Gas Station, Cigarettes at Midnight

You do not care
  what people think
that baseball cap
cliched rugged spewing
like compelled worth
  was it surprise
  when I called you
a liar? or just
a smile like cats get
when minds focus?
you do not know
  how eyes betray
  people who see
    walking invisibly
    though monuments
  how many have gathered
    in old coliseums
    that stack neatly
  like sculpted torsos
  eclipsing in silhouette
    the man
So was I surprised
when you told me you wanted
  to be a cop
  after a marine
  and that Christ
moves you?
was that why
when I met your eyes
  tears came when asked
what large hurt
has unmade you?
  Would tears come
  on an island
with guns raised level
in the study between
  watermelons, heads and bullets
what honor left
    there
that you felt
  we needed?
that night
you told me
how stupid people
  were in the daytime
  chatting about nothing
as I watched
a stranger beauty
  this sadder face
    unfold
in origins
  and knew

The Wonderer

The strange lit wick amidst
the larger seething seas of air
that send flames dancing, casting
little warm glows moving shadows
across the periphery of sight
in nights wondering for coming dawn
in this small circle of glass, melting
as a hand holds a rare familiarity

whether luminance bound in
machines, or the softer sense
of smoke rising in prayer
all were alone in their territories
missing the long rise toward almost
never quite morning

thick in jungled sounds around
the chanting of the village
a traveler guides the roads behind
planted for the heart of strangers

dense in green and human skin
this flicker on metal walls now
shine back upon what always was
itself larger than anticipation
and larger still in quiet rooms
where floods of light on squares
trickle outside like a distant stream

Mira, the Wonderful

Mira

It’s not often you see something utterly new in the heavens. Well, not really new. Very old, actually, and likely quite common. In fact, we’ve discovered something altogether new and unexpected right under our noses, after 400 years of watching it. The star, Mira, careening through our galaxy at unusually high speeds — a pulsing red giant flying along with its white dwarf companion, orbiting each other every 500 years, one star dead, and Mira in its last few cosmological years. The “wonderful” old star is leaving in its wake vast quantities of heavy elements in a tail stretching 13 light-years behind it, the same heavy elements that eventually form into new suns and worlds, and probably more people too. We’ve never seen a star do this before, but here is Mira, who, over the past 30,000 years has shed enough of herself along her wild journey to produce 3,000 Earths. We see the new dimensions now because we have never looked at it before, in the way we are now. (The image is from NASA/JPL, Galaxy Evolution Explorer)

It seems almost like an icy comet with its dirty debris trailing behind, except that Mira burns and seethes, and will one day soon explode. Who knows what might form from what has been left behind, as the two companion corpses continue to revolve around each other throughout the millennia. I have romanticized notions about the sheer scale of such things and the potentials they make possible. Just dust, strewn about, and what might form… It is random, despite the governing laws, and inevitable.

I hate to bring anything political into this place that is, to me, one of the only externally sacred things. I do not mean the sacredness of Science, for science is, as a result of its socially collective nature, political. I mean the sacredness of something that just simply exists, and the sacredness of perception, and understanding. What a marvel in diversity exists all around us! What enormous potential! I wonder, in the deepest parts of my being, how it is we so easily ignore it, and why, so often, we attempt to destroy it. We could so easily, instead, explore, expand ourselves, our experiences and our understanding — we could so easily expand one another.

I remember many year ago, when I was a child, being fascinated with the telephone. There was a 3-digit number you could call, and an automated voice would tell you the exact time, and then “ding”, as if by some universal decree, as that defined moment occurred. This was a time before digital switching, when analog, though still automated, connections were made. Sometimes late at night I would call the time lady, just to hear that universal event happen. It made me think of jet airplanes, and the other side of the world, and what strange adventures might happen in between. And I was at home, with my family, isolated in the trees.

But one day when I called, the time lady wasn’t there. It was a stark absence, and shocking to me. There was just silence. Then a quiet click. And then a quiet cough. I yelled into the phone, “hello!?”. And I heard back, as if from a great distance, someone answer, “hello?”

“Were you calling Time?” I asked.

