Empty Threats (poem)

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unsplash-logoChristian Sterk

It started with a statement on the television
from the leader of the free world
‘He want’s to hang all of em’
he said with a smile and a hand gesture
as they talked about men, like me

My chest tightened
the floor fell away and suddenly
I was falling without moving
Shaking, sweating,
the rope tightened around my neck
“You are dying,” my mind screamed

Empty threats
from an exhausted mind,
fear of murder of my own kind,
where can I run?
Now that liberty’s run dry

I am not on my own anymore
my vagabond existence
two trash bags of clothes in the trunk
fleeing my past as soon as it
catches up with me

No more no-name face
no more hooking up
with cigarette smiles
trying to remember what’s his name
some random fuck, in some random place

there’s another, now
a family, now
I’m a husband, now
trapped by my vows
my marriage license now
a potential death warrant

Two pills a day
significant weight gain
gasping for breath at the edge of sleep
empty threats from my
tired brain
God, how do I deal with this?

I feel like there’s a storm coming
and I’m naked and standing in a field
with mud up to my knees
how long before it crawls up to my chest
and down my throat?
How long before the empty threat,
becomes too real?

Violence and Scars ( a call for passive resistance)

 

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Photo by Gerrie van der Walt on Unsplash

I remember the day 9/11 happened. It’s something that is seared into my memory.
The whole day I was in shock.
I fell asleep to CNN and woke up to it still playing on the television with picture after picture, replay after replay of the hijacked airliners and the damage they’d done.
The body count.
People standing outside of The World Trade Center weeping, begging God and passerby’s to deliver them their loved ones.
The next the numbness of it all wore off and there I was, nineteen years old, weeping into the arms of my sister.
I was scared.
Knowing all those people died, it broke my heart.
I remember asking my mom if she thought there were ‘saved’ people in those buildings.
The other day, with Charlottesville I sat down and cried again. I’m thirty six years old and later on as I prayed the ‘Our Father’ with my husband – clinging for some kind of comfort – when I got to ‘Thy Will Be Done’ I choked it out.
I’ve lived a long life.
Not in years but in experiences.
I am a survivor of fundamentalism.
I was raised in the belief that I had no inherent ‘good.’
That the world had no inherent good.
I was beaten. Often. The religion was rigorous and I often rebelled against it.
I knew as a kid there was something inherently wrong with them.
I couldn’t put my finger on it – I mean, the people we talked to were polite, they dressed nice, the churches were nice, they drove nice cars….and in a lot of ways, it wasn’t the worst of circumstances.
Until it was.
And when it was, baby, it was a honey.
I’ve seen and been through things too bizarre to put in 9 books let alone one.
My sisters, can even top my experiences.
Those experiences have put a scar in me, on my heart, so deep it cuts into my very being into the foundation of who I am as a person.
And if I am not careful, those scars, get infected.
I have to be vigilant.
There is an old Sunday School song that goes, “Oh be careful little ears what you hear. Oh be careful little ears what you hear. For the Lord above is looking down – in love – oh be careful little ears what you hear.
It’s in what I hear – that requires the most vigilance.
Like someone who’s had a weather related injury, such as heatstroke, or frostbite or someone who’s come in contact with poison ivy – I’ll always be susceptible to the tone of a message than the actual message itself.
Passion, rhetorical flourish, and charisma are the cornerstone of any good speaker. It’s not really in what they say, that makes us listen, it’s all in the delivery.
Think of your favorite speaker, preacher, politician, or public persona.
Don’t listen to what they say, give that a rest, listen to how they say it.
There’s a lot of umph to their message, a schtick they use, they’re just like you….but they’re not. If they are public speaking, have their starched white shirts rolled up, can deliver a speech without any reservation or nervousness, they haven’t been one of you for a very long time. Most people I know HATE public speaking.
Right now, there is a lot of talk about Nazis and their alter ego – Antifa.
There’s a lot of passionate rhetoric being tossed around by both sides. Promises of violence. Actual acts of violence and confrontations.
A whole lot of passion.
We should always stand against fascism. Always. There’s no room in a free society for authoritarianism. Period. White supremacy and it’s ugly older brother antisemitism and ugly older sister bigotry – ruin and destroy – and have never once created a thing.
It’s led nations into ruins and took its people along for the ride.
And while there is something in the idea of standing up to a Nazi and ‘giving them their just desserts’ violence never creates anything. Like racism and bigotry – violence only begets more violence.
I’ve seen so many people on social media talking about ‘getting ready ‘ for some kind of showdown with the evil that is Nazi’s and no doubt – they are evil.
Yet these same people are unaware, or maybe they are aware, that they are slowly becoming being pushed into the very thing they’re trying to fight against. They become the other side to the same coin.
I feel like a fool when I quote this man, because everyone does who try to drive home a point. Bigots have used this guy, which isn’t too far a stretch since a racist will use Jesus and the Bible to justify their deep rooted hate. But Dr. Martin Luther King stood against much worse, so much worse, and was far more effective in his methodology of passive resistance than any armed conflict can ever accomplish.
War is not about success no matter what General stands up and delivers his speech ‘to the boys’.
War is about failure.
It’s about people failing to come together and work out their issues.
It becomes mindless.
To commit an act of violence against another human being, you have to work yourself up into a state of mindless rage and once that line is crossed – there’s no coming back.
Ask the vets who’ve come back from Iraq and Afghanistan how they feel.
I am not telling you to march. I am not telling you not to resist. I am not telling you to just let them hit you or hurt you. No. You have a right to defend yourself from bodily harm.
All I am asking you to do – is listen not to what your side says – listen to how they’re saying it. Listen to the words they use, not in a way that convinces you to join their cause, but what they are calling for.
The French know about this.
While their revolution was probably 100 percent just. It became a mindless stream of violence and death because people couldn’t back out of the frenzy they found themselves in.
There were so many different factions inside of that event that when someone starts to talk about the French Revolution – you are 100 percent justified in asking, “Which one?”
Are we facing some dark times? Yes. No doubt.
‘ The other’ regardless of where they fit, are in dire straights.
But ladies and gentlemen, there is power in numbers.
Passive resistance like Dr. Kings wasn’t very popular in America. He was murdered for it. Like Christ, he used to the parts of the society in which he lived to shame the wise. He held a mirror up to this country and let it get a good look at itself.
Sure you may face violence and worse when you stand up for what you believe in in any capacity.
But there is one sure fire way you’ll be unable to avoid it and that is by being violent yourself.
A man that lives by the sword will die by it each and every time.
Whoever got a hold of those 15 hijackers used passion to convince them 100 percent of their righteousness. The man who plowed into the crowd of protesters was 100 percent convinced of his righteousness.
The man who sucker punched his little boy, and bounced his head off a tile floor in the kitchen because they were angry, was 100 percent sure – in the heat of the moment – he was right.
Curtail your passions. Or they will destroy everything around you and trust me, there are some fates that are worse than death.

