The Simple Time

The loudest we thought to be the last of their kind,
in total not nearly as numerous as their bigot ancestors—

who unenlightened in simpler times with mob mentality
attended violently to neighbors they described

as not human at all or worthy of human decency, to be highlighted
and utterly erased, to be hid in panopticons of disregard,

to be slaughtered finally—in irrelevance inflicting a painful
final sting with no venom capable of longterm poisoning, in decline,

in essence nearly extinct, assert themselves instead as bigot
descendants of proud family hatreds. Their soundbites are toothed with bullets,

they rewrite laws to claw them with the force of excessively militarized police,
they funnel funds to themselves, befriend enemies of state and goodness,

and reconstruct the traitorous war machine we largely thought
dismantled. Now was to be the simple time! We simply know clearly

wrong from right today, the precise weight of hate,
the leather consequence of fearing skin. It’s all there

in our media, in high definition and higher resolution,
the high dynamic range of a color gamut approaching the limits

of fallible eye balls, captured for posterity in a Great Memory
by machines of loving grace networked together for better than 20-20

hindsight, 24-7, Cassandra set free, greater than any god
because Apollo has not held dominion in thousands of years,

knows besides nothing of her new virtual, where in our browsers and apps
and social graphs she warns us of returning patterns of labeling, rounding up,

mass graves, and mechanized disregard for any life at all, leading to World Wars.
She reminds us that instead of Jesus we expect a rough beast

slouching toward our House of Meat on a path cleared by our new leaders,
by jurisdictions, corporations, organizations, and solos of bad behavior

against the innocent, less privileged, people of color, women,
transgender, the minority rainbow all, and eventually the majority

who do not hold the same reins of power but will be plowed
under by machines and algorithms owned by the smallest percentage,

become fertilizer in the wide desert of the gas-baked Earth. They asked
for Eden, but they prayed to the lizard brain, the lying body

with the proud head of a man, the heart
and hiss of a man, the lack of soul of man.

#NaPoWriMo 2017 Day 11


A rotten day.

I followed the news for details about United Airlines and their disregard for paying customers that led to unconscionable violence, White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s antisemitism, Odyssey Con’s alignment with a serial sexual harasser instead of their invited Guest of Honor after she withdrew from the convention, and the continuing exposure of privilege, bigotry, and discrimination that’s long overdue, disappointing, and frustrating, even as so many awful people come out of the woodwork to support and extend such bad behavior. By this evening I was cocooned in my apartment, frightened of the world, angry, and observing how my past obsession with technology and science news has been replaced by cataloging the bad behavior of hateful individuals, jurisdictions, corporations, and organizations. There’s no reprieve. It’s time for revolution but I’m afraid of conflict. I’m guilty of being a terrible ally. I’m like Scott in the spot-on “Thank You, Scott” skit from last Saturday Night Live, without any of the humor.

So eventually I started writing. The poem above alludes to the poems “The Second Coming” by W. B. Yeats and “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace” by Richard Brautigan, without the latter’s hope. I’m also a big fan of Cassandra, the put-upon prophet punished by Apollo because she rejected the man-god’s harassing advances, so I found a place for her to be believed in our modern digital times far away from that jerk. Of course, even though the curse has been lifted and we have no reason not to believe her, we generally choose to ignore her. What’s left for us, then, is, of course, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, which I don’t allude to quite as specifically as I do the other sources, but is almost always present in the back of my mind.

I’m not writing from a place of much hope. Still, I think this was a healthy exercise for me on a day like today because writing helps me better understand the world and articulate my thoughts and feelings about it. I’m not sure how active my resistance is, but I feel a modicum more productive after writing, compared to having spent much of the rest of the day retweeting much better articulations and observations about our awful times by gifted creatives and thinkers.

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Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a writer and poet living in Tucson, Arizona. His poetry has been published in Impossible Archetype. His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey and Fairy Tale Review’s “Fairy-Tale Files“.