|Nicole Nicholson is a 32 year-old writer and performance poet who draws inspiration from history, legends and folklore, people, nature, and the voices in her head. She blogs frequently at http://ravenswingpoetry.com and in July 2008, self-published a poetry chapbook, Raven Feathers. She has also been recently published in Word Slaw, Word Catalyst Magazine and in June 2008 was a featured writer on Poetry Dances, a web site featuring online poetry by emerging writers. She lives in Columbus, OH with her fiance.
The following work is Copyright © 2008, and owned by Nicole Nicholson and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.
So you want to be a revolutionary.
Then break yourself open. Break yourself
open to the forces of nature. To
the winds of change. To fire. To arrows. To
hurt. Bust open your chest, crack open your
ribcage, and spill your precious fluid onto
the dirt before you. Become the source of
a river. Weep your entire self onto the plains,
onto the fields, beneath the burning sun. And then...
And then. Set yourself on fire. With rage. With
humiliation. With heartache. With the tears of
your ancestors as lighter fluid. Immolate yourself.
Become the human torch that lights up
cemeteries full of your dead, drunk from the
white man's poison, spirits falling into the arms
of whiskey and bourbon rivers, men and women
who never come up for air. Lights up long
dishonored treaties and children who have forgotten
native tongues to the point of existence. Lights
up minds who desire to make you and your kind
into painted fetishes. Lights up the descendants of
stereotypes and attitudes that caused words like
"savages" to appear in the Declaration of Independence
of this nation a nation birthed from your soil,
your mother. Lights up "relocation plans" and trails
lined with tears. Lights up reservations
which have become places where your kinfolk
settle into the arms of dust. And then...
And then. Once you have expired from the light
of your torch, once you have become mere
ash and could mix in well with the dust of your
land and the ash and bone of your ancestors. Once
you have become a spent, smoky stick of nothing
and your grief has emptied out and your rage
has made the night sky pause and look at you
with tears in her eyes.
And then. Reunite your ash with blood, with tears,
with sweat, and build a wall whose strength would
make pueblos weep with envy. A wall that reaches
up, touches Heaven, touches the sun. A wall that
your brothers and sisters can lean tired shoulders on
and rest. A wall that your mother and father can see
from the Western sunsets, the scrubbed sand of the
Sonoran Desert. A wall that will hold back any
more deluges of destruction. A wall...of love.
And then. You will be a revolutionary.
Until then. You are just an angry young man. A
campfire. An arrow in the ass.
Until then. Not a revolutionary.
Jim D. Babwe
|Jim D. Babwe is a photographer who lives in Encinitas (CA). Sometimes, he encourages Terse Expression to relax a little so Verbosity can enjoy an occasional win during those times when the words decide to wrestle around for a while. Sometimes, that kind of approach seems to fit at the end of another memorable summer on the coast.
The following work is Copyright © 2008, and owned by Jim D. Babwe and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Out on the Dusty Trail in the Significant Distance
Out on the dusty trail in the significant distance,
where antelope do not live (let alone play with deer),
one cowboy's voice remains mercifully inaudible
behind the persistent whine of rolling wheels and droning diesels
commanded by heavy feet
pushing accelerator pedals
closer and closer to the floor.
The cowboy is a Ford-driving cattle drover,
a modern saddle tramp
with a paid-up PETA card,
and he refuses to cross the Interstate highway
between the ranch and any slaughterhouse--
.....won't use an underpass,
.....won't use an overpass,
.....won't trespass on the lanes, themselves--
.....and he simply doesn't care about his written job description
.....because he's a union man,
.....familiar with the contract.
Disguising his herd as a lazy group
of retired circus elephants,
he remains undeterred by the scent
of a mildly adhesive mixture
of his own sweat, displaced topsoil,
and toxic exhaust fallout.
Filthy in layers,
the cowboy jokes about the superior cleaning power
of a high pressure fire hose,
and adds that his friends recognize
him most often by smell
instead of by sight.
Between wherever he and the herd happen to be
and whichever slaughterhouse awaits--
he may see you cruise north or south
on Interstate 5,
but you will rarely see him.
He knows where the taller brush
grows and he prefers to operate
away from the spotlight,
far enough from the road
to avoid most of the curious eyes.
He usually blocks out the distracting
rush and rumble of traffic
and sees to it that his heavy, gentle creatures
live peacefully, safely ignorant of the horrors
only a handful of miles to the north
on a stretch of Soto Street,
where you catch the mid-summer stench
of burnt oranges and fresh blood
before you see bucolic scenes--
cute depictions of life in the country,
an ironic counterpoint
to the business inside.