Violence is NEVER the answer. All it does is create a whole myriad and painful questions. Questions like, “Why me?”

What’s worse, is some questions then, have no good answer and because of that – there is are scars that never heal right.

I am your Voodoo Lady (poem)

 

 

 

joshua-fuller-204247Hand me a Ouija board
throw out some candles and
give me your tarot
the demons are talking tonight
all at once
even with Emile Sande
begging for something to believe in
through my headphones

It’s a map, all laid out
not a single memory
it’s all of the memory, all of it
my room is crowded with them
I am you’re voodoo lady

Pay me in trade, boy
sit in front of me and wait
while I cast bones
while I spin tables
with the taste of cold coffee
on my tongue
I hear stories I don’t want to

forbidden fruit
sweet to the taste but bitter
in the gut
as voices speak through me
each line I write
I’ve paid for in chains
and a pound of flesh

Last night
I prayed my first rosary
Holy Mary mother of God
I’m so tired
I counted the beads
and said the ‘Our Father’
but tonight I’m reminded
what a jealous creature
I am

Tonight, I thought
I was emptied out completely
that nothing would stir
but it does, precious
it stirs in me
as I am now ghost writing
what they want me to say

I’m untalented
all this is a conduit
the praise, the adulation
your five star darling hooker
and I can never tell when
the door is going to swing open
but I have a fear
deep in my soul should
it one day swing open
and the crowd steps through
this time it wont be to deliver the goods

It’ll be to take me with them
There is no Sibley Road for me anymore

This pitiless place (Poem)

So much static
and hands pulling in every direction
lamenting voices raised in discontent and anger
I can’t hear above the din

Oh, God, but let me hear your voice
the twisted gunmetal fears I cry are rusting against my face
they drop with clinking noises at my feet
cause me to slip and stumble along body strewn floors

My mouth is dripping with the words people put in
like black ink it runs down my chin
as I stumble through the tunnel of the wretched living dead
clawing and scrambling and demanding
I gag.

We’re married now. We’re free now
but they can’t or won’t let go.
Like heroin – anger seeps into their veins and turns
day to night as they wander in their fugue state
as their souls rot in the cage they built while they’re drunk with the taste of their own tears.

