Monday, July 31, 2006

Try this contest...

What inspires you? Tell me in a poem of thirty lines or less, any form. Send your entries to me at by midnight on Thursday, August 31, Eastern time. Winners will be published on my blog and first prize winner also receives a copy of the CD of the Charlotte production of highlights from the musical by composer Erik Sitbon and myself, "Jack The Musical: The Ripper Pursued." Good luck!

Chris George


I have the album and you will enjoy it. We did a portion of the play in MindFire.

And some day, when Chris wins a Tony...



Sunday, July 30, 2006

Catching up on the Poetic States TX, DEL, SD

Eleven done, so at this time I will post 3 more and 3 more Wednesday or so: Texas, Delaware and South Dakota





Larger than a Breadbox

You are too huge to be captured
in verse written by a minor poet
who knows that it takes two days
to cross you no matter where the start.

and you raised two modern presidents –
one mostly good, the other a bit less,
though they both seemed all too fond
of guerilla wars that couldn’t be won.

Nothing more needs to be mentioned
in a short poem but Dick’s Riverwalk,
the perfect place for tequila shots
and buckets of boiled crawdads

as we forget which war explodes now
and the humidity blowing from the Gulf.



Caesar Rodney

rode through the July night, thunder
and storm his sole companions,
to cast a vote to break a deadlock
that allowed Jefferson’s Declaration.

“The oddest looking man in the world,”*
his face marred with painful cancer,
he did not live to see the Constitution
his home state was first to ratify.

Flip a Delaware quarter on its back
and see sick Caesar’s heroic ride.
Paul Revere may have warned the farms
the British were on the march,

but Delaware’s Rodney rode his black horse
as hard for the colony’s independence
against his friend’s and neighbor’s wishes.

*John Adams


South Dakota

Crazy Horse Died for Your Sins

On the southern border of South Dakota,
the border to Pine Ridge Reservation,
is a town where booze flows as free
as blood flowed on the Little Big Horn.

A short walk across the border,
along a road lined with aluminum
no one bothers to collect for recycle,
liquor sold legal under Nebraska law.

Sold to the nation’s poorest population,
sold to the most alcoholic citizens,
sold only in the interest of money,
and not for the reason Frank Baum

editorialized after Wounded Knee:
Having wronged them for centuries,
we had better, in order to protect
our civilization, follow it up
by one more wrong and wipe
these untamed and untamable
creatures from the face of the earth.*

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

North Carolina

We have been in a heat wave. Records ties and broken for the last week. It's finally broke with temps expected in the 80's, still almost 10 deprees over normal. If there is global warming what bodes for the rhodies and other plants that need less heat.

#5 in Poetic States is about North Carolina, where my MindFire partner, Thomas Fortenberry lives.

Until next week, keep cool.



North Carolina

Hidden behind the Piedmont

I consider North Carolina less
often than I consider Delaware
which is only when I consider
“What did Delaware?”

If it were not for basketball,
hog farms, BBQ, and poetic friends,
I might think of North Carolina less
than I think of American Samoa.

Because Hatteras and Nags Head push
their noses out into the Atlantic to snatch
hurricanes, we all might mull over
North Carolina less except in March.

Wedged between Virginia and South Carolina,
at least North Carolina can say it is not Iowa.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Poetic States: New York

Mohawks on Broadway

Remember your big fight scene
in Last of the Mohicans,
where Hawkeye and Chingachgook
fight the Huron enemy atop palisades
actually filmed in North Carolina.

The beauty of Saratoga needed
a stand-in to satisfy Hollywood.

Regardless, you have everything,
besides natural beauty: wealth,
power, history, art and the Yankees,
Erie Canal, finger lakes and Hudson;
and you have The City.

And The City has enemies.

