"To bring the poem into the world / is to bring the world into the poem."

Saturday, December 31, 2011



I work at a second-hand bookstore, & i have seen the volume of things people bring to us literally double. (This has not been accompanied by any increase in staff; on the contrary, when workers leave, they have not been replaced.) And something i had not been used to seeing: though there has always been a small number who seemed truly desperate for cash, now among them are some with an air of brokenness, who are grateful for any offer we make, however small.



In my writing i tend to resist, for the most part, sheer topicality. Nevertheless, the closed-up businesses which surround me have crept into my images & finally acquired the status of permanent characters in my story.

Photo of Michael Helsem by J. R. Compton



"Not Going to Rehab" (Pessoa XXVII.)

Radint waialand lion dreams, the unsurpassed [past]
dynamic intensity of the corrections field today.
Soundbyte ricochet. Shoemaker's cloven last.
Sometimes i feel like a stowaway
on the Titanic, looking out late if ever
on the iceberg rushing up. Black night now
crossing Pineland, swerving. The toxic river
shines. Waialand. Record turnout. Flow
my tears the policeman's beard is have to, none
of the above. Through all corrosive fates
set the controls for the heart of the sun
baby, this is the last of all blind dates
and this we keep with the grizzly of a market bear
and there is more than fear to fear

"Persistent Cough" (Pessoa XVI.)

Raise paisley hymns that miss the point
the future of a land that might have been.
Creative tortures never disappoint.

When it comes, as it must, in unsuspected mien;
when it comes, oh lord, the majesty that was
at best, half-dreamt: and seldom now recalled,
so we will go down damned at the stringent pass.
Begin today to learn & not be galled.

Warming by noon, my mind's blue plates staved in
by tenderness, a boon beyond enjoying.
Our fortress is our grief. Our medicine [sin]
to put an end to readier destroying.

And ours is for tomorrow to reprove,
when these brisk eidolons no longer move.

"Super Fat Tuesday" (Pessoa II.)

Bring the waking dream severe delight
and closed eyes fled from out this severed scene (seen)
will rise and gather sustenance from insight.
Our Rubicon has not yet flown. Take sunscreen
into the valley (which is a state of being);
take ammo of truth (all you believe, is lies).
There's Aceldama beyond all dime foreseeing
and i did not invent these trilobite eyes,
up a creek and cased in concrete dreadnought:
i drove through, and took all night. You see,
i only found out late.
           Ignore this rot.
The Way Through came in a dream, and said to me,
"Only lately forgotten, nor buried deep,
are those we've wronged, and this is why we weep."



"M.H. was born in Dallas in 1958. Shortly afterwards, fish fell from the sky."

Blog presence at http://graywyvern.blogspot.com & Amazon presence at http://tinyurl.com/82xo6mq


Monday, December 19, 2011



Hard times without discernible end? Hard work that stingily, precariously gives back rent food lights if that much? That’s always felt like business-though systematically unjust business- as usual to me. The Great Recession simply brings it to-or unmasks it in-quarters where it has been little felt or recognized before.

Although I got an education on scholarship, I have lived almost all my life as a (by US standards) low-income person in and around a majority Black, majority poor urban community. I have multiple disabilities that are immiscible with something the Social Security Administration calls “substantial gainful activity.”

Before the current downturn, I already had learned how to wear the same winter coat for a decade, string along hospital billing systems, educate and entertain a child at little to no cost, tell which furniture is safe to fetch from the dumpster and which only brings trouble home, live in an apartment and yet grow sizeable amounts of fresh organic vegetables, have confidence that needed public benefits are one’s right not one’s shame.

The shame goes instead on this economic setup and what it does to millions, billions, especially the global poor whose poverty is beyond what I can ever truly fathom as an American with degrees, a heated apartment in winter, pounds of food in her pantry, a spouse with a job and a lifesaving health plan, and two instances in her life (so far) of ability to travel to another continent and read her poetry there.



