Poetry: 4 12-liners for political times

It never occurs to us that we've come to appear much like the devils that we ourselves fear.


We Need our Devils

devils never go out of style, so it goes

fashions change but beneath the clothes

still the same old fear, the devils’ trap and bait

so we whip and burn, interrogate

paint them with horns, color them red

convince ourselves we’re better off if they’re dead

put a target on their backs and call them militant

to justify destroying a bothersome irritant

the problem is while we’re running around

accusing and killing and chasing them down

it never occurs to us that we’ve come to appear

much like the devils that we ourselves fear.

Better to Welcome the Darkness

sometimes lighting one match is cursing the dark

as when a fiery missile sends its message stark

as when a village burns because of what might be hiding

inside a dark hut, the lightning inviting

as when a laser beam settles on a target

tracked by the heat from its blood and its heart, it

beats in a place we don’t understand

better to kill it than lend it a hand.

sometimes it’s better to dispense with the matches

and welcome the darkness, open the hatches

allow for others to discover their wrong and their right

what is the darkness, what is the light.

The Tyranny of the Marketplace

the marketplace has replaced values (what of it?)

there is no virtue but the sign of the profit

with a quantified value for every thing

no morality but what makes the bookkeeper sing

as they meter the air and patent our genes

tell us what’s right and sell us our dreams

spy on those who raise a voice to object

over every citizen claim the right to inspect

every movement and package and message they send

every word to examine for what it just might intend

all of us suspect, reduced to a file of data

if we don’t get you now we’ll get ‘round to you later.

Engine of Survival

we’ve done all the studies, trended the graphs

oceans rising and dying, its creatures’ last gasps

golden wheat and corn turn to drought-pounded dust

in the forests the mid-summer leaves turn to rust

behind barbed wire the mothers weep

storms rage at our cities and waters sweep

giving the lie to dreams of secure golden years

some to guns or to god turn to lessen their fears

the people are restive but their voices choke

contemplating the boldness of the requisite stroke

time to remember the truth that resides in the heart

to heal and make whole we must all play a part.


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Barton Kunstler, Ph.D., writes about creativity, social justice, education, technology, and leadership. His book, The Hothouse Effect, describes the dynamics behind history's most creative communities. Other published work includes poetry, numerous academic articles, and fiction. His monograph for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence addresses leadership's future in light of the human singularity. He writes for www.huffingtonpost.com and his writings, including a column on communication strategy, appear at www.bartonkunstler.com. He can be reached at barleeku@comcast.net.