Six Poems on Struggle, History, Madness, and Being — by Simon Maass

by Simon Maass

  1. A Space Worker’s Delight

My ray gun blasts; the space slug is dispatched.
I mark my checklist; with a harried sigh,
I start my jet pack, seeing I must fly
As from its eggs ten thousand more are hatched.

The elfin grunts advance in phalanx form;
I steal and carry, skipping over cliffs,
Their blood-stained chalice, carved with godless glyphs,
Drop a grenade, traverse a cosmic storm.

To meet the industry’s exacting norms,
I take great care in culling Martian fruits.
Drained, hungry for my book, by two-gee chutes
I shoot back to the spacecraft carrier’s dorms.

My life’s prosaic headaches are replaced
By worlds of wonder Wordsworth’s pen has graced.

2. Tale as old as time

Newly arises the golden horde,
A scourge from the steppe, a swarm from the swamp,
From darkest Eurasia, with pimple and pomp,
Rolls blindly the army of slave and of lord.

Where have the days of their reason gone?
Below twisted staff and mutated bird
The crescent moon makes the cowed wolf join the herd,
The battle against their own consciousness won.

When will they notice they do not need
Be beaten with cane and bitten by bird?
When serfs free their lithe, inner gods to be heard
May liberty reign, ingenuity lead.

Thought would cause many much deeper pains
Than brushes with doom incurred on decree
For men born in chains nonetheless may be free
Provided they be not the links in the chains.

Let it be more than my mind’s defense:
War fathers all, or so I was told.
If this include death of the rotting and old,
Redemption may come but a century hence.

3. Joe’s struggles and salvation

Joe felt he was not of the proper age
To crank out copy by the arduous page,
But habit and liquidity constraints
Gave him the self-denial of hair-shirt saints.

He took on every writing job he could,
Explaining what he scarcely understood
And telling tales of characters whose capers
He pieced together from old books and papers.

One evening he thought he felt unwell.
Then he arose as someone rang his bell.
With joy he saw the Reaper at the door
And, turning back, his spindly form keeled o’er,

For he had felt so very vexed and tired
Before he found out that he had expired.

4. The cat’s adjective riddle

The cat emits his music-box-like purr.
His tail is by his snout, gray fur meets fur.

This sound must be how heaven’s angels sing.
His paws are tucked within the fuzzy ring.

The regal trait he shows with every pace –
What could we call it if not catlike grace?

Quite like his supple body, so restrained,
I find his essence largely self-contained.

5. Total Freedom (A Sestina)

You dread your neighbors from the morn’s first light,
Control of perception their highest good.
You squint, not to see with veiny red eyes
A land where truthfulness is the chief sin.
They shriek at you for not goose-stepping right.
You feel the claws of drugged psychosis.

The literature of mass psychosis
You have studied, at pains to love its light.
You could not even comprehend it right
To flog yourself into calling it good.
Your brain now drives you to the darkest sin.
You wish to tear it from behind your eyes.

You hurry to work, averting your eyes
From friends, and stifle your fresh psychosis.
The porter halts you to check you for sin.
You swear you still hold the beliefs of light.
Each neuron begs your output to be good.
To work, at least, you still possess the right.

Deep down, you feel it cannot be right
That a mob will make you gouge out your eyes
If the dice declare it the public good.
It is known that all hold some psychosis,
So chance chooses who shall see no more light.
One is sacrificed for collective sin.

To use expired words is a grave sin.
It signals that truth has a despot’s right
To dictate up and down and dark and light.
That might derives from the sight of their eyes,
They say. It is theirs. Quell your psychosis.
One truth is true always: their creeds are good.

Might over truth needs you to find it good
And valid. Then even the blackest sin
Of theirs stems only from your psychosis.
Pull your standard-issue hat’s brim down right
Onto your brow. Their hot trend is that eyes
Be covered. It helps one to see more light.

What feels good you cannot always make right.
Inflation of sin can cloud people’s eyes.
Psychosis likes to look like dazzling light.

6. Master Rat

Master Rat, Master Rat, what are you thinking?
Beneath this bridge you lurk, a hairy troll.
I half expect you to exact a toll
To let me cross the fluids you are drinking.

Master Rat, Master Rat, my heart is sinking.
Your bridge provides me shelter from the rain.
I pray you give me shelter from the pain
Wherefrom I cringe and am forever slinking.

Master Rat, Master Rat, I catch your winking
Neath fur that overhangs your gall-like eyes.
No hurt of mine could take you by surprise.
(Or was that just a rodent’s jaded blinking?)

Master Rat, Master Rat, I have been shrinking.
My years, like yours, the river sweeps away.
I chase them, running from the bleak next day.
Take not offence at our stories’ linking.

Master Rat, Master Rat, continue drinking.
You have exacted quite a heavy toll.
I shall ascend that slightly lighter knoll
In hopes of brightening my dismal thinking.

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