Poetry from Steven Hill

The Long and Mischievous Life of Love, Hatred and Fear 
					By Steven Hill 
			(dedicated to the memory of George Floyd)

		“Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made."
					― Immanuel Kant

Now the streets are quiet again, peaceably quiet,
but it is the pause of the reloading,
the stillness of a graveyard;

	it is the morning after
for those without a future, 
viewing the hulk of strip malls charred to steel frame, 
shuffling through the shattered glass 
	of the fragile consensus, 
and the melted smell of tear gas, weeping over broken dreams.
It is the same twisted today that looks like the yesterday of a
	hundred or thousand years ago,
for those without a language whose hopes were turned to ash, and 
	swept by the aproned shopkeep into the ceaseless star-stream. 
The damage is done when the prospect of progress vanishes
	with the dust re-settling, 
when we cease plumbing the depths of the human soul to 
	find that broad territory in common. 
And as the clash of flesh exhausts its insanities,
	as the Us vs Them smashes together like dialectic atoms,
the frantic synthesis arrives in time for the new tumult,
the pieces pick themselves up and recompose,
sneak past the debris to find a way forward again, 
	arresting the black hole collapse to the backward,
leading the escape of runaways in search of
		a refuge from this most un-civil war.

But the silenced ones know, oh yes don’t they, 
that the interregnum always ends
and the relentless assault on meaning begins again,
leading once more to another round of tweeted reprisals;
across the broken landscape, the tectonic plates crack and separate
	kin from kin,
	ethnic from ethnic, 
accord from conversation, 
we watch helplessly as words tap the algorithm and 
sentences juice the emotion, 
	foreboding the passage of night swallowing the day.
History the bloody obituary written by 
	the last of the last survivors,
language a vehicle for unconditional surrender,
signed at the Court House adjacent to the ghastly battlefield,
	bearded General to bearded General, victorious to vanquished,
chainreacting all over the weaponized volksgeist, 
there are no winners here, only those who lose less.			
But what if we re-launched the invention of the feeling?
What if we sought where the tenderness may lie?
What if we weren’t beset by something so sad that it paralyzed?
Or if we listened harder to those who 
	had to bite their own tongues until they bled,
	to those who ended with the short end of the loaf of bread, 
	those buried beneath the missing tombstones of the mass graves.
What if the pure decision of the Good Samaritan 
replaced the pursuit of the Master Race deal,
or if our human desires were not entwined,
		like a crown of thorns,
		inside the political economy of our times?  
Here, at the apogee of our history,
the latest Great Leap Forward turns out to be   
	a backward fall into more backwardness.
The return to MAGA plantation greatness is exposed
	as another fake story of 
	white bwanas sipping lemonade on the porch,
attended by obedient Dark Continent subservience, 
such a human thing to do, to love fantasies that never were,
	as they disappear in the rearview mirror.

But the past survivals never stay buried, do they?
They ooze from the muck of the weeping mass graves, 
	the Rosewood’s and Tulsa’s and Thibodaux’s and 1919 arise 
from the cruel crypt of Hate’s harsh oblivion, 
white-world memory tries to delete from the hard drive
	the silenced evidence of ethno-cide, and 
the un-banality of evil and the sin of looking away,
	every soul guilty of all the good you did not do,
leaving us still groping toward a recognition of our real lives,
	our real history, 
the stipulated record of who really built this country,
	planted its fields, erected its towns and schools and cities,
	and laid the rail tracks to the future,
as the Four Horsemen  howled their overwhelming questions: 

Are we here?
Is this real? 
Are we sure?
Am I real?
Does here connect to anywhere?
If E = mc2, then how am I still here?   
How do I find a reason to put one foot in front of the other?
When will I uncover the words, consonants and vowels needed
	to arrive at the source of Something true, 
instead of circling the lonely perimeter with longing, 
	for what I cannot have, 
	for what I cannot taste and cannot kiss,
	and cannot see except in fleeting glimpses of Beauty,
that elusive Something that vanishes into Nothing. 
Yes, I see it in your eyes, my love, 
all the disappeared lives that mattered,
reflected a thousand by thousand times, 
the ones who looked after the system, previous and present,
blown like dead pollen across the centuries;
I see it in my eyes, reflected in your eyes, my love,  
the present is everything and nothing,
utterly reusable in the Grand Mortar and Pestle,
	nothing lives forever, nothing ever will,
not even you and I, my love,
	pawing through the leftovers to hoard what we can, 
to return and return as the dust of the double helix,
amidst the un-raveling of the un-civilization and— 			

