Bio: Khalil Azeem

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Kahlil Azeem (1928-1979), activist and author. Born James Vantrease in Meridian, Mississippi, he was sent to live with relatives in Boston after his mother died in 1933. At the age of 19 he was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 25 years in prison. At Norfolk Prison Colony, he was converted to the Nation of Islam by his fellow inmate, Malcom X. Paroled in 1960, he was active with the movement for some years, but left before Malcolm was murdered after also breaking with the sect. Azeem became a radical Marxist and spent three years in Cuba. Returning to the US in 1971, he was charged with violating his parole for the illegal visit. He went underground and was implicated in a series of robberies to finance revolutionary activities, although evidence of his actual involvement was slim. He was betrayed by an FBI informant who had infiltrated radical circles in Chicago, and was shot dead in a police raid on his apartment in 1979. He was the author of two books, the polemical Capital Crimes (published in Cuba) and the fugitive memoir, American Road, published after his death. He was perhaps best known for the posters of him originally printed by the African Revolutionary Party, which became a favorite in college dorms in the late Sixties and early Seventies as an iconic symbol of rebellion.

 

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Second Sight

O days when the world was fair and strange,
and strange stars blazed in the Southern night.
Ghostly scent of pine from the canopy
shrouding the encampment; strange landscape,
strange birds, unknown back home, smoke rising
from half-extinguished fires. These long veins
of memory, monstrous harmonies
chiming and vanishing, phantoms of blood,
all that was gracious, unwizarded,
poured out like Death bestowing his gifts
on the battlefield. The harsh features
of the later world, drear and somber,
I willingly surrender to the prelude.

(Interlaced cuttings from Ambrose Pierce)

©2017 by Chris Floyd

 

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Against Despair

MANY THINGS ARE POSSIBLE

Not everything.
Not paradise or perfection.
But many things.
Better things.

Clearer, deeper ways of seeing.
Richer, deeper ways of being.
Many things are possible.

Despair is a disease spread by the powerful,
like smallpox laced in a blanket,
to keep us weak, distracted, and in thrall.

Time is against us, always against us,
the mortal tincture working its way.
But while breath and blood still flow
behind the caging bone

MANY THINGS ARE POSSIBLE

 

©2017 by Chris Floyd

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Automatic Idiot

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Your mother is dead and your past is gone. These childhood memories are just self-indulgence.

No, you’re wrong there. The memory of how she took my hand that day, the feel of her stiff, starchy shirt, the ironing board smell of it, the sound of her voice, soothing me: that’s more real — not only to me, but in the very fabric of the universe — than your blubbery carcass sitting right in front of me. It’s funny you think you’re such a powerful man, so full of grim, savvy wisdom, a figure of great affect, mighty presence — when actually you’re not even real. You’re a husk, a meat puppet set in motion by jerky electrical impulses in your brainpans. You don’t even know why you do what you do. You don’t know why you think what you think. Your soul is dead. The animating unifying principle that binds you into the life of the living universe is dead.

Is that so? Well, I can, with great affect, pick up this phone and have you bodily thrown out of the building. I can — with just a modicum of presence, no need for a display of might at all — then call another number and you’ll be arrested by the end of the day, on charges that I, in my grim, savvy wisdom, will determine with my good friend the police chief.

That won’t make any difference. You’ll still be dead. Suddenly he shifted. He no longer looked at Garland pityingly, but with a sharp smile. Why don’t you call your friend the police chief? And perhaps I’ll call a friend of my own. We’ll see who has better friends.

Garland laughed. So you’re the same as me, are you? Fancy yourself a player too? Another soulless meat puppet working the angles.

No. But we all must live in this Diamond Hell where hideous projections of unreality hold sway. It has nothing to do with the ironing board smell and the soothing voice, but it must be dealt with. The only difference is that I also live in that genuine reality and you don’t. You’re trapped here, eating your own entrails like an automatic idiot.

But you can still “call a guy,” can you?

No one has to call anyone. You said you could call the chief of police. I said I could call someone else.

Someone bigger than the chief of police.

Now he laughed. You think the chief of police is the ruler of the universe? Everybody’s bigger than the chief of police.

You know what I’ve just realized? You’re crazy. I mean it, you’re out of your head. I’m sitting here talking to a crazy man, trying to make sense of what he’s saying.

