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Despair filled the room. Sometimes it showed as hate,
sometimes as serpentine gloom; anger was there,
and rudeness, too; local laughter, let's not forget,
but even that had a hard edge to it, more mockery
than celebration, more satire than comedy.
Joy was absent.

Is this a poem?
Can we craft poetry from such a sad and hopeless scene?
Should we?

Lord, give me drugs. Give me imaginary peace and
crazy dreams. Take me away from this place of fear,
of harsh light and scary darkness, take me to colors
and smother my soul, I cannot take it any more.
Bring me music, bring me the banjo's percussion,
and let it be inlaid with mother of pearl,
and signed on the back beneath the lacquer,
and sold by the old man in the space between sets.
Give me the honest and shameless commerce
of the wandering singer with his self-promoting bus
and the tables at the back with tapes and discs
and coffee and cookies, and the band sitting ready
for autographs, and cash preferred and who
knows if it's all reported and I certainly don't care.
Send me fantasy while my love is away, send me fiction,
send me sports, send me facts I cannot affect,
send me puzzles, send me games, send me stories,
send me cable, send me anything to fill my brain
and keep it quiet.
Put me on the cliffs at sunset, wearing sweats and
running to nowhere and turning and running back,
measuring each random stretch to the hundredth.
Soften me with whisky, fill me with food,
send me to sleep
and please, oh please,
leave me there till my body is rested.
And when I wake, will hope be back?

I know it doesn't work that way. So why do I keep trying?

Can there be change without joy?
Of course. It's just not good.

Is this any better?

Does it help to plead for civility? Does it help to reason
with the reasonable? To be empathic with empaths
and rude with the rude? Does it help to try to
drag everyone to a place where they can be
naked together in their fears?
Does it even help me?
Is that enough?

The world is too big to transform, all we can do is
nudge and push and try to mold a small piece,
and every time we sculpt a tiny dam of order
the whirlwind outside is blowing the floods back
from another side.

Does it feel better to try?
Not much.
Does it feel worse not to?
Small comfort there, small incentive, little reason, baby steps.

This is what this poem calls for: Take the TV to the
Familia center, sell the music collection, abandon
the Internet, let Logos fumble through the books
and turn them into money, tear up the library card,
give Goodwill the clothes you didn't wear this month,
strip it down, strip it down, live lightly on the land,
none of this you need, none of this makes you happy.
Learn to love the sunset for itself. Cut out the ciggies
and learn to smell again. Cut down the food and
get back to a thirty-inch waist. Do Medecins Sans
Frontiers need unqualified volunteers? Or Greenpeace?
Can you work outside any organization? Can you live
as a hermit and pray for the world's soul?

Ain't gonna happen, guys and gals, ain't gonna happen.

Can you make your peace with the world outside?
Can you?
Can we, one at a time?
Will that help?

Is this a poem?
Does it matter?