What TV Taught Me

featured in the poetry forum August 21, 2010  :: 0 comments

Hialeah
I remember this name
From black and white TV
Bookies making book
On my national broadcast system
Hialeah
Where horses raced
And rich Jewish retirees
Escaped for an afternoon
Away from their cartoon harpy
Jewish brides
Hialeah
Gimme twenty dolla’s on
Born to Run to place in the fifth

“My God, he’s hemorrhaging!”
I didn’t know what that was
But I could tell it had to be bad
Since she was crying pretty hard
I was home alone with strep throat again
And 2 pm is the worst time
For a ten year old
With the TV to himself
And nothing but soaps to watch

“Things are different now.”
Was Leslie Nielsen’s line
To Warren Stevens
By which he explained the affect
A young and voluptuous Anne Francis
Had upon him
She had to be nineteen
And my God she was hot
But I was a child
And the references to The Tempest
Were lost on me
I hadn’t read The Tempest
We had just discovered my near-sightedness
Because I couldn’t get close enough to Huckleberry Hound
Color TV wouldn’t be around
For another 10 years

TV gave me my first really bad news
While televising the first assassination
Of an American president in the 20th century
The bad news for me was
No cartoons for three days
I was nine
Later came more bad news that I could understand
The “Veet Nam” war
Then Bobby and Martin
Bad shit
Watts, Chicago ‘68
When I was just trying to be cool

TV taught me Cool
I watched for Cool
The Stones were cool
But they didn’t get on TV much
The Beatles were cool
Ed’s people thought so
On national TV, they got him to say so
Jimmi got on Johnny
I think he played Purple Haze
My Dad was outraged
And I didn’t know enough to shut up
It wasn’t all distortion through amplification
There was melody and diction
It was clear
But, “You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’”
Were not words a 12 year old was going to say out loud
To a Father who was ten beers and four shots
On his way to another night of belligerent oblivion

All those shows
Object lessons
Rob and Laura holding hands
Across the space between their twin beds
But not for too long
Ward and June
Talking through the complexities
Of rearing Wally and the Beaver
In white America
“Tell the truth”
“Show compassion for the weak
And downtrodden”
“The ends never justify the . . .”

Meanness before harm never
Or strike before stricken
But, slide before slipping
Glide upon the stumble
Turn humiliation into pride
Glide

I learned to examine the evidence
Analyze the circumstances
Expose the man behind the curtain
Uncover the secret wheels
Indict the corporate criminals
Convict the simpering smiling
Slick grifting shyster
Robber embezzler of fortunes
The old man’s
Young widow’s
Yours and mine
Brain matter turned to jelly
Independent actions warped to mindless obedience
Buy more
Borrow ever
Debt is gain
For someone else
Someone smarter, richer
Rich enough
To pen the writer
Hire the director
Threaten the producers
Seduce the investors
To bring in the money, money
Document the crime
To the morbid fascination
And abject impoverishment
Of us all who pay, no matter what
The cable bill
Or the satellite bill
We have the choice
And think this makes us free

Driving Through Venus

August 21, 2010  :: 0 comments

ON the drive through Venus
The first thing you see
Is the imposing row after row
Of rise-to-the-sky steel girder
Power line towers
Pulling the lines off the far horizon
Into the step-down station
Where Venus distributes
The flashes of solar cycles
Transformed into current alternates
To drive the toasters
And flat screen TVs
For the zombie multitudes
Of planet Earth

We are the aliens here
Cosmic interlopers
Pushing through to the next rest stop

There isn’t one here

Venus is sterile
So close to the Sun
Shrouded in mystery
Clouded from view
Blind to the astral population
Stopping in Venus for energy downloads
Fed through the robot repository
Transformed gamma stepped vibrations
Of terrified electrons
Coerced by the galactic agenda
Into chasing down the copper conduits
Of human invention
Which make us think
We’re alone out here

Don’t Need No Shades

August 21, 2010  :: 0 comments

Turn that future up
Way bright
Burn it into my retinas

Cuz there’s no better way
To improve the outlook
Of those who always see
The dark side of things

