The Choir

When I heard the echoes of the choir
I wondered whom they sung to
Was it a present loving god
Or fading ideals they still clung to
Did they sing endless songs to joy
Choral anthems of light, rebirth and flowers
Were their voices raised to dogma
Honoring and preserving structures of power
Were they all just howling
Like the night’s wolves seeking grace
Were they drowning out their thoughts
Of the things they would rather never face
Or maybe the voices of the choir
Include the sum of these things
Voices of dreams hopes and desires
Blended as the choir sings

Gene G. McLaughlin 2021

Thoughts on ‘Way Down In The Rust Bucket (Live)’ Neil Young and Crazy Horse

There are phases to being a Neil Young fan. There are the giant songs you first hear. Helpless, Ohio, Old Man or Heart of Gold. These you could have heard of classic rock radio anytime during the last 40 years. That might draw you into CSNY or Harvest or After the Gold Rush beautiful folksy music that sounds as great today as it did when it sold millions of copies. That might lead you to the rest of the 70’s where he is trying to find meaning through his music, trying to account for a world filled with addiction, Vietnam, lost friends, and what fame at a certain level really is. These records are beautiful and an artistic peak, but also bleak and permeated with sadness. This brings you to the 1980’s where he experiments with different sounds and ideas. A mishmash of many things come to the forefront. Again he is a man attempting to find meaning in a world gone mad. Watch the movie he wrote, directed and starred in 1982 ‘Human Highway’ if you want to see a man trying to figure things out in real time. That brings me to his newly released live record from 1990 Way Down In The Rust Bucket recorded before the Ragged Glory tour as a warm up in Santa Clara. The record itself is a loose meandering affair consisting of songs mainly from the same time period. It isn’t what you would call a tight performance, but it sounds great in the disjointed way that only Crazy Horse can. In 1990 Neil Young and Crazy Horse had something that was often missing in the past. Joy. The performance isn’t confrontational or elegy. It is joyous. Sure there are songs of a darker tone like Cortez the Killer, but the man and the band sound like they have come out of the dark. I suppose that is why it is my favorite Neil Young period. I am grateful to have this live recording from it.

Gene G. McLaughlin 2021

The Art of the Spider

The art of the spider is patience
Its venom is held in reserve
For when the web breaks unbidden
Or if the prey works up the nerve
To resist that which nature intended
To swerve from the course of its fate
The spider’s unseen strength
Is the will to sit and silently wait

Gene G. McLaughlin 2021

Lonely Skee-Ball Lane

In an empty arcade there is still activity

But none arising from life

Sounds of machines humming and beeping

Their existences clear and free of strife

Bells ring to alert no one of nothing

Digital voices entice the absent to play

They can’t distract their intended targets

To take time to chase their worries away

Oh the pop-a-shot lights

Are ever oh so bright

Offering buttons to press

Promising prizes and tickets to win

As the cabinets all bathe in fluoresce

Waiting for the day’s simulations to begin

Gene G. McLaughlin 2021

Morning in America

Once we were kings

But did it matter?

Once we were kings

In our hearts and songs

Once we were queens

Purses and fortunes grew fatter

Once we were queens

Ignoring miscalculations and wrongs

Once it was morning in this land

Yet it was never as bright as we believed

We never realized it was by our own hand

That means to deceive were conceived

Morning in America

Has always and never been the same

It is only the measurements and criteria

That divides our nostalgia from shame

At the top the world all still moves

The weight of the world still spins

Those who might approve

Are them who claim benefits and wins

Maybe stand for something?

Or maybe choose to don’t?

In the end there is no need to worry

The self anointed kings and queens won’t

Gene G. McLaughlin 2021

If I Am Counted Among the Departed

Someday I will be long dead

And someone will think of me

They will be no one I can hear

They will be no one I can see

In this time I shall feel nothing

Existing only in memory

May I exist as hope

In this future mental interaction

May I exist as love

Despite my corporeal retraction

May you feel me rise through you mind

A wave redirected by refraction

Through life’s tangled mass of possibilities

Pointing to a bright new direction

Gene G. McLaughlin 2020

Mushrooms Are the Ghosts

A short poem for you fall mushroom lovers-

Mushrooms are the ghosts

Of forest floors and fallen trees

How does meaning demand to grow

Among the moss and decaying leaves?

Does a lineage link the floor and canopy

Via roots and sun?

Is the bolete a forgotten memory

Or the birth of a new one?

Gene G. McLaughlin 2020

The Howl of the Doomscroll

A Halloween/election/all of it poem about my least favorite new monster of 2020-

There is a rhythm to the movement

As your finger taps the screen

There is reverberation lingering

A sound that isn’t what it seems

A buzz, a beep, an alert

At least that is what you first hear

Then gradually a sense of hurt

Combined with a slowly growing fear

It is the howl of The Doomscroll!

As the noises of your devices build

Deformities of truths and lies unfold

The zeitgeist dreadfully distilled

Created by mistake

Now driven by its own volition

We all live in its wake

As the world we know is riven.

Gene G. McLaughlin 2020

The Things You Owe To Yourself

Everything was unfortunate
About midway through the day
The hope you had earlier
Didn’t have the wherewithal to stay
Whether by genetics and chemistry
Or too many drinks the night before
Your staring straight ahead
Trying to corral your thoughts once more

Your mind jumps from one thing to another
Anger, then guilt, then loss
Then hunger, then thirst, then nothing
Then your past actions and their costs
You dwell on it for a while
What you did to harm others
Words you could have said different
At a significant point or time
What you did to harm you
Were you ignorant to your potential?
Were those chances your prime?

Yet . . .

Your considerations are not the now
They are not even the past
They are a recreation
That will drift by and not last

It is difficult to see this
As the memory fragments
Circle your mind
The brain is fastidious in its efforts
To create boundaries and bind

The things you owe to yourself
Are both significant and unclear
They are not gained by rumination
They do not grow closer with fear

There is value in a quiet moment
With eyes facing toward the now
Today might not represent your soul’s meaning
But it might just lead to the creation of the how

Gene G. McLaughlin 2020

A Priori Me

Staring at machinescapes
Fractal music in my head
The inflammation of my spine
Confirms for me I am not dead
A priori me
In the wind, dust, and shadows
A posteriori me
Weighing and measuring my battles
Knowing what I know
Without knowing the reason
The eerie absent answers
Feel like my mind committing treason
I accept the betrayal
My cognizance shoulders on
Knowing some framework exists
Both before and after I am gone

Gene G. McLaughlin 2020