Summer Storm, Brooklyn

Illustration

 

There is something visceral

In the sound of distant thunder

From the roiling underbelly

Of a pregnant summer sky.

 

At first, a gentle knocking,

A cautious testing, tapping

On the roof and on the windows

As the trees begin to sigh.

 

Suddenly there=s silence,

A still anticipation,

A waiting and a watching

With an apprehensive eye.

 

Now flash! A whip of lightning

With its bang-snap-crack of thunder

Stampedes the herds across the roof.

The streets all start to fry.

 

The trees are writhing now

In waves of throbbing rain

That mist and bend the twisting shapes.

All solids liquefy.

 

The sky is firing salvos

Of stroboscopic glare

While an avalanche of monsters

Reverberates the sky.

 

The cavalcade of noise and blaze

Subsides to glows and grumbles.

Downpour inundates the streets.

It’s Venice in July.

 

Barefoot kids race gutter boats

To seas of clogged up drains.

Their matchstick ships do flops and flips

And spin and sink awry.

 

The thick damp smell of hot concrete

Yields its wet in steam

Which rises up like streaming ghosts

Who flee back to the sky.

 

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Requiescat

Illustration

 

There will come a day long years from now

When the sandy desert wind will whistle to itself.

No footprints dotting lines across the dunes.

All memories of Man put on the shelf.

 

No more the candy wrappers dance along the road

Nor empty beer cans glisten in the night

To softly clink and hoot in gusty breezes.

Cardboard boxes banished from all sight.

 

Brick will fracture, crumble back to clay,

Their trellises of steel will rust away.

No more apartments stacked like  packages

In some mad marketing array.

 

Concrete roads will crack, becoming rocks.

Funguses and moss will fill the gaps.

Mice and birds scurry past the pole

Where an ancient traffic sign still slaps.

 

Tall trees erect their magic structure,

Sink sucking mouths to kiss the earth deep down.

Spread green eyes to meet the morning sun.

Seas of dandelions flood downtown.

 

Small reservoirs of elephants, big cats,

Re-infect the forests with their grace,

Forage in and out through columned aisles

While branches make cathedrals out of lace.

 

Ocean-wise the seagulls dip and rise

Like soaring eyebrows off in search of eyes.

The seas are full of carnivals of whales.

No hooks nor nets nor harpoons terrorize.

 

No oil that blackens seabirds’ wings

To bury pleading eyes in gummy straw.

Blue water glints and flaps against the sun.

Gone, hulls that dive and slide and yaw.

 

Here and there an old reactor core,

Silent, lightless, tasteless, without smell

Inflames the skin of Earth with sterile death

Like splinters risen straight from central Hell.

 

The canisters that roll beneath the sea

Crack and split to spill their glowing gifts.

Dead blotches on soft muds and sands

Which slowly kills. Relentlessly it drifts.

 

 

These are the monuments to Man,

The zenith that he’s left behind.

When Stonehenge and the pyramids are dust,

Small creatures will they maim and kill and blind.

 

The ship of Earth has heeled and slowly rights.

The disaster that was Man has passed away.

The tapestry of life reweaves itself.

Celestial Spring has come and it is May.

 

Predators still make their deadly hunts.

It’s one on one by tooth and claw and wing.

Each creature kills by inborn skills.

Murder has become a home made thing.

 

No more millions die at one man’s stroke

To make cosmetics, or, perhaps, a joke.

Forests do not fall for gossip’s sake.

Life is blessed by human Ragnarok.

 

The strangest thing is that Man’s demise

Was done by Man with no assist.

As if he knew the blight he was.

It’s certain that he won’t be missed.

 

 

Traveling

Photo

 

I have stridden into hurricanes,

Seen frantic trees wave hysteric arms

At rushing clouds that paid no heed,

Too busy to look down.

I have plowed through waist deep snow,

Across white silent fields blue veined by shadowed trees

Under pure sky, so blue my eyes cried, my nose ran

In admiration.  Here mice morse coded passageways.

I have lain submerged in warm tall summer grass,

My hand against the sun’s atomic fury

While grasshoppers exploded in parabolas

Like popcorn alive. The thick sweet smell

Crooned me to sleep.

