Power

(In answer to Byron’s The Isles of Greece)

Too many tyrants have risen
and ruled heedless of our suffering.
O, to smash them down
And set our selves, our land and people free
Which of you will wield the Power
and drive away the dark?

Young liberators take action.
Ride the tiger to the far horizon
Yet, it is a dangerous game you play
Power is not free or freedom.
It has a deadly price
to pay

Power is always either here or there.
In times past with mighty strokes
we laid our oppressors low
and put all wrongs to right
then gloried in our deeds.
till time again began its march.

Slowly, slowly, Power took control
the servant became our master
Black and white became our colors
Our veins ran cold
with only the cruelest blood
and the tyrant lived again.

And tempting us still
are the gods of Homer
inviting us to slay another foe,
whose threat we will soon invent.
But what foe is greater than Power
and harder than it to slay?

Come here my friends
and drink good Venetian wine
and take this soothing herb.
For eons we have in battle raged
and still we suffer like the beasts.
Let’s play an earthy tune instead.

Comrades, I would remove my armor
and hang my sword upon the wall.
Leave me amid gardens and sparkling canals
and ocean sunsets caressing Venice.
Pray let’s celebrate our peaceful ways
writing verses in these golden days.

Yet even now I hear the sirens’ call,
the march of pickets echos in my head,
and martial chants entice me still.
Whoa Power you shall not win this day.
Your time is passing. You will not thrive.
Our human race, and me, without you will survive.

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Venice Dreams

Venice, it seems, is buildings, streets, canals
but look again, it is built from dreams
and knitted together by we, the dreamers

The biggest dreamer, Abbot Kinney,
dreamed Venice out of the void
And into the soft fog of the world

By his side, Irving Tabor dreamed
of sunlight and good for his people
In a few blocks called Oakwood

When Abbot died, little dreamers
sat by the beach and dreamed
only for a family, a job and a home

Then came the poetic dreams of the Beats
set to the lonely bebop riffs
of seagulls’ cries and waves pounding

Stuart Perkoff dreamed
of the Lady, and the Lady
dreamed of Stuart

John Haag dreamed of freeing Venice
for the people, for all the people
to live in peace in a city of their own.

Philomene Long wove
her dream of timeless love
from her lofty perch by the sea.

Now, thousands dream
their dreams that everyday
recreate Venice in our minds.

Do you have a Venice dream?
If you do, make if real,
make if real.

On First Looking into the Collected Poems of Philomene Long

After Keats’ On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

By Jim Smith

Much had I traveled – or so I thought – in the lands
made brilliant by the poet laureate of Venice
‘til this mammoth and beautiful book
revealed to me my ignorance.
But now, with book in hand,
I can journey to every realm
under heaven and beyond the stars.

I took this magical tome in hand
and opened it at random.
Three baby pigeons flew out
and began chirping
Philomene, Philomene.
The room came alive
with gulls, doves and
regal Ravens

Turning pages,
I was now on Paloma’s beach
The sun became bright
and chased the fog away.
I looked up at an old castle
and saw two poets
standing in the window
their gaze was upon the ocean
far away.

Storm clouds appeared
as suddenly as turning a page.
The poet appeared as a giant on the beach
gliding toward me out of the setting sun
Twenty feet tall at least.
Her voice roared like a winter storm,
A booming roll of thunder seemed to say,
who will walk upon our footsteps
that the light of Venice not be extinguished?

Then I was in her room
high up in the Ellison
She was alone,
but a presence lingered.
She spoke to John
across the chasm of death
as if it were of no consequence.
As she told us, her poems
have conquered death.
They are beyond his reach.

I closed the book
and looked around
at my familiar room.
I will return often
to this magic book,
I vowed.
I thought of Philomene
and the journeys
we would have together.

Gaza, 90291

We are all Palestinians, and we are all Venetians. What if the two were one and the same?

By Jim Smith

The Gaza strip
extends from
Santa Monica
south along the coast

Many thousands of us are packed tight
and cannot leave what is called
the world’s largest prison

We have been driven west
until we can go no further.
Here, under the Pagodas
we line up for UN food distributions

Walking down the Boardwalk
I see the wounded,
and the ghosts of many friends

A new explosion billows
black smoke across the sand
sending us into chocking fits.

A women on her knees is crying
“They took our land and homes,
what more do they want.”