Whip Snap

featured in the poetry forum August 21, 2009  :: 0 comments

Whip snap the set trap
Trying to catch those bees
Thinking about my flabby physique
I ought to quit smoking and drinking . . .
Well, maybe smoking
I ought to work out more
Learn to grow vegetables on my roof deck
Learn to dig those furrows with a double-barrel
Because there’s more to repel than grackles and crows

And I’ll have to pollinate my buds with cue tips
Which I’ll have to fabricate from dandelion fuzz
Or something else, like old fiberglass insulation
Because there won’t be anymore dandelions
Or bees to pollinate them
So, I’ll have to get into shape for that

Others will be in shape
They’ll be muscling flat screen TVs
From uptown high rises to take along
To some other, better place
Where there won’t be electricity
But plenty of plutonium slag heaps to plug into

No place for pride or greed
Or credit card wet dream
Instant gratification
We’ll have to work hard
For every little thing
Like picking the fiberglass filaments
From old insulation
To make cue tips
To pollinate our tomato blossoms

Because by then
We will be
The only bees
There are

Copyright 2008 Michael Clay

The Fall of Sumer

August 21, 2009  :: 0 comments

“For want of a placeholder
This civilization shall fall”
* SSOF, 21st Century

We can’t feed another digit
To the maw of the machine
It just won’t take it
So what, if the customer
Wants only one extra feature
Without that placeholder
The customer can take what we have
Because we can’t force it
Though we tried and tried
There was weeping and gnashing of teeth

No placeholder
And the system won’t recognize the request
The Standard Of Work can access no document
Because the system had no Process Of Record
By which to execute an idea
A desire for something more
There is no placeholder for more

And for want of that
The forecast is missed
The operating plan falls short
The people are scattered
And so on and so on

All we have of the Sumerians
Are some crumbled foundations
Sunk in centuries of sand
And a pile of clay tablets
With records and records
Of business transactions
Cuneiform scratchings
For the counting of cattle
And bushels of wheat
And clusters of figs
So many markings
To count to the highest number
Impeded by a scarcity of clay

They didn’t get “zero”
They couldn’t squeeze a large number
Into a smaller space
They just spread out
‘Til the desert couldn’t sustain them
Leaving us their legacy –
Lack of vision
Only eyes for the horizon
In this desert now

For want of a placeholder

Copyright 2008 Michael Clay

The Grid

August 21, 2009  :: 0 comments

You can take that off line
But not off the grid
There’s no dropping out
You can’t drop a stitch
You have to be visible
Accessible, be heard
And when you speak be crisp
As crackly as a potato chip
Each word you say
Must snap its way
Into the consciousness
Of the apathetic
Instigate action
Inspire change
The change of each cog
To mesh with the magneto
That spins the grand combine
Which turns the great wheel
That moves the giant mower
To whack ripe opportunities
Into the high hopper
Which feeds the machine
The insatiable vacuum
That never loses suction
When vulnerable, succulent souls
Are so sweet for the taking

The grid
The long leash
The internet satellite signal
Lo-jack chip behind the ear
Just beneath the scalp
Setting alpha brain waves out of phase
To control the impulse
Weaken the will
Enable the “reach out
And jump through our ass, give up your life
Forsake family and friends
To satisfy a customer”
With no face or feelings or purpose
Other than to ensure your every thought
Is consumed with anxiety
And concern over how to bring in
Another two million delectable morsels
Of gross margin
To fatten the bottom line
Of the machine

The queen machine
The god machine
The “our purpose serves the greater good”
Far beyond picayune personal proclivities
To procure a pusillanimous pittance
A pauper’s puny perfidy
Our goal is to make the magnanimous
Mother machine
Crank out cookie-cutter encryptions
Devoid of character
Motivated to mollify the moods
Of the machine

There is the mystery
The code un-cracked
That we would succumb
To such subjugation and slavery
Ever wired to the grid
Shamefully submitted to such stark disclosure
Of all that we hope and are
For fear that the mindless motions
Of the monster magneto
Somehow spins with greater speed
Than our simple insignificant aspirations
Or primal human needs

Copyright 2007 Michael Clay

Buddha’s Teeth

June 19, 2009  :: 0 comments

The Buddha smiles
Thirty-two pearlies
Gleaming white

He is so far beyond
We cannot see
Such blinding light

And ancient princess
Set in motion
The obvious outcome
Of her devotion

So drawn to him
So captivated
His teeth
She prestidigitated

And placed within
A holy shrine
A silver door
She locked behind

The faithful come
The stone is polished
By devoted knees

The chants resound
Entreating Buddha
“Nirvana, please!”