I have walked through winter forests in the night,

Moonlit snow my guide, so terribly alone,

A wanderer on an alien planet.

I have swum tepid shallow seas like a cloud

Over bottle sprinkled white sands while ghosts

Of jellyfish trolled poisoned nets.

I have, with joy, shuffled into piles of autumn leaves

Emitting barks and squeaks to other kids.

I do not want to leave this lovely Earth.

I do not want to leave.

I Flap

Illustration

 

My wings are skin, stretched on bone.

I flap.

The sun makes jewels of my scales, red, blue, gold.

I flap.

Far below, the tiny trees waltz in the wind.

I flap.

Against the sky of ruffled clouds, the black crows scatter.

I flap.

Tiny sounds of church bells tumble up into the sky.

I flap.

Small colored bits dance in random on a square.

I flap.

A children’s playground, I turn downwind.

I flap.

Folded wings, I whistle-drop to meet the ground.

I flare my wings.

I bullet swift to meet the children as they scatter, scream.

Talons extended.

I clutch a girl, it waves its yellow hair and squirms.

Up, up, up, I flap.

It stares at me in silent fear, blue eyes swim in tears.

I nip off its head.

Down falls the head, a yellow dandelion in the wind.

I bite down.

The warm flesh drips long strings of blood.

I eat.

The empty bag of rags falls away.

I flap.

Refuge

Dream girl

 

There is in dreams a magic transformation

So that fear appears as watching doors,

A clutching claw a hair behind your frantic run,

Frozen feet that push through viscous air,

Or something simple, like a painted square

Upon the sidewalk of a painted city.

 

In dreams there can be crystal cliffs

That glint within with fields of flowers,

Birds and insects captured in rock glass.

Time and Space are stilled in frozen depth.

Stars no longer compass ‘round the north

But strew like sugar on a kitchen table.

 

I’ve had dreams that swirl and drown in love.

Some girl I could not see, but know

By how I felt. She was a vacancy, a blank

Defined by feelings strong outlined

That flowed in me like buttered honeymilk.

Thus I spun in weightless space, in love.

 

In sleep the human mind falls into disarray.

No floors, no ceilings capturing the beast of feeling,

Wild to play strong games gone mad.

We free ourselves to flee through mazes

Sown with pleasures and with pain.

At night we all go wearily insane.

 

Evolution

An Ordinary DJO

 

There was a time, even in the early days of my short life, that humans were considered the apex attainment out of that lazy green slime that luxuriated in the rocking of the gentle waves at the edges of the primordial oceans that covered a good deal of this planet. The sunlight was beneficent and the regular storms slopped a few green fragments on the damp rocks where most dried and expired but a few geniuses in the crowd figured out how to manage on the rocks and grow roots to suck up enough sustenance to get by. Other bits adventured in different directions and manufactured fins and gills and various paraphernalia. And thus our pioneering forefathers progressed to the point where Lindbergh dozed his way to Paris a year after I was born.

 

I remember, back then, on Decoration Day when the last few veterans of the American Civil War paraded in cautious faltering steps past my house on Narrows Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to honor the neglected cemetery on 70th street where six or seven disarrayed graves marked the last resting place of a few Revolutionary War soldiers.

 

Radio was still sprouting then and the evenings started with Uncle Don and The Singing Lady and Buck Rogers In The Twenty Fifth Century. That last one most fascinated me as did the stories of H.G.Wells and Jules Verne. But what was rather curious about those speculative fictions, from today’s point of view, was the total lack of any mechanical intelligence or robots. We had a toaster but it lacked the elementary brain that understood when the toast was done and popped out the toast. All toasters these days are geniuses in comparison. And, of course, my desk top computer chuckles to itself all the time over the abysmal stupidity of my pop-up toaster. Things have moved along.

 

I saw my first sort of real humanoid robot at the Westinghouse Exhibit in the New York World’s Fair in 1939 It was a concept somewhat at the stage of a pseudo human mental flea although it was about six feet tall of gleamingly polished metal and was only adept at raising its right arm and clicking its five fingers and counting to five. But even my toaster was more adept at purposeful activity. And any simple calculator is brighter.

