when methods of war became mercenary

enterprise and nuclear economies turned

nations into the numberless industries of

ammunitions firearms missiles and men

the fashion of madness was made for men

and to siphon ore and funnel world defense

economies are at work to build the steel horizon’s

spiraling towers of the municipal rise

above mines stripped for their molten honey

to the music of machine guns mortars bullets

tomahawks howitzers and helicopters

hybrid creatures as hideous as the dinosaurs

they dance their strange sabbaths in our heads while we stifle

their crazed blood in our carboniferous cities

weary of despair we build and bury their towering pyres

under their monumental and murderous wings

the last judgment continues its children to be born

coffins are opening locusts are singing and night is forever bombing

how the explosives sing at the gorgon’s sunrise

how the faces as from an asylum turned inside-out

twist like roots of blue electricity the victims in

high rises undulating like tube worms

rubble with stone eyelids crying lasers of black light

a blue rose becomes a blue shining tank

the girl’s head is swimming on red steel she swallowed a shell

the bloodstained child is dragged from the crater  

wasp bullets stinging her back in swarms the blood of the

the dead and the derelict dyed by death and the gutters

are the weeping of stones

we are a century abhorred in rags and filth

we sip from a bowl of reheated soup

our cancers are spiritual giants

we live in cellars shake our heads and stare at

the sleeping hands of the clock our love is played

out for us via satellite here it comes the whirlwind

the bomb that scatters the smoking flesh across the sky

gassing the beings whom the earth exhales

in a train of shadows descending from mountain dens

gleaning new tracks for the furnace cores that

material from the underworld will encompass

what plaster casts of progress in allegorical toil

methane rigs derricks coal mines power plants banks

arms of soot sulfur and smoke hive together like pilgrims’

