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Poems of a Working Man

The Reason Y

A did all the paperwork, E supplied the brawn,
I did whatever was left, while O cheered us on,
U said nothing much at all, despite what could be said
And then we sat in mourning for all that now were dead.

So it’s really not that hard to know how so many many could die.
It’s a simple as A E I O, and U. That’s the real reason Y.

Chronic Empathy (or I feel your pain)

If someone’s feeling angry who’s in my world today,
I feel that it’s my duty to make this go away
Lest glances turn to harsh words, or curses even shouts,
For else it must be my fault, of that I have no doubt.

The lonely and the sad sacks, a tear, a frown, a sob;
Seems keeping people happy is now my daily job!
The lip that starts to quiver sends shivers up my spine
That melancholy, baby, was yours but now is mine.

Laughter cannot be trusted, if done at one’s expense,
This never really knowing, increases my suspense.
Panic, mistrust and loathing, it’s all the same to me
I’m a person overloaded with chronic empathy!

So smile but not too brightly and shield me from your tears
And if you’re feeling angry? Please stay away my dears!
I find I’m feeling peaked, yet want not to offend,
This feeling other’s feelings is something I must mend!

Heirs to Spartacus {Burn Barrel Cold}

On the line, seeps a cold beyond the weather, ~ {Burn-barrel Cold}

A cold that burrows deep and catches tight, ~ {Burn-barrel Cold}

That defies the heat of flame, the stamp of foot. ~ {Burn-barrel Cold}

Its icy grip yields not to scarf, not to sweater, not to thick winter socks.  ~ {Burn-barrel Cold}

It is the cold of uncertainty. ~ {Burn-barrel Cold}

It is the cold of despair. ~ {Burn-barrel Cold}

It is the cold of mistrust and self-doubt. ~ {Burn-barrel Cold}

It is the cold of outright fear. ~ {Burn-barrel Cold}

I stand apart on a brittle winter’s night and this is the chill that I feel. ~ {Burn-barrel Cold}

I am near to breaking. I am near to bolting. ~ {Burn-barrel Cold}

I am spent. I have no more to give, no more to get, no more to gather. I own only harsh images and harsher words. ~ {Burn-barrel Cold}

This cold is stoked against the fire, fed by incoming missiles of contempt and taunt, police baton, their guns to be drawn, horses’ hooves. Weeks and weeks of spit and threat, cursed by foe and friend alike. Aye, cursed by friend! ~ {Burn-barrel Cold}

Every muscle, no, every muscle fibre poised to flee, flee to the warmth of kinder words, flee to the warmth of the master’s indulgent smile, flee to the warmth of unquestioned acceptance. Flee to oblivion. ~ {Burn-barrel Cold}

What keeps me here? Shame struggles with fear. Is this another kind of cowardice? ~ {Burn-barrel Cold}

But I cannot get myself to flee. Soft voices, quiet laughter, seeming from afar yet only steps away, trickle onto my solitude, tickling with echoes from the past. Line to line, Winnipeg, before and beyond! ~ {Burn-barrel Warmth}

We are the heirs to Spartacus, the justly unjust war eventually won, first the battle joined. ~ {Burn-barrel Warmth}

The saying goes that a coward dies a thousand times, the brave but only once. ~ {Burn-barrel Warmth}

You may run from all but yourself. ~ {Burn-barrel Warmth}

Cursed by those who’ll accept what we get for them without shame for their curses? Let them curse! ~ {Burn-barrel Warmth}

Cursed by those who reject us, defile us, to curry the master’s favour for themselves alone, yet plead our help when fails that non-existent womb? Let them curse! ~ {Burn-barrel Warmth}

Cursed by those who speak in the safety of their cowardly retreat and know not of bravery? Let them curse! ~ {Burn-barrel Warmth}

Harried by those who, beneath their sham, are not but our own? Let them know who they are. Let them know our resolve. ~ {Burn-barrel Warmth}

We are born. We fill our lungs with air and cry out with existence. Our birthright claimed. We are! ~ {Burn-barrel Warmth}

If there is not much to gain, there is at least much to lose, much to lose. A king’s ransom in self-respect! Of that be certain. ~ {Burn-barrel Warmth}

What could never be done was done because such as we strove to do it, inches gained, inches lost, inches gained again, battle by battle, line to line. ~ {Burn-barrel Warmth}

We are the rock upon which we cling; we are the castle wall; we are the harbouring reef. We need not foreswear the end, for the struggle has not an end, but renewed beginnings. Payment due, on demand! ~ {Burn-barrel Warmth}