In the last few wide open spaces
between San Clemente and Oceanside,
where life and death keep a little ground between them,
he hitches himself up in the saddle
and skillfully guides his bovine buddies
from field to field,
where they enjoy
chewing sweet grass,
swinging their lazy tails,
and occasionally swatting flies
among the tiny yellow flowers.
The rugged product of pioneer stock
doesn't care who's comfortable
with the notion of clothes on cows,
and even though most of us
have grown accustomed to one strange thing or another,
there is something permanently and irreconcilably disturbing
about 50 or 60 grazing cattle
poorly dressed as elephants
less than a mile
from the aging nuclear power plant.
I have seen the cowboy
hold the reins lightly,
not caring much about the uselessness of leather straps
looped loosely around a steering column.
The craggy-faced vaquero
already knows he's crossed over a line of sorts,
so what good would it do to spoil
his living dream?
Out here on the dusty trail in the significant distance
between the Old Wild West and the Suburban Tract Home's Concrete Driveway,
there should be someone bold enough to hang on
to what's left of beautiful, untamed California.
Someone should be there to sing the lullabies
in the dimming twilight
where partial darkness wraps itself around the comfortable landscape
of gradually diminishing light.
And that's exactly when the cowboy
cuts loose with a familiar lullaby,
one which coaxes the beasts wander
closer to him, where they can hear a little better
and the cool air closes in beneath sizzling power lines
and faraway stars.
in an unusual departure from numb routine,
he briefly confuses the cattle (and at least one eavesdropper)
when he skips the introductory yodels
of the only lullaby he knows.
He will tell you the yodels are not really part of the song, anyway.
You won't be dismembered and trucked to a store,
cubed, sliced, or shrink wrapped into bundles of gore.
Your bones won't be hacked up or wrapped in thin plastic
like dry cleaning bags babies might smother within or swallow.
You'll never be slathered with barbecue sauce.
You'll never be baked or sautéed.
Your skin will never be torn from you just for the leather.
We'll have to be lucky, of course, but as long as we are,
I'll see that you wander unslaughtered.
You'll moo and you'll chew,
with little to do
while your sons
try to breed with your daughters.
You'll know nothing of Spain,
Johnny Cash, or John Wayne
and you'd never believe the video feeds
from the streets of Pamplona.
You'll rise in the morning,
on your feet not a plate.
You won't really care if it's early or late.
Add it all up at the end of the day;
pretend you drink Coors or Corona.
You'll never be cleavered or sliced up or baked.
You'll never be pureed and stacked like bologna.
You'll eat tons of grass, you'll make methane gas.
Standing or not, asleep or awake,
you won't have to think;
you'll eat, sleep, and stink.
Out on the dusty trail in the significant distance,
the cowboy gathers the sagging costumes,
tosses them into the back of his rusty Ford,
and hauls the fragrant load to the laundry
while Rocky the Wonderhound
keeps an eye on the slumbering herd.
as he trudges past the ghost
of a poorly managed body piercing salon
and it's broken windows,
he strides slowly
toward the heavy-duty coin-operated machines,
and he knows the clothes will soon be
as clean as these reliable rattling Maytags
can wash away a day's dirt
where the 24-hour laundry
is bounded on one end by a donut shop
and on the other by a plastic sign
where the management company's phone number
and life, itself, seems to be teetering
on the outskirts of a confused city planner's nightmare
at the southern end of Orange County midnight.
Maybe it might be good enough
to quit worrying about
what it all means.
Maybe it's better to watch and learn
as the cowboy waits for the spin cycles to wind themselves down,
before he transfers loads into nearby dryers,
then stares through the glass while clothes dive and climb and tumble.
After he finishes folding the flannel costumes,
he hauls the tidy stacks to the truck,
but before he releases the parking brake
or starts the motor,
he decides he will simply admire tonight's full moon.
He enjoys the gauzy distortion of fortified wine
and the way the bright and rugged lunar surface
blurs at the edges of tonight's full moon.
He savors inspiration
and its gift of sweet words--
which he sends into night,
where these syllables (silly as some may find them)
surf the warm summer wind toward cool midnight
and another hopeful sunrise
stretched through morning
toward the top of tomorrow's high noon
when the big blazing sun
bakes memories of an evening
into the pungent scent of sage and creosote--
out on the dusty trail
in the significant distance.