A Land of Fortresses (Poetry)

I wrote this last week during a poetry workshop at the High Plains for Applied Anthropology. This poem is dedicated to Howard Stein, who always inspires us to remember how powerful poetry is as a tool for understanding our humanity. Thanks Howard!

A Land of Fortresses

We are a land of fortresses,

Solitary, we treat only with those who think like us,

We are surrounded by a moat of toxic water,

Where the corpses of diverse ideas fester.

Our noses burn with their smell.

So we plug them and avert our eyes,

Staring only at the safety within our walls.


It is safe in here,

Like in the dark ages.


The world out there is dangerous,

Trolls pick their teeth with the bones of their victims,

The ones who wandered too far from their fortress,

They gorge under crumbling overpasses at the intersections of cyberspace.


Hoards of hairy monsters circle the walls,

Pounding on the portcullis.

Longing to cut their teeth on fresh fleshy argument.

Their wicked smiles gleam,

But only at 2 am, with beards unshaven,

Their cry of, ‘actually’, screamed at rhythmic intervals.


In the moonlight mist,

Even robots wait in ambush.

With strange requests for our most intimate knowledge,

To be used against us.

Your mother’s maiden name,

Your first pet,

Your high school mascot,

A way inside.

Our memories are our vulnerability.


There, waiting in a tower of thorns we hide behind walls.

Ignoring the needy who gather at the gates by day.

We stay closed for business,

To those with needs unmet.

Never pondering,

Only pontificating from the ramparts.

And the guards pay no mind,

Until the siege weapons arrive,

Well past the time of asking.


They erect the weapons just beyond our reach,

With great desperation.

Then we dig in.

Prepare the boiling oil,

Prepare the volley of flaming arrows,

And slings, to keep our outrageous fortunes,

To ourselves.


But know,

The walls will fall.

They always do eventually.

Even with our pride bolstering them.

Even after they crumble,

We cling to their illusion of solidity,

And believe everything we think.

Until it rots us through to the core.


Then, we stand amongst the rubble wondering why.

Screaming in the darkness at some imaginary god to save us.

Requesting thoughts and prayers,

Rather than doing anything at all.


And so we join the lost,

The homeless.

For we have no home in ourselves.


Wandering,

Pounding at the gates of another

Begging for entrance,

Pleading for compassion.

Cut by the thorns as we try to scale their walls.

And we construct siege weapons,

To topple the towers,

And bring all to ruin,

Because we have been ruined by our indifference.


I have built a wall

I have dug a moat,

Made of algorithms.

To cling, to avoid,

Both are poisons.

I have turned away,

I have clung until my fists bled.

My own life, slipping through my fingers.

Only to find Saturn return and demolish my walls,

With the weight of its gravity.


Open the gates.

Smash the walls.

Feel the freedom of the open-air,

Of strange conversations in dense forests,

And find the wisdom in the unkempt grass,

Or roll in the mud until you are baptized.


There is no choice.

To ignore is only to delay.

To ignore is to forfeit your will,

Your choice in the matter.


Go Then,

Be forced naked into a wilderness that no longer wants you,

But claims you anyway.


We will make good mud.


We are exiles of our own making.  

The Argument (Poetry)

The Argument ©Michael Kilman 2022

The argument

There they are!

A few glimmering words, circling the inside of my skull

I reach… Pluck… Pluck… Pluck

Butterflies churn and excitement grows stirring me from near slumber

Something new to be born as the stars circle overhead.


Forget it.

You cannot grasp them.

Your tongue is swollen and thick from too much use

Your body aches from a endless maddening hustle

And your fingers dare not toil at their sacred assemblage


Liar!

Look at how they shimmer!

They are bright in the dark that they will arrange themselves as oceans often do

They caress me in all the right ways

And I long for their knowledge, their truth

I cannot ignore their cultivation.


Weep then,

Weep for hours on end for they will not flow from your lips or fingertips  

They will leave you a widow, after a lifetime of promises,

Moaning at all your loss

And then, kick you to the shadows where you will linger long waiting for a promised sun

That never shines


But I must!

For what else is to be done now at this late hour?

The clock maddens my mind with it’s ticking taunts

What fruit could this debate lay naked and open

It is best to embrace when the eyes will not close

I submit to their shimmer and ally myself to their cause.


Blocked

That is where you will find yourself,

Outside the door of an illustrious mansion, hearing the clambering and laughter of guests.

But with no key for entry. In vein you will jostle the doorknob.

Lusting after them with no passage.

You chase in vein fool, how many have you plucked?


Oh my good sir,

I have plucked them all in argument.

I have found peace in your taunts.

They are settled, nestling against my heart.

And they are alive.

A Wintered Heart (Narrative Poem)

A Narrative poem titled A Wintered Heart. The artwork I created goes by the same title.

A Wintered Heart

A heart of winter, a wintered heart,

She lay quiet, the letter torn apart.