We live this once. We die this once. We live with ourselves each day. Bravery is cowardice overcome. ~ {Burn-barrel Warmth}

On the line, seeps a cold beyond the weather. I feel it no longer. Add more wood to the barrel and the heat now I’ll feel. ~ {Burn-barrel Warmth}

Free Man Song
(“Free Woman” can be substituted for “a free man”)

For I am a free man, bound but to my choice
To the call for freedom, lending it my voice
For I am a free man, courage in the name
In the face of danger, steadfast just the same
For I am a free man, gained through sacrifice
Standing up for freedom, proud to pay the price

Yes I will till the soil, sir, I’ll dig and plant and weed
So when the harvest comes then there’s food as each has need
But I’ll not till the soil, sir, to mere increase your store
To feed such appetites that must only lead to war


Yes, I will hone the edge, sir, to sharpen up the blade
To cut what needs be cut for the products to be made
But I’ll not hone the edge, sir, for dagger, dirk or sword
To draw the blood of those who are loathe to call you lord


Yes I will build the bridge, sir, to span the river wide
To carry our good will to those on the other side
But I’ll not build the bridge, sir, to take what is not ours
To rain the tools of death down to demonstrate your powers


Yes I will live my life, sir, and toil for kith and kin
Sharing strength and talents and thus pledged through thick and thin
But I’ll not waste my sweat, sir, to make of you a king
No I’ll fight tooth and nail then despite the force you bring


Mandatory Drug Testing and the Average Modern Worker

It has taken thirteen cups of coffee to quell my nicotine urge today
And some extra strength narcotics hardly hold my pain at bay
Yet my trusted anti-depressants are managing my mood
While my anxiety suppressants make me one real happy dude

My mind’s a little foggy from last night’s bag of weed
And I hope that all that booze I drank hasn’t caused my gut to bleed
There could be other substances, of that I just don’t know
For it seems that last weekend’s parties cost me quite a bit of dough

Now, it’s not that I’m dependent and really need these drugs to cope
Mind, I can’t recall the last day I went without some kind of dope
So go ahead and do your urine sampling, and I hope I’m not remiss
But there’s so many drugs now in my system there isn’t room for piss.

Damn the Utopian

The plan, the plan,
Get with our program, man.
See our messiah,
Just going by ya,
Grab on while you can!

See no, hear no,
Just do as we say so
Don’t bother askin’
Just do the taskin’
You don’t need to know!

Think not, dare not,
Heed the rules that we taught
Stick to the belief
And don’t get the grief
This ain’t what you thought!

Work hard, eke by,
You’ll get yours when you die
We know where you live
What you have to give
Don’t be asking why!

Brute Life, Cheap Thrill,
You’ll find shit slides downhill
Following our laws
Working for the cause
You won’t need self-will!

Sign up, stay in,
No is a mortal sin
You don’t want to die
Or even just to cry
Why not just give in!

Free Man’s Response:

Been there, heard that, not getting on your boat
So cram your perfect program down your bleeping throat

From one’s own

The brave and the true who stand to the test
And valiantly go forward, leading the rest
Over and over history has shown,
The greatest danger comes from one’s own

Face certain knowledge and face it alone
Death is most likely to come from one’s own.

Death is assured from one of your own
Betrayed by the hands of one’s own

Alternate to “From one’s own”:

Martyr’s Epitaph

Fought for their freedom, showed them the way
Held high the emblem, seized them their day
Too oft thereafter, history’s shown,
The epitaph reads “Betrayed by his Own!”


Chicken Little Bulfarb

Chicken Little Bullfarb screams the sky’s about to fall
If we give the workers anything, anything at all
We simply cannot raise their pay or pay them in time off
Or pay them when they stay at home for every pain or cough

We cannot pay for pensions, public hospitals or schools
And we’ll ruin ourselves for certain funding arenas and swimming pools
We cannot afford taxation and we dare not help the poor
And we cannot solve pollution, of that we’re very sure

It doesn’t bother Bullfarb when he is always proven wrong
When the workers win their contract and life just moves along
For whatever gains they win for him are judged against the loss
The personal cost that could befall him from angering the boss


Imagine a world without fear of death
Nor lust for power nor envy borne
But of gentle words upon our breath
And noble acts and love well-worn


Impanic’s nasty, as nasty can be
With foul nasty thoughts that it screeches at me

It came unwanted, unbidden I’d say
Just popped in my head and decided to stay

Searching dark corners for what it might find
Unearthing secrets that I’ve hid in my mind

Learning what scares most, what might just be true
My deepest worries that nobody else knew

It waits for quiet, a moment off guard
Then jumps on some wounds that are tender or scarred

Teasing and taunting, “you’re doomed” it pitches
While grasping control and throwing the switches

While on the outside, I try to stay calm
It races inside, tossing bomb after bomb

The ground becomes jelly, I break out in sweat
My whole world jiggles from the shivers I get

I count up to ten, my breathing I slow
I call it by name and I tell it “Please go.”

