Lest We Forget Who the Monsters Are (a poem)

LEST WE FORGET WHO THE MONSTERS ARE

Even the stars were asleep when they came in the night

splintered oars lapping with the waves.

Only the moon saw the shadows disembark

creeping the streets like soldiers from Troy without honor.

Dog’s warning barks quieted by swift, silent arrow

watchmen bound and fed to the hungry sea.

(And the audience cheers)

It was the unwashed stench that woke the people

as filthy hands ripped them from their sleep.

Screams of terror broke the stillness of the night

sharp blades slicing fleshy throats, swords plunged into bellies

gurgles as unarmed men choked on their own blood

while reaching for weapons.

Tawdry laughter as the invaders stroked the soft skin of a frightened young girl

as one might admire the pelt of a fawn.

Shredded nightgown, bruises—tender, innocent flesh ripped and ripped again

her mother’s cries ignored

until the girl was still, and the beasts turned to the next.

(“More!” cries the audience, rising to their feet. “More!”)

Their expert fingers searched between wooden floorboards

turned over chests and beds

pocketing gold, gems, the silver candlesticks handed down through the ages

nothing sacred, nothing missed.

Boots chased after a woman round with child

heavy hands throwing her to the cobbled ground, lifting skirts

muffling her sobs as they took, and took, and took

then left her in a nest of blood.

In the final act, orange flames rose toward indifferent skies

erasing where children once played and husbands once held their wives

burning away memories of church bells and markets and neighborly greetings

and green gardens that once nourished lives.

Thick, choking smoke smothered all who remained

all who could not run

all who fell, prostrate, crying out for mercy to a god that turned his head

as the invaders loaded their booty, guzzled stolen wine

and sailed away in the dark to some other unsuspecting shore.

(And the audience sings of the thieves. “That’s who I wish to be! That is the life for me!”)

Goliath Sucks (Or Does He?)

slingshot weaponOkay, two things. First of all, this theme was not exactly my idea. I was inspired by reading the blog post of this really funny…er, I mean, bitter blogger. But I thought it was worth stealing…er, borrowing. Second of all, this is definitely not a post about sheep. Although sheep are kind of a part of this blog post, I generally don’t pay much attention to them, because sheep are not very bright, follow the crowd waaaay too much, and make me feel kinda bored and sleepy after a while.

This is a story about a shepherd. And a giant.

Veggie Tales Dave and the Giant Pickle

Veggie Tales – Dave and the Giant Pickle

What’s that? You already know the story of David and Goliath? It was already drilled into your head via Bible-memorization-games-for-candy and Veggie Tales and Sunday School songs that get stuck in your head? (…and one little stone went into the sling and the sling went round and round. And round and round and round and round and round and round and round…). Well good, then I don’t need to fill you in.

The whole David and Goliath theme is kind of overdone. With good reason, of course. Perhaps it is within our human nature to desire to see the bully taken down by the underdog. To see good triumph over evil. To see the Israelites defeat the Big Bad Philistines. And so the theme appears again and again in literature, in cinema, in art. The weak, powerless kids defeat the Fratellis and score a pirate ship full of gold treasure. The newb wizard defeats He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named again and again. The abused little girl uses her wits to bring down her mean principal and turn her school into a safe and happy place. Hooray for the Davids! Boo to the Goliaths! Goliath sucks.

Not only do we like to apply the David and Goliath theme to the world of fantasy, but to our real lives, as well. We support the Davids who fight against cruel dictators, against tyranny and injustice. The braver among us aim to be Davids, too (although hopefully not in the way he abandoned his responsibilities, aka sheep, in his determination to go to battle). We gather our stones and swing around our slingshots, eager to bring down the Goliaths in our lives. Because the Goliaths must die, so that good and right may triumph, right?

David vs. Big Bad GoliathBut wait. Who was Goliath, anyway? Why was he there with the Philistine army? What did he do that made our hero, David, want to bring him down with a stone? Clearly, he must have been on the bad side. The wrong side. The side of evil. Okay, well here’s the deal: The Israelites (Team David) were at war with the Philistines (Team Goliath). Why? Because apparently, God told the Israelites that they were destined to own the land where the Philistines lived. Therefore, the Israelites had to go to war and forcibly remove the Philistines (including Goliath) from their land.

