A meditation on Cassandra

A meditation on Cassandra,
inspired by the poems of C. P. Cavafy

She looks out west
from up high on the cyclopean stones walls of the city,
past the dusty plain of Ilium,
littered with cracked helmets, broken spears,
dogs sniffing through the debris of battle
to crack marrow out of bones.
She looks beyond the thousand cooking fires of the Achaeans
stretching in a long broken line
fringing the ragged edge of the plain at the sea,
and down below, the dazzling white beach
she had last seen nine years ago
is now blackened by a row of ships, hauled out, hull to hull,
the standards of the tribes snapping in the wind at mast tops.
Beyond is the Aegean,
wine-dark in the light of the dying sun,
and beyond that lay the strange land of the invaders,
of brutal, energetic men
bent on the glory of power
and the power of possession.
Many had already poured their blood
and sunk their bones into the dusty plain,
in sacrifice to their ambition,
having lunged beyond their vision,
stepping out from the light of day into the eternal shade.
And in this was the only bond developed between them,
Trojans and Achaeans,
for both here in Ilium and in the land of the Hellenes
nearly a decade of widowhood had been grown;
there were no spoils and glory for the children of the dead.
Whom the gods would destroy
they first make mad,
and whom they would madden
they fill with a proud ambition.
Death alone is not a tragedy – sorrowful as it may be –
but death at the end of the destruction of all hope.
Then, it is a merciful release, and in that is the tragedy.
Cassandra looked west, out past the wine-dark sea,
past the unseen lands of the Achaeans,
and past the tragedy of her death.
How else could one continue?
Phoebus, the jealous god,
had robbed her gift of prophesy of any credibility
because she refused to give herself to him,
remaining steadfast in her purity
in devotion to religion.
Oh, how cruel these jealous gods, bitten in their vanity,
for spite they wither our gifts into afflictions,
useless now her power of vision, her great beauty and allure.
For none believed in her prophesies,
none listened to her speech,
all were captivated by her beauty
and fixed on her their desires;
she was insane
with the unrelieved frustration of mute clairvoyance.
She walked in from the parapet,
took off her gold thread pearl earrings,
handing them to a servant,
and also her golden webbed necklace,
unclasped her belt of gold chains
with studs of amber and lapis lazuli,
and dropped her tunic.
She gathered her raven’s hair, coiled it high on her head,
pinning it with a turtle-shell comb and golden needle.
She walked into the scented pool,
strewn with the petals of flowers,
and stroked virgin oil across her honeyed virgin skin.
The flute girl played a slow sweet song of evening,
and a servant rubbed warm oil
with slow deep strokes into her back.
Cassandra thought of all who wanted her body,
from the stable-boys and captains of Ilium,
to the guardian women of the king’s harem,
and even to the Sun-god himself;
and she thought of the man who would rape her
at the foot of the altar of Athena,
after killing her father,
as if seeking to yank the flower and cut the root
of the House of Priam
in one fit of hubris on that terrible night
when the slaughter of Ilium’s manhood
would pour out of the belly of a wooden horse –
false gift of treachery and delusion.
Out of her defilement would come the seed of their destruction,
for a multitude would perish – even their chief, Agamemnon.
Athena’s wrath demanded expiation,
to cleanse insult from the sanctity of her temples.
But Cassandra was already dead,
for she knew that her hopes were doomed –
one does not escape the wrath of the gods.
As Cassandra caressed her exquisite body
that servant girls spoke of amongst themselves
and Ilium’s men dreamed of as they took their wives,
she thought of that hot, sweaty, bearded, bloody Little Ajax
who was destined to rip her tunic off
and force her to the ground,
and she wondered what Phoebus thought
of being put off the prize
in favor of this heartless, dirty, little brute.
It was the god’s will that she should suffer so,
and for that she refined her breathless beauty
and timeless grace
so that even in his godly aloofness
Phoebus would feel the sting of his own spite,
the bitter taste of jealousy’s vengeance.
They all thought her mad, none would listen,
it was best not to repeat the coming story,
it only made them frightened, wild, resentful.
No, she had to see the truth and swallow it,
so as not to add misery to the lives of doomed people
during the little time remaining to them.
She drew the scented bath along her arm,
across her breasts,
up her neck and along the line of her jaw,
holding her head back, closing her eyes,
smiling, luxuriating in sensation,
as the flute song hung in the air
and floated with the slightest breeze
out over the walls into the night sky.
She would be taken as a prize for Agamemnon himself,
in the division of the spoils,
and Little Ajax would be swallowed by Poseidon’s waves.
Among the Trojan women – destined for slavery –
there would begin dawning an inkling of Cassandra’s plight,
but there could be little comfort from hearts
so overwhelmed by sorrow, so devastated by loss,
exhausted of love, broken.
For the mad ageless priestess child
who had loved them and suffered for them
in contained delirious transparent isolation,
it would be a small comfort,
this brief, sad time together at the ruins of Troy,
bonded by grief, with sisters and mothers,
before being dispersed to lives of slavery
across the wine-dark sea.
And for Cassandra, at journey’s end,
the bittersweet vengeance – and terror –
of seeing the end of Agamemnon – sacker of Troy –
cut down by his wife Clytemnestra,
mad with grief for the loss of Iphigenia, her daughter
sacrificed by Agamemnon to secure his command
and gain the gods’ favor of fair winds to Troy.
And at this moment Cassandra, too, will meet her end,
an orphan, a dead king’s child-trophy, cut down
by a vengeance forged over a decade from a mother’s grief.
“My bones will be cast out for the dogs”
Cassandra whispers with a smile.
The flute girl and bath attendant meet glances without pause,
“Mad Cassandra,” they nod to each other,
as Cassandra lays back, eyes closed,
bathed in moonlight and music,
humming softly,
so beautiful, so beautiful,
maintaining her grace,
thinking of her release.