I persist in writing poetry, though, as usual, I must set aside a lot of my energy for whatever paid gigs I can find. I morbidly wonder how I will lug around my laptop and journals and protect them from the snow and rain if I ever become homeless.

One thing the recession has changed for me personally: I despair even more that I will ever find a publisher for the chapbooks I have completed, or the full length collection I have almost finished. So many poets, so many presses, so many cutbacks. Maybe I should post my work to friends on Facebook and call it a day?




For S.

Haha! I love it, how my son
saw an ornament on his grandma’s shelf
and asked, “Hey! Who’s that? Is it
that red guy from Christmas, what’s
that red guy’s name?” Believe me
I never want him
to learn any more about Santa than that!

Those "lots of" train sets. Those candy canes.
My son told me “please-thank” already for. Me.
Myself. I, I am the one
who bought them
through my swollen feet,
my ringing headache
from ringing up highend crowds
of $50 wine bottle drinkers,
so-classy folks, how they
push at and curse me, throw and
thrash tantrums worse than my son’s.

Reporting live here
from just about my last nerve:
last thing I want
my son to believe
is that gifts all get here
from some old white dude
in a loud red suit
who breaks and enters,
breaks and enters
all the damned night long,
that’s a Class 3 Felony,
multiple counts.

Caption by Mary Krane Derr: "The Theotokos or Bearer of the Divine is an icon of Mary pregnant with or breastfeeding/cuddling Jesus. This 18th century Russian icon shows the many varieties of Theotokos in the world. Giving credit for Christmas where it is due: to a woman's love and labor."



Mary Krane Derr is a poet, writer, musician, eco-activist, and human rights advocate from Chicago. Her poetry has been nominated for a Best of the Web Award, Best American Poetry, and Best Spiritual Writing. She was featured at India’s 2011 Kritya International Poetry Festival. She has contributed to literary magazines in the U.S., Ireland, Great Britain, and India as well as anthologies like Hunger Enough: Living Spiritually in a Consumer Society (Pudding House).


Saturday, December 10, 2011



In so many ways, this is a re-run of the Great Depression that shaped my parent’s generation, and the one before that, which scarred my grandfather’s youth. We ought to call it what it is, “The Great Depression – A Sequel.” Look for the next exciting chapter reappearing soon, as long as we line up to follow the antiquated philosophies of Adam Smith.

There is plenty of blame to go around, but I’d look to the economists of London, Harvard, Chicago, Wharton and Princeton who conjure up their “scientific” pronouncements, while celebrating the impoverished individualism of Ayn Rand and streamlined marketplace capitalism.

I remember when we were supposed to support the Cold War, “better dead than red,” because Marxism was evil economic determinism? And now, the so-called leaders of our world pander their brands of Economic Determinism (any less evil?) as if it were scientific certainty, too vital to question, too rational to fail. How have we come to a juncture in history where a few bond traders can systematically bankrupt whole nations? Clearly, our contemporary economic order does not create actual wealth. It generates an endless cycle of selfish avarice, usury and greed; unemployment, foreclosures, impoverishment; and that means homeless hungry children. It produces a new class of super-rich aristocrats, who are gleefully killing our planet. Laughing all the way to their bankrupting banks. I honestly believe that as long as one child is hungry, as long as one child goes without medical attention, as long as one child is deprived of a good education, no one should be a millionaire, let alone a multi-billionaire. Tax the sons-a-bitches.

I guess you could say I am heartbroken and angry about The Depression.



