Friday, December 25, 2009

New Year's Day on Mars

When, in the year 1000,
the year 1000 was celebrated,
it marked only a century or two
of reckoning dates from the birth of Yeshu
(the Aramaic correlate of the Greek 'Jesus'.)
it was not the year 1000 of course
since Fibonacci had not yet (until 1202)
introduced the Arabic numerals into Europe
(which he at least, having studied in Tunis had
the good grace
to call
the 'Hindu' numerals.)

It was the year 'M'
that being in Roman numerals
the symbol for 1000,
the Latin for 1000 being 'mille'
from which
the English
'mile', 'million', and 'millenium'.

Although it was a Roman
numeral, and the Aramaic speaking Yeshu a
Palestinian subject of the Romans,
that Roman numeral was not the Roman year, which,
reckoned A.U.C.
(anno urbis conditae, from the founding of the city)
was 752 at Christ's birth
(ignoring an apparent four year error),
and so the year M would have been
1752 according to the
whose numerals,
designated it.

On a recent trip to Thailand
(which they,
ungenerous to English sensibilities
insist on calling Muang Thai),
I discovered that the Thais,
having generously adopted a twelve month
solar calendar beginning on our January first,
still date their calendar to the birth of the Buddha
(the number of their year being 543
greater than ours ( and dare I mention
the twenty years
gone missing
from the Indian

The Muslims,
by many accounts the most numerous
religious group in the world,
start their calendar with the flight (hegira)
of their great prophet Muhammed
from their most holy city, Mecca,
in fear of his life (not,
of Jews, Christians, Romans, or Persians but
of fellow Arabs from the same clan),
about our year 622
(with the exception that the Muslim calendar
gains a year
on the Gregorian
once every 22 1/2 years.)

Jews in the East had
for many centuries
used the Seleucid calendar
that began in 312 B.C. when,
in the ninth century,
European Jews began dating
'anno mundi',
to the beginning of the world,
or 3761 B.C. in Gregorian terms.

What was God thinking when,
in his infinite wisdom,
he decided
to make the period
of the earth's revolution
a non-integer multiple
of its rotation?
Perhaps he meant it
as a WPA for astronomers.

It was left to the infallible
Gregory XIII (although this does beg
the question about Gregory's XII and XI)
acting on discrepancies found
800 years earlier by the Venerable Bede,
to set things straight
by declaring
the day after October 4, 1582,
to be October 15, 1582.

Ten days,
up in smoke.
Amazing the things
you can make happen,
if you happen to be Pope.

But perhaps this too is a bit
simplistic, since Protestants,
being what they are,
against a Pope's having the gall
to be accurate.
And so whereas
the appropriate days disappeared
in Spain and France,
they took two years to vanish
in Luthered lands.

The British government,
being what it is,
cherished recalcitrance
until, in 1752,
September 2nd was followed by
September 14th,
throwing in the change of New Year's Day
from March 25th back to January 1st.

Recent cosmological data suggest
that the universe is
3 thousand million years newer
than previously thought,
only 10 thousand million years old.

2000 approaches though 1000 never happened.
It reminds of the singer Prince ---
'Tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999'.

Why not?

It is.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


There is no freedom from law, there is only freedom through law.
--- Hegel

How will you get there?
In the club car of an overnight train perhaps,
a cup of hot coffee in a cardboard tray,
seeing little but reflections
in the windows made mirrors
by the transient seam of severe light
stitching through the vast drapery of darkness
that is nothing
but earth's shadow.

In the wicker basket of a hot air balloon?
Its garish colors bulging above
rolling hills of shaggy meadows and the occasional elm,
a skein of judgmental geese eyeing
you as they pass, otherwise
the flame-punctuated silence
where you float in the invisible
alone, one giant step
away from solid ground and
fatality. Or perhaps in the industrial
precision of an economy
four-door with a full tank, recent oil
change, tires at manufacturer's recommended
inflation, the continent's roads like root hairs
captured in the folded pages of the atlas,
the broken rear window
defroster sometimes clouding the towns behind,
while rhythmic lost loves and ever-recent
disasters emanate from the radio's electromagnetic
ether, the vibrations of the interstate traveling
up the steering column to your ever-vigilant hands.

