The only change they want
is the change they make,
even if it’s the same.
Free Local Midwestern Poetry, By Terry Scott Niebeling
The only change they want
is the change they make,
even if it’s the same.
Sure, they tell you to
join their literary groups
in order to get your words read,
in order to get your art noticed,
in order to make an impression on
the blossoming local scene.
Well, it’s just that: local,
and it still is, that’s it.
And a person can become
an organization alone.
Few think about a broad world
where 9 billion people might enjoy
everything or nothing that the creative
text you wrote has to offer…
Yeah, I think, gatherings are good for some—
those who need crutches for strong legs,
or those who need stitches for band aids.
Those who need editors
to change their ideas
so they will sell
and morph into comfortable writers.
I need approval
from institutions to feel good
That would have to be
my anti-motto, something I truly avoid.
Ha! Such jokes…
Years back no one would read
new cognitive prose,
my free work, no one would talk
zero recognition—I certainly wasn’t overseas then,
and I still am as called before
a “failed writer”.
Everyone was doing their own thing;
others were not as important,
it was about self—well, selfishness,
but on the side there was
a feigned pack mentality.
The only change they wanted
was the change they made.
Now poets go around
and pretend as though
everyone in the Cities
should get involved,
because what they were doing
back then, individually didn’t work,
so lets band together.
It didn’t pan out for them.
Their dreams came only at REM.
So, now they organize cliques,
they establish large groups into
bad plays on high society hierarchy,
the kind of thing that real
artists have vehemently loathed.
They set their own rules, now,
and their own guidelines—
if you can’t beat them join them—
yeah, good idea.
What a theory,
such lack of heart.
I think in this case
to become a part of it,
to get to the epicenter,
to get to the whole,
to be welcomed into this special circle,
the imaginary self-actualized poet,
famous, you-know-me sort of thing,
you would have to admit defeat,
you would have to admit you lost,
and that your initial passions
were complete shit.
You would probably have to change your ways,
attempt to be more like them—
assimilate, like the rest,
figure hip dress, obscure verse,
employ ten-dollar words,
cloned topics—of course gendered,
racial, anthropological, progressive,
and leftist political,
try for universal acceptance, right here.
Yawn, I say,
describe a situation,
an actual event:
CC was on 4th street SE at the bus stop,
she had forgotten my name,
her lips were red,
she said she had a new job.
I rode away on a bike
while passing out flyers.
I mean, you might as well kill progress,
just so your road is less rocky.
Leave change by the wayside,
never go against the grain.
A conformist mentality
will help you fit in better,
don’t ya know?
Your personality, your ideology discussed
only in past-tense phraseology and terms,
it all must go.
More of the same than Minnesota lakes.
But then you think about
how you were once a unique person,
an artist, that no one read,
no one cared about,
and how it was fun doing what you loved.
People read, they were baffled, confused,
or were turned off—or became aroused.
Now you do it to please others,
while not pleasing yourself,
while pandering to their ways.
They stare, they clap, they record,
they namedrop, to charm the masses, for a club,
to be accepted, to be loved for being
something that they are entirely not.
See, I imagine that.
I fancy fickle easy artists,
they travel in bands
with big words and little action.
One would have to sell off
their creative soul
to even try to get involved.
I imagine fellatio costs less,
either way they get ahead.
Am I in Hollywood?
It’s so confusing.
Some transcendental thought
about my present situation:
O’ angst, O’ cigarettes, O’ beer,
O’ my identity, O’ job, O’ rent,
O’ apparent unique awareness
in a bubble, misconstrued,
and lain out before you, spread
and you judge ME, i the same.
How sad. I am a poet, I tell the world,
though I never write. Listen! I am a painter,
though I never paint a picture, how sad. See!
Everyone is the same in this tiny city,
where is little progress? Where is change?
Who cares? Who doesn’t make hip-hop,
who isn’t in a band, who doesn’t make art,
who doesn’t have a bad or good day?
I’ll throw some big words (effect)
in the mix to make it more modern, more real,
here you go: lithe, sinewy, post-structuralism
puissant, Midwesterner, Mississippi,
oh, i am sorry, that ending was pat.
here are some interesting and semi-ironic ideas,
and everyone talks about it.
they were never heard before, but they were!
My best friends are editors and I am a solicited writer.
I have paid the price, which is time and titles.
My contemporaries all think I am the best,
we are very close to one another,
they name drop me because I am a genius.