tents producing the engines that ply the maze homeward

we have become cities to become rebels

security of eyes that have no time to meet

falling down sewerfed avenues drunk by sodium windows

we were the lovers mired in gray horizons and blind factories

and apartments of books lamps clocks needles mattresses

who slept in vague embraces like graves

our obsession with work avenges itself

by clothing our slavery in perfect defiance

workers we walk over narrowing bridges where the scorpion flames devour

our strides as if painted on the river’s reflection

as the river glides forward like liquid space from black vats of black matter

that the night stares down from in a mask of star-filled cracks

city of water snakes you graze by them on the sidewalk

you coil an island of dragons

and you coil


you swill atrocious elixirs to reach the well

you pray your heart were a moment outside time

but an obscener osiris of the nile

damned in his vengeance screams like a klaxon

down streets given up for dead by warring kingdoms

buildings like flies in the slough ponds of demons

mutate to rebellious heights and then on the internet

the statistical sickle reaps the age like chaff

and tears its flesh at run-of-the-mill tables

pierced by deliriums as rabid as any cannibals

no color just dusk nor ode nor song just news

the crucible of terms academy-computed in

basins of logic what are those spiders of the night

whose jet networks thread schedules out of smoke

those galaxies were just spirals in your eyes

alchemy’s black sun embraces the new moon

dawn powerless captured in smoke-woven nets

the sun a giant gauzy worm thick and winter-fed

when sleep awakes we dead resurrect like moths from flames

in the mayhem the kings broods follow him

wounds washing down from an infinitely hollow sky

hope the only rainbow of a remote absolute beyond

but its wavelength shortens to abhor the wreckage here

the sky is filled with accidents

plotted on ledgers by men below sometimes they appear

to weave in the soft thread of their nimble fingers

a skein of mechanical metallic orbits

and in the heated dust clouds we await

reception of grease and pistons to charter cargo steamers

for the commerce that clusters men in bright cities

business booms freighters bring more coffee cockroaches media

mountains of molten shells meander into cauldrons

pour out railroads of floating bonds and fraudulent stocks

and bury the prairies’ blazing star and goldenrod

the bullet molder’s steel twists

its labor into the treasure hard to obtain

with systematic scrutiny timed for production

the marrow-sucking drill screws through the navel to the grave

the assembly line windmills inside that and then the dragon spits out steel dust

and when we behold those incendiary angels’ fixed wings

our thoughts ricochet like flechettes through concrete city streets

and such flowers of death as we plant in the spring

are watered by grief-flowing rivers that our tears wash down

smoke strangles the rat-filled docks with noise trash lights

presidents are wringing white columns of temples from bills of exchange

and the boards of directors are saluted from a grid

chemicals oil rubber and metallurgy loom in their ancient sockets

and their pitted eyes of stolen jewelry

cuneiform skyscrapers look out over the ionized abysm

they scan submarine canals satellites

and isotopes on the charted lens

born unto these chambers of our aerial bombs

trapped in cinderblocks disarticulating body parts

we speak in tongues of boarded-up skyscrapers and trash-filled trees

pin-mouthed belly-dragging suits cross airports the terminals and friezes

of blackened archways themselves the minutes of cavernous hours

psyche’s sleepless nights of dissipation repeat

before the tedding hay when the sun eyeballs

the crowded city even unto the labyrinth of

its lost ambitions and the knowledge it cannot understand

the soul’s eternal midnight persephone divided

time’s flight eclipsing light life and time into shadow seconds

as progress embalms itself

revenge graces the masses’ tasks with

tortures so refined they are painless

who weeps at his own crucifixion

so many souls their lives written in books

tied around their necks devoured by the darkness they plunge into

the desperations of the born and the dying

are everywhere who will parley with them

starvation spears through a geography of stomachs

the computer acts as a charm against the same old ass-eyed hermit bugs

and human-eared wood-ticks who have always tormented us

councils astronomies dynasties corporations

all portraits of the life and death of humanity

converge behind the macadam eyes of orpheus

who steps from the terminal a suitcase full of possibilities in hand

even his shadow is a machine

his turbine pulse throbs with the energy

that the foundry of his muscled heart pumps out

the city air swims through the golden smog of snakes

a mercurius with mahogany eyes talks through all the phones

and gives instructions to his oracles

his days have been pawned his nights have been hocked

he needs to buy the strongest toxins just to sleep

for a garden he has a car for a flower

a credit card for a park he has a drink

for a walk he has a klonopin

for a grand tour a keyboard

and when the internet goes off so does he

how long since your world collapsed

o you abominable twilights crystal lucid violent

a serpent in dark waters biting its own tail

in clouds of dust and gas circulates through the universe

all is error beginning with wisdom made weak

by visions of her own splendor guarded by eons

the doomed gray masses who abetted her trespasses

are the clocks running backwards in this abyss

happiness in its pure form eluded us we live in

millennial clocks on the infinite edge

of wheeling suns hungry and lustful men

burn on the spreading plains of jealousy

though his self is the symbol of the universe

his heart is a carnal playground time and space

carry him along electrons take his place

in the apple orchard barb-wired hesperides

crows of fire cling like radioactivity

the gardener plants the souls and up rises

a tree of heads hanging down branches dripping bodies

lizards smoke their pipes filled with their dried blood

each puff a drop of blood rises to the sky

here is our lovely garden what garden

he hears the songbirds what songbirds

through cracks in the sidewalks words of the corpses drown

the drizzled gray men who out of their eye sockets issue ashes

here is life’s banquet here is whose skull

behind man’s wringing hurried forehead

you can see the ant-farm of his fears at work

as from over a gravity well he sees

the assemblage of stars dispersed into meaningless space

again at first light sulfur and mercury stir the air in doped

cross-eyed walls that snake-wreathed helmets cover

march-border winds bring in bright and shiny systems of war

larynx tongue epiglottis howl at birth

yet soon they sigh oblivion is for keeps

underneath the gravel with the swine of the earth

trucks with bombs blow themselves up

bony hands in a solvent of blood paradise

jeeps with cigars and oiled heads that go chomp chomp

brahman is a casket full of skulls lowered on a rope between two eternities

the light of lowly stars red-shifts

a café where a grenade has been lobbed

a lacework veil of ribs and skulls jehovah sits in judgment of the void

weaving looms from vacuums and emptiness from thin air

even if someday a small still voice bid your heart to go

police will check your record of arrest and detain you

the enchanted mirror bending over bureaus to abstract you

as through a beam splitter thoughts and actions separate

in and out of the towering urn the charred crones wait for the centuries to end

mere pleasure at the stumbling block

crooked streets winding like cracks in an egg

streets of black-tongued hecates and their weird hounds the deafening

threnodies the deafening fire in a city topped by toppling fires

love will fix on anything

so like a cormorant fathoms for a carp

or a gilded swan for a golden death

we pace between two horizons

and walk around the tempting eternity and the taut abyss

through a mirror of innocence that was once a great ocean

now it’s the transparent love of a martyr’s wall

masses carry garlands of cypress yew willow

mourners gather in the last nettles briars brambles

the sky leprous as the mountain peaks

that weeping stone it will not cry

the self melts and freezes the same heart’s ice as yesterday

drowned in thoughts of anonymous clamor

the sky is a throne of skulls and over it run spiders

and those wind-up toys of neurochemistry

are the seconds ticked by and you were not there

and the pillars of thought unveil a temple of shattering atoms

enemies in torture cells their tongues cut out

the world is clothed in the words of the shepherd

the words of the shepherd clothe the sheep

they watch meadows of walking skin like lilacs of seated dust

the movie is short as a raindrop on a thorn

daughter gang-raped son decapitated father forced down and shot

projected by the black wings of history

eyes out like toads where the hay-stacked bodies are flame-thrown

massacred burials painted with a nerve-gassed brush

whether jetsam dirge or dry ceremony

much music comes from our tapering throats

the clouds shot through with bolts of suffering

are also the infantry boot-steps turning into spinnerets

o swan what madness believe you in nightmares

cast a dry stalk lead the horses to the fire

time was only keeping time company

and time like a friction wore life out

the thoughts of the spider while it spins its web


Poet's Note: 

This poem is a mosaic built up over long stretches of time; it was triggered by my listening to Malcolm X on a Pacifica radio program in the late 70s.  The first ten lines popped into my head like automatic writing. Originally this was referring to the Vietnam War.  Then I piled on the nightmare in words.  I would shelve the poem for maybe ten years. Lo and behold the poem still applied, so I would update it, or add a few lines, and then throw it in a drawer for another decade or two.  Pull it out, and it still was relevant, but for a different war and a more terrifying world. I had all the time in the world to revise.



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