Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The New Verse News was good enough to publish my poem on their site Tuesday October 21st - 
It occurs to me that when a government builds “walls” to keep out writers and poets with different viewpoints from the ruling elite of a country, the government may be less concerned with the safety of their own citizens than with the suppression of vigorous intellectual discussion and debate.


by Steve LaVigne

“Poetry can be dangerous,” Rumi said, and U.S. Homeland Security isn’t taking any chances. The Jordanian-British poet Amjad Nasser had been invited to speak at New York University this fall, but on Sept. 27, he was questioned for two hours at London’s Heathrow airport and then prevented from flying to the United States. . . . “There are many literary activities that I am invited to and I can not go to because of this is problem, which is incomprehensible to me,” Nasser said. “I do not belong to any political party now, and I am against the use of religion in politics anywhere in the world. I am of those who say that without dialogue between intellectuals and thinkers in the world we can not bridge the gaps, whether real or artificial. This world is small and we have no other and we have to make it a viable place to live.”--Ron Charles, Washington Post, October 10, 2014. Image source: The Poetry Trust

“These are Orwellian times,
and the surveillance state is protecting us
from harmful poetry.” 
--Prof. Sinan Antoon,
who had invited Nasser to NYU.

I am a cowboy
nothing between me and my mustache
but miles and miles of federal BLM land

In the immortal words of my father “when you
don’t even have a pot to piss in” - he always
forgetting to mention who then becomes the pot

I too want to be denied entry into the United States
for my political beliefs
but I have already denied them myself
for all these years finally losing the hope
in hopelessness
the nothing in everyone else’s something
When is a poem not a one man or woman show?
I so want to own rip away velour sweat pants
just waiting for the coach to put me in

Let me start again

I want to be a poet like Amjad Nasser
dearly beloved of translators
invited as keynote speaker at NYU’s Gallatin
Global Writers Series
but denied entry by the Home Land
I want to be The Poet so dangerous
that even the reason I am not allowed to enter
the conversation
is classified
after all these years of dull schooling I
have finally unlearned this thing
taxonomy is the study of the commons
that which we all share in common
divided into hierarchies
it branches up and up but it’s not a tree
like your were taught or even
a burning bush
but a great wooden cross
(see, oh my mother swooning in ecstasy)
someone must be sacrificed
and you thought it would be someone else cowboy?
It is the great ascendancy of statistics
they lied when they said statistics lie - damn lies
an image lies, your emotion lies
your lover lies beneath
your words - when your words create
85 people control as much wealth as the poorest
3, zero zero zero, zero zero zero, zero zero zero billion
the first thing
with just zero point five percent of the richest 1%’s wealth
I want you to know
poverty could be eliminated
I am not
¼ of the jobs in America in some way relate
to making sure the richest
don’t have to share with the rest of us
How do I know god does not exist
If god did exist she would be a catholic nun
kindergarten teacher - her ruler of justice
coming down on the knuckles of those too greedy
few saying “share god damn you, you filthy little cretins”
every       rubric’s    solvable     every
cube is    solvable    rubric’s      cube is
as long as you know there is no such thing
it’s a rubik’s cube - I am such an idiot
for not understanding words or even a few letters
make or unmake worlds
hope in hopelessness
I never thought I would be the one wearing a habit
a god in my own uncomfortable classroom
my grandparents went through the great depression
and I remember thinking what is wrong with them
that haunted look in their eyes - some kind of
PTSD - I remember thinking can’t they just get over it
but now I see that same look in other
people’s eyes - young eyes
my grandparents having died years ago
and the only thing I can really remember
no matter how old or frail they seemed
when they looked at you
when they gave you that look
you did not want to fuck with them

Steve Lavigne runs a local poetry group in Champaign Illinois. It meets weekly to discuss, create and share poetry in order to build community through the power and practice of poetry.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mother - Magpie Tales 242

Mother carved in stone

half buried
                under growth

the flesh of the earth
   searching                  tree roots
shag of fungus lichen 
bearding her
and you wish to know
her name not duties
or titles
no matter how

too soon she lies
with the birth of all species
and all who will follow

damp earth and rot
the days
of her life

the unremarkable sun
her only companion
distant and a reminder
that each day is loss

posted for The Mag - Magpie Tales

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Bottled Water Comes From the Most Drought-Ridden Places in the Country*

This poem was published by New Verse News on their August 20th 2014 post but it remains as relevant as ever with California's drought continuing and finding water for some cities near emergency status.

