Extract from "Love, War, Fire, Wind: Looking Out from North America's Skull" by Eliot Katz (poems) and William T. Ayton (artwork)
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Broken Bones
"Broken Bones " by William T. Ayton, 2008

A Half-Baked Manifesto
        for Reconstructing Broken Bones

I told the Pentagon's one-eyed guy
        this damn war'd bring thousands
                of innocent deaths & hot new recruits
into al qaeda-affiliated terror firms
        but he still lives in the Cold War & loves
                to hear the sound of young ones falling.
Now the exploding corpses in uniform & out
        are food for the birds.
                Now 200-ton nation-destroying bombs
send sacred iron pillars to break bones
        & knock down homes
                across the floating extinction of continents.
"Only acknowledge your iniquity"
        said Jeremiah in the voice of god
                but the president is coughing & scrambling
his syntax trying to explain his & his nation's
        past macrobiological mistakes.
                The Attorney General has turned
into a granite fossil while kneeling in prayer
        & compiling neon McCarthyite files
                on infants & toddlers of antiwar marchers.
Maher Arar was tortured in Syria's breadcrusted dungeon
        despite Ashcroft's assurances heard echoing
                through the background noise
of a high-speed human rights blender. Cheney still claims
        Saddam was Osama's late night lover, Rumsfeld says
                the word "Guantanamo" with the smug grin
of a man who knows it makes no difference to rusty
        corporate news anchors whether his lies
                are big or bigger. The century's most pungent
smog-filled bill is nicknamed Clear Skies Initiative,
        Healthy Forests offers loggers a free supply
                of chain saw blades. An energy reform chauffeur
drives a cab full of tax breaks to summer homes
        of those fillet-prepared to cook the globe
                over a medium flame. The national
crime prevention brigade has developed a no-fail economic
        blackmail scheme to garner flak jacket U.S. immunity
                from world's most progressive war crimes court.
Even the rose-pedaled immune systems of children
        are not immune from Bush team's sour medicine,
                where "education for all" is laconic code
for stripping schools of the last sliver of union-made paint.
        Ending hunger for this shrink-wrapped administration
                equals sending starved kids down        
to nearest bootstrap sermon. If you ask for citizenly explanation,
        their public relations spokesman
                sighs it's all so undecideable
some weird kind of post-post-structuralist
        vague, ungraspable reasons overflowing
                horizontally across basement floor here
vertically thru 50-foot castle roof there, somebody
        they are unable to identify has placed a mile-wide pothole
                along the highway of American ideals.
Their made-in-Miami rubber bullet pellets
        are the only justification they offer, locked & loaded
                for rampaging gangs of idealistic teens.
There is no signature at bottom
        of any interdepartmental forms,
                no one with beating cabinet heart is available
to speak softly at the flag salute funeral, the documents
        the investigative committee has requested
                were shoved through the corporate paper shredder
a long time ago. There are no answers for questions
        of who never knew. Who told Novak?
                Who forged Niger?
How Enron money? Who slipped the 27 lies
        into Bush's State of the Union speech?
                Why's a Chinese semi-conductor company
paying brother Neil 2 million technophobic bucks?
        How did we get from Civil Rights Act
                of 1866 to here?
O that my head were waters! Lack of sleep
        has become breakfast too many mornings.
                The Earth has been sighing
through our open flesh wounds a quarter-million years.
        The sun misses its beloved.
                Our bodies self-destruct.
Our poets in the snowy cities deconstruct.
        Run--the horse--cave belly ache--
                corn never roots wish--
no end then beginnings--
        cut wire whispering--
                Which of the wanting Grand Narratives
are they talking about now? O lamentations!
        O Jeremiah!  O Blake! There is no longer
                a good excuse for our innocence!

Back in the 1980s I told the poetry world
        it was reconstruction that held the greatest
                unfulfilled emancipatory potential.
I was looking for the 14th amendment of poetry,
        a verse to reverse Plessy v. Ferguson
                for good, a new way of seeing to flip
the notion of original intent on its head, judicial doctrine    
        meant to invisibly disintegrate the most utopian
                midnight desires of post-Civil War era.
Much humane good has been done in this country,
        the ideals of democracy & unimprisoned talk,
                the vote & the vatic blues,
the fight against fascism and mass migratory movements
        for peace & australopithicene-ancestored rights,
                the jazz trumpet & long lines
of bebop hiphop verse. An expanding nutritional belly
        of sometimes sustainable mirth, quantum-eyed inventions
                of some melodic medicines & humming machines.
But it is still reconstruction that is most
        in need of a 40-acre rescue. Yet I have grown
                older & occasionally smarter
& can now also say "long live
        the language poets"
                & the 10,000 other international schools,
so many diverse linguistic loves capable of digging
        up useful glory. As Nicanor Parra said,
                too much blood has been spilled
under the bridge to go on believing only one poetic
        road is right. Whether a kitchen mirror to the real,
                or Ernst Bloch's anticipatory illuminations,
Isaiah's admonition holds: "do not shed innocent
        blood in this place."
                In my most transparent moments
of realism, there is a purple horse labeled a long shot
        at the last moment reaching its neck
                across the finish line first.
In utopian fantasies I see thousands of multicolored shirts
        marching peacefully in the streets
                to throw Bolivia's president out
of the country, to send Georgia's electoral thief
        home with embarrassed eyes dangling.    
                I see a new global trade organization
exporting the idea of taxfree nonviolent presidential topplings
        whichever corner of Earth they're well deserved.
                I see a Geneva-negotiated peace deal
between Israelis & Palestinians that at first offers only
        a full-throated birdsong organizing tool,
                but within a short time
is being implemented step by step by a less stubborn age.
        I see a new president of Brazil
                altering the map of incomplete bridges.
The TV Reporters of Record have tried so hard
        to convince us we have no choice
                but this George, too, will be dethroned.
Love, you and I will unlock our x-rayed suitcase
        of buried laughter, the jobs promised
                will be there for all,
no longer will any engendered group be sacrificed at altar
        of an idea. Isaiah, we take the plowshares
                in our broken hands.
The wound bandages itself. The burnt day care center
        is rebuilt from its ashes. Our poems
                have become immune to the scissors.
Reparations for slavery's non-biodegradable shackles
        & native America's broken treaties will be paid.
                The next plague is already cured.
Our most peaceful surrealistic phrases mean
        what they say. The Human Rights Act
                of 2050 is passed!

Eliot Katz 2003

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images & content copyright © William T. Ayton, 1991-2014