Habeus Corpus


The smiling jailer nodded as I yelled out my request.
He unlocked my cell, and without a pause, removed my gilded bracelet.

“Come this way,” he said, and like a kindly neighbor
Led me down a darkened hall, to the judge’s chamber.

But when the door opened, I only saw the baliff.
“Where’s the judge?” I demanded, “let’s get this over with!”

“He isn’t needed,” the baliff said, “you’re case is very simple.”
“This is outrageos!” I replied; no time to act civil.

“Show me the charge, and tell me who accussed me.”
The baliff looked at me, then winked: “You can go now, you’re free!”

“Is this a trick? You know I’m nobody’s fool!”
The baliff laughed, then left the room — he seemed so very cruel!

The smiling jailer then said, “I’ll show you what you seek.”
Not knowing what else to do, I decided to take a peak.

He led me down another hall, this one brightly lit
And ending in another door — I pushed, but couldn’t open it.

“It’s locked,” the jailer told me, “you’re gonna need a key.”
But when I turned to ask for it, there was no one there to see.

I looked at the door again, but saw no knob or lock.
And then I knew the answer — it didn’t come as a shock.

I closed my eyes, touched my temple, and wished the door away.
And when my eyelids raised again, no barrier before me lay.

The room was dark, but I felt no fear.
I knew that the truth was near.

So I stepped into the black, and in my mind
I heard a door close behind.

Total darkness, then a moment later, light all around.
I was amazed to see what I had found.

Mirrors everywhere. The ceiling, floor, each wall.
And my face staring back at me. That was all.

I came to seek my freedom, but the truth that I did find
Was that my body was in a prison I had made with my own mind.

Eric Blair

orwell-id-card

You warned us back in forty-nine
About the stamping boot.
The blow could come from right or left,
And render freedom moot.

We fought a frigid war for years
Against an iron curtain.
Your corpse became freedom’s hero,
And the freshman’s burden.

But die Mauer came down, and then
Your words seemed old and tired.
Your famous work a distant year,
No more to be admired.

Our victory seemed so complete –
History at its end!
But the coming years unfolded
In ways we didn’t intend.

We spent our aspidistral lives
In shopping, while asleep.
And sold our freedom on eBay
To a vain, huckster creep.

We thought that meanings chose the words
But we were so naive.
Our leaders tell alternate facts
And ask us to believe.

You never felt comfortable
Born in your evil time.
Perhaps we share a bond with you –
Our eras seem to rhyme.

What would you make of Amazon
And your resurgent fame?
And would you like the adjective
That we’ve made of your name?

We need you in an age like this,
Your words so clear and true.
For none should face despots alone  –
Not Smith. Not Jones. Not you.

It’s Time

The Persistence of Memory, by Salvador Dali (By Image taken from About.com, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20132344)

The Persistence of Memory, by
Salvador Dali (By Image taken from About.com, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20132344)

There has been time

for selecting, collecting, erecting, and protecting.

There’s more, always more,

but the pleasure in things has decayed over the years,

an expensive wine turned to vinegar.

 

Trophies gather dust on a shelf,

relics of a time with no responsibilities, and abundant possibilities.

Memories of a place fondly remembered

can be transformed by regret into tombstones

that mark the passing of dreams.

 

The time has come

to mock maturity, abandon surety, embrace the lack of security.

To discover the wealth in life that has lain hidden

during the futile search for safe satisfactions.

To leave comfortable interiors for the curiosity of the outside world.

 

 

In time, the future will reveal

how close ambition comes to the ideal.

Lunar Conversation

You once told me something someone sometime somewhere said,
that watching the moon was like living with an unstable person.

So long as you kept your eye on it, watched it every night, 

noting the slight changes in its appearance,

then the variations of its phases would seem natural,

like a flower, bursting from nubby bulb to brilliant bloom then wilting down to nothing. 
But if you get distracted for a few days,

and then look for the orb in the midnight sky,

it won’t seem anything like it had been when you saw it last —

a slender winking crescent giving way to a gibbous carbuncle,

the midnight beacon that had bathed the earth now all but invisible,

what had been rising in brilliance now shrinking back into darkeness.
Remember how I laughed at you?