But Impanic howls “I’d rather just stay,
I’m doing nicely since I’ve ruined your day.”

I must subdue it, I choose not to lose
I force it away to some corner to snooze

So goes the battle, my reason, his rhyme
Both of us knowing that there’ll be a next time

Impanic’s nasty, as nasty can be
But I’m here to show that it cannot beat me.

The Mark of a Man

I stand to your sentence
            to be bent or be broken

Still, my superior you are not
            nor yet my equal
                        not until you can stand aside
                        and let me walk the land free


The Modern Hero

Behold the modern hero, his twin across the line
Right up until the game time, he figured all was fine
Behold the modern hero, it really must be tough
To know before it's over, you haven't got enough
Behold the modern hero, his future in one game
And when he winds up "losing", they'll curse his very name.


'Tis senseless, young penguin, to complain of the ice
'Tis what you were born for, the roll of your dice.

Stealing Souls

Bang the drum loudly, play on their fears
Lie oh so simply, bring forth the tears
Point to the present, ignore the past
Make them fear thinking, they’re yours at last!


The Seller of Wood

Quoth, the seller of wood to be burned
If it gets too hot, a lesson I've learned,
Stand tall and shout, the source of this fire,
Is not the wood, just blame the buyer.

The Wreck of the George


Say hey, say ho, there’s danger below,
And I really think we should tack.
Say hey, say ho, there’s danger below,
And I’m thinkin’ we should turn back

I was up in the riggin’, and I spied the rocks,
And I shouted my alarm,
But the captain’s eyes were on his next prize
And he could not see the harm.

I yelled again at the top of me voice
As the first mate happened by,
But his mind was set on the share that he’d get
And he heeded not my cry

I slid to the deck and grabbed at the knots
And I yelled for help from the crew,
But they stayed at the rail, watchin’ ‘er sail
Calling, come, look at the view.

So we hurtled on t’wards jagged death,
The cabin boy next t’ me cryin’
Aye lad, did I say, in the face of the spray
We’re both too young for dyin’.

The rats didn’t leave ‘cause they never got on
And that should’ve been my first clue
Long ‘fore this bunch hit the rocks with a crunch
And give the George what was due.

From Heaven and Hell sing the songs of men
Who have sailed an unquestioned sea.
The hues and the cries and the too-late-whys
And the how’d this happen to me.

Shall the wood still rot, its lessons untaught
To all but the questioning few
With the crew at the rail, watchin’ ‘er sail
Calling, come, look at the view.

This Bus

This bus is for leaving.

A tug from its gallant pilot, dignified beyond reason, snaps shut the seal on a cargo of tattered luggage and once shattered souls.

The roar of its engine scatters the remnant demons of a particular past as wheels claw at their blacktop prey, surging forth, muscling aside what may have been, transporting the lost but not the losers, known mysteries, separate but equal, viewing life’s detached landscape jumbling past, telephone post by telephone post, rumbling onward to the thoughts of something new even if its more of the same.

This bus is for leaving,

Tears best left behind to cleanse of yesterday.

“This Earth Is Our Land”

by George W. and the Western Corporate Elite

(Based on the original lyrics of
“This Land is My Land” by Woody Guthrie)

This earth is our land, this earth is our land
From the Atlantic Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean
From the Arctic Circle to the Antarctic ice fields
God made everything for me and mine

As we went walking, not in a mine field
And saw above us a big stealth bomber
Then saw on TV the blood and destruction
God blessed the profits made by us

We roamed and rambled and shot some poor folks
With our brand new rifles and armour piercing bullets
And all around us, a voice was sounding
God blessed the right and that is us

We put a high wall around our houses
And armed some guards to protect our gates
And posted signs that warned intruders
God blessed our private property

When the heat come shining, then we went swimming
Once we closed the beach from the other folks in town
Let them sweat it, until they get it
God likes the rich and not the poor

One bright sunny morning, in the shadow of our steeple
We saw the anger of all the world’s people
They’d come to hate us and all our kind
God knows why we have our military

And then it ended and we met our maker
And God asked how we should be judged
We stood defiant, our cheque books ready
It’s too bad that they weren’t fire-proof

Last Chorus: (sung slowly)

This earth’s not our land, this earth’s not our land
No not the oceans nor the ground between
And all that money and all that power
(spoken) You’re a moron is all it means

