Friday, May 06, 2011

Neither Sorrowing Nor Gloating

Xavier Altamiras and Kayden Kross at Poetry Unplugged
at Luna's Cafe, Sacramento, April 21, 2011
—Photo by Alan Satow, Stockton

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Osama Bin Laden is dead, shot Dillinger
style, shot Butch and Sundance style,
in an Abbottabad compound,
his occupancy known, surely,
to the Pakistani high command,
to the Pakistani intelligence community,
both engaged at this moment in

fighting Al Qaeda. Wikipedia calls
the compound a “three-story, million-dollar
mansion”: a mere slabsided white box
pressed like a giant truffle into an Alamo-sized
Pythagoras-triangle of wall, to judge from a photo
snapped outside the razor wire. The Abbot
of Abbottabad: killed groping in the dark
for his own semiautomatic, or caught

weaponless in crossfire, friendly fire? Cowering
womanshielded, or shoving her bravely, uselessly
aside to accept the full-force bullet shower?
What brought this moment nearer, what
offspring, mistress, nephew, sibling or in-law
lipslip or failure to give the slip to the agent tailing?
At first we surmise a moment when,

alerted that his plainclothesmen- and -women,
in Pakistani or Afghan garb, have surrounded
the building, even penetrated the enclosure,
some CIA George Smiley, presented with only
one hope of snaring his Karla, says, his agents
pressing, “All right, then, yes. The green light.
Go,” and they rush, already shooting, to the attack.

Later we learn it was the confidential courier
who softened precaution like so much lax wax:
it was the black helicopters, the Navy Seal Sixes
plummeting on hushed ropes like flowers
of death grown from the fully formed blossom-head
down into earth: these machines, these men
enucleated the all-seeing eye.

Can we imagine Osama shot, his red-soaked beard
turning ash and avalanching down to his knees
in a metamorphic North Tower collapse?
Is it wise or morbid or video-game lecherous
to imagine photos as horrific (as truthful?)
as the braggart soldiers’ happy snaps of Abu Ghraib?

On NPR, we learn Osama was early made
fatherless; but what mother, knowing him
thus elementless, blithely or ruefully
dismissed him to his majority? Did she note
some bitter angle of brood, some ominous
shade of quiet, and let pass her own disquiet,
thinking “He seems not to want or need guidance?”
From what vacant father-lobe in the brain,
from what motherly puzzlement, stemmed
all the questions he pressed on her, supplying
only his own anger for answer?

Neither sorrowing nor gloating will do:
what poetry in all this jihadist or American
exceptionalist muck, much above the level
of Osama’s own rude poems?
Literature itself has just so much to say
and no more, as with the Internet oracle
Arts and Letters Daily, presently
quite silent on this consummation,
as is every artist’s prerogative.


Thanks to Tom Goff for his appropriately topical poem, to Alan Satow and Michelle Kunert for cool pix, to Taylor Graham for her response in her on-going dialogue with D.R. Wagner, and to Rhony Bhopla for some more of her Nat'l Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) poems—in their recent "walk", she pledged to write poems for money. Info:


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

This whole landscape's
by bogies, furies, saints,
and miners' souls
that walk at dusk
to hear the wind groan, plaints

of giants turned
to stone, their ribs
the vaults of hills. Sky paints
a land boulder-
bruised. And, beneath,
the god-of-gloom's complaints.


—Rhony Bhopla, Sacramento

It doesn’t matter if you
ride a bicycle instead of driving,
or if you follow the masses
to a bookstore.

It doesn’t matter if you
turn around
when you hear a baby
or if you decide to pay
for someone’s meal.

It doesn’t matter if you
walk the route that
Martin Luther King Jr. did,
or if you check out library
books that other people
have cried over.

It doesn’t matter that you
make weekly phone calls
to that loved one,
or that you decide to leave
your door open for a
cat in the roughest neighborhood.

It doesn’t matter that your
brings to life love and emotion
or that your subtle walk
inspires us to be careful of
where we tread.

It doesn’t matter that you
have sharp instincts for when
an injustice is happening,
or that, giving, is the fact
that you belong to everyone.

That’s what someone told you,
that it doesn’t matter.

But, that little voice that
is trapped under the rubble of
sadness knows that
you are what matters
when there
is no one else out
there to hear cries
for help.


—Rhony Bhopla

At times, oyster shells harbor
feelings that are cramped
inside the small crevices of
our ancient selves.

Those moments reveal
the biggest dip in life,
where we summon
all of our courage
to follow what is right
and not deliver what
is expected.

What if no one stood up
for the few?
What if no one stood up
for the alone?
What if no one stood up
for the little animals that
get crushed by human ego?

Where would we be today,
if you were not the sensitive
soul that you are?


—Rhony Bhopla

I cowered when I heard
that peace had left the room, but
when you came and stood
by my side, I listened to your
rustling gown,
smelled the tinge of peppermint
on your breath,
read the words
spilling from your sequined lips.

Your embrace fell about me
like the folding feathers of a
bird, layering
soft love on my soul.

How is it that when we are
we believe that no one
is there, and
when there is someone,
we believe that we imagined our

You have always been—
With your wide-brimmed hat
your dazzling pearls
your enormous strength,
and your words
that leave a trail upon the
synapses of my imagination.

I feel sheltered
by the clouds within me,
because now I believe
rain falls as tears of sadness,
its purpose—
to make my courage grow.

You by my side,
your hands like a cloak
around my heart,
sustain me with hope
blossoming with each step.


—Rhony Bhopla

There is no edge
where we fall off,
never to be seen again.

Memories of our poetry
stumble upon us
in our waking hours of
deep thoughtful reverie.

May the long philosophical rants
the unwanted advice, the
never-ending hand-written letters
be taken over by simple, clean,
eloquent lines of poetry.

You may not have been
walking beside me today
dear poet,
or even present in
the crowd.

But, I felt you inside
my soul,
breathing hope
and telling me to go farther
because we share that moment
when each of us thought
that survival
was not possible.

I hear your voice when I have fallen.
Don’t let the dark in,
dear poet.
There are too many more beautiful
places in the mind.


Today's LittleNip: 

What do you hate? All that commodifies the world. What do you love? The useless, what finds no place in institutions. Don't call it beauty. Call it breath.

—Stephen Dobyns



Shepherd Garden Arts Rose Show
—Photo by Michelle Kunert