The Dancer“Dancer me!” She shouts
and we are all forced to watch.
Her two left feet flip flopping
before carelessly tripping her up.
Most people say she’s mentally
challenged, a select cruel few
call her retarded, their voices venomous,
though unmistakably ignorant.
Her name is Becca. She was born
58 days premature to a woman whose
own life was in such a state of disrepair
we can hardly point fingers, place blame.
I am one of her caretakers and so
there are days when it’s all I can do
to stay level headed, to remain patient.
Today we are especially tired, us caretakers.
Just having returned from taking our charges,
these adult-sized children, to see the Nutcracker.
Becca has landed, backside to the floor.
She sits mildly shaken, unsure whether
or not to cry.
I bring my palms together, clapping,
as do the others, as we all give her
a standing ovation, until she smiles,
hideously happy now, I shout,
“Dancer you Becca! Dancer you!”
I look out the window
Enjoying the peace and quiet
The day has brought
The beauty of my surroundings
And the peace of mind it brings
Then reality is shattered
I turn on the television
Some have lost their lives
Some their parents
Some lose a limb
I sit and wonder
What is it like
To never play outside
To never color with crayons
Dance in the rain
Hang upside down in a tree
Wrestle with your sibling
Thoughts like these
Seem so simple to us
Something we take for granted
These things which seem small to us
Are not to these children
The ones who sit in fear
Hide in the corner
Fall asleep to sound
Instead of silence
Sounds of gunfire, soldiers, fear
The children who sit away
In distant lands
Dreaming of hope
Longing for peace
On the wings of prayer
not even the vision of the wolf and the lamb,
as in the heart when the excitement is over
and you can talk only about a great weariness.
I know that I know how to kill, that makes me an adult.
And my son plays with a toy gun that knows
how to open and close its eyes and say Mama.
without the big noise of beating swords into ploughshares,
without words, without
the thud of the heavy rubber stamp: let it be
light, floating, like lazy white foam.
A little rest for the wounds – who speaks of healing?
(And the howl of the orphans is passed from one generation
to the next, as in a relay race:
the baton never falls.)
Let it come
suddenly, because the field
must have it: wildpeace.
with the equinox
subservient to basic physics
as the land became
more quickly than the sea
but subservient to nothing else
thief rattling my windows
at my door
refrain to every conversation
presage of change
sweeping the land clean
carrying salt sea tang inland for miles
– Ken Peters
can’t pay the dues
the ground fees are too much
one neighbor’s a racist
the other’s a sexist
couple across the way
politicians are for sale
doctors are entrepreneurs
ministers spew hate and fear
a used car salesmen told me a lie
so did a president
people talk at me
want me to be
just like them
my heart is a cage
spinning the wheels
but I’m too tired
to feel rage
– Ken Peters
A LAMP IN THE WHALE
A small feast in the blood-red gills,
A small drop of blood in the ponds of the ocean,
A black whale swims deeper,
And then up again.
It is a well-brined sea,
and the whale reaches deeper,
Into greener waters,
Yellowing beneath the rays.
In these polar seas a dark ship comes,
To wed the hunted whale,
Whalers searching sky and sea,
For certain birds and spouts.
Ancient chanteys begin again,
To turn a whale into blubber, oil, and song.
A roped spear whining,
Whistling with death.
The Great Fish dives with a maddening lurch,
And there is a thrumming within the belly of the sea,
A song half-spent in blood,
And the pounding of sharks upon a sun-lit sea.
For this the whalers had come,
To pour its oil into the hissing lamps of the world,
For this the whale had died,
In a little red lake of death.
The whale is hauled and flensed,
Creeks of blood pouring out in tumults,
Around the black boulders of whale flesh.
Yet, the great whale-heart still pounds,
Hung up within a sack dripping on the deck,
The murdered whale gone from its home,
Its great bones heaped.
Let the vigil fires be lit all across the great prairies,
Light them along the banks of every river,
Throughout all the Temples of Time,
Let these lights be lit and made to burn forever.
For within that bloody ocean,
There are stairways carved from stone,
And leading us downwards,
They lead only to where all life is locked in vaults.
The life of a whale hangs in chains there,
Dead with all that is dead,
But the smell carries on the wind,
And a great storm erupts into the air.
The chambers in another heart opens,
A poet awakens from out of a dark slumber,
And leaning over in the night he lights a lamp,
And lays awake thinking.
Into the black room a tiny flame leaps,
Hissing on its bed of whale oil,
And by this light the poet writes:
“I am a whaling ship,
Searching through all the seas,
And the pen I hold is my harpoon,
And it is tied to me.”
There is a fire in the bowl of light,
It lights his page, his pipe, his dreams,
Dear Jehovah, let him put sunlight upon the bloodied oceans:
“The last whale died tonight,
My lamp is out,
And I am drenched, dark, and ugly.”
Darkness spilled like black water into his room.
The poet goes to sleep again,
Dreaming of whales,
“Watch the flame in the leaping lamp,
A very small feast indeed,
Where only whales and poets swim,
In a single drop of blood.”
– Michael Warren Eliseuson