 

The IBM exhibit at that fair featured a huge cash register mounted on top of its exhibit hall and that seemed to be its main interest. It took the Second World War to prompt more depth in electronic circuitry. Considering the length of time it took for that first green slime to stand up and roar with an exquisite set of dentistry as Tyrannosaurus Rex, robots have done rather well in flexing their mental acumen. The robots are standing up and beginning to show their teeth.

 

Automatic machinery objections probably began even before the Luddite violence but there have always been necessary tasks in human society to take up the slack. Money has been an integral part of society well before modern civilization since necessities and other trade items required some way to persuade people to engage in required labor and be rewarded with what they needed to exist.  Labor produced the goods and, through money, had access to them. But money itself is merely an invented mechanism to keep the system in operation. It can be produced by the stroke of a pen or a few taps on a keyboard. Banks do this every time they make a loan. Money has analogies in blood circulating in a body or grease and oil permitting a machine to function. Neither blood nor oil do anything of value except to keep the mechanism in operation.

 

So the problem of any machinery that replaces labor becomes a blockage to the relationship between a population and their access to necessary goods. And this is where the advance in artificial intelligence and computers are beginning to destroy the fundamental interrelationship between work and wages and the ability of the population to purchase what has been produced. A new relationship has to become established between the production and the consumption of goods. A couple of nations, Finland and Denmark that I have heard of, have been considering giving a basic income to the population, more or less in the fashion now of distributing old age pensions, so that the populace has enough funds to sustain itself by purchasing the industrial production. This solution seems a move in the right direction but all work is not equal. There are problems of incentive to do work that current robots still find beyond them. At Fukushima, for instance there are areas of deadly radiation where no robot has been made that functions properly. If a person can rely on a reasonable living standard without having to endure extremely dangerous work conditions how can the work be done? Perhaps that limitation might provoke society to prioritize robotic development to energize itself to create automatons to get the work done. It seems to me that there are enough skilled and talented people who are so delighted to be involved in such projects that money may not be the prime objective. This is a major turnaround in society and I have no idea if it can be solved.

 

But there is a further fundamental threat to human existence now rapidly coming to confront civilization. It has to do with the primal forces in the machinery of evolution. And also what we mean by “life”.

 

Humans and all the larger forms of life are not individuals. They are what might be thought of as specialized civilizations. A human adult has about one hundred thousand billion cells in its body This is far, far more individual cells in each adult human than there are people on the planet. Beyond that each adult human has ten times that number of bacterial cells in that body and though, no doubt, there are some of those bacteria who are looking to do real damage, a good many of them are an integral part of and a basic necessity for the existence of this huge community. This is the foundation of what we think of as life.

 

We do not include robots in this class we name life, Nevertheless some experts in te robotics field (see  http://www.wsj.com/articles/when-machines-think-and-feel-1458311760 ) are convinced that the gap between robots and people is not only rapidly narrowing but think robots in the near future will well surpass humans in basic capacity.

Stephan Hawking, among others, is quite concerned about this. It may be the next major move in evolution.

 

In the relatively near future there seems to be small doubts that the Earth will succumb to heating that will make current agriculture almost impossible. Huge violences and catastrophes can very likely destroy civilization. But robots do not need the elaborate processes of agriculture to sustain themselves. They can take energy directly from the Sun and a hot Earth is no real problem for them. They could well survive and we most likely will not.

 

Pennies

Illustration

 

Nowadays their round faces

Strew the streets like copper suns

In a galaxy of torn paper shreds,

Fragments of things broken and anonymous,

Not worth the stoop for a retrieval.

Some time ago the penny had its day.

It commanded a long paper strip

Across which marshalled

Studs of varicolored candy dots,

Or a dozen tiny chocolate babies,

Or a handful of yellow- orange kernels of candy corn

Or a minor lollipop.

A community of five coppers

Could produce a cup of coffee

Or fuel a ferry ride

Across New York Bay

Or send one subterranean

On the subway from the Bronx Zoo

Past the concrete crystals of Manhattan

To the raucous carnival of the Coney Island Boardwalk.

I still keep two

To be laid against my eyes

As carfare across the Styx.