Boise City, Idaho

I spend the last weekend in Boise, and fell in love with the city with its Greenbelt (25 miles of paths along the Boise River), Warm Spring’s mansions, Anne Frank memorial, Log Cabin Literacy Center, parks, public art and trees. Like most lovers, Boise is not perfect. It was near or at 100 for the five days we were there. Regardless, the city may be the loveliest I’ve seen, even more than Portland; though Portland may win because it has less heat and more brewpubs.

We also went ice blocking on Simplot Hill, which should lead to another poem.


Boise City

He said when the French explorer looked
down upon the river from the bluffs,
and exclaimed “Bois, la bois.”
there were only types in the valley:
Cottonwood and willow.

“And now there are over 350
varieties in the City of Trees.”

Trees to climb, swing on,
hid behind, admire.
Trees to feed birds, squirrels
and the occasional human..

Trees to sketch, for nests, Christmas.
Trees to lie under, to nap,
or admire Anne Frank’s words,
listen to Ray Bradbury,

to consider whether trees
are indeed more lovely than poems.

I have a home, you have a home, but...

Homelessness a Threat for Iraq Vets

By VERENA DOBNIK (Associated Press Writer)
From Associated Press

July 04, 2006 12:13 PM EDT

NEW YORK - Herold Noel had nowhere to call home after returning from military service in Iraq. He slept in his Jeep, taking care to find a parking space where he wouldn't get a ticket.

"Then the nightmares would start," says the 26-year-old former Army private first class, who drove a fuel truck in Iraq. "I saw a baby decapitated when it was run over by a truck - I relived that every night."

Across America on any given evening, hundreds of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan like Noel are homeless, according to government estimates.

The reasons for their plight are many. For some, residual stress from daily insurgent attacks and roadside bombs makes it tough to adjust to civilian life; some can't navigate government assistance programs; others simply can't afford a house or apartment.

They are living on the edge in towns and cities big and small, from Washington state to California and Florida. Some of the hardest hit are in New York City, where housing costs "can be very tough," says Peter Dougherty, head of the federal government's Homeless Veterans Program. Studio apartments routinely exceed $1,000 a month - no small sum for veterans trying to land on their feet.

As a member of the National Guard, Nadine Beckford patrolled New York train stations after the Sept. 11 attacks, then served a treacherous year in the Gulf region.

But when she returned home from Iraq, she found her storage locker had been emptied of all of her belongings and her bank account had been depleted. She believes her boyfriend took everything and "just vanished."

Six months after her return to America, she lives in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn, sharing a room with eight other women and attending a job training program. Her parents live in Jamaica and are barely making ends meet, she says.

"I'm just an ordinary person who served. I'm not embarrassed about my homelessness, because the circumstances that created it were not my fault," says Beckford, 30, who was a military-supply specialist at a U.S. base in Iraq - a sitting duck for around-the-clock attacks "where hell was your home."

It was a "hell" familiar to Noel during his eight months in Iraq. But it didn't stop when he returned home to New York last year and couldn't find a job to support his wife and three children. Without enough money to rent an apartment, he turned to the housing programs for vets, "but they were overbooked," Noel says.

While he was in Iraq, his family had lived in military housing in Georgia.

In New York, they ended up in a Bronx shelter "with people who were just out of prison, and with roaches," Noel says. "I'm a young black man from the ghetto, but this was culture shock. This is not what I fought for, what I almost died for. This is not what I was supposed to come home to."

There are about 200,000 homeless vets in the United States, according to government figures. About 10 percent are from either the 1991 Gulf War or the current one, about 40 percent are Vietnam veterans, and most of the others served when the country was not officially at war.

"In recent years, we've tried to reach out sooner to new veterans who are having problems with post-traumatic stress, depression or substance abuse, after seeing combat," says Dougherty. "These are the veterans who most often end up homeless."

About 350 nonprofit service organizations are working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to help veterans.

But the veterans still land on a hard bottom line: Almost half of America's 2.7 million disabled veterans receive $337 or less a month in benefits, according to the government. Fewer than one-tenth are rated 100 percent disabled, meaning they get $2,393 a month, tax free.
"And only those who receive that 100 percent benefit rating can survive in New York," says J.B. White, a 36-year-old former Marine who served with a National Guard unit in Iraq. His colon was removed after he was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis, which civilian medical experts believe started in Iraq under the stress of war.

