Mood Clash






Ozymandias II


A young explorer from a distant land

embarked upon our shores. "A visage bold

yet peaceful greeted me," said he. "Her hand

held high, she bore a flaming torch that told

of liberty and progress, and a script

evoking justice, and a hopeful word

to wretched peoples, tired and poor and stripped

of dignity in other worlds." And stirred

to dreams and passion by this moment rare,

the visitor advanced beyond the shore,

then suddenly fell back in stark despair:

Before him, like the aftermath of war,

were landscapes scarred with toxins and debris,

and barrenness as far as he could see.







Kubla Khan II


Of pleasure crafts and vintage wine

shall those ensconced in gilt milieu

partake with auspices divine,

decreed the men of Xanadu.


Around them sylvan medleys rise,

and fertile gardens, amber green,

and fauna's prurient reprise

on sacred waters, cold, pristine.


But piecing the tranquility,

disrupting cadence and rapport,

come bellowings of blasphemy

as men are prophesying war.


Their words evoke the dulcet note

of lusting reed and dulcimer

as Cyrenaic maids devote

to innocents their overture:


"To you, our friends, a toast we raise,

to beg your future be foretold:

to serve your flesh on silver trays,

your blood in goblets made of gold."





My Son at War


At beck of Melancholy, wizened thief

of Time, I watch the hordes lift altar stones,

as sweat and levers ooze in bas relief

in turbid wallows of testosterone's

anointed soil, and the idolatrous

cortege invokes a godlike warrior,

the phallus of a lecherous abyss

where rabid gnarling men and beasts defer

to him, and flaming chariots arise,

orgasmic with revering royalty.

And with my withered guide they lionize

this lord of cardboard swords and fancy-free,

his boyish battle-sculpted mask to burn

in grownup realms from which he can't return.







A latticework of virtues, sisters clothed

in stiff and satin gowns, like mannequins,

unfeeling, heads above the clouds, betrothed

to traffic, trade, and trust, these charlatans:

they gamble with the lives of innocents,

a global huntress and a conqueress

who send unknowing minions to dispense

their brand of nation-building and largesse.

But brittle are these maidens, statuesque

as stacks of dominoes, their marks of doom

foretelling the arrival of grotesque

and vengeful former suitors to consume

the spirits of the innocents with sound

and fire and fury on a hallowed ground.





Ten Seconds


Enclasped and clawing, catlike, hackles raised,

I teeter as a scalding blackish breath

disgorges flames, demonic shibboleth

of hissing teeth and swollen embers. Crazed

with conflict I engage the seraphim

for cooling balm. I'm stagestruck as bouquets

from still-lifes far below attempt to raise

the ground to me as my impassioned hymn

implores the gods: let eagle wings be weaved

upon me! But a slicing whirlwind shears

and twists my wings to flaunt from the abyss

the fiery womb where I was just conceived,

her mate nearby, and from above appears

my maker in a covenant of bliss.








Upon a ruby-christened dawn they came

with tempests in their eyes, these warriors,

our mentors, their benevolence the flame

that heals the forest floor, in overtures

of vernal stirrings casting oaken seeds

to eager winds. But canticles of praise

were soon to spirit them with strings and reeds

and faceless murmurings on grand forays

to blust'ry peaks of pulpit, pomp, and wrath

that rendered inaccessible the path.





They Will Show Us How To Prosper


They descended from peaks of cumulus,

purple and dense in the ghostly pre-dawn,

shadows painting disdain on their faces.

Yet they are driven by a stimulus

selfless and just: neither brashness nor brawn

imperils what their mission embraces.

With drums and trumpets they came to foretell

resplendent pleasure domes and pathways paved

with gems and fair-skinned women tranquilized

by scented baths and spices and the spell

of sleek seduction, godly and depraved.

We idolized them all, and we despised

them with each breath while the delights we craved

were mirrored in their eyes, a fiery gleam

hinting at motives beyond our meager

understanding. For we would be enslaved

by the cost of freedom. Do we blaspheme

with these suspicions, are we not eager

for their gifts? With craft and cunning they earned

these ample spoils, now ours as well as theirs.