Manifest Destiny, anyone?

Basically, Goliath was like the Native American warrior hero of his time, fighting to keep the European settlers from killing his people and taking his land. Team Goliath was on the defense, fighting to save what they believed to be theirs. But they lost it. All because of a boy named David and his rocks. Yay, David.

So anyway, our hero, David killed the Big Bad Giant and won a bunch of money and a woman, and eventually went on to be a pretty cool king. And the Philistines? Well, I don’t think the Bible mentioned what happened to them. Who knows? Maybe they went on to open a bunch of casinos.

Battle of Little Big Horn Manifest Destiny

Love, Chocolate, and Lupercalia (aka: Valentine’s Day)

Love love love 

You guessed it – I am a Valentine’s Day hater. Okay, not really.  Because deep beneath the surface, I am a hopeless romantic who grows weak-kneed at tales of true love, candlelit dinners, and moonlit walks. But on the outside, I look at holidays like Valentine’s day through a scornful and cynical eye. When I scan through the Facebook posts and Tweets of other people, I am amazed and somewhat disgusted by some of the posts I read. “I swear, he’d better have roses and chocolate for me when he comes home…”  For reals? Since when was it a romantic gesture to receive a gift which you demanded? Isn’t it really just a fulfillment of your shopping list?

meh

 

Ugh. Well, instead of turning this into a full-blown rant against commercialism and narcissism, I decided to try taking a different turn this year, by sharing some of the positive aspects of St. Valentine’s Day from history. You see, there was this Christian guy named Valentinus who was martyred in Rome in the 3rd century. Apparently, he wrote a note to the blind daughter of his jailer just before he was executed, and signed it, Your Valentine. Hence, at some point down the line, it became popular to give love notes signed Your Valentine. Because apparently, we’re all going to be executed on February 15th. How romantic.

Of course, before this, the Roman festival of Lupercalia was celebrated around Valentine’s Day. And – well, those crazy Romans – they celebrated by sacrificing goats and a dog, then stripping their hides. Then they ran around smacking women with the hides, in order to make them fertile.

The heck?

Stephen Colbert Discusses Lupercalia

I give up. There are so many ridiculous traditions, both in modern times as well as ancient. But through the ages, with the possible exception of Lupercalia, there is one common thread that is the saving grace of St. Valentine’s Day. Love. Yes, the main focus is usually on romantic or erotic love, but I tell my kids that it’s also a great day to focus on loving your friends and family, too.
Charlie Brown Snoopy Valentines

And so today, instead of passing on my bitter cynicism to the next generation, I am celebrating Valentine’s Day by loving my kids. Here is what they will find when they return home from school today:
Strawberry Cake and Candy

They will also learn that I have already done their chores for them, so that they may begin the weekend free. Now that is love. No martyrdom required.

 

 

How I Found the Rainbow (aka: Why I Write Poetry)

How I Found the Rainbow

Under the merciless sun they labored

heads bowed

bodies glistening with sweat

like drooping tulips slick with dew

they swallowed their whispers

and silenced their souls

and became as copper statues

surviving until the sky grew dark

but then

they opened their mouths and out came

the rainbow

and the rainbow danced

and the rainbow sang

and the rainbow could fly

like no one could fly

it gave them strength

and filled the sky

and now I know why

now I know why

I must write

poetry.

Cómo encontré el arco iris

Bajo el sol implacable ellos trabajaron

cabezas inclinadas

cuerpos reluciente de sudor

como tulipanes marchitos húmedos de rocio

se tragaron sus susurros

y silenciaron sus almas

y se volvieron como estatuas de cobre

sobreviviendo hasta que el sol se oscureció

Pero luego

abrieron sus bocas

y salió el arco iris

y el arco iris bailó

y el arco iris cantó

y el arco iris podía volar

como nadie podía volar

se les dió fuerza

y llenó el cielo

Y ahora yo sé por qué

yo debo escribir

poesía