Excerpts From Dancing In Dissent: Poetry For Activism as well as poems written since the book's publication.
working the clay
what is it that’s not being said?
why is it the news is not really news?
is it because the knows only hype the no’s?
the eyes only look the other way?
no real truth about the greed that robs,
that felons our schools, cutting funds, fogging futures,
no real facts like the two keystone state judges
pocketing bribes from pennsylvania prisons
in return for long term sentences foisted on unsuspecting young…
could this be the source of our collective discontent?
are you driven to distraction as I am, Miss Daisy
by weapons of mass distraction,
the painted mask,
the disney world portrait
over a grisly world scene
sensed away from outrage
cajoled away from action
what is it that’s not being said?
could be capitalism is broken?
democracy remains a spoken token?
children kill children in our streets
politicos kill education
smoking guns, class war heat
what is it that you’re not saying,
don’t look the other way,
mickey mouse is not your savior
language is your clay
sculpt young brother,
sculpt young sister,
sculpt your clay…
Jim Moreno (Summer 2009)
Friday morning Halloween
Last poetry workshop for the day
In Juvey Hall,
A staff teacher catches my
attention, gives me a small blue stickem
with the name of a student and his cell block:
“Mohammed in unit 400 would like to share a few
poems and get feedback”, it requests,
So I walk into the bowels of this youth jail
The teens are settling in to an early lunch
The goblins of loneliness lurk in the shadows
the witches of time drag on clocks’ second hands
quicksands of time, second hand mud moving at minute hand speed,
I find the young poet after crossing two electric-locked doors,
The guard tells me I can stand in the hall and talk
with the ward after he unlocks the door.
The young black man sits on a mattress
with text books framing the opaque window
no toilet, no bedframe, no fresh air, no hope in his young face,
styrofoam lunch waiting on his prison bed
and I can’t remember him? which class? which campus? which time?
He reads a breeze through the trees poem and I shine his
words because I am praying for him.
His face so young and I don’t want to know
what his crime is, the crime is that it is Halloween
and he is not out in freedom enjoying being young,
I ask him to read the poem again and it is good.
He has a unique stanza form on the page,
and I tell him I like his creativity.
He reads another poem and then asks me if
I’d like to hear a poem from his favorite book?
I say yes and he produces the collected verse of Langston Hughes
I tell him I’m in the Langston Hughes Poetry Circle
and he nods. He reads the poem Little Old Letter after
hopping off the bed and moving to the door
so I can read with him and help him with words,
he tells me he reads this Langston poem over and over,
I taste tears when he reads:
I never felt so lonesome
since I was born black,
It feels like he is my son,
50,000,000 black angels
50,000,000 black Middle Passage Angels
perch on my shoulders shouting
and my jail blues son shows me another
book he likes
and we talk about poetry,
I tell him we are more alike than different.
I tell him I wish society wasn’t so ignorant.
I ask him to hold his palm up.
I hold my palm up next to his
palms up we are the same color,
I ask him to put his palms down
and I hold my palm down next to his.
Why does society call attention to palms down differences
I protest – – when both colors are beautiful
I flip my palm up again and he mimics my motion
Now we are the same color again.
He asks me if I will visit him again?
I tell him I’ll come back next Friday…
We shake hands same colors touching
contrast colors smiling
Langston Hughes approving,
racist hate ebbing
goblins of loneliness surrendering,
sands of time flowing,
I tell him if he will write in this tiny room
it will get bigger,
I tell him if he will read in this studio room
it will get bigger,
I tell him if he makes this his writing room
he will grow and the room will grow
and this poem about a letter that takes a life
will change to a poem that gives new life.
I ask him what classroom I’ve taught him in,
he says I’ve never been his teacher but
he heard about me and wanted to meet me,
and one more time poetry performs a miracle,
one more time poetry transforms,
and I am humbled in the presence of spirit
I don’t understand,
but I know for sure spirit waits,
poetry spirit waits… to dance with you.
Jim Moreno Fall 2008
gripping thorns: for jennifer
you say I’m not an american
because I disagree with this forked tongue,
two bloodless election coups (except for the innocents slaughtered in haiti,
iraq, and palestine), small p president―capital b, capital s bush.
but I say my dissent is when I’m most american,
when I disagree, when we disagree with him.
we are most american when we shout out in dissent,
like thomas jefferson, like john hancock,
shouting out, declaring freedom,
under threat of hanging be hanged.
shouting out like John Brown,
deploring the suffering of slavery,
shouting out like Crazy Horse,
bravely fighting the slaughter of his People,
fighting the theft of his land by this same
United States government who had him chained,
then bayoneted in the back.
his people hid his body,
and no one knows where Crazy Horse is buried.
shouting out like Sojourner Truth,
wishing she could have saved a thousand
more slaves, if only she could have
convinced them they were slaves.
shouting out like Frederick Douglas,
how the whip drew his blood in rivulets, then
rivers, his screams not withstanding.
shouting out like soldier of freedom Harriet Tubman
―code name Moses―
whispered with hopes of the People,
humming freedom songs to celebrate
her iron will insisting, demanding freedom,
freedom, freedom, freedom,
say click clack, underground railroad track,
shouting out like Rosa Parks, that she
was just too damned tired for anymore of Jim Crow,
that she would take a stand for little brother Emmit
and keep her seat.
shouting out like Jane Fonda exposing muffled cries
of Vietnam’s babies, echoing genocide in valleys of torture and death.