Dancing forever in a masquerade
paper faces cover grimaces this mindless parade
where a flower’s tender petals are crushed under self-righteous heels
they’re killing their hope – perfectly imperfect hope
and with every death, there is less and less oxygen
for people to breathe

There is no god here
only devils with garish dresses and good intentions
murdering the daylight while lamenting the dark
only fools burning up with a fever of infected minds
mindless, mindless, “off with her head!”
they chant – and another flower dies

It’s getting harder to breathe. I cover my ears as they cheer
as they joyfully shout for their own demise
As they strip beauty down with twisted arthritic fingers In this pitiless place. This tragic kingdom where the desperate damned damn themselves.

Message in a Bottle (Part 12)

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You can’t control and make people afraid with a loving God. A loving God takes away the entire platform of Independent Fundamental Baptist movement and a lot of other denominations of Christianity.

Think about it this way, when we see art like a painting or hear a symphony or watch an incredible movie – we think to ourselves – wow, the guy/gal that did this was talented. We see not only the art but in observing the art, we catch a glimpse of the artist as well.

So, the irony here is that these people ‘fear’ God so much they’re not only willing to talk shit about The Creation but The Creator as well.

I mean think about that.

Yesterday while I was leaving the grocery store, I put my cart away in the coral and looked down and at my feet was a discarded Chic Tract. I picked it up and idly went through it. And of course, like all those Tracts, the fear of punishment rang through the pages. Fear of a God, Fear of The Devil, Fear of Hell.

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So, in short, people are ‘getting saved’ at gunpoint. It’s fear that brings them to God. And the producers of this track, since they brought you to God, know exactly how it is you have to live to please God and the cycle begins. And theirs is the truthiest truth that ever did truth and everyone else is doomed to hell.

Their God is not a god of love, but a god of retribution and anger, vengeful wrath waiting to be tossed out upon unrepentant sinners. That’s not only religious ideology, it’s also political. There is an agenda there. People join IFB, and similar denominations,  out of total fear for their immortal soul, give their life to God, and become miserable while being promised a heaven made of gold. But there is a far more insidious thing going on in the movement as well.

I’ve heard hell fire and damnation sermons most of my young life ala Jonathan Edward’s Sinners in the hands of an Angry God. And what sounded to me like certainty back then, wasn’t certainty at all. But the constant regurgitation of fear to keep people in line. But that fear, I discovered later, not only kept people subservient to the will of one man, it also cut them off from seeing and being a part of the creation that God made. That creation -people and their music, and poetry, paintings and symphonies, other ethnicities and yes, even the hated Rock and Roll and dancing. Expressions of Humanity that profess its will to not only survive but thrive all the while experiencing everything God created along the way.

When I was a kid, my sisters and I would turn on B.E.T or MTV and watch Soul Train and listen to music and I remember being in awe of these professions of love from the Power Ballad singers. And I remember the dancing on Soul Train that looked so happy and fun and imitating them. And listening to Roberta Flack, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, The Nelsons, and marveling at the creativity of it all. Even though we knew if we got caught there was hell to pay. And trust me, there often was.

And we were often drawn to it anyway. Not because of it being sin. But because it was true. The songs they sang were truth. And truth is a dangerous thing in world of half truthes and manipulation.

And these pastors cut people off from that. because there is one thing that man desires above all else.

Power.

And kings can’t be kings without coercive powers. And subjects won’t be subjects if The Gospel of Life sings to them louder than  the Gospel of fear, hate, and retribution. Why do you think Slavery was even rationalized? Why did Jim Crow stick around for so long? The Rise of the ‘moral’ majority? Breaking the will of a child?

Because the subjects found their way into a voting booth and they took their gospel of fear, hate, and retribution along for the ride.

We’re often taught that the Pilgrims came to America to seek religious freedom. What we’re not told is that these Pilgrims who were mostly puritan tried to subvert The King’s authority in England and got run out. They wanted to be King. They didn’t object to the power the king had, they object to HIM having that power.

So the next time someone wants to talk about ISIS or Islam or The Taliban, hand them a Chic Tract and talk to them about our own brand of whackadoodledoo’s that are just as capable of insidious things from having been cut off from their own humanity for so long and indoctrinated to hate the world and the people in it for so long, that they’d become violent as well to keep people in line.

The Bible does say man is flawed and falls short of his glory.

But let me make it very clear to you,  that just means you aren’t perfect.

It doesn’t mean that your rotten and horrible. God loves you. He loves you. And he doesn’t make mistakes. And just because you may have done something wrong in life, like everyone else, doesn’t make you bad. You are not inherently evil. Mankind is Good. He doesn’t make junk. You’re his art. He’s the artist.

((Atheists be like: I don’t believe any of that anyway. I agree with you on more points than I disagree with you on, believe me))

God is not going to send Christ to die for something he despises.

Didn’t happen.

Anything that says otherwise is nothing more than a con job. And those pastors who perpetuated this better pray that God is loving and all merciful, because ….damn.

Fear is big business. And business lately, has been real good.