Capitalism is Dead — Lew Rosenbaum

Capitalism is Dead 

Lew Rosenbaum

1.

Cicada time comes

In August heat, metallic

Raspy resonance

 

Rising and falling,

They call each other across

Neighborhoods, forests,

 

Screaming crescendos

Like the grinding of monumental gears

The autumn of industrial capitalism

Signaling but not aware that its winter is near

Cicadas are not aware of their end,

Killer wasps prey on adults and

Nymphs bury themselves in the soil

Or burrow in vain against the blacktop

 

In any case it is the end

Or at least a foreshadowing

And so it is with capitalism

For which spring will never come again.

 

2.

Bright summer day drive

On June Street, Los Angeles,

Gazing at mansions

 

Of rich, famous and

Powerful Angelenos

Secure behind gates

 

Counting their money

Planning their investments to

Take over the world

 

Sheridan and I, riding with the windows open

Almost as wide as our mouths

Before the luxuriant gardens, pillars, sculptures

Conspicuous consumption barely beyond our fingertips

And he, dazzled but not demeaned,

Screaming out the window

His rich southern baritone forming

The spaces in between, around the words,

“You dead, mothahfuckahs, you dead

You jest don’t know it yet!”

 

3.

Putrid odors reek

from pustules on the body

of capitalism,

 

I’m stepping on crushed,

mutilated, skunk-smelling

flesh, wading through pools

 

of phlegmy green fluid

oozing from liquefied lungs

of a dying beast.

 

Some of their cadaverous practitioners

recognize the end of the road, they

see the phosphorescent signs that wave

good-bye to workers, they feel the

mercurial flow of the golden fetish

slipping between their fingers into a void:

where has the magical value gone, once upon

a long time ago created and stored in

cold marble banks, in monster machines,

wealth now vanished or languishing in piles

on walmarted, targeted shelves without,

without, without value,

claiming the magic number zero.

 

I’d waste my energy to drive a stake

through your vampire heart, capitalism; you are already

dead

but you don’t know it. Or, if you do, you are

ready to move on to the next phase of private property,

ready to reconstruct society to conform to new, fancy tools

that don’t need people

ready to deform and fascisolate society to maintain your control

over a restless mass who cannot survive without

deposing you,

capitalism: you, dying, are already dead.

Foreseeing the end, you are an expiring dragon

flailing your rusted drone-tipped tail

against those who will imagine and build society in their interests

because they must.

 

Let’s seize the world from

your Voldemort grip, transform

it in our own hands,

 

cooperative,

and creative, we have been

naught. We shall be all.

On Reading the “Anthology of a Thousand Poets” Ho Chi Minh

ho-chi-minhOn Reading the “Anthology of a Thousand Poets”

Ho Chi Minh

They used to sing of nature’s charms –
hills, streams, mists, flowers, snow, moon, and wind.
Today, a poem must have steel.
A poet must learn to wage war.

It’s Not the Same River — Lew Rosenbaum

It’s Not The Same River   by Lew Rosenbaum

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Heraclitus, 535-475 BCE

“We are all related” – Lakota prayer

Ninety-six percent of water on earth is saline.

The water swimming in my cells,

The water that bathes my cells,

The water coursing in my bloodstream,

All of it is saline.

We cannot drink salt water.

 

Aquifers make up thirty percent of the four percent that is fresh water.

Lying deep beneath the arid desert,

Beneath the flat Midwestern plains,

Beneath the big-sky buttes of Montana,

Beneath the putrid oil wells of the Texas panhandle.

California almonds drink this water when people cannot.

Nestlé bottles what the people may not drink.

 

The amount of water used to supply the world’s golf courses

Is the same as the amount that could supply all the world’s people.

Japan had 23 golf courses before World War II.

They found their error

And built three thousand courses.

An anti-haiku.

 

Lake Huron is the third largest fresh water lake on earth.300px-Saginawrivermap

Flint, Michigan, lying near the shores of Lake Huron,

Started using Flint River water instead.