Word Search

Words swirl around us, big ones and small,
So much their buzzing, we can’t grasp them all
Just a glimpse of their meaning, a sense some ring true
A tug at our feelings, we react as on cue

Experts and preachers with solemn gazes
Simplistic conclusions and catchy phrases
These who have gained this power in thought
Know that with words our souls can be caught

Trapped in a world we often find hollow
No words of our own, surely we follow
The lead of smooth talking women and men
Who lead us to evil, time and again

Still, there is hope; there are words we can trust
The words often followed by the brave and the just
Such words as arise in many a tongue
These sayings passed down from the wise to their young

First, “do to the least, what you would do to the most”,
This means treating all as you would your heavenly host
Then it’s “Do onto others” … well, you know the rest
These are the words withstanding the test

In your smile

What some cannot do despite all their wiles
You can accomplish with one of your smiles

The dark disappears, the doom and the gloom
Your eyes twinkle and brighten up the room

Whether it's mischief or spirit who knows
Just cherish the spark that inside you glows

I can't help but love you, my heart you win
for each time you smile, I lose it again.


A thought, dear critic, if I may
Before you have your appointed say
Preparing to wax eloquent
On a thing your time have spent
To just expound on your own taste
Seems to me a trifle waste
Perhaps you might at least consider
Whether your words be nice or bitter
As others reap what you may sew
Think on what they'd like to know

If your task is to help me choose
I'd like to know what's behind your views
Who's your master or to be your friend
That way I will know in the end
To forge ahead or to call a halt
Or take your words with a grain of salt

I hope that this will help you to be analytical
That is if you don't find it over-critical

Softly Carried

Sunrise to Sunset
            and the dark that lies in between
All the rhymes and all the times
            I may know never what they mean
But though I ride the roughest wave
            or safely stay on shore
Because I carry you deep inside
            I need for nothing more

When Irish Eyes Are Not Smiling

I will look but I'll not see
This frail old man described to me
Beyond the hair now turned grey
I see the past and not today

I cannot look with adult eyes
At he who spawned my childhood cries
Behind the wrinkles and the tears
Is my tyrant of yesteryears

Still do I see as plain as plain
His piercing glance of pure disdain
And hear harsh words within his growl
That cause me then to cringe and cowl

Suffering through his ridicule
I tried to please and felt the fool
Seeking warmth, my small arms outstretched
His coldness in my mind is etched

Now, attempts to give affection
Just remind of past rejection
Still I bear the scars of his rage
'Tis that I see and not his age

Yes, he's old, may never have known
The hurt and self-hate in me sown
Years I've fought to leave them behind
Ties so cruel that do us bind

This frail old man described to me
I will look but I'll still not see.

Doing Time with Jacob

Old Jacob Marley's a screamin' in pain
Old Jacob Marley's a-draggin' his chain
The one he told us he'd forged here on earth
He's payin' the price for all he was worth

Don't laugh at this tale or think it a lie
In that last second, it all flashes by
You'll reap what you've sewn, you'll get what you're due
Imagine old Jacob as if he were you

Look into the mirror; look deep to your soul
When asked the question 'bout what's been your goal
“Do unto others” is no figure of speech
Is your damnation so far beyond reach?

You're not alone here, you've someone inside
Someone who knows you, from whom you can't hide
Someone who watches each deal that you close
Though others may not, your inside one knows

When will it happen, the time of your doom
It can happen fast, the sweep of that broom
Maybe tomorrow, or even tonight
Might not have the chance to put all things right

Don't laugh at the tale or think it a lie
In that last second, it all flashes by
You'll reap what you've sewn, you'll get what you're due.
Imagine old Jacob as if he were you

Things can change

We and he are no longer friends
Friend or fiend, that all depends
On the size of his wants and our need
In a system which is based on greed

In the past, yes, we helped him along
But, you see, he grew too strong
And threatens we who raised him high
So the solution now is that he must die

While yesterday we shook his hand
And took our profit from his land
And though he's not much different from the rest
This will not stop our bloody quest

As we rush along with condemning voice
Stop him we say, you have no choice
And those who ask how this all became
Need only to ask from where their good life came

We say look not too hard at cause
Or confuse yourself with moral laws
Profit margins are real you see
Others' lives, a commodity.

And if a few do cry out
And point to what it's all about
He already exists, they can't go back
After all, none are now safe from his attack

Bombs and bullets will now be spent
Killing people and dissent
Few will dare speak to the lie
Once our young begin to die

Once again they'll miss their chance
To avoid the killing dance
The fiddler is playing his awesome refrain
To war, to war, to war again.