A man walks by.
He was a vendor not long ago
Now he is a fighter, “They want us gone.
They want us dead,” he shouts.

Ali walks up and whispers in my ear,
“They are targeting The Waldorf and
5 Rose today. Stay away,” he urges.

But where can I go? On the sand
I feel naked and exposed.
Should I swim out into the ocean?
And how could I run away
when our people are dying?

Once long ago, our tormentors
were the tormented.
They were horribly incinerated
on another continent.
They came here to find peace,
and found…us.

Today, another hideous crime is underway.
Four hundred children dead already.
Genocide is such a big word to
describe a little guy being blown apart.

Boom! A missile has exploded
an apartment building a block ahead
Many of us are running to help the wounded.
Bodies are strewn across Ocean Front Walk
The living are screaming and crying.

Should we fight back?
They call us terrorists when we do.
And with what shall we fight?
Do we throw sand in their faces?
Is it sacrilege to hurl devotional candles at them
from Sponto’s memorial.

The tanks are rolling down Pacific Avenue now.
Someone has found gasoline for a
Molotov cocktail. He hurls it at the tank,
but it burst against the steel without effect.

The tank turns and fires down Paloma.
The roof of a house flies off, a fire erupts.
Was a child inside doing her homework?
or just playing a video game?

Is there no justice in the world?
Why do people see our destruction
and turn away?
Are we not people? Do we not suffer?

In my reverie, I’ve wandered close to 5 Rose.
Soundlessly I see white bricks flying toward me.
They push me back into the parking lot.

I cannot stand the pain, then it ceases.
Now I am riding the bricks into the sky
I look down and see Gaza one last time.

Mr. Price has come to town

This poem was inspired by Whole Foods

Mr. Price has come to town

with a smile on his face
and a wad of bills in his hand.
With just a hint of pity, he says
“I have big plans for you,”
A new suit of clothes
just like they wear uptown.
And the finest shopping
you can ever imagine.
If you still think the old days were grand
Perhaps this check for your favorite cause
will make you forget that nonsense.
And a little more under the table
will make you betray those bums
who have overstayed their welcome.
You can’t beat our PR machine
but if you do, we’ve got the police.

Philomene and the Lady

Philomene Long was the Poet Laureate of Venice. She died on Aug. 21, 2007.

Philomene and the Lady

Just what was the relationship

between the Muse and Philomene?
It’s true, the Lady showered her
with gifts of inspiration
And the Lady had honored Philomene
by showing herself, gliding above the sea.
But in the end, did she grow jealous
– and gods can get very jealous –
of this mere mortal who knew
each of the seven realms of wisdom?
Philomene once said, “I don’t talk about Her much.
You have to remember that
She is, after all, the Angel of Surprise.”
And Stuart, who knew the Lady
better than anyone in Venice,
Said, “poets be careful
she is merciless.”
Philomene and the Lady
Do they now walk across the beach
invisibly and hand in hand?
Or do they float past each other
without even a sideways look?
Philomene dressed all in black
The Lady dressed all in white

Rise Venice Rise

By Jim Smith

Venice

A dream so sublime
A fate so unfair

Rise Venice Rise
Rise Venice Rise
Rise Venice Rise

They faked an election, back in ’25
Right there our independence died

Venice, they filled in your canals, destroyed your pier,
They tore down your buildings, bulldozed your beauty.

They seduced the weak, and targeted the strong
If you don’t like it, take your protests — down town

Rise Venice Rise

They came like vandals, waving court orders
They destroyed our dreams, and ruled like conquerors

Rise Venice Rise

They sent in their black-shirted army
Arrested our poets, our poor, and our dissidents

Rise Venice Rise

They swamped us with building code and parking inspectors
They sent us their traffic, and kept the receipts

They drove our poor from their homes
and then harassed them because they were homeless

Rise Venice Rise

They prowled Oakwood
Planting their drugs and harvesting their criminals

They even came in the night to steal our statue
named Freedom, from our lonely circle

Rise Venice Rise

Even our pagodas weren’t safe
Destroyed and replaced with plastic

Rise Venice Rise

One morning we will come out of our homes
with picks and shovels and dig out our canals

We’ll come with hammers and saws
and build homes for all our Venetian sisters and brothers

We’ll come with guitars and drums
and sing a song of peace and freedom

Venice will rise, Venice will rise