Come to my seminar, my summit!
Let me read for you, to you…
So. Fucking. Slow. I am god. My thick frames
and tweed jacket match my skinny jeans
and my leather shoes. Now, I have
one question: Who the fuck are you?
Nowadays water balloons and squirt guns
are considered dangerous weapons.
Oddities which can get you tackled to the ground, cuffed,
and thrown into the back of a police cruiser.
It’s kind of funny.
I remember being younger, maybe 8 or so,
and having all-out wars with other kids
at Wildcat Landing near Brownsville, MN.
No one won, there were no casualties.
We would be throwing water balloons
and squirting each other with Super Soakers,
these dangerous weapons.
Their biggest offense was they wasted water.
To get it in the eye would sometimes start tears,
someone would inevitably run to Ma.
The midday sun was usually high,
the smell of sand and the chopping Mississippi
would be in the unbroken air.
Adults drank domestic beers and listened to classic rock.
We were just kids back then, with colorful toys.
Later on as a child, I remember my dad once shot his rifle
in the sky above a plainclothes officer
in our driveway at 1045 Bush Valley Rd.
The agent told us to get all of our guns/weapons.
I went inside and found my squirt guns
and brought them out.
The officer said with surprise, “Not those, son.”
He didn’t take my guns,
back then they were harmless.
He let me go, slap on the wrist.
Nowadays you can get arrested for that kind of stuff.
The shit we got away with,
man we were bad.
the space within a backpack
heavy and overpriced textbooks
cheap ripened bananas,
next to each
They tell a tale of economics and lifestyle…
I go along Coffman Memorial Union,
the pricey disaster
In a tight vanilla pale room
with a tangerine sunset view,
where high association
shared big words
and accomplishments tacitly,
wink to a nod,
touching pinked-white hands—shaking,
close, related, akin,
with more than five dollar’s worth of language present, presented,
of which few perhaps did understand,
it didn’t matter though,
behind modern dark faux wooden frames, Lennon round,
piercing eyes darted—knowing names, big thanks,
as bodies in ironed button up shirts,
suit jackets dusted,
leather shoes shined,
and neutral colored slacks creased,
hair done stiff, fine—slicked back shine,
lines and verses and words;
as those within oohed and aahed,
at each vocal cord’s articulation,
as attendees and audience members
smiled, drank, laughed, explained, translated, and clapped.
A brave man said with confidence to the glaring crowd: this was the movement,
we were it.
I guess maybe I couldn’t relate;
I felt more like a dried stalk of corn in a Midwestern summertime field,
some monocultures are unescapable.
A monoculture of plants
in a field
offers a species fading—
a group of homogeneous acts
you get the point.
I must have stepped onto the bus
and forgotten my change.
Can I borrow from you?
Night black as Bakken
oil, which malignly pours past silent
shipped in cryptic-marked tanker cars
under cover of darkness, rightly
so, they move obtusely opaque—
opposite downtown lights which stick to a wetted haze
in the distance, making this Midwest city glow
for miles—some say 150 of them away.
The shit we’ve seen, and haven’t.
That which creeps along can be found in a jet, in
a car, or on foot,
rock snow-crust, cold as a
flushed-toilet shower’s mist—you know; everything
is connected, retraced, unplugged,
tubed, tied, aborted,
Truths for lies:
This is safe,
This is fact,
This in fact is safe,
We care about you.
It is snug-up, or snug-down, or
just snug enough, or caught in between comfortable,
and I can’t go outside,
I have to decide.
Then it is: A pub visit, a flipped
switch, a lit door in the distance—these
palm trees have become foreigners
in desert sands which have turned to mud
by native rain power in your very living room
by way of: your very hand;
the vessel you hold,
repurposed from some ornate
decoration, from some ornate
description, from so-and-so’s ornate party,
or from some ornate magazine—ornate parts
And that is life:
black as night as petro ships by, as exhaust fumes fly,
as exhausted you sleeps, you snore, you don’t think;
as an “elected” official’s bank account goes cha-ching,
as a CEO draws outside of the lines, and talks energy.
(of course we need)
as the air goes in and out
of his mouth,
and in and out,
and in and out—
Like fucking, really.
Hey, you thought it. :)
Humans without a care,
they are there happily unawares.
With smiles on their dreaming faces,
as that napalm tube rolls on steel wheels in their backyards.