Buddha had a great idea
“Just change the way
you think,” he said

His misguided followers
Made him into
God instead

Years went on
The message changed
The great idea
Was rearranged

How odd to see
It’s not the same
Marred by our whisper
‘Round the circle game

And so it goes
The Buddha muses
When all is one
Nobody loses

Think or pray
The wheel will turn
All the while

Gleaming white
Thirty-two pearlies
Buddha smiles

– MH Clay © 2002

Youte
(Anse LaRaye, St. Lucia
A Friday night in June, 2002)

featured in the poetry forum June 19, 2009  :: 0 comments

“Sick Youte!
Wicked Youte!”

Through these streets
Youte runs
Youte of the Friday nights
Youte of the street parties
The islanders move late
Move into the night

In the disco, lights are flashing
Rastas pulse to the reggae, country beat
Vacillating, syncopating
Rhythm and color spill into the street

Where sounds and smells
Attack the senses
Lobster, shrimp, seafood all
Life is consumed here
In great, gulping mouthfuls

There stands Augustine Raspar
Spouting wisdom for any to hear
“I make everyone dance!”
He laughs, “Because you never know.
So, live fast and quit!”
Amen

There stands the church
Graveyard full of those who danced
Youte grins a skeleton grin
He towers far above the town
Grinning down
Below him, pulsing mad and fast
Rastas, lobsters, island women
Sleek and brown
White-skinned tourists

The music rises
Engulfing all in a flood
Youte moves through the crowd
Taps each reveler on the shoulder
And leads a long conga line
Down to the shore
Skeleton grin
Until everyone is smiling

“Sick Youte!
Wicked Youte!”

– MH Clay © 2002

Jindai Ji
(Deep Great Temple)

June 19, 2009  :: 0 comments

Bamboo forests, node by node
Growing, pushing upward
Bearing the weight
Under which we stroll, oblivious
To the centuries that have passed below
Such a soft green canopy

Illusory, iridescent blue
Butterfly, weaving, passing through
Leading us on a pilgrimage
The deep great haven
Sanctuary

Renovation
Restoration of the old
Unnoticed
Minor ripple in the pond
Beside orange, white, red carp
Generations old, ignorant
Of here today
When always has been now

Monday afternoon

– MH Clay © 2002

Hey, Walt!

featured in the poetry forum July 17, 2008  :: 0 comments

Main Street Disneyland
Technicolor cartoon fairytale perfection
Evil always thwarted, endings always happy
The streets were clean
The French Quarter more festive than Bourbon Street
It was wholesome
Those darkies clappin’ spoons and tap dancin’
With wide ivory smiles
“Thank You, Mr. Disney!” they’d say
It made our white hearts proud

But now the streets are filled with trash
The paints jobs bleached and peeling
Bird shit on the fence rails
Cracked glass windows
What happened, Walt?

You promised us every Sunday night
How perfect it would be
But now look!
Cigarette butts, rancid beer piss reeking from
The back corners of Frontierland
And no more darkies
Or buffoon sergeants Garcia cumerbunds
For Zorro’s white “Z”
To make us feel our whitest best
No savage Indians in feather dress
And so much trash

No more the impression, the empty deception
That perfection is perpetually sustainable
Only the rolling balls of paper and waste
Cuz’ there just no one left

No jive-boy
Jimbo
“We’ll white wash’em tasteful
so we can devour ‘em”
Under privileged
Gratefully tap dancin’ darkies
To sweep up

– MH Clay © 2008