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

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

 

The Monkey Sees God in Bananas

The monkey sees God in bananas

The tiger sees the divine in his claws

The crow sees God in the worms of the morning

As he cackles, preens, and craws

Man sees God in the unseen

The preacher sees the divine in his words

The zealot sees it in the crowds that gather before him

As he guides them like an unthinking herd

Let your eyes be your faith and your heart

Let your ears hear the sounds of the divine

Let your own steps guide you to your version of God

As I shall let my feet lead me to mine

Gene G. McLaughlin 2020

Monkey

Everyone Thinks

Everyone thinks
 
The other side stinks
 
And they feel entitled
 
To that which was not earned
 
With Nero’s curse we were riddled
 
Danced to the sound of the fiddle
 
Never once broaching the middle
 
Everyone already decided
 
Whilst we burned
 
Gene G. McLaughlin 2020

March 2020

In the distance I see

Monuments (built by unknown hands)

To wealth (accumulated via unknown plans)

I’d tell you what their plaques said

If the world would just stop spinning

I’d tell you what the score was

If I knew what constituted winning

Sometimes the smells of being alive are

Dust (as it covers all)

Rotting cabbage (you bought but didn’t use)

Spring flowers (they will not be denied)

Excess time (somehow it wafts in the air)

Uncertainty (you can smell it in your pores)

Will the world ever be the same again?

(The answer has changed since you asked the question)

Does all of this make me feel better?

(Parts I disdain and wish to fade away)

Or am I terrified?

(That which I love, and fear will not stay)

Breathe

(No longer taken as a given)

Grieve

(For all that has been riven)

Repent

(There is no sin to be forgiven)

Grow

(Opportunity has arisen)

Choose

(Actions of your own volition)

Wait

(The future remains well hidden)

Gene G. McLaughlin 2020

Beware They That

Beware they that ask

For your love and rage at the same time

Love is one part of your story

Rage is one part of your story

They are roads to different destinations

That you will take at different times

They that ask you to combine them

Do so for their own means

They wish to become the story you tell

To simplify you

They that ask this do not mean you well

They have no wishes for you at all

They dream a dream for them

Cherish your love

Safeguard your rage

They are yours and yours alone

Gene G. McLaughlin 2020