And, given how, one wonders, when?
Before or after work, or, might one dream,
during? Will the time be measured in the ink
stamps of alphabetized punch-cards,
the programmed surveillance of keystrokes at computer terminals,
the wrinkles of skin pressing into foreheads,
pit sweat melting into work shirts,
or be transmuted by engineered genetic alchemy
into a softer currency of diapered babies on their backs,
tiny toes kicking air into whispers
of dance? Will it be
returning to a near or distant past ---
buffalo hunts and armor-mounted jousts,
initiation rites in torch-lit caves,
gladiators battling in imperial
stadiums, texts being transcribed
in the solemn tranquility of monasteries ----
or advancing toward a limitless
future, weightless in earth
orbit, never a cloudy day or
a hint of rain where,
standing on our heads or climbing the walls
effortlessly, sorrow is
as forgotten as the blue of the sky
we are outside and above
or the reason anyone ever listened
to Billie Holiday.

And last, the question of where?
Hyperlinked to 10,000 symphonies and
a million sonatas, a mouse-click
away from the entire history
of radio and tv. Or,
escaping the middle
decks of the middle passage, the rank
putridities of slobbered mucous
and the ptomained slime of decaying corpses,
with decks too tight to turn over in sleep,
released onto shores of the first great
democracy, dedicated to the self-
evident ideal of human equality. Perhaps
in some multi-acre casino
where bustiered women with bunny tails
serve around-the-clock intoxicants to patrons
wagering ocean waves of cash in games
where chance is guaranteed
to be against them.
Or, almost too easily,
with no vehicle but the mind,
no time but the present,
no place but what you hold in your hands,
astonished when suddenly,
like a poem, you find it,
coming from inside.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

You Can Always try Bribing the Urine Tester

Surveillance respects
no limits. Just because
you have strong privacy rights
in your penis doesn’t mean the government,
lab coated and litmus papered, won’t
swim upstream,
making you pee in a pot to find out if there’s
pot in your pee.

Even if you haven’t hit 700 home runs,
or won with a sudden, swollen
Dizzy-cheek of muscles, an Olympic medal,
the avuncular chemists of the
piss Gestapo insist
they are not invading,
despite that electron microscope
in your bladder,
your privacy.

Only the well-trained murderers,
fangs out in their
aluminum clouds and brown shoes,
titrated to a go-pill tee,
only they are free
from urination chaperones,
and the mandatory optical catheters
snaking their threads
up your dick.

Who are you
to resent the cameras in your penis?
Or the state supervision of your bodily fluids?
Who are you to resent the invisible tattoo
of retinal scans and DNA dragnets?
As if so much as the ownership of your body,
check for missing foreskin,
would be left to you.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Lightnin Rod On

If it's old enough
then we can call it new
just have to torque the talk
don't have to mean it's true
oh baby
I got my lightnin rod on.
If you need me
I'll be at the Pentagon.

I been printin out twenties
in the back a my car
got a tank full a fossils
and a counterfeit card
oh baby
I'm wearin armor that rhymes
I'm trackin you down
for a bit part as a partner in crime.

Well there's squatters in the alley
like some squalor spree
but the man in the limo
thinks the mother's milk's free
oh baby
I'm like the fourth of July
I'm like a thistledown neon of rejection
in a newly fledged sky.

I'm a needle in a haystack
tryin to talk some sense
to the soap bubble tourists
with the luau defense
oh baby
I'm like a telephone poll
I keep askin people questions
when the world is spinnin outta control.

The guru's in the data
he's divining the sales
of the lapidary notions
by electonic mail
Oh baby
I'm like a poisonous seed
to protect you from the parasites
who'll rob you of the things that you need.

Well the buttocks by the donuts
in electroglide blue
have been fattening for decades
like an elephant stew
oh baby
I'm like a Rosetta Stone
reading your Mirandas
in a language that you thought was unknown.

The entire constellation
has been dropping its pants
the vacuum hose is nothing
but a temple a dance
oh baby
you make my molecules sing
I've been searchin for enigmas
and I know at last I've found the real thing.