Her tears streamed, like rivers to the sea

And she tried to make bargains, and made endless pleas


An age had past, and cold crept in

No smiles, no warmth, and no new life could begin

The fresh dark tears of the next mornings song

Rose up her cheeks and sapped her strength so that she could not go on.


There she lay, no warmth and no light

A mistress of time, without the slightest delight,

Waited, she waited, with her breath deeply bated

But once the cold crept in, her permafrost was fated


An act so unkind had birthed her present dread

And soon, she had sores from her long days in bed

That act of greed, and a lust for glorious stone

Had left her heart broken, now widowed and alone


She sat there all winter, in endless defeat

She lay so still, mice nested at her feet.

And as the spring time came, the sun drew in

And pressed on her face, lighting her skin.


It planted a seed below her dread,

And as the sun shone that morning, she swung out of bed

Her pain, had nested rot in her heart

And she could not bear the thought of no more love

AND no more art


And so that day, she made her demands

At the canvas she threw red paint and smoked contraband

But from her mess, came a new kind of love

A love of life, hard won, from travels above


Her wintered heart still, held great sway,

But she got a little better with each passing day

And new mediums of art caught her attention,

And she found small victories with her creative affections


So she took one step, and then one more

And one day soon she found herself outside her front door

And found a new canvas to shed her grief,

Though when she spray painted her mural, the cops chased her, called her a liar and thief


Though she had not finished and ran and hide

She planted a new seed on the cities west side,

New murals sprung up in tangent with her own,

And she started a club, and though at first people groaned

About the “grafetti” and the murals, it became a place for many to call home.

And though many of the wealthy had made their gripes

Soon the color that flooded the city brought new life


Community gatherings of collaborative art,

Helped her to get a kind of political start

She found that art brought so much relief

To help people shed the weight of their tragedy and grief


She started centers all over her city

And named them Wintered Heart, to make light of her season long self-pity

For she knew that seeing the signs swinging above

She would always remember her long lost love

And She would honor him with every stroke of a brush

Or spray can, or clay, or charcoal or the burning of sagebrush


Her wintered heart had planted a seed of hope

In place where so many felt at the end of their rope

And they loved her, and taught her a new kind of joy

That’s found in friends hearts, without any romantic ploys


Winteredheart… they chanted her name,

With love and respect and begged her to enter the political game,

Soon after elected mayor she made the city her new project,

Used art, music, theater, and poetry to help them remember self-knowledge and respect


Through her acts, she brought great change,

For the city filled with color and it helped her to rearrange,

The divides and the differences that people perceive

And she taught them that it was, in each other they should believe.


Still her wintered heart held great sway,

For she barely forgot about her lost love for more than a day

Her heart still long for his eyes and his lips

Or to run her hand through his hair with her fingertips


But she smiled, and felt, the joy of all she’d done  

Many victories, in her community, she had won

And her heart was frozen but happy at the same time.

For even a Wintered Heart, can find new rhythm and new rhyme.

TuT! TuT! (Poetry)

My first piece of poetry for 2022. The artwork is a photo collage of several images. Enjoy!



TuT! TuT!

There is a theme to be found in the hollow cheeks of children with their wide vacant eyes. Their gaze fixed on concrete with only the occasional stare as you walk past, curious, and ever certain of the sins of the last age.

Their tear ducts are empty from an era of dispossession, obsession.

Tut tut

Their dreams are the broken glass you walk on with bare feet.  


I traverse hulking skeletons along their spine. In hidden highways I stride past the corridors of indifference. Saturated with knowing.

The markets make gamblers of us, casting bones in cups, with aged, choked knuckles, that align our lots with one unblinking eye.

Tut tut

Nerves splice open and raw, and in the light, only exposure


There was failure there in the corner, passing for a human, with arms outstretched in asking, looking for any reason to find two solid feet to stand on.

His teeth were clean but his thoughts were of days when the fix was fresh. When color nourished every pour. He is poorer for it.

Tut tut

I turn my head, not wanting to see a possible future.


You don’t hear the children play anymore between these concrete monsters, it is the commerce, the smell of flat wages, caffeinated mornings, and empty bottles in the evening, that drive us to wanting

And any hope of fresh air rots in our complacent cowardice

Tut tut

My stomach aches, the pill caused a hemorrhage again


There is a trembling in my pocket, and as I slide my hand against it, to quiet it’s nagging, I realized I’ve lost all the silence and stillness, maybe forever.  

I cannot adjourn from this court of chaos. There is no detachment, just desire.

Tut Tut

The engines scream in my ears as the gears grind for another cycle. My anger is but a thumbprint away.


What should you feel as you pace through passageway of the damned? All the sulfur stinging your eyes in between rows of unkind smiles, glaring at you like idiot passengers on a doomed train car.

Drink it in, for the fountain must not overflow and everyone’s stomach must be distended before the sun kisses the earth.

Tut Tut

The screams always die before my throat can catch them.


Grass, fields, pasture lay ahead, the eye of the storm. With shouting, rasping, chuckling fervor, I pass through the gates.

