Out, Out Damn Spot

Out Damn Spot
by Carl Josehart

Out, out damn spot
the weary laundress mumbles
to no one present to hear
wrinkled hands scraped raw from scrubbing
blood too stubborn a stain
falls like rain
in this endless war

The uniforms must be clean
demands the decorated well pressed General
creased and starched
to recycle
with another clean
young
blond kid
too young to buy liquor
who should be wrecking his father’s car
and skipping lectures at an
Iowa college
Studying agriculture

Out, out damn spot
when will we reach the day
when weapons lie and rust
buried beneath a demilitarized zone
covered with dust
or beaten to plowshares
to pry life from parched land
should it be unreasonable
to make war unthinkable
and waging it treasonable

Out, out damn spot
wiping sweat from her brow with a feeble hand
mutters the weary laundress
to no one there to hear


via Daily Prompt: Clean

Some Dreams Die Young

“The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.”

– Robert M. Hutchins


Some Dreams Die Young
by Carl Josehart

Not all dreams last forever
They don’t all start with, “once upon a time,”
And end with, “happily ever after”

Some are like children we nurture and they grow
Others fill us with hope; nourish future promise
When they mature bring happiness; that much we know

Some dreams are familiar, comfortable; like a favorite song often sung
There are dreams that stay with us, age with us
And there are some dreams that die young.


Freedom is Calling

 


Freedom Is Calling – Let Us Go Out To Greet It

God brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand, an outstretched arm, with great awe, signs and wonders. (Deuteronomy XXVI: 8)

For many of us the re-telling of the liberation of the Children of Israel from bondage echoes the stories of our struggle for liberation from persecution and hiding due to our sexual orientation. As with the telling of the Passover story, it is incumbent on each of us to consider ourselves as if each one of us personally was part of all of the struggles for liberation. To remember and honor those who gave their lives so that we might face a brighter future.

Like the Children of Israel before us we come out to freedom from bondage through a mighty hand, an outstretched arm, with great awe, signs and wonders.

With a mighty hand… We are discovering our voices and our political strength

With an outstretched arm… We are reaching out to embrace our families of origin and our families of choice

With great awe… We are reclaiming our religion and finding our spiritual home

With signs and wonders …  God set a rainbow in the sky as a sign of an eternal covenant that the waters would no more become a flood to destroy life.  We have adopted the rainbow as a symbol of our covenant to one another that hatred and bigotry will no longer be allowed to flood our world and destroy the lives of our people.

This year weak and vulnerable
Next year courageous and united in strength

This year afraid and alone
Next year comforted by the warmth of community

This year in darkness and hiding
Next year in freedom and light

This year in searching for meaning and direction
Next year leading our way toward a dream of acceptance, peace, hope and healing

-Carl Josehart
Passover, 1998


 

The “Magnificent! Excellent! Unsurpassed!” Procession of the Emperor

So off went the Emperor in procession under his splendid canopy. Everyone in the streets and the windows said, “Oh, how fine are the Emperor’s new clothes! Don’t they fit him to perfection? And see his long train!” Nobody would confess that he couldn’t see anything, for that would prove him either unfit for his position, or a fool. No costume the Emperor had worn before was ever such a complete success.

“But he hasn’t got anything on,” a little child said.

“Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?” said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, “He hasn’t anything on. A child says he hasn’t anything on.”

“But he hasn’t got anything on!” the whole town cried out at last.

The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, “This procession has got to go on.” So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all. (Hans Christian Andersen, The Emperor’s New Clothes)


 Breaking the Fourth Wall

 In theater the imaginary fourth wall serves to separate the world of the fictional characters on stage from the world of reality where the audience lives.

In the theater, “breaking the fourth wall” means having a character become aware of his/her own fictional nature and in so doing the audience becomes aware that they had temporarily suspended disbelief and been temporarily experiencing a fictional world “as if” it were real.

Maintaining the fourth wall requires the active collaboration of the actors and the audience to maintain its fragile existence. In these circumstances there is rarely any danger of harm – the actors and audience rarely lose touch to the point of completely forgetting the difference between what is real and imagined and participate temporarily for entertainment’s sake.

When a similar process happens outside of the theater, in “real life”, the process is sometimes referred to as folie à deux – a shared delusion. It can happen when an individual so believes something to be true that those close to him/her begin to believe it as well. The “secondary victim” is more vulnerable when s/he has limited contact with the outside world or relatively few healthy outside relationships where s/he may be exposed to information that would contradict, challenge or invalidate the veracity of the delusional idea(s). The “secondary victim” is also more likely to be in a passive or subservient status with respect to the person with the primary delusion.

