that one does the best they can do in the circumstances they find themselves in, making note that what limits their ability to be proactive in specific personal affairs and public doings isn't a dead end of possibility.

Situations vary grately, and one acts in good faith that most others in the world they know are likewise operating under the assumption that it's a better life if we try to improve circumstances, right injustices, provide comfort and crucial help to the needy than it is to shut down, horde, be a mean spirited miser. Disappointment is unavoidable, and I've said for the last two years that I am guardedly optimistic about the eventual revival of both or national spirit and our economy.

I do believe that all boats can rise on a rising tide. I am not a Polly Anna, and cyncism is my native expression and view, but I am aware that I cannot let it overtake what's left of my humanity. The meaning of life , it stands to reason, is what one creates through meaningful actions that one takes responsibility for. I'm not the smartest bear in the woods, but I do think the culture can be made to turn to something fairer, more just , kinder with enough determination and hard work. But that's done a day at a time.


The white people
have gone crazy
in the back seats
of All American cars
looking for the sex life
that fell between the cracks,
meanwhile screaming the rudeness
of Romantic love
that finds them
hung-over in court
too early in the morning
of a business day
where they'll tell the Judge
that it's only rock and roll
and that there was something in the way
the singer dropped his "g's
and a manner
worth noting when the guitarist
grabbed his whammy bar
and that all they did was taking
Creeley freely and pile into
the four-wheeled remains of a rumored prosperity
and drove into
the running gag reflex of the night, down a blvd.
filled brand names and bored cops,
cruising to get "some", to find "it"
and where "it" lived,
a slobbering example
of failed bonding
locked into habits
where even as their language of outrage
is bought
and shredded
in magazines
whose pages stick together
just as they did
in the parking lot after last call,
harassing the cocktail staff
that's going home,
they'll stick to principals
familiar and vague,
like that song whose words you never memorized
but tried to sing anyway, with a hushed secret at the core of the chorus
Saying that love is somewhere
just around one of these thousands
of and that it'll shake your hand
if you drive long and far and often enough,
if you've the gas
to complete the journey, the journey
Celine dreamed of while lying in bed,
staring at ceilings, concluding
that his language of outrage could only
describe the surface details of wrong turns,
that it had been bought and sold in a tradition
of literature that speculates about how wonderful
our lives might have been
if only the dream hadn't ended
when we opened our eyes,

Our eyes are constantly
getting used to the dark
absorbs every inch of brick
in parking lots
behind buildings and under bedrooms
of others who've made
their peace with
the sameness of the night,
the radio blares
more guitar solos
emerging from the
static of stadium
drums and strumming,
crazed cadenzas
whose neurotic notes scurry
and cleave to a neuron receptor
and keys a change
in the brains chemical balance that changes
the language of what the nights' really been about,

But we remain where we are,
white heterosexual males bond
by nothing more than
the chain sawing motion
of jaws lifting and falling
on the pillows and
sofa cushions in
desert motels
in time to the pans of a camera
on the silent television
where it's nothing but a wall full
of clocks telling
the time in
three separate
time zones while
temperatures are mentioned where
anger and rain mix in the fields
and valleys of economies
based on pride,
some abstract grip on selflessness that
needs no sleep
as do the bodies in this room,
dead to the world when the
engine blew, when the gas ran out, when
the last drop in whatever bottle of
cartoon labeled beer vanished on the
buds of a tongue
whose thirst could not be slaked by?
promise of fortune or even
water, pure and free of lies,

We sleep in shifts until
our time here runs
out on us,
until the phone that rings
everyday for twenty minutes on end
stops finally and leaves
the house quiet
from stairway to attic to porch,
with only the whir of the
refrigerator engine
starting up
and filling the stale,
stale air that
used to carry
mean jazz, drum boogie,
scratched riffs of declarative guitars,
the frets of God announcing
a life worth inventing in the notes
that passed through the room,
the boredom,
we realize in frozen moments
that any excuse for getting
out of the house
is a magic trick
that's performed after
they've shown you
where they've hidden the mirror,
"language is the house
where man lives",
let us say
that this life is
like being a fish
that cannot describe the water it swims in,
endlessly at 3AM
when only the coffee at
the 7-11 has the
aroma of anything
real enough to make
us think of getting
out of town
with one suitcase
and a bus fare,
next to a god-damned big car,
five shoulders
to the wheel
and no one able to drive
between towns , from carnival to still spot
where ever we could
pitch tents and trailers
and set up Ferris wheels that
would rattle against a
large scowling moon
hovering over
Modesto and Turlock
on dry August nights
when dollars are
grimy with mung from
many a farmer's and mechanic's hand,
power chords slice through
the speakers, destroy the cracked dashboard,
your face is slapped
with a power
not your own,
it comes down to something
that's a secret
that even The Judge won't cop to it
before he lowers his voice,

"The beat goes on,
the beat goes on,
the beat goes on,
the beat goes on…"

We can do better
this far away
from our past,
we have something
we've turned toward,
a light in eyes, a sun
that shines a light
those blades of
grass and long
stemmed flowers lean toward
even when clouds
and the stammer of fire eating transistors
sizzling from car windows distort the
image in the minds' eye,
I see a city where we come
and plant our feet on lawns
where we can sit
and plant in turn
new seeds, ideas
of a future worth having,

let's lean into the sun,
into the sun,
ride bicycles into the sun
on the road that becomes
a ribbon around the
heart of the world

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