Unfettered by the anguished pleas

from sunless edges of our world, we learned

that fortune consecrates whoever dares

divine a palace from a trifling breeze.

Yet amidst the gathering plenty remained

a lust for things unknown. As I ventured

from idyllic gardens I saw the stains

of discarded life among those ordained,

as I, to be worshiped, to be censured:

ambition bartered for bejeweled chains.

And further on were the children, huddled

perversely, hoarding rations in a place

once swelling with pleasure seekers, the roar

of industry around them, the muddled

silent stares belying on every face

the sense of theft by those who came before.




In This Way She Returned


Her lips, like unblossomed orchid petals,

pink and still, resting on a glossy bed

of fabrics that reflect glittery specks

of silver as lilac-drenched air settles

around us. Candles hint at life; instead

dance on her eyes, to startle and perplex.


For she remains steadfast in her retreat

to worlds beyond our own, a universe

where wind-borne whispering, a distant voice

rising and fading, hastens to repeat

its taunting and little-understood curse,

that resignation is my only choice.


I kiss her cheek and sing of cottontails

in the clouds and lavender ribbons soft

and silken on her ruffled party dress,

and ponies descending from fairy tales

with downy wings to carry her aloft

to magic lands of king and sorceress.


But she chose a path where powerful steeds

snorting plumes of steam and bolting at flames

that raged and ribboned through blackened terrain

inspired valiant feats of derring-do, deeds

so wondrous that as the vanquished proclaims

her brilliance, trumpets echo in refrain.


She stole like a satiny mist through lands

legendary with grandeur and danger:

the palaces of Xanadu - pity

to those who would heed not the reprimands

of a victor merciful, this stranger

at the gate of their Forbidden City.


The wrath of Alexander, son of Zeus,

Macedonian, no match for her skills

in acts of war, or her resourcefulness:

the celebrated Gordian Knot, loose

beneath her spell; and captive are the wills

of all who bow before the conqueress.


Mighty Achilles, slayer of Hector,

and lovely Helen, who coaxed men to war;

compare to their own this child's attributes!

In her sight their god is but a specter,

the brazen seductress of men a whore,

the heralded warriors dullish brutes.


All turn away from her in frenzied flight,

thrashing side to side like frightened sparrows,

stirring dust and grit in a rising gale;

impotent swordsman, an armorless knight,

a master archer stripped of his arrows:

with fists and bows and blood and brawn they flail.


But now, like them, she returns defeated,

snapping in the tempest, a sapling's bough.

As great machinery felled the phalanx

surrounding her, the battle conceded,

her spirit subdued, she heeded her vow

to remain to the end. Shall I give thanks


for this, or fall to despair? For she's crossed

endless worlds to explore the mysteries

beyond the stars, her destiny the grail

of the philosophers, who would be lost

as I, embarked on lonely Odysseys

seeking her trodden path, to no avail.





Pax Americana


From modern-day Alhambras, grand estates

attired in gowns of pampered lawns, arrayed

with gemstone gardens, fit for potentates

or splendid ladies on the promenade;

from halls of burgundy that bleed disdain

on lips engaged seductively with crys-

tal goblets raised to birthright; from the strain

of Herculean engines musing bliss-

ful celebrants to caverns shimmering

with silv'ry needles of erotic light,

of steaming perfumed bodies glimmering

with gold, as heartbeat frequencies ignite

the lovers and the swaggerers; from air

intoxicating, swirling in the eyes

of epicureans as they prepare

to suck the essence from their twitching prize;

from muscled phallic towers in a line

against the sky, empowered by the fire

of parasitic titans who divine

the blood-black marrow from a funeral pyre

of wasted realms, once-plentiful supplies

extracted with Promethean contempt;

in holy places, chanting a reprise

to magnanimity, are those who've dreamt

of brethren sculpted in their image, all

the world in plenitude, and all at peace;

but flaming sweat from earthen pores is fall-

ing on the distant soil, to never cease

its vulgar testimonial: all hail

the Great Provider, mystic, alchemist,

crude lifeblood turned to gold, the far-off wail

of torment in the heartland as the tryst

remains concealed; for from the arteries

within a long-neglected body, blind

and feeble, sons of Plutus come to seize

the bounty coveted by humankind;

the undeserving touch it not, but breathe

the deadly swelter of their gods; their roads

are scarred with beggars, urchins, men who seethe

with idleness, whose discontent explodes

in scenes of bullet-ridden walls and bare-

ly human children clutching deadly toys;

and swollen bellies, children unaware

of life beyond the fever that destroys

their ravaged mothers, fragile petals shorn

from immature bouquets; and babies born

near end of life, their bodies battle-worn

with plagues that other worlds no longer mourn.