(It takes its name from the Ojibwe language, when the river ran pure).

But river water flowed past the industrial factories

That built Flint, and discharged chemical waste

Turning clear water a muddy brown,

Infected with retch-inducing odors,

Cancer-causing chemicals and corrosive salts

That leached lead from the pipes in lethal doses.

When people showered,

Water brought rashes and pain to their bleeding skin.

 

Sixty percent of the human body is water.

We humans need water more than we need food.

Why do capitalist private profiteers get to drain our aquifers?

Flint is a lesson and a call to wake up.

No one can make the babies come back,

But we can have clean, free water for all

By ending the rule of private property

That protects golf courses and

Preys upon the lives of our people.

We are all related.

 

Grasp the New World In Birth by Lew Rosenbaum

Grasp The New World In Birth

Lew Rosenbaum

Just imagine! Seventy years, comrades,

Seventy years!

We need to celebrate anything we can

We Are All One People by Diana Berek

We Are All One People by Diana Berek

At any time.

Mao said that.

Don’t you agree?

When I was young,

I knew when birth happened.

Pain, blood and water.

A nodal line marks a leap

From one quality to another.

Nine months earlier,

The magic code of our species’ history

Caught in capsules of sperm and egg,

Re-combines.

Isn’t that a “Birth” day?

Later, through pain, blood and water,

A screaming, spitting mammal flays the air with all four limbs

Breathes air for the first time,

Struggles toward independence. Human?

Open that bottle, fill those glasses, drink up.

Tell me, what does human mean?

Watch the child grow,

Burst through boundaries,

Incorporate the parameters of its surroundings,

Every furry touch, strawberry taste, furtive look

Inscribes an indelible neural circuit

Recreates a virtual external world.

When do we jump from recording,

Begin to see the pictures related,

Begin to ask big questions,

Begin the quest that sex provokes

Strive to transfer our version of the code?

Rites of passage celebrate

Another, a double edged kind of birth,

The birth of a consciousness

Of a possibility to continue species.

Why don’t we start our count of when we are human

From the date of our own passage from tadpole to frog?

Browning had his bishop order a tomb.

His bishop ruminated on his inglorious past,

His clerical competition, pride of place after death.

For him all was debauchery, all was over.

But wait. We’re not done yet.

At 13 I’m not done learning. Formal schoolingsc00039808

Opened vistas to scholarly disciplines.

At 23 I crossed the Tehachapi Mountains,

Learned from farm workers about grapes

And exploitation and health for the poor.

At 27 a Cuban peasant taught me about cooperation.

At 30 a Black bricklayer

And a Chinese-Norwegian artist

Introduced me to Marx.

At 50 I married a Bolshevik painter.

Those are births too.

Another bottle? Fill those glasses,

Tell me now what you think.

Why do we focus on emergence from the womb

And ignore the stages on the journey,

The conscious quest to understand

And transform society?

With you and me,

Our child-ness is the caterpillar of our social being.

Together, humanity thrashes to break out

From its own cocoon

Cast off its own chrysalis of unconsciousness

Emerge at the end of capitalism fully human.

Marx said that.

Drink deep, with me, that dry, heady amontillado and dream of Poe.

Edgar Allen Poe, author of

Edgar Allen Poe, author of “A Cask of Amontillado.”

I would embed our own Fortunatos in a wall of their own making,

Thus end the rule of that perverted class that destroys our world.

I am seventy years old today.

I am not done yet.

We are only as old as the child’s imaginative

Grasp of the new world in birth.

