“Holding out the long note”

I awoke to Paris on fire, at gunpoint, held hostage,
from a mid-afternoon sleepwalking slumber of menial tasks
as a wage war zombie soldier on the other side of the world.

This unholy terror stretching far and wide
in my lifetime, as far back as I can remember,
and since the beginning of time.

We come from chaos in the cosmos or between the lines
of ancient text, scattered, smothered, and covered
in the blood of our ancestors
and those they’ve crucified.

And the eagles set their watches, buy their yachts,
twiddle their thumbs,
pop corks and pills and incarcerate entire generations
for slapping their turned cheeks,
or shoot them in the back out of instinct,
forgetting there are cameras in everything.

We’ve armed the world, though our gods
play¬†us like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots,
bringing time bomb knives to gunfights with the wires crossed.
Too stubborn to admit when we’re wrong
or how the west was really won,
with promises laced with smallpox.

We are machines inside a machine building machines with blinders on,
dashing through the desert on a warhorse broken sleigh
with the pilot in the back of a limo thousands of miles away
with tinted windows,
lying all the way.

And yet, beneath the uniforms, behind the skin,
our insides all look the same.
You see it when we blow up
or rot in unmarked graves.

But we’ve outgrown the core and let our flags define us,
borders isolate us, and become islands in a sea of fear.
Our captains have capsized our lifeboats and assured us
we’re surrounded by sharks,
that it doesn’t matter if we can’t see two inches below the surface,
we need to hurl spears and torpedoes
and give it all we’ve got,
and worry about forgiveness if the time comes.

And soon the oceans, like our holidays, will be cloudy with red smoke.
Seagulls will soar through hours of silence,
lifeguards will mope home.

We are why we can’t have anything nice.
Building the future like a Jenga tower
with kerchiefs over our eyes and booze in our veins.
Toddlers with vocabularies and something to say.
Armchair evangelists confusing satire for news and the rumble of passing
trains for record-setting earthquakes.
Convinced we can’t change the world with our words
until those words move boulders, knock down walls, build bombs.

Rock ‘n’ roll won’t save the soulless.
Protest songs won’t lie down on live grenades for us.
They’re warm blankets on cold nights, but not long enough
to reach our feet and crawling with lice.

So what do we do? We pray. And they pray.
A choir of beggars turning the sky black for answers
’til we’re all blue in the face.

A beautiful bruised world,
eyes tight,
exhausting its last breath holding out the long note,
limping on its last leg into the unknown.