Cast Adrift

In these dark times
Does the muse elude your senses?
Do you yearn for an open highway
Or the quick fix of your video?
Can you still nurture mindfulness
Or calmly letting go? and in flowing
Can you halt the constant chatter
The canned laughter of the construction cranes
Those insistent cultural voices
Their constraints
Calling in the night
Like a dream from your childhood
Without the protection and security
Of a guiding light

In which direction is this world really turning?
With the missing feet of the murdered
Running in the billions,
And agent orange, supposedly tamed
Renamed Round Up, commonly available
Every garden a green house of death . . .
In water tables, ozone layers
Acid rain, and crack

If our species is somehow able to survive
What will our progeny say?
As we leave them a heritage of orange county Disney style
Fantasylands, become a major growth . . . a cancer
A construction, cum service industry . . .
Carved out of the ruined map of myth and natural process
Scraped and pushed into antiseptic parks of amusement
Exquisitely childish escape in the realm of the homeless

What's left of the wild, the natural and free . . .
Must each generation mold it all
To mirror their collective dreams of greed
An' thereby invite, indeed, guaranteeing these disasters
Like the downtrodden, brokenhearted souls
Wharehoused in our broken inner cities?

Street Heroes

Broken souls these
women and men who've given
up their hearts as whores
or tarts of the night,
and can no more see
they've been forgiven.

With their tote bags and tattered clothing
their rags, probably once so fine
as yours (or mine).
Their mis shapen faces
mirror the ravaged inner city,
ashen and discolored. No, not a pretty sight.
no wonder we can't look them in the eye.

Broken and vagrant
what have they lost
or gained?

They awaken in a morning damp
and cold on back streets or
under bridges, shake the dust
off their clothes, scratch for chiggers
and start off into the sun
rising to drink another day
of darkness . . .

These heroes of our cities
are survivors
we call 'em losers
outsiders, we'd rather ignore them,
but they keep the city soul

Cheating Death

Don’t kid yourself, when we fall prey to fear and anger
When we turn away from life’s gift
When we acquiesce to mere cultural norms, and the
Cow dung of conventional wisdom
We let loose primordial cinders, pumped through hell’s gate
Amplified in the Santa Anna winds of mythical exactness
Stunted, pigmified, pickled in recursive ignorance

When we allow them to instill their gluttony in our children
Their self-indulgent resignation, what celebrates aggression
In social choreographies of orchestrated hostility and violence
Reciprocal envy and hate. Belligerence condoned and admired
Avarice, usury and greed commended – neigh encouraged
As their cosmological prescription for economic growth . . .

What about life in resurrection, renewal and redemption
What about justice, reincarnation and life in death, Abraxas
What about sleep without dreams, which I will embrace
As surely as I treasure and celebrate this Existenz
Floating through the space/time continuum

Together with the elements and every living creature
Each of us a vital receptor slash storehouse of meaning
Each an angel, returning it’s bundled messages
On cosmic feedback loops, returning packets of love
Our gifts tagged and flowing back through
Manifest paths of understanding and compassion

Within this Global Cell, every form of life
A mental system, cheating death
Instructing the whole of the living
Broadcasting multiple bits of crucial information
Coded, de-coded, re-coded wisdom what goes beyond
Returning the fullness of living-knowing-being

Our thoughts and actions, our hates and fears
Our unconscious desires, all messages returning
On countless loops of information
Etched engraved in multiple channels of praise
And condemnation, the continuum’s bequest

Proceeding from life and affirmation
Closing in on our ever receding horizons
Preparing the way, returning their goodness to life
Across a flat curved arc of eternity



Born and raised in rural California, Lawren Bale lives in Narberth, Pennsylvania with his wife Martina and their ten-year-old daughter, Annabelle Jean Elisabeth. Before settling down in the Delaware Valley some twenty-seven years ago, Bale worked and studied in Honolulu, Hawaii; Bangkok, Thailand; Kyoto, Japan; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Frankfurt, Germany. Bale’s poetry reflects his wide flung travels and his formal studies of religion, culture and epistemology.