Bottled Water Comes From the Most Drought-Ridden Places in the Country*

“Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all.” John Maynard Keynes

“a state
experiencing the third driest
year on record”
“this industry
has very successfully
turned a public resource
into a private enterprise”
“But still,
the question remains:
why Americans across the country
drink bottled water
from drought stricken

my mother’s milk - bless her old teats
up for private speculation and public offering
flaccid wrinkled worn - and still unregulated
best to get them - the definition of insanity
while they’re still hot

the invisible hand of the market that moves
always was
and was not my father’s
open palm of pain directing
the way toward some fictional future goodness
or goddamn quiet
the need in his mind like a thought
too loud to be drowned out only dimmed
by the light of a tv in a darkened room
or the screaming complaints of self-righteous
demanding its their turn to choose

All quotes from the

Brief Bio:
I run a local poetry group in Champaign Illinois - cupoetry.com. We meet weekly to discuss, create and share poetry in order to build community through the power and practice of poetry.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Ferguson Missouri - August 2014

This piece was printed by The New Verse News August 15th 2014 -

Ferguson Missouri - August 2014

Every morning
    the electroejaculated goats
    my wife texts me from work
and on the twitter feeds and facebook posts
    Ferguson Missouri burns -
You don’t think supplying army (military) grade equipment
    to the police was unintentional do you?
That any conflict in the world between police and protest
    looks exactly like this?
That anyone taking pictures, especially reporters, recharging
    their equipment in the local McDonald’s
    wrenched from their seat, their head jammed against
    a cement wall by an ordinary lug saying oops
    before being taken in and arrested 
because they didn’t show their i.d. fast enough
You don’t really still think this is about race or
    race wars like the bigots and racists do, do you?
You don’t think the government had plans for this,
    their contingencies for “growing inequality” Can you say
    pharaohs and slaves, bitches? (No really, in mathematical terms
    you have to look at the modern world’s inequality in those terms
    or even larger)
That we live within a two tiered justice system
    that the effects of climate change have now been brutally calculated
You don’t think they’re worried 
that now the white shit, not just the brown and the black
    is starting to hit the fan
And you don’t think Ferguson Missouri is still
    just a small town in the middle of the country,
    do you?
What? you expect me to say that unless things
    change it’s your hometown next -  
    it’s in your heart -
    it’s the whole damn world - boom?


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Somebody Shut Off the Water in Detroit

Originally published in The New Verse News 

MONDAY, JULY 07, 2014


by Steve LaVigne

Thousands of Detroit residents are facing a reality rarely seen around the Great Lakes: Life without water. But a Canadian group is leading the charge against a controversial plan to stop water service on delinquent accounts. The bankrupt city is shutting off water at a rate of 3,000 residents per week. It also recently increased water rates by nine per cent. Nearly half of the 329,000 accounts are in arrears and the average cost of a Detroit water bill is double the national average. Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians, flagged Detroit's plan to deal with delinquent accounts to the United Nations earlier this year. The UN calls the plan to shut off water a clear violation of human rights. "I've seen this in the poorest countries in the world," Barlow said. "This is what we call failed states, but to see this in North America, it's a disgrace." --CBC News, July 3, 2014

Somebody shut off the water in Detroit

City of Philip Levine’s brother
waiting in the unemployment line
all who can are leaving now

Somebody blew up America
Amiri said
it’s just happening in slow motion

I want to say in history it was religion
than the state and now corporations
oligopoly trickling down but that just wouldn’t be

Somebody shut off the water in Detroit
and there’s no recourse now
It’s not the man / It’s not the machine no
Somebody blew up America in slow motion
run duck and cover
like the good ol days
when all we had
to fear
not fear not ruskies
just the good old days
when the bomb started ticking

and now the best jobs in Detroit are
scavenging old buildings for copper
wiring to sell to salvage to sell
to chinese dealers the last best
investors in America’s infrastructure

Somebody turned off the water in Detroit
and not just to the 40,000 abandoned homes
and feral packs
of dogs running the streets
all those good ol pooches let loose
and alone
by those who could fleeing/fled/gone from
the rotting

Somebody turned off the water in
DE - TRoiT   mo town blues
Blazing Blurry Bleary cry
foreshadowing they call it
when I want to say morning in america
But they knew it was really sunset
you know (that whole shtick) darkest before
the you know the rest

Can’t we all just agree water is
a basic communal good
Somebody call the U.N.
Somebody’s blowing up America in
slow motion
and hey it’s happening to everyone now
not just the browns the blacks and the reds

The poems referenced in the above poem are:
an eye opening piece on the selling of america’s big cities like detroit and cleveland piece by piece by Vice