29 April 2002

IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD (sci-fi horror)


(a science-fiction horror movie plot)

An alien amoeba sweeps into Earth’s atmosphere and is rained out, infiltrating the aquifers and reproducing prodigiously. Able to withstand the toxins in the environment and pass through water filtration systems, it is consumed by humans. Seeking high quality fat to consume, these amoeba invade human brains to feed, reproduce and radiate by exhalations to infect other hosts.

However, the electro-chemical action of intense neural activity associated with critical thinking disrupts the normal functioning of the alien cell walls, allowing human B cells and T cells to detect and successfully destroy the amoeba. This alien antigen epidemic was discovered by immunologists analyzing MRI brain scans of people expressing different political views, in a study seeking a correlation between immunological robustness and intellectual activity.

Political opinion was chosen as an easy marker of intellectual activity because the sample population could be divided into two distinctive groups: high activity and low activity. That is to say, high activity people were enthusiastic about Bernie Sanders, and low activity people were enthusiastic about either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump (it was impossible to distinguish between the two varieties in the low activity group because of their low signals for brain activity).

Since both groups had an equivalently wide range of physiological variation, the brain scientists were mystified as to what caused some people to exhibit high levels of critical thinking and preferred Sanders, while others had low levels of critical thinking and preferred Clinton or Trump. The mystery was solved when the alien brain-eating amoeba was discovered in the low activity group.

Unfortunately for the brain-eaten, the brain loss was permanent, and at best they could only slow or halt their infections by a strict regimen of vigorous critical thinking. Naturally, this was harder to do with reduced brain capacity. A public health alert went out to the nation to begin vigorous exercising of brains with critical thinking, to combat the epidemic. It was clear that the victim population had been lazy thinkers, and even non-thinkers, prior to the invasion of the alien amoeba, and were thus ripe for infection. A contributing factor to the speedy spread of the epidemic was excessive exposure to mass media, debilitating brain activity.