"I'd be homeless if it weren't for the support of my family," says White, who is trying to win benefits from the VA. He also helps others, like Beckford, as head of a Manhattan-based social service agency that finds non-government housing for vets.

Noel now attends a program to get work in studio sound production. He was the protagonist of the documentary film "When I Came Home," which was named best New York-made documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival this year.

Just after the news reports about his plight, he learned the government was granting him the 100 percent disability compensation he sought - after being turned down.

Noel doesn't blame the Army, which "helped make my dreams come true," he says, recalling the military base life in Georgia and in Korea that his family enjoyed before his deployment to Iraq.

"I had a house, a car - they gave me everything they promised me," he says. "Now it's up to the government and the people we're defending to take care of their soldiers."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Has This Country Gone Completely Insane?

During the the very early days of this republic, when J ohn Adams was president, the crazies in control of Congress passed the Sedition Acts., making it against the law to publish or say anything bad about the government, and by extension their policies and party, the Federalists.

During the long life of this nation, others have officially or unofficially continued that fine tradition, sometimes with court approval, often not caring a whit one way or the other what the courts, law or Constitution said.

Today, the madness continues, unabated and out of control.

This example is courtesy of CounterPunch, an online newszine, and was sent to me by a friend in the peace movement.

Getting Busted for Wearing a Peace T-Shirt

Yesterday afternoon, drinking a cup of coffee while sitting in the Jesse Brown V.A. Medical Center on Chicago's south side, a Veterans Administration cop walked up to me and said, "OK, you've had your 15 minutes, it's time to go."

"Huh?", I asked intelligently, not quite sure what he was talking about.

"You can't be in here protesting," Officer Adkins said, pointing to my Veterans For Peace shirt.

"Well, I'm not protesting, I'm having a cup of coffee," I returned, thinking that logic would convince Adkins to go back to his earlier duties of guarding against serious terrorists.

Flipping his badge open, he said, "No, not with that shirt. You're protesting and you have to go."

Beginning to get his drift, I said firmly, "Not before I finish my coffee."

He insisted that I leave, but still not quite believing my ears, I tried one more approach to reason.

"Hey, listen. I'm a veteran. This is a V.A. facility. I'm sitting here not talking to anybody, having a cup of coffee. I'm not protesting and you can't kick me out."

"You'll either go or we'll arrest you," Adkins threatened.

"Well, you'll just have to arrest me," I said, wondering what strange land I was now living in.

You know the rest. Handcuffed, led away to the facility's security office past people with surprised looks on their faces, read my rights, searched, and written up.

The officer who did the formalities, Eric Ousley, was professional in his duties. When I asked him if he was a vet, it turned out he had been a hospital corpsman in the Navy. We exchanged a couple sea stories. He uncuffed me early. And he allowed as to how he would only charge me with disorderly conduct, letting me go on charges of criminal trespass and weapons possession -- a pocket knife -- which he said would have to be destroyed (something I rather doubt since it was a nifty Swiss Army knife with not only a bottle opener, but a tweezers and a toothpick).

After informing me I could either pay the $275 fine on the citation or appear in court, Ousley escorted me off the premises, warning me if I returned with "that shirt" on, I'd be arrested and booked into jail.

I'm sure I could go back to officers Adkins' and Ousleys' fiefdom with a shirt that said, "Nuke all the hajis," or "Show us your tits," or any number of truly obscene things and no one would care. Just so it's not "that shirt" again.

And just for the record? I'm not paying the fine. I'll see Adkins and Ousley and Dubya's Director of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, if he wants to show up, in United States District Court on the appointed date. And if there's a Chicago area attorney who'd like to take the case, I'd really like to sue them -- from Dubya on down. I have to believe that this whole country has not yet gone insane, just the government. This kind of behavior can't be tolerated. It must be challenged.

