Manacled and Muffled: A Poem

Paul Goettlich
21 Sep 2005 Berkeley

Born in a field and onward
To distant emotions and time
Boundless bicycle feet carried me

Through corn and hay
We fished at a pond
It lasted all day

Bare-assed trestle-diving
River below, sky above
Creosote, rust and mud

Fractal light arrows
Sky screaming down
Petrified swirls of wood and steel

Trudging through seasons
Pollywogs in spring swamps
Ice sledding in winter.

Old man in fall
Axe chopping wood
Like a nutcracker boy

Summer of grandmother’s red roses
Pin oaks and chestnuts
Blue birds and robins


After schooling years numbered in hundreds
Or so it seemed
On to a shit job and life unruly

Of gas stations and banks
Sky scrapers and toll booths
Schools, courthouses and pools

But none would compare
To the last that I dared
Cookie-cutter cops and bucket brigades

Passing system time
As I squat near the bed
Is easier said but nothing has changed

And I know now
That I know nothing now
But where next do we go?


Manacled and muffled, yet I see
Saturated in Hermes’ brilliant humor
A Doppler vision theatre of absurdity

Salvador Dolly the sheep dip cuspidor
Is sacrificed on the altar
Of commercial values

Our heart’s putrefied vulnerability
Is filled with methane maggots
Our eyes glistening with uranium oxides

Coming with one hand and pumping his load
He promised to please,
Until the entrance of chapter 11 fleas

The monkey’s tin cup extended thusly. . .
(reader pauses, unfolding arm…)
Hammers upon my coconut head
With a pinging dissonance . . .
dinging pissonance


To Berkeley I came
Seeking radical love understanding
And found no one standing

But on all fours, barking, pissing and
Scratching the chalkboard of reason
Down to the bone of the porcelain throne

Electrified shadow people
Wallowing in the devil’s excrement
Antimatter pushed into blue plastic bags

And a chorus of digitized dummies
Regurgitating the anthem
Each in different time
and indifferent to time

Jesus goose-steps across oceans of plastic
Onto the trinity sunset of mushrooms
Rising through the mud we call sky

We’re all still clinging to the third turd
Of liberal life, church and civilization
While life’s dissonance is dying.


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