Poetry from John Mellender

      Learning Situation

There may, especially in times 
of civil int’resting unrest,
be hid ‘midst heroes – who’d solve crimes,
believing weaker folks’ good best –
badged rogues who’d stop at no excess –
to savagery against suspects,
karate-chop pat-downs, regress;
on courage, honor, cast their hex,
leave victims sexually tortured.

Idealists who took a stand,
Once let out of this devil’s-orchard,
must face their love, although unmanned.
Their love is beauty, nothing less,
who knows to love where courage grows
but now finds love a harrowed mess –
distrait, stand-offish.  Why?  Who knows?

One may have suffered worse groin pains
in downhill bike falls, but – it’s strange –
this ache won’t go away.  The change
will bring unbid but oft’ his brains
all addled vivid bright recall
of dingy green precinct back room,
his hands upon the chilly wall,
his legs spread wide in civic gloom.

We’d cellmates been in protest time –
while I too had attacked a pig,
foolhardy vainglory for rhyme
it was – hardly a thing as big
as bravery.  (Though like outrage
they’d dealt me, small discomfort lingers –
my first night free did much assuage.
I’m just glad they spared my fingers.)

They’d thrown him howling through the door:
“Strike, coward scum, and from behind –
thus justice mock since law’s no more
where peacekeepers have lost their mind!”
He ceased his anguished hoarse harangue
and climbed onto the upper bunk.
Our cell door slid closed with a clang
as back into my bed I sunk.

His thrashings kept waking me up
for long into ceaseless glare.
I gave him water in a cup,
he fin’ly slept without nightmare.
Then after quiet hours went by
wherein he didn’t even snore
I guess he must have heard me sigh
for, leaping to the iron floor
he said his name, stuck out his hand.
I shook it, told him “Call me Jack.”
He taught up at the college, planned
This lecture for when he got back:

“When any revolution’s inchoate
if it’s at all, such autocratic lock
the Powers have on ev’ry human fate
the chance that dissidence with fight will mock
the pomp of armed enforcers isn’t great.
Few act upon disgust that many feel.
But character, integrity will rate
with some despite the odds, which are surreal.
Then luckily the losers themselves find
In what we call a learning situation:
What ruthless motherfuckers do them bind
Is matter for the wonder’s contemplation.”

I said that would his students well
Forearm.  He thanked me.  We discussed
specific treatment, what befell
us both since brought in on this bust,
and which side in particular –
they differed ‘tween the both of us –
received insult testicular.
He then reflected – with a cuss:

“It seems this adds another facet
to passions positive as well – 
how tell my girl now in tacit
accents exactly what a hell
her country is, what fiends its cops,
what force ensures wage-slave docility,
what gratis ache that hardly stops
our bliss infects and my virility – 
No! – she must be carefully shunned.
A note with disengagement ring
will say, ‘Sweetheart, love’s moribund.
You’re not to blame, though, that’s the thing.
You know you take it personal
when griefs hit folks that aren’t their fault.
But now the ghetto I’ll home call
while you continue to exalt
delight – but new guy overjoy –
for I this shaman must consult
to help your mad ex-lover-boy
again in ecstasy exult….’ –
I’ll not write that, just disappear.
To flee’s the better part of valor.
Of missing history buff she’ll hear,
I’ll spare her any further pallor.”