(after a poem by Robert Browning,

“The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church”

http://www.bartleby.com/42/669.html )

Exposed and Ode to a Shot Glass: Commemorating Billy Watkins

[On July 27, 2014, The Revolutionary Poets Brigade – Chicago held a “bonfire” reading as part of the World Poetry Movement’s readings for peace.  We built a bonfire at promontory point, jutting out into Lake Michigan, the Chicago skyline dramatically draped against the northern horizon.  As the sun went down over the trees to the west, poets and activists read from their work and described the social struggles in which they were engaged.  We asked Billy Watkins to speak about his work with the newspaper The People’s Tribune, and to read some poetry. What follows is the complete transcript of his reading, his last public presentation. As he left promontory point, he was pleased to hear that his, his first public sharing of his own poetry, was an extraordinary success. Now, nearly a year later, we follow this transcript with a new poem about Billy Watkins.– Lew Rosenbaum]

Adam Gottlieb: Next up is going to be Billy Watkins talking about the People’s Tribune. Watkins is a writer for the People’s Tribune and an all around revolutionary. Everyone please give it up for Billy!

[applause]

20140727_190620Billy Watkins: Thank you, I want to be a part of the circle here, that’s good. I am yeah I am both happy and humbled to be here this afternoon. I’m not a poet. I wanted to get my little piece out of the way so we can get ready for some serious poetry. My day job is, I’m a professor at UIC I’ve been there for 20 years, I’m tired of them, they’re probably tired of me, probably I should re-tire. But at any rate, until that happens, I’m a part of the movement. And right today I’m representing the People’s Tribune. I’m going to pass around [here he hands a stack of People’s Tribune’s to be passed around the listeners], several of us here write for the People’s Tribune and distribute it. I’ve been working for the People’s Tribune for a long time. It’s a newspaper, a community newspaper that is addressing the issues of tyranny, oppression, capitalism, war, we’re trying to respond to every act of tyranny and oppression, and provide a newspaper where the people can inform one another and organize themselves. We’re beyond the time of, we’re at a time in history that you all already know is a very dangerous and menacing time of — the people, the powers that be are marshalling their forces. They’re putting their house in order to do whatever their master plan is. We on the other hand are not as organized, don’t have as many resources, perhaps don’t even understand how serious the threat is. But we’re beginning to understand it.

Last week, with the invasion of Gaza, we understood it even more.

So I want to, I was asked to, I was lured here, because — I’m not a poet — but I love words and I understand the power of words. Was it Shakespeare who said the pen is mightier than the sword? Somebody said it. Whoever said it had a lot of truth to it. And so words are the key to action. Words are inspiring. Words do things to us. We’re moved by words, whether it be in song, in poetry, in prose, whatever. So, I have never, this is the first time I’ve ever shared anything I’ve written in public like this.

[applause]

I mean I’ve written a couple books, but I’ve not shared – I don’t know if this is poetry or drunken reminiscences – and is there a difference [someone says same thing] – same thing, I’m glad to know that, because at the end of every day I have a little glass of gin and I do a little writing. So this represents the end of every day.

This is a piece that I wrote – I’m probably one of the oldest ones out here, and we’re called together today to talk about war, condemn war, well, I was brought up in the “Cold War.” And I wrote this poem actually last year, and I was thinking about some of the old cold warriors, who helped shape our world, or I should say misshaped our world. So these guys we got today in the Pentagon and launching these adventures, they are poop-butts compared to the people we had in the 1960s. I mean you had some real pros who were assembled by the Kennedy administration to in fact reconfigure the world. So let me just read some of my thoughts, and I call this

Exposed  by Bill Watkins

Divine one, king, emperor, sovereign, his highness, sire, your majesty, landlord, hereditarian bloodline, elected by no one, speak to God

You go by many names,

we know who you are,

we got your number,

we’re on your ass

Democrat, reformer, liberal, progressive, humanitarian, neoliberal, Kennedyite, new dealer, new wheeler,

You go by many names,

we know who you are,

we got your number,

we’re on your ass

Usurper, hater, exploiter, robber baron, expansionist, smooth criminal, imperialist, pig, evil doer, vermin, trickster, wicked one.

You are known by many names,

we know who you are,

we got your number,

we’re on your ass

Liar, cheater, misleader, fool, hurter, killer, wannabe thriller

we know who you are,

we got your number,

we’re on your ass.

Reagan, Clinton, Eisenhower, Truman, Wilson, Obama, and yes Jimmy Carter, the peanut man.