“Yes,” said the disembodied voice. “I think she’s broke.”

Then very soon, other voices came in, and then even more. Before long, a cacophony of voices were carrying on various conversations, broken by the occasional laugh, or the surprised exclamations of someone new, who just happened to stumble in to this unexpected and disembodied party. I spent hours listening. For days on end I would call, listening and saying things, marveling at this unlikely connection between strangers. I told my parents, who didn’t believe me until I showed them, and then grew nervous and discouraging. It didn’t matter, though. I heard everyone in their strange distinctiveness, and their even stranger similarities, like an unknown family.

But one of the days I called, after so long, the time lady was back, and everyone else had been drown out. I tried yelling over her mechanical voice, hoping someone else was there, and every once in a while, I heard the faint shadow of a voice, but it was impossible to hear anything they said. It was a sad day for me, and I hated the time lady after that, and never called her again. She was nothing more than an oppressive giant, crushing everyone else down, and isolating us all.

Those were the days before the Internet, and even before personal computers. Those were the days when every telephone line to every house, when all our interconnections, were provided by a company called AT&T — the venerable, even at that time, American Telephone and Telegraph Company.

It wasn’t until the 1980’s while I was in high school that AT&T was finally broken up by the US Government under antitrust laws. They were split into several “Baby Bells” across the country, while AT&T remained to provide long distance telephone services between the Bells, and the rest of the world. The antitrust proceedings took ten years to complete, beginning in 1974, after Nixon’s crimes when Democrats gained hugely in Congress, and ended in 1984 while Reagan was President. As the nation’s only communication provider for so long, AT&T was accustomed to working closely with the government.

When I got my cell phone service, I chose AT&T Wireless because they were pretty much the only company around that used technology based upon international standards. A few years later, I found out one day that Cingular had purchased AT&T. I couldn’t imagine how that could happen, but it did. Then one day just a few months ago, AT&T bought Cingular. In fact, just last week my phone display switched from saying Cingular, to AT&T. This confused me, but yet again, I could find no explanations within media sources, so I started digging around.

It’s a mess, but apparently shortly after the AT&T breakup, AT&T started a computer services business, long distance, and also became Soutwestern Bell Company (SBC now, though they say that SBC does not mean Soutwestern Bell Company). It turns out that Cingular was actually owned by SBC, which was AT&T, so AT&T pretty much bought itself, and then bought itself again, bringing everything into the larger fold, which by now has bought back half of the companies that it was forced to give up in antitrust, plus has added much to itself in the meantime.

AT&T’s computer services provide a significant portion of the Internet’s backbone services, particularly after it acquired IBM’s Global Network. Chances are, if you use a phone or the Internet, your communications will end up going through AT&T at some point. And the point, for the most part is, here’s that damnable time lady’s voice back again, trying to blare over all us nice people just wanting to talk!

AT&T is a huge force in trying to get Congress to eliminate “Net Neutrality”. This would open the way for AT&T to selectively limit people or sites, or offer preferential treatment to people or sites. In an age where Rupert Murdoch (and four other companies) rule all of our mass media already, “Net Neutrality” is critical for us to communicate with each other, and so is critical, for the most part, in maintaining what few rights and freedoms we have left.

Also, AT&T is playing a key role in the Government’s spying program, which includes data mining (watching what you post on MySpace, send through your Yahoo! and Google mail, blogs, etc… not to mention telephone calls). They’re playing such a key role that they have begun to claim the Executive Branch’s “state secrets” privilege all on their own, without Bush even having to do it. Just today, final arguments were held on the EFF’s (Electronic Frontier Foundation) lawsuit against AT&T for violating our rights to privacy. The decision, which is a major milestone in our national history, is imminent. The decision will go a very long way to determine if we are even able to even just challenge that our Constitutional rights have been violated. I’m going to have to leave AT&T as a directly paying customer. But I’ll need to research Verizon’s behaviour (and Vodaphone, their UK partner) to make sure they are any better.