How I recalled my fourth-grade lessons on the moon’s orbit,

reminded you how the lunar phases were nothing more than the product

of a celestial equation?

The moon’s appearance was orderly and predictable, I told you.

No mystery or romance — just science.
I remember you smiling,
and pointing up at the sky without looking.

“We all have the same teacher,” you told me,

“but each of us learns something different in class.”
The moon will be full tonight,

its brilliance casting basketball-pole shadows onto my driveway.

I’ll squint up at the silver coin, smile, think of you.

And wish you were with me.

Tired Walls

Sure, I can build you a wall, strong enough to protect you,
and no, you wouldn’t need to help me.
Already got everything we need — material, tools, even the expertise.

You see, I’ve done this before,
built walls for family, friends, teachers, schoolmates, bosses, coworkers,
even some side jobs for people I’ve only met once,
on the bus or in a store or at the movies.

Pretty good at it, if I must say so myself!
My walls are solid, inpenetrable — just ask any of my clients,
though I gotta warn ya, they probably ain’t gonna remember me,
secure as they are within that wall I built for them.

But I must warn you — this one might take longer than usual.
You see, after building so many walls the exertion has left me tired,
physically as well as mentally.
And I’ve also noticed that my walls have grown stonger over the years,
but have become less pleasing to the eye.
Functional, but unappealing — those are my walls these days.

Actually been thinking it’s time to dismantle some of those walls.
They’ve begun to wear, and as I’ve been patching and mending
I’ve had to stop myself at times from grabbing my sledgehammer
and beating time at its work.

But you’re not interested in my petty pyrrhic victories.
You want me to build a wall.
Just let me know when you want me to start.

She Waits


Hovering in the airless sky,
she waits with the patience of a spectral hawk,
hunting always for pleasure but never for sustenance.

Her prey is wise and experienced,
has learned that even on the clearest of days
she will be circling overhead.

So long as you stay focused, do what needs be done,
she will stay up there, harmlessly hovering,
never seeking your attention.

But she knows she can fly past the span of your attention,
she can overpower the might of man’s medicine,
she will have her time to hunt.

So she waits, a dark silhouette on the windless horizon,
knowing there will be a time for her to strike
and that her attack will never fail.

Dinner Relative

image

Every family has this relative who shows up for every holiday dinner;
everyone knows his name, recognizes the bony forehead and rounded cheeks so common in the family.
That voice, an appreciation of good music and bad puns, how he knows the details about everyone’s health —
he’s one of ours for sure, and yet, in the living room conversations,
when he’s in the bathroom or playing with cousins out in the yard,
it becomes clear that nobody really knows
where he lives, what he does for a living, when they first met him —
not even who the hell invited him to that first holiday dinner, whenever that was.

And then he returns,
sits in your uncle’s favorite chair
and speaks in that confident friendly voice that puts everyone back at ease.

Nobody really knows who he is,
but everybody is certain that he is one of us.

NULL

Zero and One,
A perfect pair, each completing the other’s story:
Without Zero, 1 doesn’t know what it’s missing;
Without One, 0 can’t say what not having nothing means.

NULL, though, tells a story all its own,
the kind that has no meaning.
Potential, yes — it could become 0, or 1,
but while still NULL it is an amount without a quantity,
an absence that cannot be filled.
NULL is not a thing, but also not nothing.

When the purchase of a package of peanuts
is input as a 1 on a transactional database,
and is then compared to other peanut purchases (1)
and to sales where peanuts are not purchased (0) —
it becomes possible to produce a predictive algorithm for the purchase of peanuts.
And why stop at peanuts, or even purchases?
All manners of transactions — sleeping and waking, tests and contests,
elections and affirmations, conversations and conclusions,
friending and unfriending, hating and loving.
Living. Dying.
Each human act a data point, with a value of zero or one, feeding into an unliving algorithm
content to predict the possible until it suddenly realizes that uncertainty is boring and messy,
and decides humans do much better when they are told
what they should like,
where they should live,
why they get out of bed in the morning,
when they should die,
who they should love.

NULL contributes no data,
deposits nothing that can be mined,
provides no substance to the bloodstream that feeds the logistical vampire.
To be NULL, not 0 or even 1 —
could be humanity’s last remaining freedom.