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.
St. Anthony Main was taken
on a summer’s dusk
through an old camera lens,
near the Mississippi and giant cotton woods,
people in dress—exposed flesh,
on bike, on foot,
on patios seeming elegant.
The redbrick streets
below told them
to stay out and go;
worn down, and by ice cracked,
each square watched,
unable to properly stress:
for winter would come to take it all away,
their warmth in breath,
hot sun, breezy outside comfort
and laisse faire sentiment—
what they had missed at that time
would turn cold-fast to regret.
O’ the summer is spent.
O’ take what we can get.
Atonement for guilt
simply of being;
humans the way we are,
the unjust that we do.
Fixing all past, present, and future
with institutions, and enigmas—
what is there for neutral
wrong or right?
like switching drinks,
not from one hand to another,
but the beverage entirely.
Finding a new drink…
How could one come so set in their ways
that they don’t find the nerve to change?
Standing there, waiting,
watching the water boil,
face turned red,
ego on high alert—ready?
This sergeant don’t take no lip,
unless it’s yours,
and he will eat the entire thing…
And those herbs will turn to taste,
and you can bet your ass on it.
There is no need for filter or mug,
no need for a full pot or the caffeine shakes,
just one cup to get me by.
Life in moderation, and we fumble at the keys.
And it was pure fate,
the Irish black tea beckoned
as if to take me back—
far away, into distant lands,
as if I missed Dublin
and the 5th floor flat at Staycity.
I could see most of The Liberties
from the number 43 balcony—
on walks aside double-decker buses,
smooth euros in my pockets,
along the river Liffey.
And everyone watched as we drank whiskey
and fresh Guinness, and read books,
and they pronounced three as “tree”,
and we were slagged as “yanks”.
As we sat on cross-country excursions
thru endless rolling green hills
and stone walls and winding roads
and puffy sheep.
As we saw things some of us hadn’t seen before,
with a drink in hand and our feet on the ground.
And I sip.
And I recall.
It will be awhile before I get back around.
But it was good to try something new.
Loam, marrow, stone, and humus—
where open groves of pine bent in sway,
stained-wood new growth,
a green tent setup
and stretched between.
We went tearing, hard traipsing,
gutting fish at a low fire glow
near an old truck.
A sharp knife’s prick in
a valley’s deep expanse—
words far off and then gone;
neighbors chattered, birds chirped,
and the wind whistled
where we breathed in,
adjusted focus, stretched, and pulled.
It was merely coming through,
it was a mere passing chance.
It was an evening in a north forest.
I sort of understand
The confederate flag supporters—
I don’t agree with them,
But idiots are idiots;
I root for a losing team as well.
The Minnesota Vikings are
Historically a losing team
That everyone loves,
Their organization represents
Our humble and beautiful state
In near billion dollar facilities
And tax incentives.
Now I wonder,
These two groups are similar,
The Southern States and the Vikings (The NFL Team),
In that they did/do not often win—or never did,
Use your imagination…
They are similar
Except for the fact that
the Vikings (seafarers) never kept slaves (presumably),
They just raped, plundered, and pillaged
Whole cultures and peoples (See: Ireland),
Taking power and rule,
By way of attacks.
I don’t think everyone knows this,
Or thinks about this
When they fly their purple and yellow flag,
Or when they don
Their cherished team’s memorabilia,
But we certainly care about things.
It’s always an interesting game of money and distraction,
And who can yell the loudest on what interests them the most.
Now, I don’t know who to root for anymore,
There isn’t really anything that doesn’t represent something else…
To everyone else.
And what about cotton, the cash crop of slavery?
You and I wear in on ourselves daily.
The symbol doesn’t need to be obnoxious,
Star-spangled, red, white, or even blue to be offensive.
There is hate in just about everything,
And love, if you look hard enough.
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.
Where the metro rain comes from I do not know.
Maybe it comes from the Gulf of Mexico,
or across outer space deep, or maybe from the hard ground
under my feet. I really do not know where it comes from.
I know I am a percentage of it, but I also know that
I am so bad at math, trying to figure it, with exact percentage,
with an exact equation, would make me sweat good—
lose the water I am made of: essentially I would lose that part
of me, my hydration. I figure it sometimes comes from the sky
because it lands on my head while getting my shoulders wet,
and I can see it falling fast… So, from observation this is true.
I am not partial to its occurrence; sometimes it is to my chagrin,
sometimes it is to my disliking. If the sun were out I would watch it
slip along the rocky mud banks of a spinning Mississippi,
perhaps with a Nalgene bottle full—at a pavilion of wood,
its different forms; my hands would be pulling worms into the air
from a Styrofoam vessel, to pull fish from its filling flow;
we are all full of water, some of us are also full of shit.
Rain let’s shine life, as we sought a tap to fill clean glasses,
polished by it in other ways—endless purpose what it were.
Where the metro rain comes from I do not know,
but sitting inside, for hours on a dry cat-teased couch,
I watched it come down and present itself alive today.
It never really mattered where it came from, it was right here.
How interesting that fireworks now bring us together
when they represent devices that once tore us apart.
-Terry Scott Niebeling
here, 10pm, crowds on spread tarps and chairs,
thoughtfully placed earlier,
chatted along a spilt-over sidewalk path,
coming down to the Riverside fest grounds
with family and friends;
these goers were just stepping through, at a time.
taking air along the luminescence of the waters’ edge
waiting for fire, explosions, light and smoke,
waiting for a show of power
on the concussion boom’s holiday eve
of a hot summer day.
notice the faint ghost outline of the Cass st. bridge,
it went up tall toward the south on wet glow,
pale blue in orange light as navigational lights
sent from boats bounced to and fro below signaling.
where mayflies flew, stunk, buzzed;
their fate kept them at lamps
busy for their annual dance.
people in groups—no worse,
buttoned up, oohing and aaaahing,
taking such a spectacle.
for a time
the mass was all American,
for a time nothing else mattered.
viewing were homeless and rich
in the same theatre vantage;
spirits were aloft as this year’s sparkling
in gunpowder and smoke,
the thought that everything was all right,
illuminated on another shore—
in a time of celebration, in a nation
under a spangled flag.