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Steve LaVigne Open Mic at the Front Porch - Full Version

Above is a soundcloud file of my "performance" at the open mic event. There were some very good slam poets, story tellers and singers representing there in addition to our couple of bookish folks from CU Poetry -

Everyone says it’s the end of the world
Everyone says it’s the end of the world
and it’s not the “we’re good guys so we’re outta here
before things get really bad”
resistance is futile
we’re special, really special, chosen people
or even the rinse and repeat
who’ve won the contest,
(although Kali ( the goddess of death) might be able to make a convincing case) –
No, you can see it
in the care
reality star doomsday prepper
grandma takes
as she prepares her non-perishable feast
for her self defense students
from the Y,
that it’s the try without trying,
sitting under a tree, no fabricating,
who would a thunk it, underdog,
tortoise crossing
the finish line first -
hey, I see sick and dead people –
winner of all winners -
and we’re all buddhists now
living each moment
in a constant
on the impermanence
of a flawed
end of the world

Forget what I said.
A window is
a looking glass
and it is not alright to believe
that the world
is only 5,000 years old,
to say this is a christian nation,
to open museums with a white jesus
riding dinosaurs,
or to have your marquee ex-president
openly advocating
And I am not just saying that
because you are stupid assholes
or even because
by all empirical evidence
you are our very own American Taliban
denying women, gays, all those who are different
their inalienable rights,
but simply because
you are being manipulated
to fight for causes that are not your own,
you are literally, and I mean literally,
fascists fueled by fear and hate and the
need to grow for your holy cause
which, in case you didn’t know, is
enriching the greedy few at the expense of
all of society.
So forget what I said about tolerance
and loving thy neighbor as thyself -
Just forget what I said -
A window is
a looking glass
and the last thing I want to see
when I look out
at the world
is to see you
as myself.

Operation Surgical Strike
The video game console where the operator
earned his second armed services medal
watching from the heavens
with his surgical strike drones
protecting an anxious population
watches the unsuspecting enemies and
their sitcom life on hi def screen –
work, dishes, church, bedding
the wife, family time with the children
all observed, recorded, analyzed.
In Pakistan, when the brown American
and his 16 year old son
were targeted for elimination,
the wedding party strike was deemed unfortunate
but necessary in the media -
the operator’s suffering at killing
the family he had come to know so well
an exemplary act of service to his country.
And what kind of world do we live in, he thinks,
when here in Arizona, Northern California
white american extremists
hiding in our midst
must be monitored, observed –
his circling, lazy droning flight
just waiting for the order,
for just the right moment to strike
these terrorists so much like himself.

This is what meaning looks like

a tree
in winter
known only by its
or rough bark,
its patterned
the light –
no fruits, no flowers, no leaves
a mirror
the mirror
of your jeweled self
pressing hard on the glass,
tapping, knocking to be let in -
this marriage to the world
a fractured, splintered image
of your own

The surprise preemie
when her seal broke
only hinted at
what was to come –
months in the hospital
being trained to constantly
troubleshoot equipment –
knowing when the black gasket
wasn’t quite catching
in the suction machine,
dropping O2 sats, the fault
of a probe or a hidden leak
in the tubing of the
dirty filters, trach cuffs, gtube
ballons to be monitored,
their little boy, the fighter, the miracle,
beater of all the doctors odds,
so fragile
their hope
under the weight of the work, the pressure
of the years to come,
the little leaks
of doubt
always needing to be
retaped each night
with their quiet sobs
under the covers
while the other watches the
heart beat
of the machines
sitting alone
in the dark

by Amorak Huey

Mick Jagger’s penis is pleased to meet you.
Mick Jagger’s penis is the John Lennon’s penis
of penises. Also, the Steven Tyler scarf collection
of penises, the David Lee Roth midair crotch thrust,
the Gene Simmons codpiece, the Axl Rose attitude of penises.
This is a lot of pressure for a penis,
big shoes for a penis to fill. Mick Jagger’s penis
doesn’t ask for much, these days. Mick Jagger’s penis
is strongly influenced by the blues and knows
whom this song is about. There are two versions
of Mick Jagger’s penis: the one the world sees
and the one that lies awake at night
and worries it has let someone down.
Sometimes it wants to be remembered,
to leave its mark on the world, it wants
to be more than footnote, punchline, punching bag.
Sometimes it just wants to be held.
It grows weary of everything having two meanings.
If you ask Mick Jagger’s penis about its dreams,
it will tell you about a certain lightning storm
over a certain lake—which means
nothing more or nothing less than what it was:
the dark water, the sky splitting open.