There are ducks lolling just out of the reach of so many unleashed hounds, and people pampered in concrete corners.

Tut Tut

Their grief has no knowledge here.


Sitting, I wait for the fall, for a stall, for anything. But I am left waiting and wasting, sitting in the center of the eye and staring at the hulks on my periphery. Knowing they are watching every minute of rest. Flailing me with their guilt.

They are always looming, day or night, they block out stars and dreams

Tut Tut

They were built with rage in mind, and a coffin around the corner.  


I hear it. A close, friendly conspiracy. Shoulders pressed together and whispers of the young for an honest days work. They stand, run, in search for sign in splashing creeks. They hunger for the chase of minnows between toes, with plastic cup in hand.

Dunking, wishing, smiles, even in the mistakes. In folly they fly past the skeletons, and into the forest to where they always belonged.

Caring not, to Tut Tut.

Yearning to breathe free, I breathe with them.

I stand.

I join them.

My hand will be my cup.

And it will fill with joy.


Spoken Word: I’m Sorry to Interrupt (And I’m on TikTok Now)

Hey all, I recently started a TikTok Page where I talk about anthropology, history, worldbuilding, poetry and a few other elements of my life and experiences. But today I posted a brand new piece of Spoken Word there called, I’m Sorry to Interrupt.

Here’s the Video:

Here’s the text for those who just wish to read it.

I’m Sorry to Interrupt


I took a breath

I’m sorry to interrupt

Cause it’s time for me to deconstruct

What you just said

I have to make space

I have to write new words in this place

See

I took a breath

My heart was throbbing

And the pain was bobbing

Up and down my throat

It’s like, a perfect melody I wrote

And you just can’t play the right notes

And you struggle so hard to stay afloat

And you can hear them gloat about rigging the vote

But you just can’t devote the time and energy to spread an antidote

But you do it anyway  

So I took a breath

And I breathed some more

And you draw on every ounce of compassion out of your very core

Because before you open the sore

Before you start that war

Before you look for

A safe harbor to explore

Some common ground to open a door

You take a breath

And create some space

So that you face the anger and chase to replace

The commonplace assumptions from that deep dark place

Where we ignore that we treat people different because of race

And that history that we try to erase?

You take a breath

And then the question

You don’t know if that student will have any reception

To these new truths that will push up against their perception

There’s such a disconnection here,

So much fear of the things that they hear might be true  

But what I  am supposed to do?

Part of me wants to turn the screw

Part of me wants to make them rue the day they pushed through and cut off their classmates words intertwined in a shrew view that’s all askew that prevents them from ever having a breakthrough

Because they’re scared

So I take a breath

And I breathe some more

Because I know what I’m here for

And I have to push just a little more

Because I’m not sorry to interrupt

Ache in the Bones.

It’s been quite a while since I did any poetry or artwork, so, here’s some new stuff. I call this one Ache in the Bones


Ache in the Bones

Aching Bones

My bones ache,

And it’s something I can barely take.   

But I look at myself and try to break from the heartaches and earthquakes of those woes and worries that I just can’t seem to shake.  

Do I enjoy them?

Do I employ my messes to solve my problems and downplay the stresses?  

Or do I conjure up more problems and conundrums, unsolvable riddles and endless questions

Do I ignore the suggestions?

See?

I see.

I see what I do,

I know what I’ve been through and am starting to understand the things that I do

To increase my own suffering and the karma that I accrue

Programmed

It’s the underlying program at work,

It’s the ways that I was a jerk,

Or the way that I lurked around my own blindspots to ignore to rot

Most of my life I followed the toxic attitudes I was taught,

Never letting myself see the light,

Instead, I fight

I fight for the right to bury my head in the sand, rather than expand

My mind, or maybe find the things that I hide behind

You just gotta move forward?

What’s forward is back,

How can you choose to move forward when you’re stuck on the wrong track?

You gotta attack those toxic flashbacks if you wanna bounce back from the blackest night

If you ever want to be alright

What happened to me wasn’t my fault

But that doesn’t mean I have to keep pouring salt, on the wounds from the assault

If I just live in default mode and lock it in a vault, how can I ever erode the pain or decode this heavy load?

Healing’s a lot of guesswork,

Like I’m not even supposed to be here, I’m just an innocent clerk

But That’s my party pity, my last attempt being witty

Before I deal with the pain…

But trauma? Trauma is like an oncoming train, and you can’t refrain from standing on the tracks that live deep inside your brain

But it’s just a game, just some lame excuse to frame my history in an event to pretend like some of it was a mystery

Things happen to us.

But we happen to others too.

Recovery from trauma might make you feel pretty blue, maybe you can barely stand the things you went through or the debts you accrued

But that doesn’t mean I can take it out on others,

Others are my sisters and brothers

On the path

And can you do the math? If we keep walking this path, we’ll face the wrath

Of our actions, of our overreactions and we will find ourselves making factions, rather than taking the course that leads to the best actions for all beings

I’m far from perfect, but I’m practicing seeing,

Practicing just being,

To be a better human being.