And rising up are those who seek to mend

the rupture in this trust, and with their cries

extinguish all the flames; but they contend

with men of subterfuge, who hypnotize

with grinning masks and gaudy camouflage

that set the stage for their climactic act:

the loathing of their souls they will assuage,

the favor of their gods they will exact.





A More Productive War


To exotic lands were our children sent,

realms of sultans and barbarians, vaults

of precious ore; these young conquistadors,

in the name of a race benevolent

and God-fearing, waged merciful assaults

on the tyranny our homeland abhors.


But the sharpened barbs of the battlefields

extended by wave and wire to the doors

of the authors of this scripture, their good

repute lying moribund on their shields

while admonished by their inquisitors,

for their just war was little understood.


So these devoted high priests of Ares,

housed amidst fine woods and leathers, attired

in tailored silks and grandiosity,

addressed the wrath of their adversaries

by rant and public tirade, and aspired

to a shrewd Plutonian strategy:


the aggression of their forebears decried,

they turned to ledgers, logs, and reckonings

to perfect the financial alchemy

by which plenitude might be prophesied

for all classes, as in the beckonings

from Delphi, foretelling prosperity.


And thus the great machinery was oiled,

the underclass calmed, the overlords pleased.

But as predicted for the oligarch

of ancient Sparta, where the helots toiled

to mine the Croesian abundance seized

by a few, the horizon appeared dark


and forbidding as now, with harvest sparse,

life-giving riverbanks furrowed and dried

and cratered like a war-spoiled countryside.

Yet still we remained engaged in the farce,

thirsting for the bounty we'd been denied,

worshiping those who promised to provide.







Till the Next War


Ashes flickering,


twisting to and fro

in the smoldering blackness,

shirking from sulfurish fleshy pustules

on the gravel below:

the whole grayish image

swelling with vapory reverence,

as if lifting the souls of

warriors never again to stir,

never to bounce bubbling infants

on their knees.


The night brings a merciful silence,

as the soothing rush of the breeze

through leafy poplars

seems to lend hushabye sounds

to the movements of the dark.


And when the silvery morning

dances through clusters

of contented greenery

and children tag and tussle

far from blurring memories

of tearful nights,

and the air breathes honeysuckle,

and the breeze teases and taps

against my eager lips,

a choir of doves will

pulse from the clouds

to replace the fiery clamor,

and for a little while

the doves will live forever.








I look out upon a weary land scarred with

beggars and urchins and harlots,

sinewy with bullet-pocked walls,

shocking with children not yet human

bearing deadly toys,

and crutchless wretches

flopping like newborn turtles in the sand,

babbling into the broken pavement

that obstructs their way.

A bowl of millet sustains a sticklike man

as fire-breathing iron skeletons

suck nourishment from the ground behind his hut.

A young girl dreams of pink lace and princesses

in the shuttered mounds of salty mortar

crumbling and parting with the wind,

home to orphans waiting to kill or die,

and to infants sucking at shriveled teats,

their undersized bodies

knotted with dysentery and cholera

and long-conquered diseases.

A mother ravaged by fistula,

discarded like a bauble in a belching gutter,

hides the shame and stench

under blood-matted sheets.

Resignation is the parasite that eats at her mind.


I turn away, seeking comfort.

Carpets of greenery soothe me back

to canopied rose gardens

and pleading violins and gentle percussions,

to leafy patterns on crystal

and flaunty glimmers of burgundy and gold,

to properly disdainful lips

smacking the warm blood

of their still-twitching prize,

to rare stones

and the fabrics woven of others' fantasies,

to the retreating sunlight

dancing in the flaming purple

of nectars sipped in congratulatory silence.




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