Five Poems - Thomas Piekarski



Common Ground
A delirious populous scurries to constitute their society
while the gods of tyranny riding white horses approach.
Mable made her daily bread from the cable TV recipes
she copied down most copiously in a top secret journal.
Made memorable by virtue of his soaring talent and wit
the TV personality become crack politician was broken.
They claimed we could become a nation united one day
if only we would take up mourning the souls of demons.
With a lump of expended coal suspended upon his palm
Fred swore he’d never said what he meant to say instead.
Of the budding plutocracy a philosopher enshrined shred
the documents he’d intended to produce from plutonium.
There was a protest when they rolled out the new policy
declaring that organic fact is to be subordinated by vice.
The shyster who schlepped oysters in Sheboygan bound
by his caveat that to get respect you must first dish it out.
On practically every street corner in Manhattan we heard
joy and laughter as they applauded formation of frontiers.

Tahoe in Snow
A winter of frequent steady blizzards
has spread its magnanimous gifts,
deposited megatons of fluffy white stuff,
shrouding the Sierra Nevada expanse.
Entrances to Yosemite shut, nonetheless
the road to Tahoe is all clear.
Today it isn’t snowing, more like
early spring, the sun ablaze, sky lapis,
air chilly and crisp. Down in the valley
cherry blossoms dot city blocks.
This historically stormy winter has filled
California reservoirs to the brim, and now
we’re awaiting the inevitable hike
in temperatures, eventual snowmelt,
and runoff that could well replenish
wanting aquifers, but will instead surge
down riveting streams and rivers, merge
with the Pacific, contributing to ocean rise.
The highway to Tahoe a steep ascent
riddled with serpentine switchbacks.
Placerville nestled at an elevation
of 3000 feet, too low for snow.
But once I’ve climbed to 6000 feet
and reach Strawberry Lodge
I get out and stretch, snow drifts
towering around me. I take in whiffs
of pines that tantalize, invested in
children as they sled down hillocks.
Upon arriving at the summit I pull over,
take a gander at the great Tahoe basin.
The lake appears a blue crystal pool
surrounded by monumental mountains
engulfed in snow. The state line is
invisible, entirely artificial. It exists
only for the purposes of mortal man.

Cogito Ego
Lying in a hammock beneath a yum-yum tree,
I watch rubber inner tubes fall like leaves,
and reflect upon what Waldo told me today:
he’s contracted a Beauty and the Beast complex
because the woman he’s in love with views him
as some kind of despicable werewolf, and wouldn’t
be caught alive or dead with him in public.
For me the only public enemy is the brother
I never had. Lacking a brother makes me feel
like the Lusitania reaching ocean bottom,
or perhaps a Japanese sub sunk decades ago.
People have a habit of taking me 180 degrees
the wrong way, which is to say illiterately;
they think I’m some penny-ante poltergeist
under the illusion that he’ll marry Tugboat Annie.
There once was a real-life Ann. She reigned as
the campus acid princess, loved her LSD.
She was mine for a while, but alas, I lost her.
She dumped me for a pimple-faced crackhead
who attested that they got married in a dream,
and by this means convinced her she was his.
So I’m compelled to admit I’m no Ricky Ricardo,
infamous womanizer. But that won’t bother me
because Ricardo was a narcissistic boozer, a fine
comic and keen businessman, but never faithful
to his loving wife Lucy, and unworthy of respect.
I lost respect for my pal Tad, who was at one time
a big shot in Silicon Valley. He used to own
a beautiful Winnebago, and a boat on Clear Lake.
But he blew his mind up doing lines of coke
in the toilet stall at El Torito. He lost his job,
and is now driving an ice cream truck in Detroit.
He plays “Here Comes the Sun” all day long
on the truck’s loudspeaker, while combing his
greasy jelly roll as he whistles with the music.
Undoubtedly I’m a little better off than Tad.
I’m sitting at the bus stop bench at the corner
of Franklin and Abrego in downtown Monterey.
The stop signal pulses, monotonous, maddening,
but I keep my cool. It’s gradually getting dark,
and lights to the TURN 12 bistro flicker on,
then those to the West Garage across the street.
The cityscape is packed with buildings, progress
being made. My mind has become a turnstile.
My thoughts spin round and round like a roulette
ball, wanting to land in a slot marked DalĂ­, return
to surrealist roots, life a shambles.

Orwellian
In an Orwellian sense the distance from here to nowhere
can be measured in light years. Stationed in present tense
the sphinx bends to compliance, integrates past and future
by way of a science through which it becomes nothingness.
Then the gold has run out, distanced itself from rationality,
for the populist czar brimming with unimaginable turpitude
makes his way pawing the crowd with holes in his pockets
through which the nation’s culture slips into fearful frenzy.
And yet none of the foregoing should rattle one’s feathers.
Lies don’t have wings. They fall like rocks, and eventually
cause an avalanche of dissent. The goods horded by misers
in ivory bowers we can’t see are most decidedly ephemeral.
Tweets get you nowhere. Love gets you everywhere. Thus
those shunted under the bus will rise up as one bold force
and cast asunder plundering pirates of freedom’s platitudes,
leaving little latitude to maneuver against pitted resistance.
Alternate reality he said he didn’t mean, but it was uttered
in such a powerful tone as to stultify our popular dynamics.
When shoes hit the ground and placards abound veins are
strained, and our rights ascend from the dark ocean floor.
It came scratching at my chamber door as I slumbered
he said in response to the question of why he was dead
set on embracing ideology contrary to established belief
perpetuated by public opinion and documented in blood.
Media the medium. Twinkle twinkle little periwinkle.
Barefoot in the kitchen her motto, she frying catfish in
a blue-hot skillet. We will resume construction today of
rights everyone unwittingly relinquished absent consent.
Missionaries emerge from the shadows of long absent
data. A man-child with IQ beyond your furthest reach
smirks as flash points sink. No-one wants to cave, not
you, not me nor the owl asleep in a palm tree at dawn.
The new administration is an old incarnation instituted
ages ago. The oxygen in the green room growing thin is
no excuse for substituting law for flawed anthropology.
What we see we paint, what we contest made obsolete.

Fear Itself
They say there’s nothing to fear, those initiators who whisper
in our ears through their nefarious media. We haven’t become
too totalitarian, they insist, and say it is no current menace.
They tell us war drums have been heard continuously all around
the world since the beginning, and here we still are. The oceans
of blood spilled on battlefields over useless ideologies weren’t
for naught, they preach, we’re better off than we’ve ever been.
And yet they would depose the very rights our fathers fought
and died for. They emulate Lenin in that their charity comes
in small packages, and cite Hemingway at the front lines
in France, set him as an example of what American guts was.
There is nothing to fear, we’re integrated now: at the park
a black dude tosses a football to the white girl and she in turn
to the Filipino guy. The Treaty of Versailles is the furthest thing
from their minds. This near the spot where a few years ago I saw
Lance Armstrong dump his bike while passing through town
competing in a marathon on a hot afternoon. He was maybe
too pumped on steroids and even a little dehydrated that day.


Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly and Pushcart Prize nominee. His poetry and interviews have appeared in literary journals internationally, including Nimrod, Florida English Journal, Cream City Review, Mandala Journal, Poetry Salzburg, Poetry Quarterly, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, and Boston Poetry Magazine. He has published a travel book, Best Choices In Northern California (Gable & Gray), and Time Lines (Commentators Press), a book of poems.