Shouting out like Angela Davis insisting on sweet freedom,
echoing cries of outrage from the strange fruit pen of Ida Bell Wells…
I say I am an American echoing Dr. King’s dissent
as a patriot with great love for my country.
I say I am an American echoing Dr. King’s
great sadness at ignorant, arrogant leaders
who miss the mark framed by founding fathers
at the Second Continental Congress.
I say I am an American and I know where Crazy Horse is buried.
he’s buried in the soul of the unions who fight for a living wage.
he’s buried in the strong hands of black brothers who built this country as slaves.
he’s buried in the strong backs of brown brothers & sisters who harvest the food to feed this country, brown brothers & sisters who cry, “si, se puede!”, with sweaty, homeless hands.
he’s buried in the minds of weary soldiers who refuse to obey orders that betray freedom.
he’s buried in the tears of the kind mothers whose children die in the Middle East.
he’s buried in the outrage of grieving fathers who buried their war dead sons
as this blue-blooded president nixed press coverage of their return
( a thousand flag-covered caskets are bad for the president’s image, you know?)
he’s buried in the insult of families bathed in sorrow, who have not seen
their callous president attend one funeral of our over 1,000 killed.
Crazy Horse is buried in the brave hearts of men, as Dr. King said,
who fight injustice anywhere knowing it affects justice everywhere.
Crazy Horse is buried in the smiles of brilliant women
who live, love, and work equally with men.
great warrior Crazy Horse is buried in the sweet breaths
of slumbering children who trust us to create a world that someday
will allow them to awaken under warm blankets
with stomachs strangers to hunger, with minds secure,
because momma and papa are living in full democracy
free from violent oppression.
I know where Crazy Horse is buried,
I know where he is buried….
Crazy Horse is buried in you.
Crazy Horse lives in you…
“I chase the setting sun hoping not to lose it,
Exhausted, I turn to watch the rising full moon,
Rev. Kenji Akahoshi.
The Great Consolation
We’ve got work to do!
And have some fun
and goosebumps too.
Discover the me in the we,
That balance is the great constellation.
The great Konsho,
The gong that starts your ceremony.
Your poetry sees what you cannot see,
Your poetry says what you cannot say,
And so, says it for you.
Says it as you,
And you begin to love without fear,
You begin to love as if there had never been fear,
Your poetry can be that good.
Your poetry is that good.
Your voice ― medicine for you.
Your voice ― medicine for the world.
Your voice ― the way you see things,
You are here tonight
Because prose is not enough,
You are here tonight
Because the sprawl of prose,
Despite the pedants rant,
Is never enough.
You can only live with observable truths.
Poetry is like that.
How can we access these truths?
We live with unobservable spirit,
Poetry is the great consolation,
One with your spirit:
Invisible radio waves of compassion
Poetry is the sunset & the moonrise,
Poetry is the goddess of the heart,
The quiet reflective light of the moon.
Receiving this light I breathe in & breathe out,
Receiving this light I relax achieve, suspend calculation,
And I―the stupid one― fearing abandon, chase the setting sun
While the rising winter moon
Jim Moreno Winter 2013
contemporary folly tales
the king was a fool…
the violins played “the king is a fool” songs,
the horse neighed: “beware the royal fool!”
even venus commissioned a sign to warn on fool moon nights,
the poor people didn’t know about their foolish monarch,
only the earth children knew…
the earth child had access to the magic ship
where every voyage ended with a placing of secrets
before each one in such a way that thinned out and made shiny
regal lies of competence in the king…
of course, everyone in the queendom respected
the earth child whose second name was “choose again”.
the people knew an earth child home was a place
of overflowing dreams, a place of acquire feelings,
a place of love, a place to love.
it was only a matter of time before the fool/king
would be invited to an earth child home,
and there, in great mystery, he would shed
his cloak of folly in war, in natural disasters,
and in speech, it was there, in great mystery,
the king would discover his heart.
damn you make it difficult
to practice Buddhist compassion
with your hack war pimp corporate pirate
self greedily plundering your way to perdition,
shouting patriotic non sequiturs masking
exponential profits gleaned from industry
of misery, theft, corruption,
insider trading, & sleight of hand accounting,
betraying people’s lives, starting with theft
of lives of 144, mostly brothers of color,
murdered by you & your sleazy racist machine
when you were governor of the lone star state.
damn you make it difficult to practice
I’m afraid to close my eyes when you are awake,
you might pull off another sleazy election robbery
where you engineer discriminatory disenfranchisement
on brothers and sisters of Africa.
damn you make it hard to practice nonviolence
the way you socialize the costs and privatize the profits,
manipulating numbers, utilizing six multinational mega giants
who lie, prevaricate, propagandize and allow you
to arrogantly swagger towards war
against starving people already living in ashes
and you stupidly misread the frigging cue card.
damn you make it difficult to practice guided meditation
as you proselytize your euro-christian, white, far right agenda,
when it comes to the god of profit, you are chief priest.
when it comes to People’s lives, you are bonehead clueless.
markets are not more important than People!
markets are not more important than People!
now is the time we’ll turn the tide against twenty year onslaught
against our freedoms by high tech plutocrats.
you are the terrorist holding weapons of mass distraction,
you are the enemy of freedom.
you are the foe of democracy.
you are the terrorist we need to arrest right now!
damn, you make it difficult to be free.
(Thanks to Progressive Magazine, Sept. 2002, pps. 30-37 on the anniversary of 9/11.)