The other company that is pushing very hard to eliminate Net Neutrality is Comcast. They provide most homes in the US with their Internet connections. Interestingly, AT&T was poised to be our cable television provider, but Comcast managed to buy AT&T Broadband cable in a “hostile” buyout. Bless their little wicked hearts. This was after Comcast sold their wireless division to SBC (AT&T), by the way.

It is so important that we keep Net Neutrality in place. We are dealing with monopolies here. Like it or not, if we’re not going to break up monopolies, we need to at least regulate them. And Net Neutrality is no big deal at all financially — they just want to be able to make more profit. And the dangerous part, considering our government’s McCarthy’s era witch hunts/spying starting again, is that our government may be inclined to do, even moreso than usual, exactly what these monopolies want, we the people be damned.

I don’t know if you remember, but just a few writings ago I mentioned the Home Grown Terrorism Act that had passed out of House committee. It’s the Act that tries to identify we citizens who exhibit subversive thoughts that indicate a potential to incite rebellion. It fits very nicely in with the surveillance programs already authorized upon our own citizenry, and relies upon companies like AT&T and Comcast. Also, just today, even available on CNN surprisingly, it’s been announced that our own spy satellites are now being turned upon us. They can help us, during times like Hurricane Katrina, they say. Find out who “they” are in the article. Those nasty buggers. Those wretched, lying fascists. Ok, yes, I’m just tempting fate for the thrill of it. Hopefully I won’t have to learn any lessons. It actually does make more sense that they truly do care about us, and are trying to help and protect us.

That’s why we have more people than anyone in the world in prison, and have military run civilian labor camps. That’s why we can spend 1,000 billion dollars killing 1,000,000 people but never have 10 billion so we can switch to hydrogen fuel. That’s why the NYPD just said, in their report on Home Grown Terrorism, that terrorists, before they are terrorists, look and act like anyone else. But then the slowly build the “mindset” and intentions… and that’s what the Home Grown Terrorism Act is looking for. In other words, the thought police. And we’re talking actual police here.

It makes me feel like I’m in Alice in Wonderland with all the wild distortions of everything around me. I’m not the only one. Attorneys on both sides of the EFF lawsuit against AT&T, where Executive Privilege to secrecy is claimed, said the same thing. Everything is secret, being monitored, thought police, wars in the east, double-speak — by God, we’ve arrived at last! Double-plus ungood!

This is why I just love Mira so much, on her wild ride, winding down, and spewing out the potential of all new life across the blackest voids. A dying sun, a red giant — shedding new life. Invisible to us here, until recently, when we happened to look at her differently, so far away. We came from stuff like her, only over here, in our little neighborhood, talking on the phone with each other — to strangers, knowing we’re not alone. We came from such an unlikely accident amidst the stars. And just look at what we’re doing.

The Rift and the Moon

Gorgeous. The weather, here. Gorgeous. But it’s drying out the lawn. Such is my enjoyment and suffering at the moment. Jake, the dog, is fascinated by the rails of the sliding glass door. He likes to put things in them, then try to get them out. Ice cubes in particular. We have far too many green beans. My dad took a bag full of them over to Emiko yesterday, and she sent my dad back with a big bag of yummy Japanese crackers, cookies and treats.

A guy from down the stream a ways stopped by the house yesterday morning. He asked if he could keep one of his horses in the field in front of our house. If you remember, we’re pretty well boxed in by housing developments, with our property as one of the last holdouts of nature. My dad said no. He didn’t want any problems that might come from it. I thought it would be cruel for the horse. The Jehovah’s Witnesses made their weekly visit, a thin, tall man with glasses who always remembers your name, but I can never remember his. He brings different people with him each time, who stand there, mostly silent. His car, parked in the driveway, often has some kids waiting in it. He’s become familiar, almost like the Avon Lady who used to come by, ever since I was a child, to visit my mom. She was very sad when my mom died. Freida had a thick, German accent and came from that last, earlier German era.

Yesterday I learned that the election records in Ohio have been destroyed — those from the 2004 Presidential election. They were ordered preserved by the courts. Apparently the Department of Homeland Security even called a bogus emergency that kept people from observing ballot counts at the time. Alternet.org has a piece on it, as does a local Ohio newspaper. It doesn’t seem news worthy though, in any mainstream media.