The public discovery of this epidemic and its societal impact caused an uproar: could the votes of the brain-stricken be nullified, and political power be denied to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, on the basis of their prominence being a symptom of an epidemic of mental illness caused by an organic brain disease, which was in fact an alien invasion? The brain-healthy argued that allowing the brain-diseased to vote was allowing an alien species (technically, illegal aliens) to subvert the American political system, and undermine national sovereignty. The brain-eaten argued that they had to have who they had to have as president because they had to have them. Pressed further, they gave as reasons: “he/she will protect us from them,” or “she would know what to do,” or “they won’t take my guns away.”

The crisis expanded into one of constitutional law when brain-healthy legislators tried to enact a rider to the First Amendment that required the exercise of free speech that was called “news,” by FCC licensed media, to be verified as factually true, unbiased and accurate prior to broadcast, and for all other commentary to be preceded by a statement of who paid for it, and how they intended to benefit from it. This measure was seen as essential to combat the spread of the epidemic of brain-eating disease, without actually infringing on First Amendment rights. However, the brain-infected vehemently opposed this proposed legislation because it infringed on the right to deceive, which was an essential element in the exercise of the right to profit, which is the entire point of the American economic system. Other reasons given by the opponents of the Truth In Broadcasting Act were: “I’m with her,” “you can’t take away my guns,” “she’ll know what to do” and “he’ll protect us.”

Ominously, the amoeba adapted to the resistance of the active human brain power of critical thinking, by evolving into several strains each attuned to different human cultures. So, the battle between democratic freedom and brain germ slavery spread globally as a spectrum of related disorders. This wrecked havoc with world peace by bringing the concept of respect for cultural diversity into conflict with the expectations of sociopathic, psychotic and inhuman regimes for recognition, respect, deference and greater power in the direction of human affairs.

Some of the most advanced thinkers trying to combat this epidemic began to fear that the parasites would only die out once the host population was consumed: human extinction. Indeed, the actions of the brain-eaten were leading to the collapse of many social systems and much infrastructure essential to the intelligent continuation of human activity. Even the habitability of the planet was now in decay as a result of massive brain-eaten stupidity.

Could the spirit of critical thinking be reignited among the intellectually indolent masses?

Could the brain-evacuation of the stricken be halted, and they brought back to some level of compassionate intellectual functioning?

Could culture-specific campaigns of mental hygiene succeed and link up globally?

Could humanity regain its freedom and its peace by a vast expansion of critical thinking, and its global integration?

Who can say? The battle rages. But this we know for certain: thinking is freedom.

An Island In The Stream

Morning Chamgagne

Pond Shadow

An Island In The Stream

I remember when I was young
and full of testosterone,
ravishing my lovers
with passionate poems.
“I will love you forever”
they all said,
and I meant every word,
even now.
But all those forevers
curled and branched and eddied off
like whorls in clouds
drifting beyond sight,
and swirls in streams
cascading down a tumble of time’s boulders,
out of many nows
into the unknowable void of other futures.
And here we are, we two,
like shipwrecked survivors
tossed up from love’s pitiless ocean
onto an island of companionship,
and peace.
And, what kind of peace?
Tolerance with humor
for the intransigent imperfections
we each insist on maintaining.
And what kind of love?
Gratitude for the acceptance we receive,
for I think we each know
how impossible it would be for any other
to appreciate the genius of each of us.
And now, as we get older,
we’re dead set on getting worse,
from everyone else’s point of view.
I guess we’ll be clinking glasses of champagne
in our own private party
as we tumble along in the stream
carrying us through this lost world.
What I am finally learning
is to stop trying to explain anything:
the ignorant are uncomprehending,
the stupid are omniscient,
my memory is long and my time is short.
That someone understands something of another
without so many words
is a gift.
It frees one from the dreary confinement
of social acceptance,
from hypocritical politeness,
from all of them.
We are outside the mainstream,
beyond the pale,
increasingly forgotten castaways,
but together.
And that’s nice.