You are known by many names,

we know who you are,

we got your number,

we’re on your ass

Stockman, Plockman, Foreman, Hockman, Gates, Vrydolyak, Cheney, Kennedy Fukuyama , Rumsfeld, McGeorge

“What mother would name her child McGeorge” Bundy

Bundy — what mother would name her child McGeorge?

You go by many names,

we know who you are,

we got your number,

we’re on your ass

Wallace, Bilbo, Maddox, Stennis, Connor,

You go by many names,

we know who you are,

we got your number,

we’re on your ass

Mortgage man, rent man, landlord man, police man, collector man, bag man, dope man,repo man, hit man, alder man

You go by many names,

we know who you are,

we got your number,

we’re on your ass

Faker, false prophet, apostate, revisionist, snake man, god man, obeah man, con man, trick man, lowdown man

You go by many names,

we know who you are.

Just a quickie now, I want to read something from one of my favorite people, V.I.Lenin, and its a passage from one of my th-2favorite books, entitled What Is To Be Done.

It’s just one paragraph. It’s a paragraph that I love because it speaks to me. Speaks to those of us in the movement, and we are trying to grow the movement, and we want to do the right thing. We are faced with all kinds of tricksters and hypocrites and we are surrounded by all kinds of buffoons and people who would have us misstep.

“We are marching in a compact group along a precipitous and difficult path, firmly holding each other by the hand. We are surrounded on all sides by enemies, and we have to advance almost constantly under their fire. We have combined, by a freely adopted decision, for the purpose of fighting the enemy, and not of retreating into the neighbouring marsh, the inhabitants of which, from the very outset, have reproached us with having separated ourselves into an exclusive group and with having chosen the path of struggle instead of the path of conciliation. And now some among us begin to cry out: Let us go into the marsh! And when we begin to shame them, they retort: What backward people you are! Are you not ashamed to deny us the liberty to invite you to take a better road! Oh, yes, gentlemen! You are free not only to invite us, but to go yourselves wherever you will, even into the marsh. In fact, we think that the marsh is your proper place, and we are prepared to render you every assistance to get there. Only let go of our hands, don’t clutch at us and don’t besmirch the grand word freedom, for we too are “free” to go where we please, free to fight not only against the marsh, but also against those who are turning towards the marsh!”

   * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Ode to a Shot Glass by Lew Rosenbaum

The five inch high shot glass has a map of Arkansas

Printed on the side. Arkansas emblazoned in red letters

Along its northern border, while a yellow scroll at the southernshot glass (1)

Proclaims in red letters “The Natural State.” An hour ago

It was filled with vodka, smooth tasting Stolichnaya. I bought the Stoli

For ideological reasons: I thought it would best

Help me think of my comrade, Billy Watkins, writing what he called

His musings, his drunken reverie before going to bed,

Writing what he said he didn’t know if it was poetry or

Just drunken reminiscences, or is there any difference he said,

In that last public appearance, that night when we read poetry

Around the bonfire;

When we assured him there was no difference;

At promontory point, when he told us he had never read his poetry –

But is it poetry, he wondered, when he told us

He’d been writing for forty years, thrown most of it away,

I don’t know whether it’s any good, he said.

I’m a professor in my day job, I’m tired of them, some of them would be happy

If I RE-tired, his resonant voice breaking, his breathing labored,

He read his litany of scurrilous scourges of the working class,

And without being asked, we joined him in his chorus

“You go by many names, we know who you are,

We got your number, we’re on your ass.”

.

A week later, he would never write another line.

.

This is Billy’s glass. He collected it on one of his many journeys.

I chose this among the offerings at the service that

Celebrated his life, a generous selection his widow Mary

And his son Will prepared – I cringe at using the word “widow” –

I took this, not some exotic instrument from West Africa,

Some multicolored Asian textile, some Olmec sculpture:

No, this proletarian relic from the North American South,

Slavery’s home, and the key to American liberation,

And pouring a libation to fill this vessel, I think of Billy, late at night,

Chasing down his rage at the white architects of Black education,

Sharpening his view of Black protest thought,

Vilifying the corporate transformation of education.