Something encouraging happened, though, which I’ll cling to. Some Naval exercises to test mid-frequency sonar off California’s coast have been stopped. I don’t know why the Navy wanted to do it when “The judge noted in her tentative written opinion that the Navy’s own analyses concluded that the Southern California exercises “will cause widespread harm to nearly thirty species of marine mammals, including five species of endangered whales, and may cause permanent injury and death.” I don’t understand why people can’t consider the ramifications of what they’re doing, and act sensibly. But this court injunction was very encouraging, though the decision is only preliminary.

It’s strange for me, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about some old friends that I’ve lost contact with, Mike and Jeanice. They were both heavily Republican people, but we always got along wonderfully. Mike loved his guns, and would often go hunting. I would even crave the taste of venison that he brought back, and cooked himself, as only he seemed to be able to. I think it was Rove leaving that made me think of him, saying he wanted to go back to his family and shoot doves. Mike and I have some really good memories, but none of them are collectively related to such things. They were other things. Things that were, apparently, less important, at least in some sense.

But I remember that long, moon-filled night, in Aberdeen. The bar, in that redneck town, and all us guys sitting around drinking a few days before he was getting married. Guys that would pound you, as likely as look at you. Jeanice’s dad, that big man with a kind and giving heart for those within his fold. I remember looking at all of them, and myself, there with them, then I got up to leave, to walk in the middle of the night through that coastal town, under that large, clear moon. The guys jibed me for it, but I had to go, and only Jeanice’s dad looked at me and I knew he understood. I’ve always loved seeing the moon, and so many stars, and out there, reflecting brightly off the ocean waters.

When I returned, there was yelling going on between our guys and a group of strangers. A fight broke out, and bodies smashed into tables in the way that only being there can let you see. I sat down, next to Dana, the only guy not involved, who was a writer, and we watched. Even Jeanice’s dad, and his buddy, were in the fray. Afterwards as we were walking back, Mike asked me where I’d gone, and why. I told him I just needed a walk — I needed some space. Then he asked me if I was ok. It was then I knew something fundamental had changed, when I didn’t ask him, if he was.

And strangely, it wasn’t because I didn’t care. It was just far too complicated, for being so simple.

The Dangler And the Garden

Yes, the snow peas have grown thick
tough, yet still sweet in dwindling numbers
climbing vines falling in arcs of yellow
turning paper thin white and brown
as their yielding season ends

Morning in the garden fat brown slugs
ooze digestive slime on thick green leaves
pulling common lettuces down to yellow
then white and brown, but the snow peas
still arise above them leaving juicy pods
tough, yet still sweet enough for plucking
still on the withering vines hang meats

And reaching to pluck the knuckle sticks
and snaps a single silken thread anchored
to the vines the snap wiggles webworks
of the morning spider waiting still
far away and above, up on the towering fence
the rectangular metal of hollow squares
that separates in here from there, alerts
the many-eyed dangler of something amiss
in its criss-cross pattern made last night
now glowing in morning dew

Up on the fences the spider secures
the patterns that make things stop
holding them to protect the ripening
tomatoes like a spider should stop
little flying gnats and succulent
blood red tomatoes growing from green
the dangler descends on a long silk strand
fixing the anchor to the dying vines
strengthening its criss-cross waiting game
reinforcing the designs that hold in place
that broke from a careless cause

But here the spider grits its eyes
then carries the weight of its climb
to the treacherous spire, the chain
linked fence and awaits with all hands
unmired. Awaits for the coming
of things that attack, the tomatoes
protected inside, the rich red blood
of fruit safe behind dangler's many eyes.

Tiny blooms announce the day
the seasons turn to move
when snow peas spent in yielding all
the green beans sprout anew
And slugs roam wild in cunning flight
while spiders spin their webs and gnats
alight on tasty sprigs when all the garden's
wed. And happy suns reveal the day
not histories all gone gray, but new
things out of silent chance
just happening past our way

Happy suns revealed the day
when clockworks turned askew
when daylight came to starless night
and backs were turned to blue

and backs were turned
to blue