Mike Ferner served as a Navy corpsman during Vietnam and is obviously a member of Veterans For Peace. He can be reached at:

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Poetic States - WA, ND

I do a lot of series: The Many Names for Rain

sprinkle -minute multi-colored particlescolor the donuts of our illusions

sugar on the cake,
a slice for everyone,
two if it don’t rain and melt the
ice cream.
shower -hi-tech Water Pik set on low sprayempties a stunted water heater

To save
water, shower
together – however,
be careful when picking up your
dropped soap.

When, if, finished, there will be over 100.

The Many Names for Sun

Sunrise, First Shine

I wake, the light demanding the day be joined,
morning so gentle I can’t resist the call.
By noon, shelter sought from the sky’s power;
twilight, to watch the day end in crimson blaze.
Sunny, Meadow

The sharp taste of dust and pollen greets us,
the trail a thin line across the meadow.
A flash of light breaks in the woods beyond:
Feather, horn, a reluctant traveler?

These are written with Kathy Paupore from Wild. I have the odd numbers, her the even. When finished, there will be over 200.

Days of the month and week, colors, based up parts of books such as the start to Tale of Two Cities, inspired by others such as Wang Wei's River Wang, the alphabet. The current series is Poetic states, short poems for each state, DC and maybe the territories. The first two:


Red Delicious and Yellow

When you handed him the apple,
did you expect you would leave the shelter of the garden
to live in a rain forest
among beetles and banana slugs?
That you would need to purchase
umbrellas and rain bonnets
in the colors of orchards on the west lawn?

When you bit into the apple,
did you expect she would be your master?
That you would need to relearn
the names of all the bugs
and creatures that crawled along the earth
and in and out of bitter fruit?

North Dakota

Everyone I know was born
between Grand Forks and Williston.
Everyone I know moved away
from North Dakota to stand
on the shore and stare at China
when the fog lifts.

There might still be people in North Dakota –
the air force flies planes out of Minot
and they once made a movie there
about people who lived in Minnesota.
during a winter so white
Fargo looked as empty as Manitoba.

New York is next, but is kicking my keister.

Until next week.



Monday, July 03, 2006

Know nothing update

The Miami know-nothings not only wish to ban the Cuban book, but all 24 in the series. On the theory, I quess if one has errors, they all do. Or maybe too many of them are from South of the border and they worry illegals might sneak in with them.

Have a safe and tasty 4th.

I'll be digging weeds from my flower beds.



Sunday, July 02, 2006

Back with a promise

Why have a blog if it is not going to be kept up to date? So for my Mid-year resolution, I promise I will.

First on the agenda, please read spring issue for works on war, peace and everything in between. A (very) special issue.

And the June/July issue of FireWeed is up with new work selected by Terrie Relf, Houdini and a war/peace supplemental.

2. go to The blog owner’s (Michelle Buchanan) goal is to post a memorial poem to each of the military killed during the Iraq war – 2615 as of the end of June. Please add yours.

3. The know nothings are at again.

Is Coulter in the library,
Mein Kampf?

Have they reviewed all the books in the series for accuracy. Egypt, Canada?


4. A poem

Journey with Rimbaud VIII – Benediction

the predatory power of the intestinal apparatus

Beware of medication that results
from a physician’s examination
-the cure may be worse than the bite.

Popping pills for a groin infection
(though unconfirmed) may have led
to acute, stressed hyper-defecation.

While on vacation at the beach,
twice I was in an extreme condition,
toilet needed to avoid unwanted warmth.

Then on the way to a southern destination,
I twice failed to ask we stop at a rest area
and let go before we reached a gas station.

There was a trucker’s shower at the Shell
which I used without any hesitation,
for the duration I prayed no one would notice.

You might think this severe situation
mostly the product of too much imagination,
but I assure you every word is the utmost truth.

Even my grandson picked up
that “Papa went in his pants.”


5. See you in a week.