What I Did With My Summer Pandemic Vacation

I’ve been spending the pandemic kicking the habit of nihilism
It has an acrid taste, but it presents itself as a path to freedom
It goes down easy after a few
Many times I have made the choice to embrace it
It really is the easiest one I suppose
Requiring no code or framework
A bit of a short cut to the end of things
Yet when viewed as a path taken by so many of my countrymen
It looks much less like freedom
And much more like despair
When you make the choice on a personal level
It is an internal issue
It can eat away at you
You don’t have to look within though
You get to look forward
Out at the world
When thousands of people make the choice together though
It looks less like something internal to the individual
And more like a raging infection
Spreading across the land
Despair on a national level
Requires one to make a choice
If the choice is between working to find meaning
Or succumbing to despair
Well then,
I suppose I better put my Dickie’s on and get my lunch pail out
There might be some long days ahead
Each day I’ve been trying to think of things I look forward to
Even if they don’t exist right now
Might not exist for some time
They will again some day though
I can carry them as aspirations in my mind until then
Each day I think of remarkable things I have experienced in the past
Things I read
Things I saw
Things I felt
Things I heard
Almost anything
So much seems more remarkable than it did at the time
When looking back at it during a plague year
I don’t know exactly how my nation overcomes its despair
But maybe me working on mine is a start
Gene G. McLaughlin 2020
Curiosity was far greater than our fear
It felt so simple and so prodigious at the same time
Incredible things are happening in the world
Magical things are happening in this world
-Stereolab/Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Scale

Let us look at how we value violence

As a path to behavioral societal corrections

As part of necessary sacrifices

Let us assess our own silence

By measuring the connections

Between our comfort and its ever-raising prices

The costs stem from the choice

To view violence as a problem’s viable solution

Without acknowledging to the maimed and the buried

There is never restitution

We make the pivot to violence causally

We put it into games and entertainments

We view it as a path to power and strength

Instead of as one the souls most damaging contaminants

Sometimes judgement is the mirror

The sentence a song you hear in your head

Now the singer’s voice is growing clearer

Lilting the names of the dead

Maybe you know one among them

From Fallujah or Ferguson

From Aleppo to Attica

Maybe your fist is clenched

As you look upon the protests

Maybe your heart is wrenched

Seeing the agony and the tears of the oppressed

Maybe we start today

Acknowledging a scale that weighs our choices

And that the price we might pay

Is our loved one’s silenced voices?

Gene G. McLaughlin 2020

Merchants of Anger

Merchants of anger

See no color

Hear no melody

Offering immediacy

Gritted teeth

Clenched fists

Ease of blame

Vague contours of control

Outlines of outrage

A road of broken concrete

Leading to a tire fire

In their statements

Evidence a faraway promise

If even thought of at all

Profit and power

Wash over them

When they steal your joy

Hollowness aches inside them

Disdain burns in them

For signs of growth or hope

In any of you

I will let you name them

You don’t need me to

Perhaps you scoff at me

Turn to them and indulge

What they offer for a while

To feel something

To fill yourself with

To provide meaning

Despite its acrid foul flavor

I know though

If you pause

You will realize

You are crying

For what you have lost

It is yours to take back

Your mind is forever changing

But that mind is forever yours

Gene G. McLaughlin 2020

Seussian Panglossian

The best of all possible worlds
Weighed among a universe of many
A world of harsh scarcity
In galaxies of both emptiness and plenty

I will take this
It is all I’ve got
We will create this
From something it is not

My optimistic friend
That’s just
Foolish magical thinking
Caused by too many fairy tales
And excessive drinking

My negative compadre
That’s just
An invasive thought
We can make this world better
If we give it all we got

Oh your dreamy wishes
The tools we have are many
Limited by the willingness to work of few
But a garden never tended
Come spring will not renew

Such fearful attitude
That’s just
Plain wrongheaded
It’s the world we’ve got
Why dread it?