In “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christen Andersen, a couple of swindlers pretending to be weavers make a special suit for the emperor. They tell the emperor and his followers that the clothes are invisible to people who are too stupid for their jobs. None of his advisors or subjects can see the clothing, but no one wanted to admit this fact because they do not want to be identified as foolish.

When you read this story, who do you aspire to be?


I Believe

What happened – really happened
What happened – really happened
What happened – really happened
I believe with perfect faith
That I will have the strength to believe that
What happened – really happened

– Carmi, Anatomy of a War, 1977


“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

— George Orwell, “1984”


“In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.”

― Czesław Miłosz


 

Legacy

Legacy
by Carl Josehart

When enemies attack
and our brothers and sister are in danger
Let our legacy be courage

When the world cries out in pain and anguish
sorrow threatening to overcome hope
Let our legacy be compassion and comfort

When passions flare and cry out for blood
threatening the fabric of society
Let our legacy be justice

When our faith falters
and God seems distant
Let our legacy be prayer

When the world is lost in darkness
and we stumble to find direction
Let our legacy be the light of courage, compassion, justice and prayer

-2001


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Alcatraz

On a visit to Alcatraz I was struck by the contrast between the view of the San Francisco coast and its unparalled beauty and the lives of the prisoners who were once held on this island. In addition to losing their freedom, it seemed a special kind of cruelty to face their internment with a view of such welath and beauty – close enough to almost touch but permanently out of reach.

As I reflected on this experience, it seemed to be a metaphor for many of our cities. Neighborhoods of immense wealth butting against neighborhoods of abject poverty. The view of those living with abundance an added humilation and burden to those living with sacrcity, hunger and fear.

If Mahatma Gandhi’s words are true that “The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members.” then I fear for how we will be judged.

Perhaps it is time for us to imagine a time when we turn all of our prisons into parks, and neighborhoods of despair into communities of caring and hope.


ALCATRAZ
by Carl Josehart

Sailing on his parents
yacht
the little blond boy
with clear blue eyes and
bright future
glides effortlessly
freely
past
a rock fortress
jutting out from
the gently rolling
water

High above him
caged in a dark cell
a blond man/boy
presses his once
innocent
youthful face
against
unforgiving iron bars
he imagines a faint mist
of salt spray
brushing past his lips
and he dreams of open spaces

the little blond boy with
chestnut
sun kissed legs
climbs high atop the mast
leans out and looking toward the horizon
the boat vanishes
he is alone
flying above the
blue ocean
keeping pace with
a silvery seagull

straining
rust cutting into his skin
from bars on the window
man/boy squints one eye closed
and tries to imagine his
cage gone
just for a moment
to be outside the bars
sunlight warming his skin
gone pale from
dank
damp
darkness

one
atop another
they live
cramped
into
too small cells
too narrow almost
to stand
too small almost
to breathe
too drab almost
to live

one
aside another
they exist
mute
in enforced silence
tapping in tempo
to talk
whispering down
empty pipes
which carry their thoughts
hopes
and dreams
alongside
sewage
out so sea
washed away
like lives
too broken to fix
too heavy to float which
sink like stones
skipped on waves
by a little blond boy
with clear blue eyes
and chestnut
sin kissed legs
sailing
on his parents’
yacht


 

I Count One

If you are like me, there are times when the news of the day – wars, conflict, hunger, disease and suffering – is so overwhelming that I feel paralyzed. It is easy to feel too small to make a difference. During those times I try to remember the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” In that spirit, I try to start where I am and pick one thing because each “one” counts and leads to the next…

I Count One

by Carl Josehart

I count one
against the numberless
nameless
throng
graves unmarked
by unwilling eyes
trying not to be witness
to magnitudes of suffering

And I count one
and one more
and one more too
if but one at a time
then let it go on
til one and one and one again
yield to many and many more
forced to see and hear and
touch the souls
of the numberless
nameless
throng

I count one
and raise my voice
to count one more
and raise my hand
to touch one more
and raise my eyes
to see one more
and raise my head
to listen to one more
and raise my mouth
to taste the dread
and my nose
to smell the fear
and my lips
to kiss the frightened
feverish head

And I count one
plucked from the reeds
who will lead us home
through parted waters
and parched sands
til we finally arrive
at the the gates of
the promised land


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