Approaching the 45th American Presidency

 

The following poem was published in Vancouver’s Westender yesterday…Thank you Westender!

westender-poetic-licence-stephen-t-berg

Approaching the 45th American Presidency

I leave Planet Earth Poetry at Hillside Coffee
after listening to an enjambment of poets
fervently consider the current state of the American presidency,
and on my way home remember I need to prepare and marinate
the chicken for tomorrow night’s dinner,
                  that’s the chicken
I bought from Drumpf Meats earlier in the day that I thought (although
I didn’t ask) was fresh-fresh, but was in fact alternatively-fresh,
as I found remnant formations of ice crystals in the cramped cavity,
and the oblique neck, stuffed within, was polar-stiff,
and the gelid giblets, notably the orange-hued heart, was glacial-cold,
meaning this or more: that the bird hadn’t come straight from the abattoir
to its place behind glass, but had spent time in cryogenic rime,
and I remembered too,
                  that a chicken
can live without its head for an ungodly duration,
which beyond all reason,
made me approach the fridge
with unimpeachable apprehension.


How to make something good happen: counsel for the perniciously officious politician

contemplateocean

I could point to the ocean, the chickadees, the aspen trees,
tell you to consider the Carthusian monks
—you could learn something,
especially from the ocean.

I could tell you to listen to the silence at the entrance of a cave,
go to your knees,
crawl in
and watch the neat rows of bats hang like laundry.

You could take a tide-pool bath,
let the wisdom of water wizen your skin,
or sit cross-legged on the sand and gaze inward,
follow the capillaries at the back of your eyes,
down the veins, down the arteries
all the way to your heart, where,
hoping your return, a young monk sits waiting,
saying nothing, which is not  nothing,
doing the nothing  that is not-nothing.

I could go on giving examples,
hinting at true states fit for governance,
but the fact is:
seduced by the hubris of the grand display,
driven by the gluttony of a fragile ego,
you’ve become the serial deploy-er of pernicious policy.
Fact is, without study, in humility, “believe me”,
you can’t make anything good happen.
What you can do,
is leave stuff the fuck alone!


I’m not sure what effect poetry has, or has ever had on politics. Marginal I suspect, especially today, considering the broad cultural shift to the visual. And yet, to my light it continually begs to be written (even, as is the case here, if its best effort is to create a scene for a judiciously placed expletive).

Still, protest poetry, social justice poetry, is at least as ancient as the Old Testament (the prophets were not averse to use purple language). And of course there’s a rich history of the protest poem, particularly during the sixties (Dylan, Levertov, Adrienne Rich, Ginsberg etc.). What’s more, in Russia, poetry could get you killed: it was the poetry of Osip Mandelstam that so agitated and angered Stalin that he had Mandelstam’s life end in a concentration camp.

For me, all I know is that in a world moved to a frightening precipice by so-called leaders the likes of Trump, Putin, Kim Jong-ul, one is compelled to use whatever creative outlet they have to raise a flag, unsettle the craven egos of the emperors, speak some kind of truth to inhuman powers. Not that this will effect change, only that it is right.


We need a different kind of flesh

sunriseoverjaundefuca

What we have is marvellous but it lacks resilience.
I know this because once I was sitting in a café
                                                  sipping dark coffee,
and the light sifting through the windows
had this powdery softness
that sometimes comes early-to-mid-morning,
before surrendering to the brawny glare of afternoon.

And I had just noted this thought about light in my notebook,
when a white-haired person wearing a blue bandana 
                                                  and gardening shirt,
rose to leave and—silhouetted in that full-flowering light—
signalled a simple acknowledgement of my presence.

And what rushed to fill me, inexplicable and irrepressible,
                                                  was joy;
so intense and primal that I was brought
                                                   to tears
and would have been overwrought,
                                                  had it endured.
Yet how I longed for it to endure
(but hadn’t the frame for it).

It was this experience that convinced me of an afterlife:
where, at some forever-open café we’ll all be changed
and in a peach-tinted flash receive new flesh, new bones,
bodies made to bear ancient crimson flames,
                                                      and so,
go out into glad afternoons, magnificently naked.


Impatient to be happy

cobblebeach

We wound our way north, along and beyond Island View Beach.
There were Brants, cormorants, and mergansers.
It was clear and we saw, plain and high, Mt. Baker’s white peak.
A Tsawout man, whose land we were on, was fishing with his grandchildren.
The children were eager to leave for a new spot.
The grandfather was patient to stand still and cast and cast and cast.
The sand made our feet heavy, slow, obedient.
We stopped often for shells and stones.
We talked of our collections of ideas, discoveries, changes.
We had lunch, ate salad, sat on driftwood.
Sydney slouched in the distance across the Haro Strait.
We walked into the afternoon.
At Cordova Point—a spit of salt marsh shrubs, cobble and sand
stretching toward James Island—we turned back.
The beach became crowded with people and dogs all glowing in the sun.
Everyone eager to welcome spring to February.
Everyone eager to escape the prison of objects.
Everyone eager to release their breath.
Everyone impatient to be happy.