If he were writing tonight, it would be a line straight from

Little Rock, the home of Orval Faubus and Bill Clinton,

To Charleston, where the first shots of the civil war were fired

And where nine were murdered in

Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

And, tossing off the last of the clear, fiery liquid in this glass,

He’d scribble another line to assure the enemies of his class,

We’re on your fascist ass.

.

Rest well, beloved comrade. We’re on their ass too

Ode to a Laughing Man (after Bertolt Brecht) — Lew Rosenbaum

Ode to the Laughing Man

Lew Rosenbaum

I

The morning light, still before dawn,

Filters through the windows,DSCF6866

Creeps around table, the chairs, the end of the bed

Lets me see their shapes as if in the night

Their edges had all softened, become indistinct,

And the breeze ripples lightly across my skin

Bringing with it intense, sweet fragrance

From the lilacs in the courtyard. I love watching

The early morning light define my surroundings:

I love inhaling this late May scent that has, since childhood,

Signified pleasure. And still, and then

The light reveals

Bodies of the bombed,

The fragrance cannot hide

The stench of sewage in our waters.

II

This morning, and yesterday, and probably tomorrow

I think of Bertolt Brecht, writing

Ah, what an age it is

When to speak of trees is almost a crime

For it is a kind of silence about injustice!

III

with glasses

I love to walk into the garden

Where purple salvia run riot

Interrupted by pink columbines at play,

Magenta spiderwort wave at me in the wind,

And my neighbor stops to gossip

About hosta, peonies, and we laugh

About the advancing violets,

Even about the dandelions,

About their bitter greens in a salad.

We smile, we laugh, and laugh.

IV

He who laughs

Has not yet heard

The terrible tidings.

Brecht wrote that too. But

 

I’ve heard the terrible tidings.

And yet I speak of trees,

Because after capitalism that is what we will do.

It is a crime to dwell on capital’s depravity,

Its descent into fascism,

Without envisioning what’s possible and necessary

What needs to be accomplished by the only ones who can.

There is but one reason to talk about

Doom and gloom.

Everything or nothing.

All of us or none.

[With apologies/thanks to Bertolt Brecht: To Posterity and All of Us or None }

Hair is the Hieroglyphic

Hair is the Hieroglyphic

by Lew Rosenbaum

She lounges listless in her nursing home bed.

Her hair — unkempt, unruly —scatters across

shrunken shoulders and splays across bed sheets.

There is no order to her appearance, no order to

the sounds babbling from her half-open mouth,

no pattern to the gray, black, white, yellow strands

that color her hair independently, still lend it that

dirty, ochrous look. It wasn’t always so.

I remember her sitting on the couch in the living room,

combing her abundant black tresses, two feet long

from the crown of her head almost to her waist,

every morning combing, always combing and combing,

plying the wide-toothed end to remove the

morning snarls that had accumulated in the thrashing

of night, moving toward the fine-toothed end until

long undulant streams dangle and glisten in the

morning sunlight streaming through the window.

Then she divides the hair at the crown, parting the

black sea to course in two rivers, one over each shoulder.
13413_10152857246776538_6419148665008457640_n

With deft and nimble fingers she braids one side,

then the other, until the cascades lie across her breasts

each side emerging as an entwined water snake. Now she

arranges them in a circle,

forming a regal corona,

her straight shoulders speak confidence

as she smiles and stands up.

I saw the gray beginning to streak her hair.

I noticed when that yellow contaminated the

purity of color, when the display lost its luxuriance,

when she would finger the combed hair,

shake her head and mourn about how fine the

wisps had become, tell tales about women’s

envy, about admiration as she undid those braids.

The stages of a woman’s life are the grist that makes

a sphinx’s riddle. The hair is the hieroglyphic in which

these stages are recounted. I want to defy the inevitable,

pick up that comb, straighten those strands,

call back an earlier vibrant vision.

(previously published in the chapbook, To Pay The Piper)