	You don’t believe me, you say?
	You don’t believe this is slithering thru our DNA? 
Then why, in the realization that we are everywhere and nowhere,
why have all roads led from the many pasts to here? 
	Why, for each History’s moment, does the crossroad 
	fork yet again, to anywhere but here? 				
How do we find it within ourselves to arise from the breakfast cereal 
	into the urgency of each tangled day?
And why then do we fall down, we millions and billions,
	hearts beating fast like the Ninth in D minor, 
contesting the birthright of where we were born, 
as the Fear and Confusion plant their jeering flags
	amidst a fireworks of scorn? 

No, the streets are calm now, passably calm,
it’s dead quiet out there, beneath the noise;
despite the rumblings of marchings from those who demand a future,
despite the huddled masses barred at the border by the rusted Iron Lady, 
despite the divided “e pluribus unum” of this violent mammal trajectory,
	we thought if we plugged our ears it would leave,
	we thought if we clutched our bellies without malice, 
	we thought if we arranged the words and paragraphs just so  
that we could pacify our death-fear locked inside.

But what if the most feared thing is that which we refuse to confess:
	that Love is the strangest notion of Civilization, 
	proven to regularly run amok, 
	kneeling at the altar of heartless entropy,
		until one day we run out of luck; 				
Yet Love is also the molecular force that can bind,
and what’s bound gives the World its arrow-direction,
	in broken search for that more perfect Union, 
	you and I, a chance for resurrection,
for in the end, in the very very end, 
we are here,
	within the limits of our language,
	within the space between our opposable thumbs,
		stumbling toward governance within the parliament of hysterics,
	straining toward common ground, 
resisting the Hate that tries to overrun all representation,
	standing in defiance of the Trumped up charge and
 	the profanity of evil exposed. 

And then, as the streets re-explode in their un-poetry of un-justice,
as we gasp over our brutal re-acquaintance 
	with the imperfection of it all,
	we discover that something still lives above 
that purple bruise behind the stars,
and below the crooked tree limbs, swinging heavy with that strangest of fruit, 
our prayers re-locate the ACTG helix,  
	replicating with mercy and haloed in pearls,
until finally, we remember, just before we extinguish: 

“Our kiss is for the whole world.” 

[1] The Great Leap Forward of Chinese leader Mao Zedong was a disastrous economic policy from 1958 to 1962 to reconstruct China’s agrarian and industrial economies thru forced collectivization that led to mass starvation for  tens of millions of Chinese.

[1] A 19th century colonial and racist term for the continent of Africa. Sigmund Freud also compared adult women’s sexual life to a “dark continent.”

[1] Racial  massacres: in Rosewood, Florida, New Year’s Day, 1923, a white mob of 300 men murdered dozens of black men, women and children, and completely torched the town into oblivion, wiping it forever off the map; in Tulsa in June 1921, whites burned to the ground the prosperous black neighborhood of Greenwood, murdering hundreds and burying them in forgotten mass graves; and in Thibodaux, Louisiana , November 1887, white plantation owners, politicians and their paramilitaries murdered hundreds of black sugar cane workers and their families for going on strike, the most violent labor dispute in US history; in 1919, white massacres and lynchings of blacks took place in more than three dozen US cities, including Chicago, Washington DC, Baltimore and Omaha, after black military veterans returning from World War I asserted their labor rights, resulting in the murder of hundreds of black Americans.

[1] The four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Death, Famine, War, and Conquest, that arrive in the biblical Book of Revelations as harbingers of the Last Judgment and the end of the world. [1] Albert Einstein’s equation of special relativity. Energy (E) produced equals the mass (m) of a body destroyed times the speed of light (c) squared. That means mass and energy are the same physical entity, and can be changed into each other.

[1] Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, popularly known as the  9th Symphony, or “Ode to Joy.”

[1] The Statue of Liberty is the figure of Libertas, robed Roman goddess of liberty, inscribed with the words “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” [1] “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…”, first words of the U.S. Constitution.

[1] Singer Billie Holiday, Strange Fruit. “Southern trees bear a strange fruit, Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze, Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.” [1] ACGT is an acronym for the four fundamental units of the genetic code found in a DNA double-helix molecule: adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T). They comprise the molecular foundation for all organic life.