Lawren Bale and his family. Photo Courtesy of Donald D Groff

Friday, December 2, 2011



"I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things." Emma Goldman

Materially the recession has not affected me greatly—I am middle class, whether I like that or not, and although I work in the public sector there have been no rumbles about my job disappearing. However the received news surrounding this issue has highlighted my distrust of and distaste for the political and corporate classes. It has re-awakened my personal political activism and I have written and argued much from an anarchist viewpoint, stressing the need for mutual aid in the tradition of Petr Kropotkin, the social value of work as an alternative to the monetary value, the necessity to liberate democracy from systems in which power devolves upwards at the scrawling of an 'X' and to devolve power downwards to its lowest possible level (see Murray Bookchin on 'Libertarian Municipalism'). The recession has driven me (back) into the arms of Emma Goldman and Durruti, back to Revolutionary Barcelona in 1936, back to the political works of Bakunin, but also to the words of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and even those of Thomas Jefferson, as I consider how the great movements of working people have been systematically destroyed. As another contributor to these Recession poems has said, working people now live in occupied territory. In the past, working people lined up to be imprisoned, exiled, and hung, for daring to struggle for their dignity. It has now been stripped from them again by a spiteful system that is dying but won't lie down. Our great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers spin in their graves.

Having said that I do not write agitprop poetry. It is as though I compartmentalise very tightly. However, this year I did write a series of very short pieces entitled 'I am an American'. They used public domain images by Dorothea Lange taken from early-mid twentieth century America, and drew on the idea of the migrant worker in the 1930s and the displaced 'enemy aliens' in World War 2. I used these as a metaphor for today's disadvantaged. I used the phrase 'I am an American' because despite the wealth of the United States it is a country of profound inequalities against which its cherished notions of freedom are impotent. I ask the question: Is 'freedom' what we like to think it is? I think I was saying that when it comes to inequality and to empty notions of freedom, we are all 'Americans' in that respect, products of a failed revolution that promised liberty but delivered the concentration of private wealth into the hands of the very few.



I am an American

I am an American
I’m an American coupe
an American coupe in the sunshine
in the sunshine with California plates
and I’m going to get towed…

I am an American 2

I am an American
I’m an American store
an American store selling potatoes
selling Johnny Appleseed
and I’ve been sold…

I am an American 3

I am an American
I’m an American corner
an American corner in your town
in your town in the sunshine
and tomorrow you’ll stand here…

I am an American 4

I am an American
I’m an American window
a window with ghosts of gables
gables in borrowed sunlight
and tomorrow week the clock will still tick…
and it won’t matter a damn.

I am an American 5

I am an American.
There are times when we are all American
– like when we’re short on shoe leather
and long on irony.

I am an American 6

I am an American
I’m a pea-picker
my name is the miles I’ve walked
my name is the horizons in my eyes
you don’t need a real name
to pick peas

(Photographs by Dorothea Lange and are in public domain. Where the poet has added words directly onto the image, copyright in this form are by Marie Marshall with photographs by Dorothea Lange.)


One drop of blood in the pool
and all the little fishes sing.
(Carmina Piranha
, Marie Marshall)

Marie Marshall, otherwise in Gaelic Mairi bheag nan oran (Little Mary of the songs): reclusive, agoraphobic, middle-aged, dysmorphic, gay, awkward, Anglo-Scottish poet and writer. Would prefer to be introduced by a paraphrase of Balthus’ famous telegram: NO BIOGRAPHY. BEGIN: MARIE MARSHALL IS A POET OF WHOM NOTHING IS KNOWN. NOW LET US READ THE POEMS, but life isn’t that simple. Started writing poetry in 2005 and since then has had upwards of one hundred and seventy poems published, including one on the wall of a cafĂ© in Wales and one etched into an African drum in the New Orleans Museum of Art. Associate Editor of Sonnetto Poesia and Canadian Zen Haiku magazine, also of the forthcoming anthology of modern sonnets The Phoenix Rising From Its Ashes. Editor of the zen space, an on-line showcase for haiku and related writing. Her macabre short stories have become a regular feature of the Winter Words literary festival in Scotland where they have been read aloud by professional actors. MM rejects all the Chinese walls of poetry that divide formal from free, product from process, whatever from whatever. Her first collection of poems, Naked in the Sea, was published in 2010.