Well, I agree that would be hard to do. Especially for someone imprisoned in the jerky electrics of his skull meat. Did you know there is actually no light in the brain? You see these studies of neuronal reactions and what not, read of how certain regions of the brain “light up” with neurochemical activity during this or that action or emotion. But this is just a figure of speech. Nothing lights up because there is no light in there. It’s a dark damp cave. That’s where you are. That’s the only place where you are. So no, I don’t doubt that you can’t follow what I’m saying.

Garland leaned back in his chair. This is tedious. I’m going to have you thrown out now. Don’t come here again, don’t ask me for money. It’s too late; I’m not buying anymore. I’ll get what I want without paying you a dime.

Oh, I didn’t come here for money. I came to tell you I’m withdrawing the offer. I’m going to keep that strip of land. But we got to talking about the past instead.

If I can have you arrested, you think I can’t get that land whether you’ve withdrawn your offer or not? It was just easier to buy it. But if I have to take a couple of extra steps to get it, so what?

So what indeed? He got up. He had a bemused look on his face. You don’t have to throw me out. I’m going.

Going off to call that guy?

Who said it was a guy?

Maybe I will make that call to the chief. Have you put away. I’m sick of the very thought of you walking around out there somewhere.

I don’t think you will.

Why not?

Because I’m the only person in the whole universe who knows you and still pities you. And pity like that is like love. That makes me the only door you’ve got to walk out of hell. You won’t take it because your soul is dead. But who knows? Maybe there’ll be some quantum fluctuation someday that will put one quark of your soul back into your husk and you’ll be able to rush to the door before the quark decays and you’re dead again. Not everything can happen but maybe that can.

He went out. Garland closed his eyes. For some reason he saw a long sand beach with no footprints on it. He thought about the phone but the thought made him tired. He was suddenly very tired.

 

©2017 by Chris Floyd

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Bio: John Bridger

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John Bridger. (1947-2013) “Punk poet” considered one of the godfathers of the movement. He co-wrote songs with John Lydon and Joe Strummer among others, and published a number of books in the 1980s and 1990s, including Jesus Christ Was a Woman, Mental Baptists, and The Afterlife of Roy Earle. He enjoyed a late vogue as a frequent guest on TV panel shows and presenter of the BBC4 quiz show, “Is This Who I Am?” His last book was his unexpectedly elegiac memoir, All the Noises are Far Away.

Although a black heat is on my heart
so heavy God can’t lift it;
although I was born bright as new snow
but am no longer;
although there is a thing inside that eats away all meaning;
although the sweats push out no poison but make room for more;
please let this sickness sweeten for just a little longer,
before you push me under and I drown.

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Bio: Dmitri Semyonovich Maslov

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Dmitri Semyonovich Maslov (1878-1937). The “Peasant Poet” (dubbed by Western critics as the “Russian John Clare”). Maslov was taken up by figures such as Vladimir Bryusov, Aleksandr Blok and others who made much of his “primitive lyrical power” and closeness to nature and the peasantry. Although a staunch if nuanced supporter of the Revolution, he was frequently censored by the new regime and hounded by RAPP (Russian Association of Proletarian Writers) for his adherence to “outmoded poetical forms.” He spent his last years in penury, unpublished, ignored, working in an auto plant in Moscow. He died of lung cancer in August 1937.

The Red Music

Mercy, majestic as it moves,
a slow lazy dog testing
the resonant nerves of October.

Caught in the light at the New Gate,
divine mimesis of a loving mode,
the aura’s obstinate application.

The waters pour in equal measure
through all four quadrants of the camp.
The moon cheers with its metallic tang:
a marriage of provision and need.

The tigers of love, silvered
by the river’s lunar sheen,
blandish their immanent taboo
toward the forest’s colonnade.

The spirit teeters between sanity
and madness in three languages.
Invite the risk, pour out the urn,
pull down the gate, sing to the red music.
Sing.

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Bio: Liz James

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Liz James (b. 1956). Poet and novelist. Her books of poetry include The Prettiest Women of the Empire are Dancing, Body Language and Sixteen Archers. Her two published novels are Here We Wander, There We Weep and Thunder, Perfect Mind.

Look at me with darker tenders in your eyes,
and muddy heart will be dark wine:
autumn and auburn, holly and shade …
O death, you will yet be jarred,
you will not shut the tasty way.

Now I must study how this invisible fraud
can chime true.

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