21 June 2016

Boundary Limit

Western Edge

Boundary Limit

“Bigotry is the disease of the religious.”

“No matter how many ways you try, you cannot find a boundary to consciousness,
so deep in every direction does it extend.” – Herakleitos, ~500 BC

If God exists, is It Christian?
Is God an intolerant monotheist,
who only believes in Its one inflexible form?,
the Jerusalem God of sheep herders and camel drivers,
the choosy God,
the insecure imperialist demanding conformity,
stingy with pleasure – dour –
frightened of women?
Or, would God be an atheist?,
a great unconscious source-point,
manifesting Itself as a natural universe
unfolding endlessly without embedded reason,
without cohesive purpose,
a Godhead of Alzheimer’s vacuity – pure unaware existence.
(And so, can we have aware nonexistence? –
a cognizant void –
of necessity by sheer conceivability?)
Or, perhaps our God is the Zen God,
the Buddhist God of inexplicability,
a weave of awareness and unawareness
folded and braided onto Itself,
with an unending array of parallel self-consciousness,
a confluence of parallels, of flickering perceptibility.
And then, perhaps God is simply a concept,
a characteristic resonance of neural circuitry,
a mental projection easily cast as language construct,
simply a part of the psychic hum of human machinery –
bio-electro-chemical static –
an inconsequential artifact of chance reality.
And then, again, perhaps not.
Certainly, each proclaimed form of God has it uses,
as comfort to its faithful, or their cudgel against infidels.
But, no true God is created by the uses we impose,
the true God is only to be known, and only by the true person.

16 December 2002

The Canyon Green

The Canyon Green

Today, on my hill, it is sunny
and nearly still
warm light, cool shadows,
many birds
darting flights, unseen songs,
the canyon green.
Yesterday, all mist and fog
rolling up from the sea
over mountains
absorbing silence
drinking into leaves
and blades of grass
above dry ground,
many birds
darting flights, unseen songs,
the canyon green.
My daughter calls,
I see her cute ski-jump nose
a wind blows from Greece
across a wine dark sea
the sun melts
under a starry blue
far beyond the Umbrian hills
where there are many birds
darting flights, unseen songs,
the canyon green.

Canyon Green 1

Canyon Green 5

Canyon Green 2

Canyon Green 6

Canyon Green 05

Canyon Green 06

Canyon Green 07

Canyon Green 08


The King of Clubs, the Queen of Diamonds, and the King of Hearts

Donald Trump is the Cracker King, lord of the worthless knuckleheads who cover their insecurities with bigotry, and crave the respect they thought would be their due in a blissful white supremacy state. He is now also the Usurper King of the Regressive Plutocrats: the maverick leader of the Republican Party. Donald issues a great deal of bilious bombast and bluster, but within that expansive superheated vacuity there are some sparks of creativity and independence. The establishment may never fully domesticate him. We’ll see. If the Democrats insist on imposing Hillary Clinton on us then Trump is likely to become our next President.

Hillary Clinton is the Queen of the Desperate Housewives and their charmless princes, the Maleficent disguised as Glinda, the paragon of the sell-outs and careerists, the me-people who live in the comfort bubble of the establishment and don’t want anything or anybody spoiling the perfect arrangements of their self-satisfaction. Hillary Clinton is the cash injected-molded made-to-order service provider for the establishment owners.

Bernie Sanders is the American Spartacus leading the most popular revolt against economic tyranny in over half a century. His are the we-people of America: the youth who want real futures, the overworked underpaid who want real lives, and the old who retain the ideals of the New Deal. Bernie has assembled the most diverse array of supporters of any candidate ever, and holds the popular majority. He is the emblem of America’s future, and the man most fearfully hated by the careerists and flunkies of what is now obviously an outmoded and failed past.