Always over reaching
That just too much positivity
The world is clay and layers
Not just what you can see

So it goes with me
Candide and Pangloss
Fates tied together
Realizing there are more
Storms still to weather

Gene G. McLaughlin 2020

Sometimes/Today

Sometimes I feel that I’m failing

From the weather or a smell in the air

Sometimes I feel that I’m winning

Despite the score showing I’m far from there

Sometimes I grow stronger

From something I decided not to eat

Sometimes a rock in my shoe

Slows the pace of my gate

Sometimes life seems like a deep woe

That I carry upon my soul

Sometimes I’m light as the wind

Endless days with no tire or toll

Today’s maybe somewhere in the middle

Some coffee and rain and some hope

Success and failure are not for this moment

Both lie out of the present’s scope

Gene G. McLaughlin 2020

More Pissarro Than Picasso

I want a world more Pissarro than Picasso

More the sum than a piece

More the glory of all of it

Than cubes of us at our least

Gene G. McLaughlin 2020

Camille Pissarro

Dead Sitcoms Stars Cluttering the Psyche

Click

Ted Knight stares at me

Through the late night TV flicker

His hair is white and bright

It hurts my eyes in the darkness

I am sad to see him on the screen

He exists in some alternate universe

The 1970’s that did not exist

But he no longer exists here

Click

Norman Fell stares back on another channel

He is having trouble

With those cohabiting youths again

His career has not yet faded from one bad choice

At the same time

John Ritter’s face is young

His heart is still strong

This will be the greatest moment for both of them

Their faces show they do not know this fact

I do not know what the moments that flash through the

Viewfinder of my life mean

It is unclear until long after the point

And then it is fogged by judgments of episodes

Click

Andy Kaufman is on

Wild, crazed, and manic

Diamond in the rough never cut to a beautiful gem

His pain on display for posterity

Click

McLean Stevenson is

Forever dying on a plane

Shown endlessly

Once dead in life

Doomed to repeat forever

Across the mindscape they are thrown

Living in a syndicated trans-cosmic-loop

They know nothing of the present

It does not exist

The past doesn’t either

It is

Only an alternative reproduction

Dead sitcoms stars cluttering the psyche

Adrift and floating like out of orbit meteors

Digitally represented

Haunting and false

Gene G. McLaughlin 2020

Ted Knight

 

Dead Languages In An Encrypted World

Dead languages in an encrypted world

Floating on currents of textual seas

New syntax and context unfurled

Ideas carried by the digital breeze

Mass less data of New Babylon

Still growing ziggurat of a modern age

Non-physical ideas carry on

With or without the page

Language united with math

Following the binary path

What or or who does it benefit

If anything or anyone at all

Are the data’s flows sinister or beneficent

Are its actions fair of foul

Gene G. McLaughlin 2020

Dead Language

 

Mom

She wore a bonnet of significant bees

A fleece of fantastic fleas

She knew black beans and pintos

From her lentils and her peas

 

She didn’t walk on water

But she glided over nails

Which were strewn across the floor

From rusty timeworn pails

 

She loved the smell of smoke

But disdained the smell of cinder

She met your father Satan

On the devil’d own site Tinder

 

You told her happy mother’s day

She said son I am fictional and abstract

You infer you own responsivities

From how you think I act

 

So hold tight to your nostalgia

Or quietly feed your rage

I am not your icon or advisor

I am never your blueprint or cage.

Gene G. McLaughlin 2020

Coraline_Other_Mother

 

Jump Cuts Like Godard

Jump cuts

Like Godard

On the evening news

Your attention is

The one thing

They can’t afford to lose

 

Stories like Hitchcock

Winding up and down

Twisted stairs

People searching

For secrets and motives

That aren’t really there

 

Sounds like Altman

Bleeding one into another

Cutting in and out

People trying to discern

Truths they whisper

From lies they shout

 

Faith like Scorsese

Still present, but

Beaten and torn

Hoping between

All the death and privation

Something better is born

 

Reality like Lanzmann

Laying bare plagues foul effects

On me and you

Not metaphors

No soft lenses

Just a truth hard to view

Gene G. McLaughlin 2020

Godard